Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009 (ST 4354)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on November 8, 2009


I felt that today's puzzle leaned a bit toward the difficult end of the scale - in part due to the rather convoluted wording of a few of clues.

Today's Glossary

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

Colchester Native - the native oyster, ostrea edulis (when harvested in the Colchester fishery)

Foulness - an island on the east coast of Essex, England

Sir Peter Lely - 17th century Dutch painter

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4354].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4a Not positive it's found, for example, in an oyster (8)

I puzzled for a long time over the wordplay here before feeling I really understood it. The definition is given by "not positive" (NEGATIVE). If we were to delete the word "found" from the clue, the wordplay would be quite straightforward, "It (the solution, NEGATIVE) is EG (for example) in NATIVE (an oyster)". However, when the word "found" is inserted in the clue, I find that I then need to mentally insert extra words in the clue for the cryptic reading to make sense to me, as follows, "It (the solution) is found by putting EG in NATIVE" or "It (the solution) is the result had one found EG in NATIVE".

Native is an informal reference to a native oyster, in the same way that one might refer to a McIntosh apple as a McIntosh or a Mac.

11a One promise nearly everyone makes (5)

At first, I thought this might be an example of the rarely seen & lit. clue. The clue itself is a definition of AVOWAL. The clue also contains the wordplay "A (one) VOW (promise) AL {ALL without the final L (nearly everyone)}". However, since the word "makes" seems to be superfluous to the cryptic reading, it appears that it does not completely satisfy the criteria for an & lit. clue.

16a Hole crab made, injuring him? (?)

Yet another clue that made me think. The solution is an anagram of HOLE CRAB, but is the anagram indicator made or made injuring? If the latter, then the definition would be the rather vague "him" signifying BACHELOR. However, if the former, why would "injuring him" mean BACHELOR?

At least I seem not to be alone in my thinking, as talbinho comments "
a poor clue with no real definition".

26a Disgusting state of Essex island? (8)

In his review, talbinho supposes that the solution to this clue is "
probably tricky for overseas solvers". Actually, an Internet search on "Essex island" returned a list headed by the blatantly obvious solution.

15d Mixed in tea, beer's held to set one against it (8)

When one sees an 's in a clue, one must decide whether it signifies a possessive (not in this case), a contraction for is (once again, not in this case), or a contraction for has (bingo). Since the latter is the case, ALE (beer) is the container in this container-type clue. Otherwise (i.e., if the 's had stood for is), ALE would have formed the contents.

the essentially equivalent phrase "held by beer" for "beer has held", we can find the solution as an anagram (mixed) of IN TEA contained in (held by) ALE (beer).

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday, Deccember 13, 2009 (ST 4353)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on November 1, 2009


I found this to be a rather difficult puzzle - with more than the usual quota of obscure British expressions. Even after completing it, I was left in the dark about the wordplay for several clues. Luckily, I could rely on talbinho for an explanation.

Today's Glossary

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

abbreviation 1 Citizen's Advice Bureau [Chambers] or Citizens’ Advice Bureau [Oxford] or Citizens Advice Bureau [Wikipedia]: one of a network of independent charities throughout the UK that give free, confidential information and advice to help people with their money, legal, consumer and other problems.

CAMRA - abbreviation
Campaign for Real Ale: an independent, voluntary, consumer organisation based in St. Albans, England, whose main aims are promoting real ale and the traditional British pub. It is now the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK, and is a founding member of the European Beer Consumers' Union (EBCU).

fortissimo - music (abbreviation ff) adj very loud.

gash2 [Collins] - adj Slang [probably Brit.] surplus to requirements; unnecessary, extra, or spare

ginger nut - [probably Brit.]
noun a ginger-flavoured biscuit (cookie: the British term for cookie is biscuit, I don't know what name they have for biscuits) [known in North America as a ginger snap]

Herm - one of the Channel Islands

OR -
abbreviation 3 military other ranks (by extension, men)

rom or Rom - noun a male Gypsy

soak - noun 2 informal a heavy drinker

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4353].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

13a A new hint to have sparkling wine for first course (9)

Since antipasti is the plural of antipasto, I wondered if there might be an inconsistency (in number) with the definition "first course". However, upon reflection, I concluded that a course could well consist of a number of antipasti.

