23,916 – Sat 17 May

Posted on behalf of Andy Wallace who is back on blogging duty but away for a long weekend. I didn’t get an uninterrupted run at this one but was thoroughly stumped by 25A and two or three others including the MUFFIN MAN, so Andy’s 16-17 minutes probably beats me by about 10. And I’m sure 13.5 is the record “pie total” clocked up so far. Anyway, over to Andy:

I didn’t write down my solving time for this, but seem to remember it was around the 16-17 minute mark. A lot of British specialist knowledge required here, as well as a lot of specialist knowledge in general, so the pie chart is quite full.


10 W(REX)HAM – unusual to see REX=King spelt out in full!
11 P(REF,OR)M – Home (pronounced Hume) as in Sir Alec Douglas, British Prime Minister 1963-4.
12 B(ED)AND,BREAK,FAST – not quite sure how “to waste no time changing” = BREAK FAST. A couple of obscure meanings in Chambers support it though – “to change from a simple vowel to a diphthong” for example.
13 TIT,LED – where LED is “light-emitting diode”.
17 MORES,QUE – meaning “of Moorish architecture”. QUE is French for ‘that’.
21 PUCK OF POOK’S HILL (foppish look, luck)* – a book of stories by Kipling, narrated by Puck.
23 EXORDIA – (s)EX(y),(s)ORDI(d),(g)A(l) – last one I got, as I parsed it wrong, looking for a word meaning “stripping”, and had 22D wrong at first too, which didn’t help!
24 SPAMMER – hidden rev in “scaR EMMA PSychologically”.
25 SUPERGLUED – excellent cryptic def, my COD if we did them on Saturdays!


1 HAWK,BIT – I think I’ve heard of this before, but only in a crossword.
4 COME BY – COMEDY, with the D (end of lewd) replaced with a B.
5 ESPRESSO – (si)ES(ta),PRESS 0 – i.e. press nothing. The I made me think of ESPRESSI, but the correct plural is ESPRESSOS, so that wouldn’t work.
6 THE AKOND OF SWAT- another good literary anagram, being A,K inside (don’t show fate)*.
8 COMP,TON – COMP is short for Comprehensive; Denis Compton was one of England’s best batsmen from just after the war.
9 CHINLESS WONDER – nice cryptic def: it would be very unlikely to have a Beijing phone directory without the name CHIN in it!
15 MUFF,INMAN – i.e John Inman, the comedian, and the title of a nursery rhyme that might not be well known outside the UK.
16 JUMP(B)AIL – JUMP = start as in to jump start a car, or to be startled. I tentatively put in JUMP SHIP at first, to fit with SUPERSPEED at 25A, but I knew something wasn’t right!
19 BE(L)AR,US – the bear is a national symbol for Russia.
20 COS,S(p)I(d)E(r) – Aussie slang for a swimming costume.
22 CHO(M)P – I had CRA(M)P here at first, as CRAP is the same as CRAPS, meaning the dice gambling game.
Category Score Clues
Religion 0
Literature 2 6, 21
Music 0
Visual Arts 1 17A (architecture)
Popular Culture 3 9, 20 (Slang); 15 (Nursery rhyme)
Sport & Games 1 8
Natural World 1 1D
Science & Tech 1.5 24, (13)
Geography 2 10, 19
History 0
Other 2 11 (politics), 23 (vocabulary)
Total 13.5

9 comments on “23,916 – Sat 17 May”

  1. A nicely fiendish Saturday puzzle which stayed within the bounds of the Geneva Crossword Convention (though 8dn COMPTON may have constituted “enhanced coercive interrogation technique” for non-Brit solvers). Some particularly good disguises and misdirections, as at 2dn SPEEDSTER and 25ac SUPERGLUED (which also gets my vote), and 22dn DICE.

