Friday, August 31, 2012

Ambassador Abbreviated

ambassador-he If you are new to cryptic crosswords, you will probably wonder at the connection between 'ambassador' and 'he' in this clue:

Everyman 3405: Long account given by ambassador (4) ACHE
defn: long, verb; wordplay: AC (account) + HE (ambassador)

In my early days of solving I used to think this was a case of using the personal pronoun with awed respect, in the style of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The actual explanation turned out to be less far-fetched.

HE is short for His/Her Excellency, the honorific style used for ambassadors. Heads of state, governors, royalty, aristocracy and ambassadors in the clue can all map to HE in the answer.

With that insight, have a go at these clues:

Guardian 25700 (Crucible): Writer recalled ambassador's wife's relative (6)

Times 25161: Nothing on before noon? Ambassador will ring eminent people (4,2,4)

Times 25020: Ambassador entering Peru, not worried at that point (9)

Times 24971: Governor's found in a sleazy bar? That’s sticky! (8) _D______

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kannada crosswords

Kishore Rao chanced upon a Kannada crossword during his lunch break at work. His curiosity piqued, he solved the crossword, discovered other Kannada crosswords in mainstream publications, analysed them over a couple of weeks and soon this article took shape. I'm happy to share Kishore's insightful article with Crossword Unclued readers.

Kishore lives in Bangalore and is well-known on the Indian crossword circuit. He is an ace puzzle solver, math whiz, pun-crafter and polyglot – his repertoire includes familiarity with languages as diverse as Tamil, English, Swahili, Konkani and Sanskrit (he once gave a speech in Sanskrit in the Bangalore Town Hall!).

Over to you, Kishore. – Shuchi

Shuchi had recently brought up the topic of crosswords in Indian languages and even got the ball rolling on Hindi crosswords and clueing. Curiosity got the better of us cats and we started looking more closely at crossword puzzles in Indian languages. I looked for puzzles in Kannada (which is not my native language, or as it is quaintly called, my maternal lingo). My mother tongue, Konkani, is next only to Hindi in terms of the sheer length of the distance it is spoken across India. Konkani sadly lacks a script and makes do with a plethora of others systems of writing, from Roman and Devanagri to Kannada and Malayalam scripts, thus dividing the flock on a script basis (as if other bases were not enough).

Kannada has linguistic attributes similar to Hindi, and so brings with it the same difficulties of crossword setting as in Hindi.

[First, a confession: My Kannada is pretty bad. I left Bangalore in my first standard (Kannada medium) and came back for my tenth standard (English medium with Kannada as a compulsory language). When I came back, I did not know a word of Kannada or the script and had to come up to speed in about eight months. Even now, though my spoken Kannada passes muster, I do grope for words when I try a crossword.]

I came across Kannada crosswords being published in mainstream publications:

a 9x9 in PrajavaaNi (from the Deccan Herald group) presently running numbered over 1450,

(click the image above to enlarge)

a 9x9 KannaDa Prabha (from the New Indian Express Group), presently running numbered over 6250,


a 7x7 in UdayavaaNi (from Manipal based UdayavaaNi group) presently running numbered over 4150.


All the three have symmetric grids, more than half blackspace in many cases, triple unches, and sometimes, whitespace islands not linked to other parts of the crossword. I tried all three but found PrajavaaNi, a daily puzzle set by Ms.Vidya Vinay, the most intriguing since the other two did not seem to have any cryptic side to their wordplay[1].


The clue sheet headings are a little more elaborate compared to English: Across is Left to right, Down is Up to down for Down. All three Kannada publications use this wording.

I observed a rummy thing in Kannada crosswords which is not kosher in English crosswords: in an English crossword DEER being reversed as REED is ok, but DEAR cannot be reversed as RAED. But the Kannada crosswords I solved had such instances of grid fills with no meaning, such as #7 below.

