At last, here’s a crossword to test all you Latin lovers

The Latin crossword is the first to appear in The Times for 85 years

C: Ruben Castelnuovo (Wikipedia)

Article retrieved from The Times website: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/medianews/article4581933.ece

What have the Romans ever given us? To the famous list, beginning with the aqueduct, we can now add a new way to while away a Saturday.

Cruciverbalists will from today find an extra mental challenge in the form of a weekly Latin crossword. No, it is not the Kalendae Aprilis(April 1).

This has been a long time coming. In 1930, The Times published a one-off Latin crossword, a month after the first appearance of an English crossword in this newspaper.

After 85 years, and with the classics enjoying a revival, helped by the popularity of books by the likes of Mary Beard and Robert Harris, it is time to try it again with a tabula rasa (clean slate).

Called O Tempora! and compiled by “Auctor”, the puzzle, which can be found today on page 83, is a mixture of straight and mildly cryptic clues, mainly in English, with all the answers in Latin. Some of the clues can be easily solved by those with a basic grounding in the language.

Nine across, for instance, requires you to find a word that means a singer and is the Latin translation of “on high” (clue: think about the voices in a choir). Others require a bit more thought. As with our cryptic crossword, it becomes easier with practice.

The name of our new crossword comes from Cicero’s exclamation against the dissolute customs in Rome in 63BC — “O Tempora! O Mores!” — memorably translated by Michael Flanders as “O Times, ODaily Mirror”.

“The Romans would have been huge fans of crosswords,” Professor Beard, a classics fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, said. “Every Roman, right the way down their social structure, loved wordplay.”

Llewelyn Morgan, an academic in Latin literature at Oxford, said: “The Romans have a reputation as solid types who liked beating up Gauls, but they were more literary and self-conscious than that. They were very keen on puns and anagrams, such as amor [love] being Roma [Rome] in reverse.”

Latin is growing in popularity. It is taught in more than 700 state schools and 450 independent schools — twice the number it was in 2000. Some 50,000 pupils start to learn it each year, of whom a quarter take it at GCSE.

“It has had a remarkable return to respectability in the last ten years,” Dr Morgan said. “There is a lot of affection for the subject again, which is having a very tangible impact on university applications.” The first Times crossword was published on February 1, 1930. It became so popular that one month later, The Times ran a crossword in Latin for those of a more “exacting intellectual standard”.

Three weeks later, thinking that our readers were still not being stretched, The Times published a crossword in Ancient Greek. Despite both attracting letters of praise — one reader said that the Greek crossword had “agreeably shortened” a long train journey — the experiment was not repeated until now.

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One Response to At last, here’s a crossword to test all you Latin lovers

  1. Pingback: Classical Cruciverbalism and Ciceronian Cross Words | res gerendae

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