Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010 (ST 4391)

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


It has taken me a week to get around to writing this blog, having solved the puzzle last Sunday. Luckily I make annotations on the puzzle as I work through it with ideas for inclusion in the blog. Otherwise, I would be at a total loss after so much time has elapsed.

By the way, should it appear that I am extraordinarily prescient due to my mention of aspects of next week's puzzle, that is not the case. I actually wrote this review after having written the review for next week's puzzle.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Clues

Stenhousemuir - a small town in the district of Falkirk, Scotland.

Appearing in Solutions

M2 - abbreviation 10 British Motorway, followed by a number, as in M1 (a major north–south motorway in England connecting London to Leeds).

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4391].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a In a way groovy chaps 22 (8)

Here the "22" indicates a cross reference to clue 22d (we know it is 22d because there is no 22a in the puzzle). To solve the clue, one must substitute the solution to 22d into the clue in place of the cross reference indicator. Moreover, one must add a bit of additional punctuation, as the clue actually has an inverted sentence structure. Thus the clue is interpreted as "In a way, groovy chaps cargo" (an atrocious surface reading both before and after the substitution). The definition is "cargo" and the wordplay is {HIP (groovy) + MEN (chaps)} contained in (in) ST (a way; i.e., abbreviation for "street") with the solution being SHIPMENT.

In the online version of the puzzle in the U.K., the numeral "22" was missing, thus producing a clue lacking a definition. In a comment on Times for the Times related to next week's puzzle, Peter Biddlecombe suggests that the missing "22" is due to a deficiency in the software used by the Times to produce its online edition whereby it is incapable of displaying a numeral at the end of a clue. He postulates that this is the reason why a cross reference clue in next week's puzzle spells out the cross reference in words rather than displaying it as a numeral (as is customary).

6a Notice model without hint of togs (6)

The definition is "notice" and the wordplay is POSER (model) containing (without; meaning "outside of" rather than "lacking") T (hint of togs; i.e., first letter of the word "togs"). In his review talbinho states "'hint of' for 'first letter of' is an indicator usually reserved for advanced cryptics; it's not allowed in the daily puzzles".

10a Tea gardens displayed big 6 downs (5,5)

Here we have another cross reference clue but this time, as there are clues numbered 6a and 6d in the puzzle, the setter must specify which clue is being referenced (in this case, 6 down). Note that the setter also makes the cross referenced word plural in the process (6 downs). So we begin by substituting the solution to clue 6d into the present clue, giving us "Tea gardens displayed big pets". The definition is "big pets" and the wordplay is an anagram (displayed) of TEA GARDENS giving, as a solution, GREAT DANES.

12a Wonderful! I'm about to rest outside yard (8)

Or, perhaps, not so wonderful. The definition would seem to be "wonderful" and the wordplay (after undoing the inverted sentence structure) is {ALIGHT (to rest) containing (outside) MI [a reversal (about) of IM]} + Y (yard). However, this produces an extra I (pity there wasn't an extra eye at the editor's desk).

14a Hold son? (4,6)

The definition is "hold" (in this case, one used in wrestling). The rest of the clue is actually "inverse" wordplay, a rarely encountered type of clue. Rather than being given the wordplay and working out the result, we are presented with the result (son) and must find the wordplay that would produce it. Thus, since "half nelson" (half of the word "nelson") is "son", the solution is HALF NELSON. The setter uses the question mark as a signal that there is something unusual about the clue. It is up to the solver to figure out just what that unusual feature might be.

18a Fruit and veg left at end of dinner (4)

The definition is "fruit" and the wordplay is PEA (veg) + (left at) R (end of dinner; i.e., the last letter in the word "dinner") producing the solution PEAR.

Although I could be wrong, I believe that the word "left" may play a key role in the cryptic reading of this clue (in addition to being important to the surface reading). In an across clue, a clue of the form "A on B", according to fairly well-established convention, means B+A. Similarly, I would think that "A at B" might be interpreted similarly ("B+A"). However, the setter has inserted the word "left" ("A left at B") indicating (to my mind, at least) that A is to the left of B, giving the result A+B.

23a Having stroke at hospital department is unmistakeable (6)

Perhaps our setter should spend less time at the Ear, Nose and Throat Department and pay a few visits to the Eye Clinic.

