Friday, March 27, 2015

A Puzzling Difference Between Crossword Solvers and Non-Solvers

Why don't we do a crossword puzzle. It'll only take us five minutes. Or, in your case, six.

– says Joan Clarke to Alan Turing in the 2014 film The Imitation Game.The Imitation Game

Something about the dialogue between these wonderful solvers seemed off to me.

People who solve crosswords call it 'crossword' or 'puzzle' in conversation.
People who call it 'crossword puzzle' are usually those who don't solve crosswords.

Is this an Indian thing? Would seasoned solvers elsewhere, when they get together, talk of 'crossword puzzles' instead of 'crosswords'?

Or has the lingo changed with time, just as 'crossword' gets shortened to 'crossie' among the younger Indian solvers nowadays?

An online search shows interesting evidence.

On Alan Connor's Guardian Crossword blog, the term 'crossword puzzle' appears either when emphasizing a difference from other types of puzzles, or when quoting from non-crossword sources: e.g. an announcement on The Imitation Game publicity puzzle, an excerpt from the script of The American President, a crossword story in Orlando Sentinel. Elsewhere it is 'crossword' or 'puzzle', sometimes 'cryptics' in the plural.

In this Will Shortz interview on Bitter Lawyer (a non-crossword legal humour site), the interviewer uses the term 'crossword puzzle' in a question, but Will Shortz responds with 'crossword' or 'puzzle'. In another interview with him, this one on Wordplay (NYT crossword blog), neither interviewer nor interviewee says 'crossword puzzle' except when referring to ACPT.

In a crossword-focused Q&A with David Kwong (crossword consultant for The Imitation Game), the only time he uses the expression 'crossword puzzle' is when he quotes from the film's script - “[Alan,] you just defeated Nazism with a crossword puzzle".

So, do you do 'crosswords' or 'crossword puzzles'? How do you refer to them when you talk to other crossword people?

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17 comments

Kishore said...

Interesting! Me, I am too lazy to use both the words ...

BTW, ref to Will Shortz reminds me that he was a guest star in an episode of The Simpsons - Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words. Not sure how the terms were dealt with there

Kishore said...

To go a step further, I rarely use the descriptions 'Cryptic Crossword' or 'Quick Crossword' (yes, I am one of those deplorable chaps who does those ones too, much to the chagrin of the Cryptic Crossword community. I make do with the terms Cryptic or Quickie (and that does not only mean what you think ...)

Chaturvasi said...

The Hindu Crossword, when it was introduced in 1971, had the title The Hindu Crossword Puzzle No. X. This was up to No. 999. When the figure entered four digits, the space available for the caption in the double column was not enough, so the clever subeditor easily and without any deliberation about these terms must have quietly dropped the word 'puzzle'.
I personally prefer the term 'crossword puzzle' because while 'crossword' might refer to the grid with the words in a finished work in their criss-cross fashion, 'puzzle' glances at the clues that tease the solvers to get answers from them.

Shuchi said...

@Kishore: I don't say 'cryptic crossword' either when talking with other cryptic crossword solvers; 'crossword' => 'cryptic crossword puzzle'.

@CV Sir: I remember you'd mentioned the THC title change in a post about the non-crypticness of some of the clues. Perhaps the word 'puzzle' was dropped after the number entered 5 digits? The word was still there till THC 1001.

Labelling crosswords, or awards linked with crosswords, with a more elaborate 'Crossword Puzzle' makes sense as these labels are meant to be understood by non-solvers too.

But in conversations at crossword gatherings, I haven't come across any solver use the expression 'crossword puzzle', including you!

Chaturvasi said...

I wrote my earlier Comment from memory but the fact is THC dropped the term 'puzzle' owing to space crunch and apparently nothing else.

Kishore said...

It was definitely not the change from 4 to 5 digits. I have a puzzle bearing No.5409 dt. 20.1.1996 and the caption is The Hindu Crossword 5409

Chaturvasi said...

I took out from an almirah some forty old, yellowed, musty, spineless or torn paperbacks of collections of specimens of this wordgame published in the UK.

While ten books have 'crossword puzzles' in the title, all others have just 'crosswords'.

Those that have 'crossword puzzles' are all printed in the Sixties or earlier.

It seems that sometime in the late Sixties book publishers chose to drop 'puzzles' from the titles.

In India anyone who is more than sixty years of age - whether they are regular solvers or not - are likely to use the term 'crossword puzzle'.

