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.
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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