DA Debate on Last Week’s Swashbuckling Effort

In the comments section to the Confusion thread, DA has said:

Deplorable. Fun. Indulgent wankery. Gold.

Just a few responses to my unorthodox themer on Friday. Going by the Trippers site, the polarising element seems the issue of non-words. Fair enough – they are a deviation from the norm, and I need to heed the majority’s misgivings.

But just to be clear where the majority stands, I’d appreciate if you can find the time to vote on a poll across the road at http://www.davidastle.com – and add any other responses to the non-word business in the Salon 19 forum. Thanks a lot, and enjoy your next grapple.

Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with non-words. I thought, for instance, the DA’s Little Creatures crossword to be quite fun.

But last week’s was, for my abilities, too hard. I don’t see how I would have solved it without help from this site, and that’s a little deflating for me no matter how clever the theme is.

In combination, I think the unclear explanatory text, the crossword’s motto being itself themed (which is cool, but extra difficult), the non-words in the grid, and not knowing which clues are themed beforehand made for a crossword that was beyond me, and which took the savour out of the theme.

Your thoughts?

19 thoughts on “DA Debate on Last Week’s Swashbuckling Effort

  1. I loved it.

    If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen on Friday or Saturday.

    The puzzle has been boringly easy in recent times so I found this one refreshing. No illegal clues from what I saw and, given a theme was noted fairly and squarely up front, I was on my guard from the get-go. That is what you do.

    As for me, I have perhaps 5 clues done after 2 hours and was fairly depressed. But inexorably the answers came, with the theme coming to me around half-way through it.

    Afterwards I felt incredibly satisfied with my brain. I haven’t felt like that DA or not. for a long time.

  2. I thought this was the hardest DA I’ve ever seen and it was unfortunate that AS was having his first crossword party this week. AS, mice-elf and another experienced solver schooled the beginners through a great LR and some other puzzles and then prepared to dazzle the (mainly female) beginners with our skillz on DA……utter defeat. Complete humiliation.

    It was, however, genius and solid gold. You just needed to be better than me. I don’t mind it being tough, fair enough. But why not make such an amazing puzzle accessible to a few more people?

    Pants off to those people who got it out. For me, I hope its a little easier this week.

  3. Is there any chance of posting a scan of the page with a blank grid. I’ve been missing the DA since it shifted to Fridays (due to disorganisation, mostly), but this one’s had so many comments that I think I’d like to see what everyone’s talking about…?

  4. Just to clarify: it was a great crossword, just too hard for me. That’s not a complaint against the quality of the crossword itself, but it does mean that I personally can’t enjoy the crossword as much if it’s beyond my abilities.

    Ulysses by James Joyce is spectacular and spectacularly difficult too. And more power to Joyce for writing it. But it’s beyond my ken and too much for me to truly appreciate.

  5. I’m not a big fan of non-words going in the grid, but I thought it was great. However, the explanatory text was somewhat confusing. If it had indicated that the puzzle’s key motto also obeyed the theme it would have made all the difference, and hence made it much more enjoyable…to me at least.

  6. Like Jonathon, I don’t like non-words as answers. The lady in today’s Age summed up my feelings quite well. I must say, however, that when DA gets clever like this, once one has cracked the “secret”, it makes it much easier to solve. I can sympathise, however, with those who normally struggle and found it easier to give up (Hi Arthur!) than persevere with what was a very clever (if illiterate) puzzle. Here is David’s response to my (and others) comments ealier today:

    Thanks Barry, and all. (Or should that be one?)

    My take on the non-word business? Part of the allure from a setter’s angle is the thrill of composing clues for unique combinations. Safe to say no other compiler on god’s green earth has invented a clue for HALLYMOALLR before. And that terra nova is appealing.

    But I also understand the qualified nay-sayers. Fair enough. There is a certain inelegance in entering SMONETALK, for all the joy it was to clue. For what it’s worth, I may resist the non-word tangent for now, keeping my themers bent enough to please the hardcore solvers, as well as the disenchanted aesthetes.

    Irony being I have a non-worder in the works. As it’s yet to be typeset, I will now withdraw it from the conveyor belt, and look to offer the puzzle as a Dabbler bonus here on the blog in the future.

    I take your point, RK and others – there are other puzzles out there for the thwarted to attempt, but I don’t want to alienate the majority of the faithful as this last one seemed to do. Happier to stymie, and mislead, than gall.

