Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010 (ST 4365)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on January 24, 2010

Introduction

It took a long time and a lot of work to complete this puzzle - of course, I was more than a bit distracted by the Olympic Gold Medal hockey game.

Today's Glossary

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

Beds. - abbreviation English county Bedfordshire.

brolly - noun Brit. informal an umbrella.

finger buffet - noun a buffet meal consisting of food which may be eaten with the fingers, such as small sandwiches, cocktail sausage rolls, canap├ęs, etc (sometimes called finger food), without any need for a knife and fork.

(the) Gents - noun informal 2 Brit. a men’s public toilet.

high tea - noun Brit. a meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, typically consisting of a cooked dish and tea.

test - noun 7 a test match: an international cricket or rugby match played between teams representing two different countries

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4365].

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010 (ST 4364)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on January 17, 2010

Introduction

There were some interesting clues today - ranging from a type that is very rarely seen, to a few that seemed rather strange, to some that might well be considered a bit questionable. All in all, the puzzle presents a good learning opportunity - especially for those who may be relatively new to cryptic crosswords.

Today's Glossary

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

Smike - son of Ralph Nickleby in Charles Dickens' novel Nicholas Nickleby

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4364].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4a Runners stride then dash downhill (3-5)

Here the wordplay is "runners" = SKIS and "stride" = LOPE. But how does "dash downhill" (or perhaps "then dash downhill") = SKI-SLOPE? I even considered that maybe "then" = SKI, "dash" is the hyphen, and "downhill" = slope - but that doesn't seem to work.

8a Arctic penguin's two eggs taken by guy (6)

The Sunday London Times appears to have discovered a hitherto unknown species - the Arctic penguin.

12a Heading to north island, get firm, factual type of evidence? (8)

Here "heading to north" probably means northern. However, since heading can also mean "a bearing or direction", "heading to north" might possibly
mean just north. In any event, it really doesn't matter, as the letter N would be the abbreviation in either case.

16a Economise? Ditch entire play centre first! (8)

Here "centre" indicates that we need to use the letters found in the centre of the preceding string. However, the string from which we must select is not the preceding word ("play") but the preceding combination of words ("entire play").

21a Fate of Ralph Nickleby's son, abandoned and ultimately lost (6)

There are a couple of notable aspects to this clue. First, it an indirect anagram - that is, we have to find an anagram of a word that does not actually appear in the clue. To solve the clue, we have to substitute SMIKE for "Ralph Nickelby's son" and then find an anagram for it. Second, the anagram indicator is "abandoned", which caused me to scratch my head. Anagram indicators are words that convey the meaning of rearrangement or movement. I have also sometimes seen words that indicate control used as anagram indicators. My only explanation for "abandoned" as an anagram indicator is that one meaning for abandon is "to give something up to another person's control" - although this explanation seems pretty weak to me.

23a In due course, net value is worked out (8)

To my mind, "in due course" would mean eventually, rather than EVENTUAL - but seemingly not in this puzzle.

25a A designated driver and newsman, after parking, trudged off (6)

Those with a copy of an unabridged version of Chambers will apparently find that DD is the abbreviation for "designated driver". Those of us who are too cheap to fork out the cash for the full version are left to believe that this is the abbreviation for Doctor of Divinity. This usage certainly did not meet with universal approval as one visitor to Times for the Times commented that "
At 25ac I'm somewhat surprised at DD = Dedicated (sic) Driver and even more that Chambers sanctions it."

1d Restraint called for, with one girl going off the rails (3-4)

In this clue, the expression "restraint called for" (where "called for" means needed) tells us that as a solution we need a word that means "restraint".

3d First remains found in wood - human ones (6)

The solution to this clue is probably a bit clearer if we mentally replace the pronoun "one" by its antecedent to get "First remains found in wood - human remains". The definition is "human remains" or CORPSE.

4d Let the cat out of the bag, as he bent (7,3,5)

This is a rarely seen type of clue - and one that is a bit difficult to explain, but I will try to do my best. The definition is "Let the cat out of the bag" for which the solution is SPILLED THE BEANS. The solution itself actually constitutes wordplay - i.e., an anagram (spilled) of THE BEANS which, when the wordplay is executed, produces AS HE BENT. Thus, in cryptic crossword terms, SPILLED THE BEANS is equivalent to the phrase "as he bent" and can be substituted for it. In most cases, the wordplay itself occurs in the clue and we are required to replace it by the results produced by executing the wordplay. However, in this case, the results of executing the wordplay occur in the clue and we need to replace it by the wordplay itself.

5d Bill, he untruthfully claims to be? (8)

Someone who untruthfully claims to be someone else is an IMPOSTER. If you untruthfully claimed to be someone named Poster (Bill), you might say "I'M POSTER".

15d Leaving university, count us, sadly, as sycophantic (8)

I'm not sure what role the word "leaving" plays in this clue. Perhaps it is merely padding.

