Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tricky Indicators: Part I

tricky-cryptic-clue-indicator Most types of cryptic clues such as anagrams, hidden words, deletions etc. have indicators to signal the clue type. A container clue, for example, must have a word/phrase to point out that one word needs to be embedded inside another.

Consider a standard container clue:
NIE 01-Apr-09: Doctor about to employ thought (5) M{USE}D
The outer word (doctor = MD) and inner word (employ = USE) are clearly distinguished, with "about" indicating that MD will go around USE.

Indicators are not always so explicit. The next clue shows a trickier style of clueing container clues.

NIE 9697: Sad bearer of news indeed (9)
Here the outer word and indicator are combined in the word INDEED, which is to be read as "in DEED". The word for "bearer of news" = PRESS is put inside DEED to give the solution DE{PRESS}ED.

INDEED is a the most common example of this type – most often it's there in the clue not to express emphatic agreement but to give the letters DE{ }ED for the solution.

Other words starting with IN- can also be used in the same way. So, INTERN can be used to clue TER{RAI}N and INMATE to clue MAT{T}E.

Such wordplay is considered "unXimenean" (refer to the "Derringer's exploits" clue in the link for more on this), and you will not come across this kind of clue in crosswords like the Times. Many Libertarian setters do use this device though, so it's good to prepare yourself.

Encapsulated Indicators

For the sake of differentiating them from regular indicators, I'm calling these "encapsulated indicators" – indicators that are part of a bigger word; for solving we need to take apart this word to form [indicator + fodder] and do as indicated with the fodder.

Some more examples to help you recognize encapsulated indicators. These are often within compound words and give fragments of the solution in complex clues.

Word Encapsulated Indicator Cryptic Meaning
BACKBONE BACK, reversal indicator Reverse a word that means BONE, such as MARC<-
INTENSE IN, container indicator Put the inner word of the container clue inside a word for TENSE
SCATTERBRAIN SCATTER, anagram indicator Anagram the letters of BRAIN
SWEETHEART HEART, deletion/selection indicator Take the central letters WEE or E from SWEET
UNDERPASS UNDER, position indicator in a charade DOWN clue Place the other charade component below a word for PASS
UPKEEP UP, reversal indicator in a DOWN clue Reverse a word that means KEEP, such as EROTS<-, NIER<-

Caution! Don't expect to find encapsulated indicators all the time - BACKBONE can easily mean "spine". Check what works in the context of the clue.

As you can see, such indicators are pretty easy to spot once you know the trick. In the next post we'll look at clue indicators with a little more twist – the implied indicator.

Related Posts:

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