23,455 – New blood? I’ll get my teeth in

Solving time : 5m43s – I may regret writing this, but I may as well say what I think. Some of the puzzle seemed to me a little … well, amateurish. Ximeneans would object to the wording in several clues, and the grid contained lots of crosswordese words especially in the 5-letter lights, and a couple of hoary chestnuts in the clues, to go with some other very nice and novel ideas. The combination suggests to me a fairly new and welcome (honestly) compiler – so I’ll probably get a stinky message from some doyen or other any minute now.


1 CE in PICK UP THE PIES – you don’t often see a 13-letter element of wordplay. I thought this clue was quite amusing (though I can’t justify ‘then’ as a link-word)
9 IN in GRENADE – As a stickler, I just don’t think a sentence or phrase “A ingredient of B”makes sense.
10 TEN ON – AN ‘ex-tree’ indeed (old chestnut), much like its companion-word NONET and the standard reference to trapeze artists.
12 HAIR + BALL – All ties together very neatly with actually quite a precise exemplar definition.
13 TO + T in MAO – A tomato is (famously) ‘strictly’ a fruit rather than a vegetable, though never in supermarket classifications
15 MORE anag in TESS (rev) – a very pretty clue – no complaints that Wessex wasn’t a real county, as it WAS one in Hardy.
19 R in STAVE – I suffered no misdirection from the nice definition as, with T and R in the grid, I pretty much stopped reading the clue after the first two words.
21 I in CAP ROLE – Last one entered for me, a pretty obscure word (for a dazzling manoeuvre) that was unhelpfully loosely clued, unless I’m missing something: I have no idea how ‘awarded’ fits into the cryptic reading.
23 OBJECT, 2 defs – Real purists would say that it’s ‘draw the line’ that needs the question mark, esp as it doesn’t really mean ‘object’; instead it means to ‘find unacceptable’, which MIGHT lead you to choose to object.
27 IT + IS in ALICE – One of those that I think is quite hard cold, and quite easy with any help in the grid. Hard to put a finger on why exactly – it’s certainly a well-worded clue.
28 anag, BOTH + P + SWEETHEART – ‘Parliamentary leader’ = “P” is one of those devices that divide clueing discussions: does ‘letter-string’ leader = L or does it have to be ‘letter-string’s leader’ (and if the latter, can we interpret ‘parliamentary leader’ as ‘parliament’s leader’?). We do talk of the Labour leader and England captain, but maybe they are special cases; I’m not sure anyone would write of ‘Tesco leader’ or ‘guitarists captain’… ?


1 G in PAEAN + T – Weirdly, I had to get at this from the PAEAN.
2 RED in CO – another extremely dubious container indicator.
3 Anag, ON A BRUTAL – happily, when I was at school, the hardest ‘capitals’ question it was thought you could be asked was that of Mongolia – though it was always called ‘Outer Mongolia’ back then for some reason. Perhaps Chad or Burkina Faso is the equivalent now.
6 IN TER(rain) – Hands up who found this simple from the definition, and didn’t bother to twig the wordplay? Long subtractions are always hard to identify, especially when as indirect as this.
7 CA + V beside the N of NASSER – Ca (or C) for Circa is a good thing to know. Having criticised a lot of the wordplay wording, I really like this original formulation that gets NASSER into the construction.
8 SINGLE T – a pretty obvious (and not new) pun – and we all know the SINGLET ON variant too.
14 EG in MAP + H + ONE – too much wordplay for me to be trying to figure out at speed, so I just waited till I had enough checking to disentangle the excellently deceptive definition ‘hearing aid’
20 M in EX-TREE – M for Monsieur = ‘Frenchman’ is an old crossword device that I abhor: I presume MR couldn’t be given as ‘man’ so why is a foreign title accorded the status of its person? On the other hand ‘old chestnut’ is quite the opposite: a brilliant find
24 SIX (rev) in ET – a word that allows, almost insists on, a sneaky 2-letter definition.
25 STAR (rev) – A really well-phrased clue to finish. If you don’t see the wordplay quickly, -A-S and a possible definition of ‘heels’ could turn you into a gibbering wreck.

