A cryptic clue can use 'pointless' or 'pointlessly' to indicate the removal of compass points N E W or S from the fodder.
Independent 7316 (Morph): Pointless to get up, at the end of the day, if so (5) TIRED
STIR (get up) with point S removed + [th]E + D (day), semi-&lit.
The above is a straightforward case of fodder [STIR] with only one point S, which gets deleted unambiguously.
What happens when the fodder has more than one compass point?
In this case I take 'pointless' to mean 'without any point' – that is, all occurrences of N E W S should get removed from the fodder. As in these clues:
THC 9863 (Sankalak): Courage in pain is a strong point, accepting reversal of duties pointlessly (9) FORTITUDE
FORTE (a strong point) around DUTIES reversed, with points E S removed.
Times 25331: Crazy man's wed pointlessly (3) MAD
MANS WED with points N S W E removed.
FT 13862 (Crux): Many pointless clues need editing – that's insulting! (7) CALUMNY
Anagram of (MANY + (CLUES with points E S removed))
All setters don't seem to agree on this. Some use 'pointless' or 'pointlessly' to indicate the removal of any compass point.
THC 10626 (Lightning): Pointlessly long for a tale (4) YARN
YEARN (long) with point E removed, point N not removed.
Telegraph (Kolkata): Way with pointlessly shrewd law (7) STATUTE
ST (way) + ASTUTE (shrewd) with point S removed, point E not removed.
Guardian 25775 (Gordius): Rule where to abdicate is pointless (5) REIGN
RESIGN (abdicate) with point S removed, points E N not removed.
Which point gets removed and which remains in the answer seems to be at the setter's discretion in such clues, and no indication is given to the solver about it.
More clues that use 'pointless' or 'pointlessly', either to remove one point or to remove all points.
Guardian 24174 (Araucaria): Rejected or retained, Adelaide is displaying pointlessly (4,5) L___ ____E
Sunday Telegraph 4509: Curved structure was nice but pointless and obsolete (7) A_____C
FT 13249 (Satori): Pointlessly safe attack's timid (6) __R__D
Daily Telegraph 26034: They're useless, pointless (7) N______
[Edited: I realised soon after hitting Publish that in the fourth clue, 'pointless' can indicate the removal of an end-point rather than a compass point. In which case, I have no issue with it and think it's brilliant! Clues used as examples updated accordingly.]
What do you think?
When a clue uses 'pointless' or 'pointlessly' on fodder with more than one compass point, should it remove a single compass point from the fodder, any number of compass points, or all compass points?
If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.