Monday, August 30, 2010

How To Interpret Punctuation In Clues

punctuation

The standard advice for punctuation in cryptic clues is "Ignore it". That is good advice in most cases, like these -

FT13474 (Mudd): As something painful hurt, I came to be treated (9) RHEUMATIC
An anagram of (hurt I came). The comma has no role in the cryptic reading.

Guardian 24802 (Araucaria): No time to ask "Why's head visible?" (2,4) IN VIEW
INVITE (ask) – T (time), W (head of 'why'). The quotes have no role in the cryptic reading.

Times 24300: Horse-and-buggy kept inside — that's sick (7) MACABRE
MARE (horse) around CAB (buggy). The hyphens have no role in the cryptic reading.

The same clues are easier to solve without the distractions of surface punctuation:

As something painful hurt I came to be treated (9)
No time to ask why's head visible (2,4)
Horse and buggy kept inside that's sick (7)

Most of the time, as above, the role of punctuation is only to create a meaningful, misleading surface for the clue. For solving, the punctuation can safely be ignored.

There are some exceptions to that rule. Let's have a closer look at them.

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe requires careful consideration. If the apostrophe has been used to drop letters in the clue, this indicates that corresponding letters are to be dropped in the answer.

Guardian 24974 (Chifonie): Confirm or 'esitate (4) AVER
HAVER (hesitate), with the H dropped as indicated by the apostrophe.

The apostrophe can be used to disguise a container indicator:

Times Jumbo 884: Fire’s hot inside cabin (5) SHACK
SACK (fire) has H (hot) inside. With the aid of the punctuation, 'is' converts to 'has' in the cryptic reading.

For more uses of the apostrophe, read The Significance of ’s in Cryptic Clues.

The Special Role Of ? and !

? and ! generally indicate that something unusual is going on in the clue.

? can mean that:

  • the clue is a cryptic definition if the '?' is placed at the end of the clue
    FT 13475 (Bradman): Two in chemical water? (9) SUBSCRIPT 
    A cd; '2' is a subscript in the chemical symbol for water, H2O.

  • the part of the clue preceding the '?' requires some lateral thinking
    Guardian 25103 (Paul): Poet writing about primo donno? (4) OVID
    'prima donna' is DIVA, so 'primo donno' is DIVO. Turn it about and you get OVID, the Roman poet. The question mark nudges the solver to think of 'primo donno' from an unconventional perspective.

  • the part of the clue preceding the '?' is a definition by example
    Times 24382: Possessive type's first son? (5) THEIR
    T[ype] HEIR (son). The question mark is a hint to look for an example - not a synonym – of 'son'.

  • the setter is taking a small liberty with the accepted rules of fairness and wants you to let it pass
    Guardian 24925 (Orlando): Bound to believe in pronouncement? (7) TRUSSED
    TRUSSED sounds like TRUST (believe). We might question the correctness of 'in pronouncement' as homophone indicator (it isn't the same as 'in pronunciation') but we accept it because of the '?'. 

! usually signals an &Lit clue or an innovative definition.

FT13306 (Cinephile): One entering theatre? Not these days! (5,3) STONE AGE
                                ONE in STAGE (theatre)
"Not these days" is not a dictionary definition of STONE AGE, therefore the exclamation mark.

But don't rely much on finding special meaning with these punctuation marks either.

Sometimes '?' and '!' too, like other punctuation marks, only help the surface and imply nothing unusual. Sometimes a trailing exclamation mark is just a case of the setter projecting the clue as cleverer than it is! (er, cancel that last exclamation mark)

In the next few clues, '?' and '!' can be ignored.

Times 24317: Might salesman, holding now, finally ring back? (5) POWER
REP (salesman) around [no]W O (ring), all reversed. '?' has no role in the cryptic reading.

Times Sunday 4351: Shell about to strike — good shot! (8) CARAPACE
CA (about) RAP (strike) ACE (good shot). '!' has no role in the cryptic reading.

FT 13475 (Bradman): Drunken spree? One needs skill, intervening (9) BARTENDER
ART (skill) in BENDER (drunken spree) &Lit. '?' has no role in the cryptic reading. Also note that though this is an &Lit clue, there is no '!' at the end.

Guardian 25070 (Enigmatist): "Drifting life forms look to zap!" (News, in shock) (11) ZOOPLANKTON
(LOOK TO ZAP + N + N)*. None of the punctuation marks – quotes or '!' or the brackets – have any role in the cryptic reading.

When punctuation makes all the difference

Nothing is true always.

Hyphens and dashes are generally just fillers, but notice the use of '-' in the next clue:

FT 13385 (Orense): Shanghai duck-eating lizard (7) DRAGOON
                              DRAGON (lizard) around O (duck)

The hyphen must be taken into the parsing here: if we read "duck-eating lizard" as "duck eating lizard", we would have O around DRAGON.

