Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018 — Hitting a Natural Cycle


Today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon proved a fairly quick solve although the southwest corner did throw up a brief but spirited resistance. I might have made quicker progress there had I twigged earlier to the correct theme, as I was looking for something to do with QUADS.

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

Click here for an explanation of conventions and symbols used in explaining the parsing of clues.

The purpose of this article is to explain the conventions and symbols that I use on this blog in explaining the parsing of clues.


The following symbols are used in reviews:
  • "*" anagram
  • "~" sounds like
  • "<" indicates that the preceding letters are reversed
  • "( )" encloses contained letters
  • "_" replaces letters that have been deleted
  • "†" indicates that the word is present in the clue

The review of a clue takes the following general structure:

#a/d   Clue containing parsing markup (num*)

* num = numeration

Explanations pertaining to the wordplay (or first definition in a double definition)

(Horizontal separator)

Explanations pertaining to the definition (or second definition in a double definition) and solution.

Explanatory Box
An explanatory box provides additional information about the clue. In most cases this information will not necessarily help in solving the clue but provides information about the clue. In the case of the weekday syndicated Daily Telegraph puzzles, such information is often intended to help the North American solver appreciate how the clue may be perceived by a British solver. These boxes may also provide information on people, places, films, television programmes, works of art and literature, etc. mentioned in the clue.

Although the titles of these boxes will usually be drawn from a standard list, I do occasionally throw in a title specifically suggested by the subject at hand. The standard titles include:
  • Scratching the Surface - an explanation of the surface reading of the clue
  • Delving Deeper - in-depth information pertaining to a subject mentioned in an explanation
  • Behind the Picture - for weekday puzzles, information about an illustration found on Big Dave's Crossword Blog
  • What did he/she/they say? - for weekday puzzles, an explanation of a remark made in a review or comment on Big Dave's Crossword Blog
  • What are they talking about? - for weekday puzzles, an explanation of a discussion on Big Dave's Crossword Blog
One box that may provide information that could prove helpful in solving the clue is the following:
  • Here and There - for weekday puzzles, discusses words whose British meaning differs from their North American meaning

Note that there are many types of cryptic crossword clue and it is not my intention to exhaustively go through all of them here. I will only deal with clue types to the extent necessary to explain the conventions and symbols used on the blog. Furthermore, be aware that, in the world of cryptic crosswords, there seems to be an exception to every rule.

With one exception that I can think of, cryptic crossword clues provide two routes to the solution. These are commonly referred to as the definition and wordplay. While these terms serve well for most clues, there are some cases where the more formal terms of primary indication and subsidiary indication may be more appropriate.

Most cryptic crossword clues consist of a definition (primary indication) and wordplay (subsidiary indication). The definition may be a "precise definition" (a definition that is either taken straight from a dictionary or at least phrased in a non-misleading fashion) or it may be a "cryptic definition" (a definition misleadingly phrased so as to misdirect the solver either with respect to the meaning of the definition as a whole or to an incorrect sense of a word used in the definition).

The only type of clue that I can think of where there are not two ways of finding the solution are those in which the entire clue is a cryptic definition.
I identify precise definitions by marking them with a solid underline in the clue and cryptic definitions by marking them with a dotted underline.
In clues in which both definition and wordplay are present, the two parts of the clue combine to provide an overall meaningful statement (the surface reading) which usually bears no relationship to the underlying cryptic reading of the clue. In some cases, an extra word or phrase will be inserted into the clue to create a meaningful link between the definition and wordplay. I define clues which contain such a link word or link phrase as having an explicit link and clues which contain no link word or link phrase as having an implicit link.
I mark the existence of an explicit link by enclosing the link word or link phrase between forward slashes (/link/) and mark the existence of an implicit link with double forward slashes (//) positioned between the definition and wordplay.

A few examples may help to illustrate these points more clearly.

The first example is a clue used by Jay in DT 28573:

  • 4d   Fellow left work // a failure (4)
Here the definition is "a failure" which is marked with a solid underline to show that it is a precise definition. The wordplay parses as F (fellow; abbrev.) + L (left; abbrev.) + OP (work; abbrev. used in music) which gives us the solution F|L|OP. The double forward slashes (//) between the definition and wordplay indicate the existence of an "implicit link" between the two parts of the clue (that is, no extra words are inserted into the clue to form the link).

The second example is a clue used by Giovanni in DT 28575:
  • 29a   Female going to match // travels with mother in advance (10)
Here the definition "female going to match" is cryptic (the setter is attempting to misdirect our thoughts to a sports event rather than a marriage ceremony) and thus is marked with a a dotted underline. The wordplay is {RIDES (travels) + (with) MA (mother)} contained in (in) BID (advance) giving us the solution B(RIDES|MA)ID. As in the first example, the double forward slashes indicate the presence of an implicit link.

