Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010 (ST 4361)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on December 27, 2009

The Citizen has skipped puzzle ST 4360, a jumbo puzzle on an oversize grid with a Christmas theme, which was published in The Sunday London Times on December 20, 2009


For the most part, today's puzzle was not terribly difficult. It was marred by an error in one clue.

Today's Errors

There is an error in today's puzzle at 1d, where the clue should read:

1d Seat used by persons of authority (4)

This error apparently appeared in both the print and online editions of The Sunday London Times and is acknowledged
on Times for the Times in a comment from the setter who indicates that the error was introduced after the puzzle left his hands. Once again, the editors in London have taken great care to ensure that the error has been retained in the syndicated version of the puzzle.

Today's Glossary

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

maiden -
noun 3 (also maiden over) Cricket an over in which no runs are scored. [Note: this would be abbreviated as M in reports such as game summaries and statistics]

Ron Moody - British actor best known for his portrayal of Fagin in the stage and film versions of the musical Oliver!

penfriend -
noun a person with whom one becomes friendly by exchanging letters (pen pal)

pork-pie hat -
noun a hat with a flat crown and a brim turned up all round.

rating -
noun 3 Brit. a non-commissioned sailor in the navy.

rum -
adjective Brit. informal, dated odd; peculiar.

Spurs - nickname for the Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club

Bertie Wooster - fictional English gentleman in the Jeeves novels of British author P. G. Wodehouse

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4361].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

14a Put down a little son on manger - the Lord finally seen (8)

"Put down", used in the sense of attribute to rather than denigrate, is ASCRIBE. The wordplay is A S (little son) attached to (on) CRIB (manger) E D (the final letters of the words "thE lorD").

A manger or crib is a trough or open box for feeding livestock. Not having grown up on a farm, I can't say definitively whether either term is commonly used in North America. However, my only acquaintance with the word manger is in the Christmas story and, for me, the term crib brings to mind a corn crib (a facility for storing corn).

I was also surprised to discover that, in Britain, a baby's bed is not called a crib - but rather a cot. In the U.K., it seems that the word cot can also mean a portable bed as it does in North America.

15a Not much of a turn? It gets an award at Edinburgh, maybe (6)

In this clue, the setter may be intending to misdirect us to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (at least, that was my first thought). In reality, our actual destination is the University of Edinburgh.

I believe that the clue parses as:

Not much of a turn, it /gets\ an award at Edinburgh

where a turn of merely a degree is not much of a turn at all and a degree is an award from a university (Edinburgh, maybe).

16d Feeling great excitement? No, by implication! (6,2)

"Feeling great excitement" is a definition of TURNED ON. If we were to turn the word "on" around (i.e., reverse the order of the letters) the result or consequence (implication) would be "no". Therefore, the wordplay "no, by implication" tells us that should we treat the solution to the clue itself as if it were wordplay (TURNED ON or, in other words, ON turned [around]), the result (implication) would be NO.

23d Little woman eager (not half) to get something in cracker (4)

As this puzzle appeared in the U.K. during the Christmas season, British readers would no doubt have readily seen the meaning of cracker in this clue. Christmas crackers were not a tradition in my family - nor any other family that I knew of. However, being generally aware of them (mainly through seeing them on television programs or in movies), I knew they made a bang when opened and contained favours (such as small toys). Wikipedia lists the typical contents as "
a coloured paper hat or crown; a small toy or other trinket and a motto, a joke or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper".

Thus the little woman is JO (Jo March, one of the four sisters who are the principal characters in Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women) which is followed by KE (KEEN without the last half) giving JOKE (something in cracker).

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010 (ST 4359)

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


I struggled a lot with this puzzle, but I did eventually complete it. However, I was pretty much in the dark concerning the wordplay for a couple of clues.

When I saw talbinho's solving time of 4:08, I thought "Okay, my time is not so bad." Then the sad realization hit me - his time is not expressed in hours and minutes!

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4359].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

11a Permit prince to be vicious (6)

Solution: LET (permit) HAL (prince, King Henry V in several plays by William Shakespeare) /to be\ LETHAL (vicious)

I have a minor quibble with this clue, as it seems to me that something can very well be vicious (savage) without being lethal (deadly). But perhaps the meanings are close enough for crossword puzzle purposes or maybe these words have different connotations in the UK.

