Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010 (DT 26136)

This puzzle, set by Jay, was originally published Wednesday, January 13, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


Today we have a relatively easy - but still very enjoyable - puzzle which I managed to finish unaided (a rare event indeed).

Today's Glossary

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

AB2 - abbreviation 1 Brit able seaman

bloomer2 - noun Brit a longish crusty loaf of white bread, with rounded ends and several diagonal slashes across the top

extra - noun 5 cricket a run scored other than by hitting the ball with the bat

Indian - noun 5 colloq a a restaurant that specializes in Asian food, especially curries; b a meal in, or a takeaway from, this type of restaurant • went out for an Indian

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

Today's Links

Big Dave's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26136].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

11a Form of bread plant (7)

Here is a clue that was likely trivial to the Brits, but not so for North Americans who generally would not know that a bloomer is a crusty loaf of white bread. I only managed to find the solution through the second definition (plant) and the checking letters.

28a Bonus ball? (5)

While I get the general drift of this cryptic definition, it would likely resonate more with someone who is more familiar with the sport of cricket. In cricket, an extra is "a run scored other than by hitting the ball with the bat". It would appear that the term "ball" can be used in cricket in a manner similar to the use of the word "pitch" in baseball (i.e., an instance of delivering - or throwing - the ball by the bowler or pitcher, respectively). I infer this from the definition of an over which is "a series of six ... balls bowled by the same bowler from the same end of the pitch"or "play during such a series of balls". Most runs are presumably scored by hitting the ball with the bat. Thus, it would be a bonus (hence the name extra) should a team score a run on a ball without having to hit the ball with the bat.

4d Priceless car - a black Beetle is garaged (6)

There is a fairly rigid convention in North America that the definition in a cryptic crossword clue must be either the first or last element in the clue. However, in the U.K., this is not such a hard and fast rule. While the definition in British puzzles will usually be either the first or last element, one will occasionally see a clue - such as this one - where the definition is found in the middle of the clue.

The definition is "beetle" with the solution being SCARAB. In this hidden word clue, the wordplay tells us that a word meaning "beetle" is hidden (is garaged) in the phrase "pricelesS CAR A Black".

I have heard it said that one should ignore the punctuation in a cryptic clue, which is what we need to do here. By the way, as with most rules, this one does have exceptions - so the rule really is, "ignore punctuation unless it should not be ignored". Punctuation in a cryptic clue can serve either of two purposes. Most commonly it is used to create a deceptive surface reading that will disguise the underlying cryptic reading. In rare cases, it may form part of the wordplay (for instance, I seem to recall once having encountered a clue ending with an exclamation mark for which the solution was EXCLAMATION MARK).

In this clue, we need not only to discard the punctuation supplied to us by the setter, but to insert our own punctuation. Doing so, we arrive at "priceless car a black, beetle is garaged" which we must interpret as "priceless car a black [in which] beetle is garaged".

Signing off for today - Falcon

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 (DT 26134)

This puzzle, set by Rufus, was originally published Monday, January 11, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph

The National Post has skipped DT 26133 which was published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, January 9, 2010


We have a fairly typical Rufus creation today, with enough easy clues to give one a firm foothold but enough more difficult clues to make one struggle a bit to complete the puzzle.

Today's Glossary

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

batman - noun dated (in the British armed forces) an officer’s personal valet or attendant

frillies - plural noun women's underwear with lacey frills

green fingers - plural noun Brit. informal natural ability in growing plants [equivalent to the North American expression green thumb]

jar - noun 2 Brit. informal a glass of beer

kite - noun 2 Brit. informal, dated an aircraft

Today's Links

Rishi's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26134].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

10a Girls maybe right to accept glamorous underwear (8)

I must admit that frillies was a new term to me - but definitely something that bears further investigation.

17a Inexperienced hands reveal growing talent (5,7)

Gardeners in Britain who display an exceptional natural ability for growing plants are said to have green fingers, whereas those in North American are described as having a green thumb. Given that to be all thumbs is to be "awkward and clumsy" (seemingly on either side of the Atlantic), I think that I may prefer the British take on this expression.

16d Box kite? (5)

This cryptic definition seems to rely on a British expression for an aircraft. According to Chambers, a kite may be either "a light frame covered in paper or some other light material, with a long holding string attached to it, for flying in the air for fun, etc." or "(also box kite) a more complicated structure built of boxes, sometimes used for carrying recording equipment or a person in the air". Oxford tells us that kite is a dated, informal British term for "an aircraft". It goes without saying that a box may be a crate. Furthermore, Oxford informs us that a crate can be an informal term for "an old and dilapidated vehicle", while Chambers extends the meaning a bit by specifying that crate is derogatory slang for "a decrepit vehicle or aircraft". This meaning seems fairly universal as similar meanings for crate are also found in both the American Heritage Dictionary and Collins English Encyclopedia on the Free Online Dictionary site. I must say that it is scary enough to know that there are crates on the highway, without thinking about there being crates in the air as well!

Signing off for today - Falcon

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 (DT 26132)

This puzzle, set by Giovanni, was originally published Friday, January 8, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


This puzzle appeared less difficult when viewed in the rear view mirror than it did when I initially approached it. Perhaps that is the mark of a good puzzle - the clues are obscure until you decipher them, at which point all becomes clear.