3d Father's head teacher finally (5)

I suspect talbinho meant to write "PATER; PATE + teache[R]" rather than "PATER; PATE + TEACHE[r]".

8d Topless prime time occurrence (5)

The definition is "occurrence" and the wordplay is EVEN (topless prime; i.e., the prime number SEVEN with its first letter deleted, "topless" as this is a down clue) + T (time) producing EVENT.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010 (ST 4390)

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


I thought that some of today's clues were very strangely worded indeed. In several instances, the solution process involved finding a word that fit the space available and then reverse engineering the wordplay. Sometimes I reached a point where I had unused pieces in both the clue and the solution, and therefore had to conclude that the leftover part of the clue could only be, for example, the missing anagram indicator needed to produce the solution. Or, as talbinho says so much more elegantly, "the question mark here appears to mean 'this clue doesn't really make cryptic sense, but you should be able to work out the answer'".

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

AB2 - abbreviation 1 British able seaman.

ethyne - noun chemistry acetylene.

goanna - noun Australian term for monitor (lizard), a large tropical Old World lizard with a long neck, narrow head, forked tongue, strong claws, and a short body. Monitors were formerly believed to give warning of crocodiles. Origin: mid 19th century, alteration of iguana.

optic - noun 3 British trademark a device fastened to the neck of an inverted bottle for measuring out spirits.

pass over - euphemistic die: by the time I reached the hospital she had passed over. [I am familiar with the similar euphemisms pass away and pass on (both of which are also listed by Oxford), but pass over is new to me.]

read - verb 5 chiefly British study (an academic subject) at a university: I'm reading English at Cambridge; [no object] he went to Manchester to read for a BA in Economics.

red grouse - a medium sized bird of the grouse family which is found in heather moorland in Great Britain and Ireland.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4390].

The title of talbinho's review is Abelia Bloomer. This is a play on words with bloomer being both a plant producing flowers as well as a British expression meaning "a serious or stupid mistake". The comments on Times for the Times regarding today's puzzle are scathing - and quite justifiably so.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

5a Stand for party on returning from expedition (6)

The typo in talbinho's review should be self-evident, but for the sake of completeness his commentary should read "TRIPOD; rev. of DO (= 'party') after TRIP".

24a Showing ingenuity found centre in metropolis (6)

I would have thought that this clue should read:
  • Showing ingenuity found centre in a metropolis (6)
The definition is "showing ingenuity" for which the solution is ACUITY. The wordplay is U (found centre; i.e., the middle - or centre - letter of the word "found") contained in (in) A + CITY (metropolis). Perhaps the setter intended for us to equate "metropolis" with "a city".

25a Breaking of trust by three small boys (8)

The definition is "breaking of trust" with the solution being BETRAYAL. Apparently, the three young lads are BET, RAY and AL. I've certainly known people having the later two names but I've yet to meet a man named Bet - and that seems to be the case for the Brits, as well.

2d Sailors given essayist a honeysuckle (6)

Should not this clue have read:
  • Sailor given essayist a honeysuckle (6)
or, perhaps:
  • Sailor's given essayist a honeysuckle (6) [where the 's is a contraction for "has"]
The definition is "honeysuckle" for which the solution is ABELIA (the genus of the honeysuckle). The wordplay is AB (sailor; abbreviation for able seaman) + ("given" or "has given") ELIA (pen name of English essayist Charles Lamb).

By the way, the clue in the syndicated puzzle is totally different from what was originally published in The Sunday London Times (the first time that I can recall having seen this happen - we usually get the puzzles with all their errors, just as they appeared in the UK). The version published in Britain was:
  • Honeysuckle I label incorrectly (6)
where the wordplay is intended to be an anagram (incorrectly) of I LABEL which supposedly gives the solution ABELIA (which clearly doesn't work). One might conclude that the inclusion of the word "incorrectly" in the clue was highly appropriate!

