Free Crosswords Online!

Save the Enigmatic Variations!
My Puzzles
Guest Puzzles
Beginners' Puzzle
Yet more free puzzles!
Ximenean Clueing
Ximenean clueing revisited
Single letter indicators
Link Words
Cryptic Definitions
Tips for Setters
Surface Readings
Grid Construction
Messages from Clues
&lit clues
Which words can I use?
General Knowledge
Sudoku vs crosswords
The Listener Crossword
Chambers Crossword Manual
Becoming a compiler
Use of these puzzles
Bits and Pieces

I learned recently that the Sunday Telegraph Enigmatic Variations puzzle is to be discontinued after August. As fans of the EV will know, it is a series of barred thematic puzzles in the style of the Listener and Inquisitor. They are usually slightly easier than the aforementioned (though not always) and they adhere to the same rules of fairness and accuracy of theme and clues as the other two. Many of the EV setters set for the Listener and Inquisitor and are the cream of todayís generation of barred puzzle setters Ė Ifor and Chalicea to name just two. The discontinuation of this series would be a great loss for those of us who enjoy advanced thematic puzzles.

Informed sources suggest that the Telegraphís reason for doing this is perceived lack of interest in the series. Itís hard to tell whether this is just an excuse to free up space for some other feature, or if there really is a lack of enthusiasm for the puzzles. Apparently there are very few submitted entries, but that doesnít mean a lot Ė many solvers (including me) donít bother to send in completed puzzles from any of the advanced puzzle series, because weíre solving solely for the pleasure it provides and arenít bothered about prizes. Most of us wouldnít mind if they decided to scrap the prize, if financial considerations are also an issue for the Telegraph.

It is true that the Fifteen Squared blogs for these puzzles receive a paltry number of responses, and sometimes none at all. Compare that with the slew of comments on the Guardian threads, which since lockdown often approach 100 daily. That could be because the Guardian puzzle is free and one can comment on the day the puzzle is published, whereas the EV is subscription-only and one canít comment until the solution is published two weeks after the puzzle appears. Still, the FT and Independent daily puzzles are also free and attract far fewer comments than the Guardian. If memory serves, the original contributors to Fifteen Squared comprised largely Guardian solvers fed up with the constant bickering and trolling on what was then the Guardian Unlimited crossword threads, and it would appear that todayís readership of the blog still reflects that.

Whatís more, you need to buy the i newspaper to get the Inquisitor, and thereís a two week wait for the Fifteen Squared blog for that puzzle too. Yet, as one poster on Crossword Solver Forum has taken the trouble to work out, the last 50 Inquisitor puzzles received an average of over 14 comments, whereas the EV received an average of less than 3. In addition, the most comments on an EV was 9, and the least comments on the Inquisitor was 9!

You can make of that what you want, but isnít it possible that since Fifteen Squared is so heavily orientated towards the Guardian, its posters are unlikely to buy or subscribe to the Telegraph (which is generally conservative)? That would certainly be supported by the general political slant of the comments on the site.

There is plenty of interest in the EV elsewhere. Crossword Solver Forum threads devoted to it often run to over 50 posts, and although these are mostly hints rather than post-solve reactions, this shows that the series has a devoted core of fans. There is even a thread called ďSave Enigmatic VariationsĒ which you can read here. Youíll notice that many posters subscribe to the Telegraph only for the EV and intend to cancel their subscriptions if it is axed.

Whatever the reasons for the Telegraphís decision, the most important thing is to try to persuade them to reverse it before itís too late. Moaning achieves nothing; well-directed complaining can produce the desired result. An informed source on the Crossword Solver Forum thread has provided the contact to write to, which is this. Even if you are only an occasional EV solver, I urge you to write (politely!) to make your feelings known. Itís been suggested that as perceived popularity is seen as a factor, you make the point that you donít submit completed puzzles. I would add that that it may help if you mention that although you donít comment on puzzle blogs (if true), you still appreciate the puzzles. Writing an email wonít take up much of your time, and could be whatís needed to save this excellent series of puzzles by some of the nationís best setters.