Home life · Notes from West London · Word of the week

Word of the week: onager

As I explained in this piece (“Bar snack? (9) …”), I rarely do Cryptic Crosswords these days. I do, however, attempt the Quick Crossword whenever I pick up a copy of the Guardian. As I noted here, it is my paper of choice, and you can get it for free at Waitrose if you have one of their myWaitrose loyalty cards and spend a minimum amount when you shop.

The myWaitrose perks have changed over the years. The minimum spend went up from £5 to £10. You used to be able to pick up a free coffee with your shopping, but that offer was withdrawn in 2020. And from this week there will be no more free newspapers for most shoppers. According to this piece on moneysavingexpert.com, “From 23 February, only shoppers who regularly buy a newspaper using their myWaitrose card at the checkout, will receive this offer”. Waitrose have not specified how this will work. Apparently “an algorithm will look at people’s most popular items and then give offers based on those items”. It was nice while it lasted, but I’m no longer expecting to get my newspaper for free.

Anyway, back to the Quick Crosswords.

Usually I can complete them without any kind of help. I fill in the puzzles the way that my father used to, only entering the letters that are shared by Down and Across clues. For a while I would get my daughter to fill in the rest of the letters as far as she could, and guide her through any unfamiliar words that remained. We haven’t done that for a while.

Occasionally there’s a word that I am unfamiliar with. Earlier this month we had the following clue: “Wild Asian ass (6)”. I had 3 of the 6 letters but had never heard of the answer. I looked it up, but was wary of the kind of results I might get from typing “wild Asian ass” into Google. Fortunately it offered “Asian wild ass crossword clue Answers” as the top search result, pointing to the word “Onager”. As you can read on this Wikipedia page, “The onager … also known as hemione or Asiatic wild ass is a species of the family Equidae native to Asia … Five subspecies have been recognized, one of which is extinct”.

I can’t recall whether the 3 letters that I had worked out were “O-A-E-“ or “-N-G-R”. Either way, I couldn’t get the answer. In the same day’s puzzle there was a one-word clue leading to another creature: “Peewit (7)”. I worked out that it was “Lapwing” but looked it up just to make sure.

I don’t expect to come across the word “onager” again in the near future, unless I start watching nature documentaries. And I don’t imagine I’ll be searching for the words “wild Asian ass” anytime soon.

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