Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—The Winner

It is time to announce the winner of my First Anniversary Virtual Hunt 2008...

And the person who wins the title of Freak Hunter and RM100 prize is (drums rolling...):


Applause please!!!... *clap clap clap*


She performed as follows:

Q1-1; Q2-10; Q3-1; Q4-10; Q5-8; Q6-10; Q7-8 for a total of 48/70 points

She went through a bit of rough rides during the earlier part of the hunt. For some strange reasons, she was unable to figure out Q1 for a long time, in fact she did not submit the answer for Q1 until I have posted Q5. She rebounded very quickly for Q2, only to go into some anxious moments again for Q3. Although she was finally able to submit the correct answer for Q3 way after midnight, many other participants had submitted the correct answer by then. She was therefore only able to earn 1 point for Q3. After that she practically bulldozed her way through to the end.

The other 4 people at the top are:

2) CHONG VOON KIAT - 34/70

3) CHAN HENG CHEW - 29/70

4) MARGARET SHA - 23/70

5) LIONG CHIAN MIN - 21/70

Special mention to honour the PERFECT SOLVERS (In order of scores):




1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Search For Half Of Cryptic Clue

In Q6 we have seen the idea of a Double Jeopardy (DJ). To repeat, the DJ is where the solver is given the answer, and he is then required to spot the question on the signboard.

However, Q6 is a bit extraordinary because in a typical DJ, the question to be spotted on the signboard is usually a cryptic clue. For example, the solver is given, say, “REMAINS”, and then he is required to find “CONSTRUCTION SEMINAR” on the signboard. You can see that “CONSTRUCTION SEMINAR” is a cryptic clue in that it has an anagram indicator, i.e. “CONSTRUCTION”; and then the fodder is “SEMINAR”, the letters of which are to be reconfigured to form “REMAINS”. In the case of Q6, the question to be spotted on the signboard is not cryptic in nature. It is just a good old-fashioned mathematical question.

Contrary to what 2 masters said about Q7, it is not a DJ. I’m still trying to make up my mind on what to call it, but I’d say it is a novelty in hunt question. To understand what we’re dealing with here, let’s look at the various structures of a hunt question.



The solver is given the question. He is then required to figure out the riddle to derive the answer. He then tries to find that answer on one of the many signboards within that sector.



The solver is given the answer. He is then required to figure out what is the question to that answer. He then tries to find that question—which is usually cryptic in nature, though not necessarily so—on one of the many signboards within that sector.


The solver is given a question in the form of lacking a piece—just like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. To take Q3 as an example, the solver is given:

_____ + USHER = MAKE-UP

And he is required to figure out what can fit into that blank so that he can solve the “equation”. In this case, we are looking for something to complete a word which would then agree with MAKE-UP.

In Q7, I have done something of a cross-breed between (B) and (C) above. It is not exactly a DJ, because we are not exactly looking for the question on the signboard. And it is also not exactly the usual kind of jigsaw puzzle type either where we complete a word to agree with a definition.

What I have done in Q7 is quite different. I have broken up a cryptic clue into 2 portions. Half of the cryptic riddle is given in the question itself. And the other half is hidden on one of the signboards within the sector. In order to “solve” the equation, the solver must find the other half of the cryptic riddle on the signboard, and then combine it with the half that is already given to the solver!

I suppose you can treat this riddle like a treasure map that has been torn into 2, and both pieces are hidden in different places. But only half of that map has been given to you. The task is therefore to search for the other half so that you can have a complete map to find the treasure.

Q7) _______nut = worm

Of course a “nut” is not a “worm”. And unless if I am mistaken, there is no other word (s)—at least none that can be found within the sector—which can fit in with “nut” to give the meaning of “worm” directly. It is logical, therefore, to assume that whatever we’re looking for to fit into that blank will complement “nut” to become a cryptic riddle; and that that cryptic riddle can eventually give the meaning of “worm”.

The next logical thing to do is to find the synonyms of “worm”, and this is where some of you might have to spend a bit of time, because you might have to fit in one word at a time on a trial-and-error approach. But then again, I’m convinced that with methodical approach, one wouldn’t take very long anyway.

Well, to cut the long story short, from the several possible synonyms of “worm”, and if you can remember Malay synonyms too, you will come to either “cacing” or “ulat”. I suppose there are other possible words too, but “ulat” should immediately attract the attention of the solver. The reason is quite simple—both the words “nut” and “ulat” have U and T in them.

If one were to concentrate on the U and T only, “ulat” has the “LA” in it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re able to insert “LA” into the “UT” of “nut”? But what about that “N”? How do we deal with that? Well, because we need to insert something into something else, it means that we need to employ the service of a container indicator. And so the word we are looking for must be LAI, because if we put LAI ahead of NUT, we will get:


But the solver sees it cryptically like this:

LA in UT

Which will give ULAT (because the LA is inserted into UT) which in turn agrees with WORM.


Q7 is not intended to be an easy question. It is considered tough because it is something new for the treasure hunting fraternity. But actually it is based on the same basic cryptic clueing principles. If one were to work on it hard enough, and coupled with some logical deductions, this question is solvable. In fact it was solved. Unfortunately, only 3 participants solved it. However, I’d like to think that many more people who were watching from the sidelines solved Q7 too.

Well, there you have it—7 questions for a total of 8 days of mental torture! To the new hunters, I hope this has been an exciting learning experience. To the masters, I hope at least some of these questions have been a challenge. Thank you all for participating in my First Anniversary Virtual Hunt!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Search For The Question

Humans are habitual animals. When they have been doing something the same way over and over again for a long period of time, they will get into what we call a routine. When they are faced with a specific problem, how they deal with that problem depends on whether or not they’ve dealt with it before. If it is the same problem, and they have dealt with it successfully many times before, there is a tendency to deal with it exactly the same way again now.

When treasure hunters are given similar types of clues as those which they’ve seen before, there is a tendency to immediately adopt the same way of solving those clues. They’d go into some kind of mechanical thinking. That’s why whenever I set hunts, I usually include some sort of new twists into the questions; and very often the result can be quite devastating on the hunters.

Q6) Defend or toughen yourself first.

The first thing the average solver would do with the above question is to take the first letter of “yourself” because that word is located immediately next to the initial indicator—first. But in this case that won’t get the solver very far. So the next step would be to take the first letter of every word in that sentence. By doing that, the solver can derive the word DOTY.

A check in most famous dictionaries will not give a valid word for DOTY, but if one were to be hard-working, he is bound to find that DOTY has a meaning—it is a local Southern US word. Essentially, DOTY means decayed (wood). But it is also taken as “half rotten”.

Therefore, cryptically speaking, we can take DOTY = TEN, if we choose the last half of the word ROTTEN. Then we can change that TEN into its Roman numeral form, i.e. X. Thus we can derive the answer:


However, I do not agree with this solution. Essentially, what’s being done here is to start from the original cryptic clue to derive DOTY. Then what do we do with DOTY? Well, we take that as yet another cryptic clue. From this second cryptic clue, we are supposed to derive HALF ROTTEN. And this is not even a word to be found in just any dictionary. After that we move even further—we literally take half of the word ROTTEN. In this case, we’re taking TEN and totally ignore the ROT. Yet that’s not the end—we still go one final step further to change TEN to X.

In fact this is a classic case of trying to fit a square shape into a round hole. But I don’t think it is correct to use the product of the original cryptic clue to derive another new cryptic clue.

In my opinion, to maneuvre from Question => DOTY => HALF ROTTEN => TEN => X is just too much. This kind of maneuvre requires a magnificent leap which cannot be bridged on our return trip. It is impossible to relate X => DOTY.

No—my question does not require such a marathon of multi-level steps through 2 cryptic clues (one of which is a product of the original one) and several more steps after that. It is much simpler than that; and what’s more important, it does not violate the existing cryptic rules we have.


Because if WEEKEND = K, I can’t see why DEFEND can’t be F. Who cares whether there is a meaning to DEF; we are only interested in what’s the end letter in DEF.


Where first is the initial indicator.

So the solver will arrive at a simplified version of the question:


F + or + TY


And now we come to the notorious Double Jeopardy (DJ). For the benefit of the new hunters, the DJ is a situation where the solver is supplied with the answer; and he is then required to find the question on the signboard.

Right now, we are given FORTY, though indirectly. If that is the answer, what should the question be? Scan the signboards within that sector, and it’s just a matter of time for you to find the question.


1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Political Question

Of the 7 questions that I set for this virtual hunt, I am most disappointed in Q5. I consider myself guilty of a serious blunder. But that is not to say that there is a flaw in my answer and explanation. No—the blunder I’m referring to is in the fact that there is room for an alternative answer. I say there is room, but do I have a defense against those alternative answers? Well, we will get to them shortly. First, let’s deal with the intended solution.

Q5) Current returns about a thousand.

For the first time in this hunt, the solution involves a translation process. As I have said earlier, the translations between English and Malay and vice versa are readily acceptable in hunt questions.


returns = reversal indicator


CURRENT returns = SURA (reverse the word ARUS)

about = container indicator

It means that SURA will contain a separate component.

a thousand = A K

Therefore SURA about AK = SAKURA

A5) SAKURA Digital Imaging

Q5 was intended to be an easy question. I had a feeling that some of the new hunters might have felt hopeless when faced with the earlier questions of this hunt. So I thought perhaps it’s a good idea to give them hope again. I wanted them to see this hunt through. Hence Q5. Indeed many hunters were rushing to submit their answers for Q5.

However, I also received an answer from a master hunter, Liong Chian Min, which is different from my intended answer above. He submitted:


To be quite honest, my first reaction was that the master blundered big time. I laughed his answer off. But a short while later, when I became sober again, I decided to ask for his explanation. And this is how he explained it:

“Current = IN
Returns = back indicator
About = RE
A thousand = G (grand)
Returns about a thousand = returns RE G = GER”

I went on to discuss the significance of the vertical signboard. In essence, the question we must ask ourselves is whether “returns” can be used to mean “reading from bottom to top”? The following is his reply:

“Usually, I would take returns as 'going in the reverse order/direction'.
To me, reverse direction can refer to horizontal or vertical words.
If an original sign goes forward, then the reverse direction is backward.
If it is going downward, then the reverse direction is upward.

So if the clue says ‘returns’ or ‘backs’, usually I would look at various signs;
be it a vertical or horizontal one. I won't limit myself to just horizontal one only.”

But if the clue says ‘up’ or ‘down’, then yes... I would pay more attention to vertical sign.”

I can find no fault in his reasoning and am therefore forced to accept his answer. I’d like to add that I have also conjured up questions based on the vertical signboards in the past where I used words like “going up” or “descending”, thus signalling to the solver that the riddle involved vertical signs. In such a case, the answers must be written vertically also, because only then can they answer perfectly the “going up” and “descending”.

And now we come to an even more interesting submission. Several hunters submitted:

A5) M.C.A Cawangan Brickfields

And the explanation is like this:

CURRENT returns = CA (AC written in the reversed order)

about = nearby; next to; adjacent

thousand = M

So, CA next to M = MCA

Now we come to an interesting situation. I have intended to use “about” as a container indicator. But the solvers adopted it based on its literal meaning, i.e. “next to”. Now as a general rule, based on the charade operation, because the THOUSAND comes last in the sentence, then it must come last in the solution too. But here, the solvers have moved that M to the front instead, although he is still able to satisfy the requirement of “next to”. After all, even when M is before CA, it is still located “next to” CA.

I considered this issue for a good 15 minutes or so and arrived at my decision. But I felt this is an extraordinary case which deserved a second or third opinion. I therefore wrote to 4 master hunters who are also CoCs to seek their opinions on this issue. I did not reveal to them that I was also seeking the opinions of the rest, though I think they must have guessed it anyway.

Well, the verdict was devided—2 of them were for MCA, while the other 2 were against it.

These are the extracts from the 2 who were for MCA:

Master A:

“…if you can accept “ABOUT” as “next to”, then I am in agreement with the solver that you should accept both MCA and CAM, because “ABOUT” is not directional sensitive, and thus “M” on either side of “CA” should be accepted.”

Master B:

“Yes, with the question configured as such, you will have to accept MCA. It’s valid for all the reasons you gave. M before or after CA is validated by ABOUT as NEARBY.”

And these are the extracts from the 2 who were against MCA:

Master C:

“Taking “about” as equal to “adjacent to”, then CA is next to M. To qualify as a clue style, then I agree that it becomes a CHARADE clue, and I will strictly accept only CAM and not MCA.

The question hunters must ask is that if they are presented with SAKURA and MCA, which one would they accept? Which is more apt?

Behind hunters, they will argue till the cows come home, and will give you lots of reasons to justify their answers.”

Master D:

“Tough call.

1. Lots of CoC set charade clue not in order. So they must accept not in order answer…

2. Do you ever set not in order questions? If not, I guess this is not acceptable. Over time time will be your so call style. People will learn this time and will look out of better answer next time. This is an opportunity to set your style. You will probably be criticised but overtime people will accept it as your style.

3. This is a virtual hunt so they have time. If they have consider all answers given the time they have would he still give MCA?

4. Also about = near etc weak

5. So if it me, no go for this one.”

You can see that this is quite a tricky situation we have here. How would you decide on this? Bear in mind that the charade operation does not allow the M to come before CA.

Well, this is how I decided on this issue. When concocting a cryptic clue, I try my best to follow all the cryptic rules religiously. I’m an advocate of following rules, you see. However, although it is fascinating to swim in the abstract and mind-boggling riddles of the cryptic clues, I just can’t agree with going against the literal interpretation of the sentence.

I have checked the word ABOUT. It can indeed mean “nearby” or “adjacent”. However, looking at the construction of the sentence, there is nothing there—in the literal sense—to limit the position of M to after CA only. M can still satisfy “nearby” even when it is located before CA. If there is nothing in the sentence that would restrict the solvers from placing the M before CA, then it must be because it’s the setter’s fault. I feel it is unfair for me to punish the solvers for looking at the sentence from the literal sense. I have therefore decided to accept MCA for Q5.

This decision does not in anyway affect in the least the position of the winner of this hunt. But I am discussing this issue at length here on grounds of principle.

I would love to decide against MCA and make this my so-called style. And I have no doubt that people will remember me for this. But they will remember me for the wrong reason!

Friday, November 28, 2008

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Symbolic Question

In Malaysia, treasure hunt questions are anything but consistent. There is hardly any special rule or established guide on how to set treasure hunt questions. Clerks-of-Course (CoCs) are therefore almost free to set their questions as they please. Some are not very cryptic; some are not particularly concerned about grammatical accuracy; some are not concerned about “surface reading” of the clues. In fact, one may have hardly any hunting experience and yet he can declare himself as a CoC!

It is not surprising, therefore, that there is a wide gap in terms of quality and accuracy in treasure hunt questions among the many CoCs in Malaysia. The result is what one might term as the different “flavours” or “style” of the CoCs.

Some CoCs are very strict in the questions—they obey the cryptic clueing rules religiously and pay special attention to details. A tiny grammatical mistake would spoil their whole day! Others are not bothered with details—they set a hunt, gather the crowd, hope that the hunters would accept their answers somehow, and then call it a day. Their answers and explanations are loose and grammatically wrong. And even the questions and tulips are plagued with spelling errors.

It is no wonder that treasure hunters quite often have to know the CoCs rather than knowing the cryptic clueing rules. If a particular CoC has the habit of not obeying the cryptic clueing rules, then that is considered as his style. And hunters will remember him for his style.

Q4) The French goes to a dead end.

Cryptically, not a very frightfully difficult clue. I set this question knowing very well that many in the audience would be able to solve the cryptic side of the riddle fairly quickly. No—the challenge for this question is not really about its cryptic-ness. Rather, it is about general knowledge. But first, let’s deal with the decoy.

THE” in French = LE or LA or LES

But I do not claim to know the language! I just know the above from doing cryptic crosswords. Therefore, if there is anything wrong in my translation, someone please correct me!

“goes to = linking indicator.