26a Navy takes Royal Engineers round fish (8)

This is one of the clues where the wordplay eluded me. It turns out that the wordplay is so straight forward (to the Brits, at least) that talbinho deemed that it didn't warrant even a word of explanation.

Solution: N (navy) contained in (takes ... round) SAPPERS (Royal Engineers) /\ SNAPPERS (fish)

It did not come to mind that another name for the Royal Engineers is sappers. Instead, I had reasoned that the solution must be of the form SNAPP(ER)S where ER is "RE (Royal Engineers) reversed (round)". Obviously, that false start quickly led to a deadend.

4d ... am ill with child? (7,8)

This clue contains a construction that is new to me - and one that I did not understand until I read the review and comments at Times for the Times. When I was working on the puzzle, I had wondered why the clue started with an ellipsis. In the past, when I had encountered an ellipsis at the beginning of a clue, the previous clue had always ended with an ellipsis. I knew that sort of construction is used by the setter to indicate that the two clues are linked in some manner (e.g., it may signal that the surface reading carries across the two clues).

But that is not the case today. In today's puzzle, the ellipsis is being used to indicate that the clue number itself is to be incorporated into the clue. Thus we are meant to cryptically interpret the clue as "4 a.m., ill with child?" with the question mark signalling that this is a cryptic definition, "4 a.m." being a clue to morning, "ill" being a clue to sick, and "with child" being a clue to during pregnancy. Putting all the clues together produces MORNING SICKNESS.

15d When thawed, something wet I care to drink (5,3)

Even after figuring out the correct solution (WATER ICE) and recognizing that it is an anagram of WET I CARE, I am really not sure of the wordplay. Water ice is another term for sorbet, a frozen dessert. I suppose if your sorbet were to melt, you could drink it. I believe the clue is meant to be a cryptic definition containing an anagram (i.e., a hybrid clue). However, what is supposed to be the anagram indicator? Is it "to drink", is it "something" or is it "thawed"? The latter, though probably the choice that linguistically makes the most sense is not adjacent to the fodder (the text on which it would operate, namely WET I CARE). Of the remaining two choices, I guess I would have to lean toward "to drink" being the anagram indicator. On the other hand, this being a cryptic definition, perhaps the normal rules don't apply and an explicit anagram operator is not required. I think talbinho sums up the clue nicely when he comments "a bit of a mess".

Note: According to Oxford, sherbet is a North American term for water ice or sorbet. In Canada (in my experience anyway), the terms sherbet and sorbet are both used, with the former probably being more prevalent. However, I am not familiar with the term water ice. It seems that outside North America, sherbet has quite different meanings, varying by the part of the world. In Britain, it is "
a flavoured sweet fizzing powder eaten alone or made into a drink" (which suggests that it may be somewhat similar to Kool-Aid), in Arab countries it is "a drink of sweet diluted fruit juices", and in Australia it is a humourous term for beer.

18d Footballers resort to untruths (7)

Solution: GOALIES (footballers) /\ GOA (resort) {followed by (to) [?]} LIES (untruths)

I have a couple of minor quibbles with this clue. First, I'm not quite sure what to make of the word to; is it just padding or does it have a specific purpose. Although it seems to be a bit of a stretch (to say the least), I've suggested that it may be meant to be a proximity indicator (i.e., an indicator that shows that one part of a charade is placed in proximity to another part, such as words expressing the ideas of being adjacent to, preceding, or following).

Second, GOA is certainly far from being a resort that springs quickly to my mind. Perhaps it is a more popular holiday destination in Britain.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010 (ST 4358)

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


Given that talbinho thought that this puzzle was difficult, I feel a real sense of accomplishment in having completed it - however, this was achieved in nowhere near his time. A good deal of today's puzzle is set in a garden; however, it seems to be one that could use a bit of pruning as there is quite a lot of extraneous verbiage to be found in some of the clues (a fact also mentioned by a correspondent on Times for the Times).

