The same difference
There is no such thing as a perfect synonym, or so some authoritative writers tell us. All apparent synonyms offer different shades of meaning, hence the popularity of thesauri (or thesauruses) to help us pin down those subtle tints or hints of difference.
Personally I think the sheer acquisitiveness of English has given us quite a few perfect synonym but it’s the far more numerous imperfect synonyms that concern me here. Because most synonyms are imperfect, crossword puzzles – both cryptic and straight – necessarily depend on a certain fuzziness of meaning. Clue writing is not an exact science.
I generally go for a substitution test: can my answer replace the proposed synonym in a coherent sentence with the same general meaning? It’s pretty rough, especially as the rules allow articles (a, an, the) to appear or disappear at will.
Using this method, “UK” for example can be used to mean Britain or British. I imagine a headline: “UK PM says no”. Expanded, it says “The British Prime Minister says no”. Hence “UK” stands in this case for British.
“US” likewise can mean The United States of America, just America or, as in “US president”, American.
Britain (see 1 down) is a far-from-perfect synonym for UK, as any student of geography or British history will tell you. Great Britain then? Even worse. Nevertheless it is a substitution that has been used many times before, even in respectable British crosswords, so I make no apologies. It will have to do.
|Across||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Written wrongly, the result of the simplest error (8)||Anagram of SIMPLEST|
|Where the mount is kept unchanging (6)||Double definition|
|Makes nothing of agents, disguised, around the East (7)||Anagram of AGENTS including E|
|Woody grasses appear so a bomb explodes (7)||Anagram of SO A BOMB|
|A pooled fund for Jack (5)||Double definition|
|12||IN A BIG WAY|
|Involved with determining the mass of an elephant, say, with much ceremony and great enthusiasm (2,1,3,3)||Pun on weigh|
|Dressmakers use them to record steps taken (4,8)||record = TAPE, steps taken = MEASURES|
|Chemical vial deviously used by an old master of political chicanery (12)||Anagram of CHEMICAL VIAL|
|Carelessly forget law in the enjoyment of remembering some pleasant event (9)||Anagram of FORGET LAW|
|Strongly criticise the least change (5)||Anagram of LEAST|
|Armed service personnel arranged IRA loss (7)||Anagram of IRA LOSS|
|A leper’s let loose to get worse (7)||Anagram of A LEPERS|
|A bit of kitsch is trendy in a certain type of rock (6)||Hidden word, kitSCH IS Trendy|
|A social function introducing a new variety of pinot is one way to rapidly grow the family (8)||A social function = A DO + anagram of PINOT.|
|Down||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|It might be just firewood around here but it offers great social status around Britain (6)||great social status = MANA containing Britain = UK|
|Takes aim at scenic attractions (6)||Double definition|
|Not much in the way of funds for silly type’s chat (5,4)||Anagram of TYPES CHAT|
|Aimless rebels involved in a novel musical set in France (3,10)||Anagram of AIMLESS REBELS|
|Beats having the Maori politician with one (5)||the Maori = TE, politician = MP, one = I (Roman numerals)|
|A frightening expression, “work to be sorted at the end of term,” for someone who prefers to just keep reading (8)||A frightening expression = BOO + anagram of WORK, end of term = M|
|A writer, for example, in tricky sites (8)||for example = SAY inside anagram of SITES|
|10||BRAVE NEW WORLD|
|Huxley’s novel encouragement to boldly enter a supermarket (5,3,5)||boldly enter = BRAVE|
|A receipt showing decline in business (5,4)||Double definition|
|Gremlin rides donkeys into blind alleys (8)||Gremlin = IMP, donkeys = ASSES|
|Outrageous costs hit people such as those from Perth and Kilbirnie (8)||Anagram of COSTS HIT|
|Make a citizen of Bangkok ante up, I hear, for Chinese capital (6)||citizen of Bangkok = THAI, ante up = PAY, I hear = homophone indicator|
|That man with control is in this document (6)||That man = HE, control = REIN|
|Decapitate criminals for swindles (5)||criminals = CROOKS.|