Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010 (ST 4395)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 22, 2010


I found this - while not overly challenging - to be quite an enjoyable puzzle to solve. It was, unfortunately, marred by an error in the clue at 25a. Looking at the bigger picture, there are 28 clues in today's puzzle with only one error. It just might behoove you to keep that in mind as you work through the puzzle.

Today's Errors

Those who read the comments section of the posting on Times for the Times relating to last weeks puzzle (ST 4394) will know that there is an error in this puzzle at 25a, which should read:

25a Reminder left inside - one of 28 here (4)

As published (in the Ottawa Citizen, as was the case in The Sunday London Times), the clue contained the word "remainder" rather than "reminder". According to the comments at Times for the Times, this error which appeared in the printed version of the puzzle in the U.K. was fixed, at some point, in the online version. Nevertheless, in was not fixed in the syndicated version.

By the way, don't be deceived by the apparent typo in talbinho's review. The error is in clue 25a (not 26 as shown in his review).

Today's Glossary

A selection of abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle

Appearing in Clues

institute - verb 2 to initiate something or cause it to begin • to institute legal proceedings

journo - noun colloquial, originally Australian a journalist

Appearing in Solutions

raise - verb 9 to bring into being; to provoke • raise a laughraise the alarm

Battle of the Somme - one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded, this battle took place during the First World War between 1 July and 18 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4395].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

"At" as a Charade Link Word

In today's puzzle, we encounter four instances of the word "at" being used as a link word in a charade type clue:
  • 10a Commend leader of psychiatrists at institute (6)
  • 21a Excellent drink at The Queen at start of binge (6)
  • 6d After an hour at work put an end to game (9)
In each case, the word "at" means 'beside', as in the expression "standing at the bar". For example, in 21a, the definition is "excellent" and the wordplay is SUP (drink) + (at) ER (the Queen) + (at) B (start of binge) to produce the solution SUPERB.

22a Filter natural water from small stone (6)

The definition is "filter" and the wordplay is RAIN (natural water) following (from) ST (small stone; i.e., the first letters of the word "stone") to give STRAIN. In clues such as this, selection indicator words such as "small" are used to indicate an unspecified number of letters taken from the fodder word (but I would say that the number is one or two, in most cases).

At Times for the Times, there is some discussion of the use of "from" to mean 'after' with jackkt commenting "Don't really understand how 'from' works into 22ac indicating that 'RAIN' goes after 'ST'" and tony_sever replying "I thought 'from' in 22A was pushing things a little but not enough to be objectionable - I read it as 'starting from'". I certainly had no difficulty accepting "from" meaning 'after', as in "From his twenty-first birthday, he celebrated each passing year by getting together with a bunch of buddies at a local pub". Words like "from" can take so many different meanings that unless one finds precisely the right one, the clue can often seem to make no sense at all.

7d Stop daughter following poet (4)

I first tried unsuccessfully to solve this clue by parsing it as "Stop /\ daughter following poet". Eventually, I realized that it parses as "Stop; daughter following /\ poet".

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010 (ST 4394)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 15, 2010


It has been a busy week and it has taken me nearly that long to find time to solve this puzzle and produce the blog. Here we find yet another puzzle that is marred by an error in a clue. In fact, there may even have been two errors when it appeared in the U.K. If so, one of them has been corrected in syndication.

Error in Today's Puzzle

I'm afraid that this section is becoming a regular feature of the blog.

6d An amendment alleged to fall within the law (9)

This clue should presumably read:

6d An amendment is alleged to fall within the law (9)

The definition is "to fall within the law" and the wordplay is an anagram (an amendment) of IS ALLEGED to produce the solution LEGALISED.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

scarf2 - noun 1 a joint connecting two pieces of timber or metal in which the ends are bevelled or notched so that they fit over or into each other

SP - abbreviation starting price, noun the final odds at the start of a horse race

training college - noun (in the UK) a college where people, typically prospective teachers, are trained

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4394].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Curriculum on track here? (8,7)

This is a cryptic definition for a TRAINING COLLEGE, a type of British educational institution. There is considerable discussion concerning this clue at Times for the Times. The general consensus is that "track" relates to a running track which is used for athletic training. However, one reader suggested that "track" might be a reference to railway trains.

