23993 – Beast!

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Time taken to solve? I’m not saying, but it was off the scale.

I can’t say I enjoyed this much. After an hour I had completed little more than half so I resorted to books and eventually for the final two (5 and 15) to on-line assistance but I still have one unsolved.

1 P,U.R.C.,E,LL – U.R.C. = United Reform Church. I took a while to sort this out because I first thought “church” was cluing RC and then CE when in fact it was neither of these.
5 DISTURB – This is BRUT(e),SID (rev)
9 ROD – In my schooldays we were taught about rods poles and perches, and its amazing how often this comes in handy
10 COPPER,PLATE – A style of hand-writing. The famous battle helped with the second part.
15 NOCK – Sounds like “Knock” , apparently a shrine in Ireland that all good Catholics probably know well but I’ve never heard of. I spent ages on this one as  I didn’t know “nock” meaning a notch on an arrow either and I was trying to justify “nick” which might have fitted one meaning but not the other so far as I could work out. 
16 ARMS-LENGTH – Lacking intimacy and not quite three feet
22 ANNE,AL – To toughen glass. Good old Al rides again!
25 HOUSEHOLDER – HOUSE is held in “Thou seemest”
27 VOW(els)
28 DIN,(l)ETTE(r)
29 SUNTRAP – PART+ NUS (all rev)
1 P,ARAGON – The old kingom where Catherine came from
3 ES,C(OR)T – “Tu es” = Thou art again. It’s becoming a chestnut.
4 LAP,1,D,ARIES – Gem cutters apparently
5 On edit: DO(t)ER –  see comments below  – (original D?E? – Beats me! The only Martha and Mary connection I know were sisters of Lazarus. Who has the boot? I may be needing it. I might guess DOER or DYER.)
7 UNA –  this is “one” in Spanish
13 EAGER BEAVER –  Sounds like “eagre”, a tidal bore. As it can also be spelt “eager” there was no real need for the “sounds like” indicator. A beaver, amongst other things we needn’t go into, is a beard or bearded man. I wasted ages trying to make it CHEER LEADER.
21 (o)MICRON
24 G,ORE – As in Kensington Gore
26 (b)URN –

42 comments on “23993 – Beast!”

  1. I believe this has religious overtones. Mary was a doter at Jesus’s feet whereas Martha was a doer (doter less the “t”).
  2. 40 minutes but without understanding how several clues worked – 1a for starters – and a wrong guess at 15. Guessed right it seems for doer at 5d.
  3. After some research, I can only conclude that 5D is DOER. If Mary was a ‘doter’, then Martha was a ‘doer’ – it seems they represent different character types. I also failed on NOCK, didn’t know the tidal bore, and so on. jackkt’s title is very apt, as far as I’m concerned.

    Tom B.

    1. Thanks, Tom. I was just adding a couple of guesses whilst you were posting. So it seems I correctly identified the reference to the sisters of Lazarus and from further research Martha is apparently characterised as a homemaker whereas Mary had more get up and go, possibly a feminist,so the book says. Quite why we should be expected to know this and then think of “doer” and “doter” I have no idea. It’s even worse than Knock as far as I’m concerned because at least there was another, if rather obscure, route to that answer.
      1. I’ve remembered it now. It’s mentioned in a well-known song. I should have got it from that:

        Martha does and Mary dotes
        and little lambs eat ivy…..

        1. The song I remember (from way back) was:
          Mairzy dotes and Dozey dotes
          (mares eat oats and does eat oats)
          And little lambs eat ivy.
          1. Sorry, anon, but actually I made it up as I was feeling a bit light-headed after slogging away for 3 hours solving and writing the blog. Your version is the song I remember too, give or take the spelling.
  4. First, well done Jack. Blogging this must have been an absolute nightmare. I had to use Google to finish it because three of the “clues” are simply awful. No prizes for guessing which ones: DOER, NOCK and GORE. They rank amongst the worst Times clues I can ever remember coming across and to have all three in one puzzle is poor indeed.
    1. Thanks for your support, Jimbo, but it was my turn for a Friday horror. I knew I was in for it as soon as I read the 3-letter clues, which I always do first, and could only solve one of the four(26) on first reading.

      I suppose GORE at 24 is something one either knows or doesn’t, and fortunately I did. I spent a lot of time in Kensington in student days and I’m also a big fan of theatre where Kensington Gore has a quite different meaning.

  5. Although difficult to parse I thought 1A and 23A were good enough for COD noms – I’ll select the former.
    Otherwise this was a bit of a slog and, like Jimbo, I select DOER, NOCK and GORE as clues which incorporated unreasonable difficulty/obscurity. With longer answers which the compiling process forces into place one can cut the setter some slack, but these three offered plenty of more accessible alternatives. The trouble with short, obscure inclusions is that the solver is going to get minimal help from checkers. DOER and GORE were guessable – not so NOCK – but for solvers who don’t happen to know the obscure clue references there can be little pleasure in correct guesses.

