The inexorable decline of English culture

As politicians, journalists and academics struggle to explain the recent outbreaks of violent disorder in English cities, I think it’s time for me to provide the definitive analysis. I believe that the sense of alienation, disenchantment and despair that seems to be sweeping the country can be traced back to a single appalling event, the occurrence of which was surely enough to drive even the most law-abiding citizen into acts of wanton destruction. The enormity of the offence perpetrated against the cultural fabric of our society cannot be overestimated, as it casts doubt on the very survival of western civilisation.

So what is this thing of which I speak? I’ll tell you, although I can hardly bring myself to talk about it. There was an error in last week’s Guardian Prize Crossword.

The shocking evidence for this breakdown of all that is right and good can be seen in stark graphic terms below:

The offending item, which can be found in the bottom left hand corner, is 22 down, the clue to which reads

9’s heart lifted, I gathered, over 7’s opener (6)

The answer to 9 across is BEETHOVEN, which serves to suggest a definition of a piece by said composer. “Heart lifted” is CORE written upside down, “I gathered” means that you stick an “I” in that, and “7’s opener” is A (from ALBION). The answer is then clearly EROICA…

Except – oh the shame of it! – the Guardian setter, Paul, clearly can’t spell and thus it appears in the completed grid above as ERIOCA. I can think of no clearer evidence for the descent of our country into anarchy and chaos.

I rest my case. There’s no doubt in my mind that this outrage was the real reason for the recent outbreak of riots. Or, as Paul would no doubt say, “roits”.

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29 Responses to “The inexorable decline of English culture”

  1. A spelling error in the Grauniad? I am shokced. Shokced!

    • telescoper Says:

      Of course one expects spelling mistakes in the Grauniad news stories, and to be honest nobody really cares about the news, but to find them in the crossword is really intolerable.

  2. telescoper Says:

    For those of you who think 22 across might actually have been SPONACH, I’ll unravel the clue

    John breaking joints, back for vegetable

    which is CAN (for “john”, i.e. lavatory) in HIPS all backwards, for SPINACH.

    • Monica Grady Says:

      So you didn’t win the prize then?
      M
      x

      • telescoper Says:

        No, and if they keep giving the Prize Crossword to Paul to set, I think I’ll stop doing it altogether! He’s consistently the worst setter for the Guardian, quite apart from this cock-up.

        I hear the Independent Crossword is quite good…

      • You mention the Indie crossword – I’m curious to hear what you think of the other papers’ crosswords. I like the Times crossword myself, finding it a bit more straight-down-the-line than the Guardian’s, but I can equally see how that can be considered a selling point for the latter. The other papers, I don’t really have a good idea about

      • telescoper Says:

        I find the Times crossword a bit dull and of course it’s part of the Evil Empire of Murdoch. The Telegraph is just easy. My favourite crossword is Azed in the Observer, but I also like Cyclops in Private Eye (for different reasons).

      • Monica Grady Says:

        I quite like the Indie crossword as well – it is much closer to the Guardian than the Times, which is designed to be homogeneous in setting style. The Indie crossword, a bit like the paper itself, doesn’t have the lightness and humour that often characterizes the Guardian crossword.
        M

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    At least all the other Beethoven pieces were spelt correctly (Fidelio, Emperor [Concerto] and Choral [Symphony or Fantasia]).

    • telescoper Says:

      You might be interested to know that Fidelio was also the pseudonym of a Guardian crossword setter. The name is apt because he began to set crosswords while he was serving a prison sentence….

  4. I don’t even understand the answers after you’ve explained the clues. Oh dear….. 😦

  5. More importantly, why are crosswords always symmetrical? Does this make them easier or harder to draw up? To me, it would make them harder, and yet I’ve never seen a crossword that is not symmetrical.

    • telescoper Says:

      All newspaper crossword grids have at least one symmetry (under a 180 degree rotation), although one does come across grids with higher symmetry than that.

      As far as I’m aware there are two reasons for this. The first is that they look neater that way. The second is historical, in that crosswords evolved from much more ancient forms of puzzle, acrostics and word squares, which both have essential symmetry; the oldest word square I’m familiar with is this one, in Latin, found in Pompeii

      ROTAS
      OPERA
      TENET
      AREPO
      SATOR

      which can produce a latin sentence (albeit including one foreign word “AREPO”) when read in four different ways…

      • As I’ve commented before on crossword related posts, my mother is a keen fan of crosswords (an addiction she has not passed on to me). So, for as long as I can remember I’ve seen piles of them lying around as she’d cut them out of the daily paper. I have never seen one not having geometric symmetry. Indeed it does add an aesthetic element to the puzzle, but the constrictions it places must make it harder for the puzzle setter.

      • As I’m sure andyxl can testify, ROTAS, OPERA, TENET, AREPO, SATOR is also found on a building on George Street in Edinburgh…

      • telescoper Says:

        I didn’t know that!

  6. They’ve posted a correction on the Web site: “Note added 16 August 2011. The clue for 22 across has been changed, as the original solution SPINACH clashed with the one for 20 down.”

    The new 22 across now correctly clues STOMACH, solving the problem.

    I’ve been out of the habit of doing cryptics for a few years but did a bunch, incuding this one, when I was in the UK last week. I was baffled by this clue for a long time before realizing that there must be a mistake.

    Of course, I still didn’t complete the puzzle since, as an American, “Brighton and Hove Albion” is gibberish to me. I figured out both Brighton and Albion, and should have reverse-engineered HOVE from the clue for 9, but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t. Even once I knew that the missing word had to somehow indicate the missing HOVE in BEETHOVEN, it still didn’t occur to me that it was simply HOVE, just because “Brighton and Hove Albion” sounds wholly implausible to me as an English phrase.

    • telescoper Says:

      Brighton and Hove Albion is of course a football team, quite a familiar name in the UK but nowhere else…

      I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to do this particular setter’s puzzles however, as he is easily the weakest of the Guardian’s current crop.

      • I was going to say that Brighton and Hove Albion are wholly implausible as a football team too, judging by their recent form.

      • The last time I was doing cryptics regularly was maybe 5 or more years ago. I think Paul was one of the Guardian setters then, and I vaguely recall not liking him much. The other setter I remember was Araucaria, who was very entertaining and creative, but whose clues often weren’t, strictly speaking, sound in construction.

        At my peak I could usually finish almost all of any given Guardian puzzle, and often my failure to get a clue could be put down to my ignorance of something that might have been well-known in the UK.

        I did well on this trip, finishing several Times puzzles and almost finishing most of the Guardian ones I tried.

      • telescoper Says:

        Yes, I generally find Araucaria quite enjoyable, but as you say many of his clues aren’t as sound as one would like. The Guardian’s setters vary in difficulty from Rufus – who seldom takes me more than 5 minutes – to Shed and Logodaedalus, who are both usually quite tricky.

        Azed in the Observer is a strict Ximenean and I think he consistently produces the best combination of cleverness, amusement and sound syntax.

      • telescoper Says:

        For the record I should point out that Brighton & Hove Albion beat Cardiff City this evening 3-1, in Cardiff.

  7. Why does “heart lifted” mean CORE backwards? I fail to see any connection.

    • “Heart” is a synonym for “core.” “Lifted” means “made to go up,” which, for a down clue, signifies backwards (since down is the “forward” direction). You couldn’t use this construction in an across clue.

  8. […] the second time in as many weeks that the Guardian has messed up the crossword. After the last debacle you’d think they would have been a bit more […]

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