He has just won the Times Crossword Championship for a record eleventh time and for the tenth year in succession. And he will be back in the Guinness Book of Records for the third time since 2015 which is when he first beat the record for consecutive wins.
On Saturday afternoon, he competed against 172 other qualifiers (out of 450 original entrants) in the preliminary round, gaining a place in the final as one of the 24 fastest contestants to complete three hard crossword puzzles under exam conditions.
It took him just 20 minutes and 10 seconds to finish three even harder puzzles, more than 10 minutes ahead of second-placed John McCain (30 minutes 50 seconds) and third-placed David Howe (34 minutes 25 seconds).
That didn’t stop him panicking as he told economia afterwards. “As usual, the most amusing worry, in hindsight, was that I hadn’t been solving particularly fast, and probably shouldn’t risk taking the time to check all my answers were what I had meant to write. I then sat there for 10 minutes with nobody else finishing, thinking I should really have done some checking!”
Fortunately, his answers were correct and the silver trophy he’d arrived with in the morning was handed back to him with a cheque for £1,000.
The champion puzzler, whose day job is as CFO of palm oil company REA Holdings, says he is planning to compete again next year, although he acknowledges that doesn’t always make him particularly popular with the other competitors.
Any secret tips to pass on to give them a better chance? If he has any, he's not revealing them. “I didn’t do any special preparation,” he says. “As well as spending my time developing a video channel, “Cracking the Cryptic”, to help others with solving cryptic clues, I was in Bangalore two weeks ago for the World Sudoku Championship: I finished 32nd individually and helped the UK team to 6th place.
“One of my team-mates had already won the Times Sudoku Championship this year, but I’ll be trying again for that next time.”
If he does, he will be in with a chance of breaking yet another record – it’s one he set in 2014 by becoming the only person ever to win both the Times Crossword and the Times Sudoku Championships in the same year.