    COD 1A Q-3 E-5 D-9

  6. I agree with jackkt and others. I did not enjoy this either. After one hour I had 7 clues still to go and no ideas about any of them. In the end I also resorted to electronic aids, but they were no help for 5 and 15, but by that time I’d lost interest, so didn’t do further research, putting 2 wrong answers in. Some of the clues were fine, some were difficult but fair; others were poor, in my opinion (9a was dreadful).
    The main difficulty of the puzzle arose from the number of clues where it was difficult to get a grip on something definite, and even if one did, there were slightly obscure elements making it difficult seeing how the clue worked, so, for instance, I did not see how the UR was generated in PURCELL until I had access to a dictionary, making that a very tentative entry until I had crossing confirmation.
  7. This was hard, but not as bad as some we’ve seen this week, I thought (Tuesday, anybody?) After 45 minutes, my limit in terms both of lunchtime and endurance, I had all but 10ac / 4d / 5d / 7d filled, albeit with 25ac wrong (I went for NICE, figuring there might be a shrine there, and nice = groovy in hippy parlance. Never mind…) Thereupon I came here to get the rest. I had the Martha / Mary comparison right, but couldn’t get Martha = BUSY out of my head, and spent too long wondering why Mary might be BUSTY? Never mind, again. COD for me 25ac.

  8. Yep, a right old couple of lulus screwed the pooch today. I went through most of it in about 20 minutes, then found myself becalmed in the NE. Another 20 minutes left me with two of the unlovely four-letter words already appropriately panned by others here. I eventually got DOER but made a wrong guess at 15a since the only thing I know about toxophily is that you don’t mess with the Koreans.

    Agree with maximus that 25a stands out. But every good story needs its villains, so I’ll give COD to 5d for being an unmitigated bad boy. Lousy clue, but I won’t forget the Mary/Martha dualism in a hurry.

  9. Don’t feel too bad about having to resort to the dictionaries after 10-odd minutes last night and another 20 this morning. Even after all of that, I figured there’s probably a shrine in NICE and it could mean groovey.

    I’m going to write up my Listener blog and then head out of town for a few days, so you’ll probably be free of my commenting until Thursday.

  10. i though that bas***d would be a better description. i think doer is an unfair clue as disturb was very hard to get….all in all i didnt enjoy this one…odd becasue esplanades and paragon i thought were good clues
  11. Sorry to bang on about it but we are well into the day and lots of people have commented but no-one has yet posted a definitive reference to explain the “doer/doter” thing at 5 down.

    Is there a well-known phrase or saying, or a bible reference such as “Luke Chapter Y Verse Z” that supports it? Or has the setter based it merely on his/her perception of the story of Martha and Mary, whatever that may be?

    1. Ah, the good setter beat me to it. In case yo udon’t have a bible to hand….
      38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
      39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
      40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
      41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
      42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
      – Luke 10:38-42
    2. Well, Martha as a ‘doer’ is fairly common parlance (trying googling ‘mary martha doer’). While I’ve never heard Mary described as a ‘doter’, I don’t think it’s that huge a leap of logic, despite not getting it myself in time, given how familiar the story is…
  12. Well, well — who’d have thought it? I fear that I am unrepentant about the three troublesome clues to four-letter answers. They are all perfectly fair, but it seems (unexpectedly, from my point of view!) difficult. ‘Awful’ they ain’t, unless that adjective simply means ‘I can’t work it out, and I’m peeved’. Gore was clued fairly simply, and Kensington Gore isn’t that obscure (esp. if you know about the Proms). One big problem may be the decline of knowledge about matters religious. Knock is a shrine of enormous importance in Ireland, and even has its own airport; nock is in all the dictionaries, but I learnt it at school aged about 14 when I briefly took up archery (and frankly I am bored with cluing NICE!). The clue that caused most trouble was the one I was proudest of. Despite repeated protestations above, the clue has already been adequately explained in terms of the roles of Martha (the ‘doer’) and Mary (the ‘doter’) – read Luke 10: 38-42 if you still don’t understand! I fear that in crossword circles (as elsewhere) there is the tendency to apply the Jowett principle regarding knowledge (‘what I don’t know isn’t knowledge’). As it happens, I have always enjoyed learning through crosswords more than worrying about ‘times’ — and I hope that one or two (maybe not overly represented here) have enjoyed participating in a learning process today. Well – I hope you are all smiling again by tomorrow!
    1. Thanks for responding. It’s a little pompous to talk of the Jowett principle and to put quotes around the word ‘times’ – a dismissive device, a bit like saying that you’re interested in a batsman’s off-drive, not his ‘scores’. Like many others who comment on these pages, I’ve argued along the same lines as you regarding the pleasure of learning from crosswords. But if you take that Jowett principle, and your disapproval of it, as your ultimate guide, then absolutely anything goes in the daily puzzle and you can fill the puzzle with words drawn from the most arcane and specialized of disciplines (please don’t). It seems to me, from many debates that have taken place on these pages, that what people want is a fighting chance at solving the blessed thing while they’re on their way to work or sitting on a park bench with their sandwiches. If we can solve a clue from wordplay, then check it later and learn something new, that’s more than fine. But 5d requires knowledge not only of the relevant passage in Luke but of its interpretation (actually, your interpretation of it – Mary is in fact well regarded by Jesus not for doting on him but for understanding that “one thing is needful”). I knew the story perfectly well but still felt less than sure of the solution until you confirmed it. 15a requires a knowledge of archery (not exactly widespread since Agincourt). GORE is fine, if workmanlike (I can be dismissive, too).

