About time we had another themed one, and this could be interesting. In theory the theme is international, but I still expect a few brickbats from non-UK solvers. No further clues, except to say that it’s made me think of another puzzle ‘off the production line’, following a comment by John Henderson (Enigmatist/Elgar/Nimrod/Io) during his fascinating Guardian live webchat last week (http://www.guardian.co.uk/crosswords/crossword-blog/2012/mar/22/crossword-live-chat-enigmatist) about crosswords being ‘churned out’.
He dislikes the term, and it’s not surprising. We setters are not artists but what we do is sort of creative, and in an ideal world every puzzle build is a full-on feast of imaginative wordplay exploration. It’s just a little sad that we don’t actually have an ideal world or, at least, that the busier we are the less ideal our world becomes.
There are a few hundred setters out there but very, very few do it full-time. And if you are going to do it full-time you have to be prepared to work damned hard, because the only way to make it pay is to produce a lot of puzzles. It would be wrong to state the following as absolute truth but, essentially, the more puzzles you can produce regularly the more frequent the slots for them will be. And whether we like it or not, our activity then becomes a sort of production line – we may not have a prescribed number of crosswords to set in a prescribed number of days, but we do begin to set a limit on how long we’re prepared to allow a single puzzle to take. It differs for each setter, but for me 1 day is ideal, 2 days is acceptable, 3 days is disappointing.
Crosswords are all about exploiting every nuance of our language, but sometimes the flowery or tactful words just don’t work and the only recourse is brutal honesty. If you set yourself production targets then your job is, indeed, to ‘churn out’ a puzzle according to deadline. The only important thing is to avoid the mindset that wants to persuade you that you’re engaged in a ‘churning out’ process, because that’s when the creativity suffers. Touch wood, I haven’t fallen into that one yet… but there have been occasions when, entering a third day on one puzzle, 75% of my mind is on the clue-writing and 25% is thinking about how long it’s taking.
I just hope it doesn’t show.