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010 (ST 4389)

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


I found this puzzle to be fairly difficult - and relied heavily on my Tool Chest in order to complete it.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

jumper - [American Heritage Dictionary] noun 4. Chiefly British A pullover sweater. [Note: in North America, a jumper is a type of dress known in the U.K. as a pinafore]

OED - abbreviation Oxford English Dictionary.

post2 - noun 1 chiefly British the official service or system that delivers letters and parcels: winners will be notified by post; the tickets are in the post.

pot - noun potshot [Note: this definition appears in both the American Heritage Dictionary (as noun 11) and Collins English Dictionary (as noun 15)].

titch - noun British informal a small person.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4389].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

11a Instruction on, say, propane container is deceptive (7,6)

The definition is "deceptive" with the solution being LEADING ASTRAY. The wordplay in this charade type clue is LEADIN (lead-in; instruction) + (on) GAS (say, propane; i.e., propane is an example of a gas) + TRAY (container). Like talbinho (who writes, "'Instruction' must give 'lead-in', which doesn't seem quite right; perhaps I have misunderstood this clue."), I questioned lead-in meaning instruction. Oxford defines lead-in as "an introduction or preamble which allows one to move smoothly on to the next part of something: the lead-in note". Perhaps that could be deemed to be an instruction of sorts.

There is a fair amount of discussion on Times for the Times regarding this clue. Some writers thought that "instruction" is LEAD with "on" meaning IN (which was apparently true in 1000 A.D.). Others suggested (as had occurred to me) that there might be a mistake in the clue with the word "instruction" having been substituted for the word "introduction".

As I have interpreted the clue, the word "on" is a charade indicator (or charade link word). However, I note that it violates the convention described by Anax (a setter of cryptic crossword puzzles) on Big Dave's site that, in an across clue, "A on B" always means "B + A" ("In an across clue, “on” tags one component to the end of another"). Here A on B (LEADIN on GAS) produces A + B (LEADINGAS).

Then again, here is what Peter Biddlecombe (a champion solver of cryptic crossword puzzles) has to say regarding "Anax’s advice about “A on B” as part of a charade in an across clue".
Although this could logically indicate (A,B) or (B,A), current crossword editors apparently follow a policy that it must indicate B,A. I’ve only known this for a year or so, and will probably never change my approach of just trying the two possibilities for my interpretations of A and B, and seeing which makes a word that fits checking letters and the definition. It’s not going to take me significantly longer, and if I do a puzzle that doesn’t follow this rule, or the editors change their minds, I’m not going to rely on a rule that doesn’t apply. A comment from Don Manley on the announcement posting for this page suggests that the rule is actually specific to the Times puzzle.
As for "specific to the Times puzzle", a convention apparently violated today.

17a Post taken by high-flyer? (7)

This is a cryptic definition of AIRMAIL, post being a British term for mail. In Canada, despite the fact that the organization that delivers the mail is called Canada Post, the fee for delivering mail is called postage, and we might even say that we post a letter, I don't think one would ever hear the mail referred to as the post.

19a Nice sauce fully available a short time ago (4,3)

In this clue Nice refers to the city on the French Riviera and serves as an indicator that we are looking for the French words meaning sauce (JUS; which actually means gravy, a type of sauce) and fully (TOUT). The definition is "available a short time ago" which leads, of course, to the solution JUST OUT.

24a Advertise widely what sounds like the correct entrance (9)

The definition is "advertise widely" with the solution being PROPAGATE. The wordplay in this homophone (sounds like) clue relies on the British speech characteristic of pronouncing "ER" as "A" so that "proper gate" sounds like "propa gate".

25d This is mean end! (3)

Despite having the correct solution, I had difficulty fully understanding the wordplay - even after reading talbinho's explanation. This clue seems to be a double definition, with the second meaning being end = AIM (as in goal). The first definition appears to be mean = AIM (where aim has the meaning "have the intention of achieving; we aim to give you the best possible service"). As for the "This is" part of the clue, I can only surmise that the clue is intended to be a cryptic definition which is saying, in effect "The solution (this) is a word that can have the meaning 'mean' or 'end'".

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010 (ST 4388)

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


I pretty much completed this puzzle unaided, even though there were some fairly challenging clues. I did need to consult the dictionary for 8d. I had determined all the letters and knew that all the checking letters were Is but needed to figure out where to place all the Vs and Ds.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

divi-divi - [American Heritage Dictionary] noun 1. A small tree (Caesalpinia coriaria) of the West Indies and South America, having compound leaves and long pods.

tit - noun 5 (old, no longer used) A small horse; a nag.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4388].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

16a Frenzied troll grabbing first mate aft of tanker (8)

I can find no evidence to support talbinho's statement that "a troll is a type of fish" other than that troll, used as a noun, means "a line or bait used in trolling for fish". Troll, when used as a verb, means to "fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat".

