Comment – Jan-Dec 2020 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

Comment – Jan-Dec 2020


Archived Comments – Jan-Dec 2020

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Created 1st January 2020 Updated 1st January 2021


112 comments on “Comment – Jan-Dec 2020

  1. I want to change my avatar . How can I do that ? Please keep in mind that I am very uneducated with regards high tech .

  2. Help! The telegraph has failed to take my money for this year’s subscription. If any kind soul would email pdfs of the BP & the tuffie then i would be very grateful.
    BTW I’m on Day 14 of Manflu I’ve completely lost my voice.

  3. If the toilet roll shortage continues, I might have to return to buying the printed newspaper.

    The DT app on an iPad is an inadequate substitute. 😎

  4. A question about the “Search BigDave” facility.

    Yesterday Yvonne asked a question about having to press each letter on the keyboard twice to make it register.

    I remembered that someone in a previous blog had provided a solution i.e. turn OFF auto-capitalisation in iPad.

    I made a search for “auto-capitalisation” just to check if I had remembered it correctly … the result “Nothing Found”.

    Does the search facility search through the comments or just the bloggers’ blog bits?

  5. If you are self isolating as I am (diabetes type 1) & you’ve run out of puzzles & you are a subscriber to the dt puzzles site then you can access a variety of puzzles going back to 1 march 2009. my printer has been very useful…

  6. Great solve, finished in record time (for me!) Not happy at all with 18d but very much enjoyed 27a! Stay safe all!

    1. Welcome to the blog

      It is always best to comment on the blog post relating to the particular crossword rather than the comments page. If you can let us know whether you mean DT 29323 or ST 3049, BD can move your comment to the correct page

    1. Welcome to the blog.

      Firstly can you please alter your alias as we already have a very long-standing commenter called Brian and we wouldn’t like people to be confused.

      Secondly, if you comment on the particular blog for the crossword (in this case DT 29327) when you are asking a question about a clue, this makes it easier for someone to help you.

      Pinstripe is a ‘suitable’ material as it is used to make suits!

  7. Subject: The Calendar at the top right of this page
    Message: It reads Thursday 3 April should read Friday 3 April

  8. BD, you have added the comment about this week’s toughies, “For an unknown reason the above dates are showing one day earlier than scheduled date”. The problem looks as if it occurred in March when the site calendar shows Monday 30th March followed by Monday 31st March. The April calendar starts on Tuesday 1st instead of Wednesday 1st and shows the last day of April as 31st!

  9. Due to the enforced excess of spare time during lockdown, I have this urge to have a dabble at setting a crossword of my own. There seem to be a number of software aids on the market from professional to free. Bearing in mind that this dabble might very quickly point to the fact that the process is beyond me, can anyone suggest a sensible starting point?
    As I have heard before “crossword compiler” looks to have it well and truly covered, but would I need to buy £150 worth of components to give it a decent go?
    I did find Anax’s article and he seems to do it without electronic help. At least that route wouldn’t cost much.
    Please excuse me if this subject has been done to death elsewhere on this wonderful site but I couldn’t find it.

    1. Hi JohnY – to start off with, download Crossword Compiler free version here
      Follow the instructions, ie 15 x 15 grid, Cryptic, but watch out with ‘Auto Grid Fill’ though, it often chucks in some horrid words to clue, and you want to keep it simple at this stage and you can make up to ten puzzles
      Hope that helps and good luck – hope to see you in Rookie Corner soon

    2. Hi JohnY. I bought the basic Crossword Compiler package a few years ago. It does all that I need. It costs £39.00 today. I have not bought any of the add-ons. My advice would be to start with that and have a play. If you wish to add extras later so be it.

    3. Thank you gentlemen, those replies were exactly what I wanted to here – I shall have a dabble today.
      As the BRB and other dictionaries are offered as add-ons, does that mean the basic word list is underpowered?

      1. I’ve been using the standard Crossword Compiler for about 10 years and it works fine without any add-ons. I think you only need add-ons if you have specialised requirements.

