A Conversation for How to Solve 'The Times' Crossword
Yucker Started conversation Jul 5, 2001
You mention the Collins and the OED, but I think the standard reference for cruciverbalists is the Chambers (with its stock of obscure variants and other nasties).
(Personally, I prefer the Shorter OED, because the Chambers has a horrid layout.)
manolan Posted Jul 5, 2001
Well, Chambers has that reputation, but The Times are very clear about two things:
1. Chambers is NOT preferred. It stems from the fact that words should not be so obscure as to need it. After all the goal is to create a crossword that can be done without reference books!
2. OED is the last word in definitions.
The crossword editor published these two points in an article once. There may be a copy on their web site, but I think it was in the Saturday Times and not all of that edition is on the web. Anyway, I almost made this point but then thought I shouldn't be seen to attack Chambers!
Personally, I use Collins and only Collins. I've only found about one or two words in the last couple of years that weren't in it. They were both from the Saturday Jumbo Crossword, which is notorious for obscurity as filling that size of grid is quite tough. I didn't check Chambers, but at least one of them was in OED. I used to use OED, but the Concise version is the only one that doesn't break your legs and it doesn't have any proper names. You really need them in order to find out that Jack Ketch was a famous hangman, for example.
Yucker Posted Jul 5, 2001
Point taken about Chambers; ISTR the Times recommend the Concise OED for all but proper names. (I don't know if you've ever frequented rec.puzzles.crosswords, but they're all Chambers fanatics.) The Chambers is indispensable for doing the Listener, though. I don't find the words in the Jumbo (weekly manna!) obscure, but the Listener is just ridiculous on that front.
When doing crosswords, I like to have Brewer's, the ODQ and Oxford Companion to English Literature lying around, just in case. Presumably a DNB would be a very good idea, but that's expensive, so I have a /very/ small biographical dictionary.
(Nice article, BTW.)
manolan Posted Jul 5, 2001
I don't hang out in Usenet any more. Not for almost 10 years! Hmm. May be 8. Even so, my e-mail address seems to appear on some very dodgy mailing lists.
I've never managed to get more than one or two on the Listener crossword and that often isn't enough to work out where to put them in the grid, so the prospect of getting any more is rather slim! On the other hand, I agree that the Jumbo is what makes weekends special.
Peter Biddlecombe Posted Jul 12, 2001
The leap from Times Jumbo to Listener is pretty big. Possible stepping stones:
Independent Magazine - variety of themes, but much easier vocabulary and clues than Listener puzzles. Chambers is required in theory but the clues to the more obscure words are often made easy.
Barred cryptics - mostly 'plain' cryptic puzzles but tougher vocab & clues than daily paper puzzles. Sunday's the day - any of Azed (Observer), Mephisto (Sunday Times), Beelzebub (Independent) should do the trick.
On the other hand, you might be spending enough of your life on crosswords already!
manolan Posted Jul 13, 2001
Yes. There is a large backlog of 'weekend' tasks that need doing and the Jumbo doesn't help. Perhaps I'll hold some of these ideas over for a relaxing holiday. Not that I ever get them, there's always just one more ruin to climb over.
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