The news in clues
Is it my imagination, or is a certain two-letter abbreviation becoming more a part of our crosswording daily lives?
On consecutive days, we have this from Jeremy Mutch’s Telegraph puzzle …
17d Delighted, seeing European Commission interference (8)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for ‘European Commission’ + synonym for ‘interference’ ]
[ EC + STATIC ]
[ definition: delighted ]
… then this from Toughie setter Micawber …
14ac Gleeful Commission not budging (8)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for a certain Commission + synonym for ‘not budging’ ]
[ EC + STATIC ]
[ definition: gleeful ]
… also for ECSTATIC, in an example of the cluing coincidences that we enjoy here as an opportunity to see different routes to the same answer (and pleasingly different surface readings). Some of the Toughie puzzles are on a free offer, by the way.
Here’s a fine word as an answer to a Financial Times clue from Julius:
And SPUD has a fine history, too. In the 15th century, it was a sort of dagger. In the 16th century, it got a bit more tool-like, being a sharp bit of iron bunged on the end of a stick. In the 17th, a spade. The 18th, a garden fork, and then boom, by the end of the 19th, a SPUD was one of the things you might dig up using a SPUD.
In the lovely book Word Myths, David Wilton relates how in the 60s, a popular book called The Story of Language persuaded millions of people that something else was going on, when they read this:
The potato, for its part, was in disrepute some centuries ago. Some Englishmen who did not fancy potatoes formed a ‘Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet’. The initials of the main words in this title gave rise to ‘spud’.
Happily, I’ve never heard this tale outside of Word Myths, or indeed the one that has SPUD standing for “Stop poisoning Ulster’s diets”. Are these particular linguistic urban legends dead? Or might they reappear any day, like that railway-gauge urban myth did recently?
Wilton widens his view, when writing about AWOL, and insists:
The evidence is clear. Any claim of pre-20th-century acronymic word origins must be viewed with great suspicion.
Some acronymic claims certainly stretch the bounds of what is credible, such as the subject of our next challenge. Its etymology stares us boldly in the face; still, some would you have you think that it refers to the points of the compass. Reader, how would you clue NEWS?
The ingenuity award goes to Ousgg for “Part of the PM is unwavering in not gratifying Lefties”, and the audacity award to the regrettably monickered ID2155366 for “Around 5/9, for example?”
The most edifying clue was perhaps Combinatorialist’s “At last, visiting Jonah’s city briefly about dusk” and I enjoyed the sensible tone of PeterMooreFuller’s practical advice “No time for horse riding after dinner”.
Harlobarlo is tough but completely fair with “Back inside, sign in every time before going to bed”; likewise Poorsub with “Number return with chopped veg around end of day”.
The runners-up are Alberyalbery’s “Decreasing period of time?” and GeoScanner’s “The Kinks’ depressing follow-up to Sunny Afternoon?”; for its surface and as proof that terseness is not always privileged here, the winner is Porcia’s “Nearly time to tuck up youngster with Five Getting Squashed by Runaway Engine”.
Kludos to Porcia; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics below.
Clue of the fortnight
Nominated by Shenguin, here’s a clue from Qaos:
“It’s probably at the easier end of what most people in these parts seem to be able to cope with,” says Shenguin, “but it was quite stretching enough for me.” For me, its value is its appositeness. In the midst of a bunch of clues that are sending you off in the wrong direction, one for SERENADE that does what it claims can leave me feeling, well, serene.