Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014 — Shillyshallying to Absurdity


As I recall, today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon was fairly typical of their recent offerings. However, as I have been working on solving and blogging several puzzles simultaneously, it sometimes becomes difficult to keep them sorted out in my mind.

I invite you to leave a comment to let us know how you fared with the puzzle.

Solution to Today's Puzzle

Falcon's Experience
- solved without assistance
- incorrect prior to use of puzzle solving tools
- solved with assistance from puzzle solving tools
- solved with aid of checking letters provided by puzzle solving tools
- solved but without fully parsing the clue
- yet to be solved

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

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

Primary indications (definitions) are marked with a solid underline in the clue; subsidiary indications (be they wordplay or other) are marked with a dashed underline in all-in-one (& lit.) clues, semi-all-in-one (semi-& lit.) clues and cryptic definitions.


1a   Around five, observed // an odd number (5)

SE(V)EN — SEEN (observed) containing (around) V ([Roman numeral for] five)

For cryptic effect, the setters have employed an inverted sentence structure. I have used a standard sentence structure for clarity.

4a   Inherited // Lancaster cuckoo (9)

ANCESTRAL* — anagram (cuckoo) of LANCASTER

Lancaster[5] is a city in northwestern England, the county town of Lancashire, on the estuary of the River Lune; population 44,500 (est. 2009). Of course, it might also refer to any of at least twenty communities named Lancaster[7] in the United States or to others found in Canada and Australia. However, I would like to think that it is an allusion to American actor Burt Lancaster[7] (1913-1994) who starred in the 1962 film, The Birdman of Alcatraz.

9a   Tie // knots, ultimately, in a bed (5)

A(S)COT — S {knots ultimately; final letter (ultimately) of knotS} contained in (in) {A (†) + COT (bed)}

10a   Calls about English queen/’s/ factories (9)

C(ANNE)RIES — CRIES (calls) containing (about) ANNE (English queen)

Anne[7] (1665–1714) became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death.

11a   Back in the car, Yale reporter // timed competition (5,4)

{_R|ELAY| RAC|E_}< — reversed (back) and contained in (in) {thE CAR YALE Reporter}

12a   Famous old aviator // left the Indianapolis 500 (5)

L|INDY — L (left) + INDY (the Indianapolis 500)

The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race[7] (commonly known as the Indianapolis 500, the Indy 500, or simply the Indy) is an automobile race held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana over the Memorial Day weekend.

Charles Lindbergh[7] (1902–1974), nicknamed Lucky Lindy,  was an American aviator, who as a 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot, made the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic on May 20–21, 1927 in his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis

13a   Jude Law character entering frigid // mining area (9)

CO(ALFIE)LD — ALFIE (Jude Law character) contained in (entering) COLD (frigid)

In 2004, English actor Jude Law[7] portrayed the title character in Alfie, the remake of the 1966 film, playing the role originated by Michael Caine.

16a   Elton disturbed // Nick in the movies (5)

NOLTE* — anagram (disturbed) of ELTON

Is the surface reading an allusion to Sir Elton John[5]?

Nick Nolte[7] is an American actor who has been nominated for three Academy Awards, twice for Best Actor [The Prince of Tides (1991) and Affliction (1997)] and once for Best Supporting Actor [Warrior (2011)].

19a   Listener’s influenced // material (5)

SUEDE~ — sounds like (listener's; to the listener) SWAYED (influenced)

20a   Cry “Oops!,” e.g., breaking // device in a plane (9)

GYROSCOPE* — anagram (breaking) of CRY OOPS EG

21a   Fires // jazz band member in audition (5)

SACKS~ — sounds like (in audition) SAX (jazz band member)

23a   Paint mist swirling around // user of kettles? (9)

TIMPANIST* — anagram (swirling around) of PAINT MIST

26a   Keach and Fitzgerald returned // felines (5,4)

{ALLE|Y CATS}< — reversal (returned) of STACY (Keach) + (and) ELLA (Fitzgerald)

Stacy Keach[7] is an American actor and narrator.

Ella Fitzgerald[5] (1917–1996) was an American jazz singer, known for her distinctive style of scat singing.

