lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, June 01, 2007

Choose a pique

There were a lot of things that have rankled in the last month, and I will tell you all about each and every one of them, never fear (or rather, quake in your shoes), but this was the top of the list over the last ten days. So, I am doing what I always do: writing it out of my system. You have been warned.

Definition: A statement intended to put a word in its place.

A definition is so many things, actually. It is a concise explanation of the meaning of a word or a phrase or a symbol, it is also clarity of outline, an account, distinctiveness, explanation or sharpness. But in crosswords, definition is something else.

In concise crosswords, it is usually straight forward, and a good vocabulary and a quick recall of synonyms will make solving them simple. Loafer (5) is idler. But in a cryptic clue, it could be a type of shoe, or somebody who makes loaves, hence a baker. This is because cryptic clues are presented in a coded form. While a good compiler can be infuriatingly sly, he will always be fair; and however coded the clue, the solution is always reachable.

A good clue will read like a piece of ordinary language, a statement, question or a definition. But good compilers don't waste words, and all the words contribute to arriving at the solution. So when I went about solving Guardian Prize crossword last fortnight, I thought I was losing the battle of wits with Araucaria because I was missing something. But that turned out not to be the case. He compiled a bad clue. All right, a clue I didn't like.

The crossword had some lovely long and involved clues.

6,9 A don with knot twice untied expresses doubt (1,4,4,4,2,5)

The economy of this clue is breathtaking. Expresses doubt is the definition, and the solution you arrive at has to mean that. A don- so, I don. Then, with knot twice untied. An anagram of ' with knot, with knot', and the solution is-- I don't know what to think!

6,8 Whittaker's part (boy, English) to Scottish summit, holding on- hence 14down, 20, 16.

Part of 'Whittaker', son, E, to, knowe with on inside it. The solution is-- it takes one to know one.

And this ties into 14down, 20,16 Advice to Scotland Yard about reporter's knickers (3,1,5,2,5,2,5)

Again, the clue is brief, elegant. Reporter's here is an indication to go by how the word is heard. Here if we read the word as nickers, it falls in to place. Set a thief to catch a thief.

There were other lovely clues. After trust, after writing (9) sincerely

Amin in country concerned with pupil's surroundings (7) iridian

Flower for reporter to dispose of and eat? (9) celandine

Island hospital authorised assistance in crucial blow (8) Hokkaido

But the clue that bothered me even as I solved it, even after the solutions were published and annotations given to see how they were arrived at, was this:

Much more angry having lost part of dress circle at opening of theatre (7)

The solution is Olivier, of course. I solved it, and fumed. I saw the annotation and fumed. Now I write about it and I fume.

Olivier LIVI(d[ress])ER after O— was the annotation. But I disliked this clue. Much more angry is livider. Without d, and o to begin with. I still think it's a bad clue.

Et tu, Araucaria? Sigh!

I believe in positive thinking and silver linings, though. So I am anticipating the weekend's lot of puzzles, and I have the pleasure of the latest Carl Hiaasen and a new Percy Jackson book to look forward to. Not to mention that I will be pampering myself silly at my salon, getting the works. Life isn't too bad then.



Anonymous Ash said...

It is no more diabolical than his usual clues, so why are you so cross about this one?

7:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a fair clue. 'Of theatre' as definition is fair. I don't know why you disliked it enough to grumble about it. You solved it, and you still fume? You are weird, I must say. I'd have thought the long clues, especially the Knickers/nickers was the unfair clue, needing confirmation from the rest of the grid as it did.

Perhaps you are moaning because you are not well up about theatre?

10:28 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- It is a bad clue, period. I didn't like it.

Anon- Look, I never said it was unfair. I only said it was a bad clue and I didn't like it. I am not moaning because I am not well up about theatre references, either. I'd not have solved it if that was the case.

The connected clues of 'it takes one to know one' and 'set a thief to catch a thief' were brilliant. This was plain bad. My opinion, that's all.

And if you are a regular reader and took to commenting just this once, it is all right, but if you are going to comment regularly, please get a name, any name.

2:56 pm  

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