Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hindi Crossword 4: The Answers and the Winners

13 entries got all (or nearly all) of the answers right to Hindi Cryptic Crossword 4.

Here's what the completed grid should look like:

The Solution 

Hindi Crossword 4 Solution Grid

The explanation of the answers:

आर-पार

क्रमांक संकेत उत्तर टिप्पणी
1 संगीत यन्त्र में स्वर बदले पंडित
इन्होने किया औषधि शास्त्र को खंडित
वैद्य वाद्य (संगीत यन्त्र) with the vowel (स्वर) changed; Definitions: पंडित, इन्होने किया ओषधि शास्त्र को खंडित.
2 नाश्ते का यही वक़्त है, प्रभात,
न दिन-दोपहर न काली रात
सुबह D&CD; प्रभात = morning, which is the time for breakfast (neither day nor dark night)
4 हींग लहसुन का छिलका मददगार,
फेंकने से उसे करो इन्कार
नहीं Shell of हीं(ग लहसु)न jumbled; Definition: इन्कार
5 केशवदासजी छुपाए 6 नीचे? शव Hidden in केशवदासजी; Definition: reference to clue 6D
6 लय का अभ्यास करो चुस्त,
तभी मामला बने दुरुस्त
लायक (लय का)*; Definition: दुरुस्त
7 पीछे सुरीला ऋषभ, आगे चमड़ा हाथी का
नाम हो गया रांझे या मोती के साथी का
हीरे हाथी का चमड़ा = ही, सुरीला ऋषभ = रे (from music); Definition: references to the pairings हीरे-रांझे (from हीर-रांझा) and हीरे-मोती
9 शगुन, बारात और शादी की शुरुआत? सुनो मेरी सलाह
बिलकुल उल्टा कर दो इन्हे और पाओ मेरी वाह-वाह!
शाबाश First letters of शगुन, बारात and शादी, all reversed; Definition: वाह-वाह
11 बल का पतन?
लायें चुंबन का साधन
लब Reversal of बल; Definition: चुंबन का साधन
13 कोटर,
या पूरी-मटर?
खाना DD; Definition1: cell (as in compartment or pigeon-hole), Definition2: DBE for food.
16 ताप के उत्पात
का फल है ज्ञात
पता (ताप)*; Definition: ज्ञात
18 पटना-गया में मिलने वाला
रेंगता जीव बहुधा विषैला
नाग Hidden in पटना-गया; Definition: रेंगता जीव बहुधा विषैला
19 नहीं ! रक्त निकल सकता है
इस के इस्तेमाल से
नाखून ना (नहीं) + खून (रक्त); semi-&lit
22 अंग्रेजी में ऊपरवाला 9 होगा, पर हिंदी में इसे कह सकते हैं -
"पहले ऊँट पे रूमाली रोटी खा"
ऊपर रख First letters of ऊँट पे रूमाली रोटी खा; Definition: Hindi translation of 'keep it up', which means शाबाश (9a)
25 दबंग दिल से लगाए पैसा?
वह बन सकता है बेड़ियों जैसा
बंधन बं (heart of दबंग) + धन (पैसा); Definition: वह बन सकता है बेड़ियों जैसा
27 हाथ की रोकड़ नहीं लुटाई
तभी मिली ऐसी ऊँचाई
कद नकद (हाथ की रोकड़) with न (नहीं) lost; Definition: ऊँचाई
28 नाराज़ नाना
से इस बात को छुपाना
राज़ नाराज़ with ना 'ना' i.e. removed; Definition: इस बात को छुपाना
30 सम्पूरण सिंह कालरा की ब्याहता
के हाथ में इस को बाँधा जाता
राखी DD; Definition1: name of Sampooran Singh Kalra's wife; Definition2: हाथ में इस को बाँधा जाता
32 घातक सांप ने कुण्डल में जकड़ा
समूचे का बनाया बारीक़ टुकड़ा
कसा Hidden in घातक सांप; Definition: समूचे का बनाया बारीक़ टुकड़ा. कसा means 'grated'.
34 कोहरा न होते हुए भी नज़ारे धुंधले नज़र आवें,
कान पकड़कर नाक पे रखो इसे, आँखें चार हो जावें!
ऐनक CD
37 नारी किसी और ही ढंग की
चले तिरछी क्षैतिज या सीधी चाल चतुरंग की
रानी (नारी)*; Definition: चले तिरछी क्षैतिज या सीधी चाल चतुरंग की - moves of रानी in chess
39 खिंचाई हाथ-पाँव की, घुमाया जाना गर्दन का,
कई पहलवान करवायें इसे, यह काम है अंग-मर्दन का
मालिश CD
40 सूरज की पहली किरण से
रात के आखिर तक
बनाते हैं धागा
सूत सू (from सूरज) + from त (रात); Definition: धागा
41 बाईस से दो ग्यारह नौ दो ग्यारह हो गए - समझो इसे सही,
और सोचो उसके बाद क्या बचा? कुछ नहीं, कुछ भी नहीं
शून्य What remains when two 11s escape (नौ दो ग्यारह हो गए) from 22; Definition: कुछ नहीं, कुछ भी नहीं
42 पैसेवाले ईद की शुरुआत रस में डूबकर करते है रईस ई (from ईद) in रस; Definition: पैसेवाले
43 सरगम में सुर कितने हैं यार?
बहुत दूर है जितने समंदर पार
सात DD; Definition1: The number of musical notes; Definition2: Reference to the idiom सात समंदर पार

