Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013 — ST 4527

This entry was posted on Monday, April 1, 2013 but has been backdated to place it in the proper sequence in the Blog Archive.
Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Sunday Times
ST 4527
Date of Publication in The Sunday Times
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Dean Mayer (Anax)
Link to Full Review
Times for the Times [ST 4527]
Times for the Times Review Written By
Dave Perry
Dave Perry's Solving Time
Date of Publication in the Toronto Star
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Date of Publication in the Vancouver Sun
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Falcon's Experience
- solved without assistance
- incorrect prior to use of puzzle solving tools
- solved with assistance from puzzle solving tools
- solved with aid of checking letters provided by puzzle solving tools
- unsolved or incorrect prior to visiting Times for the Times
This puzzle appears on the Sunday puzzles pages in the Saturday, March 30, 2013 edition of The Ottawa Citizen.


It would seem that Dave Perry found this puzzle to be little more than a walk in the park. For me, it was more akin to a mountaineering expedition. I needed a fair amount of electronic help and had to reverse engineer the wordplay on several. I never did manage to sort out the wordplay on 13d and needed Dave Perry's explanation to understand it.

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   One doesn’t think about footballer’s wife being a dignified lady (7)

In the UK, a WAG[5] (or Wag[10]) [from the acronym WAGs 'wives and girlfriends'] is a wife or girlfriend of a sports player, typically characterized as having a high media profile and a glamorous lifestyle.

5a   Having boarded a ship, is big name in shipping (7)

Virtually without exception in cryptic crosswords, a ship will be a steamship (abbreviation SS[5]).

Aristotle Onassis[5] (1906 – 1975) was a Greek shipping magnate and international businessman who owned a substantial shipping empire and founded the Greek national airline, Olympic Airways (1957).

9a   I am filling in for top player (5)

Primo[10] seems to be a musical term denoting the upper or right-hand part in a piano duet. Although not specifically documented in the dictionaries, I suppose the term might also be applied to the person who plays this part.

10a   It’s cruel to spread lies about awful truth (9)

11a/14a   Reason for daughter’s morning ritual? (3,8,2,3,5)

This is what I call an inverse wordplay clue (or, as Dave Perry puts it, a 'wordplay in solution' type clue). The solution contains some bit of wordplay that produces an element of the clue. The inverse wordplay indicator is "reason for" (which is another way of saying 'what is it that produces'). Thus the solution is some bit of wordplay that would produce the result "daughter". "Daughter" is an anagram of "the guard" and some wordplay that would produce the result "daughter" from "the guard"is THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD.

Changing the Guard[7] refers to a formal ceremony in which sentries providing ceremonial guard duties at important institutions are relieved by a new batch of sentries. The ceremonies are often elaborate and precisely choreographed.

15a   King George eats only toast (5)

By tradition, the ciphers (monograms) of British monarchs are the initials formed from the Latin version of their first name followed by either Rex or Regina (Latin for king or queen, respectively). Thus the cipher of Queen Elizabeth is ER[5] — from the Latin Elizabetha Regina — and that of her father, King George, was GR[5] — from the Latin Georgius Rex.

17a   Happy? No  dice (3,2)

Cut up[5] [possibly chiefly a British expression] means (of a person) very distressed she was pretty cut up about them leaving.

18a   Cavalier’s rank hampering bid to retreat (8)

The wordplay is ARRANT (rank) containing (hampering; holding [back], restraining) a reversal (to retreat) of GO (bid; attempt). Since hamper means to "hold back", I think the setter might have been able to use it as both the containment indicator and the reversal indicator (which certainly would have made the clue far more difficult to solve).

20a   Head for London or Edinburgh, say — this may be A1 sign (7,6)

I missed the wordplay here, which (as Dave Perry reveals) is CAPITAL (A1) + LETTER (sign).

I readily see the first part, but I am still reluctant to accept that a sign and letter are the same thing. However, Collins English Dictionary does show sign as a synonym for letter[10] — but, interestingly, does not list letter as a synonym for sign[10].

The A1[7] is the longest numbered road in the UK, at 410 miles (660 km). It connects London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, with Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

A1[4][5] or A-one[3] meaning first class or excellent comes from a classification for ships in The Lloyd's Register of Shipping where it means equipped to the highest standard or first-class.

