Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010 (ST 4369)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on February 21, 2010


It was not the easiest puzzle today, but I persevered and managed to complete it. I did have a couple of unanswered questions concerning the wordplay, though.

Today's Glossary

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

don -
noun 1 a university teacher, especially a senior member of a college at Oxford or Cambridge

fresher -
noun Brit. informal a first-year student at college or university

gen - noun Brit. informal information

loaf1 - noun 3 slang the head or brains • Use your loaf
Note: I take this meaning to have been derived from Cockney rhyming slang, based on the following entry in Oxford "use one’s loaf Brit. informal use one’s common sense; probably from loaf of bread, rhyming slang for head"
other ranks - (abbreviation OR) plural noun Brit. (in the armed forces) all those who are not commissioned officers

Penzance - a town in Cornwall, England (likely well known to fans of Gilbert and Sullivan)

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

Saint Francis de Sales - Roman Catholic saint

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4369].

I am not sure why the review at Times for the Times shows February 21 as being a Saturday - must be a typo.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4a Bitterness shown by an agent weary when back inside (8)

Note that to get the solution one must reverse TIRE (weary, as a verb) as indicated by the phrase "when back" - a step that talbinho doesn't explicitly include in his review.

10a Sort of course about to be taken by new student (9)

The wordplay here just wouldn't quite fall into place for me. It's no wonder, I was trying to work with freshman (the North American term for a first year university student) whereas the setter, of course, had used the equivalent British term, fresher. While Chambers seems to clearly indicate that freshman is a North American term, the definition in Oxford would seem to indicate that this term may also be used in the U.K.

11a Our last king to have increased in stature? (5)

"Our last king" is George VI. The title of the reigning king is Rex (Latin for king) which is written after the name; so, during his reign, he would have been known as George Rex (often shortened to GR). However, given that he is no longer reigning, is it still proper to refer to him as George Rex?

1d I pack to go north, getting period by the sea (8)

I had to think a bit about "pack" meaning RAM. My initial feeling was that pack might be more likely to mean cram. However, it eventually occurred to me that one would use a ramrod to ram (i.e., pack) the charge into a muzzle loading firearm.

7d One very short book, look about men who composed songs (4,7)

The wordplay is I (one) V (very short; i.e., the word "very" shortened to a single letter) NOVEL (book) LO (look; as in "lo and behold") containing (about) OR (ordinary ranks = men). The definition is "who composed songs". Who composed songs? Ivor Novello did.

13d Get rid of examiner - test lousy - one hasn't succeeded! (11)

Since one cannot arbitrarily create abbreviations at whim (although one might sometimes think that setters do), I am sure there is some context in which S stands for "succeeded". Perhaps it is in some sort of pass/fail examination in British schools, or indicating the line of succession in charts of royal lineages, or some cricket or rugby term. Yes, I'm sure there is an explanation out there somewhere.

16d Ecstasy at a minimum with a more severe oriental person (9)

The definition is "oriental person" and the solution is EASTERNER. The wordplay is E (ecstasy at a minimum; i.e., the first letter of the word ecstasy) + (with) A STERNER (more severe).

As talbinho says, "
'at a minimum' seems superfluous here" since it is common to see E used in cryptic crosswords as an abbreviation for Ecstasy (the hallucinatory drug).

17d What coteries could be (8)

I found this concise, clever clue to be very appealing. A
coterie is "a small exclusive group of people with shared interests or tastes" while ESOTERIC describes something that is "intended for or understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge".

27a Lecturer one with shiny nose? Not good! (3)

I must admit that I did not succeed in tracking down the wordplay here. I did a search on "dong shiny nose" which failed to turn up anything of interest. If I had only shortened my search to "dong nose", I would have been flooded with useful links.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010 (ST 4368)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on February 14, 2010


For the most part, today's puzzle was fairly straightforward. However, one clue seems to have left most observers confounded.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4368].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

6a Awesome female banker (6)

Here we see a device often found in cryptic crossword puzzles, where "banker" is used to mean "something that has banks" or, in other words, a river. Other common examples of such crosswordese include "flower" (something that flows, which again translates to a river) and "number" (something that numbs, which could be ether
or some other anesthetic).

