A few months back (14 March) I drew attention to the lamentably low level of attention being paid by Fairfax to proofreading its crosswords. In case anyone thought the situation was improving, the nadir was reached last Friday, 1 June.
Friday’s cryptic crossword in the Sydney Morning Herald (as I understand it, duplicated in the Age) is their pièce de résistance, their Rolls Royce — arguably these are the most testing crosswords concocted in Australia (although Richard Blake’s bimonthly effort in TableAus is not far behind).
Set by the novelist David Astle, they are accompanied by quite a nifty standard crossword and form a trifecta with the most demanding sudoku Fairfax publishes (alas, not quite as demanding as the Australian’s Saturday puzzle). A worthy celebration of the end of the working week and definitely to be relished.
On Friday, 21-down in the David Astle cryptic was a four-letter word meaning “Director less than 14-down” (which happened to be WARRAGAMBA). Pretty clearly, the answer was WEIR. Well, not quite. On Saturday, the answer was revealed as WIER, a non-existent word. Sadly, and frustratingly, if you spelt that Dam Director correctly, you were cut off from solving 24-across, which required an “i”, not an “e”, as its third-last letter.
David Astle’s brain teasers are so searching that, once you lose faith in the accuracy of the setter and his newspaper, you may as well forget it. To add insult to injury, the SMH never apologises for such mistakes.
We can only assume that no one cares very much.