We’re nearly one / Jumbo 722 delayed

I’m hopeless at remembering birthdays so while I remember, the team version of Times for the Times is one year old next Wednesday. A chance to pause and take stock. I’ll ask the same questions that I asked six months ago:

Readers (including other bloggers):

  • What can we do better?
  • What are we doing well?
  • Is there anything we do that you think we shouldn’t bother with?
  • Is there anything we don’t do that you think we should do?

The main change in the last six months is the placeholder pages allowing comments before the main report appears. Elsewhere, Neil Wellard’s fifteensquared site added the FT puzzle to its portfolio. So of the big 5 daily puzzles, only the Telegraph remains unblogged. As I’m starting to prepare for another one-day “How to Solve” course, I’ll be signing up for a month’s membership of their “Crossword Society” site, and will have a look for any bulletin boards or the like where volunteers might be found.

Comments to say “just keep doing the same thing” are nice to see but not at all necessary. If you are fairly new and have questions or suggestions about the way we do things, have a look at the “About this blog” link first (near top of page) just in case it explains things. By the way, the blogger bios there will be amended soon to bring them up to date.

I was due to write about Jumbo 722 today. As I’ve got other stuff to do (Azed playfair blog for 15squared, and Grand Final puzzle write-ups), this will be delayed a few days.

11 comments on “We’re nearly one / Jumbo 722 delayed”

  1. Setters are by no means in competition with each other to see who can come up with the best clue(s) – I think many of us agree that clues (like anagrams) are essentially discoveries of what already exists.
    But it might be nice – certainly interesting – if bloggers can vote for “Clue of the Day”, which then progresses to week/month/year. Perhaps the blogger who submits the initial post for a puzzle can list three clues that stand out, and everyone else gets to vote?
  2. First the unnecessary, yet nice to see part. I blundered across this blog a few months ago while looking for help on Listener crosswords (I’m still a 40-50%er on those…), and I get a kick out of discussion of wordplay and crosswords, I am the only person I know who does these, and most of my friends regard me as the funny-voiced nut who wanders back and forth from class with a half-finished crossword mumbling about alphabetizations. This blog is doing an excellent service.

    One thing I wouldn’t mind seeing is the use of a LJ cut to hide the solutions from the main postings – I usually print the crossword off first thing in the morning, and if I’ve left LJ open, I can see the answers here before I get a chance to print the crossword.

    I second anaxcrosswords’ suggestion of a clue of the day, or something interactive for those of us who do not time ourselves.

  3. That’s a very good idea. It’s easy to carp, say, about dubious homophones (guilty) but I’m sure the setters would appreciate positive feedback on what solvers have most enjoyed.
  4. This is an excellent site in terms of what it does. My worry though is that it is likely to give reactions from a skewed distribution of solvers (skewed towards the high-ability end) and that this might be taken too much notice of. For each person here proclaiming ‘tough but brilliant’ there is another solver (or maybe several) shouting in total oblivion of this site ‘it’s getting too hard’. That latter voice may come from long-standing solvers aho are not necessarily declining in their solving ability because of age — and I hope it gets heard. I recognise that some bloggers are less experienced, but I hope the Times puzzle never turns into just a let’s-beat-PB pursuit. It would be nice to get a real vox pop on to the site!
  5. Clue of the day: An interesting idea, but I’ll be looking for a method that means the least possible extra work for the bloggers. I suspect this will mean them just listing clues, and then having a weekly poll for Clue of the Week – must remember to label them with letters, like Goal of the Month …

    Hiding answers: I’ve tried LJ-cuts in the ‘your times’ posts for weekly contests, but was disappointed to find that as soon as you use a single-post view, the cut doesn’t happen (presumably to ensure that comments are about stuff you can see). There’s also the question of what you cut – as postings often reveal an answer or two in the first sentence, there’s a risk of needing to cut the whole thing! So I suspect the answer is: remember to close LJ, or switch to a page that just shows subject lines.

    Representation: A perennial problem – our least experienced bloggers have improved quite a lot in just one year and I don’t want to kick people out to make “room at the bottom” as it were. If there are solvers who don’t always finish but would like to have a voice, they can contact me by e-mail (on the home page of my xwd site). Something weekly or monthly from you about what you enjoyed and found too hard would be very welcome.

    General absence of acrimony is deliberate. Aside from the points that it’s only a game and exact agreement about the rules is impossible, I’m convinced that constructive criticism is most likely to get something done, especially when a few of the Times setters read this blog and leave comments. At the risk of self-congratulation, I’d like to think that we have contributed just a bit towards some positive changes in the puzzles, including attempts to balance the range of difficulty so that beginners and champions can both have fun.

  6. I agree that the contributors here tend to be of well above average solving ability, but I find that there is a refreshing lack of self-congratulation. There is also a pleasing lack of acrimony. Overall, this seems to be a much less intimidating and friendlier site than most in ‘Crossworld’.
  7. One might dare to hope that this blog has NOT affected the puzzle, since its contributors constitute that small skewed sample mentioned earlier. One hopes that there is somewhere a strong-minded crossword editor who gets a wider feedback than that recorded here and who is mindful of the totality of solvers.
    1. I did say “just a bit”. I don’t expect Richard Browne to change things just in response to us (and he’s reminded me that I’m an untypical solver at least once), but effectively hoping that he doesn’t listen to this feedback at all seems a tad harsh. Suppose feedback about clues that seemed unfairly difficult comes from this skewed sample: do we then need the rest of the ‘totality’ to confirm this?
  8. I thoroughly enjoy the Times Cryptics and remember the challenge of solving quotations a while back. Would anyone else welcome their return from time to time? The Blog is very helpful and, as was last Thursday’s, very entertaining

    Carole H, Fermo, Italy

    1. If you mean the bald quotes like

      ‘Officious, innocent, ____’ (Johnson)

      then I was delighted to see the back of them when they were killed off by new xwd ed Brian Greer in about 1995. But to be fair, I have seen other people saying that they liked them.

      1. I am not so keen on bald quotations, but they do have the advantage that they sometimes encourage me to read the original. I think one basic rule for them is that they must be guessable from context and crossing letters for people who don’t know them. Jason J

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