A regular contributor to this blog asked me about 2-down, Dysfunctional topic men dislike ultimately? (9), a type of clue known in the trade as an &lit. This translates to “and literally”, and refers to the duplicity of the clue which represents the definition and wordplay at the same time. &lit clues are strange animals as they fit the standard “two ways to the answer” cryptic clue profile, but don’t actually include anything that tells the solver what’s going on. In American cryptic crosswords, an “!” must be inserted at the end to indicate an &lit clue, but some see this as giving the game away, so it hasn’t been universally adopted. A question mark at least is required IMO to indicate that something different is going on. A poster in a crossword newsgroup once suggested that an &lit could easily go unnoticed as it may appear to be just a so-so cryptic definition. I think this is probably true as cryptic definitions are common in the modern cryptic crossword and a solver may not think to look beyond the definition aspect of a clue. Good, true &lits are relatively rare. They come about usually through the normal process of trying to tie in the definition with the wordplay, which should be a setter’s goal for every clue. It’s common to find something in the wordplay that links with the definition, but much less common to find that the wordplay can be manipulated to form a viable definition that stands up in its own right. A much more likely scenario is the creation of a semi-&lit clue, where the wordplay is added to in order to make a viable definition.
So how did I create 2-down? The same way I create most clues:
- Look up every definition I can find for the answer word to arm myself with as much clueing ammo as possible.
- Look for “simple” cryptic structures like hiddens, charades and container and its contents.
- Use an anagram function to “see” what possibilities are available for full anagrams, partial anagrams, anagram combinations with other devices, and subtractive anagrams.
- See if anything pops outs from the steps above, in particular looking for a possible relationship between the definitions found in 1. and words that have materialised through 2-3.
- Decide on a definition and device and put them together.
In this case I had chosen (anagram of MEN and TOPIC) + E, and that would work well with just about any definition available, so my next task was to pick an anagram indicator. It was during this process that I realised the potential of the clue and actively set about looking for a suitable indicator and fitting “E” in some way to the end. Note that this type of thing (identifying the possibility of an &lit) happens relatively regularly but making it work isn’t easy and can take a lot of unrewarded time, so rather than ending up with something dodgy, a standard cryptic clue would be the usual result.
At one stage in my setting career I believed it wasn’t possible to intentionally set out to create an &lit and to some extent I think this is still true, however, as you can see from above, opportunities do arise, and perhaps with a great deal of persistence, something resembling an &lit could be created.
|Across||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Conventional mother isn’t changing a lot of sheets (10)||MA + anagram of ISNT + REAM|
|Drink a little nightcap or tonic (4)||nightcaP OR Tonic|
|People involved in trade protest damaged big shop (10,5)||MEN inside anagram of TRADE PROTEST|
|Difficult problems must upset person not working (8)||Anagram of MUST + (PERSON minus ON)|
|A geographical feature, part of Australian Desert (5)||australiAN DESert|
|Guide looked after source of disease mostly (6)||RAN + (GER)M|
|Chamber in motor is repositioned nicely around end of manifold right (8)||[Anagram of NICELY outside MANIFOL(D)] + R|
|Contact brought in for a minister (8)||REACH inside PER|
|Times invested in visionary crossword creator? (6)||(T x 2) inside SEER|
|Supply ecstasy and crack (5)||E + QUIP|
|They work on hot stuff about stage performers (8)||RE + ACTORS|
|Maker of coffee and cream in shop sees broadcast (8,7)||Anagram of CREAM IN SHOP SEES|
|Swell fellow behind contracted firm (4)||F after (SUR)E|
|Depth charge, way down, is glowing (10)||CAN + DESCENT|
|Down||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Mark creative writing with style (4)||M + ODE|
|Dysfunctional topic men dislike ultimately? (9)||Anagram of TOPIC MEN + DISLIK(E)|
|Ball carrier yielding to retreating group of forwards (5)||SCROTUM minus (TO reversed)|
|A couple of million invested in wine may be impacted (6)||(A + MM) inside RED|
|A refuge involved in gracious act of forgiveness (7)||A + (NEST inside MY)|
|Round enclosure in which animals could be seen long ago (2,3)||O + FOLD|
|Money handlers varied rates holding steady, right? (10)||Anagram of RATES outside (SURE + R)|
|A country area transporting in radioactive material (8)||A + (STATE outside IN)|
|Forecaster supports carrying these at sea (10)||PROPS outside anagram of THESE|
|They got away to visit the ladies involved in different cases (8)||PEE inside anagram of CASES|
|Tail docked of short dog (3)||CURT minus T|
|Come to a decision to put off excavation (9)||DETER + MINE|
|Continental land mass, close to Honolulu in area, is unsettled (7)||HONOLUL(U) inside anagram of AREA IS|
|Wounded major at the front prepared to shoot (6)||(M)AJOR + AIMED|
|Top meal lacking starter (5)||SUPPER minus S|
|Approaches assessment from a sound perspective (5)||Sounds like TAX|
|Punch, perhaps, not consumed (4)||Double Definition|