First and Last Letter Subtractions
Sometimes a setter will need to subtract the first or last letter of a piece of fodder to get the letters needed to help build the answer word.
Here is how they do it when deleting the first of last letter.
To go from BLAME to LAME:
heading off to blame ...
... here, HEADING OFF is the indicator meaning the 'heading' of the word BLAME is to be removed, leaving LAME.
Similarly, if the setter wants to go from BLAME to BLAM they will employ a last letter subtraction indicator.
nearly blame ...
... here the word NEARLY is the indicator that shows not all the letters of BLAME are present - the word needed is 'nearly' blame, but not quite. In other words, the last letter is not included and so BLAME becomes BLAM.
Any words which fairly indicate a first or last letter deletion can serve as indicators. Here are some more examples:
first letter deletion - BEHEADED/TOPLESS
last letter deletions - SHORT/UNFINISHED/MOSTLY
As with almost all indicators, the indicator used must take into account whether it is being used in a down or across clue. First and last letter deletions for a down clue will reflect the vertical nature of their position (SCRATCHING BOTTOM) or be non-specific (TIP OFF) and vice-versa for horizontal clues.
A first letter subtraction:
Leader fails to satisfy charter (5)
leader fails to - first letter subtraction indicator
satisfy - PLEASE
charter - LEASE (definition)
A last letter subtraction (down clue):
Vicar scratching bottom before church worship (9)
vicar - REVEREND
scratching bottom - last letter subtraction indicator
before - positional indicator
church - CE (abbreviation for church of England)
worship - REVERENCE (definition)
NOTE: Remember, in a down clue indicators take into account the vertical position of the word. And so, SCRATCHING BOTTOM, could only be used as a last letter subtraction in a down clue.