23,732 – threatened by hummingbirds

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 55m30s

Off to a good start. Mostly straightforward with a few easy clues for beginners. I finished with BODY and SABREWING – I almost gave up on that the latter.
I took a while to see the wordplay for GALLEON as I thought short book was Gal(ations). DECIBEL also took a while to unravel.


1 A MOS[t] – a book of the Old Testament.
9 OR,CHESTRAL=”kestrel”
11 1,M(P)OST
12 STE(WARD)S – DRAW in SETS, all reversed.
14 S(W)UM
15 AD(MINIS)TER – ADTER=anagram of tread.
17 TRANSPOSED=anagram of ‘son departs’
20 BODY=BOLDLY with no Ls (learners) – anyone unhappy with learner=L?
21 ASB(EST)OS – EST=anagram of sets.
24 GI,BE
27 GO TO (got zero)


3 S(CH,O)OLMEN – anagram of solemn, outside church(CH) and round(O). From the wordplay I thought of this immediately but wasn’t sure of the word.
4 BUS(H)T,EA – Shattered=BUST, each=EA, H=hot
5 CHRISTMAS ISLAND – anagram of ‘Miss it crashland’
6 GALLEON – reverse of NO[v]ELLA,G
8 NONE,S – one of the canonical hours, and from my experience the most popular in crosswords.
13 DREADNOUGHT – anagram of ‘A thunder god’
16 SA,BREWING – SA=It (as in Sex appeal) – this was last to go in – I’m not good on hummingbirds.
18 POTSDAM – MAD,STOP reversed. Refers to the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War Two.
19 DECIBEL – LE(the in French),B(bubbly initially),ICED all reversed. I think this took a while because I thought DE was ‘of the French’
21 A,EG,IS – A=’head of army’
22 BOB,UP – bob is a shilling (old British money which I’ve heard in various phrases: ‘bob a job’, ‘bent as a nine bob note’).

33 comments on “23,732 – threatened by hummingbirds”

  1. 16D beat me. I didn’t know sabrewing is a hummingbird and I’m still not sure exactly why it’s threatening – some connection with warplanes I imagine though I can’t find a specific reference to the term in that field. It didn’t help that it was clued as (9). Chambers has this, but everywhere else I have looked it’s hyphenated or two words.
    1. Having read the blog I see I rather missed the point of the wordplay in this one.

      Are there going to be blogs on the three Grand Final puzzles? I got through them all eventually but not without some considerable difficulty. I’d be interested to compare notes with others.

      1. There will be a report about the Grand Final puzzles, but I’m waiting until they’re available on the Times website so that people who don’t get the paper version can tackle them. Why it’s taking them so long to do this I have no idea (and like others, I have moaned about it to at least one person at the Times).
    2. “It” = SA (sex appeal, crops up regularly, but don’t llike it much) and “threatening” = BREWING. I was stumped on this for several minutes.

      Mike G

  2. This one took me an hour dead on and included guesses for 10a and 16d. Usually I have recourse to my Collins before laying a Times crossword to rest but I’m re(s)training myself now. Heartfelt thanks to foggyweb for explaining wordplays that completely went over my head in 16d, 6d, 5d (how did I not see the anagram?) and even, I admit, 1a. I managed to get that one straight in my head as a book you could read a second, A,MO’S, thus not very long:)
    1. If you have the same Collins as I do (i.e. the latest and 9th edition) it wouldn’t have helped you with “sabrewing” as it is not listed.
      1. Earlier edition but still no entry for ‘sabrewing’. I only put it in because of ‘sabre-rattling’ and a feeling that ‘wing’ fitted with birds. Cough cough.
  3. SABREWING & BODY defeated me, time of around 25 minutes up to that point.

    As for L = Learner, there are precious few acceptable alternatives since the L (as seen on the front/back of a car) specifically means Learner (driver). Some publications will allow the use of “student” but not The Times. Even “novice” has to be expanded to “novice driver” or something similar. Pity really, as in most instances “learner” sounds rather clumsy or is a dead give-away.

  4. 11:05 for this – also held up longest by the hummingbird. SABREWING is one word in the Concise Oxford, which is one of the ‘official’ references for the Times.

    I’m with The Times on L and learner – although learner is easy, L is only used to mean ‘student’ in a motoring context.

    7D in other comment: Mayor is supposed to sound like mare – different kind of mount…

    1. I never considered MARE but looked up Mount Maya on Wiki and it confirmed it’s a mountain in Japan.

      I wonder which the setter had in mind. I think the mountain is the better homophone.

