Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010 (ST 4378)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on April 25, 2010


A bit of a tricky puzzle today with a lot of obscure terms - many of them British, but seemingly not all. I completed the puzzle but needed talbinho to explain the wordplay in 10a.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Clues

electrics - likely British plural noun 1 electrical appliances. 2 colloq wiring.

Appearing in Solutions

chappal - noun South Asia sandal: a leather sandal with a single strap attached at the sides and passing between the first two toes

cramp ring - a ring formerly supposed to have virtue in averting or curing cramp, as having been consecrated by one of the kings of England on Good Friday

glue ear - U.K. complaint affecting children's hearing: a condition affecting young children that results from poor drainage of the middle ear.

iron pan - Geology a hard layer of precipitated iron salts often found below the surface of sands and gravels

mouth harp - South Midland and Southern U.S. noun harmonica; also called mouth organ

pea-souper - noun Brit. a very thick yellowish fog

RA - abbreviation 4 Royal Artillery

RAF - abbreviation Royal Air Force

TT - abbreviation 2 Tourist Trophy: noun an award given to the winner of the motorcycle races that are held annually on the Isle of Man

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4378].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

9a Join listener - on this condition (4,3)

I had never heard the expression glue ear. Judging from dictionary entries (it appears only in U.K. dictionaries or is designated as U.K. usage), it would seem to be strictly a British term:
  • [Cambridge] - noun A medical condition which is common in children, in which the middle part of the ear becomes filled with a liquid which prevents them from hearing correctly. Over half of all children in Britain get glue ear at some time before they are 16, and it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
  • [Chambers] - noun deafness and discharge from the ear caused by a build-up of fluid in the middle ear.
  • [Collins] - noun accumulation of fluid in the middle ear in children, caused by infection and sometimes resulting in deafness
  • [Encarta] - noun U.K. complaint affecting children's hearing: a condition affecting young children that results from poor drainage of the middle ear. It is a common cause of impaired hearing during early years, sometimes leading to educational disadvantage if untreated.
  • [Oxford] - noun blocking of the Eustachian tube by mucus, occurring especially in children and causing impaired hearing.
The medical term is otitis media.

10a Lotteries force me to return (7)

Oh, why is it that we can sometimes scale mountains, yet stumble over molehills? Although I saw that the second part of the solution was a reversal of SELF, I think that I must have gotten hung up on thinking that the first part was also a reversal. As a result, I was unable to see where RAF came from or what it had to do with force until I read talbinho's explanation. Surely, my body will be black and blue for days from the self-inflicted kicks.

15a A luxury car trapped by outgoing tide, briefly remained (7)

I am not overly enamoured with "outgoing" as an anagram indicator; methinks it would be better suited to be a reversal indicator.

2d Music-maker opening hotel, a ruined pub initially (5,4)

Mouth harp (or merely harp), meaning harmonica or mouth organ, is a term used regionally in midland (Indiana, Ohio and Illinois) and southern U.S. states. A possibly-related regional U.S. name for a harmonica is harpoon, which brings to mind:

6d Self-help facility agency accepted after electrics installed (9)

What a ghastly clue. It not only has an awkward surface reading and convoluted wordplay, with a Briticism thrown in, but I can find no justification for one substitution. The definition is "self-help facility" for which the solution is CAFETERIA. The wordplay in this Babushka doll style clue is CIA (agency) containing (accepted) {AFTER containing (installed) E (electrics)} or C(AF(E)TER)IA. Electrics is a British expression meaning either electrical appliances or wiring. As for the substitution of E for "electrics", the stock answer is likely "It can be found in [the unabridged version of] Chambers", although it does not appear in the online version of Chambers which shows it as an abbreviation for electron, electronic, and electromotive force. Even if it were a recognized abbreviation for electric, I think that it would be a bit of a stretch to extend that to electrics in the sense implied by the clue. On this point, I see that my thinking appears to be well aligned with that of talbinho and others at Times for the Times.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010 (ST 4377)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on April 18, 2010


It is quite an enjoyable puzzle today, perhaps a little bit easier than the norm. I still have to marvel at the Brits who seem able to solve these puzzles in 5 or 6 minutes.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

William Butterfield - British architect

courgette - [American Heritage® Dictionary] noun Chiefly British A zucchini

Old Ironsides - nickname for Oliver Cromwell, who served as an army commander in the English Civil War

manes or Manes - [American Heritage® Dictionary] plural noun 1. The spirits of the dead, regarded as minor supernatural powers in ancient Roman religion

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 7377] (a bit difficult to find as it was posted one day earlier than usual).

