23,829 – another fairly easy one

Solving time: 7:01

One musical mafia clue at 10. The main trouble for me was 4D. COD 5A for me.

1 DE TROP = ported rev.
10 KNIGHT – ref. Sir Michael Tippett, composer
13 PANT(s)
14 FIST – 2 meanings
15 PROM,ON TO(R)Y on=playing, toy=fiddle
20 WIDE – 2 meanings, one as in “wide boy”
23 A.B.’S,T,ERGENT=”urgent”
25 DAM=mad rev.,ASK
26 ESTONIAN = sensatio(n)*
28 DAVE,(N)TRY – the bit about Northants is presumably there to avoid confusion with COVENTRY in Wariwickshire – as bloke also = ‘cove’
29 B(izarr)E,RATE
2 ECONOMISE = (on ice some)*
4 P.S.,I – you add a PS to a letter, and putting that ‘by one’ gives you PSI. Nothing else seems to work better but this doesn’t quite hang together unless I’m missing something. If the def is ‘letter’, I can’t see what gives you the P.S. All ideas gratefully received. Now I think it’s:
this added = PS
by one = “next to I”
to = def/wordplay link
letter = the def.
5 SWARD = “draws up” = comes to a halt
6 MAKE,W(HOOP),E,E – W,E,E = quarters = compass points
17 RE(DUN)D,ANT – I’m pretty sure that ‘dun’ is a kind of horse
19 ThEiR,RACE – a standing area in a football ground, when such things were still allowed
22 T(I)ARA
24 S(p)EEDY
27 TUB – ref. A Tale of a Tub.

42 comments on “23,829 – another fairly easy one”

  1. Psi is a Greek letter, so it fits in.

    (ps I got Phi, another Greek letter, and couldn’t understand it).

    Also, the only Tale of a Tub I remember from my student days was by Jonathan Swift, so I got quite outraged at the clue – till I Googled it and found the Jonson one.

  2. ps (!)
    I got 23Ac as “absterging” instead of “abstergent”, which seems equally valid.

  3. This presented a few more problems than recent puzzles but was hugely enjoyable.

    I completed all but two words in a little under 30 minutes but then spent another 10 on 26 and 27. Neither should have presented much difficulty really, though I had never heard of Ben Jonson’s A Tale Of The Tub. At 26 I was looking for E(uropean) + a word meaning “sensation” with its first letter missing defined by “botched”.

    My COD goes to 4 which I can’t see any problems with.

    Nice to be reminded of the old Eddie Cantor song/film at 6d though he intended a different meaning from the one given here.

    A quibble. At 28 “Bloke’s attempt” does not = “Dave try”

    1. 4D: On refelction, I think the structure of the clue is:
      this added = PS
      by one = “next to I”
      to = def/wordplay link
      letter = the def.

      28: I was happy to interpret the ‘s as ‘has’, which made sense to me.

      Edited at 2008-02-06 12:01 pm (UTC)

  4. Is everyone else familiar with “abstergent”? I’ve never come across it before. I originally entered “absterging” but changed it to “abstergent” because of the (presumed) analogy with “detergent”. I’ve never heard of anyone “deterging”.

    Steve Williams

    1. Not familiar, but it seemed plausible. The verb ‘absterge’ is in neither Chambers nor Collins, so strictly speaking, ‘absterging’ would be a wrong answer. My personal inclination would be to allow it on the grounds of logic. Chambers has absterge and deterge, and the latter is in Collins too.
      1. Chambers 2000 gives “absterge-verb-to wipe, to cleanse, to purge” so has it disappeared in the latest version? Agree Collins only gives “abstergent”. Jimbo.
        1. I meant to say: The verb ‘absterge’ is in neither COD nor Collins – as you can infer from my contradiction of myself later, absterge is still in Chambers.
  5. Like others I happily entered ABSTERGING – unlike others I didn’t change it as pressing = urging seems perfectly valid.
    SE corner was my bugbear, accounting for at least 15 minutes, partly because I saw SEEDY at 24D and took too long unravelling the wordplay.
    COD is the mildly abusive 7D which seems deliberate as the word make-up avails itself to far kinder wordplay.

