Monday, June 25, 2012

Other meanings of OR

gold-men-OR My last post was about the doubtful use of 'alternative' for OR in crossword clues.

If 'alternative' has gained popularity as a way of clueing OR, it is not for lack of alternatives. Let's see some other devices crossword setters make use of to encode that 2-letter sequence.

OR is gold

In heraldry, Or (from the French word for 'gold') is a gold or yellow tincture, of the class of tinctures called metals.

Times 25137: Worth depositing gold for investment by firm (8) STORABLE
OR (gold) in STABLE (firm); definition: worth depositing

Times Sunday 4391: Posh car on motorway with yellow glass (6) MIRROR
RR (posh car i.e. Rolls Royce) on M1 (motorway), OR (yellow)

The yellow meaning is put to clever use in this clue:

Independent 7864 (Tees): Shout at one repaying loan or more? (9) YELLOWER
YELL (shout) OWER (one repaying loan); definition: or more i.e. more yellow.

OR is men

Non-commissioned members of the British army, RAF or Royal Marines are called Other Ranks, OR in short. So OR becomes a handy replacement in the answer for words like 'men' or 'soldiers' in the clue.

Guardian 25661 (Arachne): Severely criticised and curtailed American right to lock up men (4,5) TORE APART
TEA PART[y] (American right, curtailed) around OR (men)

OR is Oregon

The abbreviation of the American state of Oregon.

Guardian 24031 (Brendan): Liberal policy in West Coast state, welcoming writer to party circle (4,4) OPEN DOOR
OR (West Coast state), around PEN (writer) DO (party) O (circle); definition: liberal policy. Interestingly, the writer of this clue Brendan lives in Oregon.

OR is a Boolean operator

In Boolean algebra, OR is the digital logic gate that represents logical disjunction. Implementations in electronics and computer programming are based on the Boolean OR, such as the bitwise operator.

The words 'gate' or 'operator' on the clue's surface can be deceptive fronts for OR.

FT 14012 (Gaff): English car with operator fault (5) ERROR
E (English) car (RR) OR (operator)

OR is before (archaic)?

Dictionaries list 'before' as an archaic meaning of OR but I have not come across this usage in cryptic clues. Too obscure for daily cryptics?

Solve These

Times 24601: Lazy person's aim: to stash away gold for retirement (5) D____
Times 25167: Men getting band together as auditions are done (6) __A___
THC 10262 (Buzzer): Goldsmith for one, plated thorium with gold on either side (6)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alternative…OR should that be alternatively?

or-alternative Alternative = OR is standard fare in cryptic clues, but is it totally accurate? I can see OR as 'alternatively', not as 'alternative'. Am I missing something obvious or is this one of those Roman numeral things that have become valid through wide use?

Accurate or not, being able to use 'alternative' to clue OR does make life easy for the crossword setter. OR comes up frequently in grid fills and it helps to have a synonym for it that can be placed flexibly in the clue.

Enjoy these clues in which 'alternative' points to OR.

Everyman 3416: South American republic holding alternative view (8)

NIE (Rufus): Best alternative under the sun (7)

FT 14029 (Loroso): Worry about question over alternative north-south divide? (7)

Guardian 25555 (Boatman): They may be right; the alternative is to embrace evidence, ultimately (8)

THC 10452 (Neyartha): A form of frozen water is no alternative to licorice that is well-cooked (6)

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clue challenge: Annotate these answers V

annotate-clues In dealing with a cryptic clue, getting the right answer is not enough. You haven't truly solved the clue till you have figured out why that is the answer.

Presenting for you a new edition of Clue Challenge. Eight clues are given below - with their answers. Your challenge is fill in the 'why' by annotating the answers.

Update (18th June 2012): Annotations added.

1. Indy 7952 (Anax): With no use for banks, user has not changed password (6) SESAME
Annotation: SE (uSEr without its banks i.e. extreme letters) SAME (not changed); definition: password. 'Sesame' is probably the most famous password in fiction.

2. Guardian 25608 (Brendan): French author negating conclusions of stupid fool (5) DUMAS
Annotation: DUM[b] AS[s]; definition: French author.

3. Times 25147: Fuel drops fell away from casing  (6) DIESEL
Annotation: DIES (drops) EL (fELl without its casing i.e. extreme letters); definition: fuel.

4. Guardian 25637 (Paul): The price for police security while you sleep, might you say, in compound? (6,7) COPPER NITRATE
Annotation: homophone of COPPER (i.e. police) NIGHT RATE; definition: compound.