नीचे की ओर

क्रमांक संकेत उत्तर टिप्पणी
1 ठीक उसी तरह, वैदेही का दिल गया -
और फिर से बन गया
वैसे ही वैदेही - दे + से; Definition: ठीक उसी तरह
2 सोना चाहते हो
तो अच्छे रंग का इस्तेमाल करो
सुवर्ण अच्छे रंग = सुवर्ण; Definition: सोना
3 सदा के लिए शाह ने मुँह मोड़ लिया
फिर भी उसने थोड़ा मेवा निगल लिया
हमेशा शाह reversed, around मे (from मेवा); Definition: सदा के लिए
4 इसे उतारो बखूब
तो मिलेगा हूबहू प्रतिरूप
नकल CD
6 कैलाशनाथजी छुपाए 5 आर-पार? लाश hidden in कैलाशनाथजी; Definition: reference to clue 5A
8 मुज़फ्फर अली की उमराव जान को देखा?
वही जिसकी अदाकारा हैं भानु ___
रेखा FITB; the leading lady of the film Umrao Jaan
10 जुआरी फ़िल्मी मल्होत्राजी यूँ फ़रमाते हैं -
हारकर जीतने वाले ये कहलाते हैं
बाज़ीगर DD; Definition1: जुआरी; Definition2: Reference to the dialogue by Vicky Malhotra in the film Baazigar
12 सामने पड़े व्यंजन, तीन बार
चुनें बहुत ही नटखट रिश्तेदार
बहन 3 consonants (व्यंजन) from बहुत ही नटखट; Definition: रिश्तेदार
14 नाना पाटेकर
का आँकन कर
नाप Hidden in नाना पाटेकर; Definition: आँकन कर
15 जब खराब हो जाएगा नाम
तभी समझोगे ये है हराम
मना (नाम)*; Definition: हराम
17 छाता ऊपर से ढाल
छुपे बैठे देवी लाल
ताऊ Hidden in छाता ऊपर; Definition: देवी लाल
18 नटखट ऋषि जो स्वर्ग लोक से आया
मुन्नार-देवकोट्टई के बीच उसने डेरा जमाया
नारद Hidden in मुन्नार-देवकोट्टई; Definition: नटखट ऋषि जो स्वर्ग लोक से आया
20 खूंसट का पहला बच्चा
सामने से बने बहुत अच्छा
खूब खू (खूंसट का पहला) + ब (बच्चा
सामने से)l Definition: बहुत अच्छा
21 घी मक्खन छेना जिसकी मेहरबानी है,
उसके बिना चाय मानो काला पानी है
दूध CD
23 दीपक, वानरों के पास
हैं खाने की चीज़ें ख़ास
पकवान Hidden in दीपक वानरों; Definition: खाने की चीज़ ख़ास
24 राख यहाँ-वहाँ उड़ रही,
फिर भी, यही है सही
खरा (राख)*; Definition: सही
25 संदूक से सांड के सिर को निकाल कर, अरे ओ मेरे यार,
वहाँ बंदर का सिर रख दो, तो तुमको मिलेगा हथियार
बंदूक संदूक - स (सांड के सिर) + ब (बंदर का सिर); Definition: हथियार
26 यान को ठीक से घुमाओ,
और एक नूतन शब्द पाओ
नया Reversal of यान; Definition: नूतन
29 नज़राने के अंदर झाँक के देखो - कुछ तो दिखेगा ज़रा Hidden in नज़राने; Definition: कुछ
31 खरबूजे का टुकड़ा डालो, ईराकी कीमत लगाओ बाद में -
और इसको पाओ सलाद में!
खीरा ख (खरबूजे का टुकड़ा) followed by ईराकी without की ('की' मत लगाओ); Definition: इसको पाओ सलाद में!
33 साथी शुरू करें, अन्य करें विराम
दोनो मिल खायें थोड़ा माल्दा आम
सामान्य Start [सा]थी, end with अन्य, put मा between them. Definition: आम
34 आनंद है!
श्वेता नंदा इनकी "नंद" है!
ऐश DD; Definition1: आनंद; Definition2: Reference to Aishwarya Rai, whose sister-in-law is Shweta Nanda
35 गुरु थे स्वामी रामानंद,
जिनके हाथ में बीन का टुकड़ा है बंद
कबीर बी (बीन का टुकड़ा) in कर (हाथ); Definition: गुरु थे स्वामी रामानंद, जिनके
36 जा सूंघ सवारियों के सर,
और नज़र आएगा गुप्तचर
जासूस First letters of जा सूंघ सवारियों; Definition: गुप्तचर
38 गोपनीयता में डूबा
ऐसा कुछ मंसूबा
नीयत Hidden in गोपनीयता; Definition: मंसूबा

What you said…

Thanks for the very positive feedback to this crossword. I hope that those who solved partly/didn't submit also enjoyed the clues they did solve.

