Crossword blog: the French don't talk about brassières

In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners’ series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.

The news in clues

There was an extra treat in a prize puzzle from Brendan. Here are the clues for the middle row:

17ac First to go on board with partners securing success (5)
[ wordplay: abbrevs for west and east (bridge ‘partners’) containing (‘securing’) synonym for ‘success’ ]
[ WE containing HIT ]
[ definition: first to go on (a chess) board ]

19ac Ordinary man’s book abridged (3)
[ wordplay: book of the Bible without its last letter (‘abridged’) ]
[ JOEL – L ]
[ definition: ordinary man ]

20ac Legislative assembly, in practice, following call to attend (5)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘practice’, after (‘following’) call demanding attention ]
[ USE after HO ]
[ definition: legislative assembly ]

And here’s what you saw:

Guardian prize puzzle 28,291 by Brendan.
Guardian prize puzzle 28,291 by Brendan.

That makes a change, doesn’t it? Because it’s a prize puzzle, there’s a full explanation of all the other answers, of which many are also thematic, in the annotated solution.

Latter patter

Here’s the first clue from a quiptic, the Guardian’s weekly “puzzle for beginners and those in a hurry”. It’s by Carpathian:

1ac Support section of the orchestra that is backing the Queen (9)
[ wordplay: one part of orchestra, then abbrev. meaning ‘that is’ after (‘backing’) abbrev. for Elizabeth Regina (‘the Queen’) ]
[ BRASS, then IE after ER ]
[ definition: support ]

As new solvers soon learn, “support” in a crossword often indicates a BRA, here in its fullest form BRASSIERE, as the French say. Or rather, as they don’t, as learners of French soon discover, wondering why the English word looks so French when the lingerie shops of Paris talk of the soutien-gorge.

It’s really an American word: needing some term to describe this novel device, advertisers and magazines at the turn of the century reached for a French word which, my Petit Robert tells me, was then used for an infant’s shirt …

Petite chemise de bebe
From Le Petit Robert

… which combines euphemism with aren’t-foreigners-fancy? in a way we haven’t seen since we opened the kimono. Let’s stick with underwear for our next challenge. It’s also been used as a phrase for a long table, a kind of doughnut and a tall tree, and the etymologist Michael Quinion thinks it might be a tribute to the boxer John L Sullivan: reader, how would you clue LONG JOHNS?

Puzzling elsewhere

Enigmatist sets quizzes as well as puzzles, and as you would expect if you’ve solved his crosswords, they involve cryptic and lateral thinking. This year, they have of course moved online and they support a different charity every Tuesday evening.

If you follow @enigmatistelgar and/or @OldDairyN4Quiz on Twitter today, you’ll see the details for tomorrow. This has been going on since 1987, or as Enigmatist describes it: “when Only Connect was but a glint in the milkman’s eye”. There is indeed a lot of connecting to be done.

Cluing competition

Many thanks for your clues for BOVVER. Chameleon takes the audacity award, not because the wily Smylers got there earlier, but for the business of slicing a W into Vs in “Trouble as violinist is broken-hearted”. It must be said that “Over-55 shielding inside as autumn months end, resulting in aggravation” is neither unaudacious, nor Montano’s only topical reference.

The runners-up are Phitonelly, who uses “drunk” not in the normal way in “Frightful bore, very, very drunk, causing trouble on the street” and Catarella’s “Gove’s content to back British minister over bullying”; the winner is Flatrod’s calming “Not taking sides – above every sort of aggro”.

Kludos to Flatrod; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below. And our latest offering of Healing Music Recorded in 2020 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to comes from a near-empty Wigmore Hall.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins perform Beethoven, Huw Watkins, Janácek and Knussen.

Clue of the Fortnight

I was reminded of our lively discussion about whether the nine of diamonds (or a tasty sandwich) counts as “a thing” by a clue from Vlad.

1/18ac He dealt with state affairs a lot – wrong description of Boris? (1,6,2,2,5,3)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘dealt’) of HESTATEAFFAIRSALOT, then X (‘wrong’) ]
[ definition: description of Boris Johnson]

The answer, A FATHER OF AT LEAST SIX, was not coined specially for the puzzle: you can find it in the wild, describing not just Johnson but also various hip-hop artists and a promiscuous Spanish playwright. It’s certainly not in the dictionary, but: who would want to deny solvers the pleasure of Vlad’s reveal?

My first puzzle collection, The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop, and is partially but not predominantly cryptic

Here is a collection of all our explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs


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