Moderately difficult puzzle with what seems like a good balance between snippets of knowledge and wordplay – the knowledge is mostly in half points I think.

Solving time 8:30

1 CHAR IS MA – char = a cleaner – nicely disguised – I’m sure others will join me in expecting MA to be at the beginning.
5 CAS(B.A.)H – a citadel in a N African city
11 OVER,STAYER = a racehorse with stamina
13 AL(l),TO(o) – which of course isn’t that high a voice, despite the name
15 SQU(Al)ID – first of two cases today where I break my usual rule of using CAPS for the letters in the answer – the lower case in element symbols makes ‘AL’ hard to recognize
17 LEA(P)D,A,Y – &lit
19 SCISSOR – is = “takes place” in cross* [for US solvers puzzled by the surface, New Cross is a district of SE London.
21 P,AGE – “eight” in the online version should have been 8 of course
25 BALSA,MIC,VINE,GAR=rag (=newspaper) rev. Not mad keen on recorder = mic, but it’s only 3 letters of 15.
27 EARWIG – 2 defs – “bug for Americans” as the dictionaries still have bug=”any insect” as ‘chiefly US’, but I suspect this is behind the times.
28 BLUE=”blew”,NOTE=tone*. “blew” is my buggest quibble today – you don’t blow the piano, drums, or string bass, and “Played sax/trumpet/trombone” (or in jazz lingo, “horn”) would have worked just as well. – see comments …
1 C(avalr)Y,CLOPS
3 I,RRE=err rev.,SO=very,LUTE
6 AWRY – R in way*
7 BANG = abruptly,LADE=put goods aboard,SHI(p)=boat, mostly – clever ‘lift and separate’ on “put goods aboard boat”.
9 A,SWELL=balloon (vb.),A,S
12 EQUIANGULAR – qu. in neuralgia* – very minor quibble over bend = angle corrected – thanks pros958
14 PAR,i.(SIENN(a))e. – i.e. and e.g. are other thngs that for me must always be lower case.
16 DALMATIA – (mail data)* – Split being a port there – one of the crossword setter’s favourite cities
23 AN=a,VIL(e)
24 HAJI – first letters in reverse order – someone who has been on the pilgrimage to Mecca (the Haj). Easy wordplay should lead those who don’t know it to this old Scrabble favourite – both pilgrimage and pilgrimi have nifty variant spellings.
26 GO,O
Category Score Clues
Religion .5 (24) HAJI
Literature .5 (1D) CYCLOPS – I think we had mythology in Lit.
Visual Arts
Popular Culture
Sport & Games .5 (11) STAYER
Natural World
Science & Tech 1 12 EQUIANGULAR
Geography 1 (5) CASBAH, (10) COL. SPR.
Total 3.5

21 comments on “23943”

  1. I thought particularly easy today with a PB for the month of around 12 mins (ie completed before Maidenhead!).

    One minor edit suggestion, Peter: in 12D it’s QU in neuralgia*.

  2. I suspect I have equalled or beaten my Personal Best on this one at barely 15 minutes. On my commute today I managed to complete the puzzle, write out a blog just for practice and read the Metro. All of this time yesterday was devoted to 23492 and I still arrived at work with 6 unsolved clues.

    I think all the clues are very fair today and no obscure knowledge is required, I think.

    At 23 “A” clues “AN”. Is be unusual?

    Although I didn’t let allow it to delay me I couldn’t see where the “A” came from in 2dn until I looked at it again after completeion. Some of you may remember that I have a blind spot for “are” the unit of measure, and it caught me out yet again, at least for a moment or two.

    I had picked 29 as my COD before reading PB’s comment above. I don’t have the Big Three to hand but dictionary.com defines “blow” as (18) Jazz. to play (a musical instrument of any kind).

    1. Is be unusual? I seem to have slipped into West Country! I meant “Is this unusual?”.
      1. I don’t think “a” is cluing “AN”. I think “a base” is cluing “AN (e)VIL”. I think that works better than Peter’s suggestion of AN + VIL(e).
        1. I stand corrected by jack and conrad about “blow” – as ever, you should check the dictionary before doubting the times xwd setter or editor. In this case I should have recalled that “horn” is extended in a similar way and seen the possibility.

          23D: I’m now unsure which interpretation is intended. For me, equating “a base” with “an evil”, needs an appropriate noun meaning of ‘base’, which isn’t there. But you can swap “A base” for “An evil” in phrases like “An evil act”.

