I should have responded "gel" since more of those work clumping wonders for me than anything else.

I accidentally responded "cream". The only one of those I found to give me shiny clumpy curls is Garnier Fructis Soft Curl. I use it in damp hair so it can be distributed since it's on the thick side.

What other problems are you having with gel; too stringy, too hard, too drying?

Some I have to apply while my hair is wet so I can get the squishing sound & fat clumps, otherwise it's too difficult to distribute when the gel's on the thick side. Some I have to apply when my hair is darn near dry; runnier types, otherwise they get watered down too much in wet hair. Most I have to use a conditioner left in and/or mixed in to prevent the dry feeling. And if they're too hard, that can be scrunched out, but can also be toned down with some conditioner mixed in.