Mark & Simon from Cracking the Cryptic on Elite Puzzle Solving

Mark & Simon from Cracking the Cryptic on Elite Puzzle Solving

Joining me this week, for our first podcast with two guests were Mark Goodliffe and Simon Anthony, the two creators behind the “Cracking the Cryptic” YouTube channel. This episode is about elite puzzle-solving and before you think, “Ah, I don’t know if that’s for me” – just wait until you hear their story.

Mark is a qualified chartered accountant from the UK. He has won The Times Crossword Challenge so frequently that he is now in the Guinness Book of Records for that achievement. He’s also the only person to have ever won The Times Cryptic Crossword competition and Sudoku competition and has been described as the Usain Bolt of crosswords.

Simon has an economics degree from Cambridge and was a pretty good golfer before he realized he didn’t want to go professional. Instead, he turned his talents to London’s world of investment banking. Simon then exchanged high finance for Sudoku puzzles.

Simon runs the YouTube channel, Cracking the Cryptic with Mark and has grown the channel to over 360,000 subscribers. They have both represented the United Kingdom at World Sudoku and World Puzzle Championships, with Mark reigning as the UK Sudoku champion.

What’s truly remarkable about what these two gentlemen have created, is a channel in which you can experience catharsis from watching them solve beautifully elegant puzzles that resolve in ways that mimic nature and the mathematics therein. I was a skeptic myself until I sat down and watched a few of their videos, starting with a viral video called “The Miracle.” If you do nothing else, please do yourself a favor and take 25 minutes to go watch that video. You will not regret it, and you will not regret listening to my conversation with Mark Goodliffe and Simon Anthony.

Please enjoy!

Full Episode

Guest Links

Show Notes

  • The qualities of an elite puzzle solver. (00:03:11-00:05:22)
  • A brief background on Mark and Simon’s careers before Cracking the Cryptic. (00:05:44-00:06:30)
  • Mark and Simon’s take on being skillful at games and competition. (00:06:31-00:10:46)
  • How and when Mark decided to go all-in at solving elite puzzles. (00:11:40-00:13:40)
  • Simon briefly tells his story and delves into the different approaches one can take when solving puzzles. (00:13:49-00:15:44)
  • Unsolvable puzzles and the dynamic between puzzle constructors and puzzle solvers. (00:16:20-00:17:52)
  • Learning from mistakes and deliberate practice to improve their skills further. (00:18:06-00:20:09)
  • The innate qualities and abilities that have helped them hone their skill. (00:20:10-00:21:23)
  • Simon’s approach on solving Sudoku, and how it compares to Mark’s style. (00:21:32-00:24:16)
  • Mark’s perspective on Simon’s approach to Sudoku. (00:24:17-00:24:47)
  • Simon talks about the “weak point” of a Sudoku grid and how addicting puzzle-solving is. (00:24:48-00:26:55)
  • The process of elimination. (00:26:56-00:27:53)
  • The power of constraints and a thorough conversation about “The Miracle Sudoku.” (00:28:00-00:33:41)
  • Their YouTube channel and it’s popularity and impact on the viewers. (00:33:42-00:36:00)
  • Recreating their great problem-solving moments. (00:36:07-00:37:12)
  • Constructing puzzles and the difference with puzzle solving. (00:37:16-00:38:33)
  • The complex process of setting a puzzle. (00:38:35-00:41:35)
  • The history of Sudoku and how and why it became extremely popular. (00:41:38-00:46:13)
  • The profitability of Sudoku in the market. (00:46:15-00:48:16)
  • The future and potential of Sudoku and their plans for the YouTube channel. (00:48:17-00:50:07)
  • Countries with the most talented Sudoku players. (00:50:16-00:51:10)
  • Mark and Simon share the puzzle they’re most proud of solving. (00:51:13-00:53:12)
  • A final message from Mark and Simon. (00:53:18-00:54:23)

Selected Links from the Episode

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Mark & Simon from Cracking the Cryptic on Elite Puzzle Solving
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