Apostrophe-s plays a varied role in the English language. It can be used to
Crossword setters use the changeable nature of 's to create illusions in cryptic clues. They achieve this by making 's suggest one thing on the surface, and mean something else in the cryptic reading of the clue.
The next few sections show the shift in meaning of 's in the two readings of a clue.
Possessive -> Has
On the surface, "politician's" is the possessive form ("threaten the ambition of one politician"), but in the cryptic reading the phrase becomes "politician has ambition". The answer is IMPEND: a charade of I (one), MP (politician), END (ambition), with "has" as connector between MP and END.
Possessive -> Is
On the surface, "tune's" is in the possessive form ("wrong note of tune"), but it needs to be read it as "tune is wrong …" to arrive at the answer. The answer is MINUET: MI (note) NUET (anagram of TUNE).
Is –> Has
[One of my favourite clues in the recent times] The surface suggests "…that is not positive", but the cryptic sense is "that has not positive". The answer is ARTICLE (defn: Could be 'a'): PARTICLE (proton, for example) - P (positive).
Is –> Possessive
The surface seems to say - "Volatile liquid is excellent accompaniment …", but actually apostrophe-s has to be read as the possessive. The definition is "volatile liquid's", the answer is ACETONIC: ACE (excellent) TONIC (accompaniment for gin).
Times 24501: European King a small tome's recalled (6)
We might think that "is recalled" will act as a reversal indicator. It turns out that the reversal indicator is just "recalled" and 's is used as-is in the answer. The answer is SLOVAK: K (king) A VOL's (small tome's), all reversed.
Apostrophe-s can have a range of meanings in cryptic clues. What appears to be "is" could be "has", "has" could be the possessive form or the possessive form could be "has" or "is" – several permutations are possible. Don't let the setter trick you into making assumptions!
While we're on the topic, I must share with you this clue by Roger Squires (Rufus) about the apostrophe. What a brilliant &lit.
Punctuation mark perhaps too freely used (10)
A selection of clues that make creative use of the apostrophe-s. Post your answers in the comments section.
Times 24502: Magic's usual fob off (8)
Guardian 24907 (Chifonie): Penny's about to ward off publicity (6)
Times 22569: This writer’s penning line: children’s writer? (5)
Answers will be updated 3 days after date of posting.
(Update) The answers: APOSTROPHE, FABULOUS, ADVERT, MILNE
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