Clinical Data – Juxtaposition Indicators

At the suggestion of correspondent Andy (thanks, Andy!), I have created an initial list of juxtaposition indicators together with an explanation of how such indicators work. I would welcome thoughts on this list, and suggestions for additions, changes or deletions. With that in mind, for the moment I have enabled comments on the new page.

The page can be accessed from the Clinical Data main page, or directly here.

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10 Responses

  1. PostMark says:

    Thank you, Dr Clue, for a typically courteous and considered reply. (I haven’t had one before but I have read others!) I am pleased I opted for ‘on a cycle’ with the clue I eventually published. [American hillbilly on a cycle ride (4) in case you were interested.]

    I think the page you suggest would be most interesting – and as helpful to tyro setters as all of your other pages.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Your clue (assuming I have solved it correctly!) raises an interesting point – could the definition part be at either end of the clue, and is the clue therefore ambiguous? This is a potential issue with many homophone, reversal or ‘cyclic shift’ clues where the indicator sits between the definition and the word to be ‘treated’. I see (even from Azed) a lot of what I call ‘missing comma’ wordplays: take the clue ‘Crack running round pots (4)’. I see this as a clue to PANS, with the word SNAP ‘running around’; were ‘Crack’ the intended definition, there should in my opinion be a comma between ’round’ and ‘pots’. I’m hoping that the expected answer to your clue is the U-word – if not, it offers rather more ambiguity than I would ideally like.

  2. PostMark says:

    Hi Dr Clue

    It’s timely that there is discussion on the juxtaposition page: I visited to see if you, by chance, covered the ‘cycling’ instruction in this section. And you don’t. Though it feels like the most appropriate section, given the others. I am curious as to what alternatives are accepted for the indicator ‘cycling’, other than versions of ‘nose to tail’ or ‘back to front’? Would ‘on a bicycle/cycle’ work as an instruction? It is a synonym of ‘cycling’ so, in theory, should work but might it be considered unfair?

    I’d be interested in your views.


    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi PostMark, and thanks for your comment, prompted by which I shall look to add a list of what might be termed ‘specific rearrangement indicators’, which indicate neither reversal nor random reordering.

      ‘Cycling’ is perhaps unique in that it can I think legitimately indicate any rearrangement where the cyclic sequence is maintained, eg ‘cycling star’ could be TARS, ARST or RSTA.

      A synonym of an accepted indicator is only valid if it is synonymous in terms of the specific sense required – ‘involved’ and ‘concerned’, for instance, share a meaning when it comes to being bound up with something, but while ‘involved’ is fine as an anagram indicator (= tangled, jumbled) ‘concerned’ is definitely not, since it doesn’t share that meaning. I would consider ‘on a bicycle’ grossly unfair, while ‘on a cycle’ is much preferable and perhaps even inhabits the fringes of acceptability (I can just about imagine a sequence of letters ‘going on a cycle’).

      ‘Back to front’, ‘first to last’ etc are normally used to indicate only the first or last letter being moved, although with something like ‘back to front’ one could argue that a bigger chunk might reasonably be moved from one end to the other.

      Incidentally, an interesting one is ‘preposterous’ – I have seen this used as a reversal indicator (Chambers gives one meaning as ‘literally inverted’) but it is derived from the Latin praeposterus, meaning ‘with the hinder part foremost’, so arguably it could be used with exactly the same effect as ‘cycling’. Note that these senses of the word are invariably shown as ‘rare’, and could therefore only be drawn upon in barred crosswords.

  3. Doctor Clue says:

    Hi Dr Daniel

    Firstly, apologies that comments had got turned off on that page. A year or so ago the site kept unexpectedly disabling comments on all pages – I thought the issue had gone away, but it happened again last week. I have re-enabled comments on the appropriate pages, and will be regularly checking for any recurrence.

    As you’ve probably worked out, I am pretty uncompromising in my views on many constructions and indicators. However, the preposition ‘on’ is not only given by the OED as ‘Expressing contact with any surface, whatever its position’ but also as ‘In proximity to; close to, beside, near, by’. As far as I’m concerned, theses senses clearly justify the use of ‘A on B’ to indicate all possibilities (before/after, across/down), even though when used as a postposition indicator in a down clue it would seem decidedly counterintuitive. The adverbial use (‘A with B on’) seems a little more questionable, but OED gives ‘In the position of being attached to or covering any surface’, so although I personally wouldn’t use ‘A with B on’ to indicate A followed by B, I don’t think it would be an error to do so.

    Whilst we all have our own views about using particular constructions in our own crosswords, I don’t think that when assessing other people’s clues we can pick and choose meanings. And participants in the party game of ‘pinning the tail on the donkey’ are not constrained in terms of the section of the donkey to which they may attach the tail.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Today’s Azed crossword includes a clue where ‘on’ is used to indicate the juxtaposition of two letters in an across clue, so he and I are clearly in agreement regarding its use not being restricted to down clues.

      • Dr. Daniel Price (Saint Vincent) says:

        I do not believe that I suggested use of “on” only in Down clues; for Across clues, the pontificator stated that without exception, usage of “on” in Across clues required the indicated letters to follow that which they are “on”.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          My apologies – your original comment was very clear and my observation certainly wasn’t. I’ll have another go:

          “Today’s Azed crossword includes an Across clue where ‘x on y’ is used to indicate that x is followed by y, so he and I are clearly in agreement that the use of ‘on’ to indicate that the first element precedes the second is not limited to Down clues.”

          The one combination that I would avoid is ‘x on y’ to indicate that x follows y in a Down entry, since while it may be justifiable in theory (“there’s a fly on the ceiling”) it is unlikely to be well-received by solvers.

          Does that make sense?

          • Dr. Daniel Price (Saint Vincent) says:

            it does, and is a bit of a lifeline for me: a rare expansion of the palette. I go through contortions to avoid reusing devices–as I am sure that other setters do–so additional options can only help. Thank you for your (and Azed’s) perspective.

  4. Dr. Daniel Price (Saint Vincent) says:

    Comment placed here regarding your list of juxtaposition indicators, as that page no longer allows such notes:

    One of your peers states unequivocally that “on” can only refer to one element *preceding* another in a Down clue, and must only be used to indicate an element *following* another in an Across clue. Your collection of juxtaposition indicators would allow “on” either before or after a Down or an Across clue. While I would likely benefit from such a liberal interpretation, I have some misgivings; I hope that Doctor Clue can assuage those concerns.

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