The Stickler Weekly 19 Solution

I’m not sure how many of you take the time to read this commentary that accompanies the weekly solution, but if this week’s doesn’t generate some comments, I’ll assume there are very few of you.

I think crossword setters could write essays on certain cruciverbal concepts, and the one highest on my list would be the topic of “fairness”. How many articles related to cryptic crosswords have you read that contain the line “…but he/she always makes sure the clues are fair”? What does this mean? Isn’t fairness a subjective concept? Is there a definitive way to judge if anything is fair? It’s wrongly used to mean “solvable”, which makes every clue fair. Personally I don’t think fairness can be determined by the setter since it’s the solvers individually who decide whether a crossword, clue, device or answer is “fair”. Solvers often disagree, so unless ALL solvers agree on fairness, most crosswords are going to contain unfair elements in the opinion of some solvers. So, are these crosswords fair? Not to everyone. As a professional setter aiming to appeal to a broad audience, I want to make sure solvers should be able to work out all aspects of a crossword under particular circumstances, but there’s no guarantee that will happen, so to some people aspects of my crosswords may seem unfair. Fairness is not measureable as a general rule, so shouldn’t be applied as a measure to crosswords.

Across Answers and Clues Explanations
Delay letters sent by quiet individual (8) POST + P + ONE
Public relations providing quotes for grain valuer? (6) PR outside RICE
Brit vicar’s clues excited them? (15) Anagram of BRIT VICARS CLUES
Perspirer is rehydrating at last in rocky wasteland (5,5) rehydratin(G) inside anagram of WASTELAND
Region of storm is thick low-level cloud (4) storM IS Thick
Travellers returned on raging rivers ultimately (6) ON reversed + MAD + river(S)
Steer and horse fed around six (8) (NAG + ATE) outside VI
Illusionist’s trick seen by panellist (8) CON + JUROR
Turn up briefly ahead of long court challenge (6) APPEA(r) + L
They look east, no doubt (4) E + YES
Leader hits a hole in one in view of stroke-maker (4-6) ACES inside PETTER
Mum coming west is prepared with bathers (8,7) Anagram of MUM COMING WEST IS
Associates of rude man denied request (6) ruDE MAN Denied
Swaggering by, impressed with American splendour (8) BY outside LUSTER
 Down  Answers and Clues Explanations
Singles out guitar player sitting with child (5,2) PICK + SON
It’s taken from suitcase, undone, and used for dressing (5) Anagram of SUITCASE minus ITS
Tailored option, due ahead of time, should be specified (7,3) (Anagram of OPTION DUE) + T
An injection could be a requirement with leg sawn off (6) NEED + LE(g)
Standard bid not accepted by builder undertaking development (4) Anagram of BUILDER minus BID
Take a piece out of one passage behind shed (9) (I + GATE) behind CAST
Favour place in habitual routine (7) SET inside ROTE
Outlaw covering up for small quarrelsome person (6) BAN + (MAT reversed)
Place subjected to external complaints causes irritation (10) PL inside DISEASES
Staff and miners fixed peculiarity (9) MAN + anagram of MINERS
Execute one entering man’s kingdom (6) DO + (I inside MAN)
Groovy doctrine plugged by a leader of Scientology (7) CREED outside [A + (S)cientology]
Allergy varied to a great extent (7) Anagram of ALLERGY
Cycle in power line interfered with writing equipment (6) C inside (P + anagram of LINE)
Respite care originally permitted in flat (5) (C)are inside TRUE
People finishing a statement of affirmation (4) MEN after A


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11 Responses to The Stickler Weekly 19 Solution

  1. Greg Mansell says:

    My favourites were 5a, 9a & 23a. I was particularly tickled by 9a, where 2 words of the construction are also part of the definition. David — your thoughts on this type of clue?

    On the subject of fairness: I once attempted the infamous SMH DA cryptic, and one clue had “strip” in the construction, which resolved to “BC”. Fair for someone like me perhaps, who remembers the BC comic strip from the 70s — but unfair for most.

