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Solving time 7:18

You'll have guessed by now that today is the centenary of the birth of John Betjeman. I'm pretty sure I know which Times setter is a big JB fan. I'd like to see a few more Times puzzles like this, even though I probably don't know enough JB to get all the jokes in this one.

For a while now, I've had a puzzle of my own in the works. You can try it here. I invented my own grid, but otherwise it's intended to be roughly in the Times style, maybe on the difficult side. Let me know what you think - maybe by e-mail if you want to go into detail.

5SLOUGH - 2 mngs, ref. "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough / It isn't fit for humans now"
9NINE=square,TIES=games - cricket batsmen got through the "nervous nineties" just before scoring a century.
15ULEMA - hidden word
20JOHN BETJEMAN - anag. of J,J,both,Anne,me. Don't know when JB called himself a hack but I can imagine it.
26TENNER = "tenor" - JB's autobiog. was of course "Summoned by Bells"
27PROD,ROME - I haven't bothered to look it up, but I guess a prodrome is like a syndrome.

1CONK - 2 meanings
7UNBEATABLE - letter swap in unbearable
8Joan HUNTER-DUNN - "furnished and burnished by Aldershot sun" etc.
11TAXI,NSPECTOR = anag. of cops rent
13OUT OF JOINT - ref. quote from Hamlet
17BOMBARDED - cryptic def. referring to same poem as 5.

Jumbo 657: 20:58 - Jumbos seem a bit dull these days - I'm sure there were a few with themes a few years ago - all of Jane Austen's novel titles in one grid, for example. Puzzles like this are just more of the same stuff as the cryptic - especially when, like today's, the grid uses no entries longer than 15 letters. (Or the themes are too subtle for me to notice...)

Guardian has another posthumous Bunthorne today - not yet tried.


Sep. 4th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
Well, you say tomato...

I don't care what the sniffy Times counts as a dictionary. My dictionary, (which seems to have every other word, but curiously doesn't have 'esse'), gives 'island' and its shortened form 'isle' as nautical terms for the superstructure and bridge on a ship.

I agree that your answer also works - and perhaps you'll be a gentleman and acknowledge that mine does too. Thank you, sir.
Sep. 5th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
I've now found this meaning of "island" in Webster's 3rd New International, so let's look at whether this clue can lead to ISLE (after all, Times solvers are supposed to be reasonably well-educated people living off their wits rather than looking things up in dictionaries).

If the clue is not a cryptic def., double def., or &lit., it must consist of definition and wordplay which account for the whole clue except the odd linking word, and do not overlap. Quick reminder of the clue: "Being in middle of ship (4)".

For the wordplay, you say "IS meaning being" and "LE from middLE". Assuming you think "in middle" provides the LE, that leaves you with "of ship" as the definition. No cryptic setter should expect you to get from "of ship" to "the superstructure of a ship" - it's a hopelessly inadequate definition. Even if you were to allow def. and wordplay to overlap, there isn't enough anywhere in this clue to give you a fair def'n for this meaning of 'island'.

Looking at the wordplay in more detail... For what it's worth, I'd say that IS doesn't mean 'being'. Try this rule of thumb: can you invent a sentence where you can swap "is" and "being" without changing the meaning or producing nonsense? I don't think you can. For the sort of 'synonym substitutions' used in clues, this kind of swap should be possible. Getting "LE" from "in middLE": I don't think you'll ever see the Times using just "in XXXX" to mean "some part of XXXX", especially one of the ends.

Conclusion: once you properly understand how cryptic clues work, especially the ones used in Times puzzles, ISLE cannot possibly be the answer to this clue.