Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1Malaysia Hunt—Depths of a Flower

In Malaysia, treasure hunt Qs are generally cryptic in nature. It follows, therefore, that those who are good in doing the cryptic crosswords may have an edge against those who don't. People who have a bit of experience in cryptic clues may be well-versed with some basic tricks and can easily and quickly spot cryptic indicators.

An interesting bolded Q in Lintas Plaza which, I think, would not have been a bolded Q had this been a hunt in the Klang Valley.

Q14) Product from the depths of a flower? What and where?

Although all in the car knew the literal meaning of a "flower", e.g. the tulip or rose, I knew that in this particular case, the CoC had intended the cryptic meaning, i.e. flow-er, something that flows. In the cryptic clueing world, a "flower" usually refers to a river. I immediately alerted my team members to keep an eye open for a river—any river within the sector.

The other reasons why I was convinced that this was more of a cryptic riddle was because of that question mark (?) after the word "flower"—it usually is a signal of some sort of wordplay leading to an indirect meaning(s). Finally, since this was a bolded Q, I thought it would not have been elegant if the CoC had only expected it to be read in the literal way.

The intended answer, which we found, was located right at the end of the sector. In fact, it was Vivian who saw it. It was quite visible on a bright day like last Sunday, and therefore not so much of an eye-testing task. But one would need to know that he is looking for a river to start with.

There, on a signboard with a huge "Organic Baby" on it, were some brandnames of several products; one of which was "UNDER THE NILE". Immediately below that brandname, there was a "Egyptian Organic Cotton". I immediately made up my mind that that must be the intended answer.

We just copied what we saw on the board and then went back to the car to continue with the hunt. But later, we had a bit of discussion about this clue. Vivian raised an interesting question. She was asking me how should we write the answer. Now, I know this may seem like a stupid question, but let me say here that I appreciate Vivian for raising these questions, because they are not stupid at all! In fact, they are significant!

You will notice that the Q asks for a "Product" which comes "from the depths of a flower". Leaving aside the "What and where?" portion of the Q for the moment, we must first understand the meaning of "Product". For if we don't know what "Product" is referring to, we shall not be able to answer "What and where?"

Now you will appreciate that it is not as simple as it seems at first glance. One possible interpretation—in this case, the CoC's intended interpretation—is to take "Product" to mean the "result" of a process, e.g. the product of "2 x 2" is "4". Looking at the the riddle from this point of view, we're actually looking for something found on the signboard which is the result of substituting the words in the clue. And here, the required "Product" is therefore "UNDER THE NILE", which loosely corresponds to "DEPTHS OF A FLOWER".

But there is another way of interpreting the meaning of "Product". And that is by treating that word in its literal sense, i.e. what product comes from that brandname "UNDER THE NILE"? If—I say, IF, you note—this is how we should treat "Product", then the answer we are looking for is "Egyptian Organic Cotton", because that is the product from that brandname as stated on the board.

So now we are faced with the dilemma of how to write the answer for this Q. The CoC's interpretation could be either of the above, and it is not so easy to guess, you see.

One possible way is just to write "UNDER THE NILE @ Organic Baby", thus answering the What (UNDER THE NILE) and where (Organic Baby).

Another possible way is to write "Egyptian Organic Cotton @ Organic Baby" based on the second interpretation above.

There is yet a third possibility—an approach which I adopted—we wrote the answer as "UNDER THE NILE; Egyptian Organic Cotton @ Organic Baby", thus covering both the above interpretations, and then kept our fingers crossed. It turned out that the CoC accepted this approach! So all very nice and elegant in the cryptic sense.

However, that is not the end of the story. Within that same sector, there is a signboard where the word "HONEY" could be found. The question is whether that can qualify as the answer too? For example, HONEY @ Syarikat ABC. If that can be accepted, it would mean that the entire Q is seen in the literal sense, i.e. the mere question of asking the solver what product comes from inside (the depths) of the flower. Looking from this angle, it seems at least a strong possibility to me. But if I had seen both those choices that day, which one would I have chosen? I think I would still have chosen our answer above anyway, because it is more elegant!

Having said that, however, I am reminded by what Master Hunter Renroc said to me once. He said hunters are supposed to find answers that fit the clues; they need not necessarily be elegant! If they fit, they fit! I think that is such a profound opinion which is not to be gainsaid.

But what does the CoC have to say about HONEY? He did not accept HONEY because according to him HONEY is not a product from the depths of a flower. What is found in "the depths of a flower" is the nectar. The nectar is collected by the bees which is then turned into honey in the bee hives.

That sounds like a logical explanation. But I must beg to differ! When talking about paper produced by Sabah Forest Industry (SFI), don't we always say "paper, the product from the acacia trees"? And don't we always say, furniture as products from the rubber trees? So to me, HONEY is a product from the "depths of a flower", even though it is not directly from it!

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