23,494 – from the North or the classical Med?

Solving time 6:19

One or two North country words, so I idly wonder whether this is from a “north of Watford Gap” setter. And some well-disguised clues such as 17A for constructions I must have seen before. Softened me up nicely so that 16D wasn’t an immediate fill-in when it really should have been. Also a couple of classical references for the mental lumber-room, and various other good old Times crossword fare.

1 UNSPOTTED – two meanings. Saw it immediately but feared some other word might also fit, so only wrote it above the grid at first.
6 BRILL – a type of fish as well as a shortening of “brilliant”
9 ACHATES – cha(r)t in sea<=. Seems to be on a list of classical references which must be used at least once a year. When friendship is mentioned, watch out for Damon too.
11 SALMI = mails*. Lots of foodie words start SAL – salami, salmagundi (which salmi turns out to be short for), salsa, salpicon, salsify, salmon, saliva! Dictionary browsers will see that some are linked to each other and ultimately to sal=salt.
19 UrGe He
20 UNDER,PLOT – a cabal is a plot as well as the plotters
24 A(QU.)1,FER=ref<=. Today’s crosswordese bits and pieces clue.
26 (w)INTER,IM=mi<=
27 ER(N)IE – Listed just in case anyone doesn’t know about the acronym for the Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment used to select winning Premium bonds. OK setters, how about bringing things up to date and using “ball selector” or similar for Guinevere, Lancelot or the other UK lottery machines? (Or “Lottery winners” as a def for Camelot?)
1 (m)URALS
2 SC(HOL(s))AR – it = the answer, with “academic” doing a part of speech swap from wordplay to def.
4 TES=set<=,TIMON,I,AL As soon as you see “literary Athenian”, TIMON (of Athens) is probably your man, doubtless on the same list as Achates. Establish = “set up” = TES follows a tradition of occasional indirect stuff in the Times puzzle, like “retired” = “inside BED”.
6 B,ROOM=moor<= – fell = a tract of moorland, as well as hill/mountain
7 IN,GENUE with S/E “direction” swap from genus
14 P.A.,ST(UR)AGE – {stage = mount} should work if you think a bit …
18 BED,O,U,IN – one of those people who always seem to be “nomad” in crosswords
21 RIFLE – 2 mngs, stock = a gun component
23 MIMI,C – “Consumptive heroine” is pretty certain to be Mimi from La Boheme or Violetta from La Traviata.
25 RUM = “Rhum” – I told you about those Scottish islands before.

The death of Magnus Magnusson the other day is an excuse for mentioning a fairly strong crossword / Mastermind link. At least two Times crossword champs (John Sykes, Michael MacDonald-Cooper) have made it to the semi-finals of Mastermind, and at least one Mastermind champ (Sir David Hunt) reached the Times crossword final, which is roughly the same number of people as the Mastermind semi-finals. And back in 2000, Magnus Magnusson played a small part in the oddest crossword competition ever. The sponsors of the 2000 Times champs were a puzzle web-site called wordcross.net – long defunct. They had some novel ideas about how to promote the Times puzzle, including motor show style dolly birds at the regional and national finals, and this “speed solving” event – held a week after the Times champs final, and outdoors! – outside St Paul’s church on Covent Garden piazza, where you usually see the fire-eaters or jugglers performing. Among all the daft hoop-la was one good idea – the chance for the audience to see the grids being filled in by the competitors – via glass desks, acetate and mirrors. Magnus Magnusson was picked to do the commentary and made a pretty good job of it, though I don’t know what he said about me as we had to wear white-noise headphones. I came nowhere in the speed contest (time limit: 7 minutes a puzzle). Peter Brooksbank had the quickest time – about 4 minutes, not quite the “world record” they were hoping for (Roy Dean’s Radio 4 3:45 is still the “properly witnessed” time to beat). Michael Trollope, a regular Times finalist, won the Mini with crossword grid paint job, which was first prize.

7 comments on “23,494 – from the North or the classical Med?”

  1. The 3D reference to 21D (RIFLE) is worth a mention… took me a long time to get it: O,U,TRIGGER.
    1. I think the idea is that in contrast to the poor one with his ploughshare, a rich farmer would have shares in other things – i.e. shares as in “stocks and shares”.
  2. In this puzzle, I found an unusually high number of instances where I thought of the answer from the definition, but took much longer to get the wordplay e.g. PASTURAGE, OUTRIGGER, MONARCHIC. Understood all in the end except SET up, thought it maybe was some rearrangement of est. abbrev for establish.
    Re shares, I thought it just meant very poor farmers would have plough(share)s.
  3. I also got clues from definitions without initially seeing the wordplay. Thought of Achates immediately as I read the clue, but missed CHART and so didn’t enter it until I had the A. I Never really understood the whole of TESTIMONIAL, and having read Peter’s explanation I think “Establish” = set up = TES is pretty unfair. It’s a cryptic clue to a cryptic element in the wordplay. “Literally” doesn’t make it any more acceptable to me. So “unearth” can lead to GID (dig up)?. I think we need a contemporary Ximenes to rescue us from such anarchy, but I’m probably a lone Mr Grouser.

    The word that really held me up was AQUIFER as I’ve never come across it before, even in The Listener. Despite the obvious clueing of FER I couldn’t believe such a word existed and tentatively entered AQUAFIN at first, even though the wordplay doesn’t lead to that; I know the word doesn’t exist, but it sounded more plausible.

  4. 10a Even impoverished farmers have shares in them = PLOUGHS – PB’s explanation in the comments seems spot on – a plough has shares whether it towed by an ox or a £500K tractor but only the owner of the latter is likely to have shares in multi-national corporations.
    22a Gasman’s unit anoTHER Man uses – HA
    28a Woman of style defending king? Just that = MONA R CHIC – where Mona the woman with style (chic) surrounds “(defends) the king” (R)ex – which also serves as the definition or literal. I think.

    3d Boat originally (O)nly (U)sed on part of 21 = OU TRIGGER – where 21 is a rifle that usually comes with a trigger!
    5d Duck that may be lucky at the fete = DIP – a DD
    13d County type representing (canals in art)* = LANCASTRIAN
    16d Publication found on the terraces = SPECTATOR
    19d Discover uranium close to (T)urkis(h) borders = U NEAR TH

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