It means that we need to link some letters to others in the sentence.

“dead” = MATI

MATI is the Malay word for DEAD. Yes, in Malaysian treasure hunts, hunters are constantly reminded to think in English and Malay. No translation indicators are required and the questions are still considered fair.

“end” = ending indicator

It means that we need to take only the ending letter of the adjacent word. In this case, we need to take the ending letter from MATI, i.e. the letter “I”.

Now we use the charade operation to get:

LA + I = LAI

And the answer is therefore POLIKLINIK LAI.

I don’t know about the style of other CoCs. Maybe they would be pleased with themselves when setting questions with intended answers such as this. But I will have none of it!

When we need to take only some of the letters from a given word, I don’t think it is fair to expect the solver to find its synonym (s) and then extract those letters therefrom. There would be no end to the possibilities!

Consider this:


That word SOME is a hidden-word indicator. It means that the solver is required to take only some letters from the adjacent word (s). In this case, it may be ON or NE (from ONE). But instead, the solver translates ONE into SATU first, and then take SA to satisfy that some. I do not condone this kind of nonsense!

Therefore in the case of DEAD end, I shall not tolerate taking the ending letter of the word MATI. I will only accept the letter D, which is the ending letter of DEAD.

So let us now look at the clue again in light of this fresh point of view:

THE French goes to a DEAD end

LE goes to AD


And so we have arrived at the word LEAD. I am convinced that many solvers must have arrived at this word. But the only problem is that it is nowhere to be found on the signboards in the sectors. So what now?

This is where the general knowledge part of the riddle comes in. Those who can still remember their elementary science will know that LEAD can mean a metal, otherwise scientifically known as PLUMBUM and symbolically known as PB.

Of course it is also possible to google up the word LEAD and Wikipedia will very quickly give the required information. But the trouble is that I did not reveal the requirement of general knowledge, and so some of you might have forgotten to check the other possible meanings of LEAD!


1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Make-Up Question

A master hunter shared with me his experience of the good old days when he first started hunting many years ago. He said during the very first hunt that he joined, one of the questions was merely about spotting a circle which was found at a bus stop (or was it a signboard elsewhere?).

Over the years there was a gradual evolution of treasure hunt questions. These days they are becoming increasingly cryptic in nature. It follows, therefore, that in order to excel in this sport, one must have a minimal knowledge in the art of cryptic clueing. Q3 is something of a cross-breed between a typical cryptic crossword clue and that of the treasure hunt question.

Q3) It takes us together with her make-up.

Almost all cryptic clues have a definition; and the definition is usually located at either end of the clue. It is up to the solver to spot where is the definition. In Q3 above, the definition is “make-up”. Then there rest of the words in the sentence is the cryptic riddle which must be solved and the result must then agree with that definition. In other words, we can more or less create an equation like this:

It takes us together with her = make-up

Now it is slightly easier to see the nature of the question. We need to solve the left side of the equation in order to solve the riddle.

That word “It” must be referring to the answer which is found on the signboard. This is how the solver should see the riddle:

IT takes US together with HER = MAKE-UP


And now the solver has to think of what should the ANSWER be so that when joined to the word USHER, the resulting word would agree with MAKE-UP. This is where general knowledge comes in again.

A word about the scope of search for the purpose of treasure hunt questions. I have said before that whenever the question involves a scope of search, then it cannot be too wide so as to render the search without limits. In the above case, there must be hundreds of MAKE-UP, ranging from lipstick, powder, toner, mascara, face cream etc. However, I feel that I have been fair because I have narrowed the scope of search substantially. The solver has to search only for a word that ends with USHER. Now it is just a matter of time before he will think of the word BLUSHER. Therefore the required answer must be the letters BL. The next thing to do is to spot that BL on the signboard.


1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—One Who Adds

As a new comer to the cryptic clueing world, I dread clues which end with a question mark (?). Thankfully, not all cryptic clues have the “?” at the end. Generally speaking, when dealing with cryptic clues, solvers are told not to pay any attention to the punctuation marks found in the clues. The only exceptions are the “?” and “!”.

I shall not discuss about the exclamation mark, i.e. “!” here. As far as the “?” is concerned, most of the time it is used in cryptic clues to signal a pun—some sort of wordplay. And quite often the answer is not exclusive. I dread this kind of clues because a lot of the time one just can’t find the meanings in an ordinary dictionary. Words like “LETTER” may be referring to “LANDLORD”, because a LET-TER, cryptically, is one who lets his premises. So sometimes the clues may appear like this:

Q) Supporter of the proposer?


Because when one proposes to a woman, he is usually assumed to do so on one of his knees. But I certainly didn’t propose to my wife on my knee!

Q) Craft for the chef?


Because a STEAMER can also refer to a ship, apart from the cooking utensil.

Q) Movie director?


Because in the cinemas, the person who directs the movie-goers to their seats is known as the USHER.

And there are many, many more of this kind of wordplays frequently used in cryptic clues. So you can understand why I dread them?

Q2) Look after one who adds?

In the second question of my virtual hunt, I have adopted the “?” at the end. It signals to the solver that there is some kind of wordplay involved in the clue. In this case, that “?” is meant for “one who adds”. But to be fair to the new hunters, I have also included “Look after”. That should narrow down the scope of search substantially.

It makes sense to start from something you know first before tackling to difficult part. “Look after”, when taken together, can mean “care”, as in caring for the elderly. But here the intention is to take those words separately. “Look” means VIEW, as when you are viewing something. Then “after” means that VIEW comes after another word.

Even if the solver does not know what is “one who adds”, he should start scanning the sector to look for anything that ends with VIEW (or any other synonyms of LOOK). And he is bound to spot:


Now can SUMMER fit “one who adds”? As a cryptic wordplay, it can. SUM can mean to add up. So SUM-MER is “one who adds”.

This question is well-answered. About 2/3 of the total participants managed to solve it. Well done, folks!

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Extraordinary Question

I have said that about half of the questions for this virtual hunt would be easy ones. Q1 is one of them. No—I’m not kidding! In most of the hunts that I have clerked before, there is usually at least one question which is so easy, yet so tough to solve because the hunters are caught unaware of what they're looking for.

Q1) Extraordinary vocalist.

I decided to start the hunt with a two-worded clue. Most of the time, when you see such a short clue, it means that all the words in that clue are significant; don’t ignore any of them.

That word “Extraordinary” is most obviously an anagram indicator. And I did not think that any of the masters would fail to recognize it as an anagram indicator. It’s obvious that the masters have to rearrange the letters found in “vocalist” into a new word, and then that new word is to be found on the signboard. There is also another possibility, and that is to use the synonyms of “vocalist”.

I have mentioned before that some cryptic purists do not consider indirect anagrams as playing fair. But in the sport of treasure hunt, indirect anagrams have long been accepted, and that practice is still alive up to now. And it’s because of this that I had to spend a good hour or so combing all the signboards to make sure that no words thereon could be formed from “vocalist” and its synonyms. Of course I might have missed something, but I decided to take the risk anyway.

Because “Extraordinary” is almost certainly an anagram indicator; and because that is the most likely avenue that the hunters are going to explore first, the psychology of the question is that “Extraordinary” is not an anagram indicator! I intended it to be a noun instead; in fact, I intended it to be the title of a song.

Extraordinary” is a very famous song which actually reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Chart in 2007. The vocalist, i.e the singer, of that song is also a very famous person named Mandy Moore. So actually, Q1 is a general knowledge question, and one can very quickly find the required information from the internet. It’s just that I did not make it so obvious. If you don’t even know what to find, what use is the internet, right?


Because M&Y is, cryptically, same as MandY, i.e. the required name of the singer, Mandy Moore.

You will realize now why that word “Extraordinary” is the first word in the clue. It is placed there because it has to be there—because it is the title of a song, it has to start with a capital letter. If it is found somewhere at the back, I would still have to spell it with a capital letter first; and then you would know what you’re gonna do with your google search engine, right?

However, there is a small problem if “Extraordinary” is treated as a noun. Strictly speaking, from the grammatical point of view, that word should be followed by the apostrophe S, so that the question should become:

Q1) Extraordinary’s vocalist.