20a Idiotic, a bunch of beer enthusiasts beginning to troll around - such may be found on the road (10)

Thankfully, this clue is easily solved from the definition (such as may be found on the road) and checking letters. The convoluted wordplay involving the obscure (at least to North American audiences) group of
British beer fanciers was far more challenging - so much so that I only got it by reading talbinho's review. The wordplay is as follows:

MAD (idiotic) A CAMRA (bunch of beer enthusiasts) T (beginning to troll), all of which is reversed (around) to give TARMACADAM.

28a Italian city with university good for mathematician (6)

Like talbinho, I questioned "Italian city with university" as a definition for Turin, although Wikipedia does say, "
Turin is home to one of Italy's oldest universities, the University of Turin, which still ranks among the best universities in Italy."

3d Group turned into old rockers, strapped up (8)

Despite having found the correct solution, the wordplay escaped me. I even had to reread talbinho's explanation a couple of times to comprehend what he was trying to explain. I think that the easiest way to understand the solution is to think of it as replacing the phrase "Group turned into old rockers" by the phrase "band aged"; i.e., when the band (group) aged, they became "old rockers".

9d One will get soak on island? Weather map may show that (8)

Deciphering the wordplay was far more difficult than finding the solution (which was pretty obvious from the definition and checking letters). A better knowledge of the Channel Islands and a better acquaintance with British slang terms for drunkards would have helped immensely.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday, Deccember 6, 2009 (ST 4352)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on October 25, 2009


I'm a bit late this week in posting my blog. It is certainly not due to the puzzle being overly taxing - as it was anything but difficult. I just had a very busy Sunday.

Today's Glossary

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

M1 - a major motorway (highway) in England linking London and Leeds.

RE - abbreviation Royal Engineer (or sapper -
noun 1 a military engineer who lays or detects and disarms mines. 2 Brit. a soldier in the Corps of Royal Engineers.)

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4352].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Desires new form - stays required (7)

As in this example, one often sees words like "required" or "needed" appearing in clues. The implication of such constructions is usually that a word matching the definition is required (or needed) as the solution. Thus, this clue can be viewed as a terse presentation of what could be stated more verbosely as "The solution is an anagram (new form) of DESIRES, one which is required to be a word meaning 'stays'".

12a Overtaking inch into middle of coastal road (8)

Only after having solved this clue on the basis of the definition (coastal road) together with a couple of checking letters was I able to work out the wordplay. The use of "overtaking" as an anagram indicator seems rather dubious - a point on which talbinho concurs in his review.

22a I withdrew, then had a meal - to get thin? (8)

My interpretation is that this is an example of what might be called indirect wordplay (which may not be the recognized way of describing such a clue, but being unaware of any other, I'll settle for it). One first has to translate "I withdrew" into "I came back" which indicates a reversal (back) of I CAME or EMACI which is followed by (then) ATE (had a meal) to produce EMACIATE (to get thin).

29a Marshal reportedly is old naval hero (7)

Sir Walter Raleigh was an "
English courtier, navigator, colonizer, and writer" - but was he a "naval hero". Since the description seemed not to raise the hackles of the Brits, the clue presumably could not have been too far off the mark.

21d Bird's taken off from motorway with something on a leaf (6)

While the wordplay here is not as blatantly indirect as in 22a, I find it still requires a bit of interpretation on the part of the solver to determine what action is needed to find the solution. If a bird "takes off", it goes up. Consequently, since this is a down clue, the wordplay is instructing us to reverse the word "bird" (i.e., make it go up).

Signing off for this week - Falcon