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    I did a Crossword Christmas Card last year and enjoyed setting it a lot so have done a few more for friends and family. This is my latest effort, I hope you enjoy it. I’d be very grateful for any feedback.





    Sean, I did your puzzle and found it an enjoyable challenge, about the difficulty level of a Guardian Prize. The bottom half was mostly full while the top half was still mostly empty, so it might be worth thinking about how you spread easier and harder clues. Or it could just be me.

    *** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

    There were some excellent and novel clues. I really liked 31/25; it reminded me of an old Tony Hancock gag. I won’t tell the animal rights people what you’ve written! 6a was very clever; it’s a shame the definition wasn’t a little more precise, since the worplay was tricky (but I can’t think of a closer word that will work in the surface off the top off my head). Fair enough, the town is well-enough known. I thought 10/23d was very good too. At first I didn’t like the look of it, because I thought I needed to know a TV character called Benson, and didn’t know any. It was great realising Benson’s actual role in the scheme of things. I also loved the phrase “classical musician” in 14a once I clicked on. Classical music is another area of ignorance that makes clues suggesting it scary for me. 24 was more up my street.

    A few small technical criticisms:
    There were a lot of anagrams (I counted twelve, including partials and subtractives). That’s a lot. For example, The Times will not allow more than five straight anagrams or six if combined with other wordplay. You have some excellent ideas for clues, so you could try using a more even spread of types. I did like the hidden YESES, which eluded me a long time.

    11a is a good subtractive anagram but the word ‘by’ seems surplus. Perhaps it could have been better as something like: “Careless categories caused trouble for self-obsessed person”, where every word is part of wordplay or definition or creates a logical link between the two (“for” = ‘to produce’ in my example). There are a couple of other subtractive anagrams (30a and 29d) where you should be aware that there is a convention that when the letters to be removed do not appear in the source word in the same order as in the word to be subtracted (unlike 11a), that should also be indicated as well as the major anagram. Not everyone follows that, but there are editors who would insist on it, I believe.

    19a One for our editor, Hamish! He knows why. Good clue. I spent a long time trying to work tinman in.

    21 I doubted that that was a word for ‘a drink’ as such, even though I knew of ‘Java coffee’ (and the little icon with Java software!). It’s not in Chambers but Collins online gives it as American, which it would have been ideal to indicate in some way in the clue. Maybe you’re American? (But I think you wouldn’t have referred to “a Suffolk town” if so.)

    I got 27 right because it rang a vague bell (I’ve never eaten one, and wouldn’t), but I can’t find the ‘dessert’ definition in dictionaries, although there are lots of pictures of them on the internet. Maybe it’s arrived into English (from It. ‘bomba’? or Fr. ‘bombe’?) too recently? I also wondered if “unless kept in the freezer” was necessary, or just verbiage?

    Anyway, great fun. Bet your puzzles made great Christmas presents! Thanks.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Whynot. Reason: Add Fr., 'bombe'



    I enjoyed this puzzle. Favourites were the simple but effective NERO and BUBBLE AND SQUEEK for the slightly squeamish image it conjured up. ONE KILO was a very nice anagram, and I like the R AND B definition as well.




    Thank you Chameleon and Whynot for the encouraging remarks.

    Chameleon, you have picked out some of the clues I was most pleased with. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

    Whynot, thank you for the detailed feedback. It found it all very helpful. I’m especially grateful for the technical points. It might be early days to try to impress the Times crossword editor but we might as well aim high! I’m two thirds through doing another puzzle and have limited myself to 3 anagrams so far. It’s helpful too to have some idea how difficult other people find the puzzle and the individual clues. It had not occurred to me before but as I was working on my Christmas card puzzle I realised I had little idea whether they were insultingly easy or impossibly difficult as I knew all the answers already. I’m sorry about ‘Bomb’. I was sure I had seen the dessert spelt without the e so I confess I didn’t check it. As you say, it is to be found on line without the e but it’s much more common with one so I think I have to accept this is just wrong. This is frustrating as there are so many other ways I could have approached it.
    As for Java, I had the coffee cup logo for the programming language in mind and a couple of coffee shops near where I live in the Midlands, not America, with it in their names. Again though I should have checked the dictionary. There is by the way another coffee shop nearby called Whynot Coffee. No connection I suppose?

    Thanks again to you both.



    Cheers, Sean! Glad you appreciated the feedback.

    You’re wise to hold yourself back on the anagrams early on, because later you might have a couple you can’t find any other way to clue. It’s very difficult to judge how hard clues are when you’ve made them up yourself, especially at first. Beginners tend to make them too hard as a result, so it’s better to err towards ‘too easy’ than ‘too hard’. You want people to solve them, after all. It’s always best to check your words are in a good dictionary. Different outlets have different dictionaries of resort — and don’t always say which they are, but if it’s in Collins online, you’re very safe and if it’s in Chambers, unless anyone’s told you that doesn’t count, it’s hard to argue with. Be particularly careful with abbreviations. I find it’s a good idea also to check the dictionary definition of every word I use in a clue, because sometimes I find I was deluded about a meaning.

    No connection to Whynot Coffee as far as I know, but I want to go there now I know about it. I do like coffee houses (and puzzles with coffee in them).

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