Only then it is grammatically correct. Think about it, we should say “Titanic’s author”; or “John’s briefcase”.

Incidentally, a few weeks ago, a friend wrote to me. He was apparently enjoying his daily dose of cryptic crossword when he stumbled upon a question which probably didn’t impress him. He said in his email:

“from Star crossword today

Q) ideal trio to arrange daily work

A) editorial

should it be daily’s work”

For the benefit of the new hunters, “daily work” is the definition part of the clue. And then “ideal trio to arrange” is the riddle part of the clue which must somehow be equated to the definition part eventually. “to arrange” is the anagram indicator and “ideal trio” is the fodder. If you rearrange the letters in “ideal trio” you can get “editorial”. And “editorial” is supposed to agree with “daily work”. In this case “daily” is referring to the newspaper.

My friend’s question is a sensible one. I think grammatically speaking, there should be an apostrophe S after the word “daily”. “daily work”, without the apostrophe S, refers to a routine task that is done daily, but not necessarily pointing to the newspaper. “daily’s work”, on the other hand, points specifically to a job specification for the newspapers, thus narrowing the search substantially.

However, in the cryptic clueing world, perhaps because of trickery, the omission of the apostrophe S has long been the norm. Consider some of these common examples:


Because the indicator heart refers to the letters I and O in the “heart” of LION. But actually, it should be LION’s HEART to be grammatically correct.


Because the letter B follows A in the alphabetical sequence. But actually, it should be A’s FOLLOWER.


Because the letter K is the ending letter of WEEK. But actually, it should be WEEK’s END.

So you see, the cryptic crossword folks have long accepted the omission of apostrophe S in the clues. Although I’m an advocate of grammatical accuracy, it is too late now to raise the objection in connection with the apostrophe S since such “inaccuracy” has long been accepted on our shores.

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Review

The First Anniversary Virtual Hunt 2008 is now officially closed. It’s time to give my comments on the hunt.

First, I’m going to give a general overview of the hunt and then share some of my thoughts while conjuring up the clues. Later, I will be going into specific discussions of each question together with their respective solutions. But I will do that in separate threads so that I can give proper treatment to each one of them.


When I made up my mind to organize a virtual hunt, the first thing I set out to do was to attract as many participants as possible. This would include new hunters too. But to do that, I had to set some questions which are not impossibly tough. Essentially, they should be solvable by the average hunters, but yet tricky enough to pose a challenge to the master hunters. That way, the hunt would be attractive enough for all levels of hunting or cryptic skills. There’re 7 questions, of which about half of them were easier ones. The rest were what I would consider tougher questions, but only on grounds of trickiness, rather than mere cryptic impossibility.

The hunt eventually attracted a total of 32 participants. However, I also noticed that there’re many more observers eagerly following the progress of this hunt. I wonder how many questions they managed to solve in the end.


I decided to adopt a similar format with that of the Volvo Online Hunt in 2007. The only difference is that in the case of the Volvo hunt, the race for the submission of the correct answer was only for the final question, whereas in my virtual hunt, the race was from the beginning to the end. The reason I did this was because a number of the questions were very solvable by the new hunters. And indeed some of them were able to steal some points from the master hunters. I thought it would keep the masters on their toes, and of course it did.


The toughest part of this virtual hunt was on setting the questions. I don’t mean in terms of having no ideas of how to set cryptic clues. No—I have reached a point where setting cryptic clues comes almost naturally. I can practically select almost any signboard at will and squeeze a cryptic clue out of it.

In this connection, I’d like to mention here that when I say “tougher questions”, I don’t mean doing anything close to the recent 3K Triple-One Hunt, for example, where layers upon layers of cryptic indicators and synonyms are thrown in, together with absolutely useless words, to confuse the solver. Elsewhere, I have also seen anagrams involving 30 to 40 letters to arrive at the answers. No—I don’t do that kind of questions. I prefer my riddles to be fair and solvable, yet tricky enough to pose a challenge to the master hunters.

My main concern for this hunt was to give a good mix of cryptic themes, and tricks and twists so that the questions can be both entertaining as well as become a source of learning the art of cryptic clueing for the new hunters.

As usual, I also made it a point to include the element of psychology into my questions. And I am happy to say that it has worked wonderfully well. For example, I knew that most hunters, newbies and regulars, have a keen sense of the anagram riddles. They will try to find anagrams in cryptic clues as much as possible. And when it becomes obvious that the questions have nothing to do with anagrams, they will still force anagrams out of those questions. That’s why I have decided to include not even a single anagram riddle in this hunt. But I will elaborate on this in detail later in separate threads.

Apart from the above, I have also injected a few new twists in the style and structure of the questions. Those who have joined my hunts before would know that this is a habit of mine. I have many more strange ideas still waiting to make their debut into hunt questions.

In spite of all those, I was determined to balance the varying strengths of the new hunters against the master hunters, while remaining true to the cryptic clueing rules. Perhaps one significant factor that I have taken into account was that the hunters had much more time to figure out the questions when compared to what they would typical get in an actual hunt. I would probably set slightly easier questions if I were to do an actual motorized hunt.


For some time now, I have realized that the requirement of general knowledge is no longer a dreadful thing in the treasure hunting world like it used to be in the good old days. I have had the honour to ride with some master teams, and I noticed that almost all of them were equipped with all sorts of hi-tech gadgets with internet connectivity that would help them to search for information within minutes, if not seconds. Hunt questions which require general knowledge are generally just a stroll in the park with the help of all these modern gadgets.

In view of the above, I decided to challenge the internet-savvy hunters with the general knowledge questions. But I knew that there’s no way I could beat them if I did it openly. Therefore, while I set questions requiring general knowledge, I concealed that requirement from the hunters so that they’re not even aware that they needed to use their mighty internet resources to look for the information! And even if they did realize it in the end, a lot of time would have been wasted barking up the wrong tree!


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the participants who have been having sleepless nights the past week trying to crack my questions. It was a great pleasure to organize this hunt. If only I can find the time to do this more frequently!

I hope you have had fun and enjoyed working your way through my cryptic maze.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt Questions

Well, folks, at 10:00 pm tonight I will be posting the first question for the First Anniversary Virtual Hunt of this blog. Those of you who have been reading this blog, this is a rare opportunity for you to criticise the hunt critic (smile)!

But before that, final reminders to those who're interested to participate:

1) Answers are to be submitted by email to: and there is no need to include explanations to those answers. The first submission shall include the full name of the participant. This original email will be used (sent back and forth) for easy tracking.

2) Answers are to be found in any of Photos 1 - 4 in no particular order. The photos uploaded to this blog may not be good enough for some of the questions, and I would therefore encourage participants to write in soon so that I can send those photos to you.

3) Points are awarded based on the order of (correct) submissions (See Briefing Notes). However, bear in mind that only ONE answer is allowed per participant for each question. So be very careful before you hit the "send" button.

Good luck and have fun!

Q1) Extraordinary vocalist.

Q2) Look after one who adds?

Q3) It takes us together with her make-up.

Q4) The French goes to a dead end.

Q5) Current returns about a thousand.

Q6) Defend or toughen yourself first.

Q7) ______ nut = worm

And those are the 7 questions for this virtual hunt. I will now allow 2 days for submissions. Then I will close this hunt at 10:00 pm on Friday. Good luck!

This virtual hunt is now officially closed. I wish to thank all my friends who've participated in this hunt. I hope you have had fun and enjoyed working on my questions. Hunt review and Q&A analysis will follow shortly.

Avoidable Blindness Conference

The Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu is organizing the Third Rotary District 3310 Avoidable Blindness Conference on Saturday, 22nd November 2008 at Sabah Trade Centre, Likas Square, Kota Kinabalu.

Entrance is free and open to all. Ten eye specialists, five from Hospital Queen Elizabeth, four from private hospitals in Kota Kinabalu and one from Philippines (representing the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness) are delivering talks on various eye diseases and prevention of blindness. Free Eye Examination has been organized for the first 100 registrants by the Ophthalmology Department, Hospital Queen Elizabeth. An information booklet prepared by Ophthalmology Department, Hospital Queen Elizabeth on various eye diseases would be distributed to all attending the conference.

