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How to make the Championship more of a social event - RTC3
Random Thoughts on Crosswords Cryptic and Concise + Recherché Times Crossword Clues Considered
How to make the Championship more of a social event
I've written before (here) about the Times Crossword Championship considered as a social event, and I see from one of the threads in the Times Crossword Club's General Forum that a solver I named then as a serious contender (hi there, Dave) also regards the social side of the Championship as important. Sadly though, the present set-up makes the whole business feel more like an exam than a party. Of course I want the Championship to be fair, and indeed serious up to a point, but it is after all only crosswords and not the World Chess Championship. And it is very low-key these days: in the absence of a proper sponsor, there's only one prize, and that's likely to go the same way it has for the last seven years (hi there, Mark), leaving the runners-up with just a warm feeling that they've earned the respect of their fellow-solvers.

So I'd like to suggest three things that would improve the Championship as a social event, especially as next year will be the 40th Championship, which sounds to me like a good excuse for a celebration.

1. DIY name badges. All we need is a supply of blanks plus some marker pens and we can make our own.

2. Let us out as soon as we've finished the puzzles. This didn't seem to be a problem in the old days (pre-Cheltenham). Admittedly it was a bit disconcerting if lots of people were finishing while you were still struggling, but I never found the sound of people walking any worse than the sound of finished puzzles being held up - and certainly much less disturbing than Harold Franklin (remember him?) wandering about talking loudly to people. (Actually you might not remember Harold, who was the original MC of the Championship before Mike Rich took over. He had a very penetrating voice!)

3. A place where those who've finished early can congregate out of sight and sound of those still solving. It should have a bar where we can buy alcohol - and a supply of tea and coffee, whose cost could be covered by the entry fee.

* * * * *

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that this blog has changed once again so that it now combines the titles of its two previous incarnations. This is because I keep wanting to write about crossword matters other than just recherché Times crossword clues. That's not to say that I've given up doing archive crosswords, since they're full of the sorts of clues I like. Here, for example, is one from No. 11,216 (29 April 1966):
Ecclesiastical bird - spotters paid no heed to it (7)    {G‑A‑M‑R}    [GRAMMAR]
(select between the curly brackets for checked letters, and between the square brackets for the answer)
This is a good old-fashioned Times crossword clue of the sort they served up in the early years of the Championship, but my guess is that relatively few of today's solvers could fathom it unaided. (In fact if a few more clues like that were to appear in next year's Championship preliminaries, my prospects of reaching the final would improve dramatically :-).

Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

5 comments or Leave a comment
jerrywh From: jerrywh Date: October 27th, 2014 08:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree more should be done, Tony. Ideally we need some feedback to your ideas from RR & PB. I wrote to David Levy after this year's event suggesting that a box of name tags and felt tips should be provided by the organisers. He said he had passed the idea on to the Times.
I also think that the bloggers & forumites could form a social event of their own, starting immediately after the presentation. I might see what I can do next year, no promises yet

Edited at 2014-10-27 08:09 am (UTC)
tony_sever From: tony_sever Date: October 31st, 2014 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Big Dave had organised a "Cruciverbalist Convention for crossword setters and blog contributors and readers" this year, starting at noon at the Town of Ramsgate. As I only visit his blog occasionally, I didn't actually find out about it until the day itself, and in any case knew that Janet wouldn't have been too keen to trek out there - even though it wouldn't have taken that long and we could have got a 100 bus back to Tower Hill underground station.

Your idea of a get-together for Times crossword folk starting immediately after the presentation sounds a great idea, provided that it's not too far from the venue (wherever that's going to be exactly).
richardvg From: richardvg Date: October 31st, 2014 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did go to the Town of Ramsgate, and there were a lot of us there, including Mark with the cup. All very enjoyable, though I do agree that the old regionals were better designed as a sociable day out.

If next year they hold the Championships at or near the new Times HQ at London Bridge, we will have many fine pubs in much closer walking distance than the 15 minutes that separated this year's venue from the pub.

oliviarhinebeck From: oliviarhinebeck Date: October 28th, 2014 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the mention yesterday. If only I knew how I did it I might stand a chance of a repeat performance, but it felt just the same as any other puzzle that I had no trouble with and they usually come in around the 15 minute mark.

As a veteran of school volunteer gatherings I quite agree with you - it's the simplest thing in the world to lay out a box of sticky name tags and a supply of felt tip pens. Yes indeed the 2013 did have the feel of an exam I hadn't adequately prepared for and I concur with others that it should be a social occasion which was why I came all that way. In other words, anything along the lines of your suggestions would be extremely welcome. Now if only one could do something about transatlantic air travel but I'm afraid that's beyond the reach of anyone these days.
tony_sever From: tony_sever Date: October 31st, 2014 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know if you've ever seen pictures of the pre-Cheltenham Championships, but it was all much more chummy, with solvers tightly packed in double rows with partitions separating you from your neighbours (one opposite you and one on either side - unless of course you were on the end of a row). At least part of the reason was simply economy of space, which was necessary because there were generally more entrants in those days. The final used the same partitions, but lined up the finalists in a single row on a stage facing the audience, to whom they were introduced individually. Each of puzzles was distributed to audience members at the same time as to the finalists, so that everyone could start solving at the same time (apparently there was a 20-minute delay before non-finalists received their puzzles this year), and, for each puzzle, the first audience member to finish correctly received a prize. Happy days!

Perhaps you'll be able to make the trip over here again one day as we'd all love to see you, but it's obviously a significant outlay of both time and money.
5 comments or Leave a comment