Today's Glossary

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

bowl2 - noun 4 (often bowl someone out) cricket to put (the batsman) out by hitting the wicket with the ball

Desperate Dan - a wild west character in the British comic The Dandy

form - noun 6 chiefly Brit. a class or year in a school

maiden (abbreviation M) - noun 3 (also maiden over) Cricket an over in which no runs are scored

scullion - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 1. a mean or despicable person

smack3 - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 1. a sailing vessel, usually sloop-rigged, used in coasting and fishing along the British coast

River Tay - the longest river in Scotland

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26132].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

8a A learner next to where he should be is relaxed (8)

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong in doing so, but I think the wordplay here may use the word "learner" in two different contexts. In the first, "learner" is used in the sense of "learner driver" (what I would call a "beginner driver") and is replaced by L (from the symbol that British learner drivers must attach to their vehicles). In the second sense, "learner" seems to be used to mean a "school student" who should be "in form" (in class). If one were to carry a consistent theme through the clue, one might expect the "learner" to be "behind the wheel" or "in the driver's seat".

Signing off for today - Falcon

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010 (DT 26131)

This puzzle, the creation of an unknown setter, was originally published Thursday, January 7, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


It would seem that this puzzle was considerably more difficult for me than it was for the Brits - no doubt, the Briticisms played a part in that. Ironically, I always find it interesting to see the reaction from the Brits when one or two Americanisms creep into a puzzle.

Today's Glossary

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

Sir Richard Branson - British industrialist who founded Virgin Atlantic Airways (together with numerous other ventures)

Graham Hill - British racing driver

L2 - abbreviation 2 learner driver

sack - noun historical a dry white wine formerly imported into Britain from Spain and the Canaries

shatter - verb 4 colloq to tire out or exhaust

The Stig - a racing driver character on the BBC Television show Top Gear

tin - noun 6 Brit slang money

trolley - noun 1 Brit. a large wheeled metal basket or frame used for transporting heavy or unwieldy items such as luggage or supermarket purchases

Today's Links

Libellule's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26131].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

27a Fall for American (6)

The meaning of this clue is definitely ambiguous. Read one way, it asks "What would an American call the season that the British call 'fall'?", while read another way, it asks "What does an American mean when he says 'fall'?". Thankfully, I discovered that it is fairly easy to find the correct solution even if one gets the sense of the wordplay backwards. According to Oxford, autumn is the chiefly British term for "the season after summer and before winter" while fall is a North American term meaning autumn. As is frequently the case, both terms are commonly used in Canada and I had no idea that one was British and one was American.

1d First-rate pick (6)

My choice of CHOICE turned out to be anything but a first-rate pick - presenting a major impediment to completing the northwest quadrant. I did eventually select a better answer.

17d How Branson got his business off the ground? (8)

I remained grounded for quite a while in the southwest quadrant when I mistakenly jumped on an AIRPLANE. Once I managed to find the right craft on which to fly, I quickly completed this corner.

Signing off for today - Falcon

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010 - Not Really a Nasty Grid


The solution to the first two clues in this offering from Cox and Rathvon might suggest that today's puzzle has a nasty grid - but I found no fault with it.

Today's Glossary

Some abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle that may be unfamiliar, especially for overseas visitors to the site

AAA - abbreviation American Automobile Association

A-Rod - nickname for Alex Rodriguez, American professional baseball player who plays third base for the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball

Bo Derek - American film actress

Charlie Chan - a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers, the hero of many novels and over four dozen films

Chevy Chase - American comedian, writer, and television and film actor

Ent - a fictional race of people who closely resemble trees from J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth

Solution to Today's Puzzle

Legend: "CD" Cryptic Definition; "DD" Double Definition

"*" anagram; "~" sounds like; "<" letters reversed

"( )" letters inserted; "_" letters deleted

1a WICKED - double definition; "bad" and "as a candle can be" (i.e., having a wick)

4a MATRIX~ - sounds like (you say) MAY TRICKS (springtime pranks)

8a PER (DIE)M - DIE (stop) contained in (wearing) PERM (hairdo)

10a CONQUER~ - sounds like (audibly) CONKER (someone engaged in noggin-whacking)

11a NUMBERS - double definition; "counts" and "ice and novocaine" (i.e., things that cause numbness)

12a R(ESP)ITE - ESP (especially) contained in (in) RITE (formal ceremony)

13a DETER|I|ORATE - DETER (stop) I ORATE (address the crowd)

14a COT|ON|EASTER - COT (bed) ON EASTER (Sunday in spring)

20a CHA(PAT)I - CHAI (tea) containing (divided by) PAT

21a IMP|LORE - {IMP LORE} (stories of rascals); Note: one must read "imp lore" as a phrase to fully appreciate the meaning

22a RE|STING - RE-STING is a way of cryptically expressing the idea of STING (smart) after having already been stung (again)

23a NIAGARA* - anagram (when broken down) of RING AAA

24a YANKEE - double definition; "A-Rod, e.g." and "one pulled out"

25a _FLET|CH_ - hidden in (features) leaFLET CHiefly


1d WI(PIN)G - PIN (brooch) contained in (stuck in) WIG (toupee)

2d CAROMED* - anagram (goofy) of COMRADE

3d E(MINE)NT - ENT (Tolkien creature) contains (keeps) MINE (source of riches)

5d AMNESIA* - anagram (bad) of A NAME IS

6d ROU(TIN)E - ROUE (rake) contains (has ... insert) TIN (metal)

7d XER|XES< - reversal (backed) of {SEX (congress) REX (Latin [word for] king)} 9d MI<|SPRINTING - reversal (facing the wrong way) of IM (I'm) + SPRINTING (rushing)

10d CAR(BO)NATION - BO (Ms. Derek) contained in (wearing) CARNATION (flower)

14d CHANS|ON - CHANS (film detective's; i.e., Chan's) ON (performing; as "You're on after the intermission.")

