Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Cross Word

Most days, I try to do the Times 2 Easy Crossword. I can usually do most of it but I usually have to turn to Google to complete the puzzle.
Yesterday I had problems though. I am not a film buff and I have had very few chemistry lessons and so I needed help with 5 across and with 3 down.
I clicked on my home page and typed "dark cinema genre" and the first two hits were from Amazon. The second one was a US site about the American Film Noir. I tried again and clicked on "I'm Feeling Lucky" and this time I read " Strictly speaking, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style, point-of-view, or tone of a film." Nevertheless I wrote "Film Noir" in 5 across as it seemed to fit.
Then my difficulties began because when I typed in "metallic element with atomic number 88" , a click on I'm Feeling Lucky gave me a Free Dictionary with a page for Atomic Number 88 and I learned that metalllic element with atomic number 88 was "Radium"
This didn't fit with Film Noir and I had failed to complete the puzzle.
This morning I discovered the answer should have been Erbium whose Atomic Number is 68. Never mind, even the Times gets some things wrong!! Perhaps I should join the Times Crossword Club at £9.99 per year.


Richard Mascall said...

Well I think it's a draw between The Times and yourself regarding Erbium. They had the second digit right and you had the first because its atomic number is 68.

The element whose atomic number is 66 is dysprosium which has an interesting connection with iridium, atomic number 77. When a company decided to set up a satellite based global mobile phone system some years ago it worked out that it needed 77 satellites and used that to determine the system's name : Iridium. When the satellites were launched it turned out only 66 were needed, but they decided not to rename the company.

The satellites can be the brightest objects in the sky when they reflect the sun while the sun and the moon are below the horizon, reaching magnitude -8 I think. It is possible to predict when they are visible by entering one's latitude and longitude into under the heading Iridium Flares. The flares last for about 10 seconds and it is possible to amaze people with your predictive powers, if you are so inclined.

Geoffrey Boys said...

Thank you Richard.
Happily bloggers can correct things but it is more difficult to correct things in the Times.
Future readers will not know that my first attempt at the atomic number of Erbium was 66!!

Anonymous said...


As a crossword fanatic and occasional compiler, I am completely in sympathy with your plight. 'Quick' crosswords are often put together by the same compilers (or setters) as cryptic puzzles, and for even less money. Solvers may have occasional quibbles about the suitability of words included, or the style of definitions offered, but they are entitled to expect that there are no factual or typographical errors, especially in puzzles printed in a top newspaper.

Sometimes a completely wrong grid is printed, and the compiler is blameless. But even Homer nods - at 22 across in Azed No. 1817 in the Observer recently, the great man himself gave a cryptic clue to ROOIKAT which used the definition for the next entry in Chambers Dictionary, ROOINEK.

My own offerings have always been scrupulously checked, or so I used to believe, but it is easy to be caught out. In the 1980s I was very pleased with myself when I offered the same clue for two 8-letter entries in the same grid: it was something like "He may appear in court, shouting PITS". Most solvers duly filled in SCARGILL and MACENROE without comment, and I hope with some amusement.

Imagine my chagrin, as secretary of the office tennis club and compiler of the in-house magazine's crossword, when I was reminded that John McEnroe's name is pronounced with an A, but spelt without one. To this clue there was no 8-letter answer at all fitting M-C-N-O-!

I have investigated many printed and online options over the years for finding words related to a clue such as "dark cinema genre". One that is interesting is the OneLook Reverse Dictionary at and although some of the results are baffling, 'film noir' is there at number four.

To find answers to fit a given letter pattern, one of the simplest options is to use the
Chambers Crossword Solver on the 'Chambers Word Wizards' page at
- although it can give too many answers, and doesn't offer definitions.

You might save money in the long run by joining the Times Crossword Club online, but from what I hear of it you will not avoid mistakes in clues or wrong grids, and you will also suffer service failures, printing and linking errors, and all sorts of other horrors. My advice is, stay away.

Paul P.