Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bull Hunt 2009—Unusual Place

Many of my readers would know that I am very particular about grammatical accuracy in my hunt questions. In my opinion, a good setter should not only come up with an air-tight solution, but must also construct a sentence which is grammatically correct.

Consider this question which was set by a good friend from the Time Out Solutions about 2 years ago:

Q) Came and get entangled here.


I am sure most of you can explain the answer quite easily. ENTANGLED is the anagram indicator; and the words CAME and GET are the fodders. When the letters found the CAME and GET are rearranged, we can derive MEGATEC. The solution fits perfectly. However, when one takes a closer look at the clue, he will notice that the CAME is in past tense, whereas the GET is in present tense. It is not quite right from the grammatical point of view, you see. If one were to check the many cryptic crossowords out there, he will find that the clues are set to be perfect in the solutions, and also in the grammatical sense.

Now check out this question by Marsha in the recent HRU Challenge #2:

Q) The Spirit come to rest in the evenings.


I had a brief discussion with Marsha through exchange of emails on the above question. I took a while to solve this question because at first I looked at it from a wrong angle. I saw the grammatical mistake from the very first time I read the clue. Since THE SPIRIT is singular, the word COME must be with "S" to be grammatically correct. It might have been possible to drop the "S", of course, but in that case it had to be in past tense, i.e. CAME.

Having analysed many hunt questions in the past, I notice that many CoCs out there are not very accurate in their grammar. Either that or they don't really care about grammar. Furthermore, I suspect that many of the hunters can't tell the difference anyway. But when I came to a dead end in the above question, I suddenly asked myself if it's realistic to put Marsha in the same group of "CoCs who don't know grammar". And the answer came to me like lightning! I happen to know Marsha quite well—at least good enough to realise that it's close to impossible that she'd make such a grammatical mistake. Therefore, logically speaking, the clue was grammatically wrong because it had to be wrong in order to be accurate in the explanation of the answer. After I realised this intentional mistake, I quickly solved the clue. If the word COMES had been used in the clue, that would have resulted in an extra "S" in the answer. Although the explanation fits perfectly, I don't like the clue due to the grammatical inaccuracy. And according to Marsha, she did not really like this clue too because of the same reason.

And now we come to Alex's clue in the Bull Hunt 2009:

Q6) Song with an unusual place by a leading Disney character.


In the above clue, those words PLACE BY can mean "to connect" Something to Something else. In this case, UNUSUAL is an anagram indicator, and SONG WITH AN the fodder. We rearrange the letters in the fodder to derive WASHINGTON.

LEADING is the initial indicator; meaning to take only the first letters in DISNEY CHARACTER, i.e. DC.

WASHINGTON is then arranged near to (place by) DC to arrive at the answer: WASHINGTON DC.

However, to be grammatically correct, we should say PLACED BY as in POSITIONED BY or LOCATED BY if we want to adopt the verb meaning of PLACE. For this reason, I was not impressed with this question during the hunt. We still found WASHINGTON DC, of course, but as a matter of grammatical accuracy, I wasn't happy.

That was my position throughout the evening until I got back to my hotel room. Then while I was in the shower, I saw the clue from a different angle. Alex had meant that PLACE as a noun and not a verb. The clue was constructed to account for the 2 portions of the intended answer separately like this:



The (A) part comprises "unusual" (anagram indicator), SONG WITH AN (fodder), and PLACE which is the definition. After all, WASHINGTON is the name of a PLACE.

Then the (B) part is DC as explained above.

In other words, the clue can be simplified to become:

WASHINGTON by (not place by) DC.

So after the long story, in the end I have come to like this clue after all! What a waste of time for all the analysis!

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