Ranking the Other Crossword Compilers

RC’s dad asked him if there were other blogs out there paying homage to any of the other compilers who publish cryptics in The Age. RC scoffed at the idea, yet his dad couldn’t see why there wouldn’t be other compilers who had their own devoted fans, and RC, at the time, couldn’t think of an analogy to explain the situation.

RC told me of the difficulty he ran into. We conferred, and before long we came up with what we felt to be the right analogy: DA is like Michael Jackson in the Thriller film clip: sure, the other dancers are pretty good, quite talented even, and while you can appreciate their artistry, they’re not Michael Jackson and the chances of there being a fan club devoted to anyone other than Michael Jackson are slight indeed.

Lately, though, with all the brouhaha regarding the shuffling of compilers’ weekly appearances, it’s become apparent via the letters to The Age editor at least that DA is not the people’s favourite. While it might scuff the Michael Jackson analogy somewhat, I can’t help but think that only DA’s artistry could have devoted followers even if a certain portion of the public simply cannot understand his inspired wordplay.

Anyway, while I was here, I thought I’d rank the compilers in order of personal preference:

  1. DA — this blog is testament to why;
  2. DP — especially good use of double meanings and oblique references that are often humorous, but without much in the way of word bending;
  3. DS — probably the most difficult of the non-DA crew, but lacking the wicked sense of humour and concision of a fine DA;
  4. NS — a quick and easy romp to lift the spirits before getting into something more substantial later in the week;
  5. the various Monday compilers — they keep changing and I can’t remember who’s who;
  6. DH — glaringly obvious wordplay that is only made difficult because of the wantonly recondite answers that just give you the shits, not to mention the ridiculously long anagrams that are nothing but tedious.

12 thoughts on “Ranking the Other Crossword Compilers

  1. One Monday crossword compiled by (I think) ES was so easy I finished it in less than ten minutes.

  2. I thought it was RM or EP on Mondays. I rarely do the other setters now – since I cancelled my subscription and the online crossword service terminated two days ago.

    Apropos the latter event, The Age (and SMH) online crossword service hasn’t completely terminated – they don’t show their own crossword, but they have the cheek to provide links to a number of other online crosswords around the world from newspapers not yet entirely ruled by penny-pinching bean counters. Here’s The Age crosswords page:
    http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/puzzles/free.html
    Some of the Guardian crossword setters are very good.

    As for ranking the Age setters – I would largely agree with the above. I might rate DS alongside DP – DS has had some fine clues recently (worthy of DA). And I’d be tempted to rate RM and EP ahead of NS.

  3. I don’t normally bother with any of the SMH cryptics apart from DA. However your rankings have made me want to compare notes so to speak.Your comments on DH seemed a bit harsh, so I had a go at it yesterday. Everything you said was spot on .Nothing worse than hiding behind a lack of cryptic genius with extremely obscure words.Tedious indeed.
    Just about to give DP the once over.

  4. There was a documentary on SBS recently about the NYtimes crosswords. They positioned them throughout the week, with Monday being the easiest through to the end of the week. I can’t remember if it was Friday or Saturday being the jewel in the crown. Perhaps that is standard for all newspapers

  5. Sadly, because I refuse to buy weekend papers I now no longer do the DA which was always a treat on Fridays. I usually haven’t bothered with the other compilers who aren’t a patch on DA. And since I’m currently refusing to buy the SMH as a protest I won’t get the chance.
    I used to subscribe to The Guardian crossword but it is now free and as you said RB, there are certainly some fine and challenging setters there. If you’ve taken to doing Guardian crosswords you might be interested to know about the blog for them –
    http://fifteensquared.net/

  6. Thanks HS – I heard about the blog a couple of months ago (via this one I think). I’ve been trying a few Guardian crosswords over the past few weeks: my favourites so far are Paul (I’ve tried 3 so far without actually finishing one), Brendan, and Brummie – all very enjoyable; Rufus is a bit easier but still enjoyable; Araucaria I found too obscure and recondite; and a couple of others I didn’t like at all.

    As for DA, I too refuse to buy Saturday’s Age (too heavy to carry!). Now that the online version is no longer available, I plan to use the local library to get my DA fix.

  7. Great idea RB – I admit to using the library to dabble with The Times crossword occasionally.

    Glad to hear that you are enjoying Paul and Brummie. True, Rufus is a bit easier but I think he is also one of the wittier setters.

    Don’t give up on Araucaria – he is a master and not always as difficult as he sometimes appears. Gordius and Pasquale usually manage to stump me.

    And since this site is dedicated to DA fans I’ll say no more.

  8. RB thanks so much for the link . I have really been enjoying the Guardian crossies.

  9. Well, I used to buy the Saturday paper for DS, which was fun, though easy. And I used to go to the cafe every friday in case there was a DA ‘special’ crossword, in which case I’d buy the paper. Now I just get the Saturday paper, and spend much of the next week doing the crossword, bit by bit. Last week’s didn’t get one clue out before Tuesday. Lovin every minute of it.

  10. I reckon that my DA-conquering skills have improved significantly with the rise of this blog, so, hopefully, if you read a few things here, you’ll be kicking DA over like you do DS.

  11. Janet Jackson was one of the other dancers in Thriller. My sister, for one, prefers her work. Just sayin…

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