Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cryptic Definitions

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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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raghunath said...

Her husband's late (5) WIDOW?
It's bound to be a bit of a shock (5) ???
A piece of it presents no problem (4) ???
Grow up in Brussels? (6) ???
Poles in place of Royal Society in place of plants in place of sisters (7) NURSES?

Mind explaining?

Shuchi said...

It's bound to be a bit of a shock (5) SHELL: Shell is a cover (i.e. it's bound), and its part of the expression "shellshock".

A piece of it presents no problem (4) CAKE: "a piece of cake" is something easy to do.

Grow up in Brussels? (6) SPROUT: To sprout means to grow, and there is the vegetable "Brussels sprout".

Poles in place of Royal Society in place of plants in place of sisters (7) NUNNERIES: This is a substitution clue type.
Poles in place of Royal Society => NN in place of RS
place of plants = NURSERIES
NN replaces RS in NURSERIES to give NUNNERIES, which means "place of sisters".

raghunath said...

Very good. Thanks!


Poles in place of Royal Society in place of plants in place of sisters (7) NUNNERIES:
... is a 9 letter word?

Shuchi said...

Oops I wrote that in a half-asleep state.

The clue is about place, not places, of plants/sisters - so it should all be in the singular. NURSERY - RS + NN = NUNNERY.

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

First impressions that stay with you? (10)
Is it 'Fingerprint'?

Shuchi said...

No. The word starts with 'B'.

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Is it Birthmarks?

Shuchi said...

You got it!

James Lucas said...

Obviously it's been working for the past four and a half years since no one else has objected, but the explanation of MATCHLESS puts the break in the wrong spot. 'Unique' stands alone, and 'situation' begins the second definition. Cheers!

Shuchi said...

@James Lucas: Thank you - now corrected. Better late than never :-)