    28A: I read this as “bloke has…”, which seems to work fine.

  6. I found this rather harder than of late and took 40 minutes over it. I guessed ABSTERGENT from word play but can see that ABSTERGING fits as well. Also guessed TUB easily enough, having never heard the tale thereof. I think DAVENTRY may be difficuly for overseas solvers as it’s not really known for anything particular. My reading of PSI was as per Peter’s second explanation PS+I. My favourite by some margin is 5 across, which I think is excellent. Jimbo.
    1. It depends how old they are, Jimbo. To quote from Wiki: “From 1932 the BBC Empire Service (now the BBC World Service) was broadcast from there. The radio announcement of “Daventry calling” made Daventry well-known across the world.”

      I looked it up because I remembered many happy hours of my childhood spent listening to the radio whilst staring almost hypnotised by the illuminated tuning panel of our old Bush valve wireless set on which it was prominently marked: DAVENTRY.

  7. This took me 40 minutes as well, though I started well enough. Guessed ABSTERGENT though it was new to me, but took a long time to get 5 across, SOMEWHAT. I don’t much care for the question mark, which interferes with the cryptic reading; a comma or a dash would be fine, but a question mark is as final as a full stop, so for me it breaches Afrit’s dictum, “I must say what I mean”.
    14 threw me, and I did in the end look in Chambers to confirm FIST, wondering if the answer might, for some obscure reason, be LIST. So not an entirely unaided solve on my part.
    1. I agree with you dyste – this was my feling on solving ac too. On the other hand, I think it’s one of those cases where the fun nature of the clue wins me over.
      Unlike 5dn, I must say, which I thought definitely needed its question mark, or some hint of dubiousness, after the “comes to a halt”. SWARD = DRAWS UP = “Comes to a halt” is on the indirect side of indirect, whereas there’s no doubt SWARD = green turf. I could accept the question mark as the “delayed question mark of convenience) (something I just made ip btw!) except in that case the “seeing” jars
  8. I was really pleased to finish this in 15 minutes – it seemed longer. I was pleased to have avoided the PHI trap at 4dn and I wasn’t tempted by ABSTERGING at 23. I was getting a bit excited that I was on target for a full week, each done in less than 20 minutes. Then PB informs me that Coventry is in Warwickshire, not Northants! I can’t decide whether 5d is brilliant or unfair. My COD goes to 5a.
    1. Stopped after about an hour with 5 lights still unfilled. I’d say that 5d was unfair 7dpenguin (purely because without the SI I wasn’t confident enough to put SWARD in). Because of that (and not getting PSI) I missed SONATINA which I’m not familiar with. Brain not sufficiently in tune today to get the subtleties of FIST and WIDE. Pleasingly I had no bother with DAVENTRY and ABSTERGENT

      Agree with 5a for COD.

      Only quibble would be that DUN is a colour rather than a breed of horse (AFIAK) and is more usually associated with cows (as in the Dun Cow pub name).

  9. My Chambers (1992 edition) does have “absterge” as a verb, meaning to wipe or cleanse, as well as “abstergent”. The verb is not in the COD, or The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, or The Times English Dictionary, which only has the adjectival form “abstergent”. For all that, the verb does definitely seem to exist, and hence ABSTERGING would be a perfectly valid cryptic reading of the clue. The tenor of previous comments by some of the old Times xword hands seems to suggest that it is a bit sneaky, or even against the rules, to have a clue that permits of more than one valid cyptic reading. I look to Peter B for a judgement on this. As a relative xword novice, such an obfuscating device (whether intended or accidental)seems to me acceptable, always provided, of course, that only one of the possible readings can be made to fit with the letters of intersecting answers. In this case, all of us seem to have managed to arrive at ABSTERGENT in the end, even though none of us had met the word before.

    1. I’d stick my neck out and say:
      1 – No clue is deliberately ambiguous in the Times.
      2 – The intended answer is ABSTERGENT for the reason Peter mentioned.
      3 – The above doesn’t invalidate ABSTERGING, because although COD and Collins are the setters’ primary dictionaries there is no rule that says the solver must stick to them.
      I’m sure were this a competition puzzle ABSTERGING would be allowed as an alternative.

