23891 – Morning campers!

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time – 16:53 

Quite tricky in places, and from the comments received so far it looks like the literary stuff (3, 22, 28) slowed a few people down. Luckily this is one of my stronger areas so those three clues went in quickly. 14 was the toughest clue for me, although I still don’t get 16. I can’t imagine what non-Brit or non-telly watching solvers will make of 4 but it was a good clue all the same. In fact, I’ll have it as my COD. 

1 (CALLS HER UP)* – SEPULCHRAL. Spent some time thinking that “New” was the anagram indicator rather than “New spell”.
9 IS,L in MAID
10 DIE HARD – that’s “straight as a DIE” and “HARD as nails”.
12 MAKE THE CUT – for non-sporting types, this is a golfing term: after the first two rounds in a competition, all those who are x above par cannot play the final two rounds as they haven’t made the cut.
15 O,CE,LOT – I wouldn’t necessarily describe that as “rude” – a bit informal perhaps.
16 CELIBATE – One of the last few I filled in and I did so without knowing why as I was going from the definition only. One of the commenters has mentioned that LIBATE is in Chambers but as I don’t have a copy to hand I can’t really say much about it.
18 PARA,A in GUY
23 SOD – the last letters from “accountantS dO neeD”
28 hidden in “SomerSET House” – got lucky here as I knew the Starkadders were from “Cold Comfort Farm”. Probably not too difficult to get though, even if you don’t know the book.
3 LEAVES OF GRASS – another bit of literary luck as I knew this and even owned a copy once.
4 HID,EH,I – Great clue but I’m sure non-Brit solvers are going EH? right now. HI-DE-HI  was an 80s sitcom set in a holiday camp in the late 50s. Quite amusing at the time but I’m sure it’s dated fairly badly by now.
7 HEADS,EA – I liked “half chance” for HEADS even though it took a while to spot.
14 I in COMPOST,lEsS – like Peter B, this one gave me the most trouble. I didn’t know it meant a family of flowers so I just had to trust the wordplay. COMPOST for “mulch” seems as clear as day now so I don’t why it took so long to spot. “Less evenly” was very devious though, especially in the context of the surface reading.
17 S,TODO in MAN
22 CRABBE[-d] – final piece of luck, literature-wise. I knew the poet but didn’t know that “crabbed” can mean “hard to decipher”. Seemed a reasonable guess to make though.

37 comments on “23891 – Morning campers!”

  1. This felt like Times crosswords of times past, with literature which slowed me down, crafty language for wordplays, and some slow progress. After about 11 minutes I’d remembered George CRABBE at 22 (by way of Peter Grimes) and bluffed SETH Starkadder at 28 without knowing who he was – I’m guessing he’s a Dickens character (wrong: He’s in Cold Comfort Farm, which is one of Tony Sever’s favourite books I believe – I already thought this puzzle would suit him better than me).

    I was then well stuck with 15, 18, 26, 14 and 3 unsolved. For 3 I’d thought of LEAVES OF GRASS (collection of Walt Whitman poems it turns out) but didn’t know it so left it to be confirmed by checkers. 14 was causing the most trouble and would give me first letters for three the others, so it was the first to look at. Eventually I saw “lEsS evenly”, but initially thought this was in the middle of the word, despite having both S’s. Off again to ponder the others, and worked out 15 (C.E. curiously used in both this and 16), and 26 which should have been much quicker. Back to 14 and after putting the ES at the end and racking my brains for names of plants, I saw mulch=COMPOST, which I must remember, and COMPOS(I)T,ES. As so often, I’d been thinking at the wrong level – looking for a flower variety when needing a family. As I’m weak on plants at the best of times, this combined two of my solving problems. 18 then fell reasonably quickly and in went 3D. Stopped the clock at 18:54.

    Favourite clue was 4 which should have been easier than I found it, just from 2-2-2. 18 is good from a ‘baffle the solver’ point of view, and I should have understood “man dropping in” faster – something similar was used in a clue for PARANG in the last championship final.