The ellipsis is another example that in most cases has no impact on the cryptic reading, but sometimes it indicates a cryptic relation between two clues. Read Ellipsis-linked clues for more.

In the next three clues, punctuation marks are of critical importance. Try solving them! (Answers tomorrow)

Guardian 25073 (Paul): Dude — the ride ends here (3,8) B__ T_______
Times 24281: Direct, at first not direct (7) C_____D
Guardian 24167 (Paul): Negotiate track up mountain, perhaps (11,4) P__________ M___

In Closing

We've seen in this article wide-ranging use of punctuation in clues: some in which punctuation leapt out to catch the eye but had no role in the wordplay, others in which punctuation appeared irrelevant but was far from being so.

The rule of thumb is to ignore punctuation other than '?' and '!', but there are clever setters out there to subvert such rules. '?' and '!' can be as misleading as the rest of the punctuation, and the rest can be as meaningful as '?' and '!' are supposed to be.

Don't let punctuation distract you, but don't lose sight of it entirely.

Solve These

A few punctuated clues for you to solve and enjoy.

Guardian 25098 (Puck): Turn from pet? A tortoise doing somersault! (6) R_____
FT 13403 (Loroso): Cold rain, cloud, wind (9)  U_______L
Guardian 24839 (Boatman): Dead-end career next? (5) L___R

[This post was written on a suggestion by David Hampton. Thanks David.]

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rakshabandhan Gift For A Cruciverbalist

My cousin gave this to me for Rakhi – a clutch with a crossword imprinted on it.

crossword-wallet-bag

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indian solvers: Watch out for tomorrow's Indy!

I have been reliably informed that the Independent crossword to be published on Thursday 26th August 2010 will be of special interest to Indian solvers.

Be sure to solve it tomorrow - the Independent crossword is available on the day of publication only.

The crossword will be uploaded on 26th August 2010 here (click below):

independent-cryptic-crossword

Don't miss it! And please spread the word!

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wordplay or Subsidiary Indication?

As we know, most cryptic clues are of the form:

        definition + alternate way to get the answer

Traditionally the "alternate way to get the answer" is called subsidiary indication (SI for short). The term 'wordplay' is its modern equivalent. I prefer 'wordplay' myself, which had led to some discussion in the comments last year. To me that sounds less formal, less formidable than 'subsidiary indication'.

It turns out that there is some disagreement about this usage. A web search led me to this interesting debate in the Crossword Centre message board archives, over the topic of Defining Wordplay [click Detail on that link to read the comments]. Most notably the setter Don Manley [comment#7] writes against equating wordplay with SI:

For me 'wordplay' is to 'subsidiary indication' as 'phonebook' is to 'telephone directory' - ie simpler and neater, but also dumber and less precise!

The main argument is that the apparent meaning of the term 'wordplay' is not consistent with the meaning crossworders give to it. Tim Moorey too writes in the initial chapters of his book How To Master The Times Crossword:

Perhaps strictly accurately the terms should be word and letterplay.

though he does not insist on it and goes on to use 'wordplay' to stand for SI.

What do other sites of note say?

All the crossword guides I recommend use the term 'wordplay' as an alternative name for 'subsidiary indication'. (Well, Big Dave's guide has separate definitions for the two terms but I think they lead to the same meaning.)

A Google search to compare their popularity on crossword-solving sites shows a clear preference for 'wordplay' over SI. The result volumes are in the range below:

Site Subsidiary Indication Count Wordplay
Count
Fifteensquared 117 5100
Times for the Times 5 945
Big Dave's Crossword Blog 11 1360
The Hindu Crossword Corner 3 62

[This considers indexed pages on Google from the sites. It includes the bloggers' as well as commenters' usage counts.]

wordplay-subsidiary-indicator-popularity-comparison

What do you call it?

What's your preferred name for the part of the cryptic clue that is not the definition?

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Detectives In Cryptic Clues

detectives-in-cryptic-clues The fine folk who investigate crimes have many standard abbreviations to define their profession, much to the delight of the crossword setter. If the word "detective" or its like appears in a clue, the usual suspects in the answer are:

TEC Informal short form of "detective"

Times 24226: One who investigates metal, say, specialising in applied science (9) TECHNICAL
                     sounds like TEC (one who investigates) NICKEL (metal, say)

DI Abbreviation of Detective Inspector, a UK police rank. This is common in words starting with DIS-.

Times 24588: Banish investigator before short tour of duty (6) DISPEL
                     DI (investigator) SPEL[l] (tour of duty, shortened)

DS Abbreviation of Detective Sergeant, a UK police rank. Usually occurs in the middle of the answer.

