Crossword blog: sail forth! Did a skimming Scottish stone really become a schooner? | Crosswords
In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners’ series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.
The news in clues
Here’s a clue from Picaroon that’s evocative of an aspect of home life for many as the year began …
10ac Home schooling makes sense (9)
[ definition: sense ]
[ wordplay: synonyms for ‘home’ (as an adjective) + ‘schooling’ ]
[ IN + TUITION ]
… and possibly, per your INTUITION, evocative of how 2021 may also end. Likewise, Hoskins’ imagery …
1ac Save dose if arm wobbles about (5,4)
[ definition: save ]
[ wordplay: anagram (‘wobbles about’) of DOSEIFARM ]
… in a clue for ASIDE FROM which could not be more 2021.
Last year we caught up with American cryptic setters Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto and asked how they’d kept things going in pandemic times. We can now expand on the answer: they’ve written Word Salad, a book about cryptics: more at their online home Out of Left Field.
Last week we got to know Anto in our Meet the Setter series. The same day, we had a puzzle from Anto in the quiptic, the Guardian’s series “for beginners and those in a hurry” containing this clue …
16d Ship requires check-in before this (8)
[ definition: ship ]
[ wordplay: chess abbrev. for ‘check’ in synonym for ‘before this’ ]
[ CH in SOONER ]
… where you need to ignore the hyphen before you can see the SCHOONER. Is the other kind of schooner – the kind you might fill with a pilsner – named after the ship? No one knows. So how did the ship get its name?
That tale is more satisfying – for a while. The word may look German, but it’s American, from the early 18th century (like the ship itself). And the Oxford English Dictionary mentions a charming origin story:
When the first schooner was being launched (at Gloucester, Massachusetts, about 1713), a bystander exclaimed: ‘Oh, how she scoons!’ The builder, Captain Andrew Robinson, replied, ‘A scooner let her be!’ and the word at once came into use as the name of the new type of vessel.
So, the lexicographers have gone to work. First, does the word come from Gloucester, Massachusetts? Yes: it looks like no one called a fore-and-aft rigged vessel a schooner before those people did. Next, is “scoon” a verb? Yes it is: it describes what a stone does if you manage to make it skip across the water. So far so good!
The problem is that it’s a Scottish word and there’s no evidence of anyone having taken it to New England around 1713. And so however plausible the etymology, the anecdote, Oxford concludes, “looks like an invention”. This often seems to be the way: in fact, have any of you ever read a fun etymology that turns out to be true?
In the meantime, the subject of our next challenge is another kind of boat. Once associated with Jutland, which gives it the same root as those Jutes who came here alongside the Angles and Saxons: reader, how would you clue YAWL?
Thanks for your clues for FEZ. I enjoyed remembering laughing at Tommy Cooper, but also pondering the many existential issues raised by Faiton77’s “Essence of life? Zen? Or tit for tat?”
The audacity award goes to Smylers for “Doubles of decaff with broadsheet and snazzy hat”, proving that audacity can include ingenuity as well as outrageousness.
The runners-up are Lizard’s eminently plausible “Moroccan city protected by safe zone” and Battledore’s daunting “Extremely fearsome Zulu headgear”; the winner – to which I have imperiously added a punctuation mark – is Peshwari’s sneakily straightforward “It’s felt above your head!”
Kludos to Peshwari: please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below. And the latest in our collaborative playlist Healing Music Recorded in 2020-21 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to is from Morocco:
Clue of the fortnight
I will resist the temptation to spoil Nutmeg’s perfect clue …
13ac You’re aiming to do it alone, with very little input (5)
[ definition: what you’re aiming to do ]
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘alone’ absorbing (‘input’) abbreviation for ‘little’ ]
[ V inside SOLE ]
… by encouraging all of us to SOLVE in groups (and with reference books) if the mood takes us; instead, a reminder that Nutmeg’s contribution to Ladies’ Month has just appeared in the weekend i newspaper. Stay safe.
The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop.