lalita larking

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

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Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nine times nine

Those who believe in numerology allege that the number nine is special. Perhaps it is.

Beginning with the nine months of gestation, there are a lot of things that come in nines. There are the Nine Muses and the nine planets until they kicked Pluto out of the club. In Indian lore we have the nine gems, the nine grains, the nine moods and more.

While I don't believe in numerology, or even like numbers, I do like solving clues that are nine letters long. Standard cryptic crossword grids are fifteen by fifteen, and depending on the pattern, nine letter clues feature a lot. When I was a newcomer to cryptic crosswords, solving a nine-letter clue used to be very satisfying, and gave me a sense of achievement.

The longer clues aren't always tougher or the shorter ones easier, of course.

There is Bunthorne's famous 'Amundsen's forwarding address (4) mush ' or that clever one, 'Potty train (4) loco'. Brummie's 'Bicycle a vexed Congress eschewed in this state (8) celibacy', or Chifonie's 'Hit chap in relationship (7) tangent' come to mind.

The length of a clue has no bearing on its fiendishness, clearly.

"Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink.
Or anything else that is pleasant to drink:
Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine—
And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times nine!"

I could of course give you ninety great clues, to suit the quote, but I have desisted, not just out of my charitable good heart, but out of the consideration that what few readers I have will exit the blog en masse and swear never to return.

So I am contenting myself with nine times nine. Hey, don't run away, it's only nine compilers and one example per. Here are nine lovely clues by nine different compilers, nine letters long, in nine different styles.

Taupi creates a doubt about the definition in this gem. What's usually done with princess finishes off warder (9)

Custom and Diana without the last letters, and the solution is custodian. But the 'what's usually done' reads like a definition, and this is misleading the solver cleverly, while being fair.

Audreus set this clue. Dull edge on yuppie's first marriage (9)

The economy of this clue is lovely. Mat, rim, on and the first letter of yuppie, and the solution is matrimony.

Brummie used 'broadcast' not to indicate an anagram, but to indicate 'as heard' in this clue. In need of a life, you seize broadcast of old Jewish party (9)

Sad, and you seize. Sadducees is the solution.

Bunthorne, who regularly set devilishly long and complicated anagrams, set this short and witty clue in 2005. Ferdinand sleeps with cows (9)

Bulldozes, heh!

Chifonie sets brief and elegant clues, and here is one example. Bordering a hypotenuse (9)

This is short and sweet. Alongside.

Crispa, who passed away last month, set this beauty. "Men's my one failure": Mother of nine (9)

Failure is the anagram indicator, and mother of nine is the definition. Mnemosyne, the mother of the Nine Muses, is the solution.

Paul sets elegant clues. Title embracing word of enlightenment is greeting religious mentor (9)

It sounds complicated, but 'aha' inside Mr., and is and hi. Voila, we have Maharishi.

Shed misleads diabolically while being fair here: Man with beard first taken in by inferior gardening equipment (9)

Until one remembers that awn is beard in botany, and adds m for man and sets it inside lower, the solution, lawnmower, eludes.

There are dozens of Araucaria clues I can cite, but I have to content myself with just one. So I jotted down some ten of his clues, and closed my eyes and stabbed a finger. And here is what my finger chose: Rise of first-class rubbish - something to eat in restaurant (9)

This is a beauty. A1, rot and tart, all written backwards. Restaurant is the definition, and trattoria is the solution.

There, nine randomly chosen but lovely demonstrations of compiling brilliance from some of my favourite compilers. And not randomly at all, but because he started a series of nine with the witty title 'noveau rasa', and because he once incorporated a crossword clue in a poem, I invite you to go read this blogger.

Cheers!

3 Comments:

Anonymous dipali said...

Elegant indeed.And diabolical, to boot!

11:10 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

I loved the Araucaria and Bunthorne clues. Brilliant compilers, both. How about a poem now, Lali?

4:32 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- Yup. I could have given different clues for Taupi and Paul, though. Brummie, too. They are all wonderful.

Ash- Heh, my favourites, too. Nope, I don't do poems on demand. It takes more than dashing off a few random lines to make a poem, after all.

11:04 pm  

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