Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010 (ST 4373)

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


The puzzle today was probably a bit easier than the typical Sunday London Times fare. However, I was perplexed by 18d and was relieved to learn that I was not alone.

Today's Errors

On Times for the Times, Tim Moorey (the setter of today's puzzle) confesses that there is a mistake in 18d. While he could not recall what he had originally intended, he suggests this alternative wording:

18d Rock, I'd say, in case of "winehouse" is not middle of the road (7)

Here "winehouse" would be a reference to British rock singer Amy Winehouse, with "case of winehouse" indicating the first and last letters (i.e., case) of the word "winehouse".

Today's Glossary

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

all over the shop - [Brit. (almost certainly)] colloq scattered everywhere; in numerous places [equivalent to the North American expression "all over the place"]

breeze block - noun Brit. a lightweight building brick made from cinders mixed with sand and cement

Sir Simon Rattle - English conductor, since 2002 the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4373].

Most of the discussion on the blog today concerns the error in 18d. Some correspondents suggested that the clue should have said "warehouse" rather than "garage", while others debated whether the solution might be GAYSIDE rather than WAYSIDE.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

11a Squeeze former partner, tense by the sound of it (6)

This is one of those homophone clues that doesn't travel well across the Atlantic. The definition is "squeeze" with EXTORT being the solution. The wordplay is a charade of EX (former partner) + TORT which sounds like (by the sound of it) - at least to the British ear - TAUT (tense).

To the British, this is probably a perfect homophone; whereas, to North Americans, these two words sound nothing like each other. You can compare the British and American pronunciations of these words for yourself at the Free Online Dictionary site (taut, tort). It is not unusual for homophone clues that work in the U.K. to totally miss the mark in North America. In fact, due to regional differences in pronunciation, homophone clues often do not work well even within Britain.

I'm not sure why talbinho shows the solution as "EX + 'TAUGHT'". At first, I supposed that taught might be a British (alternative) spelling of taut. However, based on a look at a few U.K. dictionaries, that does not appear to be the case.

19a Rash aggressive youth losing his head on crack (8)

This was the last clue to be solved. I had convinced myself that the solution must start with OUTH (YOUTH losing his head). It was only after I had found the solution and began to reverse engineer the wordplay that I realized that I was, in fact, looking for a LOUT (aggressive youth) losing his head.

23a Puritan rather backing off before adult catalogue (8)

Here "rather" means MORE (in the sense of "Emotions were rather tense following the argument"). "Rather backing off" indicates MORE with the last letter deleted (i.e., with the "backing off").

6d Jumper's on back to front? Have a rest! (5)

In this clue, "back to front" indicates the last letter (back) of the word "front".

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010 (ST 4372)

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


A much less contentious puzzle today than last week's offering, although it did take a fair bit of effort to solve.

Today's Glossary

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

CID - abbreviation Criminal Investigation Department, the detective branch of the British police force

kedgeree - a primarily British dish principally served at breakfast

landlord -
noun 2 a man who keeps lodgings, a boarding house, or (Brit.) a public house

licensee -
noun the holder of a licence, especially to sell alcoholic drinks

- noun a piece of bread which has been rebaked, or a hard dry biscuit resembling this, given as food to babies

Spithead - a location in Hampshire, England, notable as the customary site of the Fleet Review, a British tradition, where the monarch reviews the massed Royal Navy.

wicket - noun 1 Cricket each of the sets of three stumps with two bails across the top at either end of the pitch, defended by a batsman 2 a small door or gate, especially one beside or in a larger one

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4372].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

10a Iranian wounded by Ian's toes (8)

The Ossetians are members of the Iranian peoples who may also be refered to as Iranic peoples (to distinguish them from Iranians, who are citizens of Iran). As talbinho says, "'Iranian' [is] generally not used in this context to avoid confusion with citizens of Iran". However, our setter does not hesitate to exploit this ambiguity to create some quite purposeful misdirection.

