Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Araucaria Counterweight Book Saver

Araucaria Crosswords Are you in the habit of solving crosswords in the bath, dozing off and accidentally dropping puzzle books into the water, causing untold damage to your precious books?

Then you might pick up a tip or two from crossword fan Ivan Greenburg. He has exactly this problem and has devised an innovative contraption to save his puzzle books from such mishaps. [Thanks to crossword center for mentioning this in their newsletter, that's where I heard about it first.]

The device is called 'The Araucaria Counterweight Book Saver', named after its inventor's favourite setter. Read more about it with annotated pictures here on the Chamber's editors' blog, clishmaclaver.

For those who don't keep track of the Guardian crossword, Araucaria is the pseudonym of Reverend John Galbraith Graham MBE, probably the most popular setter on the Guardian crossword team. He is best known for his themed puzzles, clever long anagrams and non-conformance to rigid Ximenean standards.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sample A Themed Guardian Crossword

Brendan's Crossword 24787 in the Guardian Today's Guardian crossword (24787 – Brendan) is an example of a classic Guardian puzzle - creative, adventurous, with a distinctive stamp of the setter's style.

Brendan specializes in puzzles with themes; 24787 has one too. Several clues each interlink with each other. As you piece the puzzle together the commonality emerges and helps you figure out the inter-grid references.

Regular Hindu crossword solvers who don't care for the "starred clues with no definition" variety may want to try this one. If you had concluded that you don't like themed puzzles at all, this might just change your mind.

Links to the puzzle: PDF, HTML and Interactive.

I had an immensely good time with this crossword. Many thanks to Brendan.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Crosswords For Beginners

As promised in the post More Tips For Tackling Cryptic Crosswords (tip #5), some crossword recommendations for beginners.

This is a selection of good-quality easy crosswords available online, free of cost. I'm mentioning those that I'm familiar with myself; there must be other fine puzzles that I haven't had a chance to try. If you have recommendations to add or further thoughts on these crosswords, please drop a comment about it.

Crossword Description Availability
New Indian Express Crossword (NIE)
An easy crossword with simple vocabulary and accessible wordplay. The puzzle is fair, clever and fun, with lots of double definitions and cryptic definitions.

NIE is a UK-syndicated crossword (anyone knows the name of the original puzzle?) set by Roger Squires.

Online location: Go to the New Indian Express ePaper and use the site search facility for "crossword". From the search result, expand the grid image to get the printable crossword. [There's no direct URL to the puzzle and too many popup ads on NIE's website, which makes the process of locating the crossword quite painful. I hope NIE does something about it!]

Solving help: Bhargav Gopal's Orkut community Crosswordmania solves the NIE. Solutions to older crosswords can be found on the now defunct NIE XWord Orkut community.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
The Hindu Crossword (THC)
Probably the most popular crossword in India. Indian solvers have an edge with THC because of the local flavour in the clues.

A number of compilers set for this puzzle. The quality and difficulty of the puzzle varies widely according to the setter.

The paper publishes the setters' puzzles cyclically - the full quota for one setter, then the next one takes over. The sequence of publication (with puzzles per cycle for each setter), as on 30th Jun 2011, is:

Sankalak (6) – Nita Jaggi (6) – Gridman (6) – M. Manna (7) – Neyartha (2) – Spiffytrix (2) – Cryptonyte (1)

My suggestion for beginners is to stick to Sankalak and Gridman puzzles. [You might want to check out The Hindu Crossword Compilers: Your Views?]
Online location: [Worked till 30th Jun 2011] Use this URL to access any Hindu crossword – just change the dates (YYYY/MM/DD):

http://www.hindu.com/YYYY/MM/DD/10hdline.htm 

The puzzle is available in HTML and PDF printable formats.

Archives:
Puzzles from the year 2000 onwards are available online. Use the same URL as above, with the required dates.

e.g. The 24th July 2008 crossword is at http://www.hindu.com/2008/07/24/10hdline.htm

Solving help: Plenty of help is available online – see the post The Hindu Crossword Solutions.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
Everyman /
The Hindu Sunday Crossword (THC Sun)
Everyman puzzle of The Observer (a Sunday paper in the UK, owned by the Guardian group) helps you break into the puzzle gently, with its long anagrams and some simple wordplay.

The same puzzle is reproduced in The Hindu on Sundays, with a gap of 7 weeks from its original date of publication.

Everyman tends to have many British cultural references, so it might be easier for solvers from UK than from other countries.
For THC (Sun), the online location, archives and solving help details are the same as for the weekday THC.

For Everyman:
Online location: Everyman crossword

Archives: Puzzles published since July 2003 are available. Use "Crossword Archive Search" on Guardian's crossword page, with Type = Everyman.

Solving help: Visit the blog for Everyman on fifteensquared. As this is a prize puzzle, the solution is discussed after the deadline has passed (a week's gap from the date of publication).

Frequency: Once a week, each Sunday
Mint Crossword: Wordview An easy, fair and good crossword with a financial flavour.

The crossword appears in the paper every Friday. Two setters – Tony Sebastian and Vinod Raman – set this crossword alternately.
Online location: The crossword is available in the Mint ePaper, directly below the editorial on a page titled "Views".  See detailed instructions here: Mint Crossword Online.

Archives: The crossword archives can be accessed by changing the date of the ePaper.

Solving help: The crossword is occasionally solved on XWordClub on the day of publication (Friday). The solution grid is published in Mint a week later.  

Frequency: Once a week, every Friday
Economic Times Crossword (ET)
The crossword published in the Indian financial daily Economic Times is quite approachable for beginners. It has many "combination" clues (those that mix clue types, like anagram within container) without being overly tricky.

This crossword is syndicated from UK's The Daily Mail.
Online location: See the post Economic Times Crossword Online for instructions on how to access the puzzle.

Archives: A week's archives are available on the site. On step 3 in the how-to-access post, change the default search option from "This Newspaper" to "Whole Week".

Solving help: Bhargav Gopal's Orkut community CrosswordMania solves this crossword.

Frequency: Daily
Financial Times Crossword (FT)
A number of compilers set for this puzzle, and the style/difficulty varies according to the setter. This page gives style/difficulty ratings for some FT setters.

In general, the week starts with simpler puzzles, so Mon-Tue are good days for newbies. I've found the setters Dante, Armonie and Falcon to be quite easy. Dante incidentally is Roger Squires, the same as the NIE setter.
Online location: The Financial Times crossword page has links to the latest crosswords. FT has recently fixed legibility issues with the printable puzzle. They used to be blurred images earlier, now they're neat PDFs.

Archives: Older crosswords up to three weeks are available at the same location.

Solving help: Go to category FT on fifteensquared. The solutions appear on the same day, except for Mon and Sat prize puzzles which are blogged about after the deadline has passed.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
Guardian Crossword
As with FT, a number of compilers set for this puzzle. Many compilers on FT also set for Guardian under different pseudonyms.

The Guardian crossword has a more adventurous style than FT and may be tougher, but Monday can be relied on for easy fare. The setter is usually Rufus on Mondays. No prizes for guessing who Rufus is (yes, it's Roger Squires, the same as the NIE setter and Dante of FT).
This paper provides excellent online access to its puzzles, user-friendly and easily searchable.

Online location:
The Guardian Crossword page has links to printable and interactive versions. (Old location: Guardian Crossword)

Archives: Use "Crossword Archive Search" on Guardian's crossword page, with Type = Cryptic. You can also filter by setter, date, format or puzzle number.

Solving help: Go to category Guardian on fifteensquared. The solutions appear on the same day, except for the Sat prize puzzle which is blogged about after the deadline has passed.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
The I-do-it Box (TIB) TIB crosswords are set by Vinod (Diogenes) and Tony (Cryptonyte). They aren't in a mainstream publication yet, I hope they will soon be.

There isn't much obscurity in vocabulary or GK in their crosswords. There is a lot of good, fair wordplay.
Online location: The blog TV Crosswords. Interactive versions are provided too.

Archives: Look up the archives through their sidebar.

Solving help: Write a comment under the puzzle, the setters will respond.

Frequency: Roughly once a week. A new puzzle is generally uploaded around Fri-Sat. (Update: No new puzzles have appeared since a while, but have a go at the archives.)

Actually, you don't have to start with an easy puzzle. You could directly do the Times (which is harder than the puzzles above), only that you have to be stronger not to lose heart if you don't answer too many clues in the initial tries. With any puzzle, you will see progress if you solve regularly and seek explanations when you don't understand something.

Just cut your solving teeth on well-made puzzles, easy or hard doesn't matter all that much.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

High On E

drug abbreviation The standard abbreviation for "drug" in cryptic crosswords is E, short for Ecstasy.

Such as in:
ET 3503: Talk about drug rip-off (5) CH{E}AT

Today's Financial Times crossword reminded me that it doesn't have to be that every time. Parsing the next clue took me ages even after I'd figured out the solution, as I was trying to replace drug with E. See if you can work it out?

FT 13161 (Alberich): Type of crack from drug company whose assets are constantly soaring (8)

More Non-Es

A few more drug-laden clues that don't use the E substitution.

THC 9514: One who ill-treats a born drug-taker (6)
THC 8369: Actor caught in violation with drug (8)
ET 3154: Drug like hot alkali (6)

Know of other clues that use "drug" differently? Post them in the comments section.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Tips For Tackling Cryptic Crosswords

Are you an aspiring solver, have been reading Crossword Unclued and other guides carefully and are yet disappointed with your progress at solving?

An earlier post of mine (link) had tips for beginners to improve solving technique. But the technique comes much later. Hurdles that struggling solvers face are more psychological than skill-related, and the ideas below are to help you overcome those mental blocks.

Follow these and I can guarantee you'll see an improvement.

1. Stop Reading, Start Solving

Enough already! Now solve!Do you want to perfect your "fundas" before delving into actual solving? Do you take tentative stabs at a puzzle, find that you haven't cracked a single clue and decide you need to pick up more knowledge?

That's the wrong way to go about it! Crossword solving is like cycling. No matter what tomes you read, you cannot ride a bicycle unless you actually get on it and push the pedals, taking a couple of falls in your stride. A fall doesn't mean you need to read more, it means you need to ride more.

Too much theory without solving can be counter-productive. It can make cryptic crosswords appear much harder than they are.

Many expert solvers who do whole puzzles in a matter of minutes cannot tell a cryptic definition from an &lit. And what difference does it make, really? The big thing is to solve it, not to know the fancy jargon.

My sincere advice is to put the theory aside, pick up a good cryptic crossword, read the clues with full attention and observe what they say. Don't get misled by the surface, and you will reach the answer. Take this clue:

(NIE 11-Jun-09) It used to be cut back (3) WAS<-

To solve it, all you have to do is figure out the definition ("it used to be"), and understand that "cut" = SAW. Does it matter if this is called a reversal clue type or a rotator clue type? Do you need to memorize a list of reversal indicators to know that "back" means "back"?

Not at all, right?

2. Don't Look Up Answers Too Soon

Sneak A Peek? Don't do that! Experienced solvers will tell you that reverse engineering the solutions or visiting solving sites is a good way to hone your skill. I agree fully, but I'll explicitly add the caveat – don't do that before you've given yourself a fair chance. If you look at a clue, can't solve it and immediately reach out for the solution, you'll slow down your progress.

I'd suggest spending a little more time with the clues. Think of all possible meanings the words in the clue could have. Take a break, revisit the puzzle. Many times all it takes to crack it is a cup of tea.

3. Say To Yourself "It is easy, I can do it"

"It is easy, I can do it"I had been trying the Azed for some time, without much success. What was going wrong?

Azed is a hard puzzle full of obscure words. I began with that knowledge, and found myself trawling through dictionaries or giving up on anagrams even for words I actually knew. The same word in a Guardian puzzle wouldn't have bothered me, but because it's Azed, I treated it with greater awe, which made solving tougher than it could have been.

An advice as old as the hills - any self-help book will tell you this - but some clich├ęs are worth repeating: believe that you can.

4. The Dip Is Big, Be Ready For It

A beginner's snail-paced progressIf geniuses exist who begin solving one day and acquire the level of finishing puzzles in a fortnight, then they are the exception not the rule. Most others go through "the Dip", as Seth Godin calls is - the long slog between starting and mastery. That's when you face burnout and give up.

Cryptic crosswords take time to excel at but the good news is, you don't have to do the full thing to enjoy it. Unlike sudoku where you either get it or you don't, in crosswords each clue solved is a reward. For many years I couldn't finish a whole puzzle but whatever little I could do was satisfying. So it will be for you.

Which one?

5. Pick The Right Puzzles

A wide variety of puzzles is available to you, many of them online and for free. It is important especially at the beginning to stick to good-quality puzzles only.

Look at my set of recommendations: Crosswords For Beginners. This list contains online locations of some good crosswords on the easy side, with links to communities/blogs that discuss solutions and related details about setters, difficulty and style.

6. Enjoy It!Attack with a smile!

Relax. This is not a test of your abilities, not something only for "IIT-IIM types" (to use a phrase I've heard more than once)! It is just a game. Have fun with it.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Hindu Crossword 9608: Neyartha

Presenting awards to noteworthy clues in the grid today (THC 9608 Link).

winning-clue Winning Clue Awards: This award goes to the top two clues in the puzzle.

12A Cost in U.S. fixed to protect BSE divisions (11) SU{BSE}CTIONS*
This has all the elements that a great clue can boast of – a meaningful surface, well-chosen indicators, a definition that merges seamlessly with the wordplay, no padding and a fair challenge for the solver.

1D Critical device is malfunctioning (8) DECISIVE*
An excellent anagram, and I love how it even makes use of the "is".

giveaway Giveaway Clue Awards: This being a Neyartha crossword, there are hardly any "starter" clues. The award is to acknowledge two clues that did allow us to break into the puzzle.

18A Dangerous mania surrounds Bismuth in this country (7) NAMI{BI}A*
Easy wordplay, with Bismuth = BI but obvious. The first thing that came to mind on seeing BI was NAMIBIA.

