This weekend saw the start of the 103rd edition of the Tour de France, the world's greatest bike race. To mark the occasion, here's a special Tour de France crossword that will test your knowledge of cycling vocabulary.
It's been a mixed start to the Euro 2016 football tournament for the British teams: Wales won, England drew, and Northern Ireland lost. Of course, there's a lot of vocabulary specific to football and you'll find some of it in today's crossword, which is at intermediate level.
Today sees the start of the Euro 2016 football tournament in France, which is taking place under the shadow of the ongoing threat of terrorism. In today's Daily Mail cartoon Mac highlights the plight of 'soccer widows' everywhere.
THE CARTOON An England soccer fan is sitting in his armchair in front of the TV ready for the start of Euro 2016. He's got a good supply of crisps and lager, and hopes that the tournament 'isn't going to be spoilt by any violence' (the newspaper headline refers to a 'terrorist threat warning'). However, the immediate threat comes from his long-suffering wife, who is about to hit him over the head with a saucepan!
VOCABULARY In Britain we use the words football or soccer for 'the beautiful game', but in the US, they just use soccer. Football in the US is American football, another game entirely. Footy is an informal British term for football.
The newspapers are full of tributes to Muhammad Ali, who died last Friday. But how much do you know about the legendary boxer? Test your knowledge by doing this special Muhammad Ali crossword. You may also pick up some useful vocabulary as well.
COMMENT I would spend hours playing marbles when I was a young schoolboy. We used to call them 'alleys' back then. I don't suppose many kids play marbles these days - they're too busy updating their Facebook pages!
BACKGROUND Maria Sharapova dropped a huge bombshell onto world tennis on Monday when she admitted she had tested positive for a banned substance at January's Australian Open. Applying her legendary calm and determination, the five-times Grand Slam champion made a personal statement at a Los Angeles hotel confessing she had been caught out by tennis's anti-doping operation. The highest earning athlete in any female sport said that she had been found to have taken Mildronate – or Meldonium – which was prohibited from January 1 this year. The International Tennis Federation has confirmed the star will be provisionally suspended from the sport March 12. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The scene is the warehouse of an earplugs manufacturer, Pluggie & Co. Shelves are stacked high with what one assumes to be boxes of earplugs and men are moving boxes around with fork lift trucks. A group of executives with clipboards are having a discussion when another executive runs towards them shouting, "We're ruined! Maria Sharapova has been banned for four years!"
EXPLANATION Maria Sharapova is (was?) known for her grunting during tennis matches. In fact, during last year's Wimbledon tournament, UK prime minister David Cameron joked that spectators should 'bring their earplugs' to SW19 as the players can be 'quite loud'. He appeared to be siding with tennis fans who felt Sharapova’s grunting was so loud that it distracted from their enjoyment of the match. The former champion’s infamous grunting had led viewers to complain that it made them want to stop watching her games. The joke is that the company will be ruined by the drop in sales due to Sharapova's 'ban'. Read more >>
NOTE Despite what the man in the cartoon says, Sharapova hasn't been officially banned yet. She will be provisionally suspended from playing tennis from March 12 and could be prevented from competing for Russia at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this year. The International Tennis Federation's anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test. That ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as if the player shows no significant fault or negligence.
GRAMMAR Note the present perfect passive construction "has been banned". The present perfect is used because it has just happened. However, if we are talking about something that happened in the past, we would use the past simple. • Adrian Mutu of Chelsea was banned after he tested positive for cocaine in the 2003-2004 season.
DISCUSSION This cartoon would make a good classroom discussion starter for the topic of drugs in sport. Here are some possible questions: • Did Maria Sharapova just make an honest mistake, or is she guilty of deliberate doping? • Should we feel sorry for Sharapova? • Should drugs cheats be banned from sport for life? • Should the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports be legalized? (see here for debating points) • And see here for a pair work activity with many more questions.
BACKGROUND More than 70 doctors and health experts have called for a ban on tackling in school rugby games. In an open letter that warns of the high risk of serious injury among under-18s playing rugby, they urge schools to move to touch and non-contact versions of the game. A government drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools by linking them with rugby clubs is also criticised by the health experts, who point out that the UN convention on the rights of the child obliges governments to inform children about injury risks. The letter – which is addressed to ministers, chief medical officers and children’s commissioners – describes rugby as a “high-impact collision sport”. “The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum,” it says. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The referee is looking sternly at a young boy who has just tasered three of the opposing side during a school rugby match. The boy explains, "Well my mum doesn't think tackling should be allowed - so she lent me her Taser." The other players look dubiously on.
EXPLANATION If you look closely you can see a female police officer standing smiling on the touchline. She's the boy's mother, who lent him the Taser.
VOCABULARY A Taser is an electroshock weapon used by police to subdue potentially dangerous people. See here for the origin of the name.