Guardian 25083 (Araucaria): Detective on wheels has instrument for cheat (9) CARDSHARP
                                           DS (detective) on CAR (wheels), plus HARP (instrument)

PI Abbreviation of Private Investigator, also called Private Eye

FT 13415 (Viking): Detective's question linked to drug offence (5) PIQUE
                            PI (detective) QU (question) E (drug)

BUSY Slang for detective

Times 24583: Character coming last busy entering a second race (6) AZTECS
                     Z (character coming last) TEC (busy), in A S (second)

DICK Informal short form of "detective"

Times 24388: Detective mounted routine trap for outlaw (4,6) DICK TURPIN
                     DICK (detective), RUT (routine) reversed, PIN (trap)

Fictional Detectives

To add to that are many detectives from fiction with grid-friendly names. Such as:

FT 13433 (Cincinnus): In novel form, I'm great detective (7) MAIGRET
Anagram of (IMGREAT), &lit. The detective here is Jules Maigret, commissioner of the French Sûreté, created by author Georges Simenon.

The next appeared in the Times Crossword of 1st Feb 1940, republished on Times Crossword Club on the occasion of the crossword's 80th birthday this year.

         Though "busy" in fiction, he suggests a decline in business (9) LESTRADE
         Sounds like 'less trade'. Inspector Lestrade is the busy (detective) from Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.

If you aren't into detective fiction, this list from Wikipedia will help.

Solve These

Times 24465: Dick gets round, limping about — right, will we wait for him? (9) L _ T _ _ _ _ _ R
Times 23435: Three points suppressed by detective writer (7) D _ _ _ _ _ S
Guardian 25029 (Araucaria): Old American sleuth pursuing extremes (5) A _ _ _ _

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hints to solve Mint Wordview 15

mint-crossword-wordview If you are a Mint crossword solver and held up for solutions, a few hints to help you complete it. Taking inspiration from Tim Moorey's guide, the definitions are italicized and indicators coloured.

If you are not a Mint crossword solver, try it – it's a good one. The latest crossword grid is here.

ACROSS

1 British leader buckling under pressure (6)
Charade with an anagram.

4 Still, one could be prowling the Himalayas (4)
Charade. A pretty obvious answer after you have identified the definition.

8 An advertisement lacking power and pull (3)
Deletion.

9 Skill mostly brings up what's outstanding (7)
Charade, with a small deletion from the first word.

10 One selling off assets left the pound with a riot brewing outside (10)
Charade and anagram and container. Easier to solve this from the definition and then fit the wordplay.

13 That which can be debated late, one big mess (10)
Anagram.

15 Cultured ova - live cells (7)
Anagram.

17 Some delayed a vote of consent in parliament (3)
Hidden word.

18 A legal document, one way or the other (4) 
Palindromic answer.

19 Home - home that's top notch (6)
Charade with three parts, the first two are synonyms for 'home' and the last is a single initial letter.

DOWN

1 Cheque or draft for an act (4)
Double definition.

2 Students may have to endure this headless boast (7)
Deletion of a single letter.

3 Checking out a girl around the university, Latino perhaps (10)
Charade + anagram + container. Note that 'around' applies to 'Latino perhaps'.

5 Period musical with no opening piano (3)
Deletion. Two letters get deleted from a word for 'musical'.

6 Severely criticize one filling in for church guard (6)
Word for 'severely criticize' with a substitution.

7 What a dropout may never have (10)
A straight-ish CD.

11 Farming before a good term of produce (7)
Charade with four parts, the last three are single letters.

12 You and I would have to absorb bad debts without remuneration (6)
Container, including the contraction for 'would'.

14 Trap to snare a cow (4)
Container. Easy provided you know this.

16 Very nice, evenly composed contest (3)
Pick even letters.

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Tim Moorey's How To Master The Times Crossword

how-to-master-the-times-crossword Expectations ran high as I started to read Tim Moorey's How To Master The Times Crossword. Excited as I was to have my own new copy of the book, I also wondered if it will match up to the glowing praise I had read of it.

I need not have wondered. Tim Moorey's book does a magnificent job of explaining the nuances of the Times cryptic crossword in an eminently readable style. Whether you are a new solver taking your first steps towards cryptic crosswords or an experienced solver wanting to raise your game, this is THE book for you.

Inside The Book

The 218-page hardcover volume is divided into four parts – Crossword Basics which covers the clue types, indicators and tips for very new solvers; Mastering the Times Crossword with advanced tips; Practice Time with lots of clues and 12 full grids to try; Appendices including a list of crossword abbreviations.