26a Where letter-boxes might be fitted at home? (7)

I believe that the definition is "at home" for which the solution is INDOORS, with the wordplay being "where letter boxes might be fitted", which is IN DOORS.

This clue could almost be considered a double definition if not for the difference in numeration between the two results. Due to this difference, I think the clue must be considered to be a standard cryptic clue having a definition and wordplay. I would also say that the setter could equally well have chosen to make the numeration (7) or (2,5), with the two elements of the clue merely changing roles depending on which numeration is used.
Note: Do not be confused by the presentation of this clue in talbinho's review at Times for the Times, where he shows a breakdown of the wordplay (IN DOORS) rather than the solution (INDOORS). For most clues (in his blog on today's puzzle, at least), he shows either the solution or the solution followed by a breakdown of the wordplay (in the form "SOLUTION; wordplay"). However, in the case of a few clues (including this one), he gives only a breakdown of the wordplay. Another instance of this involving a very similar type of clue can be found at 8d where a breakdown of the wordplay (EVER GREEN) appears rather than the solution (EVERGREEN). Another example is at 5d where a breakdown of the wordplay is given as "CLIP + PER". This occurs in instances where the solution and the breakdown of the wordplay are so similar that it is undoubtly redundant to show both.
27a Vulnerability of French sword fight reduced - to a point (15)

The definition is "vulnerability" and the wordplay is DE (of French) + FENCE (sword fight) + LESS (reduced) + (to) NESS (a point).

I have to wonder if the word "fight" may have been inserted into the clue in syndication. In his review, talbinho struggles to justify "'sword' = FENCE" and none of the British readers correct him.

8d Always jealous, having no garden shed? (9)

I may have enjoyed this clue more than talbinho, who comments "the definition seems to be a dubiously-worded pun on 'shed' as in 'shedding leaves'". The setter warns us that there is something out of the ordinary (one might even say dubious) about the clue through the use of the question mark. The premise of this clue is that if one had evergreens in one's garden, no shedding would occur there. I must say that I did smile when the penny finally dropped. However, try convincing the owner of pine trees of the validity of the statement. These trees shed needles at a prodigious rate.

By the way, as used in Britain, the word garden is somewhat akin to the word yard in North America, meaning "an area of land, usually one adjoining a house, where grass, trees, ornamental plants, fruit, vegetables, etc, are grown". While in North America, the term garden would generally refer strictly to the flower beds and vegetable plots around a home, in Britain the term would also encompass the lawn. In Britain, the word yard would mean "a piece of uncultivated ground adjoining a building, typically one enclosed by walls or other buildings". In North America, the land around a home would be called a yard, irrespective of whether it is cultivated or enclosed.

The British usage of garden and the North American usage of yard are probably not entirely synonymous. A British garden includes only the "cultivated" areas of land around a house, whereas the North American concept of yard includes all land surrounding a house, including flower beds, vegetable plots, lawns, trees, driveways, areas occupied by outbuildings, etc. However, they are close enough in meaning (at least in the eyes of some British setters) that I have seen the word yard clued as "American garden" in British puzzles.

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010 (ST 4393)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 8, 2010


I found today's puzzle a bit on the difficult side - one that required liberal use of my Tool Chest and one on which I found myself pursuing several false leads and venturing down a fair number of dead end streets.

Error in Today's Puzzle

There is an error in today's puzzle (confirmed by the setter) in the following clue:

3d Finished second, then first (4)

The clue should have read:
3d Finish second, then first (4)
The definition is "finish" and the wordplay is S (second) + (then) TOP (first) giving us STOP.

Before discovering (at Times for the Times) the existence of this error, I tried valiantly to produce a credible explanation for "finished" being the definition and thought that I just might have succeeded. I supposed that stop might mean finished, as in the use of the word STOP in telegram style writing in place of periods at the end of sentences (indicating that the sentence was finished). Note: although modern Morse code contains symbols for punctuation, I suspect that these may be later additions to the code which did not exist in the early days of the telegraph, thereby explaining the use of the word "stop" to represent a period.