8D Attractive Romeo's departure is inconsequential (5) P{-r}ETTY
Not exactly a "giveaway" but accessible enough. I was puzzled at first with the surface - it's opening led me to expect a different end. Later I told myself that the statement must be made by a lady sore at the Romeo's departure, trying to convince herself it doesn't matter.

not-done-surprised "Not Done" Clue Awards: This award is for the top two clues that left me feeling that they're not fair enough.

10A Cooks cheer once in harmony (9) COHERENCE*
For the cryptic grammar to be fine, an anagrind like "cook" can either be an instruction to the solver [Cook XXX], or a property of the fodder [XXX cooked]. "Cooks" as used here doesn't is not a grammatically correct anagram indicator.

Similar objection to
21D *Absence of GSM worries agronomist (7) ONTARIO*
"agronomist worried" will be fine, "worries agronomist" - no.

books "Never Knew This" Awards: New words that this puzzle has introduced to my vocabulary get this award.

Errr…when geographically-challenged solvers attempt a puzzle with names of lakes scattered all over, what else will happen except multiple "never knew this" moments and frantic Google searches?

VOSTOK, ATHABASCA, BONITO…to name a few!
missed-glory-award Missed Glory Awards: This is for clues that were brilliant in one aspect, but didn't quite make it in another.

28A Some men decided to conceal the fix (5) EMEND [T]
The answer spans neatly across not 2 but 3 words, without making the surface awkward – a commendable feat. The issue arises when we reach the definition – EMEND is a verb, but "the fix" can only give a noun. I don't buy the argument that the article has to be ignored.

19D The two knights involved in the disastrous raids had guts (7) I{NN}ARDS*
This has a great surface, conjuring the image of brave knights rioting. What doesn't work is the "had" – needed for the surface, but interferes with the cryptic reading.

For complete solutions to THC 9608, visit Col. Gopinath's blog.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Crossword Unclued Turns One

Subscribe to Crossword Unclued's RSS It's our birthday today! The first post on Crossword Unclued was published on 8th August 2008, that's exactly a year ago. What fun it has been writing since then.

When I created this site I went through a mental exercise of listing objectives – what will I write about, and why? I realized I wanted to do these things, in bullet-point style :)

        • share my thoughts about crosswords with fellow enthusiasts
        • help beginners become better solvers, and encourage appreciation of clues in addition to solving
        • introduce more people to cryptic crosswords

It gives me great joy whenever a reader emails or comments saying that Crossword Unclued has helped improve their skill, or when someone who hasn't attempted cryptic crosswords before reads some of this and gets tempted to try. Along the way I've also got to interact and form friendships with solvers from around the world, which has been an unexpected reward.

Thank you very much for reading! If you like this site but haven't subscribed yet, click on the cake at the top-left of this article to get its RSS Feed. Or sign-up to get updates by email.

Year-End Statistics

A bird's eye view of what went on in the past year.

Total Articles: 122
Total Comments: 434

Top Content (By Visits) Most Commented On
The Quirky Posts The Ones That Were Toughest To Write!

A big thank you to the top commenters on the site – Chaturvasi (66 comments), raghunath (34 comments), maddy (22 comments), Aim (20 comments), anokha (18 comments).

Do you have a crossword-related topic in mind that you'd like me write about? Please leave a comment about it. If I can I'll surely plan an article around it. Please feel free to email any feedback or suggestions to me at [shuchi [at] crosswordunclued [dot] com].

Once again, thanks for your continued support, keep reading!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Meaning of "American"

americanWhat does the word "American" in cryptic clues stand for?

A look at what it could mean.

Standard Abbreviation

"American" is most often an abbreviation for US, sometimes for USA, AM or A. As in:

FT 13131 (Alberich): Taking excessive interest in American fellow kicked off outrage (5)
USURY, charade of US {-f}URY.

Guardian 24730 (Arachne): Perhaps Tom meets South American in America (5, 3)
UNCLE SAM, charade of UNCLE (from "perhaps, Tom") S AM.

Americanism Indicator

"American" can suggest that a word required in the answer is an American one – in usage, spelling, or pronunciation. Instead of the word "American", the name of an American city could also be used.

Examples:

FT 13143 (Bradman): Issue with American racists leading to fuss in one state (8) COLOR ADO
"American" indicates the US spelling of "colour".

Times 24097: Killed a great number in Chicago (4) SLEW dd
"slew" also means "a great number" in American usage.

Solve These!

Try solving these clues that use "American" in the Americanism sense.

Times 24208: A party connected with, e.g., American red or blue state (8)
Times Championship 2009 Qualifier 2: Push one's way through American street (6)
Times 24287: American sank last of our port (5)

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