Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reverse Containers

reverse-containers The idea behind reverse anagrams extends to other clue types as well. Such as the container clue type.

In a normal container clue, you are given the container A, content B and the c/c indicator. You fit B into A to get X.

In a reverse container clue, you are given that X. You work out how to read X as a relationship between container A and content B.

For example, look at the next two clues that use container-and-contents wordplay on the same word RESIGN - one the normal way, the other the reverse way.

Normal container clue:
Guardian 24944 (Bonxie): Second in command to step down (6) RESIGN
S (second) in REIGN (command)

Reverse container clue:
Sunday Times 4476 (Anax): As deputy, resign? (6,2,7) SECOND IN COMMAND
RESIGN = S in REIGN = second in command

How to identify a reverse container

Any form of reverse wordplay can be hard to spot since the standard bits that help the solver - the clue type indicator, the components to put together - are not explicit in the clue. There may be a hint like '?' to go upon but that's neither mandatory nor exclusive to reverse wordplay.

The strongest sign that you're dealing with a reverse container is all of these together:

  • the clue's answer is a phrase or a long word
  • the clue is brief
  • a container/content indicator like IN or OUT seems to fit into the answer, which you can see from the checking letters/word length/definition

The next step is to match the fodder (X) with the answer by reading it as a relationship between container and content. For example, in the SECOND IN COMMAND clue, try reading RESIGN in the form of "B in A".  Keep in mind that both components A and B should make sense - RESIGN can't be something like "ES in RIGN" (unless the fodder is literally ESINRIGN) since RIGN does not mean anything. S in REIGN (command) will suggest itself easily.

Solve These

Enjoy solving these reverse container clues.

Guardian 25351 (Tramp): Must've? (5,7,2,3,3)

Guardian 25582 (Philistine): Stripped clue with a pattern (10)

Independent 7840 (Monk): Language suggested by Escher right away? (7)

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Anax's Special Crossword for Crossword Unclued

I found a message from Anax in my mailbox this weekend, containing a delightful surprise: a crossword created especially for Crossword Unclued.

I'm thrilled to bits :) Sharing the crossword with you all. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Please post your answers/opinions/feedback in the comments section. For this post comment moderation is off and a max limit of 3 answers per person is on.

The interactive grid above might not be visible in your mailbox/RSS reader. Please visit the blog to access it. If you still cannot view it, try this link or the print version:

Anax Puzzle for Crossword Unclued 
     Anax's Crossword for Crossword Unclued

Enjoy solving!

[Update: Annotated answers here.]

@Anax: Thank you very much.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clue Challenge: Annotate These Answers IV

annotate-clues Latest edition of clues that I found hard to parse despite being given the answer. You're invited to wrap your grey cells around them. How many of these clues can you annotate?

Visit our past clue annotation challenges: I, II and III.

Update (16th March 2012): Annotations added.

1. Times 25026: Men organised to run in short jacket  (5) TUNIC
Annotation: TU (men organised i.e. trade union) NIC[k] (run in i.e. arrest, short); definition: jacket.

2. Sunday Times 4467 (Dean Mayer): Committee representing everything in London? (7,5) WORKING PARTY
Annotation:  everything in lONDOn = ON (working) DO (party); definition: committee.

3. Guardian 25466 (Araucaria): Study in group for preference with absolutely endless entry (Collins) (5,3,6,6) BREAD AND BUTTER LETTER
Annotation:  READ (study) in BAND (group), BETTER (for preference) around UTTERL[y] (absolutely, endless); definition: Collins. See this link for the origin of the synonym. A bit obscure perhaps but an interesting bit of trivia to pick up, especially for Austen fans.

4. Times 25048:  In second wrongful act, stole powered vessel  (9) MOTORBOAT
Annotation:  BOA (stole) in MO (second) TORT (wrongful act); definition: powered vessel.

5. Guardian 25559 (Paul): "Numbers" originally called "number" in error, raised (9) NINETEENS
Annotation:  NEE (originally called) TEN (number), in SIN (error), all reversed; definition: numbers.

6. FT 13918 (Redshank): With eg Imran, he could be the leading runmaker (9) TENDULKAR
Annotation: (TENDULKAR + eg Imran he)* = the leading runmaker [composite anagram]; definition: the entire clue. Great to explain a clue about 'the leading runmaker' on the day he scored his 100th century.

7. FT 13942 (Alberich): End of semester? (8) TERMINUS
Annotation: End = terminus, and semester = "term" in US; cryptic double-definition.

8. Independent 7892 (Anax): Is article carried by mum on tea cloth? (7,7) CHAMOIS LEATHER
Annotation: ISLE (is) A (article) in MOTHER (mum), on i.e. after CHA (tea); definition: cloth.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dr. Fill, Crossword Solving Software to Compete with Human Solvers

dr-fill-crossword-solver Dr. Fill, a new software than can solve American-style crosswords, is poised to make a keenly-watched debut in the upcoming American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Dr. Fill has been built by Matt Ginsberg, a former artificial intelligence researcher and now a regular crossword constructor for the New York Times. Matt Ginsberg is also the creator of GIB, the first bridge software to beat several top-ranked human bridge players in 1998.

The crossword solving program has been put through simulations of several past tournament crosswords and has shown consistently high scores. Based on the performance tests conducted so far, Dr. Fill's might place 20th in this year's tournament, The Economist reports.

Dr. Fill will be a "non-ranked participant" in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament - that is, it won't be competing officially but will solve the puzzles alongside human participants and will submit the solutions to the judges for scoring. According to the banner on the tournament's official site, an "I Beat Dr. Fill" button will be awarded to any contestant who scores higher than Dr. Fill.

What is the secret of Dr. Fill's solving ability?

The abstract for Ginsberg's research paper on JAIR provides this daunting explanation:

Dr.Fill works by converting crosswords to weighted CSPs, and then using a variety of novel techniques to find a solution. These techniques include generally applicable heuristics for variable and value selection, a variant of limited discrepancy search, and postprocessing and partitioning ideas. Branch and bound is not used, as it was incompatible with postprocessing.

Gizmodo makes Dr.Fill's approach sound far more accessible. It is the same one Indians know as ratta.

What makes Dr. Fill so smart, so worthy of competition with those speedy word nerds? Memory. He's basically memorized the entire cannon of crossword puzzles to plug-and-play as needed. Unlike Watson, Dr. Fill wasn't programmed to understand the language of the clues, but rather to play the game.

Dr. Fill's database contains clues and answers for all major American crosswords created since 1900, plus references to online sources like Wikipedia and the movie site IMDb. The program does not try to make sense of the words and clues, instead it sifts through a long list of potential answers for a slot in the grid and fills in the most likely one, then works through the crossing clues.

Will Shortz, crossword editor of the New York Times, sounds skeptical about Dr. Fills ability to beat human crossword solvers but doesn't rule out the possibility [San Francisco Chronicle]:

Because of the complexity of the English language, the breadth of subjects covered in puzzles and the playfulness of crossword themes, I've always thought that a human brain would be better than a computer at solving crosswords. Maybe I'll be proved wrong.

We’ll know soon. The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament begins on 16th March 2012.

Update: Check out this video report about Dr.Fill with shots of the software in action (there's a 30 second ad before the 2:22 min video):

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