Many of you marked the clues you liked in the grid - thank you very much for doing that. I'm glad the circular reference in 5a and 6d went down well. Kishore who wrote those clues was concerned that the lack of a proper definition might be unfair, so it's heartening to see praise for that pair. Looks like the माल्दा आम (33d) and रस में डूबे पैसेवाले (42a) were the universal favourites.

We received several other interesting comments with the entries. Quoting a few…

4d (नकल): बखूब & हूबहू palindromes: same from both directions – replica

The clue was written as a cryptic definition – the palindromic property of the clue's text was unintended!

41a (शून्य): अन्य also works, because it means remainder, which is what 0 is in this case.

Not really - अन्य means remainder only in the sense of rest/other, it does not mean the difference of subtraction (that would be शेष). Besides, the clue has a clear definition in कुछ नहीं, कुछ भी नहीं.

22a (ऊपर रख): the word ऊपर could have been avoided in the wordplay

Agreed – and well caught!

34a (ऐनक): Awesome clue! :) Both my bespectacled grandkids loved this

Thank you! This was the first clue written for the puzzle.

18a (नाग): I am from NAGpur, hiss…

…and we received this entry on the eve of Nag Panchami.

19a (नाखून): …similar riddle by the great Amir Khusro, who composed many riddles in verse:
बीसों का सर काटा
ना मारा {ना ख़ून} किया

This comment led to an exchange of mails with the solver about Amir Khusro's riddles – a delightful revelation to me. In Khusro's riddles I saw a new world of lovely puns, cryptic/double definitions playing on different meanings of words in Hindi and Persian, unusual rhyme schemes beyond the couplet. Our solver has assembled the write-up about Amir Khusro's riddles in a blog post - hop over and take a look at the examples.

I was prepared for objections to the non-standard spelling of ननद in 34d. I thought the quote marks, plus the fact that that's the way the word gets pronounced in a Punjabi dialect, would justify the usage. Since there were no protests, I guess it worked fine!

Applause for…

…the 13 of you with perfect (or near perfect) solutions:

Poongothai Ramki Krishnan
Mohsin Ahmed Sanket Srivastava
Vasant Srinivasan Vinayak Rao Ekbote
Pratima Manik Raju Umamaheshwar
Arvind Ramaswamy Vidyadhar Gadgil
Laxman Rao Sandhya Jagdish
Lakshmi Vaidyanathan  

It is remarkable that many solvers who completed the puzzle do not know Hindi as a primary/native language. I hope this inspires more cryptic crossword solvers to attempt puzzles in Hindi. The simpler clueing techniques plus stronger grid checking are sure to help!

Shortlist to 4:
Our first tie-breaker was the accuracy of wordplay parsing. With that filter, we zoomed in on four solvers with 100% accurate parsing.

Mohsin Ahmed Sandhya Jagdish
Pratima Manik Sanket Srivastava

We must turn to our second tie-breaker next – the lucky draw. But before that…

The Elusive Theme

Till the afternoon of the last day, nobody had cracked the theme. By this point, Kishore and I felt that the theme prize would remain unclaimed. We were pondering over how to take this situation forward.

Neither of us wanted to disclose the unsolved theme in the solutions post. We decided to write about the "red herring" theme (the one that many of you figured out), give out an additional hint about the main theme, and let you take another shot at it. If it stayed unsolved after all that, we would wait patiently till an indefinite future for any solver to see it and claim the prize. "If nobody cracks it ever, so be it", we agreed – we would never ourselves reveal the theme. Kishore went so far as to say the secret will go with our respective 5a and 6d…

As it turned out, our melodrama was not required.

A few hours before the deadline, the solver who is well known in The Hindu Crossword forums for being able to "anno the unannoable" cracked the theme with the themed entries identified.

Hats off to you, Sandhya Jagdish!

Along with the Hindi Crossword 4 announcement, we had said:

This crossword has a theme. Actually, two themes: a main theme and a mini "red herring" theme. One answer to an Across clue is common to both themes.

The answer to the clue common to both themes was 25a: बंधन.

बंधन (bandhan) is bond. Many of you saw the answers that linked with Raksha Bandhan, the celebration of the bond between siblings.

Raksha Bandhan was the theme we expected you to see. The "red herring" theme.

The main theme? Bond. James Bond.

वैद्य, नहीं, शव, हीरे, खून, बंधन, राज़, रानी, शून्य, सात, सुवर्ण, लाश, हमेशा, बंदूक, जासूस, कबीर are words translated from Bond movie titles / words that relate to the Bond universe (including the name of the actor who played a role in Octopussy).

Hindi Crossword 4 Solution Grid - Theme Highlighted

Your guesses about the theme go to show how words of a certain type find their way into the crossword without conscious planning. Some of the interesting themes identified by you, which were entirely unintended:

food (khana, pakvaan, kheera, doodh, etc.),
body and its accoutrements (laash, shav, naakhun, naap, kad, etc.),
Shahrukh Khan (Baazigar, Raees),
names of film actresses (Rekha, Aish, Rakhi, Rani)

The Bollywood motif is pretty much unavoidable when we set, especially when my co-setter sets :-) Remember Madhubala, Nutan, Ramesh Deo and their comrades from the the previous grids? That is signature style, no hidden theme.

