George vs the Times Crossword Club Clue Challenge: SYLLABUS

NOTE: Well I biffed here.  Even though I had the clue written on my notepaper, I picked the wrong one out of the list of clues and comments.  Apologies to whomever submitted the original clue, if they are looking in.

Here was mine…

Maybe this will get lesser friends back on course? (8)

And Richard Rogan’s comment.

The idea here is that “lesser friends” would be “sub-allies”, however that would lead to the answer “SEILLABUS”, as the alternative form of the plural of “ALLY” (“ALLYS”) which the answer requires is not valid.

Well guess who has been in the US far too long where the plural of ALLY is ALLYS… and since American spellings (unless specifically mentioned) are a no-no I should hang my head in shame.  Doubly so.

Struck out again on this one, and I was hoping for maybe a place this time.  I’m not sure I like the clue that won, I did like the clue that placed second.

Here was my clue for SYLLABUS

Junior colleague’s backing curriculum (8)

And Richard Rogan’s comment…

The wordplay here is a reversal of SUB ALLY’S. I’m not sure the idea of a junior colleague is adequately conveyed by the term “sub-ally”.


I wonder if that means the clue is no good at all, or that “Junior” is not a good indicator for SUB, or if I’m going to reverse two elements of wordplay that I have to have more than just “backing” – for “backing” to apply to all the rest of the clue, then it has to be a single entity?

Head is spinning now…


5 Responses

  1. Hi George,
    Sorry you didn’t win again (!)
    I was alarmed to discover that the clue you sent was attributed to another entrant, while the clue attributed to your good self was something else entirely, though, oddly, using the same basic idea.
    I need to find out what happened there. At least I know it wasn’t my fault, as that is how I received them.
    This competition does seem fraught with problems!

    Richard Rogan

  2. I should add, your clue was not “no good at all” (and miles better than the one the Times said was yours!). I just felt “sub-ally” was a bit of a stretch for junior colleague, particularly as the term is coined for the occasion. Sometimes such coinages work, but I guess it’s a matter of taste as which do and which do not.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for looking in (and I hope you don’t mind the light poking at the Times competition, which is rather fun and at least you do get individual comments!).

      And I went back and checked my email – you are right, I did submit a far less superior clue, what’s funny is that the clue that is there was written on my notepad, but in my email I came up with a far more unwieldly version with the same wordplay. I’ve now read your comments on it. Note to self, check emails carefully and don’t just scroll down for a clue that I thought I submitted! Will try to do better with flowerpot.

  3. Believe it or not, when I saw that the SEILLABUS (!) clue was yours the first thing I thought was that it must be an overseas spelling. Rather lazily, I googled for examples, found none, and became even more puzzled.
    I am still baffled by the fact that the clue you quoted initially was also in my list, attributed to someone else, but at least I am happy that some horrendous general error has (probably) not occurred.

  4. Sorry George, I am being a bit slow! I now understand what happened.

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