Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hindu Crossword Compilers: Your Views?

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On The Hindu Crossword Community, a question was raised about the subjectivity of estimating crossword difficulty.

As a follow-up, my question is: Of The Hindu Crossword compilers, whose crosswords do you find the easiest to crack, whose the most arduous?

There are five compilers at present:

  • Gridman
  • M. Manna
  • Neyartha
  • Nita Jaggi
  • Sankalak

How do you fare with them?

Update: A reader has mailed in an interesting suggestion to expand my original question. The additional questions are:

"What other characteristics /peculiarities/preferences/prejudices have you formed of the present set of setters?

When you see the byline what have you come to expect?"

The comments section is open, let's hear you!

[Note: Before you post, please consider if you would use the same words if the compiler was listening. No personal attacks, please!]

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Krishna M said...

As a beginner with cryptic crosswords I do better with Nitaa Jaggi and Sankalak. MManna's crosswords have some very little known words. I have not experienced Neyartha but your website's articles give the impression he is the most difficult, is it so?

Bala said...

Nita Jaggiwhile easy is prone to error and sometimes the clues are poorly set.
I like Sankalak and MManna's puzzles. Like the previous comment, MManna's puzzles do have a few words that are new to me and I have to resort to the dictionary many a time.
Even though Neyartha's puzzles are interesting, I don't like his/her style. The starred clues, though favored by a few, is detested by me. To me these clues aren't thought out well and the setter wants us to read the clue according to his/her thoughts at the time of setting the puzzle - which may not adhere to the crossword standards. I wouldn't rate Neyartha's as difficult but as sub-standard. Others might have a different opinion.

Gridman's puzzles are the best as far I am concerned. The puzzles range from relatively easy to hard. But the word play is fun. To me, I believe, Gridman is a far more experienced setter than the rest, though I might be mistaken.

Shuchi said...

@Krishna: Thank you for sharing your experience with the crosswords. We seldom get to hear views of beginners (generally the experts do all the talking!) so your perspective is very welcome. I do find Neyartha tougher than the other setters, yes. Try it out when it appears next; I hope Bala's opinion won't put you off!

@Bala: "Gridman's puzzles are the best ...far more experienced setter than the rest" - Agree totally! I always look forward to Gridman's run in the paper.

ganesh said...

As a greenhorn in solving cryptic crosswords, I love solving Sankalak, followed by Gridman. The rest are not so inviting in view of the usage of little known and obsecure words, difficult construction and other uninteresting aspects.
Perhaps, as a beginner I might be too quick in making a judgement but then I was tempted by the topic.

Shuchi said...

Hi ganesh, I can see how Sankalak is popular with beginners.

Not with reference to THC compilers, but in general I try to keep an open mind about obscure words / difficult construction. Opinion about what constitutes obscure/difficult, and our reaction to it, changes with time - that has been my experience. I would earlier be annoyed with words in the grid unknown to me but I take them more positively now. In good clues moreover, obscure words and difficult construction are either-or and it is possible to work out the words we don't know from the wordplay.

maddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maddy said...

Although iam not exactly a tyro at solving X words, I ve discovered the finer nuances and subtleties of X word solving through the eponymous THC community on orkut. Thanks to it, i ve realised that cryptic X word solving is an ever evolving process and that how little i know about it.Further, it has dawned on me that X word setting is actually a great art and that clues just cannot be randomly generated by a computer ( i admit i used to think so during my school days). I doff my hat to all the compiliers.

Having said that, IMHO, gridman's clues are by far the most balanced among all THC compilers.Though seasoned solvers may find it somewhat easy, i think his/her clues have layered wordplay, brevity is maintained and makes for excellent surface reading. I reckon even the most seasoned solvers would find it difficult, even impossible, to find errors and nitpick his clues.
I also like MManna's and Sankalak's clues in that order. The former employs some interesting techniques and wordplays but the overall quality is not as consistent as gridman's. Neyartha's clues are definitely the most abstract and esoteric of the lot. I guess that makes it the toughest also. But he/she is too overindulgent to my liking. I would even venture to say that he/she tries too hard and it shows.

