23,729 – seven-eighths

Solving time: 11:23

Chewy stuff. I have commented on 28 of the 32 clues. Do ask if you want to know about any of the other four. And lots of good stuff too, including neat &lits at 9 and 11.

I went at this fairly fast, but it always takes longer when, as here, I don’t get the North West until the end.


1 CO(STA DEL S)OL, STA DEL S being (TAD LESS)* – Definition seems a little unfair, but it was once known as the Costa del Crime in British newspapers.
10 MANGE, being E.G. NAM rev – easy once you realise the clue splits between “Vietnam” and “vet”
12 FUR(R)IE(s) + R
13 MOCKS – 2 meanings
17 STIFF + (Loch) NESS
19 TWEE + D – I have seen something similar very recently
20 (w)INNING
22 RAN + COUR(se)
24 AVER + (contrac)T
25 S(PEAR + HE)AD – I should be faster at getting from Williams to PEAR, as most Williamses I can think of are still alive
28 CRYSTAL BALL – I think this is just a cryptic def


1 COL(t)
3 A(ctor) + VIA + TES, TES being SET(rev)
4 E + NUN + CIA + T(h)E
6 LAM + PREY – not difficult once I had given up on trying to fit EEL in
8 CHE + ER (LEAD) ER – I like the thought of Mr Guevara with pompoms
11 DOMESTICATE, being (ETC I’D TAME SO)* – &lit
14 C(LIENTEL)E, LIENTEL being (LET NEIL)(all rev)
16 ABS(ORB)ENT – very neat use of “breaking away”
18 FA (NAT) IC
19 TEN + DRIL(l), TEN being one short of 11
21 S IS S(h)Y
23 OMEGA, being (AGE MO)(all rev)
26 D, A, L – initial letters

14 comments on “23,729 – seven-eighths”

  1. 6:42 for me, although I noticed on going through afterwards that I was lucky 16D was ABSORBENT and not ADSORBENT as I hadn’t bothered to check the wordplay before stopping the clock. It wasn’t one of the hardest, but I agree with Peter that there were some nicely constructed clues. (25A took me a while to work out, for instance.) I take it this wasn’t one of the Cheltenham ones? Jason J
    1. The championship prelim puzzles are each Wednesday. The version in the paper tells you this, but the web site can’t seem to do this.
  2. About 15 minutes here. I lost a fair amount of time on my final two, 3dn and 25ac. I didn’t understand 25ac so thanks to Richard for that. It took me ages to lift and separate “Vietnam” and “Vet” in 10ac !
    I also thought 2dn broke the “no living person” rule, until I Googled anf found he hasn’t been with us for thirteen years! I wondered why he wasn’t winning much these days.
    All in all I thought this was an excellent crossword with tricky, but fair clues.
  3. 25a last to go in and took about 4 minutes just looking at any possible alternatives as the Williams – pear connection didn’t come. I was, like Richard, looking for a celebrity – Tennessee, Esther,Ralph Vaughan or some such – 18.30 today
    1. You’re right John. I forgot that there are lots of famous dead Williamses. And you didn’t even mention Kenneth or Bernard. But among the living are Shirley, Venus and Serena, and Rowan and Robin.
  4. Got this one in one sitting, probably 12 or so minutes. Thanks for the explanation of spearhead, that was a guess as the only word that seemed to fit. 13ac would probably challenge the over the ponders. I liked 11ac and the wordplay in 11dn
    1. I still don’t understand 11D exactly though I worked out the anagram. Would someone care to come to the rescue please?
      1. Badger etc I’d tame so (11)

        Badger – in the sense of pester or worry – is the anagram indicator, so that the whole clue works as an indicator of “an anagram of ETC ID TAME SO”.

        And the whole clue is a – rough – definition of “domesticate”, as “domesticate” is the way one might tame a badger.

        It is the fact that the whole clue acts as both indicator and definition that makes it an &lit.

  5. I should probably have left this until I was feeling less tired, but I ploughed in anyway, made an incredibly slow start and plodded through in 10:24. I made very heavy weather of 1ac, which I kept coming back to hoping it was going to be somewhere interesting in London, like Seven Dials; and I kept wanting 5D to be SHEEN. I hadn’t heard of a Williams pear (though “Poire William” sounds familiar), which slowed me down on 25A. Some nice clues – I particularly liked 10A.
  6. Like most I was slowest on spearhead due fully to not separating ‘low’ and ‘front’ for the longest time!

    I thought 9a a lovely clue.


  7. 14:40 for me. SPEARHEAD also the last – haven’t I seen that somewhere before? 😉

    I do like clues where the join between definition and wordplay is seamless, e.g. 10ac & 25ac, or Part of jumbo jet? Quite the reverse (5)

    I wish I could ‘plod through’ in 10:24.

  8. Like others, I too was unduly held up by “spearhead”, which prevented me from completing in a creditable time (for plodders like me, that is) of 45 mins. In the end, it was the only word that fitted, and could at a pinch be defined as “front”, but I wasted much time to no avail trawling through mental lists of human Williamses – dead and alive. Some of these were quite fruity but not in the literal sense required by the clue!
  9. The description of the Costa del Sol as a “criminals’ haven” in 1a seems a bit harsh. It is Spain’s largest tourist area and surely frequented dominantly by non-criminals? However, from a British perspective, it turns out, seems fair enough. The following explanation for this comes from an article in the Daily Telegraph 18 May 2013:

    ” The south coast of Spain earned the nickname Costa del Crime in the early 1980s.

    Britain and Spain had no extradition treaty between 1978 and 1985, and crooks took advantage by flocking to the area, which enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year.

    A new treaty was signed in 1985 but British criminals have continued to hide out there, mingling easily with the large expat community. “

    Hmm … seemed nice enough when I visited Nerca in May 2017.

    Just the 4 “easies” omitted from the blog:

    7a Dry period not lasting long (3)

    11a Physician to go to when twitching is severe (7)

    27a She’ll provide material to knit or to sEW Embroidery (3)

    2d Formula One driver’s a plant (5)

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