23,508 – Stupider and stupider

Solving time : 9m04s – Feels like a fairly feeble time for a puzzle that didn’t in retrospect have anything monstrous (except perhaps GILLRAY, which was well-checked and well-clued), but I really got a bit stuck in the middle, due to a combination of surprising answers, clueing methods and foggy thinking. Still, after errors in both the last two days (IDLE and CLODPOLL), neither of which I suspect I would have noticed if I hadn’t been following this blog, hopefully this was still more successful…


5 SACK + BUT – For some reason a word that appears very regularly – presumably because it just looks good to compilers with ‘parts’ that have nothing to do with the ‘whole’.
9 OUT OF STEP, i.e. anagram of PEST – one of those where the wordplay is in the answer not the clue; I’d filled in OUT OF … before realising what was going on.
10 Y in BOAR – a word met in the past in crosswords, and on the edge of my vocabulary: my vague assumption that it means a Russian aristocrat is borne out.
11 GENET, 2 defs – I know the wild cat well, but the dramatist is no great surprise either
12 O GRAN in RIDE – really held me up, for no discernible reason except possibly that I wasn’t expecting a place-name and FRINGE (= border) fitted with all the checking
14 STORM + ONT CASTLE (anag) – Another slow one, mainly because, not bothering to count letters, I assumed RAGE CLAN SET-TO was the anagram fodder.
17 TERRACOTTA ARMY, cryptic def – I don’t really get this clue; all I can see is that the Brown Shirts were a form of army, that terracotta is brown(ish), and that the Terracotta Army did turn up in China. Proper explanations welcome. The uncertainty I felt about this imbued much of my other solving here, I think, but the rest of the clues seemed scrupulous, with the possible exception of …
21 PERC(h) + HERON, thanks to comment – I’m convinced that the first word was used in the clue as a little joke by a compiler confident that seeing ‘Carthorse … (9)’ would make most solvers immediately think of ORCHESTRA, especially as ‘Cart-horse’ in Chambers, at least, is hyphenated. I had no doubts at the time, but now I can see PERCHER and ON but don’t know what ‘partly concealed’ means, unless it’s that ‘branch’ in the phrase is concealed. Now explained by Colin as PERC(h) + HERON, thanks Colin
26 R for D in DELAYED – With just the R in the grid for some time, I didn’t want to approach this clue as so many words with similar-type meanings begin with RE- and DE- (REFERRED sprang to mind, but is the wrong length).
27 ILL in GRAY – I didn’t think I’d know any elegists, but of course I do know ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’. Great clue for an unknown (to me) cartoonist. I suspect that’s bad ignorance.


1 H in COUGH – Lovely clue; ‘audience interruption’ says exactly what it means.
4 WATER COLOUR, pun – The ‘colour’ of water is of course ‘transparent’. Probably a pun that all of us have pondered at some point, but this presentation still amused me.
6 CABER, cryptic def – Not really very cryptic, except that you do, on balance, expect ‘trunk’ to mean a big case in the surface, even with the ‘sportingly’ poised right beside it.
7 BAY + ONE (thrus)T – a semi-&lit, in which the definition needs the wordplay.
8 URGEN(t) in VET (rev) – Another answer that makes more appearances than it seems to merit.
13 OUTSTANDING, 2 defs – Absolutely simple – how could it take me so long?
15 ARM BE (anag) in A + LLL – the ‘series of lines’ is very unexpectedly LLL, which I find quite amusing. I suppose theoretically such a series might only be two long, but I think that would be unfair, whereas 3 seems fine.
16 TU in SPIDER – You don’t often see TU (trade union) for ‘workers’ these days but brilliantly deployed here, along with the wonderful ‘web designer’.
18 RORQUAL, hidden – I have to admire a hidden that I can’t spot for ages. I was definitely expecting some sort of pun on a ‘swimmer’s error’.
20 ”SANDY” pronounced ‘drunkenly’ – strictly ‘drunk’ does double duty in the definition (‘one’s drunk’) and the wordplay, but SHANDY could be described as an attempt to pronounce SANDY with no qualification. I love the clue anyway.

7 comments on “23,508 – Stupider and stupider”

  1. Couldn’t the wordplay be PERCH + HERON with the partly concealed referring to the overlap of the H?


  2. My favourite 18th/19th century caricaturist. I have a couple of his prints on the wall. As an occasional gout sufferer, this one takes pride of place!
  3. I guess that’s it, but it looks at little odd as both PERCH and HERON are there.


  4. I thought CHOUGH and GENET were both pretty monstrous and didn’t know (or get) either. PERCHERON was a guess, so were GILLRAY and BOYAR. Now that’s bad ignorance.
  5. I think you’ve got the proper explanation for TERRACOTTA ARMY already… I’d thrown in the contrast between china as in porcelain and terracotta for another twist.
  6. Did slightly better, with 7:37. Didn’t really think about 17A at the time. There wa a similar hidden word-clue for RORQUAL in a Nimrod puzzle in the Independent last year. I used this puzzle at the course I gave last w/e so it was easy to spot this time.
  7. A few “easies” to cover here:

    1a Ready to bully regular provider of income (4,3)

    23a Loiter in low church (5)
    MOO CH

    24a Dishearten daughter and another relative (5)
    D AUNT

    25a By which to judge the theatre? (9)

    2d Material (in) bad (taste)* seen about (7)

    3d Around charity event, breeze up to place of refreshment (9)

    5d Drink gingerly from vessel – it’s not hot (3)
    S (H) IP

    19d Fail to get through Othello – it’s more gloomy (7)

    22d Keep time in Sanctus, showing passion (5)
    HO T LY. Sanctus = Holy apparently.

    25d Run out of dairy product – it’s still in the cow (3)
    CU (r) D. I spent more time than I should have wondering why CRUD is a dairy product!

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