Yesterday, The Hindu Crossword had the answer MENTAL ANGUISH in the grid.
Today, it has TERMINAL ILLNESS.
In the past, there have been words about various other ailments. AIDS, with its setter-friendly selection of letters, has been clued twice in Oct'09 with reference to the disease.
Sometimes, the surface is sombre even if the answer is not. Like this one by Sankalak:
THC 9579: Gas consumed a newborn child (7) NEONATE
The act of crossword solving should leave the solver satisfied or amused. Such words unfortunately might have the opposite effect, especially if they remind the solver of unpleasant/sorrowful personal experiences. No matter how technically perfect the clue, I think it falls short of greatness if it is an irredeemably "unhappy clue".
The Guardian crossword carried this clue for TERMINAL CANCER a couple of months ago.
Guardian 24375: Environmental effect of airport development? (8,6)
The blog for it, not surprisingly, received many comments expressing disapproval over the flippant treatment of the subject.
If a topic is so grim that one would not joke about it in conversation, then it is best avoided in cryptic clues.
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