23656 – very hard but very good

Solving time: 22:51

I found this one pretty tough – there’s almost nothing trivial, and lots of novel clues to keep even old hands sucking their pencils. Based on what looks like a setter’s “signature” tucked away in the bottom of the grid, I think I know who wrote it, and if I’m right, it’s hard to be impartial. (If I am right, I may add more here to explain. If I’m wrong, it’s good stuff whoever wrote it.) It turns out that I am wrong – the apparent signature is a just a coincidence.

The NE corner gave me a start, with TUT, TRIAL BY JURY and IMMODESTY going in fairly quickly, plus the two curry house ones. The NW came next, and then a very slow spell getting moving on the bottom half, where DOH and PARASOL were pretty much on their own until MOTHERBOARD gave me a handy set of first letters. Last answers were 25/26 and then 21.

1 B,LOCK-BUSTER – thanks to Jason for finding the excellent Houdini bit, which I was in too much of a hurry to notice.
7 TU-T(u)
10 BHAJI – first letters of “Blend …if” – I guess a bhaji is a sort of cake.
11 MU(TATE)D – damaging allegations = mud, and ‘arts centre’ is a change from ‘gallery’ for Tate.
12 DURRELL – reverse hidden – Lawrence D of the Alexandria Quartet, or Gerald of the Corfu Trilogy (the one starting with My Family and Other Animals, recently reissued and waiting for me to read now that Mrs B’s finished it).
13 TIGON = “tie gone” – a cross between a tiger and a lion – there’s also a liger – can’t remember which parent is male/female in each case.
15 IMMODESTY – (Tommy dies)* – good WW1/Last Post surface.
17 ELA(LAME,I)N – the N African battle that was a turning point in WW2 – from a Brit point of view, anyway.
19 PILAU = lip rev., Au.
20 BUMP KIN – I guess ‘bump’ must include removal from a job as well as a flight.
22 EARTH(L)Y – L = newcomer to (steering) wheel
24 (t)ABU,JA – couldn’t remember where it is, but another good surface leading up to ‘Hamburger’s OK’ = ja. Turns out to be Nigeria’s planned capital city, which replaced Lagos in 1976.
25 AYER’S ROCK – lots of time wasted looking for some kind of gold. The philosopher is Freddie Ayer, and the rock is a ‘sudden prominence’ in a fairly flat landscape
27 DOH – reverse of hod = (coal) scuttle
28 DE HAVILLAND – (A,H = type of bomb) in lived rev., then land = ground. The need for a 9-letter word ending in V at 16 makes this a brave word to put in here.
1 BOB – ‘change’ when it was a shilling (or if you’re bell-ringing as Tony points out below), and ‘way locks can be arranged’ when it’s a haircut.
2 OR,BIT=coin
4 UNGODLIKE – (Luke doing)*
6 R(U)BYRE=shed,D – I also took a while to work this out, and the surface isn’t as smooth as the others.
7 T(RAVERS)A,L – to ramble = to rave
8 TRIAL BY JURY (Gilbert & Sullivan) – cryptic def. “several must hear” = contrast with trial by a judge.
14 GOAL=design,MOUTH=trap
16 M(END)ELEE,V – joins leitmotiv and Lermontov as 9-letter words ending in V
18 A(WK.)WARD – another well-worked clue with novel wordplay – Brit, say = award, and seven days = wk.
21 NIAMH – (H,main), rev. – if my hazy knowledge of celtic language orthography is right, this sounds like ‘Neave’, though with the last sound made with lips close together rather than teeth on lip.
23 HOO(d)-HA(t) – this one I should have got much quicker than I did.
26 KID – two meanings

15 comments on “23656 – very hard but very good”

  1. 11D provides the opportunity I’ve been waiting for all these years to say that “my mother’s bored, my dad’s a eunuch” (which isn’t quite Unix but almost).

    9A was deceptively simply — amost a straight definition.

    35′ overall.

