Thursday 17 June 2010

Reverse Anagrams

Reverse Anagram Clue In a normal anagram clue, you are given the anagram indicator and the anagram fodder. You jumble the fodder to get the answer.

In a reverse anagram clue, you are given the anagrammed word. You work out the answer backwards – the answer consists of the anagram indicator and anagram fodder.

To understand this better, consider a normal anagram and a reverse anagram for the same wordplay: POSH = (SHOP)*

Regular anagram:
NIE 9 Feb 2010: High-class sort of shop (4) POSH
POSH = (SHOP)*, with "sort of" as anagrind

Reverse anagram:
Guardian 24866 (Pasquale): Posh maybe to have a look at purchasing options (4,6) SHOP AROUND
The definition is "have a look at purchasing options". How is "posh maybe" related to SHOP AROUND? Read it as an anagram in reverse: SHOP "around" (anagram indicator) gives POSH.

Another pair of examples for the same wordplay: WEALTH = (THE LAW)*

Regular anagram:
Guardian 24589 (Orlando): Means of breaking the law (6) WEALTH
WEALTH = (THE LAW)*, with "breaking" as anagrind

Reverse anagram:
Guardian 24798 (Rufus): Make wealth the wrong way? (5,3,3) BREAK THE LAW
If you "break" THE LAW, you might make WEALTH. The whole clue is the definition, &lit style.

How to identify a reverse anagram

Reverse anagrams can be tricky. There is no strong indicator in the clue for a reverse anagram (the conventional anagram indicator is within the answer). Sometimes the setter will helpfully add a hint alongside the anagrammed word - "perhaps", "could be", etc. - to let you know that something unusual is going on.

For example:

Everyman 3318: Use the grapevine in part of castle, with one a threat, as it were? (4,2,3,2,3,6) KEEP AN EAR TO THE GROUND
castle = KEEP, and "one a threat" = AN EAR TO THE "ground" (anagrind, when read as a verb). The hint is in the words "as it were?"

Guardian 24951 (Araucaria): Fool playing with clue for toga (5,4) GIDDY GOAT
toga = "giddy" GOAT. "clue for" suggests a reverse anagram – "giddy goat" might be the wordplay in a clue for TOGA.

The hint could be less overt – just a ? or !.

Guardian 25037 (Puck): Placing for one sailing past bay horse? (8) OFFSHORE

You can't rely wholly on finding such tip-offs, though – they might not be there, or they might indicate something different. ? might be a signal for a cryptic definition; "perhaps" might imply a definition-by-example.

Reverse anagrams are generally "grid" clues i.e. not easily solved standalone, it takes some supplementary information to figure them out. I usually wait for the answer to reveal itself through part of the wordplay/checking/definition. Sometimes, the parsing has to be engineered backwards. If the answer (which we've worked out from the other parts of the clue, but can't fully explain) contains an anagrind-style word - MIXED of MIXED BAG, OFF of OFFEND, etc., then it's probably a reverse anagram.

Reverse anagrams are not very common (although they seem to have become all the rage in the past year; I find Don Manley using this device quite a lot). You might come across them once in a few days, but not more than one or two in the same grid.

Solve These

Test your reverse anagramming skills with these clues:

FT 13326 (Bradman): It could suggest I step away from the prescribed route (3-5)
FT 13397 (Bradman): File perhaps for certain fauna and flora? (8)
From Afrit's crossword collection: Dear me! So I am! (6) 

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, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.


Shuchi said...

I heard that there's some problem in posting comments today. If so, you could write your comment on Crossword Unclued's Facebook page, or send me an email with your comment and I'll post it here on your behalf.

I hope that Blogger fixes this soon!


Big Dave said...

I loved this, and all of your other articles.

Hope I can post this comment using my blogger account!

Balaji said...

Great post, Shuchi. Lucid explanation of reverse anagrams with some recent examples.

veer said...

Can't see the first one (...prescribed route) though I think it has to do with OUT-????? or less likely ???-OUTER

Second is WILDLIFE
Third is REMADE

Thanks for the reverese anagrams 101 - I am definitely the better for it.


Big Dave said...

The last part of the first one is an anagram of I STEP

Two more from the Telegraph:

Plays theatrically as cast maybe (4,3)

This could lead to baker performing acrobatic moves (12)

Shuchi said...

Hello Big Dave, Very warm welcome to you on Crossword Unclued!

Thanks Balaji and Veer. Glad to be of help :)

veer said...

Ah! OFF-PISTE it is. Took time over this since Piste is a new word for me - Thanks to Big Dave's big assist.

Dancing acts break out upon solving DT clues..

Btw, Shuchi, a recent email from Derek Harrison over at crossword center refers to your Afrit crossword book review - you must have a word with him for referrig to you with the wrong pronoun!!..

Shuchi said...

@veer: Hehe. A typo, maybe? It reminds me of a visit to a US client site for work, after a few weeks of email correspondence with them. They had expected a "he" to arrive and were totally taken aback to see me.

Anonymous said...

Great work !

Dave: Acts out

Wordy Alex said...

Those are called antigrams.


united - untied
antagonist- not against
silent -listen
violence - nice love
evangelist - evil’s agent
libeler - reliable
commendation - aim to condemn
customers - store scum
diplomacy - mad policy
earliest - arise late
and many more.