Monday, January 22, 2018

Learn Cryptic Crosswords app by Teazel

CZD LogoI tried out this mobile app recently that shook me out of blogging hibernation. If you have friends new to cryptic crosswords and keen to learn, this might interest them.

Here are my impressions after trying it out on an iPhone. At this time, an iOS version of the app is available; the Teazel team tells me an Android version is coming soon.

Wish you a very happy 2018!

App Content

The first thing that struck me favourably about Teazel's Learn Cryptic Crosswords app is author Henry Howarth's concise writing style and selection of simple clues to demonstrate the clue types. Sample a page from Chapter 1 Hidden Words:

Teazel App Content Sample

The app has six chapters and they pack in plenty of information: other than clue types, topics such as connectors, abbreviations, punctuation are touched upon and explained with examples.

The content is designed to be consumed in sequence. Each chapter ends with a practice puzzle to reinforce what you've covered till that point. As you traverse through the content, the app tracks your progress (you also have the option to reset your progress).

Learn Cryptic Crosswords Content Progress

There are ten practice puzzles, and the difficulty level scales up gradually with each puzzle.

Practice Puzzle 1 is very accessible, with only hidden word and anagram clues in a 9x9 grid.

Learn Cryptic Crosswords Puzzle 1

Practice Puzzle 2 adds charades to the mix in a 10x10. Practice Puzzle 3 includes reversals and deletions. Practice Puzzle 4 covers a wide range of clue types including homophones and double definitions.

By the time you reach Practice Puzzle 5, you are solving a standard 15x15 grid with compound clues and tricky wordplay.

The last five Practice Puzzles are from newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph, with introductory notes about the nature of grid and clues to expect in the publication's crosswords.

Practice Clues: Parsing Interactively

Cryptic beginners often ask, "How can I identify which is the definition, which the wordplay?"

This is tough one to answer. Cryptic clues have no tell-tale marks on the words proclaiming their roles. Sometimes we sniff out the indicator first. Sometimes we look at either end of the clue, work out which is likelier to be the definition, then try fitting the rest in jigsaw-style. Sometimes we wait for the checkers to show up. Sometimes we biff. There is no set way, but with experience, the process of parsing happens smoothly and quickly.

In this app, the practice clues give you ready insight into this process. The app shows you the clue and lets you pick the indicator and definition from a list. If you pick correctly, it green-lights your choice, else it turns it red.

Hidden Word Clue: Item of furniture hidden in stables (5)

Each clue type has a thoughtfully designed mode of interactivity.

Hidden word clues offer a slider to move over the fodder (or "ingredients" as the app calls it) to highlight the answer. When the slider is positioned right, a little celebration of stars livens the screen.

App Practice Clue Slider - Right Answer

Anagram clues let you shuffle the letters around like Scrabble tiles, and drag and drop them in answer slots.

 Anagram Clue: Many lost out (4)

With deletions, the cross symbol marks the letters to be eliminated.

Deletion Clue: Reason left out of clause (5)

More intricate clues prompt you with descriptive hints.

Reverse Anagram Clue

Teazel Director James Brook says that finding a way of breaking the clues down, so that people can see the individual parts of the clues without just being given the answer, was the most challenging part of their development. He adds:

We have hopefully retained part of the challenge and provided an "ah-ha" moment despite the support given towards getting the answer. In the later chapters, the support is toned down further so that it feels like having someone with you helping you but not saying the answer.

Practice Puzzle Help

As you work on the practice puzzles, you can check your how you're faring at any point – how many correct/wrong answers, how many clues left to solve.

There are options to reveal letter/word/full puzzle, and to clear puzzle.

Each puzzle carries annotated answers that you can view per clue.

Cryptic Clue Annotation

My favourite feature of the app is its Settings control of how to fill the puzzles: whether to skip filled squares or not, move on delete, etc. [Those who solve different puzzles interactively would agree that a mismatch between the method we're used to and the publication's fill style is the top reason for typos.]

Revealing errors when typing can be helpful for some, spoilery for others - it's nice to be able to switch this on or off, too. [Hope you're listening, The Hindu]

Crossword Puzzle Settings

Cost

Chapter 1 is free, after which there is a single in-app purchase for GBP 4.99 / USD 4.99. The free chapter and its exercises should give you an idea of what to expect in the full pack.

