Saturday, November 29, 2008

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!


Kevin Soon said...

This might be simple for master hunters to understand, but for novice like me, I do not how to explain why Current=IN.

Cornelius said...


Sorry for this late reply - I have just arrived home.

If you have a Thesaurus, you can look up for CURRENT. You will see that one of its many synonyms is the word IN.

So now you know what to do the next time you go hunting. Bring along a Thesaurus!