Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent – Review of 2007

Posted by nmsindy on December 31st, 2007


Another very interesting year at the Indy as the new editor, Eimi, who took over early in 2006, puts his mark on the paper. The main features are a continued move towards themed puzzles and attracting many of the top UK setters to set for the paper.

This review lists the number of puzzles by each setter and my average solving time. I do not approach puzzles in ‘race the clock’ mode (my first run through the clues invariably takes about 6 mins) but I think it’s interesting to note the times in order to compare the setters and see whether a puzzle is hard or easy.

One result of the policy change for me is that it’s taking quite a lot more time to solve puzzles (average 29 mins compared with 20 mins before the change of editor). Interestingly average solving times for the four setters with a weekly slot remain about 20 mins with the rise occurring because of the other setters. In practice, themed puzzles with pre-determined words or letters appearing in the grid forces harder words into the grid.

I think some potential new solvers might become fascinated on seeing the solutions with so clearly thematically related words in the paper and there’s no doubt that a fresh challenge is being created.

This blogger believes the daily puzzle should be able to be solved – subject to a last word or two to verify – during the breaks in a working day, and without having to consult dicts. This has generally continued to be the case for the Indy – I’ve had the odd frustration with a themed puzzle (esp those associated with eg film launches with lots of thematic entries) but have always got there in the end.

It’s also good that the harder puzzles often appear on Saturday – where there is more time to solve it.

If there are lurkers here who’d like to get started on Indy puzzles, but would not have time every day, I’d recommend at first to tackle the four weekly regulars (Virgilius – generally Tues, Dac – Wed, Phi – Fri, Quixote – Sun – IoS). These have everyday vocabulary and clues, which are rigorous and straightforward, which, with practice, could be solved by all. I’d recommend a book such as Chambers Crossword Manual or the many other guides that are available to how clues are constructed and the principles involved. But it’s ultimately just entertainment and all the setters and the editor aim at this, I’d say.

My favourite puzzle of the year was BLAIR “morphing” (as Eimi put it) into BROWN on the day of the changeover (by Morph, of course).

So finally my personal solving times for 2007 in ABC order of setters.

Please note errors are my own (do not reflect on setters in any way) and, while I’m deep into all this, I’m not and never have been, nor ever will be, one of the superfast solvers but do like my ‘fix’ as the withdrawal symptoms when there was no puzzle on 29 December showed.

My fastest solve was Quixote on 4 March (7 mins) and the slowest Nimrod’s (100 mins) on Christmas Eve in the puzzle where all the setters’ names were built in. This year I’ve recorded the dates of puzzles, though I’ve not kept the puzzles themselves. If any setter would like to know the solving times for their puzzles please contact me, through this site or my own email address which some will know.

So for each setter the stats in the form (total puzzles, puzzles with errors or unfinished, average solving time in minutes – for solved puzzles only)

Bannsider (10 puzzles, 0 with errors or unfinished , 55 mins), Dac (51, 4, 21), Eimi (4, 1, 31), Glow-worm (5,0,23), Hypnos (6, 1, 21), Mass (6,0, 34), Math (10, 1, 24), Merlin (8,1,25), Monk (13, 1, 47), Mordred (8,1,28), Morph (9,0, 41), Nestor (11,1,55), Nimrod (34, 4, 51), Nimrod & Tilsit (1,0,23), Phi (52, 3, 21), Punk (12,0,36), Quixote (51,0,20), Scorpion (7,0, 62), Tees (11,4,41), Tomohiro – one of the regulars with a special puzzle (1,1,NA), Virgilius (51,2,20)

3 Responses to “Independent – Review of 2007”

  1. Banns Cider says:

    Thank you for that labour of love nmsindy.
    I’d just like to add my own words of praise for Morph’s “morph”. That was probably my own favourite too.
    And a happy new year to all solvers and fellow setters.

  2. Quixote says:

    It would be interesting to see the overall figures ( some numerate person without enough else to do could calculate them). The occasional setters clearly skew the figures upwards and there is room for harder puzzles, but it would be interesting to find out the balance between the wolves like us who might buy the paper and relish the hard stuff and the sheep (who probably don’t find websites)who decide to buy another paper. NMS does a terrific job but a wider review would be welcome.None of us setters seems to be operating at the Telegraph/Everyman/easier Rufus level. Nor do we have any female setters. Discuss!

  3. Bannsider says:

    Were the alleged masses of frustrated solvers who contacted the Indy on Saturday a cabal secretly paid for by Eimi, or were they the “sheep” in revolt?
    Will we ever know?

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