  10. I see that Rookie Corner 317 (and presumably the review and comments) was taken down at the request of the setter. I had printed this and have only just got round to doing it and am stumped for a few of the answers, in particular 21a and 25d. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. 21a – A three letter contraction of odometer (trip advisor) followed by a four letter word meaning lift and the first letter (capital) of Djibouti [a non-UK word]
      25d – Double definition, the first being an informal term meaning to hit on the head and the second a Rowan Atkinson comic character
      Hope that helps

  11. I know that a number in a clue is used to refer to that numbered clue, but is it forbidden to used the letter version to do the same thing eg two to refer to clue 2?
    It would really help with the surface reading of the clue I’m writing if I could.

    1. I have just looked at BD’s Little guide to cryptic crosswords (where I should have looked first) and found under Additional constructs/Clue reference that words instead of digits may be used “very occasionally”, although I think there has been a discussion on here that gave the impression it must be digits.
      As this is in a “lock-down” first attempt at setting and is unlikely to appear before a working vaccine, it is not going to offend anyone :-)

      1. “Rules are.for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”) In Reach for the Sky, this quote is attributed to Harry Day, the Royal Flying Corps First World War fighter ace.
        I am a rookie setter too but if you submit your puzzle to BD for his rookie corner you will find friendly advice and help from all of us. A recent graduate of rookie corner has just had his first national newspaper puzzle published.

        1. Maybe the next one, by which time I’ll have honed my skills to a razors edge. Pardon?

      1. Hopefully it will be back online in the AM. I don’t think I know enough about CC to help. I have it but am still not fully up to speed on it’s foibles.

        1. Thanks, John. I got this after I’d posted below. Hope you had a great birthday!

  12. Well, as comments seems to be working, as I said I have a query about the Crossword Compiler programme. I have downloaded it and have used auto fill to populate the grid. How do I write the clues? I thought I would get a text panel by the completed grid with a list of the blank clues for me to work out. Not so, it would seem or am I being dense? 😳

    1. Top line is a list of tabs click on clue and scroll down to review/edit clues and a page should be what you are looking for.

      Portcolambc seems to still be posting to today’s blog?

      1. Thanks for that. I use a MacBook for work and CC does not work on it so I bought a cheap reconditioned PC. Flippin eck, it’s clunky! Mind you, it seems to be doing the job in its own way, albeit quite slowly. I’ll take on board your comments and try again tomorrow.

        Yes, why can Portcolambc post, I wonde?

      2. Hi John,

        It worked, thanks. I had not realised that I had to accept the grid before it could be clued.

    2. cleared cookies and problem remains. I imagine BD is looking at it hopefully normal service soon.

      G’night time for bed here too.

      1. Until I saw these coments I was unaware of any problem. It appears that two posts managed to get the same url, which is theoretically impossible – should be ok now.

  13. Just a general comment. I have finally got Crossword Compiler and have started to try and create a cryptic crossword. Not easy. However, I haven’t explored all of the programme’s features but I’m having tremendous fun trying to work out clues. My current sticking point is trying to clue “League of Nations”. I’ve found a few online sites that offer tips about compiling cryptics but I fear I’m a long way off Rookie Corner.

    Still, it has added a new dimension to my cruciverbal journey.

  14. Must be plenty of anagrams but hard to devise a decent wordplay and definition from.
    First thought would be along the lines
    Division of Countries that failed to prevent WWII
    but I don’t like that of is in the clue and answer and I am not totally convinced of my history of the LoN and the lead up to WWII.
    2nd Thought would be Don’t give away your clues!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, John but I think I now have a reasonable clue for it. Now, to ponder the half dozen or so left.
      I also have a few that I have clued but I’m not happy about so need to revisit them. It’s hard not to fall into the GK trap. I need to get into the mindset of the solver, which is quite a reversal for me.

      1. Hi Steve, as you see a few threads back, I too have had a “go”. The thing is now finished, and has a good number of clues I’m quite proud of. The problem is that it has a theme, and I’m not too sure how much use it would be for someone with no interest in the theme (similar problem to your GK issue). I’m now wondering whether to scrap the whole thing and re-use the non specific clues in a new puzzle. Perhaps just file it away and start another.
        One thing that strikes me is that rookie puzzles generally seems to edge toward too difficult or involved, and that my clues whilst seeming obvious and fair to me might not seem that way to others. I suppose an easyish as well as entertaining puzzle takes a skilled setter.

