Times 26479 – The ramifications of orthography

Solving time: 40 minutes

Music: Coltrane, Giant Steps

After struggling a little with the Saturday and Sunday puzzles, I was expecting something easy. However, this puzzle proved to be a bit of a challenge, with some rather ambiguous clues and a bit of obscure usage. Of course, it’s only obscure if you’ve never heard of it!

There were several complaints in the discussion forum, but if you are aware of the possible trap and think about the clue carefully, the correct answer is considerably more likely and natural.

I waited until the PGA Championship was complete before starting. Congratulations to Jimmy Walker, and condolences to those who just couldn’t get anything going. Brooks Koepka stole my shot; I always hit the tree square in the middle of the trunk, even if it is 150 yards away, and the only one between me and the hole.

1 TECHNOCRAT, anagram of TRENCH COAT, very clever.
6 ISLE, [a]ISLE.
9 KETCHUP, KETCH + UP, a definite chestnut.
10 PLUMAGE, PLUM + AG + [blu]E.
12 SPELL, double definition, one on the obscure side. However, if you type ‘spell Indian sign’ into Google, it comes up at once.
13 CROTCHETY, CROTCHET + [casualt]Y.
14 OPPOSITE NUMBERS, OPPOSITE (facing) + NUMBERS (book of the Bible).
20 INEBRIANT, anagram of TEN IN BAR, I.
21 TEE + T[oug]H.
25 EARN, EAR + [attentio]N, a clever clue, but easy.
26 TYPESETTER, TYPE + SETTER, where ‘comp’ is presumably an informal term for a
1 TAKE STOCK, a double definition, and a chestnutty one.
2 CUTIE, CU + TIE, another clue that has been seen before.
4 COPYCAT, COPY + CAT in varying senses.
5 ALPHORN, A + LP + [s]HORN.
7 STATEMENT, STATE + MEN + [defea]T.
8 ELEGY, [grav]E(LEG)Y[ards], where ‘on’ is the traditional cricket leg. Baseball, anyone?.
11 UNCOMFORTABLE, UN(COMFORT)ABLE, with ‘comfort’ in the sense of ‘taking some comfort in’.
15 PROCESSOR, PRO[-f,+C]ESSOR, a simple letter change clue where the key is reading the clue carefully to see what is the input and what is the output.
16 SLOTH BEAR, S + LOTH + BEAR. ‘Loth’ is a variant of ‘loath’; the Wictionary remarks: “the loath spelling is about four times more common in the UK and about fifty times more common in the US”.
18 HEARSAY, HEAR + SAY, another rather simple cryptic.
19 NUTCASE, NUT + CASE, with a rather dubious literal.
20 IMBUE, I[talian] M[ountains] B[ehind], U[s], E[xtremely].
22 EGRET, E.G. + RE + [boa]T. .

66 comments on “Times 26479 – The ramifications of orthography”

  1. Was looking for a triple at 12ac. “Turn” was OK and “spell” a possible, as in the verb meaning to be a sign or characteristic of (ODO). But “Indian” seemed a no go. Thanks to Vinyl via Google for the enlightenment. I like the YourDictionary example: “A spell put over a person to make him never be able to fall in love”.

    15dn: in my experience Professors (by virtue of title or rank) avoid admin like the plague and rarely act as heads of department/school/faculty … now a job for time-serving drones. Either way, the two terms are far from synonymous.

    Edited at 2016-08-01 02:03 am (UTC)

  2. I had trouble with SPELL too which held me up for about 10 minutes at the end trying to think of something else to fit. Bunged in 14, missing NUMBERS for ‘Book’, but otherwise no parsing problems.

    I know what mctext is getting at about Professors, but the ones that I know of are buried in a mountain of administrative paperwork and are able to do, or even directly supervise, very little research themselves. On a related matter, maybe the clue for 1a could have been “New trench coat for 15”.

    A pretty gentle start to the week.

    Thanks to setter and blogger.

