Games Interactive: Cryptics

gi-crypticI like cryptic crosswords. Not everyone does, but I do. I like the way they make me look at every word in the clues slantwise. I like how they show off the author’s cleverness, and make me feel clever for following their thought processes. And I like the way that the clues are self-contained and self-confirming. When you enter a word into the grid, you know it’s the right answer, because you built up that word out of pieces.

Or, well, sometimes you haven’t done that yet; particularly in these computerized ones, where erasure is free and doesn’t leave any marks, sometimes I’ll enter a word that I think is right without a firm idea of how it’s formed, just so I can figure out the rest of the clue by looking at it. But then, if I can’t figure out how it works, I’ll delete it. I’ve seen people who aren’t as hip to the cryptic ways as me fill in answers speculatively, without being able to explain the entire clue, and it bothers me. To do this is to treat it like an ordinary crossword, where you expect to get a few answers wrong at first because the clues are individually ambiguous. This is entirely the wrong mindset for a cryptic.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that Games Magazine is where I first learned to do cryptics, so it’s good to see them represented here. There are eleven cryptics in Games Interactive, and I’ve found them to be the most pleasant thing in the entire collection. Not just because of the content, but because this is the one place where the UI really works. The puzzles are 15×15, so navigating with the arrow keys works properly, and they’re of the “lattice” type, with cross-clues on only half the squares of each word, which means that when you navigate out of the current word, you wind up in a square that has only one word going through it. Thus, it doesn’t keep switching me into an Across clue like the other crosswords.

However, true to form for this game, there are some bugs in the data. One puzzle has a misplaced number, with the result that you can’t fill in that word directly — and, unlike in the normal crosswords, the lattice format means you can’t work around the problem by filling in all the words crossing it. One of the official solutions puts an M where there should obviously be an N, creating the words “contemd” and “arsemal”. And one of the clues is “Load one admitted to prying”, which looks plausible as a clue in a cryptic, put which really should be “Loud one admitted to prying”. (The answer is “noisy”: “i” added to the middle of “nosy”.) I’m of two minds about the severity of this. On the one hand, I feel like cryptic clues need to be letter-perfect. On the other hand, I managed to figure it out anyway.

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