Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011 (ST 4415)

The Sunday London Times Puzzle Number
ST 4415
Publication Date in The Sunday London Times
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4415]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Publication Date in the Toronto Star
Saturday, February 5, 2011


Although the puzzle was a fairly quick solve today, I seem to have used up any saved time - and more - with a rather long-winded blog.

Today's Glossary

Selected abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions appearing in today's puzzle

Appearing in Clues

journo - noun [seemingly British] colloquial, originally Australian a journalist

lords and ladies - noun The European wake-robin (Arum maculatum) - those with purplish spadix the lords, and those with pale spadix the ladies. Range: Lords and ladies is very common across most of the British Isles, being absent only from North Scotland. It also occurs frequently in Europe.
Description: Wild arum or lords and ladies (just one of this abundant plant’s local names), has a striking appearance when in flower. From amongst the shiny-green, black-speckled, arrow-shaped leaves, arises a tall slender cowl. This opens on one side to reveal a slender purple spike. This ‘spadix’ is the true flower of the wild arum, and it gave rise to another of the plant’s local names ‘cuckoo pint’. This derives from the time of the flower’s appearance – usually with the first cuckoos – whilst ‘pint’ (once pronounced to rhyme with ‘mint’) is an Old English slang for ‘pintle’, meaning penis.
Appearing in Solutions

River Cam - a tributary of the River Great Ouse in the east of England

fete - noun
  • British a public function, typically held outdoors and organized to raise funds for a charity, including entertainment and the sale of goods and refreshments: a church fete
  • chiefly North American a celebration or festival
form - noun British informal a criminal record: they both had form

matt (also matte or US mat) - adjective (of a surface or colour) dull and flat ; without a shine: prints are available on matt or glossy paper; a matt black

mo - noun [in singular] informal, chiefly British a short period of time: hang on a mo!

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

This commentary should be read in conjunction with the full review at Times for the Times, to which a link is provided in the table above.

11a   Another term for some cur - a scallywag? (6)

While one might well suspect the definition to be merely "scallywag", making that determination will leave one struggling to find the wordplay (a ruse to which I fell victim). The clue is actually an & lit. and the entire clue serves as the definition, with the wordplay indicating that the solution is hidden (some) in cuR A SCALlywag.

14a   Daft drink for lords and ladies (10)

The definition is "lords and ladies", one of the many common names for a plant having the scientific name of Arum maculatum. I am familiar with this plant from its previous appearance in a Daily Telegraph puzzle (DT 26324) published in the National Post on November 23, 2010. The solution is another common name for this plant, CUCKOOPINT, with the wordplay being CUCKOO (daft) + PINT (drink).

A visitor to Times for the Times states "According to the OED [Oxford English Dictionary], the word is hyphenated, cuckoo-pint". Another member of the same stable, Oxford Dictionaries online (which I believe to be based on the Oxford Dictionary of English), has it as two words 'cuckoo pint'.

As for other dictionaries, Search Chambers gives the spelling as cuckoo-pint while the American Heritage Dictionary and Collins English Dictionary both favour 'cuckoopint' (thus giving our setter some support).
By the way, following a bit of impreciseness in a previous post, I was gently informed by the Brits that the Oxford Dictionary of English is not at all the same thing as the Oxford English Dictionary. Although both reference works belong to the Oxford University Press family, they seem to be more like distant cousins than siblings - and I have observed that it is not uncommon for them to disagree on the spelling of words. According to Wikipedia "[The Oxford Dictionary of English] is not based on the Oxford English Dictionary and should not be mistaken for a new or updated version of the OED. It is a completely new dictionary which strives to represent as faithfully as possible the current usage of English words." (which, I presume, implies that the OED represents a more historical - and, no doubt, scholarly - perspective).
18a   Prince follows cleaner reflecting on ceremony (4)

Sometimes there may be more than a single valid interpretation for a clue, as this clue illustrates would seem to illustrate.

Here the definition is "ceremony" with the solution being POMP.

My interpretation of the wordplay was:
  • {reversal (reflecting) of MOP (cleaner)} + (follows) P (prince)
That is, 'P (prince) follows POM {reversal (reflecting) of MOP (cleaner)} = POM + P

Dave Perry (at Times for the Times) chose what seems to me to be a more convoluted explanation:
  • reversal (reflecting) of {P (prince) + MOP (cleaner)}
which relies on the clue being interpreted as '[first] prince; [then (follows)] cleaner'.

Thus, where I see the clue as 'prince follows {cleaner reversed}', he sees it as '{prince; follows cleaner} all reversed'. The latter interpretation is consistent with a style that one often finds in cryptic crossword puzzles - one that I like to think of as a recipe style of clue. So just like in a recipe where one must follow a series of steps, one must break this type of clue into a series of steps (by - at least mentally - inserting the appropriate punctuation). Thus something like "prince follows cleaner" becomes:
Step 1: [Start with] P (Prince)
Step 2: follows (add) MOP (cleaner)
I did consider whether the word "on" might tip the balance one way or the other between the two explanations. However, I do not see how it adds or detracts from either interpretation. In either case, it would seem to be merely padding to enhance the surface reading.While it might also possibly be a link word between the wordplay and definition, it hardly seems suited to that role.

In the present clue, the mental gymnastics demanded by the latter of these two explanations may not really be necessary (since there seems to be a simpler route to the solution). However, that does not mean that this more round about route is not equally valid to the more straight forward one, as - in this case, at least - all roads would appear to lead to Rome.

1d   Linen flower placed on new crib (7)

In Crosswordese, the word "flower" quite frequently is used (as it is here) by setters with the extrapolated meaning of 'something that flows' - in other words, a river.

4d   Dull European china (4)

The definition is "china" with the solution being MATE ('china' being British rhyming slang for 'mate' - for an explanation, see below). The wordplay is MAT (dull) + E (European).

I am only familiar with seeing the word spelled 'matte'. However, there seems to be little consensus among dictionaries on the spelling of 'mat':
If you are not familiar with British rhyming slang, you might well wonder "Why is 'china' rhyming slang for 'mate'?". To create an association between two words in British rhyming slang, one starts with a phrase that rhymes with a target word (in this case the phrase 'china plate' rhymes with the target word 'mate'), then one drops the part of the phrase that rhymes with the target word (in this case, drop 'plate') to arrive at the result 'china'.
Signing off for this week - Falcon

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