Toughie No 262 by Excalibur
Smoke and Mirrors
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BD Rating – Difficulty ** – Enjoyment *
Thanks to you all for your kind wishes while I was in hospital. I was certainly relieved to get home and am taking things easy over the next few days. Thanks to Big Dave for covering my blogs for me while I was away.
Reading yesterday’s Big Dave blog of the daily puzzle, there was a considerable amount of debate as to who the setter was, and indeed most of us rather got it wrong. Although we generally can identify the daily puzzle setters, the Toughies are somewhat harder to pin down, and we usually have to wait until one of us has consulted that day’s paper to find out, as the people at CluedUp seem unwilling to let us know. One or two setters have such distinct styles, as well as one or two tricks that enable us to recognise who they are, which does help us. Likewise, one or two have a certain way of writing their clues that gives us an indication.
Indeed, one thing was certain today, within a minute or two of reading the clues, I knew who had set it. The style offered by today’s setter is, as I have remarked before, reminiscent of the days from when I first started solving crosswords in the late 1960’s and early seventies. Indeed, I first encountered Excalibur as the setter of the old Weekend Magazine Stinker Crossword and there is little evidence to suggest the style has changed.
Perhaps you are all going to expect me to say how much I hated it and so on, but I am not going to. There seems little point, as probably the majority of you will disagree with me anyway. So I looked at the puzzle from a different angle. Excalibur tries to provide clues that are concise, and indeed unlike some setters, there is little of what might be called padding in her clues, although at times the definitions are a little broad for my liking. This is actually a skill that many of her contemporaries don’t have and strive for. The downside is that some of the surface reading can seem a bit odd.
Easily, where the puzzle falls for me is on the Cryptic Definitions. I realise that on a Monday we are spoilt by having one of the wizards of the CD clue, and it is almost the main weapon of some of the other setters and not always well-used (the Saturday setter comes to mind), so I almost feel it is done to death in the DT puzzles. It’s noticeable that many of what I regard as my favourite setters all use the CD only once or twice in a puzzle. The ones here today just don’t work for me and that holds the puzzle back and it’s ultimately a shame.
You can have your say after the blog and we encourage you to do so. By the way, next Monday at 8pm on BBC4, you can see the excellent documentary How to Solve A Cryptic Crossword which features our very own Giovanni, as well as Colin Dexter and one or two other setters of repute. We may need a TV reviewer for that one! Set those recorders, although I suspect it will be on the BBC i-Player for those within the UK, if you do miss it. It is also being shown a week today at some small hour of the morning.