23519 – defeated by bovine spongiform encephalitis

Solving time : 13:10 with one mistake

I don’t know why I was happy with ASSAIL for 11A. I assumed I would discover that SSA was a disease (like SARS and MRSA). But the definition doesn’t really work. Trying to do these crosswords at speed involves judgements about whether to stop and make sure a possible answer is justified, or to risk it and speed on. Normally, of course, at the end the time is noted and the newspaper thrown away. But involvement in this blog means I am more likely to notice my errors.

An enjoyable puzzle otherwise. I found the bottom half slower going than the top. Some less familiar words, including NARGHILE and NAMASTE, but none that required guessing. And lots of those clues I don’t know a name for where the answer is treated as a phrase different from its natural meaning and the cryptic indication is to that whole phrase. 1A, 7D, and both 18s are examples.


1 PUT THE MOCKERS ON – two meanings. Doesn’t putting a programme on (rather than out) sound like watching it rather than broadcasting it? No, I guess it could be either
9 LON(don) + GRANGE
11 A(BSE)IL – !
12 PULSATES, being (SA (= sex appeal) + hearT) all in PULES (= whines)
13 DE-SIGN – ho-ho
18 FLAG RANT – ho ho again
21 NARGHILE, being (A + R(iver) + G(allons) + (gus)H) all in NILE
23 TOUC(h) + AN
26 LEHAR, being RA(c)HEL (rev)
27 SHARE + CR + OP – that is “share” as in “ploughshare”, I assume. I am not sure if “work” is part of the indication of “share” as well as providing the OP that goes “on” (here meaning “after”) CR(edit)
28 BUNKER MENTALITY – two definitions, one punning. This took me a long time and lots of checking letters to see. Purely in a sour grapes way, can I suggest that the first two words (“Carry on”) make it a definition of a verb rather than a noun phrase?


6 ELVIS(h) – hmm, I think “spritely” is more “elfin” than “elvish” but I am sure there are dictionaries that will not distinguish
16 SO + A POP ERA – I am not sure whether “period full of music” indicates the phrase “pop era”, or whether “music” is “pop” and it fills “a era”. Either way probably works.
20 PANOPLY, being (AN OP) in PLY – took me a long time to parse this, as I was convinced that OP must be indicated by “work”. I should have realised that with “work” already meaning OP in 27, it wouldn’t be used in the same way twice in a puzzle
22 HORDE (=”hoard”)
25 (a)GAIN

5 comments on “23519 – defeated by bovine spongiform encephalitis”

  1. I very nearly wrote ASSAIL in 11ac, but couldn’t see where ASS fitted in, then realized it was ABSEIL, but having a senior moment of poor spelling wrote in ABSAIL. But when I looked at it I still couldn’t see the wordplay apart from AIL, then realized the disease was BSE and corrected my answer. NAMASTE and NARGHILE presented no problems, as I’ve encountered both words recently.
  2. and listen, none of the rhotic speakers here will be complaining about HORDE and hoard! I actually got ABSEIL immediately but NARGHILE (I was only familiar with the variants: nargila(h)) and NAMASTE slowed me down.
  3. 7:26 here – helped by getting ABSEIL from the def and also by having written almost exactly the same clue to POLLARD last time I tried some setting. I’ve been to the right places on hols to know NARGHILE and NAMASTE, and “pule” was familiar from a mid-90s failed attempt to reach the Times final – writing PULY instead of PUNY.
  4. 6:52 – slower than it might have been because I was going for a “clean sweep” where I solve each clue at the first reading. Annoyingly I was OK apart from SHOW TRIAL: with S-0- —–, I thought of SHOW but couldn’t think of the 2nd word in the 15 or 20 seconds I allowed myself – obvious of course when the other letters are in place.
  5. Solving these puzzles over an extended period – looking at it now and then like a “fag break” without nicotine, carbon monoxide & etc – allows us bunnies to tell our BSEes from our ASSes and our ELBOWS. Doing the x-word at speed is not an option for many of us anyway so why not take pleasure in the slow cruise?

    For the record I started this puzzle yesterday afternoon – after I had completed the up-to-date one – and finished it at about 3:30am this morning during a period of middle-of-the-night wakefulness when having a Times Cryptic back-number is dead handy. Most things that appeared tricky previously can be solved quickly with an early morning uncluttered brain.

    Some omitted easies:

    10a Opportunity to follow very loud noise (5)
    V ROOM. Here opportunity = room. S’pose that’s OK.

    19a Evoke memories of conscription (4-2)

    1d Cut up fat and trim (7)
    POL LARD. LOP “up” and LARD=fat.

    2d Wine cask – one’s for port (5)
    TUN IS

    4d Care for object (4)
    MIND. Another DD.

    7d Dress rehearsal with predictable outcome (4,5)

    8d Call round a second time offering greeting (7)
    NAM AST E. A friendly, respectful and peaceful greeting delivered with palms together, fingers upwards and a slight bow in places like Nepal.

    14d Marine creature’s bad (c)old – (sun, I hear)* needed (3,6)

    17d Statesman – or just (man – clue’s)* ambiguous (5,3)

    18d Keep place of entertainment cool for keen patrons (3,4)

    24d Gosh! Soldier is man’s best friend (5)
    COR GI. Well it is if you are a Welsh cattle drover or England’s longest reigning monarch.

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