Comment – Feb 2009 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

Comment – Feb 2009


Archived Comments – Feb 2009

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25 comments on “Comment – Feb 2009

  1. Nice one Dave! Just seen your post on “Where’s Lie-in King” & thought I’d pop over, as I’d no idea you were here!

    …And you do NOT look as I’d imagined you! :-)

  2. By the way, I don’t pick the Wavatars (WordPress avatars) – they are generated from your email address – but I do like yours, LK!!

  3. ‘Seen’ you on AB.Love the photos. Nearly as pretty as North Yorkshire.Take care/

  4. Hi Dave – having seen your photograph I think I’ll stop calling you a big bully. I don’t know how to attach a photo but then I’m doing you a favour. That’s quite a job you’re taking on with the Telegraph crossword – it’s not a paper I read but I liked your comment about the ‘serial prizewinners’. A weird one today – check out tpw536w today @ 14.19 in Q&P!


  5. That’s great Sir Harry, I did miss it!! (by the way, it’s already been deleted)

    When I was working in Glasgow a few years ago, you got strange looks if you dared to buy the Telegraph.

  6. If you buy the Telegraph in Glasgow you get strange looks because they think you’re from Edinburgh (worse than being a Sassenach!!)

  7. Big Dave – as a newbie to the world of the cryptic crossword I find your hints most helpful – answers are great, but are useless to me if I don’t know how to get them! Thank you and blog on!

  8. Thankyou for your comments, Kat. It really is nice to hear that I am providing the service that people are looking for. I have looked at some other sites and you need a degree in gobbledygook to understand them. :-)

  9. Hi Big Dave, I’ve just found your blog from crosswordendsinviolence. Am glad you’re looking to carry on where it left off.

    Like Kat I’m relatively new to crosswords, and generally only do the Sat DT one and occasional mid-week.

    Your helps and tips are particularly useful when the answers by themselves doesn’t always make sense

  10. New solvers – Kat, Paul, anyone else listening…

    A blog like this will help you a lot, as long as you’re disciplined enough to increase the time your spend trying the puzzle on your own as you learn more tricks. The other thing that I particularly suggest to Paul is just trying more puzzles – it may feel less satisfying, but a short go at a different puzzle every day (plus reading the blog when stuck) will do you more good in the long run than spending lots of time fighting with a single puzzle.

    You can also get help from books. Of the many “how to solve cryptics” books out there, most are at least “good”. I’d avoid the one by Francois Greeff (for unnecessary/unhelpful use of bizarre terminology), and at the moment I’d most strongly recommend Tim Moorey’s “How to Master the Times Crossword”. Although supposedly about a different paper’s puzzle, most of the book applies equally well to any broadsheet cryptic puzzle. Don Manley’s “Chambers Crossword Manual” is good too but has a lot of material about more difficult puzzles rather than lots of daily paper clue samples as in Tim’s book. (Personal interest statement: I know Tim and Don so I’m arguably biased, but others say much the same in Amazon UK reviews).

  11. You could also add Val Gilbert’s wonderful “A Display of Lights (9)” – not so much for the advice but for the stories of the Telegraph setters and the hand-picked selection of puzzles. Since her retirement, as Crossword editor, Val has become an active member of our village community – the Telegraph’s loss is our gain!

  12. I’ve never met Val, but she seems full of good stories, based on the BBC4 show about cryptics a while back. The one about responding to a furious complaint with “I have sacked the compiler” was a gem (and a new crossword story to boot).

  13. What a wonderful site, Big Dave! I am impressed by the layout and appreciate the time and effort which must have gone into the concept. Although I live in the country, it’s not as picturesque as where you live and I am slightly envious. You have gained a regular visitor, although I may not always make a contribution. With best wishes, Caravaggio.

  14. Hey Big Dave, dr b checking in from the USA and the AB. Nice blog!

    Something has been bugging me lately and as you are an expert solver I thought I would run it past you. I was struggling to finish the last clue in Azed 1915 today, and finally got annoyed enough to sign up for a free 30-day trial to Chambers online. Entering the letters I had plus “?” wildcards got me to the answer in 2 seconds flat. Fine, but where’s the sport in that? Where’s the elegance? It was like fishing with dynamite. I felt dirty.

    Do you feel that the existence of online word finders has started an arms race between setters and solvers? Hasn’t it just turned into a high tech game of hide and seek? Setter thumbs through Chambers, finds hopelessly obscure word, solvers “thumb” (electronically) though Chambers until they find same word. Where’s the creativity in that? Might as well work a Sudoku. The over-reliance on Chambers is especially annoying.

    Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for the day. Interested in yours.

    dr b.

  15. dr b
    I have been chasing you round AnswerBank, only spotting your submissions about half an hour after you had moved on. I wanted to tell you about my site, and to ask what you thought of it – but I might have guessed you would track me down first!

    Lie-in King, Harry-Wragg, BigBoab, pbeach, sedge47 (apologies to anyone I have missed) have all been in touch.

    In reply to your question, yes, I think some aspects of the Internet have allowed setters to travel along a path that they dare not tread before. Whoever would have given an anagram of “indian starters” with the answer “Transdniestria” five or ten years ago. By the way, there are other word finders than Chambers – will find a lot of phrases as well. These sites have enabled a lot of new crossword solvers to complete a puzzle that would have been beyond them in the past – and there is no bigger incentive to do tomorrow’s puzzle than finishing today’s.

  16. Dr B,

    I don’t know whether you’ve visited the fifteensquared site (linked under ‘Crossword blogs’), but they cover the Azed puzzle in fair detail each week (after the closing date).

    With puzzles like Azed, I start out trying not to look things up in Chambers and see how I get on. This can be anything from completing the puzzle to only putting a few answers in. I then continue, feeling free to look up anything (in the paper version). Some of the look-ups (esp with first-letter unches) are a bit of a bore to be sure. (And if you weren’t using C at all before your 30-day trial, you were a brave solver!)

    But I don’t think there are clues used now which would not have been used because people couldn’t “cheat”.

    So I’d say: use Chambers (paper or web-site) when you need to, but only “feel dirty” if you think that you should have seen the answer for yourself.

    I do like the puzzles like Cox & Rathvon’s Atlantic Monthly, which use similar gimmicks to Azed specials or Listeners, without resorting to so much obscure vocabulary.

  17. Hi,

    Nice to know that Big Dave is a local to me. (Malvern Wells) Thanks for the lovely photos of this fantastic place that we live in.
    If I knew what you looked like I could look out for you at the PO.
    Thanks for answering some of my questions on AB also.
    Regards nabob

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