Times for the Times is a long-standing blog created to provide solvers of the Times of London puzzles with a full explanation of the how the clues in each puzzle work, and give them an opportunity to discuss clue construction, word usage, and general crossword topics arising from a particular puzzle.
TftT was started in 2006 by Peter Biddlecombe, who was an elite solver who had won the Times Crossword Championship. Since many of the early commenters were also elite solvers, there was an emphasis on posting solving times, and some degree of competition within the group. As the blog became more popular, a wide variety of solvers joined in, and more bloggers were recruited to provide full coverage of the puzzles provided in the Times. So while each blogger usually still posts a solving time, the blog is no longer solely the province of the world's top cryptic solvers, and both the blogs and the comments reflect a wide variety of solving ability.
At first, TftT only covered the seven daily puzzles and Mephisto. The Jumbo cryptics were added to the mix during the first year, and have continued ever since, The Club Monthly was added in the second year, and has also continued to the present day. The TLS puzzles were covered for a while in the 2010-11 period, but then were dropped, only to be revived in 2016. However, they were again dropped in 2017 when the TLS decided not to make the puzzles available to Times subscribers. When the Quick Cryptic was begun on March 10, 2014, TfT immediately added it to the daily blogging schedule, which required quickly recruiting a number of new bloggers. The current line-up is the daily Cryptic, the daily Quick Cryptic, the Jumbos, Mephisto, and the Club Monthly. We do not cover the non-cryptic puzzles, and the Listener puzzles have been covered in another blog since 2007.
The earliest blogs were rather terse, and only the most difficult clues were blogged. As time went on, and a number of commenters started to ask more and more questions, the blogs were expanded, and eventually all the clues were blogged. This was helped along by the development of blogging scripts by some of our more technically adept bloggers, which allow the generation of blog skeletons from completed puzzles, which made blogging easier and quicker.
TftT has always allowed anyone to freely comment on the blogs. We would prefer that you sign up for a free Live Journal account, but we do allow anonymous users to comment. Anyone is free to 'join the community', but this has no effect on what you can say or do. We have a very pleasant and erudite community, and we allow a lot of freedom to off-topic comments and general discussion. However, the administrators do read all the comments, and we do have the power to delete your comment, as well as block you from posting. In the dozen-odd years that TftT has existed, only one undesirable individual has ever been ejected, but it can be done if necessary.
We ask that you do not mention clues or solutions from any competition puzzles that are still open. This includes the Saturday puzzle, the Sunday, puzzle, Mephisto, and the Jumbos. Our blog-posting schedule for these puzzles reflects the closing dates for competitions. The blogs for the daily puzzles, however, appear soon after the puzzles are published by the Times, so don't open TftT unless you want to see the answers!
Live Journal does not allow unprivileged commenters to post links, or anything that looks like it might contain a link. If your comment does not appear, this is probably the reason. When writing your comments be sure to leave a space after every full stop. If you are a regular and respected commenter who wants to occasionally post a link that is relevant to the discussion, the administrators can make this happen- just ask.
The Current Blogging Team
The current blogging team consists of 22 active bloggers, plus 3 available substitutes who sometimes fill in for bloggers who are on vacation or otherwise unavailable. This team was recruited over time, as the original bloggers who started in 2006 gradually faded away, and others took over their spots. Additional bloggers were added as coverage expanded. Right now, the group is pretty stable, but sometimes there are openings for new bloggers. Often, respected commenters are asked if they would like to join, but there have been several general calls for volunteers that have turned up some fine bloggers.
The blog is owned and administered by vinyl1, who took over from linxit in 2017. This administration of the blog is ably assisted by four other bloggers with special privileges to fix problems in the blog as they come up: verlaine, ulaca, glheard,and jackkt. These bloggers are scattered around the world, so we are able to deal with issues at any time of the day or night.
