Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012 - ST 4474

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Sunday Times
ST 4474
Date of Publication in The Sunday Times
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Tim Moorey
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4474]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Date of Publication in the Toronto Star
Saturday, March 10, 2012
According to the Saturday Star Cryptic Forum, the Saturday Star seems to have reversed the order of publication of ST 4473 and ST 4474.


Today we have a fairly typical Sunday Times puzzle - undoubtedly made a bit more difficult for North Americans by the generous helping of British references incorporated into it.

Meet the Setter

Here is what Crossword Who's Who has to say about today's setter:
Tim Moorey
Tim Moorey is a professional crossword setter with many years' experience of teaching adults how to solve crosswords.

He sets puzzles for a wide range of publications, including The Sunday Times (Mephisto), The Week, MoneyWeek, The Sunday Telegraph, The Listener (as Owzat), and tailored puzzles for special occasions such as wedding anniversaries and so on.

He is a Consultant for Chambers Dictionaries and is the Cluru (Agony Uncle) for The Crossword Club.

Tim Moorey's Website

Tim Moorey is the author of How to Master The Times Crossword.
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.

4a   Hookers trounce ass in a scrum (10)

In rugby, the hooker[5] is the player in the middle of the front row of the scrum, who tries to hook the ball. The Oxford Dictionary of English characterizes the alternative meaning of a prostitute as being chiefly North American. However, this is the meaning being invoked by the cryptic reading of the clue.

10a   Scraps in shower after match (8)

Having actually passed over CONFETTI, I concluded that the solution must be CONTESTS which would have made this a rather poor clue. "Scraps" could be pugilistic contests and a scrap could be a match. To complete the wordplay, S would have be a British abbreviation for shower. Although it seemed inconceivable that two such similar definitions for CONTEST and CONTESTS would be employed, I could not make CONFETTI work.

Even after discovering that CONFETTI is, in fact, the correct solution, I bashed my head against a brick wall trying to decipher the wordplay. Having nearly beaten it to a pulp, the answer finally came  to me. The clue is a cryptic definition, the solution being the scraps of paper that are showered on the bride and groom following their wedding (match).

11a   Wood and lake (8)

Victoria Wood[7] is an English comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano. Much of her humour is grounded in everyday life, and includes references to popular British media and brand names of quintessentially British products. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes.

Lake Victoria[5] is the largest lake in Africa, with shores in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, and drained by the Nile.

12a   Venomous creatures found in Columbia and Brazil, for instance (6)

CO[5] and BR[5] are the International Vehicle Registration codes for Columbia and Brazil respectively.

16a   Reconstructing roughly? (7,7)

I confess that I failed to see the magnificent anagram here, supposing the clue to be merely a rather pedestrian cryptic definition.

24a   Detective's request for food in mess (8)

A detective inspector (DI)[5] is a senior police officer in the UK.
Within the British police, inspector[7] is the second supervisory rank. It is senior to that of sergeant, but junior to that of chief inspector. Plain-clothes detective inspectors are equal in rank to their uniformed counterparts, the prefix 'detective' identifying them as having been trained in criminal investigation and being part of or attached to their force's Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
25a   English writer for a toddler? (6)

Eric Ambler[7] (1909 – 1998) was an influential British author of spy novels who introduced a new realism to the genre.

27a   Notable achievements except for the first of Friar Tuck (4)

Tuck[5] is an informal British name for food eaten by children at school as a snack. The word on its own does not seem to be used in North America, but I do recall the expression tuck shop being used at my Boy Scout camp and I never knew why it was called this until I started doing British cryptic crosswords.

2d   Gathered little resistance shown by United (7)

The surface reading is likely a reference to the Manchester United Football Club[7], an English professional football [soccer] club, based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, that plays in the English Premier League.

3d   Leave work during strike (3,2)

Hop it[5] is an informal British expression meaning go away quickly I hopped it down the stairs.

4d   Tory going round one capital is covering for the Shires? (9)

A caparison[5] is an ornamental covering spread over a horse’s saddle or harness. In Britain, a shire is a county, especially in England. The Shires is a term used in reference to parts of England regarded as strongholds of traditional rural culture, especially the rural Midlands. A shire horse[5] (which undoubtedly might be shortened to just shire) is a heavy, powerful horse of a draught breed, originally from the English Midlands.

5d   Open University plan to be involved with Civil Service (7)

In the UK, The Open University[5] is a university that teaches mainly by broadcasting, correspondence, and summer schools, and is open to those without formal academic qualifications. [Thanks to Peter Biddlecombe for pointing out that The Open University is a single institution and not a category of educational institution as I had originally supposed.]

6d   One cracking a couple of hundreds gives a boost (5)

In Britain, ton[5] is an informal term for a hundred, in particular a speed of 100 mph, a score of 100 or more, or a sum of £100 [a description of a cricket match might read] he scored 102 not out, his third ton of the tour. The second hundred is the Roman numeral, C.

7d   School nobs here? About right (9)

Sherborne School[7] is a British public school for boys, located in the town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset, England. In the UK, a public school[5] is a private fee-paying secondary school, especially one for boarders.  In England, public school (a term recorded from 1580) originally denoted a grammar school under public management, founded for the benefit of the public (contrasting with private school, run for the profit of the proprietor); since the 19th century the term has been applied to the old endowed English grammar schools, and newer schools modelled on them, which have developed into fee-paying boarding schools. Unlike the institutions which North Americans refer to as public schools, British public schools are not supported by public funds. Rather they are financed by tuition fees, gifts and endowment funds. In North America, such a school would be called a private school.

Nob is chiefly British slang for a person of wealth or social standing[3] or a person of social distinction[4].

8d   Eccentric Head hard going, put to flight (7)

While British dictionaries spell the solution as a single word, nutcase[2,5,10], American dictionaries have it as two words, nut case[3,9].

15d   Form of punishment region put up before start of police trouble (9)

Historically, the strappado[3] was a form of punishment or torture in which the victim was secured to a rope and made to fall from a height almost to the ground before being stopped with an abrupt jerk.

18d   Tea served with smirk can be an annoyance (7)

In Britain, cha[5] (as well as chai or char) is an informal term for tea.

19d   Who may be caught in crooked set-ups? (7)

On cricket scorecards, the abbreviation c[5] indicates caught (by) ME Waugh c Lara b Walsh 19.

21d   Teams from the Borders? (5)

The Border or the Borders[5] refers to the boundary and adjoining districts between Scotland and England.

23d   Lord's famous volunteer army not wanted (5)

In the UK, the Territorial Army (TA)[5] is a volunteer force locally organized to provide a reserve of trained and disciplined manpower for use in an emergency.
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


  1. One small point: the Open University is a single institution. The only real indication of this in the ODE definition is the headword being "Open University" rather than "open university".

  2. Peter,

    Thank you for the clarification. I had assumed that "open university" was just a sort of generic category of institution.

    Furthermore, I see that (according to Wikipedia), although it is commonly referred to as the Open University, the formal name of this British educational institution is actually The Open University with the word 'The' being part of the name.

    I have revised the posting accordingly.