23531 – another easy Thursday

Solving time : 7:00

A quick time for me. I felt lucky to know “proa” and “ophicleide” without thinking. And the Hittite is probably the second Uriah one would think of. But otherwise I didn’t see any likely holdups.


5 MAD + RA’S – perhaps it will soon be time for setters to include “once” or “old” when using the former name of Chennai
9 VETO, being VOTE with two characters switched
10 AURORA BOREALIS, being OR in (LABOUR AREA IS)* – a slight pause here, as I didn’t get the definition until reaching 21A
15 HIT + TIT(l)E – once I had stopped thinking about Heep, my next thought was “subtite”, and Hittite followed fairly quickly
18 BASE + NJ + I – this dog is known to me only through crosswords. New Jersey is often involved.
21 LIGHTS (= stars) after NOR (= and not) + THE RN (sailors)


1 SPIN A CH – Neat clue, especially the definition “leaves on plate”
2 REDBREAST, being R(un) in RED BEAST
4 SHRUBBY, being R in BUSH* + BY
5 MILLENNIA, being (John Stuart) MILL + I in ANNE(rev)
7 ARTISTE, being I(dentified) in ART’S TE
14 PUN + CH + LINE – I am not sure where the definition ends and the wordplay begins in this clue, but I suspect that “joke” is part of both, which is generally regarded as poor form
16 (s)IGNOR + ED
18 BEN(Z)IN + E

13 comments on “23531 – another easy Thursday”

  1. I was quite chuffed with 7:18 just after solving – also got 10 from 21 and knew PROA and OPHICLEIDE. Dictionary corner moment: finding that benzine is not benzene except in erroneous usage, and learning the origin of “benz-” in the names of chemicals – from the Arabic luban jawi for “frankincense of Jawa (=Sumatra)”.
  2. I honestly thought at 5m43s I might be twice as fast as anyone else. I suspect this may be one to polarise really experienced regulars versus occasional solvers. ‘River Test’, SENTI(m)ENT, BASENJI, NOR THE RN, (s)IGNORE are all a bit chestnut-ty in my opinion, but exciting finds if you’re newer to the game, I would have thought.

    I suppose I was particularly smug at knowing OPHICLEIDE and BASENJI, though BENZINE was a bit startling (as is Peter’s revelation above).

  3. As a representative of the bottom half of division II (if you’ve done today’s Araucaria, then assume I play for the Stafford Rangers), this was a struggle for us. What those of you in the Premier League (no doubt wallowing in untold riches) consider “chestnuts”, e.g. ophicleide and basenji, held a great deal of mystery and needed to be looked up. Not to mention iffy words like SHRUBBY.

    I did however get BENZINE quickly — I think BENIN was in one of the prize puzzles this week (or maybe last).

    1. I take heart that it’s not just me! I don’t time myself by the clock but I estimate it took me about 30 minutes over three sessions of 10 minutes each. At the end of the first two I had less than half completed but in the third session it all suddenly came together, though I had to guess BASENJI and PROA and checked them later. I knew OPHICLEIDE but didn’t work out the anagram until I got the O to start it.
  4. A little easier than average for me. Re PROA and OPHICLEIDE, the former I got through the reasonably clear hidden reversal clue (I’d also come across the word before in advanced crosswords), the latter, though, even when I knew it was an anagram and had all the crossing letters, I could not make any stab at, so had to look it up.

    Re standard generally, I’m not sure if newspapers have any means to gauge satisfaction and desired standard. My own tuppence worth looking at it at pragmatically is that, re daily cryptics, the aim should be that the average solving reader of that paper should be able to solve (almost) all the puzzle in a reasonable time without recourse to reference works. Not at first of course, but with reasonable practice.

    1. Ophicleide: not quite an anag – “Greeting interrupts” = “insert HI” gives you two options from the checked I’s, and PCED left over for the anag’s unchecked letters. One choice seems impossible for lack of vowels in PCED. That should get you to a toss-up between OPHICLEIDE and OCHIPLEIDE. But knowing your old-fashioned musical instruments is much less work! And the best way to remember the ophicleide is to get a proper recording of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique where it features in the “Dies Irae” section of the last movement. The often-substituted tuba just ain’t the same.

