When Greg C announced that he had given up “conventional” solving techniques and reverted to electronic helpers after just 3 days of The Stickler Weekly 215 being released, my heart sank. It’s definitely the modern way, with such tools readily available and our busyness preventing us from letting things play out naturally. My spirits were lifted, however, by the responses of the regular solvers who painted a picture of patience, persistence and preseverance.
If you read the blog, you’ll notice nothing much happens on the Wednesday a new Stickler Weekly is posted (maybe a few comments on the previous one) until the evening when some have got stuck in. Thursday things liven up, and by Friday, the regulars have largely nutted everything out and resolved any outstanding issues. To the lurkers, those following but not posting, it seems most people have The Stickler Weekly done and dusted by the weekend. I’m here to tell you, that’s a long way from the truth. We have less than 10 regular posters, yet about 200 people attempt each Stickler Weekly. About 95% of solvers take a significantly longer time to solve, and many haven’t finished the last one before the next one is published. I have access to statistics from my website that show the solving trends, and it’s a small percentage of solvers who access the new Stickler Weekly the day it is published.
The Stickler Weekly isn’t easy to solve – it is designed that way. A weekly offering is always going to be more difficult than a daily one as solvers have a week to do it. Trust, though, that I always create clues that can be solved from the wordplay alone, that is, you don’t NEED the answer to make the clue work. That means, as a solver, you are always in the game: it might take multiple attempts, a number of rethinks and a good night’s sleep, but you will get there in the end, as that’s how the clues have been designed.
My one tip for solving is to have access to good reference books in print, on your computer, or through the net. As I’ve said many times before, I use these to create the crosswords, so it’s only right that solvers should use them too. There’s no way a solver, even a really good one, knows (or can remember) all the meanings to all the words in a dictionary and knows all the synonyms of a word or phrase. Get yourself access to a good dictionary and thesaurus and use these extensively to help you solve. Leave the crossword solver websites to the day before the answers come out and use them always as a last resort.