Trivia Teaser

Which is a US term not widely used in the UK?

Phone box
Plastic wrap

Lane One Form


By Miranda

Driving in Canberra, Australia's national capital notorious for roundabouts, you read the merge instructions on the roadway. The first word you come to is LANE, then ONE and, finally, FORM.

I've often wondered why the words are so written. Plainly, the instruction is for merging traffic to FORM ONE LANE.  If the road is clear you can see all the words and read them, as one does, from top to bottom. But then, when the road is clear, you don't need the instruction. And in normal traffic, avoiding tail-gating the vehicle ahead, you can't see all three words at once and therefore see them in reverse order. Which doesn't make sense.
Order is important.

When writing clues for our crosswords we have some rules and conventions to observe. Generally, an adjective will precede the noun. That's easy, it's the way the English language works. When making a clue for HIGHWAY we'll say 'Main route' and not 'Route main' as the latter just doesn't make sense in English (though we could punctuate it to 'Route, main' which might be clearer). If there's an adverb we have a little more leeway. If we clued STEER as 'Gently guide', we could also use 'Guide gently'.

We try to obey the rules of grammar but we also have our own conventions designed to make clues clear when you first read them. For the word SIGN, the clue 'The ... Of Four' might be used. Our convention - put capital letters on all words in a title so that you know it is a title. Next, since there may still be any number of solutions to this clue, we add clarification text and we put it in at the start. Instead of saying 'The ... Of Four by Sherlock Holmes' we'd use 'Sherlock Holmes mystery, The ... Of Four'. The idea is that your mind is gently guided to Sherlock Holmes titles even before you see the rest of the clue...

But I'm sure the merge instructions seemed perfectly clear to the people who created them, too.


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7 Responses to

Lane One Form

kragzy said:
November 05, 2009 at 1:46 PM

I fully agree that the ONE LANE FORM instructions in Canberra are silly. As you say, all three words are inevitably in sight at the same time and can be read as one instruction. In fact, the instruction can be read faster and responded to more quickly if the three words are arranged to be read at once with their intended meaning immediately apparent. Which is different to crossword clues. We cryptic solvers love the challenge of deciphering the subtleties and, speaking personally, I don't care how long it takes or how convoluted the clues are. The pleasure is in breaking them open. Crossword clues, on the other hand, can be as cryptic as you like.

November 06, 2009 at 11:36 PM

Despite the fact the place is full of polititions,there is some logic in the reverse order. As you aproach to merge with a main highway you're looking over your right shoulder to estimate your entry. Quick glances to the front mean your eyes are going from right to left.

jayell said:
November 07, 2009 at 11:32 AM

The only thing I hate about Canberra Form one lane is so many people in Canberra think it means to race ahead of the car that is ahead of you so You can beat them to it. Otherwise I have no problem with it. Roundabouts are pretty much treated the same, you have to race the car ahead of you so You can get through the roundabout first. PS We hardly ever see a politician because they are hardly ever here and frankly I dont want to see them.

bluefred said:
November 08, 2009 at 8:49 AM

When I was in Melbourne some time ago, I approached a "Form One Lane" sign. Some wag had added a "P" at the start and a "T" at the end of the word "Lane". Sounded like infinite sense to me - especially for our politicians in Canberra.

November 08, 2009 at 10:34 AM

I have no problems with your clues, there is always the hint button if I am a bit dim. But dont get me started on road signs. My pet hate is too many bike lane signs. They are every 20 metres (or so it seems) plus they are painted on the road. To me they just clutter up the landscape.

mery said:
November 08, 2009 at 2:03 PM

"form one planet"; yep I like that idea! Someimes I wonder if we are "from one planet"

Suzi2 said:
November 12, 2009 at 8:39 PM

My mate thinks it's pretty difficult for cyclists to ride on their left shoulder