A little while back I invited all to accomplish something I wasn’t able to do at the time to my satisfaction – write an &lit clue. I’d done the first bit: worked out the base components and suggested a possible construction, but the final touches were needed (if possible) to create an acceptable &lit. The situation that I presented to you comes up relatively regularly during the course of setting crpytic clues, that is, components and construction options suggest that the right combination could lead to the holy grail of setting, a clue that is totally definition and at the same time, totally wordplay.
The tricky bit is getting it perfectly right. Some setters are happy with close enough, but it doesn’t take much for it to fall apart for me. If I can’t make it all work, I’ll move on, or use the bits I have and add a definition. Let’s recap: Our answer is SIEGE MENTALITY, and my suggested construction was: (MEN) inside an anagram of GET IT EASILY. In this case, the key word is (believe it or not) “it”, a word that can point the whole clue to a single concept. There was one attempt in particular, possibly spurred on by the self-confessed wimp, Greg, that I’d like to break down and assess. There are two essential elements that must be exactly right for the clue to work: the containment indicator, putting (MEN) inside, and the anagram indicator. The first one is easier, but still must convey the right “sense” otherwise the wordplay won’t offer enough to make the definition acceptable. The second is the anagram indicator, which for me, makes or breaks the clue, as again it has to convey the right “sense” AND be recognisable as a suitable anagram indicator. This last part is where I stumbled, not being able to find one word/term that I was happy does both jobs.
Here’s Steve’s clue:
People in the grip of it get easily alarmed (5,9)
Here the containment part “in the grip of” paints the perfect picture (better than the one I used in the final clue), a totally suitable term the describe a condition that’s mental. The anagram indicator, “alarmed”, while conveying the right sense in terms of the definition, is on the border as a proper anagram indicator IMO. It’s very close, and I have no doubt many solvers wouldn’t question it. Arthur questioned the whole thing as a viable definition of SIEGE MENTALITY, but I think it’s OK, not super-specific, but still with enough information do the job.
So a great effort, and one far superior to anything I’ve seen published locally.
I hope this exercise has also given some insight into what an &lit is, as understanding the concept isn’t as easy as it appears.