The most delightful surprises were some clues that displayed shades of wordplay similar to what we see in English ones:

  1. ಯೋಗ ಕೊನೆಯಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಈ ಹಂಚಿಕೆ (4) (Yoga koneyalliruva ee hanchike)= This distribution has yoga at the end of it
  2. ಪಟದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ದಾರ ಹಿಡಿದಕ್ಕೆ ಈ ಪೇಚಾಟ (4) (PaTadalli daara hiDidakke ee pechaaTa)= This disturbance/dislocation/embarrassment is due to the chart holding the string
  3. ವಸತಿ ಬಳಿ ಬಂದ ಉಪಪತ್ನಿ (3) (vasati baLi banda upa-patni)= The minor wife who came to the house
  4. ಮಹಿಮವಂತನ ಮೇಲೆ ಬಿದ್ದ ಮಂಜು (2) (mahimavantan mele bidda manju) Dew/frost that fell on the famous person
  5. ಸೂರ್ಯನು ಹುಟ್ಟುವ ಪರ್ವತ (4)(suryanu huTTuva parvata)= The mountain where the sun is born(rises)
  6. ನೆರವು ನೀಡುವವನು, ಉರಿಯೋಳಗಿದ್ದಾನೆ (4) (neravu neeDuvavanu, uriyoLagiddane)= Person who helps, is in fire
  7. ತಿರುಗಿ ನಿಂತಿರುವ ಅಗಸ (4) (tirugi nintiruva agasa)= A washerman who is standing, turned/ a washerman who is facing away
  8. ದೊಡ್ಡ ಹಾರೆಯಿದು (3) (doDDa haareyidu) = This is a big garland
  9. ಮಾರುತಿದ್ದಾಗ ಬೀಸಿದ ಗಾಳಿ (3) (maarutiddaga beesida gaaLi) = The wind that blew when selling

No.3 was sheer magic, though the anagram indicator was missing. This is not a rare omission - many a times, anagram and container/contained indicators are not given with clues in Kannada crosswords.

The answers:

  1. ವಿನಿಯೋಗ viniyoga (as in the Sanskrit/Hindi विनियोग) means distribution, investment or putting into, and has yoga as its ending.
  2. ಪರದಾಟ  pardaat means travel (=dislocation), and consists of the word play of insertion of anagram (without indicator) ದಾರ (daara=thread) as ರದಾ inside ಪಟ (paTa=chart)
  3. ಸವತಿ savati=minor (junior/second) wife (as in Hindi सौतन) which is an anagram of ವಸತಿ (vasati=house).
  4. ಹಿಮ hima=dew/frost (as in Sanskrit/Hindi हिम), which is a synonym of ಮಂಜು and is hidden in ಮಹಿಮವಂತನ, a famous person
  5. ಉದಯಗಿರಿ udayagiri (उदयगिरि) there are several places called Udayagiri in South India, which roughly translates to the sun-rise mountain.
  6. ಉಪಕಾರಿ upakaari (उपकारी), person who helps, the outer two characters of this word spell out ಉರಿ (fire) as mentioned in the clue.
  7. ಳವಾಡಿಮ does not mean anything, to my knowledge and subject to correction, but is a reverse of ಮಡಿವಾಳ (Madivala= washerman), also the name of a lake and locality in Bangalore, which probably like the Washermanpet (ண்ணாரபேட்டை/ Vannaarappettai ) in Chennai or Dhobi Talao (धोबी तलाव / धोबी तालाब) in Mumbai was where all the laundering took place in days of yore, and probably continues.
  8. ಗಜರಿ gajari (a type of flower garland equivalent to गजरा, in Hindi), the reference to big may be an allusion to the ಗಜ (गज) which is an elephant (=mammoth/large)
  9. ಮಾರುತ maaruta (मारूत = wind) hidden in the Kannada word ಮಾರುತಿದ್ದಾಗ (maarutiddaga) = when selling

Solve These

Kannada clues set by Kishore:

1. ಭೈರವಿ ರಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೀಗೆಕೂಡ  ಕರೆಯಬಹುದು ಸೂರ್ಯನನ್ನು (2)
(Bhairavi raagadalli heegekooDa kariyabahudu Suryannu - You can also call Surya thus in the Bhairavi raaga)

