⁂ George Ho

Loplop Quiptic #009 [11×]

I’ve been working hard on some more ambitious (and more difficult) cryptic crosswords, which is why I’ve been pretty quiet lately. So, in anticipation of a wave of bigger and harder puzzles, here’s a smaller and easier one!

Huge thanks to Michael Colella and Kit Sovereign for the test solve — I hope you enjoy!

Clue Workshop

I’m trying out something new. Every time I post a puzzle, I’ll “workshop” a clue: this could mean that I dissect the clue and try to polish it, or use it as a springboard to talk about cluing practices, or something else entirely. Please let me know what you think, and if you’re not interested, just keep on scrolling for the puzzle!

Today’s clue is:

Best to follow the boss (3,3)

Click here for solution and discussion
  • Answer: TOP DOG
  • Definition: the boss
  • Wordplay: TOP (best) + DOG (to follow)

Here, the answer is clued in a word-by-word charade: TOP, then DOG.

Some would consider this a transgression of the “no shared roots” rule, which is essentially a prohibition on the clue not referring to anything that is etymologically similar to the answer itself. The Rackenfracker has written an excellent essay on this (mostly in the context of double definitions), so I won’t dwell on it too much here.

For this clue I’m not so sure, since there are multiple words! Is TOP DOG etymologically related to TOP or DOG? On the one hand, phrases don’t really have etymology (they have phraseologies, but that’s a can of worms I’d rather not open), so I guess no… but on the other hand, isn’t it kind of obvious that TOP is related to TOP DOG?

What’s at stake here? UK editors seem to care about this a lot less than US editors (and of course with indie puzzles, anything goes), but as always, a strong and witty surface does often excuse this kind of thing for some solvers.

For this particular clue, there’s one more nuance! TOP is clued as “best”, which is the same sense as TOP in TOP DOG, and DOG is clued as “to follow”, which is a verb that comes from the animal. If we could clue both words in different senses (for example, cluing TOP as a spinning top, which is etymologically different, and DOG as… well, we might be out of luck there), then perhaps that might redeem this clue?

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