Saturday, February 27, 2010

The "No Living Persons" Rule

"No living persons" rule "No living persons except the Queen (or King!)" is an ancient tradition of The Times UK Crossword. No crossword clue, either in its solution or wordplay, makes reference to a person alive.

The Times may have good reasons for this restriction: to keep the crossword away from expressing political leanings (as many clues about politicians do), or to avoid giving celebrities free advertisement. The rule also wards off potential embarrassment that can ensue if a clue making flattering reference to a famous person is closely followed by the some appalling discovery about that person, or a clue poking fun at a celebrity is published on a day that person meets with some misfortune.

Other British crosswords like the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times are relaxed about this rule, which I think is great for solvers. Some of the wittiest, most memorable clues are those that make allusions to famous people.

An old Guardian clue by Araucaria, which made a topical reference to Jeffrey Archer, is perhaps the best known of its kind:

Poetic scene has surprisingly chaste Lord Archer vegetating (3, 3, 8, 12)

This clue was published in the Guardian at the time Jeffrey Archer was lying low at his property, The Old Vicarage Grantchester, after the notorious scandal. The answer, THE OLD VICARAGE GRANTCHESTER, is an anagram of (chaste Lord Archer vegetating)*. The word "surprisingly" not just functions as anagrind but also makes a tongue-in-cheek statement about Archer's character.

The clue also finds mention on the Wikipedia page of The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

The Hindu Crossword does not have a stated policy about referring to living people, to my knowledge. There was a reference to Obama once, but nothing controversial and I can't recall any more. Can anyone quote other such THC clues?

Update: Mohan writes in that there are plenty of THC references to Cho Ramaswamy. A recent clue:
THC 9768 (Sankalak): Food fish gets navy confused about actor-politician (7)

Solve These!

Here's a selection of some fine &lit clues for which the answers are names of living persons. Have fun figuring them out.

Guardian 24841 (Enigmatist): He buggers off having acquired nothing (6,4)
Guardian 24930 (Brendan): World leader, so-called (4)
Guardian 24854 (Brendan): I notably contrived end of Major (4, 5)
FT 13161 (Alberich): His interpretation of Islam sure had notoriety at first (6,7)

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Cryptic Double-Definitions

cryptic-double-definition The cryptic double-definition (d&cd) clue type is a hybrid of the double definition (dd) and cryptic definition (cd) clue types. The clue has two definitions, with a twist - at least one of those definitions is cryptic.

Oinking tendency? (8) PENCHANT
Two definitions here - 'oinking' and 'tendency' - but unlike a regular dd clue, one of those definitions is a lateral one. 'Oinking' gives PEN CHANT, but that is not a dictionary meaning of the word.

d&cd Clue Characteristics

  • The 'cd' bit of the d&cd clue can be more lateral than a pure cryptic definition. As there is another half of the clue to help the solver derive the answer, setters take some creative liberties here.

    Times 24451: Somewhat swollen condition of female diving bird? (9) PUFFINESS
    The first definition 'somewhat swollen condition' is straight, the second 'female diving bird' is cryptic. PUFFIN is a diving bird, therefore PUFFIN-ESS is a 'female diving bird'.

  • The cryptic half of a d&cd clue need not be a standalone definition for the answer, unlike a pure dd clue in which both definitions can independently stand for the answer.

  • The cryptic part may be the first or the second definition in the clue. On crossword solving forums, the shorthand used is d&cd (where the cryptic definition appears second), or cd&d (where the cryptic definition appears first).

  • A d&cd clue usually (but not always) has a '?' in it. As with pure dd/cd clues, there is no other indicator for this clue type.

    Solve These!

    Everyman 3303: Nothing left in safe (3,5)
    FT 13215 (Falcon): Something added, or removed? (8)
    FT 13305 (Armonie): One has aspirations before the bid (9)

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    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Blog for Hindustan Times Crossword, Anyone?

    Hindustan Times crossword blog: Let's have it! Since December 2009, Hindustan Times (HT) has been carrying the syndicated Times UK cryptic crossword of eight years ago. There have been a couple of queries from solvers, about whether a dedicated blog exists to tackle the HT puzzle daily.

    So far I don't think there is one. I'm writing this post so that, if you're a keen solver but don't have the bandwidth to set up and run a daily blog single-handed, you could express your interest here and maybe a group could get together and start something. The current Times UK crossword is solved on a group blog Times for the Times where solvers take turns to write, and the model seems to work well. Or, there could be a forum like the THC Hub or the Orkut THC community, where each participant enters a small fixed quota of answers each day to finish the puzzle.

