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
Hello again, and we remain Covid-free in our selection of topical clues and answers. Boatman, as we discussed in our Q&A, is partial to a theme. This time, it seems to be … economy with the actualité, as Kenneth Clark put it.
26ac Leader of Parliament adopts untruths and fancy footwork (5)
[wordplay: first letter (‘leader’) of PARLIAMENT, next to (‘adopts’) synonym for ‘untruths’]
[P + LIES]
[definition: some ‘fancy footwork’]
… en route to PETROL. And over at the Financial Times, we have this from Moo …
… seeking a fancy term for “lazy”, DILATORY, and recalling when Patel was one of those “Tory young bloods” who memorably pitched to the nation by calling British workers “among the worst idlers in the world”. Incidentally, I had a dim memory of asking aloud whether the setter Moo had any connection to the setter Moodim. Last year, I thought it was, or 2018. Here it is:
Has Moodim added another pseudonym to her repertoire, or is a theme emerging among FT setters?
Reader, it was March.
Here’s a clue by Carpathian in the quiptic, the Guardian’s puzzle “for beginners and those in a hurry”:
It’s a different kind of “reserved”, with the same sense as the answer to a lovely old Times clue, “Cold display unit for seafood (11)” (answer at the bottom): ALOOF. An odd-sounding word, but Samuel Johnson told his readers, perfectly understandable as a jamming together of the words “all” and “off”.
Johnson may not have been the first to draw attention to this, but he certainly helped many more people to understand “aloof” as literally meaning “all off”, the only problem being that – like “slang” being a short and slangy way of saying “short language” – it’s both plausible and completely untrue.
Since an old ship might have a luff, an instrument to help alter its course, a sailor might take a course “a luff”, to keep a distance from the shore, which became “aloof”, which became the sense we know today.
So it’s yet another phrase which was once a metaphor for something nautical, just like, as we explored here, “brass monkeys” isn’t. I’ve been peering at those phrases that really are nautical while assembling this new book which I’ll mention in more detail soon; in the meantime, one of them provides the subject of our next challenge. Originally meaning, as I understand it, “sailing into the wind and with the wind behind you”: reader, how would you clue BY AND LARGE?
I appreciated the abbreviations in Sophical’s “Protestor applies a little pressure in New York” and Montano’s “One who objects to planning application in Islington a thousand times”.
The audacity award is PeterMooreFuller’s for the ornate “Thus in retreat, my noble heart it sinks / The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, though ComedyPseudonym naturally comes close with the bonkers “Compound of molybdenum trioxide mixture doled out – keep it away from me!”
And our occasional inside-baseball cup goes to Chameleonxwords for the arcane “Elsewhere, Enigmatist grabs Times for the bar…he’s not keen on local constructors”.
The runners-up are TonyCollman’s deft “Bin my rubbish ‘anywhere but here’, I cry” and Lizard’s sneaky all-in-one “I could be swamped by pollution – I’m bypass-averse?”; the winner is Rakali’s evocative “Local opposition leader from Liverpool quit gracefully”.
Kludos to Rakali; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below, and our next offering of Healing Music Recorded in 2020 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to is a distanced Nick Cave giving T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer” the Boatman’s Call treatment:
Clue of the Fortnight
12ac Open supermarket close to village with empty shops (7)
[wordplay: name of supermarket + last letter of (‘close to’) VILLAGE + first and last letters of (‘empty’) SHOPS]
[LIDL + E + SS]
… for LIDLESS which would seem supremely topical if there hadn’t been some brief recent signs of hope for independent shops. Thank you Tramp, and the old Times clue is for STANDOFFISH.