15d {TEA TIME}* - anagram (stranger) of I MEET AT

16d T(OPS)AIL - OPS (opportunities) contained in (in) TAIL (back)

17d RIO|T ACT - {RIO TACT} (some Brazilian diplomacy); Note: this wordplay works best when read as a phrase "Rio tact"

18d S|CURRY - S (salt) + (and) CURRY (spicy seasoning)

19d SERAPH* - anagram (rattled) of SHERPA; "being up high" means "a being who dwells in the heavens"

Signing off for today - Falcon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010 (DT 26130)

This puzzle, set by Jay, was originally published Wednesday, January 6, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


Given the fact that I managed to complete the puzzle without the need to resort to my Tool Chest, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this puzzle had garnered a three star rating for difficulty from Big Dave. However, before I could become too smug, I noticed that many of the Brits questioned that assessment suggesting that Big Dave may have been overly generous in handing out stars.

Today's Glossary

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

cavalier - noun 1 (Cavalier) historical a supporter of King Charles I in the English Civil War

co-ed - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 2. (Social Science / Education) Brit a school or college providing coeducation

gen - noun Brit. informal information

REME - abbreviation (Corps of) Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: a corps of the British Army

RU - abbreviation rugby union

Today's Links

Big Dave's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26130].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

3a Intimidated by school admitting women (5)

In Britain, the word "co-ed", when used as a noun, means "a school or college providing coeducation" whereas in North America it means "a female student in a coeducational college or university". Imagine the image created in the mind of a North American should a British student happen to mention that he had gained entry to a co-ed.

In this clue, "school" is used to mean co-ed and the wordplay is COED (school) containing (admitting) W (women) to produce the solution COWED (intimidated). Note that the entire phrase "school admitting women" presumably could mean co-ed (in the British sense).

1d Floods area and struts around with no resistance initially (9)

To be picky (a practice that is generally encouraged in Crosswordland), I would say that Big Dave may have flagged the wrong R to be dropped in his write-up. There are two Rs in AREA STRUTS and I believe that the instruction is to drop the first one (no resistance initially).

Signing off for today - Falcon

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010 (DT 26129)

This puzzle, attributed to Ray T, was originally published Tuesday, January 5, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph


Although Gazza felt that today's puzzle deserved only two stars for difficulty, I found it considerably more challenging than that. Of course, any puzzle containing Cockney rhyming slang automatically gets an extra star in my book.

Today's Glossary

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

AB2 - abbreviation 1 Brit able seaman

afters - plural noun Brit. informal the dessert course of a meal

bod - noun informal 2 chiefly Brit. a person

bodega - noun (in Spanish-speaking countries) a cellar or shop selling wine, or both wine and groceries

DI - abbreviation 2 Detective Inspector

grass - verb 2 (often grass on) Brit. informal inform the police of someone’s criminal activity or plans

Hans Geiger - German physicist who developed the Geiger counter

Harrow School - a public (meaning private) school located in Harrow, England

ironmonger - noun Brit. a retailer of tools and other hardware

lift - noun 1 Brit. a platform or compartment housed in a shaft for raising and lowering people or things [Note: it would be called an elevator in North America]

porky -noun (also porky-pie) Brit. rhyming slang a lie [Note: "Rhyming slang is a form of slang in spoken and written English in which a word is replaced by a rhyming word, typically the last word of a two- or three-word phrase with the effect that the meaning of the spoken or written words is not obvious to receivers who are not familiar with the code. ... The part of the coded phrase that rhymes with the original word is typically, but not always, omitted to further strengthen the code ..." Thus, "Porky pie" (which rhymes with "lie") serves as a substitute for the word "lie". When the word "pie" is dropped, we are left with "Porky" meaning "lie". ]

PT - abbreviation physical training

RU - abbreviation rugby union

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26129].

There is a fair bit of discussion on Big Dave's blog about the use of the word "bum" as an anagram indicator - with the consensus appearing to be that it was not only appropriate but rather amusing. The way the puzzle was printed in the National Post, the clue for 16d appeared almost directly beside the one for 1d. I must say that the juxtaposition of these two clues makes for quite an amusing image. For the benefit of those who may no longer have the puzzle near at hand the two clues are "Lower skirt, being embraced by stunner" followed by "Lift to reveal bum".

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

26a He barely takes part in match! (8)

While it didn't take place in a sports stadium, one of my favourite episodes of streaking occurred during the 46th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1974 (which you can watch here). Although I must say that it is a bit disconcerting to learn that, rather than being a spontaneous exhibition capped by a marvelous ad lib by David Niven, the whole episode may have been not only scripted, but rehearsed.

5d He's nuts! (10)

Here, it would appear that the 's is a contraction for the word "is". However, that is not the case, and it is actually a contraction for the word "has", meaning that the clue is really telling us that "He has nuts!". Resisting the temptation to engage in puerile humour, I note that the clue could be referring to a grocer (who might sell fruits and nuts, among other things). But today the setter has another kind of nut in mind - the kind North Americans would buy at a hardware store.

