Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday, April 13, 2019 — Advantage to the Nymble


Those who are nymble-witted may have an edge in deciphering today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon.

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 program, 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
  • The Story 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 directly from a dictionary or at least phrased in a non-misleading fashion similar to one that would be found in a dictionary
  • 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 (for example, defining topiary as "clip art")
  • a "whimsical definition": a definition "invented" by the setter often by extrapolating a non-existent meaning for a word from a similar word (for example, defining a bird as a "winger" [something possessing wings] or a river as a ''flower" [something that flows] or to extrapolate that, since disembowel means 'to remove the innards of ', that discontent must mean 'to remove the contents of')
  • a "definition by example": the presence of one of these is often flagged with a question mark (for example, defining atoll as "coral?" where an atoll is but one form that coral may take).
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 other varieties of definition (such as cryptic definitions, whimsical definitions, definitions by example, etc.) 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.



9a   Radar, for one // morning, ensnaring pal (7)

A(CRONY)M — AM (morning) containing (ensnaring) CRONY (pal)

RADAR[5] is an acronym* for RA(dio) D(etection) A(nd) R(anging).

* As the term is generally no longer written in capital letters, we tend not to think of it as an acronym.

10a   Name for a place // Tom keeps horse (7)

TO(PONY)M — TOM () containing (keeps) PONY (horse)

11a   Mistakenly held, I’d get // happy (9)

DELIGHTED* — anagram of (mistakenly) HELD ID GET

12a   Pocket handkerchief exhibiting // man’s name (5)

_ET|HAN_ — hidden in (exhibiting) pockET HANdkerchief

13a   Dark brown // slip-on shoe that’s hard to believe (5)

MOC|HA — MOC (slip-on shoe) + HA (that's hard to believe; exclamation of scepticism)

15a   Agitated, Noah dusts // a lot (9)

THOUSANDS* — anagram of (agitated) NOAH DUSTS

17a   Under a spell, // crone’s head hurt (7)

C|HARMED — C (Crone's head [initial letter]) + HARMED (hurt)

18a   Dislike losing the first // account (7)

_VERSION — [A]VERSION (dislike) with the initial letter removed (losing the first)

19a   Quiet soul singer of the 1960s // inducing tears? (9)

SH|REDDING — SH ([exhortation to be] quiet) + REDDING (soul singer of the 1960s; American singer-songwriter Otis Redding[7])

By including the question mark, the setters warn us to take care how we pronounce the word "tears"!

21a   Reign ruined // African country (5)

NIGER* — anagram of (ruined) REIGN

23a   Wrong // a young woman (5)

A|MISS — A (†) + MISS (young woman)

25a   Competitors // in American League surrounded by dukes (9)

F(IN|AL)ISTS — {IN (†) + AL (American League; one of two leagues comprising Major League Baseball)} contained in (surrounded by) FISTS (dukes)

27a   Opposite // male pursuing Cleopatra’s lover (7)

ANTONY|M — M(ale) following (pursuing) ANTONY (Cleopatra's lover; Roman general Mark Antony[5])

28a   “Sonny”—my different // name for the same thing (7)

SYNONYM* — anagram of (different) SONNY MY


1d   Team’s leader named new // type of bicycle (6)

T|ANDEM* — T (Team's leader [initial letter]) + anagram of (new) NAMED

2d   Choice word one left // unwritten (4)
OR|A|L — OR (choice word) + A (one) + L(eft)

3d   A run-down horse, struck /and/ confused? (10)

A|NAG|RAMMED — A (†) + NAG (run-down horse) + RAMMED (struck)

4d   Copied // idea Mitt tossed around (8)

IMITATED* — anagram of (tossed around) IDEA MITT

Scratching the Surface
Mitt is a male given name that may well have been bestowed only once — on US Senator Mitt Romney[7].

