Next weekend's Wordplay column is how travel and crosswords go hand-in-hand. Late last year in Hungary and the Balkans, I cracked 2 or 3 puzzles per diem, using each grid as a covert journal in buses and coffeehouses. The same habit also lent a random supply of English, more fuel for future clues and column ideas.
A self-sustaining circle really. As for the book to offer nourishment, I found an old 1998 Times collection beside the Houdini museum in Budapest. This week I'm sharing the book's best clues for you to solve. While next week, as the Wordplay column outlines, I aim to showcase the nine clues I'm still struggling to fathom.
Enjoy the column - in Sydney's Spectrum this Saturday. And enjoy these superlative clues, as I did in transit. (Beware - Number 2 is a lulu!)
1. Attempt to reform some liar? (8)
2. Either part of Sinai? (5)
3. Saw result of one footballer being off? (5)
4. One may get loaded, playing poker with cash (9)
5. Ruined volume needs fresh cover (9)
6. Part-time medic? (6)
7. What perhaps to do with poodle (French miniature) (5)
8. Supporters of Napoleon guillotined despicable people (7)
Can you crack all eight, with possible hints to be found among fellow solvers in the Comments? And can you compose your own clues for any of the same solutions?
DRUXY [noun, adjective] - (of) something which looks good on the outside, but proves to be rotten within; of timber with streaks of decay. [Alteration of earlier dricksie, from drix, decayed part of timber.] Beware: many a druxy presents as flawless on Tinder.
HASHMAGANDY [hash-MAR-gan-dee] - bland stew; any insipid army dish [WW1 ANZAC slang, a corruption of salmagundi - dish of spiced meat & beetroot] Army base cooks - or bait-layers - were notorious for their hashmagandy du jour.
GROAK - hungrily look at another eating; staring with palpable envy [Via Scottish, including the variants growk, grook, grouk, groak, groke or groach] Labradors are the habitual groakers of the mammal kingdom.
Late last year I skimmed the Balkans, savouring Sarajevo while a book of Times crosswords as I went. Dated back to 1998, the book was damn fine company, offering plenty of wry clues, as well as handy notepaper in the margins.
Yet some clues resisted scrutiny. Or a quick parsing at least, such as the octet on show, all drawn from the same book: The Times Crosswords Book 21. Any help on my huhs would be welcome. And see who can compose the wiliest alternative clues for any of the same solutions.
1. First road turns into railway station = VICTORIA
2. Marx, nonetheless, unwanted in party? = HARP [I get the HARP/o trick, but why so unpopular at parties?]
3. It describes the investment of a decade = ILIAD [Classical reference over my bronze visor?]
4. Partner to lead? = ESCORT
5. A seat that rider initially gets into with legs apart = ASTRADDLE [Where did ADDLE come from?]
6. Voice strong objection to fashion = CREATE
7. Metal ship = BRITANNIA
8. Compare edges of iron coin found in a bit of China? = COFFEE-CUP
TELESTICH - tuh-LEST-tic - short poem where the last letters of each successive line combine to spell a word or message. [From Greek telos - end, plus stich - line] Embedding a word in a rhyming telestich is ten times tougher than a free-verse example.
WITZELSUCHT [VIT-sell-sookt] - neurological impulse to make puns or tell inappropriate jokes [From German witzeln, to joke, plus sucht - addiction or desire] Any card-carrying member of the Dad Union suffers a degree of Witzelsucht.
KIASU [key-AR-su] - person ruled by self-interest, often manifesting in the dread of missing out on something. [From Chinese (Hokkien), lit. ‘scared to lose’] FOMO fever is embodied by Beijing's own kiasu.
SAINFOIN [SANE-foyn] - pink-flowered plant of the pea family, grown widely for livestock fodder. [From French saintfoin, after modern Latin sanum foenum, or ‘healthy hay’, in reference to its purported medicinal properties.] "Hey Madeleine, your bovine looks divine after her sainfoin regimen."
Regular clue-whiz and Big Issue compiler Stephen Knight (alias SK) has devised a crossword saluting a few moronic, sardonic & tonic moments of 2017.
Who knows? The grid could exhume a certain inauguration fizzer, the odd Brexit-gate, or maybe Sam Kerr's aerial somersault. Feel free to download the PDF below and test your wits, with all solvers invited to share their feedback in the Comments section. SK would be delighted. Enjoy the retrovision.
