This has to stop   4 comments

Crossword setters respect each other. Plagiarism is a long way from respect.

Sometimes you put a word in the grid and it’s obvious how you’re going to approach the wordplay. Indeed that may be the reason you selected it in the first place. So it’s inevitable that some setters will inadvertently borrow ideas from each other, but you generally find that the wording is slightly different. In a recent Arachne puzzle in the Guardian, a clue forIVANTHE TERRIBLE exploited the fact that a ‘terrible’ version ofIVANTHE may be HAVEN’T I. It so happened that I’d taken the same approach quite recently for a yet to be published magazine crossword – my version was presented with a few different words, but the concept was the same and, of course, there is absolutely no way Arachne could have known. A recent Times puzzle used a cryptic definition for HARD-BOILEDEGGthat was essentially same – again, worded differently – as one I used in a recent Elkamere puzzle in the Telegraph Toughie series. It happens, and the response among setters when we see it is a smile – it’s actually rather nice when an esteemed and skilful colleague demonstrates that their mind works in the same way as yours.

But direct, verbatim lifting of clues is another matter, and it stands out when they are used to bolster the clues of a setter who clearly has very little clue-writing skill. I now share with you today’s puzzle from the Hindu:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-miscellaneous/article2437713.ece

Take a look at the clue for 29a:

Kind of resort where disease is treated (7)

An easy – but pretty much perfect – clue forSEASIDE.

Or 27a:

Russian fighter enters before an asylum seeker (6)

This clue for ÉMIGRÉ accurately indicatesMIGinside ERE, with a good surface reading.

Now look at 26a:

Be silent again for him to pay attention (8)

The answer, incredibly, is LISTENER. An awful definition ‘him to pay attention’ but the wordplay is even worse. We’re supposed to read SILENT AGAIN as SILENT RE(!) and to regard ‘be’ as an anagram indicator.

And 25a:

Dried fruit grown? (6)

RAISIN? In what sense does ‘grown’ equate to ‘raisin’? You get the drift of the word RAISING but this could only be justified if the last word in the clue was ‘growin’’. Little chance of a typo – missing out both the ‘i’ and the apostrophe seems unlikely.

As you read through the clues you will divide them into ‘very nice’ and ‘abysmal’; there is no middle ground, and to me that suggests a setter who has trawled whatever resources are available (perhaps, most likely, online review blogs of published UK crosswords) to put starter words into a grid and a clutch of good clues, then filled in the rest and clued them in a very amateurish way.

The Hindu does not have a crossword editor. Some Indian solvers have emailed the newspaper editor to point out what they believe is going on, but have had no meaningful replies. But this blatant plagiarism has to stop, and perhaps the only viable approach for now is simply to publicise, as much as we can, the fact that it is going on.

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Posted September 9, 2011 by Anax in Newsification

4 responses to “This has to stop

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  1. In the first place, Anax, I do belive this is a relevant issue insofar as being genuinely original is quite a problem nowadays is it not?

    In the world of “art” generally, now reduced to a desperate struggling for something new, rather than real “artistry” – but also with crosswords. Some of your less scrupulous colleagues “recycle” clues regularly, slightly altered or not even that. I will not shame by example but if you google a specific clue it is surprising how often a complete duplicate comes up. i have a sympathy for the setter but I am afraid it is likely to become a steadily increasing problem.

    In the second place, is “The Hindu” truly a worthy adversary? No faith newspaper is really kosher (:-) is it? Especially one which more or less defined the words “sacred cow”

    • Hi Jerry
      When a setter recycles his/her own clues that’s perfectly OK in my book. The bottom line is we don’t get paid very much, and we welcome the opportunity to speed up the setting process where we can. Of course, that depends upon our output. Yes, crosswords are my living, but I never have to churn out more than a couple of cryptics a week. Others need to send out at least a couple a day, and an entirely fresh clue set can really throw a spanner in the works if we get stuck on a couple of clues. I can’t speak for other setters in a similar position, but Roger Squires maintains a huge database of his clues and handles them carefully. He notes where/when each is used, to make sure that any which do get re-used are sufficiently separated chronologically and/or geographically.
      Of course the simple fact is they are his creations, so he has the right to use them repeatedly at his own discretion – but, in a way, this is the point. If someone else is effectively stealing his clues then his database maintenance is devalued. One can imagine a situation where he schedules clue X to be used on a particular date but, unknown to him, a plagiarist uses it a few days beforehand, and Roger then gets flak for apparently using someone else’s clue! It’s dangerous territory but, more to the point, it’s just theft, pure and simple. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Hindu setter made some attempt to re-word clues he’s snaffled from the blogs, but he just repeats them verbatim.

  2. The paper should not be underestimated because of the title.

    The 130-year-old newspaper is highly respected internationally; it is published from some 14 centres in India.

    That the crossword of a particular setter has good clues and very bad clues in the same puzzle and that the good ones might have been taken from elsewhere (I am very cautious here, though I can cite examples chapter and verse) is a different point and we have every reason to protest.

    Another setter’s work in the same newspaper is criticised by informed solvers for poor quality of many clues but the charge of plagiarism cannot be made out against them. However, AFAIK they set more than 30 crosswords a month for more than one publication and this huge output might be the reason for slackness. When bloggers picked holes in their work, they were accused of being prejudiced for two or three reasons which I shall not mention here. The criticism was never met on merits.

    While on the subject, should blogs give clue text and solution against it? The ostensible reason may be that beginners get to understand how wordplay works but there might be unexpected fallout. In this respect, the solutions-only policy of The Times for The Times may be considered sane.

    Yes, crossword collections have solutions as well as clue text. But it does not have any ‘search facility’ that throws up results. It is the latter advance in technology that might have made all this lifting possible.

    However, the compiler in question does not seem to be on the Internet. It is possible that the long phrases and the marginal entries are from papers/books before the gridfills have to follow constraints.

  3. Very suspicious, the seaside/disease is somewhat hackneyed and I can’t imagine listener getting past an editor, but are the mail/express/sun any better in this regard?

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