TCCCC3 Results from Michael Curl

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Bruce McKenzie

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Feb 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/12/99
to Lundon, James
Here are the results, as received from Michael Curl, the judge. Names
of team members are appended at the bottom of this message.

All puzzles and details are on view at

http://www.bigmultimedia.com/tcccc/tcccc3/

Many thanks to Michael Curl for judging the competition.


---------------------
Date sent: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 04:39:16 GMT
From: curl <edi...@thinks.com>
Subject: Re: Team Cryptic Xword Entries

------------------------------------------

General Review

I received seven competition entries for judging. They were identified
only as Puzzles 1 to 7, with no details of authorship. I'd like to
thank all the competitors for their excellent efforts, and to thank
Bruce McKenzie for acting as administrator.

The overall standard was very good, and picking a winner was a difficult
task. I was also daunted somewhat to be following in the footsteps of
Fraser Simpson, who judged TCCCC1, and Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon,
who judged TCCCC2.

Of course, when I learned that I was going to be judging TCCCC3, I
looked in the archive to see how my predecessors had approached the
task. I was particularly struck - not for the first time - with the
opinions on crossword style expressed by Emily and Henry, and how
closely they resemble my own, although we are working on opposite sides
of the Atlantic.

The features that I look for in a good crossword clue are:
1. Lexical correctness.
2. A surface that makes sense, and preferably that conjures up an
amusing picture.
3. Witty wordplay.
4. Simplicity rather than complexity.
5. Brevity rather than prolixity.
6. Adherence to Ximenean principles (except when they get in the way of
an otherwise brilliant clue).

Using these guidelines, and bearing in my mind that the winning entry
had to be suitable for publication in the Financial Times, the winner is
... Puzzle #4. Congratulations to the winning team, whoever you are.

To annotate each puzzle fully would require a book. Instead I have
singled out from each entry my favourite clue plus one or two other
clues
that provide topics for discussion. I have attempted to strike a
balance between praise for the clues I liked best and constructive
criticism of clues that I thought could be improved.

------------------------------------------

Puzzle #1

Favourite clue:

19A Masked one, sneaking inside, exploited previously vandalised digs
(9) = DISGUISED

A little on the wordy side, but all the parts fit together to give a
pleasing surface.

Clues for discussion:

11A Rarely seen: thorn crowns (9) = ENTHRONES

A good pithy clue. Plus points are the association of thorn (from the
anagram fodder) and crowns (as the definition), and the misdirection in
the verb 'crowns' masquerading as a noun.
However, I am not convinced that 'crowns' is a synonym of 'enthrones'!
It reminds me of the Shakespeare misquotation (by Sellars and Yeatman?)
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the throne".

13A Fraud to die down when new chief arrives (7) = SWINDLE

A good surface, and "when new chief arrives" is a neat way of saying
"when the initial letter is changed". But I don't think that this type
of
clue is sound unless the actual letter is specified. I'd be happier with
something like "when leader is replaced by head of security".

-----------------------------------------

Puzzle #2

Favourite clue:

1A Risking a punt might result in this good fortune (4,2,3,5)
= LUCK OF THE IRISH

The pun on 'punt' makes this an excellent clue.

Clues for discussion:

11A Review giving only partial approval to top-class girl (9)
= APPRAISAL

A good surface. I'm not happy with APPR being clued as "only partial
approval", but what really mars the clue for me is AI being clued as
top-class. I know that this convention is widely accepted, as is MI
being clued as 'motorway' (in British puzzles). 'I', being a Roman
numeral, may validly be clued as 'one', but the expressions A1 and M1
are NOT the same as AI and MI. Call me pernickety.

20A He's penned the longest possible sentence, he has (5) = LIFER

A very interesting clue, on a number of counts.

The notes provided with the clue claim that this is a double definition:
"he's penned" and "the longest ... he has". But the essence of a double
definition is surely that it refers to two distinct meanings, e.g. "Fat
goat" for "BUTTER.

The clue we have here is rather a "cryptic definition" type than a
"double definition" type, and contravenes the editorial guidelines for
the contest, which stated "No pun-only or quotation-only clues" and
"The two parts of a double definition should be etymologically
unrelated".

Another objection I have to this clue is that I share the view expressed
by Cox and Rathvon, in the results of the previous competition, with
respect to gender-neutral clues. This has nothing to do with feminism
or sexual politics, only with accuracy - there is no justification for
the use of the pronoun 'he', as it is quite possible for a lifer to be
female.

Having explained why the clue is unacceptable, I must admit that I found
it very entertaining!

------------------------------------------
Puzzle #3

Favourite clue:

29A To be able to tell stories is an essential feature of public life
(14) = ACCOUNTABILITY

I liked ACCOUNT ABILITY being clued as "To be able to tell stories",
though possibly "Being able ..." might have been better than "to be able
...".

Clue for discussion:

24D Raise your glasses to a good man! (5)

See the point above about gender-neutral cluing. A saint is not
necessarily a good man.

