23,748 – Charming or Offensive?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
This was not my favourite Times puzzle ever, although it did have some very clever clues. At first, I thought that my lack of enthusiasm for it was due to it taking me a long time to solve (40+ minutes), but on writing this blog entry, I think it is also partly due to some of the clues being a little poor. There is nothing technically wrong with them – I just think that they could have been a bit more concise, or the wordplay could have been a bit better. Maybe it’s just been a long week, and I’m feeling a bit grumpy!

My clue of the day would probably be either 4dn or 22dn.


1 RISE AND SHINE – although I like “leave the rest behind”, I think more effort should have been made with the wordplay, rather than giving us “AND” for free.

9 R.I.P.-ON – ON = “paid for by”, as in “on the house”


11 DARK(L)ING – I don’t think I’ve come across that word before

12 S-PURGE – a plant with poisonous sap

17 DREA(r)(M)Y – M(male) “not” R(right)

20 PEDLAR – homophone of “peddler”

21 COMMON ER(a) – at first I thought that this was a demeaning term for a lower-class Oxbridge student, but on investigation, it is actually the opposite – a “commoner” is one who pays his own way, rather than relying on a bursary or scholarship.

24 CANTICLES – (accent is)* “with introduction of” L



1 REREDOS – (restored)* without the T – this clue appears clumsy to me, particularly the inclusion of the word “as” which is only there to improve the surface reading


4 DEF(END)ER – a good &lit. clue

5 HERD – hidden in “anotHER Drink”

6 NEAR-POINT – for non-cricketers, “point” is a fielding position square of the batsman on the “off” side. The near point is the point closest to the eye where the retina can still focus sharply.

7 CHARM OFFENSIVE – (vain schemer)* “holding” OFF – like 1ac, slightly lazy with the wordplay

8 UR GENT – Do we need “brief”? Personally, I don’t think so.

14 S(IMP)ATI(e)-CO – Erik Satie is the composer of my favourite piece of classical music (Trois Gymnopedies) so he is often the first composer to come to mind when I am solving puzzles.

16 CAROUSE-L – clue may have read better with “litres” rather than litre, because surely you would say “a litre”?

17 D(EP)ICT – personally, I don’t think we need “out-of-date” here, but this does seem to have been put in as a response to some people’s criticism of EP = “record”, as we don’t get EPs any more. Many are still in existence and can still be played, however. “short Oxford book” for DICT seems fine to me, as Dict. is an accepted abbreviation for “dictionary”

19 SERPENT – referring to the obsolete woodwind instrument, shaped – surprise! surprise – like a snake, and the serpent in the fairy tale of the Garden of Eden (oops! did I let my atheism creep in there?)

22 MOS(qu)ES

36 comments on “23,748 – Charming or Offensive?”

  1. I struggled with some of this and wonder if I am missing the point of a couple of clues, assuming I have solved them correctly.

    8D URGENT. Neither Chambers nor Collins gives “Brief” as “Urgent” and although Abraham could possibly be described as a gent from Ur, why should UR GENT be a description “of his grave”? “On his grave” at a pinch but even that’s feeble. I don’t really see where “grave” comes into it.

    17D DEPICT: EP = “Out of date record”? “Old record” maybe but why out of date? And is DICT supposed to refer to the Oxford dictionary? Is this an accepted abbreviation? Or if it just means that the word “dictionary” is incomplete then it seems lazy, as “short” would usually mean missing the last letter, not more than half the word.

    9A RIPON: On = “paid for” does it?

    I am open to persuasion on any or all of the above, and as I said I may have missed the point but at this moment I am feeling a bit grumpy about it.

    PS: Would it create too negative an atmosphere around here to have a bad clue of the day (BCOD) vote too?

  2. “grave” is the definition.
    “UR GENT” is “A brief description of Abraham” i.e. short for “gentleman from Ur”.

    Mike O, Skiathos.