10a Hangs out with mates (10)

This is a double definition having the solution ASSOCIATES. The first definition (hangs out with) is a verb and the second (mates) is a noun. In Britain, your mate is not your spouse but your buddy. When talbinho comments "
not much difference in the two definitions used here; one is just a nounal form of the other", I presume he is merely referring to the fact that mates are just people you hang out with.

25a This form of transport arrived at school carrying student (5,5)

My first attempt here was MODEL TRAIN, where form = MODE, school = TRAIN and student = L (learner). While I was generally on the right track with this line of thinking, this idea got derailed when I discovered that it created an impasse at 22d.

27a Small girl and boy sharing one bottle (4)

There appears to be no consensus on the wordplay in this clue. The definition is clearly "bottle" and the solution is VIAL. In his review talbinho says "
VI (= 'small girl') + AL (= '[small] boy') - not sure what 'sharing one' adds to this clue. Originally I was expecting the two names to overlap by one letter and 'share' an 'I' or 'A', but that's not the case unless I've missed something". My own interpretation was that "small girl" could be VAL (short for Valerie), and VAL could also be a boy's name (e.g., American actor Val Kilmer). Then, if "sharing" is taken as a container/contents indicator we would have VAL containing (sharing) I (one). One week ago, a Canadian visitor to Times for the Times (perhaps a reader of the Toronto Star which publishes this puzzle a week ahead of the Citizen) also made a similar suggestion.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010 (ST 4367)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on February 7, 2010


I found today's puzzle to be a bit more of a challenge than usual. But maybe my mind has just been thrown out of whack by the change to daylight savings time. By the way, in today's puzzle, it may be useful to note that the Down clues outnumber the Across clues by 16 to 14.

Today's Glossary

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

bouncy castle -
Brit. a large inflatable structure, resembling a castle etc., on which children jump and play as on a trampoline

tit -
noun 2 Brit. informal a foolish or ineffectual person

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
- English actor

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4367].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

28a 14 of these clues are a sign of the times! (6)

Although I recognized that the number 14 refers to the number of ACROSS clues, I was left feeling that I must be missing some nuance in the wordplay. Several potential connections came to mind: a cross could be a sign (symbol), Catholics make the sign of the Cross, a cross looks like a letter "t" which is the first letter in the word "times", the puzzle originally appeared in the Sunday London Times (although "times" is not capitalized in the clue). However, I was not able to conclusively make a connection to any of these and talbinho's review does not provide any indication of what - if anything - I may be missing.

19d Prometheus met this underworld character, possibly (7)

I initially found the solution to this clue by matching words to the checking letters and then attempted to decipher the wordplay. I even recognized that if one deleted the letters MET from PROMETHEUS and constructed an anagram of the remaining letters, it would produce ORPHEUS - although I could not figure out how one would be expected to get that from the clue.
In his review, talbinho does provide an explanation for the wordplay.

But how would one classify this clue. Since the definition "this underworld character" appears in the middle of the clue, I am assuming that this cannot be a standard cryptic clue. I am guessing that this might be an &lit clue where one reading of the clue provides a description of ORPHEUS (someone who Prometheus possibly met). The second reading of the clue would then involve the wordplay that talbinho explains. A second possibility that I considered is that it might be considered to be a cryptic definition.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010 (ST 4366)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on January 31, 2010


A couple of clues in the northwest quadrant held me up for a while today. I see that this is also the same area of the puzzle that gave talbinho the most difficulty. Furthermore, I was not able to completely decipher the wordplay to one rather convoluted clue.

Today's Glossary

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

rate -
noun 5 (rates) (in the UK) a tax on commercial land and buildings paid to a local authority

Royal Engineers (abbreviation RE) - also known as sappers: noun 1 military engineers who lay or detect and disarm mines. 2 Brit. soldiers 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 4366].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

10a There's nothing left to tax but talk (5)

The definition is "talk" and the solution is ORATE. As for the wordplay, I have come up with a couple of possible variations on the explanation.