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

22d She's terrified - this chemical has been swallowed (5)

As British setters do not subscribe to the American convention that definitions must be placed at either the beginning or end of the clue, we sometimes see instances in British puzzles, such as this clue, where the definition (this chemical) is found in the middle of the clue. The clue tells us that the solution to the clue is the name of "this chemical" which can be found hidden (has been swallowed) in the phrase "she's terrified".

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010 (ST 4376)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on April 11, 2010


It was a rather challenging puzzle today, if you ask me. There were a few Briticisms and several quite obscure terms (at least to me). There were also some nice plays on words, a type of clue that I rather enjoy - especially when I can solve them. I did guess at a couple of solutions, anticipating that talbinho's explanation would clarify the wordplay. Alas, I was still puzzled on at least one clue after reading his review.

Today's Glossary

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

Used in clues:

George - noun airmen's slang the automatic pilot of an aircraft

Used in solutions:

Ascensiontide - the ten days from Ascension Day to the day before Whit Sunday

barathea - noun a fine woollen cloth

The Eros Statue - the popular (though erroneous) name for the Shaftesbury memorial, a monument in Piccadilly Circus, London, England (the statue actually portrays the twin brother of Eros, Anteros)

geyser - noun 2 Brit. a gas-fired water heater

maestoso - adverb & adjective Music in a majestic and stately manner

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4376].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Cable a curate, distraught about a test result (13)

I am familiar with baccalaureate being "an academic degree conferred on someone who has successfully completed undergraduate studies". In the U.S., the term can also mean "a farewell sermon to a graduating class at their commencement ceremonies", while it may be known to those in some parts of the world (including the U.K.) as "an internationally recognized programme of study, comprising different subjects, offered as an alternative to a course of A levels in Britain". An A level (in full Advanced level) is "an examination in a single subject in England, Wales and N Ireland for which school and college students study until about the age of 18". Oxford gives one meaning of baccalaureate as "an examination qualifying candidates for higher education".

11a Picasso's intimate address (5)

This is either a very trivial clue or else one that has gone completely over my head. Surely there is more to it than merely a suggestion that Senor Picasso's intimates (close friends) address him as Pablo.

13a Small trendy gardens in America where British queens spent formative years (9)

To a Brit, the phrase "gardens in America" would signify "yards". In North America, we refer to the property surrounding our home as a yard, whether or not it is enclosed and/or cultivated. In Britain, a yard is "a piece of uncultivated enclosed ground adjoining a building". Thus we see that the key characteristics distinguishing a yard in Britain are that it is enclosed and uncultivated. In Britain, "a piece of ground adjoining a house, typically cultivated to provide a lawn and flowerbeds" is known as a garden. That seems to leave open the question of what the Brits would call a piece of ground that is unenclosed and uncultivated.

Thus what we in North America call a yard, in Britain would be called either a yard (if enclosed and uncultivated) or a garden (if cultivated). In North America, the term garden (in this context) would generally be used only to describe that part of the property used for flower beds (flower garden) or vegetable plots (vegetable garden). A North American would therefore commonly use the phrase "lawn and garden" to describe the totality of their property, while such a phrase would likely be seen to be redundant to a Brit, who could sum up the same idea in the single word "garden".

19a They're set to return. Plunging in river? (6)

I have to admit that it took a lot of pondering to decipher this clue. The sense of the clue is "They (the animals named in the solution) are a reversal of (return) SET TO containing (plunging in) R (river)". For effect, the setter has inverted the normal order of words and omitted punctuation (which the solver must insert). Thus the phrase "plunging in river" must be read as "plunging in, river" meaning "river plunging in". The entire wordplay then can be reduced to "OTTES with R plunging in" or OTTERS.

24a Psychological probe reveals Latin-American (5)

The term Cholo is new to me. Although the word was originally used as an ethnic slur, it seems to have taken on a variety of meanings in the U.S. and a number of countries throughout Latin America during different periods of history. As sometimes happens with pejorative words, "the term Cholo was turned on its head and used as a symbol of pride in the context of the ethnic power movements of the 1960s". It would seem that the word may or may not be seen as offensive, depending on the audience and the context in which it is used. It does seem to be a word carrying a lot of baggage - one which is likely to offend some, I am sure.

25a Wrong name on drug, medicine to get you going (5)

My initial thought was that the solution might be tonic. However, this medicine will get you going in a different way - giving you the trots.