        1. Ask BD to kindly forward it to me JohnY, I test solve for quite a few setters and would be happy to oblige

          1. Thanks LBR, as I don’t have any friends/relations that do cryptics, I would be tickled take you up on your kind offer so long as you realise that it will probably turn out to be a load of rubbish.
            I will just have another couple of runs through it to make it look as presentable as possible, and will also leave the theme issue “as is” so you can point out its flaws if that’s OK with you?
            I haven’t got as far as the printing/sending bit of Crossword Compiler yet, so what format would you like it in – puzzle, puzzle plus answers, explanations?

            1. Just the puzzle should be fine as a PDF, up to you whether you supply parsing notes separately
              In CC, save your clues to default database, save puzzle, select print to PDF

              1. LbR recently said I should have a look at Prolix’s Guide. Can anyone point in the right direction?

        2. I’m impressed you have finished one, JohnY. I am quite happy with a number of my clues but others jar even me. It’s great fun trying, though and I hope to get one completed soon. Do you use autofill to fill the grid or do you enter your own? I have used autofill so far.

          1. Thanks for that.
            LbR had a play through and suggested stuff I should consider for my next one, which is underway as we speak – unthemed!.
            The first thing (and probably the wrong thing) I did with CC was to create a word list based on a theme I’m keen on, and auto fill with this. CC used 9 of my words and filled the rest itself.
            This did give me one or two practically un-clue-able words that took longer than the rest to sort out. Needless to say these were on LbR’s list of “look ats”.
            The second one was an autofill that threw up a few dodgy words that have now been removed or replaced ready to star clueing.
            It’s amazing what LbR saw that I thought was OK :-)

            1. LBR has offered to look at my attempts but. I think it will be a while before I have one I feel reasonable enough to send.

              1. I would suggest that once you think it is OK you shouldn’t think twice about employing LBR’s service.
                He was thorough ,very informative and understanding. He even said he enjoyed it (although he might have meant some of it :-))
                Prolixic’s guide is lovely and clear, and will help for certain (when I’ve read it a few more times).
                Rookie Corner could be a way off, but who knows.

                  1. LBR, would you kindly look at a puzzle I have “compiled”?
                    There are two clues I cannot work out yet but I would welcome your input to help me go forward.

                    I’m pleased John has to think of a name. I look forward to his offering.

                    1. Of course
                      Kindly ask BD to forward it to me as a PDF and parsing notes separately, I need to solve it first
                      … or the two words you’re struggling with?

                    2. Yes, BD has already emailed me. I will tidy it up, have another look at the ones I am struggling with and then send it. Your comments will be most welcome because I have done it “blind” so to speak meaning I haven’t yet studied Prolix’s guide.

                  2. Hi Lbr. I’m half a dozen clues into the new puzzle with name as supplied by Mrs Y.
                    I assume it would be a complete no-no to use a name already in use, so how do you a search to find out if it is free?
                    I did tidy up the themed attempt addressing most of your pointers, and even found a good clue for that un-clue-able word at 5d, but the theme, I realise, means it is unlikely to see the light of day.

                    1. Google ‘cryptic crossword compiler [name]’, or spell it wrong, ie ‘Qaos’ (chaos) or pick a personal favourite character and stick ‘ius’ at the end ‘Virgilius’
                      Always good if there is a slightly cryptic link or twist as to why you chose the name, but it’s entirely up to you to come up with something
                      If you do step on someone’s toes, rest assured the Crossword Police won’t come round to get you

  15. Anyone else not enjoying the new layout/style in the print edition?

    A mini GK puzzle with no spaces between clues, the 50/50 puzzle on the fold, some empty space which I doubt anyone uses and the signage and font that looks more appropriate for ‘Final Drink at Last-Chance Saloon’ Sorry Chris, if you’re reading, but something has been fixed what weren’t broke

    1. Hi LBR,
      I did contact our esteemed puzzles editor regarding the reduced font size and line-spacing that occurred recently in the Toughie and they were changed back to the original format the following day. As he said to me at the time, if people don’t get in touch with him about layout issues that appear in the print editions he can’t address the problem. He’s a very approachable man so I’d advise you to contact him directly to make your points.