The Theme Prize: Clear Winner!

No contest here! Sandhya Jagdish – INR 500 gift voucher for you.

The Correct Answers Prize: Who Gets Lucky?

Four solvers tied at top place: Mohsin Ahmed, Sandhya Jagdish, Pratima Manik, Sanket Srivastava.

To pick one lucky solver for the prize, Kishore does the honours… [RSS/email subscribers: You may have to go to the blog for the video.]

It's your day, Sandhya Jagdish! भाग्य too is by your side. You get another INR 1000 gift voucher for your all-correct answers. Enjoy your prizes :-)

Thanks to everyone for taking part. Hope you had lots of fun!

Related Posts:

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Hindi Crossword 4: Solve and Win Prizes!

As promised, here is the latest Hindi crossword set by Kishore and me. This one has been a long time in the making - we came up with the idea soon after the Holi crossword was done and Kishore had this grid ready in no time (how does he do it?!), then the clueing happened bit by bit over several weeks.

Ever since I saw Afrit's puzzle True Lover's Knot in which every clue is a rhyming couplet, I have wanted to do something similar. Clueing this way in Hindi seemed like a workable idea – rhyme is one form of wordplay that the language takes to very well. So I put the idea of a fully versified Hindi puzzle to Kishore. And immediately got back a "बच्चे की जान लोगी क्या?" for response.

Soon though, he was totally into the rhyme rhythm, so much so that the only non-rhyming clues you see in this crossword are due to my persuasion that they are nicer than their rhymed alternatives.

This crossword has a theme. Actually, two themes: a main theme and a mini "red herring" theme. One answer to an Across clue is common to both themes.

Time to show you the crossword and tell you how you can win prizes.

Hindi Cryptic Crossword 4 - Grid

आर-पार

1 संगीत यन्त्र में स्वर बदले पंडित
इन्होने किया औषधि शास्त्र को खंडित (2)

2 नाश्ते का यही वक़्त है, प्रभात,
न दिन-दोपहर न काली रात (3)

4 हींग लहसुन का छिलका मददगार,
फेंकने से उसे करो इन्कार (2)

5 केशवदासजी छुपाए 6 नीचे? (2)

6 लय का अभ्यास करो चुस्त,
तभी मामला बने दुरुस्त (3)

7 पीछे सुरीला ऋषभ, आगे चमड़ा हाथी का
नाम हो गया रांझे या मोती के साथी का (2)

9 शगुन, बारात और शादी की शुरुआत? सुनो मेरी सलाह
बिलकुल उल्टा कर दो इन्हे और पाओ मेरी वाह-वाह! (3)

11 बल का पतन?
लायें चुंबन का साधन (2)

13 कोटर,
या पूरी-मटर? (2)

16 ताप के उत्पात
का फल है ज्ञात (2)

18 पटना-गया में मिलने वाला
रेंगता जीव बहुधा विषैला (2)

19 नहीं ! रक्त निकल सकता है
इस के इस्तेमाल से (3)

22 अंग्रेजी में ऊपरवाला 9 होगा, पर हिंदी में इसे कह सकते हैं - "पहले ऊँट पे रूमाली रोटी खा " (3,2)

25 दबंग दिल से लगाए पैसा?
वह बन सकता है बेड़ियों जैसा (3)

27 हाथ की रोकड़ नहीं लुटाई
तभी मिली ऐसी ऊँचाई (2)

28 नाराज़ नाना
से इस बात को छुपाना (2)

30 सम्पूरण सिंह कालरा की ब्याहता
के हाथ में इस को बाँधा जाता (2)

32 घातक सांप ने कुण्डल में जकड़ा
समूचे का बनाया बारीक़ टुकड़ा (2)

34 कोहरा न होते हुए भी नज़ारे धुंधले नज़र आवें?
कान पकड़कर नाक पे रखो इसे, आँखें चार हो जावें! (3)

37 नारी किसी और ही ढंग की
चले तिरछी क्षैतिज या सीधी चाल चतुरंग की (2)

39 खिंचाई हाथ-पाँव की, घुमाया जाना गर्दन का,
कई पहलवान करवायें इसे, यह काम है अंग-मर्दन का (3)

40 सूरज की पहली किरण से
रात के आखिर तक
बनाते हैं धागा (2)

41 बाईस से दो ग्यारह नौ दो ग्यारह हो गए -
समझो इसे सही,
और सोचो उसके बाद क्या बचा?
कुछ नहीं, कुछ भी नहीं
  (2)

42 पैसेवाले ईद की शुरुआत
रस में डूबकर करते है (3)

43 सरगम में सुर कितने हैं यार?
बहुत दूर है जितने समंदर पार (2)

नीचे की ओर

1 ठीक उसी तरह, वैदेही का दिल गया -
और फिर से बन गया (2,1)

2 सोना चाहते हो
तो अच्छे रंग का इस्तेमाल करो (3)

3 सदा के लिए शाह ने मुँह मोड़ लिया
फिर भी उसने थोड़ा मेवा निगल लिया (3)

