23,530 – U?M? !

Solving time 10:50

Inevitably, after someone said something nice about sub-10 solvers yesterday, I dropped out of that category today, so I wonder whether Tony will emerge from the pampas grass to beat me again (predicted Magoo time: 8 mins). My last two minutes were spent working out 14A. There were lots of ingenious ideas in this puzzle, including a few old favourites not playing their usual role. Someone suggested daily marks out of ten for puzzles in an e-mail. I resisted the idea as it implies the kind of assessment we may not have time for, but this puzzle seems worth at least 9.

9 TROUSSEAU = “true, so”
10 RECAP = pacer<= – someone impatiently waiting is sometimes said to pace (= walk) about
11 NET,HERR,E(G.I.)ONS – “catch 22” being a time when we must follow Magoo’s advice to “lift and separate”, as “22’s situation” = “DEVIL’s situation” is the def.
14 UM,MA – a tricky four-letter answer that could catch out hasty solvers at a crossword championship. MA from mother is easy enough of course, but U?MA still looks very odd. Breathe deeply, and check your other answers just in case a second look will do the trick (or the checked letters are wrong). No joy? Work through the alphabet to find what looks plausible – your list might be UAMA, UGMA, ULMA, UMMA, UPMA, URMA, USMA, UTMA, UZMA. Ponder these in turn and (for me) inspiration strikes – “let me see”, a a bit of conversational playing for time, is like, er, the same thing as “um”. So UMMA it must be – and COD (though not Collins) confirms that it’s “the whole community of Muslims, bound together by religion” (arguably divided by religion, just like Christendom, but we can hope). Our new word for the day. There might be some wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who tried URMA, but although it’s phonetically plausible for “er”, I’ve never seen “ur” doing this job in print.
15 TEASER,VICE – for once, China is not the “mate” kind of china plate.
18 SELF-ESTEEM – feels*,meets<= – one of those times word-lengths in brackets spoil the work of the setter – and the letters in this answer make it a fairly popular one, I think. Fortunately, like Monday’s ALBERT MEMORIAL, there seem to be plenty of ways to clue it.
19 L(I.R.)A – with due respect to Malta, Cyprus and Lebanon, Turkey is now the main place using Lira. And no longer by the millions after a lopping-off of zeroes a few years ago – when asked for “one million” you just pay one.
21 DI(SAD,VAN,TAG)ED – which seems such a natural way to carve up this word that I’m surprised it feels so fresh!
24 (t)IDY,’LL – I’m sure others fell into the “neat = cattle” trap as deeply as I did – took longer than it should owing to a spelling mistake on 12D.
27 KERRY BLUE = Spoonerism of “bury clue”. Setter must be read as “breed of dog that can be associated with Ireland”. The Kerry Blue (from County Kerry, hence the ‘alternative’) is a type of terrier – a fairly large one, so not used for the ratting we were talking about yesterday. The wiki article claims it was once used for cattle herding!
28 TIMES – three defs – race results / multiply / daily. “multiply” seems imprecise (“multiplied by”, surely?) but works if you remember the school colloquial usage in “times it by 10”
1 (t)EXTING,U-ISH – u-ish as “sort of upper class” is a lovely piece of crossword whimsy, and texting = “sending mobile messages to” fits in very nicely.
4 I(NEARNES(s))T – “it” = “the situation”. Wordplay ignored while solving as “IN E?R????” gives the game away. I guess IN EARNEST is a setter’s friend like SELF-ESTEEM.
5 STUNG – N in GUTS<= – simple but good
6 LAR(BOAR)D – used to be the opp. of starboard. It must be hard to resist this clue!
12 TUMBLE DRYER – cryptic def. with richness/money connotations to lead you astray. I have an irritating habit of misspelling it as “drier”, which caused some bother on 24.
13 REGARDLESSLY – swap the correct R/L pair in “regal dress”. Slightly puzzled by use of “exchange hands” rather than “change hands”, but I guess the surface is bizarre clothing alterations rather than a Buck house jumble sale.
16 S(KED)ADDLE – ked is a bit of countryside lingo worth remembering, like teg = sheep. lumber (verb) = saddle (i.e. pass on a problem to, usu. followed by “with”) is another clever trick.
17 W(E,AS)ELLY – European = E – not anything like SLAV or BALT which I tried first, and boot = welly is another bit of “simple but good”.
22 DEVIL – terror = “naughty person” = devil.
23 M,INK – Collins supports ink = “to mark with ink”.
26 A1,M – these last three now seem like really obvious ways to clue the words, but they all seemed original when solving.