      1. I’m fairly sure that for Times xwd purposes, Mt Fuji is the only mountain in Japan.
        1. I’d also like to point out that Maya in Japanese doesn’t sound anything like MAYOR. Japanese vowels are pronounced pretty much as in Italian, so both the ‘a’ sounds would be the same, and it couldn’t be pronounced with two totally different vowel sounds as the comment appears to imply. I’m sure the setter had the horse in mind. Also, I’ve lived in Japan for 11 years without ever having heard of Mt. Maya, as far as I can recall (we have a lot of mountains here)! Jason J
  5. Beaten by SABREWING after getting the rest in about 13 minutes. Homophones which aren’t really get up my nose. In these parts, MAYOR (2 syllables MAY-YER) does not sound like MARE. I find that few of the homophones used in clues actually work with my Lancastrian accent.
    1. Possibly a case of giving too much info here, but an interesting aside anyway. The spelling of my surname MAYER, when given to someone over the phone, nearly always results in the person on the other end spelling it out to me as MAYOR. At a rough guess, I’d say about half of the instances of the Mayor of Wherever sees the title mispronounced even by “professionals” – news reporters etc.
      Without a dictionary to hand I don’t know why the correct pronunciation is not what one would expect.
  6. I also got off to a quick start, but slowed down considerably, not helped by the fact That I made an error in my entry of CHRISTMAS ISLAND, resulting in an initial letter of I for 12A. SABREWING was the last to go in, a pure guess.
    I didn’t really like “wanting” as a link between wordplay and definition in 15A. It seems to me that X (definition) can be said to want Y and Z (wordplay elements) but I don’t see that it works in reverse. I also thought “movement” a touch questionable in 23A. I hesitated to enter CREDO, even though that seemed clear from the wordplay, since I wasn’t aware that CREDO was a musical movement. After finishing the puzzle I consulted Oxford and Chambers, both of which say that CREDO can be a musical setting, which is not quite the same thing.
    1. “Musical setting” credos are usually part of a mass setting. In this context they match the “principal self-contained part of a symphony, sonata, etc. with its own structure” def. of “movement”.
      1. Peter, thanks for your comment on CREDOS/musical movement, and belated congratulations on your magnificent win at Cheltenham.
  7. Is this MAYOR which hopefully sounds like the name of a mountain? I have always been weak in geography 🙂
    1. Mount Maya, I think.

      I had a problem in this corner as I had written SPIN for 10A.

      My thinking was S(PI)N where SN = “Tin” and “colour” = “misrepresent” = “spin”. I realised eventually I couldn’t justify PI = “unknown” and had to look for an alternative.

  8. I think it is almost certain that the intention would be ‘mare’ =horse=mount although I do agree that some hompophones which appear are a bit dodgy.
    Like a few others the combination of body and sabrewing (new word for me) was a stumbling block.
    19.40 and could have been worse.
  9. SABREWING did for me.

    I have two quibbles. First, I think that in 20A ‘all’ should be ‘both’, as there are only two L’s in BOLDLY.

    Second, ASBESTOS appears to be defined by the verb phrase ‘we now know to be dangerous’, which I find unsatisfactory.

  10. 18:10 for this one today – it felt slower. Do you ever find yourself flitting from clue to clue and not really settling down to one (like a sabrewing, perhaps?). That happened today – not sure if it is a product of not enough or too much coffee.

    Didn’t know CREDOS were musical movements, but put it in as clearly being right (with an initial C). Put GO TO in somewhat reluctantly, does it really mean ‘come on’? Is ‘theologians’ sufficient for SCHOOLMEN?

    Coming from Scotland (albeit Anglicised) I do struggle with homophones like GARNER=GHANA, WHICH=WITCH, as they don’t come naturally, but I’ve noticed that they are sometimes qualified by ‘some would say’ these days.

  11. Just back from holiday and straight into the dodgy homophones debate. Mayor = Mare is just awful! I’m surprised there’s not more comment about 21 Across where I agree with the previous comment about a very weak definition. About 40 minutes for this.
    Peter, I hope it’s not too late to say well done at Cheltenham – a great result. Jimbo.
    1. Never too late, Jimbo!

      I must confess to being in the “what’s the fuss?” group for mare/mayor. Mostly I feel with homophones that if it would work on the BBC news, it’s fair game for the Times xwd. But I have to admit that despite a few weeks spent in the US at various times, thinking I was listening fairly carefully, I’ve heard claims for homophones there (e.g. Sirius/serious) which don’t fit my understanding of any American accent. So something like “some would say” is a nice touch.

  12. Zoomed through most of this until I got to 20ac and 16dn. Thankfully body came eventually because I would never have gotten sabrewing without the crossing b. Retrofitting, I have a different take on the wordplay, I think (it)s-a-brewing might have been the intention, “s” for “it’s” or “tis” I recall from a few Mephistos.
    1. I’ll buy ‘s for “is”, (and probably ‘t for it), but I don’t think {t’s => S} or {’tis => S} can be justified, or would get used in Mephisto. But if you remember the puzzles concerned, by all means quote chapter and verse at me…
  13. Mare and mayor both have (m, a with bar on, r) in my Chambers. What’s all the fuss about?
  14. 9:15 today, about 3 of those on SABREWING. I can’t believe I didn’t think of ‘it’ = SA.
  15. For once the homophone worked in my favour! Mare and mayor… very little difference in my pronunciation.

    Sabrewing slowed me down, and 4a brought about one of those “oh, of course” moments.


  16. Doh! I was doing pretty well with this one, but agonised for ages over SABREWING (which I hadn’t heard of before) and only spotted the wordplay when checking over my answers afterwards. I actually got it right, but by reasoning that a “sabre wing” was more threatening than a “sable wing”. Since I’ve been doing crosswords for far longer than talbinho, my disbelieve that I didn’t think of ‘it’ = SA is correspondingly greater!
  17. Despite doing quite a bit of bird watching when in South Africa and also being partial to a drop of cold Castle Lager from SA Breweries I’m afraid that I was undone by the Sabrewing at 16d. I don’t mind at all – having now learned a common name of a bird I did not know before.

    The rest of the crossword has 6 omissions from this blog:

    4a Dicey business, finding two sorts of bacon (10)

    10a Colour unknown in tin (4)
    C Y AN. A mixture of full green and full blue with no red in an RGB display. IN A CMYK display it is the leading C.

    23a Musical movements insufficiently rhythmiC – REDO Some (6)
    CREDOS. My favourite parts of the Requiem Mass I believe.

    25a One’s down for admission to old castle (10)

    2d You’ll see what teacher does with essay I wrote (3,2,5)

    7d Mount to speak for head of corporation (5)
    MAYOR. Sounds like MARE to some. See above for discussion of homophones.

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