Below is a summary of the programme:


0900—Welcoming Address by Chairman of Organizing Committee, Past President Wong Kee Yu, JP, Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu

0915—Address by Guest of Honour, Yang Berbahagia Dr Enoch Tan (Deputy Director of Health Services, State of Sabah, Malaysia)

1000—Ophthalmic Session I:
Eye Infections; Eye Injuries; Refraction & Role of LASIK Surgery

1115—Ophtahlmic Session II:
Cataract; Diabetic Retinopathy; Age-Related Macular Degeneration; Glaucoma; Avoidable Blindness in Children

1230—Lunch Break

1400—Session on Initiatives in Avoidable Blindness:
Preventable Blindness—Scenario in Sabah; Lion's International Initiatives; Rotary District 3300 Initiatives; Vision 2020 Joint IAPB— WHO global initiatives; Rotary District 3310 Initiatives

1600—Closing Session & Refreshments

(Free eye examination for first 100 registrants will start at 10am at the foyer)

I have some people in my office who have trouble spotting spelling errors in a single A4 sheet despite being given 10 minutes to find the said errors. I shall be trying to get this people to attend the above conference. Hopefully, the conference can be of some help to them, but I doubt it very much.

As for the rest of you, I would encourage all of you to come. With so many eye specialists delivering numerous papers on avoidable blindness, I'm sure you will gain a lot from this conference.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Photos

Wow! I have already received some feedbacks on the photos I just posted. For some strange reasons, it is not possible to save them to the hard disk. I don't know why. And that is indeed a big problem! You see, in some cases, it may be necessary to zoom in to those small signs to be able to see clearly.

Now I don't know how else to enlarge these photos beyond the clicking of those photos. So this is what I am going to do now. I will send out these photos to some of you who I know will try these questions, even if you're not going to submit any answers in the end. For the rest of you, please write me an email and I will send these photos to you through emails. Don't worry, still plenty of time to deal with these photos! Remain calm, folks... hehehe

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Photo 4

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Photo 3

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Photo 2

First Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Photo 1

I had planned to post the photos for the First Anniversary Virtual Hunt later in the evening. But due to a potential problem on loading and downloading the photos, I am doing it now instead. If indeed you experience problems with these photos, please let me know soon, and I will try to find ways to solve them.

This is the first of 4 photos meant for this hunt. The rest will be posted shortly in separate frames.

It may be necessary to click on the photo to get a clearer view of the signboards therein. I believe it is also possible to save it to your hard disk for ease of retrieval later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Penang Bridge International Marathon

At about 2am on Sunday, I was awaken by my alarm clock. I dragged myself out of bed to prepare for the Penang Bridge International Marathon. Mia and JJ were still fast asleep when I went down to the lobby of the Bayview Hotel in Georgetown at about 2:50am. I found a comfortable chair and a small desk where I spent the next few minutes doing the cryptic crosswords. Then I received a call from my friend, KK Chai, who’s also running together with me. He, too, arrived from KL the day before.

This year, the so-call half marathon in the Penang Bridge International Marathon wasn’t a half marathon at all. Instead of 21.1km, marathoners had to start from the foreground of the Queesbay Mall, and therefore added to the distance by 4km, thus resulting in a total of 25km. I was given to understand that the participants of this event have been growing steadily over the years, and it was becoming increasingly congested at the start of the bridge. Therefore, the organizers decided to start the race several kilometres before arriving at the bridge so that the runners would have been segregated by then.

All roads leading to the Queensbay Mall were closed during the event. Chai had to park his car almost a kilometre away and we had to walk to the starting point. By the time we arrived there, it was about 4am. Then I got into a very long queue for a toilet visit. It was finally my turn at around 4:25am, but while I was still in the toilet, I heard the start gun and the runners were cheering and making a lot of noises. I rushed out of the toilet, and true enough, the runners were already off.

I ran the 50 metres or so to join the crowd, but could not really run my usual pace due to the congestion. And then I saw Chai in front of me. The pace was still very slow, but I just followed the flow behind Chai. Then about 2km into the run, Chai suddenly made a detour to the side of the road, and I knew what he was doing. I suppose that was much simpler than getting into that long queue for the toilet.

I continued running and that was the last time I saw Chai until after I passed the finish line. The first few kilometres of the run was surprisingly pleasant. I did not feel any exhaustion, but perhaps that was because of the cool air of the morning. Soon, we were approaching the start of the famous Penang Bridge—it was a gradual climb along a long curve. Then a short distance of level surface. And then we came to an extremely long—albeit gradual—climb towards the tower somewhere in the middle of the bridge. That few kilometres were really tiring, and I entertained the idea of stopping quite a few times.

Well, I endured that long gradual climb somehow, and when I reached the highest point at the tower, it was such a relief. I made a quick stop to grab 2 cups of water before enjoying the down-going journey towards the mainland. Little did I know that that highest point of the bridge was not exactly in the middle—it was closer to Penang. I ran and ran along that seemingly unending stretch until I could finally see the many toll booths at the other side of the bridge. But seeing is one thing; actually reaching it is quite another thing!

I kept running and finally reached the end of the bridge where another water station was located. A small Indian boy who’s a volunteer at the water station was shouting encouragement lines like “c’mon, you can make it” and “good job, you are doing great!”. At that point, I could use some encouragements, but the boy went on to say, “don’t stop—keep going!”. And I had to suppress the crazy inclination to shout back, “that’s easy for you to say; you are not running!”.

After having a drink, we had to make a big turn, going down hill to the left. It was still dark and I saw several guys stopping at the roadside to relieve themselves. So I took the opportunity to do the same. Oh! it is so nice being a man (smile).

As I said, it was a big turn which saw runners making a big loop under the bridge to the other lane; then going uphill again for the return leg. At that point, I received a wristband from a marshal (I was also given one at the starting line).

The return leg was even more punishing—the climb towards the bridge tower was anything but fun. And it was a much longer climb from the other side. I must have been running close to 15km by then, and I could feel the exhaustion in my legs; my right ankle was already aching quite badly.

I was having a drink at the bridge tower when some of the strong women runners ran by towards the finish line. Amongst them was a familiar face which I remember seeing during the Borneo International Marathon a little over a month ago. I just wonder if these Kenyans do anything else other than running.

After that highest point of the Penang Bridge, it was a gradual down-going stretch, but it was still a struggle because I was really tired by then. I kept running…

I ran and ran until I finally reached the end of the bridge. And then as if I have suddenly reached my limits, my legs began to fail me. I simply had to stop running and reduce my pace to a walk. I tried to focus to keep running, but my legs just refused to cooperate. That last few kilometres were so punishing that I had to walk several times. Then I suddenly thought of Chai again. I looked back, but he was nowhere to be seen.

I was still hating myself for doing this run when I suddenly saw the signboard “500 METRES TO GO!”. I looked up and true enough, the Queensbay Mall was within my sight. I started running again. Then I came to another signboard—”400 METRES TO GO!”, then down to 300 METRES; then 200 METRES; then 100 METRES. A final corner and then I saw the finish line. I don’t know where I found the energy, but I actually ran throughout that last 500 metres like I just started my run. I ran across the finish line at a surprising pace like a champion, but immediately after crossing the finish line, I stopped suddenly in total exhaustion.

Another small Indian boy was there to collect the hard-earned wristbands from me, and gave me the certificate and medal in return. The allocated time for this run was originally set at 3:00, but later on it was adjusted to 3.30. I completed the run in 2:45.

I grabbed several cups of 100PLUS at a nearby station. Then I went back to the finish line to wait for Chai. We have arranged to wait for each other at the finish line, you see. 5 minutes elapsed; then 10 minutes; 15 minutes… Chai was still nowhere to be seen. Then 20 minutes, 25 minutes—I was beginning to wonder what has happened to him when I finally saw him make that last corner heading for the finish line with a time of 3:15.

