23,458 – Query queries

Solving time: 26 mins in total, 15 of those trying to resolve three clues.

The triad in question comprised 9ac (got wrong and has taken me ages to work out the correct answer), 25ac (got right, but more by luck than judgement) and 8dn (got wrong but feel hard done by – see below). If anyone can clarify the quibbles (which are more frequent and less minor than usual today) below, which mostly seem to relate to the use of the question mark, I would be grateful; I may well have misinterpreted some of the clues and would welcome being put straight. Not a good day for me, also going one down in both Race The Clock (though that’s normal) and the Independent.

1 HEAD + S(TR)ONG – should have got this straight away from the definition, but I failed to split ‘Self-willed’ and ‘chief’ on first look, so 1-0 to the setter. ‘Tribal leaders’ for TR echoes ‘starts to question’ for QU from #23,446; I’m not really a fan of this but I suppose Manchester United and Chelsea are the Premiership leaders.
7 COHO (hidden) – I’ve seen this in the Listener recently (spelt as COHOE) but not the daily crossword before.
9* VI (short for Violet) + PERISH – at the time I couldn’t crack this clue (“Spiteful woman? Rot!” (8)); ‘rot’ = PISH was the only sensible thing I could come up with. I went for ‘liverish’ over ‘tigerish’, vaguely wondering if LIVER = living person = ‘woman?’, but liverish is more bad-tempered than spiteful. After stopping the clock and consulting references, ‘vixenish’ seemed likelier but again this is more ‘bad-tempered’. I’ve finally realised that the answer is ‘viperish’, but again the question mark (and arguably the explanation mark) is superfluous to the cryptic reading (see 8dn et al for more grumbling about this).
10 GI rev. + NORE – I didn’t know this but the Nore is an anchorage in the Thames Estuary where a Royal Navy mutiny took place in 1797.
11 SHRIKE with last two letters reversed – I didn’t know the word ‘butcher-bird’ but the definition (‘piercing scream’) was enough.
14 UN + DER (‘a’ and ‘the’ in French and German, i.e. ‘articles abroad’) + PRO (supporting) + TEST – but I feel the link word ‘penned’ is a bit dubious and therefore unfairly misleading as ‘penned’ can mean ‘put inside’.
17 UGLY CUSTOMER – this clue seems to lack a genuine definition which I don’t think the question mark, which applies to both parts (‘unsightly person’ and ‘[person] shopkeeper should avoid’), makes up for. An ugly customer is ‘a dangerous antagonist’ or ‘a hostile or dangerous person’.
20 PAST + RAM + I – The Royal Academy of Music is next to Regent’s Park in London.
21 STRIDE – double definition, stride piano is ‘a rhythmic style of piano-playing derived from ragtime, popularized in Harlem during the 1920s’. Other useful jazz words include bebop, cat, hep, rag, scat and trad.
22 BID after M + OR – ‘dogging’ used to mean ‘placed after’ in the sense of following someone.
25* HARE – _A_E is probably the worst possible combination for a difficult four-letter word. I wondered if a ‘form’ might be a group of young leverets and so got this answer correct (I think – but there may be a better answer!), but not before going through the alphabet looking for something better and discarding dame, Jade, Jane, Kate, mare and several other possibilities. In fact a form is ‘the bed of a hare, shaped by the animal’s body’ in which a mother might keep her young, so I was on the right lines. A difficult and rather vague cryptic definition.
26 YE + anag. of TREES + RAY (answer to 24dn) – I got 24dn from this answer rather than the other way round, but yet another example in the online crossword of a reference to another clue being spelt out in words rather than (I assume) the digits of the paper version. This is the most annoying aspect of the online Times Crossword Club which is otherwise a pretty good service at a reasonable price.
2 E(PIP)H + ANY – a very clever idea (“What Estella’s lover admitted?” = PIP inside EH) but the question mark seems superfluous to the cryptic reading. Estella is the heroine in Great Expectations.
4 THICK from the saying ‘thick as thieves’.
6 GUI(LT = lieutenant)LE + SS – not sure how ‘looking into’ means ‘placed inside’. The other most useful ‘officer’ abbreviations are CO (commanding officer), OC (officer commanding), COL(onel) and GEN(eral).
8* HERM + A + N – I didn’t know the name Woody Herman and got this clue wrong, so maybe this is just sour grapes, but I think the question mark at the end is very unfair. The cryptic reading is straightforward, ‘island’ (HERM) + ‘area’ (A) ‘to’ (next to) ‘north’ (N), but the presence of the question mark made me look more deeply. The only plausible reason for it that I could see was if the clue were an &lit, so I entered ‘HARDAI’ – HARD (‘woody’) + (I+A) (‘island area’) reversed (‘to north’).
12 IT almost in the centre of INEQUABLE (uneven) – the presence of ‘quite’ in the clue, plus the difficult (but fair) punctuation, made this a hard clue to explain, even when the answer was clear from the checking letters.
15 PO[l]LY + AND (= with) + RY (extremely risky) – apparently this is ‘the social usage of some peoples in which a woman normally has several husbands’.
16 “VEND” + “DEBTOR” – a debtor is ‘one in hock’ but I thought a vend was the act of a sale rather than an item in stock, and doesn’t this give you an extra D in the homophone (as in ‘Bliiiiinduh Daaaaaate‘)? I think there must be another explanation for this; maybe ‘one in stock’ can mean a member of the clergy (= VEN[erable])?
21 SEDGE – the Battle of Sedgemoor took place in Somerset in 1685 as part of the Monmouth rebellion, and was apparently the last pitched battle fought on English soil.
24 RAY – the American artist Man Ray.

