23,705 – school lesson

Solving time: 14:52

Fast start, including the big central down. Then struggled a bit, especially in the South East corner.

Although it took me a long time to see, I was amused by the audacity of indicating VAN DALI as a Dutch surrealist.

I am afraid it is a rather hasty analysis, as I have a particularly busy day. If there are any questions outstanding (or need to edit in corrections), I shall try to get back and respond this evening.


1 P-LOVER – enjoyed this clue, though I am not sure one can be romantically involved with a coin. Perhaps I lack imagination.
10 R OUT, ie “right out” contrasted with “left in”
11 NEGATIVE – two meanings, one photographic
12 C.H. + ALKY – I think Chalky is Dusty’s companion only because dust is associated with chalk in chalk-dust, but perhaps I am missing something
13 A STI(ff)
15 AIRW + OMAN, AIRW being (WAR I)*
21 LESS ON, whereas today I am an idiot apparently having less availability in diary (5).
23 E + L(EG)ANCE
25 (j)IFFY
28 SCHOOL – not sure about “of” in this clue. “or” would work better in the cryptic reading


3 VAN DALI + S(ell) M(ore)
6 CASH CARD, being an anagram of DRACHMAS with the M replaced by another C
8 TRUNK CALL, this is some way beyond a simple cryptic def, with an extra layer of indirection to make up for the familiar pun
16 OOMPAH-PAH, being (HAP, HAP (fortunes) + MOO (low)) (all rev)
17 CAN(NIB)AL, gruesome &lit that I was determined was going to use GUT rather than CANAL
20 DEBRIS, being (SIR + BED)(all rev)
24 C(RED)O – took me too long to see this, and then some time afterwards to confirm that CObalt is a poison (On edit: with thanks to the first commenter below, the poison is obviously (now) Carbon Monoxide (=CO))

10 comments on “23,705 – school lesson”

  1. Another case of “almost”. 12 minutes with just M-L- left. I thought of MULE but it felt like guesswork. Rather hoped I wouldn’t be expected to carry a copy of Chambers with me while commuting, for the sake of rooting out obscure definitions.
    1. M?L? defeated me as well — wouldn’t MULISH be a better way to define “cross” unless I’m missing something. In addition, I keep forgetting about the English calling teachers Sir still — so 20D escaped as well.


  2. My turn for a stupid mistake. Rushed into TRUMP CALL, hoping that “bell” might be some kind of bridge signal like “peter”, asking for a lead of trumps, but also knowing in my bones that if trump was the first word, the clue wouldn’t have used ‘trumpeter’. Then could only come up with CHAPPY, hoping stupidly for C=companion,Happy = drunk.

    This is one time I ought to be solving in pencil – if I had been, I’d have rubbed out TRUMP CALL, which might just have saved me.

  3. I assumed CO was Carbon Monoxide, a poisonous gas.

    Stormed away on this today but stalled with three in NE corner unsolved and had to kick-start using a solver on 8D. Kicked myself because I had already thought of elephants and considered CALL for the second word. CHALKY and MULE then fell into place.

  4. A couple of fun clues here. I enjoyed VAN DALI as a Dutch surrealist (although purists might object). I also thought 13A was a very nice clue to hide every cruciverbalist’s favourite wine. (5A, on the other hand, was an unadorned old chestnut.) The NE corner was the bit that slowed me down, with too much thinking about swans instead of elephants. But I didn’t think a MULE was a particularly obscure item of footwear – I was perhaps helped by the fact I was looking at some gorgeous ones (for my wife) the other day on this website: http://www.mandarinatrading.com/collection/ Time: 6 mins exactly. Jason J
  5. Its the day for silly mistakes. With 17 down and 5 down quickly solved for some reason I entered Biochemist at 26 across, which caused some confusion with the SE corner and took a 25 minute puzzle up to 35 minutes. With Aztec butchery yesterday and cannibalism today, what are they on at the Times?Jimbo
  6. Well I rushed here looking for the answer to 19Ac M-L- and blow me if it wasn’t so obvious that the OP didn’t even bother with it!

    Looked further and apparently it was MULE!
    Couldn’t for the life of me see why.
    Many seconds of headscratching before I realised Mule is a sandal and Mule is also a cross between a horse and a donkey. I wish I knew how my brain worked.

    But I loved the Vandalism one.

  7. I liked some of the puns in this and was thankful for 5 down since it gave me a lot of letters immediately, but 28 across was just sloppy – clues like that make me want to put the puzzle down and do something else, though there were plenty of compensations elsewhere, particularly in the &lit clue for CANNIBAL.
    1. I think the clue for SCHOOL is intended simply as a play on the meaning of “form”. Sometimes you’ll see this type of clue, which doesn’t necessarily break down neatly into def/wordplay, but is a sort of cryptic definition and pun all rolled into one. Maybe a bit weak, but all in all a constituent part of a fun puzzle. I never spotted the “VAN DALI” thing at the time.
  8. Eight “easies” not in the blog including the mule:

    18a Slimy individual seeks actors for beach feature (4,4)
    WORM CAST. I know it is a surface and all that but what is the “seeks” doing in there?

    19a Cross on foot? (4)
    MULE. As described above a mule can be a shoe or a cross-breed.

    26a One’s living the lives of others? (10)

    2d Holiday in desert (5)
    LEAVE. Not a week at Sharm-el-Sheikh.

    4d Stay with (marine)* at sea (6)

    5d Closely beaten by seed? (6,2,3,4)

    7d Grub particuLAR VAgrant’s eaten (5)

    22d OK, for example, like this (3-2)
    SAY SO

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