The daily puzzles are blogged by these bloggers:
Monday: vinyl1, ulaca
The Quick Cryptics are blogged by these bloggers
Monday: astartedon, jackkt
Wednesday: william_j_s, plusjeremy
Thursday: rolytoly, therotter
The Jumbos are blogged on the basis of the last digit of the puzzle number by the following bloggers:
0, 5: kitty_404
1, 6: penfold_61
2, 7: johninterred
3, 8: sghanson
4, 9: verlaine
The special-interest puzzles are blogged by the following bloggers:
Club Monthly: verlaine
In addition to these regular bloggers, oliviarhinebeck, sotira and jerrywh are available to fill in when someone is not around to blog at the scheduled time.
Further information about our current bloggers
The following brief autobiographies were submitted by the bloggers. You will note that some bloggers chose to reveal their full real names, and some do not. We try to respect their choice, although some of them have become known through winning or placing in the annual Times solving championships. These notes have been arranged by their blogging name in alphabetical order.
brnchn / Bruce / since 2017
Born in the late 1940s. Discovered The Times crosswords in late 1960s, still learning how to solve them. After working backwards through the archives as well as doing the daily puzzle each day, I have some hope that the light has gone on! I live in Australia so normally start the crossword over lunch, but my solving times are generally meaningless, because I fit in a few minutes here and there between walking the dog and other things. Luckily that still leaves me time to have the Saturday blog ready seven days later.
chrisw91 / Chris / since 2014
Having had the pleasure of meeting Tony Sever (all Cryptics most days in under 10 minutes) at a crossword 'do' in a bar somewhere in London, I am keenly aware of my inadequacies crossword-wise. His prowess, he says, comes from starting cryptics at a very young age (7 from a poor memory). My attempts at cryptics didn't begin until I was two decades older by which time I would never be in the 'solve 3 15x15s in an hour in competition' bracket. Being a 15x15 novice I started reading the blog and finding how much it helped. When the Quick Cryptic came about and bloggers were sought I tentatively put my hand up rather hoping I wouldn't be needed. My first blog was Quick Cryptic 7 by Teazel on March 18th 2014 and I’ve settled into the Tuesday slot since then. All comments/posts to the blog are appreciated but I get particular pleasure from hearing from newbies/lurkers and especially the redoubtable SCC (the self and wryly named slow coach club). I see the Quick Cryptic as a fun puzzle which also helps people begin to appreciate the pleasure of cryptics and am very happy to help.
curarist / Peter / since 2017
Born 1965. Hospital Consultant with a bit of TV screenwriting on the side. My medical specialty - renowned for producing crossword enthusiasts - is something a keen crossworder might be able to deduce from my pseudonym. I started on the Times 15x15 in about 1984, when I would typically manage to get two of the answers, and then had to wait 24 hours to find out they were both wrong. No online Quick Cryptic in those days! AND we had to lick t’ road clean with our tongues!
dorsetjimbo / Jim Biggin / since 2008
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.
glheard / George Heard / since 2008
Born: 1970. Regular solver since 1983. Solving speed - try to keep it under 15 minutes. Expat Australian, now living in the western mountains of North Carolina in the USA. 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, Azed and Listener. Teacher, comedian and actor depending on the time of day and generosity of casting directors. Aficionado of craft beer and mediocre golf. Main weakness is botany - almost always have to get names of plants and trees from wordplay.
guy_du_sable / Sandy McCroskey / since 2018
Born: December 28, 1955, in West Virginia. I got the cryptic bug from the puzzles of former OSS cryptographer Frank W. Lewis, who, for many decades, starting in 1948, created somewhat idiosyncratic cryptics for The Nation magazine, where I’ve worked only since 1986, and where now I shepherd the creations of the puzzle team of Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto into print and onto the website at TheNation.com. I am also magazine’s web copy editor. As there are enough deadlines in my life, and I really don’t like to be rushed, I never time myself.
jackkt / since 2008
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 you can take encouragement from my solving times!
