23463 – Gracious me…

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
…did you get the picture of a gang of chimps reclothing Caratacus in old, perished underwear?

Solving time : 58 minutes. Quite happy with that time. I was left with two to get and was unsure if I’d beat an hour… Just did it!
I enjoyed this puzzle – a nice range of clues and answers and pretty fair.

I didn’t manage to do any of last week’s puzzles as I was out and about all week. However, I had with me a book of Independent crosswords and a book of Times crosswords (I did one of each per day) and a copy of ‘Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword’ – I think I learnt a lot!
When I began doing the Times crossword earlier this year I got hardly any clues on first reading and often could not finish whole puzzles. Now I fill in quite a few clues straightaway and normally finish each puzzle, nearly half the time in under an hour.
So my aim for next year is to regularly complete in under an hour!


1 GET THE PICTURE – it is not often you see a clue that is shorter than its answer, I thought this was a neat example
9 NELLIE DEAN = (Linden Lea, E)* – I’ve never heard of this old song, but I wrote it in near the end with most of the letters already in place
10 STEADY ON – (one day it’s)*, without the I
11 PERIS,H – another one where the checked letters helped a lot, I had not come across peri before (must brush up on my Persian mythology)
16 EYAS – hiding in ‘they assume’
17 STIR – double definition, this was the last one I wrote in; not very difficult but I think I was confused by the dashes between this and the previous clue
18 YOURS TRULY – (slurry out)* + y(=end of day), I think already having 13A helped me get this quite quickly
20 G(RAT)IS – GI is an often used soldier in crosswords
22 RECLOTHE – lecher* outside TO<=
26 GANG – Scottish word for ‘go’ – I wrote this in having seen it before, then looked it up to be sure
27 D(I,SAPPE(A)R)ANCE – I wrote this in from the definition and looked at the wordplay afterwards: Lancers is a type of dance, which I didn’t know; a sapper is a Royal Engineer, which I did know


1 GHOSTWRITER – (got withers)*,R
2 TONG,A – I don’t think I’d seen tong (Chinese secret society) before – I doubt it will come up too often, doesn’t look the most useful string of letters
4 PAL,I(NG)S – NG=no good
6 UNDERWEAR – Wear is a river, I recognised it from Tyne and Wear
7 ETA – a letter and its estimated time of arrival – I thought this was pretty neat
12 SMALL CHANGE – the first of two different coppers today – somehow I got this straight away, on another day it might have taken longer
14 CARAT,A,CU’S – precious stones are weighed in carats, copper=Cu is one of the chemical symbols that I have seen most often in crosswords; I was aware that Caratacus was an English king from the past – I did not know he was around in the 40s
19 UK,RAINE(=”reign”)
21 SCRAP=parcs<= you only need basic French vocab for the Times crossword, or so it seems so far

13 comments on “23463 – Gracious me…”

  1. I think this was my fastest solve ever for a Times cryptic (still considerably slower than the hares at around 20 minutes). It was helped by getting 1 across as soon as I read it and filling in most of the upper half in under 5 minutes, but then the pace proved too much and I was slower with the lower half (though I cannot claim the clues were significantly harder). Guessed at Caratacus from straightforward wordplay, but I’m only familiar with Caractacus.
  2. After an atrocious, error-strewn run recently I’m hoping that today’s 5:52 might indicate a reversal of fortune, though I’m sure others will have been faster as I wrote in GOODNESS ME instead of GRACIOUS ME, didn’t know CARATACUS and solved the key clue GHOSTWRITER last.

    TONG comes up more than you might think – about as often as TONGA, in fact!

  3. 14d surely should be Caractacus – all my reference books refer to Caractacus, and tell me that he fought in around AD 40, so it’s surely he they mean. Or is it just that my reference books are out of date and there is a perfectly good alternative spelling? Surely The Times wouldn’t get it wrong…

    Wil Ransome

    1. I was taught that the correct spelling was Caratacus (by a very pedantic teacher), although according to Wikipedia both spellings are acceptable.
  4. Can I complain gently about 19D, where “verbally” seems to be being used as a homophone indicator? I know few people now distinguish between “verbal” and “oral”. Yet strangely most people are still able to use “non-verbal” correctly.

    Is it unreasonable to hope for higher standards of pedantry from the Times Crossword?

    1. “Verbally” is a bit suspect as a homophone indicator. After all “claiming dominion verbally” could mean “claiming to be more articulate than anyone else”. Another common homophone indicator is “reportedly” (or “it’s reported”, etc.). So there are no written reports?
      1. I’m with Ilan on “verbally” – one “oral” meaning of “verbal” is enough for me. But on “reported” I’m with you – there doesn’t seem to be any “spoken rather than written” meaning.
  5. Not sure I am happy with the clue for this one. “Descending” might suggest a reversal and in fact I briefly considered GNOTA before I realised my foolishness. But really the word is redundant, isn’t it? I suppose “Tong” does descend because it is a Down clue, but I think that’s a bit feeble.

    On the whole quite an easy one, I thought. I managed it in about 30 minutes without having to check anything during solving. I did look up EYAS, CARATACUS after the event, but I knew my answers had to be right.

    1. I’m happy with “descending” because it’s perfectly accurate. I’d be equally happy with something like “to the east” in an across clue (in contrast to the reversal-indicating “to the west”) if it helped the surface reading. I can’t see how “descending” can indicate a reversal, except to over-hasty folk like me who could easily read any “direction” word as a reversal indicator simply because they oftern are reversal indicators.
  6. Just in case anyone missed it, part of the fun here was that Linden Lea is a song too (Vaughan-Williams). Handy secondhand bookshop fare for old songs of the British Isles: The New National Song Book, a little red hardback published by Boosey and Hawkes (1906, rev. 1938 and 58). It doesn’t have Nellie Dean, but does have Heart of Oak, Annie Laurie, Tom Bowling, Land of my Fathers in both languages, and many others that schoolchildren were made to sing fifty and more years ago. I guarantee you know more of the tunes than you think.
  7. I don’t know about chimps but I did think of…

    Did you see the fascinating witches
    Who put the scintillating stitches
    In the britches
    Of the boys
    Who put the powder
    On the noses
    On the faces
    Of the ladies
    Of the harem
    Of the court
    Of King Caractacus?
    Well you’re too late
    They’ve just passed by!

    Thankyou Rolf Harris

    Mike O, Skiathos

  8. 8a Blue feathers = DOWN – a not-so-tricky DD
    13a Gordon Bennett being kind to eighteen = GRACIOUS ME – 18 is yours truly = me and being kind = gracious. I also had goodness to start with – see comments above
    24a Instrument in a recital earlier = CONCERT IN A

    3d Attractive fish is excellent = HUNKY DORY – David Bowie’s 4th album in 1971. The final track was The Bewlay Brothers – I lived at Beaulieu Road in the New Forest with some fellow geology undergraduates in the early 70s so we became the Beaulieu Brothers. Happy days.
    5d Primate in church accompanied by one policeman = CHIMP – church = ch or ce, one = i and policeman = mp – must be a military type?
    15d Simple job for academic, making furniture = EASY CHAIR – sinecure for professor of carpentry?
    23d Periodical notes issue from this = ORGAN (another DD)
    25d Getting on with One’s Life – Drudgery, principally = OLD

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