In Closing

For cryptic beginners, Teazel's Learn Cryptic Crosswords app is a fine place to start. The interactive exercises should be especially useful if you are familiar with the rules and yet not making headway with newspaper crosswords.

Give the app a spin and if you like it too, spread the word. The website/download link is here.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Are The Grid's Answer Slots Called Lights?

Crossword Lights

As most of you would know, the series of white squares in the crossword grid, into which answers are entered, are called "lights".

Do you also know why they are called "lights"?

No, it isn't because white squares are light in colour. (This is what I thought once upon a time)

A Display Of Lights (9) - Val GilbertVal Gilbert's book A Display Of Lights (9) uses the word in its title. The accompanying description on Amazon carries an explanation, which further complicates the subject:

Answer: Crossword (a 'light' is a word for 'clue' in crossword parlance, so: a display of lights/display of clues/crossword)

This definition tallies with the dictionaries – Chambers has "hint, clue or help towards understanding" as a meaning of light.

But:

If light means clue, why are we using it to refer to the answer to a clue?

The key to this question lies in the grid's property of checking.

D. St P Barnard's book Anatomy Of The Crossword clears up the mystery [Chapter 2: Patterns and Lights]:

Surely, one may well exclaim, to obtain a solution and then to call it by a word which means a clue, savours mightily of Looking-Glass Land. The objection would be a valid one if a puzzle were to require the insertion of only one word, but an essential feature of the crossword is that each horizontal word shares two or more letters with certain vertical words and vice versa. The result of this arrangement is that each word in the pattern not only represents the answer to some verbal clue, but serves also as a literal clue to those other words that it crosses.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Definition/Wordplay Etymology Crossover

Definition Wordplay Etymology CrossoverTake a close look at this clue:

Away from home, in the open, dies in battle (7) OUTSIDE
OUT (in the open) (DIES)*; Definition: away from home

The etymology of OUTSIDE is OUT + SIDE, so the clue partly recycles the definition of OUTSIDE in its wordplay OUT (DIES)*.

Try another:

What's used as a religious setting on a piece of furniture (7) RETABLE
RE (on) TABLE (piece of furniture); definition: what's used as a religious setting

The word RETABLE originates from medieval Latin retrotabulum which stands for 'rear table'. In this clue's wordplay, RETABLE splits along its natural etymological join (RE+TABLE), with TABLE retaining its furniture meaning.

Both of those clues show signs of definition/wordplay etymology crossover.

Understanding "definition/wordplay etymology crossover"

When the wordplay of a cryptic clue is etymologically related to its answer, it is a case of definition/wordplay etymology crossover.

You have a definition/wordplay etymology crossover on hand if:

  • The answer is SPACESHIP, the wordplay is SPACE + SHIP
  • The answer is LULLABY, the wordplay is LULL + [b]ABY
  • The answer is MECHANIC, the wordplay is (MACHINE)* + C
  • The answer is ENCLOSES, the wordplay is mEN CLOSE Something [T]

Is this wrong?

In double definition clues, it is widely accepted as good clueing practice to avoid etymology crossover between the two definitions. The same isn't universally followed with other clue types.

In his CU interview, David Stickley mentioned the "no definition/wordplay etymology crossover" rule as applicable to US cryptics, while being acceptable as a setter's tool in UK and Australia. I notice though that some setters of UK cryptics too avoid this device.

In his blog, Australian setter David Astle calls out such clues as "hookworms" in round-ups of weakly constructed clues.

Definition/wordplay etyomology crossover often results in wordplay that is not very cryptic. Crafting a smooth surface exacts less imagination from the setter when the wordplay echoes the definition.

What do you think?

Fine or flawed – what's your take?

Solve These

Three words, two clues for each word: one with definition/wordplay etymology crossover, the other without. Enjoy solving and spotting which one.

Rampant war arising always without peacekeepers (7)
One's taken flight to travel across the Channel (7)

Gangster abandoning accepted rule (4)
Turned on by jolly type (4)

Lost hour of sleep's restored (8)
To expect little is being negative (8)

[Thanks to setter Aakash Sridhar (Axe/Exa) for contributing all the clues for this post.]

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Monday, April 25, 2016

&Lit Clues That Do Not Deceive

andLit Clues That Do Not DeceiveOne of the hallmarks of a strong cryptic clue is a misleading definition. Some definitions are so creatively done that they stick long after one has solved the puzzle.

