Monday, June 28, 2010

Poll: Non-Cryptic Clues In The Hindu Crossword

Every setter in the Hindu slips in a few clues of this kind in the crossword:

THC 9879 (Gridman): A building feature that's projected to bring in air and light (3,6) BAY WINDOW
THC 9865 (Nita Jaggi): Language spoken in Afghanistan (4) DARI
THC 9858 (Neyartha) Meshing together (13) INTERKNITTING
THC 9859 (Sankalak): Refuge for destitute children (9) ORPHANAGE
THC 9853 (M Manna): Old continental gold coin (5) DUCAT

These are straight, non-cryptic clues. Colonel Gopinath uses the shorthand annotation [E] i.e. "easy type" for them on The Hindu Crossword Corner. (Strictly speaking, getting GK-based answers directly can sometimes be tougher than with the help of wordplay.)

If you solve the Hindu crossword - are you happy with such clues? Or will you be happier to see them go? Answer this poll!

(RSS readers: please visit the main article on the blog to cast your vote.)

Poll is open till 3rd July 2010 6PM IST. Cast your vote before that and please spread the word!

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Maddy's Crossword On Alberich's Site

Alberich Crosswords: Puzzle by Maddy

Regulars on the Orkut crossword forums will know Anish Madhavan (Maddy), an ace crossword solver and hobbyist setter.

A crossword set by him is currently featured on Alberich's site, which hosts guest puzzles of excellent quality. Congrats, Maddy, for making it there! I thought this was a very fine, entertaining and quite challenging puzzle. Agree with Alberich in the compliments for 7D and 19D, I also liked 27A very much.

Maddy would like you to solve his crossword and give him feedback. Check out his crossword, the link is:

Puzzle by Maddy

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Definition By Example

The definition in a cryptic clue is not always a synonym of the answer; it may be an example or sub-type of the answer. So, NOVELIST may be defined as "Dickens, perhaps", DOG as "setter, maybe".

Some clues that use definition by example:

FT 13385 (Orense): Try to protect badly aged bowler, for example (8) HEADGEAR
HEAR (try, as in a court) around (AGED)*
"bowler" is an example of HEADGEAR

Guardian 25015 (Brendan): Come and go, say, in workplaces around river (9) OPPOSITES 
OP SITES (workplaces) around PO (river)
"come and go" is an example of OPPOSITES

One that helpfully gives us multiple examples for the answer:

Guardian 24384: In sort of steel, workers put in iron, carbon and manganese, say (8) ELEMENTS
MEN (workers) in (STEEL)*; and three examples that lead you to ELEMENTS

The next clue uses this device in the wordplay - the container word is defined by example.

Times 24375: Bone from a fish found in tin? (10) MET(A CARP)AL  
A CARP (fish) in METAL (tin, an example of metal)

The Indicated vs Unindicated D-By-E Debate

The Ximenean requirement is that a definition by example must be qualified: word(s) like "for example", "perhaps" must accompany the example. There is a shift away from too rigidly following this rule nowadays, notably in the Times crossword.

So we might come across clues like:
Times 24440: What biology student must do makes moral sense (10) CONSCIENCE
That "biology" is an example of SCIENCE is unindicated. The acceptability of such clues generates a lot of debate on the Times solving blog.

Alberich, a setter with the Financial Times crossword, makes an interesting case in this article with different clues for the word CARPET, each using three definitions by example. One clue is Ximenean, the other not entirely so. The result seems better if the Ximenean rule is relaxed.

I used to be firmly in the Ximenean camp on unindicated definitions by example until an email exchange last year with Peter Biddlecombe made me reconsider. I had sought his feedback on Neyartha's clue in which "farmer" was defined as "tractor operator" - I thought that was not OK. Peter wrote back:

I don't agree about that. Sure, farmers do other things and other people could operate the tractor, but driving a tractor seems a likely activity for a farmer, and a farmer seems one of the likeliest people to be a tractor operator.

With something like "tractor operator", if there's a fair chance that the solver would think of "farmer", that's good enough for me. So "Old MacDonald" would do me as a def for farmer, even though many xwd folk would insist on something like "Old MacDonald, for instance".

The insistence that "definition by example" must be indicated is, as far as I know, just a crossword convention. I can't see external logic to support it in the same way as the grammatical points.