johninterred / John Moody / since 2017
Born: 1958. Although brought up mostly in the North-East of England, I have lived in Suffolk since the late 1990s (My blogging name is a clue as to where). My father introduced me to crosswords as a teenager in the 1970s by getting me to help him do the Sunday Times crossword. Away at boarding school in Barnard Castle I occasionally tried The Times, but never really got to grips with it. It was only when I started working away from home in about 2007 that I started doing The Times regularly. One evening, trying online to find help for a clue I didn’t understand, I stumbled across TfTT. At last! Somewhere that gave an explanation for all those clues I found so mysterious! It was such a help to me that I became a regular reader and commenter. I also found the Quick Crossword a great learning aid for giving me the practice at the range of clue types that I’d never understood before. I got the opportunity to join the blogging team in 2017, taking over from Galspray. I particularly enjoy seeing others progress like I did with the help of the QC and the blog. After a long career in IT (although I initially trained as a scientist), I started working part-time in 2018 which gives me more time for walking, music-making, brewing, growing chillis.
keriothe / since 2014
I started trying to solve the Times crossword in my late twenties. Like most people I suppose I taught myself by looking (when I remembered and still had the puzzle) at the answers in the next day’s paper and trying, not always successfully, to figure out why they were what they were. After a decade or so of laborious progress I could finish the puzzle about half the time, and on a really good day I could do so on my daily 20-minute tube ride. At that point (2010) I discovered TfTT. Suddenly, rather than having to wait until the next day I could get all the answers immediately, with a full explanation of the wordplay, and my improvement accelerated dramatically. Fast forward a few years to 2018 and I qualified for the championship final. So the blog has been of enormous help to me and when a vacancy arose in 2014 I volunteered, and have been blogging every other Sunday puzzle ever since. I live in London with my wife, four kids, two dogs and a cat. I work in finance.
kitty_404 / Kitty / Since 2019
I was introduced to cryptics as a teenager in the mid-late 90s when my father taught himself to solve the Telegraph puzzles. I would (attempt to) complete the nearly-filled grids he left, an exercise which involved much dictionary trawling. I dabbled very occasionally but only really started solving in earnest in early 2014. On discovering the blogs shortly afterwards the burgeoning hobby fast became something of an obsession. In 2015 I started blogging a few Telegraph puzzles for Big Dave's blog, taking on the regular Tuesday Toughie spot a year later. As 2018 drew to a close I joined the Fifteensquared team too, blogging some of the Independent and Enigmatic Variations puzzles. After work commitments necessitated a break from weekday blogging, friends from this blog alerted me to a vacancy here ... so here I am! I've really enjoyed meeting many members of the wider crossword community online and at the various gatherings and will forever treasure the friends made through crosswords. Rumours that these days I'm only in it for the beer are greatly exaggerated. With what little time I can wrest from the urge to fill in grids, I like to read and play piano (badly). I walk a lot and run a bit, because my other hobbies are rather sedentary and I have to let off steam somehow!
penfold_61 / Ian Clark / since 2016
Born 1961. My first introduction to cryptic crosswords was in my early teens “helping” my Dad with the Telegraph cryptic and getting familiar with the conventions like T for model and RE for sapper. I was then little more than an occasional solver for many years, including time spent solving sociably in the coffee bar of the Leeds Polytechnic Business School and surrounding pubs with erstwhile Jumbo blogger 7dPenguin and other like-minded individuals. I tended to limit myself to the Telegraph and Guardian (the latter in particular when there was an Araucaria bank holiday special on offer) as whenever I picked up the Times and looked at the previous day’s answers I decided there were too many unknown words for me to have got anywhere. Fast forward to January 2008 and a Leeds Poly reunion of sorts where the aforementioned Penguin told me how great the Times crossword was and how I should start solving it daily and use this very blog to help me understand the clues. Within 9 months I went from rarely having completed a Times Cryptic (and certainly never in under 30 minutes) to my first ever sub-10-minute solve. Since 2010 I’ve participated every year in the Times National Crossword Championship, managing to scrape into the Grand Final in 2018 and finish a creditable (for me) 19th. My “par” time for the daily puzzle is probably around 12-13 minutes. My lack of anything even remotely resembling a grounding in the classics can sometimes cause me grief, but I make up for that by knowing loads about far more important “stuff” like food & drink, modern music and sport. TheTimes puzzles are my only regular crossword indulgence but I’ll occasionally do the Guardian if it’s a setter I enjoy (e.g. Paul, Picaroon and Tramp).
