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Listener 4223: Verbascum’s Two Names (or You Say Binomial and I Say Binominal)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Jan 2013

Listener 4223This was Verbscum’s third Listener, with the first two back in 2000 and 2001 … way before my current Listener solving streak. In this week’s puzzle, two people, A and B featured heavily and the correct letters of misprints would spell out a “spurious and misleading example of A’s work”. (At least, I assume they are both people.)

Unfortunately 1ac was a 9-letter unclued entry, so no immediate help there. I was pleasantly surprised by getting the first four down entries in double-quick time, and 1ac was •IN•M•N••. This led me to check with Chambers under binominal, and see it defined as “making use of two names, as the Linnaean nomenclature”. This was confirmed by the start of the preamble which said that 1 was “identified by two names”. Moreover, it was associated with name A, and it therefore followed that the entry at Adn was LINNAEUS. Ten minutes in and I was on a roll.

We were told that removing one name left a term associated with name B and so one N needed to be removed and I looked up binomial with its definition of “consisting of two terms as a + b (maths); another term for binominal“. A bit further down, and there was binomial theorem, “Newton’s theorem giving any power of a binomial”. All this binomial/binominal was doing my head in!

Anyway, Newton was obviously name B, and the south-east corner was begun. However, for most of the time, I found myself working down from the north-west corner in a fairly straightforward manner. We have recently understood how the editors have solved the crisis of the omission of Some first names in the latest Chambers: this week we had “18, 24 and 36 can be found in earlier editions”. A little grin would have crossed the faces of some solvers when they found that 36 was PYRUS MALUS. It wasn’t a first name, but the Lynnaean name for the apple-tree, and found under that entry; it bizarrely disappeared from the tenth edition (2003), having been in many editions (perhaps even all) prior to that.

And so, the grid was completed in under two hours. I must say that I thought the clues were excellent, with enjoyable surface readings to boot. My problem at this point was that the correct letters that I had for misprints read Clupea Ruag. Clupea was the name for HERRING and that could be found running diagonally in a NE-SW direction, and RED was reversed in row 2, confirming the “spurious and misleading example”. But how did ‘ruag’ relate to RED. It took some time to realise that the G was what the preamble referred to as “a constant concern for B”, and stood for the gravitational constant that Newton had fun with under the apple tree. However, that still left Rua, and try as I might, I couldn’t find any alternative. Surely the correct letters of the misprints were ‘roof’ for ‘hoof’, ‘punching’ for ‘pinching’ and ‘woman for ‘women’.

Listener 4223 My EntryMoreover, there were two REDs: one in row 2 and another somewhat skewed in rows 4 and 5. And there was even RUA sitting above the tail of the HERRING. Without understanding the meaning of rua, I was stuck, and so I remained. In the end, I highlighted in red the HERRING and the RED in row 2, not really happy, especially since practically everything I own was about to disappear into boxes for the second house move in six months. I sincerely hope that it will be the last for at least ten years.

Putting my confusion to one side, this was an excellent puzzle from Verbascum, I think! I look forward to the solution to see where my mistake lay and to find out what Clupea Rua really is!

5 Responses to “Listener 4223: Verbascum’s Two Names (or You Say Binomial and I Say Binominal)”

  1. Dave said

    10d ‘food’ for ‘wood’

  2. I’ve not been able to find when the old Linnaean name (not in the 1948 Chambers reprint) was officially been abandoned, but Malus domestica goes back to 1803, so the 10th edition seems to have caught up belatedly.

  3. Alf Mullins said

    I’m afraid that the REDs which appeared in the grid were completely accidental and I hadn’t spotted them.

    Many thanks for the comments,


  4. Dave said

    Which makes it all the more puzzling why highlighting RED HERRING in red is being accepted!

  5. Dave, thanks for clearing up my RUA/RUFA mistake. I had a mental block every time I read the clues that stopped me going past ‘Micronutrient’ in 10dn, despite having identified the misprint when I first solved it (and forgot to write it alongside).

    Regarding the highlighting of RED, the preamble states that the correct letters of misprints spell something out, and that something is “a spoof Linnaean name for ‘red herring'”, according to the solution. Surely that is what should be highlighted. Mind you, as Andy Stewart puts it at the Crossword Centre “as there are two examples of RED, neither of which adjoins HERRING, I assumed that wasn’t what the setter intended”. As Verbascum says above, that’s the case. It would have been ironic if, having forgotten to highlight Dipper’s ‘carrets’ in the first puzzle last year, I’d fallen at the first hurdle this year by highlighting too much!

    I’d just like to repeat that, despite my stupid mistake, I really enjoyed the way all the binomial/binominal links and Linnaeus/Newton came together.

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