Saturday Times 26646 – 11th Feb. Crosswords in the Menagerie

Another good workout. The top half of the grid went in reasonably smoothly but then it was a slow struggle through the bottom half. I got several answers from the definition and helpers and then wrestled to decode the wordplay. I think my clue of the day was 7dn, for the elegance of the cluing. The hardest to crack was 18dn, with the nice misdirection of its definition.

Looking at the leaderboard, I see that at the time of writing, the 100th best time was just under 16 minutes so it does look like it was about average difficulty.

Clues are reproduced in blue, with the definition underlined. Anagram indicators are bolded and italicised. Then there’s the answer IN BOLD, followed by [the parsing of the wordplay]. (ABC)* means ‘anagram of ABC’, {deletions are in curly brackets}.

1. Limp I had after cold gets into back muscle (7)
FLACCID: CALF [muscle, backwards] getting C [cold] followed by I’D [I had].

5. Composer available from PC World? (7)

9. Sailor surrounded by minor celestial illumination (9)
STARLIGHT: TAR [sailor] in SLIGHT [minor].

10. Party-goer’s setting aside time to have a shot (5)
GUESS: GUES{t}’S [partygoer’s, without the T = time]

11. What might ornithologist see in Africa? “Redbreast”, I cry incorrectly (9,4)
SECRETARY BIRD: (REDBREAST I CRY)*. This was my FOI, only because – obscure reference warning – the Secretary Bird is a supporting character in Bridge in the Menagerie, alongside the lead characters Hideous Hog and Rueful Rabbit. Funniest bridge book ever.

13. Flushed wine and coffee in opposite directions (3-5)
RED-FACED: RED [wine] + DECAF [coffee, backwards].

15. More light from flames either side of a river (6)
FAIRER: FIRE [flames] around A[a] plus R [river]. More light, as of fairer hair.

17. One’s fleeced by grasping copper, the head of narcotics (6)
VICUNA: VIA [by] grasping CU [copper] plus N [the head of narcotics]

19. Moulded askew, container displays flaw (4,4)
WEAK SPOT: (ASKEW)* POT [container].

22. Bloomers to be worn for certain around new sports facility (7,6)
LEISURE CENTRE: LEI [bloomers to be worn – cute!] with RECENT [new] inside SURE [certain]. I struggled to see “RECENT” in the wordplay: I had LEI SURE early, and couldn’t see any link whatever between the remaining letters “CENTRE” and “new” or “around”. I think hidden words are a blindspot for me!

25. On reflection, some of these Egyptian birds from Canada? (5)
GEESE: Hidden in “thESE EGyptian” reversed.

26. Cutting 500 smash hit records for singer (9)
CHORISTER: (HIT RECOR{d}S)*. Cut D [500] before doing the anagram.

27. Scholar’s problems are returning (7)
ERASMUS: SUMS [problems] ARE, all reversed.

28. Flatter woman in fine lines (7)
FLANNEL: ANNE [woman] inside F [fine] LL [lines]

1. Unable to move foot, when entering (4)
FAST: FT [foot], with AS [when] inside.

2. A trick shot on area of snooker table gets built up (7)
AMASSED: A [the letter] MASSÉ [trick shot, involving spin to make the cue ball swerve] D [area of snooker table, named for the semi-circular markings].

3. Complaint: it’s endlessly chilly and frosty (5)
COLIC: COL{d} & IC{y}.

4. What may suffer from mangled feet and badly gored leg? (8)

5. Vessel with zigzagging course almost capsized rest (6)
CATNAP: PAN [vessel] TAC{k} [zigzagging course, almost]. All reversed.

6. Might it save one’s bacon? (5,4)
PIGGY BANK: jocular definition.

7. Elite RA works here? (7)
ATELIER: (Elite RA)*. Not my area of expertise, but I’m betting the elite artists are precisely those who don’t work in ateliers!

8. Wants statistics about European team second in group (10)
DESIDERATA: DATA [statistics] around E [European] SIDE [team} R [second in gRoup]

12. Welcome record of voyage perhaps in authentic tourist’s memoir (10)
TRAVELOGUE: AVE [welcome, as in Ave Maria] LOG [record of voyage perhaps] in TRUE [authentic]

14. Commercial exploitation’s closing gold mining resource with wearying regularity (2,7)
AD NAUSEAM: AD [commercial] N [exploitatioN’s closing] AU [gold] SEAM [mining resource].

