23,693 – a maze of twisty little passages, all different

Solving time: 12:18

I enjoyed this puzzle. Interesting words but no particularly obscure ones, and good surfaces.

Annoyingly, it took me a long time to get two easy-looking ones: the long anagram at 3D (BE AT ONE’S WIT’S END), and 21D (BARROW). I was trying to impose a much more complicated structure on the latter, and only saw the answer once I had got 27A (WIELDY).


1 HOLD BACK, being BOLD HACK with the initial letters swapped, and all without mentioning Spooner
10 DONNA (hidden)
11 M(OUSETR)AP, OUSETR being ROUTES* – interesting to use “network of” as an anagram indicator
12 BINGO HALL – good cryptic def
16 PROF + I.T. – younger solvers might reasonably be surprised to see IT described as “modern technology”
18 BREWED (=”brood”)
20 A, L, F (initial letters) + REDO – a pasta sauce better known in the US than in the UK, or indeed than in Italy
23 GASTROPUB, being (TOP GRUB AS)* – a pleasing anagram
25 RAISE CAIN (=”cane”)
27 WIELDY (=”Weald-y”) – I guess that “do you say?” signals a more daring homophone than say a simple “say.”
28 ALLE + GORY, ALLE being ELLA(rev)


1 H(AD + A.B.)ALL – that is Bill = advert = AD, and Jack = able-bodied seaman = A.B.
2 LEN(T) + IN – I didn’t put this obvious answer in at first because I couldn’t justify it. In the end I put it in once I had the checking letters, but only worked it out afterwords.
4 CO + M + PASS &lit – the definition is a bit of a stretch – do you use a compass to “mark” a route?
7 CAR(M + ELI)T + E – the cryptic reading is tortuous but works; the surface is neat
9 PULL UP (palindrome)
17 SOMBRE(L)Y, ie L in (MY ROBES)*
19 DO GEAR – very neat, and the construction is clear, but it took me ages to find the answer
21 BARROW – two meanings
24 P(HOT)O

13 comments on “23,693 – a maze of twisty little passages, all different”

  1. I found this the easiest of the week (went sub-25′ wich is hypersonic for me). thanks for explaining LENIN’s wordplay… i got lazy. I saw the wordplay for MOUSETRAP but wasn’t sure about the def: is it ref. Alice’s Cheshire cat?
    1. “Mousetrap” is used colloquially to mean cheese, not in a complimentary way. Hence “old Cheshire”
  2. A goodish cryptic. A small carp,however. Am I being over-fastidious in finding the bomb/shell equation in 13 ac unsatisfactory? I accept that both bombs and shells are explosives, but, strictly, to “shell” doesn’t mean “to attack with bombs” but to subject to a barrage of shells fired by artillery. A bomb is an explosive device either dropped from an aircraft or planted and then detonated on the ground.
    1. You’re not – something like “attack with artillery” would have done the trick. But for a man in a hurry, ‘shell’ = ‘bomb’ was close enough. Not quite as easy as yesterday’s for me at 6:55. As well as no Spooner in 1A, nice to see no pear in 6D.

  3. “a pasta sauce better known in the US than in the UK, or indeed than in Italy”

    Indeed. And completely unknown to the latest Chambers and Collins.

  4. I’m claiming around 10 minutes here – with one interruption.
    Nice puzzle this, and I’m with Pete on the setter’s avoidance of a “pear” reference at 6D (seem to remember fairly recent puzzle that used the connection in a clue for GO PEAR-SHAPED = “filling conference form”?). Good to see the temptation resisted.
    My only gripe with today’s puzzle was 3D but it’s a minor one – the ‘gram and solution start with the same arrangement of 4 letters, which weakened an otherwise decent ‘gram somewhat.
    1. Playing devil’s advocate …: I seem to remember that a big weakness of the Enigma cipher machine was the rule that a letter was never encoded to the same letter of the alphabet. This meant that many putative decodings of long messages could be rejected instantly because one or more letters matched. So I’m not bothered if some letters are the same in anagrams and fodder once in a while – this means that some options that the solver could otherwise eliminate are still on the cards.
  5. Well this was the easiest for many weeks, for me at least. Put them in as fast as I could write. Wonder whether it’s me or the puzzle!

    Nothing constructive to add, other than to say thanks to you guys for taking the trouble to put the explanations in.
    There’s often one or two I don’t follow so I regularly look on here even if I’ve nothing to say. (Got Lenin today, but couldn’t work out why till I checked this site out.)

  6. I hadn`t done the Times crossword for quite a while, so while waiting, along with several dozen others, in a room that time, and the NHS, forgot, I was quite looking forward to this crossword. Isn`t Thursday supposed to be one of the best days, often with Monk puzzles?

    Sadly after 10 or 15 minutes, I moved onto Sudoku, without even a clue to whinge about!

    1. There’s not supposed to be any difference between weekdays according to the xwd ed. I believe Saturday puzzles are supposed to be good, with ‘good’ not necessarily meaning ‘difficult’.
  7. 23:45 which is my best ever time (I think) – and a quarter of the time it took for one of this week’s!
    Although I didn’t get all of the wordplay during this time.
  8. Richard’s blog title appears to be a reference to the early computer adventure game Colossal Cavern. This just had text descriptions, no graphics at all, and was highly addictive. It was situated on the Cambridge University mainframe in the late 1970s – we had access via the computer system at the Open University in Milton Keynes. The answer to 3d BE AT ONES WITS END maybe reminded him of that?

    A location in the Maze (of twisty passages) was called Witts End – a place from which there was no escape (at least I never found one).

    Just the 5 “easies” left out of the blog:

    5a Son nibbles tiny amounts (6)

    14a Northern county briefly accomodating Queen’s regiment (7)
    LANC ER S. I had YORKERS in my mind for a long time – must be listening to too much TMS.

    22a Expect a delay (5)
    A WAIT

    26a Not a single person shows energy at midday (2,3)
    NOON E

    15d Make usual trouble for (sailor men)*

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