    1. Thanks Bletch. I get your point.

      Much depends on whether the title is earned by virtue of, say, research/publication record or whether it’s given to a certain admin-type appointment. The semantics of the word “professor” (or “Professor”) would have to be worked out by someone much more clever than I am. (And I do happen to have that title; and I do happen to have been a Head of School at some time while holding the title.)

      As for clue-rewrites, at 8dn I’d have gone for “Put on in centre …”. A mere aesthetic pref. But I did like the nod to Thomas Gray.

  3. After Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I thought this was rather Mondeasy! I think Coltrane would slow me up.

    Just 17 minutes and I was into my Shredded Wheat.



    horryd Shanghai

    1. You must have the massively extended version of “Buffalo Soldier”. Didn’t know there was one :-)>
      1. I have always felt that all songs by Bob M were extended plays? He is my musical bête noire which wouldn’t matter except that I work extensively in Jamaica and Trinidad!
          1. Ouch! Earworm nightmare! I once went into an oft-frequented bar in Jamaica where I was the only white and after several hours rum drinking (I am one of Verlaine’s careless Inebriated), I asked if we could listen to something else. Silence ….. even Bob stopped singing.
  4. 15’30”, so a gentle start to the week. COD to the excellent double definition at 12.
  5. Had to make a hurried decision whether to bung in SPELL not fully parsed, or miss out on an extremely rare sub-10.

    On this occasion the gamble paid off. Equal PB for me, nice timing in the build-up to Rio.

    Thanks setter and thanks Vinyl. BTW, I share your tree-finding ability, despite the constant but unhelpful observation from well-meaning playing partners that trees are “90% air”.

      1. I probably enjoyed the Dockers match more than you did. The Rabbitohs, not so much!
    1. Similar experience for me, being doubtful about LOI SPELL, but relying on the half parsing to finish in 9:15 (sub-10 rare for me as well).

      I read that a British athlete achieved a rare sub-10 at the weekend, being only the 7th or 8th to run the 100m in under 10 seconds. He’s not going to Rio though, being more of a Winter Olympian in his first sport of bobsleigh.

    2. The other unhelpful comment is after a sh**k, “They say it’s nearly a perfect shot”. My fourball partner who had never suffered from them always used to say it, until he had one, he doesn’t now.
    3. Well done on the sub 10 (15 minutes is my PB).
      Trees are indeed 90% air. The trunks and branches are generally less so.
  6. I had no idea what was going on with 12ac, and biffed from checkers and ‘turn’; I assumed that this was my one error, only to discover that I went the wrong way on 15d. It seemed to work fine, but also I had no idea at the time what the alternative would be; a quick alphabet run was, as is often the case with me, too quick and perfunctory. Otherwise, pretty Mondayesque.
  7. I was lucky to finish in 26 minutes given the time spent thinking about 12ac, but it was the only answer I could find that fitted one word in the clue (turn) and possibly “sign” too. I had no idea where “Indian” came into it except that I hoped it wouldn’t be something to bring about more protests here. I didn’t have any doubts about 15dn at the time, but having read the comments elsewhere I think those who plumped for the “wrong” answer have a good argument for the alternative to be allowed.

    On the spelling of “loth”, I have never spelt it with an “a” nor realised it is an option. Whenever I’ve seen it I have assumed the writer had confused “loth” with “loathe” and then omitted the “e”.

    Edited at 2016-08-01 05:01 am (UTC)

    1. I’ve no idea whether it’s right or not, but I’ve always assumed that LOTH is the spelling when it’s an adverb and LOATHE when it’s a verb, which fits in with the clue. I suspect there are the alternative spellings though.
      Fairly straightforward today except I fell headlong into the PROFESSOR/PROCESSOR trap.
      Strangely, on the scale of difficulty I found the Quickie trickier today.
  8. 12:45 … not too hard but a bit of care and attention needed, especially with 15d, as vinyl says (I’m struggling to see any real ambiguity in it, the debate on the Club forum notwithstanding).

    LOI by a distance was SPELL, but the penny eventually dropped. ‘Indian sign’ was a favourite of cricket commentators before the discovery of cultural sensitivity. Talking of cricket, nice knock, Galspray.

