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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Crossword roundup: it’s a doddle – or is it a cinch? | 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

Any setter who refers to goings-on in the real world develops a sense of what the readers of a paper are thinking and talking about. On the one hand, we’re told that we’ve forgiven and forgotten the suitcase of wine and so on; on the other, and in crosswords, there it all lingers, as in this clue from Artexlen …

6d Parties around start of lockdown journalist revealed (9)
[ wordplay: type of “parties”, containing (“around”) first letter (“start”) of LOCKDOWN, then abbrev. for a “journalist” ][ DISCOS containing L, then ED ][ definition: revealed ]


Latter patter

It’s serendipitous connection time! From the quiptic, the Guardian’s puzzle for beginners and those in a hurry, here’s Pasquale’s neat clue …

1d Easy task that keeps learner secure (6)
[ wordplay: synonym for “easy task” containing (“that keeps”) abbrev. for “learner” ][ CINCH containing L ][ definition: secure (as a verb) ]

… for CLINCH. This pleasing word goes back to the Old English clęncan, and you can practically hear the sense of “hold tight” in its cluster of consonants. A CINCH is of course something different, as explained in a pleasing exchange in the novel Carry On, Jeeves (“‘It’s a cert!’ I said. ‘An absolute cinch!’ said Corky.”) – but it wasn’t always.

Before a CINCH was a nailed-on certainty, it was an attachment of another kind: it was the strap that goes under a horse to keep its saddle from flying off. Too close to CLINCH in meaning to be a coincidence, the reasonable person would say; and the reasonable person would be wrong.

The original CINCH was made out of some of the horse’s spare hair, and was talked about where Mexico meets the US, and, while it’s not unlike CLINCH or CLENCH, it came independently from the Spanish cincha.

The subject of our next challenge is an alternative to CERT or CINCH. Far be it from me to suggest there’s a slight leap in the “Hence” in the Scottish National Dictionary

DODDLE, n. Also doadle. [′do(:)dəl, ′dǫdəl] […]

3. A small lump of home-made toffee sold in the “wee” shops in Edinburgh, usually four for a halfpenny; a super-doddle cost one farthing (Edb.3 1929; Edb. 1948 (per Abd.27)). Hence, used of something easy or attractive (Edb.5, Lnk.11 1940) or of “money easily obtained” (Gsw. 1934 E. Partridge Dict. of Slang (1937)).

Edb. 1948 (per Abd.27):
See yon car! It’s a doddle! Can ye no swim? Man, it’s a doddle.

… for now, the question is: reader, how would you clue DODDLE?

Cluing competition

Thanks for your clues for HOPSCOTCH and for the memories (and notations!) the word prompted. There’s an inaugural winner of the nonaudacity award in Faiton77, who doubted the validity of “springs” as a deletion indicator in “Hope springs eternal at first to ruin game” and I enjoyed the way that the game lends itself apparently readily to such cryptic definitions as Smallboat01’s “Game of skipping stones?”

The runners-up are Montano’s acrostic “Harmless old-fashioned playground sport chalked on the concrete, hard at first” and PeterMooreFuller’s deft “Bound to spoil children’s game”; the winner is Steveran’s sly “Game that’s drawn before it even starts?”

Kludos to Steveran. Please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – as well as your non-print finds and picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.

Clue of the Fortnight

Back to the quiptic. Sometimes a setter looks at a word you’ve seen many times and sees something different there; so it is with Anto’s clue …

5d What a nepotist might do for poet (7)
[ wordplay: terse description of a nepotist’s behaviour ][ definition: poet ]

… for PUSHKIN. Stay safe.

Find a collection of explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs at alanconnor.com

The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop

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