Saturday, February 27, 2010

The "No Living Persons" Rule

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"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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9 comments

The MEANDERthal man said...

He buggers off having acquired nothing (6,4) GE(O)RGE BUSH*
World leader, so-called (4) World leader =W (Dubya) = Bush
I notably contrived end of Major (4, 5) Tony Blai* (-majo)r
His interpretation of Islam sure had notoriety at first (6,7) Salma(n) Rushdie*

Awesome clues :)

Vinod Raman said...

Excellent clues all. I am all for using the names of famous people, living and dead alike.

Guardian 24841 (Enigmatist): He buggers off having acquired nothing (6,4) GEORGE BUSH
Guardian 24854 (Brendan): I notably contrived end of Major (4, 5) TONY BLAIR
FT 13161 (Alberich): His interpretation of Islam sure had notoriety at first (6,7) SALMAN RUSHDIE

maddy said...

rHi Shuchi,

Happy Holi. Another reason for The Times restriction may be an astute business sense, wrt syndication. People who are hot and happening now, may be all but forgotten a few years down the line, especially with the prevailing papparazi and page 3 culture. Avoiding such references may thus help in keeping their xwds evergreen and more amenable to syndication. The HT tie up for an 8 yr old series being a case in point.

Also, they may want to avoid the risk of getting embroiled in lawsuits for libel, defamation etc by disgruntled celebrities who may have not been flatteringly clued.

Ge{o}rge Bush*
Bush? CD?
{Tony Blai}*r - a perfect &lit example.
Salma{n} Rushdie*

Krishnan said...

I notably contrived end of Major (4, 5) is TONY BLAIR

Krishnan said...

He buggers off having acquired nothing (6,4) is GEORGE BUSH

Krishnan said...

His interpretation of Islam sure had notoriety at first (6,7) SADDAM HUSSEIN. But he is dead, right ?

Krishnan said...

Earlier I was wrong, got it now.
His interpretation of Islam sure had notoriety at first (6,7) SALMAN RUSHDIE

KISHORE said...

THC 9938 Gridman

1 Rob switches parts for moon man (9)

Shuchi said...

Thanks, Kishore. More proof that THC setters do not avoid living people references.