In all my years with NPL, I've always somehow only composed Ralfs once or twice, and
I don't remember exactly how they work. Could someone send me a crash course off list
unless there is general interest? Thanks, Joker
Oh good heavens. OK, the short answer is: “Any way they want to.”
The longer answer… Ralfs come in a number of varieties. For instance:
The flat that works just as described, but wouldn't really pass muster as a proper flat, either because of its type (i.e., “Third-to-Sixth Changeover and oh also you should change the first letter while you're at it”) or because of its base (a repeated-tetragram deletion on “hotshots, [blank]”; something that requires an utterly non-standard, but clued, pronunciation, e.g., Zebraboy's homonym on “gay pride, gape wide” or Wabbit's Ralf (drawn by Crax) with Elmer Fudd holding a wad of money and being scared by the ghost on a poster for Macbeth, which was a phonetic curtailment on “bankroll, Banquo”).
The flat works as described, but with a twist (the letter you change in the “first letter change” is actually a Greek letter; or a literal letter to the name of a letter; or a “deletion” actually deletes part of a letter instead of the whole letter; a “terminal deletion” deletes not the terminal letters, but the name of an airport terminal or a synonym of “terminal”; etc.).
The flat is just plain weird or breaks some rule in some utterly unpredictable way (my favorite being the anagram from a few years ago: THE ERROR THAT CANNOT BE NAMED (3 5 4 6 2 5)).
The flat is by Ucaoimhu (OK, that's not fair, most of his Ralfs fall into the second category, or into the third, but I swear when he writes a FALSE THIS-IN-THAT modeled after “three, one, triune”; or the Ralf from ’98, ’99 or so in which R-1 was an epistle from his agent explaining why he turned into a werewolf and ate the editor, and then R-4 was a “repeated letter deletion” in which the longer word was turned into the shorter word by removing the letters “rone”–that is, R-1 was a “rep-eat-ed letter”, which was deleted… I mean, the man is pretty much *always* in a class by himself, isn't he?).
In other words, well, see the short answer.
–Ralf P. Olio, Nahant MA
From the Guide to the Enigma's Glossary:
a particularly outrageous or ludicrous puzzle used in a special section of each year's April issue of The Enigma. Ralfs (or Ralves) are purported to be written by one Ralf P. Olio as an April fool, but like Santa Claus, Ralf P. Olio has many Earthly helpers. Ralfs are known for their off-the-wall bases and for ignoring, twisting, and blatantly flouting Guide rules. The derivatives Ralfish and Ralfy are sometimes applied to non-Ralf flats. (For the transposally challenged: “Ralf P. Olio” is an anagram of “April Fool.”)