23889 – party animals

Solving time 8:10

After finding the Mad Hatter at 1D and the March Hare at 6D I was waiting for the dormouse to turn up, but he (or she? – I can’t recall whether its gender is specified) never came, and I have looked in places like the grid and first letters of clues too. An entertaining puzzle with some original twists, and good wording of the clues.

1 MAR(I)S,PIPER – a fairly common potato variety in Brit supermarkets. A category for me to revise, maybe – I can’t think of many others offhand.
6 MUC(h),K – and if you solved 1A and tackled this next, “that’s spread on beds” might still have you thinking of the right kind of beds.
8 DEB, ON AIR – the canonical way of cluing this word? For younger readers, debs (debutantes) used to be young posh girls, who “came out” when presented to royalty at some annual ball, as their entry into society. I think this was really a way of announcing their marriageability to posh chaps. Now, men announcing their gayness “come out”, and my guess is that this meaning was being alluded to when this term was coined.
9 SURT=”cert”,AX (=”axe” if you don’t like spelling it with two letters)
10 A WAY – ref. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
11 FAHRENHEIT = (H, infer heat)*
12 TRE(ET,RUN)K – “Plane has one” is a clever def.
14 JAM(E)S – Biblical book, which took me a long time to find, with the helpful letters not being checked.
17 RAVE,L – ravel is one of those words like flammable, where adding a prefix for “not” doesn’t actually change the meaning. Not quite the same as words like cleave and sanction, with opposite meanings, but similar.
19 AG,GRI(EVE)D – “first lady” according to Genesis.
23 URDU – hidden
24 BO(Y,I)SH – “pants” in its “rubbish” sense, which is also “bosh” in Brit slang. If “pants” is Brit slang too, probably tricky for N American solvers.
25 SUNSHINE – fiendish stuff which may baffle US solvers, except that there’s nothing else convincing that fits the checkers. “Cock” and “sunshine” are both jocular forms of address, usually to a man, as in that puzzling greeting “wotcher, cock”, and “Now listen, sunshine …”
26 HAZ=”hays”,Y=variable – which makes a change from ‘unknown’. As john_re points out, this is HA(Z)Y with Z as the variable.
27 UP,SIDE,DOWN – good link between bed and nap here. Down and nap are both ‘fuzzy stuff’ for the cryptic reading.
1 MAD HATTER – wordplay in the answer, for ‘threat’
3 PLATFORM = (Mr.,oft,alp) rev.
4 PART,HE,NO,GENES,IS – which is reproduction without male assistance
5 ROSTER – reverse the first half of ‘sorter’
6 MARCH HARE – the party is ‘endless’ in its ‘pointless’ sense, I think. On edit: I’ve now remembered that “it’s always tea-time” so there are lots of places laid, and they just move onto the next one instead of washing up. The question of what happens when they get back to the beginning (asked by Alice) is evaded. This is the kind of stuff that has had scientists and mathematicians borrowing stuff from Alice – read the Martin Gardner “annotated Alice” for lots of this stuff, andf background like the original treacle wells.
7 CHA,L,ICE – aptly for the mini-theme, we get a free cup of tea in the clue here. On edit: I failed to notice that we also get Alice in the answer. Probably not a coincidence.
13 ELECTRIFY = (T,fiercely)*
15 S,ADDUCE,AN – relating to the Sadducees, Biblical opponents of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the progressives and the Sadducees the conservatives.
16 ARACHNID – C. in (rain had)*
20 VE(R)T,I,GO – Hitchcock movie – as ever, the books, films and poems to remember are those with single-word titles – If, She, Kes, Vertigo, Psycho, Jaws and so on.
21 VISHNU – Sh! in UNIV(erse).

19 comments on “23889 – party animals”

  1. Another toughie but I enjoyed it much more than yesterday’s as at no time did I feel it might beat me. And there were lots of amusing clues, 25a, for example, which is my COD nomination.

    The second part of the definition in 12 eluded me until I read the blog, but it was my last in so I didn’t spend more than a few seconds trying to explain it. I had no idea why “endless” in 6d but at least if PB’s theory is correct I don’t think I need the boot for not spotting it.

    It still took me a good hour.

    1. I’ve remembered more about the endlessness of the party – see my edit above.
  2. A great puzzle that took me about an hour. Off to a good start by “reverse engineering” MARIS PIPER, the only 5,5 potato I could think of. From then on a lot of ticks next to clues. At 25A I agree with Peter about “cock”, which I also worked out backwards. I can see this causing UK solvers some comprehension problems let alone our overseas friends who also have “pants” to contend with at 24A. I thought 12A, 24A, 27A, 3D, 4D, 7D and 21D were outstanding. Jimbo.
  3. 26 HAZ=”hays”,Y=variable – which makes a change from ‘unknown’

    I think the content of the stack is HAY and Z is the variable being conveyed.

