The Stickler Weekly Insights 229

I started solving cryptics in the 1970s, a time by which firm standards and guidelines had been set regarding what was acceptable in cryptic crosswords. I think this was a golden age of sorts, when many people learnt the art of solving, most of which are still solving today. That’s a lot of crosswords, 40-odd years worth: approximately 10,000 crosswords solving an average of 5 a week. For fans who solve cryptics in multiple papers, the number could easily be double.
I’m interested in your history with cryptics: when and how you started and maybe some of your solving habits. If you’ve been solving a long time, what are your expectations when it comes to progress, innovation and variety within cryptic crosswords? Do you think cryptics need to “evolve” as you “evolve” and become more experienced? How can cryptic crosswords cater for experienced and inexperienced solvers at the same time?

Time for you to give me your insights.

The Stickler

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One Response to The Stickler Weekly Insights 229

  1. Arthur Maynard says:

    I was an avid reader and collector of quirky and generally obscure information, none of which has been of use at Trivia nights. In 1952 I left home for schooling and work. Between dancing, clubs and girlfriends, I entertained myself with crosswords. A Mr Wisdom’s Whopper published in the Australasian Post would entertain me for the entire journey in the Sunlander from Brisbane to Cairns. Occasionally I would look at a Cryptic crossword and wonder how anybody could make any sense of the clues and their solutions. Eventually I grew a bit tired of matching my knowledge with the focus of standard crosswords and took a serious look at Cryptics.

    My mother was a whiz at solving Cryptics, but I was unable to absorb her advice on solving. In the 80s I set out to learn how to do it. I started on two way puzzles. When I had the standard answer, I began to work out how the word was derived from the clue. Eventually I ignored the regular clues, and found I was solving a large percentage of the puzzle. The next day’s paper brought the answer, but not necessarily the reason.

    Occasionally I would sit with one or more friends who were equally confused, and together we would work towards a solution.

    In the early 90’s I came upon an explanation which provided a basic outline of clueing, and solving, which set me on the path to identifying the elements of the crossword which I found were called the definition, the word play and the indicator which identified which type of word play was in force. I became addicted, and on my retirement in 2003 I was given a collection of Guardian crosswords, and an electronic device which solved anagrams, and provided missing letters – the crossword solver of today.

    Next came a book which identified and described the major categories of clue types, with their identifiers and examples.

    Armed with this material, I offered a cryptic solving group to our local University of the third Age (U3A), and enjoyed a period of solving puzzles and sharing the experience. I always produced a puzzle which I had solved some time previously. We quickly outgrew the two way puzzles and advanced to Guardian, and Southern Cross.

    I identified a common experience, that of working alone to learn about solving cryptics. Flush with the success of the solving group, around 2007 I offered to teach Cryptic Crosswords for Beginners. I wrote my own material based on information gleaned from the internet. The course introduces people to the Ximenean principles which ruled that the clue contains 3 parts (Definition, word Play, Nothing Else) and examines the major types of clues with worked examples. The class then began solving crosswords with assistance and guidance, and within 12 months became reasonably proficient. If they wished they were moved into Novice then Experienced solvers who worked as a group to solve and analyse clues.

    The material has been rewritten almost yearly due to my learning experiences with solving and exposure to Sticklers. David’s puzzles and advice have proven to be reliable. Another rewrite will commence shortly.

    I did not want to be first to respond to this invitation, but I find it interesting to hear about the experiences of others. Thus here is my story which has not ended. Perhaps it will be the beginning of sharing with David and the bloggers.