Look: a new category!
Inspired by NC’s and RB’s surmisings, here comes Ask DA, where we theorise as to what is the correct explanation for a clue in the hope that DA might shine a light on the cogitations of his own prestidigitatious mind.
Now, the clue:
25 across: Fairly serious fugitive touched by a small formality (8)
The clue seems to work as follows: fairly serious = grave – e, fugitive touched = it and a small = as giving fairly serious fugitive touched by a small = gravitas = formality.
The problem: how to account for fugitive touched = it.
NC’s proposed explanation, in his own words:
We just have to explain how fugitive touched = IT, just as if DA is using “touched” as some sort of “use the central bit of” indicator.
What if DA thinks that to be “touched” (i.e. emotionally) is the same as “to have your heart stolen”…if so, then QED.
Now, I quite like that as a solution, but I also thought of something a little bit more humdrum in fairly serious = gravity (as in the gravity of a situation, which is fairly serious), fairly serious fugitive = gravity – y (as in a runaway or fugitive letter) and a small = as, so that touched by is there to make the clue flow better and to confound.
Anyway, that’s two possible explanations for the same clue, although I hope NC more correctly read DA’s mind because it’s cleverer.