A really exhausting run—the first time, ever, I covered a distance of 25 km. It's just amazing that I could actually make my legs work for that long! I just hope that the terrains won’t be as punishing in Singapore. Otherwise there is just no way I can break the 2-hour barrier for the 21km!

Singapore, here I come!

Friday, November 14, 2008

25K In Penang

Well, this is it, folks—tomorrow I will be flying to Penang first thing in the morning. I'm doing the 25K run in the Penang Bridge International Marathon with my friend, KK Chai in the Junior Veteran and Senior Veteran Categories respectively. Ummm... I am to one doing the Junior Veteran, just in case you are wondering (smile).

I have never covered a distance of 25km in my entire life, so I am a bit worried that I might have some problems finishing it. About a month ago, I ran in the half-marathon of the Borneo International Marathon. But that was for a distance of 21 km only.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on my pace when I injured my right ankle. And the pain has been bothering me since then. There is practically no pain at all when I do the usual daily activities like walking etc, but whenever I run—especially if it's more than 10km—I can still feel the pain. Therefore, I will not push myself in Penang. Perhaps I will run a moderate 2:30 to 2:45 for that 25km. Whatever the case is, I should complete the run within 3 hours. Otherwise I might just come home without a finisher's medal! Hopefully I will recover fully for the Singapore Marathon in three weeks' time, where I hope to break the 2 hours' barrier for the 21K.

I was told that the initial climb at the Penang Bridge, although gradual, can be quite punishing, especially on the return leg of the run. So, folks, keep an eye open for the marathon news in the papers. If you see anyone fainting on the bridge with a blank face, then you will know that that's me, still awe-struck by the Triple-One Hunt questions.

Till next Tuesday... Au revoir!

3K Triple-One Hunt—The Eastern Connection

Sabah is the eastern state of Malaysia; it is separated from the west by the South China Sea. Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan (Indonesia) occupy what is known as the Borneo Island.

In Sabah itself, the towns of Lahad Datu, Tawau and Sandakan are located to the east of Kota Kinabalu. And within Kota Kinabalu itself, Bukit Padang and its surroundings are located on the east.

Now if I were to ask you to name a place in the east, but without giving further specific information, are you able to give me an exact answer? Would you be able to guess confidently that I am asking for a country, or a state, or a district, or a city, or a town, or just a street? With just a "place in the east", it is very difficult to answer, right?

Q19) Hari ini tanpa siang masuk untuk tempat timur lumba tak tentu hala.

Another one of those so-called juicy questions in the Triple-One Hunt.

In the name of fairness, whenever I set hunt questions which include the task of selecting from several possible options, I would try my best to limit the scope of search. It is very, very rare that I will give a practically limitless scope of search. IF—and that is a big IF—there is a need to throw in a limitless scope of search, there must be a very good justification for it. I do not find anything good enough to justify "tempat timur" in the Captain's question above.

This brings to mind a similar question posed in the RR Blog some time ago, which involved multiple levels of cryptic labyrinth. It required limitless seach and practically countless possibilities and then a very special word for the name of a sail—all those to be combined into the required answer—ROJAK, which is a perfect word to describe this kind of clue.

Apart from all the other small loose letters that had to be deciphered, the setter provided the word SHEET in the clue. There is nothing there to indicate the kind of SHEET, i.e. whether it's in the nature of sheet as in bedsheet, or paper sheet etc. It turned out that of all the many, many kinds of SHEETS, he was referring to the sheet of a sail—as in a sailboat. However, even if the solver could confidently decide on the SAIL, he still needed to know the specific name of that item. In this case, it was a CROSSJACK. And then beyond that, the solver still had to go for a marathon of taking away some letters before finally getting the required answer. The level of expectation on the solver's ability was ridiculous to the extreme.

While the Captain's "tempat timur" is not as terrible as the CROSSJACK, it is at least halfway there. However, to be fair to the Captain, he did indicate quite literally in the sentence that this was a "tak tentu hala" punya clue.

Having been supplied with the answer to this question, I was able to do a reverse-deciphering to figure out the explanation. In fact, I have a feeling that that's exactly what the successful hunters did for this question—they realised that the scope of search was impossibly wide; looked at the available signboards within that sector; chose a promising one, and then worked their way backwards to the question.

"Hari ini tanpa siang"—means TODAY without the word DAY. So we are left with TO.

"masuk"—means to be added (to the intended answer).

"untuk tempat timur"—means when that TO has been added to the answer, we can get "tempat timur", which in this case refers to the Japanese city of TOKYO. Of course if you have not narrowed down your choices of available answers within that sector, it's extremely hard to find TOKYO. But the Captain, seeing the riddle from the CoC's point of view did not realise this because he did not pause to put himself in the shoes of the hunters.

"lumba tak tentu hala"—means the letters in LUMBA have to be rearranged to derive a new word on account of the anagram indicator, "tak tentu hala". However, as many of you would probably know by now, LUMBA must first be translated to RACE. So what's left for the hunters to do was spot a signboard beginning with KYO and then followed by any combination of RACE.

Thus the answer: KYOCERA.

And there you have a very crude and disorganized kind of cryptic clue which reflects a setter who does not spend enough efforts on elagance and quality. Either that or he hasn't got what it takes! Compare the Captain's question (s) with these:

Q) Her point taken, it makes sense now doesn't it?

A) Derina Beauty Saloon


Q) Iklan hanya boleh memberikan jawapannya setelah diterjemahkan.

A) Adjustable @ Powerdown

By C. Koh (KK Challenge 4)

Notice that there is no need to throw in everything you've got in the cryptic clueing books to set beautiful hunt questions. I know they may look like so easy to solve, but that is not really the case when you're out there scanning through hundreds of signboards. For example, a very strong Sabahan team failed to solve my KK Challenge 4 question above. It is so plain and simple when you see it from the comfort of you homes, huh?

A Pleasant Dream

"That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted—or at least, most of the time."

—Barack Obama

I was rudely awaken by the alarm clock this morning at 6:45am. It is not frequent that I get pleasant dreams when I sleep. In my dream I saw the exact scenario above, with the exception of the word "Malaysia" instead of "America" in the paragraph.

Too bad it was just a dream, but what was I thinking?

Who knows, one of these days it will become a reality... but I doubt it very much.

First Anniversay Virtual Hunt—Briefing Notes

Well, folks, we are fast approaching the second half of November. I promised to organize a short virtual hunt here in this blog. I’m posting this so that those of you who’re keen to participate are aware of some basic information about this hunt!


First, let’s deal with the dates. I plan to start the virtual hunt on 20 November (Thursday). The hunt proper will continue for a period of 8 days.


Answers to the hunt questions are found within the pictures which shall be posted in the evening of 19 November (Wednesday), i.e a day before the hunt begins. A word about the pictures—they are of high resolution in the jpg format. I took them at a resolution of 10 megapixel; but I have resized them a bit. On average the size of the pictures is about 1.3MB to 1.4MB each. So older PCs may have a bit of trouble viewing them. Some of you who’re still using dial-up modems may have to endure a longer period to download those pictures. That’s why I thought it would help if I post those pictures a day before the hunt begins. That way, you can easily save those pictures to your hard disks wherefrom you can conveniently retrieve them later.


I have mentioned earlier that I will be giving a relatively easier set of questions this time in the hope that more new and average hunters might be encouraged to participate. However, unlike what I did last December, you will not be able to take your sweet time in this hunt (if you want to win). Scores are based on how quickly you post your answers, and therefore it pays to be the fastest to submit the correct answers.


Points are awarded for correct submissions in this order:

1st submission: 10 points
2nd submission: 8 points
3rd submission: 6 points
4th submission: 4 points
5th submission: 2 points
All others: 1 points

Of course no points will be awarded for wrong answers. In the event of a tie at the end of the hunt, the tie breaker shall be based on questions countdown, which means the person scoring higher for the first question (Q1) will win. If both get 1 point each for the Q1, then the tie breaker will move to Q2 and so on and so forth.


