Sunday Times Cryptic No 5105 by David McLean — slow Sunday

Hmm. There’s nothing complicated about these clues, which I am looking back on nearly a week after my… leisurely solving experience and asking myself, What took so long? They are just very tightly coiled, and many of the definitions are hard to discern in their surface camouflage. Of course, the CDs were among the last that I deciphered. (BTW, I wrote my title here before the release of Bruce’s blog for last Saturday’s puzzle—the resemblance is just a coincidence!)

I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and words flagging such rearrangements are italicized in the clues.

 1 Types who might host lifeless parties? (8)
 5 Criminal cur undergoing change of heart (6)
 9 Weak spirit served with old Spanish wine (8)
IMPOTENT   IMP, “spirit” + O(ld) + TENT, a red table wine of Alicante, Spain—from  tinto, “dark-colored”
10 Piece of agricultural land with small WC? (6)
FIELDS    FIELD, “Piece of agricultural land” + S(mall)   Born in Philadelphia as William Claude Dukenfield, W.C. Fields (1880–1946) was a multitalented performer who is remembered as the grandiloquent, heavy-drinking persona he created in comedic films, with a number of oft-repeated bons mots to his name—such as, “I once spent a year in Philadelphia. I think it was on a Sunday.”   …I have very fond memories of the few (action-packed!) years I lived in Philly—where I first tried working cryptic crosswords, those of Frank W. Lewis, in The Nation.
12 Very big award presented by Asher on occasion (5)
OBESE    OBE, “award” (Order of the British Empire) + aShEr
13 Military detachment in a bulletproof SEAT? (9)
REARGUARD    CD   …Har har
14 Man helping to limit energy pollution (12)
ADULTERATION    ADULT, “Man” +E(nergy) + RATION, “helping”
18 I am told cream crackers can be sensational (12)
MELODRAMATIC    (I am told cream)*
21 A shade right-wing, like Edward III primarily (5,4)
ROYAL BLUE    ROYAL, “like Edward III” + BLUE, “right-wing” (in the  UK)
23 Energy one gets with flipping wine one downed (5)
EIDER    E(nergy) + I, “one” + RED<=“flipping”   EIDER can be short for the soft bedcover itself, “eiderdown,” or the sea duck it comes from—or is at least named after—which could be said (here, anyway! ha) to be “downed.”
24 Adequate nurse has cold symptom, but no cold (6)
ENOUGH    EN, enrolled “nurse” + COUGH
25 Breakout artists Keys introduces close to stage (8)
Could that be Alicia Keys?
ESCAPEES    ESCAPE(E)S… or ESCAP(E)ES, take your pick! “Keys” typically encountered here, as on your keyboard, only in the abbreviated form
26 Plain fish without starters in Dutch restaurant (6)
27 One bleedin’ criminal not fit to be put away (8)
INEDIBLE    I, “One” + (bleedin’)*
 1 Can good boy put across whopper ultimately? (6)
PRISON    PI, “good” + whoppeR + SON, “boy”
 2 Unknown, head-shaven hip-hop artist Lil’ Dog? (6)
YAPPER    Y, “Unknown” + RAPPER
 3 Possibly suffering with temperature or rash (3-6)
HOT-HEADED    The dictionary definition of the idiom offered with a cryptic hint
 4 Obedient monkey with belt on collar (12)
CONTROLLABLE    (belt on collar)*
 6 Outstanding oarsmanship won’t be topped (5)
 7 Country song that line-snorting fan’s put on (8)
BULGARIA    BU(L)G, “line-snorting fan” + ARIA, “song”    BUG and “fan” are synonymous in the sense of “enthusiast.”
 8 Taxpayer? Trump has been one, Pence let slip (8)
Don’t remind me!
RESIDENT    pRESIDENT   A new spin on essentially a very common way to clue this word   …Trump has actually not been much of a taxpayer.
11 One getting shot of awfully spare romance (12)
CAMERAPERSON    (spare romance)*
15 I’d balance out one giving pushback in Barnet (5,4)
ALICE BAND    (I’d balance)*   “Barnet” being CRS for “hair” (“Barnet Fair”)   It’s named after the hair band worn by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in illustrations to Through the Looking-Glass (1871). But the term’s first attested use is from 1953.
16 Most sharp way in which regular hit revolutionary (8)
SMARTEST    {SET, “regular” + RAM, “hit”}<=“revolutionary” in the “way” or ST(reet)
17 Make light of drama over drink (4,4)
PLAY DOWN    PLAY, “drama” + DOWN, “drink” (as verb)
19 Commercial bishop and vicar turned over quickly? (6)
ADVERB    AD, “Commercial” + {B(ishop) + REV, “vicar”}<=“turned over”   Another definition by example, which in this case could have been just about anything!
20 Angry European will get stick (6)
CROSSE    CROSS, “Angry” + E(uropean)   The kind of “stick” that gives lacrosse its name
22 With vacuous leader round, time for a drink (5)