Guardian 26720 (Arachne): Part of autumn operation employs army swimmers (9) OCTOPUSES
OCT (part of autumn) OP (operation) USES (employs); definition: army swimmers

An important component that helps with disguising the definition is the alternate route to the answer. In the OCTOPUSES clue, "...autumn operation employs..." primes the solver to think of "army" of the military kind, steering the mind away from the "arm-y" interpretation.

Camouflage of this sort can be very challenging to execute in an &lit / semi-&lit clue. No alternate route exists in this clue type to contribute to surface misdirection. Additional constraints are at play: besides being accurate, the definition must also coincide with the wordplay without coming across as forced.

As a result, often, the &lit definition ends up being so direct it can be solved as a straight clue.

Independent 9103 (Klingsor): This country abuts Russia's borders in east (7) UKRAINE   
UK (this country) R[ussi]A IN E

THC 11583 (Vulcan): That which manages dirty clothes at home (7,7) WASHING MACHINE
(WHICH MANAGES)* around IN (at home); semi-&lit

The clues above are solvable from the surface meaning alone. As self-contained definitions, they are absolutely brilliant. But as cryptic clues, they do not venture to deceive.

Solvers: Do you notice a lack of misdirection in &lit clues?
Setters: When you write an &lit clue, do you keep an eye on the obviousness of the definition?

If, for the sake of a good &lit, the setter has to sacrifice one element out of accuracy / surface sense / deception – I guess it is wisest to let go of deception!

I leave you with a couple of &lit-type clues that work beautifully without giving away the answer:

FT 14737 (Alberich): A tall tree tumbles, trapping one? That will do (10) ALLITERATE
(A TALL TREE)* around I; D-by-E semi-&lit

Sunday Times 4650 (Dean Mayer): One trusted to get "creative" with books? (3,7) ART STUDENT
A (one) (TRUSTED)* NT (books)

Solve These

Enjoy solving these lovely &lit clues notwithstanding the straightish definitions.

Indy 8031 (Dac): In this, one may be flung out of car hitting tree (5)
FT14828 (Alberich): Lad regularly plunging into water, after small round object? (5,5)
Clue by Rufus: Make hale? (4)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Prize Puzzle: Hindi Crossword 5 – Solution and Winner

Your submissions for Hindi Cryptic Crossword 5 have been seen and evaluated. Now to share the solution and announce the winner.

The Solution

Hindi Cryptic Crossword 5 - Solution Grid

The explanation of the answers:

