Never knowingly undersolved.

Indy review of 2012 (including comparison of days of week)

Posted by nmsindy on December 31st, 2012


As in previous years, I’m giving my solving times for the Indy crossword for 2012 showing the average for each setter.    Also for the first time this year, analysis is given of each day of the week.

The layout is  (1) introduction (2) solving times for each setter from the hardest to the easiest  (3) average solving time for each day of the week (4)  number of appearances by each setter  (5) general information on methodology and how I approached the task and (6) conclusion.

(1) Introduction

The analysis covers both Independent and Independent on Sunday.    In the (leap) year there were 365 puzzles ie every day except Christmas Day.     For puzzle 8000, a special crossword appeared set by both Eimi and Nimrod.     This is considered separately (as Eimi/Nimrod) from the puzzles they individually set.      My average solving time in 2012 was 35 minutes – the same as in 2011.    I correctly solved all but 23 (corresponding figure in 2011 was 21).    In those I either made an error or could not finish.      In previous years, time spent at those puzzles was not included in the analysis – this year it is.    This issue is covered in more detail in the methodology section (5) below.        The hardest puzzle was 99 mins for the Bannsider Saturday puzzle of 31 March – the easiest 12 mins on a couple of occasions (Nitsy and Quixote).

(2) Average Solving Times by Setter

These were (in minutes) –   Nimrod 65,   Bannsider 64,  Tyrus 63, Rorschach 52,  Anax 51,  Anarche 50,  Nestor 46, Donk 44,  Monk 42, Tees 41, Punk 41, Samuel 40, Radian 40, Scorpion 36, Mordred 36, Klingsor 34,  Eimi/Nimrod 33, Math 33,  Morph 32, Poins 31,  Crosophile 31, Jambazi 30, Glow-worm 30, Eimi 29, Phi 29,  Hypnos 24,  Dac 23, Alchemi 22,  Quixote 18, Nitsy 17.

(3) average solving time for each day of the week

Monday 27,   Tuesday  39,  Wednesday 25,  Thursday 45, Friday 29,  Saturday 55,  Sunday 27,  so quite a bit of variation.

(4) number of appearances by each setter

52  Phi,    40  Dac,   27 Quixote  20  Anax   15  Crosophile,  Nimrod   13   Radian, Raich,  Scorpion  12  Hypnos, Nestor, Poins, Punk, Tees, Tyrus  11 Klingsor, Monk    9  Morph   8  Bannsider, Eimi,  Glow-worm, Mordred   4 Jambazi    3   Alchemi,  Anarche, Donk,  Nitsy,  Rorschach   1   Eimi/Nimrod,  Math,  Samuel.

(5) General information on methodology and how I approached the task

I do not approach puzzles in ‘race the clock’ mode but find it interesting to note solving times esp to compare the setters.       As solving these (and similar puzzles) for many years which generally use familiar vocabulary as answers, I’d start with the aim of solving without consulting anything and I’d generally succeed in solving the full puzzle that way.    When completely stuck I go for help in any way I can get it (short of simply looking up the answer which is sometimes available) ie I use dictionaries, word lists etc.   I usually find that the answer (or element of wordplay) is a word I did not know or had forgotten.

In previous years, I ignored, in the calculations, puzzles I failed to solve.     This issue came up in the separate exercise (Which daily cryptic is the hardest?) posted on this site on 22 May 2012.      As the puzzles that one failed to solve were usually harder, ignoring them might lead to underestimating solving time.   So I included the time spent at them but added five minutes for each error or answer I could not find.    I’ve followed the same approach here for the 23 puzzles in question.

(6) Conclusion

I’d like to finish by wishing all the best for 2013 to the Indy crossword editor, all the setters and solvers, all the bloggers on this site and those who comment on or just read the blogs.


16 Responses to “Indy review of 2012 (including comparison of days of week)”

  1. Quixote says:

    Well done, Niall — yet again! Being a setter yourself you will be a very competent solver, so I wonder what these times would be for the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus? Even longer I suspect, and longer maybe than his or her bus journey. This suggests that the Indy is now generally pretty hard, which will be excellent news for the enthusiasts here but which may not draw in many new and much-needed purchasers of the paper who are less experienced — perhaps not such good news after all. Happy new year to all!

  2. jetdoc says:

    Many thanks for this, Niall, and also thanks to the setters and the editor for an excellent year.

  3. nmsindy says:

    Re comment at #1, the earlier exercise referred to in the blog, which compared the different series, suggests that the difficulty level of the Indy puzzle was quite similar to Times, Guardian.

  4. Bannsider says:

    A very Happy New Year to Niall (nmsindy), and to all fellow setters, bloggers and solvers.
    Noting that I remain comfortably in the Champions League places on Niall’s league table of difficulty, I have decided to keep the wig, glasses, and fast getaway car for any forthcoming Sloggers and Betters events I may attend … :-) Not to mention for any Clapham omnibuses I may be hopping on …

  5. crypticsue says:

    Thanks to Niall for an excellent summary of the year – I do all the cryptics on a daily basis and still find the majority of the Indies to be the most difficult to solve.