19 comments on “23,455 – New blood? I’ll get my teeth in”

  1. Quite ironic that a puzzle with a couple of old chestnuts should literally refer to a “new” old chestnut! Purists might also argue that it should be old chestnut “for example”.
    I also got PAGEANT from PAEAN, and I also struggled over CAPRIOLE (also dismayed at “awarded” in there), in fact my solving experience was pretty much similar to yours – only as (almost always) I got a longer solving experience for my money than you did!!

  2. Solving time 14:22

    I got all but two clues done inside 10 minutes – left with 4D and 21A – so it took me another 4 minutes plus just for these two. After my comment about RAINFOREST yesterday I should have twigged TWIG more quickly! Of course I can blame the slowness on CAPRIOLE to that “awarded” in the clue. I looked at words beginning CAP, but did not tie that in with “top”, and also considered ROLE being in there, but it still took the time to tie it down.

    Strangely I did spot ITALICISE on first read, just from the definition, and only checked the wordplay to make sure it was ISE not IZE. If only I could “outdo” Magoo on more than one clue per puzzle – I might get closer that a country mile to his times!

  3. I was quite pleased with 6:38 until I realised I’d stupidly written both CANVASSAR at 7dn and HAIR BAIL at 12ac to complete a lousy week. At least I can empathise with Steve Harmison today (i.e. fast but inaccurate).
    1. Nice comparison (and pic). Though ever since Torquemada compared himself to Hedley Verity, the traditional role is setter=bowler, solver=batsman. “Any wickets down?”, John Grant used to ask cheerily as championship hopefuls checked the answers just after solving. Which maybe makes you Andrew Strauss or one of the others caught hooking, on a day when the Boycott/Tavaré approach might have got 15 for 0 instead of 50-odd for 3.
  4. Nearly mentioned Ouagadougou a week or two ago – this and U B are easy capitals I think because the words are so distinctive. With you on “then” and “ingredient of”; think I’ve seen woman=>Ms to balance Frenchman=>M somewhere recently, though not in the Times puzzle.
  5. I just wrote a comment and it seemed to disappear – I’ll try again… Also I just noticed that I can’t access this site on my work PC: Livejournal is on the pornography filter list – does anyone else have this problem?

    I did this one pretty quickly – about 42 mins. I made a silly mistake near the end – writing in capirole (that’s never going to be a word) for 21A before realising that there weren’t any states to fit R?A?O. I just checked CAPRIOLE in the OED – it is also a type of head-dress; how many more head-dresses or hats am I going to know before the year is out?
    I learnt what a pineapple is – I’d not come across that before – I’m sure I will again.
    As for 8D – it was a new pun to me and I do not know the variant – I’ll be on the lookout now!
    Capitals: I know the capitals of Mongolia and Burkina Faso, but not Chad. Honduras was another one that seemed to crop up when I was at school. I think I’ll go and learn some more.

    1. I once knew someone who claimed to have learned the names of every capital city in the world. One evening in the pub he challenged me to name a country whose capital he didn’t know. Out of the depths of my brain I hauled the name of some Pacific Island which I was confident he wouldn’t even have heard of.
      He looked at me and, with a perfectly straight face asked: “It has two: which do you want, the summer or the winter one?” !
      1. That was my final word, too – probably because I’d never heard of it, and was looking for a horse rather than a horse jump. Easy puzzle as a whole though – 23 mins which is pretty good for me for the Times. Liked TWIG which I didn’t when first looking, suspecting THE was in the top line, as indeed it was.


    2. Maybe today’s Shed in the Guardian confused your web filter since its theme was porn?

      (OK — spurious comment: just wanted to see my Talbinho-inspired userpic posted!)

  6. Hi,
    Can anybody explain the wordplay for me to 17D – ‘set to fill a river’ giving ADELAIDE.


    Ps The answers to 26A and 18D would also be appreciated.

