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Author Topic: Breaking the rules of theme clues  (Read 182 times)

maia.mcc

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Breaking the rules of theme clues
« on: May 11, 2020, 09:36:38 PM »
I've got a question about those "unwritten rules of crosswording":

I've been working under the assumptions that when writing a themed crossword:
1. your theme clues must be symmetrically placed throughout the grid
2. if using a revealer, it follows the above rule
3. your revealer should be the last theme clue you encounter as you move from NW to SE in the grid
4. your revealer is a clue to your theme/trick but not an instance of it

My specific question is about whether/under what circumstances I can get away with breaking rule #2. I've got an abundance of theme clues I like, and a short-and-sweet revealer that doesn't seem worth taking space away from a clever theme clue, or swapping out a long, meaty theme clue for a short one to maintain symmetry. I'm considering 3 or 4 properly symmetrical theme clues, and my revealer all the way in the bottom right--excusable, or verboten?

More generally, I'm wondering about people's thoughts on breaking any/all of the above rules. Obviously, there are great puzzles out there with theme entries scattered all over the grid, revealers in unlikely places, revealers just as tricksy as the theme entries, etc.  What's the difference between a great rule-breaking puzzle and one that an editor "tsk's" at?

axlrosen

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Re: Breaking the rules of theme clues
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2020, 02:11:51 AM »
Sometimes the revealer is in the middle theme slot (in the center of the puzzle), rather than the last one.

Also, I sometimes see revealers in the SE corner, but not in a theme slot (i.e non-symmetrically). The last Across or Down clue are best, but the laster the better. So that's near or overlapping with the last themer.

It can also be split in two, e.g. split between the last two across entries, or split between 1-Across and the final across entry.

I'm sure there are others.

Actually, I would not consider any of those ideas to be "breaking the rules." I would consider them to be part of the rules (subsidiary to the main rules that you've outline). A revealer that was in the NE corner, or vertically down the center, would be breaking the rules and get a big "tsk" (unless they were part of the wordplay of the theme).

maia.mcc

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Re: Breaking the rules of theme clues
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2020, 09:30:13 PM »
Thanks for the thoughts! Considering more, one more specific question: given a theme clue gimmick (e.g. a rebus, omitted letter, etc.), is it bad form or permissible for the revealer to also contain the gimmick?

To give an example, I remember a recent NYT crossword where the gimmick was the number "8" in some squares (read phonetically across, and as "oo" down). The revealer as published was "PIECES OF EIGHT"; what would folks think instead if it were "PIECES OF 8"?

(The context here is that I have a theme/gimmick idea, and the revealer is too long to work with all my other clues but fits perfectly if I also apply the gimmick to it.)
« Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 11:51:18 PM by maia.mcc »

axlrosen

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Re: Breaking the rules of theme clues
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2020, 12:07:12 PM »
Good question. I feel like, it probably depends.

For some themes, it's only "logical" because the revealer explains the theme. The revealer clue and the revealer answer work together as a secret decoder ring, without which the theme entries don't make sense. So you can't have the revealer also "encoded" or it's not fair.

In other cases, I can imagine it would be supercool if the revealer was also an instance of the theme. If it's self-describing, like a snake eating its tail, and it would be a big wow moment.

 


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