Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Hindu Crossword 9442: Gridman

the-hindu-crossword Found much to enjoy in this crossword. There remains one more answer to fill in (27A), and another (7D) where the annotation needs explanation.

16A and 21A were my favourites, and I have tiny objections to 25A and  20D.

All the trademark Gridman effects are there in this puzzle - Indian references, cryptic definitions (occasionally bordering on straight), and well-crafted charades.

ACROSS

1 These relate to wrong handling of English (8) ABUSAGES [CD]
This was clearly a cryptic definition but one of the last I could get, only after the checking letters were in place.

6 Irish poetry without source (4) {-v}ERSE 
A clue with the same wordplay was in yesterday's Guardian 24608: The language of poetry needing no introduction (4)

9 Trench in the edges of guardhouse a barrier (6) G{RILL}E
This might have held me up if it wasn't for the 'edges of…' part. With G{..}E in place, GRILLE came easily.

10 Bitter about champion dismantling crib (7) ACE RBIC*
I wondered first why a champion would dismantle a baby's bed, but then recalled that 'crib' could as well be a barn. Or was this a reference to the card game? In any case, I liked this clue.

13 Adored nun going around without ornamentation (9) UNADORNED* 
A very obvious anagram, with a slightly forced surface reading. Since just a letter's transpose from {N}UNADOR{}ED gives {}UNADOR{N}ED, I might have liked this clue more if it had played on that.

14 Around to catch the Spanish one, a Shakespearean character (5) C{EL I}A
A regular container/charade, but I appreciate that the definition isn't 'girl' (a pet peeve of mine), but it qualifies her as 'a Shakespearean character'.

15 Despatched a small coin as told (4) SENT{~cent}
We had the same wordplay from Gridman a month ago, in THC 9412: Forwarded a foreign coin, reportedly (4)

16 Odd fellow with a big Indian bird (10) KOOK A BURRA
I like the trailing end of the clue. It took crossing letters to see that the definition is 'bird' and not 'Indian bird', and that the 'Indian' goes with 'big'.

19 Workers' associations may have this kind of rivalry (5-5) INTER UNION
All right but not great; straightforward definition.

21 Honorific for leaders of some Hindu ritualistic institutions (4) S H R I
A flawless acrostic.

24 Catch old boy, a rich man (5) NAB OB
Easy charade.

25 Dog animal tad on the loose (9) DALMATIAN*
Another anagram where the surface reading is shaky. Also grammatically incorrect? Shouldn't it be 'a tad on the loose'?

26 Football passes a serial unfolds (7) AERIALS*
Two full anagrams in a row. This, too, easy to spot.

27 Medical officer pleased Cockney with a drop (6) D?A?P?
The wordplay suggests DR {-h}APPY, sadly DRAPPY is no word. DRIPPY fits the definition better but that would mean revising 23D. I'll wait for other solvers to enlighten me on this one.

28 Touched gently, we hear, a coffin (4) KIST{~kissed}
The letter K in the first cell for a 4-letter word limits the answers, so I got KIST quite easily though I did not know the word. The dictionary confirms that KIST does mean coffin.

29 Honour to girl at department for being law-abiding (8) OBE DI ENT
The filler 'to' between 'honour' and 'girl' could have been dropped, I think.

DOWN

2 At inn, obtain value for money (7) BAR GAIN
A neat charade with a nice simple definition.

3 Everybody in lodge is unhealthy (6) S{ALL}OW
Smart use of lodge to mean SOW. Everyone = ALL was a giveaway.

4 Beginner is envious and almost sexually aroused (9) GREEN HORN{-y}
I rubbed my eyes when I saw this – was I really seeing this clue in The Hindu and not the Private Eye crossword? The charade split the compound word into its actual base components (GREEN + HORN = GREENHORN), which made it undemanding for the solver.