16. Reduced watts before reversing current in transformer (8)
WEREWOLF: W [watts] ERE [before] FLOW [current, reversed].

18. Note major road turning between church and a castle in Spain (7)
CHIMERA: RE [note] M1 [major road] all backwards inside CH [church] A. Very deceptive definition – especially with the helpers as C _ _ _ E _ A, I was convinced the answer would be a Spanish word, not a Greek one!

20. City, supremely faultless, knocking out United — no upset (7)
PRESTON: P{U}REST [supremely faultless, without U{nited}], ON [no, upset].

21. Civil engineer in Slough’s making barriers (6)
FENCES: CE [civil engineer] in FENS [slough’s]. I was side tracked by thinking of “slough” as “shed” rather than “marsh”.

23. Sound of fierce creature in northern habitat (5)
TAIGA: sounds like tiger. According to Chambers, marshy sub-arctic pine forest with tundra to the north and steppes to the south.

24. Address covering a river of Eurasia (4)
URAL: URL [Universal Resource Locator], containing A. Rises in the eponymous mountains, and flows to the Caspian Sea. According to Wikipedia, conventionally considered part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.

27 comments on “Saturday Times 26646 – 11th Feb. Crosswords in the Menagerie”

  1. A gentle one for a Saturday (today’s took me forever). Biffed 22ac and 26ac–hiddens are my weak(est) point, too; and I just never got 26. I see I also had “D?” in the margin next to 2d; masse I knew, but not D. COD CHIMERA.
  2. 1ac FLACCID was my FOI – and has always produced a dilemma for me. How does one pronounce this correctly? The standard pronunciation is ‘flak-sed’ not ‘flas-sid’. Most folk pronounce ‘flaccid’ onomatopoeically – to rhyme with ‘acid’. However, should not the first ‘c’ sound like a ‘k’? Dictionaries used to only list only the first pronunciation. Is this a case of a word that has actually changed by usage over a period of time? FLACCID hard or soft?

    35 minutes, so agree with our new Joe Bloggs, it was about average. 30 mins being my par these days.

    LOI Aaron COPLAND – as it has no ‘E’!


    Blog-on Dude!

    1. I just looked it up, and things are even worse than I’d thought: ODE lists the ‘flassid’ pronunciation first! SOED lists both pronunciations, but with ‘flaksid’ first. Odd, in a way; the only other relevant -cc- word I can think of, ‘succeed/success’, hasn’t morphed into ‘susseed’, so far as I know.
    2. Horryd, I wonder if the comment about your dilemma was prompted not only by the inclusion of the word in the puzzle but also by the reader’s letter on the subject that appears under “Pedant’s Revolt – This month’s irritants” on page 65 of the latest “Oldie”? Until I read that (only yesterday as it happened) I was not aware that the word might be pronounced in any way other than to rhyme with “acid”, and I’m pretty sure in my 70 years I have never heard it said as “flak-sed” which to me sounds affected.
  3. I am a longtime subscriber and contributor to the ‘Oldie’ but it usually turns up somewhat late in Shanghai so I haven’t seen it yet! So no cribbing just coincidence.
    My English teacher (who died last week!) averred that the correct pronunciation was ‘flak-sed’. I’m all in favour of the onomatopoeic version – as the other sounds not only affected but incorrect!

    How do ‘Murcans pronounce FLACCID?

    Edited at 2017-02-18 05:50 am (UTC)

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to pronounce it, or hear it pronounced, but I’d assumed that ‘flaksid’ was the standard pronunciation, and Jack’s comment above surprised me. The correct pronunciation, of course, is the one that people use, and if enough people use two pronunciations, they’re both correct. (Ditto for meaning: I just went to the SOED to look up ‘jejune’, which despite my professed tolerance has always irritated me, and discovered that the ‘puerile’ meaning has been around since the late 19th century!)
      1. Same as Kevin on “flaxid”, and I think I’d have said it that way before ever becoming a New Yorker all too many years ago.
  4. I seem to have mislaid my print-out since Thursday evening when I was comparing notes with a pal, so I have no record of my solving time, but from memory I think I found this straightforward.

    VICUNA I dredged up from somewhere. SECRETARY BIRD I knew from the title of a play of that name by William Douglas Home (brother of the former Prime Minister) which ran at the Savoy Theatre for a successful season from 1968 and starred Kenneth More.