4 इसे उतारो बखूब
तो मिलेगा हूबहू प्रतिरूप (3)

6 कैलाशनाथजी छुपाए 5 आर-पार? (2)

8 मुज़फ्फर अली की उमराव जान को देखा?
वही जिसकी अदाकारा हैं भानु ___
  (2)

10 जुआरी फ़िल्मी मल्होत्राजी यूँ फ़रमाते हैं -
हारकर जीतने वाले ये कहलाते हैं (4)

12 सामने पड़े व्यंजन, तीन बार
चुनें बहुत ही नटखट रिश्तेदार (3)

14 नाना पाटेकर
का आँकन कर (2)

15 जब खराब हो जाएगा नाम
तभी समझोगे ये है हराम (2)

17 छाता ऊपर से ढाल
छुपे बैठे देवी लाल (2)

18 नटखट ऋषि जो स्वर्ग लोक से आया
मुन्नार-देवकोट्टई के बीच उसने डेरा जमाया (3)

20 खूंसट का पहला बच्चा
सामने से बने बहुत अच्छा (2)

21 घी मक्खन छेना जिसकी मेहरबानी है,
उसके बिना चाय मानो काला पानी है (2)

23 दीपक, वानरों के पास
हैं खाने की चीज़ें ख़ास (4)

24 राख यहाँ-वहाँ उड़ रही,
फिर भी, यही है सही (2)

25 संदूक से सांड के सिर को निकाल कर, अरे ओ मेरे यार,
वहाँ बंदर का सिर रख दो, तो तुमको मिलेगा हथियार (3)

26 यान को ठीक से घुमाओ,
और एक नूतन शब्द पाओ (2)

29 नज़राने के अंदर झाँक के देखो - कुछ तो दिखेगा (2)

31 खरबूजे का टुकड़ा डालो, ईराकी कीमत लगाओ बाद में -
और इसको पाओ सलाद में! (2)

33 साथी शुरू करें, अन्य करें विराम
दोनो मिल खायें थोड़ा माल्दा आम (3)

34 आनंद है!
श्वेता नंदा इनकी "नंद" है! (2)

35 गुरु थे स्वामी रामानंद
जिनके हाथ में बीन का टुकड़ा है बंद (3)

36 जा सूंघ सवारियों के सर,
और नज़र आएगा गुप्तचर (3)

38 गोपनीयता में डूबा
ऐसा कुछ मंसूबा (3)

PDF format available here.

Notes On The Crossword

  1. Word lengths are in syllables e.g. each of the words पहला, प्रथम, प्रदान, प्रस्थान will be enumerated as (3).
  2. Complex consonants go into a single cell e.g. वर्ग will be split into two cells, the first with , the second with र्ग. Similarly, प्रस्थान will be split into three cells, the first with प्र, the second with स्था, the third with .
  3. In wordplay, the matras may be treated independently of the letters e.g. राम when anagrammed can give मार or मरा.

Solving Instructions

  1. Send in your completed entries to shuchi [at] crosswordunclued [dot] com, with the subject line "Hindi Cryptic Crossword 4 – Solution", latest by Monday 24th August 2015.
  2. Entries should preferably be sent in this solution template – replace "Your Name" in the file name with your name. If not using the template, the solution should be legible and readable in a standard text or image reader. PNG, Excel, Word formats are all OK.
  3. Solution words should be in Devanagari script. [A tool like Quillpad can be used for typing in Hindi.]
  4. Entries should contain annotations for the answers. Any annotation format is all right – words or symbols, Hindi or English – as long as how you arrived at the answer is clear.
  5. Entries can indicate the theme by stating it in words and marking the themed clue numbers with an asterisk (*).

If you have any questions related to solution submission, please post them in the comments section.

The Prizes

There are two separate prizes up for grabs:

  1. a gift voucher worth INR 1000 (or equivalent in USD/GBP) for the maximum correct answers to the crossword
  2. a gift voucher worth INR 500 (or equivalent in USD/GBP) for correctly identifying the main theme

The winners can choose gift vouchers on Flipkart or Amazon US/UK.

  • You are eligible for the correct answers prize even if you have not identified the theme, and you are eligible for the theme prize even if you have not solved the puzzle completely.
  • The same solver can get both prizes.
  • In case of a tie for the maximum correct answers, the first selection criteria will be the accuracy of wordplay parsing. If that too is tied, the winner will be picked by a lucky draw.
  • In case of a tie for theme identification, the first selection criteria will be the accuracy of identifying themed entries. If that too is tied, the winner will be picked by a lucky draw.

The solution to the crossword and the winners' names will be announced in a follow-up post after 24th August 2015.

Do your best and have fun solving! Shall I wish you good luck, or shall I listen to Afrit here -

Pasted perhaps but rarely stuck;
They're skilled: no need to wish them luck! (6)

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Seven Years of Crossword Unclued

Seventh Birthday I hit 'Publish' on the first post on Crossword Unclued seven years ago this day. Time does fly when you're having fun! 413 posts and counting…

Much has changed in the online world in these seven years. Back in 2008, tablets/mobile devices were rare. Most readers used IE to view the blog on their desktops. Orkut communities were popular among Indian crossworders; hardly anyone was on Facebook.

