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Times for the Times

Times and comments on the Times crossword from a team of solvers

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Cryptic crosswords in The Times

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, an elite
solver who had twice 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 often 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 much wider variety of solving

At first, TftT only covered the seven daily cryptic puzzles and the 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 any more. 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 non-cryptic
puzzles, and the Listener puzzles have been covered in another blog since 2007.

The earliest blogs were rather terse, and only the more difficult clues
were blogged. As time went on, and the number of commenters grew, and they
started to ask more and more questions, the blogs were expanded, and
nowadays all the clues are 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 has made blogging easier and

TftT has always allowed anyone to freely comment on the blogs. We
prefer that you sign up for a free Live Journal account, but we allow
anonymous users to comment. It helps if they give a name. 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 have the power to
delete your comment, as well as block you from posting. In the years since 2007 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 most commenters to post links, or
anything that looks as if 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 now 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



Thursday:z8b8d8k, glheard



Sunday:keriothe, guy_du_sable

The Quick Cryptics are blogged by these bloggers

Monday: astartedon, jackkt

Tuesday: chrisw91

Wednesday: william_j_s, plusjeremy

Thursday: rolytoly, therotter

Friday:curarist, johninterred

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: JerryW

4, 9: verlaine

The special-interest puzzles are blogged by the following bloggers:

Mephisto:glheard, vinyl1

Club Monthly: verlaine

In addition to these regular bloggers, oliviarhinebeck, sotira and
jerrywh (themselves all past bloggers) 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! 

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
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
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! 

JerryWh / Since 2009, on and off

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 single day and so far, up to Feb 2021,
I have managed to do so. The advent of the crossword club was a godsend,
especially when on holiday! It is sometimes a bit of a cross to bear, but I
haven’t the courage to stop now..
I’m not very quick and anyway, tend to prefer enjoyment and persistence above
speed, and reckon to take between 10-30 mins according to difficulty, sometimes
more. So I will be attending the Times Championships in a spectating capacity,
only... I usually also do the Jumbo, ST cryptic, Mephisto, and TLS crosswords,
if time permits. Occasionally Azed, but for me the Listener (and themed
crosswords generally) is a step far 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.

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

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.

In addition to the current blogging team, there is a glittering array of
past talent who have given up their time to blog for TfTT. They include
at least four past Times Crossword Champions, some very highly
regarded setters, and other luminaries. There is more
information about them, here
concise crosswords, crossword setters, crosswords, cryptic crosswords, mephisto, quick crosswords, times crossword, times crossword championship

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