Monday 13 April 2009

Letter Picking

Hidden words and acrostics offer in plain sight the letters needed to reach the solution. Naturally these clue types are pretty easy to solve in a crossword puzzle.

Another clue type of this kind is the regular letter sequence. Letters are picked from a portion of the clue to give the solution. The sequence of picking letters follows a uniform pattern, such as odd letters, even letters or every Nth letter from a phrase.

Letter Sequence Clue Structure: The clue has three parts -
1. Definition
2. Letter sequence indicator – There are broadly two varieties of indicators:
    (A) Those that indicate letters to be selected – e.g. evenly, alternately
    (B) Those that indicate letters to be dropped – e.g. oddly lacking, seconds out 
3. Word/phrase containing the letter sequence

THC 9502: Beasts, free, ginned, we hear — regular losses there! (8) REINDEER
Definition: beasts
Phrase containing the letter sequence: free ginned we hear
Letter sequence indicator: regular losses 
Alternate letters are removed from 'fReE gInNeD wE hEaR' to give REINDEER.

Things To Watch Out For

  • 'regular', 'regularly' are more generic indicators compared to 'evenly', 'odds' as they can imply letter selection in any ordered pattern. In most cases 'regular' will just mean alternate letters (odds or evens), but if the resultant word is gibberish try some other pattern, such as every 3rd letter.
  • The letter sequence need not give the whole solution, it could be a part of the solution in a complex clue.
    Times 23851: Fried food: it is served by auntie regularly (5) SA UTE
    A charade in which the second component is the letter sequence.
    it = SA (sex appeal), aUnTiE regularly = UTE
  • This clue type is not very common. In a standard daily crossword, it might show up once a week or so.

Solve These

Try solving these letter sequence-based clues from the Times/Guardian archives:

From this position, can’t go up? Nothing odd there (4)
Dots cartoon must feature regularly (5)
It's extremely 'allucinogenic, indeed (4)

Related Posts:

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.


Krishna M said...

From this position, can’t go up? Nothing odd there (4)
Remove odd letters from "can't go up". The answer is ATOP.

Dots cartoon must feature regularly (5)
ATOMS - alternate letters from "cartoon must".

I am scratching my head over the last clue. Is allucinogenic a real word?

Shuchi said...

Hi Krishna,

You have the first two right. Congrats!

The real word is 'hallucinogenic'. There is a ' before the word allucinogenic in the clue, to indicate h-dropping as it happens in some dialects of English.

The clue spells the word that way for a reason. Do you see the answer now?

Anonymous said...

Hi Shuchi,

Can u tell the ans for the last one? Still not able to find out..

Shuchi said...

The answer comes from the extreme letters of 'AllucinogeniC IndeeD' - ACID. The definition is the entire clue in &lit style, a reference to the colloquial name of LSD.

Satyen Nabar said...

Hi! Kudos for this immensely informative and interesting website. I had a query. As a selection indicator, does the word "Essentially" indicate selecting just one or two central letters or selecting all the central letters? Thanks.

Shuchi said...

@Satyen: Thanks for your compliments!

It can be argued that the central part of ABCDE is BCD as much as C. As long as the letters lie symmetrically inside the fodder (BC or CD will not do), both can work - though it's more common, and usually fairer to the solver, to have middle indicators mean one central letter in odd-length strings/two central letters in even-length strings.

I'm reminded of this &lit clue from the Sunday Times CWC, which uses 'essentially' on two words at once:

Essentially festive course (main) (6)

Veeyares said...

Will ‘a couple of’ indicate the first two letters of the following word?