  2. I will have to drop out of any time trials today, since it took me 20 minutes as a result of an important phone call in the middle, and I have no idea how long the phone call took. However, I would like to say that I found this an enjoyable and clever puzzle. For instance the hidden answer at 12A fooled me for a long time, and was second last to go in (followed by 5A). I agree that 9A was almost a straight definition, but again it didn’t come quickly (Having the third letter, I couldn’t get GOBSTOPPER out of my head, even though it doesn’t fit). I liked 1D , and “Newcomer to wheel” as an original and subtly hidden way of clueing that “L” (22A). I also chuckled at LOCKBUSTER for Houdini, and at 20A. 6D was one of those ones where the answer was obvious, but the wordplay took ages to work out afterwards (too clever for its own good?). Jason J
  3. Like, Jason, I was interrupted, which made me think about how this works with the time trials. If I react fast enough, I can stop and restart a clock so I have an accurate measure of time spent. But I could finish more crosswords in 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes after a break than I could in a straight 15 minutes.

    This morning I cheerily started the crossword at the start of a 20 minute tube journey, only to find it was tougher (or I was duller) than I expected and I still had a few to go. (None of this was helped by having entered DURRREL at 12A.) They seemed impossible when I had to change tubes. But even after a short break, I finished it off in a further 3 minutes. So I will enter 23 minutes in the time trials, unless you want to rule that only times achieved at a single sitting are acceptable.

    Speaking of which, I am not sure how you will be able to accept entries from people who have not done all six puzzles. A maximum time would be one option; or points for each day, as in RTC?

    1. Not fussed about whether the time is for a single sitting for an unofficial contest.

      At the risk of making work for myself, I’ll do two types of scoring – a championship-style one for those who’ve done all siz puzzles, and an RTC-style which incudes those who’ve doneonly some puzzles. I’ll update the posting about cryptic RTC to reflect this in a minute.

  4. 12:36 for me, but I’m glad I didn’t have to blog it. I put in RUBY-RED without understanding the wordplay, and ditto ALTERED at first for 11A. When I got MOTHERBOARD, I just changed it to MUTATED and carried on still not having worked it out. As everything else fit in nicely I didn’t bother to go back and look at them again. Two that did slow me down a bit were IMMODESTY and GOALMOUTH, and I thought I was being a bit slow and woolly-headed this morning…
  5. 6D – don’t understand why “shed clothes posh then diamonds” is U-BYRE-D. Surely this is inside-out? Doesn’t it imply BY-U-D-RE or something?

    27A – what purpose does “make you” serve? Is it “to make [for] you [, the solver,]”


  6. 6D – don’t understand why “shed clothes posh then diamonds” is U-BYRE-D. Surely this is inside-out? Doesn’t it imply BY-U-D-RE or something?

    27A – what purpose does “make you” serve? Is it “to make [for] you [, the solver,]”


    1. 6d It’s the R of STRIPPER + BYRE which clothes U (posh). A bit convoluted but accurate.
      27a – As you suggest.
  7. Does this crossword set a record for the number of answers that are capitalis/zed?

    Trial By Jury
    El Alamein
    De Havilland
    Ayers Rock

    Mike O, Skiathos

  8. I must say I found yesterday’s cryptic (even) harder than today’s. However, today’s might set some sort of record for the number of answers where I really had to think about it, in order to be sure that it was correct.

    Not meant as a criticism – once the light dawned, there was no doubt about the answer – it was all rather brilliant, really.

  9. I found this one pretty tough (16:39), and left unravelling one or two answers (RUBY-RED in particular) until after I’d finished. I put in KILOTED initially for 3D, wondering what sort of “blowing” could possibly be measured by a “ted” (something to do with hay-making perhaps). Last to go in were the same as yours – 25/26 followed by 21 (NIAMH), which looked familiar enough once I’d worked it out from the wordplay, but gave me an anxious moment before that.

    I interpreted BOB in 1D as a reference to bell-ringing, assuming that “Bob Minor” was an example of a “change”, but I’m not sure whether that’s correct. (Any campanologists out there?)

    1. Not a ringer, but COD has “a change of order in bell-ringing”, so your interpretation works.
  10. Wow – only the 2 “easies” omitted by PB in this blog:

    9a Sweet one pops in one’s mouth (9)

    19d Protection from light (slap or a)* thrashing (7)

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