Making One’s Mark

Making One’s Mark

Questionable clues?


We usually eschew end-of-clue punctuation, even when we manage to have a clue that is a bona fide sentence, as in this example:
   EMIGRANTS  They have moved away from streaming illegally (9)

One exception is the exclamation point; as is standard in American cryptic usage, we generally use that to indicate an &lit clue. But the more common exception is the question mark. At the end of a clue, it can indicate quite a few different things. Sometimes it signals a jokey or punny definition (either the main one or the second part of a double-definition clue):
   ANDROCLES  Mythical bird, originally living in a mountain range with amateur

   veterinarian? (9)

   DEMOCRATIC PARTY  A pretty rad comic playing the blues? (10,5)
   GREAT DEPRESSION  Economic catastrophe in the Grand Canyon? (5,10)
   HARD TIMES  1854 novel in the print edition of a newspaper? (4,5)

Sometimes it indicates a heteronymic reading of the entry:
   ANTIQUITY  In olden times, a health club that won’t let you give up? (9)
   HATRACK  Something you might see in the front hall or hear on a sitcom? (7)

It might flag a reading that is far-fetched or unexpected:
   ASSESSES  Rates female donkeys? (8)
   COOPERATION  Teamwork in making barrels? (11)
   DEMEANING  Shameful process of making people nicer? (9)

…or even absurd or ridiculous:
   ACTIVIST  Militant whose favorite part of a Shakespeare play is the penultimate section? (8)
   BUCOLIC  Rural ailment afflicting infants at a New England school? (7)
   CORONATION  Installation of a sovereign in Chad or Oman? (10)
   FOREARMED  Prepared, like, half an octopus in the sound? (9)
   HAMBURGER  One who encourages second choice for pork as a fast-food standard? (9)

A question mark could reveal that we suspect someone out there will object to a clue they will deem, well, questionable:
   FREE THROW  Worth undertaking after a foul? (4,5)
   DETERGENT  Barman’s cleanser? (9)
   GOLDENEYE  Objective: refuse to be heard in a thriller about a duck? (9)

In short, all you can conclude from a question mark is that “something is going on here.” Or not! Sometimes a question mark is just a question mark:
   CROSSWORD  Sorcerer, half looking back at weapon: “You’re wasting your time with

   this?” (9)

This week’s cluing challenge: INTERROGATE. 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.

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply-reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish everyday at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Ad Policy