DA for the 25/26th of February, 2011

Over a series of posts, there’s an interesting discussion of cryptic clues over at DA’s blog. I thoroughly recommend you reading the posts and the comments.

And now on to DA: this week, as always, he’s back.

Comment on DA’s clues below! (Although no spoilers on this thread until Monday.)

Update: Not Pantheon material for mine:

HOLY COW might just be in DA’s top 10 clues of all time, but there’s one thing I’ve learnt about DA the hard way: fear the question mark.

I only got two thirds of it done before throwing in the towel. Looking through the comments here, though, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more complaint. TACKY I thought pretty bad, HAD ON I don’t think fits with BEGUILED, ASSIDUOUS in the VEGAN clue is perplexing, I just don’t get the double definition in BRACE, I thought AISLE was too much of a stretch, DENSITY ain’t MASS, MAKING in the CONTRACT KILLING clue seems a word too much and I didn’t like WEBSTER either.

CIGARETTE PAPERS, though, I thought a touch of genius.

Maybe Loroso’s more pedantic analysis of cryptic clues on DA’s blog, which I linked to above, unduly influenced me, but this week, I was disappointed by DA’s libertarian ways more than I was pleased.

41 thoughts on “DA for the 25/26th of February, 2011

  1. A bit harder this week. A couple of nice DAisms, and a couple of annoyances. I haven’t finished it yet, which means I have something to do over lunch, unlike the last couple of weeks.

  2. I can’t think of anywhere that will let you be as sneaky as DA that doesn’t already employ DA.

  3. Yes indeed. And even his current digs seem ambivalent, given his recent comments about the Little Creatures puzzle.

  4. Enjoyed this one while I ate lunch, 23D was the last one out. Some good jokes (drum necessities, alternative to Windows, keen surfer, godsend).

  5. Trying not to look at the confusions/hints until I’ve done a few more, but have been finding this week’s a little slower to get going than in recent weeks.
    Just wondering, I’ll be in Perth for next two weekends. Will the DA cryptic be in any papers over there? If so, which day? Anyone know?

  6. Finding this week’s a tad more taxing than in recent times, but agree with Peter’s comments about the three of his four examples that I’ve got so far. Still working on the first of those and a few others (but the Age was late today).

  7. Yes, with you DaveR, I’m finding it slow going, but enjoying the answers when I get there, eg windows, bottom pinched, drum.

  8. Very enjoyable this week – 10A didn’t even upset me!
    Favourites were 9A, 12A, 15A, 22A and 17D.

  9. Also struggling this week I’m afraid (though really enjoyed 15a when I finally worked it out) – have about half, and some guesses but don’t follow the wordplay… admitting defeat and off to the other thread :)

  10. Liked this week’s – fun ones were 24A, 22A, 5A, 25A, 15A, 11A., 18 A, 17 A
    And a little begrudgingly 12A because the mispronunciation threw me. (Might need to see a shrink about that.)

  11. This may seem really dumb witted, but can someone tell me how to find the earlier comments? I can only see the last 11

  12. We finished this one this morning in bed (too much children’s sport on a Melbourne Saturday to do it justice). I think this is one of the best non themed DAs in a long time and a candidate for the pantheon. I don’t have any quibbles with the wordplay of any clue (notwithstanding all of the discussion in the other thread). Some of the definitions were really clever, playful & funny. I didn’t need a dictionary or thesaurus for any clue (I did check spelling for 12a and to confirm 1a). Solving each clue gave a sense of delight that you don’t get with other compilers. 15a, 22a & 9a were particularly good but I really can’t find a bad or annoying clue in this one. Bravo DA. Maybe I am raving – what do others think?

  13. I thought it pretty good but not great. Some good jokes, as others have said. My favres were 26A, 5D and 17D.

  14. We thought it tough but fair, and a very enjoyable 90 minutes or so. We finished on 23D after carefully pondering the use of italics and reaching the right conclusion.