Today's Glossary

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

bairn -
noun chiefly Scottish & N. English a child

cam follower - a specialized type of roller or needle bearing designed to follow cams (in automotive terms, it is more commonly known as a tappet, lifter or rocker arm)

gooseberry -
noun 2 Brit. informal a third person in the company of two lovers, who would prefer to be alone

pie2 or pi - noun 1 printing confusedly mixed type. 2 a mixed state; confusion.

tig - noun & verb chiefly Brit. another term for tag (children's game)

whisht , whist or wheesht - chiefly Scottish verb to be quiet; to keep silent. Also as exclamation.

wrinkle - noun 3 informal a clever innovation, or useful piece of information or advice

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4358].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

11a Swan ahead, biting stalk of this plant (9)

The solution seems to be:

PEN (swan) ON (ahead) containing (biting) STEM (stalk) /of\ PENSTEMON (this plant)

I have shown the word "of" as a linking word, although I don't feel it is a very appropriate one. However, if one were to consider the definition to be "of this plant", then the solution would presumably need to be something along the lines of "penstemonial" (or whatever the word is that would mean "of or like a penstemon"). In his review, talbinho suggests the words "of this" are superfluous. They may be from a cryptic standpoint, but they are also fairly important to smooth the surface reading of the clue.

On is one of those words with so many meanings that it is sometimes difficult to find the particular sense that the setter has in mind. On probably means ahead in the sense "
adverb 2 ahead, forwards or towards in space or time • go on homelater on". I discovered this meaning only after trying to make cricket terminology fit - which proved to be an exercise in attempting to "pound a square peg into a round hole."

Interestingly enough, the same source also defines on as "preposition 22 following • disappointment on disappointment". Therefore, on can mean both ahead and following. However, since these meanings occur as different parts of speech, it may be incorrect to say that on is its own antonym.

24a The gullible set down on icy mountain here? (9)

Since talbinho commented on what he perceived to be padding in 11a, I sort of expected he might also comment on the words "on icy mountain" in this clue. While not absolutely essential to either the cryptic reading or the surface reading, they do provide a bit of guidance as to what part of the world we are in (and its likely not the Caribbean).

26a Concerned with the matter of cunningly putting dagger right in (9)

While I managed to convince myself that the excess verbiage in 24a could probably be justified, I have more difficulty doing so in this clue. My interpretation is that "cunningly putting" is an anagram indicator for the fodder DAGGER R (right) IN with the definition being REGARDING (concerned with). But what is the phrase "the matter of" doing in the clue?

2d State a radio buff is to ring up (5)

I am sure that the residents of Omaha, Nebraska will be surprised to discover that the London Sunday Times has conferred statehood upon them. Based on reports on Times for the Times, this glaring error was corrected within a few days by the Sunday London Times on its online version - but obviously not in the syndicated version.

4d Very fine wrinkle on crown (6)

The solution is TIPTOP (very fine) /\ TIP (wrinkle) on (before in a down clue) TOP (crown).

There appears to be a glitch in the text on Times for the Times, as I honestly do not believe that talbinho means to say that the solution is TIP + TIP. Wrinkle is a British expression meaning tip (see Today's Glossary).

7d Unofficial supporters of the military putting money in machine parts (4,9)

I had trouble deciphering the wordplay as I thought that the machine parts in question were cams, never having heard of cam followers. Collins defines camp follower as "
1. (Military) any civilian, esp a prostitute, who unofficially provides services to military personnel". I guess it takes little imagination to visualize how they might "support our troops".

19d Having agreed charge about right, have the gang released (3,4)

Yet another clue that has seemingly sprouted excess verbiage that I vainly tried to incorporate into the wordplay. Although not my initial explanation (it is amazing how writing out an explanation causes one to rethink it), I think that "having" is meant in the sense of "if you have". Therefore the clue could be reworded as:

If you have "agreed charge about right", you have "the gang released".

or, in other words:

agreed charge about right = the gang released

or, solving:

SET (agreed) FEE (charge) about R (right) = the gang SET FREE (released)

But what role is "the gang" playing in the clue?

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010 (ST 4357)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on November 29, 2009


The southwest quadrant gave me the most trouble today. The Cockney rhyming slang at 7d totally flummoxed me, and I missed wordplay on one or two other clues.

