Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Crossword Software To Make Puzzles With Multiple Letters Per Cell

In the article Crossword Grids That Hold More Than One Letter Per Cell, cryptic setter eXternal (Steve Bartlett) gave us a detailed tour of “rebus” crosswords, with tips for setting and solving such puzzles. In this article, he walks us through software that can be used to create crosswords with the many-letters-per-square gimmick.

Steve is the editor of Enigmatic Variations crossword in The Telegraph. He also sets advanced puzzles in the series of The Listener and Inquisitor, and standard cryptic puzzles for The Daily Telegraph (as proXimal), The Independent (as eXternal), Financial Times (as ARTEXLEN), The Herald (as Boz) and The National (as Claymore).

Handing over the reins to Steve for this article…thank you!

- Shuchi

It is quite simple to create a puzzle with more than one character per cell by using crossword-creating software. I will describe how to do this using Qxw, which can be downloaded for free from Quinapalus. I use this tool for all my barred puzzles and thoroughly recommend it, as it enables the setter to produce complex puzzles relatively easily.

I'll demonstrate how to use Qxw to produce puzzles with multiple letters per cell with reference to a couple of puzzles I created: one called Odd One Out in collaboration with Serpent for The Inquisitor series in The i; and one called Disappearances, which appeared in the Enigmatic Variations series in The Sunday Telegraph in 2017.

Odd One Out by eXtent

Serpent and I decided to theme a barred puzzle on Brexit. We wanted a grid which would include IVR codes of members of the EU in single cells. The number of letters in IVR codes for these members ranges between 1 and 3 — for example, Portugal is P, Czech Republic is CZ and Ireland is IRL.

Below is an outline of the grid we prepared:

Odd One Out by eXtent - The Inquisitor - Grid Outline

In order to get the three letters IRL in one cell, we needed to do the following:

Click on Edit — Cell contents. Then just enter IRL in the dialog box.

Qxw - Edit - Cell Contents

Qxw - Edit - Cell Contents - IRL

Qxw then suggests a number of feasible entries (show in the panel on the right) for insertion.

We simply repeated this procedure for other cells around the grid for each of the two- and three-letter IVR codes. The final grid appeared as follows:

Odd One Out by eXtent - Filled Grid

A blog of the puzzle by HolyGhost at Fifteensquared can be found using this link: Inquisitor 1588: Odd One Out by eXtent.

Disappearances by proXimal

I had decided to base a puzzle on a theme of the decline or disappearance of stores from High Streets. The phrase THE HIGH STREET lends itself really well to being used in a barred crossword, as it has 13 letters and such grids are often 12x12 or 13x13. I decided to have THE HIGH STREET as a thematic unclued entry running down the central column of a 13x13, with names of shops which have disappeared produced by clashes on both sides of THE HIGH STREET. The clashes could be nicely thematically represented just by leaving the clashing cell blank, thus the stores are disappearing.

So, I started with a grid as follows:

Disappearances by proXimal - THE HIGH STREET

I decided to have five shops either side of THE HIGH STREET to produce a nice range and an interesting challenge for the solver. Firstly, I searched for shops which would lend themselves easily to being divided, to be produced from clashing words using Across and Down entries, but also ones that were relatively well-known. One of the most famous which I decided to use is WOOLWORTHS, which could be split as WOOL and WORTHS.

There is a useful pattern-matching tool on the internet called Qat, designed by Quinapalus, who also developed Qxw; I used Qat to check which words could end in WORTHS and which could start with WOOL. The picture below shows the search for words ending in WORTHS (using search term *worths):

Qat - Word Pattern Search

I liked the look of JOBSWORTHS and decided to have this entry in the grid to provide a clash in the last cell of a five-cell entry; the number of words starting with WOOL, to provide the Across clash, was much higher.

Back to Qxw, I put JOBS in the entry at 27 Down with the last cell blank to accommodate WORTHS in one cell. To enable Qxw to work with clashing entries, one does the following:

1. Select the cell which you want to use (shown in yellow below), by clicking Select and then Current cell, when the cursor is in the cell.