आर-पार

क्रमांक संकेत उत्तर टिप्पणी
1 जब दिन ढले, तब संत ध्यान लगाकर करते हैं तन का परित्याग (2) संध्या संत + ध्यान - तन; Definition: जब दिन ढले, तब
2 कन्हैया थोड़ा सिर खाता है, पर परोपकारी है (4) मोहसिन सि in मोहन (कन्हैया - both names of Krishna); Definition: परोपकारी
4 हर माह के शुरुआत में मूर्ती मिलेगी (3) प्रतिमा प्रति (हर) + मा; Definition: मूर्ती
6 जल की धारा में 18 नीचे बह गये (2) नदी दीन 18 नीचे) jumbled; Definition: जल की धारा
7 पत्थर के टुकड़ों से बनता है रास्ता (2) पथ पथ is made from parts of पत्थर; Definition: रास्ता
8 ढंग से तब बना अमरीका अमन चाहने वाला (3)  तरीका त (तब - ब) रीका (अमरीका 'अम' न चाहने वाला i.e. अमरीका - अम); Definition: ढंग
9 रमता फिरता और जान देता (3) मरता रमता*; Definition: जान देता
11 हम एक नए ढंग से सूंघेंगे, तो शायद ये पाएंगे? (3) महक (हम एक-ए)*; सूंघेंगे, तो शायद ये पाएंगे
13 दीवाना हुआ बादल, फिर गया (3) बदला (बादल)*, दीवाना हुआ = anagrind; Definition: फिर गया
15 जटायु के उलझे हुए बाल (2) जटा Hidden in जटायु; Definition: बाल
16 तुर्की में कोई स्वर नहीं, यह क्या बहस है (2) तर्क Picking the non-vowel parts of तुर्की; Definition: बहस
17 पर्दानशीं-अंदाज़ में पेश हो चंदा (2)  दान Hidden in पर्दानशीं-अंदाज़; Definition: चंदा
18 दीपक हृदय-प्रत्यारोपण के बाद हानिकारक जंतु बन गया (3) दीमक दीपक with a change of the central letter; Definition: हानिकारक जंतु
20 सेवक, वापस आ!  बिन आभूषण के (2) सादा दास (सेवक) reversed, आ; Definition: बिन आभूषण के
21 परिचय का सवाल है (2) कौन  CD
22 'सेर' की लिखाई ठीक करो! होना चाहिए 'शेर' (3) केसरी (सेर की)*; Definition: शेर
24 ज़ख्म मिला वाघा में वापस जाके (2) घाव Hidden in (वाघा)<; Definition:  ज़ख्म
25 खो-खो के सन्दर्भ में घिसा-पिटा लेख (2) खेल लेख*; Definition: खो-खो (DBE)
26 रजनी और रति, बिना टोपी के? (2) रात रति without the top matra; Definition: रजनी
27 हर वन में नर पूजा (3) हवन
हर वन - र; Definition: पूजा
29 इस अंक को आईने में देखो -  दुगना दिखेगा! (3) तेंतीस ३३ when seen in mirror becomes ६६, i.e. twice. Also, the enu number in the clue i.e. 3 is duplicated
31 सीधा 36  गोद लेकर पैदा करता है बदनामी का कारण? (3) कलंक कल (सीधा 36 i.e. answer to 36A), having taken अंक (गोद); Definition: बदनामी का कारण?
33 ये कहो, तो चुप हो जाओगे (2,1) कुछ ना CD
35 थोड़ा जलवा क्या देख लिया, तो जुमला मिल गया (2) वाक्य Hidden in जलवा क्या; Definition: जुमला
36 तकलीफ का वक़्त जो आगे आने वाला है (2) कल Hidden in तकलीफ; Definition: वक़्त जो आगे आने वाला है
37 आ री, ज़रा खाले! इसके बाद और कुछ नहीं (3) आखरी अ(ख)री; Definition: आ री around खा
38 नानी, थोड़ा बादाम ले लो, ये होगा तभी केक बनेगा! (4)
नानबाई नान+(बा)+ई; Definition: ये होगा तभी केक बनेगा
39 3 फुट का हाथी जिसपर छोटा सा तिल (2) गज़ हाथी=गज with a dot= गज़; Definition: 3 फुट

नीचे की ओर

1 संगमरमर के ताजमहल के सामने वाले हिस्सों में मिलने वाले इशारे (3) संकेत Acrostic संगमरमर के ताजमहल; Definition: इशारे
2 कभी था वो क्रिकेट बादशाह, पर अफ़रीदी मोगॅंबो के साथ मिलके उसे उल्टा बंदी बनाता है (2) मोदी Hidden in (अफ़रीदी मोगॅंबो)<; Definition: कभी था वो क्रिकेट बादशाह
3 नटखट रसिया, जंगली जानवर! (3)  सियार रसिया*; Definition: जंगली जानवर
4 पहला-पहला प्रेम? रुक जा! (3) प्रथम प्र+थम; Definition: पहला
5  'लाल पत्थर' में प्राण का मध्यांतर के बाद भाग था, 'माइक' के वेश में (3) माणिक ण in माइक; Definition: लाल पत्थर
6 अफ़ग़ानिस्तान (काबुल) में पहनने की चीज़ (3) नकाब Hidden in अफ़ग़ानिस्तान (काबुल); semi-&lit
9 अंत में आमला लगाया (2) मला Towards the end of आमला; Definition: लगाया
10 सरताज, नागपुर में चाबुक मिलेगा (3) ताजन  Hidden in सरताज नागपुर; Definition: चाबुक
12 चिकित्सक कम ही भटकते हैं (3) हकीम (कम ही)*; Definition: कम ही
14 क्रूर मनुष्य से दर की निंदा (केंद्रीय नहीं)  (3) दरिंदा Dropping central part of दरकीनिंदा; Definition: क्रूर मनुष्य
16 सुबह-सुबह के बघार? (3) तड़के Double definition
17 दार्जिलिंग की सीमा के पास नया राक्षस है (3) दानव दा + नव (नया); Definition: राक्षस
18 अंत में, जादुई चिराग जिसे मिला वो ग़रीब हो गया! (2) दीन  Last part of अलादीन (जादुई चिराग जिसे मिला); Definition: ग़रीब
19
नीरज ज़रा कम लम्बा है (3)
कमल Hidden in कम लम्बा; Definition: नीरज (synonym of 'lotus')
20 सरकारी सामान की वापसी - थोड़ी सी या पूरी ? (2) सारी Hidden in (सरकारी सामान)<; Definition: पूरी
21 सौ भाई और दो तिहाई कवच से संरक्षित (3) कौरव और in कव; Definition: सौ भाई
23 सती माछ का टुकड़ा निगलकर डूब जाती है (3) समाती (सीता माँ  - आँ)*; Definition: डूब जाती
24 घाना, तंज़ानिया और केन्या के प्रमुख शायद खतरनाक हैं (3) घातक Acrostic घाना, तंज़ानिया केन्या; Definition: खतरनाक
27 उल्टा-सीधा बोल, ऐसा अधिकार है (2) हक (कह)<; Definition: अधिकार
28 महाभारत का पात्र जिसका कोई वंश नहीं? (3) नकुल "न कुल" (जिसका कोई वंश नहीं); Definition: महाभारत का पात्र
29 इस जानवर का सर काट दो, तो मिलेगा आशीर्वाद (3)
तेंदुआ तेंदुआ without its तें is दुआ (आशीर्वाद); Definition: [इस] जानवर
30 रिक्शे में बैठनेवाली रीवा से वापस आई (3) सवारी Hidden in (रीवा से)<; Definition: रिक्शे में बैठनेवाली
32 ये जगह कुछ बुलंद नहीं है (3) लंदन Telescopic
34 गर्व में चूर रावण थोड़ा क्रोधित हुआ (3) नाराज़ नाज़ (गर्व) around रा; Definition: क्रोधित
36 ढेर सारे भुट्टे बिना ऊपरी छिलके के (2) कई मकई (भुट्टे) - म; Definition: ढेर सारे

