23778 – Got any O’s?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Yes, 16 of them! I had completed the puzzle without major problems until I became bogged down in the SE corner with 13d a tricky &lit, 27a an alternative spelling I have never met before and 19a a meaning I didn’t know. Several answers then took some time to justify, for example 7d required serious research. I found the puzzle inventive in places and on occasion quite challenging but I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as some recently. My COD is 6d.

1 SOHO – s((ho) rev.)o  – It took me a while to spot why
3 PRESIDENCY – (deny prices)*
11 E,QUE(R)RY – yet another example of “e” referring to computer matters. I suppose we must expect more of this.
14 TILT H – land ready for sowing
15 AL,GEBRAIC – Al + (big race)* Good old Al Capone! What would setters do without him.
19 SO,LAR(d) – a solar is an upper room apparently. This was new to me.
21 MADE THE ROUNDS – (had tremendous)*
24 E,ARM,ARK – “e” clued by “point” this time
25 1,G(re)NOBLE
26 FAIR ENOUGH – (for guinea)*+h
27 SWAT – taws (rev.) This caused me some problems as I only knew “tawse”
1 SH(R)OVE,TIDE – I’m not sure I’m happy with “winter” here as it appears that Shrovetide can begin as late as 7th March or thereabouts, and whilst this is before the spring equinox I have doubts that many think of March as winter. But if Shrovetide more usually falls in February then I suppose it’s 26a.
2 HE’L(1,CA)L – Helical = spiral. I knew conical so guessed helical from the wordplay
5 SH,ELF – the reference is to shelf-life. I liked this one.
6 DOUBLE BASS,0,ON – two musical instruments, a saucy surface and my COD
7 NERIS,S,A – (a,s,siren) rev. I had to look this one up to explain it. Nerissa is Portia’s maid in The Merchant of Venice (not Measure For Measure as I originally wrote. I knew what I meant but my fingers wrote otherwise). I gather there is a court scene where she enters dressed as a lawyer’s clerk, hence “apparently” in the clue. I don’t know how widely known Nerissa is, for instance she doesn’t appear in the Collins Thesaurus list of Shakespeare’s characters.
8 YO(b)-YO(b) – my first word in today
10 SMOTHERED MATE – another chess term which I think came up a few weeks ago, but I still had to dig deep for the first word
13 S(CORE),(SHE)ET – &lit? I’m still getting used to the terminology. I found this one very hard to crack. I got the terminology wrong – see PB’s comments below- I did have the wordplay but omitted to blog it first time round.  
18 SAMURAI – s.a. = (sex) appeal + (1,arum) rev.
20 LONGBOW – with the N and the B in place I spotted that “handbag” would fit and had difficulty thinking past that until I got the other checking letters
22 TOKYO – a nice easy hidden word
23 SERF – sounds like “surf”.

17 comments on “23778 – Got any O’s?”

  1. Pretty straightforward although even after finishing the number of Os in the grid didn’t really leap out – quite surprising to note there are that many.
    Several good clues, my COD going to 19A. SOLAR isn’t the first room one would think of and I wasn’t sure, but the surface of this clue is very nice. The ‘gram at 21A is very well executed – I had 5 checking letters and still didn’t spot the device.
    6D was good for surface but the wordplay too obvious; without dictionary to hand for confirmation, I’d guess BASS and BASSOON use the same etymology and no doubt DOUBLE refers to size in a similar way for both?
  2. 9:38 – I also struggled with the SE corner, esp. as the double bassoon was hard for me to see. Anax is right about the etymology – bassoon = bassone (It.) = a big bass. This -one suffix comes up in lots of Eng. words – patron from padrone = big daddy, and minestrone is literally the ‘Big Soup’ that one UK tinned food brand used as a name for some products. The classic musical example to look up is the etymology of violoncello – musical word-buffs can’t help a snigger when people put “violincello”.

    Also ignorant about Nerissa, but with clear wordplay she was written in confidently. Quite liked 12A as a possible COD.

    13D: A true &lit is where the whole clue functions as both wordplay and definition. Example: “This could make bang out at sea” (7) for GUNBOAT, which is a definition, and anagram wordplay at the same time. In 13D, the wordplay is (core, she) inside set = team. Then the def. is “her goal to get on this?”. The def refers back to the wordplay’s content, but that doesn’t make it an &lit. There is such a thing as a semi-&lit, but I always have to look it up in Don Manley’s book to remember what it is.