Today's Glossary

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

bash -
noun 3 Brit. an attempt: she’ll have a bash at anything

have (or take) a butcher’s - phrase Brit. informal have a look; butcher’s from butcher’s hook, Cockney rhyming slang for a look

HE - abbreviation His (or Her) Excellency noun a title or form of address for certain high officials of state, especially ambassadors, or of the Roman Catholic Church (in which case it would presumably only exist in the masculine)

REME - abbreviation Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

tiddler - noun Brit. informal 2 a young or unusually small person or thing

tiddly - adjective informal, chiefly Brit. slightly drunk

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4357].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Magician let off about puzzles (11)

Hint: In this clue, "about" is neither a container/contents indicator nor a reversal indicator; it is part of the definition.

18a One embraced by unusually small person is more drunk (8)

Hint: The reference here is not to toddler (small person, as a child) but rather to tiddler (a British term for an unusually small person)

24a Pick second to last in polls (9)

Before checking Times for the Times, I was puzzled about the wordplay in this clue. However, when I saw that talbinho offered no explanation of the wordplay, I took another look at the clue and eventually sorted it out.

My original thesis was that one must need to take the second to last letters (i.e., the second letter to the last letter) in SELECTIONS to get ELECTIONS. However, this would have produced the following parsing of the clue:

ELECTIONS (pick?) /\ use all but first letter (second to last) in SELECTIONS (polls?)

Obviously, polls = selections and pick = elections are both more than a little questionable.

Eventually, I worked out that pick = SELECTION and one needs to move S (second) to the last position to produce ELECTIONS (polls), which would parse as:

SELECTION (pick) S (second) moved to end (to last) /in\ ELECTIONS (polls)

26a Reserve remains with coach, tense to the end (9)

Although the solution RESTRAINT could have been clued as REST (remains) containing TRAIN (coach), the setter has chosen another route. Before reading talbinho's review, I had believed it had been clued as REST followed by (to the end) an anagram (tense) of TRAIN. I must confess that tense as an anagram indicator seemed to be a bit of a stretch (a bit tense, you might say). It seems that I may have had reason to doubt tense as an anagram indicator. According to talbinho, the wordplay is actually REST followed by RAINT, where RAINT is formed from TRAIN (coach) by moving T (tense) to the end. Note that this is very similar wordplay to 24a. I presume that the abbreviation T for "tense" may come from the field of linguistics, although it does not appear in the online version of Chambers (or any other reference that I could find).

7d Peer's own advanced retail food outlet (4,1,7,1)

This clue certainly lends itself to much analysis. First, "peer" is not a lord, but rather means "look" and forms the definition. The wordplay (officially) is TAKE (own) A (advanced) BUTCHER'S (retail food outlet). However, as is vehemently stated on Times for the Times, the alternative form of this expression (HAVE A BUTCHER'S) would seem to much better fit the wordplay. Of course, I was totally unfamiliar with either version of this expression.

Although I did get the BUTCHER part and considered that the first two words might possibly be HAVE A, the result HAVE A BUTCHER _, made so little sense that I never dreamed that I was actually on the right track. I should have learned by now never to underestimate the inanity of British expressions.

It did not help that the numeration is actually (4,1,7'1) although (since I don't recall ever having previously encountered it) I just presumed that it might be standard cryptic crossword practice to clue an 's as a one-letter word. Judging by comments on Times for the Times, the clue as it appeared in the printed version of The London Sunday Times was the same as it appeared in the Citizen. However, I infer that the clue in the online version was different - I presume that would be (4,1,7'1).

I also suspect that I may not fully comprehend the significance of the abbreviation A (for advanced). The best explanation I could cobble together is this reference from Chambers:

A1 or a - noun 3 (usually A) someone or something of first class, first in a sequence, or belonging to a class arbitrarily designated A

15d Tried stew with a small fish in it (3,1,4)

Apart from the fact that both contain meat and potatoes, stew and hash are really not the same thing in a culinary sense. Perhaps the setter intends us to think in a more figurative vein where stew means "
a state of anxiety or agitation" and hash means "a jumble; a mess".

