Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why BENGALI = BENGAL + I doesn't fly

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Take Nita Jaggi's clue from The Hindu Crossword 9649:

5 Indian state has one official language (7)
The parsing is:
Indian state = BENGAL
has = connector
one = I
Definition: official language = BENGAL + I = BENGALI

The clue has a meaningful surface, cryptic elements correctly placed and indicated. Technically all looks okay (ignore for now that the clue may have more than one correct answer). Why, then, is it a bad clue?

The essence of a cryptic clue lies in creative play on words, and in misleading/surprising the solver. None of these hold true when the subsidiary indication and the definition share the same root word.

The word BENGALI is derived from BENGAL; there's nothing very creative or exciting about splitting it into BENGAL + I.

Therefore, a weak clue. Etymologically-related constructs like (BAT + S = BATS) or (ADMIRE– E + ABLE = ADMIRABLE), when used to clue charades, are flaws in my book.

The Other Extreme

The other equally uncreative extreme is breaking the answer into the tiniest bits and combining them using abbreviations. Nita Jaggi favours this as well – refer Charade Overdose.

A sample from the same puzzle (THC 9649):
To inspire one doctor you see at last (5) I MB U E

More Weak Wordplay, What Say?

What do you think of of the clues below? Good wordplay, or not? If not good, why not?

Eaten up and taken in eagerly (8) DEVOURED [2]
Finally, students are able to read quickly (4) S CAN

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5 comments

maddy said...

My thoughts..

Eaten up and taken in eagerly (8) DEVOURED [2]
- Does not work as a DD since both the Defns mean the same thing. As far as my understanding goes the Defns should be different and not have similar shades of meaning.

Finally, students are able to read quickly (4)

- Pluralizing a word and conveniently using the 's' by letter picking is just lazy clueing and "Inexcusable" as you would say. That too for a simple 4 letter word which can be clued in 'n' number of ways!

Vasana said...

Yeah, NJ is intellectually stimulating, really! Another classic from today: Actors lacking an alternative for performances (4). Wow.

Shuchi said...

@maddy: My thoughts exactly :)

@Vasana: NJ covers a wide spectrum for intellectual stimulation, doesn't she. At one end, the ACTORS clue, at the other the bewildering TOFUS clue from the same puzzle:

Somehow airlifts extracting the strong herb (5).

Vasana said...

I actually did not understand the TOFUS solution - did not know Tofu was a herb! I like tofu, but I have always seen it as East Asian version of our own Paneer. Could not google a Tofu herb either. Did I misunderstand the clue?

Shuchi said...

Nobody to my knowledge understood the TOFUS solution, Vasana. Unless someone comes up with an explanation, I'm going to stay away from any cookery book that NJ ever decides to write.