    I might not be able to participate as a blogger, my hands are already full, but I'll gladly set up a blog for you if needed.

    The Hindustan Times crossword is an extremely good one, and I hope that solvers in India make the most of its availability. [Times UK crossword is, otherwise, not available for free.]

    Leave a comment on this post if you have further ideas on this or if you can contribute to a solving blog/forum. You could also mail in your views to me at email.

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    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    How A Crossword Fan Pops The Question

    proposal-in-puzzle In The Boston Globe Sunday crossword puzzle published on 23rd Sep 2007, clue 111 Across was 'Generic Proposal'. The answer: 'Will you marry me?'

    For Aric Egmont, the answer was also the marriage proposal to his girlfriend and crossword fan Jennie Bass.

    In the summer of 2007, Aric Egmont contacted The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine to ask if the puzzle setters would be willing to write a crossword especially for him. Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, a married puzzle-setter team for the paper, agreed to Egmont's request.

    The setters created a themed crossword with the title 'Popping The Question'. Each themed entry was based on proposals, such as 22A 'Macrame artist’s proposal' (answer: 'Let's tie the knot').

    The challenge for the setters was to make the theme clear to the couple, at the same time not obscure to their other solvers. Apart from the themed clues based on proposals, the setters put in words of personal significance in the grid, such as Egmont's last name, Jennie's sister's and best friend's names. The key clue 'Generic Proposal' was also phonetic play of the couple's first names: Jen and Aric.

    The couple solved this special crossword together on the Sunday morning of its appearance in the paper. When they got to 111 Across, Aric Egmont popped the question. Jennie's answer, not surprisingly, was also the answer to clue 115 Down 'Hoped-for reply to 111A'.

    Read the news reports about this special puzzle here and here, and check out the special crossword here.

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    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Plug and Play Puzzles

    Paul wrote this classic clue a few years ago, for the Guardian crossword:

           Play Ankoolger? (4,4,2,5)

    Taking inspiration from that, here's one of my own:

           Play Amiseg? (6, 6)

    Can you solve them?

    Update: The Answers

    Congrats to everyone who got the answers right, especially Susan's colleague who worked out Broken Images.

    Play Ankoolger? (4,4,2,5) LOOK BACK IN ANGER An{kool<-}ger

    This clue appeared in the Guardian crossword (link) on 23rd March 2002, in a prize puzzle with theatrical works as theme.
    Look Back in Anger (1956) is a John Osborne play, one of the first of the genre described as 'kitchen sink drama' (a style of theatre using working class settings).

    Play Amiseg? (6, 6) BROKEN IMAGES Anagram of (AMISEG)

    Broken Images (2005) is an unusual one-performer play in which the actor has an intense conversation with a reflection of herself. Originally written in Kannada, it was later translated to English (Broken Images) and Hindi (Bikhre Bimb).

    Answers to the clues posted in the comments (with apologies to Ximenes):

    (Vinod's clue) Play Ist ODI there (5,6) THREE IDIOTS
    Anagram of (IST ODI THERE), with play doing double-duty.

    Think of a number. Tom, Dick or Harry - play! (4,5,7) FIVE POINT SOMEONE  
    FIVE (a number) POINT (.) SOMEONE (Tom, Dick or Harry)    
    A play by Evam based on Chetan Bhagat's book Five Point Someone.

    Play Aod? (4,3,5,7) MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING AD (much 'ADo') around O (nothing) 
    The comedy by Shakespeare, need I say more.

    Play The CUL? (3,3,6) THE ODD COUPLE  THE C[o]U[p]L[e] 
    The Odd Couple (1965), a Broadway play, also staged by Evam in India.

    The Plug!

    Are the answers to the clues above of interest to you? Then you might want to follow DramaDose, my other blog about Indian theatre.

    dramadose

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    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Best Crossword Guides Online

    Best Cryptic Crossword Solving Guides

     

    Recommendations for cryptic crossword solving guides on the net.

    Click on the adjacent logos to reach each site.

    Theresa Cunningham's Cryptic Crossword Guide Theresa's Guide to Solving Cryptic Crosswords
    This is a brief guide to the basic clue types, written in an easy style with simple examples to illustrate each clue type. A good starting point if you're very new to the game. Also includes a 6x6 practice puzzle.
    Big Dave's Little Guide to Cryptic Crosswords Big Dave’s Little Guide To Cryptic Crosswords 
    Big Dave's guide covers a lot of ground including clue types, miscellaneous constructs and a glossary of crossword terminology. A section called The Mine has useful information on wordplay components and standard crossword abbreviations.
    Peter Biddlecombe's Cryptic Crossword Corner YAGCC
    Unassumingly named Yet Another Guide to Cryptic Crosswords, Peter Biddlecombe's site is a must-read for any cryptic crossword enthusiast. I particularly like his solving tips and thoughts on what makes crosswords bad.
    Anax's Cryptic Crossword Guide UKPuzzle Crossword Guide
    This guide by Anax, a setter for Times and Independent, has information of interest to both solvers and setters. Other than notes about cryptic clue types (with quite brilliant clues as examples), it also talks about setting style, fairness and grids. This guide is best appreciated if you already have a little introduction to cryptic crosswords.