  16. As a wannbee rookie setter, I find myself regularly falling into traps with unacceptable abbreviations.
    There are many lists available to googlers and even I can see that you wouldn’t get away with using 95% of them in a clue. Even Crossword Compiler showed me that F for French was OK, only to be told that F was France and not French. This is presumably a U.S. thing (like most of the googlable lists).
    There are also plenty of perfectly useable abbreviations that don’t appear on lists.
    BD’s “usual suspects” covers a good number of these, but is there a comprehensive list of what you can get away with?

    1. Hi John,

      The recent book by the Telegraph Puzzles Editor Chris Lancaster (“How to Solve A Cryptic Crossword”, which I would heartily recommend to any crossword enthusiast) lists on Pages 168-172 those single-letter abbreviations approved for Telegraph puzzles. I don’t think any aspiring setter can go too far wrong sticking to that list, even if other publications are much less restrictive in what they will allow.

      1. Thanks, will have a look. Sounds like just what’s needed.
        Just to stop my little brain from clue melt-down, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and put together my own excel spreadsheet of 1, 2 and 3 letter “indicators” from as many sources as I can find. This also involves dumping most of them if they’re too obscure or (F=French!) foreign.
        Even though we all pretty much know them when we see them, it’s nice to have a memory jogger to look at.
        It’ll be interesting to see if I ever finish it🤞

  17. What would we do without you BD. We do
    leave you till absolute frustration. Today floored us. We’re getting better but we do like Mondays.

  18. I think a lot of people will not be getting their Daily Telegraph today vis this email I received today

    Dear subscriber,

    Unfortunately we have experienced issues at our key newsprinter sites overnight due to protests. We’ve been working hard to
    ensure we reduce any impact from this however we do anticipate delays across the country and there may be some areas
    where delivery is not possible today. Rest assured that we are doing all we can to get copies delivered as quickly as we
    possibly can.

    As a result, some copies may not include the Sports section or Telegraph Women’s Sport.

    We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for continuing to be a loyal subscriber.

    Is it possible to send the puzzle to regulars that miss the puzzle? I am ok as I get the puzzle site too but many do not.

  19. Just to echo what John says at #20. In my case, I’ve been unable to access The Telegraph online since yesterday and advice from the helpdesk hasn’t solved the problem so far. Deep joy!

  20. Hi everyone. I am doing my best to compile a cryptic crossword using Crossword Compiler. I tried before and Letter Box Roy kindly gave me feedback. It was rubbish. Not the feedback from LBR, the puzzle I compiled. I have now read Chris Lancaster’s book and realise I have to be precise when compiling.

    Are there any other NOVICE compilers out there with whom I could swap notes?

  21. LBR, I have started to compile another crossword and am taking some time over it. I think the clues I have so far are reasonable but I would welcome feedback. Would you be willing to look at it to offer guidance?

    It is very much a practice compilation as I try to learn the basics. I have only nine clues at the moment. If I send you the grid would you give feedback on the nine I have and give direction for the other clues?

    Also, is it better to fill your own grid rather than let Crossword Compiler do it?

    1. Hi Steve,

      Good luck with your compiling efforts!

      I would recommend always filling in the grid oneself rather than let Crossword Compiler do it for you, for me that takes away a lot of the enjoyment involved in the compiling process. Of course you can definitely ask CC for suggested words to fill particular gaps, for example, and that is indeed a useful tool, but I never use the Auto Fill facility. I would also recommend reading past reviews of Rookie Corner puzzles by beginners to see the common faults that frequently occur and that should give you an idea of the sort of things best avoided. Reading Chris Lancaster’s excellent book, as you have, was a very good move too.

      1. Thank you, Silvanus. I will make note of your suggestions. I do look at Rookie Corner to see the comments. Today’s offering from Conto was difficult but I was encouraged when I read it was his first attempt. I struggle with making clues cryptic. LBR, when he reviewed my first effort told me that some of my clues were not cryptic. Wise advice! Chris Lancaster’s book has given me further insight into the world of solving cryptic crosswords and an idea on how to clue a cryptic.

        I will persevere because that is the only way I will learn. I studied for and gained my Masters at the age of 60. In my 70’s, I want to try and put together a cryptic crossword worthy of this blog.

