|Monday - Jonathan / vinyl1|
I was born in 1953 and have been doing the Times puzzle for 20 years, having started in the late 80s when a selected puzzle was published weekly in New York Magazine. When it was cut over to the New York Post sometime in the early 90s, and came out every day, I really got serious and started to finish some, and then most.
I have dabbled in American-style puzzle construction, and had about ten daily puzzles published in the New York Times when Gene Maleska was the editor.
I am an American who grew up in Connecticut and live now in New York City. My educational background is English literature, but I also used to be pretty good in classical Greek. I know a lot about English popular culture from reading, although sometimes not enough. I am a little weak on cricketers and footballers, and the geography of minor English towns. I do not watch movies or television, but that doesn't seem to be much of a problem with the Times puzzles.
I am a serious record collector with 4000 records, so I know music pretty well.
|Monday - ulaca|
Born in 1959 to a cricketing father, I grew up wanting to bowl like Fred Trueman until a back problem did for my natural away swing. It was to be another 30 years before I bowed to the inevitable and became an umpire. After a varied and checkered career, I am currently writing a book on the thought of CS Lewis while moonlighting as a propagandist for a large Hong Kong company. I got into crosswords in a small way when a teenager, as both parents took irregular stabs at the Telegraph cryptic. I got more serious when I discovered this blog at the back end of 2009, improving at an astonishing rate from rare finisher to under an hour with one generally wrong. Functionally innumerate, I have never done a Sudoku and don’t get Mephisto.
|Tuesday - Jim Biggin / dorsetjimbo (Mephisto)|
Born 1942 (you can do the sums). Introduced to The Telegraph cryptic crossword by my rather Edwardian aunt when I was 12 and she caught me kissing my cousin (those were the days). Moved on to The Times when I was 15 and have been doing it ever since. I've never been particularly fast (I can't read and write at the same time apart from not having the brain power) and puzzles normally take me from 20 to 50 minutes. My all-time favourite puzzles were those set by Ximenes in the Sunday Observer and I've still got my tie somewhere. I'm retired now after spending most of my working life applying IT to insurance and finance. I wrote my first computer based actuarial valuation in 1964 using an ICL1301, which probably accounts for my sense of humour. For 18 years my wife Maureen and I were foster carers looking after teenagers until we retired from that in 2006, during which that same humour kept me sane. I now devote my time to local community affairs, golf and the Times crossword, of course.
|Tuesday - Tim Hall / topicaltim (Jumbo)|
Born 1966. Level: after a long break from the Times puzzle, I've been steadily improving to the point where my personal challenge is to take less than 2 Magoos (my preferred unit of solving time, see below for more info), so 10-20 minutes depending on difficulty.
History: I started solving in the 80s: in something that seems, in retrospect, like a somewhat cliched scene from Inspector Morse, I had my schooling in The Times crossword over post-essay drinks with my tutor in the back bar of the King's Arms, Oxford. At lunchtime, this place was (and I hope, still is) full of people completing the puzzle before their first pint had disappeared. These days, sadly, boozy lunches don't fit my lifestyle, so it's more likely to be done with the breakfast cup of tea.
|Wednesday - Alec McHoul / mctext|
Born 1952. Started doing the daily Times in the sixth form in the UK in the late 60s. I was hopeless at it. Gradually got a bit better but only took a serious interest later in life as a means of alleviating the boredom of university administration. Also a fan of Guardian puzzles and attempting (dismally) to set puzzles in a similar style for a bit of occasional relief. Now a semi-retired professor — of what, they never told me — and living in a once-rural area SE of Perth, Western Australia.
|Wednesday, Club Monthly Special - Jerry Whitmarsh / JerryWh |
Born: early 1950s. Started attempting the Times and Mephisto crosswords in my teens in the ‘60s and have done them on and off ever since. When I gave up full time work in 2000, to stave off senility I swore a mighty oath to complete the Times cryptic every day and so far, have managed to do so. The advent of the crossword club has been a godsend, especially when on holiday!
I tend to prefer enjoyment and persistence above speed, and reckon to take between 10-30 mins according to difficulty, sometimes more. I usually also do the Jumbo, ST cryptic, Mephisto, and The Week crosswords, if time permits. Occasionally Azed, but for me the Listener (and themed crosswords generally) is a step too far. I have discovered that when in bed I can solve (almost) any crossword, and one day I hope to learn how to transfer this ability for daytime use.
