Putting the hours in   4 comments

Phew! A recent FifteenSquared thread was, I think, rather unkind in its assessment of a heavily themed puzzle by one of my very esteemed colleagues. Comments were made which amounted to calling the crossword indulgent and setter-oriented, basically too clever for its own good. That assessment was unreasonable in my eyes, and I decided it wasn’t going to stop me tackling a pretty ambitious themed one myself. I can’t go into detail for obvious reasons, but the grid fill involved making every across answer relate to one of three choices given by the long central down answer.
Now, when you bear in mind that when things are running smoothly I’ll have grid filled and clues written in a day… well, it’s just taken a full day (near enough) to just fill the grid. There were four or five serious backtracks, one of which even involved re-designing the grid after having all but one corner completed. Even now I’m not 100% happy with it – one particular theme choice far outnumbers the others although, in fairness, it offers significantly more possible answers.
I doubt that I’ll make any further changes though – I’m exhausted! And I’ve still got to make a start on the clues; but, as I mentioned on 15sq, regardless of the number of hours that will finally go into this, the pay will be the same.


Posted September 29, 2010 by Anax in Newsification

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4 responses to “Putting the hours in

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  1. I assume you refer to near impossible recent Nimrod. I think we do appreciate the work put in – I do – however when you set the clues you must have an inkling of how hard the clues are to solve. Most solvers are going to be doing it during their lunch hours or train rides on a weekday crossword when they won’t have access to dictionaries or the internet. Most of the people trying to solve the indy don’t even know about here or 15 sq. Anyway Anax I appreciate your efforts. Even if I can’t
    get what the feck you’re on about. 🙂

  2. “…must have an inkling of how hard…”
    It’s an interesting subject Flashling, because I’m not sure it’s that easy to gauge how easy/hard a clue set is. Occasionally my young daughter gives me a riddle to solve that seems utterly impenetrable, impossible even. Then, when I see the answer, it all seems so obvious. A setter goes about writing clues knowing there will be a significant amount of time devoted to it, a lot of which will consist of reading through the finished set.
    The more time you devote to writing them, and the more you read through them, the more familiar you become with them – and that familiarity has a habit of making things look far easier than they really are. It’s incredibly difficult to see a set of clues through the eyes of a solver seeing them for the first time, and what makes it even more difficult is that it’s often the smallest tricks that persuade us they are easy. There will be the occasional very crafty little definition in the clue but, as setters, we tell ourselves “Ah yes, but this other bit and that other bit are dead give-aways”.

  3. I’ve read the aforementioned thread carefully and can see your point Anax that it must be pretty rough for a setter to spend extra effort in creating a puzzle that’s a bit special, only to find so many people lambasting it for being too hard.

    I’m not an expert crossword solver but I know a thing or two about pleasing customers, as I teach people how to do that for a living. And the simple fact is that if the crossword does not please its customers, then it has missed the mark. Hard though the setter may have laboured, if he has misjudged his target audience then the whole edifice is going to crumble.

    Sure, it’s OTT to call him ‘self-indulgent’ – who are we to know the setter’s motives? Some of the posts were downright unkind but that’s the internet for you. But the message is clear, you need to know your target market, and write for that… in this case the target was missed and lessons need to be learned (by the editor as well as the setter). They needs to see this as an opportunity to make adjustments, and not a reason to blame the solvers or (heaven forbid) stop trying to find fresh and creative ideas.

  4. Hi Dram
    Part of the problem is ‘knowing the market’. Years ago it was possible to quite accurately describe the Tele crossword as ‘easy’, the Guardian as ‘somewhere in between’ and the Times as ‘hard’, but the boundaries have become quite blurred now and every paper carries a full range of easy-to-hard crosswords.
    For very experienced solvers, some puzzles are easy to the point of facile; others aren’t satisfied unless the set of clues they’re presented with amounts to a linguistic version of assault with a deadly weapon.
    The task of the editors is to arrange puzzles so that these different bands of solvers are fairly represented, and I don’t envy them. Jetdoc herself told me on Sunday she thought the ‘TV’ Nimrod puzzle was one of the hardest he’d set, but simple arithmetic dictates that if you line up all of Nimrod’s crosswords one will end up as being the easiest and one will be hardest.
    I don’t mind if people say they didn’t enjoy a puzzle because it was too easy/hard – but it’s wrong to describe a puzzle as ‘bad’ for that reason, because it assumes every solver wants the same level of difficulty.
    No puzzle is going to be universally popular, because there isn’t a universal solver.

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