Fast forward to 2015. Orkut is no more. Many readers come to the blog via twitter. Crossword communities on Facebook are thriving. Some of us have stopped blogging, other interesting new crossword sites have come up. People have moved on to browsers smarter than IE. Each month shows an increase in the percentage of users reading via tablets/mobile devices.

CU Visit Distribution by Device 

CU Visit Distribution by Browser 3

The interface of Crossword Unclued went through many internal tweaks this year to adapt to the evolving ecosystem, especially Google's landmark algorithm update in April 2015.

The Last Twelve Months: A Brief Look

I spent the longest time (really good time!) writing about patterns in puzzles by The Hindu Crossword setters Arden and Buzzer.

The "For Beginners" section on the sidebar got a new link: Crossword Bloggers' Jargon – Decoded! 

Two movies that I watched in 2015 - The Imitation Game and The Prestige - nudged me to dig deeper into cryptography. I was fascinated with the subject, as you can guess from the recent set of posts on intersections between cryptography and crosswords: the Playfair cipher, for example.

Many apparently share my enthusiasm for the topic - the post on parallels between cryptanalysis and crossword solving was the most tweeted and stumbled post in the last twelve months.

Sowmya Ramkumar's interview was the most popular on Facebook in that period.

Holi this year brought with it a special Holi ki Paheli, a Hindi crossword with clues set by a team of 18 contributors. This was very enjoyable to put together.

[Want to see the full list of articles on the blog? It is on a single self-updating page here: Site Archive]

Thank You!

A big thank you to everyone who reads, shares, and engages with Crossword Unclued. Your participation means a lot.

Up next: I'm excited to announce a prize puzzle in Hindi coming up this month. Kishore and I have been building it for over five months and can hardly wait to unleash it upon you. Hindi crossword solvers – be ready!

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Ten Bird Clues

birds Each of the clues below has a different type of bird in it. The bird's name may be the answer or part of the wordplay.

Can you find all the birds? [Answers updated]

Times 25048: Bird thus soaring over quarry  (6) OSPREY
SO (thus) soaring i.e. reversed, PREY (quarry)

Times 25106: One that flies from a part of NW Europe (3) AUK
A UK (part of NW Europe)

Guardian 25556 (Araucaria): They say sea is seabird's water supply (7) CISTERN
C (sea, they say) IS TERN (seabird)

FT 13669 (Sleuth): Bird circling lake making one shrink back (6) FLINCH
FINCH (bird) around L (lake)

Guardian 26160 (Picaroon): Unoriginal commenter's standard twaddle (6) PARROT
PAR (standard) ROT (twaddle)

Times 25147: Struggling university secretary gets the bird  (2,7,2) UP AGAINST IT
U (university) PA (secretary) GAINS (gets) TIT (the bird)

Guardian 25030 (Rufus): Wading bird? It's a ruddy duck! (8) FLAMINGO
FLAMING (ruddy) O (duck)

Sunday Times 4509 (Dean Mayer): Led, as a bird would in race (11) SPEARHEADED
A RHEA (bird) 'D (would) in SPEED (race)

FT14773 (Bradman): Bird not high up first to reach ground (3) OWL
LOW (not high up), with the initial 'L' moved to the end

Guardian 25966 (Philistine): Really gutted, having eaten bird, no longer hungry, alas (11) REGRETFULLY
R[eall]Y around EGRET (bird) + FULL (no longer hungry)

Enjoy bird-spotting!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

20 Questions with THC's Under-25 Team: Exa, Mac, Spinner

The Hindu Crossword has, on its current setting team, three setters who are not yet 25 – but who show a maturity in their crossword construction that belies their relative newness to the game.

Exa, Mac, Spinner - Hindu Crossword Setters Get a peek into the minds of the three in question: Exa (Aakash Sridhar), Mac (Mohsin Ahmed) and Spinner (Srivathsan Santhanam).

The same set of questions were put to each of them, on topics such as their initiation into setting, their crossword-crafting methods and tools, their views on some controversial crossword techniques.

Here is what they had to say in response to the 20 questions.

Q1: How did you get into setting crosswords?

Exa: I was first exposed to a cryptic crossword in my second year of engineering (late 2011). I would solve a little, look at the solution the next day, and try to use the same techniques on paper to come up with original clues for other words. Later on I would give them to my friends who solved crosswords more often and gauge their reactions. Slowly I gained an affinity for setting clues, and eventually took part in few online clue-writing competitions (thanks to Crossword Unclued) when I had the time. Each day was a learning process. Around July 2013, I decided to e-mail Rishikesh sir (Gridman) regarding my interest in contributing as a setter and he was kind enough to guide me and empanel me immediately, despite my young age and limited experience. Some months later, around March 2014, my first crossword was published.

Mac: I'm sure most solvers try their hand at setting isolated clues. Thanks to a couple of active Facebook crossword groups that I had joined in around mid-2013, I would have set a fairly large number of clues over a few months. I then decided to compile the clues and see if I could fit them in a grid. With the advent of various crossword compiling software freely available online, grid construction and filling has become quite easy. It was then just a matter of setting clues for the remaining auto-filled words.

