The Brits had some rather scathing opinions regarding the quality of this puzzle - chief amongst them being the major error in the clue at 22a. Once again, the Times neglects to correct the puzzle in syndication. I expect that my stock line of "giving us colonials the true British experience" is beginning to wear a bit thin. Hopefully, "Today's Errors" does not become a regular feature of this blog!
22a Worried about oil plant (8)
Supposedly the answer ABUTILON is an anagram (worried) of ABOUT OIL. However, the letters do not match, leading me to theorize that the anagram fodder should be ABOUT LIN, where LIN might possibly be a British term for linseed oil. However, I could find no evidence to support such a supposition, and Talbinho, in his review at Times for the Times, confirms that there is, in fact, an error in the clue.
Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle
abutilon - flowering maple
CH - abbrev. Companion of Honour: designates a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, an order of the Commonwealth of Nations which has as its insignia an oval medallion
RE - abbrev. Royal Engineers: a corps in the British Army
tick - Chiefly Brit. a moment
transit - (noun, defn. 5)
Links to Solutions
A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4346].
Commentary on Today's Puzzle
13d Abandoned hotel to die in transit, in America (10)
This was the second last clue to be solved and I may only have solved it due to having spent a couple of summers working as a surveyor while at university. In this clue, "abandoned" is seemingly serving as an anagram indicator, although "in transit" would, at first blush, appear to be the more obvious choice. The answer, THEODOLITE, is a surveying instrument and is an anagram of HOTEL TO DIE. The wordplay in the clue suggests that the instrument is called a theodolite in Britain and a transit in America. I am not sure on what basis "abandoned" qualifies as an anagram indicator.
A Note on Transits and Theodolites
Based on my recollection of my surveying experience from some thirty years ago, both terms were in use at that time in Canada. Contrary to talbinho's assertion, a theodolite is not used to measure distances, but rather to measure horizontal and vertical angles. While both transits and theodolites are used for this purpose, a theodolite (as I recall) is a far more sophisticated instrument than a transit.
I am pleased to see my recollection confirmed by Wikipedia. Apparently, a "transit theodolite" was originally a theodolite that could be transited (i.e., the telescope could be rotated around its horizontal, transverse axis [by the way, I saw one dictionary describe transit as "to rotate horizontally" which is, at best, misleading and, at worst, erroneous.]) However, "
Talbinho's confusion about theodolites measuring distance may arise from their use in the process of triangulation. By knowing the length of one side of a triangle and the angles of two corners, one can calculate the lengths of the other two sides. In triangulation, one would measure the length of one side of the triangle using a tape measure (or other distance measuring instrument) and the angles of two corners using a theodolite (or transit). Thus, while a theodolite does not measure distance directly, it is used in the process of triangulation which establishes distances.
One of the major purposes for transiting a survey instrument (be it a transit or a theodolite) is to compensate for errors in the calibration of the instruments. By first taking a set of measurements with the telescope in one position, then transiting the telescope and repeating the measurements, and averaging the results of the two sets of measurements, certain inaccuracies in the calibration of the instrument cancel each other out, thus providing a more accurate result.
Enough about surveying.
Signing off for this week - Falcon