There was high drama in the world of competitive puzzling this weekend, as reigning champion Mark Goodliffe was unseated as the Times Crossword champion.
The 12-time winner unexpectedly fell short in the semi-final. The victory instead went to Matthew Marcus, a British-American teacher who flew in from Oregon to attend.
The championship invited solvers to race through some of the toughest puzzles available — cryptic crosswords. Previous competitions have been dominated by Mark Goodliffe, ten of whose twelve total victories formed a streak from 2008 to 2017.
Goodliffe sailed through the qualifier round, solving three crosswords in under an hour. However, he was disqualified in the semi-final for a single error in another three-crossword test.
The financial director provides a play-by-play of his downfall on puzzles-focussed YouTube channel Cracking the Cryptic.
More haste, less speed
Recalling a corner of the puzzle that scuppered him, Goodliffe explains how with only two words remaining he completed the grid by inserting ‘RIVALRY’ to cross with ‘ADVERSITY’.
Pressured by the fact that only the three fastest finishers would make it to the final, he submitted his crossword without double-checking the clue.
But in the pause after, he quickly realised his mistake, coming to the correct solution of ‘REVELRY’ instead. Despite being the first to finish, this oversight resulted in his elimination.
The final was tense, with just a single crossword to be solved in 30 minutes by the three remaining competitors. David Webb failed to complete the puzzle, and Peter Steggle followed in Mark’s footsteps, finishing first but with a single error. The championship therefore went to Matthew Marcus, who submitted his correct grid in just under 20 minutes.
Also known in crossword circles as Verlaine, first-time victor Marcus was awarded a trophy and a £1,000 prize.
Goodliffe, incidentally, claims to have finished the same final puzzle from the side-lines in an unbelievable ten minutes. With times like that, it’s clear he’ll be back for his crown in the future.