The Stickler Weekly Insights 203 – Double Trouble

A few weeks ago, regular blogger, Arthur, made a comment about this Stickler Weekly 202 clue, 3-down: Add to reference book, except for the beginning and end (6).

He had “solved” the clue (or so he thought) in a different way than was intended, that is, he was able to construct the answer using the wordplay to a point where he was satisfied (almost) with the outcome. The only problem was that his solving method left a couple of words unused:

He read “except (for) the beginning, and end.” as the wordplay, “except” was abbreviated to EX, “the beginning” became T and END was in the clear.  “reference book” was unresolved, and the “for” in the clue unaccounted for.

There are a couple of things about Arthur’s approach that are un-Stickler like, but obviously not un-Arthur like (no criticism intended), which made me think about ambiguity in clues and whether it matters that the solver interprets a clue in a way that is contrary to how the setter would write it. I try to be totally consistent with my setting in order to make life easier for solvers, but that consistency isn’t necessarily that obvious. Some things in clueing that other setters do, I would never do, but solvers who solve many different crosswords collect multiple clueing concepts of which mine is just a subset. In Arthur’s interpretation, for instance, “the beginning” equates to “T”, the sort of equation solvers have never seen in a Stickler Weekly. From my side of the fence, I get surprised when such comments are made as they are just not my style and to me that’s obvious. I understand that solvers may have broader acceptance of such things: I guess I feel surprised because I expect solvers to know me and my style, although, of course, I’m just one setter of many that solvers are likely to be exposed to. I’m constantly mixed up with “DS” in the Fairfax papers and don’t understand how that could be. If a solver had done just one Stickler crossword they would know instantly that we are nothing alike, wouldn’t they?

Interestingly the ambiguity Arthur highlighted reminded me of two clues that appeared in the Australian Crossword Club‘s monthly publication, CroZworld, in November 2001.

Here are the two clues:
1 across Reconstruct: foster natural landscape (6)
followed directly by:
7 across Reconstruct: foster natural landscape (9)

(Past copies of CroZworld are available free here)

I know it’s hard to “cold solve”, but have a go at working these two out (answers at the end). Here the setter has intentionally tried to write two clues the same but with different answers. Take off the length designators and you have a totally ambiguous clue with two explainable answers. I’m not sure how this came about, I suspect it started by accident to some extent, but it’s a pretty rare thing.

For those who are interested, I do have a really good memory, and, while I couldn’t remember the clues or the date of publication, I did recall the first name of the setter who used to be a member of the club, so was able to track down the clues. Crosswords and clues are like that: the special ones ring a bell, the rest tend to all blend into one.

The Stickler

[Answers: 1 across: FOREST (anagram of FOSTER), 7 across: REARRANGE (REAR + RANGE)]

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2 Responses to The Stickler Weekly Insights 203 – Double Trouble

  1. Arthur Maynard says:

    In my “pre-Stickler” days I would not even have asked the question. When you grow up on Cryptics from magazines, and daily newspapers, you accept some poor clueing as the norm. It is hard to break the habit. But the perceived extra words in the clue had me puzzled, and I eventually worked through it.

    It emphasises the need to parse the solution to make sure it satisfies the clue entirely.

    The lack of reliable setters is another issue. I believe most Stickler followers share my low opinion of most of the readily available material. Even the Guardian setters cannot always be relied on.

    So I hope David will continue with his crosswords and blogs which provide an opportunity to learn, and to test our understanding.

    The two clues above set an interesting challenge – Initially my mind refused to accept that both could be valid. There must be a mistake. And there was no error.

  2. Greg Mansell says:

    The SMH cryptics (Mon-Thu & Sat) have too many clues which I regard as clunky. There’s no way that they could be mistaken for a Stickler. And then there’s Friday’s DA, which has too many clues which are impossible to solve via the wordplay – which is very non-Stickleresque.
    I love the pair of clues above. I particularly like that the definitions are at opposite ends.