Saturday, June 6, 2009

Triple Definition Clues

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triple-definition-cryptic-clue 
The more the ways to reach the solution, the easier the clue - or is it?

Not exactly. Compare a cryptic clue with a straight one. A straight clue has only one path to the solution. The answer may not be precisely arrived at without crossings [Animal (3) = DOG? RAT? PIG?] but at least we know the path is the right one.

A cryptic clue offers more than one path to the solution. There is slim chance of error if our solution satisfies all paths [Animal in laboratory (3) = RAT [T], DOG and PIG ruled out], the challenge lies is in finding which are the correct paths.

Most cryptic clues have two ways to reach the solution – (i) the definition (ii) the wordplay or a second definition in case of double-definition clues. [An exception is the cryptic definition clue, which gives a single devious way.]

What happens when the number of paths to the solution is more than two?

It catches us off-guard. We aren't conditioned to recognize it, so accustomed are we to two-segment clues. We miss seeing the beauty of the clue in entirety.

At least, that's what happened  when I came across this clue in FT 13095 (Viking):

Pick holes in weak summary (3, 4)

I got the answer RUN DOWN fairly early but missed spotting that it was a triple definition, with a different length divisions for each definition:

pick holes (3,4) = RUN DOWN
weak (3-4) = RUN-DOWN
summary (7) = RUNDOWN

I realised this only when Viking, the composer of the puzzle, pointed it out on the blog.

More Triple Definition Clues

A few triple definition clues published in the recent past – solve and savour.

Times 24244: Best or worst party (6)
NIE (24-Mar-09): Light nonsense is still produced (9)
Guardian 24655 (Araucaria): Trim and plain, like "ox" (4)

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5 comments

Chaturvasi said...

Determined company of dancers decline to become rigid and formal (3)

The above is an illustrative clue in Teach Yourself Books: Crosswords by Alec Robins (Hodder and Stoughton, 1975).

This multi-definitional clue is for you or any of your visitors to solve.

Alec Robins collaborated with Ximenes in the latter's book and some decades ago he composed the Everyman crossword for six months each year on alternate weeks.

Shuchi said...

Is that six definitions?

I've heard that this word has the maximum number of dictionary meanings!

Chaturvasi said...

Five, I would say.

Shuchi said...

This is in today's Times crossword:
Customary scenery a TV series declined (3)

Shuchi said...

Came across a triple definition clue after a long time today.

Times 25888: Active on all sides and in opposite direction (5)