Wednesday 25 September 2013

I am not OK but I must be OK

letter-I-cryptic-crosswords Consider this clue:

Implied I am bound by discretion (5) I inside TACT (discretion); definition: implied

Do you think it works?

Ximenes wouldn't have been happy with it. Here's why.

The Personal Pronoun vs. The Letter

On the surface, the clue uses "I" as in the first person pronoun. In the wordplay however, "I" is not a reference to self - it is simply a letter of the alphabet. Grammar demands that we say "I is" in the wordplay, since the letter "I" is (not am) in TACT.

For the clue to be accurate, the surface reading as well as the cryptic reading needs to be grammatical. The clue above does not pass muster on the second count.

Is There A Way Out?

Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword suggests an easy solution:

In nearly every case the trouble can be got over by saying "I must be", "I can be", etc., or by using "one".

Which is what Everyman used in puzzle no. 3484, clue 13A. The published clue is:

Everyman 3484: Implied I must be bound by discretion (5)

A related discussion you might find interesting – the comments section of an old blog post of mine at fifteensquared, on puzzle FT13137 by the excellent setter Viking. The point of discussion was the use of "I follow" in clue 9D.

FT13137 (Viking): I follow victor in continually backing rally (6) REVIVE
I after V (victor), in EVER (continually) reversed

Solve These

Enjoy these clues that successfully counter the "I" dilemma.

Azed 2412: I'll be enthralled by underwear colours (6) ____T_
FT 14212 (Io): I'll get caught by rabid pet on tiptoe (6) P_____
Everyman 3437: As a member of the clergy, I must be found in cathedral (8) M_______

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.


Bhalchandra Pasupathy said...

Am in complete agreement that the grammar should be observed in the cryptic reading also. Have made some observations along similar lines in THCC.

I looked up the FT blog discussion, and was relieved to find that Viking was also in agreement. Undoubtedly trivial, but the point is valid

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Azed 2412: I'll be enthralled by underwear colours (6) ____T_
Everyman 3437: As a member of the clergy, I must be found in cathedral (8) M_______ MINISTER MIN(I)STER

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

FT 14212 (Io): I'll get caught by rabid pet on tiptoe (6) P_____
POINTE PETON* taking in I

Shyam said...

Hello Shuchi

'I' (for one) think this post could have been a bit more general. Words are identified by characteristics like gender, plurality and part-of-speech in the surface reading. But when it comes to the cryptic reading, these words lose these characteristics when acting as a fodder. 'I' in the cryptic reading is merely a letter and not the personal pronoun. A word like SLATES is a plural noun, but consider this clue:

Slates are sculpted to make ornament (6)

The cryptic grammar will dictate SLATES is singular, since it is just a substitute for 'fodder'. So the 'are' stands out of place in the cryptic reading.

Another example:
People using drawing boards are mainly designers of roof supports (8) DRAFTERS (THC 10866)

If you substitute the answer back into the clue, we have the cryptic reading:

But DRAFTERS is a substitute for ANSWER, so it has to be singular for the cryptic reading. The word DRAFTERS is D plus RAFTERS. (The clue also has an extraneous 'of' which is a different issue.)

For a gender-based example. consider:
Barge like a mall habitué who's lost his head (6) - sHOPPER (THC 10155)

SHOPPER is only a word in the crytpic reading, so the cryptic reading will be valid only if you say, 'a male habitue that has lost its head'.

On the question of plurality, this article of yours will also be relevant. Perhaps I guess you did not want to complicate the post with too many grammatical details :)


Shuchi said...

Hi Bhala, Yes it was good to have Viking's confirmation.

Hi Shyam, Long time! I wanted to talk about the case of "I" in specific as even setters who are otherwise particular about cryptic grammar seem relaxed about this one. I've come across "I am..." in the Guardian and the FT, and it doesn't always raise protests from bloggers. Also, unlike some other grammatical issues, the "I" switch is extremely easy to fix with a tiny tweak to the clue.

Sharing a few more posts from the blog that discuss cryptic grammar:

Verbal Anagrammar
Same Connector, Unequal Impact

Anonymous said...


Easier than usual 'I' think !

Krishna M said...

New one for me. Thanks for the article.

Azed 2412: I'll be enthralled by underwear colours (6) PA(I)NTS

Shuchi said...

@Lakshmi, @Kishore, Krishna M: Nicely solved. Looks like Azed was the easiest of the lot for a change.

I thought POINTE would be tough. Evidently not.

Kishore said...

I did a pirouette when I saw pointe !