Sunday, October 18, 2009

KK Challenge 5—Delivery Day

There was once when I hunted in Michael Pang's hunt quite a while ago, and there was a cryptic question containing the words "delivery day" in it. If I'm not mistaken, I was hunting together with my friends, Johan Salul and Dr Ben Lau. Both of them are ranked as masters in the Time Out Solutions' Hall of Fame.

In the cryptic sense, "delivery day" is an indirect reference to May 1, because that date is Labour Day. It is acceptable that prior to delivery, the expectant mother will go into labour first. I can still remember that we solved Mike's question.

Yesterday, in my KK Challenge 5, I had the opportunity to borrow Mike's idea, but with a bit of modification:

Q23) Its beginning is delivery day?

A23) May Unisex Beauty Saloon

The clue is a little bit more complicated than Mike's version, but not impossibly so. I think anyone with some cryptic knowledge would have had a good shot at the correct answer. But our cryptic clueing standard here in KK is not comparable to that in the west. And when I set this question, I knew that it would be very tough for the local hunters. And true enough, this question was not solved in the end.

I had expected at least Team Main Tembak to be successful with this riddle. But perhaps by the time they arrived at this sector, they were already under time pressure, having invested a lot of time on some earlier questions. Although they were just about the halfway point of the hunt (23 out of 40 questions), they were already taking steps to regain some lost time. Consequently, they ended up choosing a signboard containing IDD. According to Alvin, a team member of Main Tembak, IDD fits. But during the hunt, he said he was not fully convinced that this was the intended answer. He said it's just not my style!

While marking the answer sheets, I paused for a short moment to consider the acceptability of IDD. I debated this answer with myself and then decided to reject it in the end. However, I noticed that a few other teams have also given IDD as the answer for this question.

After the hunt, I had a brief discussion with Alvin who insisted that IDD could also fit. Then later on, we continued our discussion over exchanges of emails. I think the points raised by both parties are interesting and warrant a space in this blog for the benefit of the other hunters.

Alvin's approach is based on the basic cryptic clueing theme, i.e. using "beginning", a word found in the clue, as the initial indicator. When viewed this way, "beginning is delivery day" can mean to take the first letters of the words adjacent to the indicator. In this case, the first letters of "is delivery day." One can see that when dealt this way, we can derive IDD.

While marking the answers, I saw this line of thought too. But I still rejected IDD because of the word "Its" in the clue. "It" refers to the intended answer which is found on the signboard. In the present case, notice that there is no apostrophe between "t" and "s". There is a difference in meanings between "Its" (without apostrophe) and "It's" (with apostrophe).

"Its" means "belonging to It". For example, "Its tail" means the tail of "It".

"It's", on the other hand, means "It is", which has been simplified and widely used in informal writing.

In other words, if the intended answer had been IDD, then the clue would have been simplified from:

Its beginning is delivery day?


Beginning of IDD is delivery day?

But we can quickly see that the beginning of IDD is just the letter "I". And "I" does not equal to "delivery day."

If, however, the question had started with "It's", then we would have had a different scenario:

It's beginning is delivery day?


It is beginning is delivery day?

And if the intended answer is IDD, would lead to:

IDD is beginning is delivery day?

that is to say,


But since there's no apostrophe in the clue, then IDD can't fit, because for the simple reason the meaning of the clue is completely different. However, Alvin is of the opinion that the apostrophe doesn't really matter—he said sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not there in cryptic clues. But I must beg to differ!

So let us now discuss a bit about punctuations in cryptic clues.

We're frequently told to ignore punctuations in cryptic clues, because most of the time they're there for the sole purpose of deception! Consider this clue from one of my past KK Challenge hunts:

Q) I would shortly go behind to be hard.

A) SOL Department Store

Notice that "I would", when written "shortly" is "I'D". There's that apostrophe between those 2 letters. Yet when we utilise that ID to derive the answer, we would omit the apostrophe:


Another example:

Q) When Fred's in trouble, he'd look for them.


On account of the anagram indicator, trouble, the letters in FRED'S IN are rearranged to become FRIENDS. And again we have omitted the apostrophe from the final solution.

So it seems quite common—and widely acceptable—to ignore punctuations in cryptic clues when arriving at the solutions.

But the question we must ask ourselves here is whether we can import punctuations into cryptic clues on our whim and fancy, so much so that we change the meanings of the original intentions of the setter? If we are allowed to do this, then we can simply insert the apostrophe into Q23 of KK Challenge 5, so that we can then "force" the setter to accept IDD.

My view is that the setting of the clues should be left in the hands of the setter. The solver's role is only to solve, not to modify (the meanings of) those clues with punctuations. If the solver is allowed to change the meanings of the clues, we are bound to have endless disputes after every hunt!


Cornelius said...

Just as a precaution, in case my readers get the wrong idea, Alvin is not being a pain in the neck by insisting me to accept his IDD. We discussed this subject very constructively. There is of course no reason for him to insist, because after all they won this hunt by a huge margin!

This discussion is only for the sake of - hopefully - giving some idea to the new hunters how complicated these seemingly insignificant points can be in determining the result of treasure hunts.

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

I quite agree with your line of thought in rejecting IDD. However, (again hypothetically) would you have agreed to "International Direct Dial" with "It" being this sign?

Cornelius said...


This particular discussion is a bit confusing, especially when I'm not fully awake yet this early in the morning!... hehehe. But if I understood your question correctly, I would still have rejected "International Direct Dial".

If the question remains the same (without the apostrophe for "Its"), I think the board "International Direct Dial" still won't fit.

Q) Its beginning is delivery day?

Meaning, when we simplify by substituting the words therein, we will get something like this:

Q) Beginning of "International Direct Dial" is delivery day?

The indicator "beginning" has been used once for the "International Direct Dial", and shouldn't be used again the second time for "is delivery day." So in that case, we will end up with:

Beginning of "International Direct Dial" = IDD;

but IDD is not "is delivery day"

However, "International Direct Dial" should be acceptable if the question was like this:

Q) Its beginning is IDD.

Where "It" refers to "International Direct Dial"

I hope all these complicated analysis will not confuse my readers even more!... HAHAHA!

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

i like that - consistency. And i readily agree too.

Cornelius said...

Yes, 2R1I, I am consistently against "double duty" in cryptic clues. The key "beginning", once used for "International Direct Dial" should not be used again for the words "is delivery day."

However, for the benefit of the new hunters, you should know that some CoCs may at times break this rule and use cryptic indicators twice in a single clue, i.e. a case commonly known as giving the indicator a double duty. Maybe in their case, "International Direct Dial" is acceptable for this same question.

But I will have none of it. In my hunts, you can be assured that my indicators shall have only one duty each. Double duty is wrong and can even be considered as not playing fair. I therefore do not condone double duty in cryptic clueing!

Anonymous said...

u keep saying "rule" against "double duty". can u pls give me source to read up abt this topic?


Cornelius said...


I have read articles from several forums before this, but I somehow can't trace them now. But for the moment, I think you can read from this source (scroll down to "History and Development"). However, in this this article, the nature of "double duty" is slightly different. The word "be" is given the duty of the indicator, as well as the duty of the fodder. In my discussion above, the "beginning" is used twice, both times as "initial indicators" for different parts of the clue.

I will add further later. Need to clear my desk now!