Monday, July 26, 2010

1Malaysia Hunt—Elegantly Inaccurate

The inclusion of the so-called "bolded" questions (Qs) in treasure hunts in Sabah is not very common. I have tried this formula before in a couple of my own hunts, but found that it's not very appealing to the local hunters. The main objection, I think, for our local hunters is that they're against the idea of having to work much harder (and possibly much longer) to find the answers for which the allocated points are much lesser than those of the regular route Qs. Consequently, a fair number of my well-crafted Qs went to total waste!

There is a significant psychological element in play here. Teams may decide to ignore the bolded Qs all together and focus their energy fully on the regular Qs. That can spare them the time and mental exhaustion which they would waste on trying to solve the bolded Qs. Besides, they reckon that even if they're able to find the answers, the rewards are just not worth it! But the opposite side of the argument is that if one is able to solve the bolded Qs without investing too much time on them, then that surely can be an advantage!

I decided to invest in a bit of time on the bolded Qs, while paying very close attention on time management. Let me just say here that one can become very easily carried away on trying too hard to solve these Qs, especially if you are a stubborn chap like me! In yesterday's hunt, however, my strategy worked well. I was somehow able to control my appetite for the bolded Qs.

Here is one which I thought wasn't very tough—and wondered why it was bolded!

Q9) They hold and are held by cheering Africans.

A9) Gafri Pot @ The Stone Shop

In my opinion, this was quite an elegant clue in which the CoC did well in the wordplay. As a cryptic clue, of course the intention of the setter is not that of the literal meaning. I think I can safely say that most people would have thought of the word VUVUZELAS upon reading this clue.

Notice the verb "hold" in the clue. It is used twice, in different tenses. But the elegance lies in the fact that the first "hold" is intended to take the literal meaning; whereas the "held" is intended to take the lateral (cryptic) meaning.

The first "hold" takes the meaning of the ability of containing something—literally, such as a pot that can contain something. But when "hold" is used for the second time in the clue as "held", it takes the lateral meaning as a container indicator, that is to say it is meant to be a signal to the solver that we're talking about what is contained within the neighbouring words.

Therefore, the first "hold" refers to the POT. The "held" refers to GAFRI, i.e. the letters found contained within "CHEERING AFRICANS".

So if one were to simplify the clue, one is able to get POT and GAFRI, in which case, I can accept the other configuration of the words, i.e. GAFRI POT.

Because, if we want to say A and B, it is not wrong to say it as B and A.

But although the clue is elegant in that sense, it fails in the grammatical sense. And as most of you know, I am just hopelessly obsessed with grammatical accuracy in hunt clues.

"THEY HOLD" suggests that we are talking about a plural noun. Had the answer on the board been POTS, I would have been satisfied. But here, the words on the board was GAFRI POT, a singular noun.

And because this Q was supposed to be a "bolded" one, but yet it's not very tough to solve, it made the prudent hunter wonder if there is another harder-to-see signboard within the sector with a GAFRI POTS on it. This is especially so because the CoC has the reputation of throwing in the so-called "red herring" Qs in some of his hunts.

I would also like to mention here that the CoC made a specific emphasis on the "red herring" during the hunt briefing the day before the hunt, and actually gave an example of how it could happen!

Because of that miserable "S", or rather because of its non-existence on the board, we had to drive all the way back from Donggongon to check again to ensure that we did not make a mistake on the spelling of the answer! And having done that, we had to reluctantly accept an answer which we knew to be inaccurate! It was the hardest thing for a person like me to do!

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