Last week I left you this clue to solve:
He wrote of crimes involving horrendous carnality (3,6,5,5)
The answer, an anagram of ‘horrendous carnality’, is:
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
I suggested last week that this was quite an apt anagram, but I am now having second thoughts (meaning I am not so sure). Conan Doyle, the author of stories about the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, wrote about horrendous (horrible, terrifying) crimes – but I am not confident that the crimes could be said to involve horrendous ‘carnality’. Carnality, defined here, is generally associated with a sexual element, which Conan Doyle’s stories did not really include.
You can read more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here.
Now try these, both from the Times crossword puzzle No. 26,103 dated 20th May 2015. They bring out some interesting points of English – which, I should explain to newcomers, is what this series is all about; see here.
The first clue reads:
Company designs toilets to limit gallons (5)
The answer (meaning company designs) is:
Why? Because in English it is becoming increasingly popular in polite society to refer to a toilet or lavatory as a loo. This is an example of what is known as a euphemism, which means avoiding using a direct word for something slightly awkward or embarrassing. Other examples of modern euphemisms include ‘pass away’ meaning ‘die’ (‘he passed away last week’); or ‘let go’ meaning ‘to fire (or ‘sack’) someone’ (‘we had to let him go’).
So if you are in the UK (particularly I suspect in the South of England, where people are less direct) and you want to find a lavatory you could say to someone ‘please could you tell me where the loo is?’ In the USA, however, you would use another euphemism: ‘where is the bathroom?’ or – in a public place – ‘where is the rest room?’
So, armed with that knowledge, ‘toilets’ in the clue translates into LOOS. And since G is an abbreviation for ‘gallons’ you can see where the answer comes from (the LOOS ‘limits’ the G in gallons by keeping it inside the word).
And if you are unfamiliar with the word gallon, it is a unit of volume, defined here. In the UK a gallon is equivalent to 4.55 litres. A US gallon is slightly smaller. If you fill up a car at a petrol station (in the US a gas station) you will typically put about 10 gallons or more in the tank. Note that a ten gallon hat is a large hat, though not literally 10 gallons in volume!
The second clue is:
The blues period of American history (10)
Solving this clue relies on an elementary knowledge of American history. The solution (meaning both ‘the blues’ and ‘period of American history’) is:
The reason that is the correct answer is that if you are mildly depressed (feeling sad) you are said to have the blues. According to this source the expression comes from blue devils, imaginary creatures or spirits thought many years ago to affect one’s mood. The distinctive style of sad or soulful singing known as ‘the blues’ was – and still is – an important musical genre (type of music), coming originally from the Southern part of the USA and probably dating back to the 1890s, see here. I should add, with reference to the discussion of the previous clue, that suffering from the blues can be used as a euphemism for more serious forms of mental illness and having the baby blues is a euphemism for post-natal depression.
So the ‘blues’ in the clue means ‘depression’ and ‘The Depression’ (or the ‘Great Depression’) was also a well-known economic crisis in America which began in August 1929. For more information please see Wikipedia here.
So there we have it: three short cryptic crossword clues have acted as a catalyst for us to cover subjects ranging from Sherlock Holmes to the Great Depression – with time on the way to check out some company logos, put a gallon in the tank, sing the blues and even pay a visit to the loo. Such is the unpredictable, but I hope valuable and interesting, way of looking at authentic English using this methodology. Let’s see where we wind up next time.
Finally, from the same crossword, try this:
Show how in reorganisation a list of people is required (4,3)
You should know by now what a word like ‘reorganisation’ hints at. The answer will appear next week.