17d Butt of joke, beastly pair's quip (7)

In this clue, "beastly pair" is not indicating an anagram (beastly) of PAIR but rather a pair of beasts (which happen to be a PIG and a RAM - perhaps a bit of an odd couple).

20d Spared former politician given time - over initial expenses (6)

In a down clue, "over" often indicates that one part of a charade comes before (i.e., is stacked on top of) another part of the charade (similar to the use of the word "on" in 22d). However, in this clue, "over" is not used in the sense of "on top of" but rather "spanning or enclosing". This is an indication of a container-type clue. The solution is EXEMPT, the definition is "spared", and the wordplay is EX (former) MP (politician) added to which is (given) T (time) containing (over) E (initial expenses; i.e., initial letter of the word "expenses").

22d Mineral's to be found on crown of hill, he prophesied (5)

In this clue, "on" indicates that one part of a charade, MICA (mineral), comes before (i.e., is stacked on top of) another part of the charade, H (crown of hill; i.e., the first letter of the word "hill").

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010 (ST 4363)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on January 10, 2010

Introduction

A few somewhat unusual clues today, which talbinho discusses quite extensively in his blog.

Today's Glossary

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

Admiralty Island - an island in the Alexander Archipelago in Southeast Alaska

mere -
noun chiefly literary a lake or pond.

porridge -
noun 2 Brit. informal time spent in prison.

R2 - abbreviation 4 a Regina (Latin), Queen; b Rex (Latin), King.

Staffs. -
abbreviation Staffordshire: county in the West Midlands region of England.

Stoke - may refer either to Stoke-on-Trent (a city in Staffordshire) or Stoke-upon-Trent (a town in Stoke-on-Trent)

Strine -
noun informal Australian English or the Australian accent.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4363].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

21a Eleven sappers backed by a narrow margin (7)

Here "eleven" is a cross-reference to the solution to 11a (beat), thus one is intended to read the clue as "Beat sappers backed by a narrow margin".

22a American writer carrying Times around display (4)

The solution is EXPO, the definition is "display" and the wordplay gives us an anagram (around) of PXOE (or POXE) {POE (American writer) containing (carrying) X (times; i.e., multiplication sign)}

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010 (ST 4362)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on January 3, 2010

Introduction

Solving today's puzzle definitely involved a bit of work - and the task was made no less difficult by an error in one of the clues.

Today's Error

This puzzle contains a serious error in the numeration indicator of clue 8d - one that originally appeared in the puzzle when it was published in the U.K. and which has not been corrected in the syndicated version of the puzzle. The correct clue is:

8d Surprised as I am to say this, not once did I excel (4,1,5,3)

In addition to being discussed in the comments to today's puzzle on Times for the Times, this error was also mentioned in a comment on the blog dealing with last week's puzzle. This would be explained by the fact that the Times for the Times review only appears one week after the puzzle is published in the U.K.

Today's Glossary

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

Epsom - a town in Surrey, England which is the site of the Epsom Downs Racecourse

MB - abbreviation 1 Bachelor of Medicine. Latin Medicinae Baccalaureus.

ulster - noun a man’s long, loose overcoat of rough cloth (ORIGIN from Ulster in Ireland, where it was originally sold).

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4362].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Setting to delight certain animal welfare groups (3,3,2,5)

It seemed that the solution had to be RED SKY AT NIGHT, but the wordplay appeared to make no sense. However, it seems that the old weather forecasting adage, known in North America as "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." is somewhat different in the U.K. where it would be "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight; ...".

Thus "setting" refers to the setting sun and "animal welfare groups" to shepherds.

Perhaps if we were to agree that the clue refers to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, both versions of the saying might be accommodated.

In his review, talbinho points out an apparent misalignment of singular and plural elements between the clue and the saying.

12a Insect left flower (5)

Old hands will readily recognize that in cryptic crossword land a flower is usually not a plant, but rather something that flows (i.e., a river).

19a Italian source of exotic vine on English church (6)

It may only be a personal idiosyncrasy, but I was bothered for the longest time about why VENICE would be called an Italian source. After much contemplation, I concluded that since one definition of source is "
a place, person, or thing from which something originates" that source basically means place (although it carries additional shades of meaning that improve the surface reading over what it would have been had the word place been used instead).

24a English town, of course (5)

I initially found myself at the wrong track, in Ascot. Fortunately, it did not take very long to discover my error and move on to EPSOM.

4d Giving up, having lied badly during first year of power (8)

The definition is YIELDING (giving up) and the wordplay is IELD {anagram of (badly) LIED} contained in (during) Y (first year; i.e., first letter of the word year) ING (of power?).

In his review, talbinho suggests that "of power" equates to "in government", with the final bit of the wordplay therefore being IN G (government). Not a very satisfying explanation, but the best that we have.

A visitor to Times for the Times writes "
I parsed this as Y(ear) IN G(as in G-force, hence power)". This explanation is weak on two counts. First, no rationale is provided for going from "of" to IN. Second, power and force are not at all the same thing (power being force times velocity). However, experience has taught us not to expect scientific precision in these puzzles.

Signing off for this week - Falcon