That sounded reasonable. I haven't found myself objecting to unindicated definitions by example since then.

How strong is the example?definition-by-example

I would say that the closeness of the example with the answer matters far more than whether the example is indicated or not.

"Tamil, perhaps" is a duly indicated and is a correct definition for ASIAN, but is unfair – Tamil is not a representative subset of ASIAN. 

"Batman" may not be indicated, yet one can easily get SUPERHERO from it.

Solve These

Times 24384: A grant secured by the gymnast, maybe (7) A _ H _ _ _ E
Times 24438: Perhaps Jamaican runner on vehicle touring US state? (9) C _ _ _ B _ _ N
Times 24569: Game made in one diamond? (9) S _ _ _ T _ _ _ E

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reverse Anagrams

reverse-anagram-clue In a normal anagram clue, you are given the anagram indicator and the anagram fodder. You jumble the fodder to get the answer.

In a reverse anagram clue, you are given the anagrammed word. You work out the answer backwards – the answer consists of the anagram indicator and anagram fodder.

To understand this better, consider a normal anagram and a reverse anagram for the same wordplay: POSH = (SHOP)*

Regular anagram:
NIE 9 Feb 2010: High-class sort of shop (4) POSH
POSH = (SHOP)*, with "sort of" as anagrind

Reverse anagram:
Guardian 24866 (Pasquale): Posh maybe to have a look at purchasing options (4,6) SHOP AROUND
The definition is "have a look at purchasing options". How is "posh maybe" related to SHOP AROUND? Read it as an anagram in reverse: SHOP "around" (anagram indicator) gives POSH.

Another pair of examples for the same wordplay: WEALTH = (THE LAW)*

Regular anagram:
Guardian 24589 (Orlando): Means of breaking the law (6) WEALTH
WEALTH = (THE LAW)*, with "breaking" as anagrind

Reverse anagram:
Guardian 24798 (Rufus): Make wealth the wrong way? (5,3,3) BREAK THE LAW
If you "break" THE LAW, you might make WEALTH. The whole clue is the definition, &lit style.

How to identify a reverse anagram

Reverse anagrams can be tricky. There is no strong indicator in the clue for a reverse anagram (the conventional anagram indicator is within the answer). Sometimes the setter will helpfully add a hint alongside the anagrammed word - "perhaps", "could be", etc. - to let you know that something unusual is going on.

For example:

Everyman 3318: Use the grapevine in part of castle, with one a threat, as it were? (4,2,3,2,3,6) KEEP AN EAR TO THE GROUND
castle = KEEP, and "one a threat" = AN EAR TO THE "ground" (anagrind, when read as a verb). The hint is in the words "as it were?"

Guardian 24951 (Araucaria): Fool playing with clue for toga (5,4) GIDDY GOAT
toga = "giddy" GOAT. "clue for" suggests a reverse anagram – "giddy goat" might be the wordplay in a clue for TOGA.

The hint could be less overt – just a ? or !.

Guardian 25037 (Puck): Placing for one sailing past bay horse? (8) OFFSHORE

You can't rely wholly on finding such tip-offs, though – they might not be there, or they might indicate something different. ? might be a signal for a cryptic definition; "perhaps" might imply a definition-by-example.

Reverse anagrams are generally "grid" clues i.e. not easily solved standalone, it takes some supplementary information to figure them out. I usually wait for the answer to reveal itself through part of the wordplay/checking/definition. Sometimes, the parsing has to be engineered backwards. If the answer (which we've worked out from the other parts of the clue, but can't fully explain) contains an anagrind-style word - MIXED of MIXED BAG, OFF of OFFEND, etc., then it's probably a reverse anagram.

Reverse anagrams are not very common (although they seem to have become all the rage in the past year; I find Don Manley using this device quite a lot). You might come across them once in a few days, but not more than one or two in the same grid.

Solve These

Test your reverse anagramming skills with these clues:

FT 13326 (Bradman): It could suggest I step away from the prescribed route (3-5)
FT 13397 (Bradman): File perhaps for certain fauna and flora? (8)
From Afrit's crossword collection: Dear me! So I am! (6) 

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Introducing the Mint Crossword

I have been looking forward to the day when the talented setters Tony Sebastian and Vinod Raman would start setting professionally.

