Analysis of some clues

January 23, 2010

Shuchi, in her blog the other day, had given some clues and invited readers to comment on them.  http://www.crosswordunclued.com/2010/01/unximenean-clues.html

I thought that I would write my views here instead of the Comments section in her blog.

Other solvers’ views might be seen here: http://www.crosswordunclued.com/2010/01/unximenean-clues-quiz-answers.html

1. One who thinks about fluid (5)

Though veteran solvers might solve this clue quickly even offhand, they as well as others might not find this too difficult after they obtain a couple of crossings in the grid.

Indirect (or concealed) anagram it is, because we have to derive SERUM before dealing with the letters to get MUSER.

“about” is such a common anagram indicator that the moment the solvers see it, they will immediately look for an anagram fodder, and, even though it is followed by the five-letter word, few would be foolish enough to proceed to jumble them for a possible answer (for, the answer may be expected to be an agent-noun ending in -er or -or and ‘fluid’ has neither).

In their search for a five-letter fodder that means ‘fluid’, solvers will not grope too much as I don’t think there are many possibilities.

Also, the definition “one who thinks” quickly leads to MUSER without the need for any subsidiary indication. Is there a five-letter word other than MUSER for this?

Thus the clue is non-Ximenean but none-too-difficult to solve.

2. Derringer’s exploits? (6)

If we know that a derringer (with the first letter uncapitalised) is a pistol, then solving this clue poses no insuperable difficulty.

But how does the clue resolve itself? Well, it is supposed to be an anagram of PLOITS.

Really? What then is the anagram signal?

It is ex!

Ex?

Yes, ex, in the sense of ‘out of’.

“Out” is a well-known anagram signal and ‘out of’ is not far-fetched. Except that we have to look at ‘exploits’ as ‘ex ploits’ and then figure out that ‘ex’ is ‘out of’.

Derringer in the sense of pistol does not take a capital letter. As a name it does, and that is why the clue-writer has placed it cleverly in the beginning, so for a moment you might be thinking of the deeds that a certain Derringer might have done.

In our having to look at ‘exploits’ as ‘ex ploits’ and in ex being an anagram signal, the clue is certainly non-Ximenean.

But the solution is gettable.

3. Madly devouring without end, showing gusto (6)

In this anagram, we start off with the anagram signal. It is followed logically by anagram fodder which undergoes deletion before yielding the required number of letters for the six-letter answer. The deletion indicator is ‘without’, which again is followed logically by the letters to be deleted. The definition for the word required is ‘gusto’, ‘showing’ being just there for smooth surface reading of teh clue.

Quickly obtainable. What is non-Xiemenean about this clue?

That the letters to be deleted are not as a string but are dispersed here and there.

Even without being aware of Ximenean principles, this is rather inelegant and the solver is uncomfortable with the device.


4. Secured, however noted error (8)

The first word ‘secured’ is the definition. ‘However’ yields BUT, and we add TONED, anagram of NOTED, to it to get BUTTONED, the answer. What is the anagram signal? It is ‘error’. Purists would say taht this nounal anagram indicator is non-Ximenean.

Even the surface reading of the clue does not redeem this clue.

5. Engine parts from crate burst or fell apart (12)

The answer CARBURETTORS (definition being ‘engine parts’) is an anagram of CRATE BURST OR. As we take ‘fell part’ as the anagram signal, we are left with ‘from’, which apparently plays no part in the clue.

This extra word, with which the surface reading is smooth, flouts rules.

6. Half-witted doctor declines aid from the vocal bishop’s neighbour (7,5)

This clue is from a puzzle where definitions were deliberately left out of some starred clues.

As for wordplay, AID is deleted from the anagram fodder HALFWITTED. The remaining letters, when anagrammed, give TWELFTH. The deletion letters AID do not appear as a string but note that they appear in the same order in the deletion fodder. The anagram signal is attractive but is nounal. For NIGHT, we have an appealing homophone signal, ‘vocal’ and the homophone fodder, KNIGHT, is indicated by a very clever definition, ‘bishop’s neighbour’. However, ‘from’ is not quite the position indicator in this charade and so is a bit loose there.

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