That brings us to our favourite Ms NIta Jaggi. Since, Shuchi has asked to exercise restraint while commenting, I would restrict any comments and only like to give an advice to beginners of cryptic X word - If you see a X word with Ms Jaggi's byline, avoid it like the plague.It will teach you nothing, or worser still you will learn many wrong things. Once you have got the hang of the basics and some what mastered the art,pick up a Nita Jaggi puzzle and try finding loopholes in them. Chances are more often than not you will find something.

P.S - I recently read the following interesting tidbits about Ms Jaggi - Though moderator said no personal comments i couldnt resist. Shuchi, i leave it upto you to delete/edit/moderate the same if you find that necessary.

(i) She is apparently entered in the Limca book of records as the most published compiler or something like that. The article was as vague as many of her clues. (http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1180987) I guess in her pursuit of setting records, quality has been compromised. Afterall somethings gotta give...

(ii) She is also an expert in the the art of making paper mache sculptures (http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1153640)Multi talented,i must admit.Kudos. Though i do wish she sticks to her latter hobby :-)

Shuchi said...

Hi Maddy, A very well thought-out comment, thank you.

I must confess that I found your earlier deleted comment very funny. I spilt water on my keyboard reading it. Still, in the interests of propriety I am glad you put up a sober version of it :)

maddy said...

Am glad that you could actually read the first comment ( i was secretly hoping so :-)) in a perfect world that would have been the post... but when i re-read it on the blog after posting, i thought it was a bit too vitolic and people may take offence not seeing the funny side of it.

Anyways who am i to pass judgements...even the bible says "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" Amen LOL...

ganesh said...

As the topic thrown up Suchi is very interesting, I find a small vacume, in that, a few great crossword solvers have not put in their bit to enlighten us newcomers.

I mean, comments from Col.Deepakji and Chaturvasi should find a place. Hope they are reading this and chip in their most valuable comments.

The MEANDERthal man said...

Can we please have the original comment by maddy? Pretty Please? :)

svemuri said...

As a solver of crosswords over 10 years,i am really catching up after i dicovers this blogpost.I like all compilers because of thier diversified settings in the crosswords. I am really enjoying my time with The Hindu crosswords. Finally my thanks to Ms.Anokha and Col.Gopinath for their guidance.

A Crossword Unclued Reader said...

All the ace solvers on the internet heap praises on Neyartha and I used to feel maybe I don't get it. I never warmed to her style.

From prev comments it gives me comfort of sorts that I am not alone. I think calling Neyartha substandard was harsh but a thought came to me on reading maddy's comment (very interesting comment and more because I want to know what was deleted). Neyartha's crosswords are set to impress the solvers not to entertain the solvers. If I have to nitpick I can't find fault but the feeling remains.

Nita Jaggi is going to make a reality show on crosswords?! I hope the quality is better than her print crosswords. She must be happy that at least somewhere (DNA) she is getting featured in a positive light. On any Hindu Crossword forum she only gets brickbats.

C.G. BHARGAV said...

Five of them. I know all of them, but all of them don’t know me!
Like solvers, compilers too have a learning curve.
Nita and Neyartha are newcomers. Nita can produce quantity;
could even provide a crossword every day. Due to this quality suffers.Good for beginners who could quickly solve quite a few and won’t be put off from solving puzzles regularly. Neyartha is a bit weird.Somebody said crazy and went on to give the word meanings with which we usually don’t associate the said word with. But his (yes, Nita is the only female compiler) puzzles are not run-of-the-mill and would be loved by the techies(mostly from the Overseas thread group).
Sankalak’s puzzles: Nothing to complain about. Quite good. M.Manna:
Some trouble seems to have crept in recently. Maybe he has to supply the paper with so many x-words. Some people even started wondering whether two persons are involved in setting!? Gridman: As of now best of the lot as many would agree with me.Some references to South Indian names (Cho) and places (Errukkanchery) and so on.Soon we may have Idly and Dosa creeping in! Occasional references to Literature and poetry. But one thing: We rarely see somebody putting in “Very nice clue” or “Excellent clue” in any of the above puzzles. Just have a look at this clue (from NIE)which
someone commented as very nice: THEY MAY BE PLACED BUT ARE BEST MISPLACED (4). {BETS*}. Well, you know what I mean.

