Excalibur, Excalibur   6 comments

There are times when the urge to jump to the defence of a colleague is very strong, but it can be a hazardous ploy. You always run the risk of hearing “Well, you would, wouldn’t you?” as well as possibly alienating solvers/bloggers with whom you’ve always had a good relationship. For that reason I tend to hold my tongue.

But Telegraph Toughie setter Excalibur frequently comes in for stick which I find unwarranted, and I now feel compelled to say something regardless of the risk that may entail.

One review says “technically not very good” but, for me, Excalibur’s style is as unique and quirky as that of Araucaria. It isn’t that Excalibur deliberately goes out to take the sort of risks Araucaria takes, but she writes clues according to her own style, and I admire the fact that she sticks with it – her puzzles have an individual flavour, yet the difference in technique between her clues and those of other setters doesn’t stop them from being solvable. I have so far never seen a review in which the blogger has said about a clue “I just couldn’t solve this”. You solve an Excalibur puzzle by tuning into Excalibur’s style in exactly the same way you do with any other setter, and it would be a disaster for cryptic crosswords if all setters became homogenised into a uniform technique.

I admire Araucaria’s puzzles for their unique approach, but I don’t enjoy solving them as countless others do. There is no right and wrong in this – it is down to what we prefer as individual solvers and (with every respect to Araucaria) if the thing that floats your boat more than anything else is smooth, plausible surfaces, then his puzzles won’t be your first choice. They will be your first choice if you want audacious trickery and unexpected humour.

If you want eminently solvable puzzles with a truly unique flavour, then Excalibur should keep you perfectly happy.

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Posted April 26, 2012 by Anax in Uncategorized

6 responses to “Excalibur, Excalibur

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  1. I thought the review was very fair. Perhaps you could recommend Excalibur to the Independent’s crossword editor – whoops I nearly forgot, Alaun only lasted for one puzzle.

  2. I’m about to start playing with them. Haven’t been too well and I couldn’t find the USB cable.

  3. I have no objection to Excalibur and her crosswords in principle – my problem is, and even allowing for the fact that someone described my solving times meant that I could be called the Sebastian Vettel of BD’s blog, if I can solve today’s Toughie in a time that would put me in the top 5 in the Times Championship, I don’t think it fits the ”most devious cryptic puzzle’ as advertised by the DT.

    • That’s perfectly true, Sue, but the setter doesn’t decide the date of publication. The editor has a stock of supplied puzzles and arranges them as he sees fit. As is always the case, though, one person’s easy will be another’s tough – I’ve had puzzles published which I’ve considered to be too easy/difficult for the day (this is based on the – not always true – concept that crosswords increase in difficulty through the week) but comments from solvers have generally shown the editor to have judged the difficulty better than me.
      It struck me today that some have commented on Notabilis using some far from smooth clueing, but you’ll never hear any adverse comments on that from certain contributors. It’s as if – and this is what really annoys me – some people join the Excalibur knocking club simply to show that they’re ‘in the gang’; a lot of the criticism is, I fear, rather unthinking. There are times when Excalibur’s clues stretch the rules (ultimately the editor decides what is allowable) but she rarely presents solvers with clues that don’t read well.

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