2. Click on Properties — Selected cell properties. Then tick the box which says Override default cell properties and further down, change 'Lights intersecting here' to 'need not agree'.

Disappearances by proXimal - Qxw - Intersecting Cells Need Not Agree

This now meant that I could specify an entry beginning with WOOL at 40 Across, with the four letters of WOOL being accommodated in the first cell, to clash with WORTHS provided by the down entry. In order to do this, the following is required:

Click on Edit — Cell contents. Because I have previously specified that the cell can accommodate clashes, a box appears which allows us to enter multiple letters for the Across and Down entries meeting in this cell.

Disappearances by proXimal - Cell Contents

Hence, once I had specified that the contents of the cell for the Across entry should be WOOL, Qxw provides me with a number of feasible entries: WOOLDINGS, WOOLFELLS, WOOLIEST, WOOLPACKS, WOOLSHEDS, WOOLWORTH.

I then repeated the same process in various cells around the grid to accommodate the nine other shops. The completed grid appeared as follows:

Disappearances by proXimal - Filled Grid

So, for example, SKEETER at 1 Down clashes with COMPASS at 16 Across to create COMET. In this puzzle I also wanted to have real words left when the clashing cells were deleted, so the deletion of the COMET clash would leave words SKEER and PASS in the final grid.

A blog of the puzzle by Dave Hennings at Fifteensquared can be found using this link: Enigmatic Variations No. 1296: Disappearances by proXimal.

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Prize Puzzle: Hindi Crossword 6 – Solution and Winner

We are back as promised to share the solution of Hindi Cryptic Crossword 6 and announce our winner. One of the many delights for us, while reading your responses, has been hearing from first-time solvers. Do dig into our archives and try the older Hindi puzzles too - and we hope to bring more such in future!

Solution to Hindi Cryptic Crossword 6

आर-पार

क्रमांक संकेत उत्तर टिप्पणी
1 आवाज़ लगाई: "पुल के सामने वाले भाग पर अँग्रेज़ की गाड़ी है ! आ !" (3) पुकारा पु (First letter of पुल) + कार (अँग्रेज़ की गाड़ी) + आ; Definition: आवाज़ लगाई
3 फिर ऊपर से (2) और DD; Definition1: फिर, Definition2: ऊपर से
4 पहुँच गए ? साये से सिर गायब है (2) आये Delete the "head" of साये to get आये; Definition: पहुँच गए
5 एक के पास 3 अंडे हैं | और 997 मिलने के बाद कितने हुए ? (3) हज़ार DD-ish; 1 + three 0s, or 3 + 997 = 1000
6 डमरू-दोलन का फल ? (4) अमरूद Hidden in डमरू-दोलन ; Definition: फल
8 आभास ने लौटते हुए एक समारोह देखा (2) सभा Hidden in (आभास)<; Definition: समारोह
10 सात पुश्तों से संयम-बद्ध संत-मुनि ये करें ? (2) तप Hidden in सात पुश्तों; Definition: संत-मुनि ये करें
11 अम्मी, ठाकुर के पास कुछ स्वाद है (2) मीठा Hidden in अम्मी ठाकुर; Definition: स्वाद
14 काश! आ जाता पहले तो तुझे मिल पाता गगन (3) आकाश आ before (जाता पहले) काश; Definition: गगन
16 साहिबा तसनीम की गुफ़्तगू (2) रात Hidden in साहिबा तसनीम; Definition: गुफ़्तगू
17 कटनी (मध्य प्रदेश) में उगने वाला पेड़ (2) नीम Hidden in कटनी मध्य; Definition: पेड़
19 शरीर का भाग जिसका पहला हिस्सा कम है और उसके बाद थोड़ा रमणीय है (3) कमर कम + र (थोड़ा रमणीय); Definition: शरीर का भाग
21 दक्षिण भारतीय व्यंजन बनाने की विधि (3) रहम DD; Definition1: दक्षिण भारतीय व्यंजन, Definition2: विधि
22 ईद से पहले रस लो और यह दस्तावेज़ पाओ (3) रसीद रस + ईद; Definition: दस्तावेज़
24 अनलकुण्ड में भी पानी का साधन है (2) नल Hidden in अनलकुण्ड; Definition: पानी का साधन
26 नमो-राहुल की गुटबंदी ने क़ैद कर रखी है ये चिड़िया (2) मोर Hidden in 'नमो-राहुल; Definition: चिड़िया
27 गरजता है अंदर से कि स्वर्ण से नीचे वाला पदक मिला (3) रजत Hidden in गरजता; Definition: स्वर्ण से नीचे वाला पदक
29 बौद्ध सन्यासी होता है बिना माल के ही मालामाल (2) लामा Delete the letters of माल from मालामाल; Definition: बौद्ध सन्यासी
31 वहाँ निवास किया जाए जहाँ का भेदी लंका ढाए (2) घर DD; Definition1: वहाँ निवास किया जाए, Definition2: Reference to the proverb घर का भेदी लंका ढाए
33 दीन जब वापस आये, तो जल का प्रवाह पाए (2) नदी Reversal (वापस आये) of दीन; Definition: जल का प्रवाह
35 हौसला लो, बम न फटेगा (4) मनोबल Anagram (फटेगा) of (लो बम न); Definition: हौसला
36 कह ले किसी भी तरह, पर धीरे से (3) हलके Anagram (किसी भी तरह) of (कह ले); Definition: धीरे से
38 शुरू में चाय लेकर पैदल निकले (2) चले First letters (शुरू में) of चाय लेकर; Definition: पैदल निकले
39 आप और मैं मिल कर 32 का हिस्सा प्राप्त करेंगे (2) हम Part of solution to 32 Dn रहम; Definition: आप और मैं
40 आपने बिना तकल्लुफ़ के तुरंत मनमौजी नेवलों के सरों को पकड़ा (3) तुमने First letters (सरों) of तुरंत मनमौजी नेवलों; Definition: आपने बिना तकल्लुफ़ के i.e. the informal version of the second person pronoun