Signing off for today - Falcon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 (DT 26128)

This puzzle, set by Rufus, was originally published Monday, January 4, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph

The National Post has skipped DT 26127 which was published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, January 2, 2010


Today's puzzle was perhaps a tad more difficult than the typical "Monday" fare - but one that I personally quite enjoyed.

Today's Glossary

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

bazooka - a brasswind musical instrument (from which the likely much better known anti-tank weapon derives its name)

brae - noun Scottish a steep bank or hillside

three-quarter - noun rugby any of the four players positioned between the full back and the scrum half and stand-off half

Today's Links

Rishi's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26128].

Were the Brits still suffering the aftereffects of their New Year's Eve celebrations? Many of them seem to be in an especially surly mood today.

Surgical Separation

The British bloggers sometimes speak of the need to "lift and separate" in solving a clue. The phrase comes from an advertising campaign once waged by a manufacturer of brassieres. In the cryptic crossword context, the phrase describes a situation where the component words of a well known phrase must be split into two separate parts, usually with one part contributing to the definition and the other part to the wordplay.

I have found an example of "lift and separate" in a review by Peter Biddlecombe of Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2524. The clue is:

[ST 2524] 5d Only half fared well in guest house (8)

This is a hidden word type clue where the wordplay instructs us to take half the letters (only half) of the phrase "fareD WELL IN Guest" to get DWELLING, a word meaning "house". Note that in the surface reading, we see "guest house" as a single unit. However, in the cryptic reading, we must "lift and separate" the two components, with "guest" forming part of the wordplay and "house" serving as the definition.

An example of this from today's puzzle is:

6d Mock taken around start of school recess (4)

Here, "school recess" which is a single entity in the surface reading, must be split into two components, with "school" being part of the wordplay and "recess" forming the definition.

In today's puzzle, we also find a couple of clues where we must go beyond a mere "lift and separate" operation - we are required to perform a surgical separation.

13a One breaks a little backbone (5)

In the cryptic reading, we must surgically separate "backbone" so that the clue reads:

One breaks a little back /\ bone

In this case, one of the components resulting from the surgical separation contributes to the wordplay, while the second serves as the definition. The definition is "bone" and the wordplay is I (one) contained in (breaks) a reversal of (back) {A BIT (little)} giving the solution TIBIA [{A(I)|BIT}<].

21d I have innate artlessness (7)

Once again, we need to perform a surgical separation to reveal the wordplay.

I have in nate /\ artlessness

In this case, the two components resulting from the surgical separation both contribute to the wordplay. The definition is "artlessness" for which the solution is NAIVETE. The wordplay tells us that IVE ("I have" or I've) is contained in (in) NATE [NA(IVE)TE].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

1a Unlikely opportunity given to prisoner released on parole (7,6)

I thought that Rishi's observation that being on parole "gives [a prisoner] an opportunity ... to escape" to be a bit strange. Surely, if he is on parole, he has no need to escape. Perhaps Rishi meant that if the parolee does not violate the conditions of his parole, he can escape (avoid) being sent back to prison.

30a Flying combination of cardinal and count (7)

You will be in trouble if you try to read this as a standard cryptic clue, for it is actually a cryptic definition. The sense of the clue is "Combine a word meaning 'cardinal' and a word meaning 'count' to get the name of something that can fly".

22d A man in love may well get married (7)

Despite getting the correct solution, I must admit that I failed (unlike Rishi) to notice the anagram - leaving me scratching my head as to the meaning of the wordplay.

Signing off for today - Falcon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 (DT 26126)

This puzzle, set by Giovanni, was originally published Friday, January 1, 2010 in The Daily Telegraph

The National Post has skipped DT 26124 and DT 26125 which were published in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 and Thursday, December 31, 2009 respectively


The posting is late as I had a lot going on yesterday. I had occasion to spend several hours at a rather isolated location during which there were long stretches of inactivity. I had lots of time to work on the puzzle - but no access to a computer. Even without my Tool Chest, I managed to solve most of the puzzle. Despite my best efforts, the northeast quadrant remained incomplete until I could get online. I also had to do a web search to find the literary work at 21d (not being familiar with this novel although I have read another work, Tom Jones, by the same author). I did give myself a hearty pat on the back for having correctly deciphered the obscure Latin term at 15a - although I was not sure of my answer until I had a chance to check it in the dictionary (and it would seem to appear in very few dictionaries). Finally, I must say that I derived the most satisfaction for having tracked down the solution to 13a which Gazza says "may be a total mystery to anyone who is not into rugby".

Today's Glossary

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

A1 - the longest numbered road in the U.K., connecting London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.

absit omen - Latin may the presentiment not become real or take place

Amelia - a novel by English writer Henry Fielding

Imagist - a member of Imagism, a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry

jolly - [Collins English Dictionary] noun 3. Brit slang a Royal Marine

strop - noun Brit. informal a temper

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26126].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

9a A component of this scheme may be A1 (4,3)

Here "scheme" does not mean "a secret or underhand plan or plot" but rather it is used in the sense of "a systematic plan or arrangement for achieving a particular object or effect" - for which another term could be ROAD MAP. The A1 is the longest numbered road in the U.K., connecting London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.

