Friday, October 10, 2014

Straight vs. Variety (Puzzle no. 3,340)

While Hot and Trazom have occasionally constructed some variety cryptics for The Nation (for which they’ve been thanked with gripes by a few solvers), the The Nation puzzle is usually a straight cryptic.  That’s not to say there won’t be a few twists now and then.

Where do you draw the line between straight and variety cryptics?  I’d put it at making alterations to the clues before you solve them, or making alterations to the answers before you enter them.  Another definition might be that if you have to give special instructions to the solver, that apply to that specific puzzle, it's a variety cryptic.

That still leaves plenty of opportunity for constructors to be inventive within the straight cryptic format.  Cross-references are probably the most common such element.  They’re quite common at the Financial Times and other British puzzles (including LizR’s). Sometimes they provide an opportunity to group answers together around a theme (which is usually made apparent in one of the clues–to by custom one of the last acrosses); other times they’re just a chance for some different wordplay.

3,337 was one of those, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by noting there happen to be a lot of arabic numbers showing up in the clues this week.  It’s up to you to figure out what the connection is, but if you’ve done cryptics for a while and consider wordplay to be an exercise essential to good health, you should be able to get it.  If not, use the crossing letters to work out those answers with numbers in their clues, and then look at the cross-referenced answer.

I'll be back with the solution Monday.  See you this weekend for Sunday brunch.

Link to puzzle:

Difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle):  Hard, getting somewhat easier once you figure out the cross-references.

Hozom’s comment: “Interview With a Fiend,” in which Hot and Trazom introduce us to the solvers who give us Diary of a Crossword Fiend (, a site devoted to the major daily straight crosswords in America.  Amy Reynaldo is the proprietress, and she’s been at it for close to a decade.  Over the years, she’s assembled a team of kindred spirits and created a pretty distinct identity for her blog.  We learn that cryptics aren’t in their future, but that’s what Sunday Brunch is for.

Weekly cluing challenge:  BLOGGER

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