Beware! by Mitz
+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +
The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.
Following closely on the heels of Axolotl, here is the third puzzle from Mitz. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.
If you have a puzzle you would like to see published here then why not write to me, using the contact page.
A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.
Welcome back to Mitz with another cracking crossword. This one contained a very long anagram which was expertly composed to give the impression of the Jabberwocky. Using long anagrams like this is a perfectly acceptable ploy for the setter but solvers are split over whether or not they like them. The difficulty is that you either spot the anagram very early on and have lots of checking letters for the remainder of the crossword making it much easier to solve or you cannot spot the anagram and you spend ages trying to get enough cross-checking letters to make sense of it which reduces some of the enjoyment of solving. I was fortunate with this crossword in that seeing the title and the first words of the clue, I immediately knew what the answer was before I had even solved the other clues. I did not even bother to check that the anagram was correct.
1/1D/19D/8/23 Opening lines of strange verse on bid by slightly wild animal with dead big teeth? Nonsense! (4,7,3,3,6,5,3,4,3,6,2,3,4)
TWAS BRILLIG, AND THE SLITHY TOVES DID GYRE AND GIMBLE IN THE WABE – An anagram (nonsense) of STRANGE VERSE ON BID BY SLIGHTLY WILD ANIMAL WITH DEAD BIG TEETH.
9 Leaves site with 10 mistakes (5)
EXITS – An anagram (mistakes) of SITE X (10). Whilst using abbreviations in anagrams is acceptable, the requirement here to translate from 10 to X as part of the anagram fodder brings this just to the wrong side of an indirect anagram for me.
10 It’s eerily quiet, backing opponents too much after good sense of humour is lost (5,4)
GHOST TOWN – An anagram (is lost) of GSOH (the abbreviation for GSOH) followed by a reversal (backing) of NW (opponents in a game of bridge) and OTT (too much). The use of the abbreviation for GSOH is fine as the anagram fodder as the letters to be rearranged come directly from the full expression.
11 Set off without the paper, showing delicacy (5,5)
LIGHT TOUCH – Remove the paper from “Light Touchpaper” – an instruction to set off a firework perhaps.
12 Award try, no good (4)
GONG – A word meaning a try or shot at something followed by the abbreviation for No Good.
14 Multi-bet Andrew placed for someone high up (7)
TIBETAN – The answer is hidden in (placed) MULTI-BET ANDREW. As a minor point, it is far better to use the present tense for wordplay elements where possible as the words continue to place the answer rather than this having happened in the past. A similar point occurs in 24a where described is used in the sense of a containment indicator where the present tense describes would be better.
16 Country beauty generously proportioned, but without personal hygiene issue by the sound of it! (7)
BELGIUM – A homophone (by the sound of it) of belle (beauty) jum[bo] (generously proportioned with the body odour – personal hygiene issue). For a homophone clue to expect the solver to get from generously proportioned to jumbo then remove the BO and then make a homophone of the remaining letters is too many steps to make this a fair process.
17 Hogwash oddly blanked out after unknown arrangement of devil’s nettles (7)
YARROWS – The even letters (oddly blanked out) of hOgWaSh after Y (unknown) and the abbreviation for arrangement. A minor point but wordplay of definition is frowned upon by some editors. Definition of wordplay is acceptable.
19 Point of French setter is in a state (7)
DECIMAL – The French for of followed by the abbreviation for California (state) inside which you add a contraction for “setter is”.
20 Chronic fatigue found in working situation – not necessarily a good sign (4)
OMEN – A word describing the situation of something that is working inside which you add the abbreviation for chronic fatigue syndrome.
21 A new international hotel in ruins previously pronounced in Delhi (10)
HINDUSTANI – The abbreviation for hotel followed by the IN from the clue, another word meaning ruins followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviations for New and International. The previously tells us that the wordplay for “hotel in ruins” comes first in the answer.
24 Lament described worker living initially with grace (9)
ELEGANTLY – Another word for a poetic lament goes around (described) another word for an insect worker and the first letter (initially) of living.
25 It takes daughter 10 to show ass (5)
IDIOT – Inside (takes) the IT from the clue add the abbreviation for daughter and an IO (10).
26 Pounds can be won in transactions here (6,2,6)
BUREAU DE CHANGE – Where you could change pounds sterling into North or South Korean Won. As a general rule, it acceptable to capitalise a common noun as part of the wordplay to mislead but not to put a proper noun into lowercase! Don’t ask me why!
1 See 1 Across
2 Maturing drink in silver case (5)
AGING – An alcoholic drink inside the chemical symbol for silver.
3 “Good,” states small French comedian in terminus (3,7)
BUS STATION – The French word for good holds (in) an abbreviation for the United States, the abbreviation for small and the name of a French comedian. Although we have French in the clue to qualify the comedian, I don’t think that this is sufficient to indicate that the French for good is also used.
4 I go on without a squabble; not starting like a painful extremity (7)
INGROWN – The I from the clue, a three letter word meaning to go or pester without the A, a word meaning squabble and the first letter (starting) of not.