      I never actually stopped smiling (I love a good row). Have a lovely weekend.

      1. Oh, well said, sotira! Methinks the setter doth protest too much.

        5d might be considered a clever clue if it were to appear in the Church Times crossword (if they have one) but it’s out of place in a Times daily.

        I must confess that even having read the quotation from St Luke I still don’t see how the clue can be justified because neither of the words it refers to actually appears in the text, so solving it then relies upon an interpretation of its meaning which may or may not be correct.

        Incidentally I was indoctrinated with Bible stories as a child so I am familiar with this one but I still can’t make the leap from it to the answer required here.

        I had no problems with GORE at 24 and I have already said that NOCK at 15 is fair enough because it is gettable from two different means, and even though I didn’t happen to know either of them they were both readily accessible from the usual sources.

        1. There is indeed a Church Times crossword, but that is beside the point. If someone calls my clues ‘awful’ and I don’t think they are, I shall reserve the right to say so in as lucid a way as I can manage — and that (from my perspective) is not ‘protesting too much’. The DOER clue is hard but it works perfectly well. The role models in the story are pretty clear and don’t rely at all on any peculiar interpretation. By all means remain unconvinced and we’ll agree to disagree, but I shall have no more to say on the matter — and I shall indded hope to enjoy the weekend (with an old vicar friend and his wife as it happens!).
          1. Quite right, too. And it’s been splendid fun and very informative. Regards to the Reverend.
      2. With all due respect to today’s setter, I come from a (fairly) religious background, and have more than a passing acquaintance with the Bible (I am no expert). I actually managed to guess the answer but I have to say that reading the relevant passage from Luke (helpfully quoted above) leaves me none the wiser. As pointed out, the knowledge required to solve the clue depends not only on knowledge of the passage, but an interpretation of the passage, and as such seems monstrously unfair. In its defence, there are not many D-E- patterns that fit if one assumes (a risky assumption) one is looking for a 5-letter word that can be a 4-letter word if one subtracts the letter T. In this respect maximus mouse’s idea of BUSY and BUS(T)Y gave me enough smiles to last more than the weekend. What a wonderful thought!
        So my objection isn’t really that the answer can’t be guessed but that the overwhelming majority of people will be completely baffled by why they were right and I thought that was not what the Times puzzle was supposed to be about.
    2. Thanks for the explanations! As the guesser of nice, it was purely a guess, and probably should have gotten “sounds like knock” from the wordplay. I guessed doer, but will own up to utter ignorance of the story of Mary and Martha, and the shrine in Ireland.
    3. Can I support you? I fully agree GORE was a straightforward clue, and fell fairly easily for me; NOCK was solved early, because I knew of Knock and its airport, and had NOCK as a feature on an arrow and the grooves in the bow.

      My lack of religious knowledge made me take a long time over DOER, but once I had looked on the web for the story of Mary and Martha it clicked quite quickly.

      Isn’t the need for a good general knowledge part of the fun of the Times? It is for me, and my ability there often offsets my less than lightening ability at other crossword skills. Keep it up, please!

      Harry Shipley

  13. I reckon I took about 13 minutes to get doer and previous 13 minutes for the rest. I assumed that it couldn’t be dyer or deer so eventually plumped for doer. A bit of knowledge was required to get this and it couldn’t really be worked out from wordplay so can understand those who didn’t like it – but there are always clues which really rely on some knowledge which is obscure to some and obvious to others. I preferred Gertrude which could be worked out as probable even if you thought Hamlet was only a cigar
    JohnPMarshall 26 minutes today
  14. For the avoidance of doubt when I said the clues were awful I meant they were poorly and unfairly constructed relying upon far too much arcane knowledge and an arrogance that shines through in your response.

    I suggest you listen to your customers. What you produced today in those clues was tripe and no amount of smug self justification can alter that.

