The Internet has popularised cryptic crosswords in a way that could never have happened before. More people are solving and commenting, and setters are seeing almost instant feedback on their work. It all sounds great, but does it come at a price?
There’s a simple arithmetical fact; the higher the number of contributors to a blogged puzzle, the wider the potential band of good/bad comments. For setters, good and bad go with the territory, and it’s inevitable. Each solver is an individual for whom certain clue types hit the spot. Some hate cryptic definitions, others relish them. Some want short, snappy clues, while others enjoy the challenge of unravelling long and complex wordplay constructions. Everyone has different tastes and it’s impossible to address them all – certainly within the confines of a single puzzle.
Inevitable as this is, it can be taken too far, and some editors and setters are becoming concerned by the viciousness of some commenters. It’s more than my life’s worth to name names, but there are cases of editors and setters who have vowed to stay away from blogs to which they previously added comments. Instead of furthering the “brotherhood” of this joyous activity we call cryptic crosswords, divisions are being created which turn the myth of the wall between solvers and setters into reality.
All of which leads to a question; is it the case that commenters must somehow censor themselves before posting? If that is so, it raises concerns about the freedom of speech we all take for granted. None of the most popular blogs is officially affiliated to the newspapers whose crosswords they review, so they have no duty to kowtow. If a solver doesn’t like a crossword they are free to say so.
To be honest I don’t know what the answer is, which is why I invite you to debate the question of how we can use the blogs to unite rather than divide.
Over to you.