20a Spotted horse? That's material! (6)

Is there such a thing as a calico horse? There are certainly calico cats, and even some insects and fish with calico in their names - but I had trouble finding calico horses. I did find a few hints that such a horse might exist - a quilting store in California called The Calico Horse, a stud farm in British Columbia called Calico Quarter Horses, as well as a California band called Calico Horse. Calico is also a brand of horse trailer, and wild horses roam the Calico Mountains of Nevada. According to a visitor to Times for the Times, this latter reference is the correct one, "Calico horses are wild horses that live in the calico mountains. Not necessarily spotted".

By the way, I discovered that calico fabric is quite different in Britain from what it is in North America. British calico is "a white or unbleached cotton fabric with no printed design" while the North American fabric is "a coarse printed cotton fabric".

Therefore, if a Calico Horse were to exist, perhaps it would be an all white horse in Britain, whereas in North America, it would be a spotted horse.

5d Spin put on all main points, then information screened (8)

There are two plausible solutions matching the wordplay, but only one of them satisfies the checking letters. Unfortunately, I initially fell for the wrong one, thereby seriously compromising my efforts to solve the intersecting clues, 12a and 16a.

The two possibilities are NEWSREEL (the correct solution) and NEWSCAST. In either case, NEWS is "all main points", i.e., the cardinal points of the compass (North, East, West, and South). To this we must add (put on) a word meaning "spin". I had initially interpreted spin in the sense of "to fish with a light rod, lure, and line and a reel with a stationary spool" or, in other words, to cast (to throw something, especially to throw out a lure or bait at the end of a fishing line). However, the meaning that the setter has in mind is "to seem to be whirling, as from dizziness; reel".

15d Bird taking vermin from worn-out nag (8)

The solution to this clue definitely wants to be TITMOUSE. The wordplay certainly seems to suggest that one must delete a word meaning "vermin" from a word (or phrase) meaning "worn-out nag" to get a a word meaning "bird". However, that is apparently not the case at all. The "vermin" of the clue is MOUSE and the "bird" is TITMOUSE (although it could just as easily have been TIT, which is another name for the same bird). But how does "worn-out nag" factor into the equation? Although talbinho shows "worn-out nag" meaning TIT, he provides no further information, so I embarked on some further research. I must say that doing a web search for slang expressions meaning or involving the word "tit" is rather an eye-opening experience. It turns out that tit is an obsolete expression for "a small horse; a nag". I interpret the "worn-out" in the clue to refer to the fact that this meaning of the word "tit" is obsolete. Thus, "tit" is not a word meaning "worn-out nag" but just an old (worn-out) word meaning "nag".

If this is a simple charade (as shown by talbinho in his review), then "taking" must be a link word and "from" a charade indicator. Such a clue might have been constructed as "Bird is vermin on worn-out nag". However, in the clue as presented, I am really struggling to see either "taking" or "from" playing these roles.

This might actually be a better clue for TIT, where one would read the first part of the clue as "Bird, taking vermin from" and parse the clue as:
  • TITMOUSE (bird) with MOUSE (vermin) deleted (taking ... from) /\ TIT (worn-out nag)
Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010 (ST 4387)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on June 27, 2010


I found this to be a very difficult puzzle. I was totally unable to solve one clue, and there were several more for which I had little or no comprehension of the wordplay. The difficulty is probably due in large part to the extraordinarily large number of Briticisms found in today's puzzle.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Clues

advert1 - noun British informal an advertisement.

Blue Peter - a nautical signal flag or a British children's television programme.

china - noun British A term of address, usually friendly. Derived from the cockney rhyming slang china plate, meaning mate. E.g."Alright china! How's it going then?"

duck3 - noun Cricket a batsman's score of nought: he was out for a duck.

Hampton Court (Palace) - a royal palace in London, England known for its hedge maze.

Making Money - possibly a reference to a fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett.

office - noun 11 (especially usual offices) euphemistic, slang a lavatory.

uni - noun university.

Appearing in Solutions

battledore - noun 1a An early form of badminton played with a flat wooden paddle and a shuttlecock.