The third example is a clue used by Rufus is DT 28583:
  • 18d   Knight caught by misplaced big blow /is/ staggering (8)
Here the definition is "staggering" which is marked with a solid underline to show that it is a precise definition. The wordplay parses as N ([chess symbol for] knight) contained in (caught in) an anagram (misplaced) of BIG BLOW producing the solution WOBBLI(N)G. Finally, forward slashes mark the link word (/is/).
I also use distinctive underlining to mark &lit.[7] and semi-&lit. clues. Note that the reviewers on Big Dave's Crossword Blog generally prefer to refer to these clue types by the less pretentious names of all-in-one or semi-all-in-one clues respectively.

In an &lit. clue[7] (or all-in-one clue) the entire clue provides not only the definition (when read one way), but under a different interpretation also serves as the wordplay.
In future, I will mark such clues with a combined solid and dashed underline. Although this is a departure from past practice, it would seem to make more sense than using a dotted underline as I have in the past). Henceforth, the dotted underline will be reserved for cryptic definitions.
In a semi-&lit. clue (or semi-all-in-one clue), either:
  • the entire clue acts as the definition while a portion of the clue provides the wordplay; or
  • the entire clue acts as the wordplay while a portion of the clue provides the definition.
For these clues, I will mark the definition with a solid underline and the wordplay with a  dashed underline. This means that a portion of the clue may have a solid underline, a portion of the clue may have a dashed underline and a portion of the clue may have a combined solid and dashed underline.
One final clue type is what I characterize as a cryptic definition comprised of a precise definition combined with cryptic elaboration. For example, in DT 28560 (setter unknown) the following clue appears:
  •  26d   Heroic exploit, whichever way you look at it (4)
As the entire clue is a cryptic definition, it is marked with a dotted underline. The 'precise definition' is "heroic exploit" and is indicated by a solid underline.

Given the numeration, the precise definition could give rise to at least two solutions, DEED or FEAT. However, the 'cryptic elaboration' ("whichever way you look at it") indicates that the solution is a palindrome thereby immediately eliminating one of the two obvious choices.

Note that the part of the clue that I have called 'cryptic elaboration' does not provide a second independent route to the solution (as the wordplay would do in most other types of clue). Rather it merely provides a piece of additional information (elaboration) related to the 'precise definition'.

Again, this approach is a departure from past practice, but like the other changes mentioned previously is intended to remove inconsistencies in the way that I have been applying parsing markup to clues. The markup rules that I have been using until now evolved bit-by-bit over a long period of time resulting in some degree of internal inconsistency.

hide explanation


1a   Intent on just one thing: // lending dimes out (6-6)

{SINGLE-MINDED}* — anagram (out) of LENDING DIMES

9a   Shaft /that’s/ thin, getting defaced? (5)

_ARROW — [N]ARROW (thin) with the initial letter removed (getting defaced)

10a   Marine lab disseminated // dope (9)

LAMEBRAIN* — anagram (disseminated) of MARINE LAB

11a   Anger Liberal and // member of the European community (7)

IRE|L|AND — IRE (anger) + L (Liberal; abbrev.) + AND ()

12a   One scornful // of Parisian equestrian (7)

DE|RIDER — DE (of Parisian; French word meaning 'of') + RIDER (equestrian)

13a   Outfit // crow the wrong way (4)

GARB< — reversal (the wrong way) of BRAG (crow)

15a   Ballot Duke cast /is/ gibberish (6-4)

{DOUBLE-TALK)* — anagram (cast) of BALLOT DUKE

18a   Rhythm // misstep didn’t prevent me catching myself (6,4)

TRIP|LE-T(I)ME —  TRIP (misstep) + {LET (didn't prevent) + ME (†)} containing (catching) I (myself)

19a   Dramatic king/’s/ lustful expression heard (4)

LEAR~ — sounds like (heard) LEER (lustful [facial] expression)

King Lear[7] is a tragedy by English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

22a   Overhauls // gun and sound equipment (7)

REV|AMPS — REV (gun; race an engine) + AMPS (sound equipment; informal term for amplifiers)

24a   Latin I: a new // subject for a language student (7)

ITALIAN* — anagram (new) of LATIN I A

26a   Break up, /and/ call “The Mick” insulting names? (9)

DIS|MANTLE — DIS (call ... insulting names) + MANTLE ("The Mick")

Mickey "The Mick" Mantle[7] (1931–1995) was an American professional baseball player who played his entire Major League Baseball (MLB) career with the New York Yankees as a center fielder and first baseman, from 1951 through 1968. Mantle was one of the best players and sluggers, and is regarded by many as the greatest switch hitter in baseball history.

