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.
We appear to have a new face making regular appearances in clues. The person in question is in Vlad’s clue …
… for HOEDOWN and Bluth’s clue …
… for ARRIVISTE. Will the trend continue? That depends on how long the new face, her husband, their interior designer and the rest of the gang remain in the public eye.
The use of SHRAPNEL to mean small change started about a century ago in, as with much pleasing slang, Australasia. Before that, of course, shrapnel was a collection of bomb fragments, and it would be reasonable to assume the name was onomatopoeic, or derived from a German word meaning “particles of unpleasant sharpness”, or both.
The unpleasant sharpness, though, is as British as they come, having been invented by Henry Shrapnel, an officer in the British army, in the 1790s. (One of his descendants, the actor John Shrapnel, who died in 2020, was in Tom Stoppard’s TV play Professional Foul, so we might count the entry as fortuitously and almost invisibly thematic.)
Those of us who cherish words that seem to have an obvious etymology but which turn out to be eponymous are fond of bloomers (popularised by the 19th-century US feminist Amelia Bloomer), gardenias (in honour of the fittingly named botanist Alexander Garden) – and the subject of our next challenge.
It’s another plant and one with a name that, Oxford Plants 400 tells us …
Reader, how would you clue WISTERIA?
Many thanks for your clues for NEW, which are well worth a visit if you haven’t popped in recently. The audacity award goes to Schroduck for the soundalike “‘This is how one feels after a tonic and any double,’ you pronounced” and I very much appreciated the discussion of points of the compass following TonyCollman’s “Emerging in all directions but one”.
The runners-up are Thepoisonedgift’s crafty “What comes at the start of Normal, England, and World?” and Wellywearer2’s ingenious “It’s three points for green” (from which I’ve imperiously removed the word “a”); the winner is Smallboat01’s concise “Novel penned by Irvine Welsh”.
Kludos to Smallboat. Please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – as well as your non-print finds and picks from the broadsheet cryptics – in the comments, below.
… for ALIENATE, though you’d be within your rights to think it might be a clue for something else. The first and last across entries are different words, but each has the same clue. The same goes for the second and the penultimate across entries … and so on. So when we get to 20 across, we find …
… that it’s also a clue for ESTRANGE. Brendan’s imagination has been put to all sorts of uses; we’re lucky that they include crosswords.
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