Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cross with Mint’s crossword

One of the features I was looking forward to in the Mint, the financial daily from the Hindustan Times stable, was the crossword. And the crossword setter is a blogger, Amit Verma, whose blog I greatly enjoy and whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. And so, as with Mint, I had Great Expectations of the crossword.
And I was sorely disappointed. To those who don’t solve crossword puzzles, let me fill you in. There are two types of crossword puzzles – one where you KNOW or DON’T KNOW the answers, like the one that appears in the Mid-Day to entertain many lakh commuters each day. The other type is the one that I enjoy, the cryptic crossword, where, even if you don’t know the answer, you can “arrive” at it through a process.
Amit’s crossword falls between the two.
What perplexes me on the schizoid nature of Amit’s puzzle is a reading of HIS intro to his new site, workoutable. Read on.
“A good quiz question is one in which, even if you don't know the answer, you can work it out through clues given in the question. Workoutable, thus, is not just about knowledge but also about problem-solving. Enjoy.”

Can we have a workoutable puzzle, Amit?


amit varma said...

Anant, thanks for the feedback.

Firstly, Workoutable, the section on my site you cite the intro from, is a quizzing section with quiz questions. That is a different ballgame from a crossword, and the crossword on my site, Extrowords, is similar to what I provide for Mint.

Secondly, while I enjoy cryptics myself, my intention here was to try and reach beyond regular crossword solvers, and create something more accessible and straight-up for the general reader. Mint has similar thoughts regarding the level of difficulty we should aim at -- had they wanted cryptics, I would have provided cryptics -- and we were on the same page on this.

I hope that explains it, even though I know you won't agree! :)

Anant Rangaswami said...

Amit --
I can easily understand how the crossword ended up being what it is today -- like Mint, there's an effort to be all things to all people.
Perhaps the solution is one that is followed by many papers-- a common grid, with two sets of clues, one cryptic and one easy.
And I spent considerable time on all your new sections -- and congratulate you and your colleagues (where applicable) on each. Workoutable is an area that I spent a lot of time on -- and will spend much time on.
And I agree, I won't agree.
How different are truly "workoutable" quiz questions from cryptic clues?!

Anonymous said...

Oi Anant & Amit (assuming you're reading this),
Workoutable quiz questions are different from workoutable cryptic clues.
I'm decent at one type and painfully inadequate at the other (by Rangaswami standards at least!).
While I wouldn't pretend to know why and what exactly the differences are, the two seem to use different areas of the brain or different modes of thinking.

I agree with you that Mint is decent leisure reading rather than an ET/ BS substitute- the only thing that comes close on weekdays is the Asian Age with its massive lifts of features from firang papers. And incidentally Mint clearly has the best weekend mix too (not that it has much competition in that regard!).


amit varma said...

Anant, agree with DD, Workoutable quiz questions are much easier to figure out, because cryptic clues are essentially lexical in nature, and much harder to get into. On the other hand, the art of working out quiz questions just takes basic knowledge and some practice.