23859 – how hard for you?

Solving time 7:58

After an easy puzzle yesterday, something just a bit more meaty today. No (direct) hidden word or initial letter clues, and only three pure anagrams, two with ‘split fodder’. There are also quite a few tricky ‘synonym steps’ to negotiate, and having a few double unches in this “E for Edmund” grid adds a bit of spice too. (Edmund Akenhead, Times xwd ed 1965-83, who brought much order to what had been a rather undisciplined puzzle, including the first set of grids all following the current Times standards.) If you can keep the time for this inside your PB times about 2.5, I think you’ve done well.

1 STUC(k),CO.
5 DOOMSDAY – (sad, moody)*
9 PRO-CL,AIM – one easy bit here, as 150 for CL is nearly as ‘sore-thumb’ as 51 = LI.
11 BOO,STING – as pointed out below, my initial comment on this is wrong. clamour for ‘boo’ seems a wee bit vague. If faced with this in the exam hall at Cheltenham, you might wonder how much time to spend seeing if anything on the pattern of ROW/STING might be a better answer. The answer depends whether its the prelim or final, and if prelim, how many hands you think have gone up already. (I think the likely setters for the final would use something a bit more precise.)
13 RE(QUE)STS – rests (noun) = supports
15 (p)URGE
17 B,ERG – the erg is an old-fashioned unit of work, and like his pal Webern, Alban B is a useful composer for xwd setters.
20 LIVERY – 2 defs
21 (A,R = runs A backward),KANSAS = State – I guess Arkansas was to Opportunity as Minnesota is to Lakes and Illinois to Lincoln. (Stuff you can learn from US car license plates …)
22 SIMIAN = “Simeon” – a biblical reference that I can’t quite remember, I think.
23 ICE-BOUND – a sort of hidden word clue using the ICE in policeman for the wordplay.
24 M,ANT,(w)OMAN
2 TURN=crisis,OVER=on account of.
3 COCKS=”cox”,URE=one of those handy 3-letter UK rivers
4 ODALISQUE = (quailed so)* – a female slave in a harem – lovely name for a not so lovely life
5 DEMAGNETIZATION – (I’m one gazed at, t=front of thousands)
6 MA(R)QUIS – maquis = the French resistance – a day or two late for the news story about the cheesy comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo being sold to German broadcasters
7 DOGHOUSE – boxers aren’t just pugilists or Chinese rebels
8 (bo)Y,ACH(T)ING
15 UNCLE SAM = U.S. = upper case version of lower case ‘us’. Nicely done legal surface.
16 GRAV(y) as in ‘gravy train’,A,MEN – {A=are} is that land measure again
17 BEANPOLE – 2 defs – ‘being tall and thin’ = a tall thin person
18 RETAIN E.R. – this took me much too long to understand
19 FAR(RAG)O – faro is a dull-sounding gambling card game

22 comments on “23859 – how hard for you?”

  1. About half an hour, so I fail the 2.5x PB test. I was none too sure about the likes of GRAVAMEN when I finished. 20D’s a nice double definition, so I’ll choose that as COD. I’m less keen on the partial homophone at 3D: the COCKS- in COCKSURE isn’t pronounced /cox/.
  2. What do you think of 3 down? I don’t like the pun because “cocks” is pronounced differently from “cox” in the answer itself.
      1. …although, in fairness, some plummy accents would probably pronounce the answer as “cocks-ure”, avoiding the “sh” sound.
  3. 45 mins for me, so I just fail Peter B’s PB x 2.5 test, alas. I agree that “clamour” is vague as a definition for BOO in 11 ac, my last answer to go in. And I did, indeed, waste valuable minutes wondering whether the combination ROW/STING might be a legitimate word (it isn’t, as far as I can establish). I also agree about the poor pun in 3 dn, where COCKS is plainly not prounounced as COX. Also: what purpose is served by the words “after a search” in 12 ac? They seem to me to be superfluous, but perhaps I’ve missed something. I nominate 15 dn as COD – for its clever surface reading and nice variant on “us” for the United States, with 14 dn as runner-up – deceptively simple and amusing.

    Michael H

  4. I was distracted by other matters this morning so didn’t get a proper run at this. I solved it all in dribs and drabs but had queries on three or four which have now been explained in the blog. If I’d had more time I might have worked them out for myself. 15D is my COD.
  5. It was all going quite well. All but four after 13 minutes. Lots of head scratching later and I hadn’t got any more in, so I gave up and came here. BOO is a bit pants for clamour. I considered GRAVAMEN at 16d but couldn’t think of GRAV_ for easy money. I’m still not convinced that GRAVY on its own does the job. LIVERY beat me fair and square, but I only had the L. I considered FARRAGO but was certain it only had one R (I think I was thinking of VIRAGO).
    Altogether a bit of a disaster, but no real complaints.
    15d is pure genius and gets my COD nom.
  6. Made a bit of a slog of this one, 20 minutes, and solved at my usual peak brainwork time (around 11pm US Eastern Daylight Savings Time). Didn’t get the wordplay on MARQUIS (thanks Peter for that), I liked 12a, maybe more for giving me confidence on my guess at 6d. 25a makes me think this is the week for sticking three-letter-words inside other three-letter-words.
  7. A real struggle after yesterday’s firworks, failed the 2.5x test by some distance, coming in at 55 mins with 11a wrong (I invented the word “rowsting”) and missing 23a and 25a which I now see. Pretty much guessed odalisque and Arkansas.