    I am not surprised to find Bannsider at the top of the league as I definitely have to work the hardest to finish off one of his puzzles but that isn’t such a bad thing, with the benefit of hindsight.

  6. Rorschach says:

    Thanks for this Niall! Pretty interesting.

    *works on being more accessible in 2013*

  7. Paul B says:

    Hindsight = looking at deer in my book.

    Thanks Niall!

  8. nmsindy says:

    Rorschach at #6 – variety is part of the appeal, don’t forget.

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Niall. I’ve had a crack at, if not solved, most of the 365 this year, and I think your analysis pretty much reflects my view: an accessible puzzle on Mondays, Dac on most Wednesdays (usually pretty gettable), and Phi on Fridays (which I can solve with a bit of perseverance 9 times out of 10). Thursdays … well, I’m still trying. Which is a good thing – I’m always happy to tackle a puzzle that I can’t finish, as long as it’s fair and not outrageously cross-referenced.

    So I think it’s been a good mixture – as Quixote says, some harder ones to keep the enthusiasts going, but enough offerings that will tempt the less experienced solvers. As for whether it will keep folk buying the paper each day … that’s another question.

    Best wishes for 2013 to all the Indy regulars.


  10. Tyrus says:

    Only third? Guess I’ll have to try a little bit harder (or maybe not).

    Thanks for this, Niall – fascinating stuff. Must say I agree with your point at #3 – as a solver I’ve never noticed Indy being particularly harder than Times or Guardian.

    Best wishes to all.

  11. Phi says:

    Always an interesting exercise. An additional element might be to do some distribution analysis around the averages of the more frequent setters.

    My stance would be that you need to have one or two setters producing puzzles of a steady solvability, one or two known to be hard, and one or two wildcards to keep people on their toes (which brings us back to the distribution analysis).

    All the best for 2013.

  12. Eileen says:

    Niall, what a labour of love! Many thanks for all that hard work.

    The Guardian is the paper that I buy and so it’s the puzzle that I’ve been doing for the last umpteen decades but I have a go at the Indy more days than not [and I’ve actually blogged a couple] and agree that the level of difficulty is more or less equal – but different, in a way that I’m still not really able to define.

    Considering comments 4 and 10, I’m rather worried, Niall, that you’ve set the cat among the pigeons / given hostages to fortune / thrown down the gauntlet etc, etc … These guys don’t need encouragement!

    Happy New year to all!

  13. Quixote says:

    My suspicion is that the Sloggers and Betters coterie is now establishing a new emerging norm for the Indy puzzle. The fact is that the Indy has a very low circulation and not many years yet of crossword tradition, so it can establish its own criteria without risking much criticism from the wider community. This could be seen as brave or as risky. Over the past ten years the Indy has changed to become more unconventional, both in cluing techniques (not always for the worse) and in thematic contexts (many of which seem to favour ageing hippies). Also because it pays so badly it attracts fewer and fewer of the long-established setters at the easier end of things (Virgilius and Merlin have gone, for example)and any new more conventional setters are not exactly queuing up at Eimi’s door to restore a slightly easier norm. It could be argued that the S and Bs have driven other papers in a more difficult direction, but The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times have well-established traditions and their bloggers do feature a significant number of Clapham-omnibus members, so the editors get a much wider view from something like Big Dave’s website for example. All that said, I too enjoy a lot of the Indy’s cruciverbal output — but my enjoyment is entirely what matters! HAPPY NEW YEAR

  14. Rorschach says:

    How many cruciverbalists does it take to change a lightbulb?


  15. nmsindy says:

    Re Phi’s suggestion at #11, it is very easy to extract from the data, my fastest and slowest solve for each setter and the standard deviation from the average. I’ll circulate a spreadsheet with the info to all the Indy setters – if anyone else would like it, please ask.

  16. eimi says:

    Thanks to Niall for his hard work and dedication and for the detailed analysis which I’ve now received. It may only be one (experienced) solver, but as it’s unlikely that the Indy would ever throw money at crossword consumer research, I’m grateful for the input.

    I’d like to make a few points in response to some of the comments. Firstly, I can only publish what I’m sent. The easiest setters seem to be Quixote (who took the decision to appear fortnightly rather than weekly) and Nitsy (who is less than prolific). I have introduced some new setters, one of whom is the next easiest, according to the stats, but I’m also keen to encourage the young setters who are the future of our business and I’m sure they’ll become more easy to solve when we get used to their style and they get more of a feel for what solvers want.

    Personally, I’d rather spend a few minutes musing over a cleverly-disguised, original clue than sit on the Clapham Omnibus or other overpriced form of transport filling a grid with old chestnuts. But we need to cater for all ability levels and I’ve done my best to establish a weekly line-up in which solvers will develop a fair idea of what the level of difficulty is likely to be.

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

− eight = 1