Monday, August 11, 2008

Digging Out Hidden Words

Clues that contain hidden words - also called 'telescopic clues' - have the solution embedded straight into the text of the clue. The solution might be wholly contained in a single word, or span over a continuous set of words.

Stop getting letters from friends (3) END (Hidden word within a single word)
Choose from among the top ten (3) OPT     (Hidden word spanning a set of words)

Telescopic Clue Structure: The clue contains 3 parts -
1. Definition
2. Hidden word indicator - Word or phrase indicating a hidden word e.g. 'from', 'partly', 'within', 'has'
3. Word/phrase containing the hidden word

Here are some tips to help you identify telescopic clues.

Examine huge words
If you find a really long word sitting in the clue with a word like 'in'/'some'/'has' next to it, a subset of this word is probably the answer to the clue.

Metal concealed by environmentalist (4) IRON
Not one to hold back from tergiversation (5) GIVER

Check for clunky surface reading, proper nouns
The clue most likely contains an anagram if it is constructed awkwardly or has proper nouns. If, however, it turns out not to be an anagram - no anagram indicator, but something like a hidden word indicator adjacent to it - then telescopic clue is your next bet.

Mountain range in central Taiwan (5) ALTAI
Pole coming from Sweden or The States (5) NORTH

Lookout for hidden solution over wrapped text
A regular crossword puzzle carries clues in multi-column format; the clue text wraps to the next line when it is too long. Watch out for hidden words that span across wrapped text!

Plant part that the biologist
phasised here (4)

GK-based solutions
Telescopic clues are heavily used to clue general knowledge based words. Names of places/rivers, stars/galaxies, gods and goddesses and so on.

Clues based on arcane knowledge (that is, knowledge that you do not have!) can be very frustrating. Not so with telescopic clues. The answer can be derived even if you are ignorant of the subject.

Consider the clue: African of Cuban-Turkish extraction (5)

You figure that this is a telescopic clue (proper nouns, hidden word indicator "extraction"), you also figure that the definition is "African". So, the answer must be a word that describes someone of African origin.

Now, suppose you have no knowledge about natives of Africa. How will you solve this clue?
Here's how. You know enough to deduce that:
- The answer is hidden within 'Cuban-Turkish'.
- The answer uses at least one letter from each of the words 'Cuban' and 'Turkish'. If it did not, the word would not have been there in the clue.
- The answer can therefore only be one of these - UBANT, BANTU, ANTURK, NTURK.

Now, the moment you fill in a crossing letter in the grid - say, ?A??? - voila! You have the answer - BANTU.

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