23,437 – Aphrodisiacs, slapper and suspender all combining to make this one hard

Solving time :13m 05s

I found this one very hard going. No more than two answers entered in the first two minutes, and both of those only thanks to previous experience of very similar devices. Then the SW corner fairly quickly, but remaining answers had to be squeezed out one by one, including a long hold-up with 1a, 13, 1d, 4, 5 and 7 still to do.
A fine effort by the compiler as the clues were fair despite often being inventive, and prepared to be saucy. A few unoriginal devices, and a bit of crosswordese (e.g. distressed, san, Oder, grass – but all helped to get me going)


1 FINANCIAL (Times) + IS + T(arget) – “Version of the Times” turned out to be splendidly literal – and the ‘big spender’ managed to be very accurate (per Chambers) whilst yet NOT being the obvious Shirley Bassey meaning of “big spender”
8 RAT in PIES! – Luckily I have seen something very similar to “disgusting offering from chef?” discussed within the last year, making this the first write-in after a moment’s thought
9 OP in THAT’S – “has” is sometimes used for ’S in Listener-style puzzles but not broadsheets, so here it’s “that has” that translates to THAT’S; I was helped this time by having clued TOP-HAT in a similar way myself in the past
12 SCORPIO, cryptic def – despite the screamers of “sign” and “stingy” which mean Zodiac and ‘stinging’ far more often in crosswords than in real life, this was no giveaway
14 EAVES + DROP – Fortunately I read the V and P in the diagram before the clue, so there was only ever going to be one answer and the verb sense of “Earwig” didn’t detain me
19 CAP + ON – Kudos for not doing a “hatted” clue
23 L + (b)OO(k) + ROLL – “endless” is deprecated by some when it means ‘with both ends removed’, though I don’t see why; the origin of “bumph” (hence it’s other spelling ‘bumf’) is amusing if you don’t know it and explains this use – look it up.
24 STA(r)T + I(r)ON – “and again” having to be taken literally in regard to the instruction to the solver
26 HAIR-RESTORER, cryptic def – though for seasoned solvers, the chestnut “distressed” may have ceased to be cryptic. At least here it gets a question-mark for dubiety, make that dubiosity, associated with it.


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1 FORMULA, 2 defs – I’m sure this must work as a reference to Formula One occurring on a track, but I can’t quite parse it myself to make it ‘mean’ that. I freely admit I hadn’t even understood the reference when I finally got it.
3 NOSE-BLEED, cryptic def – though the combination of ‘red’ and ‘flow’ always makes me think of blood, I didn’t find this reference to the bridge of the nose obvious
4 CUT (anag) in IS – brilliant wording, but given a T and soon S in the grid, how could it have held me up for so long?
5 LAP + DOGS – last one entered, from a combination of not predicting the opening letter at all, and looking for SIP- and SUP- words; “those under the influence” very neatly links the to the wordplay whilst being fair and deceptive. Fine clue-writing
6 L in SAPPER – if you thought The Times would typically clue GIT as “silly chap” yesterday, you might logically not expect it to give SLAPPER as “tart”!
7 A + HIS SPORADIC (anag) – A = Are (metric land measure) is a much more Listener-style device than Times-style, but I would suspect both editor and solver will let it go in the interests of this wonderful (and difficult) clue. Now two of my most memorable clues are about the same subject: Judith Lindley once wrote “Destroys ’is confidence utterly (8,11)”
10 SHOPPING LIST, cryptic def – Just a nice mental image from a clue that for once wasn’t too hard
15 VERY + LIGHT – an easy spot for WWI veterans, I dare say
17 MET in SAN + A – A composer I am sort of familiar with, but I’d like to add my thanks from yesterday for The_od who so recently reminded me that HINDEMITH was an answer (which I did know) meaning a composer (which I didn’t). Classical music a definite weakness here.
18 EARLIER, pun – this one is based on “being more like an earl” = earl-i-er, boom boom
20 ONE in PIER – PIONEER is always ONE in PIER, but ONE meaning a joke (“that’s a good one”) is pretty unusual

12 comments on “23,437 – Aphrodisiacs, slapper and suspender all combining to make this one hard”

  1. A sauce-pot of a puzzle indeed, tho not as saucy as Mr M’s header (you naughty boy!) and a rare win over MM for me, but fascinating to note that what held me up badly (the NW corner) was by and large not what MM found difficult. For example PIRATES went in last but one before APHRODISIACS.


