Cryptic 25828 – nearly a Greek tragedy

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I tackled this, waiting with unusually disgusting instant coffee, while M. Grimaud put my car through 104 tests for the Controle Technique; At first I thought this was going to be ‘setter’s revenge’ and my first DNF-blog but things soon improved. I finished in an extravagant 35 minutes, just as he completed his tests. Parsing a couple didn’t fall into place until I returned to write the blog; apologies for the slightly late appearance.

1 TENSE – I assume this is a double definition (d.d.), ‘tensed up’ being one sense; please enlighten me if there’s more to it.
4 AGAMEMNON – ANON = soon, around GAME, M, for the Greek chap who came after Paris’s Dad.
10 LOWER – Cows and oxen ‘low’ so an ox is a lower, which also has much the same meaning as glower, to look menacing.
11 LOLITA – LA (smoggy city) around (TOIL)*. I looked up Lolita Haze on Wiki and discovered Dolores Haze was the full name of 12-year-old Lolita in Nabokov’s novel; Lolita Haze is also the name of an ‘adult’ actress. I haven’t read the book, or seen her movies, yet.
12 ANTIGONE – Remove L from LANE, put around TIGON (cat), AN(TIGON)E, name of Greek Tragedy plays by Sophocles and Euripides.
14 GRAND TOTAL – Cryptic def. My easy starting point.
16 SKUA – AUKS backwards. Species of seabirds.
19 TITO – TRITON (sea god) has R and N removed. Josip Broz Tito ran Yugoslavia for 27 years or so.
20 STREET ARAB – S (TREE) TAR AB, south, two sailors, round a bay tree, def. ‘stray’. Intricate, and great misdirection.
22 SERENADE – SEREN(A D)E, def. ‘piece’.
23 CARPET – CARP (find faults with) ET (the film, again), def. ‘lecture’.
26 NAOMI – I MOAN reversed.
27 INCOGNITO – (NOTICING)* plus O (surprised cry). The setters for these puzzles are indeed incognito. Nice clue, I thought.
28 ANNULMENT – ANN (girl) followed by U (posh) LT (officer) insert MEN (soldiers). I thought countermand was a verb and annulment a noun, but someone with a big dictionary will doubltless prove me wrong.
29 TAMES – THAMES, with H (husband) removed, def. ‘calms’.
1 TAIL LIGHT – TAIL = dog, follow; LIGHT = happy, sort of, def. ‘something on vehicle’. Mine have just been checked.
2 NATAL – FATAL (deadly), replace the F with N, old bit of South Africa.
3 EVENTIDE – EVEN (matching), TIDE (trend), def. ‘later period’.
4 ATOM – A (alpha) TOM (male cat), def. ‘scrap’. Personally defining an atom as a scrap offends my scientific mindset, but it’s doubtless fine with the literary crowd.
5 APPENDAGES – A PP (very quiet) END (death) AGES (a long time), def. ‘things going on’.
6 ECLAIR – EC (city, as in ‘of London’), LAIR (den), def. ‘something sweet’.
7 NEW YORKER – NEW (fresh) YORKER (kind of delivery in cricket), resident of Brooklyn.
8 NERVE – Cryptic d.d. Nerves convey senses, nerve as in courage, bottle.
13 DOTTED LINE – It was obvious and amusing once I saw it, but I had to go through the many alphabetic possibilities of *O*T** *I*E for quite a while first.
15 AFTERNOON – AFTER (seeking) N N (news) around O O (old love). Once you’ve stopped thinking about Attlee and other old PMs, you realise it’s the other sort of PM.
17 ALBATROSS – ALBA (Gaelic for Scotland), followed by S SORT (family) reversed, def. ‘baggage’, as a handicap. Reference to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
18 STRAIGHT – (RIG THAT’S)*, def. ‘reliable’.
21 ONEILL – ONE ILL. Eugene O’Neill, American dramatist who was, ironically, ill for much of his life.
22 SENNA – ANNE’S reversed. Ayrton Senna, F1 champion tragically killed in 1994 aged only 34.
24 PRIAM – PRAM (transport used by mum), insert I, for the chap who was Paris’s Dad.
25 SCUT – S, CUT (division), def. ‘game’s end’, as in a rabbit’s tail.

