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My friends and I like to pose cryptic crosswords to each other and I slipped up when I made a clue with the straight in the middle.

I know that it's not Ximanean, but I thought it might be allowed by more liberal crossworders.

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  • $\begingroup$ According to British or North American norms? $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Feb 7, 2016 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ae either one of them $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ See also: puzzling.stackexchange.com/a/1661/4050 $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Feb 7, 2016 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, it's also fine to break the rules if one states up front that some clues may behave differently than normal. Here's an example of a crossword where some of the definitions are in the middle. $\endgroup$
    – Jafe
    May 7, 2021 at 1:15

4 Answers 4

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If you're not sticking to the North American or Ximenean standards then "Is it permissible" raises the question "permitted by whom?" or "according to what rules?"

If we alter the question a bit to ask "could it be published as a cryptic crossword clue in a national newspaper?", then since published clues include "1d pi?!" (answer: TURNIP) and "Of of of of of of of of of of" (answer: OFTENTIMES) - both of which omit the 'straight' entirely - I don't see any reason why putting it in the middle shouldn't be equally permissible.

So if we're including British 'libertarian' cryptics then personally I think this would be ok.

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  • $\begingroup$ But those clues are gimmicks with no straight definition at all. So whether they're valid or not has no bearing on the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Rosie F
    Jul 9, 2016 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ "1d pi?" = "Turnip"? I'm sorry? Could you explain that one? $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    Jul 9, 2016 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ @RosieF My point is that, as you say. they have no straight definition at all. As I said, "both omit the 'straight' entirely". $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Jul 9, 2016 at 17:08
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No, that would be an invalid clue. It must be possible to split the clue into two parts and (possibly ignoring a connector) have a definition and a wordplay part.

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    $\begingroup$ Invalid by which standard? $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Pureferret: AFAIK, all of them. Most cryptic solvers I know would consider it an unfair clue, even those who do more liberal cryptics. (I understand if you don't want to accept anecdotal evidence though) $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ There are clues which don't follow this rule - double definitions (where the clue consists of two definitions), &lits (where the entire clue is both the definition and the wordplay), and cryptic definitions (where the clue is just a definition presented in a clever/misleading way). I don't think I've ever seen a clue with the definition in the middle, though, so it would be against conventions. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Feb 7, 2016 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ If the straight definition is between two cryptic parts, and each cryptic part on its own yields the answer, this would be OK IMO. But if you need to combine something that's before the definition with something that's after the definition (e.g. anagram ind, definition, anagram fodder), then no. IMO it would be unreasonable for the solver to parse that clue and solve it. $\endgroup$
    – Rosie F
    Jul 9, 2016 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ @RosieF: Yeah, but that would mean that there are three parts to the clue. Generally clues have to be 2-part (one definition, one cryptic or alternative definition) - the only exceptions I've seen allowed are &lit clues and the very rare triple definition. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Jul 9, 2016 at 8:01
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There's no specific rule about where the definition has to go, but in general it would be hard to write a coherent sentence if one thing you're trying to say is arbitrarily interposed in another. You wouldn't say "made of flour, butter a cake eggs and sugar".

That said, you could have the definition 'in the middle', if you can construct such a clue which logically indicates the answer. In practice that would probably mean using the word 'this' or similar to point to the definition, something like this not-very-good clue I made up:

Mix this drink for Leo and me? (8) LEMONADE

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Shuchi, of Crossword Unclued, has a blog post specifically about this: Unusual positions for crossword definitions, and provides some examples:

Definition in the middle: Guardian 24870 (Auster): Kelly becomes well-informed by following one who wrote nonsense (7)

LEARNED
Here, NED (Ned Kelly, Australian bushranger) follows LEAR (Edward Lear, the writer of nonsense verse) to become LEARNED. The definition "well-informed" is sandwiched between the wordplay.

[...] Auster's clue for [...] points precisely to "well-informed" as the definition, with link words ("becomes", "by following") clearly indicating the wordplay. So it is all right.

And also explain where these are most likely seen

The most likely clue types to have the definition in the middle are semi-&lits, composite anagrams and those with wordplay inversion.

Some more of the examples (not reproduced) work much as aPaulT's answer by using 'this' to point to the definition.

Suchi also gives in that blog a few cryptics with definitions in the middle that are just sloppy and concludes:

It is an exceptional clue that can place its definition in the middle and pull it off successfully.

Note, all the 'good' examples come from British setters who are more Libertarian than Ximenean as A E's answer surmises.

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