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    Friday, February 5, 2010

    NATO Phonetic Alphabet in Crosswords

    nato-phonetic-alphabet The NATO phonetic alphabet or "radio alphabet" is a standard spelling alphabet – it assigns code words to letters, so that voice messages can be pronounced and understood correctly over phone or radio. (e.g. When you're giving your initials D.K. over the phone, you could use the NATO alphabet to say 'D for Delta, K for Kilo').

    Cryptic clues use the phonetic alphabet in devious ways.

    Clue Examples

    Guardian 24774 (Brendan): Instrument of top player gripping India on the radio? (5) S{I}TAR
    'India' = I in the phonetic alphabet. "on the radio" is an indicator that the phonetic alphabet is being used. (Note that it isn't necessary for such an indicator to be present, as the following examples show.)

    Times 24080: Two old men, one after Oscar (4) PA PA
    'Papa' follows 'Oscar' in the phonetic alphabet. No indicator here.

    A contest-winning clue by Don Manley at &lit CWC:
    November — then what? Carols being blasted, pounds being spent (5) OSCAR [(CAROLS)* – L]
    The definition 'November – then what?' gives 'Oscar', which follows 'November' in the phonetic alphabet. The surface of course,  misdirects you into thinking of the Christmas season.

    The Phonetic Alphabet Reference Table

    A reference list of NATO codes for all the letters of the English alphabet.

    Letter Code Word
    A Alpha
    B Bravo
    C Charlie
    D Delta
    E Echo
    F Foxtrot
    G Golf
    H Hotel
    I India
    J Juliet
    K Kilo
    L Lima
    M Mike
    Letter Code Word
    N November
    O Oscar
    P Papa
    Q Quebec
    R Romeo
    S Sierra
    T Tango
    U Uniform
    V Victor
    W Whiskey
    X X-ray
    Y Yankee
    Z Zulu

    Solving Tips

    • Make a mental note of the code words (you can remember the list, it's not that much!). If you see a word from this list in a clue, check if the phonetic alphabet is involved.
    • The easier the word is to disguise, the likelier it is to appear in a clue. You'll run into Golf more often than Quebec.
    • The clue might have an indicator like "on the radio", "over the phone", "broadcast". These are similar to homophone indicators.

    Solve These

    Try solving these clues which make use of the radio alphabet:

    Guardian 24322 (Chifonie): Lecherous Romeo pushed into watercourse (6)
    From this puzzle by Boaz: Putting nasty Mike in nursery is a bit rash (5-3-4)
    Times 24436: I broadcast for the nation (5)

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    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Novel = SHE

    She, by Henry Rider Haggard By naming his novel "She", H. Rider Haggard unintentionally did a good turn to cryptic crossword setters. The name affords the interesting possibility of using "novel" in the clue to lead to an otherwise unrelated word SHE in the answer.

    Novel = SHE is a pretty popular wordplay device. It takes beginners by surprise, and isn't such a giveaway for old solvers either, as "novel" need not always be SHE (it can, for example, be an anagram indicator).

    There was this clue in The Hindu Crossword yesterday:
    THC 9754 (Gridman): Everything involved in novel report (7) SHE BANG

    More such instances from old crosswords:

    Times 23917: Novel written by a female making a bundle (5) SHE A F
    Times 24173: Book into posh establishment (3) SHE [T]

    You'd also have noticed that the author's name "Rider Haggard" is pliable for punning. Here are clues that put that to good use:

    Times 23491: Rider's novel way to refer to mare (3) SHE [2]
    Guardian 24396 (Audreus): Haggard heroine comes upon first religious Father to be a mountaineer (6) SHE R PA

    The next few clues reverse the novel = SHE association. "She" in the clue is to be interpreted as the novel to get the answer.

    Guardian 24325 (Enigmatist): She, indeed, has modelled (6) AYE SHA*
    Ayesha is the name of the main character of the novel.

    NIE 9710: She was one of his heroines (5, 7) RIDER HAGGARD [cd]
    Times 23510: She possibly uses Christmas to assimilate verse (5) NO{V}EL

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