      Difficulty: I’m pretty sure your tuppence matches the intention, subject to what reasonable time/practice means…

      1. Yes, you’re quite right, Peter. It was just that I was so sure Greeting was “Hi” that I’d written out those 10 letters and could not get them to fit, before looking for the word. But of course I should have tried to put HI in order and this would have narrowed the choices. And, by pure coincidence, you’ve mentioned my favourite piece of classical music, which I never tire of hearing.
  5. Certainly easier than Wednesday’s. “Proa” came immediately as I’ve seen it so many times in The Listener, but, like some others, I got stuck on 23 across and had to consult a dictionary for the answer. In a daily cryptic, which I generally like to do with no references, I prefer very unusual words to be clued in such a way that the answer can be worked out logically from the wordplay, which is not possible with an anagram, though I take Peter’s point that the juxtaposition of H and I did limit the possibilities. Perhaps I should have played around with the various options. I suppose OPHIDLEICE doesn’t look very likely though nor does OPHICLEIDE (except possibly as a physics or chemistry term like “nucleide”).
  6. At 20d, “beetle” is used to indicate INSECT which didn’t seem quite fair without some variation of “for example” in the clue. I don’t think the question mark serves the same purpose.


    1. “cricket” actually! Richard Browne clearly allows at least some defining by example without indication. I’m sure there are some Times setters who don’t do this, and Brian Greer’s book on the Times puzzle indicates that he would have had the red pen out for this clue during his spell as xwd editor (if any of the setters had been optimistic enough to use it…).

      Yes, it’s strictly unfair. I guess RB’s angle is that the fairly short list of ways of saying “for example” creates a “sore thumb indicator” problem, making clues a bit too easy. Although I wasn’t impressed the first few times I saw clues like this in the Times, I’m used to them now, and hardly notice.

      1. I’m afraid I still find that defining by example without any indication jars, but I suppose that goes with being older and more set in my ways. I enjoyed this puzzle (which I’ve only just got round to), and, as a Berlioz fan, had no problems with OPHICLEIDE (I’ve been to a performance of Symphonie Fantastique where one was in evidence). 9:44, so a bit slow, but I’m impressed with Magoo’s 5:43.
  7. Cricket — beetle — what’s the difference? Clearly I wasn’t dealing from a full deck last night. Amazingly, “beetle” was what I looked up before posting to be sure it was indeed an insect.


  8. It seems a bit harsh to omit very obscure words from the blog just because you happen to know them? There are many bunnies who will not have a clue. I was one of them the first time I attempted this puzzle some indeterminate time ago. I managed to solve this 2nd time around without resorting to help as these words – with the help of the cryptic clue – were retrievable from some distant cranny in the back of the bonse.

    As far as INSECT being clued by “cricket?” – what’s the problem? Perfectly fair IMHO and leads to a good sporting surface conjuring up images of Geoff Boycott inserting a key into cracks in the Corridor of Uncertainty. Poetry.

    Here are the “easies”:

    1a Republican in America backing force? It’s not expected (8)

    11a Gossip tries a youth leader (7)

    13a Person photographing sharp-toothed fish (7)
    SNAPPER. Not so easy to “snap” with digital cameras – they just don’t react as quickly as the old mechanical ones.

    22a One sailing back from MalaysiA OR Phillipines (4)
    PROA. Reversed HA. According to Wiki the PROA is confined to the South Pacific and the uneven multi-hulled boats in the Indian Ocean – as clued here – are the PRAU, PERAHU or PRAHU. So we might “know” this but it is, strictly, wrong!
    (Wiki could be wrong too – I concede).

    23a Greeting interrupts (old piece)* arranged for wind instrument (10)
    OP HI CLEIDE. The Bass member of a family of keyed bugles invented in the early 19th century. Some say a development from the Serpent. As discussed above – if you have all the crossers and correctly guess HI correctly as the greeting there is a chance to get this right. What are the odds?

    24a Using woman in publicity, one ultimately gets stick (6)
    AD HER E

    3d Army types in Blackpool and Brighton, say (7)
    RE SORTS. The “,say” could easily be replaced by a “?” here in my book – I might have added Bali for good alliterative measure.

    6d Mature photographers may do it (7)
    DEVELOP. This is excellent as the “mature” serves as the literal but could also be part of the cryptic as mature photographers are more likely to still use film than younger ones? They might even be Snappers.

    17d Without hesitation, copy design of paved area (7)
    T ER RACE. TUMRACE does not work but it could be a slimming competition?

    19d Pan film produced with practised ability (7)
    SKILL ET. Good for cooking chappatis in my experience.

    20d Examine top of pitch during cricket? (7)
    INS P ECT. A perfectly acceptable use of the “?” to clue “for instance” I reckon. Some people don’t like “top of pitch” = P either. X-word clues would be a lot less fun in their world IMHO.

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