Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Many Aspects Of "About"

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word-about-in-cryptic-crosswords ABOUT is one of those words that you find often in cryptic clues but can't bracket instantly for its meaning. It is remarkable how varied its cryptic function can be.

Here's a look at some of the avatars of this little word.

  1. Containment Indicator: In container clues, ABOUT indicates that a word is to be wrapped around another word.
    Guardian 24642: Cavalryman retreats without thinking about us (6) H{US}SAR<-
    FT 13009: Baby on the way; parent worried about good name (8) PRE{G N}ANT*

  2. Anagram Indicator: ABOUT can be an anagrind in anagram clues.
    NIE 18-Feb-09: Get hint about contract (7) TIGHTEN*
    NIE 09-Dec-08: He's about to call up a poet (7) SHE* LLEY<-

  3. Abbreviation RE: When used in the sense of "regarding"/"in reference to", ABOUT gives the contraction RE.
    ET 3848: One you can draw when about to get into the tub (6) B{RE}ATH, semi-&lit 
    ET 3087: There's something nuclear about a performer (7) RE ACTOR

  4. Abbreviation C/CA: ABOUT can be used for C or CA, abbreviations of "circa".
    THC 8517: Creepy-crawly about to be featured in inside picture (6) INSE{C}T
    ET 3685: Talk about some mad character (7) C HATTER

  5. To stand for IN or ON: ABOUT can mean "in" or "on" (when taken in sentences like "He is about the house", "He lost all he had about him").
    Guardian 24614: About to call up – ring – versatile performer (3-3, 4) ONE-MAN BAND (ON EMAN<- BAND)

  6. Part Of The Definition: ABOUT can be a part of a phrasal definition.
    ET 3063: Nigel around it's right to hang about (6) LINGE* R
    Guardian 24609: How about taking an attitude to drink? (9) SUP POSING

  7. Nothing At All: …and sometimes, in not-quite-kosher clues, ABOUT is a filler to make sense of the clue's surface.
    ET 3087: Fuss about a Millennium project gets me lost (3) A DO{-me}
    ET 3454: Crazy about fruit (7) BANANAS [2]

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9 comments

raghunath said...

About to call up – ring – versalite performer (3-3, 4)

ONE-MAN BAND (ON ENAM<- BAND)

Whats the ANNO? About = ON, Ring= Band and MANE?

Shuchi said...

The shorthand annotation is next to the answer. Expanding that further:
about = ON
to = connector
call = NAME
up = reversal indicator
ring = BAND
versalite performer = definition

Chaturvasi said...

The typo 'versalite' needs to be fixed.

Chaturvasi said...

Congrats on a very perceptive analysis.

Shuchi said...

Thanks CVasi Sir. Typo fixed.

raghunath said...

About to call up – ring – versatile performer (3-3, 4) ONE-MAN BAND (ON ENAM<- BAND)

There was a typo also in the Anno given which put me off the mark. ENAM <-. I did not bother to see the soln.

Shuchi said...

Fixed that too. (Note to self: proof-read better!) Glad to have an observant audience.

Hari Mannarsamy said...

Shuchi, great tutorial on cryptic clues! Want to read your whole blog systematically.
Couple of observations:
ET 3848: One you can draw when about to get into the tub (6) B{RE}ATH [CD]

This is a semi &lit clue not a full CD really. (though the def 'One you can draw' is cryptic)


Guardian 24609: How about taking an attitude to drink? (9) SUP POSING [CD]
This is again not a CD. Question: is How about = Supposing? can you explain?

Shuchi said...

Thank you for making me review this old post, Hari. It was written at a time when I would mark an off-beat definition in a regular cryptic clue as [CD]. I don't do that any longer, to avoid conflict with the cryptic definition clue type.

I have updated the post now.

On "how about" = supposing, I think it comes from usage like "How about | Supposing we say thanks instead of sorry. Will that change things?"