23561 – optimist misses out

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time : 16:05

I made heavy weather of this, though I am not entirely sure why. I knew most of the unfamiliar answers, the exception being BRAT-PACKER, which is not really unguessable.

I have tried this time to be more selective about which clues need explanations. Do ask if I have missed any that you can’t work out.


1 BRAHM(in)S – “brahmin” is not a word that popped into my head when I read “intellectual”. But then after “egg-head” didn’t help, my mind went a bit blank.
10 AFTERMOST, being (SET FORMAT)* – I am not sure about the definition. I think “aftermost” means “at” rather than “towards” the end. I don’t know if the Jumbo reference is meant to improve that weakness?
14 C + RATE – straightforward, but it was the last clue I solved
18 ESTAMINET, being M in ANISETTE* – I have very occasionally come across the word “estaminet” in the wild, but I mostly know it from crosswords
21 UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, being (ACT IN MEN’S CLUB) with O (nothing) in, this insertion being indicated by “apparently empty”


1 BRAT PACKER, being TRAP* in BACKER – not a term I have used, and if asked to suggest a definition, I do not think I would have guessed “loudmouth”. This held me up for a long time.
2 (c)ARTEL
5 IN TOW, being (I WON’T)*
7 MAL(THOU + S)E – I was close to entering MILLHOUSE, but fortunately worried enough about the wordplay to get it right
9 H(OM)E’S + PUN – neat and deceptive clue for busy structure
13 TEND + ON + I + SIT(rev) – the ITIS ending was obvious straight away, but the start took me a long time. I really should expect “leg” to be a cricket reference by now.
15 ANTINOVEL, being AN + VIOLENT* – I read a Robbe-Grillet book once. I haven’t felt like reading any more
17 OPTIMIST, being I after ParT in (O + MIST)
19 MILD + RED – “mild” might not be well-known as a type of beer to non-UK solvers, or to younger ones.
23 BROOK – two meanings – trickier than it might have been if – like me – you took “for” to be a link word rather than part of the first meaning.

10 comments on “23561 – optimist misses out”

  1. 23 minutes – but with one uncertainty:

    In 20A “…pictures initially in mail” gives me a nicely constructed answer, S(P)END, but I can’t square that with “Blue”. Anyone?

    1. apart from the colour, “blue” is also a verb meaning “to squander”. I just checked my Chambers, and was surprised to see that it is not marked as slang.
  2. That “Jumbo” has me confused too. I wonder if it could it be an indicator to make a large word out of two smaller ones i.e. after and most, clued by “Towards end of”. Then the anagram provides the alternative route. But then as far as I can see there’s no actual definition of the longer word which I understand to mean AT the end not TOWARDS it.

    I’m sure someone will come up with a better explanation.


  3. “Blue” is slang for spend, which I have heard in real life but not very recently. “Aftermost” turns out to mean “at or near the back of a ship”, and I guess this can be extended to a plane, which might be a Jumbo. My time: 6:10.
  4. 1ac: Although it was clear fairly soon that Brahms had to be the answer, I, like you, did not think of Brahmin as a synonym for intellectual. I’d always taken this word to be roughly the US equivalent of the British “toff” – a socially upper-crust type, as in the phrase Boston brahmin. All the dictionaries I’ve since consulted do give “intellectually superior” as an alternative or additional meaning. We live and learn. As a result, I was playing around with “brains” (= intellectuals)and then removing the letters “in” (= popular) and replacing them with “hm”, though, of couse, there was nothing in the clue to indicate that substitution. Brains = intellectuals could have been the basis for a nice clue, however – e.g “Intellectuals prefer Queen to popular composer”

    10ac: I too am at a loss to understand the function of Jumbo. Perhaps Master Biddlecombe will enlighten us slower wits? I agree that the definition of “aftermost” as “towards the end” is dodgy. Most dictionaries define the word as last, hindmost, furthest aft, nearest the stern etc. I’ve so far found only one that offers support for “towards (as well as at) the end”, and that, surprise, surprise, is The Times English Dictionary, which has “closer or closest to the rear or (in a vessel) the stern; last”.

    1. Collins also defines it as “Closer or closest to the rear or (in a vessel) the stern”* so I suppose we have to accept it even though though as the word is a superlative the comparative meaning defies logic.


      *Interesting that the Collins definition exactly matches the TED wording quoted by you. Who has been cribbing from whom I wonder!

    2. All I can offer is what I and others have said we found in Collins. I have to admit that when I looked up ‘aftermost’, I was expecting to find something like a euphemism for the back end of an elephant!
  5. Jumbo left me confused, and I too struggled with (and didn’t get) BRAT-PACKER.
    Rather than put it in a separate thread, would just like to add my compliments to yesterday’s compiler for the excellent clue to TREATY (“Compact sample bottles put away”). Yes, it defeated me, but when I saw the answer it seemed blindingly obvious. Great clue.
  6. My one real problem was 24d – I know a fair number of words for “cannabis”, but BLOW was new to me, and I spent a couple of minutes agonising over it (didn’t want to spoil my day after my PB at RTC), finishing in 11:37. I didn’t know that meaning of AFTERMOST, but the anagram stopped me wasting too much time on it.
  7. Brahmins are upper caste types to be sure but equating intellectualism with knowledge of religious lore and ritual is totally incorrect in my opinion. We all got Brahms though.

    Plenty of “easies” for us to feed on:

    4a After alcoholic drinks, this writer’s game (3,5)

    11a China may be so, having power backed by friendly state? (5)
    P ALLY

    12a Join in effort to drag a few stones? (4,4,6)
    PULL ONES WEIGHT. Too many more than a few in recent years I fear.

    20a Blue pictures initially discovered in mail (5)
    S P END? This was my LOI and I still don’t understand it.

    25a Heavy bar woman clasped in both hands (5)
    L EVE R

    26a Excludes debs? (6,3)

    27a By no means rare expression of approval (4,4)

    28a Having succeeded, accepts prize money (6)

    6d Company of actors stand up, given encore (6)

    8d Rabbi’s words of dismay over child’s toy (2-2)
    YO-YO. The letter enumeration gives it away – especially with GIN RUMMY and PALLY as crossers. It is OY x 2 backwards (over) – shortened form of OY VEY which is Yiddish apparently.

    20d Artist suffering more over time (7)

    22d Shakespearean role welcomed by anTIMONarchist. (5)

    24d Cannabis is a disappointment (4)
    BLOW. Another drug related term learned from the Times X-word.

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