Thursday, February 19, 2015

Clue Challenge: Annotate These Answers X

annotate-clues The parsing of these clues stumped me even after I knew their answers. Sharing with you the clues along with their answers. Can you see how their wordplay works?

Post the annotations in the comments section.

Update (25th Feb 2015): Annotations added

1. FT 14700 (Wanderer): Number given in exchange (6) NINETY
Annotation:XC (given in 'eXChange') is 90 in Roman numerals; definition: number.

2. FT 14705 (Alberich): Unscrupulous sort will be back shortly after retiring (7) SHYSTER
Annotation:STER[n] (back, 'shortly' i.e. before its end) after SHY (retiring); definition: unscrupulous sort.

3. Indy 7848 (Nimrod): Love apple core to be spewed out by robots? (6) TOMATO
Annotation:core of auTOMATOns (robots) ; definition: love apple.

4. Guardian 26396 (Tramp): Main virtually left in Pizza Hut served with cold sauce (7) KETCHUP
Annotation:KE[y] (main, virtually i.e. almost) {P (left in 'Pizza') + HUT with C (cold)}*, 'served' as anagrind; definition: sauce.

5. Guardian 26482 (Pasquale): Troubled and more like an invalid, it seems (8) BOTHERED
Annotation:OTHER (more) in BED (like an invalid, it seems); definition: troubled. See Tricky Indicators II for more examples of implied indicators.

6. Sunday Times 4614 (Dean Mayer): Double yellow lines throw ordinary F1 team (4,5) TORO ROSSO
Annotation:double yellow => 2*OR (yellow, from heraldry) 'lines' i.e. fills TOSS (throw) O (ordinary); definition: F1 team.

7. Guardian 26469 (Paul): Far from bloody outstanding article – deservedly so? (6) UNREAD
Annotation:UN-RED (far from bloody i.e. not red) 'outstanding' i.e. outside of A (article); semi-&lit: an article that's 'far from bloody outstanding' would be deservedly UNREAD.

8. Guardian 26492 (Arachne): About to receive a broadcast (see below) (5) INFRA
Annotation:sounds like 'IN FOR A'; definition: see below.

Visit our past clue annotation challenges: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Holi ki Paheli: Hindi Clue-Writers Invited

Holi ki Paheli: Hindi Clue-Writers Invited Kishore and I have got our third Hindi crossword grid filled and ready to be clued. Hindi crosswords 1 and 2 have been special prize puzzles on the blog. With crossword 3, we thought we'll do something different.

When we started off setting in Hindi, it was unchartered territory - we did not know whether our customized cryptic crossword rules to fit Hindi would work, or if there was even an audience for Hindi cryptics. Your enthusiastic response to the previous crosswords has allayed all our doubts - it's been thrilling to set puzzles in a different mould and see them solved.

This time, we want to share the Hindi crossword setting experience with you all.

I invite you to participate in clue-writing for Holi ki Paheli, a Hindi cryptic special for the festival of Holi (inspired by the TfTT 2014 Xmas Turkey, in which I contributed a clue :-)).

This is the idea:

An 11x11 grid containing 43 Hindi words has been prepared. We will share two words each from the grid with the participants, for which Hindi cryptic clues are to be written.

After all your clues are with us, Kishore and I will put them together into the finished crossword.

Holi ki Paheli with everyone's clues will be published on the blog on 2nd March 2015. This will be an open puzzle for group-solving, to which you can post answers as blog comments (2 answers per solver; contributors can answer others' clues).

If Hindi cryptic clueing is new to you, check out the Hindi crossword solutions 1 and solutions 2 for reference on how it is done.

Email me at shuchi [at] crosswordunclued [dot] com, by 10th Feb 2015, if you are interested in contributing two clues for the Holi special puzzle.

After the deadline, Kishore or I will send you the words to clue. You will have a full week after that, to think of clues for your words.

Write to me to volunteer, quick!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Buzzer Trivia

What quirks and patterns do Buzzer's crosswords for The Hindu reveal? We've examined puzzles by Gridman, Neyartha, Sankalak, and Arden earlier – now Buzzer takes center stage.

The first thing that leaps out is the personal touch in Buzzer's work, starting from his first-ever THC clue:
Excited like a new setter shedding hesitation (5) ABUZZ; A BUZZ[er]

Buzzer's themed puzzles too reflect a certain signature style – the THC setters theme and the B-clues theme are strong examples. Running a few data analysis trials gives us riveting new points for rumination.