5. Times 25155: Clue less hard with jumbo flipping complete!  (8) INTEGRAL
Annotation: HINT (clue) – H (hard) + LARGE (jumbo) reversed; definition: complete.

6. FT 13999 (Loroso): Apple one leaves in place (6) PIPPIN
Annotation: I (one) + PP (leaves i.e. pages, noun), in PIN (place, verb); definition: apple.

7. Times 25169: Bank deposits say, key currency (5,6) LEGAL TENDER
Annotation: LENDER (bank) deposits i.e. contains E.G. (say) ALT (key, the one on the computer keyboard); definition: currency.

8. Times 25169: Brainwashed outcast regressing fast flies away with this? (6,9) INSECT REPELLENT
Annotation: IN SECT (brainwashed), LEPER (outcast) reversed, LENT (fast); definition: flies away with this? 'Sect' is used as a derogatory word for a group with extreme views - to be part of a sect one would have to be brainwashed.

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

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords

Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords Tony Chesterley Having seen the work of Tony Chesterley before and his articles on how to write creative anagram clues, I was keen to get hold of his debut book - Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords, a collection of 40 cryptic crosswords set by him. I've spent the last few weeks solving a puzzle a day from the book and have enjoyed it very much.

It took me a couple of puzzles to get used to the setting style, gradually discovering that the California-based setter is liberal with his anagrams, loves the false capitalization trick and does not do cryptic definitions. [Apparently US cryptic crosswords stay away from cryptic definitions and other complexities like reverse wordplay.] The puzzles are about the Financial Times level of difficulty – a few starter clues, other clues of varied toughness, mostly accessible vocabulary. I occasionally stumbled over unfamiliar American expressions in the answers, which was a change from stumbling over unfamiliar British expressions. Such instances did not lessen the enjoyment of the puzzles, rather made me think "how could I not have known this?" This includes the word 'MacGyveresque' from the introduction.

Each puzzle has a whimsical title, drawn from the surface context of the puzzle's clues. It added to the fun to be battling Pill Bill or reining in Upward Nobility rather than solving Puzzle nos. 4 or 7. There is a distinct American flavour to the clue surfaces, so Yanks and Donners and states of America show up visibly in place of Tories and Cockneys and towns in Britain. The surfaces are thoughtfully constructed, smooth without compromising on the cryptic reading. Sample this:

Puzzle #14, 2A: Adolescent minor released from year-long sentence (8) _O_____L

The book opens with a four-page introduction to cryptic crosswords, allocating a few lines and an example each for the basic clue types. This section manages the difficult art of being compact and clear at the same time. For someone looking for a way to learn cryptic crosswords, the introduction is a nice starting point but I doubt that a new solver would be able to graduate to solving the following 40 puzzles straightaway. What might have helped is a few clues/puzzles with hints to pave the way to the actual puzzles. The good part is that all solutions are annotated, so a new solver who takes a peek at the back pages will learn not just what the answer is but also how it is derived.

Five puzzles from the book are available online. Have a look to get a feel of the book's contents.

About the author & the making of the book

tony chesterley Tony Chesterley started dabbling in setting crosswords about 15 years ago. The first puzzles he wrote were by hand and (he suspects) probably broke all bounds of solvability. He put the idea of serious cryptic setting on the shelf for years till getting laid off in 2008 gave him the time to write crosswords in earnest. He submitted his first puzzle to Alberich, who helped him polish it up and published on it his website. The book has an acknowledgment to Alberich and long-time U.S. setter Bob Stigger.

Tony started filling out his collection last autumn, writing and refining his puzzles over the course of the next few months, finally publishing his book in April 2012.

Almost all the cryptics I've solved are from books, since so few U.S. newspapers carry cryptics these days,” Tony says. “The pool of American cryptics has gotten more and more sparse over the past ten years, and one of my motivations in writing this book was to help fill the void.”

The crosswords in this book have been created with pretty basic setting tools. Tony started with and still uses the freeware version of Puzzlers' Cave Crossword Compiler (unrelated to the professional-level software of the same name). He added Crossword Express to his toolbox when it became freeware, then its successor Magnum Opus which eventually went defunct.

Tony plans to buy Sympathy when he starts work on Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords Volume 2.

Solve These

In closing, I'll leave you with three more clues from C4 – enjoy.

Puzzle #10, 25A: Lady attending musical Summer, the last for Barry White (10) C___D_____
Puzzle #3, 25A: Twilight is returning to the screen (5) ____E
Puzzle #36, 16A: Swell! Mother takes hours getting prepared (8) __S___O_

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