Shuchi said...

Hi Bhargav, Thanks for writing! My thoughts on some parts of your comment:

Somebody said crazy and went on to give the word meanings with which we usually don’t associate the said word with. - Americans do. They say 'crazy' when they mean excellent!

Some people even started wondering whether two persons are involved in setting!? - I'm one of those "some people" :) There is such drastic variation in the quality of M.Manna's clues that I find it hard to believe they're all written by the same person.

We rarely see somebody putting in “Very nice clue” or “Excellent clue” in any of the above puzzles.: On the THC forum, criticism/praise is generally low, for most contributors the focus is on getting the answers. But I find the individual solving blogs often express appreciation. That NIE clue is very nice, by the way.

Chaturvasi said...

If quantity is more, quality needn't suffer.

There can be quantity without quality, quality without quantity and quantity with quality.

As one who has been solving THC from Day One, let me point out that the first ever setter was Admiral R D Katari (Rtd.) and he singlehandedly supplied the weekday puzzle for more than ten years. That his name did not enter any book of records is a different matter.

And I daresay there are other compilers as well whose published number of crosswords might exceed any existing record.

The Admiral's crosswords were uniformly good. His clueing style was impeccable.

Once, upon solving a crossword in which many clues were very good, I wrote to the Editor of the paper that if there were ever A Book of 50 Best Hindu Crosswords, that puzzle would surely find a place in it.

Even in days when there was no Internet, no message boards, no blogs, I used to send letters to the Editor commenting on published crosswords.

Chaturvasi said...

I would like to take this opportunity to give my assessment of Neyartha's crosswords.

His crosswords may fall under the Hard category but his clueing style cannot be faulted.

Even when a clue has complex wordplay he handles it well.

Anagram and other wordplay indicators are apposite. The different components of the clue gel well. The grammatical structure isn't faulty. The surface reading of the clues is not bizarre.

Col_Gopinath said...

Ha Ha,
I am not posting any comment, because this discussion was started due to a comment made by me on my blog ;-).
However am adding my two bits as someone mentioned my name.
Generally I am a very reticent person and will comment with pages and pages only if I get bugged.
By the way the other day I saw a CW in the DNA; set by our famous punching bag,the answers to which were Hindi movies and songs, it was sick.

ganesh said...

Thank you, Col. Gopinathji and Sri Chaturvasiji for giving your comments. Additionl thanks for accepting the request of a novice like me. And special mention for Suchi for taking pains to start this topic.
It is really amazing to see varied views and reviews on the common thread of Hindu Crossword. Whatever be the opinions, it shows how possessive and attached readers are. It is also pleasant to notice that there are no vitriolic and caustic remarks on the crossword setters. Readers just desire to have a good (or shall we say nice) crossword to solve, that in the end leaves them with a feeling of job well done.
This also shows that despite the emergence of gizmos like playstations, a mere pencil and eraser still gives that thrill and enjoyment.
Let's keep the spirit of solving THC going.
Have a nice day.

P. Ganesan

Vasant said...

I am a casual solver of crosswords and generally do not find time to look up dictionaries etc. for answers.It is by chance that I saw this blog and post and am very happy I did. What a nice collection of views. I agree with much of what has been said by the majority. I think crosswords are a pastime for most, an incidental in reading the paper everyday. So a reader would derive more pleasure if he able to solve the puzzles fully on most days. I am personally put off if there are too many unfamiliar words i.e. words not in common use in speech or writing.

Abhi! said...

I used to solve THC regularly in school and college, also participate in the Orkut forum. However, with time being at a premium, I do not participate that often.

