23953 – Tricky!

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: between 45 and 55 mins I reckon – did in bed and didn’t time myself.

One of my favourite puzzles for some time – just the kind I really enjoy. Lots of excellent clueing and plenty of smiles to be had along the way.

I looked up Tagus and ‘folie de grandeur’ to check after solving, but both were quite gettable from the wordplay.


1 G,AIT – I know AIT=’small island’ only through crosswords; might be difficult for beginners.
4 SAFETY,SHOT – SHOT=’one landed’ and ‘safety cushion’ sounds right, although I don’t think I’ve come across it before.
9 VI(LLANELL[i])E – wow, yesterday I listened to Leonard Cohen’s Villanelle for Our Time – quite excited about going to see him in concert in a couple of weeks.
11 J[ustic]E,ROME – last one to go in this morning. I’ve heard of Jerome, but it didn’t come to me until I’d hollowed out justice.
12 ENO,R,MOUS[e] – ENO is the English National Opera.
20 [pl]AGUE
21 PENCIL IN – PENICILLIN with 1(I) and L(50) removed.
23 OCTETS – ST,ETC,O reversed
24 SEXT[on] – a couple of church bits here – after coming across None a while ago, I decided to learnt the Canonical Hours (Sext is the sixth). A sexton is someone who looks after the church grounds and rings the bells – I also came across this through doing crosswords.
27 EDDA – ADDE[d] reversed. Edda is another word I’ve only encountered in crosswords.


2 ABIDE WITH ME – sung at lots of sports matches – so quite a few non-church-goers should be able to get this.
4 SUNLESS – sounds like sonless.
5 FOLIE DE GRANDEUR – anagram of ‘lauded foreigner’ – not a phrase I knew, but not really the only choice when lots of checking letters in place.
7 HARPO[on] – I am a huge Marx Brothers fan, always smile when they turn up. I would say Harpo is far from silent, what with his whistling, sneezing and horn-blowing; I think he also sings in Monkey Business. But I think we know what the setter means.
8 TAG US – I think I knew the Tagus but I looked it up to check.
13 UNCL[e],UTTERED – again UNCLE=pawnproker I first heard in crosswords. As well as being good fun, crosswords are educational as well!
16 HEAR,TACHE – TACHE being short for moustache. I really liked TACHE for ‘hair on head’.
18 WAL[l]S,ALL
19 DU(O(P)O)LY
21 POSES – I can see this is POSSE with an S moved to the end – I wasn’t sure about this when solving – is this raise as in ‘bring to an end’? Or does it mean POSES with a raised S gives POSSE?
22 NIX,ON – in one way not very tricky, but in other quite Tricky indeed.

25 comments on “23953 – Tricky!”

  1. At 4ac, ‘one landed on cushion, perhaps’ refers to the cushion at the side of a snooker table, SAFETY SHOT being a defensive shot in snooker that places the cue ball in a position that makes it difficult for one’s opponent to score with his next shot.

    At 21d, the last point in posse (law team) is E, which is raised to make POSES.

  2. 8:34 – not easy, though quicker thinking about the posse and sexton might have sped things up. The latter ‘s bell-ringing job might be best remembered from the end of Thomas Hood’s Faithless Sally Brown (a naval equivalent of Faithless Nelly Gray, which is also worth a look for xwd purposes):

    His death, which happen’d in his berth,
    At forty-odd befell:
    They went and told the sexton, and
    The sexton toll’d the bell.

  3. 1ac and 2dn went in straight away with very little thought needed, then 10ac, then nothing for 10 minutes or more.

    I got myself bogged down in all sorts of trouble, for example trying to make sense of GARBO at 7dn, and although 5dn obviously couldn’t be DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR I convinced myself that the second word was OF and tried to make the first word out of the remaining letters ILDEE. I then got BUFFER SHOT into my head for 4ac and convinced myself it must be right even thought it’s not in the Big Three as I felt sure I had heard the term used in snooker circles.

    Anyway, one by one I sorted the clues out and came in just over the hour.

    I can’t make up my mind whether 11ac is very clever or unfair (ROME as headquarters, I mean), and I’m not sure I have met “river” being clued by “current” before, if that’s what’s going on at 8dn.

  4. These double “l”s catch me out from time to time because I’m used to putting them in one square in Welsh crosswords. “Llanelli” would have six letters, not eight.

    As for Leonard Cohen: me too; I’m off to Amsterdam on the 12th to see him in concert. It’s a lovely setting he’s made of Frank Scott’s “Villanelle for our time”. We cruciverbalists might empathise with the lines

    We loved the easy and the smart,
    But now, with keener hand and brain,
    We rise to play a greater part.


