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
Topical things rather than news-news, I think. You may not have had a chance to see the most recent Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch, but you don’t need to know it to appreciate Phi’s tribute puzzle, with clues such as this one …
16d Quantity of champagne? In France I travel, carrying one-third of bottle (8)
[ wordplay: French for “I” + synonym for “travel”, containing (“carrying”) one-third of the letters of BOTTLE ]
[ JE + ROAM containing BO ]
[ definition: quantity of, eg, champagne ]
… for JEROBOAM, the relevance of which to the film I hesitate to describe for fear of being accused of spoilers.
If, unlike me, you are not restricting your news intake to specific times of the day and don’t mind current events appearing unexpectedly, Hypnos has created a puzzle with a quiet, respectful gesture to Ukraine.
The Sunday Times has printed its 5,000th puzzle. In 1925, when the first appeared, crosswords were considered by some to be a public nuisance, which explains the announcement:
CROSS-WORD VOGUE: The Sunday Times, which has always made a feature of such popular pastimes and skilled games as Acrostics, Chess, and Auction Bridge, has fallen victim to the universal craze of Cross-Word Puzzles.
Peter Biddlecombe has written a piece which includes the chance to solve (or re-solve, if you have been doing them since the start), the first puzzle. We could also make a game of spotting quite how many of today’s crosswording conventions were evidently not in place when this grid was published.
Meanwhile, there’s a cryptic announcement in the Boston Globe.
In her definition …
25a Nasty puncture – it’s been mended touring Alaska (9)
[ wordplay: anagram (“mended”) of ITSEBEEN, containing (“touring”) abbrev. for “Alaska” ]
[ SNEBITE containing AK ]
[ definition: nasty puncture ]
… Nutmeg of course makes us think of tyres rather than serpents; the answer is SNAKEBITE (in the literal sense, not as a cheap way of getting drunk).
Do today’s successors to goths (the Guardian style guide uses “Goths” for “Germanic tribe that invaded the Roman empire” and “goths” for “Sisters of Mercy fans who invaded the Shepherd’s Bush Empire”) still take that purest of cocktails and add blackcurrant cordial to create a Purple Nasty?
Before the 1980s, SNAKEBITE could mean any strong booze – but usually strong and cheap whisky – before coming to mean an equal combination of lager and cider. An urban myth persisted during the 80s and 90s suggesting that pubs and university bars were legally prohibited from selling snakebite. The origin may have been in those even more budget-aware drinkers who tried to order their snakebite in halves.
For that, a pub would have to serve a quarter of draught lager – and that fraction is not one of the permitted ones. For our next challenge, let’s have another name for the cordial version which was marginally more drinkable: reader, how would you clue DIESEL?
Many thanks for your clues for BURKINA FASO. Jacob_Busby gets the audacity award for the cheeky “Marley to go and garner neighbours, we hear” and Battledore reminds me that I haven’t seen the “in [continent]” definition for a while in “Bank of Russia (wanting end of sanctions) relocates in West Africa”.
If you haven’t been in for a while, there are many, many crackers despite what might look like unhelpful letters: the runners-up are PeterMooreFuller’s “Around back of computer, no USB AFAIK – weirdly no ports there at all” and jdthndr’s “Breaking: RAF sink U-boat docked somewhere near Ghana”; the winner, even though my Chambers gives the most useful sense of “meddling” as “(archaic)”, is Porcia’s “Meddling of UK in Arabs’ country”.
Kludos to Porcia. Please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – as well as your non-print finds and picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.
Clue of the fortnight
Pretty much nothing is doing what it seems in this clue from Picaroon …
22a Complaint of English graduate chasing half-cut Bohemians (6)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for “English”, then abbrev. for “Master of Arts” (“graduate”) after (“chasing”) half of synonym for “Bohemians” ]
[ E, then MA after half of CZECHS ]
[ definition: complaint ]
… for ECZEMA, from a puzzle in which all the across answers have something in common. Ya mas!
Find a collection of explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs at alanconnor.com
The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop