Friday, February 8, 2013

Shaken, not stirred (Puzzle No. 3,271)

I'm not as obsessive about it as James Bond, but I do prefer my martinis shaken, not stirred; and yes, the "two twists" in my nom are also from my martini preference.  Just as there is an art to mixing a cocktail, there's an art to creating a good anagram for a cryptic crossword.  Go over and read this week's Word Salad installment for Hot and Trazom's observations.

Anagram clues are easy to construct, but that makes it easy for fair to middling constructors to rely too heavily on them.  Anagrams are also the most common way to clue real long entries such as you often see in British cryptics.  There the good clues are one where the anagram has some logical connection to the theme of the puzzle.  If I find one that's especially clever, I'll call it out in an In the Pink post.

For a short anagram clue to be rewarding to the solver, it has to have an element of misdirection: either wordplay carefully chosen to look like a charade or other type of non-anagram clue, an unusual indicator, preferably one related to the contents of the anagram, or such a nice fit between definition and wordplay that the clue reads very naturally, which can be a misdirection in its own way.

Otherwise, anagram clues usually make a puzzle easier to solve, especially in the internet age where we have tools like the Internet Anagram Server.  Before (and when I'm trying to challenge myself by avoiding computer assistance), I'd get out my Scrabble tiles when a particular anagram proved too tough to crack on inspection.  I'l bet more than a few of you did that too.

Finally, we should note a different species of anagram clue: the "Puns and Anagrams" style.  In this style, the anagram indicator is omitted, but the anagram mix is short enough and stands out enough to be readily distinguishable.  I don't know whether ir originated here or in Great Britain, but it's considered fair game in British cryptic practice.  In the U.S. these clues are given their own special puzzles, especially in the New York Times, but are against the unwritten rules of straight cryptic crosswording.  Puns and Anagrams are a pleasant quickie for the experienced cryptic solver, and a gateway drug for the straight crossword fan.  

Link to puzzle

Hozom's comment: Mixing it up, in which Hot and Trazom talk about the fine points of anagramming.

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): medium to hard

Need hints?  Got a gripe about the cluing?  Comments are open below.

Solution and full annotation will be published Monday.

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