23,479 – Felicitous yet laboured?

Solving time : 4m46s – welcome relief for me after a taxing few days at the blockface. Quite a variety of feelings about the clues – two elegant &lits, some other very felicitous phrasing, but then some very laboured clues and some very dull crosswordese. (In that sentence, two adjectives have quite the opposite meaning of their surface – ‘felicitous’ means ‘I bet it didn’t just happen like that, lots of work involved’, and ‘laboured’ means ‘I don’t think a lot of work went into this one’! Apologies if that means I have used the wrong words.)

I shan’t be contributing again until the New Year, so very happy holidays to all, especially the setters who provide such top-notch entertainment.


1 SUN + COLD AIR, anag, &lit – This clue is lovely, aided by the useful vocabulary of meteorology.
6 OTIC, hidden – The way to read this is that the word (or letter-string) NOTICEABLE ‘stops’ the answer (in the sense of ‘restrains’ or ‘limits’).
9 (s)MACKIN(g) + TOSH – Can’t claim I understood this – my last entry – within the time, but the answer seemed clear nonetheless. Rather as I suspected, though to my surprise (if that makes sense), TOSH is in Chambers now as ‘friend, chum’. I think I had always assumed the old Alexei Sayle ad catchphrase “Hello, Tosh, got a Toshiba?” was just using a made-up word. Now what was that advertising?…
10 ”MAY’S” – Lovely surface, for some reason my favourite clue of the puzzle.
12 DOES THE TRICK, 2 defs – “Attempts” is a bit tenuous and seems to have been used in an effort to make the two definitions appear to be different rather than just the metaphor and its origin.
17 O in ONE’S, anag – Again a very neat &lit, well-constructed for a word that has been clued many many times and rarely this well.
24 X in EA + M – A nice surface, but this got me wondering why EA for Each is OK in a broadsheet – not exactly a commonly-used abbreviation.
27 INFER + ALL in NY – Can’t really make out what ‘so’ is doing in the clue


1 P moved to end of PROM – Good use of linkable clue parts.
2 INCH, 2 defs – Two of the ‘islands’ that crossworders need to know appear, her and at 18.
3 COIN-OPERATED, cryptic def – An experienced puzzler will realise that the surface reads so naturally for a long answer that this must be a cryptic definition, and that ‘bit’ is far the most likely candidate for a hidden meaning.
4 (oc)E(an in (b)OATS – ‘Sails’ has so many genuine ‘translations’ that I’m not a fan of using it in a figurative meaning (especially a short and truncated one)
5 DIS CHARGE, pun – A little bit of knowledge (that it cost one obol to cross the Styx) can be a dangerous thing if it leads you to look for OBOL-containing answers; I came up with DISCOBOLI before retuning. On reflection, is it a bit unfortunate that Dis is Roman and Charon Greek?
7 CIGAR (rev) in TOM + I + C(ough) – quite a good example of complicated wordplay executed smoothly, and ‘seriously funny’ is a clever definition.
8 ”CZECH REIGNS” – can’t claim I knew this answer (all one word in Chambers) but wordplay was pretty clear.
14 MIT + T + ERRAND – the Times rule about not using living people is a useful check on whether someone is still alive occasionally. Quite a good example of why the reason I have heard stated (because living people’s reputations can change quickly) is a bit disingenuous as the former French leader’s reputation did alter posthumously, especially when his funeral was attended by at least one mistress. MIT is very predictable as “US college” – so much so that I was delighted to come up with CORNELL on Wednesday!
22 PA + U(nconventiona)L – ‘Fellow’ is a lame definition, in my opinion, for a name. This could be a signature potentially but I doubt it given the other clues.

6 comments on “23,479 – Felicitous yet laboured?”

  1. This is the first puzzle of any sort I’ve managed to solve correctly in under 10 mins since Monday of last week. I’m glad it’s not just me suffering at the blockface, althugh I’m not sure what you class as “suffering” – none solved correctly in under 5 mins, I daresay 🙂

    Merry Xmas!

  2. Don’t see the problem with each. I’m sure I’ve seen in catalogues and hand-written receipts things like “19 apples @ 32p ea.”
  3. Although it’s a fairly common reversal indicator I sometimes entertain doubts about the use of “rejected” (25 across). Neither Collins nor Chambers nor Oxford online have a definition that supports the sense of turning around or sending back. The New Shorter Oxford does list a rare usage, “to throw back”, which is, of course, a literal translation of the Latin source. If you reject some merchandise you might send it back, but that’s a possible consequence rather than the meaning. It seems to me that you have to strain to get a meaning that justifies it’s use, particularly in the context of a daily cryptic that relies on Collins and the Concise Oxford as its authorities.
  4. (copied from the other post).

    Oddly enough I had DAZE=”days” which seemed close enough to “puzzle” and a month has lots of them.

  5. 3: CASH-REGISTER held me up for a while here asa fairly plausible red herring.
    8: CHECK REINS was new to me too – for non-horsey folk the Wikipedia Horse tack category list looks very handy.
  6. Having entered STEPPING DOWN for 11d I was left with P*O*E for 17a as my LOI. Needless to say I did not get anything suitable to fit the clue. Given another few days I might have twigged. Anyway the “easies” including the one I got wrong – but correct in this blog addendum:

    15a Last man in trouble boarding boat? = T AIL ENDER – where a tender is a small boat used to travel between a big boat moored in the harbour and the jetty. Ail is trouble of course. Nice Cricket clue for those of us who are fans.
    18a Very large island’s west-facing port in former times = OS TIA – where very large is OS or “out-size” and AIT backwards or “west facing” is an island in a river back’rds. Ostia was an ancient port near Rome.
    19 Forecast first in psychology with appropriate preparation = P REVISION
    20a Reversal of roles in garage transaction, perhaps = PART EXCHANGE
    25a Having rejected a dram, officer gets woman cocktail = PINA COLADA – where A NIP rejected or back’rds is accompanied by the officer COL with his lady friend ADA.
    26a Foreign litreature is (dead)* complicated = EDDA – the EDDA are Icelandic sagas.

    11d Tendering resignation, having status lowered = STANDING DOWN – where status = standing and does not in any way = stepping so I was barking up the wrong tree with my POOSE!
    13d (The PM arose)*, dispersing prevailing mood = ATMOSPHERE
    16d The way people talk about English painter’s initial drawing = D EP ICTION
    21d Brave horse goes fast = APACE – apac(h)e
    23d Soldier leading unknown legion = MAN Y – where the Grand Old Duke of York had 10,000 men (soldiers) so one would be a “man” and he led one of the “unknowns” x, y and z, to the top of the hill?

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