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Last week I left you with this clue:

Lines penned by leading business figure for musical instrument (5)

The way to break this down is as follows.  An abbreviation for lines is ‘ll‘ (LL).  If, for example, you refer to a passage in a book from lines 12-17 you can write ‘see ll 12-17′.  A leading business figure is a CEO – standing for Chief Executive Officer.  We have come across pen before, one meaning of which is to enclose.  So, if LL is ‘penned’ by CEO we get the answer:


a well-known musical instrument.

A CEO is the head of a company and the word ‘company’ (meaning a business) frequently appears in cryptic crossword clues.  That is because the usual abbreviation is Co. (as in Smith and Co. Ltd.) and CO is quite common in English words.  Take this example from Daily Telegraph Puzzle No. 27,902 dated 9th September 2015:

Hide from company and clean building (7)

The answer is obtained from the abbreviation for company plus an anagram of ‘clean’ (‘building’ is the hint that an anagram is involved because the letters we require can be built into ‘clean’ when rearranged).  The solution is therefore CO + NCEAL; or:


which means, of course, ‘hide’.  For the definition of conceal, see here.

Other clues that apparently relate to the business world may include references to ‘work’ and ‘workers’ – but these are (as you might imagine) deceptive.  The word ‘work’ more often than not signals the letters OP, standing for opus – another musical term (compare Never a cross word – 48); and ‘worker’ normally signifies ANT (as in the insect, worker ant).

The following clues, from the same puzzle as above, show these tricks in operation:

First, consider:

Not joining in work can get initially unpopular (6,3)

Here, ‘work’ is OP (as explained above), ‘can’ is TIN (as in tin can!); ‘get initially’ is the first letter of ‘get’ (G) and unpopular is OUT (compare Never a cross word – 17).

Putting all that together gives:


which means not joining in.

Now try:

Worker trapped by wild pig with a bear? (5,5)

‘Worker’ is ANT (as explained above) but it is ‘trapped’ suggesting that those letters appear inside another word.  It is trapped by ‘wild pig’ which suggests an anagram of PIG; and ‘with a’ can be replaced by ‘and a’ or ANDA.

Putting all that together gives:


which is a bear native (see Never a cross word – 40) to a part of China; see here.

The word China reminds me to tell you about something you might encounter in spoken English – at least in the London area.  That is Cockney rhyming slang.  A Cockney is someone from the East End of London (see here), and rhyming slang (spoken with a distinctive cockney accent) is a weird dialect as I shall explain shortly. Basically, instead of using a particular word, you use a word or phrase which rhymes with it.  To take an example, you might go up the ‘apples and pears‘ meaning to go up the stairs.  When a phrase is used, the word which actually rhymes with what is meant is frequently omitted, making things even more confusing.  Thus, to take a butcher’s at something is a widely understood expression meaning to take a look – because look rhymes with ‘butcher’s hook‘.  ‘China’ – an abbreviation for ‘China plate‘ – rhymes with mate, so in the strange language of Cockney rhyming slang a china is a friend.  An online dictionary of Cockney Rhyming Slang may be found here.

You are less likely to come across these expressions these days but they can still be heard, and occasionally appear in crossword puzzles.  I don’t have to hand (readily available) an example from a newspaper so I will make up a clue instead.  It reads:

Important china liar shattered (8)

Good luck! The answer will appear next week.