I can be contacted at: tftt [at] jerrywhitmarsh [dot] com
|Thursday - George Heard / glheard (Mephisto)|
Born: 1970. Years of solving - 25. Solving speed - try to keep it under 20 minutes.
Expat Australian, now living in the Western mountains of North Carolina. Started doing the cryptic crosswords in the Melbourne Age when I couldn't beat my grandfather to the quick crossword. When I left Australia I found the Times crossword online and that's been my mainstay since 1996. I regularly solve the Times, Mephisto and Azed and maintain another blog on my attempts to get better at the Listener.
Teach Chemistry to impressionable Americans during the day, write and perform comedy at night. Can be seen regularly at bars alternating between solving intractable crosswords and scribbling bad jokes in a notebook.
Main weakness is botany - almost always have to get names of plants and trees from wordplay.
|Thursday - z8b8d8k / Ian Richardson|
Crosswording is evidently part of my genetic makeup. My maternal grandfather had several packs of playing cards which were consolation prizes for the Daily Telegraph competition and which were very good for house-of-cards building. I was introduced to cryptic crosswords by my paternal uncle, who showed me how to do the Sunday Times when I was in my early teens. Burned in my memory is the first one I very nearly finished, flummoxed by a single clue that involved creating a decorator out of Trocadero. In an age long before anagram aids and internet, that was a bit of a heartbreaker. By the time I reached university (second time around - I switched from Law to Theology via a spell as a psychiatric nursing assistant) I was solving the Times daily during coffee break (some breaks turned out to be quite long!). As far as I know, the "World Crossword Championship" - part of the Mind Olympics way back when - was the only one to have taken place involving the Times, and I maintain therefore that my 26th place, obtained in the incredibly noisy setting of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, is still current. My occasional attendances at Times Crossword Competitions have yielded at least two further 26th places and a 6th at London Regional final, demonstrating a talent for finishing exactly one place outside any kind of qualification. I have also never yet won a prize.
My preference is for solving the newsprint version, waived for competition puzzles and when it's my turn to blog. I occasionally tackle the Listener and Mephisto, and regularly enjoy the Spot the Deliberate Mistake feature of the TLS.
|Friday - jackkt|
Born:1947. I have enjoyed cryptic puzzles for as long as I can remember, mainly in the Daily Telegraph until I discovered some 10 years ago that the Times is often more challenging and rewarding. I'm the tortoise of the regular bloggers so take encouragement from my solving times!
|Friday/Sunday - Dave Perry / daveperry (Jumbo, ST)|
Born in the summer of '69, I've been doing cryptic crosswords since I was at school. My Dad's always been keen on crosswords and puzzles of all kinds, the tougher the better. He often had a Times crossword next to him at the dinner table, and he would read the clues out for anyone to chip in with suggestions. I gradually picked up how they worked and started doing the Telegraph for myself. I moved on to the Times about 15 years ago, and I've been doing it off and on ever since. I tend to tackle the daily puzzle over my lunch-hour. I finish maybe 4 out of 5, in an average time of about 40-45 minutes I would guess. Certainly, anything under 30 minutes is a good day. I don't usually get time to look at Saturday's puzzles, but I do Sunday's while waiting for my sons to finish their swimming lessons.
I grew up in Essex, and went to University of Sussex to read Mathematics. I moved to South Manchester in my late twenties and have lived there ever since. I work in IT, writing web-based software. I am married with two kids, both boys, aged 6 & 8. My strengths are probably Geography & Mythology. I'm reasonably good at Shakespeare, passable at Dickens, and downright awful at anything to do with politics or plants.
I like clever anagrams, my favourite to date is one that cropped up in a recent Jumbo - 'Tester of maths realm' = 'Fermat's last theorem'. To a mathematician like me, that's quite breathtaking.
|Saturday - Andy Wallace / linxit |
Born: 1963. I've been solving cryptics since I was about 12 helping my Dad with the Telegraph, moved on to the Times when I was in my mid twenties. Entered Times Championships a couple of times in the nineties, best effort joint 66th in the Bristol regional final, 1992 I think. In 2006 I came 21st in Preliminary B. [12th in Prelim B would have made the final - best 24 contestants. I was much prouder when I made the Times Championship final for the first time than when I won it. Ed.]
I do the Guardian most days too, the Spectator every week, and started doing the Listener every week at the beginning of last year. I also do Azed and/or EV if I'm finished early with the Listener.