  4. I agree with Peter that I was expecting the dormouse to appear, perhaps even Alice.

    But (and perhaps I am mistaken), I had quickly used all the letters of the alphabet except Q, so I was expecting this letter to appear too.

  5. Unlike Jackkt, I was thinking throughout that I was going to be beaten today, but eventually limped in at just under 30 minutes. Load and loads of really devious clues today. Can’t decide which clue to give my COD nom to.
    7dn brought back fond memories – about a hundred years ago I was given a Times crossword book. In the opening chapter on how to solve them “Tea left to cool in the cup (7)” was given as a typical cryptic clue and was, therefore, my first Times clue ever.

    Full marks to the setter for today’s effort.

  6. Nice to have a themed puzzle. Having found Alice, March Hare and Mad Hatter, I also expected a dormouse. I have no idea how long it took me because I stopped so many times to chat to passing acquaintances and make a phone call, but an hour and fifteen minutes altogether, so probably about 50 minutes of actual solving time. What held me up was 12 (the last to go in), 13( took ages to spot it was an anagram) and 14.
    I liked the clue to 10 and I found 16 amusing. I would pick 12 as COD because it baffled me for so long and for it’s deceptive concealment of the definition, but the surface is a bit awkward, so I’ll go for 10 for it’s neat reference to the proverbial saying.
  7. An absolute cracker. 35 very enjoyable minutes to solve with a bit of online help to get parthenowhatsit and sadducean. I stopped putting marks next to clues I liked as I was ticking just about everything so any COD choices will be just fine. 23a actually made me laugh.

    Hands up everyone who thought 25 was going to be erection:-)

    1. I couldn’t possibly comment, but my first thought at 16d (with no checking letters in place) was PREGNANT.
      1. I also immediately thought of ‘pregnant’ for 16D, with ‘say’ for -EG-. I nominate 16D as COD, it works very neatly and IWS is a big family favourite.
  8. Made fairly good progress with this, until I came a bit unstuck on 4 / 25 / 27. I sort of guessed the first (but had to check), was completely surprised that 25 did actually begin with ‘sun’, and was somewhat stymied on 27 by my hasty entry of ‘sadducees’ for 15, without paying enough attention to the wordplay. COD maybe 8ac, 23ac, 4d, 16d, 21d, in a very good crossword! Loved the Alice theme.
  9. What a good challenge! Didn’t time myself, two breaks at work and then a stab over lunch, and I feel like a complete moron now. After guessing MARIS PIPER, SADDUCEAN, SUNSHINE from wordplay (I had to sit in on two hours of Biochemistry presentations yesterday, so PARTHENOGENESIS went in without much thinking), I am left staring at, of all things, 14a. Book, -A-ES, most likely coming from sticks, -A-S. Through the alphabet twice and best I could come up with was PAGES. So two days in a row I’ve had one slip by (good thing it’s Richard’s turn tomorrow, or you could have an empty blog the way this is going).
  10. Tough puzzle today, well over an hour, and had to look up Sadducean, partheno- etc., Maris Piper, and then also consult an on-line British slang dictionary for sunshine=cock, and pants=nonsense. Whew. Many of the rest are fairly fiendish as well. Warning: if you use the word “cock” that way here in the US, you’d get your head “boshed” in. I think 3D is the most clever clue today. Regards to all.
  11. Indeed, a really tough puzzle and for a moment I’d been tempted to mention 8 as a real chestnut, but I think it was needed as an opener among a set of very challenging clues.
    So much to like with this one and I’ll nom 16 for COD; I really appreciate it when a setter latches onto an idea and works hard to keep it running throughout the clue.
    Great job.
    1. 16dn seconded. Top class puzzle. 12 mins I think, but I didn’t know SADDUCEAN or ‘adduce’ so left that blank.
  12. Very nice. Not only a theme (and I wonder if 20D and 27A are meant to be part of it), but very nearly a pangram, which I hadn’t noticed until reading one of the posts above. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party made an appearance in the comments here just a week or two ago, and here it is again.

    The level of difficulty was above average, I thought, but just about where I like it — probably took about 90 minutes, with one mistake at 1A, where I invented the Marin variety of potato. My biggest problem was in the northeast corner, specifically 14A (knew it had to be James, but took a long time to see the book connection), 7D (CHALICE — I keep forgetting to think “cha” when I see “tea”), and, last to go in, 9A (SURTAX).

    More problems with British slang, of course, but not insurmountable. 24A had to be BOYISH, but what “bosh” had to do with pants I did not know. And then at 25A, well, I decided to wait until I had some checking letters before trying to figure that one out. (Reminds me of a young man I know who was going through a difficult time and was left in speechless embarrassment when his girlfriend’s English-born mother told him to keep his pecker up.)

    Favorites today are the four short ones.

  13. I agree with all – top notch puzzle.

    As a result – only 2 “easy” omissions from the blog:

    22a (In choir it’s)* terribly dramatic (10)

    18d State song about most of region (7)
    ARI ZON(e) A

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