Thursday, May 2, 2013

By the book? (Puzzle No. 3,282)

There was a good discussion over at Word Salad last week on rules (or conventions if you prefer) for constructing cryptic crosswords.  Hot noted that the first two comments voiced two opposite opinions: one wanted a stricter standard and the other wanted more of an "anything goes" approach.  We get the same thing in hockey too.  While our rules are voted on every two years and published in a book (crossword rules were handed down from Ximenes in 1966 but never fully subscribed to by everyone in the game), nobody with more than a little bit of experience calls the game entirely by the book standard.

In fact, the USA Hockey officiating program teaches that, once you get to the upper levels.  If you were to try and enforce every rule as it's written, the flow of the game would be disrupted and the players would be skating on eggshells.  Instead, we're asked to create a "box" of acceptable degrees of aggressiveness and fair play, which (aside from some types of penalties USA Hockey wants us to call every time) is actually more lenient than the book rules.  The goal is to communicate a clear and consistent standard of play.

Crossword setting can work the same way.  Good constructors like Hex or Hot and Trazom will set up their "box" somewhere outside the Ximidean rules, but if you've solved a few of their puzzles, you know where the boundaries of the box are and play to them.  With more experience, you can even anticipate and take advantage of them, kind of like my last years as a player, when I learned how much holding I could do... especially when Pat Durkin was refereeing.

After all the twists of last week's puzzle, this one is more in line with the unwritten expectations.  I saw a smidgen of a theme in it—did you?

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate, with a few answers I wasn't sure of at first.

Hozom's comment: "What's a Clue For?" in which Hot and Trazom discuss when it's cricket to put the definition in the middle of the clue instead of having a clean division between definition and wordplay.

Solution and annotation posted Monday.  Join us this weekend for Sunday brunch, where I'll run the numbers on a new source of variety cryptics.  

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