    1. Without having seen today’s puzzle, I assume that SET = LAID as in set down = laid down, and the river is DEE. (I believe there are several rivers called DEE in the British Isles.) I hate clues that contain “set” because it has approximately 728 million different meanings.
    2. set = LAID, in A=a, DEE=river. One for your mental list of 3-letter rivers.

      Sorry, but we don’t really do “any answer you want”. A hint for 18D: theatre = REP(ertory).

  7. DEE is v. common cryptic river.

    26A: IMOLA (rev in “buffalo mistakenly”)
    18D: RE(C+EI)P+T: REP is abbrev(“repertory theatre”)

  8. Thanks,

    I have only recently promoted myself to the Times crossword, I think i have a steep learning curve of three letter rivers, fish and dogs to climb.

    thanks again


    1. If you’ve been doing other cryptic puzzles, you may have quite a lot of “xwd vocab” to catch up on for the Times. But if you keep reading here (after a good effort at solving on your own), you will learn pretty fast.
  9. I completely agree with Magoo’s criticisms of some clues. “Awarded” in 21 across seems totally unjustified as a link word, especially in the past tense. Parliamentary leader to indicate P? I didn’t think The Times went in for such devices. 5 down uses a noun anagram indicator (embroidery), which I thought used to be taboo in The Times also, but it’s appearing more regularly now. I think there is some justification for clueing M as Frenchman (at least it’s more justified than clueing MR as man). “Monsieur” is not just a title – it also means “gentleman”. My French is pretty rusty, but I think you could come across a sentence that begins “C’est un monsieur qui….”
    1. Richard Browne, the current xwd ed, has rather more libertarian tastes than Brian Greer (xwd ed 1995-2000) and Mike Laws (2000-2002), so some things that they didn’t allow are now allowed. (“Libertarian” is a better word that “non-Ximenean” or “Araucarian”, and is pinched from the Azed book mentioned by Niall below.) I can see advantages and disadvantages in both the Ximenean and libertarian approaches. There are tricks used now that I don’t like, but there have also been clues I’ve liked that I don’t think would have got through the previous editing process. I think there are some setters on the current team who impose Ximenean standards on themselves, and I don’t think their puzzles have this aspect edited out of them, so both styles are still represented.
  10. The clue to 5 down (ELEVATOR) was “Lift to reveal embroidery”. I’m aware of the controversy re nounal anagram indicators and hence avoid them if writing clues for competitions. However, instinctively (and I’m no expert in grammar) (“to reveal” embroidery) is no different to me to, say, “Embroider (to reveal)”. Jonathan Crowther (Azed in the Observer) refers to this issue in his excellent recent book, with references to Sanskrit, which I’ll confess I found hard to follow, while not for a moment disputing its authority and correctness. This clue teased, because I wondered if “Lift” was the anagram indicator before settling on “Elevator” and understanding it fully.


  11. I don’t think the last 6 comments were on topic.

    I’m glad Mr Magoo blogged 23a as I did not get that at all. Object = draw the line = design?? Que?

    If there are any Times x-word learners practising on the back numbers they may find this blog completion useful?

    11a A second insect almost knocked over a tiny organism = A MO EBA (a second=mo be(e) backwards a)
    18a Fashion of newsagent’s business? = RAG TRADE (is The Times a rag then??)
    26a Some buffALO MIstakenly going round Grand Prix circuit = IMOLA (reversed hidden answer or RHA)

    4d Get a bit of wood = TWIG (DD – you twig?)
    5d Lift (to reveal)* embroidery = ELEVATOR (I like embroidery – of the anagrist – as an anagram indicator)
    16d Found (his tables)* to be forged = ESTABLISH
    17d Antipodean city set to fill a river = A DE LAID E (how many Oz cities to choose from anyway?)
    22d Woman with small house in a state = IDA HO (that Ida never gets the vacuum out)

Comments are closed.