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I’m sure there must be a number of closet setters among the bloggers and passive readers, so why not introduce a (say, weekly) Fifteensquared crossword onto the site? Maybe it wouldn’t be practical, or perhaps considered an unwanted diversion from the site’s purpose. But in my view it could increase our respect for the professional setters (who make it look so effortless) and would give them a chance to get their own back on us via the blog. (And who knows, maybe there’s some real talent waiting to be discovered.)
I apologise if this idea has been put forward and dismissed previously. But if not… What do other people think?
Cardiff University students were shown photographs of people and then asked to do other activities interspersed with trying to recognise the faces they had seen. Apparently they fared worse at the recognition task when doing cryptic crosswords rather than reading, sudoku or literal crosswords. Why? The author of the original paper speculates that:
“in doing a cryptic crossword, one typically has to suppress the immediately obvious meaning of a word within the clue in favour of less obvious and more cryptic meanings. The suppression of the obvious features of the face … or the obvious literal meaning of a word may provide the device by which face-recognition performance is affected.”
Or maybe not. Or maybe the study says more about about Cardiff students (and lecturers) than it does about cryptic crosswords. Anyway, you have been warned. If you’re an eye-witness to a crime and are interested in nailing the villain, put your passion for cryptics on hold when you go the police line-up. And keep your tongue in your cheek.
Todays Brendan (Guardian 11/11/09) was rightly praised as an outstanding puzzle. That was obvious from the blog. It raises and old issue, but stay with me, I want this to be a positive suggestion not any sort of put down.
The majority of posters here are those with the self confidence to post. This usually implies they are of a high, and in some cases expert, standard.
This gives a skewed impression to setters and editors of what constitutes a good crossword for their whole readership.
The majority of cryptic fans just aren’t good enough for this level of puzzle, but their voice is rarely heard. Why? Because they don’t want to go up against expert posters who might eat them for breakfast (I would hope most would be more gentle than that, but you can understand the fear).
So this leads to a dichotomy, to keep the good guys happy, you need a constant supply of Araucaria et al. To keep the mainly silent majority happy you need a constant supply of Rufus et al.
It sounds impossible, but…..
The Guardian and other papers have puzzle pages. So why not leave the “hard one” where it is in pride of place where we can all have a go and try to improve our skills, but also, juggle the puzzles page around to include space for something like the weekly on-line Quiptic, but on a daily basis. This is a place the experts can avoid, but the rest of us, who are less talented, can get a daily fix of a Cryptic we stand a chance of getting somewhere with.
Over to you Mr. Editors.
Anyone else think this is a good idea? Anyone want to gainsay?
Surely this would keep everyone happy and keep “too hard” style posts out of the blogs.
This (212 by Derek) is a very interesting post. I think that, in cryptic crosswords perhaps more than most other activities, practice is very important and takes years. It certainly did in my case.
With blogs etc around now, there are more explanations available than ever before. Crosswords are pitched at various levels of experience, and take full account of the amount of time people have available to devote to solve them – sometimes not very much. Crossword editors are fully aware of this, I’d say.
For someone stepping into the waters of the cryptics for the first time, I’d suggest reading a book like Don Manley’s Chambers Crossword Manual or the other excellent guides, then starting with the easier puzzles – I’d suggest Daily Telegraph and Everyman in the Observer (on Sundays). Go to the blogs on these for explanations if stuck.
It comes with the territory that some can like to point to mistakes etc, I’ll have to admit. Just ignore that and remember that, in my opinion anyway, the only purpose of puzzles is to provide entertainment in what is a leisure activity. Though like any such activity, it has its rules and this is where reading a book or two can be useful.
If you want just one hint to keep always in mind, it is that most clues have (a) a definition of the answer, and (b) another way of getting to it by manipulating its letters, lying side by side and not overlapping.
Not every solver reads blogs or would even have access to blogs. I know many people who still have no internet access and many who don’t even have a oomputer.
Not everyone wants to read books on the subject. Not everyone has the time. not everyone has the inclination.
