23738 – Ancient Rome

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 50:24

A few unfamiliar words to ponder over. Some anagrams that came pretty quickly. Although I wrote in NEATEN and HANDICAP quite quickly, it took me a while to decipher the wordplay for NEATEN and the clue for the other was too long for me to spend more time on.

This time we do have a pangram.


1 GRATEFUL – if your grate is full of coal, you probably have plenty.
10 S[e]IZE – to nail is to seize (e.g. the police nailed the suspect), the missing E is ‘the end in place’ – the last to go in for me.
13 TOCSIN=”toxin” – a tocsin is an alarm bell – I’d seen a similar clue before.
15 [s]EDITION – s=succeeded
16 PHOTOED – anagram of ‘hoped to’
20 VI,RULE,NT – first tried VI,RUN… then quickly got it!
22 [u]NEATEN – it took me ages to sort out the wordplay – I kept trying to make ‘not eaten’ become neaten.
25 IRIS[h] – in crosswords, a flag is quite often an iris.
26 GUERNICA – anagram of ‘a nice rug’ – a painting by Picasso. I vaguely knew the title, but the anagram helped me with the spelling.
27 NE(PALES)E – all I know about Gurkhas is that they are from Nepal.


2 RAIL,ROAD – RAIL=LIAR reversed. Billy Liar is a Keith Waterhouse novel, later made into a film (starring the wonderful Julie Christie).
3 THE LAST TRUMP – the trumpet call to wake the dead on the Day of Judgement. Refers to trumps taking a hand in card games such as whist, nap and bridge.
4 FLAMEN,CO – a flamen is a priest in ancient Rome.
6 T,RAJ,AN – more ancient Rome. Trajan was a Roman Emporer.
8 SPITHEAD – anagram of ‘is a depth’ – I’d heard of Spithead but didn’t know it was formerly used as a rendezvous for the British fleet.
12 COURT-MARTIAL – ancient Rome again! Martial was a was a Roman epigrammatist.
18 EXE(QUIE[t])S – I got this from the wordplay – as soon as I did I realised I’d seen the word before.
19 STYGIAN – hidden in ‘NaSTY GIANt’.

22 comments on “23738 – Ancient Rome”

  1. I had to check too many today though I had worked out most of them correctly I just didn’t know the words: 6D, 18D, 13A and 26A. I assume 10A is SIZE but don’t understand the “or nail” reference.

    I really liked 17D.

    1. 10A is SIZE – nail is “seize”, ‘missing end in place being the instruction to delete the first E’. Kicking myself about this as I thought of size on an early look, but didn’t see why. It finished up as my last answer wrote in the French word fixe (fixed) as in “prix fixe”, with putative def ‘in place’, thinking that nail and glue were both kinds of fixe(r), losing their end. Too imaginative, I fear. And doubly annoying as I’d spotted the potential pangram, so my last-but-one answer – EXEQUIES – should have confirmed that there was a just Z to find. Stopped the clock at 7:55.
      1. Peter shouldn’t feel too bad. After 6 or so minutes I came to the dreaded _I_E, spotted the potential pangram, and spent an agonising 15 minutes trying to fit Zs and five letter words with an extra E in them (as well as other possibilities) before giving up. I’ve seen SIZE in a recent Listener I think, but it didn’t ring any bells this time.
  2. Just under 8 minutes, but I need to borrow Pete’s hat today, because I too missed SIZE. I desperately entered SITE, but couldn’t justify it other than “place”. Like JohnP, I had no trouble with TOCSIN, but suspect I would have a year ago. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamen, flamen is “a name given to a priest assigned to a state-supported god or goddess in Roman religion”
  3. Despite TOCSIN going in straight away, I really struggled with this and had to abandon a pitifully incomplete grid after about 20 minutes – shameful performance. Must be a Monday morning thing.
  4. Finished this quickly (for me) i.e. 20 minutes rather than 30 or more. Most of the anagrams jumped out (Guernica, for instance) “Exequies” was unfamiliar, but was a safe bet. Last to go in was SIZE. I was torn between SIZE and SITE, but then the wordplay camt to me after I’d put the puzzle aside.
  5. Everything fell into place , anagrams at first glance. Entries such as size, tocsin and iris would have taken much longer a year or two ago but they all struck a chord from previous puzzles.
    08.50 – definitely as quick as it could have been for me.(I am assuming Flamenco is right as I couldn’t make the priest=flamen connection)
    1. I forgot to mention above that I had to look up “Flamen” too. It was an order of priests in ancient Rome.
  6. I got stuck on the dreaded SIZE too, and went for LIME (as in bird-lime which is a sort of glue) but couldn’t justify any of the rest of the wordplay unless ELIME was a type of nail I’d never heard of. Oh well.