The Theme

The theme, as most of you rightly guessed, was the names of the four people who had all-correct entries for Hindi Cryptic Crossword 4: Sanket (1d), Pratima Manik (4a,5d), Sandhya (1a) and Mohsin (2a).

The other theme? More on that in a while...

Finding Our Worthy Winner

Judging this contest has been something of a first, in that we did not have to rely on a lucky draw. The top slot for Hindi Crossord 5 has a clear occupant.

Several entries got the grid fill almost right except for a little misstep at 35a. The expected answer is वाक्य, not वाक्या. When the first few submissions in succession made the same error, we went back to the dictionary to check if the clue's definition जुमला could be interpreted in another way and if वाक्या was an acceptable alternate answer. The dictionary says not: जुमला simply means "a complete sentence in grammar", while वाक़या (note the different spelling: a full क with a dot below, or तिल as 39a would have it) is "incident, occurrence, news, event".

Perhaps many of you tripped up over this as जुमला prompts associations with words of Urdu origin? Let us know!

After taking your answers/annotations into account, we had the following solvers with all-correct or almost all-correct entries:

Pratima Manik
Vidyadhar Gadgil
Raju Umamaheshwar
Vinayak Rao Ekbote
Vasant Srinivasan

Of these, only one solver had all the answers right. Over to Kishore to tell you who it was.

--------------
शहर : लंदन
जगह : नानबाई पथ
वक्त : संध्या

रसोईघर से तड़के की महक आ रही थी |
मेरे साथ मेरा दोस्त हकीम (क्या बेटा!) आखरी सवाल के जवाब की गुज़ारिश कर रहा था - उत्सुकता दीमक की तरह उसके दिमाग को खा रहा थी |
घर का नंबर बाईस था पर पहेली में तेंतीस क्यों? और तेंतीस कह रहा था कुछ न कहो...
नाराज़ मत होइए ... आप मेरे तरीके से वाकिफ़ है ... आपके लिए सिर्फ संकेत ही काफ़ी है ...

इस खेल में कई लोगों ने भाग लिया ...
कौन जीता?

जीतने वाले का नाम 'व' से शुरू होता है ...

वसंत और विद्याधर दोनों ने जम के जवाब दिया बेशक,
पर वाक्य को वाक़या बनाने का उन्हें नहीं है हक़;
वास्तव में इस विशेष वर्ग पहेली के विजेता है विनायक

वाह, वाह ! बधाई हो !
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Vinayak – superlative show! Please write to me to claim your prize.

We hope all of you who tried this crossword enjoyed what you solved of it, even if you didn't fill in every cell in the grid. Feedback most welcome!

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