Letter to The Times

All about puzzles in newspapers, magazines, and books

Letter to The Times

Postby Karyobin » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:54 am

I'm sending this to The Times. Just wanted to know what you all thought. See if you can spot your bit Paul!


I write with the voice of many, indignant at recent developments within your puzzle pages. Specifically, the Fiendish sudoku has become noticeably easier of late and the Killer sudoku has, to use the vernacular, been ‘dumbed down’ to an embarrassing degree.

The Fiendish sudoku you publish are supplied by Pappocom, and it is common knowledge amongst purchasers of Pappocom’s sudoku package that your published problems correspond in general to the program’s Hard grade. This has not been the case over the previous fortnight. Even before the printing of the Killer variety it became apparent that puzzles which would normally take upwards of 40 minutes had generally become solvable in half that time. This is not because the solving community are becoming ‘better at it’. Different logical techniques (easily recognisable and distinguished by their own names) are required to solve sudoku of varying degrees of difficulty. Recently your Fiendish have required ever-more simple techniques. It would appear as though whoever is responsible for posting the daily puzzles are supplying simpler problems, though still labelling them as Fiendish. What end does this serve?

With regard to the Killer sudoku, I would like to make the following points. Quite simply, you have reprinted recent Killer sudoku, inserted a handful of clues and altered the grade. Specifically, a clue-free Moderate from last week was re-issued this week with clues and a new grade of Tricky! I can only imagine that you have received complaints with regard to the severity of these puzzles and have responded accordingly. As such I would like to borrow from a comment made by a colleague, i.e. that no-one is born with the ability to do cryptic crosswords, it is acquired through many hours of practice and deliberation. Will you, in future, be inserting extra letters for those of us who have not taken the time to develop the required skills? Accepting that this will not be the case, I remain appalled at the lack of regard shown to that area of your readership whose cognitive abilities centre more on the analytical and logical. Why should weakness in English and strength in Mathematics be equally shameful?

I sincerely hope to see a return to some degree of challenge, though perhaps I hope more that you will encourage complainants to take the time to learn the required skills, before they take failure in a puzzle as a slight on their intelligence.
Posts: 396
Joined: 18 June 2005

Postby Enigma » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:57 am

Oi.... I first commented on putting starter letters for the crossword in a post at least 2 days before that chap with the funny name and an allegedly moderate IQ.

Yours indignantly,
The other Paul

Or did you mean me anyway ?
Posts: 53
Joined: 14 June 2005

Postby Karyobin » Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:04 pm

I beg your pardon. Anyone called Paul can take ownership of that piece of interleckshual property.
Posts: 396
Joined: 18 June 2005

Postby PaulIQ164 » Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:24 pm

Very nice. I mean, it's not the sort of letter that they're ever going to publish, but I take it that's not the point, you just want them to listen.
Posts: 533
Joined: 16 July 2005

Postby Heuresement » Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:37 pm

It is a good letter. I was thinking of writing myself too.

However, in my humble opinion, for the last two days, the Fiendish puzzles have become more difficult, and probably back to the old standards. I have come to this conclusion based on the time that I usually take and the fact that I am writing again in the margins.

I do not know whether anyone else would agree but perhaps the dififcultly level has been put back to its orginal setting.
Posts: 54
Joined: 19 August 2005

Postby Pi » Fri Sep 16, 2005 5:01 pm

I am incredible disapointed that they have started putting starting numbers in the killers

I was planning to buy the killer book when it came out but i might not if it has start numbers in
Posts: 389
Joined: 27 May 2005

Postby tso » Sat Sep 17, 2005 6:35 am

Great letter.

Here are the published ratings and the ratings Pappocom softare gives to the TIMES puzzles back to #337. For comparison the first four samples published the first day Sudoku was published in the TIMES are also rated. In all cases, the first rating is the one given in the TIMES, the second one is the one given by Pappocom software.

First four sample puzzles:
1) Easy/Very Easy
2) Medium/Medium
3) Hard/Hard
4) Very Hard/Very Hard

337 Mild/Easy
338 Fiendish/Medium
339 Mild/Easy
340 Fiendish/Medium
341 Mild/Easy
342 Fiendish/Medium
343 Mild/Easy
344 Fiendish/Medium
345 Easy/Very Easy
346 Difficult/Easy
347 Easy/Very Easy
348 Difficult/Easy
349 Mild/Easy
350 Fiendish/Medium
351 Mild/Easy
352 Fiendish/Medium
353 Moderate/Easy
354 Fiendish/Medium
357 Easy/Very Easy
358 Difficult/Medium
359 Easy/Very Easy
360 Difficult/Medium
361 Moderate/Easy
362 Fiendish/Hard
363 Mild/Easy
364 Fiendish/Hard
365 Mild/Easy
366 Fiendish/Hard

Here are just those rated Fiendish in the paper:

338 Fiendish/Medium
340 Fiendish/Medium
342 Fiendish/Medium
344 Fiendish/Medium
350 Fiendish/Medium
352 Fiendish/Medium
354 Fiendish/Medium
362 Fiendish/Hard
364 Fiendish/Hard
366 Fiendish/Hard
Posts: 798
Joined: 22 June 2005

Return to Published puzzles