  3. A very enjoyable 20 minutes or so. 19A was a guess from the wordplay, SOLAR was unknown to me. Nerissa is very obscure – I’ve seen and read the play and don’t remember her. I would have voted for 19A had I known the word, but instead I’ll select the equally terse 14A as COD.
  4. Portia and Nerissa are from the Merchant of Venice – the quality of mercy and all that, so not really obscure.

    That said, this one beat me, with shrovetide, double bassoon and the SE corner all thrashing me into submission and leaving me hogwhimpering for the weekend. Fortunately the Saturday one is usually a doddle, so I’ll recover my confidence on that one!

  5. Another fairly easy one to round off a relatively easy week. It will be hard to choose a clue or puzzle of the week – nothing has really grabbed me.
  6. Plodded through this in 35 minutes without ever feeling inspired. We already have a raft of suggestions for COD to which one might add 9 across – a sure sign of an average puzzle. My guesses were also NERISSA (never heard of) and SOLAR (never heard of). I can’t square “winter days” with SHROVETIDE either and didn’t solve it until I got the V from VICTORIA. Jimbo.
  7. I wasn’t closely focused on this puzzle as I was partly engaged in chat with friends on the beach, but the first two-thirds came quickly, then I struggled to fill the NW corner, with doubts about my choice of SMOTHERED MATE, which I’d never heard of. Unlike today’s blog writer I didn’t like “taking up” in 5d. I suppose it’s saying ELF has SH above it, but that makes the cryptic syntax very strained (as Roger Phillips sometimes says in his comments on The Times Clue Competition entries).
  8. 24 minutes. More of a gradual plod than a sprint start and a slow finish. Finished with 13dn then 19a. I probably enjoyed this more than other commenters, finding the clues just difficult enough to solve but no really difficult words ( NERISSA’s wordplay was simple enough to be certain the answer was right). Although I enjoyed it immensely, nothing really stands out as COD. I’ll plump for 13d because I took so long over it, but the answer is quite obvious when you know it.
  9. 7dpenguin and I finished in the same time, 24 minutes. Another day of many guesses from wordplay (though for me, that’s one of the thrills of the crossword, learning new words from the wordplay). New to me were tilth, solar, shrovetide and smothered mate. My Shakespeare is reasonably good, getting Nerissa quickly opened up the NE. My COD tip would be 2d.
  10. Like the very-well hidden definition of SHELF life. My COD. was bamboozled by SCORE SHEET. thanks for the explanation.
  11. I don’t think so. Granted it’s a word that describes a sort of life but it isn’t itself a ‘life’ is it?
    1. Surely emphasis is on “sort of”. Reading the clue, I ran through “still”, “half”, and “real” before hitting on “shelf”. They’re all sort-of lives…
      1. There may be some mileage in the argument but I suppose it’s down to how readily a stock phrase can be recognised. Would it be fair, for example, to clue GOOD as “a type of riddance”? I had no objection to the SHELF LIFE reference but I’m sure it would be easy to come up with borderline/unacceptable varieties that aren’t too far removed in their linking principles.
  12. SCORESHEET was my last too, the second last being the crossing SOLAR which I had heard of – though only through crosswords. Re NERISSA, got that easily enough – it’s a crossword word, mainly I’d say because of the final A and the common letters elsewhere.
  13. Rugby is a sort of sport but shelf sure ain’t a sort of life, sorry! The emphasis argument above doesn’t hold water.
  14. A pleasant enough puzzle, with 12A as my COD, but I made heavy weather of it (taking 14:29). SHROVETIDE held me up at the end (I kept seeing SERVITUDE and hoped to find some similar word that would fit the clue). No problem with NERISSA though, and no objection to SHELF.

  15. I thought this was an excellent puzzle. I have no problem with SHELF being a sort of life along with PARK and POND. I was very pleased to get the unknown Nerissa from the clue at 7d and then later to consult Signore Google to find out about the Merchant of Venice and Portia/Nerissa’s important role in helping Antonio keep hold of his pound of flesh. Thank-you setter for guiding a bit more of my ongoing education.

    There are 5 “easies” omitted from this blog:

    9a Appears to stagger with drink (5,2)

    12a Current attraction of girl diminished (8,5)

    17a Right to change after CD gets bad reputation (9)

    4d Carpet salesman’s tough exterior keeping mum (9)

    16d (Ginger hat)* made specially for party (9)

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