  2. The best part of an hour.
    I guess I should have known better than to enter PARROTS at 8 ac! Mind you, I’ve come across some weird chefs in my time.
    Dafydd Price Jones
    1. Those parrots have just repeated on me, and said that the email I received this morning from Kea was to blame. If only the sender’s alter ego had inspired me instead. Jolly Roger would have given me PIRATES.
  3. I’m still learning the hard way that I can no longer look at the blog any time I like – now I too have to solve the puzzle first. I mistakenly looked to check for any comments on other posts, saw your picture and heading and quickly looked away – but ‘aphrodisiacs’ had already reached the brain cells.

    I solved the puzzle, and nipped just inside your time with 13:03. Surely, you say, having such a thumping great hint helped? Not much – 7D was the last answer to go in. How thick is that?

    Weird stuff: what’s the only word in the text above that LJ’s spell-checker doesn’t like? Have a quick look and see if you can guess. The answer is a four-letter word beginning with B. Just like the good old days when Microsoft Word’s one rejected ‘Microsoft’ or some similar word.

  4. About 1 hr 35 for me. I got 7D and 27A on first read through and then just stared at the paper for a good few minutes.
    I was pleased to see SMETANA – Ma Vlast is one of the few classical recordings I own. I had not encountered Oder before – one to add to my rapidly growing list of rivers. I knew the origin of bumf, but had not seen it spelt bumph before.
    Overall a very fair crossword, but it took a while to get going.
  5. That was difficult.

    I knew bumf in the “unnecessary junk mail” sense… had to work out the toilet relationship and then misled myself with BOG ROLL (endless BOok…).

    The use of “stingy?” in 12A was perfect in my opinion (the question mark I mean). However, by the same token, I felt that 19D should have read “… that’s clammy?”.

  6. I was a bit surprised to see NUTCASE ( 2 down) clued as LOONY in these politically correct times (but not Times, obviously)
  7. This puzzle shows what a difference one answer can make (and why assessing a puzzle’s difficulty objectively or based on times is so hard). Somehow APHRODISIACS was the first clue I solved, which helped enormously with the left-hand side, and I managed to finish in just under 11.

    What really held me up was not knowing RAKE = inclination; 1ac (FINANCIALIST), 1d (FORMULA) and 8ac (PIRATES) were my last three, but I got FORMULA from the last letter as soon as I finally wrote in DRAKE.

  8. Bit slow in commenting on this one – only just caught up with the puzzle at the weekend.

    I agree with Peter about having to take care in viewing the blog before attempting the puzzle. When I first found the blog I liked to sneak a look at Peter’s time first to see what I was up against!! Mr Magoo’s topical headlines mean that can no longer be done!

    Anyway, I did find this a bit of a struggle too.
    Solving time: 20:35

  9. I did write that clue! I miss the Gu thread “Near the Knuckle Clues”. Thank you for liking it
  10. 11a Plant rot = RHUBARB (DD)
    13a Duck out of initially destructive inclination = DRAKE (d rake)
    16a One involved in undercover hold-up = SUSPENDER
    21a Said reader very upset = AVERRED (reader v)*
    25a Irreverent sons turn, led out first = GODLESS (go dle ss)
    2d Loony’s head to examine = NUTCASE (nut case)
    19d Caught husband and wife in river that’s clammy = CHOWDER ( c h o w der)
    22d European holding cold tap. say = DANCE (dan c e)

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