      1. I agree with fgbp on all these points. No. 1 perhaps needs some clarification, as deliberate ambiguity is arguably the whole point of cryptic clues. I’m happy to believe that once you’ve understood the clue and resolved the wordplay in a way that leads to a valid word, there is no intentional ambiguity in Times clues. Checking letters are not enough to resolve things – that’s why the Daventry/Coventry choice is made clear elsewhere.
  10. A newbie question – how does one figure out that 10A should be KNIGHT and not KEITH’S ? I was wondering if the Times setters followed some convention like “last-name cannot be an example of a first-name”
    1. First names may be in the list of unwritten rules, but where would be the definition of the clue that leads to KEITH’S?
    2. Faced with K?I?H? and having to guess, look first for the definition. Here “piece” refers to a chess piece, a common device in these crosswords, so KNIGHT seems reasonable. One then deduces that Tippett is presumably a knight of the realm. Jimbo.
    3. I don’t think such a convention about names can be relied on. The simplest reason for rejecting this answer is this: if you equate “.. for example, Tippett’s” with KEITH’S, based on the idea that the well-known Tippett is Keith (rather than Sir Michael), you must ask what the word “piece” is doing in the clue. If you can’t find a role for it (and I can’t), then you have to conclude that your answer must be wrong.

      It’s also very unlikely that a possessive of a first name would be used as an answer, but that’s a knowledge-based reason rather than the application of a basic principle about clues.

      Thinking further about why anyone would have gone for this apparently daft answer, I found out about Keith Tippett, a jazz pianist and composer. But although I now understand why you thought of KEITH’S, he’s not usable in the Times puzzle – unlike Sir Michael, he’s still alive.

      1. Thank you Peter and Jimbo. The “piece” argument makes lot of sense. The tip about Times not using contemporaries will also come in handy, I am sure.
  11. Daventry eluded me completely this morning, rest took about 15 minutes. I had fell for the Coventry trap though the crossing A from 22d then had me flummoxed.

    To open Pandoras can of worms, Chambers word wizards lists both abstergent and absterging as acceptable words (I had entered abstergent from wordplay, and will stick with it).

    1. Comments would suggest that if this were a competition puzzle… the mind boggles. “Cry havoc and let loose the worms of war”.
      Ambiguity of solution aside, no-one has yet remarked on whether or not “sounds pressing” is grammatically acceptable as the homophone indicator. Or homophind.
      1. I think it possibly is grammatically suspect, though it’s one of those cases where it’s difficult to pinpoint just why. If “sounds” is interpreted as “makes the sound of” (I cannot at the moment think of any other way to parse it), then it lacks a grammatical subject or referent, except the implied one of the last two syllables of the answer. This may be good enough, given the general looseness of a lot of clues. I’ve more or less given up thinking too hard about the soundness (forgive the pun) of homophone indicators.
        1. It’s east to be lax on homophones when you’re an Australian living in the South of the US doing an English (according to yesterday’s puzzle) crossword. Nothing I say sounds like anything anyone else says.
          1. And just as baffling sometimes being a Canadian living in the south of Australia doing an English puzzle!
  12. Thanks to fgbp for sticking his/her neck out on ABSTERGING/ABSTERGENT. I had, of course, overlooked in my earlier comment the fact that both words mesh satisfactorily with intersecting answers, so, as fgbp says,ABSTERGING would surely have to be allowed as an equally valid answer in competition conditions. My guess is that the ambiguity was not deliberate but arose because the compiler was unaware of the existence of “absterge” (in which case, join the club). On anaxcrossword’s point about whether “sounds pressing” is an acceptable homophind: I cannot see any real problem here – ERGING and ERGENT sound when spoken like “urging” and “urgent”, both of which are reasonable synonyms for “pressing”. Presumably the grammatical niggle is whether “like” is required after “sounds” – but “sounds” can be used directly with an adjective, e.g. in such phrases as “that sounds good to me”, meaning roughly “that is something which on hearing makes a favourable impression on me”. So the clue is playing on both the literal and figurative senses of “sounds”.
    1. My doubt was not about the legitimacy of “sounds” to indicate a homophone. I said that it could be read as “makes the sound of”. Therefore the grammatical niggle is not the absence of “like”. My doubt (and possibly Anax’s doubt) is that there is no grammatical subject in the cryptic reading that this refers to.
      Take the clue “Animal sounds rough”. This equates to “‘Horse’ makes the sound of ‘hoarse'”. No problem. In the clue in question we have ABS + T indicated by “sailor’s flat at last”; then we have ERGENT indicated by “sounds pressing”. In the cryptic analysis “sounds pressing” stands alone, unlike the horse example above, so there is a lacuna, which the solver has to supply (e.g. this element of the clue, or the next letters, etc). This will be good enough for many (and I’m not particularly bothered about it myself), but it does strike me as a case where the surface has dictated the wordplay at the expense of a clear cryptic syntax, which is why I took up Anax’s query.
  13. have just found the site for the first time. fascinating.