नीचे की ओर

क्रमांक संकेत उत्तर टिप्पणी
1 इस पुल के टूटने पर प्रकट हुए नगर-रक्षक! (3) पुलिस Anagram (टूटने पर) of इस पुल; Definition: नगर-रक्षक
2 राहुल का रास्ता (2) राह Hidden in राहुल; Definition:रास्ता
3 मोहतरमा और तहज़ीब की शुरुआत ? (3) औरत और + first letter of तहज़ीब; Definition: मोहतरमा
4 जल्लाद मीर की अंदरूनी शख्सियत (3) आदमी Hidden in जल्लाद मीर; Definition: शख्सियत
7 घड़ा जो मुंबई में जुए के लिए मशहूर है (3) मटका DD; Definition1: घड़ा, Definition2: जो मुंबई में जुए के लिए मशहूर है
9 हिंदुस्तानी सात वार भी करे धुआँधार (5) भारतवासी Anagram (करे धुआँधार) of सात वार भी; Definition: हिंदुस्तानी
12 राष्ट्रकवि जमींदार भी हो सकता है (3) ठाकुर DD; Definition1: राष्ट्रकवि Rabindranath Tagore; Definition2: जमींदार भी हो सकता है
13 बहुरानी के पास एक ऊँचे दर्जे का पत्ता है (2) रानी Hidden in बहुरानी; Definition: एक ऊँचे दर्जे का पत्ता in the deck of cards
14 आग पहले से लगी है, मन में आ जाना (4) आगमन आग before मन; Definition: आ जाना
15 शंका है तो शौक की मात्रा कम कर दो (2) शक Remove the मात्रा from शौक; Definition: शंका
18 गुज़र मत हकलाते हुए ! ऐसा करने से बिगड़ी हुई चीज़े ठीक हो सकती है (4) मरम्मत मर (गुज़र) + मत हकलाते हुए = मरम्मत; Definition: ऐसा करने से बिगड़ी हुई चीज़े ठीक हो सकती है
20 श्री कृष्ण जैसे दिल लुभानेवाले पूर्व प्रधान मंत्री (5) मनमोहन Triple Defn; Definition1: श्री कृष्ण; Definition2: दिल लुभानेवाले, Definition3: पूर्व प्रधान मंत्री
22 बनारसी लालची के पास बहुत अर्क है (3) रसीला Hidden in बनारसी लालची; Definition:बहुत अर्क है
23 बिरादरी की कीमत (2) दर Hidden in बिरादरी; Definition:कीमत
25 उलटी ताल में ये फ़नकारा बखूबी गायें? (2) लता Reversal (उलटी) of ताल; Definition: ये फ़नकारा बखूबी गायें (Lata Mangeshkar)
28 श्रीमान, उर्दू में बोलिए (3) जनाब CD; the Urdu word for श्रीमान
30 इंज़माम ले गया विकेट ! अब ढूँढो चर्चे के लिएअलग-अलग विषय (3) मामले Hidden in इंज़माम ले ; Definition: चर्चे के लिएअलग-अलग विषय
32 बारह महीने का क्या भेद है, इसका मतलब समझे दया ! (3) रहम Hidden in बारह महीने; Definition: दया (Am I the only one here that knows CID’s equivalent of elementary-my-dear-Watson?)
34 नदी के किनारे नाव को उल्टा कर दो, ए पागल (3) दीवाने दी + वान (reversal of नाव) + ए; Definition: पागल
37 उसके-तुम्हारे बीच में छुपा है राहु का साथी (2) केतु Hidden in उसके-तुम्हारे; Definition: राहु का साथी

