Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hindu Crossword 9409: Too Tough?

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After a spate of Nita Jaggi puzzles, Gridman in the THC yesterday was a welcome change. THC9409 was much discussed in the solving community, the general consensus being that it was difficult. Was it? I thought the puzzle was fair and far more pleasing than the bland fare that THC has been dishing out to us poor solvers of late.

A couple of factors that did add to its complexity:

  • The puzzle was heavy with cryptic definitions; 10 clues out of 34 were of this type. Most of these needed crossing letters to get solved. 
  • Even with other clue types, the definitions were somewhat uncommon or oblique, such as volume measure = SONE, turtle = SLIDER.
  • A few ‘obscure’ words - NIEVE and ELGIN for example – also held us up, but I must say Gridman has been thoughtful enough to give extra-helpful wordplay for such words.
  • This puzzle had 4 deletion clues, which is unusually high for THC, its norm being 1-2 in a puzzle if at all. With deletions, it is easier for me to see the answer than to work out how it is derived. This did not pose a problem here though – the components to be subtracted were very clear in all these clues.
  • 7d needed the answer of 2d for its solution. This must be something of a first in THC; I don’t recall seeing inter-grid references between clues appear in THC before. I do so much of the Guardian crossword nowadays that a number in a clue makes me think first of clue connections before anything else. So this came to me immediately, but no surprise that it had the best of THC solvers flummoxed.

Tiny complaint: Random proper names in crosswords, with just ‘he’ or ‘she’ to define them, don’t quite thrill me. Two of them (ERNEST and MIMI) in a single puzzle had me frowning!

That apart, a very satisfying solve. Here’s hoping that the trend of better puzzles in THC will continue…

Wordplay Breakup

The graph below shows how the clues were distributed across clue types. 7d, 19d and 23d used a combination of clue types, the rest fell into single clue type categories.

Cryptic definitions formed the largest share of clues, followed by charades.THC9409

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