    Agree that cocks/cox is a bit iffy but it didn’t stop me getting the answer.

    COD 14 for me. Pretty straightforward on the face of it but was one of the last to go in.

    Anyone want to buy a rail ticket from Leeds to Cheltenham?

  8. Forgot to check the watch when starting this but reckon it was done in about 20 minutes.
    One of those puzzles full of excellent clue components rather than stand-out whole clues (although I agree 15D is very good). It was the clever little defs – “Being tall and thin” in 17D for example – that marked this as a high quality puzzle for me.
    My COD is 19A; lovely surface and really appreciated seeing “’em = them” as a touch of well-used informality.
    Highly enjoyable all round. The homophone COCKS / COX is rather dodgy but I’d complain more if it was part of a poor crossword.
    1. I wondered about the validity of “em” for “them”. Doesn’t it usually come with a reference to Bow bells or some such indicator? Not that other people don’t drop their aitches of course.
      1. Yes, you’re right but, oddly, this casual inclusion without additional information merely added pleasure to the penny-drop moment. I suppose that in print we are more likely to see “’em” than the arbitrary dropping of “H”. In my other life as a stock car racing photographer one of my local raceway drivers has a sticker on his car (advertising his garage) that says “You bend ‘em, we mend ‘em”. Somehow the formal English version just wouldn’t have the same humour.
  9. I agree that this was much more difficult than yesterdays puzzle but for some reason everything fell into place for me fairly quickly after getting the long anagram. 9.07 – really quick considering my PB is about 7.00. If I can apply Peter’s formula it means I might have a 4 minute in me somewhere!!!
    I liked 18d as an original clue for a fairly common and easily clued word
  10. Surely BOO is actually “clamour against” which seems reasonably precise, and which ROW would not fit.

    I didn’t time myself but around 30 mins, so not quite into the 2.5PB range.


    1. Correct! I (and others I guess) mistook ‘against’ for an instruction to put BOO next to STING.
  11. I was 2 seconds inside PB x 2.5 with a time very similar to John Marshall’s, who I’m sure does indeed have more than one 4-minuter in him!!
  12. I don’t have any of the official dictionaries here with me, but when the penny dropped for me on the clue, I thought “fraudulent practice” was the definition, making it an &lit, “Boo” being the instruction.

    Maybe I should go back to what I’m meant to be doing.

  13. 35 minutes for me with all except the SW corner completed in about 30 minutes. I took ages to see 15D and really liked it when the proverbial penny dropped. Simeon appears in Genesis and was the son of Jacob who founded the Ishmaelite tribe that bears his name. I’m not certain that it works as a homophone any better than the other horror already mentioned by many. The dictionary supports GRAVY=easy money, so I learned something. Jimbo.
  14. Took two sittings, about an hour altogether, but I feel smugly self-satisfied to have completed it correctly at all; I thought it pretty difficult, but fair. The homophones were not so far off as to prevent anyone solving those clues. The SW took longest for me, but after figuring out 16D the rest fell in. I thought several clues were very entertaining and very tricky, including 15, 11, 23, 20. For those who feel 21 may be a bone tossed to the Americans, please note that ‘Land of Opportunity’ has not appeared on Arkansas license plates for almost 20 years, so it didn’t spring to mind at all, had to solve the wordplay to get it. Regards.
  15. 8:36 for me, so within the 2.5 x PB limit – I think I’d have been reasonably happy with that in the championship these days.

    I wasn’t familiar with ARKANSAS as the Land of Opportunity, but it seemed the only real possibility.

    I’ll go for 18D as my COD – neat and straightforward, but for some reason it took me a few seconds to spot the wordplay.

  16. I had no problem with BOO = clamour against at 11a nor with the Cox = Cocks on the River Ure at 3d. Hurrah and Boo to the RP puritans.

    There are a mere 4 “easies” in this little gem:

    10a Disastrous overturning of vehicle carrying soldier (6)
    TRA GI C. That is an overturned CART with a not overturned G.I. inside it.

    12a Canoe rescued after search? (6)

    25a Dull and boring – attention needs to be grabbed (6)
    DR EAR Y. Lend me your ears I’m going to bore you rigid with my dry speech.

    14d What you’ll get if you drink too much, fool! (9)
    THICK HEAD. OK, take it easy – just because I like cider.

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