26230 In which I find the setter a giver of grave ire test. It’s ever great.

I thought long and hard about this one, dithering at the last about the poet with two candidates in mind, stopping the clock at a fairly desperate 33.29 – not a score to trouble the competition. I could claim that I’m a bit out of practice, as I’ve missed three of the last five due to conficts of interest, but I don’t suppose they’ll make allowances for that on Saturday. Full marks to anyone who plucked 9d out of thin air. I do believe I’ve come up against it before, but in a way in which the letter order and meaning are at best blurred. Add to that struggling to find the climbing plant that I was convinced filled out 3 down, and it’s kind of easy to see where much of the time went. That said, I believe I have it all, and it looks like this:


i HAVOC  mayhem
We let slip the dogs of with a nice simple inclusion: sucH A VOCal, a piece of which creates our answer.
4 CHOW MEIN  dish
O my, another easy one. “My” in German with a CHOW dog put first. Cantonese for “secret weapon to make westerners despair of using chopsticks”.
8 NEGATIVE EQUITY  can prevent you moving..
…since  your mortgage has been overtaken by your plummeting house value. Translation of no and justice.
10 SUETONIUS (old) historian
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus wrote, inter alia, De Vita Caesarum, biographies of the first twelve Caesars. Our students are the National Union of Students, into which you insert a Latin one. Following instructions you place that that construct after SUET/fat and O(ld)
11 DONNE poet
A bell tolled the hastening seconds for me (I didn’t ask) as I scratched around to work out how this could be Dante. Or Dunne. Or some other poet whose letters would fill the gaps. Only when I remembered the old legal maxim “de accentibus non curat tempora” did the penny drop. A DONNÉ is indeed a basic assumption. We’ll take that as a given
12 BEWAIL  Lament
A judge might grant BAIL to keep bridge partners East and West together. Though I wouldn’t bother. East has never forgiven West for calling 3 no trumps when they were vulnerable.
14 REIGNING  current
As in …champion. in a supple, bendy way, the letters of ENGINE RIG missing one of the E(nergy)s provides our answer
17 OMISSION  Failure
A new (I think) addition to spectacles for OO and suchlike. O resembles a bullet hole if the setter wants it to, and Davy, Davy Crockett’s Alamo was a MISSION station before it became the legendary failed defence and/or care hire company.
18 SATNAV  travel guide
I was struggling to remember those weird words like dragoman and had to do a U turn where possible in order to reach my destination. The day is SAT, and sailors NAVy minus
20 EWERS  spouted things
Commonly pronounced HEWERS of wood would lose their aitch.
22 STREETCAR  Desire for one (example)
Best of the bunch for me, not least because the large plant even I have heard of, because it’s just a TREE. Back of cleft is T: pair those two and insert into SCAR for cliff.
A cryptic definition in which you have to untangle the inherent negatives
25 UGLINESS  nothing attractive…
…unless you have a taste for 60’s concrete brutalism, of course. America gives US, insert G(ood) LINES for “routes”
26 TINGE Slight colouring
You have to work hard to split the segments properly. “For one” provides E.G. and “egg” NIT. Assemble and reverse.


Really translates to HONEST with a bit of license, and BROKE for damaged needs the R from the back end of affair.
2 VOGUE  popularity
Once you realise that I is in Latin, and remember EGO, V is also Latin for see, as in V(ide), all you have to do is chuck in a U(niversity) and reverse the lot
A rather neat &lit in which the (rather full) heart of s(CHOLASTIC)s is trained to produce the “members of the fastest growing religion in the world, my boy.”
4 CAVE IN abandon resistance
If everyone deserts Call, you are left with the C. Add A VEIN, which is a (blood) vessel.
The wild olive, so I’m informed. There isn’t a festival called EANDER, so settle for the one that, after LO(ok) “up” produces the tree.
6 MOULD  fungus
…or indeed form (verb)
7 INTENTION   Meaning
Does sound remakably like “in tension”, under strain
9 TERGIVERSATE  change sides
Give a new order to REVISE TARGET. I think there’s only one way to fill the checkers, but this is a monstrous, pretentious concoction which, for all its usefullness to describe what politicians do, should really be laid to rest. Bleh!
13 WHITE FLAG  signal to enemy
The anagram indicator is “flares”, and the raw material LIGHT A FEW
15 GRAPESHOT  Ammunition
Looks horrified: GAPES, R(esistance) and burning: HOT. Assemble for primitive shrapnel
16 NOISETTE A little lamb
The top dog might well be the No 1 SETTER. Take the finish off
19 TROOPS  Soldiers
R(un) O(ver) is contained withing TOPS, which is what singlets can be.
21 SAUDI Arab
A small sound systtem would be a S AUDIO. omit 0 (nothing)
23 CABIN  compartment
CAIN is your murderer, his victim Abel. The first of Blood provides the “concealed” B.

