Derek Harrison's Crossword Message Board

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's = has

It’s not uncommon to see something like ‘Nick’s home’ as wordplay for ROBIN, where the apostrophe s is posing as a possessive or a contraction of ‘is’ on the surface, but in the cryptic syntax is acting as a contraction of ‘has’, to indicate juxtaposition or containment. Thus ‘X’s Y’ = ‘X + Y’, or possibly ‘X contains Y’. This construction used to appear in the Listener occasionally until there was a complete change of editorial team and setters learned of the new editors’ disapproval of it. Although I don’t know the editorial reasons, I share their objection because it uses a contraction of ‘has’ that does not have any possessive or attributive meaning. When 's is a contraction of ‘has’ it denotes the auxiliary use of ‘have’ to form the present perfect tense, as in ‘She’s won first prize’. We couldn’t contract ‘My car has a flat tyre’ to ‘My car’s a flat tyre’, and if I said, ‘My aunt’s a fine old leather bag’ she’d probably whack me with it.

If someone can come up with an idiomatic example in which ‘has’ in a non-auxiliary sense is legitimately contracted to ‘s then I would reconsider my objection, but off-hand I cannot think of such an example.


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