  3. As I understand it:
    The drinks are on me = The drinks are paid for by me
    Abraham was an Ur gent and urgent is defined by grave
    EP= record has been criticised as being out of date by other commentators, so this indication of the old vinyls seems fair enough. Dict.= dictionary (standard abbrev.) quite possibly an Oxford book!
    1. Thanks for that. I see I had the wrong definition for 8D and I hadn’t thought of that meaning of “on”.

      Still grumpy about EP = “out of date record” and what about the DICT thing?

  4. DREARY with M not R.

    I found this very difficult and took over half an hour. Some very nice clues, however. I don’t think I’ve come across DARKLING outside Keats. I didn’t realise that FORGATHER could be spelt like that, ie. not FORE-. I rather liked 9A, but would go for 22D as COD.

  5. 11:24 for this – NEAR POINT at 6D took some thought as I didn’t know this phrase.

    BCOD: I’m agin it – choices may be based on incomplete understanding of the clue, or on personal dislikes of particular clue-writing quirks – homophones that don’t work everywhere, unindicated def. by example, etc. I think it’s already pretty clear which clues people don’t like.

  6. If the blogger thinks that recognising the Garden of Eden as a fairy tale (or more properly myth) is synonymous with atheism, he clearly has little understanding of intelligent believers — much easier to make Dawkins-style jibes!
    1. The blogger is clearly in a grumpy mood, but I don’t think his remark about a fairy tale suggests what you say. Had someone read his remark and inferred from it that he was an atheist then that would have been jumping to conclusions.
      On the puzzle I thought it was pretty much as blogged: very nice in parts but a couple of clues with superfluous “as’s” jarred. I particularly enjoyed the clue to HERD – my COD (which in an early post I mis-interpreted as Concise Oxford Dictionary which really got me confused!)
  7. DARKLING -Certainly to be found in Keats’s Ode to a Nightingagle, but perhaps more famously in Matthew Arnolds’s Dover Beach:

    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.

    Sounds like a description of wrestling with the Times cryptic on a bad day!

    1. “Then out went the candle and we were left darkling”
      from King Lear – just as appropriate for some puzzles too (tho not this one)
  8. Extremely slow in fact, with only four answers placed after 20 minutes. A few flashes of inspiration here and there led to a total time of around 40 minutes but a satisfying long journey. Really liked the &Lit at 4D, a worthy COD.
  9. I have to agree with Peter B on being agin the BCOD proposal. At the very least, “grumpy” jackkt will have to make out a better case for it than he/she does here. All his/her objections to various clues are based either on a misunderstanding of the clue, or don’t stand up on examination (e.g. objecting to “dict.” as an abbreviation for dictionary or to “out-of-date record” as a description of an EP). There will always be the occasional clue that almost no one finds satisfactory, and no shortage of commentators to point that out on the day.
  10. I largely agree with the writer of the blog. I thought several of the clues were very clumsy in the cryptic reading, though 4D was neat and I quite liked 26A. I took about 40 minutes to solve it, but felt that I solved it in spite of the clues, not because of them. 17A is particularly clumsy and takes no account of the fact that there are 2 R’s. “To be got right” as an anagrind (24A) seems dubious to me. I cannot find “urgent” defined as grave or “grave” as “urgent” in C.O.D. Perhaps it’s so defined in Collins, which I don’t have. “As” in 1D completely ruins the cryptic reading.
  11. Erik Satie ? Never heard of him. What a terrible way to clue an already tricky word – my first (and probably last) BCOD. I think grumpiness has affected several of us today. I didn’t enjoy this one much but, like others, thought 4D was very good (my COD). About 30 minutes and didn’t get URGENT. As I type, I’ve just realised what the setter meant by “LEAVE THE REST BEHIND” in 1Ac. I’m feeling better already!
      1. Aaaah ! THAT Erik Satie! Thanks for that….I’m just going to spend the rest of the evening wondering WHERE I’ve heard the tune before.
  12. First, I am grateful for the explanation of DREAMY for 16A but I would have preferred a clearer “hint” that M was to replace R in DREARY.

    I was also puzzled by 25A, but I didn’t ask about it because I thought it would be in the blog. But I was wrong so an explanation would be appreciated. I assume the answer is SPINE.