    I vaguely knew but was happy to be reminded of POOK and THE AKOND. 15dn MUFFIN MAN made me laugh out loud, but probably because it reminded me of the best thing in Shrek:

    The Muffin Man

    I think it took me a little more than half an hour. Good puzzle.

    1. It troubles me that torture seems like a commonplace word again today. That line in the movie “I’m not the monster here – you are” haunts me. But if there’s one answer to all our troubles, it’s humour (however you spell it).

      I’m going to be the dimwit who asks… why “Oy.”?

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this one but it was definitely a Saturday puzzle in that I was glad to have reference books to check things as I thought of them, 1dn and the literary titles for example.

    25 would definitely be my COD.

    On “break” = “change” at 12ac, Collins Thesaurus offers Change 5: break (Inf.) diversion, novelty, variation, variety. I’m not sure I follow that. When I solved it I was thinking of changing/breaking a £50 note, for example.

  3. I was being dim – but thanks for the steer on the Scottish grandchild. Who knew?

    As for the other, more serious, stuff… don’t apologise, dorosatt. My money’s on the good Americans, the ones like you. Don’t be silent.

  4. Agreed, a tricky but doable puzzle – good fare for a weekend. I’m always disappointed if they’re too easy.

    Alec Douglas Home was the last of a line as far as UK Prime Miniters was concerned. He never won an election but, rather like the present incumbent, took over office when MacMillan quit. For me, a young firebrand leftwing radical at the time, he suffered from: a too posh accent; the appearance of a walking Egyptian mummy; and an affectedly mispronounced name – write Home but say Hume.

    That great debunker of such things David Frost was at the time running a ground breaking show called That Was The Week That Was. During one week the PM had flu and the newspaper headlines said “Home in bed with flu”. Frost read this out as “Hume in bed with flu” and then added “or should that be pronounced Home in bed with flo?”. The guy never quite recovered and lost the election that followed not long afterwards. Jimbo.

  5. He was actually The Earl Home addressed as Lord Home – oh, the niceties of the English aristocracy!
    A difficult puzzle much harder than this week’s Saturday.
    1. The first UK Prime Minister to have been born in the 20th century and the last to have been chosen by the Monarch from those on offer.
  6. Compton that is at 8d – not only an England cricketer who scored more than 100 first class tons but also a professional footballer at Arsenal.

    I found this difficult and still have queries about the wordplay because I don’t understand one of the “easies” at 3a.

    I DNF because I BIFD SUPERFLEET at 25a from Extra-fast and, of course, was wondering where the tube came into it. Doh!

    I also had CRAMP at 22d with CRAP from DICE (perhaps it should have been DIE). Despite finally unravelling the wordplay at 23a to get EXORDIA (unknown word for me) I did not get 22d CHOMP before resorting to PB’s blog.

    The “easies” are 7 in total:

    1a Army entertainer (4)

    3a As experiment (it’s nice if) reserved (c)*old (10)
    SCIENTIFIC. Where is the anagrind in this I wonder? This does not have the complexion of an “easy” at all to me.

    18a Exchange racket before smashing (6)
    CON FAB. Nice Wimbledon surface.

    26a African runners appear, as anthem may be over (4)
    SUNG. Where anthem could have been carol and runners are not skis or rivers for a change.

    2d He’s Fleet Street’s deeper sort (9)
    SPEEDSTER. No mistaking the anagrind here with a “sort” of (ST’S DEEPER)*. A great example of lift and separate and excellent newspapers surface.

    7d Gold in Sunshine State leads to area’s growth (5)
    FL OR A. OK once you realise that Florida is the Sunshine State despite the line in Bobby McGee – “from the coalmines of Kentucky to the California sun”. Too much diverting song lyric knowledge.

    17d Bubbly fellow’s eating very soft little sweeties (7)
    MO PP ETS. Despite a nailed on PP for very soft and the M from MORESQUE at 17a (I wanted an extra O in that) it took me ages to realise that the Bubbly fellow was MOET. I wonder when M. Chandon will have his day?

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