Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010 (DT 26135)

This puzzle, set by Shamus, was originally published Tuesday, January 12, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


Today, we spend a lot of time touring north eastern England, making a brief sojourn in Tyneside before heading a bit further south to Yorkshire where we take a cruise down a river that changes name in mid-course. We also get a fair dose of British military and security services.

I was able to solve almost the entire puzzle without the use of my Tool Chest, but (like many of the Brits) I became somewhat mired in the bottom left hand corner. However, I did need to verify many of the solutions in the dictionary (in particular, the British shades of meaning of some of the words). I count that as making progress, where one can figure out letter combinations based on the wordplay without necessarily knowing the particular meaning of the word - or, in some cases, without even knowing that the word actually exists. I was even more impressed with my performance when I noticed that Gazza gives this puzzle four stars for difficulty. However, I think that my rating would definitely suffer if they were to assess penalty points based on the length of time that one spent on the puzzle.

Error in Today's Puzzle

There is a very minor error in today's puzzle, as confirmed by the setter in a comment left on Big Dave's blog. In 23a, the word "not" should have been "no", as follows:

23a Service still no good (8)

Today's Glossary

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

fusilier - noun (Fusilier) a member of any of several British regiments formerly armed with fusils

laird - noun (in Scotland) a person who owns a large estate

N2 - abbreviation 8 International Vehicle Registration code Norway

River Ouse - a river in North Yorkshire, England (among others)

physio - noun informal physiotherapy or a physiotherapist

River Ure - a river in North Yorkshire, England

RN - abbreviation (in the UK) Royal Navy

SIS - abbreviation (in the UK) Secret Intelligence Service [much better known by its former name, MI6]

stitch up - PHRASES Brit. informal 1 manipulate (a situation) to someone’s disadvantage 2 cheat or falsely incriminate [Note: Oxford shows this term as not being hyphenated. Chambers lists the phrase stitch someone up, again with no hyphens.]

Territorial Army (abbreviation TA) - noun in the UK: a fully trained volunteer force intended to provide back-up to the regular army in cases of emergency

Tyneside - a district (or conurbation, in the words of Wikipedia) in NE England

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26135].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

9a Rule with policy found amid publicity for jet? (8)

The definition is "jet" with the solution being AIRLINER. The wordplay seems to be {a charade of R (rule) + LINE (policy; e.g., "the party line")} contained in (found amid) AIR (publicity). Although I did not find a specific reference in a dictionary, I presume that air may mean publicity in the sense that hype might be called hot air. Given that the clue is a cryptic definition (as flagged by the question mark at the end) we might expect a bit of looseness with the definition.

Also, I did not find a reference for the use of R as an abbreviation for "rule" so I was forced to rely on my old standby rationalization ("It is probably to be found in the unabridged version of Chambers"). Even without a reference source, it is easy to see the setter's intention here. While setters are not supposed to arbitrarily create abbreviations (although sometimes one might swear that they do), they can always rely on Chambers which seemingly contains the most exhaustive list of obscure abbreviations ever compiled.

If all else fails, the setter can always extract a symbol from the cricket scores on the sports page. You may note that Gazza grasps at this possibility to explain N as an abbreviation for "not" in 23 across (although NG as an abbreviation for "no good" does appear in both the Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary entries at the Free Online Dictionary site). [Note: After writing this, I discovered on Big Dave's site that Shamus admits that the clue should have read "no good" rather than "not good".]

11a Last object in front of flower (6)

As is frequently the case in the land of cryptic crosswords, this flower may have ripples, rapids, or even waterfalls - but no petals. Here, a flower is mischievously used to mean "something that flows" rather than the bloom on a plant.

21a Specialist on different strains? (6)

While I might use physio as a short form for physiotherapy, I would not use it as a short form for physiotherapist. However, it does seem that it is used in the latter sense, probably primarily in the U.K. (judging by the dictionaries in which I found the meaning listed). I might say something like, "I'm going to the therapist for some physio".

24a One serving pilot around U.S. island (8)

This was the last clue to fall - or, more correctly, the last clue for which I deciphered the wordplay. I seem to have gotten hung up thinking that the I that forms part of the contents to be placed in the container came from the initial "One ..." in the clue. In fact, the definition is "one serving" with the solution being "FUSILIER". The wordplay is FLIER (pilot) containing {a charade of US + I (island)}.

5d Normal names aroused cheer in Rome? (8)

Here "cheer" is used in the sense of "food and drink provided for a festive occasion" (Oxford, American Heritage Dictionary). This sense of the word is described by Chambers as "old use" and by Collins English Dictionary as "archaic". You might sprinkle some of this on your pasta and wash it all down with a glass of 25a.

6d Haunt associated with duke and landowner (5)

I think that I first encountered this "landowner" on reading Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Kidnapped when I was but a wee lad.

7d Greek is in middle of area to speculate (8)

There is a lot of manipulation going on in this clue. Overall, the clue is a charade (what Rishi likes to call a word sum) of THEO (Greek) + RISE, with the latter element of the charade being a container type clue which has IS contained in (in) RE (middle of area; i.e., the middle two letters of the word "area"). I like to think of the latter part as a reduction type clue, in which the outer letters are deleted to get a component of the solution. Other reduction type clues include beheading (deleting the initial letter), truncating (deleting the final letter), or deleting the first and last letters (sometimes signalled by the use of phrases that suggest actions such as shelling or skinning). Thus, in this hybrid clue, we find a container within a charade, where the container is formed through a reduction.

16d Spraying of limes on a pudding (8)

I knew that semolina is a type of flour used in making pasta and puddings. However, the fact that it is the name of a pudding was new to me. According to Wikepedia, "When [semolina flour is boiled], it turns into a soft, mushy porridge. This flour is popular in northwestern Europe and North America as a dessert, boiled with milk and sweetened, called semolina pudding.".

15d Fashionable banker touring hotel, place to develop skills? (8)

This clue brings us yet another deceptive term for a river (see commentary for 11a) with "banker" meaning "something that has banks" rather than someone to whom you might entrust your life savings. By the way, it seems that the River Ure and the River Ouse are actually just different names applied to separate sections of the same waterway.

Here is another hybrid clue (see commentary for 7d) consisting of a charade acting as a container. The wordplay is {a charade of HOT (fashionable) + OUSE (banker; i.e., river, something that has banks)} containing (touring; i.e., going around) H (hotel; the code word for H in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet). The definition is "place to develop skills". Chambers gives one definition of hothouse as "any establishment promoting a rapid development of skills, ideas, etc." I noted with interest that Oxford, in addition to a somewhat similar but less specific definition as a noun, also provides a definition of hothouse as a verb meaning "educate (a child) to a higher level than is usual for their age".

20d Decorative old service appearing with tea prepared (6)

Here the definition is "decorative" with the solution being ORNATE. The wordplay is a charade of O (old) + RN (service; i.e., Royal Navy) + (appearing with) ATE {TEA prepared; i.e., an anagram (indicated by "prepared") of TEA}. The word "old" may also serve as a clue to which British military service is being called up, in that Wikipedia informs us that "The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of HM Armed Forces (and is therefore known as the Senior Service)".

Signing off for today - Falcon

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