Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

hnyHere’s welcoming 2009 the Crossword Unclued way :)
Were any confused? Hero of 'Singh Is Kinng', at first! (5, 3, 4)

(Yes yes, I saw 'Singh Is Kinng' just last night)

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The Hindu Crossword 9417

crossword-with-tea As is usual with M.Manna's puzzles, this one too had a mix of really good clues with imperfect ones. The solution definitions in particular don't seem satisfactory for some of the clues.

Take a closer look at those clues.

13a Told many around to see concealed place (8) CLOSETED*
CLOSETED is a verb/adjective, but its definition "concealed place" is for a noun - that could give CLOSET, not CLOSETED.

25a Tear away scorching with van (7) HOT HEAD
"scorching" = HOT and "van" = HEAD, but how is "tear" or "tear away" = HOTHEAD? A hothead can tear away in rage, but HOTHEAD is not the same thing as "tear away".

27d English drops out when you rise up to respectfully address (3) {-e}SIR<-
Another parts of speech inconsistency. SIR is a noun, but its definition is for a verb. "respectful address" could be a valid definition for SIR, not "respectfully address".

Update: The definitions I did like were:

  • "scored" for NOTATED (7d), for the way it is used to make one think of sport rather than music
  • "constant" for NON-STOP (2d), for the way it blends with "number" in the surface reading

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Times Squires

The same word on two consecutive days – how's that for coincidence!

From The Times Saturday Crossword 24107 published yesterday:
Squire, perhaps, left a number with something disappointing (9)

From The Times Sunday Crossword 4309 published today:
Squire's depressing experience after family lost head (9)

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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hindu Crossword 9414

crossword-with-tea I enjoy the Indian touch that Gridman's puzzles have. There was HING in a charade clue yesterday and a chuckle-worthy cryptic definition today - "Tirupati hairdo?".

Gridman seems to favour cryptic definitions of late. THC9414 was high on cryptic definitions again (9 clues out of 30).

At first I took "It can be troubling government officials" to be a CD for CABINET, and was marvelling at the leeway taken in the definition. It struck me much later that this was an anagram.

2d was the last one to go in for me as I had been looking for a double-definition solution than a CD. With crossing letters it fell into place. ECLOGUE was an unfamiliar word but the wordplay helped.

Some nit-picking:
- French friend for AMI (5a and 24a) twice in the same puzzle - not too pretty!
- Is the plural form "OFF BEATS" correct? Shouldn't "Describing a policeman away from regular duties" still be "OFF BEAT"?

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season’s Greetings

1123173_christmas_tree For Crossword Unclued readers, here's a special cryptic wish*:
Army exam regularly used in Indian mines (5, 4)

*Just in jest, no brickbats please for taking the “setter’s license” thing too far :)

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A Thought About Hidden Word Clues

Is it just me or does anyone else also feel uneasy about unused words in telescopic clues?

Take these clues from the last few issues of THC:

1. THC 9409: Ancient people some police nicely escort (5)
2. THC 9410: Man some feel I humbled (5)
3. THC 9411: Squandered moneyin ignoble ways (4)
4. THC 9412: Zulu regiment in scrimpiest outfit (4)

In 2 and 3, the solution spans across all the extra words (i.e. words other than the solution and indicator). In 1 and 3, the words "escort" and "outfit" don't contribute at all to the hidden word, they're just there to help with the surface reading.

2 and 3 are fine by me, 1 and 4 not so much.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Substitutions Simplified

In a substitution clue, a part of a word is exchanged with something else to get the solution. For example, the word CAST can be clued as CART - R + S.

substitutionSubstitution Clue Structure: The clue has the following components:

  1. Source Definition – Definition of the "input" word in which the substitution has to take place
  2. Hint for letters to be removed
  3. Hint for letters to be added
  4. Substitution Indicator – e.g. 'instead of', 'in place of'
  5. Solution Definition – Definition of the "output" word obtained after substitution

A good clue camouflages the substitution indicator well so that the solver misses spotting it – but once you’ve identified the clue as a substitution clue type, it gets much easier from there. Since the clue contains pointers for the source word and also the letters to be added/removed, you have a lot of fodder to build the solution upon.

Example I (from Times 24104):
Unexciting story gets mark for length (4)
story = source definition = TALE
mark for length => put in M in place of L
unexciting = solution definition = TA{-L}{+M}E = TAME

Example II (from Guardian 24522):
Too satisfied by praise when account is taken for one million (10)
praise = source definition = COMPLIMENT
account is taken for one million => put in AC in place of IM
too satisfied = solution definition = COMPL{-IM}{+AC}ENT = COMPLACENT

Solving Tips

  • The portion to be substituted is usually 1-2 characters long only, which means that we need to think of two words – the source and the solution - that share almost similar spelling. This can be quite helpful as both words have their own definitions.