------------------------------------------
Puzzle #4

Favourite clue:

15D Ms Hudson sat out (9) = THOUSANDS

I think this was my overall favourite clue in the competition - it's
pithy and witty. Apart from the misdirection of the definition "Ms",
I liked the anagram indicator associating itself with part of the
anagram fodder in the verbal phrase "sat out". In my view this is a
perfect clue.

Clues for discussion:

20A Secretly record the French horn (5)

Another pleasing clue with entertaining word play. I wasn't sure at
first that 'horn' was a perfectly valid definition for 'bugle' but a
visit to the dictionary convinced me that it was OK.

16A Sings about spring growths (9) = SWELLINGS

A slight technical weakness here, I feel, though it may be nit-picking,
is that there is nothing in this clue for a plural word that could not
be applied to the singular: Sing about spring growth = SWELLING.

More of a weakness is the use of the word 'Sings' to clue SINGS.
Why not a synonym such as 'Warbles' or 'Carols'?

27A Organised workers discharged? (9)

I liked the clue 'discharged' for UN-IONISED (the question mark is, of
course, essential to indicate a nonce word).

However, as the clue stands, I can't understand how "organised workers"
works as a definition for UNIONISED. Am I missing something? Surely the
clue needs to be something like "Organised as workers may be
discharged".

------------------------------------------
Puzzle #5

Favourite clue:

28A Movie monster's night out (5) = THING

A very simple clue, that will be solved almost immediately, but
nevertheless should raise a smile. This is similar to my favourite in
Puzzle #4, in that the anagram indicator 'out' combines with the fodder
to give a unitary phrase "night out".

Clues for discussion:

27A Part of wife's plan: a delightful walk along the shore (9) =
ESPLANADE

One feature that I noticed in most of the competition entries was a
rather high proportion of 'hidden' clues. This was one of the better
ones, partly because this clue type is usually reserved for shorter
words. Here we have a 9-letter 'hidden' running through four words of
the clue, with a surface that reads quite smoothly.

I wonder, though, when a word ending ES was required why, of all the
words that could have been used, "wife's" was selected. A different
choice of word here (Crusoe's? Canute's?) might have been more apposite.
Also, the punctuation in the clue - the apostrophe and the colon - is a
technical weakness.

The surface reminds me of Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and The Carpenter,
and I wonder if it might be possible to rework the clue to suggest that
more strongly. Otherwise, how about a slight reworking to something
like "In Antibes plan a delightful walk along the shore"?

------------------------------------------
Puzzle #6

Favourite clue:

23D Diarist sneaks a look in your ear (5) = PEPYS

Another very easy clue - 'Diarist' is a dead giveaway - but very
pleasing. The number of homophone indicators is quite limited,
but "in your ear" is one of the less common ones and here it contributes
perfectly to the surface reading.

Clues for discussion:

10A Hurt at first, Americans cringed hearing erotic details (5)

Could this be referring to something topical?

27A Leading Italian Nationalist sporting red wig (9) = REPRIMAND

I would have preferred 'red' in the clue (duplicating the letters in the
solution) to be replaced by a word like 'colourful', 'scarlet' or
'auburn'. Otherwise this is a delightful clue. I like' Leading Italian'
for PRIMA, and especially the subterfuge in cluing 'reprimand' as 'wig'.
(For the benefit of non-Brits, 'wig' in this sense is old-fashioned
British slang).

------------------------------------------
Puzzle #7

Favourite clue:

3D Leaders of many emirates reside in the desert (5) = MERIT

Well, what do you know, once again my favourite clue is a simple one,
with a smooth surface, no words wasted, and involving a pun. Do you see
a pattern emerging?

Clue for discussion:

10A Even Gump appears superior (5) = UPPER

I have already commented on the high proportion of 'hidden' clues in the
competition entries. There were also several clues, like this one,
using
the odd or even letters type of clue. For some reason I rarely come
across this type of clue in my normal crossword fare, and I have never
used it in my own crosswords - until now! This has been an educational
exercise for me.

9D Behind each end of a car (6) = BUMPER

This is a clue for a Private Eye crossword. For a normal newspaper
crossword, 'bum' must be defined as 'hobo' or 'vagrant'.

------------------------------------------

The winning crossword will appear in the Financial Times. I don't yet
know exactly when, but it will most probably be round about April. I
will
post to the newsgroup when I have a definite publication date.

Michael Curl
Publisher & Editor
Thinks.com - the brain games, puzzles and pastimes website
http://thinks.com

Adam King

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Feb 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/12/99
to
What is your justification for insisting on genderless pronouns?
Besides the fact that the Telegraph and (I think) The Times use 'he' for a
word ending in '-er' all the time, which I admit does not mean it's OK, is
it not the case that 'he' actually MEANS he/her (albeit in a rather
old-fashoined way)?

Apart from that, I wish all crossword setters were as obsessively pedantic
as you!
If you'll excuse my ignorance, what are 'Ximenean principles'? anyone...?

and

P & J Biddlecombe

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Feb 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/12/99
to
In article <7a1keo$ch8$1...@news4.svr.pol.co.uk>, Adam King <adamking@ottff
ssent.freeserve.co.uk> writes (in part)

>If you'll excuse my ignorance, what are 'Ximenean principles'? anyone...?