24 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5105 by David McLean — slow Sunday”

  1. I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish this when coming to the NW frontier. My knowledge of hip-hop music is sadly lacking. Are Snoop-Dog, Eminem and Big Daddy hip-hop? I could see that the requirement was for a dog beginning with Z,Y or X. After some time the yapper sprang out at me, and I was relieved to see that no hip-hop artist was necessary.
    This was not the end of my trouble as 1a P-Y-H-C_ looked as though only PAYCHECK would fit, though its parsing was proving a mite difficult. An alphabet trawl yielded PSYCHIC, which was my clue of the day and a happy ending.
    Thanks to David Mclean for a well-crafted puzzle, and to Guy for the blog.

    1. Snoop Dogg and Eminem are undoubtedly hip-hop. You may be thinking of either Puff Daddy (or Diddy, as he is now called) or Big Daddy Kane, the answer is yes in either case. The neat thing about this clue is that there are several rappers called Lil’ something (Wayne, Baby, Kim, Nas X etc) so the name is perfectly feasible.

  2. 39 minutes. I didn’t think much of 25ac. As the answer might have been biffable as ESCAPERS the wordplay needed to be clear and in my opinion it wasn’t. We know that ‘Esc’ is a key and if referring to it in speech one would say e.g. ‘press Escape’, but if for some reason you needed the plural you’d say ‘escape keys’ not ‘escapes’ or no-one would know what you were talking about. And quite apart from anything else the surface reading is a car-crash made even worse by the capital K.

    1. I dithered over 25ac, trying to find some reason to prefer E over R, or vice versa. I finally went for R, thinking that an escape artist would be good at escaping; Houdini was not an escapee, but an escaper.

    2. Someone has already suggested that capitalised Keys could be Alicia Keys, which to me makes more sense as surface reading content than “keys”. It is a fact that the Oxford Dictionary of English sees “escape” and “escape key” as meaning exactly the same thing.

        1. I suppose it might have made a bit more sense to me if I’d ever heard of either of them, but even allowing for ignorance it still seems rather feeble.

  3. My experience with this exactly mirrors Corymbia’s – both with the YAPPER and ‘paycheck’! PSYCHICS was LOI and a big PDM. I loved FIELDS – simple but effective, and another well-disguised PDM. Similar MER with ESCAPERS as Jackkt. Otherwise a fun puzzle, well within my capabilities and GK, though my annotated copy shows I had to write out quite a few of the anagrams.

  4. Found the site weeks ago when taking over an hour. Got inspired and now often take 30 mins. Thanks for explaining some techniques all.

    1. This is great to hear, Edric. I first discovered this site in 2010 and it made a huge difference to my solving progress.

  5. Had forgotten to do this puzzle last week I just realised, so did it now. It took 36 minutes. I needed YAPPER to get PSYCHICS, was also thinking about hip hop artists till I thought, what if the unknown is a Y. I put ESCAPEES in without even considering the alternative, so just lucky there.
    On to today’s.