There will be only 7 questions for this hunt, and about half of them are quite easy—there is a real chance that the new hunters can do well against the masters. As for the tougher questions, it is difficult to speculate because I feel that I have done enough to ensure that they’re achievable by hunters of all levels, except of course for the time factor. The questions will be posted in no particular order of difficulty; and answers are found in the pictures, again in no particular order, i.e. they can be found in any one of those pictures.


The questions will be posted one at a time at 10:00pm everyday beginning from 20 November 2008. The competition will therefore take approximately a week. However, after the last question is posted, I will allow 2 days before closing the hunt. Answers submitted after that will no longer be accepted.


Each participant will only be allowed to submit ONE answer per question, and no subsequent attempts will be entertained. Therefore, although it is a race against other hunters, please check carefully before submitting your answers, because answers, once submitted, shall be final.


Submission of answers shall be by means of email to:

When submitting the first answer, participants shall include their full names as shown on their NRICs. Upon receiving your submission, I will reply with an acknowledgement of receipt. If the submission is made beyond my bedtime (some of you never seem to sleep) then I shall acknowledge receipt as soon as I can access my mailbox on the following day. I shall not give further comments on your submissions. Subsequent answers shall continue to use that original email (sent back and forth) for the purpose of easy tracking. If you are stuck with any question (s), there is no necessity to answer them before the next one is published. You may submit your answers for those earlier questions later, but of course you should realise that other hunters might have beaten you to it! For the purpose of this hunt, solvers are not required to include the explanations to their answers.


While the hunt is in progress for about a week, I will enable comment moderation in this blog. It means that my readers can comment as usual, but I will control whether or not those comments will appear in this blog. This is to prevent the possibility of some of you who are overly excited and may accidentally post your answers here.


I don’t have any vouchers to give away; so I am allocating RM100.00 cash for the champion instead. This is not intended to be the main attraction of this hunt; rather, it is symbolic and perhaps for personal satisfaction only.

I had originally intended to charge a small entry fee, of which the money so collected could be used for the top 3 prizes as opposed to only one prize for the champion. However, I abandoned the idea because I had a feeling it would have been too troublesome to deal with the small entry fee. Perhaps I can look further into this idea when and if I do another virtual hunt. Hopefully I would have come up with a proper system for the entry fee by then.


I will publish the answers and explanations to all the questions after the official closing date.


I cannot accept any responsibility for emails sent, but do not arrive at my email box for whatever reason. In all disputes relating to this competition, my decision shall be final.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3K Triple-One Hunt—Himalayan Animal

Check out these treasure hunt questions:

Q) Wobbly ship going round the edge.

A) PHILIPS Authorised Service Centre


Wobbly = anagram indicator; hence, SHIP => PHIS

Edge = LIP

going round = containment indicator



Q) Flyovers to the north east.



Flyovers = BRIDGES

north east = NE


The above questions are those which I’ve taken randomly from the Masters Category of the recent theSun Motor Hunt 2008. Notice that both the questions have a clear meaning in the literal sense; they are simple and straightforward and therefore very easy to understand. I’m sure the setter knew that the masters would not fall for the decoy in the literal meaning of the question, but he remained true to the principles of cryptic clueing anyway—he will still try his best to deceive the solver via the literal meaning of the questions. Also, notice that the solutions are simple and comprise very few steps from the questions.

There were 35 route questions, similar to the above, but with varying degree of difficulties; to be solved within 5.5 hours.

Now have a look at this question, which is taken from the Triple-One Hunt:

Q6) He lastly and I come in somehow for a perplexed mysterious Himalayan animal before part of India’s old neighbour.


I think most of you can immediately see the difference in the quality when compared to the earlier questions. And even if you are provided with the answer, it would still require a lot of efforts to figure out the explanation of that answer.

We will get to the explanation shortly, but first I want to discuss about the psychology of question-setting. Now I know some of you might be getting sick of my obsession in psychology. But please bear with me—who knows, if you end up becoming a CoC one of these days, this discussion might become useful to you.

In order to understand the Captain’s “style”, it is necessary to go back to the history of the Captain’s career as a Clerk-of-Course. That is not very difficult, as the Captain is more or less just at the beginning of a CoC’s career. He has clerked only a few open hunts so far; and unfortunately, at the end of every single one of them, he received more negative feedbacks rather than positive ones.

Apart from mediocre questions in his earlier hunts—something which I think has not changed up to now—too many teams, including new teams, could answer all of his questions. And even if the hunters were unable to answer his questions, that’s probably due to defective questions rather than because they were outwitted by the Captain. The net result was that too many teams were tied at the top, and the winners were quite often decided by the time taken to complete the hunt.

A master wrote to me about hunts where too many teams got the perfect score. The master said there is not much recognition as the champion because many other teams got the perfect score too.

It was against this background that the Captain was determined to make a difference in the Triple-One Hunt. He decided to ensure no perfect score this time. With this in mind, he embarked on complicating his questions. If something could be expressed in a single word, he would deliberately throw in several more words into the sentence to complicate it. So much was he driven by his ambition to beat the hunters that he has totally disregarded basic cryptic clueing principles. He bent and twisted and then stretched the sentences like an elastic rubber band in an awe-inspiring fashion; he employed an overwhelming service of synonyms; he threw in as many as possible of the anagrams, hidden words, initial, reversals, containers etc into a single clue.

At the end of it all, he sat down, smiling to himself, looking at his creations. And then suddenly he was overwhelmed by paranoia—he was convinced that the masters might still be able to solve those questions after all. And so to eliminate that possibility, he decided to cut down the hunting time from the usual 5 hours to 3 hours only. Now he’s happier; now he’s ready to unleash the 3K Triple-One Hunt. He announced in Mike’s blog to expect “juicy questions” for the Triple-One! So, folks, the next time you see an ambiguous phrase like “juicy questions” make it a point to ask for the definition of that phrase.

So, anyway, one of the results of the above, was the TYLON question. Let’s all go for a Camel Trophy ride, shall we?

Once again, the question:

Q6) He lastly and I come in somehow for a perplexed mysterious Himalayan animal before part of India’s old neighbour.

The first objection is of course the surface reading of the clue. Not only has the Captain succeeded in stretching the sentence like a university student trying so hard to impress his lecturer, but he has also poluted the sentence with useless words, perhaps for the sole purpose of confusing the solver, but not realising that he has violated practically every cryptic clueing rule. Maybe I wouldn’t be so critical had the sentence been easier to understand from the literal sense. But even that is too much to hope for.

“He lastly” is referring to the single letter, E, which is the last letter in HE.

“and I come in” means that E and I should be added (come in) to something.

“somehow” a useless word which the Captain had probably intended as an anagram indicator, but totally unnecessary in this clue.

“for” a favourite word of the Captain's as we have seen, which can also sometimes be used as an anagram indicator.

“perplexed” maybe yet another anagram indicator. The Captain probably got confused while he was in the process of trying so hard to confuse the solver.

“mysterious Himalayan animal” can be referring to so many species. The scope of search is so wide and there is a chance that even a meticulous check in the National Geographic would come to a dead end. The reason is simple—there is no concrete evidence of the existence of the “animal” which the Captain is referring to. He is looking for the abominable snowman; otherwise known as the Bigfoot or Sasquatch. But in the Himalayas, the creature is more commonly known as the YETI. As far as I know, no one has successfully proven the existence of this creature up to now.

“before” signals a charade operation, suggesting that the above solution should eventually join to…

“part of India’s old neighbour” which probably refers to CEYLON. Since we are only interested in “part of” the word CEYLON, we may want to get, say CEY, or CEYL or ON etc. But in this case, the Captain is only looking for LON. I can hear some of you groaning out there. I know how you must be feeling. You almost have to know the answer to have guessed this choice. But, y’know, those master hunters are very patient people.

So anyway, in spite of all those nonsense in the entire sentence, what we really need to do here is:

E + I included into TY (found on the signboard) and then anagrammed would yield YETI. Where is the anagram indicator? Well, we have plenty in the sentence, take anyone of them and just ignore the rest. At least that’s apparently the Captain’s idea. And then that is supposed to come before LON (part of CEYLON).

