On the odd occasion a solver may say that an answer is obscure. I realise that this is an opinion, unless it’s backed up specifically by a dictionary entry, however, I’d like to tell you little about what I think is obscure. First, it’s nothing to do with the words that I know or have heard of – I have a limited vocabulary and would very quickly start repeating myself if I had to rely on it for grid filling. Second, I have to rely on references to guide me – there’s no other way.
For me an obscure answer is one that is:
- Listed in just one reference or can only be found by searching Google
- Listed as an alternative (secondary) spelling in two or less references
- Listed as archaic, obscure, obsolete or poetic
- Specific to a particular region of the world
Note that definitions (and wordplays) in clues can be qualified in order to use some of these obscures words. For example, “before in poetry” would be “ere”.
There’s an imperfect way to judge the suitability of a word that I might be undecided about using, especially when multiple spellings are in play: do a simple Google search. The number of hits of the different spellings will soon tell you what’s most popular although there’s a US bias on the web that must be considered.
I tend to stick to concise dictionaries when writing daily cryptics but will expand to full dictionaries when writing weekly cryptics. I generally know when a word or term isn’t widely used in everyday conversation, so, if I use that as answer, I’ll endeavour to write a straightfoward clue.
Same rules apply when using uncommon meanings of words in clues. Meanings must be backed up by more than one reference and regional differences come into play here.
In this crossword LAMELLIBRANCH caused some discussion: it appears in all my major references as well as all my concise dictionaries, so I felt OK about using it, especially as key letters in the answer were obtainable for crossing answers. It’s not an exact science but including words that not everyone knows is inevitable and necessary to create a balanced crossword with variety that presents a challenge for all.
|Across||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Tough deer, prepared and cut up for food? (9)||BUTCH + anagram of DEER|
|Win card game holding ace (4)||GIN outside A|
|Top competitors understand limitations of diets? (5)||SEE + (D)IET(S)|
|Modern music and art after tea should be separate (4,5)||(RAP + ART) after TEA|
|Settler on island invested in horse (8)||(ON + IS) inside COLT|
|Use capital to make money in underwear (6)||IN + VEST|
|Fish definitely included in cook’s meal upset one’s gut? (7,6)||YES inside anagram of COOKS MEAL + O(N)E|
|Unsatisfactory statement about farm’s oyster, say (13)||LAME + (BILL reversed) + RANCH|
|Freak, one bitten by dog (6)||AN inside MUTT|
|Weapon ignited when retreating in a fight (8)||LIT reversed inside SETTO|
|Insert all customised software needed to get a program running (9)||Anagram of INSERT ALL|
|Law enforcer with little education muddled through (5)||COP + ED|
|Coloured items featured in trendy edition (4)||trenDY EDition|
|Newspaper worker’s foundation in pocket of person known to court (9)||BED inside SUITOR|
|Down||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Integrated circuit put into guitar with staples (6)||IC inside BASS|
|End of snowdrift helps crossing a mountain range (3,4)||[SNOWDRIF(T) + HELPS] outside A|
|Tricks, for instance, admitted by sweetheart (3,2)||AS inside HON|
|Cooking device that is connected to the back of faulty resistor (10)||IE after anagram of RESISTOR|
|Appeal withdrawal of charge (4)||WARD reversed|
|An object filled with helium in Disneyland site (7)||(AN + AIM) outside HE|
|Writing music in symbols not with a metallic sound (8)||NOT + A + TING|
|Important metal found outside a claim (8)||MAIN + (TIN outside A)|
|Brother that nearly murdered idol (5-5)||Anagram of (BROTHER THA)T|
|Tourer, say, accepting a loan schedule (8)||CAR outside (A + LEND)|
|Head of consulate pulled out of diplomacy involved with international sports meeting (8)||Anagram of DIPLOMACY minus (C)ONSULATE|
|Fauvist painter is getting back to basics with friend about (7)||[IS + BASIC(S)] inside MATE|
|Popular nightclub host distributed cannabis (3,4)||Anagram of HOST + POT|
|Elder, when behind bishop, is more enterprising (6)||OLDER after B|
|Backing of transfer is tied up (5)||DECAL reversed|
|Benefit may be lavish to a large extent (4)||(PLUS)H|