The Crossword Centre Clue-Writing Competition

CCCWC July competition voters’ comments
Clue no. 4: Barf ten times? Have flu? I’d such. A swine

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A clue to MENO (Printer’s Devilry).
3 comments refer to this clue (from 3 competitors, 0 others)
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Comments on the competition
It seems to me that many competitors do not understand the finer points of the PD clue – 1) It should make more sense in the undevilled version; 2) It should make *some* sense in the devilled version; 3) word splits should not come immediately before or the word's position either in the devilled or undevilled version.

Two clues which I gave 1 point to, but would have been my favourites if they did not fall down on point 3 were 27 and 42. Instead 36 was my number 1 choice. It very nicely deals with points 1 to 3, and also manages to incorporate some humour. The only others that stood out for me were 7, 22 and 24. I gave half a point to 4 which was great except for the rather unnatural surface reading of the undevilled version due to use of 'fluid'. I also gave a half a point to 5 and 31 since they are quite sound but also very obvious ideas (that I chose not to use for that very reason).
Some entrants seemed to enjoy rejigging lots of word spaces throughout the clues (such as 4, 47 and 49 among others) as a sort of game in itself, but this did nothing for me. I liked the ones where both the devilled and undevilled versions made some sort of sense (11, 45 etc.)! The smutty ones (such as 1 and 46 worked quite well. To the author of 22: I know how you feel, mate! I think the really short ones (such as 39) were maybe TOO "tough". Number 24 would have benefitted from losing the final "for".
Satisfactory, let alone first-rate, PD clues are not at all easy to achieve, and I’m afraid that the entries for this competition demonstrate that. If the exercise is to have any point at all, it seems to me (though others will probably disagree) that there are certain criteria that it is essential to meet if a clue is to pass muster:

a. the undevilled version

i. must make good sense

(Out go Clues 2, 8, 17, 41, 49)

ii. must be in natural, unstilted, idiomatic English

(Out go Clues 14, 21, 24, 29, 33, 37. It’s a shame about 24, in which
it is not in fact the PD element itself that produces the stilted and unidiomatic
English; “freedom enough” / “free dough” was a good idea, but unfortunately
rather clumsily executed.)

iii. must be credible, ie, a sentence or form of words that one can readily imagine
reading or hearing spoken

(Out go Clues 4, 13, 27, 32, 35, 44, 47, 48)

b. there must be a marked contrast in meaning (the greater the better) between the undevilled and the devilled versions.

(Out go Clues 9, 12, 20, 23, 25, 31, 34, 38)

c. the devilled version must make at least a sort of sense, however zany, though it is OK for it to be slightly artificially expressed.

(Out go Clues 2, 6, 22, 28, 30, 37, 43, 46, 49)

Ideally, the omission of the clue word should alter a serious or humdrum pronouncement into something piquant or bizarre that raises a smile (and NOT the other way around). In my book, altering the punctuation is acceptable, but the very best clues will contrive to avoid it.

Of the remaining entries, Clues 3, 18, 39, 40, 45 are sound, but rather dull, and the devilled versions of 5, 7 and 19 seem to me to teeter on the edge of meaninglessness. In 26, the contrast, though there, is rather feeble, added to which the undevilled version is wrongly punctuated – it should, surely, read “It’s vital you get here immediately. Come now!”

Of the remaining six:

The undevilled version of 1 is rather strained and only just passes the test at a.iii. above, but the clue does offer the required contrast – 1.5 points

The undevilled version of 10 is one of the most credible, but “numerous works of sin” is a bit flat and doesn’t really gel with the preceding words – 1.5 points

42 is very neat, but I’m not convinced that extreme brevity is a virtue in a PD clue. – 2 points

The construction of the undevilled version of 11 is a shade unnatural (eg, the inclusion of “a” – and would one really express oneself thus?), but the execution of the PD element is masterly – 3 points

The undevilled version of 15 is pushing it slightly under a.iii. above, but the devilled version is suitably bizarre and the contrast the best of the lot – 3.5 points

36 has an entirely credible undevilled version, good contrast and first-rate execution of the PD element, but the devilled version lacks the bizarre qualities of 15 – 3.5 points