And there, folks, you have a time-wasting riddle. To those aspiring treasure hunters, my advice—for whatever it’s worth—is not to use this question as your revision material or cryptic clueing practice. We have all seen how many of the masters were affected by this style during theSun Hunt which was held the day after the Triple-One. Trust me, folks, you want to progress forward, not go backwards.

Still Want More!

I thought perhaps I should limit my comments on the Triple-One Hunt to those which I have already posted here in this blog so far. When I comment, I am direct and I don't beat about the bush. But sometimes people get offended; and sometimes the best thing to do is not to comment at all. For I am not one who would comment and then say the things which I don't really mean just so that I can please others. Trouble is, when I speak out my mind, some people can't take it.

Last night I received an email from a friend who was asking for some more analysis on the Triple-One questions. When I explained why I've stopped, he said being "hard-hitting" and "opinionated" are the brand of this blog.

Well, I s'pose if my fans can still withstand some more of my comments, I don't mind to discuss a couple more. However, I doubt that I want to discuss all of them because I have something negative to say about most of the questions! I would take forever to finish commenting on the Triple-One!

I have some more things I want to write about in this blog, ranging from President-Elect Obama, to JJ's graduation and moving on to primary 1 next year, to those sick people at the source of chain mails. But I am just trying to find the time to actually put my fingers to the keyboards. I will do all these articles somehow sooner or later.

In the mean time, I will continue my comments on the Triple-One hunt first.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's In The Name?

I can't resist sharing this with my readers.

The above is a typical endorsement for transfer of land ownership which is found on the land title.

I don't know if Julianah understands English. If she does, I wonder what she feels about her surname.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

3K Triple-One Hunt—Of Exits & Mergers

ADOPTING words of similar meanings, i.e. synonyms is a common practice in cryptic clueing. It is therefore a big advantage to know many words. In the sport of treasure hunts, such requirement is extended to both English and Malay, since hunters are required to think in both languages. Thankfully, however, there is no restrictions on seeking help from dictionaries and thesaurus. In Malaysia, treasure hunt clues are still overwhelmingly English. Some Malay clues may emerge every now and then but they are relatively much lesser than their English counterparts.

Of the two languages, English is much tougher as far as synonyms are concerned. It is tougher because a single word may have many different meanings—so much so that when the setter opts to employ the service of a synonym, he is in danger of choosing the wrong word.

The thing about employing synonyms is that they must obey grammatical rules too. In other words, if for example, we use the word DEPARTS, it can be equated to, say, LEAVES. But it doesn't fit LEAVE because of the missing "S". Similarly, DEPARTS can be equated to GOES, but not GO.

Apart from that, many English words can be nouns as well as verbs; and setters are quick to adopt words which may appear as nouns in the clue, but which are intended as verbs instead.

Q5) Two vowels introduced for a crazy exit in merger.

As usual, let's start by identifying the keywords first. We start with "crazy" which is probably an anagram indicator. I think by now most of you must have noticed that the Captain is not very good in his choices of words for anagram indicators. There must be many more words which would fit in better in this sentence, but he chose "crazy" instead. It makes us all ponder about the logic of a "crazy exit", does it not? A "crazy man", yes; but a "crazy exit"? But of course we have all seen that the Captain is not particularly concerned with surface reading anyway. So let's leave it at that.

What are the other words we need to investigate here? Well, "Two vowels" appear to be easy enough—there are only 5 vowels: A, E, I, O, U. So two of those. But which ones? If I am not mistaken, there is a combination of 25 possibilities for "Two vowels" including repeats, e.g. AA or EE.

Then we have "introduced", which usually mean we have to include something into something. That, too, doesn't seem to be very difficult.

Next is the word "for"—the enigma! But in this clue, there is at least a small justification for its presence. However, I have a feeling that there are better words instead of "for". In this clue, "for" is intended to mean "replacing".

Then, coming back to "crazy exit", as I have said earlier, involves an anagram operation, i.e. to reconfigure the letters in "exit". But I think you're fast catching up with the Captain's idea now—he expects the solver to change "exit" to OUT first. And after than the letters are rearranged to OTU.

That word "merger" is intended to be the synonym of the result of all those operation in the earlier part of the clue. In a way, it is something like the definition part of the clue. And the Captain expects the solver to equate "merger" to JOIN.

So now we more or less have the raw materials, and we are ready to maneuvre all of them to derive the required answer.

Two vowels: Assuming that you have been hardworking to sift out the other possibilities, you should come up with OI.

Introduced: Means that OI is inserted into something.

For: Taking the meaning of "replacing", it means that OI is inserted into something, thus replacing...

Crazy exit: Works out to be OTU as explained above. This OTU is replaced by OI.

Merger: After all those steps above, we are supposed to arrive at something which means MERGER. In this case the word JOIN.

Hence, the required answer: JOTUN

Now let's do the reverse process. If you take that word JOTUN and then replace the OTU with OI, you can get JOIN. That is simple enough and quite easy to understand if explained in that manner.

But now let's look a little deeper into the Captain's dictionary and thesaurus.

First, the word EXIT. What does it mean? Well, as you know, EXIT can be a noun as well as a verb. And there are many possible ways to use the word. In its most common usage as a noun, it can mean "a way or passage out". Note the emphasis on the words "way" and "passage". If you think of it carefully, EXIT is not OUT. Rather it is the PASSAGE out. An OUTLET, yes, but not OUT without the LET. It is easy to make that kind of mistake, but one which the setter can't afford to make!

If you checked the meaning of EXIT as a verb, you will probably find something like "to go out", but not "out" on its own.

And what about MERGER? Well, I can accept MERGE = JOIN, but not MERGER = JOIN. MERGER is a noun which basically means inter alia "any combination of two or more business enterprises into a single enterprise." I spoke briefly with a friend regarding this word. I was given to understand that some people are also using it as a verb, and therefore would attempt to equate it to JOIN. I'm not sure about the accuracy of this, so perhaps if any of my readers are well-versed with the English language, he would be kind enough to help us out here?

Friday, November 7, 2008

3K Triple-One Hunt—Cover Of The Book

I am taking a short break from analysing and discussing hunt questions to talk a bit about people in general.

Everyone has a favourite food (s); what's yours? Pizza? Fries? Steak?...

Fine, let's imagine that I am treating you to all these favourite foods of yours. And I'll buy the jumbo size too. You have skipped lunch in anticipation of the glorious dinner. So you are eagerly waiting at the dinner table. I have all your favourite foods as promised, but instead of serving them with a tray, I am using a toilet-bowl cover; and there're flies all over the food.

You see, in life most of the time the way the food is served and presented to you counts for a lot. Because of how it is served, you may lose your appetite even if it's your favourite food.

Don't judge a book by its cover

That is a famous line we've all heard of. Unfortunately, in life a lot of the time we can't help but judge a book by its cover. The book publishers will tell you that they'd spend a substantial amount of money to design the covers of their books. People are attracted to the books through the covers. Of course they are many other factors that sell books too. It is human nature to judge a book by its cover.

A lazy bum I know left school after form 3. He's been switching from one job to another; and if taken as a whole, he has spent his life unemployed more than being employed. There was once when he went to look for a job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. It was a walk-in interview thing. He came home grumbling that the outlet manager did not even give him a chance.

Well, this joker went for the interview in toilet slippers. He wore shabby clothes; long hair covering his eyes. And he had an earring too. I told him I would have been very surprised if the manager gave him a chance—he must be out of his freakin' mind!

Presentation does count! And the first impression means a lot! People who don't really know you will judge you based on those!

And if that is not bad enough, people have the tendency to compare too. So if your peers are all well-dressed when they attend the interview, don't complain when they get to fill up the vacancy first.

When you are clerking treasure hunts for the first few times, apart from trying very hard to prepare sound questions, try not to screw up on the presentation. Always remember that you can kill the appetite because of the way you serve your dishes.

Therefore, you have to seriously do something to minimise sloppiness. If you present something which is plagued with mistakes upon mistakes on the question papers and the so-called tulips, how do you reckon the hunters will view you?

So spend some time to check and double-check all your servings, for goodness sake! And who knows one of these days, when the time is right and there is no more sloppiness, I, too, will be eager to attend your dinner party!