13a Swinger at England's rugby matches? (7)

Just as fans of the Boston Red Sox sing Neil Diamond's hit Sweet Caroline during every game, fans of the England rugby team sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. This song "has been sung by English rugby players and fans for some decades, but became associated with the English national side, in particular, in 1988." From Gazza's account, somewhat suspect due to his self-admitted position as an ardent supporter of Wales, fans of England do not sing it with anything approaching a Southern Baptist gospel tempo. His description hardly makes it sound to be as stirring an experience as a rendition of Sweet Caroline at Fenway Park.

Signing off for today - Falcon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010 (DT 26123)

This puzzle, almost certainly set by Shamus, was originally published Tuesday, December 29, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph


Big Dave seems to have found this puzzle to be easier to solve than I did. However, I did struggle for a long time with a number of terms - such as 3d (a cricket term) and 14d. I note with some satisfaction that not all the Brits had an easy time with it.

Today's Glossary

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

A1 - the longest number road in the United Kingdom, connecting London, England with Edinburgh, Scotland

red-top - (likely Brit.) a tabloid newspaper characterized by sensationalism (from the colour of the masthead on these publications)

sight screen - noun Cricket a large white screen placed near the boundary in line with the wicket to help the batsman see the ball

tyre - British spelling of tire (automobile component)

U2 - adjective Brit colloq said especially of language: typical of or acceptable to the upper classes [thus, by extension, posh]

Today's Links

Big Dave's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26123].

I am quite sure that this puzzle can be attributed to Shamus. NathanJ says "I greatly enjoyed this puzzle and agree with you that it looks like a Shamus one" (although I cannot find any evidence that Big Dave actually states that it is by Shamus). However, Shamus does leave a comment on Big Dave's blog - a pretty solid confirmation of his authorship.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

9a Poor area losing hospital getting good number for meeting (3-8)

I must say that I initially failed to detect the old cryptic crossword chestnut sitting in this clue - only noticing it as I reverse engineered the wordplay after having found the solution. Here, "number" is not a numerical value but, rather, something that numbs (an old anesthetic, to be precise).

I had wondered if the Brits would take issue with the word "getting" appearing in the clue when the sequence "get" appears twice in the solution. However, this does not seem to have ruffled any British feathers.

20a Retired Irish singer in part of Venice (6)

I incorrectly assumed that R must be an abbreviation for "retired" (no doubt, one to be found in an unabridged version of Chambers) and I the abbreviation for "Irish". But no, it seems that the abbreviation for Irish is IR and that this is reversed (retired) to get RI. It had escaped my mind that, in cryptic crosswordland, retired means reversed. Since I am retired, does that mean that I am reversed? I would certainly like to believe that I am getting younger every day!

27a Minute prosaic comic faltered without sign of appreciation (11)

Here, "sign of appreciation" indicates the first letter of the word "appreciation" which is similar to the use in 16a of "hints of ..." to signify the first letters of the words which follow. Big Dave ponders "I’m not too sure about this one, do you think it works?". I guess, if hints works, why wouldn't sign?

29a Part of car, exhaust by the sound of it (4)

In North America, since both words are spelled t-i-r-e, the homophone clue loses most of its relevance. In fact, on this side of the Atlantic, we could almost say "Part of car, exhaust by the look of it". Of course, not only would that be a rather odd-sounding clue, but the checking letters require that the solution adopt the British spelling.

14d Tabloid reported in a mess, about to disappear (3-3)

I spent a very long time tracking down the solution for this clue, which I suspect is a British term as I only managed to find it in Collins. Having expended so much energy in the search, it seems that I must have had nothing left with which to decipher the wordplay. In any event, I discovered as I read Big Dave's review that I had forgotten to revisit this clue, as I had originally intended, to analyse the wordplay.

23d Whole property having domestic fixture by yard (5)

I am afraid that my analysis of this clue was somewhat nebulous. I eventually concluded that the definition is "whole property" with the solution being UNITY (the state of being united or forming a whole). The wordplay then would signify a charade of UNIT (domestic fixture) + (by) Y (yard), with the word "having" serving as a linkword between the definition and wordplay.

I was a bit uncertain whether the word "property" belonged in the definition or in the wordplay. That is, I was considering an alternative interpretation which would have had the definition of UNITY being just the word "whole" with UNIT being denoted by "property having domestic fixture".

I suspect from Big Dave's review, which implies that "domestic fixture" = "kitchen UNIT" that the word "unit" may have a usage in Britain in this context that is - if not different - at least one that is less generic and perhaps more commonly used than it is here. I note that Oxford gives, as one definition of unit, "a device, part, or item of furniture with a specified function: a sink unit" which could be a "domestic fixture".

Signing off for today - Falcon

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010 - In and Out of the Cocoon


Get your nets ready. In today's puzzle, Cox and Rathvon take us through some stages in the life cycle of members of the order lepidoptera. While being, as usual, an interesting puzzle, I did think that it posed a bit more of a challenge than usual. It should prove to be an especially enjoyable treat for those who like charades.

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

3d Fat Albert ending in disaster (5)

Perhaps this clue should have read "Fat Albert beginning in disaster". I initially thought that this was a hidden word clue where the solution FATAL is hidden in "FAT ALbert". However, this approach itself turned into a bit of a disaster. Would the definition be "ending in disaster" or merely "disaster"? I had to think that it would be the former, as the definition of fatal should be disastrous, not disaster. However, if the definition were "ending in disaster" then there would seem to be no hidden word indicator unless the word(s) "ending" and/or "in" is/are doing double duty as part of the definition and part of the wordplay. I also examined briefly whether the clue might have been intended to be a cryptic definition.

