23941 – strange birds

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 41 mins so far

Still two missing! Don’t think I’ve written one of these blog posts without completing the crossword – but I don’t have time to sit and think today – can’t do 1A or 3D yet. Started off well enough. Stopped to try and understand some of these. Not a clue what Anna is about in 14; not sure about 23.
I’m fairly sure these will all come to me as soon as I press send!

I didn’t know lady’s slipper or stake net – but they were both quite gettable from the wordplay.

I enjoyed what I managed – there are some good, fun clues here.


1 ?
10 ROC,KN(R)OLL – Roc is the mythical bird – and an anagram of another mythical creature found in 17.
11 NIECE – initial letters of ‘not inheriting estate, cousin excluded’
14 PIE – Anna’s constituent? Haven’t sussed this yet.
17 ORC,HID – I suppose if you know that a lady’s slipper is an orchid, this is quite easy.
19 FILLIP – PILL,IF reversed
23 AS,H – I first thought this was ‘no less’=as but that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Not sure how ths works.
26 STORM – STORY with the last letter changed.
29 MA(RINA)TE – anagram of RAIN inside MATE.
30 CYGNET sounds like SIGNET.


3 ?
9 DOMAIN – I think this is ‘do ma in’
13 SIMPLES,I’M,ON – I’d only come across the medicinal meaning of SIMPLE recently – and it wasn’t even in a crossword!
25 [b]UNION
22 RANSOM – sounds like Ransome – he wrote Swallows and Amazons.

30 comments on “23941 – strange birds”

  1. 1A & 3D
    Just had a quick look before a full-on assault.
    1A – “Get” as in take/obtain etc. + “shot” as in attempt; put them together and…
    3D – Sequence is the def – old railwaymen refers to a union.
  2. Anna is an old Indian coin. It was in use before decimalisation. Sixteen annas made one rupee. Now 100 paise make a rupee. Pie was of a lesser denomination. It was one-twelfth of an anna.
  3. I came here even before attempting 3dn. But Anax anticipated me. I didn’t see his hint before I posted my answer for 1ac.
  4. OK-ish time, about 15 minutes.
    Didn’t have any serious hold-ups but took some time working out why WEREWOLF had to be right at 1D – as it turns out this is a very well-crafted (and disguised) clue and my COD nom.
    A few too many full anagrams and I’ve never been a fan of “trouble” as a post-fodder anagrind; although I understand the argument that it equates to use in phrases such as “back trouble”, purists may rail against the absence of in/with – I’m sure this would be true if a setter used an equivalent “difficulty” instead of “in/with difficulty”.
    Or maybe not.
    Who cares?

    Two noms, then – 1D and 20D which also raised a smile.

  5. I enjoyed this and completed it in around 30 minutes which is about my average, I think. Having finished I needed to look up a few things to explain the clues. For example LEMAN at 15 was new to me and STAKE NET at 18. My COD is 9 as it raised a smile.
  6. 12:34 for me, with about 3 minutes at the end trying to think of an author’s name to fit into 22D. Ended up going through the alphabet to get it, then realised I’d read the clue wrong when I got to R. That and 1D were the only two that I had to think much about though – the rest went in very quickly.

  7. I agree on ‘trouble’ in 16D. 1D is nice, but I prefer adjectives to come before nouns. I wanted to nominate 22D as COD but now think it doesn’t quite work: my dictionary (Chambers) doesn’t recognise ‘extortionate’ meaning ‘relating to extortion’, which would have to be ‘extortionary’. So I’ll choose 21D.

    Tom B.

  8. A very straightforward solve, though, like Anax, I had to ponder the wordplay for WEREWOLF at the end. Made slightly easier, but less interesting by the fact that at least two of the entries, with very similar (or perhaps identical) wordplay, appeared recently in a Times Jumbo. I find this happening too often.
  9. 11:10 with about two minutes at the end getting 1a and 1d (excellent clues as it turned out). In fact, I’ll give 1d my vote. I didn’t think there was much special today, but then again I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it – just a reasonably easy start to the week.
  10. Agree that this was an OK puzzle, nothing more. One quibble would be with the def at 27: how does (being) full of energy = animation? That would have to be animated, surely?

    22:35, last to go in were 1a/1d and 15. Didn’t know leman (only used to take notice of the rude bits in Chaucer) and took a while to see how werewolf worked once I’d got the w from wintry.

    No ticks so no COD nom.