The day has arrived. The two are now creating cryptic crosswords for Mint, a popular business newspaper in India.

About wordview

The Mint crossword "wordview" is a weekly feature, an 11x11 cryptic that appears on Fridays. The crossword has a tilt towards business news (terms like SWEAT EQUITY, LIVE STOCK QUOTES and NAKED SHORT SELLING have appeared in the past), but nothing too esoteric and they're interspersed with normal words/clues. The level of difficulty is about the same as the Economic Times crossword.

Have a go at the Mint crossword and share your feedback. Link to today's crossword – here.

mint-crossword-wordview

How To Access wordview Online

The crossword is available in the Mint ePaper every Friday, directly below the editorial on a page titled "Views". This is usually the second last page in the paper.

wordview

The crossword archives can be accessed by changing the date of the ePaper.

mint-crossword-search 

What can Mint do better?

A few suggestions for Mint to improve the presentation of their crossword.

  • The most important one: the puzzles must be numbered.

  • It will be nice to have a fixed deep link, or at least a standard URL structure, for the page on which the crossword appears online.

  • Since the crossword is designed for Landscape orientation, it should print as Landscape without our having to change the browser print settings. The default orientation is usually Portrait. Financial Times crosswords, for example, print as Landscape by default.

  • The window title of "Advertisement" needs to go!

  • The setter's name is printed in a font size/position usually reserved for "Terms and conditions apply". Why not give the by-line a prominent place on the header?

Congratulations to Tony and Vinod, and I wish them many more "Award for a comedian (6)"s :)

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Differentiating Between CD and &Lit Clues

Cryptic Definition? &Lit? A perennial source of confusion among solvers is in classifying clues as cryptic definition or &lit. In fact, according to a review of Secrets of the Setters, even the book trips up on this technicality – and it's written by the Guardian's Crossword Editor.

Here's a quick tip to dispel the confusion.

  In an &lit clue, the whole clue is both the definition and the wordplay
  In a cryptic definition, the whole clue is only the definition. There is no separate wordplay.

Apply The Test

When in doubt, check the clue against this rule.
Picking a few examples that have generated discussion recently among Hindu Crossword solvers.

THC 9863 (Sankalak): It creates a stir in the cup that cheers (8) TEASPOON
Question: Does the whole clue define TEASPOON?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Does the whole clue also act as wordplay for TEASPOON?
Answer: No. There is no other wordplay in the clue.

Verdict: Cryptic Definition

THC Sun 2587: Start of number trio's playing? (5) INTRO
Question: Does the whole clue define INTRO?
Answer: Yes. An INTRO can be an introductory passage of music.

Question: Does the whole clue also act as wordplay for INTRO?
Answer: Yes. N (start of 'number') + (TRIO)*, with "playing" as anagram indicator.

Verdict: &Lit

THC 9863 (Sankalak): Where, in a restaurant, questions may be asked? (9) GRILLROOM
Question: Does the whole clue define GRILLROOM?
Answer: No. The definition is only "(in a) restaurant".

Question: Does the whole clue also act as wordplay for GRILLROOM?
Answer: No. The wordplay is "where…questions may be asked?" - a pun on the word "grill".

Verdict: This is an unusual one, but I'd call it closer to being a d&cd i.e. a blend of double definition and cryptic definition, than a pure cryptic definition.

One from the Guardian…

Guardian 25027 (Paul): What's round and called "tangerine", ultimately? (6) ORANGE
Question: Does the whole clue define ORANGE?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Does the whole clue also act as wordplay for ORANGE?
Answer: Yes. O (round) and RANG (called) [tangerin]E

Verdict: &Lit

---

Time to test your clue type identification skills!

Classify These

Clues with their answers are given below. Which of these are CDs, which &lits, and which are neither?

FT 13403 (Loroso): How to describe something which marks a boundary? (8) HEDGEROW
Times 24427: Stole quietly away? (6) INCHED
Times 24548: Opening statement when meeting PM (4,9) GOOD AFTERNOON
THC 9849 (Gridman): Unreliable person useless for omelette-making? (3,3)  BAD EGG

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Roman Numerals, and a Classic Error

Roman-NumeralsWhen a number appears in a cryptic clue, a possible interpretation is that its Roman numeral has to be substituted to get the answer.

