Monday, August 29, 2011

You Cannot Solve These Clues Unless...

…you have more information about them than this (and I don't mean crossing letters):

FT13361 (Viking): This initially gets involved here (5)
Times 24472: Here it isn’t out of place (is to be written out)! (8)

Try solving them with the clue sheet as it appeared in the paper:

FT13361 (Viking)

ft13361-viking

Times 24472

Times24472

Added on 3-Jun-2015:

Times 26114

Times26114

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Irregular Ways Of "Regularly"

regularly-letter-picking

Experienced solvers will recognize "regularly" as an indicator to pick odd or even letters from a word/phrase in the clue.

Standard "regularly" clues look like the ones below.

Even letters:
Independent (Crosophile): Soft pedal, say, when regularly used (4) EASY
Even letters of 'pEdAl SaY'

Odd letters:
Guardian 24938 (Puck): Poet writes, dipping into sherry regularly (7) SPENSER
PENS (writes) in SER (odd letters of 'ShErRy')

But there is more to "regularly". The word means "at fixed intervals", and those intervals can be wider than a single letter.

Intervals > 2:
Guardian 25109 (Puck): Language coming from Jack and Vera, regularly (4) JAVA
J (Jack) + every third letter of 'AndVerA'

Another clue with a more helpful indication for picking every third letter:

Times 24747: Ornament and tattoo-marks cut when couples go out regularly (4) TORC
From the letters of 'taTtoOmaRksCut', pairs of letters are dropped in symmetry - the letters that remain spell TORC.

Though theoretically defensible, I haven't come across a clue that uses "regularly" for gaps larger than three - stretching beyond that can make the clue too long, unwieldy and possibly unfair.

Finally, beware of the case in which "regularly" is present in the clue but you aren't supposed to go letter picking at all!

No letter picking:
FT 13701 (Redshank): Drink and travel regularly, showing flexibility (6) SUPPLY
SUP (drink) PLY (travel regularly, as in "On which route does this bus ply?")

Solve These

Guardian 25374 (Crucible): Frank's in gym regularly taking hooks (4)
Enigmatic Variations 969: Welfare state provides regular contributions for bridge player (4)
Times 24810: Staff annoy team by regularly showing up (5)

Annotate this ->
Azed 1898: Clots regularly feeding eggs to dogs? (7) The answer is CRUORES. Can you see how?

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Verb Phrase as Definition for Noun

subject-verb-agreement The grammar of cryptic clues requires that the definition should match the part of speech of the answer. So an adjective as definition must lead to an adjective as the solution, and not something like a verb or noun.

Such a clue will not do:

THC 10223 (M Manna): In disturbed state turn towards perceptive person (6) ASTUTE U (turn) in (STATE)*
The definition "perceptive person" suggests a noun, but the answer ASTUTE is an adjective.

The definition may appear to be in a different part of speech so as to lead the solver astray, as in the next clue:

THC 10223 (M Manna): Making bad move, lose when winning (8) LOVESOME (MOVE LOSE)*
"winning" passes off as a verb on the clue's surface but is actually an adjective, and so it matches the answer LOVESOME.

It is part of the setter's game to disguise the definition but ultimately, when read the right way, the definition and the solution must tally in meaning and part of speech.

That is the rule. This is the exception.
A special allowance is made when a verb phrase defines a noun that could be its subject. Here's such a clue by Don Manley:

Guardian 24590 (Pasquale): Politician caught in trick covers head (6) WIMPLE
MP (politician) in WILE (trick)
WIMPLE, a noun, is not a synonym for "covers head" but the clue is considered valid since the two fit into the sentence "WIMPLE covers head".

This style of definition is probably not Ximenean but even very fair crosswords like the Azed allow it. On the topic of cryptic clue grammar, setter Azed (Jonathan Crowther) says in his book A-Z of Crosswords:

I make an exception in the case of verb phrases as clues to nouns that could stand as their subjects: 'wags its tail and is man’s best friend' is therefore acceptable in defining DOG, whereas 'furry and four-legged' on its own is not.

This clue from The Hindu of 1st Aug 2011, which led to a lot of debate among solvers, falls into the same bracket:

THC 10221 (M Manna): Bird dogs get drunk (9) COCKTAILS
COCK (bird) TAILS (dogs, verb)

COCKTAILS get drunk (i.e. consumed). So the answer fits as a subject of the verb-phrase definition.

Incidentally, Roger Squires wrote the same clue in the early 1990s and used it in three of the British main papers, including the Times. Their crossword editors found it proper for publishing.

Such clues follow the usual English rules of subject-verb agreement. Since COCKTAILS is a plural noun, the definition can only be a plural verb form; a definition like "gets drunk" would not have worked with COCKTAILS.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Three Years of Crossword Unclued

crossword-unclued-three Three years have passed since Crossword Unclued was launched. When I began blogging with this post in 2008 I hadn't imagined what an adventure this was going to be. Solving crosswords, a solitary joy once, has evolved into something shared with the world.