Solution Evaluation Notes

To break the tie, we usually go for wordplay parsing accuracy as the first filter. This time, parsing deviations/errors were so minor that we didn’t drop any entry at this step. Also, where the solver’s annotation was not quite what we intended, it was well-considered/intriguing and could work if we let it :-)

A few notable annos that we enjoyed reading: 3a - the observation that women are considered more civilized, so they can be called तहज़ीब की शुरुआत (with the ? to address any counters to this assertion); 3d - ऊपर से could indicate “taking the top off” of the word just above it (3a).

The parsing of 18d tripped up many solvers, and we can see why in retrospect. It uses a not-too-common device – the stuttering clue – for a complex consonant in an unchecked cell. If the stuttering was not mentioned in the solver’s parsing but the rest of it was fine, we took it as OK.

For 20d, we accepted both double definition and triple definition in the annotation.

14d, 25d received special commendation for their surfaces – glad you enjoyed those clues!

Applause for…

…those of you who cracked the puzzle fully.

Anshu N Jain Harshit Gupta
Raju Umamaheshwar Lakshmi Vaidyanathan
Vidyadhar Gadgil Bharat
Vinayak Rao Ekbote Rengaswamy
Ramki Krishnan Vasant Srinivasan
Usha Mehta Mahalingam
Amita Joseph Prabhanjan
Supriya Mithal Soumya V
Arvind Ramaswamy Neelima Rai

18 eligible names went in for a lucky draw, the result of which is below. But before that...

Did you spot the Nina?

In keeping with Nina tradition, we did not call out its presence when we posted the puzzle. The lack of flagging, plus this Nina's non-linear arrangement in the grid, meant that it was easy to miss. And yet, two of our brilliant solvers spotted it – bravo Lakshmi Vaidyanathan and Arvind Ramaswamy!

Prize Puzzle: Hindi Crossword 6 – Nina

तुमने पुकारा और हम चले आये – you called and we came. This song by Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur, from the movie Rajkumar, is a special favourite of our setter Kishore’s. [Hearing his lively talk about this song has convinced me he can write a dissertation on Rafi’s tremolo in the penultimate line of the first antara alone.]

The lucky draw to pick the winner is set to the musical prelude of the song - you can watch the draw in the video below. [Email subscribers: You may have to go to the blog for the video.]

Hindi Cryptic Crossword 6: Picking the Prize Winner


Well done Vasant Srinivasan, hearty congratulations! An Amazon gift voucher of INR 1000 will be on its way to you soon.

Congratulations too to all the other 17 solvers who completed the crossword, and a big thank you to everyone who attempted it. Hope you had fun!