5 3 on 29 born of fierce parents! (4,3)
LION CUB – The chemical symbol for the 3rd element (Lithium) in the periodic table followed by the ON from the clue, the chemical symbol for the 29th element (Copper) and the abbreviation for born. I wonder how fair is it to expect solvers to know the position in the periodic table of the elements without any indication of what the numbers relate to? I think child of fierce parents would be better as a definition here.
6 Someone dressed in black understood heroin (4)
GOTH – A three letter word meaning understood followed by the abbreviation of heroin.
7 Stupid goon – smile for selfie, for example (9)
NEOLOGISM – An anagram (stupid) of GOON SMILE.
8 See 1 Across
13 Tradesman Mick’s a mess, devouring classic sandwich, hot? On the contrary! (10)
BLACKSMITH – The abbreviation for a classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich holds an anagram (mess) of MICKS A followed by the abbreviation for hot. The on the contrary tells us that the wordplay order for including one element inside the other is reversed from how it reads in the clue.
15 Charge suitor without detailed statement (9)
BORDEREAU – Another word for a suitor goes around (without) a word for a charge.
18 Carefully applied pressure to small break – you texted at last (7)
SHIATSU – The abbreviation for small (already used in 3d) followed by a word for a break or rupture in part of the body with the U (you texted) moved to the end (at last). I am in two minds about whether or not X at last is a sufficiently strong indicator to move the U to the end where it also is a simple positional indicator.
19 See 1 Across
22 Significant heart of Mr Spock, say (5)
ALIEN – The central letters (heart) of SALIENT (significant).
23 See 1 Across
Bits and pieces clues
One of the tools in the setter’s armoury is to build up clues from bits and pieces of other words. Those bits and pieces can be made up in a number of different ways:
- If you use abbreviations, they should be generally recognised abbreviations in a major dictionary. The primary reference is Chamber’s dictionary. For example (using an earlier Rookie Corner crossword, Holiday for H would not be acceptable but Husband for H would be).
- The abbreviation should stand in its own right. RAF means Royal Air Force, but this does not mean that the setter can use Royal to indicate the letter R or A for air. However, F for force is acceptable as F = Force is an accepted abbreviation in its own right.
- One of the problems with building up clues with abbreviations is that it is very easy to repeat wordplay elements in the crossword by, for example, using small to indicate S twice in the same crossword. Care is needed to avoid repetition.
- I believe that the Times particularly has a restricted list of abbreviations that it permits in crosswords. I can see the advantages of this as it introduces greater discipline for setters to ensure that they do not include too many abbreviations and it benefits the solver as there are some very obscure abbreviations – if solving a crossword would you know that Deputy to the Dail is abbreviated TD?
- If you are using abbreviations as part of the letters to be included in an anagram, it is best practice only to use abbreviations that are directly represented by the letters of the expanded version – G[ood] S[ense] O[f] H[umour] is fine but Entropy for S would not.
- To many abbreviations and bits and pieces clues can make the crossword feel too scrappy.
Initial letters / final letters / centre letters, etc
- If you want to start a war between different solvers and setters, this is a fertile battle ground. The way in which you can indicate the opening or closing letters of a word is subject to a wide range of opinions.
- Those who believe that the cryptic instructions in the clue should give a grammatical set of instructions to solving the clue will take a far stricter view of how such letters should be indicated than those who believe that so long as the intention of the clue is clear, the strict grammatical reading of the clue should not restrict how the letter is clued.
- The strict view is that, for example, to clue the first letter of the word, you should use a construction such as start of X or X starts. Clues such as “first person”, “start panting”, “begin painting” or “leading parliamentarians” would not be allowed to clue the letter P as grammatically these do not indicate the initial letter of the word even if they give the sense of the first letter. Similarly middle man would not be allowed to clue A as the central letter of man. Other setters and solvers would be happy to accept the less grammatical constructions.
- Other letter indicators include words such as initially or finally can be used fairly and the only problem with them is that they are hackneyed by overuse!
- Constructions such as French leader are acceptable as this means leader of the French. However, Silly leader would be more questionable as this does not mean leader of the silly!
- A curious construction that all seem to accept is an indicator such as “a bit of cake” to indicate the letter C. Expressions such as this do not actually tell you which bit of the word you use but the accepted convention is that it refers to the first letter unless you use an expression such as last bit of cake!
- Another form of construction that can cause disputes the use of words ending in head to indicate the first letter of the word – examples include “Gateshead”, “Redhead”, “Egghead”. Even if they do not grammatically indicate the first letter of a word, they are clear and will frequently appear in crosswords.
- If you are using an indicator for the centre of a word, you must make sure that you are using the central letters. Centre of gravity is the letter V. You could not use this to indicate AV, though AVI would be acceptable.
- Some clues require you take the alternate letter of a word. The are usually indicated by words such as regularly, on a regular basis, oddly overlooked, second helpings from, etc.
- Conventionally, this construction is used for either the odd or the even letters but there is no reason why “regular” could not mean every third letter. Some editors will not allow this form of construction though. I have also seen indicators to tell you to take the letters representing prime number letters (prime examples of…) or to use progressively increasing intervals of the letters so that you take the 2, 4, 8 letters, etc.
- One point to watch is that it is better to use a construction such as X regularly rather than regular X as grammatically this makes better sense of the clue.