23,514 – Keeping up with the Joneses

Solving time : 6m05s – I have to say this felt like a very good time, given some brilliantly contrived clues, that featured many words not meaning what they appeared to at all (and often different parts of speech from the surface), always the mark of a fine compiler. The time would have been really special if I hadn’t spent about a minute on 4 and 1 at the end. The puzzle is a Q lipogram.


1 SINB(ad) + IN – Last one entered, the checking made it look like BIG BEN, and by this stage of the puzzle I wasn’t expecting ‘detention centre’ to mean anything of the sort. It did, though.
5 TRIM + ARAN – Many people assume the sweater is from Arran, a Scottish island likely to need heavy woollens. But the actual Aran Islands are even more battered, being an Irish Atlantic outpost.
9 WIDOW’s MITE, anag – a token ‘old word’ amongst much modern vocabulary.
10 VI + B(lu)E – ‘sex’ is the Latin for ‘six’, a clever device I have never seen before.
11 BOO + I in ZEST – As the clue clearly indicated a superlative and therefore ZEST as a container, I filled in the Z at the start, getting momentarily confused later when Z became the fourth letter ‘also’.
15 SCRATCHY, 2 defs – a lovely pair of very differently, and misleadingly, defined words ultimately derived from the same root. ‘Playing badly’ as in sport, I think (though Chambers doesn’t really support this except with ‘uneven’) and ‘after scoring’ as in ‘having been scored’ = scratched. Or the whole clue could work as a cryptic def referring to a scratched record.
18 HOME FARM, anag – Not just a Dublin football club , but the farm attached to the main house on a large estate.
19 LAPS, with L moved – Glad I didn’t need to get this from the wordplay, which is genius. Not really an &lit or semi&lit, but one of those clever clues where genuine wordplay really does help by being definitionally accurate too.
23 KEN IS in TOM – The ‘pig thief’ is ‘Tom, Tom, the piper’s son’corrected after quibble; ‘making gestures’ is a clever misleading definition.
25 HYDE, 2 defs – ‘work’ as in ‘of fiction’, ref Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by RLS
26 DAILY DOZEN, pun – This phrase I only learned through the Times crossword some years ago – the pun refers to eggs coming in dozens (not in my house, we buy about 6 every 3 months).
27 BUNNY + HUG – probably a clever misleading clue, but I’m afraid my only thought on reading ‘Bugs’ was ‘Bunny’.
28 DD in DOLE – I don’t believe ‘piece of cake’ would ever represent C in the Times crossword, so why I focused on that for a little while I don’t know. Nice mislead with ‘dish’ – not the first or second meaning I thought of.


2 IN I GO – ref Inigo Jones, always clued in this style for obvious reasons. The capital on ‘Entrance’ is hotly disputed by some, though Azed gives it his blessing (“just about”) in his latest book. I am much more relaxed about a misleading capital – though not a misleading lower-case.
3 BRONZE AGE, cryptic def – brilliantly punning on ‘chucked’.
4 NO SHE’S – My apostrophe is the one occasionally allowed to distinguish an unusual pluralisation.
5 THIRTYSOMETHING, anag – Definition is very accurate as Bridget Jones’s Diary (one of my favourite books ever) placed her firmly in the vanguard (though maybe a fraction behind the TV series of the same name) of the 80s/90s cultural shift that spawned the word.
6 EX + P in INERT – ‘Lay’ is used very misleadingly, though there is evidence of the compiler’s effort to contain a container-like preposition.
7 ANVIL, hidden – Lovely mislead in ‘bit off one’s ear’, the anvil being a bone therein.
14 GOOD ON YOU, anag YOUNG DO O O – the Aussies have about thirty separate words and phrases for ‘great’ in Chambers alone. Luckily I have recently started watching The Koala Brothers.
17 HAD I DHAL, rev (corrected after quibble) – Magnificent reversal turning into a breathtakingly good clue.
20 YAK (rev) in OED – ‘converse ad nauseam’ is stunning for YAK. Another brilliancy
24 (a)S WELL – And another nicely-phrased clue to finish. The whole puzzle is a tour de force.

25 comments on “23,514 – Keeping up with the Joneses”

  1. 9:46 here – mainly down to taking ages on 5D, but there were some other pauses followed by bursts of inspiration. A favourite clue using the idea in 10A is quoted in Brian Greer’s How to Solve the Times Crossword so I assume has been in the puzzle:

    In which three couples get together for sex (5)

  2. (A good puzzle, and it took me 21 minutes to finish.)

    Quibbles with the analysis: 23A Tom is surely the piper’s son rather than the baker’s. And in 17D you have spelled DAHL as in Raold rather than lentils.

    Quibble with the puzzle: I didn’t like “bit off the ear” as much as you did. It could be a great definition for “lobe”, say. But the anvil is deep inside, rather than off, the ear.

