Monday 8 July 2013

5 Ordinary Words with Obscure Meanings in Cryptic Crosswords

ordinary-word-obscure-meaning I posted this clue on twitter last week:

Times 25517: One receiving pawn spotted sacrificing a knight (5)

Reactions told me that the meaning of 'uncle' as used in the clue is not as well-known as I had imagined.

Here are more such words popularly used in one sense, but you'll find cryptic crosswords use them in another sense.


'Grass' is a person who acts as an informer, especially to the police. In verb form, to grass is to divulge secrets or to tell on someone.

Guardian 25940 (Rufus): Sort of snake in the grass (5) SNEAK
Anagram of SNAKE; definition: grass

2. IT

'It' is a dated slang term for sex appeal (SA). On a clue's surface, the word can serve as a deceptive mask for the short form SA.

FT 14309 (Bradman): Fruit slightly deficient – on the outside it shows tiny holes (7) STOMATA
TOMAT[o] (fruit slightly deficient) having SA ('it' on the outside); definition: tiny holes


The percussion section of an orchestra is informally called 'the kitchen'.

Independent 8044 (Klingsor): Fire half obliterated the kitchen – that's a result! (12) REPERCUSSION
FI[re] PERCUSSION (the kitchen); definition: that's a result


When pronounced as nees, 'Nice' can refer to a Mediterranean resort in south-east France. It is usually placed at the start of a clue to excuse its capitalization and make it an inconspicuous French indicator.

Independent 8287 (Jambazi): Nice here? No good decoration (5) ICING
ICI (Nice here => French word for 'here') NG (no good); definition: decoration


A 'soldier' is a strip of bread that is dipped into a soft-boiled egg.

Times 25067: Sister saves magazine for part of breakfast perhaps (7) SOLDIER
SR (sister) around OLDIE (magazine); definition: part of breakfast perhaps

Also see: HOW, BLUE, NEAT, SEE.

Solve These

A set of clues using the words above. Enjoy solving.

Sunday Times 4521 (Dean Mayer): The chap cutting fresh carrots in kitchen setting? (9)
Guardian 25789 (Paul): Among grass, something flat getting lost (8) S_______
Times 24720: Like soldier receiving extra cover from shell's contents? (6) E_____
Guardian 25823 (Arachne): Nice way of saying Arachne's somewhat vacuous and a bit wet (5)
Times 25272: Top quality tea? Mum has it brought round (5)

[For all those who asked, I am very well. Blog updates have been light as my day job is taking up a lot of time these days. Thank you for your goodwill and concern. - Shuchi]

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Chaturvasi said...

All terms (except for 5 SOLDIER) have been used by various setters in The Hindu Crossword, I think. At least the bloggers - who I daresay must be advanced and more experienced solvers - know those terms in the senses mentioned in the post. It's a pity that there is no example from the desi crossword.

Bhavan said...

Good to see you again Shuchi :)

Shuchi said...

Thanks Bhavan. Good to be back on the blog again :)

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Nice to see you here after a long time.

Anonymous said...

Back with a bang !

And I am not referring to your hairstyle...

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Times 25272: Top quality tea? Mum has it brought round (5) ASSAM {SA+ M'AS <=(Is it MUM HAS?)I guess :)}

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Sunday Times 4521 (Dean Mayer): The chap cutting fresh carrots in kitchen setting? (9)
Guardian 25823 (Arachne): Nice way of saying Arachne's somewhat vacuous and a bit wet (5) MOIST {MOI(ME in French)+SomewhaT}

Unknown said...

I have had a number of comments from editors about the datedness of 'it'. A glance at Wikipedia (It girl) shows that it (or, rather, 'it') is alive and well, and keeps coming back. It may be SA that's the dated item.

Chaturvasi said...

A woman with SA must be a woman with it.

Lakshmi Vaidyanathan said...

Guardian 25789 (Paul): Among grass, something flat getting lost (8) S_______
STRAYING {TRAY(something flat) in SING(grass)}Def:getting lost
Thanks for the hint.

Venkatesh said...

1) The chap - HE
fresh carrots - Anag of CARROTS = ORCSTRA (fresh is an AnagrInd)
ORC(HE)STRA* (Defn: Kitchen setting)
Kitchen (informal term for the percussion section) is set in an orchestra.

2) TRAY (something flat) in SING (grass) = S(TRAY)ING (Defn: getting lost)


4) Nice (Fr) way of saying Arachne (the setter herself) = French word for ME = MOI
somewhat vacuous (empty) = ST
(MOI)(ST) (Defn: a bit wet)

5) Reversal of (MA'S)(SA) {Mum has it}
(AS)(SAM) <= (Defn: Top quality tea)

Venkatesh said...

Welcome back. The 3-month long aestivation (reported by Kishore to be from hyperactivity on the workfront!) has been commented upon by regulars on Col Deepak's blog.

It will be good to have some guest posts by Kishore, Bhavan, CV or Gordon Holt to tide over such breaks.

Interviews of the new THC setters will also be appreciated.

Shuchi said...

Hi Paul,

That sounds valid, thanks. I checked Chambers for 'it' - the meaning 'sex appeal' is marked colloq and not archaic colloq as other dated slang terms (e.g. 'gruel' for punishment) are.

Shuchi said...

You've got them all Venkatesh and Lakshmi. Well solved!

Re: the Guardian 25789 clue, I guess SING = inform is another one of those relatively lesser-used word meanings.

Chaturvasi said...

Readers of crime fiction would be quite familiar with the meaning "inform" for the word "sing".

"Sing like a canary" is an idiom that is often used in novels.

Anonymous said...

I think Lt. Tragg or Sgt. Holcomb used it frequently