Kosman and Picciotto on their Nation puzzle, cryptic crosswords, wordplay and puzzles in general.
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The charade is a basic type of cryptic clue in which the entry is broken up into consecutive chunks. These are then defined one after the other, with the definition of the whole coming first or last. This is not unlike the parlor game of charades, or the classic verse charades. For example, from Puzzle 3227:
GORGONZOLA Ugly female novelist makes cheese (10)
Or, from Puzzle 3236:
FLAGELLATED Jack Fitzgerald Kennedy is whipped (11)
(For the latter, we were not sure that “jack” would be recognized as a synonym of “flag,” but the surface of the clue was appealing, and we figured that those solvers who did not feel like looking it up might be satisfied by making the connection with the well-known “Union Jack.”)
The parts of a charade need not be defined in order—but if they’re not, the clue should indicate that explicitly. For example, from Puzzle 3223:
ASTROPHYSICS Science attacks, following baseball team’s award (12)
Here “following” indicates that SICS comes at the end.
Or from Puzzle 3213:
CARGO PLANE Republicans invading a vehicle passage with a commercial aircraft (5,5)
In this case “invading” indicates that GOP goes in between the other two parts.
A charade may be phonetic, or (to use the lingo of the parlor game) based on “sounds like.” Two examples, respectively from puzzles 3207 and 3214:
UVULA Say, you have… you will… uh… something hanging down the back of your throat (5)
EYEHOLE Through it, you can see or hear the ego, undivided (7)
The solutions sound like “you’ve you’ll uh” and “I, whole.”
In general, we try to avoid partially phonetic clues, i.e., clues in which one part is phonetic and another is literal. This is not really a rule so much as an aesthetic preference, and something we do violate occasionally. In Puzzle 3204, for instance:
EYESORE Ugly sight and sound of material from which diamonds can be extracted? (7)
In this case, “ice” is phonetic, but “ore” is not.
Finally, there is a type of charade where the cluing is not piecewise but global, cluing “the whole thing.” Here are two examples (respectively from puzzles 3216 and 3233:
BRAINWASH Woman’s laundry list item: indoctrinate (9)
AMPHITHEATER Band’s equipment collided with radiator in auditorium (12)
Perhaps these are not exactly charades, but more like double definitions involving deceptive spacing. (In the argot of the National Puzzlers’ League, they are “heteronyms,” words or phrases that are spelled the same, except perhaps for spacing, and may be pronounced differently.)
Sometimes this leads to the parts being clued out of order, with no explicit indication of that, as in this case, from Puzzle 3232:
GAS PEDAL “It makes the car go,” Unser said with difficulty (3,5)
“Unser“ comes before “said with difficulty” in the clue, even though AL comes after GASPED in the answer. This does not happen often, but it is justified by the global nature of the clue.
Whole-thing charades, or heteronyms, have been among the most popular among our test solvers. One last example, from Puzzle 3199:
ALLEN SCREW Piece of equipment for Midnight in Paris gaffers (5,5)
We later found out that it includes a factual error: it turns out that the credits for Midnight in Paris list only a single gaffer. Presumably this did not prevent anyone from solving the clue.
Do you have favorite charade clues? Please share them below, where you can also post comments, questions, kudos or complaints about last week’s puzzle or any previous puzzle.
SPOILER ALERT! HINTS FOR BEGINNERS FOR PUZZLE #3241
These clues are charades: 11A, 12A, 17A, 26A, 1D, 2D
These clues break the entry into consecutive pieces, like a charade, but involve further wordplay on one or more piece: 9A, 14A, 5D, 16D