ST 4299 (Sun 18 Oct) – A mountain marathon out of a mole-hill

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
A bit of an overload of cryptic definitions, of varying quality, but otherwise some good bits this week. I have a question mark by 20ac, and I’m not at all sure MOLE is the right answer at 26ac. [It isn’t – see below.]

It turns out the weather forecast for the Lake District was right after all, as you may have seen on the news relating to the Mountain Marathon. Still, a very good weekend, just a shame the overnight camp was under a foot of water. I urge you to ignore any bleating about how the race should never have been started – I didn’t hear a single competitor share that view, and I wouldn’t have swapped the experience for anything. (Ok, maybe winning the Times Champs or Leicester the F.A. Cup, but not much else.)

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 S[t]EVEN’S – I know the card game ‘sevens’, but haven’t found it in a dictionary.
9 STATIONERY; “STATIONARY” – the key letter is kindly checked, for anyone for whom spelling these words is a bugbear! I use ‘E’ for ‘envelopes’ to help me remember, but I’m sure there’s a far better etymological explanation.
10 G(L)EN
11 P + AWN – ‘bristles’ for AWN is very nice.
12 CHAR + T + RE + USE – I can’t recall seeing ‘tablespoon’ = ‘T’ in a crossword before.
16 ROCKS TAR – nice.
18 STREAKED (cryptic definition) – quite nice, but might have been less transparent (and still perfectly fair) without the question mark.
20 ORANGE; O + RAN + rev. of E.G. – I didn’t question this when solving, but now I just can’t see why ‘reportedly’ = ‘EG’. Am I being dull?
22 CONGER EELS; (GONE)* in CREELS – I was so disappointed the day I learnt that ‘conga eels’ were actually ‘conger eels’.
24 SHE’D
26 MOLE? DOPE – a mole is a spy, but I don’t really understand this clue. There’s probably a better answer. [There is, the answer is DOPE – see comments.]
27 RIFLE RANGE – a pun on ‘report’ = ‘bang’.
29 GENDARME – another reasonable cryptic definition ( though ‘Nice’ as the French town is a common device), but like 18ac I would have much preferred this without the question mark.
30 TANNER (2 defs)
2 EXTRA (2 defs)
3 ESTONIA; [p]ESTO + (IN A)* – pretty good.
4 SPOT-CHECK (2 defs, one cryptic)
5 ALE; “AIL”
6 TRY + ST
7 LEGLESS – nice double definition…
8 PRESS GANG – …and another.
13 A + BRIDGE – a ‘spanner’ being something that spans.
15 METRONOME (pun on ‘counter’) – a doddle for anyone that’s used one, and perhaps a little tricker for anyone who hasn’t, but guessable via ‘metronomic’.
17 CROW’S NEST – not ‘look out’ but ‘look-out’, which I fear doesn’t really work.
19 EGGHEAD – ‘soldiers’ as in strips of toast. Yum.
21 A + B + STAIN
23 RARER; RE (= ‘about’) in RA + R.
25 [b]EAGLE
28 FOE; O in Fe (= ‘Iron’)

9 comments on “ST 4299 (Sun 18 Oct) – A mountain marathon out of a mole-hill”

  1. Interesting – I had DOPE for 26A, direct definition of inside information and cryptic definition of a dope not being able to understand it.
    1. DOPE is far better – thanks. I knew ‘mole’ was wrong but just couldn’t see past it.
  2. I was listening to the Beeb online last night and I thought their coverage very over the top. The usual ‘who can we blame’ hysteria. I imagine you’ll each have to be accompanied by your own Health and Safety Officer next year. Glad you had fun.

    I had DOPE for 26 which is confirmed on the Times website. Slightly iffy clue.

    EGGHEAD made me laugh and I liked FOE.

    Not bad, all round.

    1. Thanks for ‘DOPE’ – corrected above.

      Not surprised the Beeb overblew the drama. There really was never any doubt that virtually everyone would be absolutely fine, barring the odd broken ankle which with 2000+ competitors would happen whatever the weather. Having missed all the live coverage for obvious reasons, I’m looking forward to reading some of the papers tomorrow!

  3. 15 and others
    Maybe I’m missing something, but in what way does a metronome “count” anything?

    I also thought 1A was a very poor and somewhat loose clue especially considering the checking letters on offer and that the card game has not even made it to any of the Big Three dictionaries.

    The standard abbreviations for tablespoon(ful) are tbsp(f) and in all my years of following recipes I cannot recall ever having seen “T” used in this context. However, Collins lists it so I suppose that says something. On the other hand I thought there was a convention about the use of single letters as abbreviations in crosswords, or does that apply only to the Times (as opposed to the Sunday version)?

    I thought 19 was brilliant.

    1. 15dn: This didn’t occur to me, but now you mention it I think you have a point: a metronome certainly keeps time, but doesn’t actually count – the player still has to do that.

      Thanks for identifying T = ‘tablespoon’ in Collins. The list of single-letter abbreviations that applies to The Times, which apparently is quite limited, does not extend to the Sunday Times in which more or less anything goes, whether in the dictionaries or not.

  4. Webster’s Third International Dictionary gives ‘sevens’ = Fan-Tan (a Chinese card game).
    Metronomes may be set to beat a desired number of times per minute. The time between beats is thus a definite fraction of a minute, which is counted by the metronome.
  5. I was lulled into a false sense of security by what I thought was an easy puzzle and I also put MOLE at 26a. I had also never seen Tablespoon = T before at 12a but the T in CHARTREUSE was checked by 6d TRYST and the CHAR, RE and USE were clearly indicated. Not keen on the green liquid though. STING is still with us at 16a but is the “dead persons act” only applicable to answers?

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