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:
Take a look at the clue for 29a:
Kind of resort where disease is treated (7)
An easy – but pretty much perfect – clue forSEASIDE.
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.
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.