Monday 7 December 2009

Letter Shifting

The letter shifting device moves a letter within a word, to form a new word.

Some words that can be used with this clue type:

SCORE: move S from the end of CORES to the start
ACRE: move R from the start of RACE to the 3rd position

Letter Shifting Clue Structure: The clue consists of -
1. Solution definition
2. Definition of the source word
Letter shifting Indicator

Times 24399: Character needs help, head to foot (4) {A}BET –> BET{A}
Solution definition: Character
Definition of the source word: help
Letter shifting indicator: head to foot, indicates moving the first letter A of ABET (help), to the end of the word.

Letter Shifting Clue Characteristics

Letter movement can be indicated in a variety of ways.

(i) by letter: the letter to be shifted is specified 
(ii) by source position: the position# from which the letter has to be moved is specified 
(iii) by target position: the position# to which the letter has to be moved is specified

The most precise clues will give you a fair idea of what to move, from/to where, to get the answer.

Usually, letter shifting happens between the first and last positions. In these cases, a combination of (ii) and (iii) is used with indicators like "from top to bottom".

It gets a little complicated when the letter is moved from/to any position within the word. In such clues, ideally the target position is indicated along with the letter or source position, but if the word is short and the rest of the clue is easy, the signal for letter movement may be less specific.

Example 1:
Times 24287: The little bears, for example, shifting ring doughnuts (4) TRI{O} –> T{O}RI
This indicates the letter to be shifted (ring = O) and does not mention exact positions, but it's still fair. Since the word is only 4 letters long and has only a single 'O', it isn't much work for the solver to figure out where to place the shifting 'O'.

Example 2:
Times 24375: Ruler in a mess having succeeded much earlier? (4) HA{S}H –> {S}HAH 
The letter to be shifted (succeeded = S) is specified, with a stronger indication of position than the previous example. We know from "much earlier" that S of HASH must be relocated a long distance to the left from its 3rd position.

The letter shifting technique may be extended to more than one letter, such as with words like {TO}KYO –> KYO{TO}. This is rarer, possibly because it is tougher for the setter to indicate, but it's certainly possible. (If you recall an example, please leave a comment about it.) In clues that shift a set of letters, the letters will have the same internal sequence in the source word and solution.

Solve These

Times 23479: Play piano at end (not beginning) of concert (4)
Guardian 24245 (Gordius): Mammals (the last shall be first), named like Washington, say (9)

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sriks7 said...

Eponymous from Pony+Mouse with E travelling from last to first

Chaturvasi said...

Just to let you know that

- I solved your visual clue on the top of your post which is tops

- I have come across clues involving double-letter shifts in UK crosswords, though I don't recall any now

- The Hindu Crossword too has rarely used this device but again I can't cite the rare instance from memory

- you may recall discussion in the Orkut community on the result from shifting a letter in the word IRISH

Shuchi said...

@sriks7: Awesome crack!

@Chaturvasi: IRISH -> RISHI, wow. I missed that discussion on Orkut. One can write a nice clue with that for your (real) name. How about this for a DOWN clue:

Irish leader travels south to become a sage (5)

Shuchi said...

Or with some grammatical liberty:

Limerick person changed one's situation and became expert crossworder (5)

Shuchi said...

@Chaturvasi: How's this for coincidence. Not only does the word RISHI appear in the Times crossword today (a hidden word in this case), but you have also been mentioned on the blog.

Check it out (23d):

Chaturvasi said...


Thanks very much.

Though I do visit the forum occasionally I might have missed the reference but for your drawing my attention to it.

I am flattered!

Chaturvasi (aka Rishi)

(very busy writing my blog on today's Daily Telegraph crosswword)

Shuchi said...

Hint for the remaining clue:
Play piano at end (not beginning) of concert (4)

The word for 'concert' has another better-known meaning. It's an American high school event.

Shuchi said...

Another hint: piano = P

Chaturvasi said...

PROM after shifting P (piano) from ROMP (play)

Shuchi said...

You got it!