Letters to LR - February 2019

Dear LR,


I’d like to know why, in Issue #011, 7-across “Condolences for missing start of holiday” [RIP] is (3), while 14-down “I do to ‘I do’ do” [RSVP] is (1,1,1,1).


Perplexed or Pedantic?

Dear Perplexed,

Technically RIP should be (1,1,1) or maybe it should be (1.1.1)? Personally I feel that (1,1,1) provides too much of an extra clue, so I prefer (3). I also feel like all crosswords should follow the US style of not having word lengths at all! Open for debate... 

– LR

LR says: Last week’s “groundbreaking” Cryptic #013 (and Quick #013) had many readers tearing their hair out with unjoy, but encouragingly, many readers also wrote in to express unrage! For those who may not have had a chance to get around to solving it, the gimmick was that there were no letter counts given for clues in either of these puzzles, something which is the norm for American puzzles. It seems some of you enjoyed the extra challenge. Personally for me it was a fun experiment, but I don’t think I’ll be throwing word-lengths on the scrap heap any time soon. I think TS probably summarised the issue best when he said:

Dear LR - my two cents: 

  • Numbers are good because it saves counting cells in the grid. This is just busywork - not part of the solving skill - so it detracts from enjoyment.

  • The vast majority of clues are a single word, but when it’s not the US convention annoys me because thinking of a phrase can be very different to a thinking of word

  • It seems especially annoying in cryptics where knowing it’s a phrase can help evaluate which part is the definition. 

  • The interconnected nature of the US grids gives you a lot more chances to get cross letters that make the word/phrase thing fall out later if you’re not sure initially.

In a related note, I had to look up 10 across - the first suggestion was POINTLESS which seemed apt ... ;

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the weekly PuzzleMails. I hope it continues to grow!



Patsy summarised things even more succinctly:


Argh, not into it! Bring back the word lengths please. 


Twitter is great for getting instant opinions and Gary was one of the first to give his thoughts:

LR – I only just had time to do puzzle #13 and hated the missing number counts... Esp 7d...bring them back please

Justin said: 

It was an interesting experience going in blind. Made a choice not to write them in. My brain had to work much harder to solve, even the less curly ones.

But eventually a few rave reviews trickled in.

Dear LR,

I loved it! At first I thought to myself, Oh ffs they’ve forgotten to put the letter counts in but since you flagged it in your email I realised it must be intentional. It got me with 7d for quite a while; never realised how much I depend on the added clue of the letter count :) And I couldn’t get 10a till the very end.

Nice one!!!


Dear LR

From your email, and your answer to Perplexed’s question in this week’s PuzzleMail, I get the sense you’d like to know what solvers think about this week’s ‘countless’ clues...

I really enjoyed it.  Thanks for putting it out there!  As you say, the word lengths are an extra clue.  I’d never done one without them, so I’d never thought of them as I suppose I do now - like getting a hint in addition to the actual clue.  I’m not sure whether I really want hints!!!

I’m worried some folks won’t like the countless clues.  It would be great to see you put them out like this even just from time to time, for an extra challenge.  Hopefully most people are up for it!  

10-across was a great clue, by the way, obviously!



Rhett, a well-known fan of the New York Times crossword, told me on Twitter:

Put me down as someone who agrees that we should do away with word lengths in crosswords!

Anyway, thank you all for taking the time to write in, it was great to get an idea about the solving experience without word-lengths for non-US type crosswords. Something to think about

 – LR