Strictly: the principles set out by 'Ximenes' in his book 'Ximenes on
the Art of the Crossword'. Loosely: 'fair dealing' in clue writing.

Ximenes was the predecessor of Azed in the Observer. More importantly
for this explanation, he was also the successor of 'Torquemada', the
strongest contender for the title 'inventor of cryptic crosswords'. Most
of Torquemada's puzzles would nowadays be considered unfair, as well as
extremely difficult. After a few years of setting puzzles in the same
style, Ximenes decided to make things fairer.

You're unlikely to find a copy of the book - it's been of print for most
of the 33 years since it was published. Some of the material in Don
Manley's "Chambers Crossword Manual" will show you the principles that
'Ximenean' setters try to stick to.

Peter Biddlecombe
--
Peter & Jacqueline Biddlecombe (pete&j...@biddlecombe.demon.co.uk)
['pet...@biddlecombe.demon.co.uk' also works if the ampersand causes trouble]
Web site: http://www.biddlecombe.demon.co.uk

Michael Curl

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Feb 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/17/99
to

Adam King wrote >...

>What is your justification for insisting on genderless pronouns?
>Besides the fact that the Telegraph and (I think) The Times use 'he' for a
>word ending in '-er' all the time, which I admit does not mean it's OK, is
>it not the case that 'he' actually MEANS he/her (albeit in a rather
>old-fashoined way)?


I take your point that the pronoun 'he' may be understood as meaning he/her.
But I think that when defining a noun, such as 'lifer' which has no
connotations of masculinity 'he' is best avoided. It's a preference rather
than an absolute rule - and, in fact I did admit that I liked the clue in
question!

But what I regard as utterly beyond the pale is, for example, STRUM being
given a clue like "Good man takes a drink ...".

>If you'll excuse my ignorance, what are 'Ximenean principles'? anyone...?


Peter Biddlecombe has already replied on this topic. So I will simply add
that 'Ximenean principles' may be summed up as 'scrupulous fairness in
clueing'. You can find out more about Ximenes and his importance in the
history of the cryptic crossword on Derek Harrison's website at
http://home.freeuk.net/dharrison/ximenes/index.htm


Michael Curl
Editor, Thinks.com
The brain games, puzzles and pastimes website
http://thinks.com


P & J Biddlecombe

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Feb 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/17/99
to
In article <7aefd6$foo$1...@plutonium.btinternet.com>, Michael Curl
<cu...@btinternet.com> writes

>I take your point that the pronoun 'he' may be understood as meaning he/her.
>But I think that when defining a noun, such as 'lifer' which has no
>connotations of masculinity 'he' is best avoided. It's a preference rather
>than an absolute rule - and, in fact I did admit that I liked the clue in
>question!
>

There's another approach to this problem, which I've seen used in Times
puzzles occasionally, and which successfully threw me right off the
scent the first few times I came across it.
Once in a while, clues like our one for LIFER (not written by me as it
happens) are converted so that SHE, rather than HE, is used as a pronoun
for the word in question. So the clue in question would have been
"She's penned the longest possible sentence, she has".

Bruce McKenzie

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Feb 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/18/99
to
How do you pronounce "Ximenean"?

Bruce


Michael Curl wrote:

> Adam King wrote >...
> >What is your justification for insisting on genderless pronouns?
> >Besides the fact that the Telegraph and (I think) The Times use 'he' for a
> >word ending in '-er' all the time, which I admit does not mean it's OK, is
> >it not the case that 'he' actually MEANS he/her (albeit in a rather
> >old-fashoined way)?
>

> I take your point that the pronoun 'he' may be understood as meaning he/her.
> But I think that when defining a noun, such as 'lifer' which has no
> connotations of masculinity 'he' is best avoided. It's a preference rather
> than an absolute rule - and, in fact I did admit that I liked the clue in
> question!
>

> But what I regard as utterly beyond the pale is, for example, STRUM being
> given a clue like "Good man takes a drink ...".
>
> >If you'll excuse my ignorance, what are 'Ximenean principles'? anyone...?
>
> Peter Biddlecombe has already replied on this topic. So I will simply add
> that 'Ximenean principles' may be summed up as 'scrupulous fairness in
> clueing'. You can find out more about Ximenes and his importance in the
> history of the cryptic crossword on Derek Harrison's website at
> http://home.freeuk.net/dharrison/ximenes/index.htm
>
> Michael Curl
> Editor, Thinks.com

> The brain games, puzzles and pastimes website
> http://thinks.com


P & J Biddlecombe

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Feb 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/19/99
to
In article <36CCA5AB...@bigmultimedia.com>, Bruce McKenzie
<mcke...@bigmultimedia.com> writes

>How do you pronounce "Ximenean"?
>
>Bruce
>

If you were following proper Spanish principles then I think you would
say something like "Himanayan". I'd say "Zimanayan", and I think I have
heard others pronounce it this way. Using a 'Z' sound certainly seems to
be the norm when saying 'Ximenes'.

Peter

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