Never knowingly undersolved.

On blogging, not blogging and commenting

Posted by neildubya on September 11th, 2007


I thought I’d take this opportunity to address some issues that have come under discussion on the blog recently.

Missing/Late Posts

There have been a few occasions where we haven’t been able to blog puzzles, or where we’ve posted late, and this usually attracts some commments. I’ve explained this elsewhere but it’s worth repeating: if we don’t blog a puzzle it’s not because we can’t be bothered. It’s much more likely that real-life has got in the way somewhere along the line – you know, families, jobs – that kind of thing. Also, internet connections fail and sometimes people are sick. All of which can contribute to puzzles not appearing. It doesn’t happen very often and I know it can be annoying, especially if you’re a setter looking for some feedback or a solver needing some help but really, there’s not a great deal we can do about it. All I can ask is for you to be patient: if someone can blog a puzzle, they will. If no-one’s available, they won’t.

Commenting in the wrong place

This is sort of connected to the first point: we’ve had a few people asking about the whereabouts of a particular puzzle by adding a comment to another puzzle. Some other people reply to that comment and soon enough we have a mini-discussion happening in the wrong place. This is not a good idea for two reasons: first, bloggers are automatically emailed all the comments on their posts and they don’t want to read comments on other puzzles (well, they might, but they’d rather read them on the blog itself, rather than having their inbox clogged up); second, if the missing puzzle is finally blogged those comments are now in the wrong place and may not get read by others. So from now on, comments in the wrong place will be silently deleted. You have been warned. If you really can’t help yourself and absolutely have to enquire about a missing post (despite the first point above) send an email to [email protected]

Unexplained clues

We don’t explain all the clues in a given puzzle. The reason for this is explained elsewhere (I’ll give you a clue – it’s a question I’m frequently asked) but it can be a tricky business deciding which clues to explain and which to leave out. What’s obvious to some is impenetrable to others. If we haven’t explained a clue you’re stuck on or don’t understand please don’t post a grumpy sounding comment along the lines of “What about 5D?” or “You missed 17A and it’s driving me mad”. Instead, post the full clue complete with enumeration along with a polite request for assistance. That way, someone who didn’t solve the puzzle will be able to help you, as well as those that did.

Situations Vacant

It’s probably obvious by now that we simply don’t have enough people with enough time on their hands to blog all the puzzles we’d like to. So, if you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at blogging, now’s your chance. The first thing to say is that you don’t need to be a speedy solver; if you can finish most puzzles you start, that’s the most important thing, along with being able to explain most of the wordplay in a puzzle. It’s perfectly ok occasionally to say “I don’t understand this clue” (I do it all the time) or “I couldn’t get this answer”. If you’re interested, but not sure if you’ll be any good at it then the best thing I can suggest is just to try it: solve a puzzle and then sit down and write your own blog, in a similar style to what you read here. If you want a second opinion, I’ll be happy to read it, just send it to me at [email protected].

We need bloggers to cover the following puzzles:

Independent: we need two people to take a rotating daily slot and one or two subs to cover absences like holidays.

Financial Times: same as Independent – two people for a rotating daily slot and a couple of subs.

Beelzebub: currently covered by one person (me) so it would be useful to have one or two others to rotate it between.

Any others: if you’re interesting in blogging a puzzle that we cover but which I haven’t mentioned here, send me a mail anyway – we’ll probably be able to work something out.

All offers to help, questions etc should be sent to [email protected].

34 Responses to “On blogging, not blogging and commenting”

  1. Testy says:

    I’ve probably been guilty of some of these crimes myself but would like to take the opportunity to thank all the bloggers on this site.

    I think you do a fantastic job to cover as many puzzles as you do and I’m amazed you find the time (although it’s probably because most of you are able to solve them so much quicker than the rest of us).

    The site is a credit to you all and you in particular Neil. Long may it continue!

  2. ilancaron says:

    Commenting in wrong place: What about (appropriate) comments about prize puzzles for which the blog will only appear the following week? A good example is the current Azed (1841) which has obvious errors… makes sense to discuss them somewhere — e.g. the most recent Azed blog which perforce is for the previous puzzle.

