23,811 – no 5A here

When I do my ‘how to solve’ course on Saturday, I’ll start at the beginning with “what’s a cryptic crossword?”, which rapidly becomes “what’s a cryptic clue?” – a nutshell description before we launch into the nitty-gritty of clue types. Ater seeing yesterday’s puzzle, I thought I’d read out some of its clues as examples of the smooth surface readings you can find in really good crosswords. But today’s had many examples that would serve just as well, so kudos to this setter.

Solved in 6:30 – not really sure why I was so much quicker than yesterday.

1 CAKE=mass,WALK=prom.
9 EVEN SO,N(ew),G(illies)
10 M(I LIE)U
12 SHE-B.A.
13 S(NIV=vin rev.)ELLER
18 EX-PERI,ENTIAL=(in tale)*
24 I,CONIC = “section” from geometry – I was fairly appalled when a last-16 University Challenge team failed to come up with “Conic section” in response to a fairly clear description a week or two ago.
26 MON(K)EY – Brit slang for £500 – £25 = “pony” is another to watch out for. Neither are rhyming slang (as far as I know)
27 ROCKE(T)RY – a good example of the deceptively precise definition, part of which is actually wordplay. The clue: Science Tsiolkovsky initiated in part of garden? Googling for Tsiolkovsky reveals that he was a pioneer of rocketry – just typing his surname in the box got me “Tsiolkovsky rocket equation”. But the def is actually just “Science”.
1 CHEESY – CD – included here just in case anyone went for CHEESE, which isn’t “inferior”.
2 KEEPER – 2 def’s, one an old-fashioned name for a wedding (or maybe engagement) ring.
3 WAS,SAILER – this seems like a cheeky route to “was sailer” given that you have to be a sailor with an O to live on a boat, and I imagined droves of championship competitors wondering about the possibility of a WASSAILOR. But there is no such thing as a wassailor, and a sailer with -er is not a person, but IS a kind of boat. So it’s (WAS=lived), on (SAILER=boat).
4 LONG=tall,SHOREMAN=horseman with the S raised.
6 (m)ALICE – “married woman” here is a classic “lift and separate”.
11 DIVER(s)=”several old”,TI(MEN)TO – Pres. Tito of Yugoslavia will live on in xwds for a few decades yet.
15 COACH,WORK = 11 (i.e. divertimento) for example – 11 in numbers in the online version – Bravo!
16 S.E.=Kentish,LEN,I,UM – SE???IUM is your probable solving route.
17 S(PITT)OON – “receptacle” is one of those delicate def’s like matter = pus.
22 PRIM(at)E – Archbishops are called primates, to much schoolboy sniggering.

23 comments on “23,811 – no 5A here”

  1. I found this very satisfying though it took me over an hour without any aids to solving.

    My problem was that nearly all the long entries had quite complicated wordplay and there were no multiple word solutions which I find are often a quick-solve and help establishing momentum. Also there was nothing with fewer than 5 letters – another thing I look for to get myself going.

    I’m not nominating a COD at this stage as I don’t think there was a single one that was less than very good. I shall wait and see what’s on offer in Anax’s poll and decide what to vote for then.

  2. I agree that it’s hard to find a stand-out COD (which is not a criticism). Perhaps 5A, for an amusing and fairly plausible image? I was much slower on this than yesterday’s, not knowing either keeper=ring or cakewalk=dance, which made the NW tough.
  3. My COD is ROCKETRY for the reasons that PB cites really. I’ve encountered T’ksy before in cryptics and vaguely remembered he was rocket-related.

    Didn’t understand the 2nd meaning of KEEPER until I read this…

    Still don’t understand how DIVER[s] is “briefly, several…” — shouldn’t that be DIVER[se]? and if so, is that acceptable wrt cryptic grammar?

    Typo: should be AR(DEN)T

    1. I should have explained divers. It’s actually “briefly several old”, ‘divers’ being an archaic version of ‘diverse’. Used in the King James Bible at Mark 1:34 – “And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases” – which used to lead to more schoolboy sniggering, the pronunciation being just the same as ‘more than one diver’. Typo corrected and wrist duly slapped…
  4. In reply to Ilanc, ‘divers’ means several. I guess I’m betraying my age when I say that I was surprised by ‘old’ in the clue. It’s not a word I commonly use, but I do from time to time, without feeling I’m using an obsolete expression. I agree about the quality of the clues here. I’m not sure which I’d pick as COD. I liked the terseness of 26, 2 and 22. Thanks to Peter for the explanation of 3d. I was sure WASSAILER was not spelled with an O, so thought at the time that the setter had slipped up.
    1. I agree. I don’t see divers as particularly obsolete. However, my attempt to prove this via google foundered in a sea (:-) of scuba diving etc..
  5. Trying (and failing) last night to put the finishing touches to an 86-clue beast evidently left me all clued out, and after 20 minutes on today’s puzzle I had – wait for it – FOUR answers. Had no choice but to log in here and, basically, cheat like an athlete to get the solving process under way, so I’m relieved to note others needed some time over it.
    There are definitely several COD choices, but I’ll pick 18A partly for the imagery and partly because it was one of the few good ones I managed without cheating.
  6. Another enjoyable one with some nice clues, particularly sniveller and squirrel. 8 for COD though as I like squirrels.
  7. Seeing Peter’s comment about schoolboy sniggering reminds me that first-time pregnant women over the age of about 30 are commonly referred to in the health system as ‘elderly primates’. My wife was less than amused. Chambers only gives ‘elderly prim’ – which is almost as bad!
  8. A good testing puzzle. 40 minutes to solve. What a pity Berzelius wasn’t from Kent or 16 down would have been really good. I like 26 across (I think “monkey” came from horse racing, dredging my memory banks). I really like 27 across because Tsiolkovsky was a visionary mathematician, he did spend a lot of his thinking time in the grounds of his log cabin, and its a beautifully constructed clue. Jimbo.
  9. I wasn’t as keen as others on this, finding it a bit trudgingly wearisome. It took about 25 minutes but couldn’t get past “ironic” as words to fit 24ac. I didn’t like this clue at all, mainly because I didn’t get it, but also because conic is an example of a section and should be indicated thus. Also hated DIVERTIMENTO – it seemed to need shoehorning in. 1d was appalling, as was 20d. In 1ac, how does CAKE=MASS?
    Nothing worthy of COD today. Am I just in a bit of a mood?
    1. 24A: COD has conic = “short for conic section” – I didn’t know this but given the way maths people talk about quadratics and cubics it’s not a surprise.
      1A: More obscure, but Collins has cake = mass/slab/crust of solid (maybe it was solidified) substance, and I’m sure it’s been used before in the Times puzzle.
      1 and 20 down: a matter of taste for these old-fashioned style clues – I’m happy with both as they have two or more links to the answer – Leicester/inferior and problem/granny/slips. Maybe you are in a bit of a mood …
      1. 24a:”Conic” may be short for “conic section”, but “section” isn’t.
        1a: “cake = mass of solid” is not the same as “cake=mass”
        1 and 20: I’m happy to accept it’s a matter of taste (especially where cheese is concerned)
        1. 24A: Brian Greer, probably the strictest-ever Times xwd ed., has HORSE defined by “animal” as an example of a fair def. in his book, and this “inclusion in superordinate category” type of def is used frequently in crosswords in general. Using “section” to define conic = ‘conic section’ seems no different to me.

