"Should I avoid partials?"
This frequent question posed by new constructors has me wondering why partials have gotten a bad rap. (Most of the constructor inquiries these days come from delightful young guys, eager to learn. I'm glad to share my opinion.)
First, let's define the term: A partial is a clue that contains words that can't stand on their own. Let's say you're in constructing a corner and you need a hand, a five-letter helping hand or literally A-H-A-N-D to complete the grid. AHAND is lifeless on its own, but it rises to the occasion in the title of Denzel Washington's book, "A Hand To Guide Me."
The partial, a clue form, is structured as so . . .
"___ to Guide Me" (Denzel Washington book); clue for AHAND
It differs from a fill-in-the-blank clue, which looks like this:
"A ___ to Guide Me" (Denzel Washington book); clue for HAND
From a solver's point of view, I love partials. I attack them first. They add visual and structural variety to the clue list. An uninterrupted block of clues--the unfortunate feature of one puzzle market which banned partials--is like being forced to eat No-Alarm Chili at a Jalapeno Pepper Convention. Boring is too interesting a word to describe a solid block of clues with no partials or fill-in-the-blanks.
As a constructor: I love partials. These are your indispensable construction tools. They're like little windows of light in a block of text; an opportunity to weave in a line of poetry by Elizabeth Bishop. . . .
"I ___ Need of Music" (AMIN -- for an IDI-less AMIN)
. . . or a Dave Barry book title . . .
"Boogers ___ Beat" (AREMY)
And so, new constructors, should I encounter some spicy partials in your puzzles, I will be your fan. If you cause me to write over, I shall cheer. If you stump me, I'll applaud with envy.
Use partials liberally and imaginatively, according to the puzzle market specs. Each market is different.
And listen carefully to your editors--they know more about their markets and solvership than anyone else.