Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Of Anagrams and Whodunits

bait-anagram Of all clue types, anagrams are the easiest to recognize. For the setter to camouflage the anagrind, prepare an inconspicuous fodder and at the same time play by the rules, can be a pretty tough challenge.

What is a smart way to make anagrams not so obvious? Take a tip from crime fiction. There is one criminal in the story, but you don't know who it is as half a dozen other people are equally likely to have committed the crime.

Intelligent crossword puzzles make use of the same logic. A clue or two appear to be anagrams but are not so, leaving you not-so-confident about which ones are really anagrams.

Try this -
Times 24221: Did shake obtained from milk container spill all round? (9)

If you follow the solving mode of "quick scan through puzzle for likely anagrams before anything else", chances are you'll pause here over "shake" and "spill". As it turns out, there is no anagram in this clue. (What's the answer, then? Post it in the comments section.)

More clues with nicely misleading anagram signals:

Times 24244: Upset girl's mum (8)
Guardian 24721 (Paul): End of four months in the red, becoming flexible (7)

I'll update the answers to clues after three days. Till then, have fun solving!

Update (13-Jun-09): The unanswered clues were not just solved but also dissected/re-clued. Go to the comments section for more. Thanks to Suhel, Chaturvasi, maddy and Sri for writing in.

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10 comments

Suhel said...

Times 24244: Upset girl's mum (8) DISQUIET
girl is DI and mum is QUIET for silent.

maddy said...

Guardian 24721 (Paul): End of four months in the red, becoming flexible (7)

RUB{BER}Y - BER FRM SEPT, OCT, NOV, DEC. Beautiful clue BTW.

Shuchi said...

Beautiful clue BTW. - Yes isn't it. Paul is a very inventive, fun compiler. Check out his full puzzles in the Guardian and FT (he goes by the name Mudd there).

Chaturvasi said...

Think of an old Amul slogan to solve the first clue. Also, I think there's a hint even within the clue!

maddy said...

Gautam Buddha had said "There are these four ways of answering questions. Which four? There are questions that should be answered categorically . There are questions that should be answered with an analytical answer [defining or redefining the terms]. There are questions that should be answered with a counter-question. There are questions that should be put aside. These are the four ways of answering questions."

I had opted for the fourth way to answer the first clue. But now, thanks to Vasi sir's 'utterly' delicious hint, my answer the first clue by redefining the terms :-)

Broke guy in meagre rags shivered. (9)

Sri said...

I tumbled in here through the Col's THC corner. I try to be regular with THC (NJ-isms notwithstanding), but have so far been wary of British crosswords, fearing they might require a greater familiarity with UK slang and/or references than I possess. Having read through some posts on your website (and they're swell!), I think I'm gonna try my luck with a few. Starting here, if I may :)
Times 24221: Did shake obtained from milk container spill all round? (9) SH{UDDER}ED?

Shuchi said...

@maddy: Trust you to bring Gautam Buddha into this!
Broke guy in meagre rags shivered. (9) Indirect anagram hunh? Ximeneans frown, but I smile as I know the answer already :)

@Sri: SHUDDERED it is. Welcome here, glad you liked what you read.
they might require a greater familiarity with UK slang and/or references - that's partly true. Even homophones can be trickier - a recent one was THAI{~tai} which didn't strike me as I don't pronounce 'TH' the same way as 'T'. That apart, some of the puzzles are really good. Even if there's a struggle with the non-Indian context, I think it's worth the effort.

Shuchi said...

^^^
That should be: THAI{~tie}.

maddy said...

@ Shuchi - (a) Indirect anagram hunh? Ximeneans frown, but I smile as I know the answer already -
I know, a post containing indirect anagram on the blog of a hardcore ximenean is tantamount to sacrilege.It must have really got your goat. But then, I ve always been the irreverant sort :-) . Speaking for myself, I dont mind the use of indirect anagrams, when giving the actual angram fodder renders the clue too obvious or easy. It goes without saying that the wordplay/hint (generally synonym or homonymn) for deciphering the fodder should be logical and fair.They then help to break the monotony of angrams without over reliance on the inguenity of the anagrind.It can also add an interesting dimension to the clue without cheating the solver if used intelligently. After all isnt "Above all a clue should be fair to the solver" the No.1 Ximenean credo??. Some would say this is not "playing by the rules". But then, when has an occassional infraction wiht teh best intentions in mind hurt any one??I rest my case, knowing fully well that you disagree . LOL

(b) "Trust you to bring Gautam Buddha into this!"
Couldnt decipher the '!' at the end. Was it to express exasperation or admiration. On second thoughts, dont answer that.The narcissist in me would like to believe that he knows the answer.

Shuchi said...

Actually maddy, I agree with you. I don't mind indirect anagrams myself when the word to be substituted is easily derived. Not a stickler for clue-writing rules, except grammatical correctness!

Something like six = VI is fair I think, as there isn't much else it can be. But guy = DUDE is not that easy. 'guy' has so many other synonyms. When we start out writing clues we tend to think they're much simpler than they really are for the solver.

Anyway, no serious analysis - this isn't for publication in a national daily after all, here we take more liberties with setting :)

'!': The narcissist speaks the truth :)