47 comments on “26230 In which I find the setter a giver of grave ire test. It’s ever great.”

  1. Fortunately, I knew TERGIVERSATE, a perfectly cromulent word–HONEST (really). Otherwise, I would never have got SATNAV; as it was, that final V made me pause. Took ages to remember the HONEST part of 1d and the NEGATIVE part of 8ac. I biffed NOISETTE and BEWAIL, and was kept from biffing ‘Dante’ only by the fact that it made no sense, a fact that doesn’t always keep me from biffing. DNK OLEASTER, but as you say. COD perhaps to 3d.

    Edited at 2015-10-15 05:25 am (UTC)

  2. A mere 110 minutes on this, albeit with a few interruptions. DONNE went in on a wing and a prayer because I could vaguely discern DO NO EVIL or some such nonsense. Well, always nice when a guess is right if not exactly educated. I had never heard of an HONEST BROKER so was rather pleased with myself to see where the first word came from after the second had fallen. As for 9d, I tried more combinations than I would care to remember, some of which broke all the rules of morphology known to man and Chomsky.

  3. I imagine that SUETONIUS was FOI for Verlaine.

    Second from last hereabouts. HONEST BROKER was LOI

    TERGIVERSATE was easily identified and verified by SATNAV

    COD 13dn

    I found the setting a bit lumpy – 35 mins

    horryd Shanghai

  4. …for over an hour, and needed some assistance (or at least confirmation) for SUETONIUS, OLEASTER and DONNE.

    As Z said, the anagrist for TERGIVERSATE couldn’t really go in any other order, given the checkers, but the correct answer didn’t look all that convincing either. Still, I’ll consider it my one small victory for the day.

    COD to STREETCAR for the def.

    Thanks setter and Z.

  5. Another tricky over-the-hour solve for me, but here I had two very unsatisfying blanks: the poet (knew it had to be Dante or DONNE, but couldn’t decide on which), and TERGIVERSATE, where I didn’t even attempt throwing the letters in as they fell. I somehow always feel cheated when a foreign (especially French, since that’s what I studied and taught) word is an answer I can’t get, and particularly when there’s a pesky accent. Must add ‘check for pesky accents’ to my to-do list before throwing the towel in. SUETONIUS unknown, but from wp.

    I agree with Jack this was a less pleasurable experience than Tuesday’s difficult one.


    Many thanks for today’s blog, Z.

    **Just noticed your three anags in today’s title!**

    Edited at 2015-10-15 07:24 am (UTC)

    1. I kept on tergiversating as to which one was best and just chucked in the three that nearly made sense!

  6. There was too much scholarly stuff for me today and I was unable to finish without resort to aids once the hour had passed. DONNé for one, TERGIVERSATE for another and SUETONIUS for a third. OLEASTER as well actually, though I knew ‘oleander’ and ‘aster’ as plants so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. STREETCAR foxed me too. Tuesday’s difficult puzzle was much more enjoyable despite the pressure of having to blog it. This one seemed really dull and stuffy by comparison.

    Edited at 2015-10-15 07:20 am (UTC)

  7. A pleasingly iterative 28:28 … I do feel as though I’ve just spent half an hour on a linguistic Nautilus machine but I’m sure it’s good for the soul. It’s an awfully clever puzzle which has indubitably embiggened my functional vocabulary. I’m off for a lie-down.
  8. Very much not my cup of tea. All very erudite no doubt but boring and obscure. Had to use a dictionary to check DONNE and TER…whatsit. Google to check the SUET guy. Life’s too short for this sort of rubbish.