47 comments on “Cryptic 25828 – nearly a Greek tragedy”

  1. Tough one, perhaps because of some of the vague definitions – piece, things going on, something sweet, etc. Didn’t know the HAZE reference. The SW corner took up probably half of my time. Liked the mini-story in the clue for ANTIGONE.

    Edited at 2014-07-02 10:17 am (UTC)

  2. There was an old-fashioned feel to this, with an unusually large amount of GK required. Luckily, the right questions were asked! I share Pip’s dissatisfaction with ATOM = scrap but I await jimbo’s comment with interest.
    1. My first reaction was the same as yours. Post solve after a while I did think of “atom of truth” which Ulaca has entered later in the blog but I did think it a bit unimaginative as clues go.
    2. I can’t see a problem in principle with using ATOM figuratively to mean something small, even if in practice I can’t think of a situation where I would!
  3. Hard rations this one, though I got there eventually. I have also concluded unscientifically that I can tell how tough a puzzle is by how soon I start inventing words because I can’t find a real one that fits, in this case quite early on (I think today’s best effort was ABLATNIKS for 17dn).

    Of the real ones, I particularly liked INCOGNITO; a bit of self-referential clueing is always welcome.

  4. I won’t be visiting here much longer: I’m one of those not taking out a subscription to Murdoch’s paper. So I’d like to thank Peter Biddlecombe for setting up this blog and all other participants for your contributions. I’ve rarely commented but I’ve been a keen reader for several years and have enjoyed getting to know you. Cheers, Garry Gillard, Perth au
  5. 29:06 … I loved this puzzle and found most of it pretty straightforward, but ground to a halt in the SW with CARPET, ALBATROSS and the ‘arab’ bit of 20a taking 10 minutes between them.

    COD .. DOTTED LINE, even though Tony will probably tell us it’s a chestnut!

    Ta B&S

  6. 40m. After a long run of easy puzzles we were due a stinker, and I found this very tough. I confess I didn’t really enjoy it, but I’m putting that down to my mood because it’s a very good puzzle and if I were feeling less tired and grumpy I think I’d have enjoyed it a lot. There’s quite a lot of clever stuff in it and it’s all very fair.
    I didn’t help myself by taking an age over some clues that don’t seem difficult in retrospect: STRAIGHT, INCOGNITO and SENNA, for instance. And bunging in MALONE at 21dn (turns out there’s a reason I’ve never heard of him) and IN THE CLUB (enumeration + ‘expecting’) at 9ac didn’t help either.
    Thanks for explaining 11ac, Pip: I’ve never read Lolita so I didn’t have a clue how ‘Haze’ came into it. Clever clue.

    Edited at 2014-07-02 10:27 am (UTC)

  7. Not my cup of tea in any way shape or form. Far too much myth and obscure literary reference (had no idea Lolita was called Haze) plus irritatingly loose definitions. The whole thing made my teeth grind for 25 not particularly pleasurable minutes.
  8. Excellent blog for a very difficult puzzle. I clocked in at 27 minutes, which felt like an eon, with one wrong. As a TLS puzzle aficionado I was ok on all the literature but came a cropper on Formula One about which I’m proverbially clueless. I had some sort of half-baked parsing of SONIA for 22d and wasn’t at all surprised when it didn’t work. Sorry we’re losing Garry from Perth. The suits at NewsInt have a lot to answer for.
  9. 36 mins, and a real struggle it was too. I may not have been on the best of form this morning because it took me too long to see a couple of relatively straightforward answers, i.e. SENNA and GRAND TOTAL. I had the most trouble in the lower half and finished with INCOGNITO, DOTTED LINE (a type of clue I’m much more used to seeing in the Guardian on a Monday), STREET ARAB and ALBATROSS, in that order.

    I didn’t realise that COUNTERMAND could be a noun either. LOLITA went in from the wordplay, and I was pleased to find out that there wasn’t a sea mist off the Californian coast called a “lilota”.