    1. You posted whilst I was writing, Peter. I’m delighted to find that I wasn’t alone in finding it difficult. Maybe I was a bit hard on myself.
    2. I’m just going back over puzzles I’d missed earlier in the year, and this came as the last of a group of five. As I felt I hadn’t done too badly at it, I thought I’d check to see how the opposition had fared, and was pleased to see that my 9:07 held up pretty well (it might have been slightly faster if I hadn’t felt tiredness setting in, though on the other hand I’d played myself in by then).

      All the literary references (LEAVES OF GRASS, CRABBE, SETH) were right up my street, with the last coming (as you remembered) from one of my favourite books, Cold Comfort Farm.

      I’m praying for something like this in Cheltenham.

  2. Got off to a flying start with most of the RH falling into place quite quickly, the exceptions being 7,16 and 20 which remained incomplete for a long time.

    Having eventually solved 7 I only just this moment spotted why HEADS = half-chance.

    I was puzzled by “Rarely” in 16 but I guess it’s fitting because neither Collins nor COED gives “libate” but Chambers lists it and adds that it is rare.

    I’d never heard of PENSEE but it was deducible from the clue as I know “pensive”.

    I also wondered why “Conservative” at 10, thinking that “diehard” is not reserved for describing politicians of that party, but then I realised the capital C is there only because it is the first word.

    On the LH side the top half put up resistance but gradually took shape. I guessed LEAVES at 3 but didn’t know the literary reference so the remainder of the clue remained unsolved for ages.

    The SW corner caused me terrible problems and I must have spent half an hour on this alone. I didn’t know COMPOSITES as flowers and Starkadder at 29 baffled me before I spotted it might be a hidden word. I have seen an adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm but the family name hadn’t stuck.

    At 23 I thought of SOD straight away but having given up trying to explain it I have just spotted that “backers” refers to end letters.

    I’m glad I was not blogging today or I would really have felt the pressure whilst solving. It was bad enough for me anyway as I hate being stuck for 10 minutes or so without writing in another word, and this happened more than once here, so apart from the first glorious run of success I didn’t enjoy it much. This is no reflection on the undoubted quality of the puzzle only on my inability to stay on the setter’s wavelength.

  3. I think I might even have beaten PB’s time (for once) but for interruptions. The literary refs play to my strengths – though not the botanical ones. I’ll choose 20A as COD. A strong endorsement from me also for ‘Cold Comfort Farm’.

    Tom B.

  4. I was interrupted halfway through this and had to go out for a couple of hours, which I hate these days although I used to cope with it when working. I had fewer troubles than Peter and Jack because I’m OK on flowers and got 14D straight away which gave me PARA something at 18A and that had to be PARAGUAY. That enabled me to guess LEAVES OF GRASS. I also guessed CELIBATE (I think “libate” quite hard for the daily cryptic), PENSEE, SETH and HI-DE-HI (apparently an old TV series). I liked 14D, SAVIOUR at 21D and to complete the gardening entries WEED at 25D. I would guess about 40 minutes in total to solve. Jimbo.
  5. Too many dodgy clues and literary refs to finish this one. Got bored after about 15 minutes and went and did something else instead.
    One saving grace was 29a, only because it reminded me of Graeme Garden in the new definitions round of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” when he offered, “Undeterred – a skid mark”
    I’ve heard this morning that I’ve qualified for Cheltenham this year, though I don’t think PB et al will be quaking in their boots at this news.
  6. 16A – CE = Church (of England), libate = “make offering” – a rare word as already noted, but it can be worked out from libation – the “pouring forth of wine or other liquid in honour of a god or goddess” (Chambers – which just says “(rare) to make a libation to” for libate.) This clue is one of those where “A to B” = “A next to B” = B,A.

    Forgot to mention that 24A brought back inaccurate memories of Henry Cooper and “slapsplash it all over” in Brut 33 ads back in the 1970s.

