A fundamental crossword rule is that a clue and its answer must "agree." Agree how? If it's a verb, it has to agree with its clue in tense. This seems simple, but it’s yet another way that the English language and a clever constructor can make a crossword puzzle grid more or less challenging. Let’s look at a few clue-and-answer examples to get into this further.
In Monday’s puzzle, the 11-Across clue was [Offer counterarguments against] for the answer REBUT. Both the clue and answer are in the present tense, so no problem there. This clue couldn't have worked for REBUTTED, though; that would've needed to be [Offered counterarguments against].
Simple enough, but it can get tricky fast: say you're looking at S?L? for the clue [Set a price for]. Is it SELL or SOLD? Could be either, since "set" is both the present and the past tense form. If your answer is a noun, it must agree with its clue in number. So [Pig's pad] was the clue for STY in Monday's puzzle, both singular, while [Scenes from a movie] in Tuesday's puzzle was the clue for CLIPS, both plural.
Again, looks easy, but notice how a tougher clue could trip you up. The answer for [Sheep who can have lambs] in Tuesday's puzzle could have been either EWE singular or EWES plural, since both "sheep" and "can have" are ambiguous on that count. Note that [Sheep who have lambs] could only have been EWES, since if it were EWE it would've been [Sheep who has lambs]. Don't think I didn't do that on purpose! Crossword writers are evil and if you choose not to believe that then you do so at your own peril.
Of course, a simple count of the letters cleared things up here – EWE is three letters but there were four spaces in the answer, so it had to be EWES. But if the singular and the plural have the same number of letters, that could lead to trouble. A really mean crossword writer might use [Dentist's concern] knowing you might put either TEETH or TOOTH, as "concern" is vague there.
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