One 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)
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)
- Clues That Reveal Too Much
- Differentiating Between Cryptic Definition and &Lit Clues
- Wordplay or Subsidiary Indication?
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