Not everyone has talent and no amount of practice can bring out talent that is not there in the first place.
Take sports for example, they are stratified. The best can take on the best in competitions so designed, and so on right down to the bloke who just wants a friendly jog round the track.
The problem with daily crosswords is that there is only one. This means that only one strata is being catered for on that day. Some days the experts are decrying it as too easy, other days the middle of the road guys are decrying it as to hard, and the crossword equivalent of the jogger round the track never says anything.
It would take a whole range of crosswords to keep everyone happy, and if you read what I said carefully enough, I already said there is nothing to stop people moving up from one level to the next, if they want to. Many don’t want to. Talented people always forget, that there are others who have no talent or ambition but like to dabble.
Clearly no paper has the space to provide the stratification provided in the sports world. But having two levels should be feasible and would keep more people happier more of the time. Keeping people happy is more important than anything else. Remember what I just said, not everyone is capable of reaching the top, nor do many want to.
There are two reasons for not wanting to reach the top. Only occasionally is it sloth, usually it is simply the recognition of ones limitations. Those at the top of the tree should stop being blind to the existence of such people.
Having read fifteen squared daily for many months (and very occasionally contributed to the discussions), I began think about setting puzzles. Then just a few weeks ago I read an article by Anax, which provided the impetus to have a go. You can see my puzzle on Alberich’s site alberichcrosswords.com/pages/radler.html
I hope some of you will have a look at it, and I’d be particularly interested and grateful to hear your views.
As an inexpert solver, I often leave a crossword, stuck, to return to it later. Sometimes, I can then immediately solve clues that had previously baffled me. Do others have this experience?
I have two theories about how this can happen. First, I wonder whether my brain has been busy making associations in the background while I’ve been away, solving without me realising. Second, I wonder whether my original trouble was that I fixated on some misleading feature of the clue that misdirected my thoughts, and only after I had forgotten that, in the intervening time, could I think of the right answer.
Does anyone have any idea whether either of these theories is true? Does anyone have any other theory? Does anyone know of any experiment I might do to test these ideas?
This could be more than mere diversion, because the ability to think up innovative solutions to baffling challenges is valuable to all, and it would help to know how to develop it.
I often find the same. I’m sure it’s for both the reasons you suggest, as well as a further one… a tired mind benefits from a rest.
As you say, problem solving is a very valuable ability, but I can’t suggest how to hone it except by practice and perhaps by recognising when you’re ready for a break.
Thanks, Radler, I’m glad I’m not alone. But I wonder whether there is any difference in my (or anyone’s) ability to make a breakthrough when I’m stumped if I
* take a break and do something that doesn’t require much thought (like walk the dog)
* take a break and deliberately empty my head by meditating
* do some completely unrelated work that needs hard thought
* do some very similar (but different) work that needs hard thought
* just keep on sitting there and slogging away
or * relax in the sun by the pool (assuming sun and pool are available!)
I’d really like to know if anyone has researched this.
The blogs furnish the explanations, but they are not necessarily the way one arrives at the answer.
In this Paul I got 0 (zero) answers first time through (took 6 minutes)
Second time I got 4 more: first, 11a; I could see it was an anagram: for these I write the letters down randomly in a line: IDOLENILSE, and mentally tried combinations of three letters, and almost had to give up, when suddenly OIL sprung out, and as I was crossing these out, I spotted linseed.
I then tried 5 and 6d without success. On 7d I tried the CLOO route, but it didn’t feel right. I then, because ENVELOPED kind of suggested this, looked for (forward) hidden answers using the very useful I of LINSEEDOIL and failed; then tried this backwards, and it was quite hard to spot. I then had DE NIRO, and considered myself very lucky to have the key word, but also disappointed because I could only muster GODFATHER and MEET THE FOKKERS from my memory. As I was on a train to Edinburgh for the day, with no chance of getting on line, I thought this was probably as far as I could get. I quite like this type of interlinked crossword, but I always hope for one which I know something about – De Niro did not fit into this category for me. I relooked at all the other 7s but could get none!
