23,567 – Kudos for this kicking cracker

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time : 16m28s – I have to say that I think this is my out-and-out favourite Times crossword puzzle of at least the last year, an absolutely awesome collection of brilliantly deceptive and witty clues, all despite the extraordinary appearance of a staggering twenty-two K’s in the grid.
The K’s are particularly special in that so many could be accommodated with only very occasional recourse to recherché vocabulary (23dn?) – secondly, although I spotted this ‘theme’ fairly early on and it significantly aided my solving, still my time was about the slowest I have recorded for at least two months, and yet on almost every occasion that a clue answer finally popped out, it was accompanied by a “Why didn’t I see that quicker” feeling – a sure-fire mark of magnificent clueing.
I have little doubt that I can narrow the field of possible compilers down to two, with my money on fgbp but nestor an outside possibility. Whoever, many thanks!


1 E,S,W in KICK – ‘points’ is a slightly lame device sometimes, but here worked in elegantly into a rugby surface.
5 GAS + R in TIC – a lovely misleading surface, particularly ‘touching’.
10 O + SAGE – again beautiful wording leads to the clue apparently saying something very different from its actual meaning.
11 FOR in KNOCK-KNOCK – Wonderful use of the ‘knock-knock’ joke (gag) – I was hampered by not having heard of knock-for-knock arrangements.
15 TOPEKA (hidden, rev) – for once I’m not certain that the wording works – it’s hard to see how ‘bottles round’ can be construed in this syntax to mean ‘holds in reverse’.
17 UP in COLE – my last entry and as with the many clues that took me a long time, I can’t see why now. Certainly UP occurred early as a possibility but for some reason I was fixated on ale, beer etc being what ‘porter’ would mean and never thought of the songwriter, despite the careful capital.
19 MUCK + RAKE, &lit – the ‘definition’ uses the posited association as an example of possible muck-raking.
22 LUKE + SKY + WALK + ER – Fabulous on every level, the general knowledge ranging from biblical to that other epic Star Wars, the deception encompassing ‘to send up’ (literal) and ‘constitutional’ (noun, metaphorical), and the whole being quite brilliantly linked together to culminate in a most unexpected Empire.
25 THORA(x) – Really neat – despite correct parsing, I needed all the checking to come up with either Thora or thorax.
26 IN THE PINK, 2 defs – I’m sure in this company I don’t need to explain that ‘pink’ is the traditional name for a scarlet hunting-coat because of the manufacturer rather than the colour.
27 NAN + KEEN – It takes a clue-writing genius to spot and successfully link the buff (i.e. brownish-yellow) colour of nankeen with ‘as keen as mustard’ – and of course there’s the bread to put it on too.
28 S(M)ACKED – I was certain that ‘given cards’ would be ‘dealt’ or similar – I was wrong.


1 K(e)E(p) G(a)S – this should have been easy, but the extreme difficulty of so many other clues prevents one spotting the giveaways sometimes, I find.
2 SNORKEL – cryptic def, a weakfsh clue for me; I’m assuming the Serpentine is just doing a job as any bit of water (in London, to chime with taking the Tube) – certainly I’ve never seen anyone snorkelling there.
5 G + OS + LOW – nice misdirection especially in definition.
6 SHOCK JOCK, cryptic def – as in ‘making waves’ on the radio. Another nice modern word (from the US; British equivalents have tended to be unsuccessful)
7 A WOK in REE(k) – Worth mentioning that a further K has been eliminated in the wordplay!
12 S + HACK + LET ON – very tidy, and (almost, poor Ernest) a very appropriate surface.
14 ILK + SH in MAKE – an excellent example of a lovely clue for a difficult word
16 KUWAITIS, anag AT U KIWIS – minimal indirectness is allowed in anagrams, but helps conceal their nature, especially when the anagram fodder looks so innocent.
20 AIRSICK, cryptic def – Not quite sure what the surface is meant to imply.
24 S + KID – the “have on” is a final bit of masterliness – all in all, a tour-de-force.

