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. This week, our schedule brings us one of our now-rare two-weeks-in-a-row roundups.
The news in clues
Most clues are an escape from the rest of the paper; some prompt a chuckle at more or less current affairs – and every so often, a grim nod of recognition. So it is with Phi (known locally as Pangakupu) in the Independent:
17d Things improvised to restrict Post Office swindles (3-4)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘things improvised’ containing (‘to restrict’) abbrev. for ‘Post Office’ ]
[ RIFFS containing PO ]
[ definition: swindles ]
How soon will setters be able to again use this nifty abbreviation without making solvers think about the RIP-OFFS and the wretched people involved? Meanwhile, the US president continues to contribute to a much less memorable crosswording legacy than his predecessor, fit for little more than partial anagram fodder, as in this Telegraph clue …
14d Vegetable from Kenya Biden chewed (6,4)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘chewed’) of KENYABIDEN ]
[ definition: vegetable ]
… for KIDNEY BEAN.
Perhaps it’s something to do with where the letters fall in his sobriquet, but the nursery-rhyme antihero evoked by Paul seems to appear more often than his peers:
9d Ogre, I repeated, messed with Peg in children’s rhyme (7,6)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘messed’) of OGREIOGREIPEG ]
[ definition: children’s rhyme ]
It’s GEORGIE PORGIE. Have you ever wondered what the rhyme would sound if given the same kind of musical arrangement as yacht-rock classic Africa? You don’t need to wonder; here it is, a minute and a half in:
There we are: simultaneously more mellow and more poignant than the traditional semi-chant.
The original is one of those sets of lyrics that some people are not willing to let be. Just as listeners of the 1970s were unwilling to accept that, say, Hotel California might contain zero coded occult signals, so did speculation once teem about who the “real” Georgie Porgie might be: George I, perhaps, or George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham – or my favourite, for its sheer preposterousness, Charles II. Says the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes:
As usual, no evidence is vouchsafed.
Let’s go back to the band – or perhaps the fictional dog whose name they borrowed – for our next challenge. Reader, how would you clue TOTO?
Thanks for your clues for MAI TAI. The audacity award goes to Wellywearer2 for verses too long to reproduce here and I of course enjoyed clues that disguised the definition, such as Dcusch’s clever “Essentially email IT back about a server mix-up?”, though I should add that they would have made me more grateful than ever as a solver for the additional help given by the letter count.
The runners-up are Mr_Rob_T’s poignant “Writer at one in the morning knocked back drink” and Jugular0’s therapeutic “Unlimited vitamin A drunk in cocktail”; the winner is the compounded “Imaginative drunk could be given this drink”.
Kludos to Newlaplandes; please leave entries for the current competition – and especially non-print finds and picks that I may have missed from the broadsheet cryptics – in the comments.
Clue from elsewhere of the fortnight
A wicked start to this Times cryptic jumbo, and a long time before the solver interprets the last two words …
1a Eliot accepts welcome from Adam, perhaps, and so does Nick (7)
[ wordplay: initials used by Eliot, containing (‘accepts’) how Adam might greet the only other person he knew for a while ]
[ TS containing HI EVE ]
[ definition: does nick ]
… as a definition of THIEVES.
The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop