In the sample clues below, the links take you to little explainers from our For Beginners series.
The news in clues
In our roundups for much of this year, we’ve offered the chance to avoid reading about clues referring to, well, something that’s an anagram of carnivorous; as it happens, that topic hasn’t come up much so far in July. I’m personally thankful for the happy space.
The Guardian’s puzzles have of course referenced various people whose names are, let’s say, unlikely to feature in the history books as “the right person at the right time”. Here’s Philistine (and a link to our interview with him) …
3d Demoralised, like the Tories with Theresa gone? (8)
[ wordplay: playful imaginary adjective for something lacking May ]
[ definition: demoralised ]
… for LIP-READER. Meanwhile, in what I’m pretty sure is the second cryptic from Carpathian, there’s a hidden theme which I won’t spoil here – and the annotated solution for the prize puzzle from Boatman (interview) reveals that, poignantly, it is a …
* puzzle for what should have been the last day of Wimbledon 2020
Maybe next year.
The quiptic is the Guardian’s stepping-stone Monday puzzle “for beginners and those in a hurry”; we’ve recently had the welcome return of the setter Beale and a puzzle from stalwart Pan with this clue …
10ac Fine pass for unruly boy at centre of row (7-3)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘pass’ + anagram of (‘unruly’) BOY + middle letter of (‘centre of’) ROW ]
[ TICKET + YBO + O ]
[ definition: fine ]
… for TICKETY-BOO. Now, then. We have “ticket” in the wordplay; the expression “just the ticket” is pretty much interchangeable with “tickety-boo”: is this coincidence?
It actually might be. The reason: it would be even more of a coincidence if the Hindi phrase “tikai babu” – meaning “that’s all right, sir” – were unconnected. While we use “tickety-boo” nowadays in a self-consciously fusty tone, the earliest appearances in the UK are only from around the end of the Raj. Google Books thinks there’s a use in the New Yorker from 1925, but since this seems to be in a review of a British thriller of 1963, I have my doubts. So 1930s seems about right, and it’s not fanciful to imagine that 19th-century phrase “just the ticket” helping the newer term along.
Our next challenge is a phrase which is definitely Hindi. I don’t fancy the 40% K makeup of “pukka”, and perhaps “dungarees” is just too many letters for our collective energy levels. So, reader: how would you clue CHIT?
As Peterdromois remarks: “Amazing variety of suggestions!” (unless that’s an ingenious cryptic clue I failed to parse). Plenty to think about, too. Dunnart makes us work enjoyably hard in “Taking out classic 80s flick knife and trimming the rind off cheese”, and has, I see, a puzzle for our enjoyment at crossword.info. Meanwhile, NoMoreMrNice is appropriately devious with “Blue and long-tailed tits interbred”. Then there’s the misleading comma of Schroduck’s “Lean in, boy, and I’ll give you nightmares”, and Montano’s baroque “Le Roquefort anglais, perhaps, hopelessly lost in translation at first”.
The audacity award goes to Croquem for using “to-do” as an anagram indicator in “To-do list: 1,000kg of cheese?” Dimsworthy is an inside-baseball candidate for referring to an old chestnut about Edam in “Cheese, but, we hear, not made backwards”. Even further inside is Lizard’s sly: “Not & lits – on the contrary cheesy stuff”.
The runners-up are Porcia’s “Wooden leg – no raised blue veins on this!” and Dimsworthy’s lovely all-in-one: “It’s not unusual with end of meal!”, to which I’ve imperiously added an exclamation mark. The winner is PeterMooreFuller’s “What completes brides list: old, new and something blue”.
Kludos to Peter: please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.
Finally, Phitonelly, “for fun”, used a reference to “Steve Tilston, unsung folk hero”, in the down clue “Folk singer’s heart wells up giving cracker accompaniment”. Tilston was scheduled to perform just downstairs from the Guardian last month but this has been postponed; here he is as this fortnight’s music of comfort to accompany solving or even to pay attention to.
Clue of the Fortnight
A recurring pleasure here is realising that the definition is not the verb you thought it was, but a noun. That’s doubled when I’ve been led to mispronounce the definition, too, as in this cracker from Nutmeg (interview) …
23d Defect from regiment at last, post-conflict (4)
[ wordplay: final letter (‘at last’) of REGIMENT, after synonym for ‘conflict’ (‘post-conflict’) ]
[ T after WAR ]
[ definition: defect ]
… for WART. Take care, all.