Average time for the Times is around 15-16 minutes, best ever around 5 minutes (started at Southampton station, finished by the time it got to Southampton Parkway, the next stop).
|Helen Ougham /helenougham (Jumbo)|
I started solving cryptic puzzles in my teens in the early 1970s, when my mother wanted help with the “science clues”, and I was hooked pretty quickly. I first entered the Times National Crossword Competition when I was 17, and as I recall I came about 83rd out of 120 entrants in one of the London regional finals. I got somewhat better over the years, winning the championship in 1995 and again in 2006 when it resumed after a 5-year hiatus. I’ll tackle most cryptic puzzles, including Mephisto, Inquisitor, Azed, Listener and others as well as the broadsheet dailies. When I was working full-time as a plant scientist I had limited time for solving, but now that I’ve (kind of) retired that’s changed, and I’m enjoying the social side of crosswording too. When it comes to solving I’m reasonably good at clues with a science, technology, IT, medicine, literature or mythology slant, poor at pop music and sporting references and disgracefully ignorant about cricket! I live with my husband in Aberystwyth on the west coast of Wales but spend around a third of my time in Kent these days.
|Simon Hanson/sghanson (Jumbo)|
Born 1957, and have been solving crosswords for over 30 years after being introduced to them by my parents who were regular solvers. Various spells of commuting to London for work led to the Times crossword becoming a daily habit (addiction?) which shows no sign of abating. I also attempt the Times weekend puzzles and various others that I find in other publications. I have competed in Regional Finals of the Times Championship in the past but 2008 was my first entry since it moved to Cheltenham – I was very pleased to come 7th overall. I am a Chartered Accountant and to earn a living I work as a Financial Controller for a software company. Outside work I am treasurer for a Macmillan Cancer Support fund-raising committee and enjoy fishing, gardening and photography.
|fathippy / Marcos Fernandes (jumbo)|
Born - some time in the distant past - although a Mancunian by birth, lived my formative years on the outskirts of Lisbon, before returning to England for educational purposes, and the "standard" public school, Oxford, Merchant Bank start to life. Was always surrounded by the sorts of teachers who liked cryptics of one sort or another, and lessons were often put on hold to study a clue or two, although I never really regularly did any particular paper's crossword until very recently. An occasional solver at university, and nothing but the bank holiday jumbos for many years, it was ironically the arrival of sudoku that started me back on the regular Times cryptic. After retirement, some extra time of a day and having become bored of the rigid structure of the number games, I started doing the times xwd regularly at the beginning of 2009, stumbled upon Peter's blog soon after, and that was it. Joined the crossword club, downloaded and printed years worth of grids on the back of old bank statements, bought all the paperback books and set about aiming to be competitive at Cheltenham 2010. Managed to get about 40th in heat 2, which was about acceptable as "competitive", so I plod on ever in awe of some of the knowledge and ability of some of the contributors on here. Current average speeds are about 20-25 mins, although I occassionally hit a wall on unknown content and suffer an unavoidable DNF - basically as a numbers man through and through, I have limited general knowledge especially on things like art, opera, flowers and foodstuff.... in fact, pretty much anything that isnt beer, football or rock music!
Alumni: Non-regular and former contributors, just in case you're reading an old posting. These entries are not kept up to date.
|yfyap / Uncle Yap - currently on a temporary sabbatical.|
Born 1946. Discovered cryptic crossword when I attended University of Newcastle in the early 70's. Literally thrown into the deep end as Times was then half-priced for registered students (Yes, I paid two new pence for Times and claimed back half every three months).
Now a retired Chartered Accountant, my daily diet consists of Times, Guardian, Independent and FT, with the occasional Azed and Cyclops thrown in. Started setting a weekly cryptic crossword puzzle in a Malaysian Sunday paper which ran for more than 3 years.
|Peter Biddlecombe / petebiddlecombe (Daily 2005-2010, Jumbo & Mephisto 2006-2010)|
Born: 1960, years of Times solving: about 35 (with a gap c. 1978-83 when I defected to the Guardian)
Times best: 3'00" (22,954 - April 19 2005), Median time: 8:05 when last measured from a sample of puzzles (c. 2006), probably about 10 minutes now.
Achievements: Times Championship Winner, 2000 and 2007, and in the final 7 other times in a total of 14 attempts.
Also attempted Guardian xwd daily 1978-2006, Indie daily c. Sept 2006 - mid-2009, Various Telegraph puzzles c. 2008 onwards. Regular Azed solver, occasional clue comp entrant - best = a VHC for a Printers Devilry clue. Very patchy Listener record at present - got about 25-30 puzzles right in about 3 years, early to mid-1990s. Occasional setter of puzzles but mostly for tiny audiences so far. As of this year, I have a Church Times puzzle as my biggest success. Occasional solver of US-style non-cryptic puzzles, currently daily solver of Times Two non-cryptic puzzle. I do some SuDoku and other 'Japanese puzzles', but way below Championship standard.
