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The art of biffing - RTC3
Random Thoughts on Crosswords Cryptic and Concise + Recherché Times Crossword Clues Considered
The art of biffing
I expect some Times crossword solvers will remember this clue from No. 25,525 (12 July 2013):
Hostess about to pull out of business (7)
because the checked letters C‑M‑E‑E lured some solvers into biffing COMPERE. One TftT correspondent confessed that he thought "Aha! Female setter" and plumped for what he took to be a unisex answer; however, unfortunately for him the wordplay led straightforwardly to COMMERE (COMMERCE with the second C removed).

My thanks to jerrywh for pointing out that the acronym BIFD (Bunged In From Definition) appears to have been coined almost a year ago by grestyman, since when it and its homophone "biffed" and the resulting back-formation "biff" have come into regular use in the TftT blog and the TCC forums. Last week this sparked a rather sour comment from a TCC member who apparently disliked the idea of biffing and indeed the whole idea of solving at speed. But as a competitive solver who (by way of practice) solves almost all crosswords (apart from the Listener) against the clock, I suspect there's hardly a day goes by when I don't biff at least one answer and quite often several; and I would guess that most other successful competitive solvers of cryptics are inveterate biffers too. I should perhaps add - for the benefit of those who disapprove of competitive solving - that once I've finished, I always go back over the clues again to check that I really have understood them, and to savour their finer points. Another TCC member didn't like the word "biff" because he felt it smacked of Jennings and Darbyshire, but for me "biffing" is what Brigadier Ritchie-Hook in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy encouraged his men to do to the enemy.

Of course I sometimes biff wrong answers, but probably not more than one a year on average. An obvious rule of thumb is that the longer the answer, the safer the biff; so the shorter the answer the more care you need to take. Apart from that, experience is the most important factor, and I can think of a few words I'm particularly wary of because I've biffed them unsuccessfully in the past. (However, I'm not going to tell you what they are. They might come up again in a future Championship :-).

Current Location: Ealing (still north)
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2 comments or Leave a comment
jerrywh From: jerrywh Date: January 3rd, 2016 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)


Biffing appears to have been invented here:


by Grestyman, about whom I know very little except that he is a TfTT regular. Its appearance in the next edition of Chambers seems assured so, nice to get the provenance established ...
tony_sever From: tony_sever Date: January 3rd, 2016 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bifd

Thanks, Jerry. I've updated my blog entry accordingly.
2 comments or Leave a comment