I thought I’d dip a further toe into the waters of solving barred thematic puzzles online. The puzzle this time is an Enigmatic Variations puzzle from 2016. This mean there is a setter’s blog (though I think that has disappeared into the archives page) and a fifteensquared solver’s blog, neither of which you should consult until after you’ve solved.
There has been a lot of debate about whether barred thematic puzzles can be solved online or interactively. I looked over a few in preparation – I had to reject a ‘Carte Blanche’ puzzle where the grid pattern had to be determined by the solver. But this 2016 puzzle, which requires some jumbled entries, seems perfectly doable online. I haven’t attempted the technicolor solution The Telegraph produced (I don’t think it gives much away to say it merits a technicolor solution), but I might be able to get a version if anyone is keen.
It would be useful to know how people get on as a contribution to the debate.
I decided on an EV puzzle (which is out of my intended cycle) because the date it would have appeared would have clashed with an actual new EV puzzle on 24 July. I’ll post a further reminder with my next update, which will be on the actual weekend it appears, but I may as well signal its approach now. Otherwise there’s a Times puzzle on 12 July, as well as the Independent Friday regulars.
I have just received the September issue of GAMES magazine, which is mildly irksome as I hadn’t finished the August issue’s puzzles yet. (Yes, it is July – as far as I can make out, the e-version appears way, way before the dead-tree option gets to the shelves.) There’s a feature article on the growing numbers of American cryptic puzzles, which I may return to in a future blog (possibly September…). It contains some questionable statements – did you know that American cryptics have ‘strict rules about cluing structure that are not applied in the more freewheeling British puzzles’? And there is the customary assertion that you need to reference ‘pop culture and slangy phrases’ (the ‘newest flavor of fill’) to move with the times. But there is surely nothing more likely to anchor you in the past than a cultural reference that no-one remembers. I am a great admirer of American cryptics, but it is seriously irksome to find you cannot be certain about a final unchecked letter because you do not know the name of an actress in a soap opera that has never been exported, or the name of a recently retired baseball player. (Of course, the Brits retaliate with cricket abbreviations and Coronation Street…)