    I asked Stickler about this at the time. His view was that you should have a chance of solving the clue via the construction, which was virtually impossible in this case.

    • David Stickley says:

      I’ll talk about 9ac next week.

      As far as solving from the construction (or wordplay) goes, I believe setters have long left this behind, forgetting, perhaps, the whole point of a cryptic clue. It’s very common these days for the wordplay to be unfathomable unless you have the answer, which doesn’t make sense to me. More on this later too.


  2. Richard Sternes says:

    Hi David
    Keep up the great work; week 26 is not far off!
    I’d have thought fairness would be judged by;
    1. can the puzzle actually be solved with minimum external reference (that’s indefinable I know – more room for debate) and
    2. how long does it take to solve

    regards and best wishes – Richard Sternes

    • David Stickley says:

      Hi Richard,

      I think you have helped prove my point. Every solver has different criteria making it hard to declare a clue, device or crossword fair or otherwise. Some would say its Ok to use external references for weekly crosswords as the solver has much more time; others don’t like having to look up anything no matter much time between puzzles. Some think all the answers should be in concise dictionaries, while others believe a single Google reference is good enough. If fairness is different for each solver, then it’s hard to use it as a crossword measure.

  3. Andrew Gibson says:

    Had the clue been “…excited us” rather than excited them (9a) I may have been able to get it – but alas I did not. It is not present in my Australian Oxford dictionary and had it been there I am sure that I would have been able to work it out. I will remember it well into the future. Keep up the good work.

    • David Stickley says:

      Hi Andrew,

      I see you point about “us” and “them” – “us” definitely gives the solver a better context. My version of the Australian Oxford does carry the answer – I rarely include words that aren’t in there.

      Thanks for solving


  4. Robert Balic says:

    I enjoy crosswords that give you a face-palm moment. This is why being familiar with a setter is important. You need to have confidence that it will be worth the struggle, so its not about fairness, its about not letting the solver down.

    Crosswords like Donald Harrison’s from Fairfax are tricky because of the obscure words for the solutions and it does give you some satisfaction when you research the answer (I keep his book in the car for emergencies but, considering the lack of reference materials, that’s not too bright). These sort of clues need to be fair. While I love 9a, I would have thought it unfair a year ago.

    • Greg Mansell says:

      If you have a smartphone, then you can have all the reference materials you need. See my comment below.

  5. Greg Mansell says:

    With regard to dictionaries and reference materials: It’s now possible to buy the complete Chambers and Macquarie Dictionaries (and other dictionaries and thesauri) as inexpensive smartphone apps. So you can have multiple reference books at hand all the time.

    This introduces yet another variable to the “fairness” equation. To my mind, it tips the balance in favour of including some obscure words. It can’t be a bad thing if we learn a few new words in our cruciverbal endeavours — anything to keep Dr Alzheimer at bay.

  6. Steve Ball says:

    Having struggled with #18, I got this one out in less than 30 minutes with no aids, except that I patterned searched the final clue, 28-ac. I just didn’t twig to the device, especially as it looked like US was part of the answer (as it in fact was).

    I don’t think ‘fairness’ relates to how easy a puzzle is to solve. You can have dead-easy puzzles that aren’t ‘fair’ (they might contain an incorrect anagram, e.g.) and fiendishly hard ones that are. What I require is that every clue obeys the rules of logic and of English grammar and syntax, both in the surface—it’s amazing how many clues don’t satisfy this—and in the subsidiary, cryptic reading. It’s this last bit that trips up most setters, who happily throw in extraneous words, and/or break the rules of grammar, in order to make a sensible surface, and it’s this that keeps me doing Sticklers at the expense of the Fairfax puzzles.

    We can debate whether arcane knowledge—like BC = ‘strip’—is fair or not. For me, it renders a puzzle, not so much unfair—_someone_ can solve it— as coming from a certain community or era, and, as many setters learnt the ropes a long time ago—like the Brit vicar alluded to above—cryptic puzzles sometimes come across as quaintly old-fashioned, a criticism I don’t recall having of The Stickler.