Can you solve a crossword clue?

Today, 7 November 2011, the Times crossword is number 25000. One of the clues is "Very soon call for less noise: jet's back in airport" (7 letters): can you solve it?

The crossword in the Times has been notorious for many reasons, and has been the source of many stories. The first Times crossword was composed by a Suffolk farmer (who, writing with a quill pen, subsequently composed another 4,999 crosswords) and was published on February 1, 1930. Since then the style has evolved considerably. In an accompanying article in the Times it is suggested that social historians can reflect on how its evolution mirrors cultural changes since then.

British newspaper crosswords have long been very different from those in American ones. Although early ones in the Times were solved by a combination of literary knowledge and linguistic skills, they have developed into something requiring the ability to read words and phrases in very unobvious ways: what has sometimes been described as "lateral thinking".

This requirement for more rigour and less intuition was much the work of someone recognised as the father of crosswords, D. S. MacNutt, whose penname for his Observer crosswords was "Ximenes" (one of the Grand Inquisitors of the Spaniish Inquisition). His predecessor used the name Torquemada, after Tomás de Torquemada, the first Inquisitor General of Spain, whilst his successor cunningly continued the Inquisition linkage by using the name Azed, a reversal of the name Diego de Deza.

According to the Times article, amongst the famous people devoted to solving the crosswords were T.S. Eliot, Sir John Gielgud, P.G. Wodehouse and a Provost of Eton college who completed the crossword each morning while his eggs boiled: he was reputed not to like hard-boiled eggs.

A relatively recent development has been different types of clues. One interesting type (a slight pun here!) of clue is called "Printer's Devilry", which consists of a sentence in which the answer appears as a consecutive set of letters, in the completely correct order but with punctuation breaking up the sequence. However, the Devilry is that the printer then removes the word and rearranges the punctuation yet again to give a completely different sentence. My all-time favourite for this type is particularly appropriate to our local language in French Switzerland: it is

A pris une pomme de terre

for which the 8-letter answer is "aristate" (oops: I seem to have changed the type colour to white: sorry!)

Now you can go back to the original clue with a 7-letter answer :-

"Very soon call for less noise: jet's back in airport"

which I have actually solved, so I can give you this answer shortly in another blog (or if you email me!).


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