This post is now closed. Please use the ‘General Discussion’ page instead.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 5:00 am and is filed under Archive.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Dave, I think Mr Halpern is just a very busy man, who at one point had so many ideas which he then wanted to convert into something substantial, being Cryptica.
Only to find out that maintaining a site adequately takes time.
And that it is not really his ultimate priority.
Unfortunately, hardly anything is working on that site (any more).
The Daily Clue has already diappeared ages ago, and it looks like the Clue Competition is the next victim, though I hope not.
I am still sending in 3 clues a week, hoping that something will happen – but Paul’s now 10 weeks behind.
Since the start of this competition I’ve had some email contact, mainly to support his ideas, offering new possibilities and advising him – if he can’t judge the entries every week – to turn it into a, say, monthly competition (under certain conditions), although I am not sure if that would take away the workload.
Most of the time he sent a short and friendly reply, without any major content.
Things I tried to tell him were, for example:
- these delays take away the fun for the contestants, because you never know when there’s something going to happen – there’s hardly anything to look out for
- topical clues are publicised long after the sell-by date
- when the clues are published, they are so many in one go, that it isn’t really inviting to look through the whole list [very good clues, or clues that I was really proudish of (like "Well, of course") are likely to drown in the big pool].
Given the fact that Paul liked a lot of my clues, it comes as no surprise that I would be very sad when Cryptica im- or explodes.
In the two years that I am doing British cryptics it has helped me a lot to get better [in the language, and in crossword techniques]. Yes, I really learned a lot [and I still do].
People who send in clues, surely must make much effort to do so.
When clues are not mentioned, it can be disappointing – although it is part of the game.
I asked Mr Halpern what he did with all the entries.
Putting them in a database?
Using them to compile multi-setter Cryptica crosswords, thát would be an idea.
Alas, no answer to this question which for me is rather fundamental.
I even think the un-used clues should get a mention somewhere on the site as well, to be found under some special button.
People spend so much energy on them and want them to been by others [just to entertain] – you can’t throw them all away.
About a year ago, I said that perhaps it would be a nice idea to let visitors of the site compile a crossword together (in stages, e.g. 3 or 4 words a week, I had an idea for that),
Paul replied that he had other things in mind, and indeed, he revamped the site – but …
I am thinking of contacting Paul again.
If nothing happens, I will just stop sending in clues and try to find another platform for this newly discovered hobby of mine.
Maybe, an email helps – it did about a year ago.
…as I was saying, Eileen,
Does that mean you’ve finished it and sent it off?
I just couldn’t get it finished until yesterday afternoon, and even then I’m not too sure about a couple.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I find Araucaria perhaps the most difficult setter, because some of his ideas are so vague.
Oh, and thanks for your congrats on today’s Morph blog. (Now there’s a setter with whom I seem to be on the same wavelength…).
“Does that mean you’ve finished it and sent it off?”
To the first part, yes, I think so – but I don’t send puzzles off any more. [I've only ever finished one Genius before and for this one I needed help from another 15² brain for the last little bit you mentioned on the Guardian site!]
I’m still not sure either (as is normal for an Araucaria).
I don’t send puzzles off normally, either (unless I can think of something half-way decent for an Azed Prize special clue) but I like to test myself on the Genius, and it has become a bit of a “thing” for me to try to be first, especially now they’ve started publishing it shortly after midnight, and that it just takes a click to submit.
Anyway, seems I’ve failed this month.
Here’s to June…
Can anyone help? Since the Guardian changed the crossword pages, the Genius isn’t available in print version. My ancient lap top can’t cope with the blind version (it freezes)Has anyone found a way round this?
Unfortunately, its accessing the Genius puzzle page that causes my computer to freeze. Oh, well I’ll have to find an internet cafe and print it from there. Though as mhl says, if it took Ian 14 days to solve, I might give this month’s a miss….
Eileen: I don’t have much option – I realise that I’m supposed to doing the blog post for this one :) In fact we managed to get it completed today, although with three or four where I don’t understand the wordplay, so there might be a couple of errors.
Oh, good luck with that, mhl.
I have to say, it was a very enjoyable puzzle, despite my lack of knowledge on the theme. (Wikipedia is, usually, a wonderful thing).
As Eileen says, well worth the effort.
I just found a few (well, one, mainly) clues a step too far for me to work out satisfactorily (which I can’t help being irritated about). I’m still not sure I’m right.
