Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016 — Twitcher's Delight


There seems to be a bit of an avian theme to today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon. Or, maybe I just picked up on it as CBC Ottawa's In Town & Out devoted a significant part of its programming to birdwatching this morning.

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. Explicit link words and phrases are enclosed in forward slashes (/link/) and implicit links are shown as double forward slashes (//).


1a   Rages about island // ghosts (7)

WRA(I)THS — WRATHS (rages) containing (about) I (island; abbrev.)

5a   Dad grasps eagle’s tail // plume (7)

F(E)ATHER — FATHER (dad) containing (grabs) E (eagle's tail; final letter (tail) of eaglE)

9a   Employer of astronauts left, // sounding stuffy (5)

NASA|L — NASA (employer of astronauts; National Aeronautics and Space Administration[7] ) + L (left; abbrev.)

10a   Maritime // cots at sea getting messed up (4,5)

{EAST COAST}* — anagram (getting messed up) of COTS AT SEA

Maritime[3] denotes (in general) of, relating to, or adjacent to the sea and (in particular) of or relating to Canada's Maritime Provinces.

Canada's Maritime Provinces[5] (also the Maritimes) are the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, with coastlines on the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Atlantic.

This term is not to be confused with the Atlantic Provinces[5] which include the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in addition to the Maritime Provinces. The term Maritime Provinces predates the entry of Newfoundland (later to be renamed Newfoundland and Labrador) into Confederation in 1949 while the term Atlantic Provinces was obviously coined after that date.

11a   Glittering // hawk, in miniature (8)

TIN(SELL)Y — SELL (hawk) contained in (in) TINY (miniature)

12a   More puckish // Robin Hood, e.g. (6)

ARCHER —double definition

14a   Mesh surrounding small // egg holder (4)

NE(S)T — NET (mesh) containing (surrounding) S (small; abbrev.)

15a   Exploits // victory in a set of choppers (10)

A|D(V)ENTURES — V (victory) contained in (in) {A (†) + DENTURES (set of choppers)}

18a   Lying, // gossip about empty home of a slob (10)

DISH|ON|E|STY — DISH (gossip) + ON (about; concerning, on the subject of) + E (empty; abbrev.) + STY (home of a slob)

19a   Travelling solo // someplace in Norway (4)

OSLO* — anagram (travelling) of SOLO

Oslo[5] is the capital and chief port of Norway, on the south coast at the head of Oslofjord; population 839,423 (2007). Founded in the 11th century, it was known as Christiania (or Kristiania) from 1624 until 1924 in honour of Christian IV of Norway and Denmark (1577–1648).

22a   Remain outside train // dotted with lights (6)

STA(RR)Y — STAY (remain) containing (outside) RR (railroad; US term for railway) 

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)
24a   Agent shown on TV // working again (8)

REP|AIRED — REP (agent) + AIRED (shown on TV)

26a   Rap format changed, // besides (5,4)

{APART FROM}* — anagram (changed) of RAP FORMAT

27a   Black bird with green at the back // part of the head (5)

CROW|N — CROW (black bird) + N {green at the back; final letter (back) of greeN}

28a   Last of runners among 30 // needing a drink (7)

THIR(S)TY — S {last of runners; final letter of  (last of) runnerS} contained in (among) THIRTY (30)

29a   Wild // part of South Africa swallowing ancient city (7)

NAT(UR)AL — NATAL (part of South Africa) containing (swallowing) UR (ancient city)

Natal[5] is a former province of South Africa, situated on the east coast. Having been a Boer republic and then a British colony, Natal acquired internal self-government in 1893 and became a province of the Union of South Africa in 1910. It was renamed KwaZulu-Natal in 1994. The name comes from Latin Terra Natalis 'land of the day of birth', a name given by Vasco da Gama in 1497, because he sighted the entrance to what is now Durban harbour on Christmas Day.

Ur[5] is an ancient Sumerian city formerly on the Euphrates, in southern Iraq. It was one of the oldest cities of Mesopotamia, dating from the 4th millennium BC, and reached its zenith in the late 3rd millennium BC. Ur[7] is considered by many to be the city of Ur Kasdim mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the birthplace of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham.


1d   Churchill // gains 2,000 pounds (7)

WINS|TON — WINS (gains) + TON (2,000 pounds)

Sir Winston Churchill[5] (1874–1965) was a British Conservative statesman, Prime Minister 1940-5 and 1951-5.

2d   Boy is captivated by Arthur’s // dangerous lighters (9)

AR(SON|IS)T|S — {SON (boy) + IS (†)} contained in (captivated by) {ART ([diminutive for] Arthur) + S ('s)}

3d   Announced the time /for/ tax on education (6)

TOLL|ED — TOLL (tax) + (on; in a down clue) ED (education; abbrev.)

In a down clue, the construction "A on B" conventionally signifies 'A before B" as A is placed on top of B.

4d   Reaching help, // depart sled shakily (10)

STEPLADDER* — anagram (shakily) of DEPART SLED

The definition is to be interpreted as a help or aid in reaching.

