Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010 (ST 4407)

The Sunday London Times Puzzle Number
ST 4407
Publication Date in The Sunday London Times
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4407]
Times for the Times Review Written By


I needed quite a bit of assistance from my Tool Chest to complete this puzzle, as well as help from Talbinho's review to understand the wordplay in several clues (in particular 20a, 22a, 17d and the Briticism at 30a).

Today's Glossary

Selected abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions appearing in today's puzzle

Appearing in Clues

boozer - noun British informal a pub or bar.

Cobweb - a fairy, servant to Titania (Queen of the Fairies) in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.

rum2 - adjective British informal , dated odd; peculiar: it's a rum business, certainly.

Appearing in Solutions

Gnaeus Julius Agricola (40 AD – 93 AD) - Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain.

fairy lights - noun British small coloured electric lights used for decoration, especially at festivals such as Christmas.

fly3 - adjective informal
  1. British knowing and clever: she's fly enough not to get tricked out of it
  2. North American fashionably attractive and impressive: a fly dude
I'm afraid that I am unfamiliar with the North American meaning, let alone the British one.
light1 - noun 8 British (in a crossword puzzle) a blank space to be filled by a letter.

local - noun British informal a pub convenient to a person's home: a pint in the local.

mere2 - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 1. Dialect or archaic a lake or marsh.
Ottawa residents will likely be acquainted with this term from Kingsmere, the estate of former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, in Gatineau Park.
Plumbago - a genus of 10-20 species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Common names include plumbago and leadwort (names which are also shared by the genus Ceratostigma).

pp - abbreviation 3 music pianissimo, adverb performed very softly; adjective very soft.

RA - abbreviation [3rd entry] (in the UK) Royal Academician, a member of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Royal Academy of Arts (also Royal Academy) - an institution established in London in 1768, whose purpose was to cultivate painting, sculpture, and architecture in Britain. Sir Joshua Reynolds was its first president and he instituted a highly influential series of annual lectures.
RU - abbreviation 2 Rugby Union.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

This commentary should be read in conjunction with the full review at Times for the Times, to which a link is provided in the table above.

5a On the way back toboggan's speed is out of control (8)

"On" is a very multi-talented word. As a charade indicator, it may mean either 'before' or 'after' (which may vary depending on whether we are dealing with an across or a down clue). It can also serve as a containment indicator. However, in this clue it is used as part of a reversal indicator.

I believe the definition to be "control" (verb), and the solution REGULATE, making the wordplay a reversal (on the way back) of LUGE (toboggan, a definition open to debate) contained in (has ... is out of) RATE (speed). As does Talbinho, I am presuming that the 's (apostrophe-s) stands for 'has' in this clue. The containment indicator would seem to be a bit awkward, but I can't really see any other possibility. Unless I am misinterpreting his words, Talbinho's explanation would seem to imply that he regards the definition as being "out of control" ('Reversed LUGE has RATE is {definition}'). But I don't believe "out of control" could possibly be the definition for REGULATE.

9a Decorative twinkler or a clue for Cobweb? (5,5)

I'm afraid that my knowledge of Shakespeare is not what it might be. Thus I needed to do some research to figure out who Cobweb is. My search initially took me down some wrong - though rather interesting - back alleys. The first character that I encountered was an American comic book heroine named the Cobweb who is described thus:
Cobweb's only apparent powers were allure and the ability to make an entrance. ... Artist [Melinda] Gebbie's deep background in feminist erotica showed in the depiction of the Cobweb, whose costume consisted of pulled-back 1940s-style hair, a domino mask, a diaphanous purple nighty, garters and, apparently, no panties. Her sidekick and lesbian lover, Clarice, was a leggy blonde in skimpy chauffeur's outfit, also with domino mask.
Eventually, I was to discover that the Cobweb referred to in the clue is a fairy character in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Britain, Christmas lights are called fairy lights.

Talbinho ponders whether the word 'light' in the solution refers to crossword puzzle terminology ("... a 'light' in a crossword means an entry in the grid, hence 'clue for Cobweb?'"). However, I find this a bit difficult to accept, since a light is a blank cell in a crossword grid (which consists of light cells and dark cells) in which a letter of the solution (not the clue) is entered. If not as explained by Talbinho, perhaps light is somehow related to the following meaning:
light1 - noun 3 understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment: she saw light dawn on the woman's face
16a From cacti Ron produced funny drug (8)

Here the definition is "funny drug" alluding to the substance in question being an illegal drug.

20a Gentle 21 - no way! (6)

I needed help from Talbinho here. The definition is "gentle", with the solution being TENDER. The wordplay is NURSERY (the solution to 21d, as indicated by the cross reference 21) with the final RY removed (no way). Here, way is used in the sense of 'a transportation route'; more specifically, a railway (abbreviation Ry).

22a Tumbledown with damage to the rear and hair back to front (10).

Perhaps I just did not put enough thought into this clue, but once again I had to rely on Talbinho to explain the wordplay. The definition is "tumbledown" with the solution being RAMSHACKLE. The wordplay is a two-part charade where the first part is a reversal (to the rear) of MAR (damage), and the second part is HACKLES (hair) with the final (back) letter (S) moved to the beginning (front).

2d At heart of trial judge is enraged (5)

Talbinho does not like the construction of this clue ("either 'At' or 'is' needs to go"). However, if one interprets "at" as a charade indicator in the sense of 'beside' or 'next to' (at - preposition 4 with, by, beside, next to, etc), the clue is saying "Beside I (heart of trial) RATE (judge) is IRATE (enraged)" which seems okay in my books.

17d Element of symbolically backing biblical city (9)

Yet again, I needed Talbinho's explanation of the wordplay. One commenter on Times for the Times opines "the clue itself is hard to parse; why the 'of'?" My sentiments precisely. Strike out the "of" and the clue probably makes more sense. The clue is a cryptic way of saying "Element whose chemical symbol reversed is a biblical city".

Signing off for this week - Falcon


  1. I think you're over-complicating 5A. I took the part of the clue, "speed is out of", to mean the word "rate" (speed) is placed outside of the reversal of "luge", giving you an answer, "regulate", that means "control". (The problem with that, I realize, is that the "'s" is completely unnecessary but I've been finding at least one example of careless cluing per week these days and just assumed this was it -- like the rumnoured deliberate flaw in every Muslim weaver's rug.) What really screwed me this go round was in 17D when I assumed that the "ancient city" was "RHODES" and was working with "RHODESIUM" as the supposed element. Needless to say, that left me trying to make "ORNERY" work for 20A while trying to figure out was a "TEST DRIVR" (8D) was! I finally had to give up and look at the answer. Thanks for the explanation of 20A. I hadn't got "RY" as one possible meaning of "way", which has pretty much always been either "RD" or "ST" or "AVE" in my solving. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

  2. PS... Re 30A, Can I assume you're not a baby boomer? Had you been a teenager in the 60s, recalling the cheesy movie "Superfly" would have made the link to the US interpretation of "fly" a relatively easy go. :-)