Friday 7 May 2010

Ellipsis-linked clues...

Ellipsis-linked clues …are adjacent clues in a crossword with a shared surface meaning.

For example, this pair from Guardian 24552 (Gordius):

Certain time before cancellation ... (7)
... so there's time for what's left (3,4)

When read in continuation, the two clues produce a single meaningful surface.

In most cases, the ellipses only help the surface and have no impact on the cryptic reading. That holds true for the clues above. If you ignore the link and try to solve them, you get:

Certain time before cancellation [...] (7) ERASURE ERA (time) SURE (certain)
[... so ]there's time for what's left (3,4) THE REST THERE’S T (time)

The clues get solved independently, just as if there were no ellipses connecting them.

Don't dismiss those three dots too soon though. In advanced cryptics like the barred grid kind and in the harder daily puzzles, they sometimes indicate a real link - a cryptic relation between the clues.

Take these two clues by Viking in FT 13036:

Caution needed round about densely populated area ... (6)
... one might go there to ramble (6)

The first is like a regular clue, with the answer WARREN: WARN (caution) around RE (about). The second, by virtue of the ellipsis, makes a back-reference to the preceding clue. It is a double definition with the answer RABBIT: one definition is "ramble", the other is "one might go there" (i.e. a rabbit might go to a WARREN).

Another by Viking from the Listener crossword:

How egg might be done: scrambled not using oven ... (2,5)
... that's not hard for diner (5)

The answer to the first is ON TOAST: NOT* + OAST (oven). The second uses the last word of the previous clue in its cryptic reading; the answer is EATER: HEATER (oven) – H (hard).

Such clues can be pretty tough to solve as there are many unknowns – we need to find out if clue1 uses part of clue2, or vice versa, and how much of one clue is referenced in the other.

What does Ximenes say?

In his book Ximenes On the Art of the Crossword (chapter "Improvised Clues"), Ximenes says that he uses the ellipsis-link device rarely, and does not advocate its use unless there is a really strong connection between the clues. He adds (and I agree) that when there is real point, the solver may enjoy it for its variation from normal clue types.

[Many thanks to setter Viking for his valuable inputs for this article.]

Solve These

Solve these coupled clues from the Times, that are also connected cryptically.

Times 24254:
Weak father is superior to ... (7)
...athletic one left cramped by antiquity (5)

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Khian said...


Weak father is superior to ... (7)

Clueless on the second one...
... need some help.

Khian said...


...athletic one left cramped by antiquity (5)

Same answer? AG-IL-E

Still learning new things everyday.

maddy said...


Perfect timing of the post (was it intended?). Today's Guardian xword ( Puck 25004) is full of ellipses. Am yet to solve it so can't comment on the clues but Puck rarely disappoints

L N Srinivasakrishnan said...

Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

We had something similar in The Hindu Crossword a month or so back..

Industry magnate in charge of ship ... (7)
... at sea seeking berth in Long Island for glassware (9)

Shuchi said...

@Khian: Both right answers, well done! As you can see, clue1 uses the answer of clue2.

A cryptic connection between ellipsis-linked clues is quite rare in the daily puzzles, no surprise if many of us haven't come across it before.

@maddy: A coincidence :) Just saw the Guardian xword - those are long series of linked clues! Solved it yet?

@L N Srinivasakrishnan: Thanks!

@Anonymous: Neyartha, wasn't it? Gridman and Sankalak have used this too in the past, including one with three linked clues - but always with a surface connection only.


I don't like the first clue. Fragile is the answer, but where does the word superior fit it? Yes, the next clue's answer is AGILE, and it is too far-fetched to use the word superior to---. How does Fragile become ''superior to''agile? Except perhaps in the number of letters!! 5 against 7.

These kind of clues , ellipsis -linked or otherwise, cannot pass muster in a Cryptic crossword.!!


Shuchi said...

@Raju: I should have mentioned this - these two are Down clues.

superior to = above, located higher than another
FRAGILE (weak): FR (father) is above AGILE (athletic one)

udit kumar said...


Shuchi said...

@udit kumar: For
"Industry magnate in charge of ship ... (7)"?

It's TITANIC actually. TITAN (industry magnate) + IC (in charge); definition: ship.

Diogenes said...

"... at sea seeking berth in Long Island for glassware (9)"

is Latticini then: an anagram of Titanic in LI (for Long Island)