  3. Please explain the wordplay for this clue:
    When stones were chucked as potential weapons (6,3)
    1. Cryptic definition, so no “how to construct the answer” wordplay. Just the fact that the Stone Age came first, so the Bronze Age was the time when stones were chucked (= rejected) as possible weapons. Probably works better in punning terms than completely accurate archaeological fact, but we are playing word games.
  4. Just over 40 mins – a quick time for me. Might have been quicker if I hadn’t unfathomably put a T at the end of 8D!

    23A – Held up a little while here, for some reason only thinking of Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John. I need to brush up on my nursery rhymes.

    2D – We had ‘Jones’s daughter avoiding dark blue (5)’ in the first puzzle of the year, so INIGO is not always clued in that style!

    VI: I remember this clue from Phi in the Independent a couple of months ago:

    Perspective of partners on sex, classically (4)

    1. Well done, Steven. 14:07 for me, which didn’t feel all that slow given the difficulty, and included some worrying over WIDOW’S MITE/TIME – relieved to find that I’d guessed it correctly, only to discover that ‘bunny hog’ was wrong.
  5. I shall probably regret asking this, but is “AD” supposed to represent “Bill” and if so why?
    1. Yes – short for advertisement, which = bill as in “top of the bill” or “Bill stickers will be prosecuted / is innocent”.
      1. I always thought it was “Bill Posters” will be prosecuted — who Alan Sillitoe turned into a character in his novels.


      2. Thanks for the explanation. Can’t imagine I have never come across this before in all my years of puzzling but I really don’t recall doing so.
  6. I seem to remember “sex” as Latin for “six” coming up in a championship final many years ago, to the delight of all (well all those who twigged fairly quickly, anyway). I don’t have Brian Greer’s book, but imagine the clue Peter B mentions might be the same one. What a splendid puzzle – I hope the setter is lurking and will accept our appreciation that way. (10m 50s, taking far too long over 16d and 19a – in the case of 16d getting THRING into my mind, and stupidly imagining that he was a school and not a headmaster (Thring of Uppingham).
    1. Any connection with the Gabbitas & Thring who find staff for public schools? (Far too posh for me – I only know the name from Molesworth books)
      1. Too posh for me too: I went to a Yorkshire direct grant boarding school – a sort of latter-day Dotheboys Hall! I’ve heard of Gabbitas & Thring from somewhere (could be Molesworth), but they seem to have become simply Gabbitas, and their website has very little to say about Mr Thring. (I wondered for a moment whether they appeared in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, but the scholastic agents there are called Church and Gargoyle.)
  7. I got held up in the top left for a moment since 1A was “obviously” TAR PIT. I mean sailor=tar and tar-pit seemed brilliant for “detention centre”. I didn’t quite get the Bill bit obviously, but it wasn’t that implausible. Once I got bronze age that idea had to go. Pity, I liked the definition so much.

    — paul

  8. theres a discrepancy in your answers between 5a and 6d. 6D reads expinert whilst 5a reads trimaran. The I of tri clashes with the E of ex going down???
  9. In 2D why does the setter need to say “Entrance” rather than “entrance”?

    Why in 19A does “Tour” = “laps” (I assume that the answer is ALPS, not, as the above suggests, LAPS)?

    Wil Ransome

    1. 2d – Have you ever seen a sign over a door saying “entrance” rather than Entrance (or even ENTRANCE)?

      19a – I suppose tour is a bit of a loose definition of lap, but the surface reading evokes the Tour de France, so I think it gets away with it.

  10. An excellent puzzle that took me rather longer than I expected after a flying start. I took ages to get SCRATCHY and ALPS and the DOZEN of DAILY DOZEN. The one that didn’t give me trouble was 1 across. I saw SIN BIN as soon as I had the first I from INIGO, probably the result of my years in teaching, though the SIN BIN in school was not exactly a detention centre, more of an extraction unit for disruptive pupils.
  11. I get that Bishops = “BB”, books = “OT” and dispatch = “SHIP”, but where does the initial “A” come from? Is it short for “are”, and if so is that reasonable?
    Any help appreciated.
  12. Just the 6 “easies” omitted by Mr Magoo. At least one of these is discussed above but there they are:

    12a I left, called in by head prefect (6)
    P IL ATE

    13a City’s marketplace missing in centre (4)
    AG (O) RA

    21a Given reminder, took gentle exercise )6)
    JOGGED. Double Definition DD.

    8d Are bishops given books to dispatch in monastry’s post? (9)
    A BB OT SHIP. As explained above Are is a measure of area abbrev = A, the bishops are BB (not RRRR!) the books are the OT – all dispatched by SHIP.

    16d Express content as school takes charge (9)

    22d Area in depression to pick up (5)
    GLE A N

Comments are closed.