21a Blair is upset about universe ending (6)

Here "about" is neither C, CA or RE and "universe ending" does not indicate the last letter of the word "universe". Rather, "ending" is the definition and we are looking for an anagram (is upset) of BLAIR containing (about) U (universe). While I could not find U as an abbreviation for universe in any dictionary that I consulted, I am sure that this remark will elicit a chorus from the other side of the Atlantic proclaiming that it can be found in the unabridged version of Chambers. I do know that U is an abbreviation for Universal in the British film categorization system.

4d G-men tackled Owen violently to get admission (15)

Has talbinho misread this clue, substituting Gwen, a Welsh maid, in place of G-men, American FBI agents? It would seem so. However, it does not seem to have interfered with his ability to find the correct solution - and no-one in the U.K. seems to have noticed.

On the other hand, perhaps Owen is the Welsh domestic and talbinho merely mistyped the commentary.

The definition is "admission" for which the solution is ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. The wordplay is an anagram (violently) of GMEN TACKLED OWEN.

7d European, ie, Brian Cross (7)

Who is Brian Cross? The setter may have supposed that this was a fictitious name. However, I did manage to find someone by that name - a rather obscure singer, I would guess (and maybe not even European) - but perhaps worth a listen.

Brian Cross

Brian | MySpace Video

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010 (ST 4371)

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


A very difficult puzzle today, due in no small part to the tremendous number of Briticisms in it. I don't believe that I ever had anywhere near this number of entries in the Today's Glossary section for any previous blog. Not only were there a lot of British expressions and references, but some clues relied on relating several of them to find the solution. I was therefore rather pleased with myself for having completed the puzzle correctly - even though I did not completely understand all the wordplay for several clues. I felt even better when I saw that many of the clues that had baffled me also seemed to perplex the Brits.

Today's Major Error

15d Tin - I discarded for this other metal, symbolically (7)

There is a major error in this clue. It would appear that the setter intended for us to have removed (discarded) the I from "Tin" to obtain TN which the setter apparently thinks is the chemical symbol for tungsten with the answer being the former name for this metal, i.e., WOLFRAM. However, the chemical symbol for tungsten (as it was when this substance was still known as wolfram) is W, not Tn.

Today's Glossary

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

Alton Towers - an amusement park in Staffordshire, England

boot1 - noun 3 Brit. a space at the back of a car for carrying luggage [In North America, known as a trunk]

car boot sale - noun Brit. an outdoor sale at which people sell things from the boots (trunks) of their cars

charlie - noun informal 1 Brit. a fool

drum - Brit. Cockney rhyming slang house [drum and bass = place; i.e., house]

Eccles - a town within the metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England - historically a part of Lancashire

Eccles - the name of a comedy character, created and performed by Spike Milligan, from the 1950s United Kingdom radio comedy series The Goon Show

Eccles cake - noun Brit. a round flat cake of sweetened pastry filled with currants (ORIGIN named after the town of Eccles near Manchester)

fool2 - noun chiefly Brit. a cold dessert made of puréed fruit mixed or served with cream or custard

funfair - noun chiefly Brit. a fair consisting of rides, sideshows, and other amusements

lounge room - Australian (and possibly also British) term for a living room (Ref: Wikipedia and Cambridge)

mo - noun informal, chiefly Brit. a moment

OTT - abbreviation Brit. informal over the top

otto - an essential oil extracted from rose petals (better known - to myself, at least - as attar)

Spike Milligan - an Irish comedian who was the co-creator, main writer and a principal cast member of the 1950s United Kingdom radio comedy series The Goon Show

shell suit - noun U.K. bright lightweight tracksuit: a lightweight shiny brightly colored tracksuit worn casually or for sport. It is usually made of nylon with a soft lining.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4371].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

14a Mark follows him for another book (7)

Having solved this clue, I was sure that I must be missing something in the wordplay - prompting me to wonder . . .

17a Old venue without room to relax (6)

Despite getting the correct solution, I was at a loss to explain the wordplay - and I see that even talbinho seemed to be at a loss (despite making a valiant attempt at an explanation).

