As Easy As 1ac-2ac-3ac

A simple race to the finish this Friday, with almost every answer being one of the first things you’d think of once you’ve located the definition. FOI 1ac, LOI 3dn. I preferred the slightly more deceptive clues, 9ac and especially 25ac where I didn’t see the cryptic part until after submission; honorable mention too to 19dn for its ever-pleasing use of AN. Thanks to the setter for a gentle one for American residents in the throes of Thanksgiving!

1 Charlie in impasse organised retreat into fantasy (8)

5 Adventurous rascal dumping one motor in river (6)
PICARO – I CAR dumped into PO

8 Author is Pound (3)
PEN – double def

9 Scot on hill changes into middle gear (10)
LOINCLOTHS – (SCOT ON HILL*). Gear worn around the middle, that is.

10 Ruler over Laks is initially good, then roguish (8)
OLIGARCHS – O{ver} L{aks} I{s} + G + ARCH

11 Two shorter men someone killed? (6)

12 What occurs in tub at home (4)
BATH – hidden in {tu}B AT H{ome}, &littishly

14 Orchestrate popular support to billet troops (10)
INSTRUMENT – IN + STRUT, “billeting” MEN

17 Undecided around environment girl occupies (10)

20 Rat on boat one dislodged by duck (4)
SHOP – take SHIP [boat], then dislodge its I [one] with an O [duck]

23 At home, cool temperature delivers baby (6)

24 Busy worker eating cold meat left sauce (8)
BECHAMEL – BEE eating C HAM; plus L

25 Policy for those who are moderate or poor (6,4)

26 Ridicule piece Joplin would compose (3)
RAG – double def

27 Ale supplier having bartender empty pitcher (6)
BREWER – B{artende}R + EWER

28 Communication system Number Ten backed (8)
ETHERNET – ETHER [number, as in that which numbs] + TEN reversed

1 Transport going around British plant (9)

2 Tories, first, are composed (7)

3 Level crossing the writer will support (6)
PILLAR – PAR [level] “crossing” I’LL

4 Chaplains at sea making way for sailors (4,5)

5 Commotion in state to China’s south (7)
PALAVER – AVER [state] to the south of PAL [China = China plate = mate]

9 Animals having a search inside underground tunnels (9)
CATACOMBS – CATS having A COMB inside

7 French on about Welshwoman showing tongue (7)
RUSSIAN – reversed SUR [French on] + SIAN

13 Might one succeed with a real burst? (4-2-3)

15 Most gentle incline with replanted trees (9)
TENDEREST – TEND [incline] with (TREES*)

16 Champion in Great Escape (3-6)
TOP-FLIGHT – or take the parts separately, TOP [great] + FLIGHT [escape]

18 Staff regularly argue and run for supervisor (7)
MANAGER – MAN + A{r}G{u}E + R

19 Nocturnal creature needs attention after an illness (7)
ANTBEAR – EAR [attention] after AN + TB [illness]

21 Poet, northern one, huge hit for Yankees? (4,3)
HOME RUN – HOMER [poet] + UN [northern “one”]

22 Grouse fly east, retaining height (6)
WHINGE – WING E, “retaining” H

66 comments on “As Easy As 1ac-2ac-3ac”

  1. A nice easy post-turkey one. Only problem was that I’d never heard of GOLDEN MEAN and, like you, didn’t spot the clever “or poor” bit. But I couldn’t fit anything else that made the slightest sense so I went with it. Being in technology ETHERNET was a gimme, but others might find it less obvious.
  2. Can’t say I found this particularly easy other than by comparison with the past couple of days. NHO OHF* PICARO and GOLDEN MEAN, and the shrub EUPHORBIA had to be dredged up from the recesses of my mind.

    *or had forgotten.

    After yesterday’s discussions re the QC might I suggest that ‘surface / surface reading’ be added to the Glossary?

      1. Excellent! That’s now very clear. I don’t often look at the Glossary but having just made a rare visit I notice there’s nothing on semi&lit and also it might be helpful to have a bit more detail on cryptic definitions – compare and contrast with &lit for example. Even after 12 years blogging I sometimes find myself having to think twice when categorising clues.
          1. Yes, it’s dodgy territory. Perhaps some of us bloggers could get together behind the scenes and hammer something out between us?
            1. An &lit is one where the whole clue does double duty as both cryptic and definition. If there’s anything at all extraneous to that, i.e. if there are a few words that serve no cryptic purpose, it becomes a semi-&lit. (Is my first pass.)
              1. Yes I think that’s right. The extra word or words are usually something innocuous like ‘this’ that contribute nothing to wordplay but are required to turn the whole clue into a definition.
                I also think the wordplay has to be necessary for the definition, i.e. it doesn’t stand on its own.

