lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

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Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, November 17, 2006

Son, I ban any grammar

My! An Arab ransoming: That's an anagram of 'Anagrams on my brain' that my software came up with. I think my post title is better, though. I found it the hard way, with paper and pencil and much crossing out and rethinking.

I have anagrams on my brain today. It's an occupational hazard of obsessive-compulsive crossword puzzle solving.

Back when the world was young and when I started doing crosswords, I used to fill up the white space of the margins with anagram tries, and it used to take a long time, if ever, to solve the anagrams. In fact, I didn't used to be sure if I was using the right set of letters, as I hadn't yet learnt to recognise the anagram indicators. It takes time, practice and experience to figure out anagrams and anagram cues.

That's because anagram indicators are diverse as the compilers. 'Perhaps', 'possibly' and 'maybe' are the simplest, but the job can be done by any word that can be fitted into the clue inconspicuously. So words that denote change or breaking, re-ordering or arrangement can be anagram cues: 'shatter', 'shot', 'upset', 'out', 'order' or 'style', for instance. Or adverbs like 'crazily' or 'madly' can be used as cues. Adverbial phrases like 'in a mess' or 'untidily' can do the duty. I have seen 'tortured' and 'drunk' used as anagram indicators. The innocuous 'made' once featured as an anagram indicator:

The train seats are made fireproof (4-9)*

As one gets familiar with the tricks of trade the compilers employ, anagrams tend to leap out. Nowadays I don't have to resort to trying the anagrams on paper; I do them in my head, visually, or with the Guardian crosswords, using their scrambler. It becomes simple to rearrange the letters mentally and some words are used so regularly that one hardly has to think about them anymore.

Respect is specter and scepter. Pots are stop, opts, tops and post. Decimal is claimed and declaim and medical. Live is evil and veil and vile. Lucre is cruel. Stagnation is antagonist.

But there are some anagrams that are famous. All crossword buffs know that carthorse is an anagram of orchestra. Gyrated is tragedy. Saturnalia is Australian. ' World Cup team' can be rearranged to form 'talcum powder' and Manchester City can become 'synthetic cream'.

Here is a Bunthorne anagram clue: TV air channel, Rue sadly, how Joe Public tells it? (2,3,10)**

And here is Missus Em's own bleating: OK! A helpless accident! Off to aid Missus Em (5,2,3,3,6)

My favourite compiler, Araucaria, routinely comes up with apt and witty anagrams. His clue-setting genius discovered that 'The Old Vicarage, Grantchester' yields the anagram: chaste Lord Archer vegetating. When such a clue appears at the time of the perjury trial and sentence, it is doubly delicious.

The Resident Nitpicker grumbles that he came across it in June, so it was a totally unfair clue that spanned most of the grid, but Araucaria's supreme moment of genius with anagrams came when he set a seasonal puzzle one Christmas: O Hark the herald angels sing the boy's descent which lifted up the world.

That, when rearranged, led to:

While shepherds watched their flock by night, all seated on the ground!

Cheers!

* Heat-resistant ** In the vernacular

16 Comments:

Anonymous Prophet of doom said...

i like anagrams

9:04 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- So do I.

9:28 am  
Blogger Priya said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:55 am  
Blogger Priya said...

Oops sorry, that was me! Thank you for giving me some work to do, early morning :) Anagrams rock!

10:57 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Chaste Lord Archer vegetating. Delicious indeed. Father Graham is a wicked compiler for all that he is a man of cloth.

4:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK! I'm decent, angel allows.

That's an anagram of Lali acknowledges me not. I live in hope.

Sincerely,
Secret admirer

8:10 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Dearest Lali,

I think you should reconsider comment policy re. Secret A. He collects brownie points.

The Princess.

3:21 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- Yeah, anagrams rock.

Ash- Father Graham is a retired priest. But still, yes, what deviltry and all that.

Anon- Decent, now get a name.

Rimi- No dear. No sympathising with Anon, please.

10:32 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Nice post. I second Rimi. That was a nice try by Secret A.

3:20 pm  
Blogger VC said...

don't know if you have seen the following from way back:
> >
> > Dormitory Dirty Room
> > Evangelist Evil's Agent
> > Desperation A Rope Ends It
> > The Morse Code Here Come Dots
> > Slot Machines Cash Lost in'em
> > Animosity Is No Amity
> > Mother-in-law Woman Hitler
> > Snooze Alarms Alas!!! No More Z's
> > Alec Guinness Genuine Class
> > Semolina Is No Meal
> > The Public Art Galleries Large Picture Halls, I Bet
> > A Decimal Point I'm a Dot in Place
> > The Earthquakes That Queer Shake
> > Eleven plus two Twelve plus one
> > Contradiction Accord not in it
> >
> > And for the grand finale:
> > 1. PRESIDENT CLINTON OF THE USA
> > It can be rearranged (with no letters left over, and
> > using each letter only once) into:
> >
> > TO COPULATE HE FINDS INTERNS
> >

and i give up. OK! A helpless accident rearranges to?????

8:06 pm  
Blogger VC said...

oops. with some reformatting........
> >
> > Dormitory --- Dirty Room
> > Evangelist --- Evil's Agent
> > Desperation --- A Rope Ends It
> > The Morse Code --- Here Come Dots
> > Slot Machines --- Cash Lost in'em
> > Animosity --- Is No Amity
> > Mother-in-law --- Woman Hitler
> > Snooze Alarms --- Alas!!! No More Z's
> > Alec Guinness --- Genuine Class
> > Semolina --- Is No Meal
> > The Public Art Galleries --- Large Picture Halls, I Bet
> > A Decimal Point --- I'm a Dot in Place
> > The Earthquakes --- That Queer Shake
> > Eleven plus two --- Twelve plus one
> > Contradiction --- Accord not in it

8:08 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- Child, desist.

VC- Hi. Yeah, those are all 'Ars Magna' software's gems. But I am talking about anagrams in crossword clues in particular, not anagrams per se.

Oh, and that Missus Em clue is a running joke, and nobody solves it or acts on it, alas!

4:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like what you write.. I've linked you from me blog... hope that you don't mind!!

9:07 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Alien- Hi ET, welcome and all that. Do be dropping in once in a while.

10:33 pm  
Blogger VC said...

Exactly. Each one of them, with the addition of just an anagram indicator, becomes a clue. Is there a term for this kind of clue - where the anagram fodder also doubles as the meaning? Just curious.
And I'll continue to rack my brain on what aids Missus Em. Anything available to help me narrow down?????

10:42 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

VC- I don't think there is a specific term.

If you trawl my archives, you will find a post titled 'News, views and a quiz' which was where the running joke started.

10:26 am  

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