In pursuing this idea, I discovered that the word period (meaning a punctuation mark) is chiefly a Scottish and North American usage. In England, this punctuation mark is (apparently, at least for the most part) referred to as a full stop, or just stop for short. According to Chambers:
full stop - noun a punctuation mark (.) used to indicate the end of a sentence or to mark an abbreviation. Also (especially Scottish and N Amer) called period.
Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Solutions

cor - exclamation British informal expressing surprise, excitement, admiration, or alarm: Cor! That‘s a beautiful black eye you’ve got!

ER -
abbreviation Queen Elizabeth [from Latin Elizabetha Regina]

- (abbreviation: H) noun Physics the SI unit of inductance, equal to an electromotive force of one volt in a closed circuit with a uniform rate of change of current of one ampere per second

OR -
abbreviation Military, British other ranks (as opposed to commissioned officers)

stop - noun 1
British dated a punctuation mark, especially a full stop
full stop - noun British a punctuation mark (. ) used at the end of a sentence or an abbreviation
Templar - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 2. (Law) (sometimes not capital) British a lawyer, especially a barrister, who lives or has chambers in the Inner or Middle Temple in London

ton2 -
noun [mass noun] fashionable style or distinction: riches and fame were no guarantee of a ticket — one had to have ton; Origin: French, from Latin tonus (see tone)
ton2 - 3. donner le ton: French phrase meaning "to set the tone" or "to set the fashion"
traveller - noun (usually Traveller) British a Gypsy or other nomadic person

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4393].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a English monarch gentle here, surrounded by prize people in top seats (5,2,3,5)

The definition is "people in top seats" who are PEERS OF THE REALM, those who occupy seats in the House of Lords (the Upper Chamber in the British Parliament). The wordplay is {E (English) + ER (Elizabetha Regina; or Queen Elizabeth) + SOFT (gentle) + HERE} contained in (surrounded by) PALM (prize). I suppose the palm being referred to here is the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), the highest prize awarded to competing films at the Cannes Film Festival.

9a My! French fashion reaches a town in Italy! (7)

The definition is "town in Italy" and the wordplay is COR (my) + TON (French fashion) + (reaches) A. The town we are searching for is Cortona. Although, I have heard of the Italian towns of Ortona and Cortina (well, actually Cortina d'Ampezzo), this community is new to me. Cor is a British exclamation expressing surprise, excitement, admiration, or alarm - you can decide which one most appropriately fits today's clue.

15a It's ridiculous, that's plain to see - there must be change at the outset (7)

As the clue tells us, "It [the solution] is [a word meaning] ridulous" which turns out to be RISIBLE. The wordplay is VISIBLE (plain to see) with a change in the first letter (at the outset). In other words, we must change the V in VISIBLE to an R to produce RISIBLE.

17a Carriages in Australia - territory to the West (7)

These carriages transported me down one of several dead end streets on which I travelled today. A victoria is a type of carriage and Victoria is also the name of a state in Australia. Unfortunately, as a candidate solution, it also has three strikes against it. First, it contains the wrong number of letters; second, the state is located in the southeastern part of Australia, rather than the western part; and third, for this interpretation to work, both the definition (carriages) and the solution would probably need to be in the singular. Perhaps a clue somewhat along the lines of "Carriage in Australia - territory to the Southeast (8)" might lead to the solution VICTORIA.

Having struck out with Victoria, I eventually determined that we are looking for different carriages, LANDAUS. The wordplay is AUS (Australia) preceded by (to the West; i.e., to the left) LAND (territory).

27a Response making engagement impossible after you've given someone a ring? (8,7)

The setter creates a surface reading designed to make us look for a response along the lines of "My dear man, I cannot marry you for my heart belongs to another". However, in reality, the response we are seeking is a more mundane "The number you have dialed is no longer in service".

5d Henry wants port, but mother's denied the little beast (7)

The definition is "the little beast" and the wordplay is H (henry; SI unit of inductance) + AMSTER {AMSTERDAM (port) having deleted (is denied) DAM (mother)} which results in the solution HAMSTER.

14d Narrator full of endless jabber - would you believe his tales? (9)

This is a cryptic definition in the form of a partial & lit. clue. The clue as a whole describes a Traveller, a British term for a Gypsy. Imbedded in the clue is the following wordplay: TELLER (narrator) containing (full of) RAV (endless jabber; i.e., RAVE with the last letter deleted).

