Not here – it’s not so long that I did something along those lines. But I was looking at the Wall Street Journal site. If you like US-style puzzles it’s among the best, under the editorship of Mike Shenk. It also runs an extra ‘variety’ puzzle on Saturdays. Every four weeks this is a cryptic by Cox and Rathvon, every four weeks it is an acrostic by Michael Ashley, both prime examples of their type. In between, a lot of the variety puzzles are by Patrick Berry (who is also a fine cryptic setter) – I try these from time to time but the reliance on obscure popular Americana makes them unduly taxing (curiously that’s much less of a problem with Berry’s standard US-style grids).
Shenk contributes a puzzle from time to time – usually one of three particular types he favours. This week it’s a Spell Weaving puzzle, for instance, and very nice too. But it’s the relaunch of the puzzle page itself that really caught my eye. Last week, there was a special with a video (which I didn’t manage to see, alas) and this week there’s a new layout with icons for each puzzle rather than just a list.
It’s the icons that are interesting. The smaller ones, which are clearly meant to be representing smartphone app versions, are not US style grids (they’re not even Cox/Rathvon cryptic style grids), but effectively UK cryptic style. Not only that, they’re not actually symmetrical (though I think I’ve noted before that asymmetry is a tendency among non-crossword solvers redesigning crossword-related material). Look up to the main puzzle-of-the-day icon and that is more of a US style grid, though there’s an unchecked cell (in fact, it looks like there’s a double unch), and, yep, it’s not symmetrical.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t worth a row of beans, except that it teaches you to wonder about the design contribution to items you aren’t familiar with.
The new puzzle this time round is a Beelzebub from 2012 – I see it is consecutive to another Beelzebub already on the site, which is a good indication to me to get another box out of the archive. There’s also a new addition to the cat page, and later in the week, a blog on Codenames, my recent IQ, will go live. In terms of forthcoming puzzles, there will be a Times Jumbo on 26 September (I really must finish the one currently on the production line…) and a Times Quick Cryptic on 30 September. All alongside the usual Friday Independent slots.
I had, last night, just come across the use of the word ‘acrostics’ in ‘Murder at the Vicarage’ by the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie. Now, seeing it in your post just a few hours later, made me look it up and the puzzles do look very intriguing. I wonder what English newspapers carry such puzzles these days? Given that it was the anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth on 15th of this month, made me wonder whether she herself participated in cryptic puzzle problem-solving? Does being good at , say, criptic puzzles, mean one is good at solving mysteries/crimes. Certainly Conan Doyle could write a good mystery but wasn’t, I seem to recall, good at solving real crimes.