Thursday, April 28, 2016

Definition/Wordplay Etymology Crossover

Definition Wordplay Etymology CrossoverTake a close look at this clue:

Away from home, in the open, dies in battle (7) OUTSIDE
OUT (in the open) (DIES)*; Definition: away from home

The etymology of OUTSIDE is OUT + SIDE, so the clue partly recycles the definition of OUTSIDE in its wordplay OUT (DIES)*.

Try another:

What's used as a religious setting on a piece of furniture (7) RETABLE
RE (on) TABLE (piece of furniture); definition: what's used as a religious setting

The word RETABLE originates from medieval Latin retrotabulum which stands for 'rear table'. In this clue's wordplay, RETABLE splits along its natural etymological join (RE+TABLE), with TABLE retaining its furniture meaning.

Both of those clues show signs of definition/wordplay etymology crossover.

Understanding "definition/wordplay etymology crossover"

When the wordplay of a cryptic clue is etymologically related to its answer, it is a case of definition/wordplay etymology crossover.

You have a definition/wordplay etymology crossover on hand if:

  • The answer is SPACESHIP, the wordplay is SPACE + SHIP
  • The answer is LULLABY, the wordplay is LULL + [b]ABY
  • The answer is MECHANIC, the wordplay is (MACHINE)* + C
  • The answer is ENCLOSES, the wordplay is mEN CLOSE Something [T]

Is this wrong?

In double definition clues, it is widely accepted as good clueing practice to avoid etymology crossover between the two definitions. The same isn't universally followed with other clue types.

In his CU interview, David Stickley mentioned the "no definition/wordplay etymology crossover" rule as applicable to US cryptics, while being acceptable as a setter's tool in UK and Australia. I notice though that some setters of UK cryptics too avoid this device.

In his blog, Australian setter David Astle calls out such clues as "hookworms" in round-ups of weakly constructed clues.

Definition/wordplay etyomology crossover often results in wordplay that is not very cryptic. Crafting a smooth surface exacts less imagination from the setter when the wordplay echoes the definition.

What do you think?

Fine or flawed – what's your take?

Solve These

Three words, two clues for each word: one with definition/wordplay etymology crossover, the other without. Enjoy solving and spotting which one.

Rampant war arising always without peacekeepers (7)
One's taken flight to travel across the Channel (7)

Gangster abandoning accepted rule (4)
Turned on by jolly type (4)

Lost hour of sleep's restored (8)
To expect little is being negative (8)

[Thanks to setter Aakash Sridhar (Axe/Exa) for contributing all the clues for this post.]

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Monday, April 25, 2016

&Lit Clues That Do Not Deceive

andLit Clues That Do Not DeceiveOne of the hallmarks of a strong cryptic clue is a misleading definition. Some definitions are so creatively done that they stick long after one has solved the puzzle.

Guardian 26720 (Arachne): Part of autumn operation employs army swimmers (9) OCTOPUSES
OCT (part of autumn) OP (operation) USES (employs); definition: army swimmers

An important component that helps with disguising the definition is the alternate route to the answer. In the OCTOPUSES clue, "...autumn operation employs..." primes the solver to think of "army" of the military kind, steering the mind away from the "arm-y" interpretation.

Camouflage of this sort can be very challenging to execute in an &lit / semi-&lit clue. No alternate route exists in this clue type to contribute to surface misdirection. Additional constraints are at play: besides being accurate, the definition must also coincide with the wordplay without coming across as forced.

As a result, often, the &lit definition ends up being so direct it can be solved as a straight clue.

Independent 9103 (Klingsor): This country abuts Russia's borders in east (7) UKRAINE   
UK (this country) R[ussi]A IN E

THC 11583 (Vulcan): That which manages dirty clothes at home (7,7) WASHING MACHINE
(WHICH MANAGES)* around IN (at home); semi-&lit

The clues above are solvable from the surface meaning alone. As self-contained definitions, they are absolutely brilliant. But as cryptic clues, they do not venture to deceive.

Solvers: Do you notice a lack of misdirection in &lit clues?
Setters: When you write an &lit clue, do you keep an eye on the obviousness of the definition?

If, for the sake of a good &lit, the setter has to sacrifice one element out of accuracy / surface sense / deception – I guess it is wisest to let go of deception!

I leave you with a couple of &lit-type clues that work beautifully without giving away the answer:

FT 14737 (Alberich): A tall tree tumbles, trapping one? That will do (10) ALLITERATE
(A TALL TREE)* around I; D-by-E semi-&lit

Sunday Times 4650 (Dean Mayer): One trusted to get "creative" with books? (3,7) ART STUDENT
A (one) (TRUSTED)* NT (books)

Solve These

Enjoy solving these lovely &lit clues notwithstanding the straightish definitions.

Indy 8031 (Dac): In this, one may be flung out of car hitting tree (5)
FT14828 (Alberich): Lad regularly plunging into water, after small round object? (5,5)
Clue by Rufus: Make hale? (4)

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