Clue Volume & Length

Buzzer-CluePerPuzzle Buzzer is extremely economical with word usage in clues, measuring an average of only 6.40 words per clue. And his crosswords, on average, accommodate fewer clues than usual in a 15x15 blocked grid: 27.39 clues per puzzle.


Buzzer's shortest clue is a compact CD:
K-kid? (10) GRANDCHILD

His longest is this whopper with 17 words / 98 characters:
Mary Kom's own story is hard to digest, right with couple of setbacks but showing pluck ultimately (11) UNBREAKABLE
UNBEARABLE (hard to digest), with R moved back two places and K (pluck, ultimately) inserted

Something interesting can be seen when Buzzer's clue length distribution is placed next to that of other setters. In a batch of 1000 clues by Arden, Sankalak, Gridman and Buzzer, this is the kind of clue length distribution we'd find, with clues ranging from 1 word long to 16 words long.

[Graph based on 134 puzzles by Arden, 72 puzzles by Sankalak, 528 puzzles by Gridman, 69 puzzles by Buzzer.]

Although Gridman and Buzzer have near-identical average clue length (~6.4), Buzzers clues are concentrated in the band of 5-8 words whereas Gridman's clues are scattered across other lengths. [For the statistically inclined, Buzzer's clue length variance is 3.79; Gridman's is a much higher 5.60.]

Solution Length & Vocabulary Freshness

77% of Buzzer's clues have single word answers. Of the 23% multi-word answers, the longest is a 8-word/30-character solution spread across two 15-letter grid slots. [Given a length of (4,2,3,6,3,6,2,4), guess the answer without the clue :-)]

Here's what Buzzer's split of solution by number of words looks like, in the context of similar data of other setters.


The percentage of solutions with over two words is higher for Buzzer than the other three setters.

It's still early days to measure Buzzer's solution word repetitions, but if we extrapolate slightly to 1963 clues (the base taken in the analysis for Sankalak's vocabulary freshness), we can benchmark the word repetition counts against other setters.


Buzzer has been giving us new words to solve over 96% of the time, just short of Sankalak's 97%. The only word he might want to put a cap on is AJAR!

Clue Type Insights

Buzzer has tracked the wordplay used each clue, which gives us valuable information into his style. 72% of his clues are based on a single clue type (e.g. anagram only), the remaining 28% use a combination of more than one clue type (e.g. anagram + container).

Buzzer's overall clue type distribution is below - the dark bar shows the percentage of usage in clues based on a single clue type, the light bar shows the percentage of usage in clues based on a combination of clue types:


Buzzer's clue type distribution is as one would expect in a typical cryptic crossword: charades, anagrams and containment the most used, in that order, together accounting for over 60% of wordplay. One striking feature is the relatively high use of partial homophones – close to a third of Buzzer's homophones appear in combination clue types, such as:

[Charade + Homophone] A number reportedly eat a painkiller (7) ANODYNE
A NO (number) DYNE (~dine; eat)

There's a generous helping of definitions by example (DBE): 13 clues in 69 puzzles are "pure" DBE cryptic definitions or reverse wordplay clues. Many others have the normal wordplay + definition structure, in which the definition segment is by example.

[CD type] SeƱor's accent (5) TILDE
[Reverse wordplay type] Ordinary tree as seen in street? (6-2-3-4) MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD; s[TREE]t
[Normal wordplay + DBE] Quiet function held inside the Louvre perhaps (6) M(USE)UM

In case you've wondered whether there is any correlation between the length of the answer and the number of words per clue, Buzzer's data says no. When the number of letters in the solution, arranged from smallest to largest, is plotted against the clue length, the line for clue length does not ascend.

Check out the solution length (letters) vs clue length (words) graphs for Buzzer's clues based on a single clue type: Acrostics (21 clues), Anagrams (290 clues), Charades (303 clues), Cryptic Definitions (87 clues).


If anything, there's a dip in clue length with an increase in charade solution length – that's because these clues have used bigger charade segments, as in:
Excellent landlord I say (7,6) CAPITAL LETTER

Another (rather expected) observation is the longer clue lengths for acrostics.

Clue Text Wordle

The clue text wordle is turning out to be a tool to showcase words that are the cornerstone of cryptic clue writing: "one", "around", "time" and "old", in particular, since they have appeared among the most-used words in every setter's clue database tested.

The larger the text, the more frequent the appearance of the word in clues by Buzzer:


For all the differences in style, the word usage patterns of our setters, when aggregated, are quite alike.

