Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012 - ST 4467

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Sunday Times
ST 4467
Date of Publication in The Sunday Times
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4467]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Date of Publication in the Toronto Star
Saturday, January 28, 2012


I got off to a late start on tackling this puzzle. On top of that, I recalled reading comments at Times for the Times (in the posting for last week's puzzle) that remarked upon the very difficult nature of this week's puzzle. [Note: since the review at Times for the Times is not posted until one week following the date on which the puzzle is published in London, those who post comments will have already received the subsequent puzzle to the one on which they are commenting.] The warnings proved accurate, as this turned out to be one of the most difficult solving challenges that I've ever encountered. In fact, I was not able to complete the lower left-hand corner (and most of what I was able to solve was only achieved through the extensive use of virtually every electronic aid at my disposal) and had to rely on a couple of solutions from Times for the Times. In addition to those clues, there were also several instances where I had the correct solution but had little - or no - idea how to interpret the wordplay.

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   Theatre, with openings re-allocated, spoils engagements (10)

I did manage to get the correct solution - without completely understanding why. I guessed correctly that footlights[10] might mean theatre in the sense of the acting profession or the stage (although Dave Perry suggests that it is a reference to the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club[7], commonly referred to simply as the Footlights, an amateur theatrical club in Cambridge, England, founded in 1883 and run by the students of Cambridge University.). I also recognized that "engagements" were FIGHTS and that "spoils" were LOOT. However, I wrongly thought that "openings" must somehow be signalling that an anagram (re-allocated) of LOOT is contained in FIGHTS. However, as Dave Perry explains, the correct interpretation is that the initial (opening) letters of LOOT and FIGHTS are exchanged (re-allocated).

21a   Stick around a day for race for digger drivers (8)

Despite having written down "__THURS_" on a list of possible solution patterns (together with "___SUNS_" and "___TUES_", the other days of the week that might have fit), I failed to find the solution. As I was to learn (with some prompting from Dave Perry), digger[10] is archaic slang for an Australian or New Zealander, especially a soldier (often used as a term of address) and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000[7] is an Australian touring car race. I did spend a fair bit of time trying to make DREDGERS work, thinking that they might be "digger drivers" (people who drive digging machines).

1d   Influence of pro limiting performer (6)

It took a bit of deliberation to come to terms with this clue. Oxford defines act[5] as a performing group while Collins has act[10] as those giving a performance - both of which tend to suggest that an act consists of more than one performer. However, I suppose a solo act would qualify (although the dictionary definitions don't seem to stretch quite far enough to include it).

2d   Very big author pens very big extract (6)

The definition is "extract" with the solution being OSMOSE (although having consulted several dictionaries, I am unable to find any clear support for this meaning).

The wordplay relies on a knowledge of British clothing labels. The sizes of clothing that North Americans would describe as plus-size[7] (or often big and tall in the case of men's clothing) would be called outsize OS[5] in Britain. As usual, the setter uses "author" as a reference to himself (or herself, as the case may be) intending for us to replace this in the solution with a first person pronoun (in this case ME). Thus the wordplay is OS (very big) + ME (author) containing (pens) OS (very big).

3d   Extended wrong land? (4-5-3)

I reverse engineered the wordplay after having found the solution based solely on the definition and numeration. When I think about it, perhaps reverse engineering is a fitting means to solve a reverse anagram clue (which this is). In a normal anagram clue, the clue would contain an anagram indicator and its fodder (the material on which the anagram indicator operates), while the solution contains the anagram result (the outcome of the anagram operation). In a reverse anagram clue, the placement of the pieces is reversed - with the anagram indicator and fodder being located in the solution and the anagram result in the clue. Such clues typically use some device (such as the question mark in this clue) as a  signal to the solver that there is something a bit out of the ordinary about the clue. In the present example, the definition is "extended" with the solution being LONG-DRAWN-OUT. The latter part of the clue, "wrong land" is the outcome of an anagram operation (as signalled by the question mark) where the anagram indicator (out) and anagram fodder (LONG DRAWN) are found in the solution to the clue.

8d   Landlord fallen on hard times (4,4)

Mine host[5] is a humorous (Oxford) or archaic (Dave Perry) way of referring to the landlord or landlady of a pub • mine host raised his glass of whisky.

11d   Committee representing everything in London? (7,5)

This is yet another case where I stumbled upon the correct solution without fully understanding why. The definition is "committee" with the solution being WORKING PARTY. As I discovered on Times for the Times, "everything in London" is what is left (_ondo_) after the outer letters of "London" are stripped off (I guess we are to consider that the outer letters form a container for the contents). Of course, "on" means WORKING (as in "the lights are on") and a "do" is a PARTY.

14d   Choice about way she produces paper (10)

A timely example of where BET means "choice" might be "If you don't know what to get her for Valentine's Day, roses are always a safe bet.".

16d   75% tip not exciting? It tends to be busy on a Saturday night (8)

According to Collins, the British expression clubland[10] refers specifically to the area of London around St James's, which contains most of the famous London clubs. However, Oxford gives clubland[5] a broader and more generalized meaning, (1) an area of a town or city with many nightclubs or (2) the world of nightclubs and nightclubbers.

19a   City attackers banter with United ace (6)

The surface reading of the clue is all about English football. "City" is Manchester City[7] and "United" is Manchester United[7] - two rival football clubs in the English Premier League that played an FA Cup Third Round Proper match on January 8, 2012 (the day that this puzzle was published in the UK - thus accounting for Dave Perry's observation in his review) with United defeating City by a score of 3-2. United subsequently lost 2-1 to Liverpool in a Fourth Round Proper match on January 28, 2012. "Attackers" are forwards.

On the other hand, the cryptic reading is a biblical reference to Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho.

23d   Clubs given nothing extra, starting from lowest position in league (4)

I recognized that BLOC would fit, but did not bother to write it in as I could see no possible way to justify the wordplay or the definition (in part because I couldn't clearly determine just what part of the clue actually constituted the definition).  The definition is "league" with the solution being BLOC. I suppose we do speak of a "bloc of nations" and, at one time, there was a "League of Nations". The wordplay is a reversal (starting from the lowest position) of {C (clubs; a suit in a deck of cards) + O (nothing) + LB (extra; a cricket term)}.

In Cricket, lb[5] is the abbreviation for leg bye(s). A leg bye[5] is defined as a run scored from a ball that has touched part of the batsman’s body (apart from the hand) without touching the bat, the batsman having made an attempt to hit it. A leg bye is one instance of an extra[5], a run scored other than from a hit with the bat, credited to the batting side rather than to a batsman.
Key to Reference Sources: 

[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)
[9]   - Infoplease (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
[10] - (Collins English Dictionary)
Signing off for this week - Falcon

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