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.


Cornelius said...

Someone wrote to me to say that it isn't fair that I only criticised this clue, but without showing how an alternative clue could be constructed.

Well, if it were me, I wouldn't go as far as talking about "perplexed mysterious Himalayan animal" and "India's old neighbour", that's for sure!

A simple sentence with a few words is quite good enough to achieve the same objective. And perhaps to add a bit of excitement for my friend, Master Vincent Woo, of the Hunters "R" Us, we can come up with something like this:

Q) Hanya dimusnahkan setelah peringkat terakhir.

As you can see there is no need to throw in "somehow", "for", "perplexed"; and then "Himalayan animal" and "India's old neighbour".

Don't worry that some of the hunters might be able to solve this clue. Somewhere between those 30 questions or so, there will be some more complicated ones. But that would require more cryptic skills and a creative mind.

Cornelius said...

Someone claiming to be a new hunter had just found this blog recently; and having browsed through some of my older posts, stumbled upon this one. He wrote to me, asking for an explanation for my question above. He wants to know how to arrive at TYLON therefrom.

I must apologize for taking some of my readers for granted. Sometimes I have the tendency to assume that everyone is able to see the solution. Anyway, let me save all the trouble and give the explanation here.

Q) Hanya dimusnahkan setelah peringkat terakhir.


dimusnahkan = anagram indicator



ONLY dimusnahkan = YLON

terakhir = end-letter indicator


PeringkaT terakhir = T

We can now simplify the question to become like this:

YLON setelah T

So we can get: TYLON