    is 26 A meant to be: execution (i.e. cut head off
    (s)ensation), then botch it, i.e. anagram?

    1. You’ve got it. Curiously, (maybe not, as these are both useful answers for grid-building), it’s nearly an anag. of SONATINA at 9A, so I wonder whether one of the two clues could have exploited this.
  14. For what it’s worth, like seemingly everyone else, I had never heard of the absterge/abstergent/absterging triad in any form; and entered ‘abstergent’, because I thought ‘urgent’ was closer to ‘pressing’. I see now the ‘-ing’ form could fit also. The puzzle author probably didn’t realize he/she was setting off such a storm of controversy, that now needs to be absterged up.
    Otherwise this was about 40 minutes for me, had to look up Daventry, never heard of it, but the crossing ‘A’ meant to me it couldn’t be Coventry. Didn’t know that ‘bloke’can =’cove’ as Peter points out, so ignorance indeed can be bliss. I thought 4D and 5A were very good. Regards.
    1. Your comment that the crossing “A” meant that it couldn’t be “Coventry” is quite correct unless, like me and for some inexplicable reason, you had written “TIARO” instead of “TIARA”.
  15. I was stymied by SWARD — and since I thought that “Duke’s handwriting?” might be NIBS (almost :), couldn’t get REAGENT either.

    P.S. PSI was an excellent clue — and my COD candidate.

  16. I wasted a lot of time trying to make supermarket work before remembering hypermarket. To me it’s a silly neology that the big chains really wanted us to adopt but got all miffed when we liked superstore better.

    Thanks for the shrewd and shifty explanation – didn’t know that. And couldn’t decide on 5a or 5d for COD so will just say 5.

  17. I enjoyed this puzzle, in part at least because I did it in a clean sweep, though a rather slow one (7:39).

    Like others I’d only heard of Swift’s A Tale of a Tub, and I don’t recall coming across ABSTERGENT before either, though it’ll probably turn out to have appeared in some recent Listener puzzle.

    There were some very neat clues (as well as some easy old chestnuts) from which I’ll choose 1A (DE TROP) as my COD.

  18. When our illustrious founder says this was quite easy – steady on squire say I. With abstergent homophones, Mr Keith Tippett – a non musical cove from Daventry perhaps – and Greek letters masquerading as Korean pop stars this was quite tricky in places.

    There are a mere 5 omissions from the blog. This low number of “easies” flags a not-so-straightforward one in my book. Here they are:

    9a (A nation’s)* revolutionary musical work … (8)
    SONATINA. Literally a small sonata. Usually a lot easier technically so ideal for students of the instrument. I remember a few from piano lessons.

    18a (Chest prior)* put out in church office (10)
    RECTORSHIP. A status worthy of the good prior puffing out that chest.

    21a For example, Marilyn Monroe’s heavenly body (4)

    8d Article about woman showing signs of anaemia (5)
    A SHE N

    16d Jock’s expression initially On Confronting Hobgoblins? (3)
    OCH. (aye the noo!)

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