Thanks to all my wonderful readers who keep me going. Thanks for suggesting topics to blog about, sending in interesting clues, reading, commenting and spreading the word about the blog. In this year, the blog's traffic from reddit and stumbleupon has increased substantially with Tackling Cryptic Crosswords: A 7-Step Guide and the New York Times Election Day Crossword bringing in the most visitors.

There are close to 300 articles on the blog now and I've fine-tuned how they are organised for easy navigation. Site Archive lists all articles grouped month-wise on a single page. All interviews of crossword personalities are linked from the new Interviews page.

A recap of posts published in the last year around which the most interesting activities took place.

Most Retweets & Comments: Contest: Participate and Win a Goodie! 
Most Facebook Shares: Interview with Tony Sebastian with a whopping 173 Facebook share count, a testament to Tony's popularity on social media.
Most Bookmarked: Fascinating Facts about Setters' Pseudonyms
Most Visits in a Single Day: Interview with Nitaa Jaggi

My personal favourite posts written this year are Double-Edged Indicators, Do you make these mistakes when writing clues?, The Game of Bridge, Semi-&Lit Clues – do check them out if haven't yet.

Special thanks to my top referrers:

On twitter: @amrith10, @ya_sree, @diogeneb, @UnnamedEntity, @sancryptic
Websites: THCC, Big Dave's Blog, fifteensquared, DA Trippers

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Thanks a lot for your support!

Past Birthdays:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unusual Positions for Clue Definition

definition-in-the-middle A typical cryptic clue has two parts: a definition and a subsidiary indication (wordplay). The clue does not tell us which is which, it is the solver's challenge to work that out.

We soon learn this thumb rule by instinct - the definition is either at the start of the clue or at the end of the clue. For beginners to cryptics, here are simple examples of both:

Definition at the start:
Times 23500: Erudite King Edward (7) LEARNED

Definition at the end:
FT 13707 (Jason): Tragic King Edward is widely read (7) LEARNED

The clues above use the same wordplay: charade of LEAR (King in Shakespeare's tragedy) and NED (diminutive of the name Edward). The difference is on the surface - one places the definition at the start, the other at the end.

Nearly all cryptic clues follow this pattern of definition position – but like every rule, this one too has its exception.

It is rare, but possible, for the definition to sit in the middle of the clue.

Definition in the middle:
Guardian 24870 (Auster): Kelly becomes well-informed by following one who wrote nonsense (7) LEARNED

Here, NED (Ned Kelly, Australian bushranger) follows LEAR (Edward Lear, the writer of nonsense verse) to become LEARNED. The definition "well-informed" is sandwiched between the wordplay.

Is this fair?

A clue with the definition in the middle can be tricky to solve (more so since we aren't used to it), but it is considered fair as long as the wording tells the solver unambiguously how to decipher it.

Auster's clue for LEARNED points precisely to "well-informed" as the definition, with link words ("becomes", "by following") clearly indicating the wordplay. So it is all right.

The most likely clue types to have the definition in the middle are semi-&lits, composite anagrams and those with wordplay inversion. Some clues of this kind:

Azed 1997: Seen this Indian tourist destination? For 'indus a rupee, that's fantastic (7) UDAIPUR
Definition: this Indian tourist destination
Wordplay: SEEN + [a word for "this Indian tourist destination"] = (INDUS A RUPEE)*

FT 13517 (Viking): I will need this to work to achieve brilliance (5,4) BRAIN CELL
Definition: this
Wordplay: (I + [a word for "this"])* = BRILLIANCE

Times 24125: Translating from this language? Just the opposite (5) LATIN
Definition: this language
Wordplay: Just the opposite of "translating from this language" = "this language from translating" i.e. LATIN (hidden in transLATINg)

Not always fair

Sometimes the definition lies in the middle simply due to sloppy clue-writing.

DT 26289: Despite being oversensitive reach journey's end (6) TOUCHY
Definition: oversensitive
Wordplay: TOUCH (reach) [journe]Y

THC 9387: Not right river to prevent a crossing (5) DETER
Definition: prevent
Wordplay: DEE (river) R (right), around T (crossing)

The first clue pushes its definition in the middle because it is trying to build a meaningful surface with intrusive padding -  the leading words "despite being" have no role in the wordplay.

The second clue does a mindless mix up of wordplay and definition. It gives no reason why "prevent" should be taken as the definition, and not "crossing" or "not right".

It is an exceptional clue that can place its definition in the middle and pull it off successfully.

Solve These

Each of the clues below has its definition in the middle. What do you think of them? Do they work?

Times 24508: Stink as this gun is brought to church (4)

DT 26326 (Rufus): Aphrodite's emaciated form (9)

From UKPuzzle: The relationships of actors really content (4,5)

Guardian 24152 (Puck): Some licks from a Gibson? On the contrary (3)

From DIYCOW by Vinod Raman: Flying pigs off cue here? On the contrary (6,2,6)

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[Thanks to Siva for suggesting this article.]

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