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Prize Puzzle: Hindi Crossword 6

We’ve had a mad scramble to get our latest Hindi crossword puzzle out just in time for Holi. Happy Holi dear readers! Kishore (aka Incognito) and I present our sixth collaboration over Hindi cryptics [previous Hindi puzzles here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. This has been months in the making - we have had our debates about what is obscure and what is common knowledge, what needs ि and what needs ी, how to enumerate consonant conjuncts (more on this later) – and we have learned a thing or two in the process.

The finished puzzle now stands before you. Hope you have fun with it!

Hindi Cryptic Crossword - Prize Puzzle 6

आर-पार

1  आवाज़ लगाई: "पुल के सामने वाले भाग पर अँग्रेज़ की गाड़ी है ! आ !" (3)
3  फिर ऊपर से (2)
4  पहुँच गए ? साये से सिर गायब है (2)
5  एक के पास 3 अंडे हैं | और 997 मिलने के बाद कितने हुए ? (3)
6   डमरू-दोलन का फल ? (4)
8  आभास ने लौटते हुए एक समारोह देखा (2)
10  सात पुश्तों से संयम-बद्ध संत-मुनि ये करें ? (2)
11  अम्मी, ठाकुर के पास कुछ स्वाद है (2)
14  काश! आ जाता पहले तो तुझे मिल पाता गगन (3)
16  साहिबा तसनीम की गुफ़्तगू (2)
17  कटनी (मध्य प्रदेश) में उगने वाला पेड़ (2)
19  शरीर का भाग जिसका पहला हिस्सा कम है और उसके बाद थोड़ा रमणीय है (3)
21  दक्षिण भारतीय व्यंजन बनाने की विधि (3)
22  ईद से पहले रस लो और यह दस्तावेज़ पाओ (3)
24  अनलकुण्ड में भी पानी का साधन है (2)
26  नमो-राहुल की गुटबंदी ने क़ैद कर रखी है ये चिड़िया  (2)
27  गरजता है अंदर से कि स्वर्ण से नीचे वाला पदक मिला (3)
29  बौद्ध सन्यासी होता है बिना माल के ही मालामाल (2)
31  वहाँ निवास किया जाए जहाँ का भेदी लंका ढाए (2)
33  दीन जब वापस आये, तो जल का प्रवाह पाए  (2)
35  हौसला लो, बम न फटेगा (4)
36  कह ले किसी भी तरह, पर धीरे से (3)
38  शुरू में चाय लेकर पैदल निकले (2)
39  आप और मैं मिल कर 32 का हिस्सा प्राप्त करेंगे (2)
40  आपने बिना तकल्लुफ़ के तुरंत मनमौजी नेवलों के सरों को पकड़ा (3)

PDF format available here.

नीचे की ओर

1  इस पुल के टूटने पर प्रकट हुए नगर-रक्षक! (3)
2  राहुल का रास्ता (2)
3  मोहतरमा और तहज़ीब की शुरुआत ? (3)
4  जल्लाद मीर की अंदरूनी शख्सियत (3)
7  घड़ा जो मुंबई में जुए के लिए मशहूर है (3)
9  हिंदुस्तानी सात वार भी करे धुआँधार (5)
12  राष्ट्रकवि जमींदार भी हो सकता है (3)
13  बहुरानी के पास एक ऊँचे दर्जे का पत्ता है (2)
14  आग पहले से लगी है, मन में आ जाना (4)
15  शंका है तो शौक की मात्रा कम कर दो (2)
18  गुज़र मत हकलाते हुए ! ऐसा करने से बिगड़ी हुई चीज़े ठीक हो सकती है (4)
20  श्री कृष्ण जैसे दिल लुभानेवाले पूर्व प्रधान मंत्री (5)
22  बनारसी लालची के पास बहुत अर्क है (3)
23  बिरादरी की कीमत (2)
25  उलटी ताल में ये फ़नकारा बखूबी गायें? (2)
28  श्रीमान, उर्दू में बोलिए (3)
30   इंज़माम ले गया विकेट ! अब ढूँढो चर्चे के लिएअलग-अलग विषय (3)
32  बारह महीने का क्या भेद है, इसका मतलब समझे दया ! (3)
34  नदी के किनारे नाव को उल्टा कर दो, ए पागल (3)
37  उसके-तुम्हारे बीच में छुपा है राहु का साथी (2)

Notes On The Crossword

  1. Word lengths are in syllables e.g. each of the words पहला, प्रथम, प्रदान, प्रस्थान will be enumerated as (3).
  2. Complex consonants go into a single cell e.g. वर्ग will be split into two cells, the first with व, the second with र्ग. Similarly, प्रस्थान will be split into three cells, the first with प्र, the second with स्था, the third with न.
  3. In wordplay, the matras may be treated independently of the letters e.g. राम when anagrammed can give मार or मरा.