5d   Place to paint // sort of earring I love (6)

STUD|I|O — STUD (sort of earring) + I (†) + O (love; nil score in tennis)

6d   Spilled peas /in/ altar area (4)

APSE* — anagram of (spilled) PEAS

7d   Winsome // wench ranting after introductions (10)

_ENCH|_ANTING — [W]ENCH [R]ANTING with the initial letters of both words removed [after introductions; i.e., retain only the portion of each word following its initial letter]

8d   Norwegian explorer // made nuns crazy (8)

AMUNDSEN* — anagram of (crazy) MADE NUNS

Roald Amundsen[5] (1872–1928) was an Norwegian explorer. Amundsen was the first to navigate the North-West Passage (1903–6), during which expedition he located the site of the magnetic north pole. In 1911 he became the first to reach the South Pole.

14d   Devices at a ski resort // crash, if lit incorrectly (10)

CHAIRLIFTS* — anagram of (incorrectly) CRASH IF LIT

16d   Dash // second suggestion about hype (10)

S|PR|INKLING — {S(econd) + INKLING (suggestion)} containing (about) PR (hype)

17d   Pair of cads stick around with a // person left at sea (8)

CA|STA(W|A)Y — CA (pair [initial two letters] of CAds) + STAY (stick) containing (around) {W(ith) + A (†)}

18d   Ming vase strangely /represented/ dietary practice (8)

VEGANISM* — anagram of (strangely) MING VASE

Scratching the Surface
Ming[5] refers to Chinese porcelain made during the Ming dynasty*, characterized by elaborate designs and vivid colours a priceless Ming vase.

* the dynasty that ruled China 1368–1644 founded by Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398)

20d   Popular failing preceding Amy/’s/ bad reputation (6)

IN|F|AMY — IN (popular) + F (failing; poor result in a pass/fail grading system) preceding (†) AMY (†)

22d   Go on again // about addition error (6)

RE|SUM|E — RE (about) + SUM (addition) + E (error; abbrev. found in baseball stats)

24d   Boy group’s first // tune (4)

SON|G — SON (boy) + G (Group's first [initial letter])

26d   Heard Penny // dispatched (4)

SENT~  — sounds like (heard) CENT (penny)


Although several members of the O'Nym family showed up today, we are missing a number of others — among them anonym, caconym, eponym, homonym, metonym, poecilonym*, and pseudonym.

* an old synonym for synonym
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. Good afternoon to all those steeped in thought today! Oh you Nimrods of the Cryptic cruciform. Today's offering from C&R is mostly the same but largely different. It's hard to believe I was under it's spell for so long. Loved 13a. 17d was last one in as I was trying to figure out how to put in a port into the solution.
    Is 'ink' hype? Still trying to figure out the parsing for 16d.
    Well, here's hoping the best for all of you - signing off for now.

  2. Ok - I see it now - 16d. PR is the hype.

  3. Hello Falcon and all, I encountered enough trouble spots to rate the puzzle "nicely challenging." I gave thanks for the "-nym" symmetry to get me 9a (I was thinking in terms of a device). 3d also had me stumped for a good while, and, like @Henry, I had difficulty parsing 16d: the definition told me that my entry was correct, but I'd wanted the "suggestion" to be "hint" and couldn't see the "inkling" right in front of me.

  4. Hello Falcon and fine folk,

    I agree that today's puzzle was delightfully challenging. Once I twigged to the theme, I quickly got a couple more clues. Last one in was 16d, kept thinking of another definition for dash (as in the verb). Really liked 23a.

    Thank you for posting Falcon.

  5. Hi Falcon! I hear we're both in for some rainy weather later today. Just a few points to clean up this week -
    - 27a pursuing not chasing in the parsing?
    - 5d sort of earing?
    - 8d anagram indicator
    In 25a, the setters missed a chance to capitalize Dukes?
    Have a great (if wet) weekend!

    1. Oh - and bracket fix up in 16d (our nemesis this week!)
      Thanks for the post and review!

    2. Gracious! It seems I was even more careless than usual this week!

      The Dukes -- I presume you thinking of Bo and Luke?

    3. Are you Hazzarding a guess? Don't forget Daisy!