  15. Re the italics in 23D. I think this has come up before, but what, if any, is the significance of italics in a clue?

  16. I took the italics to indicate that it was the title of a film or book, so as to justify the surface meaning.
    I think you’re right, JK, about this one being a Pantheon candidate.
    Is the Pantheon dominated by themed crosswords because they’re better, more memorable or just more easily named? Or d) all of the above?

  17. I think it is much harder to remember the non themed crosswords & therefore I have put in my pantheon vote for this one quite early. Individual clues are easier to recall & I think most of us of a certain age will nostalgically savour “drum necessities” for a while.

  18. PS Not that you, GB, would ever have savoured anything to do with drum, bank, midland or champion ruby.

  19. Doesn’t make the pantheon for me. Two mistakes, 10A – you might as well say that ‘uncle’ and ‘nephew’ are synonyms – and 15A should be plural. A major quibble with 24A, for me, using Drum as a synonym is just too much. A minor quibble with 23D, they are not ‘assiduous diners’, they just have different things in their pantries. And I felt that he was trying too hard in some clues, eg, 5D, 8D. And there’s no way 13D are ‘showy’. Bouganvilleas are showy, jacarandas are showy, but! Sure, it’s a very good crossword, but it’s not pantheon.

  20. Well put JG, although I have to disagree with you on 24A. Drum isn’t meant as a synonym, the answer is a necessity for using Drum (as well as many other brands). No different to saying water is necessary for a shark, that doesn’t imply a shark is a synonym for all fish even though water is necessary for them too.
    But the rest of the problems disqualify it from the pantheon even though there were some very good ones in there.

  21. Have to disagree JG. Given the choice between humour and precise definitions, I’ll take humour every time. As long as it doesn’t interfere with solving the clue! It bothers me more when the wordplay is wrong.
    In most of these cases, I found that the wordplays led towards the answers fairly quickly. For example with 10A, ‘lairs’ led straight to DENS, 21D had to start with V. When it was clear that they had to be DENSITY and VEGAN, then I didn’t mind that the definitions were imprecise.
    As for 15A, yes it would have been better for the definition if the answer had been plural, but again, it didn’t interfere with me getting the answer or with being certain that it was correct once I had it – and they’re the things that matter most to me.
    Just my opinion!

  22. Some great clues: 22A and 17D were beauties; and 18A, 5D and others were pretty good. But some vague stuff too IMO. I agree with many of JG’s criticisms. On 15A, I thought the definition was just too vague, with the singular/plural mismatch leading me to reject it until the very end. That’s the trouble with DA’s vague definitions: unless the rest of the clue is absolutely spot on, you can’t be sure you’ve nailed it. Other poor defs for me were 5A, 10A (but I agree with GB that the wordplay was pretty clear), 24A (maybe if I’d been a smoker I’d have warmed more to this clue), 21D (assiduous just wasn’t the right word IMO).

  23. I concede regarding pantheon status – the consensus is clearly against me!

    However, in relation to the comments at the start of this thread: “tacky” is clever, like a tack and hardly neat; fastidious eater may have been better for the vegan clue but committed vegans are “persistent, diligent & constant in application” ie assiduous; a brace is a pair (II) as well as what you do before crashing; without the word “making” the contract killing clue would have made no sense as surface reading, making a fortune is a killing; “webster” is funny, American slang commonly puts “ster” on the end of nouns to denote an enthusiast; the genius of aisle is that the clue feints towards “apple” as an alternative to windows and 2 of the letters are the same, it takes a lot of lateral thinking to realise that an aeroplane is the setting of the clue, this more than makes up for the plural/singular mismatch. I cannot so easily defend density for mass or had on. Everyone agrees that cigarette papers & holy cow are very good clues – I think went ape & leveret are almost as good.

  24. I think HOLY COW is my all time favourite – love it! And I have no problem with an AISLE being an alternative to Windows (seats in a plane).