  10. We’ll, that wasn’t easy. Two sittings, over an hour altogether, ending with ATOM, because it was the only thing that fit. Ouch, I got my comeuppance here. STrEET ARAB? Really? SCUT? News to me. Amazed to be all correct. I did, though, get a kick out of INCOGNITO. Regards.
  11. Like TT, I was playing around with -NIKS at 17d, and like Olivia I got one wrong, ‘scat’, for SCUT in my case, which almost works. Thanks to Pip for the parsing of NATAL, which eluded me even after considerable head-scratching. 54′.

    A very nice Nutmeg in the forever(?) free Guardian today of those with a bit of time on their hands.

  12. I started fairly well and thought I’d be finished in 25-30 minutes. All the Greek figures were well-known to me so they went in quickly (Paris is really a godsend to setters). Then I ran into trouble. I’d hastily entered IN THE CLUB for ‘expecting’ without looking at the wordplay too closely, which really screwed me up for 4d and 5d. That took ages to sort out. From then on it was slow plod to the finish, with over five minutes spent staring at 20 and 17. Eventually I settled on STREET ARAB without understanding the wordplay, and could think of nothing other than AMBITIONS to fit 17, so that was a desperate last entry.

    I didn’t know ‘anagram’ could be an intransitive verb (which it has to be to make 27 work) but it’s there in Chambers. 10 seemed to be clearly LOWER, but I’ve always spelled the word meaning to menace as ‘lour’, so that was another puzzle.

    A very imaginative set of clues. The only one I wasn’t keen on was 1a. If it is a dd, the two definitions seem rather close.

  13. I should have confessed above that I spent a full hour on it, and still got one wrong.
  14. As a member of the literati (by default, at any rate, since I’m no scientist), atom for scrap seems quite okay, as in there’s not an atom of truth in all the allegations about [supply 70s celebrity].
  15. Completed in multiple sittings, but well over the hour in total.

    AGAMEMNON must be the most extreme case of trusting the wordplay I can recall. I mean it’s clearly a word made up by the setter, and you’re obviously all in on the joke as no-one else has mentioned it. Still, I did trust the wordplay and got the right answer, so no complaints.

    Very enjoyable and challenging puzzle I thought. Particularly liked INCOGNITO and DOTTED LINE.

    Edited at 2014-07-02 12:00 pm (UTC)