27a   That guy will hug /in/ greeting (5)

HELL|O — HELL (that guy will; contraction of "he'll") + O (hug; X representing a kiss and O a hug)

28a   House restricted idiots connected with // a TV dad (5,7)

HOME|R| SIMPS|ON — HOME (house) + R (restricted; film rating) + SIMPS (idiots) + ON (connected with)

Homer Simpson[7] is one of the main protagonists in the American animated television series The Simpsons as the patriarch of the eponymous family.


1d   Economical // article in season (7)

SP(A)RING — A ([grammatical] article) contained in (in) SPRING (season)

2d   Some children or seniors // like the Vikings (5)

_N|OR|SE_ — hidden in (some) childreN OR SEniors

3d   Police officer /and/ Mom sitting in grass (6)

LAW(MA)N — MA (Mom) contained in (sitting in) LAWN (grass)

4d   Clumsy // Maria told off (9)

MALADROIT* — anagram (off) of MARIA TOLD

5d   Itinerant // actor Matt sent back (5)

NOMAD< — reversal (sent back) of DAMON (actor Matt; American actor Matt Damon[7])

6d   Emily spoke sharply, /and/ set sail (8)

EM|BARKED — EM ([diminutive for] Emily) + BARKED (spoke sharply)

7d   Bridge, for example, // made crag unstable (4,4)

{CARD GAME}* — anagram (unstable) of MADE CRAG

8d   Jacket // Nora found in Alaska (6)

A(NORA)K — NORA (†) contained in (found in) AK (Alaska; postal abbrev.)

The words anorak and parka[7] have been used interchangeably, but they are somewhat different garments. Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof, hooded, pull-over jacket without a front opening, and sometimes drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, and a parka is a hip-length cold-weather coat, typically stuffed with down or very warm synthetic fiber, and with a fur-lined hood.

14d   Surprisingly, it’s never // put back in the market (8)

REINVEST* — anagram (surprisingly) of ITS NEVER

16d   Sponges conveying wood’s // rough texture (9)

BUM(PINE|S)S — BUMS (sponges) containing (conveying) {PINE (wood) + S ('s)}

17d   Fruit sack with old // flower (8)

PLUM|BAG|O — PLUM (fruit) + BAG (sack) + O (old; abbrev.)

The plumbago[5] is an evergreen flowering shrub or climber which is widely distributed in warm regions and grown elsewhere as a greenhouse or indoor plant.

18d   Stream of abusive language /from/ one caught in traffic (6)

T(I)RADE — I ([Roman numeral for] one) contained in (caught in) TRADE (traffic)

20d   Word nun mangled /in/ analysis (7)

RUNDOWN* — anagram (mangled) of WORD NUN

21d   Springtime border // violence (6)

MAY|HEM — MAY (springtime) + HEM (border)

23d   Stuff about Impressionism’s first // composer (5)

SAT(I)E — SATE (stuff) containing (about) I (Impressionism's first [initial letter])

Erik Satie[5] (1866–1925) was a French avant-garde composer. He formed an irreverent avant-garde artistic set associated with Les Six, Dadaism, and surrealism. Notable works: Gymnopédies (1888).

25d   Acts like a loafer // left in middle of the month (5)

ID(L)ES — L (left; abbrev.) contained in (in) IDES (middle of month)


In baseball, hitting for the cycle[7] is the accomplishment of one batter hitting a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game. Collecting the hits in that order is known as a "natural cycle". The cycle is about as uncommon as a no-hitter; it has been called "one of the rarest" and "most difficult feats" in baseball. Mickey Mantle accomplished it once in his career — on July 23, 1957 against the Chicago White Sox.
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)
[12] - (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
[13] - (Macmillan Dictionary)
[14] - (COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. Enjoyable puzzle today. As easy as 1, 2, 3....

  2. Harsh words for a Saturday! Re comment from Anonymous - I wish that were true. Breezed through the upper half but really struggled with the lower left hand corner. 18a gave me the most grief. Good luck to all, on this sunny Saturday morning.

    1. Didn't catch the theme at all, even though it's staring me in the face! Thanks for the post and solution, Falcon!

  3. Good morning,

    In today's puzzle we meet a rather unpleasant character. A scornful clumsy dope who told off and mangled. He'd crow, call insulting names and use gibberish, lustful expressions, streams of abuse and violence.

    But other than all that, I did enjoy it. I thought the word 'language' in the clue at 18d was superfluous. The composer in 23d was new to me. I don't really like seeing American slang like the 3 letter word beginning the answer to 26a.

    Have a good weekend!


    1. And now that the answers are up (thanks Falcon), I might add that our unpleasant character is a single-minded lamebrain derider who will brag, use double talk, run down and cause mayhem.

  4. Hello Falcon and all,
    Thank you for the enlightening and entertaining post and comments. I'd totally missed the theme - and also struck out at 17d. In the past, the constructors have introduced some sorts of flora I'd never heard of but was able to guess. Not today: for the second syllable I hazarded "can" and was sent off to the showers.