Friday, February 27, 2009

Charade Overdose

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the-hindu-crossword Those of you familiar with the game of dumb charades would recognize patterns common between the game and cryptic crossword clues.

In dumb charades, how you convey the path to the solution is a lot like writing cryptic clues. You can act out the whole word or phrase (cryptic definition), break the word into parts and play them out in any order (charades/reversals), you can do a "sounds-like" (homophone) or change of tongue (foreign words in clues). All these devices have standard signals (indicators), and there are agreed ways to convey frequently-used components (cryptic abbreviations).

Sometimes the players will stretch the "break the word into parts" routine to such an extreme that they're literally spelling out the answer. Give them DEVA to enact, and they'll urge their team to run through the alphabet and spell out D+E+V+A. When this happens once too often, the rival team soon yells in protest.

This is exactly the trouble with Nita Jaggi's clues. The typical wordplay style is: split the word to its smallest components, use bits and pieces (country codes, prepositions and articles, units of measurement etc.) and string them all together as charade. When most of the puzzle is based on this, it does not challenge or interest the solver anymore. Examples of what I mean from today's crossword 9467:

28A: Not applicable for us at a point of advanced sickness (6) NA US E A
8D: South Africa to give evidence for one alien taken up on a celestial body (9) SA TELL I TE<-
26D: Note the Spanish film (4) RE EL

Some letter extraction techniques are drastically overused. Take "at the end of the day"/"day's end" to get Y. In the series of Nita Jaggi's puzzles published since 21-FEB-09 (9462 to 9467), it has shown up in every single puzzle, even repeated within the same puzzle (9462).

The Hindu Crossword 9467: Wordplay Breakup

Classifying today's clues by (primary) wordplay type, the breakup:

Wordplay Type Count
Charade 22
Anagram 2
DD 2
Container 1
Deletion 1
Telescopic 1
Total No. Of Clues 29
 the-hindu-crossword-9467-wordplay

The largest chunk (76%) is charades, other clue types are not utilized enough.

Hope to soon see more variety in the clues!


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3 comments

Col_Gopinath said...

Well said Shuchi, I agree with you totally

Ash said...

Wow! I thought I was the only one who had analyzed this and was irked by it!

I'm getting back to solving The Hindu's crossword after a break of ~4 years. The quality of clues has drastically degraded into silly word-play.

Shuchi said...

Hi Ash

Welcome here and back to THC-solving. The quality of clues will improve once NJ's run of ten puzzles is over. Have patience :)