Having set an entire grid, I forwarded it to Rishikesh sir and Colonel for feedback, and the possibility of publishing in the paper and/or on Colonel’s blog. This was in early 2014, I think March. Meanwhile, I set a couple more grids. Now, with The Hindu's acceptance and a healthy (IMO) stock of puzzles, it was just a matter of cluing about a word a day, on average.

Spinner: I always had a thing for the English language and puzzles in general, so I took naturally to cryptic crosswords when I first came across them, in the year 2012. My college magazine Feeds had started carrying a cryptic crossword just around that time and being a part of the content team of the magazine, I gave setting a shot. After some positive feedback, I ventured into setting Sunday Specials for the Colonel's blog and after my second attempt there, I got a mailer from the Colonel asking me to contact Rishikesh sir if I was interested in setting for the Hindu. I sent him a new 15x15 set, and he liked it, and I got the coveted 'promotion' to THC.

Q2: Do you think your young age is any sort of disadvantage when you set?

Exa: No I don't, but I do believe that my limited experience with crosswords could prove as one as there are many more clue-writing techniques that I have yet to explore and there is so much more to learn. Day by day my thoughts on what exactly constitutes a good clue keep changing, and it's hard to keep up with other setters having a more matured way of writing clues.

Mac: No.

Spinner: On the contrary, I think our internet generation has probably bypassed the many years of solving experience required to get one's head around cryptic crosswords, thanks (in no small part) to excellent forums like the Colonel's blog and Crossword Unclued. I owe a lot of my crossword setting prowess to these two. So I don't consider my age a disadvantage.

Q3: Your crossword tools:

Exa: I started off with the free demo version of Crossword Compiler - it lacked an export option, so I would take a screenshot, crop the image, and manually type the clues on Word. However, recently I purchased the full version of Crossword Compiler which relieved me of that burden. I use Chambers and Collins online for references.

Mac: Sympathy for grid fills. Any of the various online dictionaries for definitions. Your website and a couple more, for indicators. I tend to stick to the fairly standard abbreviations. So no specialised crossword dictionaries.

Spinner: Crossword Compiler (for the grid fills, anagram generation, etc), Google (for synonyms, references and GK on the same screen) , Litscape.com (for word pattern searches when I want an exact type of word in a certain clue). I sometimes refer lists of indicators I've saved in addition to the ones you can find with a Google search.

Q4: The best thing about being a crossword setter:

Exa: You're often looking for opportunities to discover interesting wordplay and surfaces in everyday words and that can be a lot of fun. Especially at late night hours, it's like conducting experiments in a private lab, except you aren't really doing anything technical :-)

Mac: The added appreciation of clues with flawless cryptic grammar.

Spinner: The ability and opportunity to apply wit and language to entertain people.

Q5: Great clue surface, or flawless cryptic grammar?

Exa: I have yet to understand 'flawless cryptic grammar' completely as it's a vast subject and even the greatest setters make slips in cryptic grammar. So though I try my best to cover both aspects in the clues I write, I will safely choose 'great clue surface'. The clues I have set in recent puzzles have been fairly liberal.

Mac: Grammar takes precedence, for me. Surface is, of course, extremely important too.

Spinner: This is probably the worst answer I can give – both, ideally. If it's a challenge to clue a single word, it would be flawless cryptic grammar. But invariably any 15x15 set of mine will have clues that relax on one of the counts (and on bad days, both).

Q6: What do you identify more as: a solver who sets, or a setter who solves?

Exa: A setter who solves.

Mac: A solver who sets. Soon to be just 'a solver'.

Spinner: A year ago, I would have gone for the first option. Now, I would probably choose the second. I tend to pay more attention to the setting aspects even while solving puzzles these days. It's no longer about just being happy to solve a clue.

Q7: Nounal anagrinds are ___

Exa: Fine with me, though these days I find it more elegant to have a supporting word such as in 'fodder needing renovation' or 'renovation of fodder' for instance.

Mac: Perfectly fine, as long as they don't precede the fodder.

Spinner: Sensitive. I have not managed to completely avoid them, but after setting a clue, I see if the usage is justified. Whenever I write a clue with one, I modify it several times to see if the noun form can be avoided. I find some nounal anagrinds like 'design' okay.

Q8: Cryptic definition clues are ___

Exa: Fine with me.

Mac: Extremely tough to get right.

Spinner: Supposed to have some element of cleverness and preferably just one level of extrapolation to lead to the answer.

Q9: A clue treats ‘vent’ and ‘went’ as homophones. How do you react?

Exa: I wouldn’t bother :-)

Mac: As a solver, I wouldn't mind it, though I would probably avoid setting such a clue.

Spinner: Not my cup of tea. I believe the sounds should match, considering the most commonly accepted pronunciations of the words. I believe room can be given for accent-induced variations but not for wrong pronunciations that have developed over time.

Q10: Other than The Hindu Crossword, you solve ___

Exa: Nothing else at this time.

Mac: No other crosswords. Tried my hand at The Guardian. Didn't enjoy it.

Spinner: Currently nothing else, though I give Everyman a shot now and then.

Q11: How long does it take you to create a 15x15?

Exa: Around 5-10 days spread across night and midnight hours.