  7. Regarding Cryptic #19,990, I for all believe DA has reached new heights of
    deviousness. My Friday night was devoted to intellectual pursuits rather
    than bone sports like the NRL. At first, I struggled to get all clue, but
    once I solved all, then one of them followed (eventuoney).
    Congratulations to DA – good all!

  8. This crossword epitomised all of the reasons that I love DA’s work. He regularly manages to add entirely new dimensions to the art of cruciverbalism. The “Aha!” moment I had when I realised what he required us to do to the themed words was priceless.
    Friday’s cryptic was for me the best of DA … so far.
    Pure DA gold.

  9. Ditto – a real bone-tearer!
    We need to oneow DA some leeway to keep it interesting.

  10. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m with those who liked it. Yes, it was brain-bendingly difficult, and yes, CrossWORDS are called so for a very basic reason, but…I still finished it! With a little help from my friends, as always, but we got there in the end. So I guess I’m actually saddened to hear that DA’s putting his next gibberish compilation on the backburner. I mean, all that FOOTLOOSE movie nonsense from a few weeks back didn’t even cause a fraction of the stir this one has, and they’re on par if you ask me.

    Keep it up, DA. You awful, awful man.

  11. I’m with Keith and the others who loved it. There’s way too much ‘dumbing down’ of our entertainment. Witness the big holiday crosswords, which once provided days of a cross-family tournament and now are so dreary.
    Anyone who doesn’t find DA’s style appealing should stick with the cryptics on the other days of the week and let the rest of us have fun on just one day out of seven!

  12. I’m with Danny Vibes – while I crashed and burned last week, I’m horrified to hear of DA shelving a crossword.

    I think we should have a resolution from this site that while DA needs to be held to account, he should not be limited by our inabilities. This is the moment when DA, who has given us so much, needs us to show some backball or his latest puzzle will be blackboneed!


  13. it wasn’t just the lack of real words, I found a lot of the clues much harder too. So i found it difficult to get a start on even the non theme ones. even after i had the motto and had worked out what to do with it i still wasn’t able to get very far. as a general rule i don’t mind the non words (I enjoyed footloose and little creatures) but i just found everything about this one a bit too difficult. i am in admiration of those wjo solved it.

  14. After four and a half challenging days I have finally got the Musketeer crossword out, and so am a late comer to this debate as I do not come here until after the crossword is solved. I’m not sure what to think of it yet: I think I’d be happier if the definitions rather than the word play followed the NB direction; yet I haven’t spent so long on a DA since a crossword way back in 2006, and I very much enjoyed the difficulty of this one; so it might be gold …

  15. Ha Manda!

    I recall the days of the Holiday Crossword. Mum and I would spend days on it over a long weekend, [hard copy] encyclopedia and all. Happier days indeed.

  16. For the record I also loved it. My only gripe was the clue (8D) where the answer could have been either Krall or Krone – ideally there should only be one correct answer. That fact that both were corrct and both were real words threw me off for a long while and I was v reluctant to start filing in nonsense words elsewhere. The organic calculus clue (like honeymooner, containing 2 substitutions) was genius and so much fun to solve. All power to DA. Please no shelving of difficult crosswords. Next time we have a difficult DA I want to be the first to write to the Age saying how great it was.

  17. I’m only a casual peruser of DAtrippers but I’m surprised that so many here have found this puzzle in particular so ‘difficult’.
    Fridays are generally more difficult in their clues alone. If anything, I thought the clues were a tad easier. The extra step in completing an answer just offset that.
    Yes, one did have to consider two possibilities when constructing an answer and every O,N,E,A,L checked letter could’ve been a swap. The device was clear and manageable.

    I’ve had issues with other DA puzzles but this one was definitely worth the effort and I must congratulate the setter on developing a great grid of answers within that theme.

  18. The irony of all this is that DA _could_ have had his cake AND eaten it… if he’d wanted to.
    Why not use the theme of “one for all and all for one” to modify the WORDPLAY instead of the answer?

    For example, 4A: SMONE TALK. The wordplay clused “MONET” in “SALK” … apply the theme and you get SMALL TALK. A win-win result: you have to apply the thematic rule to the result of the wordplay to get the answer, which is (happily) a real word.

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