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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9 comments

vasant said...

Indy 8031 (Dac): In this, one may be flung out of car hitting tree (5): CRASH; C(-a)R+ASH
FT14828 (Alberich): Lad regularly plunging into water, after small round object? (5,5); PEARL DIVER; (PEA)LD=lad reguarly inside River(water)
Clue by Rufus: Make hale? (4) HEAL
Nice clues all 3.
For the question "Do you notice a lack of misdirection in &lit clues?" Yes; I solved the washing machine clue as a straight clue when it came up & so did I think the blogger in THC that day until one of the readers(Raghunath?) brought it into notice.
Nevertheless, the & LIT clues does give you that aha, penny dropping moment & I think one of the most difficult to construct as in the case of art-student & pearl diver clues. Even the short make hale clue must have been difficult to construct but just wonderful to solve

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan (LV) said...

Indy 8031 (Dac): In this, one may be flung out of car hitting tree (5)
Ans : CaR ASH (tree)
FT14828 (Alberich): Lad regularly plunging into water, after small round object? (5,5)
Ans : PEA (small round object ) R L a D IVER ( LD inside RIVER )
Clue by Rufus: Make hale? (4)
Ans : HEAL

anax said...

From a setting perspective, we generally accept that a clue's accuracy has a fair bit of wiggle room – as long as it's not a case of “That's actually not true”.
A full &Lit is much rarer than Semi-&Lit (such as Vulcan's clue, whose “That” opening is a pointer to the answer) but both are difficult to create and almost always accidental as opposed to pre-written. I see it a little bit like trying to create a sudoku puzzle by hand – where the heck do you start? One could spend a day poring through word lists looking for a potential &Lit candidate and find nothing. In most cases the answer is already in the grid and the germ of an &Lit idea leaps out when we get round to writing the clue.
You tend to find that anagrams of fairly long – 10+ letters – answers produce the majority of &Lit clues, simply because of the freedom to jumble the letters until you find something relevant. Much harder are the clues consisting of charades and (especially) wordplay devices which need indicators, because these all have to fit in and help with the definition. For that reason I'd see Klingsor's UKRAINE clue as an example of &Lit perfection.

michael said...

Here's one I made up:

Man well known for his long-running BBC role as successor to nine alternate incarnate forms (7)

michael said...

I suppose I could probably simplify the definition part, but I like "X as Y forms" in contrast to "X Y forms"...

Kishore said...

Tennant
Successor to nine=TEN
Alternate incarnate= iNcArNaTe

Shuchi said...

@Vasant, @LV: Perfect answers, and thanks for sharing your views.

@anax: Thanks for highlighting the clue type used most often, and the setting perspective. I went through a list of &lit clues I have for reference - most are anagrams.

Of the two extremes: a too-direct definition vs a strained definition just to make the &lit work - I vastly prefer the too-direct.

It helps that, at the outset, the solver does not know that the surface is a direct definition. Typically one tries solving it as a regular two-part cryptic clue. When the answer emerges (perhaps based on the crossings), one thinks "Is this a weak CD/GK clue or is there more to it?" And then the penny drops.

Shuchi said...

@michael: Today I learned a few things about Doctor Who, thanks to your clue!

michael said...

To be honest, I don't even watch Dr. Who; I just had "TENNANT" as a clue and had to look up the actor (although I did know he was in Doctor Who). Luckily things seemed to line up well, although the clue itself needs more polishing.