Mac: Maybe  5-6 hours, spread over 3-4 weeks.

Spinner: I like to set all clues for a 15x15 within a 2-3 day period involving 1-2 hour sittings on each day, to maintain consistency. The time taken for grid fill is the deciding factor – this ranges from anywhere between 1 hour to 8 hours, depending on grid features (theme, pangram, etc.) So, 8 hours on an average spread over 4-5 days.

Q12: One thing you wish changed in the Indian crossword scene:

Exa: A crossword editor at The Hindu, and more THC bloggers – it would be nice to have different bloggers airing their views, so that setters could get mixed perspectives from people with different tastes.

Mac: Youth awareness/interest.

Spinner: I wish more Indian dailies carried original crosswords, to provide a better connect with Indian solvers.

Q13: As a setter, what do you do best?

Exa: I'm not sure myself, but in my short venture with crosswords I find that I like to be expressive and stir interest in the surface stories for clues I write, sometimes by introducing familiar elements from TV shows, movies, institutions etc. that the solvers can relate to and hopefully, find refreshing.

Mac: Judge my own clues.

Spinner: I try my best to maintain consistency in style, so that there's a certain something you can expect from a Spinner offering.

Q14: The hardest part of setting:

Exa: There are many things, but I think the hardest would be to develop a consistent and original setting style.

Mac: Getting the grammar right, without compromising on the surface.

Spinner: The grid fill. It is time consuming and not as enjoyable as clue setting, although I feel that spending more time on it is crucial for ensuring you have a good set of clues for your puzzle.

Q15: Is there a dream puzzle that you aspire to set?

Exa: Not as of now.

Mac: No.

Spinner: When I started setting, there was an urge to do more and package more into a puzzle. I started off with themes, then pangrams and then clue acrostics and even all three in one. From my limited experience, I have come to realize the best clues are produced when I try to do less. So my dream puzzle would be one where each clue has flawless, entertaining, humorous surface and proper cryptic grammar and nothing else.

Q16: Favourite setters:

Exa: I have enjoyed most of The Hindu Crossword setters at one time or the other, but favourites are Buzzer, xChequer, Mac and Arden. I haven't picked any international favourites as I haven't solved enough.

Mac: Buzzer, xChequer,  Exa, Spinner

Spinner: Buzzer, and more recently, Mac. Incognito, for his no-frills puzzles that have most definitely led to an increase in the number of people who pick up cryptic crosswords. I've seen Spiffytrix puzzles years after they were published, and he/she is a favourite too.

Q17: Favourite clue of your own:

Exa: Toughest question:-) I'm sure others will agree that it's pretty unusual to list a favourite from one's own collection of clues. Either way, I have yet to come up with something that really stands out, so I will just share two clues that I enjoyed setting recently at DIY COW managed by Anax:
Stiff wind (5)
It's a tocsin to a navy at sea (6,8)

Mac: (twelfth of seventy-eight) + (fourth of five) + (eighth of eighteen) (3)
This one I came up with late last year.  I thought I'd try a numerical clue. I was decided on the clue type and structure pretty soon. It then took a good half an hour to come up with numbers that added up. A fairly productive day at work, I'd say :-)

Spinner: Once I had set a clue acrostic which was broken in the final print because of a clue being edited, as it did not conform to the norms at The Hindu that prevent certain words from appearing in clues. Though I was left frustrated because it wasn't brought to my notice, I silently accepted it because it was essentially due my own oversight.

So I set this clue as 1A in my next puzzle: Broken acrostic sequence? Properly sort out with silent acceptance! (12). Has to be my favourite.

[Answers to the clues at the end of the post – Shuchi]

Q18: What motivates you to set crosswords?

Exa: The solvers/setters who are kind enough to give feedback on my crosswords (via the blog, on mail, or elsewhere), solving good crosswords from fellow setters, the inspiration I get from seeing great clues on the internet, and the satisfaction I get out of churning out a good clue.

Mac: Nowadays, The Hindu's email reminder :)

Spinner: It is a great way to continue learning the English language.

Q19: Something about yourself that the crossword community may not know:

Exa: I conduct classes for keyboard and guitar at an institute in BEML layout, Bangalore :-)

Mac: So, I was egosurfing today, and I found out that I'm ranked amongst the top 400 scrabble players in the world!

Spinner: I used to be the cricket captain of my college team. I kind of owe my pseudonym to that, having been an off-spinner all my (cricketing) life.

Q20: When you are not creating crosswords, you are ___

Exa: Mostly playing a musical instrument, but also swimming, doing origami, reading unusual articles, messing with my 4x4 rubik’s revenge, seeing interesting TV shows, catching the latest movies, hanging out at some pub or just socializing at a party and oh, travelling!

Mac: Playing/watching football.

Spinner: Singing, listening to concerts, playing football, working at a digital solutions firm as a management trainee.

----------------------
[Thanks Aakash, Mohsin and Srivathsan for your enthusiastic participation. I enjoyed putting this together! – Shuchi]

Answers to the clues in Q17: SCREW dd; ACTION STATIONS anag &lit; TEN (works as fraction sum as well as letter charade); ACQUIESCENCE acrosticsequence* - sort*

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