    Another good blog z8 – much more entertaining than the puzzle – thanks

  9. Never having had anything to do with nits I didn’t know that a nit’s egg was also a nit. As for TERGIVERSATE I guessed it was an anagram and thank God for the iPad.
  10. DNF after an hour. CODs to 1a and 22a but having invested a lot in this crossword why do I feel that I am in NEGATIVE EQUITY?
  11. Hard work on a busy Thursday. Dredged TERGIVERSATE from deep down with a couple of checkers in place. Wanted to put in STREETCAR, my COD, long before I could see what it had to do with the clue, and NEGATIVE EQUITY needed plenty of checkers. Not a lot of fun but very satisfying.
  12. Sawbill’s comments made me laugh. No trouble with TERGIVERSATE but I don’t exactly see myself working it into the conversation any time soon. Same dithering as others on the DANTE/DONNE axis. Finally remembered it as a rather precious literary term used by Edith Wharton and Henry James (they would wouldn’t they) when talking about where they got their ideas. A nit is a baby louse bufforp – how lucky you are not to know. My older daughter brought them home from school once upon a time. Evidently on the wavelength at 15.33
    1. Very much part of the child-raising experience in Perth. We still don’t like to talk about it, but if you’ve had kids in school here, you’ve had to deal with head lice.

      I think Rabbie’s description of them as “ugly, creepan, blastet wonners” was overly generous!

      1. You too eh. Horrible wasn’t it. Looked up Wharton/James to find that the mot juste was DONNEE not DONNE. Pretty precious either way.
  13. 40m. Like a few others I found this a singularly unenjoyable puzzle. Difficult by dint of obscurity, including one particularly recondite word clued by an ambiguous anagram. My first potential answer was SERGIVERTATE. That didn’t look likely so I kept going, and got TERGIVERSATE. That didn’t look likely either so I kept going but couldn’t come up with anything else so in the end just bunged in the marginally less unlikely-looking of the two. This sort of thing is not big, and it’s not clever. And it’s certainly not fun.
    1. As a form of work avoidance I just went hunting to see if anyone had ever used TERGIVERSATE to any good purpose. Slightly surprised that the only notable use I could find was by that noted detester of pseudery, Winston Churchill. Fortunately, I think his tongue was firmly in his cheek:

      “I had a feeling once about Mathematics – that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me – the Byss and Abyss. I saw – as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show – a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.”
      ― Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life, 1874-1904

      1. This is great. An elegant pre-internet version of why you should never send emails when drunk.
      2. Reminds me of my tutor at Art College who defined Design as “to stumble where one ran in the dream”
  14. Given the negative comments so far, I am almost reluctant to say that I really enjoyed this. No problem with deriving TERGIVERSATE from the anagrist. OLEASTER was unknown but generously clued

    LOI was 2dn where I was dickering between VOGUE and VAGUE and took a while to work out the cryptic.


  15. Of course I rather liked it, and obviously had no issues with dear old SUETONIUS – The Twelve Caesars is amazing, and I remember fondly having to translate for myself the forbidden sections about Tiberius and his “minnows”, happy days. Under 10 minutes but this doesn’t even seem to have been a good time in the Club… I think they’re lulling everyone into a false sense of security and it’ll be a big parade of all-time stinkers on Saturday. See you all there?
    1. I was going to say that they are trying to indimidate us with these obscurity-ridden stinkers! If either this setter or Tuesday’s has set any of the puzzles for Saturday I’m stuffed!
  16. Not many seem to have enjoyed this puzzle, but I confess to having liked it. Nothing in it seemed to me outrageously obscure, and there was lots of clever wordplay (e.g. NOISETTE – thanks to Z8 for fully explaining it). But I can see that it was too “arty-farty” for some tastes.

    I did think that DONNE at 11A was a tad ridiculous. One can see the attraction for the setter in having at least two poets that would fit the cross-checkers, thereby forcing us to wrack our brains for the one that could be cryptically justified. There are plenty of French words and phrases that are in common use in English, and could be said to have been naturalised, but “donné” cannot remotely be said to be one of them. I spent three years at university reading French language and literature, but I don’t think I’ve caught myself saying “that’s a donné” rather than “that’s a given”.

  17. I threw in the towel at 30 minutes. Just couldn’t see REIGNING (idiot) and never went back to decide between DANTE and DONNE. Yet again an anagram of a not very well known word (it seems) down the right hand edge. Perhaps the setters have decided to make this ‘wind-up corner’. If so, they appear to be succeeding.
  18. 24:28, and whilst I didn’t necessarily dislike it I’ve had a lot more fun reading the blog and comments.