5 At hearing remained grave (5) STAID{~stayed}
The third homophone in this puzzle, and my favourite one. 

7 Leader of railwaymen more clever holding soft tool (7) R AB{B}LER
I'm not sure how soft gives B.

8 Outcries change a Mexican's lot (12) EXCLAMATIONS*
Good anagram. The first one in this puzzle that I liked without reservations.

11 Card game for company in base messed up (6) ES{CO}BA*
Easy enough to guess, even if you don't know the name of the card game.

12 Sign of interrogation (8,4) QUESTION MARK
Straight definition again.

17 Enlightenment is king at present has sovereign advantage (9) K NOW L EDGE
The charade breakup is creative and is woven together well, but this needs a comma after 'present' to be grammatically correct.

18 Sailor in the course of a song in peninsula (6) AR{AB}IA
OK, nothing exciting about this.

20 Sat up holding poet's tunics (7) TA{BARD}S<-
Amusing surface reading. The  's of "poet's" is the possessive suffix on the surface, and IS in the cryptic reading.

22 It keeps a lock in place (7) HAIRPIN [CD]
Crossword mantra: When you see locks and waves, think HAIR.

23 Man in nearly big Indian city (6) MA{NAL}I{-n}
One of the last answers entered. It satisfies the wordplay but it's clashing with 27A so I'm having second thoughts. Regarding the clue itself, the 'nearly big' doesn't read very well.

25 Record Orissa's primary dance (5) DISC O
This clue took longer to solve than it should have. It set me thinking of Odissi. It was amusing to get DISCO after all. Nice one!

Update (30th Jan 09): DRAPPY is actually the answer for 27A. This must be a rare word; it is not recognized by dictionary.com.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Save The Words

savethewords.org Do you know that words become extinct if they aren't used enough? Lexicographers research word usage and drop hundreds of neglected words from the dictionary every year.

To counter this, Oxford University Press has launched an initiative called Save The Words. You can 'adopt' a word i.e. resolve to use it more, in your conversations, written communication or anywhere else. This increases the chances of the word's survival.

Why Should You Save Words?
Words make language richer. Synonyms are not interchangeable. There is a difference between insufficiency, poverty and penury, and language would be poorer without any one of these words.

Studies also find a correlation between a culture's language and how members of the culture think and act. It is said that the narrower the language, the less evolved the thought patterns of people using the language. Remember Orwell's 1984?

Besides, we want crossword composers to have a wider field to choose from. We don't want the same words recycled in the grid!

How Can You Save Words?

  1. Sign-Up at Save The Words.
  2. Adopt from their list of endangered words. They have some wonderful-sounding ones: AEIPATHY (continued passion), DILORICATE (to rip open a sewn piece of clothing) and SPARSILE (of a star not belonging to any constellation) to name a few.
  3. Pledge to use your adopted word as often as you can: in emails, SMSes, in office presentations, in your blog title, wear in on your T-shirt or get it tattooed!
Lexicographers reinstate discarded words if such words are found being used again. WHEATGRASS is one such, which found its way back into the dictionary after missing from it for several years.

In return for adopting a word, you get this certificate:

save-the-words-certificate

You might also enjoy reading:

  • Hindi Words In UK Crosswords
  • "Computer" Words In Crosswords
  • Obama's Impact On The Crossword
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    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Gourds In The Grid

    crossword-clue-gourds While doing the FT crossword today, I came across this clue:
    FT 12981: A lot of fruit satisfied epicure (7) GOUR{-d} MET

    It struck me then that the GOURD figures often in British crosswords but hardly ever in Indian ones. I wonder why; gourds are eaten here so much!

    Two more recent "gourd" clues from the Times:
    Times 24083: Chap got stuck into bottle for one - he'll swallow plenty (8) GOUR{MAN}D
    Times 23855: Run out of fruit served with a kind of cheese (5) GOU{-r}D A

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    Crossword-Solving Gadgets

    The gadget-freaks among us might be interested in these electronic devices for crossword-solving. I haven't used any myself, only read about them. Showing some here that sport the most attractive features or have the best customer reviews on Amazon.