5d   Tightly // adhere to an extreme diet? (4)? (4)

FAST — double definition

In the first definition, fast[3] is an adverb meaning in a secure manner or tightly*hold fast.
* tight[3] can be either an adverb (meaning tightly) or an adjective while tightly[3] can only be an adverb. In the example given, I expect most people would be more likely to say hold tight rather than hold tightly.
6d   A church’s first clergyman /is/ right on the money (8)

A|C|CURATE — A (†) + C (church's first; initial letter of Church) + CURATE (clergyman)

Curate[5] can mean:
  1. (also assistant curate) a member of the clergy engaged as assistant to a vicar, rector, or parish priest; or
  2. (archaic) a minister with pastoral responsibility.
7d   Early race alongside hot // wasteland (5)

HEAT|H — HEAT (early race; e.g., preliminary events at a track meet) + (alongside) H (hot; abbrev.)

Heath[5] is a British term for an area of open uncultivated land, typically on acid sandy soil, with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse, and coarse grasses.

8d   Comes back /with/ lab vessels (7)

RETORTS — double definition

One might explain the use of "with" as a link word in either of a couple of ways. First, with[11] could be used in the sense of characterized by or having ⇒ a person with intelligence and initiative. An even better explanation might be that the word "with" is expressing causality between the definition and wordplay. The preposition with[5] may be used to indicate the cause of a condition ⇒ he was trembling with fear. Used in this sense, the word "with" essentially means "resulting from".

13d   Soaking, Melville grabs a // forecaster (10)

WE(A)T|HERMAN — {WET (soaking) + HERMAN (Melville; American writer Herman Melville)} containing (grabs) A (†)

Herman Melville[5] (1819–1891) was an American novelist and short-story writer. His experiences on a whaling ship formed the basis of several novels, notably Moby Dick (1851). Other notable works: Billy Budd (first published in 1924).

16d   Artificial lake /and/ meandering river rose (9)

RESERVOIR* — anagram (meandering) RIVER ROSE

17d   Greek philosopher, // then, boxes (8)

SO|CRATES — SO (then) + CRATES (boxes)

18d   Remote // part of island is tantalizing (7)

D|IS|TANT — hidden in (part of) islanD IS TANTalizing

20d   Lord in a strange // sort of number (7)

ORDINAL* — anagram of (strange) of LORD IN A

21d   Costumed figure/’s/ masculine neckwear (6)

M|ASCOT — M (masculine; abbrev.) + ASCOT (neckwear)

23d   A pitch by one // game company (5)

A|TAR|I — A (†) + TAR (pitch) + (by) I (one)

At one time, Atari[7] was a dominant player — if not the dominant player — in the world of electronic gaming. The original Atari, Inc. founded in 1972 was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. However, following what surely has to constitute one of the most convoluted series of corporate manoeuvrings in the history of business, it has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. In 2013, Atari entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code emerging one year later, at which time the head of the company stated that their entire operations consist of a staff of 10 people. On June 22, 2014, Atari announced a new corporate strategy that would include a focus on "new audiences", specifically "LGBT, social casinos, real-money gambling, and YouTube".

25d   Attempt carrying a // platter (4)

TR(A)Y — TRY (attempt) containing (carrying) A (†)


The title of today's review is inspired by 5a, 11a, 14a, and 27a. Twitcher[3] is a chiefly British term for a bird watcher.
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. Enjoyable puzzle today. 18A was my favourite - took me a few tries to parse the clue properly.

  2. Good morning,

    Yes, very enjoyable. I especially liked 2d, 4d and 13d. Answer to 18a seems obvious but I am having trouble parsing it.


    1. 18A uses a slang word meaning gossip, a connector word for about, a single letter for empty, and a place where pigs are kept

    2. Ah yes. Very good. Didn't think of "e" as an abbreviation of 'empty'. Thanks.

  3. Good day everyone!

    Enjoyable puzzle with some minor challenges. Had to come back a second time before all became clear. My chemistry background also came in handy;)

    Thank you for posting Falcon!

    1. Nice allusion to the lab glassware.

  4. What do you think? Is it possible that "with" is actually part of one of the definitions in 8d, i.e., "comes back with"? Hmmm...


    1. I was thinking the answer was 'returns' for quite a while. I had the definition as "comes back" and the "vessels" as 'urns'. I was trying to figure out how "with lab" could be 'ret'.

    2. Hi MG,
      I had thought of -- and rejected -- this idea since, when used transitively, the verb retort takes a clause as object, i.e., "Hillary retorted that her opponent should ditch his sexist attitudes" where one can not simply substitute "came back with" in place of "retorted".

      However, your comment has caused me to rethink the possibility and I think it might well work when reporting direct speech. For instance, "Hillary retorted, 'Donald, you should ditch your sexist attitudes.'"

    3. I was unfamiliar with the second definition of "retort." I had settled on "return," figuring that "ret" was short for "retriever" (lab).

  5. Enjoyable puzzle today. Last one in 4d. Thrown off by reaching help as the definition - didn't make sense for some time.

  6. Good evening, everyone! Started late today, and definitely some tricky clues. 18a took longer to parse than it did to solve. And I had 4d, but the clue didn't seem to point to it as an answer until that 'aha' moment. Thanks, Falcon for the posting, and as usual - your enjoyable puzzle titles.

    1. Thanks, Henry

      Sometimes coming up with the title is the most difficult part of the exercise.

  7. Spent the day in Stratford and saw the excellent production of Macbeth, so got a late start to this puzzle. Better to have started in the morning. When you can't get 17d and have to check Falcon's answer, you know you are tired!