Crossword blog: many, many clues about Dominic Cummings

In the sample clues below, the links take you to little explainers from our For Beginners series.

The news in clues

Let’s call it: the crossword is no longer a guaranteed sanctuary from the rest of the paper. Some solvers will regret this; readers Shenguin and Dimsworthy forcefully put the case for crossword-as-haven in the conversation at a previous post. If you prefer puzzles to avoid mentioning what’s happening – and you’ve plenty of justification – please skip to the next subhead.

The reason is that the words some setters avoided at the start of what we’re calling “This”

20ac Mother’s in meeting ad infinitum, feeling fine (12)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘mother’ contained by (‘in’), and there’s no way to say this, mathematical term used when approaching infinity ]
[ definition: feeling fine ]

… such as ASYMPTOMATIC, are back. The setter here, Philistine, is a surgeon, who kicks off the same puzzle with a curt direction …

1ac Please spread out (6)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘spread’) of PLEASE ]
[ definition: out ]

… as a clue for ASLEEP. And in the Independent on Sunday, Hoskins could not be more timely

20d Depressing high toll overwhelms hospital department (7)
[ wordplay: synonym for a high-pitched bell sound (‘high toll’) surrounding abbrev. for Ear, Nose & Throat (‘hospital department’) ]
[ DING surrounding ENT ]
[ definition: depressing ]

… in the surface reading of a horrendously This clue for DENTING.

Latter patter

Here’s a clue by Pan from the quiptic, the Guardian’s stepping-stone puzzle “for beginners and those in a hurry”.

27ac Managed to get gold box valued (12)
[ wordplay: heraldic term for ‘gold’ + synonyms for ‘box’ & ‘valued’ ]
[ definition: managed ]

And so it’s ORCHESTRATED, a word that owes its origin, via the spot where the chorus used to dance, to the Greek ὀρχεῖσθαι. To dance. My feelings about Ezra Pound are almost entirely to do with his choice of sides in the early 1940s, but I think often of his thought that goes like this:

Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music

Pound aside, I’m thrilled to think of dancing as etymologically baked into the orchestra, whatever it might play. I imagine dancing’s being there too in a term that is doubtless evolving as we speak. I’m prepared to accept that perhaps no one was maintaining logs of its earlier use as hips swayed in Harlem nightspots, but reader: how would you clue HIPSTER?

Incidentally, if you can put aside the poignancy of his having to pluck alone in the Wigmore Hall, last week’s recital by Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe (reviewed here by the Guardian) is wonderful while solving and better still while only listening.

Sean Shibe

Cluing competition

Thanks for your clues for IMPACT. A bumper harvest once again and Dimsworthy thoughtfully remarks: “I genuinely wonder how Alan deals with them all.” Equally genuinely, the only annoyance is choosing what to exclude to get a readable digest. (And regarding jargon – as the word “impact” has become in part – this recommendation of Jonathan Meades is seconded.)

Etymon gets the audacity award for “What paintballs explode on”, though that wouldn’t be so audacious in an American puzzle, where every square is part of an across and a down answer.

Now is the moment where we reiterate the advice at the top; this time, if you want some respite from This, skip to the penultimate paragraph of this section. This is because many of the clues were, in the words of Harlobarlo, “not about This, but about That”. In fact, we’ve never once had so many clues evoke the same incident in their surface.

So, recounting what will surely never be forgiven, we have among plenty of others: Lizard’s “Dom C. is apt to be portrayed as devious sod with such influence”, PeterMooreFuller’s “Starts to investigate Machiavellian political advisor caught travelling? There will be consequences!”, Harlobarlo’s “Consequence of emphatic spinning? Sadly, he’s rejected”, Mojoseeker’s “On the road back from Durham, bargain for influence”, Faiton77’s “Press together? One understanding this holds the end of Dom” and Porcia’s “Current prime minister lying about episode’s significance”. Thanks to all and to others – and so much for populism.

The runners-up are Catarella’s plausible “Effect of tight cap – migraine returning” and Dunnart’s semi-cheering “POW camp liberated in Italy”; the winner is Porcia’s deft “‘The name’s Bond …’ makes an impression”.

Kludos to Porcia. Please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.

Clue of the fortnight

Your suggestions are welcome on how to parse this, from Dean Mayer in the Sunday Times …

17d How to pronounce the ‘h’ of ‘aaargh’? (8)

… but as a clue for ASPIRATE, it shivers my timbers.


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