22a   Black partner’s kept wife — never disappeared (5,4)

24a   Baton is something orchestra member may look at (5)

One meaning of baton[5] is a staff of office or authority, especially one carried by a field marshal.

25a   Mister Bob Hope (7)

I deduced the solution from the definition and checking letters and then reverse engineered the wordplay. Bob[2] is an informal term for a shilling (abbreviation s)[2], a British monetary unit and coin, in use prior to the introduction of decimal currency in 1971, worth one twentieth of a pound or 12 old pence (12d).

26a   Now entering races — nothing to it (7)

The Tourist Trophy (TT)[5] is a motorcycle-racing competition held annually on roads in the Isle of Man since 1907.


1d   Field operative’s inside information (4)

2d   Blow-by-blow description of calls? (7-4,4)

Dave Perry describes this as a cryptic definition, and — despite all my efforts — I was not successful in uncovering any wordplay in the clue. Whistle-stop[5] means very fast and with only brief pauses a whistle-stop tour of Britain. The expression comes from rail travel. I think the idea is that when on a WHISTLE-STOP TOUR, one makes a call (a brief stop; or visit) every time the whistle blows, thereby making the stops blow by blow.

3d   Character brought to life via digital animation (5,6)

Glove puppet[5] is a British term for a cloth puppet fitted on the hand and worked by the fingers. The North American term would be hand puppet[5].

4d   Very tough pitch had to restrict runs (4-4)

Pitch as a ship would on a rough sea.

5d   Keep south of huge port (6)

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.

Ostend[5] is a port on the North Sea coast of NW Belgium, in West Flanders. It is a major ferry port with links to Dover, England.

6d   Wooden, like horse (3)

Both horse[5] and H[5] are informal terms for heroin ⇒ ‘Tell me it’s not heroin.’ ‘It’s not H’.

7d   Sort of union one expects to join? (7,8)

A wedding where the bride is pregnant, one in which (as my mother would have said) "nothing's new but the cake".

8d   Supply 21 street lights (4,4,2)

12d   Becoming aged isn’t too disastrous (2,4,5)

13d   A little box of these ingredients, popularly (5,5)

I managed to get the correct solution without fully understanding why. Stock cube[5] is the proper name for a cube of concentrated dehydrated meat, vegetable, or fish stock for use in cooking. However, most people would likely refer to them as OXO cubes.

I learned from Dave Perry's review that the wordplay is as follows: hidden (a little) in bOX Of. 

I dithered back and forth in my efforts to formally parse this clue. If we merely split the clue following the word "of", the wordplay, as we have seen, would lead to OXO. The remainder of the clue ("these ingredients, popularly") would also lead to OXO. However, the solution is STOCK CUBES (these ingredients), rather than OXO.

If we try to split the clue differently, the definition would be "these ingredients" leaving the wordplay to be "a little box of, popularly". While the definition is okay, the wordplay does not appear to work as STOCK CUBES would be 'OXO, formally', not 'OXO, popularly'.

Consequently (through a process of elimination), the clue must be a cryptic definition which we are expected to read as meaning 'these ingredients are popularly known as OXO'.

16d   Utter nonsense about regular characters in girlie movie (4,4)

True Grit[7] is a 1969 American western film adapted from Charles Portis' 1968 novel True Grit. John Wayne stars as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn and won his only Academy Award for his performance in this film. In 2010, Joel and Ethan Coen wrote and directed another film adaptation of the story which is regarded as being more faithful to the novel than was the 1969 version.

19d   Extremely cheerful and always bright (6)

21d   Switch is off, mostly. Should that happen? (2,2)

23d   Uneasy when losing bits that are odd and even (3)

Nay[5] is an adverb meaning 'or rather' (used to emphasize a more appropriate word than one just used) permission to build the superstore will take months, nay years.
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. 13D: This is a subtle clue, and not east to clasify. I guess I'd call it a cryptic def with a hidden word as extra help. In the cryptic def, the fact that stock cubes are normally sold in little boxes plays a significant part.

    Peter Biddlecombe, Sunday Times Crossword Editor