2. ಯಾವ ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋದರು ಈ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ್ ಹೆಸರು ಓದಬಹುದು (3)
(Yaava dikkhinalli hodaru ee zilleya hesaru odabahudu -Whichever direction you go, you can read this district name)

3. ಈ ಊರಿನ ವಡೆ ಬಹಳ ಹೆಸರಾಗಿದೆ (3)
(Ee oorina vaDe bahaLa hesaraagide - The vaDa (an eatable) from this town is very well known)


[1] Except one clue in UdayavaaNi (ಹೇಗಾದರೂ ಬಂಗಾರ – hegaadaru bangaara = gold anyway, with an answer ಕನಕ=kanaka=gold), the answer being a palindrome as indicated by the 'anyway' in the clue.

[2] Another thing that made my day with the PrajavaaNi crossword is the fact that it is adjacent to the Henry cartoon strip, called ಗುಂಡಣ್ಣ, GundaNNa= round elder brother (euphemism for a bald chap) in the Kannada paper. The Henry cartoon was created in 1932 by Carl Anderson and used to appear on the 'filler portions' of Mandrake and Phantom comics published by Indrajal Comics, a rage with kids in India in the seventies and eighties.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Crossword Unclued turns four

4th-birthday Four years! 8th August 2008 was the day the first post [Tackling cryptic crosswords: 7 step guide for beginners] was published on Crossword Unclued. On the blog's birthday I usually take stock of notable events of the past year - this time I also went through the Archive and made interesting discoveries about the site, and my personal journey with crosswords, since 2008.

What has changed in four years?

When I started blogging, I solved the crosswords in the Economic Times, New Indian Express, The Hindu, occasionally the UK papers. Now it is the other way round, and the clues used as examples in my posts reflect that change.

There has also been a slight shift in my thoughts on good and bad wordplay in cryptic crosswords. I am more receptive to indirect definitions such as unindicated D-by-E, less tolerant of superfluous link words. If I write about "About" today, I would surely mention that #7 is not a great use of the word.

The early blog posts had many short, quickly composed entries. Those updates have now moved to twitter and Facebook: Crossword Unclued.

The Last Twelve Months: A Brief Look

The interview posts – Roger Squires and the new setters of The Hindu Crossword – were the highlights of the year. They were also among those rare posts that my non-crossword friends read and enjoyed.

March 2012 was an excellent month for the blog. For one, Anax shared this lovely crossword specially created for Crossword Unclued. Soon after, on the morning of 21th March 2012, I checked Sitemeter and wondered if it had broken. It turned out that those additional couple of thousands of visitors were from a link on This was the best-ever time in terms of traffic, thanks to their link.

Popular posts on social media

Most Shared on Twitter Most Shared On Facebook

Why Hindi and cryptic crosswords do not mix  (34 tweets)


Cryptonyte's special crossword (Tony Sebastian continues to attract the max FB shares. In 2011 the top-shared post was his interview.)

New navigation pages

New navigation pages were added this year to help you find your way around the site easily.

A listing of ALL the posts on Crossword Unclued, organized month-wise.
A compendium of interviews with crossword personalities - expert solvers and setters.

Crossword Unclued has been a constant source of joy for me. Thank you very much for reading and for making blogging so much fun.

Special thanks to my top referrers: THCC, Big Dave's Blog, fifteensquared, @sancryptic, amrith10, @ya_sree.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

V and W in homophone clues

V-W-homophones In The Hindu Crossword, it is not unusual to come across homophone clues that equate V with W.

THC 10238 (Sankalak): Prisoner reportedly put on the scale and transported (8) CON VEYED ~weighed

THC 10262 (Buzzer): Escape route pronouncedly left intact (4-4) VENT HOLE ~went whole

THC 10403 (Arden): Effort to put up the painting gets an audible cry (7) TRAVAIL (TRA)< ~wail

Very few Hindu crossword solvers object to it online. The defence is that V and W sound similar enough to be acceptable in cryptic crosswords.

I'm interested to hear your opinion. Do you think the three clues above qualify as accurate homophones?

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