Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fifteens and fours (Puzzle No. 3,299)

Hex had a very unique grid for their National Post cryptic last weekend.  Never seen anything like it before.  The top row and bottom row each were comprised of three four-letter words, and in between were six fifteen-letter words.

There wasn’t a theme or anything else tying them together, just the novelty of having so many long entries to grid and to solve.  So I liked it even though some of the fifteens were obvious anagrams which made the downs very easy.

Real long answers can lend themselves to really boring wordplay or to really fun wordplay.  I imagine the difference is in whether you start with the answer and try to fit wordplay to it or come up with a great piece of wordplay and then work it into an answer.

The Brits have a good way to bring long answers into a cryptic, and Frank Lewis made good use of it sometimes in The Nation.  That is to use phrases rather than one long word.  It gives the constructor some more flexibility in the length of the total answer and also makes the grid easier because you don’t have to have another long entry for proper symmetry.  Click over to the Financial Times if you want to see (and solve) some examples.  The puzzles are hard for most American solvers, but you can also just browse through and look at the solutions to the long answers to see (and learn from) the wordplay.

I don’t know whether it’s codified or not, but there’s definitely a rule where when a phrase-type answer is spread across two lights in the grid, the break between the lights goes at a break between words in the answer.  On the other hand, they don’t require the components to be adjacent or symmetric(*), though the good constructors do it frequently: especially for a two-word phrase.

Nothing longer in it than nine letters, but this week’s The Nation puzzle is themed: with eleven of the sixteen acrosses (a nice bundle) being theme answers and a twelfth(#) telling you what the theme is.  Hot and Trazom managed to put all twelve into symmetric lights.  Pretty good.

Puzzle No. 3,299

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): mostly easy, as a result of the themework.

Hozom’s comment: Double Talk, in which Hot and Trazom discuss double-definition clues, and we learn that there are actually some important rules that constructors should try to follow when picking answers to clue this way.

Back on Monday with the solution (and maybe some triple talk in the annotation).  Join us for Sunday brunch this weekend and every weekend!

*--though you’d better make your theme answers symmetric and fill all the long spaces in at least one direction with them if you want to sell a themed straight crossword to the New York Times.

#--which reminds me that you’d also better put the theme-explaining answer in the center or at the end of the puzzle (or in the last long light) if you want to sell that puzzle to the Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're responding to a hint request, please remember not to give more information than necessary. More direct hints are allowed after Monday.