Monday, November 28, 2011

This Is Not The Definition

negated-antonymThe definition in a cryptic clue is not always a synonym of the answer. Sometimes crossword setters take the twisted route of defining the answer as the opposite of its antonym. Why do they do that? It could be that a lack of variety in available synonyms means that an antonym expands the range of wordplay options, as in:

Independent 7588 (Anax): Not a word meaning 'many' - not 'varied' (7) ANTONYM
(MANY NOT)*, with "varied" as anagrind and "not a word meaning" as the roundabout definition.

A negated antonym can be used for wordplay components within the clue as well. For example:

Guardian 25438 (Brendan): Husband with weapon not so benign (8) HARMLESS
H (husband) ARMLESS (with weapon, not so), and "benign" as the definition. The negated antonym for ARMLESS also produces a more compelling surface - "not so" appears to be joined to "benign" in a lift and separate style.

One might question the logical accuracy of this device. Till a while back, I wondered why "not finished" meant "started" (why not "in progress"?), or "not going" meant "coming" (how about "stationary"?). I have come to a grudging acceptance now – while "not going" isn't necessarily "coming", I guess the point is that it can mean that.

In most cases the way out is to consider the logical extreme, unless the clue has words like "not quite" or "not really". This brings in another level of complexity – now the setter may not be asking for a total reversal, merely a shift to a lower gradient.

FT 13852 (Io): Not quite the biggest tie writer is wrapping round (4) SEMI
ME (writer) inside IS, all reversed. "Not quite the biggest tie" i.e. not the final match but the one before it.

The next one – Vinod Raman's winning clue from DIY COW – has a definition by example and a definition by negation both rolled into an &lit:

Flying pigs off cue here? Not exactly (6,2,6) FIGURE OF SPEECH

The setter can potentially take a lot of liberties with this device and it needs care to decide if the clue works fairly enough to be solvable.

Solve These

These clues have some "antonym rejection" going on. Enjoy solving.

Independent 7389 (Radian): Freewheels topless all over the place? Not here (9)

Times Sunday 4392: Gear not in suitable shape (6)

Times 24878: The opposite of ground attack (3,3) L__ ___

THC 9516 (Neyartha): Present? It is not our auditor's (5)

Independent (Phi): Man involved with dunes? Not exactly! (8) A_______

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narendra shenoy said...

Just got "Let Fly"! Tough one!

Qix said...

I think that the Guardian clue you quoted -

Guardian 25438 (Brendan): Husband with weapon not so benign (8)

- is actually a charade.

H(usband)(with) ARM (weapon) LESS (not so) = benign, ie HARMLESS

Although LESS might more commonly be interpreted as "not so much" or "not so many", "not so" does just as well, I think. "Less forceful" = "not so forceful" for example.

Shuchi said...

@shenoyn: Good to see you here. LET FLY was tough for sure, well done!

@Qix: I hadn't thought of that...your parsing does match the clue well. Thanks for pointing it out.

Venkatesh said...

OUT/FIT (d&cd)
THERE ~their

Siva said...


I think I got...
Times Sunday 4392: Gear not in suitable shape (6)

Independent (Phi): Man involved with dunes? Not exactly! (8) A_______