27a   Dictation taker/’s/ scattered notes (5)

STENO* — anagram (scattered) of NOTES

28a   Part of a plane // right outside wing (9)

PROP(ELL)ER — PROPER (right) containing (outside) ELL (wing)

29a   Stick // salt in party spread (5)

PA(S)TE — S (salt) contained in (in) PATE (party spread)


1d   Phony music genre’s // green emblems (9)

SHAM|ROCKS — SHAM (phony) + ROCK (music genre) + S ('s)

2d   Waver /and/ leave, taking sick (9)

VAC(ILL)ATE — VACATE (leave) containing (taking) ILL (sick)

3d   Smart // lawyer after plaintiff’s heart (5)

N|ATTY — ATTY (lawyer; abbreviation for attorney) following (after) N {plaintiff's heart; middle letter (heart) of plaiNtiff}

4d   Air conditioning ruined car /in/ African city (5)

AC|CRA* — AC (air conditioning) + anagram (ruined) of CAR

Accra[5] is the capital of Ghana, a port on the Gulf of Guinea; population 1,970,400 (est. 2005).

5d   Fool, sensitive /and/ hopeful (9)

CON|TENDER — CON (fool; as a verb meaning to scam) + TENDER (sensitive)

In its role as the definition, "hopeful" is a noun.

6d   Rats with internal healthy // growths (9)

S(WELL)INGS — SINGS (rats; as a verb meaning to inform on) containing (with internal) WELL (healthy)

7d   Check about origin of Golden // Rule (5)

REI(G)N — REIN (check) containing (about) G {origin of Golden; initial letter of Golden}

This is an example of "lift and separate", a play on a phrase often encountered in brassiere advertising. It refers to a situation in which a seemingly single entity (in this case the term "Golden Rule") must be split into separate pieces with one piece forming part of the wordplay with the other piece being part — or all — of the definition.

8d   Middle of blue pen /is/ stout (5)

LU|STY — LU (middle [letters] of bLUe) + STY (pen)

14d   Unstructured // Flyer tees off (9)

FREESTYLE* — anagram (off) of FLYER TEES

15d   Game involving sticks /and/ big, lethal bats (9)

EIGHTBALL* — anagram (bats) of BIG LETHAL

Eightball[7] is one of several variant spellings of the North American name of a pool (pocket billiards) game popular in much of the world. Played on a pool table with six pockets, the game is so universally known in some countries that beginners are often unaware of other pool games and believe the word "pool" itself refers to eightball.

17d   0 - 9 in defeat: // absurdity (9)

LO(O|NINE)SS — {O ([letter that looks like] 0) + NINE (9)} contained in (in) LOSS (defeat)

18d   Conductor // put in a seat was a passenger (9)

ELECT|RODE — ELECT (put in a seat) + RODE (was a passenger)

21d   Soprano instrument /is/ out of tune, in a way (5)

S|HARP — S (soprano) + HARP (instrument)

Sharp[5] (said of musical sound) means above true or normal pitch.

22d   Instrument // battery operated, initially (5)

CELL|O — CELL (battery) + O (operated, initially; initial letter of Operated)

24d   Skinflint // is surrounded by sea in the Riviera (5)

M(IS)ER — IS (†) contained in (surrounded by) MER (sea in the Riviera)

Obviously, we are interested in the French Riviera and not the Italian Riviera.

Mer[8] is a French word meaning sea

The Riviera[5] is part of the Mediterranean coastal region of southern France and northern Italy, extending from Cannes to La Spezia, famous for its beauty, mild climate, and fashionable resorts.

25d   Returning, sit with a // storyteller (5)

{A|ESOP}< — reversal (returning) of {POSE (sit) + (with) A (†)}

Aesop[5] (6th century BC) was a Greek storyteller. The moral animal fables associated with him were probably collected from many sources, and initially communicated orally. Aesop is said to have lived as a slave on the island of Samos.


The title of today's post is inspired by 2d and 17d.
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)
[11] - (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. Hi Falcon,
    (A little off topic)
    I just did a short piece on my cryptic crossword blog about annotating cryptic answers. I suggested a "standard" would be good, but not all agree. What do you think? I like the way you do it, but noticed it's changed a bit since you first started: is this the result of feedback from solvers?
    (Is it possible for you to contact me off-air about other cryptic stuff?

    1. I had a look at the post on your blog.

      When I initially started my blog, I was unable to find a standard method for annotating puzzles. Thus I created my own -- in part, borrowing bits and pieces from various sources and, in part, creating my own annotations.

      The method has evolved over time, mainly due to experience with the use of the annotation. I don't recall a reader ever commenting on the annotation.

      The idea of underlining the definition was introduced by scchua on Big Dave's Crossword Blog. This practice has since been adopted by most of the reviewers on Big Dave's site.

      On my blog, I first introduced the additional practice of marking the wordplay in semi-&lit. clues by dashed underlining. Sometime later, I added the the additional step of marking the link words or phrases.

      By the way, the aforementioned scchua (who regularly reviews the Daily Telegraph Cryptic Crossword on Wednesday for Big Dave's Crossword Blog) has a very elaborate style of annotating clues. You might like to take a look at his reviews, if you haven't done so already.