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.
Sankalak puts in an average of 29.13 clues per puzzle, lower than both Gridman (30.71) and Neyartha (33.37).
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:
Ivan, say (4)
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.
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 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.
 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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