This clue reminds me of a personal encounter that I had with just such a person when I pulled into a scenic lookoff in Ireland. I was immediately approached by a woman with a tale of woe in which one misfortune after another eventually led to catastrophe (much like a Thomas Hardy novel). In brief, as I recall, it involved a long journey with sick children in an unreliable car that was nearly out of gas (petrol) to visit a dying relative. Taking pity on her in her miserable condition, I charitably handed over a small sum of money (enough to enable her to purchase sufficient gas to get her to her destination). That prompted yet another chapter in the saga, even more heart-wrenching than the first. However, starting to become suspicious, I declined to advance any further funds. As I enjoyed the scenic view and took a few photographs, I also observed as she attempted to pull the same scam on every other tourist upon their arrival.

23d It's taking minimal time with language (5)

This would appear to be an & lit. clue. The wordplay is T (minimal time; i.e., the first letter of the word "time") + ERSE (language). Read as a whole, the clue is equivalent to saying "It [the solution] is [a word meaning] taking minimal time with language" (similar to the wording in 15a). At first I thought that the phrase "taking minimal time with language" would need to define a noun (TERSENESS). However, I have eventually (and somewhat falteringly) accepted that it might also define an adjective (TERSE).

Signing off for this week - Falcon

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010 (ST 4392)

This puzzle was originally published in The Sunday London Times on August 1, 2010


Although it took me some time to find a starting point, having finally gained a foothold, the solution to the puzzle unfurled fairly smoothly.

Today's Glossary

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

Appearing in Clues

kit1 - noun 2 British the clothing used for an activity such as a sport: a football kit.

rota - noun 1 British a list showing when each of a number of people has to do a particular job: a cleaning rota.

Appearing in Solutions

Banco - another name for the parlor game, Bunco. [Note: this definition appears on the Wikipedia disambiguation page but not in the article itself.]

dehisce - verb [no object] technical (of a pod or seed vessel, or a cut or wound) gape or burst open.

escallop - noun 2 another term for scallop (sense 2 of the noun)
  • scallop - noun 2 (usually scallops) each of a series of convex rounded projections forming an ornamental edging cut in material or worked in lace or knitting in imitation of the edge of a scallop shell.
fret4 (also sea fret) - noun Northern English a mist coming in off the sea; a sea fog.

red rag (as in the expression a red rag to a bull) - an object, utterance, or act which is certain to provoke someone: the refusal to discuss the central issue was like a red rag to a bull.

trestle - noun short for trestle table, a table consisting of a board or boards laid on trestles.

- noun chiefly British a woman's matching cardigan and jumper.

Victoria plum - noun British a plum of a large red dessert variety.

Links to Solutions

A review of today's puzzle by talbinho can be found at Times for the Times [ST 4392].

It seems that talbinho is in a rather testy mood today, finding much fault with the puzzle. While I certainly took issue with some aspects of the puzzle myself, I did think he might have been a bit harsh in some of his criticisms. I rather liked the mirrored pairing of 14a and 16d (with their mutual cross-references) for which he commented that "[16d is] not great: this is essentially the same clue as 14ac". On the other hand, he is right on target in most of his comments. If nothing else, this puzzle generated more comment on Times for the Times than I have seen in quite some time.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Softwood tradesperson (7)

The definition is "tradesperson" who happens to be a PLUMBER. The wordplay is P (soft; from the musical direction piano, denoting a soft or quiet musical passage) + LUMBER (wood).

I was surprised to see lumber used to mean "wood", as Oxford shows this as a North American meaning. In Britain, according to Oxford, lumber means "articles of furniture or other household items that are no longer useful and inconveniently take up storage space". Is this evidence of North American usage creeping into Britain?

14a Youngster keen to be prepared could be going on sixteen (3,5)

In this clue, the word "sixteen" is a cross-reference to clue 16d. While the word has the sense of "sixteen years of age" in the surface reading, it must be replaced by the solution to clue 16d for the cryptic analysis, giving "Youngster keen to be prepared could be going on JAMBOREE". The the clue is a cryptic definition of a BOY SCOUT, someone whose motto is "Be prepared" and who might eagerly anticipate attending a jamboree, a large gathering of Scouts who rally at a national or international level.