  3. Testy says:

    Perhaps for the prize crosswords you could put up a placeholder posting saying “A blog of this crossword will be posted after the competition closes on dd/mm/yyyy”. This would then let people know that a blog will be coming shortly (hence avoid you getting pestered with people wondering where it is) and would give people a place to leave comments in the meantime.

  4. Paul B says:

    My last three puzzles have been missed, including today’s (even though I spoke to a pal yesterday who revealed himself as the assigned blogger), so perhaps I’m just extremely unlucky. Or perhaps he can’t get out to buy the paper, and is simply waiting for the FT site to upload today’s crossword, which so far it’s failed to do.

    As a participant myself, I do understand the nature of ‘real life’, but if you’re enthusiastic enough to join a blogging site as a commentator I think you can be expected to be right up for it – especially when things are liable to get a wee bit more interesting.

    This wasn’t the case recently, when no-one could be bothered to put anything together for one of the Bank Holiday puzzles. Forgive me, but are there any other times at which genuine buffs might be more pleased to get on and blog? We didn’t have this problem when you boys started out, did we!

  5. Tilsit says:

    I was due to do today’s FT but the newspaper haven’t put the puzzle up on their site.

    Since the subscription costs more than all the other papers together, you think they would oblige. I mailed them at 9 am this morning and have not had the courtesy of a reply.

    I couldn’t get a paper and I will report on it when the puzzle is up.

    Personally I have great difficulty in getting physical copies of papers. It was much easier when I was working, as I then had a choice of up to eight or nine shops.

    My suggestion would be to ask the crossword editors to supply advanced copies of the puzzles. That way, bloggers can perhaps get the puzzles a day earlier and the reports can be up by 9 am each day.

  6. Paul B says:

    Respeck, D. I’d assumed as much.

  7. nmsindy says:

    I think “where is the blog?” comments, while understandable, should reflect and consider
    (1) there are just not enough bloggers at present to blog every puzzle – surely better to blog some (ie as many as possible but not guaranteeing every one) in those circs.
    (2) it is a voluntary activity and takes time – while I can only speak for myself, one does take care and time to verify and check as far as possible before posting, as the last thing you want is wrong info to go up. Remember you’re getting something for nothing, when all is said and done.
    (3) I think the difficulties are in proportion to circulation of the papers – ideally one blog a week by any blogger should be sufficient, but the enthusiasm keeps the site going, as has been commented to me by outsiders.
    (4) It’s always possible that unanticipated personal difficulties for the blogger will arise on a particular day.

  8. Fletch says:

    I did wonder whether this had been prompted by my query on the Rufus blog regarding the absence of a blog for the Taupi Prize puzzle. It wasn’t a complaint, I just thought it must’ve been an oversight because it was the first Guardian Prize I could recall not being blogged. It’s just that I hang on to the paper until the blog goes up and was waiting to ditch it in the recycle box.

    I appreciate the time and effort that goes into the blogs, in many cases it must take longer to write the blog than it does to complete the puzzle.

  9. Paul B says:

    Yep, I recognise what NMS says and why he says it, but notwithstanding, there seem to be some anomalies regarding the situation of missed blogs.

    1) This has come to prominence in discussions because no-shows are being noticed – something’s clearly amiss or people wouldn’t be onto it.

    2) This is a specialist website, written for and by people who have significantly more than a passing interest in puzzles – you/we are not average Joes in this respect. And with that in mind, were I fortunate enough to be in a position to blog, my enthusiasm and extra commitment to crosswords ought to drive me – without any conscious effort, I’d say – to make damn sure I got my blog in, whatever the circumstances.

    Yes, there are always times when stars collapse, obliterating planetary systems et cetera, but generally we can find a way around. And at the risk of repeating myself, our extra enthusiasm and commitment should come to an extraordinary climax at times like Bank Holiday weekends, when by tradition puzzles are wont to be more interesting even than usual.

    But when no-one could be arsed around here.

  10. Colin Blackburn says:

    I must admit that if Paul B’s views represented the majority reading this blog then I’d call it a day now. I do crosswords for pleasure. I enjoy blogging them but sometimes it isn’t as easy as Paul B seems to expect it to be. After a full day’s work and a long commute home to find that I have no telephone line (or even electricity) what does he expect my enthusiasm to drive me to do?