Peter started this blog back in 2005 and ran it on his own for the first nine months. He was then joined by other bloggers but continued to remain the administrator and main contributor. At the beginning of 2011 he was taken on by the Sunday Times to replace Barbara Hall as their crossword editor and was therefore obliged to curtail his involvement with the blog.
|Neil Talbott / talbinho (ST 2007-2010, Jumbo 2006-2008, Daily 2006-2007)|
Born: 1981. Years of Times solving: about 9 (before when The Telegraph and The Leicester Mercury provided a grounding).
Times speed: Median time around 10 mins; sub-5 on a very good day, 30+ on the toughest days. Times accuracy (without references): An average of about 2 mistakes per week or so. 3 or more missing clues in about one crossword per month.
Other crosswords: Other dailies (Independent first) as availability and time permit; Listener solver; highly satisfied Magpie subscriber.
Weaknesses: Opera, theatre, Shakespeare, Dickens (in fact literature in general), artists. (Oh, and Polish prime ministers.)
Achievements: All-correct Listener solver for 2006, Times Championship finalist, 2007
|Richard / richardvg (Daily 2006-2009)|
Born: late-1950s. Times solving speed: about half again as long as Peter B. Graduated from solving the Telegraph to the Times in 1972. Gave up the Times on change of ownership in 1981; survived for a decade or so on Guardian and Listener puzzles. Now back to a daily Times habit.
|Ilan Caron / ilanc (Daily 2007-2008, ST 2006-2007)|
Age: old enough to remember the 1966 world cup. Level: journeyman (Times and Guardian dailies, occasional Azed and Mephisto, and the rare Listener). Times speed: best 15 minutes, average: 45'-1 hour.
Born in England but have lived overseas since I was 11 (since I was a sports-obsessed child, Brit cricket and rugby allusions are familiar but much modern britslang is unfamiliar). Cryptics in "The New Yorker" (97-99) were what got me going. Just joined Google after spending many years at Microsoft.
|Tony Sever (TLS 2010)|
Born 1944 in Scarborough, Yorkshire. Have lived in Ealing, West London since 1970. Career spent designing and writing computer software with ICL or its predecessors, subsidiaries and successors (between school and university I was programming the ICT 1301 before dorsetjimbo got his hands on it).
Started solving the crossword in The Rainbow - or was it Chicks' Own? - at around 5. Progressed, with considerable help from my older brother and sister, to Everybody's and The Yorkshire Post at 6 or 7. First tackled The Listener crossword and Ximenes while at school, and have been solving the daily cryptic in The Times regularly since I was 18 - fastest time 3:54, some years ago! Have competed in the Times Championship every year since it began in 1970, reaching the final 20 times between 1975 and 2009, and winning once (in 1981).
Compete regularly at Race the Clock, and cover that in a separate blog ( http://tony-sever.livejournal.com/). Slowing with age, though a competitive streak persists. Have been tackling the TLS puzzle since I discovered it was available online in early 2009, and blogging it (along with Andy Wallace) since early 2010.
|Ken Gillett / 7dPenguin (Jumbo until Nov 2011)|
Born about 1960. I'm a software developer and live in Accrington, Lancashire. I started solving during my student years, being an occasional solver of The Guardian and Telegraph, usually in the pub on a Saturday lunchtime (with Penfold_61, another regular commenter on this blog). I remained an occasional solver of the dailies until about 3 years ago when I paid my subscription to the Times and figured I'd better get my money's worth by solving every day. It usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes to complete, often taking longer and occasionally less. My all time best is 5:10. My weaknesses are many and various, but I have a real aversion towards old books and old music. I've started doing the Indie and Guardian most days and recently had my first bash at a Mephisto. I've competed at three regional finals of the Times National Crossword Competition, but didn't ever trouble the leader board. I'll be at Cheltenham this year, my target being not to make an idiot of myself. Aside from the wonderful world of crosswords, I like to go on walks, watch football (Blackburn Rovers) and mess about with my two sons.