I bet they’re the same clues as you, so I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with…
Any Indy dead tree version solvers out there? Do you find the latest layout, down the right-hand half of the page instead of across the bottom, impossible to handle conveniently? Why can’t they leave a perfectly good format alone instead of changing it to an absolute mess?
A good question. I suppose the answer is that they think crosswords are a minority interest, but ‘public demand’ managed to get the crossword back to the inside back page, so if enough people feel strongly enough about the new format to complain, perhaps they’ll relent.
I’ve just finished compiling a fundraising quiz consisting of 71 names of famous women defined by cryptic clues. 70 of the clues are my own, but I want to include the ‘Actress from Germany (3,4)’ clue as it is so good, but am conscious that somebody has done it in the Guardian crossword before and don’t like the idea of stealing somebody else’s work.
Please could somebody advise me whether there is an established etiquette to be followed in such cases?
Sorry, Richard, it is not in reply to yours. It is, rather, a favourite tale of mine.
I was wondering how long some memories are. I first met the Guardian crosswords in the 60s when a friend occasionally bought the paper. At 11pm one evening the friend and I rang the Guardian in desperation. We pleaded for something, anything, which would get us started on that day’s crossword. Every clue started with 22, 15 (I may have got the numbers wrong, but you get the idea), even clues 22 and 15. We had so little experience of solving that we were blinded by the numbers.
I am sure that it must have been an Araucaria puzzle. Does anybody else remember it? Landor poet filled in 22 and 15.
I was also defeated by Araucaria’s, crossword 20,000, and have now given up on filling the SE corner of this month’s Genius.
I’ve written several of these puzzles, too – great fun!
I’ve found the clue you mention – 2nd March, Orlando. I understand your concern but I don’t think you need be too fastidious. The clue is, indeed, very good, but it’s also very simple: any anagram generator would have come up with Germany if you’d entered the actress’s name. We’re always commenting how similar clues come up from different compilers, aren’t we? I can’t see any setter complaining – especially if it’s for charity. [You could always include an acknowledgment, if you're worried - best of luck with it! ]
Re Rover. This seems a better place than the Rover site to make the following comments.
On May 11, I expressed surprise at the unremitting harshness of some criticisms of
that day’s Rover puzzle. Now after his death someone has made a similar but more general point about some of his critics. It has been said that comments made while he was alive should not be criticised when he is dead and that it is ‘underhand’ to do this. Having made my own original comments on the day of the puzzle, I feel this last point is unjust.
Unfortunately there is too often a space between ‘alive’ and ‘dead’, and when I saw the announcement I confess I was saddened at the thought that someone might have been in that limbo when subjected to what I considered unnecessarily harsh judgment. I have suggested that the virtual world of blog ids perhaps tempts one to go OTT in praise or criticism. Perhaps it is salutary to be reminded that setters, like us all, are real people under our pseudonyms, and that one can, rightly, express pretty robust criticism without recourse to hyperbole.
I see your point, tupu, but I can’t agree with it. Any one of the crossword setters — some, no doubt, more so than others but, really, any of them — could be in that limbo between “alive” and “dead.” But we don’t know that. All we know is what we see; the puzzle in front of us. We have no way to judge what state Rover might have been in when he compiled his last two crosswords, both of which took a good deal of stick on Fifteensquared.
From what I understand, though, they may have been done some time ago and stockpiled. I gathered that from the Feb. 25 blog in which the late Quantum came in for criticism.
Andrew had posted: “Newcomers might be interested to know that Quantum (aka Eric Burge) died nearly two years ago. Every time one of his puzzles shows up we wonder how many more the Guardian has in stock.”
My response was: “It would seem that the Guardian, for reasons best known to itself, is working its way through a backlog of Quantum rejects. If they were weren’t good enough the first time, they shouldn’t be good enough now. And, with no disrespect intended to the memory of Eric Burge, this one wasn’t.”
Pasquale weighed in with: “I am sorry that you think the crossword editor is working through a pile of rejects by my old friend. I myself have over a year’s worth of material lodged at The Guardian, and Eric obviously had a big pile of material as well. Quantum’s puzzles may not be to your particular taste, but he had a distinguished setting record and I feel that you should show a little more respect.”
Sidey replied, in part: “Are you saying Quantum deserves respect because he was your friend or because he is dead? Some of the clues in this puzzle were not up to scratch. We are allowed to say so no matter who the setter.”
Pasquale: “By all means criticise the puzzle but there’s no need to suggest that this was in any way a reject in a pile of old dross. I do criticise my fellow-setters from time to time, but in a constructive way, I hope — and I always like to show the utmost respect to all my colleagues, even if I do not always see eye to eye with them. Enough said.”
