October 2009 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

From The Top

From The Top

A start-to-finish story of setting a cryptic crossword puzzle.

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Just a quick note you before you start reading.

After the description of filling the crossword grid, the article gives an account of the clue-writing process. Please note this is in no way intended to be a guide to writing cryptic clues, so while some technical aspects are mentioned there is no attempt to explain how/why particular techniques succeed or fail. Instead, I’ve tried to give an insight into how I go about dissecting an answer to identify wordplay components – it’s all about the scribbled notes, rejected ideas and “a-ha!” moments that come with pleasing discoveries.

Whether or not all of the clues stand up to scrutiny isn’t of great importance. The article finishes at the point when a crossword such as this would be ready to send to an editor and – like any setter – I would just have to sit back and wait for the email asking me to make changes to certain clues; that’s what editors are for!

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DT 26074 – Hints

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26074 – Hints

Big Dave’s Saturday Crossword Club

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment ***

Anax’s excellent article, titled “From the Top”, on how he put together a whole puzzle will be posted at 12.00 today.  You will find this insight into the mind of an accomplished setter extremely interesting, all the more so if you solved the puzzle when it was posted last Saturday.

This puzzle gets three stars for enjoyment mainly because it is a lot better than last week’s Prize Crossword. A couple of iffy clues spoilt the overall effect, but it should please a lot of the Saturday regulars.

Don’t forget that you can give your assessment of the puzzle. Five stars if you thought it was great, one if you hated it, four, three or two if it was somewhere in between.

As is usual for the weekend prize crosswords, I will select a few of the better clues and provide hints for them. A full review of this puzzle by Tilsit will be published at 12.00 on Thursday, 5th November (remember, remember!).

Continue reading “DT 26074 – Hints”

ST 2507

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2507

A full analysis by Big Dave

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ****

With Peter Biddlecombe on holiday, the pleasure of writing the review passes back to me for a couple of weeks. This was another excellent puzzle, such a pity that, based on blog page views, this is the least solved Telegraph crossword of the week.

Leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.

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Toughie 243

Toughie No 243 by Kcit

Balance and elegance

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ****

A small handful of slightly clumsy surface readings do little to spoil this masterpiece of cryptic clueing technique and clever misdirection. The NE corner was the last section filled as I had to work out 10a from wordplay, and I needed that to get the – eventually very obvious – answers at 5d and 7d.

This is cryptic crossword writing at its best; challenging and imaginative, with plenty of very satisfying penny-drop moments, and a perfect balance of easy and harder clues. Thank you setter!

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DT 26073

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26073

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment ***

Friday’s puzzles seem to divide the solving community into two polarised camps, and I suspect that today’s will be no exception. I enjoyed it, although I have a couple of queries. I’ve given it four * for difficulty largely because those completing it on Clued Up seemed to take longer than usual.
Leave us a comment with your views. We’re especially keen to hear from our many readers who have not yet left a comment – now is the time to introduce yourselves – we’re a friendly lot and we don’t bite!
If you leave a comment please don’t just say “love it” or “hate it” – try to give reasons or examples, so that we can get a debate going (sorry if I sound like an examiner!).
As usual the answers are hidden inside the curly brackets under the clue. They are hidden so that you don’t see them accidentally, but if you want to see one, just highlight the white space inside the brackets.

Continue reading “DT 26073”

DT 26068

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26068

A Really Grumpy Old Man writes ……

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment *

I manage to enjoy most puzzles that I solve, but this just left me completely cold. I am sure there are some of you who will have enjoyed this but I just found some of the cluing lazy and lacking any wit or imagination. There are few decent clues there but they are swamped by the dross. I won’t comment on the double unches in the grid as one of my esteemed colleagues will come on and point out they are OK, suffice it to say I do not.

Fortunately there are better Saturday puzzles and I shall seek solace in those. In fact, this puzzle limps a long way behind all of the others. I have no problem with an easier puzzle if the clues are elegantly written (see every Monday in the Telegraph), but most clues here today are uninspired and in a few cases hackneyed. It would be the sort of puzzle I would expect to see in a magazine such as The Puzzler rather than a serious newspaper.

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Toughie 242

Toughie No 242 by Giovanni

Cooking the Books!

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BD Rating – Difficulty **** Enjoyment ****

A really enjoyable challenge from Giovanni today, but it contained a rare flaw from our setter.  The answer to 4 down contained a misspelling.  However all is well now and a correct spelling and clue have been inserted.    I have known Giovanni for a number of years and on checking with him, and realising a slip had been made and being the professional he is, he was mortified. A quick exchange of mail and all resolved.   This didn’t distract too much from the overall puzzle, which was to his usual standard.

A good balance of all types of clue in the puzzle with a couple  of fairly tricky explanations.  However fairness is paramount at all times, and aspiring setters should study the wording and phrasing of the clues to see how he achieves the clever surface reading.

Have your say after the review, but do remember that new posters may wait a little while (sometimes a few minutes, possibly an hour or so) to have first posts approved.  This just prevents those nasty spammers from gluing up the works.  You can also rate the puzzle with the star rating.

[I have now been able to access the new version, but only from the Play Puzzles / Crossword Puzzles page, not from the home page. BD]

Continue reading “Toughie 242”

DT 26072

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26072

Hints and tips by Libellule

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BD Rating – Difficulty **/*** Enjoyment ***

Once again I didn’t find this crossword particularly taxing (although I am sure some of you will disagree), but enjoyed the ramble through it nevertheless. As usual a good mixture of clues and a nice range of complexity. But today I have to congratulate J. on a cracking clue. 17a.

Any comments are appreciated.

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Toughie 241

Toughie No 241 by Micawber

Wheear ‘ast ta bin sin’ ah saw thee?

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ****

We can rely on Micawber to provide a challenging and witty puzzle, and today’s is no exception. For me there are two elements, both enjoyable, to solving a puzzle such as this – firstly getting the answers, and secondly untangling some of the trickier bits of the wordplay.
How did you like it, and how do you think it compares to yesterday’s Toughie, which was also excellent? For me yesterday’s was slightly tougher, but today’s just noses ahead in the enjoyment stakes – leave us a comment with your views!

Continue reading “Toughie 241”

DT 26071

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26071

Double D Maths

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

A preponderance of Word Sums and Double Definition clues today with the odd anagram thrown in.  A few of the clues were old chestnuts to me, but if you haven’t sen them before, they will probably raise a chuckle with you.  It was probably a 2 ½ for difficulty rather than three, really. But I am sure a few of you will feel that three is appropriate.

Sorry for being a bit late, but clandestine meetings with Distrcit Nurses have been the order of the day!

Continue reading “DT 26071”