    Donne (can’t be arsed to do the accent) went in on a vague recollection that we’ve had it before and a working knowledge of French.

    Tergi wotsit constructed from -vers- being sufficiently reminiscent of obverse and verso to make the bottom bit likely and TERGI then bodged together from what was left over (although due to a miscount I did originally have sergiversate, the well-known Russian something-or-other).

    I was surprised that tergiwotsit and Suetonius were both right. I must add “reading the Twelve Caesars” to my list of things to do. I’ll put it between “see what sulphuric acid tastes like” and “wrestle a polar bear”.

    Edited at 2015-10-15 12:23 pm (UTC)

    1. I would love to see the rest of your “to do” list! Please spare a thought for SUETONIUS who was probably called Fat Tony at the schola?
  19. Slow but steady, about an hour, and much enjoyed. Trouble with the second half of 9 dn. but got there once I saw streetcar. No-one’s mentioned the Tennessee Williams play, a jewel. 8 ac. my favourite clue – misled into counting letters of a non-existent anagram – and ruefully reminded of the house-owner’s significant Other. ‘Flares’ in 13 also nice.
    1. I just noticed that I completely mis-parsed WHITE FLAG. I knew I wasn’t happy but I just had white = light and flag = a few flares from, um, botany, nauticals or something else.
  20. The blog and comments today have made up for the fact I couldn’t finish without aids, for all the reasons already expressed. The Winston Churchill quote was great too.Thanks all.
    Linda Lofthouse
  21. A DNF under competition conditions. I had all but the 11ac/9dn crossers finished after 15 mins, took another 3 to correctly work out the long anagram, and then decided to look at the dictionary to see if DONNE or Dante was the correct answer for my last one. Under competition conditions I’d have plumped for the wrong one, and I was decidedly unimpressed with the clue.
  22. I couldn’t for the life of me see how the anagram worked on the TERGIVERSATE thing, so I looked it up. Then I put in DANTE because he was simply the one who came to mind, and I had no idea of either the long down answer, or any French background knowledge to push me toward DONNE. Beaten, thusly. But STREETCAR was quite nifty. Regards to all.
    1. I suppose there’s no particular reason why it shouldn’t be! It is the IVR for Vatican City, but I think it’s a jump too far.

  23. Same stumbling blocks as many others. Might just as well add ditto to Andy’s comments.
    Bah humbug indeed.
  24. So far from finishing this one that I’m wondering whether it’s worth going on Saturday…..
  25. If I were 30 years younger I would probably say “WTF?”, but as I am not, and as this is a polite forum, I will not. TERGIVERSATE is an obscure word which is more or less completely ungettable even with all the checkers, and should not have been clued by an anagram. Since this is Thursday, and my days for being reasonable are Monday, Tuesday and Friday, I cry foul.

    However, in the end it didn’t matter much since I had never heard of OLEASTER (which, unlike TERGIVERSATE, should have been gettable from the wordplay), and therefore settled for “oleander”. This led me to hazard “suetorian” for 10ac, in the hopes that it might be an obscure name for an historian. Had I heard of SUETONIUS I might have figured this tangle out and, to be fair, both OLEASTER and SUETONIUS were gettable from the wordplay, while my alternatives just didn’t parse.

    I was lucky with DONNE. NHO “donné” in quite that sense, but my schoolboy French dissuaded me from Dante.

    All in all, four words I’d NHO including the unfair (I did say this wasn’t my day for being reasonable) TERGIVERSATE. Fortunately, Friday is my day for being grumpy, and this has set me up nicely for it.

  26. 16:27 for me, losing a couple of minutes by writing down the wrong letters for the anagram of REIGNING (I dropped I rather than E for no apparent reason), and at least five more pondering DONNE v DANTE before I eventually twigged the acute accent.

    At least SUETONIUS and TERGIVERSATE went straight in without the need for any checked letters.

    An interesting puzzle – which I’d have enjoyed more if I hadn’t been so dense!

  27. 49m and all correct. Unlike others of this parish, I really enjoyed this. The general absence of ? meant I could trust the word play. Give me tergiwotsit over some obscure element or architectural term any day! And my COD to 3d for an appropriate use of the ?. Excellent blog, Z – thank you for that and also to our other TFTers for some lively comments!

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