  5. I didn’t have too much difficulty with this, getting some of the longer entries like ‘villanelle’ and ‘abide with me’ fairly quickly, but at the end I had to guess SHOT to end 4a and I was really stuck with S_X_ so slung in a guess at SIXO. Perhaps if I’d been prepared to spend another 5 minutes going through possibilities for ‘available’ I might have arrived at the correct answer from the wordplay. I agree that many of the clues were inventive.
  6. Is that a Spoonerism for someone who interferes with shellfish? Sorry. Mike G
  7. What a great puzzle, full of originality and wit. Took about 28 minutes which is pretty good considering how much unravelling was required.

    Foggy, I don’t think Harpo sang in Monkey Business but in an attempt to get on the ship by prentending to be Maurice Chevalier he had a gramophone on his back and mimed to a record of “If a nightingale could sing like you…”

    Loads of clues worthy of COD status but I’ll go for 7d.

    1. I was thinking about the beginning of the film, when the Brothers are in the barrels, singing Sweet Adeline. I am no music expert, but I reckon I can hear four voices. I also know that there has been some debate about this – for many, many years.
      You can see the scene about 2 mins into the film…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPoEHDQZqcQ
  8. Maybe it’s start-of-the-weekness, but this one was not made for me. After 30 minutes, I turned to the dictionary to sort out the VILL-N—E issue that wasn’t helped by writing in FOILE DE GRANDEUR, having figured out the last two parts and missing the top. I may need the boot, but 14 is still empty. Leonard Cohen is great music for when you want to end a party or if there’s a manic-depressive in your life you can do without. Better luck tomorrow…
      1. I thought HIND(i) and Hindi is a language rather than a religion. Same result mind.
        1. Oops! Thanks for pointing that out, Penfold. Actually 14 was my last one in and I was desperate to finish by then having taken more than an hour, so I didn’t think it through too carefully.
  9. Lots I put in very quickly here – 1ac, 2d, 3d, 5d (I got grandeur fairly quickly, which didn’t leave much else that could fit the first two words) straight off, but a few that caught me, especially in the NE corner where my guess at GARBO for 7d left me scrambling for ‘safety’ what?

    About 50 minutes, with an interruption halfway through.

  10. Thought this was middling tough. A lot to admire. 17.12 today. 13d and 8d were my favourites.
    Extremely discombobulated by the image which 22d brought up!
  11. A difficult but admirable puzzle today. After seeing the anon comment above about landing a ball against the cushion in snooker/billiards/pool I nominate 4A as COD. Hadn’t caught the full drift previously, and I think it’s great. Others I liked were 22, 3, 17, 21. I was stuck for quite a while on the 4D, 4A and 9A area so overall it took about an hour and a quarter. Regards.
  12. A real struggle today, and I’m kicking myself because NIXON appeared with a very similar clue in the Grauniad a couple of weeks back – I got it then, but didn’t get it today!
    1. Agreed, though there is a precedent for this image. I suspect it was Nixon that Bob Dylan had in mind when he sang “sometimes even the president of the United States has to stand naked”, or words to that effect.


  13. Nice surface I suppose, but shouldn’t it be ‘Stone’ not ‘Stones’? You never say things like ‘he weighs 20 stones’.
    1. Sorry to disillusion you, wil, but many people do, and I’m not sure that I don’t. For example I wouldn’t say something weighs 20 pound, I would say “20 pounds”.
  14. Another thing I meant to say. Probably pretty obvious, but I don’t get this. Please could someone explain.
  15. Elderly Gentleman Emeritus predicts you will greatly enjoy your evening with Leonard Cohen. Rave reviews from Atlantic to Pacific here at home in Canada, including my sister’s.
  16. This was excellent. Quite a few resisted me for some time and then those Doh! moments happened when the brain finally clicks into gear. Crosswording at its leisurely best. The final triumph was the shortened Welsh town at 9a, my LOI. To get VI LLANELL(I) E just from wordplay – I had never heard of this word before – was a very satisfying moment. I like Leonard Cohen but had probably progressed to other things by the mid 1970s.

    There are 5 “easies” not in the blog:

    10a Regularly s P u R n I n G humbug (4)
    PRIG. Quite an old fashioned word and likewise humbug – the sort you might read in CS Lewis. I always thought that PRIG was like P***K?
    Maybe not.

    14a Deer’s tongue losing tip (4)
    HIND (I). Yes the tongue is Hindi the devotee is Hindu.

    17a Poor place, as we are away from the sun (5,5)
    THIRD WORLD. I always have difficulty of thinking of other planets as “Worlds”. My “world” definition includes life.

    25a Charity is mature business (3,7)

    3d Challenge High Command (4,5)

Comments are closed.