    1. Put it this way, back in the day Agamemnon was as famous as another Greek, Nick Kyrgios, is today. No Twitter account, though.
  16. I suppose I must possess quite a lot of the required GK as I finished this in 14:35 but will admit that Tippex was used three times! Didn’t know LOLITA had a surname so I’d better file that away for future use.
  17. 35 minutes with one cheat but enjoyed the puzzle overall. I like literary/classical references but three of the same type in one puzzle? I like variety even more. Can’t understand those who went straight for IN THE CLUB. With a quick look at the anagram fodder it was clearly going to be UP THE SPOUT until I checked both fodder and enumeration. My problem is with 1ac where I can’t find any direct dictionary justification for tense = contract, despite having always believed that when I tense my muscles I contract them.
    1. The way you get IN THE CLUB is by seeing the enumeration and the word ‘expecting’ at the beginning of the clue and not bothering with anything else!
      1. Certainly the way you get IN THE CLUB is often through inattention, though being misled by surfaces or just losing count of the port and lemons can do it, too.
        1. ‘Being misled by surfaces’? That sounds like the sort of explanation thud might hear…
      2. That had not escaped me:) I should perhaps have included a 😉 [or should that be an ;)?]. I leapt to another conclusion when I read the first seven words of your comment and feared what might follow.
    2. ODO has essentially ‘make or become shorter and tighter’ for contract, and Collins has essentially ‘make or become taut/stretched tightly’ for tense.
  18. STREET ARAB was a write-in for me as the expression is used consistently in the Sherlock Holmes stories to describe the Baker Street Irregulars, led by Wiggins. These stories would be my chosen specialised subject on Mastermind, but not because my name is Watson.
  19. As yesterday’s, I completed this over the course of the day in between some pretty energetic gardening. So no time but a lot of pleasurable interludes. I think the gaps helped dredge up some of the GK – and I kept surprising myself! LOI dotted line.
  20. Far too clever for me – nowhere near finishing after over an hour: the SW defeated me completely. I managed Agamemnon, Antigone and Priam and got Lolita from wordplay, but had no idea why – though I do now (thanks)!
    I have railed before about the indiscriminate use of girl’s (or boy’s) names and there were three here.
    Sorry, but I don’t like 13d at all.
  21. I didn’t time myself but I finished this and the Nutmeg puzzle in a 10-minutes wait for the bus and a 20 minute bus trip, so I think I got through it pretty quickly. LOLITA and SCUT from wordplay
  22. Well over the hour for this one yet at no time did I feel completely stuck. 24dn was a gift after having a Paris reference only a few puzzles back which set me thinking immediately along the right lines. I’m sure STREET ARAB has come up too, as I don’t do The Guardian and I remember meeting it previously. DOTTED LINE completely foxed me to the bitter end.
  23. 40 minutes dead, so as adamantine as it gets. Gaps all over the place only slowly filled in. It could have been a refugee from the TLS with all the Litref, but the TLS cluing is rarely this deceitful.
    Not sure if I enjoyed it a lot – what was that German word we invented for the joy of completing something you didn’t think you were going to?
    As an aside, four girls’ names, counting Lolita, in the same grid? Three of them intersecting? Two of them alternative spellings?
  24. George, having just done the Nutmeg puzzle all I can say is that you must really have been on form today.
  25. Didn’t enjoy, or finish. Atom=scrap, happy=light, family=sort were all too much of a stretch and the HAZE reference far too obscure.
  26. So it wasn’t that easy, and nobody explains TENSE more explicitly. In retrospect I think this was a great puzzle, of its type (GK plus cryptic required), although I was panicking at first sight of it. CrypticSue you seem to fly through these, come and blog for us!
  27. 16:26 for me, tiring rapidly after taking 18:37 for No. 10,176 (from 1962).

    I found this quite challenging, but an interesting and enjoyable puzzle with lots of clever definitions. If beginners found it tough, then tough! Keep at it and you may find you improve.

    My reading of 4ac is that “24’s place” is Troy, which is what Agamemnon took (you make it sound as if Agamemnon was Priam’s successor).

    1. 7 hours, although I went away and left the timer running for five and half of those.

      I’d expected Tony Sever to be “disappointed with 10min after a slow start”, so was relieved to see that he found it “quite challenging” at 16min.

      The NW corner took me the longest. I was pretty sure that LOLITA was wrong, but could see no other option. And is LA srill smog-bound these days?

      STREET ARAB was also a lucky stab. I completely mis-parsed it, and guessed that the “bay” was a horse (ARAB) but couldn;t justify the STREET.

      All in all, a bit of a chewy puzzle.

  28. Still here, subscription-wise. Learned a lot from this one, thanks to the blog and the comments. Got lost in the weeds in the NW, where the happy dog gave me a something-wagon.
  29. Great site which is very useful when I’ve struggled over some of the clues. Love the comments too. Martini
  30. Tough in a very, very good way. Needless to say I’m not in the camp that says zero GK is okay. It never was for Times puzzles, either.


  31. Probably no-one will read this as it is a day late, but Street Arab is an unpleasant antique usage that should surely not be used nowadays. It is at least as offensive as Nigger, which would never appear today. This puzzle could have been compiled 50 years ago – when Lolita was being made into a film, Los Angeles was stricken by smog, and the English Football League still had a Second Division. Can anyone point to a clue that could not have been written in 1964?
    1. >Can anyone point to a clue that could not have been written in 1964?

      Stylistically there are several clues you’d have been very unlikely to find in a 1964 Times crossword (17dn, for example). You definitely wouldn’t have found either 22ac (“an old” wouldn’t have made any sense) or 22dn (he was only born in 1960).

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