I was going to write about the extent to which guessing is involved in solving crosswords, but Christmas preparations have supervened and I've had to put it off until another day. However, I'm going to make one brief comment now.
Members of the Times Crossword Club will perhaps have read that four "vintage Olympic puzzles", from 1948, 1964, 1988 and 2000, are to be (re)published in The Times on Boxing Day. I'll almost certainly have previously done all except the first, but I can say with confidence that I'm highly unlikely to remember any of the clues. According to Richard Browne, the Times crossword editor, the first puzzle is "easily the most difficult of the four", largely because the clues from that period are very different from those of today. What surprises me, however, is that he makes the comment, "You can look up the Swinburne quotation if necessary ...".
It's probably true to say that fewer people today read Swinburne than did in 1948, but unless the quotation is a particularly obvious one, I expect a fair number of solvers would have been guessing the answer even then. Of course you can always look up any answer you're not sure of, but I shall be sticking to the rule that I follow for all plain crosswords (i.e. every crossword I solve nowadays apart from the Listener and Guardian Genius puzzles), and guessing. And if I guess wrongly, I count that as an error - which of course it would be if I was solving under Championship conditions. The fact that the daily Times cryptic no longer contains direct quotation clues is neither here nor there. They still appear in the TLS crossword - and, what's more, the TLS quotations are rarely ones you'd find in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
, but instead are almost invariably citations from the OED. So, go on, have a guess. I dare you!
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: Guess :-)