Crossword roundup: opossum v possum, with a touch of Malibu | Crosswords

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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.

The news in clues

While the news pages of the Financial Times attend to our prime minister’s day job, Moo’s puzzle …

22d Drunken Boris snorting a line (6)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘drunken’) of BORIS, containing (‘snorting’) A (‘a’) ]
[ ISOBR containing A ]
[ definition: line (on a weather map ]

… takes a different angle, offering a pleasing echo of a clue in what I believe was Moo’s first outing, very shortly before the first lockdown.

Last time, we noted that a specific activity seemed to be on setters’ minds; the location for that is celebrated – I’m avoiding spoilers here – in Brummie’s latest puzzle.

Latter patter

What’s that hanging down in this puzzle from Picaroon?

18d Work on huge problem for marsupial (7)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for ‘opera’ (‘work’), next to (‘on’) abbreviation for ‘outsize’ (‘huge’) + synonym for ‘sum’ ]
[ OP + OS + SUM ]
[ definition: marsupial ]

It’s a lovely OPOSSUM. Given that it’s one of those words that can be plural with or without an “s” on the end, and given that some North Americans refer to this North American marsupial using the name of an Oceanian marsupial (possum), it seems pretty unreasonable that anyone might wish to further complicate things by insisting on a counterintuitive pronunciation of either.

People being what they are, though, enough oddballs insist that the initial syllable of OPOSSUM should be silent that poor Merriam-Webster puts it in brackets to indicate that it’s optional:

opos·​sum | (ə-)ˈpä-səm
plural opossums also opossum

Outside chocolate, “O”s don’t get asked to be silent desperately often, and silent first syllables are always worthy of inspection. Here’s another, and the subject of our next challenge. The name of the Florida labourers’ community Umalibo comes, the locals will tell you, from a Native American name meaning “the surf sounds lovely”, but nowadays, no one says the “U”; reader, how would you clue MALIBU?

Cluing competition

Many thanks for your clues for OOLONG. Of the “leaves”, I especially enjoyed Dunnart’s “Leaves tools outside shed on top of greenhouse” and Phitonelly’s “Tool on gutter gathers dried leaves”.

The audacity award goes to Albery for using “over the eight” to indicate a kind of “∞” in “I’m often drunk in the mornings, over the eight and stretched out?”

The runners-up are Shenguin’s “Mix lo-o-ong drink”, which I have hyphenated per TonyCollman’s suggestion, and Obtrectator’s startling “Tea house made of snow has no front, no inside – it’s all back!”. The winner is 10FootClaudicant’s inviting “Going on a bit? Take time off for tea.”

Kludos to Claudicant; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.

Clue of the Fortnight

Brendan seems to have created a new subgenre of puzzles. I don’t yet have a name for them; suggestions welcome. Most solvers will, I suspect, use this clue …

3d/22ac. Term implying wisdom that’s peculiarly man’s? I hope so (4,7)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘peculiarly’) of MANSIHOPESO ]
[ definition: species name suggesting wisdom ]

… for HOMO SAPIENS to get going on this very sapient diversion. Finally, the latest in our collaborative playlist Healing Music Recorded in 2020-21 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to is from Mercury winner Michael Kiwanuka making good use of the V&A:

Michael Kiwanuka – Light (Live at the V&A)

The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop.

Here is a collection of all our explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs.



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Written by bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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