     

     

    They're lightweight and pocket-sized. The cost is in the range of £30-£70; reviews on Amazon assure that that's money well-spent. The catch is, most of these items have restricted delivery destinations. Some deliver to UK only.

    I'd like to hear feedback from someone who has actually used one of these. If you have, do leave a comment about your experience with it.

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    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    The Hindu Crossword 9434

    crossword-with-tea The first few clues put me off, so I didn't attempt this puzzle any further. My comments on the some of the clues:

    7A Counteracting agent for a worker I endlessly showered with love (8) ANT I DOTE{-d}
    Take the last bit of wordplay. DOTED comes from the same root as DOTE, so what is the point of the  deletion? It adds nothing to the cleverness of the clue, only increases its length. "Counteracting agent for a worker I shower with love" would be a cleaner way to write the same clue.

    9A Handbook on physical labour (6) MANUAL [2]
    Handbook is MANUAL all right, but physical labour is NOT! physical = MANUAL, physical labour = manual labour.

    1D Shallow dishes have a dressing on the rear end side (7) SAUCE R S
    Is "rear end side" grammatically correct? Is side = S? I'm not too sure.

    2D Imposing manner of the holy man to be late at the end of the day (7) ST ATEL* Y
    "Imposing manner" can define STATELINESS, not STATELY. And where is the anagram indicator for "late"?

    It surprises me that The Hindu lets crosswords be published without proper verification. Leave aside careful consideration of each clue, even a cursory look at the clues shows gawky surface reading and semantic errors.

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    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Wordplay Inversion

    invert-wordplay-cryptic-clue Most cryptic clues can be parsed into the components: definition, wordplay and indicator. Clue types such as anagrams, hidden words, containers, all follow this structure.

    An occasional clue will use a variant of this format, that of "inverting" the wordplay. Consider the example below.

    FT12970:
    In a roundabout way, German article carries significance? On the contrary, vacuous levity (12) MEAN{DER}ING LY
    German article = DER, significance = MEANING.
    The containment indicator 'carries' would imply that DER contains MEANING, but the additional indicator 'on the contrary' swaps the container/contents indication. So then, MEANING contains DER.

    Such clues have an extra indicator for the inversion. These are typically words that convey a sense of "the opposite" - such as 'contrary', 'converse'.

    ---
    Try solving this clue that uses wordplay inversion:
    Times 24125: Translating from this language? Just the opposite (5)

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Of IP And Birds

    hindu-crossword-9430I glanced through the clues in THC 9430 and was particularly struck with 20D.

    Internet Protocol up in a big game bird (6) MAGPIE

    - What is the clue supposed to mean? How can Internet Protocol be "up" in a "game bird"?
    - Is "big" an anagram indicator? If yes, were largely, loudly not enough that we have another addition to the strange set?

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    3-Dimensional Crosswords

    cube-fragmenting We are familiar the regular cryptic crossword, the 2-dimensional kind. Ever imagined what a 3-dimensional crossword would look like?

    3D-crossword-directions-across-down-away1 These smart people at Sirius 3D Crosswords have not just visualized them but gone ahead and created such puzzles. The 3D puzzles have not just ACROSS and DOWN solutions but a third kind called AWAY intersecting the other two. In addition to the usual cryptic clues, there are also interesting visual clues.

    Such as this one calendar-puzzle-3d-clue , which stands for TIMETABLE.

    The puzzles at Sirius 3D Crosswords use a calendar for their framework. There's a clue for each day and a grid for each month. The 2009 puzzle is currently going on – check out the January 2009 puzzle on this page. Each month's grid and clues become available when that month starts. There is a prize for each grid and a trophy for the solver of the complete Calendar Puzzles 2009.

