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This is a clue from the Irish Times cryptic crossword:

Weird arachnid with venomous tail in the French cemetery

Answer: "necropolis". How was this arrived at?

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2 Answers 2

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Hmm, an arachnid with venomous tail is a SCORPION, and "the" French is LE (French translation of "the"), and all that is anagrammed ("weird"), making NECROPOLIS (cemetery). This is an indirect anagram, and this is generally discouraged in cryptic clues since one unit can have many synonyms, and those synonyms most likely have more than one anagram, leading to many possible anagrams.

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    $\begingroup$ (Updated) See Chris Cudmore's and user39583's comments on Gareth's answer for better explanations, which takes into account the "in" in the clue surface. I think Chris's is better but regardless, as I've said, the indirect anagram is generally discouraged in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Oct 24, 2022 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, "the scorpion" is "le scorpion" in French, so you don't need to just take the le. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Oct 25, 2022 at 17:06
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The definition is

CEMETERY

and the wordplay

is, naughtily, an indirect anagram (i.e., an anagram where the thing anagrammed involves some meaning-based wordplay), of SCORPION + LE.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's 'scorpion' + 'le' but rather 'le scorpion' (otherwise the 'in' would be extraneous) (also for @oAlt) $\endgroup$
    – user39583
    Oct 24, 2022 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Either that or "... with a venomous tail in". Both are pretty bad, but then so is the whole indirect-anagram thing. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Oct 24, 2022 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I agree, even with the "in" not being extraneous I think that's still poor, and as Gareth said the problem of the indirect anagram remains. $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Oct 24, 2022 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's Weird ([Arachnid with a venomous tail] in [The French]) = CEMETARY Which leads to LscorpionE*. However, I'm of the opinion that if you're going to use an insertion to build indirect anagram fodder, then the fodder should be a word. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2022 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @FlorianF: There is a hint of an anagram: "weird". Words related to disorder or strangeness usually signal anagrams in a cryptic. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2022 at 22:33

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