Archive for Paul

Crossword Look-alikes

Posted in Crosswords with tags , , , on May 13, 2012 by telescoper

I wonder if anyone else has noticed the remarkable similarity between this clue, by Paul, in yesterdays Guardian Prize Crossword (No. 25634)

Foolishly cash lost in ’em? (4,8)

and this one in Everyman No. 3423 which appeared in today’s Observer:

One-armed bandits – lost cash in ’em, stupidly (4,8)

I wonder if, by any chance, they might be related?

More interestingly, the clue by Paul is a nice example of an “&lit” clue whereas the Everyman one has the traditional definition + cryptic parts. In an &lit clue two different readings of the clue give the definition and cryptic allusion. In this one the word “foolishly” is an anagram indicator (acting on the subsequent  letters); the surface reading (“literally what it says”) defines something you might lose money in foolishly. This kind of clue often ends with a “?” or even a “!” to suggest something a bit sneaky is going on so a bit more lateral thinking than usual may be required.  The second clue has the same anagram (indicated by “stupidly”) but this is preceded by a straightforward definition of the answer so has no “?” at the end.

I’m not going to give the answer, but it’s quite an easy one so I assume the penny has dropped.

The inexorable decline of English culture

Posted in Crosswords with tags , , , on August 15, 2011 by telescoper

As politicians, journalists and academics struggle to explain the recent outbreaks of violent disorder in English cities, I think it’s time for me to provide the definitive analysis. I believe that the sense of alienation, disenchantment and despair that seems to be sweeping the country can be traced back to a single appalling event, the occurrence of which was surely enough to drive even the most law-abiding citizen into acts of wanton destruction. The enormity of the offence perpetrated against the cultural fabric of our society cannot be overestimated, as it casts doubt on the very survival of western civilisation.

So what is this thing of which I speak? I’ll tell you, although I can hardly bring myself to talk about it. There was an error in last week’s Guardian Prize Crossword.

The shocking evidence for this breakdown of all that is right and good can be seen in stark graphic terms below:

The offending item, which can be found in the bottom left hand corner, is 22 down, the clue to which reads

9’s heart lifted, I gathered, over 7’s opener (6)

The answer to 9 across is BEETHOVEN, which serves to suggest a definition of a piece by said composer. “Heart lifted” is CORE written upside down, “I gathered” means that you stick an “I” in that, and “7’s opener” is A (from ALBION). The answer is then clearly EROICA…

Except – oh the shame of it! – the Guardian setter, Paul, clearly can’t spell and thus it appears in the completed grid above as ERIOCA. I can think of no clearer evidence for the descent of our country into anarchy and chaos.

I rest my case. There’s no doubt in my mind that this outrage was the real reason for the recent outbreak of riots. Or, as Paul would no doubt say, “roits”.

Dingbats, surface readings, and literally what it says

Posted in Crosswords with tags , , , , , , , on August 22, 2010 by telescoper

It’s been a long time since I posted anything in the box marked crosswords, so I thought I’d remedy that today.

As I’ve explained before, I’m a regular entrant in the monthly Azed competition in the Observer. There’s actually an Azed cryptic crossword every week, but every four weeks there’s a special one  in which contestants have not only to complete the (usually quite tricky) puzzle, but also to supply a clue for a word for which only a definition was given. There are prizes for the best clues each time, as judged by Azed himself, and a league table is built up over the year.

I don’t mind admitting that I much prefer solving the puzzles to setting clues of my own. Perhaps that’s consistent with the fact that I don’t enjoy setting examination questions much! However, I do enter the clue-writing competition every time it comes up. I’ve never won it, but I’ve had several VHC (Very Highly Commended) which count in the honours table. I’ve gradually improved my ranking year on year, and perhaps one day I’ll actually win the  coveted Azed bookplate. However, I’ve got a long way to go before I can produce clues of the ingenuity and subtlety of the regular winners.

Last year, I started brightly and was for a long time neck-and-neck with the novelist Colin Dexter in the league table. However, over the last few months my clues didn’t find favour with Mr Azed while his were much better. He finished in 8th place, while I languished in joint 40th; the complete table is here.