    DESIDERATA I knew from the Max Ehrmann thing that begins: “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence”. It dates from 1927 but became very popular on tea towels and the like in the 1970s. I think it was by then uncredited and mysticized and the story was put about that it had recently been discovered somewhere in an ancient manuscript.

    Edited at 2017-02-18 05:55 am (UTC)

    1. It was supposedly discovered in a churchyard in Boston and supposedly dated from the 1670s. The National Lampoon did a send-up of it:

      I remember VICUNA from the Sherman Adams scandal of 1958; Adams was Eisenhower’s assistant, who had to resign because he’d accepted the gift of a vicuna coat from Bernard Goldfine. We’ve become rather more tolerant of bribery and corruption these days.

        1. I first encountered the word DESIDERATA while working my way through Jeremy Wilson’s doorstop-size but magisterial ‘Authorised Biography of T E Lawrence’ in the early 1990’s. Desiderata was standard usage within British military establishment internal dispatches when conveying the desires of the leaders of the Arab revolt, whom Britain was keen to keep on-side (whilst conceding nothing that conflicted with her own interests). Plus ca change.
  5. I seem to remember I did this on the bus on the way to a rehearsal last Saturday, so we’re probably talking about half an hour or so. The same unknowns as others, and some of the same memories, except ‘castle in Spain’ used figuratively in this way is new to me. Does it have anything to do with Cervantes’s Don Quixote, I wonder?

    I’ve never come across the non-acid pronunciation for ‘flaccid’, but thereagain it is a word I have never found much use for.

  6. Don’t usually post Saturday, but I did do the puzzle last week, in even more leisurely mode than midweek, and wanted an explanation for the biffed AMASSED, not being a great snooker man. (As a young man I was in the Church Youth Club playing table-tennis, not the Billiards Hall.) I now know that I’ve got a natural MASSE shot, the cue ball swerving to miss the ball I was aiming at.

    Edited at 2017-02-18 08:57 am (UTC)

  7. Embarrassingly, AD NAUSEUM is not spelt like that. I had the USE for exploit so needed the second U; and obviously couldn’t parse it. Otherwise same as others, except until reading Ulaca’s comment I thought the Castle in Spain named Chimera was literal; never heard the figure of speech, only castles in the air. Even though I’m sure castle in Spain has come up here before.
  8. It took me an hour and ten to get through this puzzle, and I’m glad I did. I was a little surprised to find that I’d got all the answers right on submission, as quite a few were “beyond” me—DNK “castles in Spain”, “slough” for “fen”, TAIGA, “massé” nor VICUNA.

    Thanks to blogger for the elucidations and setter for the precise wordplay.

    As for 1a: I pronounced it in my head as “flas-sid” for years, but the first time I heard anyone say the word aloud, they were in the “flak-sed” camp. I then assumed I’d been getting it wrong and switched over. Not that it comes up in everyday conversation very often…

    Edited at 2017-02-18 10:52 am (UTC)

  9. 15m. DK VICUNA.
    I’m in the ‘rhymes with acid’ camp: I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way either, but it’s not a word you hear pronounced that often.
  10. I did this in 45 minutes at 36000ft on my outward journey last week. I can’t remember many details but do remember SECRETARY BIRD being a write in as I saw several of them years ago on a safari in Kenya. I’ve always used the Flassid pronunciation without a thought of any other way. I play snooker but didn’t know the Masse definition and wondered how the clue worked. I was also surprised at the Spanish element of CHIMERA but followed the wordplay. VICUNA rang a bell as one of those LLAMA type animals. An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks setter and brnchn.
  11. Thanks for the blog Bruce (my husband’s middle name!). And for supplying the explanation for the D in 2d which I’d just left dangling. 17.21 and my turn next week.
  12. Had to guess a couple of these but wordplay helpful: Copland,vicuna. I gradually filled in the gaps and managed to complete the grid. Lots of enjoyable clues.
    I have seen Fine = F before but still cannot see how the abbreviation works. David

    1. It’s back to graphite / pencil lead, which came up in a clue yesterday. F = Fine. The relevant part of the scale of various grades being
      B, HB, F, H.

      Edited at 2017-02-18 04:52 pm (UTC)

  13. I appear to be the only one to have banked on BACK rather than backed BANK.
    Several days late and a couple of dollars short as my wife et moi spent the weekend in Paris.

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