June 25, 2010 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

Toughie 378

Toughie No 378 by Myops


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

I feel a bit guilty as I’m writing this in a desperate rush; busy day. Blimey, I found this tough – a clutch of obscure answers saw me delving into Chambers and several wordplays had me clutching at irrelevant straws.

It was enjoyable though. Were it not for the obscurities and a few small quibbles I’d have given this more stars, but there are some beautiful clues in here.

Please 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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ST 2541 – as solved by two of us

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2541

Blow-by-blow solving accounts from two contributors

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

Peter’s introduction

For a change this week, we’re trying to show you the solving process in action rather than an explanation of the clues written after the event. Two of us solved this puzzle while making notes about our thoughts, so that you can see two approaches to solving and the differences and similarities between our thought processes.

If you’re reading this to learn something, Gnomethang’s solving experience will be more familiar, and mine may seem absurdly unlikely. Mine is the result of a lot of practice – I’ve been trying to solve cryptics for about 34 years, tackling at least two puzzles a day for more than 25 of those years. I’ve been doing puzzles written by Brian Greer in particular for most of that period – he was probably a Times setter when I first looked (overambitiously) at Times puzzles in 1977, and he edited the Times crossword from 1995 to 2000 (Times xwd editors are setters, who amend clues quite often to achieve their version of the ‘Times style’). You’ll see that even with all that experience I don’t always see everything correctly when I first read a clue – I go up some blind alleys just like everyone else. As well as knowing commonly used tricks very well, the benefit of those years of practice is often seeing the right ‘wordplay structure’ early on, though not always knowing why. You might wonder why, after so much practice that these puzzles are often easy, I still do them. Apart from championship practice and spreading the cryptic crossword gospel, I do them partly because there’s always the chance that something will fox me for a while, and partly because I hope to see some clever treatment of words – in this puzzle, the ‘doubled’ bits of wordplay in 2D and 4D are a couple of examples.

Caveat: Although we’ve tried to record our thoughts accurately, cryptic clues rely on language-based tricks and our brains deal with language in ways that we don’t always understand – if you read books about language by people like Steven Pinker you’ll discover linguistic rules faithfully followed by your brain without your conscious knowledge. So when we’re solving clues, there may important things going on in our heads that we don’t know about, and statements about what we think and don’t think about apply only to our deliberate/conscious thinking.
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DT 26276

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26276

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

We have a typical Giovanni today (but with the usual sprinkling of religious references). Let us know what you thought of it in a comment.
As always the answers are hidden between the brackets under the clues. Just drag your cursor through the white space between the brackets to reveal one.

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