23460: tough, and complicated by algorithms

Solving time : 24:48

Difficult I think. Going through the clues afterwards there are few that don’t seem to require a comment. Starting at 1A, I didn’t solve my first clue until 18A. Most of the bottom half followed reasonably quickly, but it was a slog working up to the top.

8A held me up for two reasons. First I started looking for an anagram of “maths specially”, taking “tailoring” rather than “specially” as the anagram indicator. Then, once a crossing G put me right on that, I quickly entered the nonsensical ANTIALGORITHMS, and it then took me several extra minutes to work out what sort of MARSH was at 3D, and so to correct 8A.

I think this is a win for the setter. It took me a relatively long time, but it was all solvable, and all entirely fair.


1 DEL(l) + OS – ie DELL (=valley) loses one of its L(ake)s. OS for “outsized” meaning very large is one of those crossword staples that I can’t recall coming across in the real world
4 DE + FIANCE – I wanted to put this in earlier, but couldn’t parse it until I realised that the F was not for “fellow”. And I wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be another word for “opposition” that would fit.
8 ANTILOGARITHMS = (TAILORING MATHS)* – see above. Taking so long over this is particularly annoying as I am just old enough to have had to use log tables for practical calculations.
10 OVER + MAT + CH – I wasn’t so keen on this one. An unfamiliar word, and “over” clued by “maiden?”
11 ROUGH = “ruff” – as a crossword bird, perhaps overmatched only by its feminine form “ree”.
12 S + QUARE – I was fairly misled by “once” in the clue. Normally it points to older usage than 40 years ago. Quare is a reference to the Brendan Behan play
14 SAN + GUINE(a)
17 PIPE(rev) + THEY*
18 KEY + NES(s) – NESS as a free-standing word meaning head(land) appears only in crosswords, but it can be sighted in the wild in British place-names from Stromness to Dungeness
20 RE-SAT(rev)
22 PEN I(T(h)E)N + CE
26 E(U(sefu)L)ER


3 SALT MARS+H(ard) – I like to think that if the routine “sailor” had been used to clue SALT, I would have solved this faster.
4 DIGITS – cryptic definition that I didn’t find very satisfying. I suspected DIGITS long before I was confident of it
5 FOREHEAD – I think this is a cryptic definition connected with receding hairlines, but I don’t entirely get it
6 (p)ASTOR – Nancy, Lady Astor was the first woman to take her seat as a British Member of Parliament
7 COMM(UNI)ON – As SCR means Senior Common Room, Common is a “word in SCR”. I did waste some time looking for an anagram of “word in SCR”.
13 UNI(o)NS + TALL

14 comments on “23460: tough, and complicated by algorithms”

  1. Orford Ness is probably the best-known place-name with the, er, separateness missing from the ones you remembered. Apparently there’s also a headland called “The Ness” on the south Devon coast, and various ‘something Ness’ locations in Scotland.

    I had a better start with DELOS found first time and no antilog bother, but slowish in the end (12:40) from not knowing the lit ref at 12, equating such with “qua” (probably wrongly), and thinking “how can ‘theatrical fellow’ be RE?”. So then conducted a brief paranoid search for any other S?U?R? words.

      1. Not sure whether our racing correspondent is aware that Scottish place names are an old favourite source of horse names. Arkle is a Scottish mountain for example, and Esha Ness is a headland with a lighthouse. (And no, 1967 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Terry Biddlecombe is not a relative. But he used to be very useful to my family – “like the jockey” used to be our stock answer to “How do you spell that?”.)
  2. I was beaten by most of the Britishisms today: didn’t get ASTOR (know the family, didn’t know she was 1st f. MP). Behan’s play I missed as well (embarrasingly because I’ve actually played the hostage in his play of same name). I recognized SCR but couldn’t justify the Senior Room part.

    I did however get the Keynes clue plus all the math ones pretty quickly (though I did try HARMONIC NUMBER for CARDINAL NUMBER at first 🙂

  3. “Quare” is always worth bearing in mind for “such a fellow” or similar, though it doesn’t often come up. I didn’t really see the purpose of “Once” except to confuse. None of the definitions of “square” in the sense of a bore refer to it being out-of-date (at least not in my dictionaries), but I suppose it is a bit passé.
    1. I must admit it’s the first time I’ve seen a Brendan Behan play mentioned in a clue – a welcome first. I suspect it’s the only legitimate way “quare” could be referenced, in the Times, anyway.
      1. I was very pleased to see SALT MARSH and SQUARE confirmed as correct, as I entered them eventually with some unease (12m24s). Peculiarly, I have heard of the Behan play, but thought it too recherché to be relevant, partly because I have heard quare used in other contexts in Ireland – or has it always been in the phrase “a quare fellow”? I can’t be sure.
        1. Where I come from “quare” (= “very good”) is extremely common, but as I hinted earlier I don’t think it could be used in a Times puzzle unless it was e.g. pinched from the title of a play. And I struggle to think offhand of any examples other than that one. I’m impressed that Ilan has actually appeared in it. Must make up for those English-isms (:-)
            1. Truth in advertising: this was in an American UNI production. I was chosen to play the kidnapped soldier simply because I was the only one who could do an acceptable London accent (at least better than Dick Van Dyke)
  4. Surprised no-one commented on Epiphyte which was a new one on me. Luckily the wordplay made it pretty easy to guess at with just a couple of checked letters.
    I’ve also never come across Quare before and went through exactly the same thought process as Peter. I was not at all convinced that Square is the same as Bore, even archaically.


  5. If “of French” gives “de” and then “French” gives “F”, then “French” is doing two jobs. I’d always had the impression that each element of a clue should serve one function only.

    Then “Ian” is the fellow, but how is CE a match?


    (I’d register like a regular if I could figure out how. I’m a Yank, did know about the SCR and Lady Astor but missed the Quare Fellow, though I’ve certainly heard of it.)

    1. 4A was Opposition of French fellow coming up for match? (8)

      No, the F is not clued separately, it is part of FIANCE, clued by “fellow coming up for match”. So the word “French” is used only once to make “of” “de”.

  6. 24a It could be one songbird with musical item = CARDINAL NUMBER (cardinal = songbird, number = musical item, definition = it could be one)

    2d Machine offers French word and English translation = LA THE ( the (female) in french followed by the english (no gender) equivalent)
    9d Farm worker taking coat off = SHEEP SHEARER
    16d A bit of plumbing can be installed on island if really necessary = A TAP INCH
    19d In birthday suit a French lad catches cold = UN C LAD
    21d Artist and lecturer gas = RA DON
    23d Prize giver presents book in festive season = NO B EL

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