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A poor clue - RTC3
Random Thoughts on Crosswords Cryptic and Concise + Recherché Times Crossword Clues Considered
A poor clue
Janet and I were hoping to exchange contracts for house sale and purchase by the end of August, but after a week of increasingly exhausting phone calls, I'm sorry to report that we've failed. Perhaps that put me in a bad mood for crossword solving, and it's certainly true that by the end of last week I was feeling pretty exhausted. Nevertheless I feel strongly enough about a clue from Friday's Times cryptic (No. 26,189) to break my silence and put hands to keyboard. This is the clue:
Colour shown by maiden, perhaps, with fever (9) [OVERSTATE]
(select between the square brackets for the answer, or read on)
I thought - and still think - that this is a very poor clue. It seems to be following the tendency of some Times setters to scour the outer reaches of the thesaurus for the meanings of the words they use. Here we have two examples: "colour" as the definition of OVERSTATE; and "fever" meaning STATE as part of the wordplay. Even if you can resist the temptation to bung in OVERSHADE - using the more obvious "colour" = SHADE - and come up with OVERSTATE as a word that would at least fit the checked letters, you are (or at any rate I was) still left wondering whether there might not be a less obscure solution.

I've a fairly strong suspicion that a clue like this would not have appeared in a Times crossword until quite recently, and I think it would be better if similar far-fetched meanings were outlawed in the future, at least in the daily Times cryptic. I'm obviously something of a dinosaur when it comes to crosswords, so I'd be interested to know if there's anyone out there who's prepared to defend this kind of thing. I appreciate that there's pleasure to be had from solving a difficult clue, but even though I eventually plumped for the correct answer in this case, it gave me no satisfaction.

I found 25ac in Saturday's crossword (No. 26,190) very similar: a far-fetched clue spoiling an otherwise interesting and original puzzle.

Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: exhausted exhausted

3 comments or Leave a comment
jon88 From: jon88 Date: August 31st, 2015 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had the identical reaction to 25ac on Saturday.
i_am_magoo From: i_am_magoo Date: September 22nd, 2015 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I got it wrong, so I should feel the same as you two. But in fact I'm not sure if I do. I did consider OVERSTATE as well as OVERSHADE but couldn't connect either part of either word to 'fever' and went with SHADE as relevant to 'colour'. More care would have got me there. I'm at least ambivalent.
tony_sever From: tony_sever Date: October 11th, 2015 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Apologies for taking so long to reply, Mark. I felt your comment deserved a considered response, but then, with other things on my mind, neglected it.

What worried me (and still worries me a little) is that it isn't really a Times Crossword clue. I think it would probably be OK in a Listener crossword, but I don't think it's the sort of thing that a reasonably well-educated person travelling to work (the typical Times Crossword solver?) would enjoy. And enjoyment is surely what the Times Crossword - or any other daily cryptic - should be all about.
3 comments or Leave a comment