5 ACROSS - WELSH VALLEY
April 21, 2015 6:57 AM   Subscribe

 
CWM
posted by Rock Steady at 7:24 AM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is a great article. I have to say, though – I always wonder why more of these professional crossworders don't do cryptic crosswords, which seem much more difficult to me. I can usually start a crossword, but I have a difficult time filling in even a single blank on most cryptics.
posted by koeselitz at 8:13 AM on April 21, 2015


Dammit. But I think it's actually spelled 'Clwm' and pronounced 'Polderdash!' I think.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:50 AM on April 21, 2015


Nice article. I wish they had shown us that final-60 word crossword, though – the "wide-open grid with few black squares. Long words weaving through long words."

I watched "Wordplay," and loved it, by the way. I don't know how available it is these days. I think it would be great fun to do a smart parody version, a la "Best in Show"; somebody get on that!
posted by taz at 8:56 AM on April 21, 2015


A slight tangent, but anyone interested in the workings of the crossword world should read the fascinating piece Solving the Broken Crossword Puzzle Economy.

Great piece, thanks for posting it.
posted by lalex at 9:38 AM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Contestant Joon Pahk is not only a friend of mine, but also the creator of Guess My Word!
posted by jonp72 at 10:08 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to say, though – I always wonder why more of these professional crossworders don't do cryptic crosswords, which seem much more difficult to me.

Many of them do. Several things, though: they're not to everyone's taste, and there is a serious dearth of American-style variety cryptics -- I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I have done nearly every one published in the US since, dunno, 1980? A new book came out a month or two ago and I have been rationing it like the last oxygen canister on Mars. I also do the various Guardian ones regularly, but British-style cluing is very different from American-style and sometimes people who've been "trained" on one style find that the other doesn't play fair according to their expectations. Also, there are weekly competition cryptics in the UK, which may take a bit of momentum out of the "have one really big competition" impulse.
posted by dorque at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Chen’s Puzzle 5 was titled “Attention, Newbies!” The conceit was adding new B’s (get it?) to familiar phrases. “Vocalist” became “vocab list,” “alloy” became “ballboy,” and so on. To find workable and interesting phrases like this, Chen wrote a Python script and applied it to his master word and phrase list. Using this program, he realized “caroms” could become “car bombs,” for example.

Ok I feel better knowing that the people writing these puzzles are often relying on computer scripts to get their clever answers, because I've made a couple of very short-lived attempts at writing a crossword by hand and it is nigh on fucking impossible even without things like finding words and phrases differing only by b's.
posted by carsonb at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok I feel better knowing that the people writing these puzzles are often relying on computer scripts to get their clever answers,

Yeah, it's increasingly common. There's also a thing where once you start looking for clever stuff like this, you can't un-see it. I know a bunch of people who keep a little file of cute word relationships like those (mine currently says, among other things, NIP EELS, NEPHROLOGIST/PHRENOLOGIST, and MACHISMO + S = MASOCHISM). So you notice a bunch of them building up in your file and then you can use a tool to help make a set big enough to base a puzzle on.
posted by dorque at 12:01 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always wonder why more of these professional crossworders don't do cryptic crosswords

That's because cryptic crosswords are of the devil.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:04 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


1. I did a general crossword puzzle post about a year and a half ago as part of a Google crossword doodle. In a comment later on I offer my own tips for solving.

2. British and American puzzles are really different beasts. British is much more about wordplay and deciphering riddle-like clues, but the board is much more sparse, and not every letter is checked. The result is, you have to get every answer to solve it. In American puzzles every word must be checked going both ways, and these days your better puzzles will have a theme too. Both these aspects, these redundancies, give you extra ways to figure out difficult clues. Redundancy in puzzle design generally decreases difficulty, so this allows the puzzle setter to make the clues in these puzzles much harder, and rely on obscure knowledge and still be, overall, reasonably fair. (Because of this, you can also learn interesting things from American-style puzzles, while much more of what you fill in in a British puzzle has to come from you.)

Redundancy in American-style puzzles also allows the setter to put in evil tricks sometimes, like rebus cells, which rely on lateral thinking to detect. (Even so, you will cry foul the first time you encounter rebus cells unheralded.)
posted by JHarris at 2:40 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even so, you will cry foul the first time you encounter rebus cells unheralded.

I still remember the time lo these many years ago when an otherwise-straight-up midweek NYT puzzle had a bunch of squares that were supposed to be pictures of ducks. I think my entire dorm heard me cussing out Will Shortz. (Sorry Willz, you're great, it was cool in retrospect.)
posted by dorque at 3:00 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always wonder why more of these professional crossworders don't do cryptic crosswords, which seem much more difficult to me.

That's like asking why professional swimmers don't do biathlons instead. It's not like cryptic crosswords are the hard version of American crosswords... they're two completely different sorts of puzzles.
posted by painquale at 3:30 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks. Loved this article.

Dorque, what is the new cryptic book of which you speak? I need it!
posted by Dashy at 4:21 PM on April 21, 2015


Dashy: it's Cryptic All-Stars book 2!
posted by dorque at 5:55 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


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