Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012 - British Imposter


Today's puzzle seemed more difficult than the typical Cox and Rathvon opus. It also appeared to contain a surprisingly large number of British expressions. I actually toyed with the idea of titling the review "Cox and Rathvon visit Britain". However, the deeper I got into the puzzle, the more and more it felt like a British puzzle. And, in fact, that is just what it is. This is not a Cox and Rathvon puzzle at all. It is a puzzle (DT 26912) that was published on Saturday, July 7, 2012 in The Daily Telegraph in Britain.

The National Post runs puzzles from The Daily Telegraph on weekdays, but they appear in the Post about two and one-half months after they were first published in the UK. For a considerable period of time now, the National Post has not carried puzzles which appear on Saturday in Britain. Therefore, it is a bit of a mystery how this Saturday puzzle of such recent vintage has managed to find its way into the National Post.

I only discovered this fact after I had nearly completed my review. Had I figured out the provenance of the puzzle earlier, I could have just referred you to Crypticsue's review of the puzzle at Big Dave's Crossword Blog. Perhaps you may find it interesting to compare a Canadian review and a British review of the puzzle.

For those reader's who were not previously familiar with British cryptic crossword puzzles, I hope you enjoyed this unexpected introduction to them.

Solution to Today's Puzzle

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

"( )" letters inserted; "_" letters deleted; "†" explicit in the clue


1a   SHERPA* - anagram (turn of) PHRASE

4a   S(TOCK) CAR - TOCK (watch sound; alternating with tick) contained in (having ... outside) SCAR (sign of damage to bodywork)
Note: the sentence structure of the clue is inverted to created a meaningful surface reading.
10a   IN|CUR - IN (popular) + CUR (dog)

11a   PLAIN|TIFF - PLAIN (simple) + TIFF (falling-out)

12a   FELL|IN|I - FELL IN (collapsed) + (near) I (island)
Federico Fellini[7] (1920 – 1993) was an Italian film director and scriptwriter. Known for a distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images, he is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century, and is widely revered. He won five Academy Awards and was nominated for 12 in a career that spanned over forty years.
13a   FLATTER - double definition; "less interesting" & "flannel"
Flannel[4] is British slang meaning indirect or evasive talk or deceiving flattery.
14a   {LABOUR EXCHANGE}* - anagram (criminal) of BEGAN CRUEL HOAX
In Britain, labour exchange is a former name for employment office.
17a   {BRISTOL FASHION}* - anagram (in poor repair) of LOR BOATS FINISH
Lor[5] is a British exclamation used to indicate surprise or dismay Lor, look at that! Isn’t it horrible?.

Bristol fashion is a dated British expression meaning in good order or neat and clean it gave him pleasure to keep things shipshape and Bristol fashion.
21a   RUB|ICON - RUB (polish) + ICON (religious symbol)
"Crossing the Rubicon"[7] is a metaphor for deliberately proceeding past a point of no return. The phrase originates with Julius Caesar's seizure of power in the Roman Republic in 49 BC. Roman generals were strictly forbidden to bring their troops into the home territory of the Republic in Italy. On 10 January, Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River, crossing from the province of Gaul into Italy. After this, if he did not triumph, he would be executed. Therefore the term "the Rubicon" is used as a synonym to the "point of no return".
23a   EMIN|ENT - EMIN (famous modern artist) + (on) ENT (hospital ward; ear, nose, and throat)
Tracey Emin[7] is an English artist and part of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists).

Highlights of her work include Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliqu├ęd with names, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and My Bed (shown at right), an installation at the Tate Gallery consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with used condoms and blood-stained underwear.
24a   PHARISAIC* -
The Pharisees[5] were an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. The term Pharisee has come to mean a self-righteous or hypocritical person. Thus the adjective Pharisaic would mean self-righteous or hypocritical.
25a   EG|HAM - EG (among others; e.g. being the abbreviation for exempli gratia[3,4] - Latin meaning 'for the sake of example' or, more commonly, 'for example') + HAM (exuberant actor)
Egham[7] is a small town in the Runnymede borough of Surrey, a county in the south-east of England. It is part of the London commuter belt and Greater London Urban Area, and is about 20 miles (32.2 km) south-west of central London on the River Thames.
26a   RESIGNED - almost a double definition; "gave up job" & "agreed a new contract"
When the word is used with the second meaning, it is spelled RE-SIGNED. Thus this cannot truly be a double definition — but it certainly comes close.
27a   MY|_OPIC - MY (this person's) + {[T]OPIC (subject) without the initial T (fails to start)}