25d Former guards you heard at the right time (2,3)

I have to admit that I totally failed to get the wordplay here, being absolutely convinced that the homophone indicator was "you heard" and that I was looking for a word meaning "former guards" that sounds like ON CUE (at the right time). In reality, the wordplay is:

ONCE (former) contains (guards) U {sounds like (heard) YOU}

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010 (ST 4356)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on November 22, 2009


This puzzle has some mischievously wicked clues as well as a couple that are downright cruel. I hope that the fact that I managed to solve the former but failed to decipher the latter hasn't adversely coloured my opinion. I don't think so, as my thoughts seems to align fairly well with those of the Brits writing at Times for the Times.

Today's Glossary

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

(House of) Lords - the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The Strand - historic street in London, England

TA - abbreviation Territorial Army:
noun (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 by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4356].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

5a Churchman the French turn to (6)

This clue incorporates the rather fiendish device of placing the link between the definition and the wordplay smack dab in the middle of a word. It will help if you read the clue as:

Church /\ man the French turn to (6)

where the symbol "/\" represents the link (or fulcrum) between the two parts of the clue.

18a Strand's basic accommodation? (4,8)

While knowing that The Strand is an historic street in London, England (the hub of Victorian theatre and nightlife) is crucial to following the surface reading, this knowledge may actually impede one in decoding the cryptic meaning.

23a Marxist accepts useless product (5)

This is the first of the cruel clues to which I made reference in my introduction. I failed to find the correct solution here, partly because of problems with the wording of this clue and partly because I arrived at a wrong solution for 19d. In his blog at Times for the Times, talbinho suggests that there is an error in this clue as published, and that it should have read:

Marxist accepts useless produce (5)

which might have helped a tad to find the fruit which is the solution to this clue.

25a Explosive device left behind and belonging to me (8)

Here, the components of the charade type wordplay are L (left) + AND + MINE (belonging to me), producing the solution LANDMINE.

Note that talbinho questions the purpose of the word "behind" in the clue (
"why 'behind'?"). I presumed that we are meant to read the clue as if it were written "explosive device left, behind and belonging to me" with behind playing a role analogous to its use in the following example that I have cooked up, "We found ourselves trapped; in front the raging sea, minefields right and left, behind the rapidly advancing army."

By interpreting the wordplay in this fashion, we get L (left) behind which is AND + MINE.

26a Remove top of hamper with added force to get sandwich filling (6)

You would be well advised to avoid biting into this sandwich, which could consist of a rubber or cork sheet between a couple of metal engine components.

8d Could playing golf lead to this fine finish? (4,4)

I found
the order of the words in this solution to be reversed - an observation supported by Times for the Times.

11d Do soldiers on exercise following wrong side have to stick with it? (8,4)

Although talbinho seems to think "
the clue doesn't make much sense", I am not sure that I concur. The surface reading of the clue could be referring to soldiers engaged in war games (on exercise) who have been assigned to track down an enemy unit. However, should they discover that they have been following another unit from their own team rather than the enemy, do they continue (stick with it) or quit. And of course, "stick with it" is also a cryptic reference to the solution.

15d For example, part played by many on dole being reviewed (4,5)

Often the word many (or an equivalent expression, such as large number) will need to be replaced by a large Roman numeral - such as L (fifty), C (hundred), D (five hundred) or M (thousand). In this case, the correct choice is M.

19d A driver of seventeen? (6)

This is the second cruel clue. I got the wrong solution here, which also impacted my ability to solve 23a. I thought a driver of seventeen (years of age) might be a NOVICE. Another possibility that I had in the back of my mind was MOTIVE (a different kind of driver). Neither one, of course, is correct.

Here, "seventeen" is a cross-reference to clue number 17 (i.e., 17d) for which the solution is AIRLINES. Therefore, the first step in solving this clue is to substitute the solution to 17d into this clue; viz., "A driver of airlines?". This could mean "A driver owned by airlines". A driver can be an engine, and airlines do own engines (as well as the rest of the plane). While it seems that the solution can be rationalized, methinks it involves more than a reasonable level of hand-waving to explain.

20d Woodland in autumn before storm damage (6)

The solution hiding in this clue might be more visible if one first clears the autumn damage deadwood.

Signing off for this week - Falcon