23d Dare say the Americans believe it (5)

I dare say that we North Americans use the word guess differently (in one sense) than the Brits. Oxford says that I guess means "informal, chiefly N. Amer. I suppose", while Collins gives one meaning of guess as "Informal chiefly US and Canadian to believe, think, or suppose (something) I guess I'll go now".

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010 (ST 4375)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on April 4, 2010


I spent an extended weekend playing tourist in New York City and avoiding crossword puzzles, so there is only a link to Times for the Times today.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4375].

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010 (ST 4374)

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


I got off to a good start today, but failed to maintain that pace to the finish. I didn't understand the wordplay for 20a (having never heard of iron rations) or 21a (where I got the solution from the definition and checking letters) and presumed that I must be missing something in the wordplay for 30a (although that would appear not to be the case). As for 22d, I threw in the towel after a lengthy and futile struggle.

Today's Glossary

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

form - noun 6 chiefly Brit. a class or year in a school

iron rations - plural noun a small emergency supply of food

L2 - abbreviation 2 learner driver

WI - abbreviation 3 in the UK: Women's Institute

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4374].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

5a Deplores having no river for the waders (6)

The definition is "waders" with the solution being EGRETS (wading birds). The wordplay is REGRETS (deplores) with the initial R removed {having no R (river)}. However, the fact that there are two Rs in the word REGRETS, raises some question about this clue on Times for the TImes.

9a Attending class, a student relaxed (8)

Chambers gives L as the abbreviation for learner driver (in all likelihood what we would call a beginner driver). I believe this comes from the L-plate that learner drivers must display on their vehicles. Unless there is another explanation, it would appear that crossword puzzle setters take the liberty of extending this meaning to any student - not just student drivers.

12a Receiver having unfinished business? (2,4)

In his review, talbinho states that the enumeration is "given as (2,4) but should have been (2-4)". In fact, the setter could look to Oxford to support the position of "in tray" being two separate words. However, that would seem to be the only source of support available. A search on Infoplease for "in tray" returned 13 dictionary entries, 12 of which gave the spelling as "in-tray" - the lone exception being Oxford. Oxford and some other dictionaries say that "in-tray" is a chiefly British term, with the American equivalent being in-box or in-basket. However, I can attest to the term being commonly used in Canada, and Wordnik cites several examples of its use in the Wall Street Journal.

29a Exclude one side - unqualified (8)

In his review, talbinho notes "I can't see how 'Exclude' = 'out'". However, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary provides the following as a meaning for out as a transitive verb: "to eject or expel; discharge; oust". I think to exclude someone from an organization could be to expel them.

30a Goes against the current trend (6)

I guess this is just a cryptic definition of EDDIES - a rather poor effort, if you ask me. As near as I can figure out, the idea is that the overall trend of the current in a river is to flow downstream. An eddy is a circular movement of water. Thus the eddy (or, more specifically, one side of the eddy) is going against the trend of the current. Since the word eddy can be both a verb and a noun, to eddy is to go against the current trend.

1d Frozen, it takes half a day to dig out (6)

I would presume that "out" is being used here as an anagram indicator. Given that the wordplay is merely a reversal (which is a special case of an anagram), and since this is a down clue, could not the clue have been phrased "Frozen, it takes half a day to dig up"? Perhaps the setter chose this wording to create the image of digging frozen food out of the freezer. The alternative wording might suggest digging up mastodon bones at a site in the Arctic.

22d Harry's upset by macabre ruse (6)

I think Harry - and many others - will be upset by this macabre clue. But, perhaps I am being too harsh. I note that people often tend to exhibit particular dislike for those clues where they have not been successful in finding the solution. And for me, that is the case today.

The definition is "harry" for which the solution is PURSUE. The 's (a contraction for is) serves as a link word between the definition and wordplay. As for the wordplay, we must perform what I have previously referred to as a surgical separation to produce "up set by macabre ruse". This is a charade of two elements where each element is itself an anagram. The wordplay is PU {anagram (set) of UP} + (by) RSUE {anagram (macabre) of RUSE}. There is discussion on Times for the Times regarding the suitability of both "set" and "macabre" as anagram indicators.

23d Deploying instrument, get right inside? To do so is illegal! (6)

I first supposed that "deploying" was an anagram indicator, but it would seem to be part of the definition, namely "deploying instrument". Wikipedia says that "A bugle call is a short tune, originating as a military signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military installation, battlefield, or ship". Thus a bugle is used to signal the deployment of troops.

27d Bottom of the barrel (4)

Oxford and other dictionaries describe butt meaning "a person's bottom" as being a North American expression. However, unless it is being used here in another sense, it would seem that the setter is well-aware of this meaning.

Signing off for this week - Falcon