Headnote I've updated the first paragraph following information from Hugh Stubbs's son Tom.
I wrote last week that although the three final puzzles in this year's Times Crossword Championship were perhaps a little more difficult than usual, they were arguably easier than the four puzzles in the 1975 final. (I'm hoping that the latter will be made available to Times Crossword Club members at some point so that they can judge for themselves.) Looking again at the 1975 results, what strikes me is the number of Oxford graduates in the top eight. They were: 1. John Sykes (Wadham, maths); 3. Terry Girdlestone (Lincoln (I think), maths); 4. Hugh Stubbs (Christ Church, Greats); 5. Sir David Hunt (Wadham, Greats); 7 Michael Rich (Univ., law); 8 Tony Sever (Queen's, maths). For all I know, Edward Hillman (2nd) and John Brightley (6th) were also Oxford men. I met Edward Hillman a number of times over the years and suspect he would have owned up if he had been. (But then I thought the same about Hugh Stubbs, and found I was wrong - though perhaps he did tell me and I'd forgotten.) Sadly I never really got to know John Brightley. He was a very fine solver, coming 2nd to John Sykes in 1972 and 1973 and to James Atkins in 1976, but he disappeared from the Championship scene a couple of years later. From my point of view he stands out as one of the three leading solvers whom I've never beaten (the others are 1998 champion Alistair Sutherland and Alan Dorn).
The Oxford Mafia fared pretty well in earlier days of the Championship. The three Oxford maths graduates from the 1975 final won every Championship from 1980 to 1985 inclusive and there were at least two or three Oxford men in the top four in every Championship from 1973 to 1991 inclusive, apart (perhaps - I don't have full records for every year) from 1974, 1976, 1978, 1987 and 1990 (Sandy Morrison and 1991 champion Michael Macdonald-Cooper helped to keep the numbers up). However, in the modern period all that has changed, and although Oxford men still appear regularly in the final (I'm pleased to say that, thanks to Tim Smith, at least one solver from my old college has made it every year since 1996), London University graduates have dominated the Championship from 1999 onwards, with seven-times champion Mark Goodliffe of UCL and two-times champion Peter Biddlecombe of LSE dividing the honours between them.
In a competition which has on the whole been dominated by men, Cambridge's most notable contribution to the Championship has been Helen Ougham. Not only is she the only woman to have won the Championship, but she is one of just six solvers to have done so more than once. The next most successful woman was another Cambridge graduate, Nancy Wilkinson, the first Mastermind winner, who came 2nd in 1978. However, the last two years have seen Cambridge men Jason James and Neil Talbott nipping at the heels of Mark Goodliffe, so perhaps we're on the threshold of a new era in which Cambridge comes to the fore. (Or then again perhaps not, as I can't see Mark giving up his title without a fight ;-)
Thanks for that info, Simon. That makes five crossword folk from Queen's that I'm aware of.
1952-57, zoology, M. Eric Korn (7th in the first Championship) 1963-66, maths, J. A. (Tony) Sever 1969-72, maths, S. Andrew Bremner (Sabre of the Listener crossword) 1976-79, chemistry, Simon G. Hanson 1982-86, chemistry, Tim C. Smith