Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010 (DT 26101)

This puzzle was originally published Wednesday, December 2, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph


While I managed to complete today's puzzle, I found several of the clues to be more than a bit contrived - one's whose solution is more likely to generate a groan than a smile of satisfaction. Although Big Dave rated this puzzle five stars for difficulty, I must say that I personally did not find this one as hard as a number of previous puzzles.

Error in Today's Puzzle

Based on Big Dave's review, there would appear to be an error in today's puzzle at 12d which apparently should read:

12d Advance payments surrounding HQ depots which convert electricity (11)

In the National Post, the clue appears as "HO depots" rather than "HQ depots".

In Britain, SUBS are "advance payments", and "depots which convert electricity" would be SUBSTATIONS [and, (despite) being an electrical engineer by profession, I did not share Big Dave's concern with the wording here - I would think it is acceptable to say that one converts electricity from one voltage to another]. Big Dave questions why HQ means "station". Perhaps it is used in the sense of a police station. It seems that in police dramas, if the cops aren't hauling someone in to the precinct, they're taking them down to HQ.

With the error in the Post, I was left trying to make sense of HO. Did it mean Home Office and was electricity in Britain nationalized and under the control of the Home Office? Or was it the model railway gauge in which case a "HO depot" might be a model railway station.

Today's Glossary

Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle

it - Italian vermouth, as in the cocktail gin and it

niffnaff - A trifle; a knickknack. [Prov. Eng. and Scotch.]

sub - colloq noun 3 a small loan; an advance payment, eg from someone's wages to help them subsist

Today's Links

Big Dave's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Telegraph Crossword Blog [DT 26101].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

15a Star animal's not acting (4)

The definition is "star" and the solution is BEST. The wordplay is BEAST (animal) with the A removed (not acting). This was the last clue to be solved, and I was initially lumping this into the contrived category as I was thinking of acting in the context of the theatre. However, it then occurred to me that acting is likely being used here in the sense of temporarily filling a position. For example, when an employee working in the Canadian Public Service is temporarily filling the position of Director, they would be designated Acting Director, usually written as A/Director.

21a Diminutive person Nina's fine female at heart but very loud at the end (8)

I only found the word NIFFNAFF listed in one source. Although it certainly matches the wordplay, the definition in the clue doesn't match the definition given in the source (although it is close enough that one could imagine that the word might also take on that meaning).

8d Intimidate cook 'X', audibly unwell (8,3)

In his review, Big Dave says "as Rishi mentions below, the subsidiary indicator “audibly” is detached from “cook”, the word to which it applies". I had supposed that the homophone indicator (audibly) applied to the entire phrase "fry ten" produced by substituting for the original phrase in the clue "cook 'X'" (i.e., "cook 'X'" through substitution becomes "fry ten" which sounds like (audibly) FRIGHTEN).

16d More tight consuming English Navy's strong drink (9)

The definition is "strong drink" and the solution is STIFFENER. The wordplay is STIFFER (more tight) containing (consuming) E (English) N (Navy). The 's (standing for "is" in the cryptic reading) is a linkword.

I did not find this definition for stiffener in any dictionary. However, I did find it used in this fashion in an article entitled The Other Whiskey, Standing Up on Its Own in the New York Times which purports to provide an explanation for the origin of the name Irish Coffee.

The story goes that a group of trans-Atlantic airline passengers were forced by bad weather to lay over in Foynes, Ireland in 1942. "[W]hen they reached the little Foynes terminal, looking glum and dog-tired, they encountered Joe Sheridan, a chef in the restaurant there, who was evidently a kindly as well as an inventive man.

Deciding that they needed a stiffener, he combined strong black coffee, some sugar and a tot of good Irish whiskey, then floated a cap of thick, ivory-hued local cream on top.

'Hey, Buddy,' an American passenger is supposed to have asked the chef, 'is this Brazilian coffee?'

'No,' he is alleged to have responded, 'that's Irish coffee.'"

24d Material became crumpled in the middle (4)

I did not understand the wordplay here, as I did not know that ecru is a material (and, it seems, neither are any of the many dictionaries that I consulted aware of this fact). As far as I can determine, ecru is a colour (the colour of unbleached linen). However, Big Dave does describe it as "this material" so maybe it is so defined somewhere (undoubtedly in the unabridged version of Chambers). It would not be the first time that Chambers was found to contain definitions that seem to exist nowhere else in the world.

Signing off for today - Falcon

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