Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011 - ST 4458

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Sunday Times
ST 4458
Date of Publication in The Sunday Times
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4458]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Date of Publication in the Toronto Star
Saturday, December 3, 2011*
* As no solution is posted at the Saturday Star Cryptic Forum site (as of the time of writing), I can only assume that this puzzle appeared in the Saturday Star in accordance with the normal schedule.


I found this to be a rather challenging puzzle and my electronic assistants were called into action early and often. I was also in the dark on parts of the wordplay in a couple clues until I read Dave Perry's review.

Notes 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.

1a   Emulate Mrs Clinton and fall short of total success? (8)

The clue is a reference to an episode that occurred during the 2008 US election campaign. Presidential candidate (and former First Lady) Hillary Clinton admitted in late March that her repeated campaign statements about having been under hostile fire from snipers during a 1996 visit to U.S. troops at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia-Herzegovina were not true.

6a   Who boasts a disturbed heart? (6)

I think this must be seen as a semi & lit. (semi-all-in-one) clue? The wordplay is clearly "boasts a disturbed heart". The entire clue could serve as the definition, in which case it would be a semi & lit. clue. The only alternative would appear to be for the single word "who" to be the definition - which seems to be a bit inadequate for the job.

9a   Hook - and its double shape, of course (6)

Hook[3][4][5] is used in the sense of to steal (a new meaning for me, but one that I did find it in both British and American dictionaries - although Oxford describes this usage as archaic). S comes from "its double shape", i.e., the letter S from the word "its" (presumably because the shape of an S is a double curve). NATCH is slang for 'naturally' which Dave Perry characterizes as Shakespearean.

13a   Old river with extremely fertile fish (4)

Here, "extremely fertile" means to use the letters found on the extremities of the word "fertile" - i.e., FertilE. The orfe[5] (also called the ide) is a silvery freshwater fish of the carp family, which is fished commercially in eastern Europe.

14a   Sacred text journalist found in museum (4)

The Veda[5] is any or all of the most ancient sacred writings of Hinduism. The Victoria and Albert Museum[7] (often abbreviated as the V&A) in London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design. Thus the wordplay is ED (journalist; editor) contained in (found in) {V + A (V&A)}.

 15a   Officer, not dated soldier? (10)

There is a maxim associated with cryptic crosswords that one ignores the punctuation. Of course, there is a caveat (which I failed to invoke) that one must ignore the maxim when required. In this clue, the comma plays a key role with the wordplay being COMMA (,) + ND (not dated) + ANT (worker). The abbreviation n.d. (no date)[5] is apparently one that is used especially in bibliographies.

19a   Miss World finalist found behind topless joint (4)

The term "lift and separate" used by Dave Perry in his review is a favourite among British commentators on cryptic crosswords. It alludes to a situation where a word or phrase in the surface reading of a clue must be split into two components playing differing roles in the cryptic reading. Here, in the phrase "Miss World", the first word (miss) is the definition and the second word (world) must be combined with the following word to produce "world finalist" (signifying D, the final letter of "world"). In other words, the phrase "Miss World" (which, on the surface, would appear to be a single unit) must be 'lifted and separated'. The expression 'lift and separate' is one that has long been associated with brassieres (and I suspect that Dave Perry's use of it in relation to this clue is likely no mere coincidence).

24a   Blessed on river of Wales (8)

This clue is overflowing with British references. Brian Blessed[7] is an English actor, known for his sonorous voice. The River Cam[7] is a tributary of the River Great Ouse in the east of England (there are also a couple of other rivers by the same name in England). Cambrian[5] means Welsh (i.e., 'of Wales').

25a   It helps to make weather balloon like rocket, for example (6)

Rocket[5] is the British name for arugula[5].

27a   On the pull? It's infuriating (3,3)

In British slang, pull means an attempt to attract someone sexually (an eligible bachelor on the pull). So "on the pull" has a very similar meaning to "on the make"[5]. However, that is a bit of a red herring (or misdirection) in this clue. The definition alludes to the expression a red rag to a bull[5] meaning an object, utterance, or act which is certain to provoke someone. The wordplay is RE (on [the subject of]) + DRAG (the pull).

3d   One drinks shorts regularly (3)

In Britain, a short[5] is a drink of spirits served in a small measure. In this definition, measure might be intended to mean "a standard quantity or amount" but I think it might well mean "a container of standard capacity used for taking fixed amounts of a substance (gifts have included silver measures from a whisky company)". I had thought that maybe short was just the British term for shot[5] (a small drink of spirits). However, it would seem that the term shot is also used in the UK. I suspect that the difference may be that a short is a small but well-defined quantity of spirits while a shot is a small but imprecise amount.

8d   Steel traps as it were on marshland (7)

I have to admit that, despite finding the correct solution, I had to rely on Dave Perry to explain the first part of the wordplay. I certainly knew that FEN meant marshland, which gave me the second part of the solution. Dave Perry attributes the expression fit up to "American cop shows". However, it is not an expression with which I am familiar and Oxford and Collins state that fit up[4] or fit-up[5] is British slang meaning frame-up (which is what I would expect it to be called in North America). Thus, 'fits up' (traps) indicates a reversal (up [in a down clue]) of FITS or STIF which gives us the first part of the solution STIFFEN.

12d   Old court giving 8 caution? (4,7)

The Star Chamber[5] was an English court of civil and criminal jurisdiction that developed in the late 15th century, trying especially those cases affecting the interests of the Crown. It was noted for its arbitrary and oppressive judgements and was abolished in 1641. The "8" in the clue is a cross reference to 8d and indicates that we need a synonym for the solution to that clue. Thus the wordplay is STARCH (stiffen; the solution to 8d) + AMBER (caution; an amber traffic light is a caution signal).

18d   Puts pants on mature dwarf? (7)

Pants[5] is British slang for rubbish or nonsense (he thought we were going to be absolute pants). Here it plays the role of an anagram indicator.

20d   Passage over court (7)

Passage[5] is used in the sense of a short extract from a book or other printed material. Over and extra are likely used in the sense of 'to spare' (i.e., more than necessary). Thus if you needed five points to win a competition and you scored eight, you would have three points to spare (or three points extra) or be three points over. [While this example almost works, I am sure there must be more appropriate ones.] The equality between the two words almost seems to be more apparent when over- used as a prefix, with an overcoat being an extra coat.

23d   Starts to rail against new council housing estate (5)

While North Americans would probably not apply the term estate[4] to a ranch, the definition (a large piece of landed property, especially in the country) may technically fit. In the UK, an estate may also mean a large area of property development, especially of new houses or (trading estate) of factories. "Council housing"[5] refers to government subsidized housing. The wordplay directs us to use the starting letters of (starts to) "Rail Against New Council Housing".

26d   Like a recruit with supporting soldiers (3)

The soldiers are the Royal Artillery (RA)[7]. The wordplay is W (with) following (supporting) RA. RA is considered to be supported by W because (in a down clue) RA is written on top of W. Of course, this bit of wordplay does not work in an across clue.
[1] - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
[2] - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
[3] - (American Heritage Dictionary)
[4] - (Collins English Dictionary)
[5] - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford Dictionary of English)
[6] - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford American Dictionary)
[7] - Wikipedia
[8] - Reverso Online Dictionary (Collins French-English Dictionary)
Signing off for this week - Falcon

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