  11. eimi says:

    I’m extremely grateful for all the time the bloggers put in. This site has helped to raise the profile of crosswords in general (and has hopefully also helped to spread the word that the Indy crossword is pretty good), which can only be a good thing. I know a lot of the bloggers have other time-consuming things in their life (very young children, hospital visits, football matches in another country to attend), and I consider the blogs to be a privilege rather than a right. As the bloggers are aware, I’m always willing to supply advance copies of puzzles where necessary.

  12. Paul B says:

    Well that would fall under planetary meltdown, wouldn’t it. If it’s a physical impossibility, no-one – not even me – could expect you to provide anything.

    I’d hoped it clear I’m not talking about those exceptional circumstances, but about a degree of commitment that reflects one’s association with a specialist website. As I say, the topic of missed blogs has come up for a reason – it ain’t scotch mist.

  13. Fletch says:

    May I ask Paul B why he’s not “fortunate enough to be in a position to blog”? I.e. is there a rule that precludes setters blogging?

  14. Colin Blackburn says:

    My point, not full explained, is that these are not exceptional circumstances for me. I live in a very rural setting with no mains electricity supply, very harsh weather in winter and a dodgy phone line. These are my normal circumstances. Other bloggers will have their own normal circumstances which might, to other people, seem exceptional. Since none of us knows how the others live perhaps we can be a little more charitable in our expectations.

  15. Paul B says:

    I’m talking about a recent upsurge in missed blogs (if Colin’s situation is really that rural, I’m impressed indeed that he manages to get a paper at all, let alone blog its crossword). As I say, there’s a reason for this discussion having merited its own thread – presumably Neil felt it to be enough of a problem to discuss.

    As to blogging myself, I’d be reluctant or even precluded from discussing the work of colleagues in the Indy or FT. I would be happy, in the absence of local supernovae, to molest the Guardian especially if you are short. Then, when I miss a blog, you can say … something appropriate.

  16. Bannsider says:

    I am extremely grateful to all bloggers here. The various articles on the different puzzles make for fascinating reading, and I’m always impressed by those extra little nuggets of information provided. The whole thing adds a new dimension to solving and certainly helps for setting.

  17. Colin Blackburn says:

    Fortunately, I can get a paper on my way into work. Unfortunately, I can’t always guarantee getting home, finishing it and blogging before bedtime! eimi’s advance copy service is most appreciated for holiday periods when I really can’t get a paper—if the Independent could sort out online crosswords life would be a whole lot easier (for me).

  18. Paul B says:

    I’m extremely grateful for the blogs too, and for the same reasons Richard Rogan mentions. That’s why I miss them so much when they don’t arrive.

  19. ilancaron says:

    Paul, given that The FT provides appalling online crossword service (puzzle appearance is typically 1 or 2 days late), perhaps you could use your influence with its editor to provide early provisioning for FT bloggers. As it is, I can’t really commit to reviewing The FT since I can’t be sure of seeing it in time.

    That said, as a blogger, I find it remarkable that setters take the time to read reviews and am really grateful for any notice they take (now if we could just get Araucaria online…).

    Finally, at the risk of being a goody-goody, it would be churlish to complain about people complaining. If we’re not doing a good enough job, then we’ll need to improve.

  20. Paul B says:

    Colin’s an elusive, enigmatic figure, but I will mention it to him if I get chance. He could be on his hollies at the moment, or recently back. I really like the way the puzzles appear in that webpage, but it’s difficult to dispute your remarks as to uploading.

    Re blogging, I value the opinions very much, and I think a good blog gives needed structure to the subsequent conversation. It’s just really disappointing for us (ought to speak for myself really) to find there’s no blog. We are looking forward to discovering what people who know quite a bit about crosswords think of our work, unsurprisingly enough.

    Anyway I’m glad someone supports me in my gripe. Even where, quite clearly, I envy someone’s charming rural existence.

  21. ilancaron says:

    Veering even more off-topic here but… I find it rather quaint and a bit pre-war that The FT simply shows a spitting image of the crossword online rather than an interactive puzzle (which most of the competition has — OK, except for Eimi’s).

  22. jetdoc says:

    Paul B said: We didn’t have this problem when you boys started out, did we!. So maybe I can consider myself outside the remit of his (self-confessed) gripe.