To extend the observation about "may" vs "perhaps", though:
Gridman and Sankalak, as noted before, favour "may" over "perhaps". Arden is not categorical in preferring either, but Buzzer, with a prominent "perhaps" and a minuscule "may" on the wordle, has his loyalties firmly with "perhaps"!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Arden Trivia

Since 2010, The Hindu Crossword has seen a shift in its puzzle contribution format. From a small group of long-time setters who supplied 6+ crosswords per month, the crossword team expanded to include new setters who set just a puzzle or two per month. A few of them moved on after a year or so with The Hindu, our dear Sankalak passed away, and newer setters came on board.

Two THC setters who debuted in July 2011 have created a sizeable number of puzzles by now, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a closer look at patterns in their puzzles.

The spotlight today is on Arden's work – a set of 134 crosswords created by him till date for The Hindu.

[Also read Gridman Trivia, Neyartha Trivia and Sankalak Trivia]

Clue Volume & Length

Arden-Clues-Per-Puzzle Many observe that Arden's style is similar to Sankalak's, and clue volume metrics apparently second that. Of the three setters' works analysed on the blog earlier, Arden's averages of clues per puzzle (29.36) and words per clue (7.20) are closest to Sankalak's.


A careful reading reveals something more. Though their averages are similar, Arden tends to write more clues in the 3-word to 8-word range, while Sankalak's clues show a wider length variation – more clues under 3 words as well as over 8 words. [When Sankalak Trivia was published, Sankalak had remarked that the biggest surprise to him was the finding about clue length, as his general attempt was to keep clue words to the minimum.]

To put things in perspective: in a batch of 1000 clues by Arden, Sankalak and Gridman, here's the kind of clue length distribution we'd find, ranging from 1-word clues to 16-word clues.


[Graph based on 134 puzzles by Arden, 72 puzzles by Sankalak, 528 puzzles by Gridman.]

No surprise that Gridman, with an average clue length < 6.5, has the tallest bars for under 6-word clues, with the pattern reversing beyond that mark.

Arden's shortest clue is a two-word double definition:
THC 10822: Queer game (5) RUMMY

His longest clue by word count [16 words]:
THC 11197: We in India have too much of it — but dismissing opponents in a game is tough (7) H(OODL[es])UM

…and by character count [88 characters]:
THC 10534: Initially rechargeable energy storage system follows a characteristic, which she betrays (9)TRAIT R E S S

Solution Length

Arden tends to put in fairly long solutions in his grids. He uses no 3-letter solutions, and often clubs two slots in the grid with a "See <clue ref>" to make a bigger grid entry.

The graph below shows the %age distribution of Arden's solution lengths, which vary from 4 to 21 letters.


Interestingly, despite the leaning towards lengthy solutions, Arden does not write too many clues for 11-letter words/phrases.This is another trait in common with Sankalak's graph which shows a dip for 11-letter answers.


Arden's longest solutions are of 21 letters, spanning more than one clue slot in the grid.

THC 10853: A thing doctor gave for care is a worry (1,6,2,5,7) A MATTER (OF GRAVE)* CONCERN
THC 11069: It's FM's headache now - bill to enumerate shortfall (7,7,7) CURRENT AC+COUNT DEFICIT

Since Arden writes more clues leading to 8-14 letter solutions than Sankalak/Gridman, does he also use more phrases as solutions?

No, says the data.


Arden tends to opt for single word grid fills where another setter might clue a phrase. 1 in 8 of Arden's clues has a multi-word solution; in Gridman's clues, the ratio is close to 1 in 4.

Clue Text Wordle

Which words does Arden frequently use in his clue text? This wordle gives us that information – the bigger the text size, the higher the occurrence of the word in Arden's clues.

*For meaningful results, common words like articles & prepositions have not been included in the visualization.

What do we find?

  • "One" is the most prominent word, a feature of Sankalak's and Gridman's wordles too. Neyartha's looks different in that respect.
  • Arden uses "get" and its variants frequently, in charades, as container indicator, as connector between wordplay and definition.
  • While Gridman and Sankalak clearly favour "may" over "perhaps", Arden goes for "perhaps" almost as much as "may"!
  • "Time" shows up often in Arden's clues, giving T/AGE/ERA in the answer. Guess who else used "time" as much?

