Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sankalak Trivia

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[Also read Gridman Trivia and Neyartha Trivia]

Sankalak's crosswords are testimony to the fact that a good crossword need not be a complex one. Sankalak appears immediately after Neyartha in the Hindu Crossword setter sequence; his clean unfussy clues make a pleasant contrast with Neyartha's devious ones.

Presenting some interesting findings about Sankalak's puzzles created between July 2008 and June 2009. Many thanks to Sankalak for sharing his database with me.

Clue Volume

sankalak-clues-per-puzzle Sankalak puts in an average of 29.13 clues per puzzle, lower than both Gridman (30.71) and Neyartha (33.37). sankalak-the-hindu-grid

He does "joint" clues (i.e. two slots in the grid with a common clue) more often than Gridman and Neyartha, which contributes to lowering the average. In one specific grid (shown alongside), 12D and 17D at the center share a single clue many a time. Answers like ALL-OUT(3-3), BIG BEN (3,3) and TIPTOP (6) have appeared in that location.

The average clue length is 7.35 words per clue, which falls between Gridman's 6.43 and Neyartha's 7.57.


Longest & Shortest Clues

The longest clue penned by Sankalak in the July 2008 – Jun 2009 window is:
He collects loose grain etc. after the harvest and is more skinny following end of feasting (7)

, with a count of 16 words. (Aside: Shouldn't it be 'skinnier' and not 'more skinny'?) The second longest:
What may not be asked of a witness results in the quiet dean losing out (7,8)

There are many contenders for the shortest clue title, most of them from the occasional non-cryptic clues that Sankalak includes in his puzzles (my pet peeve!). These are 1 and 2 word clues, such as:

Miscarry (5)
Ivan, say (4)

Vocabulary Freshness

For Gridman and Neyartha, you might recall that a few words get repeated with greater regularity than others in their grids. Gridman's word usage has spikes in favour of ERATO, EXTRA and INERTIA, and Neyartha has so far shown a marked affinity for TESLA. thc-setters-word-repetition 

A similar evaluation of Sankalak's word usage threw up a surprise. He seems to have no favourite grid words. It's a nearly flat word distribution in his case, with 97% of the answers used only once, 3% used twice and none used more frequently than that in a year's range of 72 puzzles.

The table on the right shows a comparison of the extent of word repetitions, in a sample set of 1963[1] consecutive clues by THC setters.

And a look at the Freshness Quotient (%age of words clued only once by the setter in the sample set)


Clue Text Wordle

Which words does Sankalak use most in his clue text? The wordle below has the answer. The more a word is used in the text of a clue, the larger it appears in the wordle.

*For meaningful results, common words like articles & prepositions have not been included in the visualization.

  • Sankalak's wordle is very similar to Gridman's, with the words "one" and "may" taking the maximum prominence.

  • The third-most used word by Sankalak is "time", usually to get T or ERA in charade clues.

  • The word "beginning" is fairly large on the wordle. A major share of it comes from "beginning of", which Sankalak uses often to get the initial letter of the following word.

[1] Why 1963 clues in the sample set? That number was chosen to match the size of Neyartha's complete database available for this study.

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Hobbes said...

Absolutely brilliant! How do you come up with such fantastic stats!

Chaturvasi said...

One small observation.
You mention in 'Gridman Trivia' that your analysis was based on nearly 550 crosswords. But the above analysis of Sankalak's crosswords appears to be on a year's work - at the most 75 crosswords.
So word frequencies comparison between these two setters cannot be accurate with such a deviation.
If a word such as INERTIA appeared 11 times in Gridman's crosswords, it must have been over eight years or so.

Shuchi said...

@Hobbes: Thank you!

@CVasi Sir: The comparison has been done for a sequence of exactly 1963 clues for all the three setters. The sample set taken is of the same size, and from comparable date range (2009).

The word repetitions table and freshness quotient are both based on this set. In Gridman's set, the word ORGANZA appears 4 times and MARTINI appears thrice. That's what is indicated in the table and graphs, no deviation there.

Dr said...


Very interesting details. Yes, crosswords clues must be simple and enjoyable for the solver to reminsce for long after the word has been arrived at. In that respect Shankalak definitely scores over others.To initiate newcomers to the nuances of crossword and get them involved, Shankalak's clues are the Best.

Chaturvasi said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Krishnan said...

Statistics apart, I prefer Sankalak any day over Nita Jaggi likes.

Sandhya said...

Hats off to you for coming up with such fascinating info!

Col_Gopinath said...

Excellent analysis Shuchi. I think I like Sankalak the best amongst all the THC setters

C.G. BHARGAV said...

sulignAkku veru aani vera pirichitteenga!
(Complete dissection!)

C.G. BHARGAV said...

It should read:
Akku veru aani vera pirichitteenga!

I think I have wrongly keyed in the word verification?

Chaturvasi said...

He says "You have analysed it down to the minutest detail just as a mechanic might dismantle a machine so completely that the nuts and bolts lay separated."

Shuchi said...

@Dr: You're so right about Sankalak's puzzles being perfect fits for beginners. A newcomer can get demotivated if s/he doesn't crack any clues at all in the first few tries. Give him/her a Sankalak puzzle I say, and all will be well.

@Krishnan: Absolutely. Who doesn't :)

@Sandhya, Colonel: Thank you! I had fun conceptualizing and writing this piece, too, glad to know you liked it.

@Bhargav, CVasi: Wow, thanks. I'm going to use that line on a Tamil friend and watch his expression.