Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 (DT 26097)

This puzzle was originally published Friday, November 27, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph

Introduction

It took me a long time to finish today's puzzle, and when done I was left not only uncertain of the wordplay in a few clues, but unsure if one or two entries were even correct.

Today's Glossary

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

Sir Anthony Absolute - a character in The Rivals, a play written by Richard Sheridan

dab3 - Brit. informal noun (usually a dab hand at or with something) an expert

lam - verb (often lam into) informal hit hard or repeatedly

skint - adjective Brit. informal having little or no money available

Standard - a make of British car that ceased production in 1963

ton2 [Collins English Dictionary] - noun style, fashion, or distinction

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Telegraph Crossword Blog [DT 26097].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

10a Drug addict in ploy, first to last (4)

Here we find a construction that appears from time to time, which might be thought of as a special case of an anagram. In a standard anagram type clue, we are told merely to rearrange the order of a set of letters, without any other constraints being imposed. In today's clue, we are given very specific instructions as to how the letters are to be rearranged.

The definition is "drug addict" with the solution being USER. The wordplay is RUSE (ploy) with the letter R moved from the first position to the last position (first to last) producing USER. The word "in" is a linkword, and the overall sense of the clue is that a word matching the definition can be found "in" the wordplay (i.e., by following the instructions provided in the wordplay, one will find the solution).

11a Retired with such energy? It could make you see red! (12)

This is one of the clues where I didn't understand the wordplay until I saw Gazza's explanation - and it is a very complicated clue. Those who happened to read my blog on The Sunday London Times Cryptic Crossword which appeared this past Sunday in the Ottawa Citizen may recall that Peter Biddlecombe (xwd_fiend) posted a comment saying "UK cryptics simply don't have the rule used in most American ones, which says that all definitions MUST be at one end of the clue." This was a revelation to me. And today, we have the same situation in this clue where the definition ("such energy") appears in the middle of the clue.

Furthermore, the weirdness doesn't end there. In most clues, the wordplay instructs one to perform an operation on an element that appears in the clue to obtain the solution. However, in this clue we are asked to perform an operation on the solution to obtain an element that appears in the clue.

The solution is TIRELESSNESS. The wordplay tells us that if the word RETIRED were in a state of "tirelessness" (i.e., with TIRE deleted) we would be left with (it would make us see) RED.

This convoluted clue construction (in which the solution is used in the wordplay) is fairly rare although I have seen it on occasion.

23a Good old car once seen as a paragon of excellence (4,8)

As I discovered from Gazza's review, a Standard is a car once produced in Britain. As I was solving the clue, I had supposed that it was simply a reference to a standard (a car with a manual transmission) as opposed to an automatic.

28a Medical examination that's most poor, might one suppose? (4,4)

I was uncertain if SKIN TEST was the correct solution, as I was unable to identify the existence of the word skintest. It seems that skintest is a nonexistent word that the setter has mischievously concocted through an extrapolation from the British term skint.

5d Bitterness when local girl has left (4)

The appearance of the word "local" in the clue, set me to wondering. Might a "local girl" be the British equivalent to a bargirl (a local being the neighbourhood pub in Britain)? No, it seems that the word gal meaning girl is not in widespread use in the U.K. Oxford describes the usage is chiefly North American and Chambers characterizes it as an "old use". Gazza says it is a "local, i.e. dialect, term for a girl". However, in North America, it is an extremely common term.

Wishing everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day - Falcon

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