Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of Ximeneans and Libertarians

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Chaturvasi commented on The Hindu Crossword Hub, about the Everyman crossword:

One of the original composers of this crossword is Ximenes, who framed some strict conventions for the crossword.

Those who still follow them are known as Ximeneans. Those who don't follow them are libertarians.
(Who can say who among THC setters belong to which school?)

It is hardly such a black-and-white classification, I think. Many setters are Ximenean in varying degrees, and have good reasons why they differ from Ximenes at a few places. Setters who are tagged "Libertarian" can be fair and logical in their own way, which is what Ximenes essentially advocated. Libertarians, too, follow many of Ximenes' principles, if not all of them.

Not every non-Ximenean setter is Libertarian by default. He/she may simply be sloppy. There is a difference between deviating from a Ximenean rule because you're convinced that the rule is flawed or not applicable for your clue, and deviating because you cannot think of a better clue.

No proper setter - Ximenean or Libertarian - will write a clue in which the definition and the answer do not agree in part of speech, or in which "the French" passes off for any French word (THC solvers will know what I'm talking about!).

This calls for a Venn diagram representation.

The picture on the left is not a realistic way of looking at the two camps. Ximenean and Libertarian styles are not wholly disjoint. The diagram on the right is closer to how the styles of setting interrelate: there is overlap, and it shows that the translation Ximenean vs Libertarian=good vs bad may not be true.

Ximenean vs. Libertarian: Venn Diagram

Hindu Crossword Setters: Ximenean or not?

Which brings us to the original question, about which school THC setters belong to.

My thoughts:

Out of Gridman, Neyartha and Sankalak, Sankalak is closest to being purely Ximenean. (I was about to quote a few of his clues that are exceptions, but then decided to set them as an exercise for readers in a follow-up post.)

Over-cautious Ximenean setters can get predictable sometimes. I guess that's true of Sankalak. His clues are technically sound but can be too easy for experienced solvers.

Gridman experiments outside the boundaries of Ximenean-ness, without straying too far. He isn't strictly Ximenean but is fair, and generally has something unexpected to offer the solvers.

Neyartha often crosses the thin line between clever and unfair. Not very Ximenean!

In Closing

Enthusiasts like to analyse styles and place setters into Libertarian and Ximenean camps, but what matters to the normal solver is whether the crossword has been entertaining and fair. Whether that happens by following standards set by Ximenes or anyone else isn't so important. 

What do you think?

Coming soon: List of clues by a variety of setters. You have to tell what's unXimenean about them.

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2 comments

Col_Gopinath said...

Hi Shuchi,
I liked your third classification 'JUNK' in the Vennn Diagram which fits outside the bounds of Ximenean and Libertarian, no prizes for guessing who wins the OSCAR for starring in that category!!!!

sriks7 said...

Nice post. Now I understand why I find Sankalak most satisfying to solve while most of the experienced solvers find him a tad boring.