  • The letters to be added/removed are mostly clued using standard abbreviations. With these letters identified, you have a good start point to find the source word/solution.

---
Try solving this one from the Guardian archives:
Poles in place of Royal Society in place of plants in place of sisters (7)
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hindu Crossword 9409: Too Tough?

After a spate of Nita Jaggi puzzles, Gridman in the THC yesterday was a welcome change. THC9409 was much discussed in the solving community, the general consensus being that it was difficult. Was it? I thought the puzzle was fair and far more pleasing than the bland fare that THC has been dishing out to us poor solvers of late.

A couple of factors that did add to its complexity:

  • The puzzle was heavy with cryptic definitions; 10 clues out of 34 were of this type. Most of these needed crossing letters to get solved. 
  • Even with other clue types, the definitions were somewhat uncommon or oblique, such as volume measure = SONE, turtle = SLIDER.
  • A few ‘obscure’ words - NIEVE and ELGIN for example – also held us up, but I must say Gridman has been thoughtful enough to give extra-helpful wordplay for such words.
  • This puzzle had 4 deletion clues, which is unusually high for THC, its norm being 1-2 in a puzzle if at all. With deletions, it is easier for me to see the answer than to work out how it is derived. This did not pose a problem here though – the components to be subtracted were very clear in all these clues.
  • 7d needed the answer of 2d for its solution. This must be something of a first in THC; I don’t recall seeing inter-grid references between clues appear in THC before. I do so much of the Guardian crossword nowadays that a number in a clue makes me think first of clue connections before anything else. So this came to me immediately, but no surprise that it had the best of THC solvers flummoxed.

Tiny complaint: Random proper names in crosswords, with just ‘he’ or ‘she’ to define them, don’t quite thrill me. Two of them (ERNEST and MIMI) in a single puzzle had me frowning!

That apart, a very satisfying solve. Here’s hoping that the trend of better puzzles in THC will continue…

Wordplay Breakup

The graph below shows how the clues were distributed across clue types. 7d, 19d and 23d used a combination of clue types, the rest fell into single clue type categories.

Cryptic definitions formed the largest share of clues, followed by charades.THC9409

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cryptic Definitions

cryptic-definition-clue-type Cryptic definition [CD] clues expect you to think laterally to arrive at the solution. Unlike most other clue types, pure CD clues do not have separate definition and wordplay. The entire clue is one single definition, worded in a misleading way and you need to use some "out-of-the-box" reasoning to solve it.

Example I (from Guardian 24566):
International contest won by gifted horse (6,3)

The clue leads you to think of a talented horse. Think instead of a horse given as a gift. You can work out then that TROJAN WAR is the answer.

Example II (from Times 24068):
Frames for summer's activities? (5)
"Summer" here isn't the season but "that which does sums" as in additions. The answer: counting frames, or ABACI.

Example III (from FT 12943):
I can see what is being said (3,6)

The clue does not say "hear what is being said", it says "see what is being said". Watch out for oddities like this, imagine possibilities of what it could mean. LIP READER, in this case.

Things To Watch Out For

  • A ""?" at the end is a good sign that the clue is a cryptic definition.
    Times 24451: Fallout when the deal is subjected to cuts? (7) SAWDUST
    "deal" is meant to be taken as "business transaction" in the surface, and "wood" in the cryptic reading.

  • At times the clue is not purely cryptic but is a double-definition with one or both of the solution definitions as CDs.
    Example: FT 13326 (Bradman): Unique situation of team with waterlogged pitch? (9) MATCHLESS
    There are two definitions here - the regular one 'unique', and the cryptic definition 'situation of team with waterlogged pitch?' which gives MATCH-LESS i.e. without a match. Read about cryptic double-definitions for more on this variant of CD.

Solve These

Try solving these cryptic definition clues from NIE/ET/Guardian:
Her husband's late (5)
A piece of it presents no problem (4)
First impressions that stay with you? (10)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Déjà Vu

I had a pleasant morning bus ride with two crosswords to give me company - today's The Hindu and yesterdays' Financial Times.

4D of THC soon after 13A of FT made me jump.

FT12939 13A: Sharp taste ruined swallowing last of gateau (7)
THC9393  4D: Shrewd, upper-class taste perhaps (6)

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