I eventually threw out most of the above analysis, having decided that the clue is actually a charade (Surprise! Surprise!) of FAT + AL (short for Albert) with the definition being "ending in disaster".

6d Some type of snake, in fairness, rattled (4,5)

I have to conclude that S must be used here as an abbreviation for "snake" although I have not found any source which shows this as being a recognized abbreviation. Perhaps it comes from road signs which indicate a crooked road ahead with a symbol that looks like an S with an arrowhead on one end. Such signs are sometimes said to mark a "snake in the road". I also considered (and rejected) the notion that the S might be indicated by the phrase "some type of snake" [i.e., the first letter ("some type" as in typesetting) of the word "snake"], meaning that the words "some type" would need to serve both as the definition and as part of the wordplay - highly atypical for Cox and Rathvon, I think. As always, I welcome your comments should you see something that I may have missed.

Solution to Today's Puzzle

Legend: "CD" Cryptic Definition; "DD" Double Definition

"*" anagram; "~" sounds like; "<" letters reversed

"( )" letters inserted; "_" letters deleted

1a LUCIFER* - anagram (funny) of CRUEL IF

5a HAS|HIS|H - charade of HAS (enjoys) + HIS (the guy's) + H (heroin)

9a MA|MET - charade of MA (mother) + MET (was introduced to); David Mamet: American playwright

10a STRANG(L)ER - L (left) contained in (wearing) STRANGER (unidentified person)

11a RU(ST)LER - RULER (monarch) containing (imprisoning) ST (saint)

12a MA(SO)NIC - MANIC (very excited) containing (about) SO (true; as in "I swear it is so"); Masonic Temple: the premises of a Masonic Lodge, the basic organizational unit within the Freemasonry fraternal order

13a CATER|PILLAR - charade of CATER (supply provisions) + PILLAR (supporting upright); Caterpillar Inc.: manufacturer of construction, mining and industrial equipment

18a B|UTTER|F|LIES - charade of B (starting with beginner's initial; i.e., the charade starts with the initial letter of the word "beginner") + UTTER (tell) + F (false) + LIES (stories)

21a _ALM|AN|AC_ - hidden in (in) psALM AN ACknowledged

23a A(TT)ACHE - {T + T} (two tons) contained in (kept in) {A + ACHE (pine)} [Note: a charade within a charade]

25a BETROTHAL* - anagram (put off) of LATER BOTH

26a PEST|O - charade of PEST (annoying person) + O (orange)

27a DUNE|DIN = charade of DIN (loud noise) following (east of; i.e., to the right of) DUNE (coastal hill)

28a W(I|ZEN)ED - WED (marry) containing (embracing) {I (one) + ZEN (form of Buddhism)} [Note: a container holding a charade]


1d LIME|RICK - charade of RICK (Moranis) following (getting behind) LIME (green); Rick Moranis: Canadian comedian

2d C(A|MPS)ITE - CITE (quote) containing (about) {A + MPS (politician's)} [Note: a container holding a charade]
3d FAT|AL_ - charade of FAT + AL (short for Albert); see Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4d RES(TRAIN)T - TRAIN (entourage) contained in (among) REST (others)

5d HARE|M - charade of HARE (hopper) + M (male)

6d {SANS (S)ERIF}* - S (snake) contained in (in) an anagram (rattled) of FAIRNESS; see Commentary on Today's Puzzle

7d IS|L|AND - charade of IS + L (large) + AND (also)

8d HORACE* - anagram (muffed) of A CHORE; Horace: Roman poet

14d ROB|IN HOOD - charade of ROB (steal from) + IN (popular) + HOOD (gangster)

15d LIE F|ALLOW - charade of LIEF (willingly) + ALLOW (let)

16d DIOCESAN* - anagram (playing) of DEACON IS

17d A|STEROID - charade of A + STEROID (muscle-enhancing drug)

19d BAR|BED - charade of BAR (rail) + (in front of) BED (cot)

20d A(MY |T)AN - {A + AN} (two articles) containing (about) {MY + T (time)}; Amy Tan: American writer [Note: a charade within a charade]

22d CO|HEN - double definition with the second being cryptic; Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and "co-hen", a playful definition of "fellow chicken" (extrapolated from such usages as co-author, co-pilot, etc.)

24d TO|PAZ - charade of TO (in honour of, as might be said in proposing a toast) + PAZ; Octavio Paz: Mexican poet

Signing off for today - Falcon

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010 (DT 26122)

This puzzle, set by Rufus, was originally published Monday, December 28, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph

The National Post has skipped DT 26121 which was published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, December 26, 2009


As the Daily Telegraph did not publish on Christmas Day, we jump ahead to the puzzle published on Monday, December 28, 2009. This ends a run of a couple of weeks during which the puzzles were published in the National Post on the same day of the week that they first appeared in the U.K.

This puzzle may have been slightly more difficult than the average Monday puzzle, but it had what I thought to be some rather clever clues (I especially enjoyed 7d and 13d, which each brought a huge smile to my face when I finally got them). I thought that their appeal might be mainly due to their newness to me - and wondered how novel they might be for the Brits and what they might think of them. It was good to see that they were also well received across the Atlantic.

Today's Glossary

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

Association Football - noun more formal term for SOCCER

Eton - Eton College, a public school located in Eton, England [Note: In the U.K., in a bizarre twist (to North Americans, at least), a public school is "a private fee-paying secondary school"].