8a was next; I could see INCAMERA as an anagram, and new this probably couldn’t be correct, but couldn’t check in a dictionary; so I pencilled in the crossing letters. This is sometimes a useful way to give hints for the down connected clues, but, alas, not on this occasion. I had the feeling I had seen this clue before but couldn’t remember the solution.
3d was next. I could see I was to put L in a fish with the last letter removed, but which fish – there must be several, and none came to mind. I looked at 12a, thought of ON possibly for attached, and the TON as the ending for a town and thus PRESTON – one letter too many! I now had _E_L_N (with a doubtful E) and thought of MULLET (no good), then MARLIN. This would put paid to my E, but I couldn’t see the sea MARIN_. MARINE seemed likely but wasn’t sea for me.
1d was next. WOMEN’S CLOTHING suggested BLOUSE (the INCLINED TO DRINK suggested the word might end OUS), so I wrote BLOUS, and then suddenly BIBILOUS was the answer. Well, not quite – I wasn’t happy this was the way to spell it, and I couldn’t quite see the SHORT TRAMP. A dictionary would be useful later. This had disastrous consequences as I had trouble getting 24a 10a later.
19 minutes so far. After twice through, I leave the crossword for several hours, and come back to it hoping, as usually happens, for further answers. This indeed happened. For example, 12a BOLTON and 19d STAUNCH were immediate and 15a ASEXUAL, from A KIND OF REPRODUCTION, when I then could see the rest of this clue. 13d T_X_ suggested TAXI, and then TAXI DRIVER. This was the only 7 I got without the use of Wikipedia.
16d, which I couldn’t get at this stage, did give some help with 25a: it looked as though 16d should end in ING, giving a useful N, and with GI for soldier, 25a followed.
At home I looked up the other 7s (I don’t regard this as cheating as I am not too familiar with De Niro’s works), except I couldn’t get 24a 10a I had S_A__I_T at this stage, the I from my wrong spelling of BIBULOUS, which I had forgotten to check. I really ought to have got 24a from 7d, but overlooked this.
50 minutes in all, but failed to get 4d (thought it was VARNISH).
So my hints: Leave for several hours after you get stuck. Use likely endings of words suggested by the
I find the same. To your list of experiments I would add: How long should one wait before trying again? Too short and your brain hasn’t had time to do whatever it does. Too long, and you have forgotten anyway.
As a relatively new visitor to this site I’d be interested in hearing people’s views on the online versions of the Guardian’s and Indepedent’s crosswords…
Personally, I think the Grauniad is much the better of the two – it’s very easy to navigate and the check button is a useful facility (as a last resort of course…). I find the Indie quite awkward to use, changing direction requires two keystrokes, highlighted clues are not always correctly shown etc.
It would also be interesting to know how many people solve online as opposed to on paper. As an expat, online is my only option…
I’m new to cryptics, currently working my way through a book of Everyman crosswords and also trying out the odd Guardian crossword (Rufus preferably — I find Paul impossible). I find myself returning to this site often for help with clues and to understand how certain clues are put together. Many thanks for maintaining such a great resource.
I enjoy looking over the crossword solutions on this site, but as a beginner, one feature I’d find helpful is a difficulty rating of the crossword. I’m eager to find new crosswords I can have a stab at, and since many of the crosswords are available online, it would help if you flagged up some ‘easy’ or ‘beginner’ crosswords for people like me. I notice that you sometimes say how long it took to solve the crossword, so maybe allow people to search for crosswords with the shortest solving time?
Other than the Observer’s ‘Everyman’ and the Guardian’s ‘Rufus’, which other crosswords would people recommend for beginners?
Umm, Simon G? Change of direction? I find the Indie I can change direction just by clicking on the intersecting light, but it is the Grauniad that requires two clicks, move away one light to change direction, then back to where I started. So did you say that wrongly or is there some other way of doing it?
Derek – The two behave slightly differently when you click on a checked square.
Guardian – selects the across light except when the square you click on is the first square of the down light (as long as it is not also the first square of the across light).