GRAMMAR 1. Note the rather complicated construction "doesn't think tackling should be allowed", which contains a negative, a gerund, a modal verb, and a passive. 2. 'Lent' is the irregular past tense of the verb 'to lend'.
TRIVIA NOTE During a game of football at Rugby School in England, legend has it that 16-year-old student William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and ran with it towards the opponent's goal line, rather than following the rules of the times of catching and kicking the ball only. Thus the game of Rugby was born.
DISCUSSION • Should tackling be banned in school rugby? Or is the call for a ban yet another example of political correctness/health and safety gone mad? • What are the arguments for and against a ban on tackling in school rugby? • What other sports contain an element of danger? Is rugby the most dangerous? • What are the positive aspects of school sports? And the negative?
BACKGROUND British officials have entered the final phase of negotiations to change the UK's relationship with the EU, the day before the European summit begins. David Cameron hopes to agree a deal at the Brussels summit, enabling a referendum on the UK's EU membership to take place as early as June. European parliament president Martin Schulz has warned that MEPs' backing for any deal cannot be guaranteed. On Tuesday, Downing Street said the deal had the backing of MEPs. Number 10 said leaders of the three largest groups in the European parliament had "made clear their support" for the UK's proposed EU deal. But Mr Cameron's planned curbs to benefits for EU migrants appear to be a sticking point in the talks with the EU, with some eastern European countries reported to be opposed. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Adams from The Telegraph shows David Cameron as the starter about to fire the starting pistol in a sprint race. However, rather than pointing in the same direction, the runners are lined up facing each other just a few yards (or metres) apart. In fact, the race is a metaphor for the EU referendum campaign, which will officially start once the prime minister has finished his renegotiation and fixed a date. The runners on the left represent the 'In' campaign (i.e., those who want the UK to remain in the EU), and those on the right the 'Out' campaign (those who want to leave). A clash seems inevitable ...
LANGUAGE 1. At the start of a race, the starter traditionally says, "On your marks, get set, go!". 2. The media commonly use the race as a metaphor for election campaigns. • Monday night, voters in Iowa will kick off the months-long process to pick one candidate to represent each major party in the 2016 race to the White House.
As we're fast approaching the end of the year, I thought it would be fun to do a quiz to test everyone's knowledge of the key events and people of 2015. There are 30 questions in six categories: Politics, Entertainment, Sport, Science, People, and Business. If you're a teacher, you can play the quiz with your class using a video projector or interactive whiteboard. If you're a learner, you can do the quiz on your own — or why not challenge your friends? Just click on the image below to begin, and good luck! See here for more of my quizzes.
TIPS You can change the text size in the 'Game Settings' (bottom left). You can also double the number of points, which I usually do on the last round to make things even more exciting! And, of course, some sort of prize for the winning team is also nice.
I'm not a great fan of rugby (we were forced to play it at school!), so I wasn't too upset when England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup in the group stages. At least they didn't lose to France! Anyway, for all you fans of the oval ball, here's a crossword based on vocabulary connected with rugby. If the embedded version above doesn't work, try this one instead. Alternatively, you can download this PDF version.
The cover of the latest issue of Private Eye shows beleaguered/embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter showing his hands, which appear to be covered in oil. The speech bubble has him saying, 'My hands are clean!'
EXPLANATION The cover illustrates a common English idiom. If you say that someone's hands are clean or that someone has clean hands, you mean that they have done nothing wrong. • "I am not worried about the investigators checking me out," he said. "My hands are clean." The joke is that while Blatter protests his innocence in the speech bubble, his hands are dirty, telling a different story. In fact, he is currently under investigation following the corruption scandal that has rocked world football.
BACKGROUND Sepp Blatter has been returned to serve a fifth term as the head of FIFA. The 79-year-old defeated Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein in the presidential contest in Zurich Friday. His victory came despite a week marked by arrests and investigations tied to alleged corruption, which led to calls for the dismissal of the organization's longtime leader. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent shows a footballer taking a penalty. The ball, which is on the penalty spot, is emblazoned with the face of Sepp Blatter.
EXPLANATION The cartoon caption 'On the Spot' is a play on an English idiom. To put someone on the spot means to ask someone a question that is difficult or embarrassing to answer. • I’m going to put you on the spot and ask what you would have done in his position. The FIFA arrests have put Blatter on the spot, and in the cartoon he's on the penalty spot.
CARTOON This cartoon by Bob from the Daily Telegraph compares choosing a winner for the Grand National (a famous English horse race due to be run today) and choosing a winner in the UK General Election (due to be held on May 7th.) On the left, a blindfolded man is preparing to choose a horse to bet on among the runners and riders. On the right, he's doing the same thing with a ballot paper listing the political parties standing in the election.
EXPLANATION Declining support for the main parties, allied with the rise of UKIP and the aftermath of the Scottish Independence Referendum mean that the 2015 General Election promises to be one of the most difficult to predict for many years. The cartoonist is making the point that choosing a winner will be a lottery, just like trying to choose the winner of the Grand National.