I usually head out to at least one of those shows every year. (Hell, even I won this dumb beauty pageant back in 2006.) This year is no exception as I've cheered my buddies Destruct-A-Thon on to the semifinals. Anyway, at the show, it got me thinking what might be elements of a "battle of the bands" amongst crossworders?
I guess we'd have to invite all the big guns (no names required, we all know who they are). We can guarantee that somebody in there would respectfully decline, citing something like "art shouldn't be about competition." (I'm guessing David Kahn and/or Paula Gamache would say that). Should we limit to just American-style crosswords? With these dumb rock contests, typically you have the country band going up against the glam band sparring with the Brit pop band facing the death metal band. Perhaps for our crossword contest we should have cryptic writers, (Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon could kill it in the cryptic category. Then again, they might respectfully bow out with the art/competition argument), diagramlesses, (numerous talent out there) variety grids (Patrick Berry and Henry and Emily again)? But it would feel weird if at one "battle" we had one of those almost-robotic-amazing themelesses from Bob Klahn against say an inspired diagramless-puzzle-that's-shaped-like-its-theme from Patrick Blindauer versus say a rule-breaking puzzle from Joe Krozel, versus a tough-but-fair cryptic from Rich Silvestri. Who wins there?
Then what would be the judging requirements? Obviously freshness in a theme, cleanliness of the fill, and cleverness in the cluing would all be requirements. Could the judges award bonus points for clever rule bending? I say yes. Could judges deduct points for excessive cuteness? I say yes too. But how might one judge a puzzle that say has no entry smaller than four letters but no amazing entries versus a puzzle with 22 three letter words that is just brimming with eye-popping fill? And what about difficulty? Is a difficult puzzle necessarily better than a easy puzzle with a (gasp!) never before seen theme? What if the judges couldn't actually finish the puzzle? Who are these judges anyway?
The thing is, the competition among crosswords now is at an all time high already we don't really need some contest to say who's the best. In a way, we're in a puzzlemaking renaissance. With the amount of quality work out there now, coupled with the amount of quality blogs tracking said work, everyday is practically like a "battle of the bands" of crosswords. Because at the end of the day, as a puzzlemaker, you want to be the one everyone's talking about when it's all said and done. Enjoy this puzzle, new one on Wednesday.