The Stickler Weekly Insights 187 – Hidden Treasure?


One thing I really like about crossword blogs, and particularly this one where there are serious solvers who take the time to be constructive, is that they give setters like me the opportunity to work solvers out. Every week I give you the task of working me out, but I don’t get as much of an opportunity to learn about how solvers tackle my clues. The more I know, the better my crosswords will be for you. Take last week’s most talked about clue in The Stickler Weekly 187, 20-down: Respect India’s crossword setter? (6) There were a number of different reactions, all providing me with insight into the people who posted comments. More than one mentioned that there was no indicator – I have never written a clue that needs an indicator without one, demonstrating, perhaps, that some setters don’t always use indicators and this practice has, wrongly, legitimacy in some solvers’ minds. Here is my blurb on hidden-type clues – I don’t write them like most other setters, believing a hidden-type clue should have the same two-part independence that other cryptic clues have. Another said that some setters use extra words in hiddens to make them read better – that’s just poor form and unacceptable in a Stickler crossword. Regular solvers, in my mind, would know this and look beyond what their brains are telling them and explore further. This tells me something about solvers: I should constantly reinforce the fundamentals in clues to make it clear what I believe is Ok and not. Here is my blurb on the use of “?”. It’s a grey area simply because I don’t think setters in general know how to use them properly and consistently. I never waver, yet in this clue the use of a question mark clearly caused confusion or at least didn’t have the effect that I intended it to have. There’s something else about this clue that some seem to have missed: the “‘s” in “India’s”. As a hidden-type clue it’s totally unnecessary to put it in UNLESS it has a purpose. It’s quite common for apostrophes, dashes, capital letters etc to be used in the fodder of the hidden word to disguise its presence (as I’ve also done here), but not in this part of the clue, so what is its role? For me, for “crossword” to operate as an indicator it has to point to part of RESPECT INDIA, so here the “‘s” is possessive. In other words, I’m asking for a word that crosses RESPECT and INDIA.

A couple of people quietly praised the clue which raises a smile as I know and they know there’s a simple but devious device at play.

The Stickler

Please spread the word
A question mark has been used to indicate "language abuse", that is, a word or words in a clue are used in a technically incorrect way, but the meaning can be still inferred.

Example: A indeed (?) could mean to insert A inside deed.

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3 Responses to The Stickler Weekly Insights 187 – Hidden Treasure?

  1. Richard Sternes says:

    Like this David.
    Surprised how early were the two referenced above.
    Past Tutorials do tend to become lost in Mists of Time!!!

  2. Arthur Maynard says:

    David I still don’t buy imagined apostrophe (to get possessive) + “crossword” as an indicator of a hidden clue. I suspect that the majority of your solvers would have the same difficulty.

    I can see how the ? works and that satisfied me as having to look further into the clue.

    I would have great difficulty in explaining this hidden indicator to experienced solvers let alone learners. I wanted to check this with my group of average and advanced solvers yesterday, but ran out of time. Perhaps next week.

    I suspect that the majority of your solvers are somewhat perplexed by the issue, as many may have just got the answer without checking the parsing. Greg C last week is a case in point.

    I commented on the introduction of additional words to complete a phrase or sentence. I drew this from my research before I started to teach.

    I have no issues with
    She is in the Apollonian mountains (4)
    Apolllonia is also a name but it is too long.
    The only purpose of “mountains” is to complete a sentence. There are numerous examples of this in a variety of crosswords – not always the ones we see in the popular press.

    None the less the blogs you have cited are instructive, and will be useful in future solving.

    So thank you for the continuing education – I still have a lot to learn and not too many years to do it in.

    I must add my praise for your ongoing work to enlighten us through blogs, and the effort which will be involved in converting a mass of material to a new format with indexation. Wow!