Independent – selects according to the previously highlighted light – across if that was across, or down if it was down.
Both seem reasonable approaches and I like the way the Independent also shows the intersecting clue. However, the Independent handling of solutions that go over more than one light is poor.
On the comparison of the Guardian and Indy software:
a) I like the Check option on the Guardian which the Indy doesn’t seem to have. It’s less extreme than revealing the answer. However, it would be quite nice to have an option which just tells you whether the answer is right or wrong rather than leaving letters which happen to match between the incorrect word and the true answer.
b) What I most like about the Indy is that it tells you if you’ve successfully completed the puzzle, which the Guardian doesn’t ever seem to do (or maybe I’ve just never completed a Guardian properly). The Indy also has a reveal letter option which is occasionally useful if you’re completely stuck and need some extra assistance. The Guardian doesn’t seem to have that, although you could simulate it by entering letters and pressing check until one of them remains on the screen.
Incidentally, the Guardian site is supposed to have been re-designed but looks exactly the same as it ever did. Can anyone tell me if anything has changed ?
The Guardian site has yet to be relaunched, so there are no changes so far apart from the warning message that any saved solutions may be lost when the relaunch does occur, presumably in the not too distant future. I’m looking forward to seeing the new design and features when it does finally happen.
Derek – I think the confusion comes because my preference is to use cursor keys rather than the mouse to navigate around the crossword. No real logic to that, just can’t be bothered with having to move my right hand from the keyboard!
NealH – I do agree that it’s nice that the Indy tells you you’ve successfully completed the puzzle. What would also be nice on the Grauniad’s site would be to have a ‘check puzzle’ button, in addition to the ‘check’ and the oh so tempting ‘cheat’ buttons. I can appreciate some people would prefer to have incorrect answers completely erased but those of us with a tad less ability do find this feature useful!
I prefer the Independent site, because it shows both down and across clue for a square. I’d like to try a completely different approach, however. When I look at a clue I’m really only interested in that one answer, and any letters I have filled in, and one or two clues. So I don’t really see the need to display the rest of the crosword at all, or the rest of the clues. That would make it practical to do the crossword on an iPhone tiny screen. And _that_ would be interesting on the train!
Following my earlier comment on different online crossword methods, I looked and found crosswords, http://standalone.com/iphone/crosswords/ which is a single program with a single interface which provides multiple daily crosswords, including those of the Guardian and Independent. I broke the rule of a lifetime and actually paid £5 for the iPhone app. It works! I rather like it.
David Travis @230. The following gives my guide to the difficulty of the various setters (other solvers will certainly have other views). I kept records for a whole year 20/Feb/2003 – 20/Feb/2004. Some four or five of them no longer set crosswords.
This table shows the name of the setter, followed by the number of crosswords set in the year, the average of all the times I spent on each crossword and the percentage of that setter’s crosswords I completed. (there were some others I didn’t count because of low numbers set: Audreus: 4, Auster:3, Biggles:1, Chaucer:1, Egoist:1, Fidelio:1, Gemini:2, Imogen:1, Kookaburra:1). One measure of difficulty is clearly the percentage I completed. I have a dire record with Enigmatist. A second measure could be the time I spent on each one, but that would indicate Araucaria was hardest, which I do not feel is the case.
(sorry about the layout – I don’t know how to do tables neatly)
Another measure is the number of clues completed by my 3rd attempt at the crossword (I generally have three goes: a swift once through, a second till I can do no more, and then breaks of a few hours for the third go). Enigmatist remains the hardest, but there are several changes.
I am new to this site, and very pleased to have found it. A question …..under categories I see the list for crosswords includes the Everyman which I am very pleased about as I can sometimes even finish this one! The Guardian – a few at the most but I will perserve. At the risk of mentioning something perhaps unmentionable I tentatively ask why the Daily Telegraph is not included in this list?
Have tried to access Guardian website today (crossword and newspaper) but Int Explorer 8 is telling me (big red warning)to avoid as it contains malicious threats to security of my computer. Is anybody else getting thhis message?