    BCOD is not 17A but 8D. As noted by others, URGENT does not mean “grave”.

    1. SPINE = SPIN,E – i.e. “after trip, drug”.

      urgent: requiring immediate attention
      grave: full of or suggesting danger

      I have to say that’s close enough for me.

    2. I have now found grave = urgent in Collins Thesaurus but not in their latest dictionary. I dismissed the thought when solving because it seemed so unlikely. Something may be urgent but is not necessarily grave.

      I have already admitted that misunderstandings led to some of the remarks in my earliest post today but
      I still say that “out of date record” is not an accurate clue for “EP”. Records do not go out of date.

      1. I enjoyed the description of Abraham as an ‘Ur gent’. And it was nice to see Moses getting a look in too! Even if I failed to get the third OT reference at 19d.
        As others have said, the cryptic definition part of 1a was wonderful.
  13. I can’t imagine that so I give a thumbs up to 8d. I struggled over it for ages though (and with me that does mean quite a while) and it only came to me while making a cup of tea after having given up temporarily. Perhaps it’s because some clues are more difficult that I end up liking them more when I finally get them. I thought 8 was a good clue, the kind that makes you smile – unless you’re feeling grumpy of course 🙂

    Interesting that there is almost a consensus on good clues. I also liked 4d and especially 22d.
    49 mins here.

  14. I rather liked 20A: PEDLAR — while the homophone is rather common (used by commoners?), it was pleasnly surprising to lift and separate “wheeler dealer”.

    (Intelligent Believers I assume believe in Intelligent Design?)

  15. I must have been lucky in that I solved this in less than 20 mins (very fast for me) with no real problems. Last I understood was SIMPATICO though I’d suspected it from much earlier. EP still appears in dicts, but was much more common in the past (50s) so out-of-date was OK, I thought
  16. Logged on expecting to find people complaining about 9 across which I had read as “paid for by minister”. Ripon was a minister in a Thatcher Govt and I thought what a poor clue! Now see it is Ripon Minster, oops! After some good puzzles this week this one was a bit second division as covered above. Like others I enjoyed 4 down and 22 down. About 35 minutes to solve. Jimbo.
    1. Ripon the minister: think you mean Geoffrey Rippon, who had various cabinet posts under Ted Heath.
      1. Treble oops really. Wrong spelling, wrong government and can’t read the clue. What was I about? Jimbo.
  17. Done in by the SE corner, but relieved to come here and find I was not alone. Never heard of “commoner” referring to an undergraduate, and might have gotten “serpent” if I’d had the r at the end, I was working on epoch being age and the word ending in “nge”.

    I have a feeling “reredos” was a word created specifically for use in cryptic crosswords.

  18. Many people have criticised grave = urgent, but nobody (I think) has pointed out that it’s not “grave” but “grave?”, which makes it OK for me.

    Lots of composers begin with S (Schubert, Schumann, Sibelius, Strauss, Smetana, Scarlatti, …) but Satie, who is comparatively minor, seems to be the S-one who always appears in crosswords. Even Brian quite often appears as a composer, and at the risk of offending the Havergal Brian appreciation he’s not one who springs to mind.

  19. 10:35 for me (I’d have been quicker if I’d picked off old chestnuts like URGENT immediately). This wasn’t a bad puzzle (there are practically no bad Times cryptics nowadays IMO), but on the other hand I didn’t find it particularly exciting, to the extent that I didn’t feel moved to choose a Clue of the Day.
  20. Six “easies” in this one:

    13a Relation embracing fashionable Left(8)
    S IN ISTER. Left as in sinistral as opposed to dextral (right).

    15a I travel in place and overindulge (3,3)
    P I GO UT

    18a Dogs fight when in large group (8)

    25a Strength of character after drug trip? The reverse (5)
    SPIN E. After trip drug.

    3d Record girl as having left (5)
    ANNA L

    23d One of the European people to work hard, ousting English (4)
    SLAV (E)

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