Examples:

Times 24440: Insects: bumping fifty off takes such an age (3) ICE
                     LICE (insects) – L (Roman numeral for 50)

FT 13332 (Sleuth): Surpass 40 in Rome, we hear? (5) EXCEL
                            Homophone of XL (Roman numeral for 40)

The number may be well-disguised, as in:

Times 23960: Businessman returning about half of score composed (7) RELAXED
                     DEALER (businessman) reversed, around X (Roman numeral for 10, which is half of score i.e. 20)

Roman Numerals: Quick Reference Table

Setters have more use for a number like 100 (Roman numeral: C) than 123 (Roman numeral: CXXIII).

A quick reference table for the numbers you are most likely to encounter in clues:

Number Roman Numeral
1 I
2 II
3 III
4 IV
5 V
6 VI
7 VII
8 VIII
9 IX
10 X
11 XI
40 XL
50 L
Number Roman Numeral
51 LI
55 LV
60 LX
90 XC
100 C
101 CI
200 CC
400 CD
500 D
600 DC
1000 M
1001 MI
2000 MM

Spot The Error

We may come across published clues like the next three, but there is something wrong with them. Do you see the error?

NIE 13-Aug-09: Fifty is under forty-nine? Well, no (3) ILL

THC 9454 (Sankalak): One making an earnest appeal to displace about 99 (10) SUPPLICANT

Guardian 24643 (Gordius): It melts for about 99 bucks (2-4) DE-ICER

Update (08-Jun-2010): Congrats to GreenMangoMore, Anon, maddy, gnomethang, Balaji, veer, Sanjeev (on twitter), raju for getting it right. For those still in the dark, the explanation:

The Classic Roman Numeral Mistake

On the face of it, IL and IC appear to follow the same subtractive principle as IV and IX, i.e. IL = L (50) - I (1) = 49.

This is actually not valid.

The subtractive principle for Roman numbers has these restrictions:
You can only subtract a power of ten, and only from the next two higher "digits", where the digits are {I, V, X, L, C, D, M}.

That is, only I, X and C can be subtracted, AND
I can be subtracted only from V and X; X can be subtracted only from L and C; C can be subtracted only from D and M.

By these rules, the Roman numerals IL for 49 and IC for 99 do not work.
The correct representation for 49 is XLIX, for 99 is XCIX.

Veer mentions "cryptic licence". Given that we see so much of IC and IL even in the careful setters' clues, that is perhaps the sensible-liberal way to look at it - but to me it still seems wrong!

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Posh Is U

posh-U The letter U is often clued by "posh" or "upper-class" in cryptic crosswords.

Times 24365: In bar posh men only work so hard (4,1,3) BUST A GUT
                     BUT (bar) around U (posh) STAG (men only)

In the next, the wordplay uses this meaning of U.

Times 24368: You, say, may represent the aristocracy (5,5) UPPER CLASS
                     You is a homophone of U, which represents "upper-class".

Non-U

If "posh" or "upper-class" is U, then its opposite is non-U.

Guardian 25015 (Brendan): Release victim held in plebeian uprising (8) UNBUTTON
                                        BUTT (victim), in NON-U (plebeian) reversed

Background

In 1954, British linguist Alan Ross wrote an article on the difference in English language usage according to social class. He coined the terms U and non-U in in this article. His idea was expanded and popularized by author Nancy Mitford, in her 1956 book Noblesse Oblige.

The Wikipedia page on U and Non-U English gives a table of U words with their non-U equivalents. I wonder if this classification still holds in 2010. (If it does, it's unflattering news for me as a lot of my everyday vocabulary is non-U.)

Caution!

Posh need not be U always. It is anagram fodder in this example:

Guardian 24911 (Boatman): In a way, it's irrelevant; Posh is insane for quick exposure (8) SNAPSHOT 
                                          NA (POSH)* in ST

In crosswords that allow mentions of living persons (such as the Guardian), Posh is often a reference to Victoria Beckham.

Sometimes setters use the words "smart" or "fashionable" to clue U, which is debatable since the U and non-U meanings are not related with fashion.

Solve These 

Times 24392: Get on, struggling with posh language (6)
Times 24550: Posh, donning suit in sale (7)
Times 23927: For nobs to get into public vehicle - a dreadful shock! (6)

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