Let’s begin with the solution to last week’s anagram. The clue, if you recall, was:
Single out hot language (7)
I hope you correctly worked out that the answer, appropriately, is ENGLISH!
The reason is that the word ‘out’ (signalling ‘out of order’) hints at an anagram of ‘SINGLE’, which can be ENGLIS. And (as I told you) ‘hot’ indicates an H (just as you see on a hot tap in an English-speaking country) which completes the answer. Of course, ‘language’ is the word in the clue which tells you what the solution means.
I am now going to move on to an extremely difficult clue which will either intrigue you or put you off crossword puzzles for life! But remember, the main point of this series is not so much to teach you how to solve cryptic clues but to discuss the words one comes across in solving them. As you have already seen in past posts, one short cryptic clue can lead us down all sorts of unlikely avenues.
Some people say I am crazy to teach English to speakers of other languages in this way. But this teaching methodology is intended only to be a supplement to more conventional studies – it is not the be all and end all. I have great faith in my readers’ determination, willingness to take on a challenge, and desire to stretch their minds. If, dear reader, you can appreciate – and even get a kick out of – what follows you have a very good grasp of the English language indeed. (If you do not understand the idioms in bold italic type I provide a glossary at the end.)
The clue, from the Daily Telegraph Puzzle No. 27,635 of 31st October, 2014 is:
Girl in cold and desolate area to north where kids are kept in (9)
I am going to solve it for you now so hang on to your hats.
Just as we saw that ‘hot’ can signal an H, so too can ‘cold’ be represented by a C (again, think taps!). That is just the start, though – still 8 letters to go.
A word for a ‘girl’ in English can be a ‘lass’. This is not a common word, and you can get by perfectly well without knowing it, but students of the language may wish to know that it is still used in some parts of the country, particularly in the North of England, and the variant ‘lassie’ is very much associated with the Scots dialect.
We don’t yet know what to do with the C and the LASS but we should bear them in mind and try to make sense of the rest of the clue.
We now need a synonym for a ‘desolate area’, and this is ‘moor’. Areas of the countryside which are wild and uncultivated can be referred to as ‘moors’, or ‘moorland’. There are some very beautiful areas of England which fall into this category: you may have heard of Dartmoor in Devon (famous for the location of a prison) or the Yorkshire Moors.
I now need to tell you that the clue we are trying to solve is a ‘down’ clue. Clues in crossword puzzles are either ‘across’ or ‘down’ depending on their direction. They form a criss-cross pattern so that if you know the solution to, say, an across clue it will immediately reveal one of the letters in any down clue which intersects it – a great aid to the solver.
The distinction about the direction is important in this case as you can think of the solution to a down clue (or part of the clue) as heading towards the south (since it is written in to the grid from top to bottom). Conversely, if the whole or part of the solution is heading ‘to north’ it will be the other way round – in other words written upwards, resulting in the letters in the word being written backwards!
I told you it was difficult but please bear with me: we are nearly there.
If desolate area is MOOR, then in a down clue ‘desolate area to north’ is, for the reasons above, ROOM (in other words moor spelt backwards).
We now have all the elements we need.
Cold (C) plus desolate area to north (ROOM) is C+ROOM and if we put a girl (LASS) in (inside) those letters we have CLASSROOM!
Classroom is the answer because it is precisely the place kids (a slang word for children) are kept in when they are at school!
That was a really tricky clue, but in the process of solving it we unearthed some interesting words: lass, moor and, if you did not know it already, kids. And had some good mental exercise into the bargain. If any of this made sense to you please let me know!
More next week.
Be all and end all = something so good that it will end the search for something better
Get a kick out of = to enjoy something very much
Hang on to your hats = get ready for what’s coming, especially something exciting or surprising
Bear with me = please be patient
Into the bargain = in addition to everything else