                Edited at 2019-11-29 08:56 pm (UTC)

                1. Because it has clearly separate definition (mice may get snapped up by them) and wordplay (slow-moving).
                  In a semi-&Lit the definition is an extra word or two that only make sense as a definition by reference to the clue as a whole. Or to put it another way the wordplay is also necessarily part of the definition.
                  That’s the way I think of it anyway!

                  Edited at 2019-11-29 08:54 pm (UTC)

                  1. Interesting. I read the definition as being “slow moving mice may get snapped up by them”… i.e. faster ones escape, with “slow moving” as the wordplay being part of the definition. I can see your point, though, if you choose to parse it the way you did. What fun we have here!

                    Edited at 2019-11-29 09:02 pm (UTC)

                    1. To me the HOUDINI clue in that article is a real semi-&Lit because the definition (‘he’) doesn’t pass muster without the rest of the clue. ‘Mice may get snapped up by them’ is a perfectly serviceable definition.
                    2. The mice one isn’t &lit though, as the clue CAN be parsed as a straight cryptic+definition. And there’s extraneous material in any case.

                      How about ‘extended definition’ = ‘semi-&lit’?

  3. Finally subscribed to LJ to avoid the increasingly strident Russian ads.

    I woke at 5am for some reason and tried this as a soporific, achieving a better than par time for me of under 45 minutes. I hit submit with fingers crossed for the unknown PICARO (though I did know picaresque, strangely) and HEIR AT LAW, so relieved to see no pink squares.

    Thanks V and setter. Now back to sleep I hope!

  4. Off the wavelength, and the same unknowns: PICARO, GOLDEN MEAN only known in its mathematical meaning (1 + √5)/2, EUPHORBIA long forgotten. Also never seen transport as a noun, though Chambers confirms it.
    But I nevertheless enjoyed it – liked the BATH &lit, the BREWER’s surface, and ETHERNET>
  5. Well, that’s better! After a few recent puzzles, such as Wednesday’s, I was thinking I was losing the plot. However it did take all the checkers before I got GOLDEN MEAN and PICARO.
  6. Would have been more like 25′ except for the scattered narcoleptic moments. Aside from sleepiness it was slow going, with the solutions almost all surprising me by their unsurprisingness. LOI PICARO; NHO, but knowing ‘picaresque’ should have led me to it sooner.
  7. 9:40. Pretty straightforward stuff. I followed the cryptic for PICARO but once I had it seemed logical based on ‘picaresque’.
    EUPHORBIA is in the category ‘plants I know from crosswords’, which is almost exactly coterminous with the category ‘plants’.
  8. 21:59. NHO PICARO, GOLDEN MEAN (except in the mathematical sense, like Isla) or HEIR AT LAW. Becalmed for several minutes with 5 to go, then they all came in a flurry. LOI ANTBEAR after INFANT and PILLAR got me to LOINCLOTHS. I liked WHINGE.
  9. 34 minutes. LOI ANTBEAR. I always get thrown by the use of AN before a consonant. I did know of both senses of GOLDEN MEAN but have only matched it to the cryptic on reading the blog. I seem to recall my IT manager and the IBM salesperson having a vigorous discussion about the merits of token ring and ETHERNET, trying my best to look interested. We picked the latter and it looks as if history has proved us right. On that basis, I’m making it COD. I didn’t find this a doddle, but a mix of simple and tricky. Thank you V and setter.
    1. You will maybe remember the surely apocryphal story of the IT Project Manager you failed to order any network cables. When asked why, he allegedly said, “But I though we were using the ether-net”.

      Edited at 2019-11-29 05:52 pm (UTC)

  10. 23:21 … feeling sleepy and rather dawdled through this, getting a bit stuck, predictably, on the plant, and even more so on GOLDEN MEAN — a new one to me. The wordplay eventually got me there.

    Like v, I was much taken by the ‘an’ in ANTBEAR. What was the recurring thing in Private Eye with ‘an’ before consonants?

  11. 40mins made up of 25 for c.40% then took the car to the garage, then 15 for the last 60%.
    Brain must have warmed up by then.
    I’m Northern although not as Northern as some. I don’t say ‘un.
    Thanks setter and V. It was a gud’un.