Solving and Submission Instructions

  1. Send in your completed entries to shuchi [at] crosswordunclued [dot] com, with the subject line "Hindi Cryptic Crossword 6 – Solution", latest by Friday 29th March 2019.
  2. Entries should be legible and readable in a standard text or image reader (Word, Excel, PNG, etc. all fine). You can hand-write the answers with annotations, and send a scan if that works for you.
  3. Solution words should be in Devanagari script. [Services like Google Input Tools can be used for typing in Hindi.]
  4. Entries should contain annotations for the answers. Any annotation format is all right – words or symbols, Hindi or English – as long as how you arrived at the answer is clear. A couple of sample annotations for Hindi Puzzle#4 that work:
    Hindi Cryptics Annotation Format

If you have questions related to solution submission, please post them in the comments section.

The Prize

The winner can choose gift vouchers on Amazon IN/US/UK, worth INR 1000 (or equivalent in USD/GBP).

The solver with the maximum correct answers, correctly annotated, will win. In case of ties, the winner will be picked by a lucky draw.

The solution to the crossword and the winner's name will be announced in a follow-up post after 29th March 2019.

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Edited: 4a for wordplay, 5a for spelling. Thanks @p1j, @hg6.
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    Monday, November 12, 2018

    Crossword Grids That Hold More Than One Letter Per Cell

    This NYT Wordplay article Yes, You Can Write More Than One Letter in a Square and an ensuing twitter discussion got me to discover some fascinating grid-fill gimmicks used in advanced cryptics. One such is to set aside the one-letter-per-cell norm that we take as a given in blocked grid puzzles.

    The word or group of letters that goes inside a single cell is called a "rebus". [Long ago, rebuses were probably "squashwords" – more on that later in the article.]

    If the idea of many-letters-per-cell is new to you, then you're probably brimming with questions at this point. When did this trick originate? How does the setter go about crafting a puzzle with rebuses? What should the solver do to crack such a puzzle?

    Cryptic setter eXternal (Steve Bartlett) offers us insights into these questions. In this article, he looks at the history and development of puzzles in which individual cells contain more than one letter, and supplements his research with rare images of decades-old puzzles.

    Steve sets advanced puzzles in the series of The Listener, Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations. In addition, he sets standard cryptic puzzles for The Daily Telegraph (as proXimal), The Independent (as eXternal), Financial Times (as ARTEXLEN), The Herald (as Boz) and The National (as Claymore).

    Note: The article primarily uses Listener examples, for consistency and because it has the longest history of the barred series.

    Over to you, Steve.

    - Shuchi

    Many Letters in a Square: Dive into History

    1. Listener (1950): #1047 Space Saver by Babs
        Compressed repetitions; LILO = LI/O

    Here is a Listener crossword and solution from 1950, one of the oldest-known crosswords to employ the many-letters-per-square trick.

    Listener 1047 Space Saver by Babs
    [click #1047 to enlarge]

    The preamble of the puzzle states that only half the number of squares is to be used for each answer, hence an answer of four letters has a light containing only two squares.

    For example, the answer to 1 Across:
    Refuse the odd bits (8)
    is RIFF-RAFF. This to be entered in four cells as R,I/A,F,F, with the I and A sharing the same cell, divided with a slash.

    This crosses with 2 Down:
    Disinfectant used to make Eliza ladylike (4)
    in which the answer IZAL is hidden in 'Eliza ladylike' and entered as I/A,Z/L, using just two cells for the entry.

    Listener 1047 Space Saver Solution

    The preamble gives several examples of how the answers should be entered, to help the solver understand this unusual entry method.

