Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The common heard

I've committed two embarrassing misspellings lately, both errors more common on Google than the correct spellings. Is this common?

The first was "revere" for a type of collar or lapel. Google threw up 398,000 results for 'rever collar' and 1,310,000 for 'revere collar'. It seems perhaps that amongst tailors and dressmakers, presumably the most frequent users of the term, the longer spelling appears a little more phonetic and thus preferred.

My second such recent mistake was with fettucine. Like revere, I picked up the spelling from a computer wordlist I use when composing crossword puzzles -- clearly not the most reliable source. The correct spelling is fettuccine, but a look at Google showed the single-C version to be more common. What's more, the erroneous spelling is recognised by Chambers.

I have no doubt that the dictionaries will eventually follow usage, even disregarding the sensitivities of the French and Italians, but in the meantime I wonder how many other English words are in a similar imbalance of orthographic usage and correctness.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gone live

The first of my crossword solution and explanation postings has gone live on the Listener website, in Cryptic Crosswords under the Entertainment tab. Here you go.

It's quite a sizeable posting because the puzzle it deals with is the Christmas jumbo with 50 clues. I have been drafting up postings for the following puzzles lately and am appalled to find myself needing to apologise for at least one clue in each. Whether this reflects continual blunders or a pitiful sense of inadequacy I will leave for others to decide. My conclusion: those primary school teachers' reports were right: David Tossman could do better.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Listener Larger

The Listener crosswords grids are going to be 15 x 15 from number 751 on. That is in the 14 January issue which, confusingly but really logically, goes on sale on 1 January. At about that time, solutions to past puzzles will begin to appear on the Listener website. These will be accompanied by some explanatory notes.

Older puzzles in online-solvable form will then be archived to my personal website, which is up for revision and tidying in the near future as part of my plan for total interweb domination.

All this follows on from my post last July about the increasing sense of confinement I have felt with the long-standing 13 x 13 grid I inherited from my predecessor at the Listener, the late RWH.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stolen, borrowed or recycled: a setter's problem

A recent little scandal has raised some interesting issues for me regarding recycled clues.

A scandal in the world of crosswords? Yes really: a clear case of plagiarism. The affair is described in a little more detail than here (though in a rather garish display) by Dean Mayer, aka Anax.

In summary, one of the cryptic setters for The Hindu, a venerable and highly respected Indian newspaper, has been caught “borrowing”. Incidentally, the offence was detected not because the lifted clues were recognised but because of the awfulness of the other clues. The incompetently composed clues contrasted so radically with some of the others that the decent ones could only have come from different sources.

This sort of thing is rare, I assume and hope, but many cryptic clues nevertheless have a certain familiarity about them, so some people might well detect a slight whiff of plagiarism. This goes for my own clues and for others', so much so that I have at times wondered whether I have been guilty of inadvertant plagiarism myself.

I generally comfort myself in those occasions with the “great minds” theory.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Verbing encouraged?

Today's Dominion Post (page C6, Tom Pullar-Strecker's column) includes the following from a statement by Labour MP Clare Curran: "At the moment nothing is being done to incentive new business models."

I'm not against verbing as such, but I thought there were several nasty new verbs derived from incentive already, incentivise (or ...ize) and incent. Do we need another?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 13 square problem

Most conventional cryptic crosswords have a 15 by 15 square grid. The NZ Listener's puzzle has a 13 by 13 grid. I would like to change it for the bigger one. That would mean an average of about six more clues per puzzle.