  6. New to this, finding it a great deal of fun but still a challenge. Failed some clues because I simply don’t understand some of the conventions used in clues yet. Example: why does “unknown” = Y? Why does PI = “Good”?
    And is there a glossary of abbreviations used? I can work out most, but what’s CD?
    I shall continue working at it, nowhere close to finishing in sub-hour times yet but sticking to it, thanks for the help!

    1. X, Y or Z can be an “unknown” in a mathematical equation.
      “Pi” is short for “pious” and means “good” in the sense of making a show of being holier-than-thou—hypocritically sanctimonious.
      A CD is a cryptic definition of which the whole clue consists, typically with a phrase or two that can be taken in (at least) two ways. I am always looking first for the more intricate forms of wordplay.
      This is in the Glossary, which is on all our blogs, down at the bottom on my iPhone but off to the right on a desktop, under Useful Links.

    2. There is also a glossary of site-specific abbreviations in our Glossary available via our Help menu.

    3. There’s lots to learn in order to complete puzzles regularly. There are a number of “how to do cryptics” books, of which the best are by Don Manley and Tim Moorey, but just like learning a foreign language, reading a textbook needs to be combined with regular practice. Regular practice plus reading the blogs here seems to be 2 or 3 times better than regular practice followed by an attempt to make sense of the solution the next day, once the only option unless you had an expert friend. Much of the apparent convention turns out to be recorded in an English dictionary – Collins and the Oxford Dictionary of English are the main references for the ST, and just one of the two will be enough unless/until you move on to puzzles like Mephisto. “pi” is in both, as is x as an unknown number – Oxford has y and z too – apparently it was Descartes’s fault.

      As examples of real solving, the Friday Times xwd videos on Cracking the Cryptic on Youtube are worth a look.

  7. 42.34

    Ate Pyschic parties a thing? Not sure I quite get that. And have to agree on the comments about ESCAPEES bunged in with a shrug.

    But lots to like, with CONTROLLABLE completely fooling me. Could I think of a synonym for monkey? Belt? Collar? No, no and no. Nice one

    Thanks all

  8. Re psychic parties a thing? I thought of 1930’s murder mysteries, seances, ouija boards,etc. People gather around a table and the psychic tries to call up the spirit of someone’s dear departed.

  9. Thanks for the clarifications, and pointers to glossary which I might have seen if I wasn’t using my phone rather than the PC! Much appreciated.
    I’d also mention, ref Psychic Parties, I worked this out on the basis of people who were being hosts (as in possessed) of the departed (the lifeless parties). But I’d never have got Tent as a Spanish wine.
    Looking forward to today’s puzzle!

    1. As with so many of these things, ‘tent’ for wine will become more and more familiar to you as you solve crosswords. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it in real life!

  10. 46 minutes for an enjoyable puzzle (as the Sunday setters always give us). A number of subtle clues, but I do agree with the criticism of 25ac (I kept wondering how APES was going to be a key and did nearly enter ESCAPERS). I particularly liked EIDER and FIELDS.

  11. I’d have been better if I hadn’t stuck Yorkie in for the small dog.
    Good of you, Guy, this being a family website and all, not to include WCFields’ explanation of why he didn’t drink water.

      1. « The Yale Book of Quotations cites as its source for this quote Graffiti: Two Thousand Years of Wall Writing, by Robert Reisner, 1971. But W.C. Fields’ granddaughter says he didn’t exactly say the last part of the quote: what he said was, “I don’t drink water. You know what fish do in it.” See her comment below. »

        Let’s! Below, Dr. Harriet A. Fields says: « W.C. Fields, our grandfather, did not say exactly the last part of the fish quote attributed. He took care to be elegant, courteous and defender of the underdog. He did say, …you know what fish do in water. »

  12. Way off beam with 1a – which is always a downer- thinking along the lines of the “walking dead”! But HOT HEADED got me started, and it was like wading through treacle from there . I too fell into the ESCAPERS trap (should read the cryptic more closely). Cheated a few times: ADULTERATION, REARGUARD, but really enjoyed clues like FIELDS, ADVERB and PLAY DOWN (which nearly went in upside-down!). ENOUGH and ALICE BAND were clever too.


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