Wednesday 22 August 2012

Kannada crosswords

Kishore Rao chanced upon a Kannada crossword during his lunch break at work. His curiosity piqued, he solved the crossword, discovered other Kannada crosswords in mainstream publications, analysed them over a couple of weeks and soon this article took shape. I'm happy to share Kishore's insightful article with Crossword Unclued readers.

Kishore lives in Bangalore and is well-known on the Indian crossword circuit. He is an ace puzzle solver, math whiz, pun-crafter and polyglot – his repertoire includes familiarity with languages as diverse as Tamil, English, Swahili, Konkani and Sanskrit (he once gave a speech in Sanskrit in the Bangalore Town Hall!).

Over to you, Kishore. – Shuchi

Shuchi had recently brought up the topic of crosswords in Indian languages and even got the ball rolling on Hindi crosswords and clueing. Curiosity got the better of us cats and we started looking more closely at crossword puzzles in Indian languages. I looked for puzzles in Kannada (which is not my native language, or as it is quaintly called, my maternal lingo). My mother tongue, Konkani, is next only to Hindi in terms of the sheer length of the distance it is spoken across India. Konkani sadly lacks a script and makes do with a plethora of others systems of writing, from Roman and Devanagri to Kannada and Malayalam scripts, thus dividing the flock on a script basis (as if other bases were not enough).

Kannada has linguistic attributes similar to Hindi, and so brings with it the same difficulties of crossword setting as in Hindi.

[First, a confession: My Kannada is pretty bad. I left Bangalore in my first standard (Kannada medium) and came back for my tenth standard (English medium with Kannada as a compulsory language). When I came back, I did not know a word of Kannada or the script and had to come up to speed in about eight months. Even now, though my spoken Kannada passes muster, I do grope for words when I try a crossword.]

I came across Kannada crosswords being published in mainstream publications:

a 9x9 in PrajavaaNi (from the Deccan Herald group) presently running numbered over 1450,

(click the image above to enlarge)

a 9x9 KannaDa Prabha (from the New Indian Express Group), presently running numbered over 6250,


a 7x7 in UdayavaaNi (from Manipal based UdayavaaNi group) presently running numbered over 4150.


All the three have symmetric grids, more than half blackspace in many cases, triple unches, and sometimes, whitespace islands not linked to other parts of the crossword. I tried all three but found PrajavaaNi, a daily puzzle set by Ms.Vidya Vinay, the most intriguing since the other two did not seem to have any cryptic side to their wordplay[1].


The clue sheet headings are a little more elaborate compared to English: Across is Left to right, Down is Up to down for Down. All three Kannada publications use this wording.

I observed a rummy thing in Kannada crosswords which is not kosher in English crosswords: in an English crossword DEER being reversed as REED is ok, but DEAR cannot be reversed as RAED. But the Kannada crosswords I solved had such instances of grid fills with no meaning, such as #7 below.

The most delightful surprises were some clues that displayed shades of wordplay similar to what we see in English ones:

  1. ಯೋಗ ಕೊನೆಯಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಈ ಹಂಚಿಕೆ (4) (Yoga koneyalliruva ee hanchike)= This distribution has yoga at the end of it
  2. ಪಟದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ದಾರ ಹಿಡಿದಕ್ಕೆ ಈ ಪೇಚಾಟ (4) (PaTadalli daara hiDidakke ee pechaaTa)= This disturbance/dislocation/embarrassment is due to the chart holding the string
  3. ವಸತಿ ಬಳಿ ಬಂದ ಉಪಪತ್ನಿ (3) (vasati baLi banda upa-patni)= The minor wife who came to the house
  4. ಮಹಿಮವಂತನ ಮೇಲೆ ಬಿದ್ದ ಮಂಜು (2) (mahimavantan mele bidda manju) Dew/frost that fell on the famous person
  5. ಸೂರ್ಯನು ಹುಟ್ಟುವ ಪರ್ವತ (4)(suryanu huTTuva parvata)= The mountain where the sun is born(rises)
  6. ನೆರವು ನೀಡುವವನು, ಉರಿಯೋಳಗಿದ್ದಾನೆ (4) (neravu neeDuvavanu, uriyoLagiddane)= Person who helps, is in fire
  7. ತಿರುಗಿ ನಿಂತಿರುವ ಅಗಸ (4) (tirugi nintiruva agasa)= A washerman who is standing, turned/ a washerman who is facing away
  8. ದೊಡ್ಡ ಹಾರೆಯಿದು (3) (doDDa haareyidu) = This is a big garland
  9. ಮಾರುತಿದ್ದಾಗ ಬೀಸಿದ ಗಾಳಿ (3) (maarutiddaga beesida gaaLi) = The wind that blew when selling