I don’t think I was out of line with my comment or disrespectful to the setter. But I did not respect the crossword and I said so, quite plainly. It seemed like a sub-standard effort and I said so. I had no idea at the time that Quantum was dead but that would not have changed my response in any way. I didn’t know the man and had no opinion about him. But his puzzles were put into the public arena and were fair game for comment. As were Rover’s. I had no feelings for him one way or the other.
Nor do I think my comment about Quantum or any of the comments about Rover were particularly OTT. For one thing, Gaufrid would jump all over that, I’m sure! Strong, even harsh, opinions were expressed in a reasonably temperate way, I felt. But not about the man.
Yes, setters are real people. I like to think that they can take robust criticism and even hyperbole in their stride, whether it’s made under a pseudonym or otherwise. I can’t speak for any of them, of course, but in my own case I relish good criticism and a well-turned phrase, however much it may be against me. But perhaps my newspaper background has inured me to obloquy. One grows quite used to having an editor look at one’s sweated-over and usually quite well-crafted efforts with: “What’s this s***?”
Thanks for your long reasoned response. We’ll have to agree to differ I’m afraid. I have just been back over the comments and your own were relatively mild. More generally my impression (now as then) is of a crowd of critics egging each other on and almost trying to compete with each other to get ‘the knife in’. It’s that possibility that I suggested (in mitigation) might be fostered by the virtual world of blogging.
I was not suggesting by the way that the puzzle was written when the setter was seriously unwell – it was the idea of his reading such comments in that state that I have reacted to today.
I believe there can be a sensible middle ground between being over-kind and being over-nasty – and indeed your own comments on that puzzle, while clearly critical, sit very firmly there.
Bill thanks. I am new too (newer than you I suspect). I very much enjoy the blog, especially if frustratedly realising how much one can miss and still get the answers.
There is old idea of Piaget – he writes of young kids talking past each other in a ‘collective monologue’. I enjoy getting (and giving) a response to something said.
So what exactly is it you don’t like, Tupu? Saying not-quite-nasty-but-at-the-very-least-potentially-un-nice things about someone’s work (even though the criticism is quite clearly of that work and not its author), but only where that person may be unwell, or can be shown at some later date to have been unwell? Even terminally so? I am confused, even though Honest Bill seems to be making a lot of sense.
I’ve been having a go at Rover’s clues (and Quantum’s, and Janus’s, and … well, quite a few others really) in a semi-evil way for years, and I’ve yet to feel the pangs of guilt. That’s because I was talking about the clues – I never actually got to know any of their authors, and perhaps that’s a shame. In other news, the clues and puzzles I write are nowhere near the whole story of what I’m about (at least I bloody well hope so), and I suppose I should try really hard to remember that next time my stuff comes under the cosh – even if I’ve got the flu.
Everyone takes criticism to heart, I think, especially creative types. There’s no way of knowing the mental or physical state of the creator of the work people choose to criticise, so people must, of course, comment on the crossword rather than the setter. I think constructive criticism has a place, but can see little point in posts along the lines of “I didn’t enjoy this” unless it can be backed up with reasons why.
And I certainly think there’s something to be said for posting under your own name, or at least a pseudonym if you’re a setter.
I had thought it was pretty clear what I don’t like, and I’m surprised you say you are confused though your first paragraph confuses me. Bill understands, but simply disagrees. Your point about criticising the clues or the work and not the setter/author may provide some comfort but it ultimately just won’t hold. Moreover several of the comments in question were either directly or by clear implication aimed at the setter. Also I am surprised that some people should claim the right to dish out criticism, however rough, but react quite strongly if it is directed towards (NB) their words. But if you genuinely don’t understand, let me say it again. On May 11 I simply noted that I was surprised at the unremitting harshness of some of the comments. I said that I did not much like the puzzle but felt the harshness was excessive. I was sorry then and am sorrier now that about these comments.
I am sure that you and I are much more than your comments on this blog and would not dream of suggesting otherwise. But the notion that an author/setter is not involved in her/his efforts to please, interest or puzzle is sophistry.
Elmi @288 Your first sentence seems indubtable to me.
FYI not my notion (please reread 2nd para @ 287), but why, even after your potentially laudable comment reposted @ 292 (about a puzzle you ‘did not much like’), have you taken it upon yourself to be the deceased’s apologist? Perhaps like other posters, I’m sure don’t care very much at all whether or not you’re ‘sorry’ about our comments. Advance apologies for any beer-induced invective, but it seems to me that it is not really your place to judge.