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Can Think Finally, See?

can The surface-friendly modal verb 'can' can helpfully mutate to other meanings in the cryptic reading of a clue. 'Can' is also a slang term for various other words in common usage, and its constituent letters fit neatly into wordplay or in the answer - all of which makes 'can' an important tool in clue-crafting.

A look at some ways in which the word 'can' gets used in cryptic crosswords.

1. Tin

A can is a tin (container), a useful synonym for the frequently-found pattern '…TIN…' in grid fills – for example, words ending in –TING. 

FT 14710 (Armonie): Bill can get girl for performance (6) ACTING
AC (bill) TIN (can) G (girl)

Times 25026: Female and I can be compatible  (3,2) FIT IN
F (female) I TIN (can)

2. Bathroom

'Can' is slang for toilet and matches other terms that mean the same - loo, gents, John, lav, to name a few popular ones.

FT 13279 (Mudd): Can terrifying goddess keep eradicating half - or double (9)? LOOKALIKE
LOO (can) KALI (terrifying goddess) KE[ep]

Guardian 25475 (Enigmatist): Can he? (4) JOHN dd

3. Jail

Like bathroom, jail too has many euphemistic synonyms - 'can' is one among them.

Guardian 26319 (Qaos): Murderer, one in jail (4) CAIN
I in CAN (jail)

Indy 8142 (Anax): A prison full of charming and extremely close contact (12) ACQUAINTANCE
A CAN (prison) around QUAINT (charming), C[los]E

4. Preserve, Record

To 'can' is to preserve by sealing in a can, as in the canning of pickles and jams. It is also to record, as on film or tape.

Guardian 24584 (Brendan): One way to preserve so long a piece of music (7) CANTATA
CAN (one way to preserve) TA-TA (so long)

Times 23687: Preserve what American and Canadian share in different places (3) CAN
AmeriCAN and CANadian contain, in different places, the word CAN (preserve)

5. Stop, Abandon

To 'can' is to put a stop to or to abandon (something). A related American idiom: can it!

Indy 8589 (Phi): Abandon a lake – here's narrower artificial waterway (5) CANAL
CAN (abandon) A L (lake)

FT 14142 (Alberich): John put an end to dance (6) CANCAN
CAN (John, slang for toilet) CAN (put an end to)

6. Fire

In North American slang, to 'can' is to dismiss/sack/fire.

Indy 7818 (Anarche): Uproarious dances as prisons catch fire in America (7) CANCANS
CANS (prisons) around CAN (fire i.e. sack or dismiss in America)

FT 13737 (Jason): Wine can destroy 50s dress (4) SACK
Multiple definitions: wine, can, destroy, 50s dress.

7. Canadian

'Can' is short for Canada or Canadian.

Times Jumbo 1101: Canadian accent's associated with oriental language (9) CANTONESE
CAN (Canadian) TONE'S (accent's) E (oriental)

Guardian 24885 (Chifonie): Boat in a river in Canada (9) CATAMARAN
A TAMAR (river), in CAN (Canada)

8. Headphone

'Can' is an informal word for headphone, usually used in the plural form.

Indy 8039 (Phi): Collection of rubbish filled with 500 mostly genuine cans (10) HEADPHONES
HEAP (collection of rubbish) around D (Roman numeral for 500) HONES[t] (genuine, mostly)

Sun Times 4504 (Tim Moorey): Do shed tea cans (7) HEADSET

9. Bottom

'Can' is North American slang for the buttocks, a meaning that makes rare appearances in daily cryptics, more to be seen in barred grid crosswords.

Indy 8261 (Klingsor): Can German money support Britain? (6) BOTTOM
OTTO (Germa) M (Money), below B (Britain)

10. Verb of Possibility / Permission / Ability

The sense of the word most used in non-crossword language, to denote possibility ('it can happen'), permission ('you can go'), ability ('i can solve').

FT 14746 (Gurney): Is able to operate empty boat (5) CANOE
CAN (is able to) O[perat]E

Note for new crossword setters: can != able, can = is/are able to.

Indy 8638 (Tyrus): One day may come together like Mandela and de Klerk (7) AFRICAN
Charade of A FRI (day) CAN (may); D-by-E

Solve These

Can you solve these?

FT 14379 (Monk): Essentially, designer can supply a basic dwelling (5) ___O_
Times 25972: Medicine can relieve symptoms over time  (8) __N____E
Times 24963: On rising is able to try cold drink (6) _O___C
Times 25735: Can revolvers upset poet and mischief-makers? (6,5) T_____ R____

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