    Some very nice clues. OPPOSITE NUMBERS and IMBUE both get a nod from me.

  9. My spelling let me down — not for SPELL, which I correctly guessed, but for INEBRIANT, which I managed to bung in as “inibreant”, thus stuffing my PROCESSOR, which would have been fine if I’d had the right crossers. As it turned out I managed to get neither ISLE nor STATEMENT in my hour anyway, so it would have been a DNF regardless. I feel pretty stupid for a Monday.

    Got the rest just fine, though, all fully parsed, so maybe I’m just having an off day.

  10. 17.38 – a bit of a plod, really, extended by wrong assumptions such as KEEP…something for 17 despite the fact that it wasn’t in the anagram fodder, and the idea that 19 must be a superlative “very foolish” and trial=TEST.
    Being (I think, can’t see anything else) a victim of a similar clue yesterday (on edit, make that “on Saturday”), I took extra care with 15 but was still relieved to get it right. Naturally, I now believe the clue is a model of unambiguous clarity. Yesterday’s of course, wasn’t.
    I left SPELL to last, thinking “Indian sign” might be one of those unlucky idioms now regarded as offensive except by great aunt Times and liable to provoke censure. Subsequent investigation shows the debate about etymology is so inconclusive it includes an Indian Indian origin. As far as I know, the subcontinentals haven’t got around to objecting to the use of “Indian” even when it has a less than positive meaning.

    Edited at 2016-08-01 08:08 am (UTC)

    1. I did a straw poll of the Indians I know and those from Bombay, Madras and Calcutta were all fine with it.
  11. A relatively slow 18’27” , and now I find it’s a dnf, like others I cannot see how one can choose 15d. Liked TYPESETTER, history now. Thanks setter and blogger.
  12. 14:16 , avoiding the Prof trap. Did not know that COMP was a typesetter. To me a COMP will always be one of the long gone Queens of the accounting world, a comptometer operator.
  13. Under 45 mins so at the easy end, makes up for today’s quick crossword. Had vaguely heard of Indian sign. I had always thought it was ALPENHORN so APLHORN was a bit of a biff.
    1. I always thought Alpenhorn or Alpine horn too, but ALPHORN came up in a discussion here towards the end of last March and I looked them all up to confirm they’re all valid. On that occasion the answer was actually “althorn” which is a completely different instrument made of brass instead of wood.
  14. Similar experience, 20 minutes with the last 5 spent on CUTIE and SPELL, the latter half understood; Googling the Indian bit does indeed clear it up.
    I thought LOTH was an adjective not an adverb?
  15. 13.40, a rare sub-15. I prefer ‘professor’ as the answer to 15 dn., as the clue’s grammar seems to signal it. A little weary with cutie as attractive girl, though I suppose she’s no more than a hunk equivalent. But maybe they’re not exact 14 in that the latter may 17. Odd how some clues bring out the 13 in one.
  16. 15 min -but with a typo, as had submitted without rechecking in attempt to get a good time. Seeing I had an error made me think I had made wrong choice at 15dn (or missed something at 12ac) but no.
  17. I thought this was going to be another easy Monday puzzle but like everyone else I was slowed down by 12ac and 15dn and ended up in the 8 minute region. I’d also tossed in a careless INEBRIATE at 20ac which hindered my getting 19dn for a long time, but everything did get resolved fairly happily in the end.
  18. Are you happy on reflection in the processor camp? (On edit) I suppose it’s whether ‘for’ in context more naturally stands for ‘instead of’ or ‘leads to’.

    Edited at 2016-08-01 10:47 am (UTC)

  19. A straightforward 14 mins today with LOI TYPESETTER. I must be too thick to see the nuances as SPELL and PROCESSOR went in without a thought.
  20. Got it right, but with the same misgivings as others.
    My inability to improve my speed makes me feel like one of the plucky Olympic swimmers from a developing country who will never win a medal and is probably fortunate not to drown.
  21. 33m and blissfully unaware of the supposed ambiguity of 15d – pays to be dozy sometimes. LOI and not really understood was SPELL. Pleasant Monday fare overall. I liked AUBERGE as a word and as a clue – my COD. Thanks setter and blogger.
  22. If your answer doesn’t fit either the wordplay or the definition then there’s fair chance that it’s wrong, and so it proved with INEBRIATE. That made 19 impossible and I just left 12 blank as I couldn’t think of anything to put.