    2. No problem, send it over
      Agree with Silvanus – the grid always needs editing
      Could you send me the book, since you’ve already read it? :cool:

      1. Thanks, LBR. For the moment I am using the filled grid that Crossword Compiler gives me. I find it is useful for practice. However, I take your point about filling the grid myself. It gives more leeway, hopefully!

        I will send my barely filled grid to BD to send on to you.

        I really do appreciate the help I am being given from you and Sylvanus.

        PS I am sure you have Chris Lancsster’s Book!

      2. Hi, LBR,

        Sorry but could you remind me how to save a puzzle from CC in pdf format so I can send it? I dumped the cheap PC and got an HP Elitebook and the info you gave me before has gone,

        The puzzle I am working on is just for practice, which I think I mentioned. I just want to know if I am on the right lines. I am starting to work on a puzzle where I fill the grid myself. I have tried this before and I always find myself ending up with a 5 or 6 letter clue that has J X Y etc in it!

        Many thanks


          1. Thanks LBR. I am still editing the clues I have (trying to use Chris Lancaster’s book as a guide) so will send it when I am happier with it.

    3. Hi Steve. I never comment on Rookie Corner puzzles as what I might say has always been covered by others. One thing that irks with me are clues that don’t look like cryptic crossword clues and don’t read like cryptic crossword clues. Assuming that the desire to compile a cryptic crossword puzzle comes from the enjoyment of solving such puzzles if follows that compilers should have a good understanding of what a clue looks like.
      If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
      So try to ensure that your clues look and read like clues.
      Edit edit edit and edit again. Good clues are honed and crafted like good poetry. Just when you think a clue is perfect, think again.
      Have a look at the clues in a puzzle that you really enjoyed solving and try to see what makes them enjoyable. Imitation is flattery
      Don’t beat yourself up and remember it’s only a crossword puzzle, a mere bagatelle, a pastime.
      Good luck.

      1. Many thanks, Miffypops. I will definitely take your comments on board.

        I do spend more times these days analysing the clues in the back pager and today’s from Jay had some really good ones.

        Thanks for your encouragement. I think it will be a while before I am happy with a puzzle I have compiled. It’s great fun trying, though and adds a whole new dimension to my experience of cruciverbalism.

  22. Any chance that the recent MPP answers might be published soon. I know I made a mess of some of it but I’d love to know where and how I went wrong!

  23. Dave, great work. Slowly comprehending how to interpret the clues. I have only ever got 3 clues right by myself! It is also good mental exercise. Many thanks!

  24. The questions in sunday telegraph 15th November do not match the grid printed. This is the general knowledge puzzle.

  25. For the past three days, I get a ‘bad request” notification when I try to open the puzzles, despite having confirmation that my account is valid. I’ve contacted the DT for help but It will be a couple of days (at least) before I hear back. So frustrating!

    1. people with two word names all have + in them these days. Now I’ve approved this comment, your comments should work with or without the +

  26. Not too difficult today until I fell for the other possibility for 28 across. Cylinder came straight to mind and fitted with all letters other than the first. Got there in the end though ! Happy Christmas all !

    1. Please leave comments about particular puzzles on the relevant post. I can’t work out to which puzzle this refers:
      28a in 29547 is Golf man I teased for birdie? (8) [FLAMINGO]
      and in Toughie 2558 is Permit excessive behaviour (7) [LICENCE]

  27. Thank you so much for your help – I have been trying to improve my crossword technique during lockdown and I am beginning to be able to unpick clues.

  28. BD, I’m writing this as a one off but am I right in thinking that in Sundays (31/01/2021) cryptic crossword my surname meeting my wifes maiden name is a unique first. P

      1. Big Dave, I appreciate your reply but as a 90 year old And having done the DT and ST puzzles for 65 years I was gobsmacked when I saw the particular connection and wondered whether this was, indeed, unique. I know it was my fault but I wasn’t looking for the message to be printed and was just looking for a personal response.Assuring you of my good intentions and looking forward to reading the comments column for, hopefully, many more years.

        1. Because of the content of your comment I had to redact part of your username as well!

          There’s no way of knowing for sure if this coincidence is unique, but the chances are that it is.

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