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November 4th, 2018 - RTC3
Random Thoughts on Crosswords Cryptic and Concise + Recherché Times Crossword Clues Considered
Here are the results of the final of the 2018 Times Crossword Championship. The figures in parentheses are competitors' scores out of 90, where 1 point was awarded for each of the 90 clues solved correctly.

1 Roger Crabtree (90)
2 Matthew Marcus (90)
3 John McCabe (90)
4 David Howell (90)
5 Simon Chillingworth (90)
6 Helen Ougham (90)
7 Gerard McHugh (90)
8 Mark Goodliffe (89)
9 Alan Smith (89)
10 Simon Townley (89)
11 Chris Williams (88)
12= Paul Facey-Hunter (88)
12= Mike Davis (88)
14 Shane Shabankareh (87)
15 Colin Thomas (86)
16 Guy Haslam (82)
17 Allan Saldanha (81)
18 Alan Dorn (80)
19 Ian Clark (78)
20 David Webb (77)
21 Charles Wood (76)
22= James Davis (72)
22= Phil Jordan (72)
24 Toby Brereton (71)

Many congratulations to Roger Crabtree, the first new champion since Peter Biddlecombe's first win in 2000. Congratulations also to Matthew Marcus for his first appearance in the top 10. Commiserations of course to Mark Goodliffe, who for once made an unforced error by inventing a word. His magnificent run of ten consecutive championship wins is unlikely to be beaten for some time, if ever.

Commiserations also (and for the second year running) to Neil Talbott, who I understand made a careless mistake in the first puzzle in the second preliminary round. I'm not entirely sure what it was (I wanted to do the puzzles myself when I got home, so asked not to be told), but I think I can guess as there's only one word that anyone as good as he is could conceivably have got wrong. At least he has the consolation that even if he'd reached the final, Roger Crabtree would still have beaten him on speed.

My nerves get worse as the years roll by, as evinced by the effect it has on my writing (I really ought to apologise to the markers), as well as by the deterioration in my speed. However, although I was 36th to hand in my solutions, so many people made mistakes that I finished 18th in the first preliminary and so (being in the first 25) won't have to qualify next year. The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth to hand in their solutions (David Meek, Sue Prout, Richard Grafen and Neil Robinson, all former finalists) made the same careless error, but I offer my particular commiserations to Neil Robinson who finished 26th. Neil would have done pretty well in the final too, since he knocked off the puzzles correctly in a significantly faster time than I did.

As one who's finished 13th in a preliminary in the past, and thus just missed the cut (the top 12 in each preliminary go through to the final), I have particular sympathy for Tim Hall and Anne Lickert (especially as it would have been her first final) and wish them both better luck next year.

Although this year's final puzzles seemed more difficult than last year's, I managed to avoid making a stupid mistake and finished them correctly in the allotted hour, though with only seconds to spare - so at least I achieved one of my two objectives (to qualify for the final and solve all the puzzles correctly). Over the years I've beaten almost all those I've competed against at least once (that even includes John Sykes - though he was in even poorer health than usual that year - and Mark Goodliffe - in the days before he became almost invincible), notable exceptions being John Brightley (a very fine solver, who sadly vanished from the scene before I came into my own) and Alan Dorn. Would I have beaten Alan if I'd reached the final today, I wonder? [Amendment, 17 February 2019: While checking up how many times I'd competed against Roy Dean (the answer turns out to be 14), I've discovered that I beat someone called A. Dorn in the London regional final in 1996, when I tied with M.A. Trollope for first place and he came 141st (with four mistakes). Although he must have been a raw beginner in those days, I'm still counting this as a win for me. Woohoo! :-)]

Once again it was good to see old friends whom I've competed against over the years. And I'm still hoping to be around in two years' time for the 50th anniversary of the first championship.

Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: better than last year :-)

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