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From The Evening Standard's Cryptic Crossword - Apr 23 2021, the clue for 36-Across is:

  1. Take the first left turn at the zoo (4)

And the answer is "lion".

I get that the first left is L. The clue is four letters long and the third letter is O, but I do not understand how the rest of the clue -ion is explained.

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    $\begingroup$ I think Jafe's answer is very good but I so very much agree that it is a poor clue. Thanks Jafe $\endgroup$ – clarence Apr 25 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ Is it possible that there is a particular zoo that is well-known to the audience (hence "the" zoo)? It might be that the location of the lion in that particular zoo is just as indicated by the clue. $\endgroup$ – WhatsUp Apr 25 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ In British English, a "turn" can be an act (like a stage act), a performer or an attraction (as in "she's the star turn at the club tonight). So the "turn at the zoo" part might be describing the lion as an attraction at the zoo. Still not clear how the first part relates, though. $\endgroup$ – Laconic Droid Apr 25 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ For cryptic crosswords that play by the rules, I'd recommend pretty much any British paper other than the Standard and Metro. $\endgroup$ – dbmag9 Apr 25 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisH Yes, yesterday I also checked the map of ZSL London Zoo and found that it doesn't quite make sense. $\endgroup$ – WhatsUp Apr 26 at 13:43
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Maybe "the first" is number one or NO. I (Roman numeral 1), followed by L, an abbreviation for "left". We take all that and turn it around to make L I ON. The definition part would then be "at the zoo", which is not a great definition for lion as it's the wrong part of speech, but that's all I can come up with.

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First is No 1 (number one in an abbreviated form), this looks like NO I. Turn it - NOI -> ION

First Left is L

L ION

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say "first left" = noil, then "turn" => lion $\endgroup$ – JNF May 6 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ After watching this puzzle for a while, I think @JNF has the correct interpretation. $\endgroup$ – Joel Rondeau May 6 at 19:58
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How about

take the first left turn = first on the left

which gives

first(I) on(ON) the left(L)

which gives you

IONL which you then "turn" into LION

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    $\begingroup$ Two levels of indirection seems a little much for a proper cryptic clue. $\endgroup$ – bobble Apr 25 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I think "turn" would have to apply to the whole letter-string, in which case you would get LNOI. $\endgroup$ – bobble Apr 25 at 18:50
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I'll go out on a limb with the assumption it makes sense, once understood, and that Jafe has the right of it (sorry, I like sort of puns better than puns) with "L" from "left" and the Roman numeral "I" from "first."

My thought then, is that there would be at least two ways to finish the answer to the clue and the author of the puzzle added the "at the zoo" portion to let you select between the possibilities.

So, say there are the possible endings of "ON" and "FT" (however they arise). Then, depending upon the word required for the puzzle, the author could have finished the clue with "at the zoo" hinting "Lion" or "on the roof of the skyscraper" hinting "Lift".

That's just an example for illustrating the point. I have no idea at all what two or more possible letter pairs "take the first left" would generate and thereby need a way to select between.

But assuming it makes more sense than just the author knew the answer and somehow felt it'd be fun to make the clue (somehow) more fun, it needs to have a point and I bet that's it.

I'd hate to think a professional standard would accept "punching up" clues by adding things that have no other point, or letting an author pick a spot for a weakness making an otherwise (apparently) clever clue yield to someone just getting a letter and then fitting a common zoo animal to the puzzle, or worse, just thinking of some four-letter common zoo animals and filling it in from whole cloth. Surely the "Evening Standard" has... standards... that would forbid that even if the puzzle author guild allows such.

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    $\begingroup$ The Evening Standard and Metro cryptics are much laxer about the Ximenean conventions than the other major newspapers that publish a crossword, which is a shame since these are often people's first introduction to cryptic crosswords. $\endgroup$ – dbmag9 Apr 25 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @dbmag9 Metro in particular could be very annoying to someone more used to Times and Guardian puzzles $\endgroup$ – Chris H Apr 27 at 12:33
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According to the Internet,

ZO is same as ZOO

If you turn ZO in the Left direction 1 step it looks like ON (vertical). So perhaps

L

I

O

N

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    $\begingroup$ "According to the Internet"? Can you find an actual source stating this? And how does this explain the LI? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Apr 27 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/zo. L: Left I: First. A stretch I know. $\endgroup$ – DrD Apr 27 at 13:24

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