          It’s going the other way without any indication (Brian’s example is ‘bay’ as a def. for horse) that used to be verboten in the Times and is still frowned on by some or maybe many, but is allowed in at least some cases by Richard Browne, the current Times xwd ed.

          1A: We’ll have to agree to differ – once I’ve seen something a few times in the Times xwd, my first instinct is to just remember it for next time. In cases like the def. by example rule change, this can take quite a while.

  10. Slow start, had a painfully scattered grid after the first 10 minutes or so, but 18 minutes all up for a pretty fun solve. And to Peter, I didn’t get selenium straight away, I needed the crossing E at 18ac, so my odd advantage was negated. As for favorite clues, I liked 8ac, 27ac and 11d.
  11. HOW nice to see some scientific references for a change. Usually it’s all music, art, literature… you’d never normally know this is the land of Newton & Rutherford.

    Good crossword, took me 2 cups of coffee so 20-25mins. One very strange thing, until I read Peter’s analysis I had never registered the word “Tsiolkovsky” at all! Somehow I just read it straight off as “put a T into another word.”

      1. In terms of cryptic solving, going straight from “X initiated in” to “insert first letter of X” is good work. But the question then arises “Why Tsiolkovsky rather than anyone else starting with T?”. It’s worth following up just in case the discovered factoid gets used one day – though I didn’t go far enough to see Jimbo’s point, which means that the clue is what I think is called a semi-&lit – as well as the def and wordplay reading, the whole clue works as a def.
  12. I found this very very difficult, took a couple of hours spread over the day. After all that thinking, the clues that made me smile were WASSAILER and ECTOPLASM; the rest seemed like work, but not complaining.
  13. 8:43 for me, having wasted time going for a clean sweep which was never really on and which fizzled out after 14/28 on DIVERTIMENTO – I thought of DIVERTISSEMENT, but failed to translate it!

    I’ll go for 22D (PRIME) as my COD (for its brevity).

  14. I still don’t understand 24A, though I assumed that the answer must be ICONIC because of the link (sound or otherwise) to conic section. Presumably, I = “Current”. But where is the definition? Surely “iconic” (an adjective) doesn’t mean “conventional type” (a nounal phrase)? What am I missing?

    Without a dictionary, I too couldn’t see how “mass” meant “cake”, but I note that Chambers gives “any flattened mass” as one definition. I tend to agree that “divers” hardly needed to be qualified by “old”; Tito, on the other hand, is perhaps now long enough in the grave to require a bit more of an indicator than “president”; and I don’t much like the “briefly” convention to indicate “one letter short” rather than “standard abbreviation of”.

    I found most of this puzzle relatively (rpt relatively) easy, not that that means I’d not blush in this company to record my time (if I even knew what it was). Most of the clues were good, with many examples of clever wordplay, but none struck me as truly brilliant. I’d have appreciated 27A more if I had heard of Tsiolkovsky (though I guessed he might be a rocket scientist); even then, however, unless T. did famously experiment in his garden, the clue seems to me to fall short of outright brilliance. 26A is very neat and probably my COD, but I suspect it may have been done before.

    1. 24A: Current section following conventional type. “following” is part of the def., masquerading as an indication that CONIC follows I. One def. in Collins (and not COD) is (approx.): of scupltures etc., following a conventional style. Although I saw the right role for ‘follwing’, I didn’t know this precise def. and just went with the wordplay.

      If we can have PM=Pitt without comment, I think we have to be OK with President=Tito!

  15. My LOI was ICONIC at 24a where the wordplay is a bit tricky as is the literal. Once all the checkers were there it could not be anything else.

    There are just the 4 answers left out:

    21a (Place most)* prepared for medium production (9)

    23a One bird or anotHER ONly partly visible (5)

    7d Type of crack hostess originally employed by flight operator (8)

    20d Such a problem when granny slips? (6)

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