  7. After getting most of it out in under 10 minutes and a few minutes staring at 10ac, I wrote in “RIVE”, knowing it was wrong (meaning to split apart) and came here to see what the word was. And now I’m kicking myself, but don’t feel too bad. I thought 16ac was a neat anagram, a re-read of the question made it an obvious question, but it sat a few minutes unfilled.
  8. I find this quite intriguing. I finished all the puzzle fairly quickly apart from 10ac, and like so many people was stuck for a long time before realising that SIZE was the answer. However, I was certain that nearly everyone would have got it almost immediately, or at least with no real problem. As usual I was mentally berating myself for being so thick and missing an easy answer. So I’ve found the above comments surprising and rather heartening.

    Steve Williams

  9. So far, nobody has offered an explanation of handicap (17dn)
    The wordplay has me completely baffled.
    1. “I” appears in H AND C (hot and cold) suggested by “piped water”, then P(ump). It baffled me too.
      1. It needs the “a” before “p” too.

        As I mentioned in the opening message I love this clue. The use of “pump” cross-references the water theme and “from the off” to the sporting one. Very clever.

  10. But not without a 35 minute fight. Like many before me it took ages to work out SIZE and I only now understand HANDICAP from reading the previous comment, for which thanks. I recall old bed and breakfast ads used to talk about H & C but surely that is nearly as old usage as a Martial ode? Jimbo.
  11. I fell in the SITE as well — and I still don’t see why glue clues SIZE though (but I’m prepared to kick myself appropriately when someone enlightens me).
  12. Size is a weaker version of wallpaper paste and is sometimes painted onto walls pre-papering to provide a key to assist sticking.
    1. I knew the word from the days when I used to help with school plays. We used it in the making masks and things of that sort.

      We were told it was made from rendering down horses hooves, and certainly it smelled absolutely revolting when we boiled it up before applying it, but I haven’t found anything today to confirm its exact source.

  13. I see handicap now. Very clever! I reached for the dictionary for ‘flamen’, and I completely missed ‘size’. Surely over an hour, tho.
  14. I thought my 7:54 was going to be a disaster, but it looks as if it wasn’t too bad, particularly as the reigning champ made a mistake (he must be beginning to suffer from vocalophobia: -O-E at the championship – though at least he eventually cracked that one – and now -I-E). I’d done all but 10ac after 5 or 6 minutes, thought of SIZE fairly quickly, but also thought of SPIKE (for nail), and somehow managed to convince myself that “end in place” = P, leading to the unlikely SIKE. Even when I realised that “end in place” = E, I still didn’t manage to see SEIZE for another minute or so. (This sort of thing brings on worries about incipient dementia. Sigh!)

    Now that I’ve stopped kicking myself, I reckon this was (or should have been) an enjoyable Monday stroll. (I bet Magoo clocks in under 5:00.)

  15. EXEQUIES and SIZE were my last two, too and I only got SIZE by spotting that we hadn’t had a Z yet. The meanings of both glue for size and nail for seize are a bit obscure and a stretch respectively, so very difficult to attack the clue.
  16. 10a SIZE (Glue) from S (e) IZE (Nail) was my LOI but it did not cause me THAT much bother. I hadn’t noticed the Pangram either. It’s funny how one can have a mental block on small 4 letter answers – even happens to the best of us apparently.

    There are 6 answers not in the blog:

    11a Feller’s French and in a patterned coat (12)

    14a Reveal woman’s gained weight (8)
    ANN OUNCE. Or has a pet snow leopard?

    23a (Pops in slight)* change to agenda (8,4)

    7d Long, hard journey starting To Render Everyone Knackered (4)
    T R E K. Such a long hard clue for 4 letters.

    15d Developed (nega)t(ives)*, omitting middle picture (8)

    24d Due to get married after first of October (4)
    O WED

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