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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heads well postscript

I have since seen a video of my talk and wonder at the patience of the audience and the presence of at least three flattering toadies. Having caught a glimpse of myself as others see me, I rather wish I hadn't. (Strange after all those years in screen production that I never saw myself in anything other than a walk-on extra role.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heads well

After the sensational success of my astonishing revelations about cryptic crossword at last night's Wellington Nerd Night (three people commented positively on my presentation), I have uploaded a few puzzles to my webskite.

I'll be putting a few Listener jobbies up there too sometime soon. I can hear the screams of delight already.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mitchell steals away

David Mitchell, the poet, died earlier this week after a long illness.

Friends of his, Nigel Roberts and Murray Edmond, published an anthology of his poems, Steal Away Boy, last year. The book had a long biographical introduction. I appear briefly in those pages as a sort of comedy extra ("poor old Tosso", the perceptions of one Paul Gray, an unreliable witness I say). You will see a little of the film I shot of him back in 1980 or so down the page a way here.

Dave was foremost a charming man. He was also an exceedingly irresponsible one, a nasty one, a greatly talented and enormously annoying one. I spent far too much time and money with and for him but I was perhaps the least of the many victims of his charms, wiles and – later – his insanity.

I met him first in about 1964 when he returned to Wellington from Europe with his beautiful new-won and newly pregnant wife Elsebeth. I bumped into him again the following year in Kings Cross, Sydney, on my first day there, and I was around King Cross at the time his marriage began its inevitable collapse. I saw the bad side of him then. I was however persistently, habitually I suppose, nonjudgemental, so I would hardly spurn him in the pub or at parties. It wasn't just me. His charm and wit won most people.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cryptic logic, questions arising

That great systematiser of cryptic crosswords, Ximenes, proposed that clues should have a logical structure. He then laid out in his book Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword what the possible structures could be. Most clues in most cryptic puzzles since Ximenes published his work (and many before for that matter) adhere to the so-called Ximenean precepts. The best have a wonderfully algebraic elegance and economy.

Of course I tend to follow the Ximenean precepts myself when composing my own puzzles. I like to think that I mainly succeed, though I do also enjoy a less stringent form in my own and in others' puzzle from time to time.

Sound judgement

Despite myself I feel strongly inclined to curmudge. So here goes.

I dined happily alone this evening in a small and spartan Chinese restaurant. Nearby was a table of seven young people, probably – given the drift of their conversations – university students (does this matter?*), all speaking very loudly. I wondered why they were so annoyingly loud and concluded that most people today are so used to an accompaniment of amplified thumps and caterwauls -- the sounds that pass for background music these days (curmudge curmudge) -- that even in its absence they must shout.

This need, I suggest, is brought on merely by socialising in a public venue.

I have come across this phenomenon many times before but tonight''s episode was an extreme example. I suspect that those students would have been deafening were I not already undergoing some hardening of the hearing.

* It matters a little because their shouting was inconsiderate and thus uncivil. Whither civilisation then if the very best and brightest of our youth cannot contain their exuberance, eh? What's that?