    Edited at 2019-11-29 09:36 am (UTC)

    1. I can recall my Grandad saying, “Tha’s a reet good ‘un.” I used it frequently with my kids. I wonder if they’ll continue the family tradition?
  12. Normal service resumed after 2 DNFs. Liked the SHIP CANAL, GOLDEN MEAN (I knew from Art) and ANTBEAR.
  13. Finished before my morning break, which means I’m going to struggle for things to occupy myself. “Number” meaning “anaesthetic” is second only to “Flower” meaning “river” in my List Of Things I Always Forget.

    Does TOP FLIGHT really mean champion? I mean, Southampton, Watford and Everton are all in the top flight, and I don’t think even their own fans would describe them thus.


    1. To me, “top flight” means having a good chance of becoming champion, but not necessarily being one. I would not include the whole of the Premier league therefore ..
    2. I think it just means “excellent”, as in “that repast was top-flight, darling” in the Home Counties and “tea were champion, duck” (or something) north of the Watford Gap.
  14. As said above, an easy one for a Friday, done in 20 minutes all except GOLDEN MEAN, which I only knew in mathematical sense and still don’t understand. Liked AN TB EAR for the clever use of AN and the illness in two more letters.
  15. So not a Black Friday in solving land. All pretty straight forward. I agree with our esteemed blogger that the cryptic definition for LOINCLOTHS was very good.

    COD: CATACOMBS. Clever misdirection towards animals and away from tunnels as the definition, I thought.

  16. This took about 40 minutes, but I did make heavy weather of it as I’m a little delicate this morning. One of those puzzles were most of the answers, even the unknowns like 5a PICARO, went in relatively quickly, but the few leftovers took a lot longer. Eventually seeing 14a INSTRUMENT led me to the first bit of 15d TENDEREST, then 17a AMBIVALENT (I’d been trying to put GAL in there) and finally 1d EUPHORBIA.

    Didn’t know what was going on with GOLDEN MEAN, as I only knew the mathematical ratio, but at least the crossers didn’t leave too much room for doubt.

    1. I had much the same experience as you. But I still don’t understand how “orchestrate” can be a definition of “instrument” at 14a.Can you enlighten me?
      1. One of the definitions of ‘instrument’ in Collins is ‘another word for orchestrate.’ News to me but I think it explains it!
        1. Many thanks. I have to say that I’ve never come across “instrument” being used in this way. Collins seems not infrequently to offer definitions that can’t be found anywhere else — which no doubt explains why it is the favourite dictionary of crossword setters!
  17. I was chugging along nicely until I came to my last 2, WHINGE and GOLDEN MEAN, about 35-40 minutes into the solve, but then the wheels came off. I eventually saw WHINGE after an alphabet trawl, but then spent ages wondering what, other than GOLDEN, could mean moderate or poor. I’d never heard of the term, but eventually decided it could be nothing else, but checked it existed before submitting. Annoying end to what had been an enjoyable puzzle. Totally missed “or” for Golden. 54:39. Thanks setter and V.
    1. Exactly the same here. The rest done in about ten minutes, then a long time to work/remember golden mean, then even longer to get whinge – frustrating when you know how the clue works but just can’t see it.
  18. Took longer than it should have, mainly due to a few NHOs. As above it was the few leftovers that caused the delay. LOI WHINGE where I tried every letter for the first letter except W.
  19. For those not of a culinary bent, bechamel is the sauce that half of the “professionals” on Masterchef don’t know how to make.
    1. So far Monica and Marcus seem to have come up with a lot of sauces and recipes the “professionals” haven’t a clue about, including, delightfully, how to poach an egg. I might go in for it myself next time!
      1. Saw that one. Incredible. As soon as I hear the words “bistro”, “gastropub” or “classical with my own twist”, I think, “You’re going home.)
        1. Yes, there was one of those this week who didn’t know how to joint a chicken because in the place where he cooks they are supplied already cut into quarters. It’s such a basic skill!
  20. 2O.30 scrambling all round this one in an haphazard manner. It seems I managed to get GOLDEN MEAN without spotting a definition that works or the rather clever wordplay, not even knowing the mathematical formula as such, but still being convinced that I had actually solved the clue, not biffed it. Long may such delusions continue!
    I know Laks is/are only there for the L, but I had to know, so: “Laks historically live in the Lakskiy and Kulinskiy districts of Dagestan. This ethnocultural area is known as Lakia.” Good to know, and stopped me speculating on vast numbers of rupees and misthinking an oligarch was a rich boss.
  21. ….after 20 minutes. I simply couldn’t see GOLDEN MEAN, which joined PICARO and HEIR-AT-LAW in the NHO list. Part of the problem was also failing to crack WHINGE. I was blissfully unaware that the ANTBEAR was nocturnal – must watch more Attenborough !