pipkirby / Philip Kirby / Since 2014
I was born in Dorset in 1948. I read Chemistry at Oxford, followed by an eclectic career in marketing, advertising, accountancy, European management and mentoring for small businesses. I left the UK in 1974 and have since lived in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Greece and most recently for 12 years in SW France. We moved back to UK (Rutland) in 2019. A keen golfer and bridge player, I started solving crosswords with the Crosaire (Irish Times) in the 80s and joined the Times Crossword Club in 2007. I’ve done The Times and ST almost every day since, for pleasure, not as a speed test, but it's usually done in 20-30 minutes. I enjoy and occasionally finish the TLS and stare, baffled, at the Mephisto. I started cautiously, blogging the Quick Cryptic not long after its launch in 2014, then moved to alternate Wednesdays with jerrywh on the main Cryptic, before becoming the “every Wednesday” man in 2015.
plusjeremy / Jeremy / Since 2018
Born1982, blogging Wednesday Quickies since Fall 2018. Pianist, conductor, math teacher, and stay-at-home dad to two wonderful boys. I started doing American-style crossword puzzles on long train rides in high school, then found American-style cryptics in puzzle magazines a few years later. About a decade after that I found the Times puzzle (syndicated in the New York Post), and was immediately hooked by a level of wordplay unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. This blog was instrumental in helping me get on the right wavelength. I try to solve the 15x15 puzzles when I can, though my day job (stay-at-home dad) does take up most of my time.
sghanson/ Simon Hanson / Since 2009
Born 1957, and have been solving crosswords since the mid 1970s 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 several Times Crossword Championship finals, twice coming second to Mark Goodliffe, who wins nearly every year. I am a retired Chartered Accountant but still keep my financial brain working as treasurer for a Macmillan Cancer Support fund-raising committee, and a local fishing association. Retirement has given me more time to enjoy other interests including fishing, gardening and photography.
ulaca / Since 2012
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 chequered 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.
verlaine / Matthew / Since 2014
Born in Metz, and educated at the Lycée Impérial Bonaparte in Paris... no wait, that's the other one. The rascal who goes by the name of verlaine on TfTT is actually known as Matthew to the police, and "thesunneversets" while commenting in the Times Puzzle Club, for obscure reasons that even he does not fully understand. His first TfTT blog was in May 2014, taking over the Friday slot from jackkt, and he was deeply shocked when he realised just now that he'd been doing this gig for 5 years now, he can tell you. His achievements include a second place finish in the 2018 Times Champs thanks solely to a rare mistake by the great Magoo, and being able to blog a 15x15, a Jumbo and a Club Monthly all in the space of the same few hours due to how poor he is at scheduling these duties.
vinyl1 / Jonathan / Since 2009
I was born in 1953 and have been doing the Times puzzle for 30 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, lived in New York City when I was working, and am now back in Connecticut. 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. I became the owner and administrator of Times for the Times in 2017, when linxit had to resign due to the pressure of work. There were no other volunteers.
william_j_s / William / Since 2014
Born in 1985, I live in Yorkshire. I started watching a friend solve the Saturday Times in a pub near Bristol University as an undergraduate, and was inspired to spend the next several years staring at empty grids as I attempted to solve independently whenever time allowed. When I decided to get serious about crosswords (sometime in 2012) another friend and I would have a go at the Times and Telegraph puzzles during our lunch break. Stumbling upon TfTT was a godsend, and I lurked here soaking up the conventions, abbreviations and chestnuts until the request for Quick Cryptic bloggers was made. My first blog was for QC5, and I’ve had a fortnightly slot ever since. I now solve the 15x15 (in around 30-60 minutes) and the Quicky (in around 10-15 minutes) every day.
z8b8d8k / Ian Richardson / Since 2013
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.