River Cam - a river in England.

camp2 - [Collins English Dictionary] Informal adjective 1. effeminate; affected in mannerisms, dress, etc. 2. homosexual. [Note: observe that the accompanying definition for camp from the American Heritage Dictionary contains no reference to effeminate or homosexual behaviour]

The Football Association (also known as simply The FA) - a governing body of association football in England and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

ginger nut - noun British a hard ginger-flavoured biscuit (also called ginger snap). [Note: biscuit is the British term for cookie]

milksop - noun derogatory, old use a weak, effeminate or ineffectual man or youth.

prefect - noun 1 chiefly British (in some schools) a senior pupil who is authorized to enforce discipline.

River Lee - a river in England.

vert1 - noun green, as a heraldic tincture.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4387].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Ann and this 25 chap could be wearing salmon pink (7)

I was totally flummoxed by this clue - well, perhaps not totally as I did recognize the cross reference in the wordplay. The number "25" is a cross reference to clue 25d (it must be 25d as there is no clue 25a). To solve the clue we must substitute the solution to the cross-referenced clue into this clue, giving us:
  • Ann and this camp chap could be wearing salmon pink (7)
Since, in Britain, "camp" may mean effeminate, the clue becomes:
  • Ann and this effeminate chap could be wearing salmon pink (7)
The definition comes in the middle of this clue (not unheard of in British puzzles) and is "this effeminate chap" with the solution being MILKSOP.

In his review, talbinho describes this clue as a "composite anagram". The clue tells us that:
  • ANN and MILKSOP could be wearing salmon pink (7)
The word "wearing" according to Peter Biddlecombe is an anagram indicator. Inserting it into the clue, we have:
  • ANN and MILKSOP could be an anagram of salmon pink (7)
Therefore, to solve the clue, we need to remove the letters ANN from SALMON PINK and then find an anagram of the remainder (SALMON PINK - ANN)* = (SLMO PIK)* = MILKSOP.

14a Record "Making Money" when it's broadcast - that's showing good taste (10)

The word "broadcast" is often used as an anagram indicator, but here it is employed as a homophone (sounds like) indicator. The definition is "showing good taste" having the solution DISCERNING. The wordplay is DISC (record) + ERNING [sounds like (when it's broadcast) EARNING (making money)].

18a Item of furniture used in Blue Peter - middle part (4)

I felt that the solution must be SEAT, but could not decipher the wordplay in the clue. The wordplay, clearly explained by talbinho, is not difficult - but neither is it obvious (at least, not to me).

22a Boastful type takes night flyer around Uni (8)

Like one of the Brits, I thought that a word must have been omitted from the clue as there would appear to be nothing in the clue to account for the word BIG in the solution.

23a Container with parrot's snack (6)

The definition is "snack" with the solution being CANAPE. The wordplay is CAN (container) + (with) APE (parrot). Ape means to mimic and parrot means to repeat something that another has said (i.e., verbally mimic); so, in this sense, ape means parrot.

26a He wrote about most of the The Office (5)

This is another case where I thought I knew the solution without knowing why. The definition is "he wrote" and the writer in question is (T.S.) ELIOT. "The Office" is a British euphemism for toilet, "about" is a reversal indicator, and "most" is a truncation indicator. Thus, "most of The Office" is TOILE (deleting the final letter from the word "toilet") and reversing this gives ELIOT.

4d One carried in China vessel (4)

The definition is "vessel" with the solution being PAIL. The wordplay is I (one) contained in (carried in) PAL (china). China is British slang for pal, having come from Cockney rhyming slang. Rhyming slang is "a type of slang that replaces words with rhyming words or phrases, typically with the rhyming element omitted. For example butcher‘s, short for butcher’s hook, means 'look' in Cockney rhyming slang". Similarly, in this case, china, short for china plate, means 'mate'.

25d Effeminate prince carrying flower (4)

This is a rather complex clue. The definition is "effeminate" with the solution being CAMP (seemingly a British usage of the word). The wordplay is P (prince) following (carrying) CAM (flower). Here, "flower" means something that flows (rather than something that blooms); that is, a river and the one we are looking for is the River Cam. Since this is a down clue, if P is "carrying" CAM, then CAM is on top of P (and, consequently, P follows CAM when read top to bottom).

Signing off for this week - Falcon