I recently constructed two special bumper cryptics for the Australian Financial Review. The second, for New Year, was a jigsaw where answers had to be fitted into a grid with no numbers. Sounds terrifying, but I’m not totally heartless – the first letters of the answers were given that spelled out a phrase related to the season. Filling such a grid requires much time and patience, as I must fit together a set of words where their first letters match the phrase, being careful not to include any ambiguous answers – those that could fit in more than one place in the final crossword. With such a fill, I’m sometimes forced reluctantly to use terms that I wouldn’t normally, but there are always methods to ease the pain in these clues. It appears I misjudged the acceptability of the term RAP SHEET, a solely American term, which caused at least one solver to post on my blog. I’m passionate about what I do and never take anything for granted, so thought about how and why I included the term and whether I was justified in doing so.
Strangely my thoughts went back to a recent Insight on abbreviations, which essentially discussed whether is was Ok to use abbreviations that are common in some quarters but not in the dictionary. I see RAP SHEET as similar in that the term appears in US crime/police procedural dramas in almost every episode, yet is never used in conversation here in Australia. So, for those like me who like watching this genre, RAP SHEET is very familiar. Some dictionaries list it, but not all, and those that do note that it is purely an American term. As I thought more about this, I realised that there are lots of terms we get from overseas shows and media that are familiar even though we don’t use them and they may not be in our dictionaries. Grand jury, DA (District Attorney), slang terms for jail, street gang slang etc: are these terms valid fodder for an Australian cryptic (as the AFR one is)? Am I assuming too much when using these terms?