Crossword Grumble

Just a quick grouchy post about crosswords. The results of Azed No. 2006 “Spoonerisms” have been published. Once again, I drew a blank in the setting competition, although I did at least solve the puzzle correctly. This is one of Azed’s “funnies” in that the clues either contain a spoonerism in the definition part or indicate a spoonerism of the answer to be entered in the grid. You can find a full analysis of the clues and their solutions here.

Azed’s Spoonerism puzzles are apparently very popular with solvers. I found the puzzle mildly diverting, but I didn’t enjoy this one very much, as most of the spoonerisms were either very obvious or a bit dodgy. I don’t think MAO TOAST is a spoonerism of OUTMOST, for example; surely that would have to be something like TAO MOST?

Anyway, that’s not the origin of my gripe. The clue writing competition required a clue for the word “GROAN” incorporating a spoonerism in the definition. The winning clue, as judged by Azed, was the following:

See king crowned, grand on horse, organ playing some allegro anthems

The spoonerism here is “see king crowned” for “creaking sound” (i.e. the groan associated with a ship’s timbers, etc). However, in my opinion, the vowel sounds here simply don’t work: the “ee” in “see king” isn’t the same as the “ea” in “creaking”, and the stress pattern is different too – “see king” has evenly stressed syllables whereas “creaking” has a stress on the first syllable.

On top of the problematic spoonerism, this clue has no less than three cryptic indications – G+ROAN (grand on horse), an anagram of “ORGAN” indicated by “playing”, and a hidden word “some alleGRO AN thems”.

I quote Azed’s own opinion:

A good cryptic clue contains three elements:

1. a precise definition
2. a fair subsidiary indication
3. nothing else

It doesn’t say three subsidiary indications! I’ve noticed that the winning Azed competition clues often have multiple cryptic parts, so obviously Azed is more lenient than I would be. I just don’t like clues that hedge their bets. Three weak cryptic allusions aren’t as good as one clever one.

Just my opinion, of course…

For what it’s worth, my failed attempt at GROAN was

Seeking crowned King’s leg over one

I think “seeking” is better than “see king” for the reasons I described above, but I admit the cryptic part is questionable – King is “GR”, the apostrophe is short for “has”, and “leg over one” is O(A)N with leg referring to the cricketing expression.

Anyway, gripe over. I’ll get my coat.


4 Responses to “Crossword Grumble”

  1. The creaking sound you can hear is from my brain working overtime without lubrication. I think this is a much better clue than the winners. It makes as much sense as a Spoonerism can. Wouldnt have got the cricketing bit though. I fully expected to see yr name in the Slip. I didnt really expect so see mine, with a really dodgy phonetic twist, which might just work depending what part of the country one is from. Also too alliterate. For your interest (or not) – ‘Bally Eck, Nora Batty. By gum!]
    Dont give up the day job!

  2. telescoper Says:

    I’m not sure about it being better than the winners – although I did like a lot of the VHCs. I thought about doing something with Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan which some of them did.

    I much prefer clues with a reasonable surface reading, which doesn’t seem to be high on Azed’s list of priorities. Some of the winning entries are very clever in their wordplay but don’t actually make sense.

  3. However, in my opinion, the vowel sounds here simply don’t work: the “ee” in “see king” isn’t the same as the “ea” in “creaking”,

    Presumably, this depends on dialect. Think of the poem Molly Malone where the rhyming scheme works in an Irish accent.

    • I’d be surprised if any English speaker, regardless of dialect, really thinks that “See king” is spoken the same way as “seeking”…

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