Neyartha, Gridman and Sankalak are really good. About Jaggi, the less said, the better. M Manna is on the border, some good, some OK. Some of his words are little known though,

Opendra said...

difficulty : fairness : fun factor

Gridman = medium : scrupulously fair : fun

M. Manna = medium-hard : occasionally unfair : lots of fun

Neyartha = hard : fair : not so fun

Sankalak = easy : fair : fun

Nita Jaggi = easy : unfair : yawn

anokha said...

My two cents -

I don't evaluate crosswords as easy or hard. For me, it is a puzzle which needs to be figured out.

Figuring out involves both the "arts" and the "sciences." Arts is acquired with practice so one gets smarter with time in guessing what the compiler is "meaning-to-say" or "saying-to-mean." The science is what differentiates this from other "games" i.e., one gets to learn new words, new meanings of common words, improve general knowledge etc...etc.

So, I don't mind the use of uncommon words - I mean why should a crossword contain only words that we commonly know? Smart clues accomplish exactly that - express uncommon words through common words.

Given all that, I like Neyartha's puzzles for both the art as well the science reason. I think he is "innovative" with his starred clues and I value that a lot. He makes you think differently and if you crack it then it is very satisfying.

Gridman is "simply clever" and that is a difficult art to master.

Manna is just inconsistent and Sankalak is straightforward or "by the book" as they say.

Lastly, I'm just glad that Nita Jaggi was neither my arts nor the science teacher - she almost single-handedly put me off this whole thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

maddy said...

Based on all the above feedbacks, may I be preposterous enough to suggest the following awards -

(i) Dr Jekyll and Hyde Award - MManna

(ii) The Perpetual Bridesmaid Award - Sankalak

(iii) Critics choice award - Neyartha.

(iv) And finally the coveted award of "The most popular compiler providing wholesome entertainment" :

Nominees -
(a) Jekyll MManna ( his alter ego Mr Hyde MManna not nominated)
(b) Sankalak
(c) Gridman

WINNER : Gridman by a landslide margin.

PS : Ms Nita Jaggi was disqualified based on both technical and aesthetic grounds.

PPS : Prizes sponsored by the very generous owner/moderator of the blog :-)

Shuchi said...

LOL maddy. I'll gladly sponsor if the compilers come forward to claim their prizes!

Evil Inc. said...

Sankalak is my choice. I quite like Nita too but the , ahem, "purists" wouldnt have any of it. So I'm gonna say Sankalak and the new Gridman. The old one was pure infuriatin. Maybe he's had a change of heart :) ...
Neyartha is a bit too hard for me, and hence not !!!
Manna is alternately brilliant and plain sad, mostly the latter ...

Paranthaman said...

Evil Inc.,

I don't get what you mean by old Gridman and new.

Since names began appearing, there is only one Gridman.

And old Gridman can become only older? How does he become new?

Please clarify.

Harry said...

I've been trying to solve the crosswrd for a couple o yrs now. Nita was simple early on. But these days i don't get most of her clues. In fact they leave me clueless. Gridman is probably my biggest nemesis. Don't know why Nita's bein persisted with for the last 14 days if i am right!

Shuchi said...

Hi Harry, You're right. Nita Jaggi's clues were much easier to solve in the beginning, though always hard to justify! I wrote this sometime last year, when the clues were easier.

She does 10 crosswords per month. There have been 9 so far (9554 onwards) in this series. One more to go. Monday should be Gridman!

Chaturvasi said...

Ten of NJ crosswords have been published in the current series (as can be verified from the Col's blog where the titles with the setter's name appear in the left sidebar). I expect the Saturday puzzle to be Gridman's unless TH disturbs the cyclic order.

Aim said...

I like Neyathra's; though I could get only few, I keep following the annos for the ones I can't get in THCS, and keep appreciating the clues.

Sankalak: Nicely set and fun.

Nita Jaggi: Easy, sometimes fun. but there are errors, poor surface reading.

Deepak Gopinath said...

Confirmed, it should be Gridman tommorow unless the powers that be at THE HINDU upset the cycle when NEYARTHA popped up instead of Sankalak and that too on a day reserved for freshers and irregulars on the Orkut Community, it must have been a sight to see their faces on that day.
It should be goodbye to NJ for a month