14 comments on “23,530 – U?M? !”

  1. 12:10 for me, which felt pretty quick. No problems with DRYER/DRIER as I had 24a before looking at 12d. I vaguely remembered UMMA from somewhere (i.e. I knew it was a word but not the meaning), and it’s always easier to work back to the wordplay from an answer you think is right than to work out an unknown word just from the wordplay! Last one I got was 17d, probably wasted a minute on that.

  2. The creme de la creme of those who do not know the word will have observed eventually that it must be UMMA because the second letter has to be M.
    … Dafydd
    1. Oh dear! Yes, the unches in the 2nd and 14th columns of the grid spell out CREME DE LA CREME, complete with blocks to match the spaces. Not spotted here obviously, and took a while even with this thumping great hint – I was led astray by double letters as in taSSel, skedaDDle and so on, and thought the double M in UMMA might join them to make a message. I’ll risk extra humiliation by guessing that this is from Monk – his xwd page, linked on the right, describes the Times puzzle as the “creme de la creme” of cryptics, and he’s quite fond of grid messages. But no hat-eating this time.
      1. If it had been the T2 crossword I’d have been on it in a flash! Hmmm, twice in a week now in the cryptic, what’s going on?
          1. I’ve now had this confirmed by Nestor himself. Apologies to him and Monk for guessing wrong. I’ll try to resist such guesses in future.
  3. I’m afraid my brain was still feeling soggy (as for RTC) and I could only manage 11:07. I knew UMMAH, so was reasonably happy with UMMA – which actually helped me with EXTINGUISH, my final answer, which I made incredibly heavy weather of.

    I don’t understand the point you make about “exchange hands” instead of “change hands”. Each word (REGAL and DRESS)swaps L or R with the other; isn’t that an exchange rather than just a change?

    1. You’re right that “exchange” is more explicit in the cryptic reading, but I think “change” can be justified. I needed most of the checking letters for it, so “exchange” was probably the better choice on reflection.
  5. I had to have two sessions on this, finding it tough but very clever, with lots of imaginative devices. I got hopelessly stuck in the first session on EXTINGUISH, WEASELLY and SKEDADDLE, though I tentatively entered UMMA as soon as I read the clue. When I went back to it after a day’s break I completed the grid in a few minutes. A fresh look can work wonders.
  6. My lack of a Latin education came to the fore with 7d but – as it is an anagram – once I had all the checkers in place it was easy enough to see what the literal means.

    Only 8 “easies” today and a double figures time from PB. I was very satisfied indeed to complete this successfully (eventually) without resorting to any kind of outside assistance. Had it been at the Championships, however, everyone else would have left for the pub or even have gone home already.

    The “easies”:

    1a Brilliance reflected by chapter in story (5)
    E C LAT. C=chapter in TALE back’rds.

    4a I hope this isn’t like wax in water (9)
    INSOLUBLE. It wasn’t but not before I spent a long time trying to shoe-horn the 10 letter IMMISCIBLE into a 9 letter space. Duh!

    25a (Movie aged)* badly in its interactive spin-off? (5,4)

    2d One of several popes in troubLE Occasionally (3)
    LEO. HA – one of at least 13 Pope Leos – a few more than “several” innit?

    3d Mortar board attachment plastered (slates)* (6)
    TASSEL. An excellent anagram indicator transporting us from academia into the construction industry.

    7d (Nick bids lag)* to reform recidivism (11)

    8d Detect unusual sensitivity over years (4)
    ESP Y

    20d The greatest (stout) brewing involves (m)*alt primarily (6)
    UT M OST

  7. Oh – and I did not spot the Creme de la Creme Nina either but it seems you have to be Welsh and a crossword setter yourself to have seen it?

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