Today's Links

Rishi's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26122].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

24a Handy aid to warmth (4)

A cryptic definition for something one would use to warm one's hands. From my research, I also discovered that muff has a vulgar slang sense, new to me, but whose usage must be quite widespread since I found it in both British and American dictionaries. This could also serve as a pleasant spot to warm one's hands - for at least one of the parties.

8d Football club? (11)

What much of the rest of the world calls soccer, the Brits call football - or, more formally, Association Football. I did learn one new and interesting fact today. The origin of the word soccer is actually the "shortening of Assoc from ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL" [Note: if you happen to believe that "soccer" is not shorter than "Assoc", please refer you comments to Oxford.].

Signing off for today - Falcon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010 (DT 26120)

This puzzle, attributed to Rufus, was originally published Thursday, December 24, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph


Those who read the "pedigree" data above, will have noted that this puzzle was published in the U.K. on Christmas Eve. Not only does this explain the rather unseasonable theme of the puzzle, it should also assist in solving many of the clues. The puzzle is full of typically British (although not entirely unknown in Canada) Christmas traditions such as pantomimes and Christmas crackers.

I must say that it was definitely not the easiest puzzle that I have ever encountered. However, I did manage to complete it - but not without taking a few excursions down dead end streets.

Today's Glossary

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

champers - noun informal, chiefly Brit. champagne

cracker - noun 1 a paper cylinder which, when pulled apart, makes a sharp noise and releases a small toy or other novelty

crackers - adjective informal, chiefly Brit. insane; crazy

Idle Jack (or sometimes, seemingly, Jack Idle) - Jack, the idle apprentice, a character in the pantomime Dick Whittington and His Cat

Festive Board - a part of a meeting of Free Masons devoted to social activities and partaking of refreshments

OS - abbreviation 4 (as a size of clothing) outsize [British term for what in North America would generally be called plus-size (or sometimes big and tall in the case of men's clothing)]

panto - noun Brit. informal a pantomime

pantomime - noun 1 Brit. a theatrical entertainment involving music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy, usually produced around Christmas

Robinson Crusoe - one of the popular themes for British pantomimes

scarper - verb Brit. informal run away

wait - noun 2 (waits) Brit. archaic street singers of Christmas carols

Today's Links

Libellule's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26120].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4a Where Cinderella goes at end of panto, away on coach (3-5)

Since a "coach" could be a stage (short for stagecoach), it is a bit ironic that Cinderella would go OFF-STAGE "on coach". I did wonder whether this meaning for stage might be specific to North America, but this would not appear to be the case.

9a Lucky things to find in crackers? (6)

Although I can see no real connection to Christmas crackers, might this this be a reference to Lucky Charms breakfast cereal? I'm not sure whether this product is even sold in the U.K.

14a Party includes a number in religious group (4)

While both party and set can denote a group of people, I certainly don't believe the terms are interchangeable. Thus, I experienced some difficulty in getting my mind around the fact that they could be considered synonyms. One thesaurus defines party as "a band of people associated temporarily in some activity" (e.g., "they organized a party to search for food") and set as "an unofficial association of people or groups" (e.g., "the smart set goes there"). I suppose these words might be about as closely related as are the words herd and flock, both of which denote a collection of animals - but one would speak neither of a herd of sheep nor a flock of cattle.

17a Trio with stable bearings (5,4,3)

The THREE WISE MEN clearly had directions (bearings) to the stable. Since an anagram of miens (a word meaning bearings) is found in Three Wise Men, I thought that the answer itself might be an anagram. However, I was unable to find one.

31a Pantomime character off course (6)

As I recall, this pantomime character was shipwrecked when the ship on which he was travelling was blown "off course".

7d Come to life in an all night party (6)

Even after convincing myself that this "all night party" is not a rave, it took a while to get my mind around the wordplay in this clue. The definition is "come to life" for which the solution is AWAKEN. The order of the wordplay is inverted and must be read with an appropriate pause to convey the sense intended by the setter; i.e., "in an, all night party" which instructs us to put WAKE (all night party) in AN. While many may think of a wake as a visitation or "a watch or vigil held beside the body of someone who has died" (occurring prior to a funeral), in Ireland a wake is "a party held after a funeral" - one that presumably may last through the night.

15d Kind of ribbon used for decorations (5)

After wrestling with party and set at 14a, I'm having even more difficulty here with ribbon and medal. Unless I am misreading the clue or missing some nuance, this clue seems to be suggesting that a "ribbon" is a MEDAL. According to Oxford, a medal is "a metal disc with an inscription or design, awarded for achievement or to commemorate an event" and a ribbon is "[a long, narrow strip of fabric] of a special colour or design awarded as a prize or worn to indicate the holding of an honour". A medal is a decoration and a medal may have a ribbon attached to it (in fact, it may have both a ribbon bar and a suspension ribbon). Loosely speaking, the ribbon might be considered to be part of the medal or decoration. The ribbon bar may sometimes be worn without the medal. Oh well, perhaps ribbons and medals are close enough to pass for each other in Crosswordland.

27d Winter coat, perhaps (4)

Perhaps being Canadian, I opted for a thick winter coat, wrongly thinking that the solution might be SNOW. Keep in mind that winters are much milder in Britain, so you will need a much thinner coat.