No.3 was sheer magic, though the anagram indicator was missing. This is not a rare omission - many a times, anagram and container/contained indicators are not given with clues in Kannada crosswords.

The answers:

  1. ವಿನಿಯೋಗ viniyoga (as in the Sanskrit/Hindi विनियोग) means distribution, investment or putting into, and has yoga as its ending.
  2. ಪರದಾಟ  pardaat means travel (=dislocation), and consists of the word play of insertion of anagram (without indicator) ದಾರ (daara=thread) as ರದಾ inside ಪಟ (paTa=chart)
  3. ಸವತಿ savati=minor (junior/second) wife (as in Hindi सौतन) which is an anagram of ವಸತಿ (vasati=house).
  4. ಹಿಮ hima=dew/frost (as in Sanskrit/Hindi हिम), which is a synonym of ಮಂಜು and is hidden in ಮಹಿಮವಂತನ, a famous person
  5. ಉದಯಗಿರಿ udayagiri (उदयगिरि) there are several places called Udayagiri in South India, which roughly translates to the sun-rise mountain.
  6. ಉಪಕಾರಿ upakaari (उपकारी), person who helps, the outer two characters of this word spell out ಉರಿ (fire) as mentioned in the clue.
  7. ಳವಾಡಿಮ does not mean anything, to my knowledge and subject to correction, but is a reverse of ಮಡಿವಾಳ (Madivala= washerman), also the name of a lake and locality in Bangalore, which probably like the Washermanpet (ண்ணாரபேட்டை/ Vannaarappettai ) in Chennai or Dhobi Talao (धोबी तलाव / धोबी तालाब) in Mumbai was where all the laundering took place in days of yore, and probably continues.
  8. ಗಜರಿ gajari (a type of flower garland equivalent to गजरा, in Hindi), the reference to big may be an allusion to the ಗಜ (गज) which is an elephant (=mammoth/large)
  9. ಮಾರುತ maaruta (मारूत = wind) hidden in the Kannada word ಮಾರುತಿದ್ದಾಗ (maarutiddaga) = when selling

Solve These

Kannada clues set by Kishore:

1. ಭೈರವಿ ರಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೀಗೆಕೂಡ  ಕರೆಯಬಹುದು ಸೂರ್ಯನನ್ನು (2)
(Bhairavi raagadalli heegekooDa kariyabahudu Suryannu - You can also call Surya thus in the Bhairavi raaga)

2. ಯಾವ ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋದರು ಈ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ್ ಹೆಸರು ಓದಬಹುದು (3)
(Yaava dikkhinalli hodaru ee zilleya hesaru odabahudu -Whichever direction you go, you can read this district name)

3. ಈ ಊರಿನ ವಡೆ ಬಹಳ ಹೆಸರಾಗಿದೆ (3)
(Ee oorina vaDe bahaLa hesaraagide - The vaDa (an eatable) from this town is very well known)


[1] Except one clue in UdayavaaNi (ಹೇಗಾದರೂ ಬಂಗಾರ – hegaadaru bangaara = gold anyway, with an answer ಕನಕ=kanaka=gold), the answer being a palindrome as indicated by the 'anyway' in the clue.