  25. Yes, I liked those two clues, Jonathan. I enjoy those clues (like the Windows alternative) which seem to be leading a particular way. No matter how many DAs I do, and no matter how much I try to look out for them, I fall into the traps continually!
    Once again, I’m grateful for my lack of scientific knowledge – no problem with mass/density confusion for me!

  26. JK, I just don’t like TACKY = HARDLY NEAT, and even with your explanation, I still don’t get II = BRACE!

    And I reckon the themed clues are (much) more likely to be awarded Pantheon status because the really good ones, for instance the noel, circumnavigation, footnotes and money for nothing crosswords, are brilliant by design — the clues themselves hardly matter.

  27. AS, on reflection I agree that tackiness is not the same as a lack of neatness, a rough synonym at best. If a soccer player kicks two goals it is referred to as a brace of goals – II is 2. And, yes, I am a real fan of the themed crosswords like yourself. I am sad that DA has indicated that he might be moving away from them for a while, presumably because of complaints from readers of the SMH & Age.

  28. Crikey JK, brace has much older origins doesn’t it? A brace of pheasant, etc.
    Yes, it would be a great shame if DA is deterred from using themes. Maybe The Age should publish 2 cryptics on a Saturday: a DA for us and an un-themed, controversy-free one with perfectly formed, humourless clues for the great unwashed?

  29. I’d hate for my criticisms earlier in this and the other thread to be taken as any kind of complaint against DA or themed crosswords in general. I pay for the online SMH for one reason and one reason only, and that is DA. You can take your Ximenean purity and stick it … Hint? Hush! Stow deer and goose roughly in dark place. (5, 3, 3, 3’1, 5).

  30. On Windows: us country bumkins have to fly CountryLink. There are two Windows, but only one Aisle.
    On Brace: Crash II is in italics, hence a movie, and definitely B-grade, hence I thought that it was a B-RACE ?? Though I do like the II = pair = brace explanation better.

  31. AS, I agree with half of your complaints. But I’ll defend DA on these:
    TACKY: maybe it’s not the first meaning that springs to mind (yours or mine) but it can mean “neglected and in a state of disrepair” according to thefreedictionary.com.
    HAD ON: my dictionary says it can mean to “deceive or hoodwink”. Once again it might not be the first meaning that springs to mind, but the clue is justifiable.
    I’m sure you’ve got the BRACE clue by now but just in case – it’s a double definition: “Prepare for crash”= BRACE; II=BRACE.
    WEBSTER was a great clue IMO, as per JK’s defence above.

  32. I thought I’d already learnt the look-up-a-dictionary-before-complaining lesson the embarrassing way, but no, I fall for it again with HAD ON. I thought it was just a malformed version of BEING HAD.

    Similarly with TACKY. I just assumed I knew the entirety of that word’s meaning. Again, I’m shown up.

    Had no idea BRACE = PAIR, but I did look that up in the dictionary. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find the right meaning amongst the many in there for BRACE.

  33. “Bit of xyz” = x is hallowed by regular use, especially in the UK cryptics, especially amongst the libertarians. Just make a note of the pattern so you can recognize it if you see it.

  34. Thanks for the tip, Ian. I must say I think it’s an egregious technique. Like the UK overuse of single letter abbreviations (eg temperature=T, name/number/noon=N etc), to me it smacks of laziness on the part of the setter.

  35. Huh. “egregious” technique. You use that phrase pejoratively, but my recollection of school-boy Latin is that “egregious” merely means “distinguished”, as “stands out”.
    (Ah! backed up by http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=egregious).

    So, I disagree with you: it’s not an egregious convention, just a crap one.
    :^)

    Oh, well. I wonder what Saturday will bring us.

  36. Fascinating stuff, MF. I had no idea that “egregious” used to mean the opposite of what I intended. Interesting how word meanings can change over the centuries!

  37. @MF’s link also points out that the current meaning of the English word egregious has been used since the late 16th century. The latin root may mean something different, but last I looked, the Romans did not have cryptic crosswords (and thus, their empire was doomed).

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