    Working from home most days as I do, I wouldn’t want to blog any crossword I couldn’t reliably get online, although there are shops nearby.

    What I find difficult is deciding which clues to omit from my blog. I think that, for a prize puzzle, a Genius or an Azed, it’s fine to blog all the clues, because people have already had a week to think about them. For daily puzzles, I want to include all except the ones I consider too obvious and/or weak. Why would anyone object to this? For example, I completed Araucaria’s puzzle in today’s Guardian (the actual paper, because I was interviewing people in Muswell Hill and had a bus journey to make). I would like to have seen most if not all the clues in the blog.

  23. petebiddlecombe says:

    All three types mentioned by Jane are exceptions to one reason for not explaining all the clues – not being a complete free alternative to those “phone this number for today’s answers” premium rate services. So I’d say for these, yes do the lot if you have time.

  24. petebiddlecombe says:

    Testy in comment 3: If we were to create placeholders for comp puzzles, people would start discussing them before the closing date, and we don’t want to be seen to spoil these comps by letting people reveal answers. So all we can do is to say that the comp puzzles will generally be blogged the day after the closing or “postmarked no later than” date. Unofrtunately this means many good puzzles get very few comments because people have forgotten things they might otherwise have discussed.

  25. nmsindy says:

    The reason for not explaining all clues is that the papers have premium line phone numbers you can phone for the answers so papers could justifiably be annoyed if all answers were given here.

    But, in puzzles where this does not apply, the full answers can be given IMHO – this would include all AZED, Indy puzzles Sun and Sat, Times weekend – once deadline for competition entries has passed of course. Not sure about what the Guardian does.

    From the blogger’s viewpoint, it makes the blogs longer to write – for me at least an hour if every clue is commented on. So even when the premium phone number factor did not apply, I tended to be selective going for the clues I thought were trickier.

  26. Don Manley says:

    May I add my name to those who are grateful for this website and indeed for Times for The Times. On such websites the setter gets useful feedback – though of course a setter should also hope for feedback from more ‘ordinary’ solvers( e.g. friends and neighbours)in order to get a balanced picture. All that you do is a terrific bonus, never mind the missing clues and puzzles. Many thanks!

  27. Colin Blackburn says:

    One of the days of charming rural existence when getting a paper was just out of the question. Though you can see that the phone line was still up at this point.

  28. Paul B says:

    I was right to be envious then – that’s absolutely beautiful, Colin!

  29. rightback says:

    A reply to Fletch (comment 8): I normally blog the Guardian Prize Puzzles but knew I wouldn’t be able to post on the second weekend of September so asked if someone could cover it. On my return, I blogged that week’s puzzle but when I went to post discovered it had already been done! So it looks like there was a date faff.

    (I’m afraid I’ve only today seen this thread, which has been dormant for three weeks, so I doubt this comment will be seen by its intended recipient, whom I would email directly if his email address were given!)

  30. Cruciverbophile says:

    I agree with Eimi that these blogs are a privilege rather than a right, and since we neither have to pay nor log in it is a little unfair to complain if the occasional puzzle isn’t blogged. I am interested in the apparent sensitivity shown to the premium rate phone lines, however. In my view premium rate phone lines are a rip-off and should be banned unless (a) the line is an “adult” chatline or (b) the money paid is donated to a charity. Unless the papers which run these lines have threatened legal action over a complete set of answers being published, or the money from these lines is indeed given to charity, I wouldn’t worry too much about providing an alternative to being ripped off when you’re stuck on a clue!

  31. nmsindy says:

    The papers could object (rightly) on copyright grounds. A modus vivendi seems to be working for both this site and Peter’s Times one. The phone line is a commercial venture like any other – no one is obliged to use it, but some must be doing so – otherwise it would not be there.

  32. muck says:

    I have had some recent instances of “not available”. I don’t think it is my internet connection (TalkTalk broadband in UK) since I can usually get gmail, and then 15sqd comes back on. Not really complaining.

  33. neildubya says:

    Well, the site does occasionally go a bit funny you know. Stuff happens.

  34. muck says:

    Stuff happens, sure. And I am just happy to get through to 15sqd 99% of the time!

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