Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009 (ST 4346)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on September 13, 2009


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!

Today's Errors

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.

Today's Glossary

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

theodolite -
a surveying instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles

tick - Chiefly Brit. a moment

transit - (noun, defn. 5)
a surveying instrument similar to a theodolite that measures horizontal and vertical angles

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, "
In the middle of the 20th century, "transit" came to refer to a simple form of theodolite with less precision, lacking [certain] features". One would commonly see transits used on construction sites. In my summer job as a student, I worked with the Geodetic Survey of Canada doing first-order horizontal control surveys (surveys used in the production of high precision topographical maps) and we, of course, used very sophisticated and precise theodolites and other instruments.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009 (ST 4345)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on September 6, 2009


Although today's puzzle was not overly difficult, the challenge was somewhat elevated by the two errors present in 19a.

Today's Errors

19a Entertaining lass could show ogreish curls (6,4)

There is an error in the clue (which was present when originally published in The Times). The clue should read:

19a Entertaining lass could show ogrish curl (6,4)

The setter of the puzzle explained the errors thus on Times for the Times, "Blame me the setter for the extra S and the ST keyboarder for the extra E. Oh dear, sorry, a rare occurrence of two independent cock-ups in one clue! I've notified the crossword editor in case the puzzle gets reprinted."

Well, the setter's heads up to the crossword editor seems to have been in vain, as we have the evidence published in today's Ottawa Citizen that the ST editor took no action to correct the puzzle in syndication.

Today's Glossary

Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle

County Meath - Irish county, north-west of Dublin

Lord North - Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782

Plymouth Argyle - English football (soccer) club

the gods - (noun, defn. 4)
theatre the gallery (the upper floor in a theatre, usually containing the cheapest seats or the part of the audience seated there)

circle - (entry 3, defn. 3) theatre the section of seats above the main level of the auditorium, usually comprising the dress circle and the upper circle (and, presumably below the gallery)

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4345].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

22a PM who is opposed to East-West partnership? (5)

Although I got the correct solution, I had an uneasy feeling that I had missed something in the wordplay. However, talbinho put my mind at ease, making me aware that I had overlooked the fact that "East-West partnership" is a reference to the game of bridge.

29a Traffic starts to disappear slowly across part of London (8)

In his review, talbinho wonders about "
EALING - possibly an awkward reference for overseas subscribers?". I found the solution from the definition and checking letters, and then ran to my reference sources to see if a district named Ealing really exists in London - and, indeed, it does.

4d More elevated clique won't be far below the gods (5,6)

Despite completely missing the theatrical reference in this clue, I still managed to come up with the correct solution.

I presume that the terminology used in the clue and its solution may be British - or maybe I am just too provincial. I am personally familiar with the seating plan of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, where the levels are designated Orchestra (main level of the auditorium), Mezzanine (presumably equivalent to the Dress Circle), Amphitheatre (presumably equivalent to the Upper Circle) and Balcony (presumably equivalent to the Gallery - or "the gods").

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009 (ST 4344)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 30, 2009


Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and I will be away from home for the weekend. Thus no regular blog this week. However, I have provided a link to the anticipated puzzle on the Times for the Times website.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's (expected) puzzle by talbinho (who has returned after being absent the last couple of weeks) can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4344].

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009 (ST 4343)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 23, 2009


I found it to be a relatively easy puzzle today for The Sunday London Times. I was able to solve all but a couple of clues without aids of any kind. There does seem to be a grammatical error in one of the clues as well as an incorrect solution for one of the clues in the solution grid. As both of these errors seem to have also appeared in The Sunday London Times, I guess we can look at it as the Citizen merely recreating the "true British experience" for us on this side of the pond.

Today's Glossary

Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle

sledging - cricket
offensive remarks made by a fielder to a batsman in order to break their concentration (sounds like what North Americans would call ''trash talking")

TA - abbrev Territorial Army: in the UK: a fully trained volunteer force intended to provide back-up to the regular army in cases of emergency

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4343].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

19a Being 16 volunteers returned to nurse (6)

I understood enough of the wordplay to obtain the solution, but some of the wordplay still eludes me. "Volunteers" is TA (Territorial Army) which is reversed (returned) and "to nurse" is TEND, giving ATTEND. I presume "16" is a cross reference to clue 16a, and that the intent is to indicate "Being at a cello performance". But how one gets that from "Being listen" or "Being try to hear some cellist ensemble" beats me.

17d Happens to give off water vapour (9)

I was glad to see that the British bloggers picked up on the grammatical error in the clue; it should be "happen", rather than "happens".

18d One makes good support, with metal right at the bottom (8)

My solution was RESTORER, and there is clear agreement on the British blogs that this is the correct solution (regardless of what the solution grid states). A RESTORER is "one who makes good" (i.e., repairs); "support" is REST, metal is ORE (there is an extensive discussion on this point on Times for the Times), and "right" is R, which is placed "at the bottom", (i.e., end) of a down entry. The solution grid indicates that the solution is LECTURER; however, there seems to be no way for that solution
to be correct.

Signing off for this week - Falcon