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Crossword Championships And Speed Solving

If, like most people, you plod along when solving a cryptic crossword, then have you ever watched a crossword championship?

These events are truly incredible, where the best solvers literally read the clues and write answers in at the same time! Whereas for mere mortals you need to ponder a clue, often for several minutes, and often giving up after your pondering doesn't lead you to the answer, the best solvers can almost just write in the answers for cryptic crosswords.

How do they do this? Well no doubt lots and lots of practice is key, often solving several puzzles a day. But more than that they just seem to have a massive general knowledge and an intuitive built-in natural ability to just instantly be able to parse a clue, work out what type it is, and then arrive at the answer.

For most people, part of the pleasure of the cryptic is just to solve it at leisure, with no clock. However, if you are interested in speed solving, then you need to start timing your solve. And, since in a competition you will not have recourse to electronic aids, then you need to get used to actually working out anagram answers and so forth by hand (if you currently, like many solvers, use online tools or other gadgets). Also if you can't think of a word that fits a pattern of letters, then you'll just have to keep on thinking - no electronic aids to suggest words here!

In order to quality for a championship, you will typically be sent a puzzle or puzzles to solve, or have to solve puzzles in a newspaper, then send off your solving time - with the best solvers picked to attend the championships where you will solve puzzles in exam conditions. So there is no point cheating as you will get found out in the championship itself!

The best solvers of a newspaper cryptic crossword can solve a puzzle in around 8 minutes in total, which is pretty incredible when you consider that if there are 30 clues in the puzzle that works out at 16 seconds per clue: that's to read the clue, understand and parse it, and then to work out and write in the answer: pretty insane solving, really!

Of course, those fastest solvers are exceptional... if you can solve a cryptic crossword consistently - fully - and without help - in around 15 minutes or less then you are right up there with the best solvers and could potentially qualify for a cryptic crossword solving competition, although you'll need to occasionally hit around the 10 minute mark to have a chance of doing really well at one.

Are you a speed solver? What's your best time? We'd love to hear from you.
Date written: 21 Apr 2015

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