In cross-reference clues such as this, it has been my experience that it is more common for the number to appear as a numeral rather than be spelled out, as here. However, this just proves that we solvers must be prepared for whatever setters throw at us. [Note: Peter Biddlecombe, in a comment on Times for the Times, suggests that spelling out the word is a work around necessitated by a deficiency (bug) in the software used by the Times for their online version.]

25a Model heard to struggle with folding table? (7)

The model is one produced by Henry Ford, the Model T as it turns out. The definition is "folding table" and the wordplay is T (model) + RESTLE {sounds like (heard) WRESTLE (to struggle)} resulting in the solution TRESTLE. Apparently a trestle (trestle table) can be folded - or, at least, the setter seems to think so. Given that it would appear to be merely some boards laid across a pair of trestles, I have to wonder how one would fold it! Perhaps the meaning of the term has been expanded to include some type of folding table.

5d Rotten scale cut off seafood (8)

The definition is "seafood" and the wordplay is ESCAL {an anagram (rotten) of SCALE} + LOP (cut off) with the solution being ESCALLOP. However, according to Oxford, escallop is a synonym for scallop only in the sense of "an ornamental edging" and not when used to mean "seafood".

6d Soft edge on girl's bloomers (9)

I played with this clue for a long time - and it brought a smile when the penny finally dropped. The word "bloomer" can have several meanings in Britain. In addition to a lady's undergarment, it can be a stupid mistake or a loaf of bread. However, today it is a flowering plant.

8d Kit worn to match cause of test win dispute (7)

The surface reading is all about cricket with "kit" being the British term for team uniform, "match" being the cricket game, and "test" (short for "test match") being "an international cricket or rugby match, typically one of a series, played between teams representing two different countries". However, the cryptic reading seems to have little to do with cricket. "Kit" would appear to be a British term for clothing, in general. Although neither Oxford nor Chambers give this definition explicitly, it is implicit in the expression "get one's kit off" which Chambers deliciously defines as "slang to remove one's clothes, especially prior to sexual intercourse". Thus the definition is "kit worn to match" or TWINSET (a woman's matching cardigan and jumper) and the wordplay is an anagram (dispute) of TEST WIN.

As for the words "cause of", I w
ould consider them to be link words between the definition and wordplay. Link words are words or expressions that convey either the idea of equality between the definition and wordplay (e.g., the clue takes the form 'definition' is 'wordplay') or the idea of causality, that executing the wordplay produces the definition, (e.g., the clue takes the form 'wordplay' makes 'definition'). The equality or causality may be expressed in either direction (i.e., it may appear as either 'definition' is 'wordplay' or 'wordplay' is 'definition'). Link words expressing equality may be words and expressions such as is, equals, is equivalent to, while examples of those expressing causality are makes, creates, produces, happens, arrives (see 20d).

16d Spree where lad of 14 meets more troops? (8)

Turnabout being fair play, this clue cross-references clue 14a. Again, in the surface reading, the number suggests "14 years of age" but in the cryptic reading "lad of 14" is the BOY SCOUT from clue 14a. Thus, the clue is interpreted as "Spree where BOY SCOUT meets more troops?", a cryptic definition for JAMBOREE, a rally where members of many scout troops gather.

In this clue, note that the setter has chosen to display the number as a numeral.

20d Change rota as vessels arrive (6)

The definition is "vessels" (in this case, blood vessels) and the wordplay is an anagram (change) of ROTA AS producing the solution AORTAS. What role does the word "arrive" play? I had to think about this question long and hard before concluding that one must interpret "arrive" in the sense of "happen". If one does so, and adds a bit of extra punctuation (which is often a requirement in the cryptic reading of clues), the result is "Change rota as, vessels happen". In other words, if one changes the order of the letters in ROTA AS, one gets a word meaning "vessels". Note that, due to the inverted word order in the clue, the link word "arrive" actually appears at the end of the clue with the definition in the middle (the latter, while typically frowned on in American puzzles, is considered permissible in British puzzles).

Signing off for this week - Falcon