23489 – guesswork

Solving time : 8:27

As usual, I entered quite a few words (including 10, 14 and 24 across and 3 and 13 down) quickly without having worked out the wordplay. (One of the good things about writing this journal is that it forces me to work them out later.)

But I didn’t enter 20 RHOMB, or 7 GUESSWORK on first sight, even though they were my instant guesses at the answers. It was only after I had more checking letters that I put them in, still leaving the analysis till after the clock was stopped. I obviously need to be more reckless.


1 L in SIDE – “having gatecrashed” is a good, extravagant insertion indicator, making the surface better, and the wordplay less transparent, than say “in”
4 KIDOLOGY – because kid-ology could but doesn’t mean study of children (=issue)
8 HOW’S YOUR FATHER – Two meanings – the euphemistic one is owed to music hall artist, Harry Tate.
10 RE + (NAG RODE)(rev)
12 DOLL + OP(eration)
14 SNUB NOSE – I first thought that “scent” indicated NOSE, and puzzled over how “one gathers” could mean SNUB. In fact, of course, the clue is simply a cryptic definition
18 HACKER – two meanings, eschewing the most obvious one
20 RHOMB, being H(ospital) in RO(w) + MB
22 AUTOGRAPH – cryptic definition
25 TV DINNER – I muttered to myself that this should have been (1,1,6), but on reflection I think I was wrong. I was just annoyed that it took me so long to think of a two-lettered word ending with a “V”
26 EDGED, being G(rand) in two EDs


1 SAHARA DESERT, being (AS A TREE’S HARD)* – the first one I solved. A setter recently advised me that 1D was often a good way into a puzzle. I think this could be for two reasons: either a busy setter writing clues in strict order is flagging around the middle of the task and might write an obvious clue; or a generous setter who decides to include a solvable 1A might have to flip the puzzle about the leading diagonal to make a particular clue run down or across to fit its wordplay.
3 ETYMOLOGY, being ET (French conjunction) + (MO (=second) + LOG) in two Years
4 KLUDGE, being DG in KLUE (=”clue”) – I wrote in CLUDGE first, which delayed solving 4A
5 DE-FINING – because de-fining could but doesn’t mean removing fines from
6 LIT UP, being TULIP* – a well-worn anagram, but neatly packaged so as to get the phrase “tulip bulb” in the clue
7 GUES(t)S + WORK – I think it was not instantly spotting that WORK can mean “book” that made this tricky for me
9 GO PEAR-SHAPED – two meanings – the capital C for Conference is generous
13 LERMONTOV, being L + (NO M(o)RE)(rev) + TO + V – a Russian poet, though I have never read any of his work
15 BEAU GESTE, being (BUT SEE AGE)* – famous but unread novel about the French Foreign Legion
16 PARA + NIFF(rev) – I like “soldier dropped” for PARA
19 STALER, being TALE (=relation) in SR (=sister)
21 (I’D NIB)(rev)

12 comments on “23489 – guesswork”

  1. Quick work! I seem to be using all my luck in Times2 RTC at the moment, and took 13:01 here, with about 3 or 4 mins at the end on the DEFINING/SNUB NOSE crossing. Somehow thought that “up” or “turned up” indicated ROSE, so racked my brains for a ???B ROSE,
    and took far too long to choose between DEFINING and DEFINITE.

    I’m intrigued by the setter’s remark: my impression was that once the words in the grid were chosen, the order of writing the clues was not very strongly related to their order in the puzzle. With a fixed set of grids, I don’t think the “flipping” issue arises. I’m pretty sure that in Times grids, one answer MUST start in the top left square, and if that square is unchecked it’s always in 1A rather than 1D, so the “flipped version” would be impossible in these cases.

    1. I have noticed your good performances in RTC recently.

      Never having tried to set a puzzle myself, I know little about how setters approach it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those who have to turn out more than one a day simply run through the lights writing clues in order.

      And I hadn’t noticed how constrained the Times grids are. Why don’t they allow the flipped versions (at least where the top left square is checked)? The only flippable one I have found is the rather special case of one which is symmetrical about its leading diagonal (used for 23448 last November).

      1. Grid restrictions: pure history! Back in the days of Linotype and “hot metal”, a fixed set of grids was used for each daily paper – one lump of metal per grid, slotted into the other bits of metal forming the page. Except for changes to this set of fixed grids, no variation was allowed. Even now, as far as I know the only ‘quality paper’ 15×15 daily puzzle that doesn’t use a fixed set is the Independent, where various strange grids have been used by Virgilius and other “theme fiends”. The Times jumbo used to allow setters to pick their own grids, but now uses a fixed set too.

  2. We Americans found some of the slang a bit hard… GO PEAR-SHAPED, HOW’S YOUR FATHER, KIDOLOGY which didn’t really slow me down that much.

    But I have to say we’re pretty weak overall on our Russian poets as well: I was left staring at L?R?O?N?V (oh, I didn’t crosscheck my letters in the anagram and had IN ONE FELL SWOOP… whoops), this convinced me that I was looking for at L+anag(“lovelorn”). Oh well.

    Oddly enough, Richard’s 1D observation was spot-on — I made pretty good going of it until that point having seen SAHARA DESERT immediately.

  3. I solved this in 20 mins, which, particularly looking at Peter’s time, is very fast for me. KLUDGE was new to me and held me up.

    I believe the FT does allow setters to draw up their own bespoke grids, though it has it’s own fixed ones, two.


  4. I didn’t know BEAU GESTE but did know that BAUE is something like ‘buildings’ in German, so given the ‘Wren’ in the clue I went for BAUE GESTE which made HACKER rather tricky. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Eventually resolved but gave up on LERMONTOV after 15 mins or so; though arguably ‘NO MORE’ gives ‘NMRE’ when ‘lovelorn’.
    1. OTOH, I now realise that you can read it as “…no [longer lovelorn]…”. Well bowled.
  5. Sorry to be thick but what is the connection between Conference with a capital C and pear-shaped?
      1. Well, whaddya know? I know the expression “go pear-shaped” but had never heard of Conference pears — they’re unknown in the US, I think. Our commonest are Bosc and Bartlett, with Anjou, Seckel and the occasional (far too occasional!) Comice.

        I enjoy spotting British expressions, but kludge and kidology were too much for me — never heard of ’em either. I got how’s your father, though, but got stuck on (of all things for a Yank) TV dinner.


  6. I’m glad that our esteemed blogger explained the lovelorn bit in the 13d Russian writer. Once I had all the crossers it was possible to BIFD (bung in from definition) but using “lovelorn” as an indicator to remove an O from NOMORE and then use “turned” to reverse it was beyond me. I got the L at the start and the TOV at the end OK though which was sufficient.

    The 3 “easies” are:

    11a Nuisance, having nothing for sauce = PEST O – Basil!!! – Sybil in Fawlty Towers.
    17a (Any scrap)* can be turned into aerosol = SPRAY CAN – not a very “green” refuse disposal system.

    23d Lining area with pine = A LONG

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