In this series, I hope that newcomers can equip themselves with the tools of the solver's trade, while aficionados can enjoy some prime examples of the art of setting. We've looked at hidden answers and double definitions ; now it's time for the soundalike.
Anagrams are coming up, but the soundalike more often provides what this blog is all about: With soundalikes, it's about the listening rather than the seeing. It's often a moment of comic relief - though, as we'll see below, not everyone agrees.
With a soundalike, the setter suggests words to you, you say them aloud in your head - or out loud, if you don't mind looking odd - and you hear the answer. In the examples that follow, beginners should bear in mind that if they met them in an authentic puzzling context, they will probably be reaping the benefit of working from letters entered from other answers.
That is, they'll be easier than they might seem. Here's one, from Chifonie:. The wordplay here is "melodious to the ear", and Chifonie wants you to think about how your ear receives a word meaning melodious, namely "sweet". To your ear, it's the same as the answer, a musical work: Another, from the Times:. To pet, when it's not a cute old American term for advancing to first base, is to coax.
And Putting yourself first crossword clue Sunday Telegraph clue that involves a name The clues above give you a chance to think "hey!
Saying something or hearing it.
More often hearing it. Let's see some more soundalike clues, with the tell-tale indicator highlighted in coloured italics next to the word we have to find a homophone for.
Here's one in the FT from Cincinnus, known locally as Orlando:. So we take a word for "no" - "nay" - and find an equine soundalike as the solution: Putting yourself first crossword clue on the farm, here's Sleuth One more animal for now, from Puck:.
And there's a thing: Likewise, despite what Orlando may claim in cluing It turns out that the Miss Leeds pageant is alive and well in and held at the Halo Nightclub. Still, the general point stands. And three more hearings, from the Everyman:.
In the clues above, the soundalike does all the business of the wordplay. But sometimes it's just one part.
And one from the Times So far, we've looked at clues where you first work out what the wordplay is indicating and then say it aloud; in some cases, you say a word from the clue and think about what its soundalike might also mean, as with Paul's A word of caution.
Orlando had an ingeniously devious puzzle which indicated some soundalikes this way:. If you know how to enjoy a joke, you can enjoy one of these clues.
Other types of cryptic clue can be funny too, of course, but the soundalike is closest to the art form of the pun. The pun waxes and wanes in popularity. We're at the end, Putting yourself first crossword clue, of a period where punning is associated with groaning, thanks to the unstinting work of Tim VineMilton Jones and that extraordinary computer at the University of Aberdeen that touchingly tries to work out what will make humans laugh with material like:.
Dominic Cavendish recently wrote in the Telegraph that "the point of a cracker joke is that it's knowingly feeble" - I'm not sure I agree; perhaps "finding puns feeble" is just our current way of enjoying them.
We noted above that not everyone responds well to all soundalikes in crosswords, and one reason is suggested by a nicely-brought-up young woman I know who asked a barman for "a cake, please" and, on being told "this pub doesn't serve food", explained: But it's a reminder that a single word can be pronounced differently according to region, class or eccentricity.
And so some setters will take very badly to a clue that seems to be disrespectful of their own way of saying things. Personally, I suspect they enjoy becoming disgruntled, approaching a soundalike clue in expectation and hope of finding a quibble, like people who watch BBC Three programmes aiming to have a stiff letter sent to the BBC Trust within the first six minutes.
For a beginner, it's probably best to remember that the setter may not be saying "the wordplay will produce a sound precisely like that of the answer", but "they might sound a bit alike, depending on your background" - rather like the quick-crosswords gags in the Independent and Putting yourself first crossword clue Telegraph, where you can read the top row aloud and hear something like "BILLY COWS".
That was yesterday's Telegraph: I reckon it's a Dickens novel. Variety of accents can, too, be turned from an apparent bug into a feature, as with Tramp's recent audacious attempt at an Ulster brogue This excellent puzzle by Brendan from February has a theme that's based on a charming variant of the soundalike technique.
We'll finish with a personal favourite from Araucaria in his FT guise, Cinephile:. How does it work? Put simply, the fun is a pun. Some examples In the examples that follow, beginners should bear in mind that if they met them in an authentic puzzling context, they will probably Putting yourself first crossword clue reaping the benefit of working from letters entered from other answers.
Here's one, from Chifonie: Another, from the Times: So how to spot them?
Here's one in the FT from Cincinnus, known locally as Orlando: One more animal for now, from Puck: And three more hearings, from the Everyman: It's not always that simple In the clues above, the soundalike does all the business of the wordplay. Orlando had an ingeniously devious puzzle which indicated Putting yourself first crossword clue soundalikes this way: And how to enjoy them If you know how to enjoy a joke, you can enjoy one of these clues.
We're at the end, hopefully, of a period where punning is associated with groaning, thanks to the unstinting work of Tim VineMilton Jones and that extraordinary computer at the University of Aberdeen that touchingly tries to work out what will make humans laugh with material like: What do you call a capsicum path?