According to talbinho's review, the solution LOUNGE is arrived at by removing ROOM from LOUNGE ROOM. I was only able to find lounge room listed in a couple of sources. According to Cambridge, lounge room is an Australian term for living room whereas Wikipedia seems to indicate that the term is both Australian and British. The wording of the clue ("old venue") would tend to suggest that the term is outdated. Thus, based on this approach, the "old venue" would be LOUNGE ROOM, which without ROOM becomes LOUNGE, which means "to relax". After all this, I would say, hardly a standout clue.

Sure enough, we are dealing with an outdated term - but it seems that it is not lounge room. According to a visitor to Times for the Times, "venue" is an obsolete term for "a hit or thrust in fencing" (or, in other words, a LUNGE). The wordplay would then become O (old) with LUNGE (venue) containing it (without; i.e., on the outside). This meaning for venue is hinted at by the etymology note in Chambers which attributes the modern meaning to a 14th century meaning "obsolete sense 'a coming on, in order to attack'".

I have to wonder if using the meaning of word from 700 years ago may not be reaching back a bit far!

22a Proper form required when police finally have business to enter house (7)

Another clue that I solved correctly but was only able to understand the wordplay after reading talbinho's review. In fact, I had futilely spent considerable time and effort trying to construct suitable wordplay around house meaning DORM.

The definition is "proper form" with the solution being DECORUM. The wordplay is {E (police finally; i.e., the final letter of the word "police") + (have) CO (business; i.e., abbreviation for "company")} contained in (to enter) DRUM (house).

Why does drum mean "house"? It is Cockney rhyming slang. The rationale for it seemingly follows this chain of connectedness: drum goes with bass (musical instruments), bass rhymes with place, place is another name for house, therefore drum means house.

Another point worth pointing out is the use of "have" in this clue to link the elements of a charade ("E have CO" implies "E attached to CO" or ECO). Sometimes "have" will indicate a container relationship while, at other times, it will be used in a charade (as it is today) to indicate that one element of the charade is attached to a second element of the charade. One must figure out the intent of the setter from the context.

3d Extravagant oil, primarily (4)

This is one clue where I got the wordplay but failed to see the definition - just the reverse of my usual predicament. The wordplay is OTT (British expression meaning "extravagant" coming from the abbreviation for "over the top") plus O (oil, primarily; i.e., the primary - or first - letter in the word "oil"). Even after reading talbinho's review, I was not much further ahead (other than having him confirm that this is an &lit clue). Through further research, I eventually discovered that otto is another name for attar, an essential oil extracted from rose petals and used in perfumery.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010 (ST 4370)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on February 28, 2010


Truly, what a schmozzle. After writing this word, I thought that I had better check its meaning just to ensure that it really means what I thought it meant. To my surprise, I could not find it in any dictionary. Then I thought, what better way to describe today's puzzle than with a word that doesn't appear in any dictionary. Further investigation showed that Oxford thinks that it is spelled shemozzle or schemozzle, although judging by general usage, a lot of people seem to be on the schmozzle side with me (probably through confusing the word with schnozzle).

I spent far too much time trying to solve this puzzle before visiting Times for the Times, where I discovered that talbinho and most of those leaving comments were - for the most part - as baffled as was I.

As I solve a puzzle, I mark symbols beside clues as reminders of things that I might want to mention in this blog. The various symbols might indicate clues where I don't (fully) understand the wordplay, clues where I want to compare my interpretation to that of the British bloggers, clues that contain Briticisms or obscure words that I might wish to include in the Today's Glossary section of the blog, etc. I can truthfully say that there has probably never been another puzzle that has come anywhere near to generating as many markups as were produced by today's puzzle. I have marks against more than half of the clues - with multiple marks against some of them.

Needless to say, I won't bother writing about every one of these issues - it would certainly take me all day to do so (and the blog is already a day late). Besides, most of the points are covered in talbinho's review and the comments attached to it.