    My new, New Uxbridge English Dictionary defines Fillip as a great boost for the Queen and marinade (close enough to marinate) as soft drink for weddings.

    1. Collins defines “animation” as “the condition of being alive”. I think that fits the clue, doesn’t it?
  11. As with most others a straightforward start to the week with no particular gripes or high spots. Foggyweb asked about 23A and I have it as “As Hot” ie it’s “not cooler than”. I also took longer than I should to suss out the word play to WINTRY and WEREWOLF. Jimbo.
    1. “I was suprised to see so many of you prepared to justify badly designed clues. Is there a tendency amongst Times Crossword solvers to want to justify clues they’ve solved even if they are poorly designed?”

      I entirely agree, for what it is worth when I have made observations I receive rather snappy responses. Those clues to which you take objection I also had problems with – it simply is not good enough to say “I solved it” and pat oneself on the back.

      I managed to complete all apart from 18 dn and I still have no idea why the answer is “Stake Net”.

      I would add that “Rock ‘n Roll” – even allowing for the abbreviated and is to my mind a form of music rather than dance. I’m also sont convinced that some = any (28 dn)


      1. 18dn: “Stake net” is defined in COED as “a fishing net hung on stakes”. It’s also in Chambers. Foggy has explained the wordplay (taken = caught, inside set = group). The definition is “This should get filled with fish”.

        “Rock ‘n’ roll” is listed in all the Big Three dictionaries, and two of them, having defined it in relation to the music, give a secondary meaning -dancing to such music. If it’s in the dictionary it’s acceptable.

    2. 23A: Jimbo’s explanation is, I think, a bit more than remotely credible – that’s exactly how I’d interpret it.

      27A: ‘Being full of energy’ adequately defines ANIMATION for me.

      1D: ‘being transformable’ is, I think, the definition, so there’s no sing./pl. switch (i.e. this is not an &lit). As commented above, I’m not too happy with the word-order here.

      9D: You may be right about ‘matricide’. As it stands, a question-mark appears to be missing.

      Tom B.

    3. At 27 the definition is “being full of energy” and this meaning of “animation” is confirmed by Collins and COED, and in the latest edition of Chambers.

      At 9dn “matricide” would be more explicit, but the clue is perfectly acceptable as it stands, as far as I can see. No need to make things too easy.

      At 1dn the plural “people like us” clues “we” as Foggy has already said, and isn’t a werewolf (singular) a being that is transformable?

  12. 14 minutes, last three of them going through the alphabet on 22 and resisting the temptation to invent the author “TAXSEM”.

    This was definitely a puzzle more of the “clever up the wordplay” form, and I liked it. I’d be intrigued to see if johnyoung24a is right about 9d, and the phrase “commit matricide in field” is perversely appealing (sorry, mum).

    New words determined from wordplay: STAKE NET, SHEEP TICK, and I wrote in PIE and SIMPLE SIMON without getting the wordplay, at least initially.

    Having read trite_law’s user information, I’m going to try not to argue with him.

    1. >”Having read trite_law’s user information, I’m going to try not to argue with him.”

      Fair enough, but I know who my money would be on in a fist fight.

  13. As I understand it Azed/Mephisto puzzles are quite distinct from their blocked grid counterparts – not just in the allowing the obscure answers but in the general rules applied to clue-writing. They are based, naturally, on the Ximenean model, but definitions (again, as I understand it) must be verbatim from permitted dictionaries.

    It is as well that daily cryptic setters are allowed more leeway in terms of defining answers, and that’s for a number of reasons – primarily, IMHO, that we would end up with blocked versions of barred puzzles with the same rules and feel as each other. Surely we’d never want to end up with just one type of cryptic crossword?

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that The Times crossword editor is no pushover when it comes to getting away with loose clueing. Yes, it happens occasionally and most on this blog notice it, but setters are not given the same latitude as on some other quality dailies. And that’s a very good thing all round; one can identify a Times puzzle as readily as a Guardian or Indy one because their crossword editors approve a particular style.

    “Justifying” poor clues on here just doesn’t happen. Some contributors may perhaps not spot an error of technique or an inaccuracy of definition, but those who do will point it out – often quite forcefully.