    1. Mr Jimbo, you are entitled to your view, but we must agree to differ on these clues. I do take notice of customers, but I never regard this website as wholly representative of the whole clientele. Anyway, when I was brought up in the West Country tripe was quite a delicacy. Pax, my friend!
  15. I enjoyed the comments from the setter and from someone who regularly fails to complete the crossword I thought this was easier than Tuesday’s.
    Had no trouble with “doer” but failed with “nock”, although I knew the shrine. I thought the most difficult was 5, there are so many 3 letter boys names.
    As for the time – well whats a few hours when on holiday?
    Mike & Fay
  16. You certainly have a point on 5d, Jimbo. After reading everything above I still don’t understand its logic.
  17. I’m all for learning things from crosswords but NOCK and DOER were unsolvable within the context of a daily crossword. I will always maintain that the Times puzzle is the best there is but it’s hard to back up the argument when some compilers insist on deliberately using obscurites such as these. Unfair, I say.

    (I just can’t stand a woman who doesn’t know her place.)

    1. And thanks, Mister Setter, for BRAS, the one 4-letter answer that nobody had any complaints about. If there’s one thing the TIMES Cryptics need, it’s more references to women’s underwear. Just can’t get enough of that stuff. Do you guys all subscribe to Victoria’s Secret catalogue? And are there any cross-dressers amongst you?
  19. 33:36 with one mistake – a guess of NICE which I should not have written in, however lightly. 5A/D, 7D, 8D were the last set. But solved late in the day after a very long session of TV sport. Sadly the “how to do archery” item which mentioned ‘nock’ was a few days ago. Also struggled with LIGAMENT and the NW corner.
    1. PB, I would be very interested to know your thoughts on 5d if you have the time and inclination of course.

      1. I have some sympathy with those grumbling about this one – it wasn’t a Bible reference terribly familiar to me (and I should know some, as a chorister & churchwarden), and I’m not too keen on clues that use words (like DOER and DOTER here) that don’t appear in the reference itself. On the other hand: most people seemed to get there in the end.

        I think a large chunk of the problem is that 4-letter answers very often offer several words that fit, so you have to understand all of the clue. For PURCELL for example, my guess is that only one answer fits.

        1. Thanks, Peter. Yes, I got there with my first guess but even having thought of the correct Bible reference I had no idea why it might be the correct answer so I also posted up an alternative. Clues like this are not much use if it’s your turn to write the blog! I also think it might have caused less concern in a generally easier puzzle which didn’t contain another problem clue also requiring, for most solvers, an element of guesswork in the same area of knowledge.
        2. I’m afraid I’m not commenting on daily puzzles much at present as I’m doing them six at a time, usually on Sundays. However, I can’t resist having a snipe at this one, the last of the batch of six which I’ve just done (I was away last Sunday and have only just got round to doing them).

          I had no problem with GORE and NOCK, but stopped the clock at 30 minutes with DOER as my best guess for 5D and was relieved to find it was right. Having come here to find the explanation, I’d like to add my voice to those who thought that this clue was rubbish – what’s more I would have regarded it as rubbish if it had appeared in a 1950s puzzle, and I’m one of those who likes puzzles from that period, though I know that some (most?) modern solvers hate them.

          As others have said, even with the required biblical knowledge (which I have) “One like Mary” is hopeless as an indicator for DOTER. “A Martha” for DOER is pretty much OK and was what eventually led me to plump for it, but I was worried that I was missing something. For instance I knew that there was a fictional heroine called DREW. Could her first name be Martha? (Now that I’ve looked it up I find that it’s Nancy, but at the end of six puzzles I was feeling punch-drunk.)

          Well, that was my threepenn’orth, but it sounds as if the setter doesn’t give a damn about what the punters think, and anyway it’ll be too late for him (or her?) to read this now. I should perhaps add that this is the first Times crossword clue for ages (years perhaps?) that I’ve taken exception to.

  20. I know it’s a day late, but I thought I’d add my 2p worth anyway. In general I thought this was a great crossword with some real deviousness and novel treatments. Although I’d “put” myself in the “second” “stream” of “quick” solvers ie “usually in “the” 10-20 “minute” bracket (see, I can do patronising quotes too), I find nothing at all wrong with a difficult one now and again which takes much, much longer. Now for the famous three….
    I found GORE perfectly acceptable. A quite obscure way of defining it but we were also given G + ORE, which to me is more than fair. NOCK probably crossed the line of fairness as it relied on two pretty obscure definitions. I always tell people that the thing about cryptic crosswords is that you get two shots at each answer – if you don’t get it by the wordplay you can get it by the definition and vice versa. DOER at best only gave you one way in, and that was via an interpretation of an arcane reference. I think Jimbo’s “awful” was probably understating it.

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