[2] Another thing that made my day with the PrajavaaNi crossword is the fact that it is adjacent to the Henry cartoon strip, called ಗುಂಡಣ್ಣ, GundaNNa= round elder brother (euphemism for a bald chap) in the Kannada paper. The Henry cartoon was created in 1932 by Carl Anderson and used to appear on the 'filler portions' of Mandrake and Phantom comics published by Indrajal Comics, a rage with kids in India in the seventies and eighties.

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Deepak Gopinath said...

Kishore WOW. One more feather in your cap. Your diversity amazes me

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Shuchi and Deepak.

I need to make a small correction. The puzzle in the Prajaavani is called 'Pada-bandha' = word building

Richard said...

Great job, Kishore. As Deepak said, you never seem to stop amazing us.

Shuchi, how are you going to ascertain if any post here in Kannada is fit for publication? ;)

Shuchi said...

@Richard: I will rely on my friend Google Translate :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Richard. I can be Shuchi's stepney. As you know, a stepney in olden days,was a retired tyre, having gone bald, full of holes from the roads and rats and to be relied on only in case of absolute necessity.

Anonymous said...

And, Richard, with your Kannada medium educational background, I expect you to have a shy at the clues provided. You can use Google Transliterate to type out the Kannada script.

Anonymous said...

Another disclosure, for those who don't know Kannada:

The clues work in English too. Your knowledge of Bangalore/Karnataka may help.

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

1. ಭೈರವಿ ರಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೀಗೆಕೂಡ ಕರೆಯಬಹುದು ಸೂರ್ಯನನ್ನು (2)
(Bhairavi raagadalli heegekooDa kariyabahudu Suryannu - You can also call Surya thus in the Bhairavi raaga)
Ans: Ravi

2. ಯಾವ ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋದರು ಈ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ್ ಹೆಸರು ಓದಬಹುದು (3)
(Yaava dikkhinalli hodaru ee zilleya hesaru odabahudu -Whichever direction you go, you can read this district name)
Ans: Gadag (taken from google)
3. ಈ ಊರಿನ ವಡೆ ಬಹಳ ಹೆಸರಾಗಿದೆ (3)
(Ee oorina vaDe bahaLa hesaraagide - The vaDa (an eatable) from this town is very well known)
Ans: Mysore
( when written in kannada it will have required alphabets . Am i correct sir? As i know telugu ,i tried. )

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Lakshmi, భలే ! నా లాంటి చిన్న వ్యక్తి కోసం ఎందుకు మీరు సార్ సార్ ?

1. Correct. Ravi, another name for Surya, is hidden in Bhairavi, whether you write it in English, Kannada or most other Indian languages.

2. Correct again. Gadag, whichever way you read it, in both Kannada and English, is the same (i.e. a palindrome)and is the name of a district in Karnataka

3. It is here that you surprised me. Maddur, a place between Mysore and Bangalore is a place well known for its vaDa and has the suffix ooru, signifying town, in its name. That was my intended answer. But, hey, Mysore fits the bill (and beak) too as Mysore vaDa too is edible.

Sreekanth Chakravarthy said...

This is really nice. I hope we get to see more of this, perhaps one Kannada crossword every week.

Shuchi said...

Hi Sreekanth, Great to see you over here :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Shreekanth, I notice you are a fan of TP. Reminded me of his "Namma Tiparahalli bhalu doora', a spoof of "Its a long way to Tiperary"

Sreekanth Chakravarthy said...

That's right Kishore. If you like TPK, you might be interested in reading his (lesser-known) English works at

Anonymous said...

Aah, Srikanth, what a treasure trove you have led me to!

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Kishore Sir,

After seeing ooru and mysooru having 3 letters ,my "bandi"(vehicle in telugu) stopped in mysore itself.It did'nt proceed further. May be a bit of overconfidence.
With Maddur vada you can have Mysore vada also!

Anonymous said...

Great article Kishore!

I am sure you will also like - Online Crosswords for Kannada Language (ಕನ್ನಡದ ಏಕೈಕ ಆನ್ಲೈನ್ ಪದಬಂಧ).