In the sample tracks below, the links take you to explanations of our series for beginners. The presenter’s name is often linked to an interview with him or her, in case you want to get to know these people better.
The news on tracks
Vlad offers us one of those clues written so skillfully that it could come from a story about the events he describes …
1ac Free small school meal? Rashford is the first to get involved (13)
[ wordplay: type of ‘school’, then anagram (‘to get involved’) of MEAL & TINY & initial letter (‘first’) of RASHFORD ]
[ COMP, then anagram of MEALTINYR ]
[ definition: free ]
… which I am complimentary about COMPLIMENTARY. Meanwhile, this Crucible entry …
8d Old order to disperse rhino at intervals with sensitivity (4.3)
[ wordplay: alternate letters (‘at intervals’) of RHINO + synonym for ‘sensitivity’ ]
[ RIO + TACT ]
[ definition: old order to disperse ]
… It begins with the fun image of applying tact to megafauna and ends with a predecessor to today’s miserable 307-page police, crime, and sentencing bill: the RIOT ACT of 1714.
When we met Vulcan / Imogen in December, he told us that he likes to include pieces of contemporary language. So it’s on this track …
14ac Pc in court Open eyes? (4.2)
[ wordplay: synonyms for ‘politically correct’ (PC) & ‘on trial’ (‘in court’) ]
[ WOKE & UP ]
[ definition: opened eyes? ]
… To wake up. The term “woke up” is so disputed that it is useless outside of crosswords; in fact, I was hesitant to bring it up in case it caused an unpleasant argument, but we’re better than that. However, within crossword puzzles, its equivalence with the equally useless “politically correct” makes it useful. I’ve also seen it used backwards, as in this Times track …
21ac I woke up grabbing aunt, strangely, in afraid (5)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘woke’, containing (‘clutching’) alternate letters of (‘oddly’) AUNTIE ]
[ PC containing ANI ]
[ definition: fear ]
… Where “PC” is part of the answer, PANIC. What if “woke up” is extinguished for lack of consensus on its meaning, as it seemed to happen with “sound”, “right” and others?
It is possible that “woke up” will stay in riddles, like “drink” for YOU (see our guide to drinking on tracks) and “model” for T (see cars), but I suspect not. The P and C pair serve as well as any other: just like any word adjacent to “police officer” as mentioned in the Imogen hint, “computer” will do the job, as will “percent” and, less useful, “private advisor”, as well as the topic of our next challenge.
I first encountered this when I encountered half of a dysfunctional Victorian correspondence romance, in expressions like “YOU COULD have responded to my last PC.” Reader, how would you give the POSTAL clue?
If you have a recommendation for something like an absorbing online video, fun or cryptic quiz, crossword chat, collaborative or live solving, outdoor puzzle, or puzzle-filled books to add to our collection, please let us know.
In the meantime, a reminder that there are reasons to enter crossword contests, whether or not a prize is offered. The Sunday Telegraph Enigmatic variations series it’s perfect for those who want to be distracted longer than a normal cryptic shot, or have a nifty added challenge after the grid fills up. I’ve been printing PDF files from the Telegraph puzzle site while my trips to the stores have been down, and I’m about to email my photo of last week’s puzzle, having read its editor. proXimalthe story of how doing so makes the puzzle more likely to continue!
Thanks for your tips for SCAPEGOAT. The audacity award goes to Montano, who refers to something current by using a term that is not widely used for it, in “Find someone to blame while ‘Copgate’ spins.”
Croquem also suggests a sideways glance to the present at “She is wrongly blamed – Palace must be ready to get rid of Hal!” And of course I enjoyed all the unexpected cursory reads: what’s the backstory to “Run out of pickle and butter?” by PeterMooreFuller. It will be my fault ”?
The runners-up are “Who is to blame in Capote’s extremely agonizing novel?” From Thepoisonedgift. and the “Does the Spaniard start with a cloak to face the attack of an ill-fated animal?” by Lizard; the winner is in the plausible instructions from BethLacan: “A pact goes very wrong, find someone to blame!”
Kludos to Beth: Leave your entries for this fortnight’s competition, and any of your selections from the cryptic large format, below. And the latest addition to our Healing music recorded in 2020-21 to accompany a solution or even listen It’s from the lockdown album recorded by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. It’s something to look forward to.
Brave track of the fortnight
Well well. These pages host a not particularly serious Crossword Council, and in our first “meeting” we discussed Peter Moore Fuller’s idea of a device in which two words are put together according to the process by which Lewis Carroll took “miserable” and “Flimsy” and created “mimsy”. And then we see one in nature.
25ac For Penn and Teller, according to Carroll, is a driving mechanism (9)
[ wordplay: synonym of ‘for’ + carrollism of PENN and TELLER ]
[ PRO + PELLER ]
[ definition: it’s a driving mechanism ]
That’s a HELIX, then, from Qaos, who has threatened to do it again and was not sure how it would be received. In fact, I was hesitant to bring it up in case it caused an unpleasant argument, but we are better than that.
Alan Connor’s The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book, which is partially, but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered at the Guardian Bookstore.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism