Here's a clue that was used in the York regional final of the 1975 Championship:
Red rover (4) [ERIC]
(select between the square brackets for the answer, or read on)
In case you'd like a bit more to go on, here are the checked letters: [E‑I‑
]. I suspect this clue wouldn't go down too well in some quarters today, and in fact the expected answer wasn't received too happily by those solvers who chose a different final letter (the one apparently regarded as standard in the relevant wikipedia entry
), particularly since the then crossword editor, Edmund Akenhead, was disinclined to accept K as a legitimate alternative. Fortunately, in those days long before the World Wide Web, someone had spotted that one of the bars at the hotel where the regional final was being held was named "Erik's Bar", and that was enough to sway the decision.
I remember this because Edmund liked to cite it to demonstrate that he really was prepared to accept legitimate alternatives in the Championship; but, as far as I can recall, this didn't happen very often. And indeed that's only to be expected since Championship puzzles are normally checked thoroughly to avoid alternatives, usually with test solvers of the calibre of Michael Rich and Peter Biddlecombe. It's probably fair to say that there aren't many legitimate alternative answers to non-Championship Times crossword clues either, but they do occur from time to time. This one comes from No. 23,001 (13 June 2005):
Drag hunt (5)
The checked letters were [T‑A‑L
] and the expected answer was [TRAWL
], but I can see no reason why [TRAIL
] isn't equally legitimate. The following one appeared as 3dn in No. 23,272 (25 April 2006) - I've included the clue number at the front:
3 less three will fail (4,2,6)
Here the checked letters were [C‑M‑ T‑ N‑U‑H‑
] and the expected answer was [COME TO NAUGHT
]. However, while Oxford Dictionaries Online
appears to favour the above spelling of the third word, the OED is quite happy for an O to replace the A, and indeed its final citation for the O version is taken from The Times of 19 June 1984.
Last Monday's puzzle contained the (down) clue "Weapon, a chap said, holds up animal (7)". I can't remember where I first came across either of the two possible spellings, ASSAGAI and ASSEGAI, but I've a sneaking feeling that the former may have come up in some past Times crossword, though I believe only the latter has appeared in recent years. Anyway, I've had them as alternatives in my list of difficult words for decades, and after a fairly brief ponder, I chose the former. Perhaps this wasn't the wisest choice for an everyday puzzle, but it's the one I'd have made if the clue had come up in the Championship, reasoning that if it really had allowed alternatives, then PB would have asked for is to be changed, and if there was only one answer, then it had to be ASSAGAI.
There are occasions when setters deliberately include clues with more than one legitimate answer, a device usually referred to as double entendre
. But that's another story.
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: ready to accept alternatives