My best clue last year (I think) was in Azed 1967 for the word SUBORDINATELY:

In the manner of an inferior sandwich, prepared ‘to a New York deli recipe’ (13)

It’s a fairly straightforward one, as these things go, consisting of two parts, a definition and a cryptic allusion to the word being clued.  “In the manner of an inferior..” is the definition, meaning “subordinately”. The cryptic allusion in this case is the word “SUB” (meaning an American-style sandwich) followed by an anagram of the collection of letters indicated by what’s inside the quotes, i.e. to+a+NY+deli+r, the NY and r being standard abbreviations. “Prepared” is an anagram indicator.

The clue also has a nice surface reading, I think, which is an aspect many setters don’t seem to bother with. The surface reading is just how the clue reads when you don’t try to interpret it as a cryptic clue. I much prefer clues that read like something that  as could be written or said in a different context to a crossword, as well as making grammatical and syntactical sense.

The winning clue for this word was by D.F. Manley, who is one of the setters for the Times, with an &lit clue:

As in ‘B-role’ duty possibly (13)

This type of clue is regarded by many setters as the cleverest kind, but I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with them. Here the definition and cryptic allusions are supplied not by two different parts of the clue, but by two different readings of the whole thing. The cryptic allusion in this case is an anagram indicated by the word “possibly”, i.e. SUBORDINATELY is an anagram of AS IN B ROLE DUTY. The definition is “&lit”, i.e. “and literally what it says”. This is where I think setters push the boundaries a bit too far. I don’t think “As in B-role duty possibly” is really a very fair definition of SUBORDINATELY, and this clue has a very clumsy surface reading too. It’s undoubtedly clever, but I don’t like it as much as some of the others. In general I think these kind of clues are more appreciated by setters, who know how hard they are to concoct, than by solvers.

Anyway, today saw the announcement of the results of the first round of the current Azed competition, and I got another VHC for the slightly obscure word FOULARD (a kind of scarf or handkerchief). My clue was

A square covering La Dame’s head? (7)

This is an “&lit” too, but the cryptic allusion isn’t an anagram. FOUR is a perfect square so “A square covering La” is FOU(LA)R, and Dame’s Head is D (first letter of “Dame”), hence FOULARD. The whole clue also serves as a fair definition, I think, because a “square” can be a scarf (the wikipedia example of a foulard shows the typical way of wearing it, around the head); it also suggests a French word. Anyway, I’m off quickly out of the blocks again with a VHC, and am currently in 4th place in the table! That might be the highest I’ve ever been. I doubt it will last, though.

I also do the Guardian Prize crossword puzzle every week, which has many potential setters some of whom seem to bend the rules beyond breaking point. Last week’s Guardian competition puzzle (No. 25089) by Paul contained a number of clues that I didn’t like at all. They weren’t particularly difficult but had neither a  fair definition nor a good surface reading. Take, for example,

Dr Castier? (5,2,3,5)


M – give it ten? (5,2,5)

The question marks are a conventional way of indicating that something funny is going on, but they’re not sufficient to give   fair indications of the solutions in this case. These are, in fact, reverse clues of a form sometimes known as a dingbat or a rebus. The first one gives THROW IN THE TOWEL, which is clued thus: DR(CAST)IER,  with DRIER defining TOWEL and CAST defining THROW. In similar vein the second one is HAND IN GLOVE, via M(GIVE)ITTEN, with GIVE=HAND and MITTEN=GLOVE. Clever, but neither clue has any definition whatsoever of the answer phrase nor any surface reading other than gibberish. I might have forgiven Dr Castier? were it a familiar name from history or literature, but it isn’t. It was just made up for this puzzle. A very poor show, in my view. Anyone can make a clue by flinging random letters together.

There were several other clues of this type in the puzzle, so once you have one of them the others are quite easy.  However, in my opinion, they’re all pretty dismal clues on their own. I only ever buy the Guardian these days on Saturdays, largely for the weekend Prize crossword. If they carry on using puzzles as feeble as that one I’ll ditch it altogther. However, this week we were back to good old Araucaria, which restored my faith. My favourite  clue was

The wrong way to be (4)

The solution is left as an exercise.