1d   SEINFELD* - anagram (funny) of LINES FED
Jerry Seinfeld[7] is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and television and film producer, best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998).
2d   EX|CALIBUR~ - EX (former) + CALIBUR {sounds like (spoken of) CALIBRE (quality)}
Brand[10] is an archaic (or poetic) term for a sword. Excalibur[5] is (in Arthurian legend) King Arthur’s magic sword.
3d   P(URL|IE)U_ - {URL (internet address) + IE (that is; i.e.[3,4] being the abbreviation for id est - Latin meaning 'it is')} contained in (in) {PU[B] (bar) without its final letter (mostly)}

5d   TRAFFIC| OF|FENCE - TRAFFIC (dealings)  + OF ('s) + FENCE ('hot' trader; i.e., someone who trades in 'hot' — or stolen — goods)
Another way of saying "'Hot' trader's dealings" would be "dealings of 'hot' trader".
6d   CAN|TATA - CAN (preserve) + TATA (farewell)
Tata[5] is a British way to say goodbye well, I’ll say ta-ta, love.
7d   CLINT_ - CLINT[ON] (ex-president [Bill Clinton[7]]) with the ON removed (won't take on)
Clint Eastwood[7] is an American film actor, director, producer, composer, and politician.
8d   RE(FOR)M - FOR (in favour of) contained in (broaching) REM (old rock band)
R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry.
9d   {UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE}* - anagram (rudely) of CADDIES WOKEN UP

15d   GUIDESHIP - GUIDE (take tiller) SHIP (craft)
I initially interpreted the wordplay to be GUIDE SHIP (take tiller) and the definition to be "craft of girls' organization". Collins English Dictionary defines guideship[10] as an obsolete Scottish word meaning the position of a guide. Compare this to the definition of authorship[10] as being the profession of writing books. Thus, we might infer that the phrase "craft of guides" is equivalent to "position of guide" or "profession of guide". The Guides are, of course, a girls' organization.

I then discovered that Crypticsue, in reviewing the puzzle for Big Dave's Crossword Blog, had it as "GUIDE (take the tiller) and SHIP (craft) merge to form the activities of a Girl Guide". I will bow to her analysis, given that not only is she British, but she has about three decades more experience in solving cryptic crosswords than do I. I suppose that if a fellowship[10] is a society of people sharing mutual interests, experiences, activities, etc. or, in other words, a club then it only stands to reason that guideship must be a group of Girl Guides (by cryptic extension).

So, for this clue, you have a choice of explanations to select from.
16d   A|N|ATOMIC - A (†) + N (new) + ATOMIC (sort of energy)

18d   SACKING - double definition; "plundering" & "coarse material; i.e., coarse cloth used for making sacks"

19d   SP(I|DER)Y - {I ([Roman numeral for] one + DER (German [definite] article)} contained in (penned by) SPY (agent)
Spidery is an adjective meaning:
  • thin and straggly • spidery handwriting[2]
  • resembling a spider's web; very fine • spidery handwriting[3]
  • thin and angular like a spider's legs • spidery handwriting[4]
  • resembling a spider, especially having long, thin, angular lines like a spider’s legs the letters were written in a spidery hand[5]
So, we can observe that the Brits think that spidery handwriting looks like a spider's legs and the Yanks liken it to a spider's web!

The important point is that spidery is an adjective by any definition and the clue clearly seems to call for a noun ("untidy hand").
20d   PROP|ER - PROP (rugby player) + (has) ER (little hesitation; i.e., a short word used to express hesitation)

22d   _BRAS|S_ - hidden in (coming from) zeBRAS Skull
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 today – Falcon


  1. I had the same reaction about the British entries, but living in the US I couldn't rule out some of the terms being adopted in Canada. I was surprised that I never decided outright that this couldn't be Hex.
    (By the way, it probably was an accidental substitution, but the word you were looking for was "provenance," not "providence," no?)

    1. Hi Danchall,

      Welcome to the blog. Yes, you are absolutely correct regarding "provenance" (now corrected).

      It never seems to fail that when writing about the mistakes of others, one invariably makes a mistake of their own.


  2. I hear that the regular staffer was on vacation. They'll fix it next week with two puzzles.