  22. We could do with a bit of regression to the mean in our political systems.

    As it was, I did not parse GOLDEN MEAN. Is HEIR AT LAW the same as heir presumptive? Or does it include heir apparent?

    15’38”, thanks verlaine and setter.

  23. I should also add a short shameful confession today: One of the reasons I took so long is because I can’t spell “heir”. I managed to second-guess myself out of the correct spelling today by assuming it must be “hier” as the word is surely related to “hierarchy”.

    Note to self: “Hierarchy” is from the Greek ἱερός, “sacred”. “Heir” is from the Latin heres, originally Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰeh₁ro- (“derelict”), from the root *ǵʰeh₁- (“to leave behind, abandon”), cognate with Ancient Greek χήρα (khḗra, “widow”.) (Thanks, Wictionary…)

  24. Can’t agree that this was easy. PICARO, OLIGARCH, EUPHORBIA, ANTBEAR, HEIR-AT-LAW are certainly not the first words that sprang to mind for their respective clues.

    WHINGE and the NHO GOLDEN MEAN were last in, the latter requiring some assistance.

  25. A gentle one, especially for Friday, all done in 6m 50s. PICARO and HEIR-AT-LAW were new to me but not too tricky to figure out.

    I agree that the definition for TOP-FLIGHT was a little weak.

    1. I commented somewhere above, I think “champion” can just be an adjective meaning “excellent”.
  26. 25:24. I found this pretty gentle for a Friday but a pleasantly satisfying solve. Picaro rang a bell and made sense since I knew of picaresque novels. I’m not sure I knew of instrument as a verb. Didn’t bother to parse ambivalent once I had the checkers in place. Biffed golden mean without seeing “or” and without full understanding. I was thinking of the golden ratio employed by mathematicians, artists and architects as opposed to the ancient Greek philosophers’ “middle way”. I was held up by some of the anagrams loincloths, ship canal, escapism which seemed to take an age for my brain to redeploy in the correct order.
  27. What a nice puzzle. And mercifully easy for this hungover person.

    Not exactly a Bacardi-and-Tizer evening, but quite bad.

  28. Done, but not dusted, in two DD cab rides – a miserable DNF as I lobbed in GOLDEN BEAN at 25ac after a very swift alphabet trawl, my LOI – If one was down to one’s last golden bean, one would be moderately poor. I believed we were somewhere in the Brothers Grimmland. NHO GOLDEN MEAN!And had my alphabet trawl extended to M it would have passed me by.



    WOD 1dn EUPHORBIA wasn’t that the shrub in Miss Joan Hunter Dunne’s old man’s front garden?

    No euphoria hereabouts.

  29. Aristotle will be spinning in his grave, given the number of people today who’d never heard of his Golden Mean!

    The “benefits” of a classical education…

    1. As you had all the ‘benefits” of a classical education, then you are the ideal person to solve a puzzle that has eluded all but myself for 60 years.

      In 1958 Richard Chopping painted the deudt jacket for Ian Fleming’s latest book ‘Goldfinger’. He precisely followed IF’s exact instructions. The cover shows a skull with gold coins in its eye sockets and a red rose between its teeth:all on a knotted-pine background.

      ‘Instinctively, Bond took a few paces back into the dark recesses of the workroom.He noticed the movement and smiled to himself. He picked up somebody’s putter
      and bent down and thoughtfully addressed a knot in the wooden floor.’

      The “benefits” of an all-round education help too.

      It answers one of the greatest mysteries of World War II.

  30. No idea of time for this one, as I had to go away and left he clock running, but it felt like about 25min. NHO PICARO, of course, but it went in from wordplay with a shrug.

    I had doubts, though, over GOLDEN MEAN, since I missed the cleverly-concealed “or”. Also, I’ve only ever heard of the GOLDEN MEAN in the mathematical sense. As numbers go, it is far, far, far more interesting than pi, and crops up in all sorts of unexpected places in nature as well as maths.

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