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Crossword roundup: why we call it 'muscovado' sugar


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The news in clues

As well as finding another ingenious piece of wordplay involving a certain office-holder, Matilda reflects the endless recent headlines about gambling in this clue …


5ac After Betfred ruined me, finally back in the black (4,4)
[wordplay: anagram (“ruined”) of BETFRED + last letter (“finally”) of ME]
[DEBTFRE + E]
[definition: back in the black]

… for DEBT-FREE in the quiptic, the Guardian’s stepping-stone puzzle ‘for beginners and those in a hurry’.

Across in the Financial Times, Velia finds a terse way …


16ac We’re leaving this mythical being for a minor royal (7)
[wordplay: institution we (the UK) are leaving + mythical being]
[EU + GENIE]
[definition: a minor royal]

… to indicate the EU at the beginning of EUGENIE. And the Times has one of its rare super-topical moments in this clue …


8d Wanting Momentum to put party type before people (10)
[wordplay: type of party, then (“before”) synonym for “people”]
[STAG + NATION]
[definition: wanting momentum]

… for STAGNATION.

Latter patter

Here is Pasquale:


3d Sugar upset tot before Virginia tucked into fish and duck (9)
[wordplay: reversal (“upset”) of synonym for “tot” (as a verb), then abbreviation for “Virginia” inside (“tucked into”) type of fish and a letter suggesting duck (in the cricket sense)]
[reversal of SUM, then VA inside COD and O]
[definition: sugar]

The answer is that molasses-adjacent form of sugar we call MUSCOVADO. But why do we call it that? The start of the story is clear enough: in Portuguese, it is “açucar mascavado” (“brown sugar”), which we borrowed and then mangled.

For one thing – in keeping with other exotic foodstuffs such as the muscovy duck (which has nothing to do with Moscow) and muscatel (which can at least be musky) – we tossed out the “mos” and replaced it with “mus”. For good measure, we spent a while putting it in the plural, for no sensible reason, as we did with molasses.

Perhaps it is compensation for the times we have presumed a foreign word for something delicious is plural and created a new word: when we borrowed the French “macis”, we took it to mean “maces” and so invented the new word “mace”. We did the same with the subject of our next challenge.

From the Latin “capparis”, via the earlier English “capres”: reader, how would you clue CAPER?

Cluing competition

Many thanks for your clues for MORTGAGE.

Phitonelly reminds us of the importance to crosswords of the MG with “Car outside worth stripping? Time to get a loan”, while Croquem reminds us how a cryptic definition can point you in completely the wrong direction with “Significant advance in the housing market?”

The runners-up are GappyTooth’s poignant “Age got Mr Funny a serious debt” and Alberyalbery’s terse “Flat rate?”. The winner is Porcia’s suggestive “Go and get frisky with a Mr Bond”.

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

Clue of the fortnight

Bad news if you come to the crossword pages to avoid the news (or if you are easily shocked by bodily functions): here is Vlad …


11/14ac Congress can get ready to remove Trump, initially for being crazy (6,1,5,5)
[wordplay: synonym for “congress” + synonym for “can” + synonym for “get ready” without first letter of (“initially”) TRUMP]
[HAVING A SCREW + LOO + SET without T]
[definition: being crazy]

… appropriately obfuscating all the way to HAVING A SCREW LOOSE. Bigly.



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