It’s been a while!   7 comments

The workload has gradually increased over the past year or so, and blog updates have become rarer as a result. The same applies to having new stuff to write about, so it’s been a case of waiting until there are a few subjects to cover.

A recent Sunday Times puzzle taught me that a piece of advice I’m always keen to give aspiring setters is less than reliable. The principle is straightforward. Once your clue set is complete, try to pick out the harder clues and see where their answers are in the grid. Combined with their cross-checking letters, they should give an indication of any areas of the grid that may be unnecessarily hard to crack. You can then ease up a little on one or two. Despite my feeling that the resulting puzzle was on the moderate side, most solvers found it incredibly difficult. I still think the advice is sound, but it just goes to show that you can never be absolutely sure you’ve got it right. The setter has the disadvantage of being too close to the puzzle, while the editor has the disadvantage of being a very experienced solver.

 

These days I very rarely use Facebook, preferring Twitter for its absence of click-bait posts. Because Twitter posts ping over to Facebook, I will check in for reply notifications, but that’s about it. I was rather disappointed to recently see that Timothy Parker had been removed from a crossword group. Those who keep an eye on events in the world of crosswords will know about what came to light last year, but it was dealt with and Mr Parker took some enforced time off.

We all make mistakes and, for me, Mr Parker’s sin was one of laziness more than anything else. It was careless and unprofessional… but nobody died. His punishment will be regarded by some as fitting, others as not enough, and others as too much. It doesn’t matter. It was a mistake and it is now history, and we can be pretty sure it won’t happen again. So why don’t we just leave it at that and move on?

Crosswording is a minority pursuit which, for many years, was regarded by outsiders as a bit odd. Thanks to solving blogs and regular gatherings, many have found us to be extremely welcoming. One of the best things is that solvers see and discuss those occasions when even the best setters and editors allow stupid mistakes to pass into publication unnoticed. Some get uppity, some laugh it off, but all get over it. So it should be with regard to Mr Parker. He did wrong and he will have learned his lesson. If he wishes to continue to have an active role in crosswords then he should be allowed to do so, and we should be a little more forgiving and welcoming.

Nobody died.

 

Later this year – actually coinciding with my birthday – my first ever crossword book will be published. In the great scheme of things it’s modest (a newspaper title, a non-cryptic collection), but it’s a biggie for me.

Some time in my mid-20s, my then girlfriend asked me what I saw myself doing professionally. At the time I was unemployed except for a regular slot on the Birmingham Post and whatever meagre revenue came from the band we were both in. When I told her I would be a full-time cryptic crossword setter her reply was “You’ll never do it”, and we split up not long after that.

Far from denting my ambition it made me more determined, but it has taken a long time. To finally see my name on something which is all my own work is an important milestone.

 

This past year has seen some personal changes. When I left the covers band about three years ago I felt I’d had enough of playing live and wanted to return to writing and recording, but that had previously been a cyclical thing; play live for a few years, write and record for a few years, and repeat. Except this time I had no intention of returning to live work. By chance, a few months ago, someone advertised a bass guitar position for a new project, very local to me, with a dozen or so suggested songs which were right up my alley. In fairness the rehearsal session was brilliant and I really enjoyed it, but when the guitarist contacted me to say the project wasn’t going any further (drummer and vocalist were unable to fully commit) I was relieved. I have to be honest with myself – I really don’t want to be in a band any more. Unfortunately there’s nothing on the writing horizon as yet, but it’s the only musical area I’m interested in now.

My Twitter followers doubtless get sick of me posting links to my gaming livestreams, but I do it to connect to gaming followers on Twitter and Facebook who aren’t necessarily subbed to my channel. And I make no apology for nearly all of my streams being of The Last Of Us, especially because it reflects the fact that I’m not a ‘proper’ gamer. TLOU ticked a shedload of boxes which other games don’t know exist, and in truth I don’t even think of it as a game. It’s a powerful, realistic, and intensely emotional story which just happens to have great gameplay bolted onto it. That said, I’m sort of burnt out now, so until Part 2 ships towards the end of this year I will be spending time on Burnout Paradise Remastered, because I love my driving games, especially the arcade type, and this was pretty much why I kept my PS3.

OK, that’s it for now.

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Posted March 13, 2018 by Anax in Uncategorized

7 responses to “It’s been a while!

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  1. Congratulations on the upcoming book. I’m guessing it’s the upcoming collection of Sunday Times concise puzzles, featuring your trademark pithy definitions. (Don’t take that personally, I don’t have a lisp.)
    It would be good to see a Sunday Times cryptic collection that includes your (and others’) puzzles too. I don’t think there’s been one since Barbara Hall’s retirement, which seems a little odd when The Times puzzles are regularly published in paperback.

    Michael Lloyd-Jones
  2. Dean,

    It some months ago that I discovered that you have a blog and made arrangements to be notified of new posts. I was delighted when I received notice of this post confirming that your blog had not in fact been abandoned.

    Unfortunately, the main crossword-related item (other than the book announcement, on which congratulations) means nothing to me as I’m afraid I know nothing of Mr Parker or his “sins”. While I lean towards endorsing your forgiving attitude, it’s hard to assess the enormity of any wrong that has been paid back to the gentleman by way of his total excommunication from a (FB?) crossword group in the circumstances. I realise, given what you say, that you may not wish to bring the matter up again in detail, but perhaps you could give some idea of what he did in what capacity? I am not on FB and have no intention of joining.

    Thanks for all your tips on setting in this blog and elsewhere (including that at para 2), which I have found very helpful in my efforts to master the art.

    Best wishes
    Tony

  3. Hi Tony. What it basically boiled down to was Mr Parker re-using pre-published puzzles, but I’m not absolutely clear whether this was outright plagiarism (which I doubt) or, more likely, adaptation of previously used stock from his group of constructors.

  4. Thanks for shedding some further light on the matter you refer to. Out and out plagiarism would seem a very serious matter, and if there was evidence of that it would certainly need answering, I would have thought. I’m definitely of the view that an accused should have the benefit of the doubt until any evidence is put to him and he is given a chance to explain, but perhaps that has happened? As I know nothing of Mr Parker, I don’t really understand the reference to “his group of constructors”, though that term suggests an American. Do you have a link to a non-membership site where the facts of the matter may be found?

  5. Thanks. Very interesting story. It seems Parker was relieved of his editing duties for a three-month period while his employers, syndicators Universal Uclick (UU), investigated, but was then reinstated with undertakings to be more careful, and with a second line of checking for duplication being instigated. However he did not return to editing the puzzles produced for USA Today (where the most duplications had appeared) nor would his work appear Gannett/USA TODAY NETWORK publications and there was a #gridgate campaign (amongst USA Today solvers, I presume?) to ensure this was the case. This all happened in 2016. UU’s statement, dated 9 May, 2016 is here: http://syndication.andrewsmcmeel.com/press/press_release/196

    It doesn’t seem then that Parker lost his livelihood or such and there was, at the time at least, a strong feeling that the readers of USA Today didn’t want him involved in their puzzles. Is it then that you’re saying it’s unduly vindictive for them to maintain that position now after the passage of a couple of years (as perhaps suggested in a second reading of your headline)? Has there in fact been any move to reinstate him as editor of the USA Today puzzle which has been resisted?

  6. His chloroform clue – which post-dates the plagiarism allegations – seems ill-judged on the grounds of both taste and originality.

    Michael Lloyd-Jones

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