Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beyond Spoonerisms (Puzzle No. 3,304)

I was going to carp about rebus clues this week, but Hot and Trazom followed up on my Spoonerism comments from last week in Word Salad, so I’ll postpone the comments I was planning and continue the colloquy instead.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate to hard.  The fours go down easy, and many solvers should be able to fill the grid, but some of the clues aren’t very easy to work out.

Hozom’s comment: Spooner and Company, in which Hot and Trazom bemoan the problem mentioned here last week--while Spoonerisms are fabulous wordplay, constructors have no devious ways to indicate them.  And if you can’t be devious, half the fun of cryptics is gone.

As I said last week, one option might be to make Spoonerisms the theme of a puzzle, in which case you could get away with omitting (or implying) the indicator.  But you’ve got to be in a puzzle venue where you’re not always expected to be by the book (see for example the The Nation cryptic versus the National Post cryptic).  I know from having written a monthly editorial for the train riders’s newsletter in Philadelphia, that if you’ve got a regular writing gig of some sort, you always have a few ideas simmering in the back of your mind or (if you’re more organized than me) on paper somewhere.  Then as more pieces come to you, the concept (or the themework of the puzzle) is fleshed out and you’re ready to finish it for publication.

You can also twist the concept of the Spoonerism like we saw in Puzzle No. 3,302, where Hot and Trazom switched the endings to clue FIRMWARE as FIRE WARM.  Interestingly, that word could have worked just as well as a conventional Spoonerism* (I’m thinking clues like “dead and buried”). But the concept of the wordplay was novel enough that it made me ponder the clue a while even though there was no misdirection in the indicator at all.  

So that suggests that other variants on the Spoonerism could be just as effective, like trading two specific named letters in the fodder, a two-for-two swap, or indicating the swap by position.  Maybe we’ll see some of these in a future puzzle.

*--and thinking about that, I’m going to ditch that symbol I put in the last two annotations to indicate a Spoonerism: we have perfectly good braces ( {{ and }} ) to annotate them.

Back with the solution and annotation to The Nation puzzle No. 3,304 on Monday.  Join us for Sunday brunch this weekend and every weekend.

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