Saturday Times – 23904

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic
This one wasn’t easy but didn’t seem too bad by comparison with 23898, the previous Saturday’s beast. Luckily I knew the two long book titles and the saying at 7dn came readily to mind, but I didn’t know who Torquemada was for the remaining long answer so that held me up somewhat. (Number and day of the beastly puzzle corrected on edit)

6 TO-WIT – TOW,IT – “Tow” is flax, apparently
9 FLAUBERT’S PARROT – (four parts Albert)*. This is a 1984 novel by Julian Barnes. It was nominated for the Booker prize but didn’t win. I wonder quite how famous it is and whether  it should appear in a Times crossword. Fortunately I had heard of it because I had read Barnes’ first novel, Metroland, and followed his career for a while.  
13 CONFOUNDED – “O Lord in thee have I trusted let me never be confounded” is the last line of the Te Deum. I hate this sort of reference in a clue. There was another one in 23908 this week, in which one was expected to know the opening words of Troilus and Cressida.
14 INCAN – IN,CA(n)
20 FROLIC – FR. (p)OLIC(e)
23 PUT OUT MORE, FLAGS – A 1942 novel by Evelyn Waugh
24 SERVE – Double meaning
25 DYSPEPSIA – (Pepys said)*
1 B.E.F. OG – B.E.F. was the British Expeditionary Force, OG = “go” up i.e. “rise”
2 GRAND INQUISITOR – (Quids in)* set between GRAN and TOR. Dead easy so long as one knows who Torquesmada was. I’m afraid I didn’t so I had to rely on the wordplay.
4 LORN – Poetically abandoned and sounds like “lawn”
5 ERSKINE MAY – ER(SKIN)E MAY – a 19th Century British constitutionalist. I’ve heard the name many years ago when studying political history but I couldn’t remember what he did.
7 WAR TO END ALL WARS – (Swallowed arrant)*
8 TITLE PAGE – Pelt it (all rev) + age. Does age = senility?
13 CENOTAPHS – (The caps on)*
15 AIR RIFLE – The first letters of “As I Recall Really Is Fast Loading Excellent” . A good clue. The explanation baffled me for a while as I thought “excellent up front” indicated A1 at the start and left me floundering to explain the rest of it.
18 CANUTE – C(seA oceaN)UTE. The surface reading amused me here though I don’t think this old king was particularly shrewd on where sea and ocean end.
21 COSTA – COST A – Is it still cheap there?
22 (c)ARES –

20 comments on “Saturday Times – 23904”

  1. Does age = senility?

    Old is to young as senile is to juvenile, so yes. Taking the correct mening of the word in isolation, as opposed to shorthand for the phrase ‘senile dementia’, this is correct. To be old is to be senile but to be senile is not necessarily to be demented!

    1. Thanks for that, Jake. It just raised a query in my mind.

      By the way, if you want to correct an earlier posting there is an option to delete, provided nobody has already attached a reply. But remember to highlight and copy your original posting to the clipboard first, for pasting and editing as a new message.

      1. If you pay for your account, there’s an ‘edit’ option as well (again if you’re quick enough for no-one else to have replied).
    2. I’m going to take issue over this. The clue makes no reference to “old”. Senilty=”old age” not age on its own. Jimbo.
      1. But in the Concise Oxford entry for ‘age’, we have ‘old age’.
  2. Flaubert’s Parrot: knowing the title is the sort of literary knowledge you can pick up by just hanging around bookshops – no need to actually read the book. For me, that makes it OK.

    Confounded: at least in this case the relevant passage is well-known enough to make the ODQ. The T&C opening line is not.

    ‘Torquemada’ was the pseudoymn of Edward Powys Mathers, who, if any single person did, invented cryptic xwds.

      1. I don’t think so – he used the name because it would mean something to his solvers. As mentioned on the Wikipedia Grand Inquisitor page, the real Torquemada was a central figure in the Spanish Inquisition and the best-known ‘Grand Inquisitor’. There may not be that many people who know enough history for that these days, but it at least gets us out of the ‘crossword coterie’ issue.

        And anyone moaning about literary refs in Times puzzles these days should steer well clear of Torquemada puzzles, which use some very difficult ones.

      2. Just to complete the history lesson in cryptic crosswords he was succeeded as crossword editor of The Observer in 1939 by Derrick Somerset Macnutt who took as his pen name the real Torquemada’s successor, Ximenes. Between the two of them they produced the modern cryptic that we are all addicted to. Jimbo.
        1. I wonder whether T & X get a bit too much of the credit. I dare say T did come up with a lot of the clue-type ideas first and then others did the same in the daily papers, but I feel there must have been some independent invention by the people writing the daily paper puzzles. With the possible exception of Adrian Bell at the Times, these people seem to get very little credit. X of course wrote the single most influential book helping to change xwds from a black art to a fair game, but there were others working towards better standards. Afrit and Alec Robins were both acknowledged as influences by X, and Edmund Akenhead as editor made a huge difference to the Times puzzles though not taking them all the way to Ximenean rules.
          1. I’m inclined to agree with you, Peter. It’s always the same, the people who are remembered are the ones who happen to leave a hook that history hangs its hat on. Ask who discovered antiseptics for example and you’re likely to be told Joseph Lister. Semmelweiss, Holmes, who were they? I don’t think there’s much doubt that T was the original driving force. As you say X did the analysis and then wrote the book – the necessary marker that history requires. Jimbo.
  3. Forgot to mention my solving time for this – can’t remember exactly, but slower than the previous Sat and still under 15 – say 14:45.
  4. I thought this was a good test. Aboutt 40 minutes to solve. Jack has mentioned my reservations. I would have had a real moan about 13A before we suffered that monstrosity 23908. I have a feeling that Canute was quite shrewd. I believe he sat on the shore and ordered the tide to stop in order to prove that it would ignore him and that he was thus not all powerful. Jimbo.
    1. I should have looked up the Canute story for myself. You are are of course quite right, Jimbo, thanks for reminding me of the details. Glad to find it’s not just me who thinks 8dn was a bit off.
  5. Good puzzle. Just enough torture for a Saturday.

    Yes, my understanding of the Canute story was that he had tired of being surrounded by ‘yes’ men at court and set out to prove that he wasn’t all that. Rare humility in a political leader.

    No problem with Torquemada. He and the Spanish Inquisition (Nobody expects the… sorry, it’s like a verbal tic) crop up often enough in pop culture. Flaubert’s Parrot I also know from mainstream osmosis, even though I refuse to read anything nominated for British literary prizes and anything proclaiming itself ‘literary fiction’. Don’t get me started.

    I don’t buy that “exclusive coterie” accusation at all. The Times often takes all of us outside our comfort zone, but then so does Stephen Fry. I hope it remains much more QI than Countdown. That way I’ll keep learning something new every time I solve it (or fail to).

    Enjoy your weekends.

    1. Nicely put! A couple of Youtube clips for those who’ve never seen the shows in question …

      QI – nice daft discussion about an Edison invention with some good mockery of Stephen Fry

      Countdown – a bit of former Times crossword champ Michael MacDonald-Cooper’s journey to octochampdon.

  6. Can some kind person enlighten me further on the wordplay for this clue please? I wrestled with this one for the whole week! Presumably ‘skin’ means enevelope? Thank you in advance.

    Carole H. Fermo, Italy

    1. Yes, you have it right, Carole, but just to clarify it’s:

      ER(SKIN)E MAY where “SKIN” (envelope) is contained by “ERE” (before) and followed by “MAY” (spring).

      “Receiving” is the containment indicator.

      Sorry if my original explanation didn’t make this clear.

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