Chaturvasi said...

Sorry about the digital error.

I had thousands and thousands of paper cuttings from No. 1 of THC but when I moved from a palatial single-storeyed house in Madras to a flat in Chennai I threw them away.

My wife or anyone in my house is blameless. It was my sole decision.

Col_Gopinath said...

In my opinion it's a type of puzzle so 'Crossword Puzzle' it should be. In that case why don' t we say 'Sudoku puzzle'. I'm contradicting myself :-)

Mukundala Balasubramanyam said...

I go with CROSSWORD, for I am a man of few words!

Bhavan said...

'cryptics' when talking to like minded people, but 'cryptic crosswords' when talking to muggles :)

Shuchi said...

In India anyone who is more than sixty years of age - whether they are regular solvers or not - are likely to use the term 'crossword puzzle'.

That doesn't tally with my observations. See your own video! Video Messages from IXL 2013 Players: Winner, Jury, Organisers.

In my email archive of 7 years, the stats are easy to check. The VERY few places 'crossword puzzle' comes up in mails of senior solvers are similar to the Guardian Crossword blog: in quoting a non-crossword source, or in writing to a non-crossword person (where I am cc-ed).

Shuchi said...

@Col_Gopinath: But if you think about what we say normally, not what we *should* say - when do you actually use the full expression 'crossword puzzle'? Not AFAIK on THCC, and surely never in talking with me!

@Mukundala Balasubramanyam: I go with the same, sometimes 'puzzle' or 'cryptic'. The even shorter 'crossie' never grew on me, though. I sometimes use 'xword' on twitter when the word length spills over 140 chars.

@Bhavan: 'muggles' - good one!

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan (LV) said...

Interesting :)
It is xie while chatting with Sowmya :D & crossword with other setters & solvers/non-solvers ;) Have never used puzzle with CW :D

Padmanabhan said...

I prefer just 'Crossword'. I feel puzzle is something different in which there may be some element of doubt or different interpretations. In cryptics particularly (my spell checker objects to 'Cryptics) it is all there in black & white! I wish to record herethat a few years back, Illustrated Weekly' used to publish crossword puzzles with a cash prize for the successful solver. I have heard it being said (I was not into solving them then) that there will be a couple of clues where either of 2 answers may fit in. You do not get the prize until your answer tallies with the setter's or until he says so!
Padmanabhan

anax said...

At the time of Bletchley the crossword was still a fairly new thing, so it would likely be referred to as ‘crossword puzzle’. From my experience, that full term tends only to be used when explaining to a non-crossword audience – otherwise, it’s just ‘crossword’. I’ve seen quite a few newspaper/magazine articles which use ‘crossword puzzle’ as a first mention, with just ‘crossword’ after that.
While I will always use ‘cryptic’, I very rarely describe non-cryptic as ‘quick’ (since they can actually be tricky, and ‘quick’ depends on the grid size), preferring ‘concise’ or, where that might lead to someone having to look up the word ‘concise’, I’ll go for ‘definition’.
On the more technical side, I’ve always called the thing with black and white squares a grid, but others use/prefer ‘grille’ and ‘matrix’. Some refer to a ‘set of clues’ but for me it’s always been the ‘clue set’.
Alec Robbins strongly disliked the word ‘light’ for an individual answer slot, but I do use it (occasionally I’ll say ‘slot’) and it’s the preferred term for solvers of barred thematics.

Chaturvasi said...

D. St. P. Barnard in his book 'Anatomy of the Crossword' uses the terms 'light', 'pattern-light', 'virgin-light' and 'crosslight'.

For the grid itself, the term he uses is 'chequered pattern' (in the preface) and 'lattice work' or 'crossword pattern' elsewhere. I don't find the term 'grid'.

Alec Robins mentions (p. 22) 'diagram', 'grid' and 'grille'.

Ximenes, in the chapter on composing an Everyman, also uses the term 'diagram' throughout the text. US writers too seem to use the term 'diagram' (apart from 'grid') as found in Random House Puzzlemaker's Handbook.

I wonder why we don't use the term 'skeleton'. If the square is skeleton, the solutions and the clues that lead to them are flesh, aren't they?

Ruth Crisp in the book 'Crosswords: How to solve them' mentions the term 'concise' as well for what is popularly but perhaps not so precisely known as 'quickie'.

I liked reading this sentence in 'The Wordsworth Crossword Companion': "A cryptic crossword is one that is not straightforward".