Ask DA for the 22nd of May

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.

14 thoughts on “Ask DA for the 22nd of May

  1. I’m glad this category has been started. This “fugitive touched” thing has been bugging me since Friday! For my money, NC’s explanation is the best so far, but, if it’s correct, I don’t like it and I think DA’s gone too far. I’ve tried to get my head round the latest offering above (gravity – y etc) but I can’t see where “fugitive” fits into this explanation. Are you suggesting the “y” is dropped because of “fairly” or because of “fugitive”?

  2. I’ll emend the post and make it clearer, but I meant fairly serious = gravity and fairly serious fugitive = gravity – y, as in gravity with a runaway letter, which, in this case, would be the y.

  3. It’s a good attempt but I just can’t buy it. I can just about accept the “y” disappearing because of the “fugitive”, but not the wrong grammar in equating “fairly serious” (adjective) with “gravity” (noun). We’ve had three attempts so far at explaining this clue (NC, AS, and mine) and I’d rank them in that order (best to worst). To be honest, I’d have to say that, even if NC’s explanation is correct, this clue is DA bullshit.

  4. does have an entry for serious as a noun:

    And I suppose you can say it’s the difference between the fairly serious and the not-so serious, although I can’t think of a way that it’s possible for fairly serious to be replaceable by gravity.

  5. No, I can’t either. But you are trying really hard!

    Unless someone comes up with a good explanation, surely this one’s heading for the bullshit basket.

  6. Bit of a tormenter this one. I took a slightly different bent , but it’s still a bit iffy. Fairly serious = GRAV then “fugitive” in an adjectival sense as in “fleeting ” or “transitory” gives IN TRANSIT or IT touched by “a small” gives AS, hence GRAVITAS.
    It would be great if we were all put out of our misery with an intervention by the man himself. There was a suspicion this happened a few months back when a certain “David” gave a correct but somewhat terse explanation of a particularly devious clue. Was this in fact “DAvid”? Time will tell. Good fun though.

  7. For what’s it worth, my take on this toughie:

    Fairly serious [GRAVE – E] fugitive touched [in playground tag, the touched fugitive becomes IT] by a [A] small [S] formality [def]

    A fine blog by the way. Keep up the debate, the insights, the brickbats and contagious exuberance.

  8. All is forgiven, David. Apologies for intimating that the bullshit basket beckoned for this clue. It is, I now think, a brilliant, albeit ferociously difficult, clue! Fugitive touched = it! Pity none of us were smart enough to think of that.

    An interesting coincidence: on the way into here, I happened to be perusing
    – I believe this is the only previous time David has helped out. The interesting thing is that five comments after David’s is one from AL which remarks on the GRAVITAS of David’s comment!

  9. With all due respect.

    Fugitive touched? Fugitive in tag? If that doesn’t warrant a “?” then I’ll go HE for tiggy.

  10. For what it’s worth, I am convinced by David’s explanation (in playground tag, touched fugitive = IT).

    If I had thought of it first, that would have been my take too. My previous suggestion is much less likely, a bit of last resort desperation.

    I don’t know whether David is DA or not and personally I don’t really care. Actually I think I prefer the mystery to be maintained, as long as David keeps visiting from time to time and gives us the benefit of his brilliant insights, especially when we are really stymied.

  11. I’m puzzled by PB’s entry above. It’s exactly the same as the very first entry (which was mine). Is this blatant plagiarism? Or a massive typo?

  12. I think that strange comment was a robot.

    The link was to a strange lost forums page. Anyway, deleted now.

    And RB, nice spotting the GRAVITAS connection. Very amusing.

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