The Stickler Weekly Insights 225

I read a comment on a blog recently where the writer expressed bewilderment over crosswords that weren’t themed. That is, he couldn’t understand why a setter would write a crossword with words that weren’t linked in some way. It made me laugh, as, by default, all clues are linked: they are all cryptic! Themed crosswords are difficult to assemble and there’s no “theme bonus” available from the publisher, so why would any setter put in the extra time and effort to create them on a regular basis? I’ve talked about themed crosswords before and the pitfalls, but what about the inclusion of current affairs and events? Here’s the thing: can you rely on solvers to have equal knowledge and interest of anything that isn’t defined in a dictionary? Are the people solving your crosswords all from the same location and of an age that’s relevant to the topic? The answer is generally no to all – you will appeal to some but alienate others, just like with normal theme crosswords. Some people will like to feel that their setter is up-to-date and enjoy the appearance of the odd Trump or Brexit clue, and that’s where I tend to head – if an opportunity comes up I’ll throw it in, but otherwise it’s business as usual. A topical clue is a once-only, dead clue. Possibly out of date in a syndicated crossword and impenetrable in a collection of crosswords down the track, a clue that requires current knowledge (of language or events) is of little use.

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2 Responses to The Stickler Weekly Insights 225

  1. Richard Sternes says:

    Do not change anything, David.
    Right from the Get-Go & even as far back as “The Boxer” days,
    what you produce each week has always been just fine with me,
    source of great enjoyment & intellectual stimulation & an essential part of my week,
    even more so now that the Comments Page has taken off..
    My cryptic abilities have improved way beyond measure along the way.
    PS>>> Off to a flying Start this week.
    Expecting shuddering halt at any moment!!!

  2. Arthur Maynard says:

    The themed puzzles in the Guardian leave me cold. If you are not familiar with the works of Charles Dickens, (or the specialist theme) you might as well burn the paper and enjoy your cup of coffee.

    I have completed a themed puzzle, and only realised it was themed when reading the blog afterwards.