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Crosswords emerged 100 years ago. Cluetopia is one mad time-trip from jails to jungles, in search of the best crossword stories.

False Friends

January 31, 2012

images Learning a new language, you will encounter what teachers call false friends, or faux amis on the Seine. In Spanish, speaking from red-faced experience, I can tell you that embarazada doesn’t mean embarrassed, but pregnant, while finger in Yiddish means toe, and korn in Swedish means barley.

Cryptopia has false friends too, where a clue seems to answer to one formula, only to operate by another. A wonderful example in the Times – as toasted by The Guardian’s excellent crossword blog – looked for all the world like a homophone clue:

Tailor may destroy suit with this, we hear = AUDITORY SYSTEM [Anagram of MAY DESTROY SUIT]

Another may suggest anagram, and yet be a homophone:

Villains rendered so in the ear? = ANTIHEROES

Or then again, you may encounter what looks like a Spooner clue, only to be ambushed by a hidden:

Softball caught in Spooner family = NERF

To file your false friend, please supply the solution too, as the red herring can be more promptly enjoyed. Keep your eye on brevity, and authentic ambiguity – where each recipe can be argued. Likewise an answer of suitable length – for either approach – will also impress.

Let’s create a coterie of bogus mates this week, with a deadline by 8pm this Thursday, where all players are invited to submit their favourite three (with or without friendly tweaks and edits from this forum’s genuine friends.)


One Wheel

31 January at 11:11AM

Spooner about small start of poverty (8): POORNESS
Trim in mixed gingerbread (6): EDDIES

Mr X

31 January at 11:17AM

Approval or penalty contains violence = SANCTION

It's not a "hidden", it's an anagram. Also interesting that sanction has those two contradictory menaings.


31 January at 11:46AM

Segue about, say = GUESS


31 January at 11:46AM

(where say = guess = definition)


31 January at 03:53PM

Not quite a category nasty, but more a case of the false friends being in the crossing squares:

(a recent Times, so still to come here)

Shot dead: turn off that camera! (4, 3)

And you have L... C..

And you desperately want to find some way to make it LENS CAP (shall I cap 'im for you guv'nor?), but it's LATE CUT.


31 January at 05:06PM

Used to be shut into a box with label! (11,4) = EXCLAMATION MARK

Looks like an &lit, but it's not.

Used to be = EX
shut = CLAM
into a box = fodder + anagrind = ATION
label = MARK
! = def


31 January at 05:32PM

Spooner displayed tendancy to limp? (10) = DROOPINESS

Spooner dis = fodder
played = anagrind
tendancy to limp? = def


31 January at 06:48PM

This clue works two ways, but obviously only one of them would fit the grid:

About note: extra annotation reveals tips (4)

VERSION 1 answer is CAPS
About = C
note = A
extra annotation = PS (clunky I know)
reveals = link
tips = def

VERSION 2 answer is NEAR
About = def
'tips' indicates first letters of 'note extra annotation reveals'

One Wheel

01 February at 04:07PM



01 February at 04:51PM

Thanks One Wheel.

Heard that "E.T." production technique may be used by "Terminator"? (5,6) = DEATH THREAT

Looks like a homophone, but it's an anagram.

Heard that E.T. = fodder
production = anagrind
technique may be used by Terminator? = def


02 February at 01:28AM

It acts up on the radio! (6) STATIC


02 February at 10:19AM

A rearrangement of a new mausoleum site at Maidenhead. (7) Anagram


02 February at 01:37PM

Back up in cricket, say (7) SUPPORT

Back - def



02 February at 03:10PM

Exulted monster overheard (BIG-NOTED)

One Wheel

02 February at 04:32PM

Charlie on the radio roughly went by carriage (9): CHARIOTED


02 February at 04:48PM

Misfortunes sounding terrible (8) UNDOINGS


02 February at 05:03PM

Possibly lyrical gear? = REVERSE


02 February at 05:19PM

Sham character of Spooner's at zoo (6)

Answer 1: DONKEY
sham = con
character = d
which Spoonerise to donkey
at zoo = dubious def

Answer 2: ERSATZ
sham character = more dubious def

Mr X

02 February at 08:59PM

Cockney drug, playing and hurting (4,5) EAST ENDER

No dropped h's, it's a straight charade e/as/tender


03 February at 12:11PM

Hats off to everyone who had a crack this week. Seems my brain is determined to stay in holiday mode, but I've enjoyed reading all of the entries.

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Bendigo Blathering


Rug up, roll up. This week I’m chatting at two Bendigo sessions – crosswords on Sat (9/8) & grammar on Sun (10/8). Go here for passes and more info. Breeze by.

Spoiler Alert


Today’s DA crossword [6/6] has a video link showing you a time-lapse of the puzzle’s hatching. Or peek at the story in Tower, the UTS magazine.

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