23,461 – Little to stir the old sweats (yes, I’m doing it again!)

Solving time : 6m08s felt not particularly quick for an easy puzzle, but on reflection a lot of the answers were quite hard, even if the clues weren’t. For instance, I couldn’t have been confident beforehand that 10, 14, 18, 20 or 30 were in the dictionary, nor meanings used for 28 and 29. Unusually, I found the downs much easier throughout.


1 DIPLOMA + T – For seemingly the sixth time this week, 1 across went in last. This time I’m blaming it on the unusual fill between a checked I and L, and the excellently deceptive ‘adjective’ ‘Official’.
9 VIL(lag)E – I was pleased to get this instantly from the wordplay, as word subtractions can be very difficult to work out and –I-E could have become a big worry.
11 SIC(rev) + TERCIAN (anag) – this looked like an anagram but I kept mentally confirming that ‘so certain’ only had 9 letters long before the light dawned.
14 (c)OLD SWEAT – A very neat clueing opportunity taken – I wouldn’t claim to be overfamiliar with the answer.
16 H A MOST (anag) – Sorry not to be consistent about showing anag fodder or output, but here it’s worth mentioning that H(usband) has been used, an example of the (very obvious to translate) indirect anagram that is occasionally allowable. Other types of indirect anagram are strongly forbidden, and this type is rare enough in this type of puzzle that I expected the answer to be H followed by an anagram.
18 ”SIN + DICK” – Chambers says a syndic is “a person chosen to transact business for others, esp the accredited legal representative of a corporation, society or company; a member of a committee of the Senate of Cambridge University; (at various times and places) a magistrate or mayor; (in ancient Greece) an advocate, delegate or judge”, all of which is news to me. Luckily the wordplay was manageable, despite the rather unlovely ‘to’ trying to break up the homophone.
20 I NIP in MILL – I’m no pro-lifer, but discovering the correct meaning of the definition felt like a bit of a reality check.
26 DOG’S DINNER – Thanks to the_od for pointing out this is not a cryptic def, but that ‘mess’ is the real def. I was unable to enjoy the ‘misleading surface’ as ‘terriers’ never looked like soldiers to me.
28 EYES, 2 defs – Despite extensive (re-)reading of the Hornblower novels – highly recommended in their own right and for reams of unusual naval words – I did not know the ‘eyes’ of a ship…
29 CORD ON – … and neither did I know the ‘single-stemmed fruit tree’ here, and find it very strange that it’s under the same headword as the CORDONs I do know.
30 OLD DI’S in G(eorge) C(ross) – smacks of a clue the compiler really struggled to make work.


2 IN I.T. I + ALLY – I thought the recent discussion about I = current was very interesting, but have always put its oddity (to me) down to my own scientific knowledge gap. ALLY was indicated quite obliquely here, though totally fairly.
4 Hidden rev, & lit – A very nice &lit, good word choices.
5 TAP(e) – The sort of clue (3 letters = truncated 4) that I don’t even try to solve until I have a checking letter. Then the P made it easy.
6 I + SLING + TON – People like me can’t drive around without seeing the Gin Sling in Islington, or picturing a fly-half wearing trainers in Ruislip, or positing a third gender in Middlesex, so this was straightforward (if you see what I mean)
7 PIC + OSSA (rev) – All I know about Mt Ossa is that it is a mountain that appears in crosswords sometimes. Luckily PICASSO is the first artist I (and maybe others) think of, when given the term – I don’t know why.
12 IS(land) + M in THUS – The cleverly compiled surface is very generous to speed merchants.
19 DR + ESSE + D(iligent) – ‘Being’ = ESSE or ENS is always hard to spot.
21 THE + A in POD – the ‘school’ here is one of whales (also GAM).

6 comments on “23,461 – Little to stir the old sweats (yes, I’m doing it again!)”

  1. I think I remember this word from “Published by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press” in CUP books.
  2. Is DOGS DINNER a cryptic definition? I interpreted it as “mess” = definition, and the subsidiary indication as “what’s eaten by terriers” using the crossword equivalent of the split infinitive – the “split question mark” – i.e. placed at the end of the clue(!) – to indicate that a “terrier” is only an example of a dog.

    Bit slower than average for me today 16:36, and I put in both EYES and CORDON without being totally sure.

    1. Good point – I have amended. I was quite surprised to discover that all the meanings (which I thought were various) that I understand for ‘dog’s dinner’ are summed up in the dictionary’s “anything very untidy”.
  3. I slowed myself down considerably putting in ELP for 5D using the shaky logic that if there was an EP and an LP, no doubt there was an ELP record too and ‘ELP was definitely a (short) hit for you know who. So my P was satisfied but my diplomat wasn’t very happy.

    I found this puzzle hard — Friday’s always seem to be. Didn’t get syndic, mini-pill nor old sweat (wordplay didn’t provide enough ‘elp).

    I wonder about timing variance… many of you (Peter, magoo, et al) seem to have v. little (variance I mean) — whereas I know that I know can sometimes whip off a Monday in 15′-20′ and then spend over and hour at the end of the week.

    1. Timing variance: I’m sure “low variance” is the biggest effect of solving the Times puzzle for a couple of decades. If there are 6 relatively easy clues in a tough puzzle, getting 5 of the 6 because they use tricks you know instead of getting one or two from first principles will make a big difference. Confidence is important too – if you know you can do most puzzles inside 20 minutes, you just do that. The trouble is that the only way to get that confidence is by solving most puzzles in 20 minutes!
  4. 6a I married mate, a horny type = I M PAL A
    10a Ask for drink and dish with lots of ice in = SUP PL IC ATE – I suppose ic is 66% of ice so qualifies as “lots”?
    13a Prison riot = STIR – I often find these double definitions (DD) quite difficult. I note that the Times cryptic setters use all the slang terms for prison and drug related things – who do they think we are?
    22a Primate burying saint in part of church = AP S E – saint can be S or St.
    24a Note problem and (point)* out fresh start is needed = RE SUM PTION

    3d (Lear) performed on unusual (set)* – not with this character surely? – LAERTES – Ophelia’s bro in Hamlet who has not yet turned up in King Lear.
    8d Narrow piece of wood one used as weapon = LATH I – lath as in lath & plaster for early wall construction and one = I. The lathi is a stick used by Indian policemen as far as I know?
    15d Old scoundrels I encountered on trip = EX CURS I ON
    17d Everyone present (collars me )* for a change = ALL COMERS
    23d Walk round, making a video = PROM O
    25d Test given after start of maths lesson = M ORAL
    27d Equine plague = NAG – another “easy-peasy” DD that needed the G from Gold Disc before I twigged

Comments are closed.