I wandered in here looking for something more sustaining than the responses to the blog of the day, but also half hoping there would be some commentary on the criticism of Rover’s most recent puzzle in the light of his unfortunate demise. I found more than I anticipated.
Firstly, thank you to Tupu for providing a recognised name and source to the practice of “collective monologue”. I have usually referred to this as “alternating monologues” but can now upgrade to the new term. I find this aspect of the blog responses to be very unsatisfying, with several respondents making the same or similar point without acknowledging the previous posts. But perhaps that is the purpose after all – for many people to provide their opinions on the puzzle, rather than to engage in a dialogue about it.
I do not want to reignite the debate above between tupu and Paul B if is has faded away, and most cetainly do not want to take a corner in the ring (how does a sporting metaphor turn into an oxymoron so easily?) But I would like to add some personal reactions and a comment to the discussion above.
I was perturbed by the announcement that Rover had died, as with anyone one has any relationship with. Awareness of mortality is a powerful force. But the fact that his most recent crossword had taken such a beating gave the moment of sadness greater depth and cause for contemplation. An early thought was a frisson of pleasure that I, almost alone, had defended the crossword as enjoyable in parts and well worth the price of purchase, (i.e. zero.) But this was a purely selfish thought and I wondered if I had indeed hated it, would I have hesitated to “put the boot in”? And anyway, who would know or care?
I have read Bill and Tupu’s positions and responses and can see that they do indeed agree to differ and I respect both viewpoints. I am more inclined to tupu’s way of thikning because very few of us, I daresay none of us, are able to separate criticism of the deed from that of the person. As a manager of managers I am frequently advising my staff on the recommended procedure for providing negative feedback – “criticise the action, not the individual.” But very few if any of the recipients ever really recognise and appreciate the distinction.
So now to put that into practise – Paul B, I am sure you are a very fine person and a great deal more than what little you have shown of yourself here, but I think your post @294 was excessively belligerent and designed to provoke. I urge you to reconsider the tone of your comments to tupu and reiterate your presaged apology. tupu’s comments were thoughtful and respectful and unworthy of such an accusation.
Well Colin, I did warn about beer-induced invective. And 294 was provocative, as you rightly point out. But I do think that some of us appear to be experiencing a whole lot of anxiety bound up with the fact that someone has died, and that as a result, those affected feel that any negative comments about that person’s work (which, to be quite clear, has been battered on many an occasion here and elsewhere) somehow take on another, extra meaning. So, to avoid putting the foot down too hard on the pedal once again myself, perhaps I should merely repeat that I think Bill Taylor has summed up the situation regarding our more frank contributions rather well.
If it helps, I’m not really the religious type, and so I find that ‘speak ill of the dead’ thing just a tad hypocritical. If we weren’t respectful enough for Tupu so be it, but as a filthy atheist I for one shan’t lose any sleep.
Thank you Paul B for the tempered response. I am happy to let the matter rest.
And thank you for your grammatical advice. You may have missed the fact that I used the correct form ‘practice’ in my second para and so plead that my later error was a typo, akin to ‘thikning’ in my penultimate para. I first wrote “to practise what I …” but then revised it, incompletely as it turned out.
FIY I do not know how religion comes into it and this is no place to raise it. But I have been an atheist by conviction all my thinking life and before that by convention.
One last thing. As far as I can see, you yourself did not participate in the May 11 blog, and do not appear to have read it carefully – if your comments about clues as opposed to setters is really meant. And again FIY, it was disrespect for the living that I found excessive and unfortunate in this case.
I have now had enough of this argument and leave you in your happy state of guiltless peace. To slightly misuse Dylan and leave you on a more friendly note ‘I wish that there was something I could do or say to make you change your mind… But don’t think twice it’s all right’. From what you say, I’m sure you won’t! :}
I have a crossword question. I’ve never really understood the effect of ellipses on a crossword clue. The first three clues in the Guardian yesterday have them and I’d like to know what is really going on here – I don’t want the answer to those clues by the way, it is just what has put the question to the forefront of my mind.
As an example then:
Clue 1: “Clue …”
Clue 2: “… Another Clue”
Does each clue still have to stand on it’s own? Or does it mean you need to work out one before you can work out the other? Or do you read the entire clue as one whole clue? At a bit of a loss here, so I’d be very grateful for any sort of help – especially as I’m finding Saturday’s crossword hard enough, without this problem I have !