          Edited at 2008-06-18 10:39 am (UTC)

          1. Having now checked COED, Collins and Chambers, it’s interesting that none of them deals quite so specifically with the point you originally raised as does dictionary.com.
        1. So we have two alternatives for this one.

          Having read Richard’s interpretation above I remembered I had (e)VIL in mind (not literally!) when I solved the clue, but then, as I had time to kill on the train, I drafted a blog but thought of VIL(e)instead and forgot my original working.

  3. I too found this straightforward. The very precise, logical and structured nature of the clues were easy to unravel. Both of the long across clues are prime examples of what I mean. I thought 17A a good clue. No more than 20 minutes to solve. Jimbo.
  4. re 29 across. Since jazz is mentioned in the clue, it is fair to use jazz terminology, and in jazz, playing any instrument is said to be blowing. It is not just wind or brass. (As an aside, someone once defined the saxophone as an ill wind which nobody blows good.)

    Conrad Cork

  5. 11 minutes. One of those where a lot of the intricacies could be disentangled after the solving. Only the rather tenuously defined EQUIANGULAR really held me up. I read 23 as AN,VIL(E), too.

    No stand-out clues for me, but BLUE NOTE is pretty good and I just love the word CASBAH (those happy Clashy days of youth).

  6. I also found this another easy day, though took a minute at the end before I saw IRRESOLUTE, looking at the wrong end of the clue for the definition. I didn’t really understand 13a, wondering if I was supposed to get the answer from FALSETTO somehow. I didn’t think the surfaces were all that great (exceptions being 7,8, 18d and 23), and 2 was very simple. Not sure about a COD. For me the best is 23.
  7. I’m with Jimbo on 17A – clear COD for me. Took me some time to parse it and the &lit cleverness came as a pleasant surprise.
    No major quibbles, although 13 left me wondering whether “removing doubles” was explicit enough to indicate “do that – but leave the singles”.
    Still hovering around the 15 minute solve which suggests a recent run of puzzles with similar levels of difficulty.
  8. I too found this fairly easy, clocking in at 16:20 (only had 4 gaps when the second hand ticked past my PB of 12:30) but that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. On the contrary in fact, with nothing chestnutty and a lot of good clues. I think I must have been on the right wavelength as a few went in quickly without any attempt to unravel the wordplay until afterwards (irresolute, Bangladeshi, equiangular and balsamic vinegar). Parisienne was last in. Bloody French.

    Tick against 1d and also liked 1a which I’ll make my COD.

    None of today’s answers are in the Uxbridge English Dictionary so here’s one I missed yesterday: Baltic – involuntary testicular spasm

  9. 14 minutes with one interruption. On a first read through the acrosses, the top half was annoyingly empty (not helped by being convinced that 10 was an anagram involving TROUBLE). But once I got a start on the downs the checking letters took care of the rest of the across answers pretty easily. Fun little puzzle.

    EQUIANGULAR was a new word, but easy to get from wordplay. Hadn’t heard of DALMATIA, but looked like the most likely letter combination. I didn’t understand the wordplay for ALTO writing it in, nor LEAP DAY.

    So far as good clues go, liked 19a and 28a. 6d tickled me too, nice clue for a tiny word.

  10. As an (Emeritus) Professor of Mathematics, I write to support Peter’s quibble: “bends” are not “angles”, whatever any dictionary says. And the quibble is not “minor”!
    1. Not the setter’s problem I’m afraid. If it’s in one of the source dictionaries then he/she is entitled to use it.
      1. I agree that in this game what the dictionaries say is what matters, however perverse it seems. The most appropriate def. in the source dictionaries (my editions anyway) seems to be the COD’s bend = “a curved or angled part of something”, which I suppose can mean an angle, though I’m not completely happy with it.
    2. I suspect any allusion to castrati is unintentional. FWIW (intact) adult male altos can be found.
  11. Bends are not angles. After all, we are not Bendo-Saxons, are we? By we, I mean you — specifically, you people from AngleLand. Those of us from Down Under are Irish convicts, so we are bent.
  12. Apologies if this is covered above but I did not see it:

    At 13a the clue tells us to remove doubles from ALL TOO to get AL TO as PB has said above but I think that the literal is just VOICE as one is removing the doubles from ALL TOO = “regrettably very high”. This avoids the problem of ALTO being a high voice which it is only for males – intact or not.

    There are just the 3 “easies” not in the blog:

    22a Zeal whipped up (maniac’s fit)* (10)
    FANATICISM. Great anagram.

    2d Lines are written up for everyone (3)
    A L L. Where are = measurement of area abbreviated to A.

    4d Communication means so ME DIA grams must be cropped (5)

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