24a Just an unknown feature on the tree (5)

While a FAIRY is not something that I would particularly associate with Christmas, and certainly not something that I ever recall seeing on a Christmas tree, apparently this is a popular Christmas ornament judging by the number of hits that a search for "Christmas fairy ornament" returns. While I detected no evidence to suggest that this is a particularly British custom, I suppose that the use of fairies in this manner would hardly be surprising based on their general popularity in today's culture.

"Merry Christmas To All, and To All a Good Night" - Falcon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 (DT 26119)

This puzzle, set by Jay, was originally published Wednesday, December 23, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph


I found today's puzzle to be pretty much on a par with the one we saw yesterday. Again I managed to get through most of it unaided, only needing my Tool Chest on the last two or three clues.

Today's Glossary

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

nit - noun informal 2 Brit. a stupid person

OS - abbreviation 3 ordinary seaman

River Severn - the longest river in Great Britain

shop - verb 3 informal, chiefly Brit. inform on

Today's Links

Tilsit's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26119].

Tilsit suggests that the clue for 7d is not "politically correct", although few visitors to Big Dave's blog seemed to agree with him. I can only guess that he must be objecting to the use of the term mincing ("walk in an affected manner with short, quick steps and swinging hips"), a term that may be applied to the affected manner of walking that is characteristic of certain gay men. He also raises an objection to 25a in yesterday's puzzle. I am assuming that he is offended not merely by the appearance of the word bum, but rather by the context in which it was used ("Does her bum look big in this?"). Although the clue would have been rather nonsensical, I wonder if it would raise the same objection if it had read "Does his bum look big in this?" (i.e., if the crinoline had been on the other bum).

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

6d Heartless trio getting birch, for example (4)

"Heartless" is often used as an instruction to delete the middle letter from a word. Thus, upon seeing this clue I absent-mindedly thought delete H from THREE (trio) to get TREE (of which birch is an example) - in the process failing to recognize that H is not the middle letter of the word "three". Tilsit took the same approach but, to his credit, he did observe that H was in the wrong position for this wordplay to work. It was Gazza to the rescue, pointing out that in this case "heart" does not refer to the middle letter in the word but the H in the word (with H as an abbreviation for "heart" coming from the suit in a deck of cards).

By the way, Franny proposes a rather innovative alternative solution - a bit along the lines of some of the unusual solutions that I have been known to dream up from time to time.

Signing off for today - Falcon

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 (DT 26118)

This puzzle, set by Ray T, was originally published Tuesday, December 22, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph


Today's puzzle seems to offer proof of my recent observation that the general pattern of puzzles becoming progressively more difficult through the week doesn't always hold true. I found it to be considerably less difficult than yesterday's puzzle - and only needed to resort to my Tool Chest for help with a couple of clues.

Today's Glossary

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

gaol - [Collins English Dictionary] noun & verb Brit a variant spelling of jail

knock for six - Brit. informal utterly surprise

naff - Brit. informal verb 1 (naff off) go away 2 naffing used to emphasize annoyance; adjective lacking taste or style (ORIGIN the verb is a euphemism for FUCK; the origin of the adjective is unknown)

tiddler - noun Brit. informal 1 a small fish. 2 a young or unusually small person or thing

Today's Links

Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26118].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4d Repeat endless rubbish, usually naff initially (5)

It took a while for the penny to drop here. I recognized that the solution is RERUN, but at first I thought that the definition might be "repeat" with "usually naff initially" indicating UN (the initial letters of the words "usually naff"). That would have left the first part (RER) being clued as "endless rubbish". I searched in vain for a four letter word matching the pattern RER? and meaning rubbish. Eventually, it hit me that this is most likely intended to be an &lit. clue in which the entire clue is both the definition and the wordplay. The wordplay instructs us to use the initial letters of "repeat endless rubbish usually naff" producing RERUN. The clue also is a snide comment on the quality of television programming which the setter characterizes as ceaseless repetition of trash, most of which would have been considered tasteless on first showing.

1d Lads' mags? (6)

I thought that there must be more to this clue than what is immediately evident - but apparently not. It seems that it is merely a cryptic suggestion that boys read COMICS. In my research, I did stumble across the fact that an otherwise unidentified early twentieth century American cartoonist signed his work LADS. However, I deemed this to be far too obscure to be relevant.

13d Bowled over and knocked for six (10)

My initial reaction to this clue was rather negative. "Bowled over" means the same thing in Britain as it does in North America, namely ASTONISHED. Furthermore, "knocked for six" is a British term meaning astonished. Clearly, if this were intended to be simply a double definition, it would be a very poor one as both definitions mean exactly the same thing. However, after a bit of deliberation, I concluded that the two parts of the clue are intended to have a cricket connotation - which would no doubt be lost on many North Americans (and perhaps even some Brits!). An over is a period in a cricket match during which six balls are bowled, so I suppose a bowler would be said to have "bowled an over" or, more tersely "bowled over". Furthermore, a ball hit such that it crosses the boundary of the field in the air counts for six runs. Thus, a cricket player might have bowled an over and, when he got his chance as batsman, hit (knocked) the ball for a six-pointer. This would be somewhat analogous to the summary of a baseball game which might state "The player pitched four innings and hit a home run." Does reading the clue in the context of a cricket game make it acceptable? I'll let you be the judge.

Footnote: Since the Brits were nearly unanimous in their condemnation of this clue (due to the two definitions being essentially identical) and none of them raised the cricket connotations, I am left to wonder whether - having been burned so often in the past by cricket related clues - I am beginning to see allusions to cricket where none are intended.

Signing off for today - Falcon