I looked at the New Indian Express (NIE) crossword after a gap of a few months. My usual mode of solving the NIE puzzle is without grid; I go to the Orkut Crossword community, glance through the clues on the clue-sheet and give the answers that I can.
This is pretty easy to do with the NIE, it is not a taxing puzzle (though an enjoyable one). This time, I also noticed that the clues are short, much shorter than those of The Hindu. I recalled thinking that Neyartha’s puzzles in The Hindu were quite wordy, and wondered if clue length influences the difficulty of the clue in some way. After all, the higher the number of words in a clue, the more the permutations by which the solution can be derived.
Compare these two anagram clues:
NIE Oct 30 2008: Saves an agitated girl (7)
The Hindu 9362: Beat around the bush when asked to quote advice by mistake (10)
Both anagrams, but the second is more difficult to identify than the first. Among other reasons for this, one surely is that the first has single-word definition and anagram indicator, the second has multi-word ones.
A regexp check shows average clue length (number of words per clue) of the NIE as below:
|Puzzle Date||Average Clue Length|
*The last puzzle attempted before the hiatus.
The average in NIE based on the above data is 5.79 words per clue.
A similar analysis of the Hindu crosswords published between 26-Sep-08 to 26-Oct-08 threw up some interesting results.
The average in The Hindu is 7.50 words per clue.
There were 4 compilers at work in this duration - Nitaa Jaggi, Gridman, M.Manna and Neyartha. Of these, Gridman and M.Manna tend to write shorter clues, Nitaa Jaggi and Neyartha longer ones. The individual averages are:
|Puzzle Nos.||Compiler||No. Of Puzzles||Average Clue Length|
|9338 - 9347||Nitaa Jaggi||10||7.86|
|9348 - 9353||Gridman||6||7.11|
|9354 -9360||M. Manna||7||7.20|
|9361 - 9362||Neyartha||2||7.90*|
*of which 17% of the clues excluded definition
If assigning an absolute complexity rating, Nitaa Jaggi's puzzles would be termed Easy, Gridman and M.Manna Medium and Neyartha's Complex. So, there does not seem to be a direct correlation between clue length and complexity.
Another thought is that very long clues either obfuscate or overexpose, so sway towards the extremes - Complex or Easy, but seldom middling.
Thoughts On Crossword Complexity