    Maybe it’s just sour grapes but I wasn’t particularly impressed by this puzzle.

  23. After a morning at the vets with my old dog, under 20 minutes today, which is super-charged for me. Went for PROCESSOR but felt that the ‘for’ between the two definitions was commutative and thus both answers feasible. To put the Indian sign on somebody is familiar usage to me. An age thing again?
          1. Not so much a joke as a pair of puns: cat and lab(rador) both being vet’s victims/patients as well as two medical terms. I realise, of course that I’ve now driven out all the humour. Sorry.
          2. A man with a very sick parrot goes (sorry about the historical present) to the vet. The vet looks at the parrot and says it’s dead. The man is distraught and asks for a second opinion. The vet opens the door and summons the practice cat who strolls over, looks at the parrot, shakes his head and walk out. The vet says that he’s sorry but there it is. The man, still distraught, asks for a third opinion. The vet calls his Labrador over, who has been asleep in the corner. The Labrador looks at the parrot, barks, then goes back to sleep in his corner. The man now has to accept that his parrot is dead, but when paying the vet’s bill on leaving, he is shocked to be told it is £250. “But I was told a consultation only cost £50!” he cries. “Ah” says the receptionist, “But then there was the CAT scan and the Lab report”!
            1. Thanks for the explanation. I guessed that it would be a shaggy dog story …….
  24. I too fell into this trap with absolutely no excuses whatsoever. It has long been the Times convention that the definition is either at the start or end of a clue, never in the middle.
    1. This isn’t cactually true: the definition is sometimes in the middle of the clue. However if nothing else it’s at least an indication that PROCESSOR is more likely to be the answer if you really can’t decide otherwise.
  25. 13m. I got through most of this very quickly, and had all but 12ac done in just over 7m. I then spent the next 5+ minutes trying to think of something better than SPELL, without success of course. I think this is a horrible clue: a double definition on the form X, Y where X is a bit loose and Y is hopelessly obscure. The result (as is clear from all the comments here) is that the solver is forced into a pretty desperate guess.
    15dn seems unambiguous to me. It’s a clue type that has caught all of us out at one time or another. I can see how you might put in PROFESSOR if you’re in a hurry and have never fallen into the trap before, but you’ll be more on your guard next time.

    Edited at 2016-08-01 01:50 pm (UTC)

    1. Turn = spell as a period of time is hardly loose in a cryptic crossword, and to have or put the Indian sign on someone is hardly obscure in sporting contexts. And at least it’s English, unlike, say, ‘muchacho’…
      1. A ‘turn’ is not necessarily, or even usually, a period of time (it more often refers to a punctual event: ‘my turn to throw the dice’), but it does necessarily imply that someone else will have one. A ‘spell’ is necessarily durative, but does not necessarily (or even usually) imply that someone else will have one. I think it’s OK, just a bit loose, and in the absence of anything else to work on in the clue this ambiguity meant that I wasted a little over five minutes of my life trying and failing to come up with something closer before the aforementioned desperate guess.
        As for ‘Indian sign’, I think the proportion of people on here and the club forum who had never heard of it speaks for itself.
        I take your point on MUCHACHO but for me almost any obscurity is fine if the wordplay is clear. Admittedly the wordplay for that clue was damned hard, but that’s not the same thing as unclear!

        Edited at 2016-08-01 02:47 pm (UTC)

          1. As I said I think it’s OK, just a bit loose. The words are sometimes close in meaning and there are situations where they can be substituted, but in the vast majority of situations they have quite distinct meanings. A definition like that, combined with a second definition that is very obscure, and without any great merit in the surface reading to justify it, makes for a bad clue, IMO.
  26. Doable for a novice like me with a bit of hard work. I biffed 8d and 15d so thanks to the blogger for the explanations. Last in was SPELL which fit “turn” but took a guess on Indian sign.
  27. I biffed “spell” on the basis of “dizzy turn” or “dizzy spell”, completely ignoring the rest of the clue – a strategy which I would not recommend, given the problems it causes me on a dispiritingly regular basis.