13 comments on “23,567 – Kudos for this kicking cracker”

  1. I thought The Times never had more than one hidden clue per crossword. Am I wrong, or does the fact that 15A is only a hidden rev. excuse them?
    1. The limits is one “pure” hiden word, so reversals or other variations don’t count – even though the required indicator words often make reverse hiddens easy to spot. There’s a similar limit on anagrams (5?) but again it applies to pure anags, not anags combined with other techniques in “compound” wordplay.

      Very chuffed with 10:16 – though this didn’t give me enough time to spot the K count.

      Peter Biddlecombe (who doesn’t trust the option to log in as you enter a comment)

  2. Bottles to indicate an enclosed word came up last week and somebody posted they had never seen it before. But for that I might have taken longer to spot the answer this time.


  3. I put in airlink = air+ green as in fairway? Fabulous crossword though and I enjoyed it immensely.
    1. Tempting, but the green/link link(!) is just that bit too weak. A “links” is actually a whole golf course – greens, fairways, rough and all. So “link” can’t mean “green”. “Link => hole” sounds logical, but as far as I know isn’t used in either xwds or real life. This is more “fine tuning of your cryptic ear” – cryptic definitions like this can trick even experienced solvers into thinking of things that don’t help.
      1. Forgive me Peter, but I should point out an inaccuracy in your post. In fact only a small fraction of golf courses merit the name links. It refers to golf courses that are by the sea (although I must admit that the Chambers definition does suggest that the word has extended to all golf courses). Other courses really shouldn’t be called links, a fact that many people don’t know, as witness the builders of a block of flats near my golf course in London, who gave it the name “Linksview”.
  4. Magnificent puzzle. For a while I thought all answers would have a K. Re the unusual word KWELA,it was among the first I solved cos of the friendly word play. Such masterly clueing. Favourite: MUCK RAKE
  5. I also really enjoyed this – lots of smiles to be had.

    KWELA – never heard of before, but I read that it includes a whistle among its instruments – perhaps a precursor of happy hardcore?!

    PINK – there does seem to be some disagreement about the origin of the word. Your comment above prompted me to look up an article I read a year or so ago: The Legend of Tailor Pink – the guy who wrote this lists nine possible origins of ‘pink,’ but is not convinced that it is named after a tailor.

  6. A most enjoyable puzzle. I didn’t spot the Ks, but I’m not sure if it would have made any difference to my time (12:11) – not surprised to find myself slower than Peter B, but pleased (amazed!) to find myself faster than Magoo. I didn’t know KWELA, but the word-play made it a pretty safe guess.
  7. For 20A, I assume the surface is referring to becoming eco-friendly with our petrol. I was trying to fit Warwick into it somehow (with raw written upwards, and wick meaning on. Which it doesn’t). This was the last one I got, in fact.
    Pleased with myself that I spotted the K theme after only a few solutions, but I’m not sure it aided me greatly (and I was fooled into thinking that Kansas City must mean KC, to fit the theme).
  8. I Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle for the whole 79 mins it took me to complete it, I got 22a solely on the enemy of the empire definition, My thanks to Mr Magoo for his explanation of the wordplay, 17a couple – was my last entry, Nankeen was also food for thought.
  9. With 14 Os and 22 Ks this was MORE than OK. A krakker!

    With such a good ‘un it would be temping to blog the lot but no …

    9a Careful attention to start of Sleeping Beauty (4,5)
    GOOD LOOK S. Lift & separate!

    13a Gold stamp, note, at end of passageway (8)
    HALL MARK. My LOI after ages trying to get OR or AU into the answer. Only once I had all the crossers did I realise this was not what was required. A bit misleading as gold is only one of the metals to be hallmarked?

    3d After repair, make (oilgo)* round house (5)

    4d Critics are those delivering rap (8)

    8d Moved to victory , having done about 100km (10)

    18d Contents of trUNK NOW No mystery (7)

    21d New light’s rising from the Middle East (6)
    SYRIAN. N airy’s up.

    23d African music starts Loudly in riotous (wake)* (5)
    KWE L A. My favourite band that plays some Kwela style is the multi-racial Mango Groove formed in 1984 – 10 years before the end of racial disenfranchisement in South Africa. I was pleased to see that they were advertised to perform in Cape Town on 1st Jan 2017 but disappointed that I would be back in UK by then.

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