Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011 - ST 4457

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Sunday Times
ST 4457
Date of Publication in The Sunday Times
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4457]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Date of Publication in the Toronto Star
Saturday, November 26, 2011


This puzzle had a very high quotient of unfamiliar words, words with unfamiliar meanings, and Briticisms. However, I did manage to complete it – with a lot of help from my electronic aids.

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.

5a   Slightly crazy and spiteful after school (6)

Scatty[5] is an informal British expression meaning absent-minded and disorganized. It originated as an abbreviation of scatterbrained. Like many of the Brits, I wondered about S being an abbreviation for "school". However, one visitor to Times for the Times reports finding it in Collins (presumably the print version as I did not find it in the online version).

9a   Phone left out by prison for avid collector (5-4)

Blower[5] is an informal British term for a phone. Bird[4] is British slang for a prison or a term in prison (shortened from birdlime, rhyming slang for time). A bowerbird[5] (in addition to Oxford, Chambers[2] and Collins[4] also spell the word without a hyphen) is a strong-billed Australasian bird, noted for the male’s habit of constructing an elaborate run or bower adorned with feathers, shells, and other objects to attract the female for courtship.

11a   Small and dainty starters of mince, gnocchi and onions (6)

In this clue, one might be tempted to interpret "starters" (being plural) as calling for one starting letter from each of the three words. However, the plural actually indicates that we need to take two starting letters (from each word). Mignon[2] (a word adopted into English from French) means small and dainty.

16a   Taking top off fish basket reveals this part of angler's kit (4)

Although kit[3] meaning a set of articles or implements used for a specific purpose is found in The American Heritage Dictionary, I think a North American would be more apt to use the word gear rather than kit.

18a   Cut and scratch from a vegetable (4)

In golf, a scratch golfer is one with no handicap. I have only ever seen this word used as an adjective. However, British dictionaries list it as a noun as well as an adjective. As a noun, scratch[5] means a handicap of zero, indicating that a player is good enough to achieve par on a course (with the usage example being "he plays off scratch in University golf"). In his review, Dave Perry also uses the expression "off scratch" as well as "off par". I suspect that this use ("off scratch" and "off par") may be particularly British. I am guessing that the term scratch may have been adopted into golf from racing where scratch is "the starting point in a race for a competitor that is not given a handicap or advantage" and a such a competitor is said to run "off scratch" (rather than, presumably, starting from a point closer to the finish line).

21a   Chief Constable, say, is a social reformer (8)

I failed to decipher the wordplay here, mistakenly thinking that "say" might be a homophone (sounds like) indicator. Chartists[5] were adherents of Chartism, a UK parliamentary reform movement of 1837–48, the principles of which were set out in a manifesto called The People’s Charter and called for universal suffrage for men, equal electoral districts, voting by secret ballot, abolition of property qualifications for MPs, and annual general elections. John Constable[5] (1776–1837) was an English painter. Finally, Ch. as an abbreviation for Chief is found in The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition.

22a   Conservative took cover behind yellow plant (6)

In heraldry, or[5] is yellow or gold as a tincture[5] [any of the conventional colours (including the metals and stains, and often the furs) used in coats of arms].

24a   Immediately like the other set of clues (4)

"Immediately" means down[5] in the sense (with reference to partial payment of a sum of money) made initially or on the spot ("pay £5 down and the rest at the end of the month").

26a   Academic tours a new food shop for some salad leaves (9)

In Britain, a don[5] is a university teacher, especially a senior member of a college at Oxford or Cambridge.

28a   Skilful poise adopted in river right on time (6)

The poise[5] (abbreviation P[5]) is a unit of dynamic viscosity, such that a tangential force of one dyne per square centimetre causes a velocity change one centimetre per second between two parallel planes separated by one centimetre in a liquid [and a term which is new to me].

1d   Novice with puppet is a great hit (6,5)

In Britain, rabbit[4] is an informal term for a novice or poor performer at a game or sport. Punch[5] is a grotesque, hook-nosed humpbacked buffoon, the chief male character of the Punch and Judy puppet show. A rabbit punch[4] is a sharp blow to the back of the neck that can cause loss of consciousness or even death.

3d   Limitless claret, say, for ancient king (5)

Edwin[7] (c. 586 – 632/633) was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became known as Northumbria – from about 616 until his death. [Note: Contrary to the statement in Dave Perry's review, Edwin was king in the 7th century AD.] Claret[5] is a red wine from Bordeaux, or wine of a similar character made elsewhere.

4d   Poor tenor he'd a lamentable song (8)

A threnode (or threnody)[5] is a song or ode of lamentation, especially for a person's death.

5d   Holy man taking a learned theologian into a quiet university (6)

A saddhu (or sadhu)[5] is a nomadic Hindu holy man, living an austere life and existing on charity. Sh (or shh)[5] is an exclamation used to call for silence. DD[5] is the abbreviation for Doctor of Divinity.

6d   Plant adorns oar at sea (6,3)

Aaron's rod[4] is a widespread Eurasian scrophulariaceous plant, Verbascum thapsus, having woolly leaves and tall erect spikes of yellow flowers.

13d   Topping official making you late for work (11)

A cryptic definition of an official whose job (for work) is to make you late (by topping you just above the shoulders).

17d   Obese lot struggling being out of practice (8)

In the phrase "out of practice", the word practice[4] is used with the meaning 'a usual or customary action or proceeding' rather than its usual sense of 'the condition of having mastery of a skill or activity through repetition'.

23d   Councillor and one politician wave (5)

Cr[5] is the abbreviation for Councillor.

25d   Topless yob's unconscious (3)

Yob[5] is British slang for a rude, noisy, and aggressive youth. It is back slang (slang in which words are spoken as though they were spelled backwards) for boy.
[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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