|Russel John / kororareka (Alternate Mondays until July 2012)|
Born 1953, Sydney. I was led into a life of crosswords by a wayward friend in high school. The Sunday Times (I think) was reproduced in a now defunct Sunday paper and it took a group of us all week to get a handful of clues, sometimes abetted by a Maths teacher. We'd gather clandestinely in the library and chuckle around the complete OED. This was Australia and anything resembling intellectual activity was frowned upon. During my misspent youth as a serious student I stopped doing them, mistakenly believing that life was too short for crosswords. I started doing the Times on a fairly regular basis again in the 90's. Times had changed. Crosswords had become a social event around the tea table at work. Latterly I do them over a leisurely breakfast and hope I can finish before morning tea, lunch at the latest. Life is good.
|Niall MacSweeney / nmacsweeney (Jumbo until end 2010)|
Born 1947, doing crosswords since teens, Daily Telegraph, Guardian then a fallow period till the Indy was launched in 1986.
Not among the high fliers, but can finish the Indy every day with the odd mistake - average solving time about 20 mins. Blogs as nmsindy on Fifteen squared site which covers Indy puzzles. Encouraged by Don Manley's book, tried the Listener in holidays in 1993 and, amazingly solved the very first one and became hooked. Again not among the high fliers - not broken into the successful solvers' list (10 or fewer wrong in a year), but usually get 30-odd correct. Like the numerical puzzles (4 year in the Listener and monthly in the Magpie). Was very pleased to have a Listener puzzle published (pseudonym: Raich) in July 2007.
|sabine_tk (Daily 2008-2010)|
I started trying to figure out cryptic crosswords when I was about twelve – I used to cut the puzzle out of the newspaper and take it to school to study surreptitiously during classes. I was already heavily addicted to puzzles at that age and would spend hours working on books of cryptograms or logic problems, but nowadays only crosswords really hold my interest. I do the Times - where I’d guess my average solving time is around 12 minutes - and the Listener, which I usually manage to finish. I also subscribe to The Magpie, where I rarely finish anything. The rest of the time I’m a writer and computer programmer.
My best subjects are books, pop music, popular culture generally – I’m pretty shallow - and computer games; not a terribly useful collection for solving the Times. Areas of especially woeful ignorance are religion, anything military, and food and drink. I also misspell Italian words with dismaying regularity.
|David Hogg / dhogg (Daily & Mephisto 2007)|
Born mid-1960s. Location: Paisley Occupation: Territory Finance Manager for the British Red Cross. Have been solving cryptics since I was 12, starting with the Dundee Courier. I them moved on to the Scotsman and then the Times. My average solving time for a Times crossword is about 10-12 minutes, but I have had sub-5 minute successes on occasion. I don’t do a regular crossword now - just depends on my mood on the day, but I do tend to buy the Times every Saturday, and have just subscribed to the online Guardian crossword service. In the 80s I qualified for the Scottish heat of the Times Crossword Championship on four (maybe five?) occasions, but could only attend one (poor student, don’t you know!). I came 36th. I also qualified for the 2006 and 2007 Finals, but work commitments prevented me from attending. I haven’t got a lot of experience of barred crosswords, but I try them occasionally. I compile a range of puzzles from mazes to cryptic crosswords. Not had a lot of luck with getting them published, but to be fair, I haven’t tried very hard either. I did have a puzzle published in Games five years ago. I enjoy solving US-style non-cryptic puzzles and wonder whether there might be a market for similar “themed” crosswords over here?
|the_od (Mephisto & Jumbo 2006-2008)|
Born: c. 1960 - Solving cryptics since my teens, spent pre-teens looking over Dad’s shoulder at the Telegraph. I was weaned on a diet of Azed, The Listener and the much-mourned Games & Puzzles magazine. Never really managed to get any good at the Times, and from 2001-2006, I rarely attempted it. However, the revival of the Championship has inspired me to try and improve! I hope my contributions to the Community may show how practice (whilst not making perfect!) can bring that improvement. I am already trying to implement some of the top tips from the speed merchants. Since resuming solving, and monitoring my progress via Peter’s blog, I have found that my current times are around double his (but I can still come a complete cropper - and often do!). Best time ever 6:24, some 8 years ago. Let’s see if we can get better than that!
Weaknesses: Literature. I must be one of the most unread crossword solvers around. I can count the number of fiction books I have read on the fingers of one hand (maths was more my bag), and of those 7 books none is likely to feature in a Times clue. Also poor on Geography.
Other crosswords: Azed, The Listener (occasional solver over last few years), Magpie subscriber. I have become hooked on Race The Clock for the T2, although Race The Calendar would be more appropriate for me.