Variation #1: O (nothing) to the left of (there's ... left to) RATE (tax). In this cryptic reading, the phrase "there's nothing left to ..." would be equivalent to saying "nothing is to the left [with respect] to ..." or, in other words, "nothing is to the left of". Here rate is used as a noun, in the sense of "
noun 2 b rates" where rates is defined as "plural noun 2 in the UK until 1990: a tax payable by each household and collected by a local authority to pay for public services based on the assessed value of their property ...". My interpretation of these cascaded entries is that, when used in this sense, the word would usually be written in the plural (rates), but might occasionally be written in the singular (rate).

Variation #2:
O (nothing) to the left of (there's ... left) RATE (to tax). In this cryptic reading, the phrase "there's nothing left ..." would be equivalent to saying "nothing is to the left" signifying the first element in a charade type wordplay. Here rate is used as a verb, in the sense of "in the UK until 1990: to determine the value of property for the purposes of assessing the rates (sense 2) payable on it."

Interestingly, in Canada, taxpayers are often referred to as ratepayers, but we use the term property taxes rather than rates. I had always supposed that the term ratepayer was merely a derivation from the term tax rate (where rate is used in a more general sense "noun 3 a price or charge fixed according to a standard scale"). However, although the British terms rates and ratepayer may well have originally been derived from this general meaning of rate, I have to suspect that we have retained only the term ratepayer while discarding the term rates.

14a Nationals dressing in snow gear (10)

The definition is "nationals" and the solution is NORWEGIANS, with the wordplay an anagram (dressing) of IN SNOW GEAR. This is a lovely clue, as the surface reading also readily invokes the image of Norwegians. Often this type of clue might produce seemingly unlikely solutions like JAMAICANS or GHANIANS. That is not to say that such an unusual result would be unheard of, as demonstrated by the Jamaican bobsled team or Ghanaian skier Kwame
Nkrumah-Acheampong, nicknamed The Snow Leopard.

23a Unskilled chaps initially ignore an apprentice (6)

The definition is "unskilled" and the solution is "menial". Talbinho's explanation of the wordplay is MEN (chaps) IA (initially ignore an; i.e., the first letters of the words "ignore an") L (learner; i.e., apprentice).

I arrived at the solution via a slightly different route, which may or may not be valid. I interpreted the wordplay as MEN (chaps) I (initially ignore) A L (a learner; i.e., an apprentice). I am sure I have encountered clues in the past where one has had to substitute "a" for "an" based on the preceding type of rationale where there would be no other way to explain the "a"). However, as always, I stand to be corrected.

1d Lower breed of islander (7)

This is a double definition where the second definition is "islander" and the solution is FRISIAN (a resident of the Frisian, or Friesian, Islands - as well as a resident of the remainder of Frisia, or Friesia, located on the mainland). The first definition ("lower breed") is cryptic and indicates a "breed of cattle (animals that low)". While reference sources commonly show the spellings Frisia and Frisian being interchangeable with Friesia and Friesian when referring to the geographic location and its inhabitants, the spelling Friesian seems to be far more prevalent when referring to the breed of cattle (although I was able to find a few sources that showed Frisian as an alternative spelling of the name of the cattle breed).

Friesian cattle imported from Holland came to be known in North America as Holsteins. Today, "
usage of the word Holstein is used to describe North American stock [including those exported to] Europe. Friesian, denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry. Crosses between the two are described by the term Holstein-Friesian."

3d Restive steed, on arrival, is stalled (8)

I wrestled with this clue for a long while before the penny dropped. Usually, in a down clue like this one, "A on B" signifies AB (i.e., A on top of B, it being a down clue). However, in this case, "on" is used in the sense of added on to or appended to and "A on B" indicates BA (i.e., A appended to B). Thus, the definition is "stalled", the solution is ARRESTED, and the wordplay is ESTED {an anagram (indicated by "restive") of STEED} appended to (on) ARR (arrival).

8d His lines uplift, agreed, with content first used in 13 down (7)

Although I recognized that "his lines" is a reference to a poet (and I even managed to guess the correct one) and that "with content first used in 13 down" is a reference to the solution to clue 13d, I was not able to figure out the wordplay completely. Kudos to anyone who managed to get it fully. If, like me, you failed to decipher it, talbinho provides a full explanation in his review.

Signing off for this week - Falcon