23,898 – Saturday, 26 April

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic

Solving time: 16:30

The Times Crossword is a commuting habit for me, and so I don’t often do Saturday’s. I may change that, because this was an enjoyable puzzle that seemed just a bit scarier than the average weekday one.

I liked the way some clues, particularly 10 and 23, have rather fiddly wordplay but somehow are expressed in short, fairly natural surfaces. But my favourite clue was 18 – just for showing that WISE MEN reversed is only one letter different from nemesis.


1 LOW (B) ROW – “down” means “low” at least in the sense of “depressed”
9 COL – I needed both crossing letters for this. Two meanings a) Cleudo’s COL(onel) Mustard, and b) geographical term for a pass
11 NO W(AD)AYS – I confused myself slightly by imagining that “our Times” was A.D.
12 KYRGYZ – last letters – a tricky word with a clear way of spelling it right
16 WIDOW + SMITE – elegant six lettered clue. “partner left” for widow is great
18 W + ITCH + HAZE + L
19 E(rsat)Z + R.A.
23 JA + NEE + YR + E
28 NON-SKID – (KIND SON)* – don’t entirely get the definition. I guess it is a reference to skid-pans, where you wouldn’t want non-skid tyres?
29 T(A X F)REE – I really thought “actor” for ““Tree” had died out. Having just looked him up, I find that he changed his name from Beerbohm and was the half-brother of the author of Zuleika Dobson.


1 LAC(e) O(f) NIC(e) – using “fine fabric” to indicate LACE, which then needs to be truncated, seems a bit too indirect to me. Though I suppose the clue would have been too easy if it had been “Lace of Nice, all cut short (7)”
2 WOLF WHISTLE – cryptic definition
3 RESIDE – reversed hidden
5 IVOR(y) – “the ivories” meaning piano keys
6 HO (B(ook) BY) IST – took me a while to see that Jack was HOIST
8 P+ RE + ZZ + I.E. – Glad I resisted the temptation to put in PRESENT on the basis of the definition. I like “sharp double bends” for ZZ
14 POLE S A(PAR)T – took a bit of unpicking – Norm=PAR and ROD=pole
17 C HI P MUNK (=”monk”)
18 WISE MEN, being NEMESIS(rev) with S(outh) changed to W(est) – very clever.
20 ACE TONE – another very good surface
21 V(E.R.T.)EX – apparently ERT is the Greek broadcasting service
26 LEN(t)

9 comments on “23,898 – Saturday, 26 April”

  1. At 21D I suspect they meant RTE, the Irish broadcasters. And at 8D I think the sharpness was meant to direct me to Z bends rather than the S ones I initially went for in ‘pressie’. I’d recommend doing the Saturday puzzles – they’re often very good, and I think being selected for a Saturday is a feather in a setter’s cap.

    They seem to be quite hard at the moment, though I think there were some even tougher ones a year or two ago. This one took me 14:28.

  2. An absolute beast to solve. It took me well over an hour even after I had given up trying to do it from my head and resorted to every reference book and on-line solver available.

    Are Saturdays getting harder? Today’s puzzle which I shall be blogging next weekend also gave me some grief, though not nearly as much as this one.

  3. Really excellent puzzle, tough. I too had PRESSIE at first. I read it as RTE also.
  4. Agreed a first class puzzle. Forgot to time myself but not quick. I also fell into the “pressie” trap. I had finished it all but 5D which for some reason gave me immense problems. Joanna who as I racked my brains? When the J=piano=tinkle the ivories penny dropped I immediately called for another whisky! Jimbo.
  5. Agreed. Really fine puzzle and just right for a more leisurely weekend solve. I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Saturdays of late. ERT is indeed the Greek state broadcaster (I spent many hours watching terrible game shows and cartoons on it to learn the language over there) and the clue works both ways, so you can take your pick of ERT or RTE. Lots of elegant clues. 16 I especially liked.
  6. I too thought this was a very good puzzle, difficult but satisfying. Just had to resort to Chambers solver for MILQUETOAST even after eventually spotting the anagram. Well over an hour, with an accomplice!

    Paul S.

  7. Presumably this is STUD? No mention, so probably easy, but I can’t explain it. OK one presses a stud to close it, but service centre? Is it something sexual that an innocent like me can’t understand?
    1. Yes. That’s right. A stud (or stud-farm) is a centre where mares are serviced.
  8. I expected to see some comment about obscure words being clued with anagrams for 25a MILQUETOAST. Instead only one correspondent remarks about having to look it up and our esteemed blogmeister dumps it into the “easies”.

    Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I cry in my best Franglais.

    Despite that – perhaps because of it – an excellent crossword with some great subjects. Pyramid builders, a book hero and heroine, and a denizen of one of the Stans with no vowels. What’s not to like?

    Just the 5 “easies” including the titular beauty:

    15a Short film part for one that’s the bulldog type? (4)
    CLIP. OK that IS easy – my FOI.

    25a Timid chap (quiet – almost)* unnaturally (11)
    MILQUETOAST. Caspar Milquetoast is an American cartoon character invented in 1924 apparently. Fancy not knowing that? I had to Google it once I had enough checkers to attempt unravelling of the anagrist.

    27a I lEt GaOl’s odd characters escape (3)

    7d Leaves having packed one’s bags? (3)

    24d Service centre one’s pressed to close? (4)
    STUD. One query about this above. I can’t believe someone would know about Milquetoast whilst not knowing about Stud Farms? Takes all sorts I suppose.

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