  7. A 47 minute slog with a few 5-minutes spells of nothingness. Some neat clues but a few I’m not that happy with. For instance, is “need cutting” fair to indicate grass in a clue that already his non-literary types struggling? In my garden the grass only needs cutting when it’s long. Secondly, does redoubt really mean KEEP losing confidence? It might mean only a second time. Thirdly, yer man Crabbe isn’t exactly up there with your Wordsworths your Byrons and your Pam Ayreses so to use an obscure word for the SI as well is a bit stiff if you ask me.

    That said, I enjoyed some of the short-word clues like weed and sod and thought “new spell” was a clever anagrind but my COD nom goes to 5. I had a hunch it was something like abductee or abducted but it took a while for the penny to drop on duct/channel.

  8. Blimey! I was beginning to think that my brain cells were just a bit frazzled being Friday and all, so was quite relieved coming here to find it wasn’t just me. I got the hidden word in 28ac easily enough, but 3d threw me completely beyond ‘leaves of’, and 22d I sort of half guessed and confirmed with Google. COD nominations for me today 15ac, 21d, 26ac, 4d.
  9. This took me a full hour to solve, though I filled the SE corner quickly and had no trouble getting “Leaves of Grass”, ‘Crabbe'(just from the checked R & B) and ‘pensee’. But I was slow to get sepulchral and ‘hi-di-hi’ (which means nothing to me) and took ages to see ‘composites’ (which I do know in the horticultural sense but very rarely come across) and ‘ocelot’.
    The best clue for me was 14, which stumped for so long. I didn’t like ‘Half-chance’ for HEADS, nor the clue to 15a, and what on earth ‘spell’ is doing in 1a I’ve no idea; the grammar of the clue just doesn’t work for me.
    1. I took “New spell” to be the anagram indicator, which I thought pretty clever.
      1. ‘New spell’ is the anagram indicator, but can you explain to thicko here why it’s clever and how it works. Is ‘new’ an adverb meaning ‘newly’ and ‘spell’ a verb? That might work in a rather tortuous way. Clearly there’s something I’m mssing because nobody else has commented on it.
  10. I got a bit held up by the newly discovered poetry anthology “blades of grass” that I put in from all the checking letters, except the b of course. Which rather delayed getting supulchral. Then I finally saw sepulchral thinking it was an anagram of “spells calls” before realising what was really going on.

    One of those puzzles as someone said above where there were several periods of several minutes where nothing went in. Composites held me up too, before I kicked myself once I spotted “man dropping in” with great relief.

  11. Oddly (judging by the comments above), I didn’t find this too difficult, liking the literary references. I had the whole thing done within the half hour bar 20 ac, which then held me up for a while. Neildubya, interestingly, thought this clue so easy (I presume) that he didn’t even bother to gloss it. There’s no accounting for the way different minds work. I suppose I should have spotted the PEN for SWAN reading more quickly, but even so it seems to me slightly unreasonable of the setter not to offer any hint at all that we were looking for a French word. I do not think “pensée” has yet been naturalised to the extent that it can be regarded as an English word. Or am I nit-picking?

    Michael H

    1. I think the rule is that if it’s in the dictionary it’s okay. “Pensee” is in the COED and Chambers but not in Collins.
    2. It’s not so much that I found it easy (although I certainly didn’t struggle with it), just that there didn’t seem much to say about it.
  12. And a third in a week to catch me, having invented the poet CRIBBE. Enjoyed this one most of the way, though, solved in a few breaks at work. Couldn’t spell SEPULCHRAL at first, which held me up for a while. I have nightmares of “Hi-De-Hi” which my parents thought was hysterical, and PENSEE is a great word that needs to be used more (I thought it would get a bit more recognition due to J.K.Rowling’s little pun).
  13. A tough nut today, and I admit defeat due to never having heard of Mr. Crabbe, or the ‘crabbed’ definition either. So I missed that. Had to guess a few others like 16, 4, 20 (pen=swan? how?) but my guesses worked on those. Leaves of Grass may be today’s bone toss to the Americans, and it went in as the first of all for me. I think it’s the most common response to “Name anything written by Walt Whitman.” The puzzle took fully an hour. See you next week.
  14. Thanks to all on PENSEE. I think I have to concede that the COED entry clinches it, and that “pensée” is now an English word (of French origin). So I was nitpicking. And, yes, I’d also like to know what J.K. Rowling’s little pun was (I’m one of the few persons left on the planet who hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books.)