One of the most commendable aspects of this book is its positive, friendly tone. Many guides read like impersonal instruction manuals, or else have so much of the author's personality in them that they obscure the knowledge they're trying to impart. Tim Moorey's book falls into neither trap – his voice is like that of a mentor genuinely interested in helping us learn. He says in the introduction:

I would not wish to be seen as laying down rules on solving; there are really no such things. Ultimately, everyone finds their own way of doing crosswords and my hope is that I will help you to find yours

Graphs and visual cues are used to explain clue types and the breakdown of clues. If you are familiar with the Times crossword, you will marvel at how easy and accessible the author makes the Times clues look.

The book uses slightly different terminology for clue types such as all-in-one for &lit and sandwich for containers. These terms are perhaps less intimidating for a new solver, and well-used on the Times blog even if not elsewhere.

The practice clues and puzzles have some handholding in the initial stages – definitions are italicized, clue types mentioned. Thereafter you are given full grids to attempt on your own.

My favourite sections of the book are in Part 2: Mastering the Times Crossword  – a solving sequence in which Tim Moorey takes us through his solving of an entire grid, and a setting sequence in which he walks us through the process of creating clues. I enjoyed comparing notes with Tim Moorey's solving sequence – mine was rather different but eventually I had the same last few blanks as he did. The setting sequence is a fascinating insight into the setter's mind as he writes clues for the grid (Tim Moorey is a setter for the Sunday Times crossword).

Each chapter begins with a nice quote relevant to crosswords – extracts from books and magazines, also an excerpt from a 1934 letter by PG Wodehouse to The Times.

In the end is a treat as Tim Moorey calls it – a puzzle that is hailed as one of the best ever to be published in the Times. As with the rest of the book, here too the author shows consideration for solvers at different levels of solving ability. The clues for this puzzle are published in three formats – one is exactly as it appeared in the Times, the second with definitions italicized and the third with definitions italicized plus indicators underlined.

Is this any good for a non-Times solver?

Absolutely. Most of the book applies to any cryptic crossword, not only the Times. Whatever is specific to the Times - such as the no living persons rule - is clearly mentioned.

I suspect that by the end of this book, you will convert into a Times solver even if you are not one today. The clues used as examples in the book showcase the cream of the Times stable. Many of the clues were chosen in the past as the 'Clue Of The Week', a feature of The Week magazine.

What do you think of the book?

I'd love to hear from other readers, especially new solvers. Did you enjoy the book, did it help you improve your game?

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Crossword Unclued Turns Two

crosswordunclued-second-anniv Today, Crossword Unclued celebrates in second birthday - I took the plunge into blogging with Tackling Cryptic Crosswords: 7-Step Guide For Beginners on 8th August 2008. It has been a fantastic journey since then. We are 216 articles strong at this time and I enjoy every minute of writing here.

Thanks a lot to you for reading and engaging with this blog, and to crossword creators for giving me plenty of fodder to write about.

The Last Twelve Months: A Brief Look

The last year carried several articles about the cryptic crossword grid, of which the ones on Ninas and pangrammatic grids are the most popular. There were 20 articles about cryptic word associations like posh = U and enemy = time, 15 articles on wordplay devices such as D by E and false capitalization, the setting styles of Hindu Crossword compilers (1, 2, 3), opinion polls (1, 2) and book reviews (1, 2).

We also had guest articles by setter Tony Le, on the art of crafting good anagrams, and by Chaturvasi, on creating and filling a crossword grid.

Crossword Unclued was mentioned in The Hindu in Feb 2010 and there was even an interview at The Hindu Crossword Corner :)

Visitors: Facts & Figures

53% of our daily visitors come through Google search. The most popular search terms are "cryptic crosswords for beginners", "crossword aids" and (curiously!) "abaci summers". The highest-ranking proper noun in search terms is "Nita Jaggi"; occasionally a stray visitor comes looking the true identities of Gridman, Neyartha, and even "real name shuchi crossword". Some frustrated solvers land here with search terms like "how long before I can solve times uk crossword" – I hope they find some encouragement on Crossword Unclued.

We get 3000+ visits and 7000+ page views per month.

Top Content By Google Search Top Content By Twitter Visits
My Favourites Most Commented On

Special thanks to the top commenters on the site in the last year – Chaturvasi, Vasana, maddy and veer.

Stay Connected!

If you like Crossword Unclued, please stay connected. Subscribe via RSS or to receive new articles. Add Crossword Unclued on , and Delicious.

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The World's Largest Crossword

Raju Umamaheshwar is the proud owner of a gigantic 7 ft X 7 ft crossword. This crossword has more than 91000 squares and over 28000 clues that come in a separate book of 103 pages. Check out these pictures of the grid and the cover of the clue book.

worlds-largest-crossword-grid

worlds-largest-crossword-clues

worlds-largest-crossword-puzzle

I don't have a verifiable source to confirm that this is the largest in the world but this is certainly the largest in my knowledge. Know of any bigger than this?

The perfect wall hanging for a crossword buff's living room, isn't it?

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.