14 comments on “23,458 – Query queries”

  1. thanks for resolving 25A for me. I went through the same list of options for ?A?E — it never occurred to me to look for other meanings of “form” that the familiar. Oh well.


  2. I ended up with MARE on the basis that their progeny appear in form books. Clearly the right answer really is HARE but the clue is a bit ambiguous.

    I thought the clue for 24D was great “Man who engaged…” even gave you the guy’s first name but it still took me a time to remember him.


  3. A potentially tough puzzle – I knew enough, esp. about musical stuff, to solve it fairly quickly, but didn’t see the wordplay for INEQUITABLE, and have nothing better for vendetta – an archdeacon might have worn a stock, but so might umpteen other people…
  4. I went for Vixenish, Mare, and Harran, on the (spurious) basis that H=hectare=area. Straw-clutching all the way. And I have a blank at 18d as well.
  5. BTW, was I the only one to go to TEMPLE in 19D? I mean, it’s both a small town and a university in Pennsylvania. PASTRAMI fixed that eventually but still it slowed me down…
    1. I think Temple’s much too small unless there’s some reason for it to be memorable. (Small dot on largest-scale map in my atlas, a Rand McNally so US-biased rather than UK-biased if it has any bias.)
      1. Yes but Temple Univ is a major inst in PA — I made the incorrect leap that it’s also a univ town.

        Anyway, I doubt any of the 1,420 residents of Temple, PA are reading this to register any disasgreement (unlike perhaps one of the 54,000 residents of Araucarian Dewsbury).

  6. After 17 minutes I was left staring at (surprise, surpise) ?A?E for 25A. Annoyingly my first thought was HARE, but based on trying to incorporate an anagram of “her”. Nearly wrote in in straight away. Wish I had, because I spent another 7 minutes trawling through the possibilities before finally plumping for BABE. Well, it can mean a female AND a youngster! That was the trouble, I was searching for a definition at the beginning or end of the clue which wasn’t there!

    With, as talbinho points out, SO many possibilities that fitted the pattern, I felt a slightly more helpful clue would have been nice!

    1. I sympathise about cryptic def clues for ?A?E and other many-option checking letter patterns. I suspect my lack of a problem with this one was a benefit of 20+ years of reading Times clues and developing sound instincts about when a clue is a CD and when a CD answer really fits. In this case, a BABE may have a form, but not youngsters in it (and youngsters is probably plural for a reason). But I don’t get it right all the time – my champs final slip-up was the result of the opposite mistake – thinking I was solving a CD when there was actually some wordplay.
  7. I’m feeling very smug about this whole puzzle. Funny how just getting it right can change all your angry feelings about the obscurity of Woody Herman (dimly dancing around my subconscious somewhere) and the difficulty of VI+PERISH. I love this puzzle now. I was vastly aided in 8m42s by immediately realising that ‘form’ was a specific type of burrow, and pausing long enough (15secs?) to dredge up whose it was.
  8. My first puzzle of this type. I see that 13 across is Lutheran = luther + an but what in the clue would have made it clear to add the ‘an’ at the end? clue: “protestant earl involved with hunt”

    and what makes 23 across = OBDURATE (“stubborn old bachelor’s tryst outside ancient city”) I only assume the answer is obdurate from the first word in the clue.

    Also, I think that 19 down is “PAGODA” because Pennsylvania is abbreviated “PA” and the clue is “where to worship Vishnu, possibly, in Pennsylvania”.

    Still stuck on 7d, 18d (“wicker baskets found outside popular launderettes”)

    This puzzle is old news to those in the UK, I guess, but here in NY it’s in today’s paper (12/14/2006). Great site!

    1. 13ac: The definition is ‘Protestant’, as an adjective. The rest of the clue is an anagram of EARL and HUNT, with ‘involved (with)’ indicating the anagram.

      23ac: Stubborn is indeed the definition. ‘Old’ = O, ‘bachelor’ = B (as in BA, BSc etc), a ‘tryst’ is a DATE and this is outside (around) UR, an ancient city.

      19d: The definition is ‘where to worship’. ‘Vishnu, possibly’ is A GOD, which goes inside PA (= Pennsylvania).

      7d has a slightly tricky second part to it. It’s a cryptic definition, so there’s no wordplay as such. 19d is quite a difficult answer; in this clue, ‘popular’ indicates IN and ‘outside’ once again means ‘put around’.

  9. I was glad O Senor Talbinho blogged Viperish and Hare ‘cos I was at a loss! Also got Ray backwards from Yesteryear. Some “easies” covered in the comments above but not so many today:

    13a Protestant (earl) involved with (hunt)* = LUTHERAN
    23a Stubborn old bachelor’s tryst outside old city = OB D UR ATE (see detailed explanation above if that does not explain)

    3d Female creature given bread by the sound of it = DOE (SL “dough” = money = “bread”)
    5d Tragic hero’s greeting in religious book = OT HELLO
    18d Wicker baskets found outside popular laundrettes = CO IN OPS (coops = baskets was new to me but the crossers and popular = in enabled derivation)
    19d Where to worship Vishnu, possibly, in Pennsylvania = P A GOD A ( this is a bit misleading as Vishnu is a Hindu God and a Pagoda is a Buddhist temple)

Comments are closed.