I Hear You!

I Hear You!

Some clues should be heard and not seen


[First, three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle–solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in great detail.]

All introductions to cryptic crosswords mention “homophone” clues. These are clues in which the wordplay leads to a homonym of the answer. Here are a few examples taken from Nation puzzles of our first year. The homonym is indicated in square brackets after the clue.
LESSEN  Abridge lecture on tape (6) [lesson]
LETTS  Why don’t we broadcast Latvians? (5) [let’s]
LISZT  Composer’s catalog sung (5) [list]
MALI  Ivins discussed in The Nation (4) [Molly]
NEIGHS  Voiced contrary opinions in barnyard language? (6) [nays]
RHEUMY  Running from the nose and from the mouth, with plenty of space (6) [roomy]

Notice that in each case, the wordplay is flagged with an indicator that is intended to help the solver realize that the clue is a homophone: “on tape,” “broadcast,” “sung,” “discussed,” “voiced” and “from the mouth.”

But the “homophone” concept only scratches the surface, as many other clue types can also exist in a phonetic version. For example, here are some phonetic charades:
HAIKU  Recited aloud, an exalted, brilliant stroke—this clue, for instance (5) [high coup]
IQ TEST  Method of assessing brilliance pronounced, yes, “most attractive” (2,4) [aye cutest]
LIE IN WAIT  Lurk stealthily to announce, “Four pounds for a cub, perhaps” (3,2,4) [lion weight]
LORGNETTE  Tradition in Russia: no noisy glasses (9) [lore nyet]
MIASMA  Unpleasant atmosphere sounds like the reason I can’t breathe (6) [my asthma]
NEW DEAL  Roosevelt’s program on the radio uncovered something slippery (3,4) [nude eel]
PRIMA DONNA  Diva, before “Like a Virgin” was heard? (5,5) [pre-Madonna]

And here is a phonetic hidden word:
SHREWD  Cache rudimentary audio holding—that’s clever (6)

Although phonetics can be combined with other kinds of wordplay, we’re not big fans of partially phonetic clues; in general, we attempt to have the wordplay for each clue be either entirely phonetic or entirely literal. We’ve probably violated that precept a few times, but we see it as a guideline, not a rule.

Have you come across some great phonetic clues? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.

This week’s puzzle has a larger than usual complement of phonetic clues: 16A, 21A, 5D, 14D.

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