    Puzzle downloads on the site are free; you're encouraged to donate to charitable institutions if you wish. The site has a foreword by Araucaria. An excerpt:

    As a crossword setter I am always trying to think of new ideas. Inevitably the same old words crop up all the time, and inevitably with most of the same old clues, the same old grids. The invention of jigsaw crosswords was one successful innovation; and here we have another: the 3D crossword…

    …At first I expect most of us will find it difficult to get into the third dimension - but persevere:  I believe you will find it very well worth while.
    Araucaria.

    The idea interests me for its novelty but I'm not sure if adding dimensions to the grid makes the crossword-solving experience any better. It would perhaps be a fun challenge for the crossword compiler, and solvers with an eye for visualization would relish it.

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    Friday, January 9, 2009

    New York Times Election Day Crossword

    I recently read a book called Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8)[1], an autobiography interweaved with interesting stories about crosswords. One such anecdote is about a remarkable crossword puzzle published in the New York Times in 1996. I looked it up on the net and (bless Google) found the puzzle online.

    Here is a screenshot of the grid and clues:

    new-york-times-election-day-crossword

    Crossword Copyright 1996 New York Times

    The NYT puzzle is not a cryptic one; it has straight clues with the occasional pun or cryptic definition. You'll notice another dissimilarity with regular cryptic crosswords: the NYT clues do not mention solution lengths. This feature was put to ingenious use in the 1996 Election Day Crossword.

    The special clue is the one cutting across the centre of the grid - 39A(+43A):

    Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper (!)

    The answer to the central clue corresponds with two 7-letter spaces.

    This puzzle was published on 5th November 1996, the day of the Presidential Election in US in which Bill Clinton and Bob Dole were the prime candidates. The lead story in the next day's newspaper would naturally be about the result of the election.

    The checking letters for 39A worked out as:

    39D  Black Halloween animal             CAT
    40D  French 101 word                       LUI
    41D  Provider of support, for short    IRA
    23D  Sewing shop purchase               YARN
    27D  Short writings                          BITS
    35D  Trumpet                                  BOAST
    42D  Much-debated political inits.     NRA    

    The solution stood like this, then: 
    nyt-solution-clinton-elected 

    Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper (!): CLINTON ELECTED

    BUT at the time the crossword was published, the election result had not been declared. There were loud protests from solvers – was NYT being so presumptuous as to predict the result?

    What they did not realize was that another group of solvers were sniggering over NYT's massive faux pas, for they had answered the same clue as BOB DOLE ELECTED.

    The beauty of this puzzle is that there are two possible solutions. The clues for the crossing words are deliberately ambiguous and allow a completely different set of valid answers. So, if you answered the crossing clues like this:

    39D  Black Halloween animal             BAT
    40D  French 101 word                       OUI
    41D  Provider of support, for short    BRA
    23D  Sewing shop purchase               YARD
    27D  Short writings                          BIOS
    35D  Trumpet                                  BLAST
    42D  Much-debated political inits.     ERA    

    You would get this solution:
    nyt-solution-bob-dole-elected

    Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper (!): BOB DOLE ELECTED

    Very few solvers at the time realized that a solution different from theirs was possible.

    The exclamation mark in clue 39A works like it does with cryptic clues – signalling that something other than the obvious is going on. Of course, the same device couldn't have been used in a standard cryptic crossword as word length breakup of solutions - (7, 7) vs (3, 4, 7) - would have given the game away.

    This crossword was designed by Jeremiah Farrell. The New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz, calls it his favourite puzzle of all time.

    [1]: As you can guess, the title of the book Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8) is a cryptic clue. Can you tell what the answer is?

    You might also enjoy reading:

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    Favourite Compiler Poll: Outcome

    Those of you who followed the poll announcement will wonder why the result is being announced prematurely. The initial idea was to give the poll a long 6-week run. Many of my readers come through organic search, so this was to allow a wider, representative sample of votes to be cast.