    Dave S.

  28. About 15 minutes, but needed head scratching at the end over SPELL. It went in as a guess, based on ‘turn’. The Indian sign thing wasn’t within my experience, apparently like many others here. Weird clue. Everything else was OK, except I had to shrug at compensation=comfort at 11D. The answer was clear even if the word[play was less so. In any event, regards.
  29. I didn’t have time to look into ‘Indian sign’ this morning but have just been doing a bit of ferreting and found this exchange between Bogart and Bacall in the 1947 movie Dark Passage:

    Irene Jansen: I thought I had a good life here… but your going away doesn’t make it seem good anymore. I’ve sort of joined your team and… and I don’t look forward to being without you.

    Vincent Parry: When I leave here, you’re off my team, and lucky to be. Nah, I’ve got the Indian sign on me. It seems I can’t win.

  30. 9 mins. I knew that “Indian sign” is an expression meaning a spell or a hoodoo so I had no problem with 12ac. Although I needed all the checkers for PROCESSOR and it was my LOI I’m in the same camp as those who feel the clue was unambiguous. Like a few others I wasted time at 17ac by assuming the first word was going to be “keep”, while looking at the anagram fodder carefully stopped me bunging in “inebriate”.
  31. Sounds like I had the typical experience – zipped through everything and was left with SPELL and PROCESSOR – SPELL seemed plausible from one definition and went in with crossed fingers, PROCESSOR was much sneaker but definitely the correct answer.
  32. 48 minutes and DNF, SPELL being the culprit. My candidates were STEAL (which made even less sense for the Indian sign), SPELL and SHELL, and unfortunately I talked myself into visualising Indians leaving directions in the woods with shells and turning over money being the same as shelling it out, or over?. Obviously I have never heard of Indian signs. No problems with PROCESSOR though — the instructions are quite clear.
  33. Just under 24 minutes, so probably a PB; I might try Monday’s more often.

    Didn’t have a problem with spell = turn on the cricketing basis that one could equally have a spell or a turn bowling. Given the frequency cricketing terminology turns up I was quite happy to bung spell in on that basis & that the second definition seemed at least plausible.

    I didn’t even consider professor for 15 (which may say more about me than anything else, i.e., too stupid to over think the clue).

    1. This was the basis I justified SPELL, but it’s a fairly specific usage and I don’t know enough about cricket to have been sure about it. I think I’ve heard the term used to refer more generally to a period of play, too: I may be misremembering this but it contributed to my hesitation.
      1. Yes, I think you could also say (in the context of the last test match) that England had a second spell (or turn) batting against the Pakistanis when they didn’t need to as they were so far ahead.
        1. My knowledge of cricket in general, and the last test match in particular, is such that I’ll have to take your word for it!
      2. Perhaps I’m somewhat infected by American usage, given my high consumption of US TV, but the verb form of “I’ll spell you…”, meaning “I’ll take a turn at doing that for you…” has these fairly well associated in my brain.
  34. 9:07 for me, dithering over SPELL for at the end, not being completely sure of the “Indian sign” meaning. A pleasant enough start to the week apart from that.
  35. I am several days behind, and expect to remain so for some time, owing to the Mediterranean weather combined with the fact that I am, in fact, in the Mediterranean. I am on holiday, which is not at all good in any sense for my brain, and am having to drink large numbers of G&Ts to ward off malaria. Apparently malaria is almost unknown here, but that only goes to show how effective G&Ts are.

    As to the puzzle itself, fairly straightforward apart from the SPELL that seemed to give most people pause for thought. I toyed very briefly with “smell” before deciding that, although it might bear some relation to “turn”, it could not be linked to “Indian” in any plausible sense.

    Time to top up the quinine levels before tackling yesterday’s, I think.

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