    Grid Fill Examples in Preamble

    2. Listener (1951): #1118 One or Two. by Stephanus  
        Random distribution: one letter in a cell or two

    A Listener crossword from the following year, 1951, uses a simpler concept. A short preamble merely states that a 'space' contains either one or two letters.

    Listener 1118 One or Two Stephanus
    [click #1118 to enlarge]

    For example, the answer to 5 Across:
    Post of Prometheus' hope - and fateful pain? (8)
    DELIVERY is entered as DE/LI/V/E/R/Y, in six squares.

    This crosses with 6 Down:
    What's put the L in AIR? A tree, at least (6)
    in which the answer LINDEN (L in DEN) is entered as LI/N/DE/N in four squares.

    Interestingly, the solution notes allow an alternative, as the V of DELIVERY and N of LINDEN are unchecked, meaning that DE/L/IV/E/R/Y and L/IN/D/E/N would be equally valid. We seldom see such ambiguities in today's barred crosswords.

    Listener 1118 Solution

    3. Listener (1961): #1640 Three-in-hand by ffancy
        Alphabetical sum

    This example hails from a decade later, 1961. The puzzle has a complicated preamble to explain that each square accommodates three letters. This puzzle uses a gimmick commonly seen in modern barred puzzles, where Across and Down answers clash. Cell entries are derived from the letters of clashing Across and Down answers and the alphabetical sum of these two letters.

    Listener 1640 Three-in-Hand
    [click #1640 to enlarge]

    For example, 1 Across CRACKER clashes with 1 Down KILDERKIN in the first cell. K and C are written in corners of this cell, with the sum C(3)+K(11)=N(14) in the centre.

    1640-Solution

    A further point to note is that, unlike the previous examples, the 1961 puzzle is thematic. The solution leads to a quote on diagonals from cell 11 — PLEASE TO REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER etc., using the central cell entries derived from the clashing letters.

    So far, the examples have not attempted to coin a term for this particular genre. They merely describe in the preamble what needs to be done to solve and fill the grid.

    4. The (Almost) Impossible Crossword Book (1984)
        The name’s Squashword

    The next example is from Gyles Brandreth's The (Almost) Impossible Crossword Book (1984), with the actual puzzle probably dating much earlier.

    Shared Squares by Convar - Squashwords

    Beside the title, appears the line, 'Shared Squares is a squashword'. This might lead us to believe that there was once such a term in usage for puzzles where squares contain more than one letter.

    5. Listener (1998): #3479 Belt Up by MynoT
        Symbols for Clashes

    The next example is from 1998, after The Listener crossword had moved to its current home in The Times.

    3479 Listener Belt Up by MynoT
    [click #3479 to enlarge]

    Here the clashes are generated using more than one letter contributed from crossing answers. This is typical of modern barred thematics, with the clashes resulting in a thematic word.

    For example, the clue to 9 Across is:
    Car's before them to perform — by the grace of god (4) DODGEM
    DO + DG(Dei gratia) + 'EM

    The clue to 4 Down is:
    Note's small money (3) MINIM
    MINI + M

    Both answers are too long for the available space (6 letters for 4 cells; 5 letters for 3 cells) and clash in the crossing cell, with the clash of GEM from DOD/GEM and INI from M/INI/M to give GEMINI, entered as the sign of the zodiac.

    Aside from the entry lengths (rather than answer lengths) being given, we can also note that there is no reference to clashes in the very short preamble. The solver must deduce the fact that some answer are overlong and therefore clash.

    Listener 1998-10-03 #3482 Belt Up Solution

    6. Listener (2002): #3673 Journey by Gioconda
        Abbreviations for Clashes

    The final example comes from 2002 and has four entries sometimes clashing in one cell. As opposed to the previous example, answer lengths rather than entry lengths are provided.

    Listener 3673 Journey by Giconda
    [click #3673 to enlarge]

    In this puzzle, 2 Across has four clues but only two lights. The solver can thus deduce that the first two clues will clash somewhere in the first light and the second pair will clash somewhere in the second light.

    The first light of 2 Across is made up of 6 cells, but the answers to the first two clues have lengths of 5 and 7 = 12. Therefore, there will be a clash of 7 letters in one cell along that light.

