Monday 19 November 2012

3-Segment Container Clues: {A in (B+C)}

container-clue-indicator-plural In a simple container clue, you are given two components: the container and the content, and the indicator tells you to put the container around the content. For example, the word EARTHEN can be clued as EARN around THE.

Things get more complex when the wordplay splits the answer into more than two components. If EARTHEN is treated as "EAR and TEN around H", then it can be clued in any of these ways:

    Case 1: EAR + (TEN around H)
    Case 2: (EAR+TEN) around H

A majority of 3-segment container clues are written in the more intuitive style of Case 1. Case 2 is harder to reconcile with for most solvers, and that's the one this post is about.

In generic terms, a word can be clued in the form {A in (B+C)} where A goes anywhere inside (B+C): within B, within C, or within the gap between B and C.

Indicator Grammar: Singular or Plural?

If a verbal indicator, say "surround", is used in the clue for {(B+C) around A}, then should it be written as {(B+C) surrounds A} or {(B+C) surround A}?

The answer depends on whether (B+C) is treated as one item or two. Both styles are seen in published clues, as in these two examples from the Times:

Singular Indicator
Times 25321: A high street store, defaulting on rent, holds firm no matter what (2,3,5) AT ALL COSTS
(A + TALL + ST + S[tore]) holds CO

Plural Indicator
Times 24448: Man books house round the corner - probably not for this! (3,5) HEN NIGHT
(HE + NT) house NIGH

Another interesting example of the use of a plural indicator:

THC 10294 (Arden): They could be cast because people have one (10) ASPERSIONS

At first glance you might read the wordplay as "AS + (PERSONS around I)" and think that the cryptic grammar is off. The indicator needs to be in the singular form – "has" instead of "have" - to justify this parsing. But the setter intends you to read the wordplay as "(AS+PERSONS) around I": AS and PERSONS together have I inside them.

When the wordplay extends beyond two components, the setter has the flexibility to place invisible "brackets" in the cryptic logic. The solver needs to work out where those brackets are and apply the first rule of BODMAS: process whatever is inside the brackets first. In the ASPERSIONS clue, the position of the brackets makes all the difference to the cryptic grammar.

As With Containers, So With Deletions

3-segment wordplay works with deletion clues as well: {(B+C) – A} could mean that A is deleted from within B or within C.

Times 23516: Watered animal died – that’s not right (5) HOSED
(HORSE + D) minus R

FT 14152 (Dogberry): Basic source of mould removed from the Spanish cheese (9) ELEMENTAL
M deleted from (EL + EMMENTAL)

Is {A in (B+C)} wordplay Ximenean?

As far as I know, Ximenes had no explicit rule about this type for wordplay. Ximenean setters/publications like Azed and the Times use it in their crosswords. It looks fine to me but some solvers don't like it – if you have the patience, you might want to go through a lengthy debate from 2010 about Anax's clue in this CWC thread. The clue was:

A juke box versus a more modern version? (7) ADVANCE
A + DANCE (juke) box i.e. contain V (versus)

What do you say to {A in (B+C)}? Fair or not?

Solve These 

Pit your wits against these clues with {A in (B+C)} wordplay.

Times 25078: Boorish Conservative impulse solely to conceal bad name (12) _U_________Y
Times 25311: I have got in a state, giving up being very active (5,3,7) _____ ___ K______
Times 25305: Toiling hard in Brazilian location, American breathes in powdery stuff (11) __D______O__

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Bhalchandra Pasupathy said...

C=Conservative; Impulse=Urge; Bad name=Mud; Solely=Only; def=Boorish

A+I have=IVE within State=Land + givingup=Kicking; def very active

Bhalchandra Pasupathy said...

IN + powdery stuff=dust inside Brazilian location=Rio + American=US; def=toiling hard

Chesterley said...

I think this type of clue is perfectly acceptable; I didn't even realize it was (albeit mildly) controversial. Having said that, I'm still pretty strict with the cryptic grammar as an author and stick to the singular container verb, unless the two parts of the charade are connected with and or possibly a comma.

Anonymous said...

I was able to figure out only one, Shuchi. Will have to spend more time on the others.


Anonymous said...

One more

Shuchi said...

Fair or not, {A in (B+C)} wordplay is surely tough to decipher, so well done Bhala and Kishore.

Putting your answers together:

Times 25078: Boorish Conservative impulse solely to conceal bad name (12) CURMUDGEONLY
C (Conservative) + URGE (impulse) + ONLY (solely), around MUD (bad name)

Times 25311: I have got in a state, giving up being very active (5,3,7) ALIVE AND KICKING
I'VE (I have), in A + LAND (state) + KICKING (giving up)

Times 25305: Toiling hard in Brazilian location, American breathes in powdery stuff (11) INDUSTRIOUS
IN + RIO (Brazilian location) + US (American), around DUST (powdery stuff)

Shyam said...

Hi Shuchi

I resonate with Chesterley (#3) on this; only the use of singular seems justifiable. Parts of the fodder separated by spaces and commas can validly be taken as a single unit by ignoring the intervening punctuation.

The problem can be circumvented by choosing a gerund or a 'to+infinitive' form. For example, in the Times 25311 clue, the rather ungainly past tense could be replaced by 'to get':

I have to get into a state, giving up being very active (5,3,7)

One could also stick to non-verbal containers, thereby totally avoiding this problem.

Shuchi said...

Hi Chesterley, Shyam,

Thanks for sharing your views. Yes, the 'to+ infinitive' structure is a neat way out of any singular/plural controversy.

I prefer the Times 25311 clue in its original form. I have got in a state i.e. bad condition because I have given up being very active. Makes better surface sense than the rewrite. I don't see a problem with "got" either, taking it as the past participle instead of the simple past. "X got in Y" is similar to "X placed in Y".

Shyam said...

Agree with you, Shuchi. Somehow I didn't grasp the surface meaning in my first reading, which is clear from your explanation now. Also +1 for the participle justification - it is a sound and handy explanation for setters when they face tense queries!

Bhavan said...

I prefer to have wordplay components and any instructions to add/delete/modify them next to each other.

Though logically they are the same, the deletion clues look even more weird than the addition ones.