    Remember, though, that this blog is called Times for The Times and its primary purpose is – always has been –a forum for recording solving times, plus a few comments about puzzles. It isn’t intended to be a full-blown critique on style and technical proficiency. And thank heaven for that – to whatever extent one is a devotee of cryptic puzzles the fundamental aim is to gain pleasure from it. Solving a crossword isn’t an exam. And every setter is going to challenge solvers to a different extent and that will be affected by many factors; style, technique, imagination, originality – and one can take those four “themes” and every solver will have different demands and expectations for each one. A fantastically original, two-word cryptic definition will probably leave cold those who enjoy the feast of a fourteen-worder with eight wordplay components to unravel.

    The setter can’t please everyone, and from my experience of other areas in life – TV is a prime example – the “pleasing everyone” concept too often relegates an otherwise good product to a “lowest common denominator” one.

  14. Most of this took me about 30 minutes, but I had to return later and guess at 14A and 8D. I guessed correctly, but I don’t understand how ‘swan’ means ‘pen’. I may have raised this before, and forgotten the answer, but nevertheless I still don’t know. As for the controversial items, my two cents are: I agree with the dissenters about 23, it is a tortured clue; 1D is correctly clued (‘being transformed’) as singular; 9 works both ways but something like ‘field of matricide’ would have been funnier; and, finally, I think 23 is OK as written.
    Regards to all.
    1. “My postings above were meant to suggest that before you gleefully comment that a clue is valid because a dictionary gives a relevant meaning somewhere in its entry, ask yourself if the thousands of solvers who enjoy the crossword, but do not have your specialised knowledge, would agree.”

      No ‘specialised knowledge’ is required to read through the various meanings of words listed in a dictionary.

      1. What I think separates the defs in a barred puzzle from those in a daily cryptic is the free use one “one-way” definitions. For example, if you look up COST in a dictionary it’s unlikely you’ll see it defined as DAMAGE – but look up DAMAGE and you’ll see its colloquial listing as COST.
        The key to using valid defs in clues is to acknowledge their use in active language in all its shades. “Being transformable” / “transformable being” – yes, in normal speech you’d opt for the latter, but poets have been messing around with word order to suit rhyme and metre for centuries.
  15. “The speed with which the justifications above appeared, when they would have been far more helpful earlier today, supports my argument.”

    I meant to reply on this point but forgot to do so earlier. I don’t think your argument is supported by the evidence as you have presented it. Most contributors to this forum have work and other commitments, and many of them are on different continents and in different time zones. People come here when they have time.

  16. 9:06 for this one. I can see dorosatt’s point but would say that it’s Monday which still seems to be the day for a relatively easy puzzle so I don’t mind some fairly familiar ideas.

    On the purpose of the blog, it’s evolved from the original version and I’m quite happy for clue style and so on to be discussed. But if you’re going to complain about poor clues, you do need to nail them pretty accurately. I speak from experience – I’ve moaned sometimes, only to discover that it’s my fault. I’m probably guilty of the ‘snappy’ answers to Jason, but so far I don’t think I’ve agreed with many (any?) of his complaints. Where I do think a complaint is justified (Vintage/veteran cars for example), I say so.

    On Rock’n’roll: types of music and dance have shared names for centuries, so it’s no great surprise that this applies here.

    The real dictionary words in this puzzle are leman in 15 and Anna = 12 pies in 14. In both cases, it should be possible to get the answer from def and checking letters, and then learn a bit of trivia for next time.

  17. I have to say my experience is the other side of the coin – that when I or one of my follow-solvers isn’t able to solve a clue, nine times out of ten we’ll say (and honestly believe) that the clue was a poor one, even if others disagree.
    Makes it less painful, I suppose!

  18. Blimey- this one caused quite a storm? I shan’t make a comment in case someone challenges me to a fist fight!

    There are 8 “easies” and 2 “not so easies” omitted:

    1a Unfriendly? Get shot (6)
    WIN TRY. Some might have found this easy – except Foggy – but it was my LOI.

    4a In pain? (Diagnose)* problem (8)

    12a Wandering (amid flowers)*, I don’t know what to say (5,4,2)

    21a Sport a jumper (7)

    3d Old railwaymen turned up in sequence (3)
    RUN. N.U.R or National Union of Railwaymen. It did not have to be Railwaypeople in those days.

    6d Indistinguishable changes made in (second print)* (11)

    16d Be near (rough, be in)* trouble (9)
    NEIGHBOUR. There was some whinging about this – seems fine to me?

    20d Rustic bird Harry ditched (7)
    P (H) EASANT

    21d Trust councillor to make changes (6)

    28d Some part of Germany (3)
    ANY. Well, Bavaria has too many letters?

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