    The first two clues of 2 Across are:
    Endless joke about half clad women (5) JADES
    JES{t} around AD

    Amount of water in pool crushed a dog-pen (7) PONDAGE
    A DOGPEN*

    Therefore, we have JADESPONDAGE to enter in the first light of 2 Across. We can see that DESPOND is a likely 7-letter candidate to be the clash in the third cell.

    Then, we look at the Down clues on the column where the large clash from 2 Across occurs, ie column E. The first two clues in column E have answer lengths of 3 and 8 = 11, but a light length of only 4. Therefore, a clash of 8 letters will occur. The first two clues of column E are:

    Court Henry with soft centre (3) HOF
    H+{s}OF{t}

    Cast off sledge bearing frightened Hugo (8) SLOUGHED
    SL(HUGO*)ED

    Therefore, we have HOFSLOUGHED to enter in the first down light in column E. The clash occurs in the second cell down, the same location as the clash in the across light, providing OFSLOUGH as the contribution to the clash. This is how the solver arrives at SLOUGH OF DESPOND, to be abbreviated as SOD as instructed by the preamble.

    Listener 2002-06-29 #3673 Solution

    Clashes from multiple entries form places visited by Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress.

    This is only a tiny overview of the multitude of ways in which setters have used this gimmick over the past 70 or more years. The puzzles where clashes of more than one letter spell out thematic words or names are particularly common and are often used to set the theme in advance of a further endgame which needs resolving.

    Tips for many-letters-per-cell setters

    In addition to the generic dos and don'ts of cryptic setting, be mindful of the following points when creating a crossword with more than one letter per cell.

    1. Keep an eye on checking

    Remember that overlong entry clashes reduce the amount of checking in the puzzle. It is more helpful to the solver if you minimise the proportion of the answer which clashes, or apply some technique to offset the effects of reduced checking.

    As an example, take a theme of Santa's reindeer to be produced by clashing answers. When deciding how to generate DANCER, a nice 50/50 split of DAN/CER could be achieved with DAN/GEROUSLY and NECROMAN/CER (~27% clashing). The solver will have more help with checking from cells already populated than using, say, DAN/DY and UL/CER (~60% clashing).

    You can also offset the effects of reduced checking by offering easier clues for those answers that might otherwise be troublesome for the solver – for example, through whole anagrams or hidden words.

    2. Decide: Answer lengths or number of squares?

    When setting many-letters-per-cell puzzle, you have a decision to make about clue enumeration: should you give the lengths of answers or the number of squares available for each entry?

    If answer lengths are given, the solver has more guidance as to which answers are likely to clash. For example, in the clashing entries for DANCER to appear (see above), the number of cells needed to enter NECROMAN/CER will be 9, but the answer length is 11. Hence if the setter decides to give the answer length (11), the solver knows this is a clashing entry, as the number of available cells is fewer than the answer length.

    It is a lot more common to provide entry lengths (ie number of available cells), so that the solver has to work out which are the gimmick clues.

    3. Represent the clashes elegantly

    Finally, you also need to decide how the clashes are to be represented in the grid. It is a little inelegant and fiddly to expect the solver to enter a seven-letter word, say, in a single cell.

    Solutions to the problem could be for the solver to insert a symbol, abbreviation, first letter of answer or to leave the cell blank.

    The method should ideally fit with the theme of the puzzle.

    Tips for many-letters-per-cell solvers

    From the solver's point of view, the more quickly the theme is uncovered, the easier the solve becomes. So you should be on the lookout for:

    • answers which obviously extend for longer than the given number of cells
    • likely crossing clues which could create a clash

    Sometimes only a couple of clashes are needed to get an idea of what the theme might be. Once you have zeroed in on the theme, you can consider the identities of the other thematic items which might be hidden in clashes.

    eXternal Steve Bartlett
    My thanks to Dave Hennings, Roger Phillips and John Tozer for their help in the research for this article.

    – Steve Bartlett


    A follow up article will talk about using crossword software to make puzzles with multiple letters per cell. Stay tuned!

    - Shuchi

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    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.