In an &lit clue, the whole clue is the definition, and the whole clue is the wordplay. We follow US tradition and signal such clues with an exclamation point. We have written about these twice: Lit Parade and And the Lits Keep on Coming!.

Sometimes, of course, an exclamation point is just an exclamation point, and it signals nothing else, as in these examples:
   GASP  Cry out, “Gee, a snake!” (4)
   NOSFERATU  Vampire bats: “Fear us not!” (9)
   PERRY COMO  Singer with a pop record initially in Mexico—and how! (5,4)
   YOSEMITE  Hey, a Jew in a national park! (8)

In our puzzles, in perhaps 3/4 of the cases, the exclamation point does indicate an &lit clue. Here are the &lits from our third year as The Nation’s puzzlers:
   APTEST  It might reveal the most qualified! (2,4)
   CABARET  It consists of a bar, etc.! (7)
   CAPER  Prance about without a bit of nervousness! (5)
   CELL PHONE  Individual to hold this when talking! (4,5)
   DIET PEPSI  Deep sip? It is not very healthy! (4,5)
   EQUALITY  Justice’s ultimate character! (8)
   FIRST  Trees’ T! (5)
   GRAVITY’S RAINBOW  Experimental writing? Say “Bravo”! (8,7)
   HEALTHIER  Can make it haler, eh?! (9)
   HOOFPRINT  Thin proof after a stampede! (9)
   INSOLENCE Silence? No, misbehaving! (9)
   INSULT  It pains, ultimately, inside! (6)
   ISLE  Arrange leis here! (4)
   MINERAL  Aluminum found by one who goes underground, for example! (7)
   MOONLIGHT  Low luminescence, primarily found in darkness! (9)
   MOSH PIT  Most hip dancing?! (4,3)
   NUMBER ONE I!  (6,3)
   PREDATOR  Vicious raptor capturing energy with food, in the end! (8)
   ROGET  Where you find, e.g.: rot, corrupt! (5)
   ROPER  Vaquero, perhaps, at heart! (5)

   SEMAPHORE  Ultimately, communicate with a visual representation, perhaps

   received by shore! (9)
   SHORELINE  Herons lie all over the place! (9)
   SLANG  It’s “in” hipsters’ language! (5)

We believe that the solver’s extra satisfaction from an &lit clue gives the constructor permission to be a little less strict than usual when writing those clues. Thus you might find that one or two of the above definitions is a bit verbose or vague, and the wordplay in one or two clues is perhaps far-fetched or the indicator iffy. Some cryptic hardliners may have a problem with this liberal stance, but hey, we’re liberal.

Other cryptic hardliners object to &lit clues based on initials or last letters, as those are easier to construct:
   NASH  Ogden—a humorous wordsmith, ultimately! (4)
   WICCA  Wherein individual covens could affiliate, primarily! (5)
   YETI  Origins of yarn: “Everest’s terrifying iceman!” (4)

While we admit that these are not as impressive constructions as some others, we like them anyway, because we think they are fun to solve.

One last example—we liked this very concise charade &lit:
   POETS  Bards! (5)
But our test solvers felt it was too hard, so we ended up with this one:
   POETS  A couple of bards! (5)

Should we have stuck to our original idea?

This week’s cluing challenge: VERBATIM. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen. And now, four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines | PDF
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail. This is also where you can post quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle, as well as ask for hints.