23,476 – Christmas gift

Solving time: 6:51

Most of this puzzle was very straightforward as the clues were packed with clich├ęs and most definitions were transparent. However, a few difficult words slowed me down: in particular, I didn’t know the long answer at 5d and had to work out the anagram with a few checking letters, while 14ac cost some time at the end. I think those with wider vocabularies and general knowledge would probably have found this about as easy as The Times gets.

Incidentally, I thought yesterday’s puzzle was very tricky.

* = anagram.

Across
1 refers to the 12 Labours of Hercules.
9 MERLIN – double definition, the bird and the wizard. Arthurian references are more common than you might think…
10 COUR(A + N)T + E – a dance I didn’t know, but courant is French (and heraldic, I now discover) for ‘running’ so this was a confident guess.
12 “FILLY BUSTER”
14 BAL(LIST)A – my last answer. I spent quite a while trying to dredge a Welsh lake from my memory, without success – I don’t think I knew Bala Lake – and in the end guessed correctly but unconfidently based on the link to ‘ballistic’. A ballista was ‘a Roman weapon in the form of a crossbow for projecting heavy missiles’.
18 refers to the ‘seven year ITCH’ which allegedly surfaces after seven years of marriage.
21 STEP(HEN)S + ON – George, designer of the Rocket.
22 INST (hidden) – easy if you know the ‘word’, but are abbreviations normally allowed as answers?
24 EX(ER)CISE
26 rev. of AIL + I (= current) + SE (directions)
27 ANAN[i]AS – I didn’t know Ananias and Sapphira but the checking letters were kind.
28 SPARS (= boxes) + ELY (= see)
Down
3 COLONELSHIP – Colonel Bogey is possibly the most famous march ever written. If you don’t think you know it, surprise yourself by listening here or here.
4 (FLUSHING)* – a surprising anagram which I missed on first look…
5 SICILIAN VESPERS (anag. of PRINCES IS AS EVIL) – …whereas this was an obvious anagram but I didn’t know the phrase – see here for an explanation. I toyed with ‘viscera’ as the second word for a while, and I think I had 5 checking letters before getting this.
6 STUBB[s] + Y – another name I didn’t know; George Stubbs was an 18th Century artist famous for his paintings of horses.
7 General Robert E “LEE” of the American Civil War.
13 SHE + NAN + (rev. of NAG inside IS)
15 OX inside (A + (TIN)* + TIN (= can)) – I wasn’t quite confident enough to write this in without checking the wordplay.
17 PRUNE + rev. of ALL – a plant once thought to cure sore throats and other ailments.
20 RE + (IS inside MS (= manuscript))
23 S + I[ndividual] S[avings] A[ccount] + L

10 comments on “23,476 – Christmas gift”

  1. Despite some unfamiliar references and expressions (Bala, Sapphira, Sicilian Vespers)this was my fastest ever time for a Times cryptic crossword. Sixteen minutes with interruptions. So I imagine the hares finished it in under two minutes. 28 across held me up a little because I was looking for something more complex in the wordplay and was sure that “boxes” indicated a container clue, and I didn’t immediately commit myself to ANANAS because I didn’t like “piece of fruit” as a definition
    1. I think you’ll beat your record fairly soon. There was enough difficulty in this for me to take just over 5 mins.
  2. I also did well with this one: 34 minutes, my second fastest time for the Times. I did not know COURANTE or PRUNELLA, but the wordplay easily led me to them.
    1. As a railway enthusiast, I can vouch for the fact that the word “loco” is widely used by itself, and not as an abbreviation. Which brings me round to the etymology of “gricer” that was raised in a Jumbo review a little time ago. My posting was a bit late, but I’m surprised no-one has reacted to my suggested origin.

      Harry Shipley

  3. I am mystified. The online crossword had the following clue for 10 across:
    “Suite containing a new English dance”.
    How does “Suite” = “COURT”?
    Should the first word of the clue have been “Suit”?

    Mike O, Skiathos

  4. Here are the omitted clues & answers:

    6a Thus the Continental church brings comfort = SO LA CE – where Thus= SO, the Continental = LA and church = CE
    11a Shock, not completing risky exploit = STUN (t)
    16a Bring in a vessel when called = EARN – sounds like URN and means “bring in”
    19a Fickle mathematician’s expression = VARIABLE – one might be nit picky and say that variables can be in an expression but do not constitute one themselves?

    2d Up straight before court = ERE CT – where ERE is before and CT is court
    8d Jazz fan, male doctor and gangster are in church = CAT HE DR AL – cat = jazz fan, male = he, doctor = dr and gangster = al (capone) here in x-word land.
    25d Manage to follow a course = RUN – double definition

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