    For Kevin from NY, a “pen” is the name for a female swan.

    Michael H

    1. Could someone please give me the gen on 19d and 26a
      They have me totally stumped, but I guess they are easy as they are not even mentioned here.
    2. Re: pen = swan. Thanks very much, I hadn’t known that definition. Appreciate it.
  15. This one needed three sittings – about 20 minutes before work this morning, 30 at lunch, another 30 this evening and I still needed to cheat for 22D (although I’d made what turned out to be a correct guess).
    What a monster. Thought some clues were unnecessarily obscure but there were several flashes of brilliance too and I ticked the well-crafted 24 as COD.
    Sole gripe was the anagrind at 29 which felt like a bit of a stretch for the sake of good surface.
  16. Could someone please explain wordplay of 27a – I’m assming the answer is bar none.
  17. Could someone please explain wordplay of 27a – I’m assming the answer is bar none.
  18. Stella Gibbons must be delighted, her book being referred to in The Times and The Indy on the same day.

    Nobody I think mentioned 13A. This seems to me to be the sort of weak clue that I thought The Times didn’t carry: it poses as a 2-defs clue, yet although ‘paper’ is a def. of SUN, ‘shiny’ isn’t. OK it’s quite easy, but I couldn’t believe it really was the answer until I had both checking letters.

    1. Not sure I follow. I thought of “shiny paper” as “a (news)paper that shines” and it seemed to fit.
  19. hi-de-hi
    do-si-do thought the same the other day when it was in
    the only solutions for (2-2-2)?
    hardly need a clue at all
  20. I must confess that I don’t pursue the Times crossword till the end but I do solve as many clues as I can every day.

    Among them today was 22dn where I knew the poet as well as the deletion fodder.

    Good wordplay but isn’t the clue a little unsatisfactory? How can “handwriting so hard to read” yield an adjective, ‘crabbed’? Wouldn’t one expect a noun like, say, scrawl?

    1. I wish to add that I posted the above message too soon without entering my ID or name. – Rishi
      1. CRABBED – You could read the clue as handwriting so, hard writing to read…
        I.e. handwriting like this (is) hard to read. That will give you an adjective.
  21. I found this very difficult with some crafty clueing. It was very rewarding to finish it eventually with a little help of Mr Google.

    Surprisingly there are a dozen “easies” left out of the blog. Some easier than others. There are a few queries about these above but here they are together:

    6a (Hose)* slipped into this? (4)

    13a Shiny paper? (3)
    SUN. This would have been considered easy in the Sun’s own cryptic – which is where I started with cryptic crosswords back in the early 1970s. With cryptic and “quick” clues leading to the same answer the Sun Cryptic is a great place to start. I soon realised that the cryptic clues were often easier to get than the “quick” ones.

    20a Swan – observe reflection (6)
    PEN SEE. Obviously there should be an acute accent on the middle E but I don’t know how to do those in here. Pensee = reflection is easy enough for anyone with a basic knowledge of French n’est-ce-pas?

    26a Bound to believe if one’s told (7)
    TRUSSED. Sounds like TRUST.

    27a First among agricultural buildings, without exception (3,4)
    BARN ONE. Funny.

    1d Sport doesn’t add up to anything (4)
    SUM 0. Tell that to those large Japanese gentlemen.

    2d Announce time and cost of delivery (7)
    POST AGE. Is this an e-age clue where to POST is to ANNOUNCE? Presumably on Face-Twit or similar?

    8d Like some species in (garden,need)* moving (10)
    ENDANGERED. Spotting the anagrist made more difficult by that darned comma!

    11d Greedily get one’s oats? (3,4,1,5)
    EAT LIKE A HORSE. One does not normally get one’s oats from a nosebag though?

    19d Keep losing confidence in fortification (7)

    21d Relish welcoming one’s rescuer (7)
    SAV 1 OUR

    25d Small daughter a nuisance in bed (4)
    WEE D

Comments are closed.