    I had launched the poll on a whim, just for fun. Many of us are not even used to observing the compilers' names. I thought those of us who do notice could find a common platform to voice our appreciation, and those of us who don't notice will, perhaps, now. The poll progressed smoothly for the first two days.

    But then a strange thing happened. There was a sudden spurt in favour of one particular option on the poll. When this went on for some time, I thought of investigating. As administrator it is possible for me to trace the IP of those using the poll panel.

    All these visits were from one particular IP address in Mumbai. Clearly, the poll was being rigged and so it was pointless to continue it.

    I don't know whether to be surprised, amused or frustrated at this outcome. I had only read about "booth-capturing" before; this is the first I've experienced it. The motive is a total mystery. There was promise of neither seat in the cabinet nor the plum rewards of Indian Idol.

    Anyway, for what it's worth, this is how the poll stood when closed.

    Results 

    the-hindu-compiler-rigged-poll-result-pie

     the-hindu-compiler-rigged-poll-result-bars

    Thanks a lot to each one of you who showed sincere interest in the poll and took the time to vote/comment.

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    Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Inter-Grid References

    grid-references Sometimes clues in a crossword do not stand alone but need the answer of another clue to get the solution. Such clues weave in the number of the referenced clue in the surface reading.

    This device appears quite frequently in the UK puzzles but I'm seeing more of it in The Hindu of late. There was this one on 20-DEC-08 (was it the first?):

    2D: Fur? Um… it belongs to me (6) ER MINE
    7D: Command Act 2 needs to be restructured (8) DO MINEER*

    The solution of 7D depends on the answer for 2D. The key here is to recognize that the "2" in 7D refers to the 2 Down clue.

    There's another one in today's THC 9423:

    8A: He distributes parts of a film (6) CASTER
    22A: Back at home in 8 for a container (8) CA{NI<-}STER

    Once you know that the "8" in 22A means clue 8A, the answer is simple.

    So when you see a number in a clue, consider that this could be an inter-grid reference. [Caution: This is a possibility, not a certainty. For a clue like "Queen follows Act 5 here", if you try putting in the solution of clue#5 you'll be on the wrong track - the 5 in this instance simply needs its Roman numeral substitution.]

    Related Posts:

    • Circular Reference - a slightly more complicated case of inter-grid reference, with cyclic dependency between two clues.
    • The Hindu Crossword 9409 (Gridman), which has an instance of inter-grid reference.
    • Roman Numbers – when numbers in clues are not clue numbers, but Roman numerals

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    Saturday, January 3, 2009

    Trifling Talk

    Came across this clue in today's The Times Saturday crossword:
    Times 24113: Frivolous talk getting serious in time (8)

    This is so close to this clue from The Hindu published a couple of days ago:
    THC 9416: Jokey talk that gets unacceptable in time (8)

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    Friday, January 2, 2009

    By-Lines For THC Compilers

    The year 2008 saw a landmark change in The Hindu crossword. All these years, their compilers worked behind-the-scene. We solved their puzzles, made guesses about who and how many, but we were never sure.

    That changed since September 2008. The Hindu began carrying the compiler's name along with their daily crossword. Given the vast variation in style and quality of the THC puzzles, I'd call this is a very positive development. A glance at the by-line gives you a pretty good idea about what to expect from the puzzle.

    Vote For Your Favourite Crossword Compiler

    Regular solvers would be quite familiar by now with each compiler's style. Do you have a favourite? Crossword Unclued is running a poll to let you vote for the compiler you like most. Do vote and voice your appreciation for the people who create the puzzles you enjoy so much!

    voteTo vote:
    Visit http://www.crosswordunclued.com. Mark your choice on the "Vote For Your Favourite!" poll available on the right sidebar. You can also add comments/feedback/reasons to support your choice after placing your vote.

    The poll will run for 6 weeks after which results will be published. Cast your vote now!

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