Monday, 29 December 2008

Oxy Morons: two examples

1) Economics
A right-wing economist explained that the market will correct itself without government intervention, which only makes things worse, so the banking system should have been left free to collapse: and then that the public should be saving more.

2) Politics
William Hague defended MPs' paid extra-parliamentary activities on the grounds that these kept them in touch with the real world outside Westminster: and then assured us that he was divesting himself of such interests as rapidly as he could manage.

Both from recent interviews on BBC Radio 4 lunchtime broadcasts.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Thursday, 18 December 2008

A brilliant crossword clue

As an antidote to yesterday's dyslogistic logophobic rant, today's cryptic contained a 53-letter anagram clue, definition 'as the White Queen spoke', which comes out as: 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today.'

I know. Promise not to do it anymore.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Bad crossword clue

This is going turn you all off, but I've got to get it off my chest.

Guardian cryptic, Tuesday, 10 down: 'Irregular notes, given European agreement, sound in the House of Lords?' (4)
Obviously, the answer is JAZZ. Get it?

Well, me neither. I stared at it for twenty minutes on Wednesday morning. So let me deconstruct it, explaining as I go why it's so bad:

The definition part is 'Irregular notes', which is meant to mean 'jazz'. That is inaccurate, presumptuous, and insulting to the twentieth century's second-greatest new art form.
'European agreement' translates, supposedly, to 'JA'. Does 'European' equate to 'German' in this compiler's mind?
'sound in the House of Lords' is apparently 'ZZ', i.e. they're all asleep. Tell that to the members of the last bastion of our democratic freedom!
Worst of all, this crap clue was what I call a 'clue to clues'. Unless you solve this one, forget the rest of the puzzle. Half a dozen others were cross-references ('man of 10') to jazz, (Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Charlie Parker etc.) but completely unsolvable without the key link/definition. If the compiler chooses this irritating formulation, he really should make the entry clue at least penetrable. I'd suggest something like 'Hot or cool?' (4)

If you've got this far, I did warn you - you're gonna get rants.

The good news is that the Christmas tree is up and shining.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The most interesting thing I learnt today

The cardboard tubes in the middle of toilet rolls have serial numbers.

The two I spotted during housework this morning are 230304881542, and 230326280410.

What's going on?

Sunday, 7 December 2008


As soon as I'd learnt to read, my parents gave me the Children’s Encyclopaedia, which was assumed to contain the sum of human knowledge, or at least those parts deemed suitable for children’s consumption and comprehension. For some reason I latched on to Astronomy. I found out all about the Solar System, planets, important stars and constellations. The last were especially intriguing, especially how they’d been named, by the Ancients. Line drawings attempted to show how a particular group of stars could be made to look like a Crab, a Water-carrier or a Virgin. I couldn’t see it, either in theory or practice. The diagrams seemed fanciful and contrived, and I don’t recall ever being taken out at night to see the real thing – my parents didn’t operate that way.

Last night, around midnight, I got back from a fairly liquid dinner party and wandered out into the garden. It was a clear, crisp, star-filled night of a sort we don’t often get here in the Thames Valley. I looked up, and there he was – Orion! His arms and legs were akimbo, as if he was dancing. His famous shining belt was pulled tight round his tiny waist, and his widely spaced eyes sparkled with mischief. He looked like a leprechaun, hence presumably his name … Next time I see him I’m going to ask him if he’s really Irish.

One day I’m going to live someplace where you can see the whole bright sky rather than the murky little patch I get here; then maybe I’ll be able to work out whether that's a plough or a big bear, or just the saucepan it looks like.