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Old 10-12-2019, 03:20 PM
Sangahyando is offline
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Baffled by element in cryptic crossword clue: enlightenment requested


I'm in the UK, where -- if I understand rightly -- crossword puzzles with "cryptic" clues are more popular and widespread than in the US; although the cryptic variety does exist Stateside. Am faced with a bit of bafflement concerning a a clue + answer word, recently encountered.

It is confirmed with certainty, that the correct answer word is MAMBAS. The clue is "Graduates keep small to medium reptiles". Abbreviations in Britain for various graduate qualifications which might be relevant (I don't mean to come across as condescending here -- for all I know, the same abbreviations with the same meanings, may obtain in the States): MA = Master of Arts, BM = Bachelor of Medicine, BA = Bachelor of Arts. I see as possibly featuring in the clue: any one of those, or a combination of any two, variously singular or plural.

The final word "reptiles" must, I feel, refer to MAMBAS. The "small to medium" part, has me bewildered. I feel that it can be deduced -- possibly wrongly -- that A, or B (a bit improbably) or M, or MBA, could in the clue's context, signify "small to medium"; but "how come?". Or perhaps I'm on the wrong track altogether here.

I'd be very grateful for any input from "cryptic" exponents, which might shed light here.
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Old 10-12-2019, 03:30 PM
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I'm not a cryptologist, but I'd guess that "small to medium" might refer to the "S" and "M" that bookend the word. The "BA" (Bachelor of Arts) is also between an "S" and "M".
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for thoughts -- but "cryptic crossword world" is, in its strange way, hyper-obedient to rigid rules. In my perception, the clue is phrased so that the "small to medium" stuff has got to be bracketed by the "graduates" stuff -- "keep", done by the latter to the former. Thus, opposed to your suggestions re "what lies between what".

My thanks, anyway, for your offering. I am wondering a bit, whether the setter might just have been having an extreme "off day"...
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:35 PM
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Well, in the US “MA” + “MBA” ’s = MAMBAS would be a perfectly valid clue. I do both American and British cryptics, but I can’t think of a British one where degrees came up, so I don’t know how much that translates.

ETA: on second thought, I do agree that that does not pull small to medium and play, unless it’s knowing that those are descriptions of that particular snake. So I’m not sold on my own response.

Last edited by Maserschmidt; 10-12-2019 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:37 PM
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Cryptic crosswords do have super-strict rules, but like any rules, not all creators follow them.
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maserschmidt View Post
ETA: on second thought, I do agree that that does not pull small to medium and play, unless itís knowing that those are descriptions of that particular snake. So Iím not sold on my own response.
None of the mambas are small snakes, generally being 4 ft long or longer, and the Black Mamba is the second largest venomous snake in the world, growing up to 14 ft. So "small to medium" isn't a good clue for what kind of reptile it is.
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:49 PM
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Graduates = Master of Arts/ Bachelor of Arts
Keep small = Abbreviation MA/ BA (Plus an S because plural)
to medium = add an M in the middle
reptiles = snakes = mambas, a type of snake.
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
None of the mambas are small snakes, generally being 4 ft long or longer, and the Black Mamba is the second largest venomous snake in the world, growing up to 14 ft. So "small to medium" isn't a good clue for what kind of reptile it is.
Right.

So...if the letter A somehow meant ďsmallĒ then M is medium, itís kept by MBAS, and Bob's your uncle. But, itís not.

This is really bugging me.
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Old 10-12-2019, 05:57 PM
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If I were a clue-setter, I'd have gone for something like this:

Graduates found inside medium to small reptiles

[Graduates] [found inside medium to small] [reptiles].

[MA BA] [M----S] [e.g. MAMBAS]
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Old 10-12-2019, 06:07 PM
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Graduates keep small=two degrees, abbreviated (MA, MBA)'s
Medium Reptiles=MAMBAS
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Old 10-12-2019, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Graduates keep small=two degrees, abbreviated (MA, MBA)'s
Medium Reptiles=MAMBAS
See my answer above. MA/ BA plus an M for medium.

note Colibri points out that mambas aren't medium in any sense
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Old 10-12-2019, 07:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
See my answer above. MA/ BA plus an M for medium.

note Colibri points out that mambas aren't medium in any sense
Mambas are medium reptiles if you include alligators, crocodiles, and the like in the class, and if you're more interested in the clue than in a taxonomical mean distribution .

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 10-12-2019 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Mambas are medium reptiles if you include alligators, crocodiles, and the like in the class, and if you're more interested in the clue than in a taxonomical mean distribution .
But they certainly are not small, by any definition.
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Old 10-12-2019, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
But they certainly are not small, by any definition.
Agreed: I'm suggesting "keep small" refers to abbreviating the degree titles, and the "medium" could refer to the mambas.
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
Graduates = Master of Arts/ Bachelor of Arts
Keep small = Abbreviation MA/ BA (Plus an S because plural)
to medium = add an M in the middle
reptiles = snakes = mambas, a type of snake.
Thanks to all -- Peter Morris's reading, above, is the one I'm disposed to go with. I've never to the best of my knowledge encountered before, anything being done in a cryptic clue along the lines of "to [recognised abbreviation, thus 'M' as in 'SML']" meaning, "put that abbreviation" -- but I'm not omniscient / maybe we have here a thing newly-devised.

I am certain that the "small to medium" bit doesn't refer to the mambas -- those critters, will attach to the word "reptiles" only. Cryptic clues are very precise and fine-tuned in their crazy way, and every single element in the clue plays a vital role: in my experience, it just wouldn't happen that a vague, wordy-ish description such as "small to medium" would, in a clue, refer to any particular category of creature.

Once more, thanks to everyone for suggestions.
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Old 10-13-2019, 12:20 PM
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Another possibility: MBAS (but using the first M of MAMBAS) is the graduates, referring to the MBA qualification. This 'keeps' A and M, where 'small' refers to the A (on the basis 'a' is a small word - in Charades you can clue 'a' this way, I'm assuming the same could go for a cryptic crossword) and M of course is 'medium'. But I don't know if this is significantly better than any of the other suggestions. In some ways it doesn't matter - they all heavily point towards the correct answer, short of asking the setter themselves we'll probably never be sure exactly what they intended.
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Old 10-14-2019, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
It is confirmed with certainty, that the correct answer word is MAMBAS. The clue is "Graduates keep small to medium reptiles".
Are you sure it isn't "graduates have medium to small reptiles"? I see a number of web hits on crossword-spoiler websites with that phrasing, but the only thing I found with "keep small to medium" was someone asking the same question on another message board in 2015.

Last edited by Vinyl Turnip; 10-14-2019 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 10-15-2019, 04:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinyl Turnip View Post
Are you sure it isn't "graduates have medium to small reptiles"? I see a number of web hits on crossword-spoiler websites with that phrasing, but the only thing I found with "keep small to medium" was someone asking the same question on another message board in 2015.
I didn't actually see the clue in print -- told about it by word of mouth, by my informant (he and his colleagues had been baffled by it, but they aren't "cryptic" mavens); and it was in a fairly "rubbish" newspaper; so it might conceivably, in the form in which it came to me, have been garbled from your version as above.
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