Errors in Today's Puzzle

Two of the clues in today's puzzle clearly contain errors, as evidenced by the fact that the clues were corrected in the online version of the puzzle posted on the Sunday London Times website (according to reports at Times for the Times). As usual, these corrections were not included in the syndicated puzzle.

2d Near disaster? Elaborate! (6)

This clue should read "Near to disaster? Elaborate!".

22d Capital article on Poles (6)

This clue should read "Capital articles on Poles".

In addition, there is an overwhelming consensus among those writing at Times for the Times that the following clue is also incorrect, although the Sunday London Times seems unwilling to admit to it.

9a Coping when animals initially pushed into troughs? (8)

As talbinho suggests in his review, this clue might make sense (which it certainly doesn't as published) if reworded to read "Those coping when animals initially pushed into troughs?".

At least we can be thankful that one error appearing in the online version of the puzzle in the U.K. did not creep into the syndicated version. According to those writing at Times for the Times, the solution to 25d was given in the online version as ROOT rather than FOOT. I expect that error did not appear in the printed version in Britain, as we tend to get the puzzle exactly as it appeared in the printed edition there.

Today's Glossary

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

covert - noun 1 a thicket in which game can hide

nous - noun 1 Brit. informal practical intelligence

pigeon2 - [Collins English Dictionary] Brit informal concern or responsibility (often in the phrase it's his, her, etc., pigeon)

simple - noun chiefly historical a medicinal herb, or a medicine made from one

Sir John Tenniel
- English illustrator

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4370].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a In Britain known as pigeon territory (8)

I must admit that I was completely baffled by this cryptic definition and did not even make an attempt to write a solution into the "lights" in the grid (lights being the term used to identify the unshaded cells in the grid). It did not help that I was unsure of two of the checking letters (despite actually having found the correct solutions for the respective intersecting clues), given that there was an error in the clue at 2d and I could not explain the wordplay at 3d.

As I was to find out, talbinho (although he managed to obtain the correct solution) was also "baffled by this" clue. Once I knew what the solution was, it occurred to me that there might be a British politician named Vince Pigeon whose supporters come from an area that is known as being pro-Vince. However, I quickly discarded that thought realizing that the Brits would have easily picked up on that were it the case.

The explanation was finally provided by a visitor to Times for the Times. I then found a reference to the expression "It's his pigeon" in Collins (see Today's Glossary). It is interesting to note that the Free Online Dictionary (where I found the Collins entry) also provides an entry from the American Heritage Dictionary which provides a somewhat similar meaning for pigeon, namely "
An object of special concern; an affair or matter".

10a Disbursement abroad, on deposit (6)

Here is another clue that I was unable to crack (and one which talbinho was unable to explain). A couple of visitors to Times for the Times attempt to provide explanations. The best one, to my mind, is "Regarding 10A, the clue for DEBRIS looks suspiciously like a cast-off clue for 12A, where the answer OUTLAY would fit nicely (OUTLAY = disbursement; OUT (= abroad) + LAY (= deposit)!".

[With tongue firmly planted in cheek], I imagine the explanation as follows: The setter originally had intended that the solution at 12a would be OUTLAY with the clue worded as above. When the decision was made to change the solution at 12a to OUTLAW, the now surplus former clue became debris which was shuffled off to serve as a clue for 10a. After all, this clue does appear to make no sense, one that might well be described as garbage - or debris

3d Raining all over the place - dig a ditch? (7)

While I recognized that INGRAIN could be an anagram of "raining" with the indicator being "all over the place", I had no idea why "dig a ditch" might mean ingrain. Judging by the feedback on Times for the Times, neither did anyone else.

19d Illustrator of bird in flight crossing head of estuary (7)

I had supposed that "in flight" must be intended as an anagram indicator. However, talbinho points out that it is actually a reversal indicator - one to which he takes minor exception ("I'm not keen on 'in flight' meaning 'upwards' but that's a minor nitpick."). I agree with him on that point. Perhaps "bird taking flight across head of estuary" would have been a more appropriate way to convey the idea of rising.

Signing off for this week - Falcon