TANTIVY [TAN-tee-vee] - at full tilt; a quick gallop; sound of a hunting horn imitating a speeding horse [Arguably deriving from onomatopoeia, echoing the sound of a hunting horn or galloping hooves.] The man from Snowy River rode tantivy down the spur.
ALVEOLIFORM [al-vee-OH-lee-form] - shaped like a honeycomb [From Latin alve(us) - concave vessel + ole (diminutive) + form] Open-plan offices are alveoliform.
Your final tranche of ab-fab clues, harvested from the year's crop of British cryptics. Some you may have met, if you're an addict, while other will test how deep your addiction goes. Note: the final pair are both intended for DOWN solutions.
See how many you can crack solo, then consult the Comments for the hints of fellow travellers. Or relish the alternative clues for any of the same eight answers. Savour'm.
1. Attire worn by bishop? (7) [Times 11026]
2. Congestion likely here: take train (5,5) [Times 11031]
3. He wanted bottle of cordial, only laced with whisky (8,4) [Picaroon]
4. Like Inspector Clouseau's awful jewelry? (8) [Puck]
5. Axes cut perfect instrument (9) [Times 10960]
6. Competition winner awarded an Apple iPod, or the alternative (9) [Beet]
7. Transient supporter turned up to invade pitch (8) [Arachne]
8. Lie with young woman on top (8) [Vlad]
Dole out condolences, or braggadocio, below. And who can craft the niftiest alternative clue?
MUDRA [MUDD-rah] - symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu ceremonies and statues, as well as Indian dance. [From Sanskrit mudrā ‘sign or token.] Tantric rituals call on 108 mudras, each one a spiritual seal of authenticity.
FRAENUM [FREE-num] - fold of membrane that restrains the motion of a part, such as the the tongue's underside [Pure Latin for 'bridle'.] Gossipmongers wag their their tongues as though fraenum-free.
Penultimate bunch of eight, celebrating the finest in Cryptopia 2017. How many will you nab at first glance, or second glance? Or will you need a big hint dropped by your fellow solvers below?
Gotta say, Nos 4-6 are ingenious. Damn - they're all good. That's why they made the list!
As a last hurrah, who can make a chic alternative to any of these, responding to the same answers? And if I don't get a chance later: a happy X to all Xworders.
1. Clubs seals and we'd get hides (4,5) [Times 10972]
2. Child allowance kept economy active (6,5) [Arachne]
3. One holds nothing back where it's easy to be anonymous (6) [Sunday Times 1062]
4. Fall back drunk, having swapped hands twice (7) [Times 10963]
5. Try getting popular on Twitter? Sad (5-7) [Tramp]
6. Tyre here heading for blowout, given external force (7) [Paul]
7. Sound is a little faint, actually (6) [Anax]
8. Simplified drawings of clouds over Indian city (8) [Arachne]
Share ideas and huhs and rival clues below.
HANYAUKU - the act of tiptoeing across hot sand so as not to burn your feet. [Bantu word that we need in English.] This time of year, you'll see heaps of hilarious hanyauku, including in my new Gargantuan.
Same deal as the other week - an octet of high-octane clues plucked from British puzzles through the year. No easier, these eight will need your grey matter, and your collective wisdom to boot.
Then, when solved, can you compose alternative clues for the same eight solutions? For one clue, you will need to bear in mind its culprit...
1. Lackey evidently revealing thighs? (6) [Times 10985]
2. Clothes off, as rubber will do (4,4) [Anax]
3. Hole opening in road, careful to go round it (6) [Paul]
4. Old enough to be a model (7) [Sunday Times 1074]
5. Tempt government to swap sides (4) [Arachne]
6. Ray, I assumed, picked up a generous invitation (2,2,5) [Times 11020]
7. Number one from George, John and Paul's dismal (6) [Paul]
8. The same two places to find students (7) [Picaroon]
Brainwaves, great saves and new clues below.
ISABELLINE - pale grey-yellow or parchment colour. [Several theories over origin, inc Isabel of Austria, the daughter of Philip II of Spain, who vowed to keep the same undergraments until Ostend fell to Spain's seige in 1601. Ended up taking three years....] Champagne - versus grubby knickers - can be dubbed isabelline.
AOUDAD [ow-uh-DAD] - short-coated sheep with a long neck ruffs, found in north African drylands [From Berber via French, udad] AOUDAD make a cameo in my new Gargantuan for the baa-baa's vowel string, as does BAAING.