Achievements: As far as The Times goes, I have never managed 100% in a Regional Qualifier! Closest I came was one error when I did not know the composer Hindemith (oh yes, Classical Music – another weakness!). So my top crossword achievement has to be an all-correct Listener year back in the 90’s. [As the number of all-correct Listener solvers is neraly always less than ten, this is equivalent to a good place in the Times final. Those with Chambers can look up 'od' and wonder which meaning is being used here ... Ed.]
|Mr Magoo / i_am_magoo (Daily 2006-2007)|
Mr Magoo, born in 1965, is a former Times and Daily Telegraph Crossword Champion. He has also won the Silver Solver Salver for the Listener crossword, and is a co-editor of The Magpie, a subscription magazine for those who like tough thematic crosswords (and numerical puzzles). [For Mr Magoo's solving times, take a look at the weekly contests on this blog. Ed.]
I've been doing crosswords for about twenty years. The bug bit hard at first, and I soon evolved a Pavlovian solving response to anything that looked like a crossword (checked tablecloths weren't safe). Eventually I took a sabbatical from them for fear that the men in white coats might soon be dragging me off, eager little fists still clutching a stubby pencil and a folded copy of the Times.
Nowadays I ration myself to solving the Times daily puzzle and no other. I would put my par solving time at around 17 minutes, but I'm a bit inconsistent. When I really concentrate I occasionally manage a sub-ten minute time, and have dipped below eight on a few occasions.
I work in design and do some writing these days, and have worked in academia (literature then later linguistics), teaching and a few bizarrely unrelated professions. I'm Cheltenham born and raised, but have lived in a few countries. I'm currently living in Canada but am starting to hanker for England again (if I can ever afford the prices).
|Neil Wellard / Neildubya (Daily 2007-2008) |
Born: mid-1980s. I've been solving crosswords for about 14 years. Started with Guardian and stayed there until Aug 2006. Now a regular Independent and Times solver, and occasional Guardian puzzles thrown in for good measure. Average solving time now around 15 mins. Over the years I have occasional stabs at the Listener but these never last long. I also do the Cyclops puzzle in Private Eye and I have a long-standing ambition to compile a crossword using words and phrases only found in the Viz publication "Roger's Profanisaurus". One day...
Born: mid-1980s. I live in West London and sit down at one o'clock to solve the daily cryptic. By profession I'm an auditor for bookmaking and casino software but I tend to use Scrabble and crosswords to take a break from poring over code. I started out with the Telegraph's cryptic about nine years ago because my then-boss frequently left it only partially solved. I've now been solving the Times daily for a couple of years, and the Sunday Times Mephisto puzzle at weekends (timings: 20-40 minutes for a daily).
|Dorothy Satterfield / dorosatt|
Born mid-1950s. Born, raised, and still (still!) residing in Wilmington, Delaware. Discovered the British cryptic in the autumn of 1976, when a fellow grad student/puzzle addict tossed me a New York Magazine and told me to check out the puzzle on the last page. The heading was something like 'World's Toughest Crossword from the Sunday London Times', and not a single clue made sense. All my friend could tell me was that this was the type of puzzle they did in Britain and it involved wordplay. I still remember the first clue I managed to solve: 'Making a fuss bringing up first-born (7,4)'. I shouted out the answer, which was embarrassing, because I was on a crowded train heading for New York at the time. After that, we'd have a go at the puzzle every week; sometimes we'd even finish one.
But when I left school, I stopped doing the puzzle, and didn't start again until a few years ago, when I joined the Times Crossword Club. Through the Club, I discovered Peter Biddlecombe's blog and I also bought a copy of Don Manley's Crossword Manual. With all that help, and with daily practice, my solving time has improved considerably (say 45 to 90 minutes on average), but will probably never be fast, which is okay with me. I like to take my time over a good puzzle. I tend to linger lovingly over a finely-wrought clue. My goal is simply to finish within a reasonable amount of time, give my brain a good workout, perhaps learn something, and, above all, have fun.
|John Henderson / johnhenderson|
John is best known as a setter - Enigmatist in the Guardian, Nimrod in the Independent and Io in the FT. He started solving and setting crosswords at a very tender age, was strongly influenced by correspondence with Araucaria, and had his first Guardian puzzle published when he was fifteen. John won the Times Championship in 1996 and claims the fastest time for a competitor in the Times championship - 2:53. After working as a psychology lecturer, he became a full-time setter of crosswords and quizzes in 2003, and runs a website featuring puzzles by various professional and amateur setters.
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