A thought just occurred to me last night, while playing at a local club and seeing the field miss two lay-down grand slams where there were more tricks available than in the red light district.
There seems to be a relatively modest number of times where you are fairly positive about reaching slam, with a primary real focus being a grand. In that situation, it often seems like ace-asking takes a while to get to the point. I mean, you bid 4NT, fairly certain that your answer will be encouraging for the grand, but then your 5NT call seems to grab a lot of space to unwind the rest. Occasionally.
So, sort of as a brainstorm idea, I was wondering back to the days in the Culbertson era where there was the 4-5NT convention and the days of the Neapolitan Declarative-Interrogative 4NT, in each case the asker saying something about his hand himself.
There seems to be some merit to this line of thinking, perhaps in some defined set of circumstances. In simply brainstorming, it occurred to me that perhaps some structure of "name the right answer" asking bids might save space.
For example, let's assume an auction where blah-blah-blah happens, and the person about to ask questions is fairly to completely certain that we have slam but is less certain about a grand. Assume also that, for the sake of discussion, no call above 4NT would serve any contextually useful purpose.
The person asking could name the "great response" as an immediate King ask. So, suppose 1430 answering. The person asking, instead of bidding 4NT, could bid 5D, asking partner to show specific Kings up the line if his answer to 4NT would have been 5D; if not, sign off at slam. Or, Asker could bid 5S asking partner to answer immediate Kings if his answer would have been "two with the Queen." Either way, space is saved.
You could even collapse this further. Suppose, for instance, that the asking bid of this type allowed a signoff at the five-level. So, the person asking questions could bid 5S, meaning, "If you have two key cards, plus the queen of trumps, answer immediate Kings." If partner, instead, had two key cards without the trump Queen, he would sign off at 6S. But, if partner held only one key card, he passes. Thus, you would not even need to be assured of slam to use this method.
This method might have a secondary, non-obvious benefit.
Suppose that your auction (recap so far of the auction: blah-blah-blah) is such that the person asking for Aces would be Declarer. When that happens, the person answering is required to bid all sorts of side suits artificially. This creates a lucrative ability for RHO to double as lead-directors and to pass as weak inferences as to lead.
However, if the anticipated Declarer makes this sort of "name the right answer" asking bid, RHO loses this opportunity whenever partner either signs off at five or bids only six. In other words, a "name the right answer" approach saves space while also depriving the opposition of lead-directing doubles and lead-inferencing non-doubles.