Monday, November 3, 2008

theSun Hunt 2008—With vs Without

IMAGINE that you are blind; and I'm describing a car to you:

The car without an engine.

You are unable to see the car, but do you think:

A) The car has an engine

B) The car has no engine

C) Could be both above

OK, now let me rephrase the description:

The car with an engine.

You are still blind, but which of the answers A, B or C is the most accurate?

Now imagine that you're in a treasure hunt; and I am asking you spot a signboard based on this criteria:

Signboard without the letter M

Would you scan the sector for a signboard:

D) Containing the letter M

E) No letter M found thereon

Getting confused already? OK, let me go a little bit further; what if I give you this instruction:

Search for a signboard containing ABC without the letter M

And within that sector, you see 2 signboards containing:



Which of the 2 would you choose? Both F and G contain ABC on them, but F is without M. Would you say F answers the clue perfectly?

Now consider this question from yesterday's hunt:

Q30) Unacceptable service without a thousand at a district.

The first time I read this clue, I saw in my mind a signboard containing something which can fit the cryptic requirement of "Unacceptable service", and that something must be without the letter M (or K). Then that is followed by something which answers "at a district".

That then was the basic search criteria within that very long sector with so many signboards. But I thought it wasn't that bad, because all I had to do was to focus only on the signboards without the letter M (or K) on them. But as I was scanning through that sector, I saw:


That "@ SOHO" attracted my attention because I thought it could satisfy "at a district". But now we have a problem; ACME contains the M (thousand), whereas the clue clearly says "without a thousand".

Since I was running out of time, I texted this signboard to my team mate anyway on the strength of "@ SOHO". But I was almost certain this was the intended answer. I did not know that my team mate had by then submitted our answer sheet, which was a shame because this answer turned out to be the required one, even though it obviously did not answer the question!

Let us now find out what really happened here.

I have seen similar hunt questions in the past, where "without" actually meant "with"! The setter had intended to instruct the hunters to look for a board containing something that when the letter M is removed therefrom, we are left with something which agrees with "Unacceptable service". The problem is that the sentence does not actually say so!

I have discussed this problem in the past; a possible improvement is something like this:

Unacceptable service if without a thousand at a district.

Now there can be no mistaking the intention of the setter. Because we have all heard of the basic rule of cryptic clueing before:

You may not mean what you say; but you must say what you mean.

In this clue, the setter did not mean what he said. So I suppose he has satisfied the first part of the rule. But did he say what he mean? I did not think he did, so in my opinion he has failed to observe the second rule of cryptic clueing! And it's for this reason that I think the setter has failed in this particular case.


renroc said...

'Without' can also be the opposite of 'within'. Thus, ACE encloses M.

Cornelius said...

Wow! That's brilliant, master renroc!

See that's the thing I like about discussions; I get to learn a lot of new stuff! And I humbly concede; I have done injustice to the CoC!

And with this latest revelation, you have given me an idea in a whole new direction, my friend! No, nothing to do with "without" at all. Something totally different, a new possible twist!

Oh I am soooooo happy!

Cornelius said...

Someone sent me an email in response to the justification of "without".

He said the question says "a thousand", so even if ACE encloses "a thousand" is accurate, shouldn't it be enclosing AM instead of M alone?

My answer to this question is: Both are acceptable. I think it is OK to enclose M only excluding the A. But on the other hand, it is also possible to include the A in the answer.

In other words, if we can find ACME and ACAME in that sector, both should be acceptable. But perhaps not everyone agrees with me. I would invite opinions from my readers.