Sunday cryptics – easy or hard?   8 comments

I’m glad it’s not just me. Yes, I’ve been ‘guilty’ of introducing harder puzzles to the Sunday Times series, but blog comments indicate that tougher challenges are being presented by traditionally easy series such as the Observer and Independent. It would be interesting to know what solvers feel about this trend.

For my part, I’ve always regarded gentle Sunday cryptics as very slightly odd. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t disapprove. Easy cryptics are vital. But it’s usually the case that, for many quality dailies, the Monday puzzle tends to be the easiest of the week, and I’d have thought that if you’re going to have easy puzzles shouldn’t they be at the beginning of the working week, when the working day itself dictates (for many) that solving time is at a premium? Comparatively few people work on Sunday, so is there any harm in this day’s puzzle offering enough of a challenge to keep you going for as much of the day as you need?

What do you think?


Posted January 15, 2012 by Anax in Newsification

8 responses to “Sunday cryptics – easy or hard?

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  1. Only having done the Indy for years & ST since you advertised it, I find your Sundays easier than other offerings from you, and since Don has moved back to the Indy from the IOS that IOS is a lot harder. I personally prefer a brain puzzler rather than a just write it in a be done puzzle on a Sunday, but I guess that’s what Azeds and Beelzebubs are for…

    • Hi Flashling. Glad to know you enjoy the harder offerings. As for Azed, Beelzebub, Mephisto etc – I see your point, but for me they’re a different animal anyway; obscure vocabulary and the need for a good dictionary makes them the sort of puzzle you’d do at home (unless you happen to carry Chambers around with you). I think there a fair few solvers who like to be out and about on a Sunday and who relish the idea of a challenging puzzle to tackle either alone or within like-minded weirdos.
      Anyway, let’s see if we get more comments on this – I’d really like to know what the preferences are for Sunday cryptics. There’s something I perhaps should have mentioned in the original piece, something that maybe supports easier cryptics. It’s OK to say easier Monday puzzles fit in with less available solving time, but it may be the case that newer solvers appreciate having a full day to tackle a puzzle that’s pitched at the easier end?

  2. Like Flashling, I find your Sunday offerings easier than your other alter egos. I think that the easier crossword has a place on both a Monday (start of the working week) and also on Saturday which is when I always think that someone new to the art of the cryptic crossword might have time to play. The Sunday puzzles probably attract the more experienced solver and could therefore be of an increased difficulty but, please, not as a tough as a DT Toughie!!

  3. I don’t really have the time for crosswords (or indeed newspapers) at weekends. But I do have lots of free time at work during the week, which is when I do my solving. So I appreciate the harder weekend puzzles because they give me something sturdy to tackle on a Monday, or any weekday when the Guardian and Independent are both by setters I don’t get on with.

    If I’m going to buy a weekend paper it will usually be the Saturday Guardian, largely because I’ve been disappointed by the various Sunday crossword offerings in other papers. I could be persuaded to switch if any other paper regularly offered a difficult crossword that came without a preamble and had answers I recognise as words.

  4. Hi Dean

    Haven’t visited your site for a while (mea maxima culpa), but I think your point about the Sunday cryptics is an interesting one. I wouldn’t change the Everyman for anything – it’s what got me back into cryptics a few years ago. And the Indy – well, since Quixote gave up the gig a while ago, it’s had a variable level of difficulty, I’d say. But the other thing is that some folk don’t buy a paper on weekdays, so then their Sunday paper might be their only chance to have a crack at a crossword, so if there’s an accessible one, maybe that gets them interested in doing one online during the week and getting further into the dark arts. And there are certainly a good number of Saturday and Sunday crosswords that cater for those solvers who want a harder challenge, so we’re spoiled really, aren’t we?

  5. I still see the Sunday crossword as the “starter” puzzle for those new to solving. To lure in fresh blood, you need to provide the starter puzzle when they have the most free time available and are most likely to have a crack at the crossword.

    Perhaps that’s an out-of-date ideal today: Sunday lunch, then read the paper and do the crossword together. My wife still really enjoyed the Everyman (until we became parents).

    The junkies still get an Azed to satisfy their cravings for a hard puzzle. Or, like me, they work through a puzzle from the past week that’s still online (FT or Guardian, until I sort my Times subscription out)

    I see the “easy” Monday puzzle as something a little different. That’s for those who already have the crosswording bug, but want to “ease themselves” back in after the weekend.

    I’d love to see some stats about how good people are at the newspaper crossword. It’s my suspicion that the vast majority of solvers take quite a while and appreciate gentle puzzles, but online discussion is skewed by the hardcore (like most things).

  6. The Sunday Times was my “gateway” puzzle into solving British cryptics (I’d been doing Australian cryptics for a while, and the rules are far more relaxed). I’d say the Guardian has cornered the “One easy, one hard” Sunday crossword schedule, so why not have a medium-difficult range blocked crossword and a difficult barred crossword on Sunday.

    I think since Peter B has taken over there’s definitely been a shift towards more structurally sound (if that is a term) puzzles, and I’m all for that!

  7. This “easy on Monday to ease us into the week” thought has never made much sense to me.
    Nor many of the comments above.
    Surely the thousands of solvers of British cryptics must have an enormously varied set of lifestyles which defy any newspaper’s plan to produce crosswords to tailor-fit their readers.

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