Sunday Times 4208 – Y, oh, why?

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic
This was a lot harder for a Sunday puzzle compared to those I’ve seen since I started writing these notes. Not sure whether the clues overall were just more challenging or because a couple of clues were a bit suspect (extra words, missing indicators). In any event, I spent a lot longer solving than I had expected (well over an hour split between a couple of days). The NW corner held the most mystery for me – my way in finally was 12A which is an odd clue. But see below…


1 FAIR,GROUND – So I can see how “FAIR GROUND” might be “indifferent for cultivation”. And I suppose “good enough for entertainment” is sort of a cryptic definition of FAIRGROUND. Not sure if the fact that “good enough” is also FAIR helps or hurts this clue.
9 RANUNCULUS – (run’s, uncurl). It’s a kind of buttercup but the anagram fodder elements are separated by “appearance, then” and thus I don’t see how the anagrind (“exotically”) can apply to both of them. One of my last clues.
12 A,PATH,Y – My bete noire: “Lack of interest? Send a letter of inquiry about way to obtain it”. So, “it” is the answer – so far so good. But the rest is a bit flaky: I really wonder about “letter of inquiry” being Y=”why” without a homophonic indicator. Anyway this held me up for the longest time.
13 LIVE RAIL – another clue with dodgy wordplay: a RAIL is a kind of “crane” that I guess would become “inoperative” if touching a LIVE RAIL (“part of track”). Too many extra words in this clue (“once parked”, the leading “But”).
18 TEETOTALLER – anag &lit: (le, ale, totter)*
21 TRAINS,ET[on]
24 EELS – hidden rev in “SLEEp”. Probably &lit as well because all fish sleep while still swimming I believe?
25 P,LAY,ACTING –P for “piano”, ACTING for “performing”, and LAY for “outside church” where the definition is “making a pretence”. Not a bad clue.
26 ST,O,P – “small stone” is abbrev(“stone”) is ST.
27 IDLE GLANCE – wordplay is IDLE for “coast” (your engine) followed by GLANCE for “fly off”.


1 FOR,FAR – It’s a town near Dundee.
3 GUNS,HOT,WOUND – Only worked out the wordplay as I wrote these notes. Pretty straightforward but I was convinced an anagram was involved (“twisted”). I suppose this is an &lit given that no doubt a GUNSHOT WOUND would result with an “overheated and twisted” gun.
4 O[xen],NUS – O followed by rev(sun) – yeah, but does “dawn” really define “sun up”? Not sure if this is cute or one level of indirection too far.
5 NAUTICALLY – (Actually in)*: almost a great clue but the anagrind (“fashion”) is in the wrong place.
7 E.C.,STATIC – Nothing to indicate the first letters of “early closing” unless E.C. is a well-known abbreviation thereof (not by Chambers apparently)?
11 SEMIT(R)OPICAL – (I, moist place)* contains R[iver]. Nice anagrind (“up the creek”) and good consistent surface.
14 UNLABELLED – (bundle all, E)* where E is a violin or guitar string.
17 SERAGLIO – Pretty nice cryptic definition of a harem (where the Sultan keeps his wives locked up).
19 PINION – double meaning
20 HA(GG)LE – “great guns initially” is GG inside of HALE for “in hearty way”. You could argue that “going … in” is the containment indicator but then “in” serves double duty since it’s needed to define HALE.
23 BYRE – remember that “neat” is archaic for cattle on the cryptic farm.

9 comments on “Sunday Times 4208 – Y, oh, why?”

  1. I shared your annoyance at that “letter of inquiry”. Breezed through 7d because I grew up when shops in England had signs on their doors saying “E.C. Wednesday” or “E.C. Thursday.” But that was a long, long time ago. Checked OED, and it has EC for European Community, no mention of Early Closing.
  2. I believe this is an example of clue writing that economises on the number of words used. The fullest written version would be “Actually in in naval fashion” but the setter decided to compress the two ins into one. Also, there is nothing that says a clue MUST indicate an anagram — it can be assumed from the wording. Hence I do not think “fashion” in this clue is an anagram indicator but complements “naval” to indicate an adverb as the correct response.

    John M

    1. I see your point: for me it seems like an anag &lit that’s almost brilliant.

      I’m going to check Manley’s manual later tonight and see what he has to say about anagrinds… but we could have the best of both worlds if we just agreed that “naval fashion” was the anagrind (and not get all bent out of shape :).

    2. So I reread much of Manley last night, and I could find nothing that would support the notion of an “implicit” anagrind… basically there has to be one.

      In this case, I think the charitable view is to say that “Actually in naval fashion” is an anag &lit with “naval fashion” being the anagrind and the whole thing being the definition (though it’s probably closer to a semi-&lit since “naval fashion” defines NAUTICALLY itself.)

  3. Did you consider “side rail” ? An “inoperative crane” would be a “side rail”, same being part of a railroad’s track.


    1. I can see why SIDE RAIL might work — the advantage that LIVE RAIL has though is that it’s in Chambers (while side rail isn’t).

      Not a great clue frankly since the whole inoperative crane is a bit of a stretch in both cases.

  4. We’re still dithering here – “live rail” or “side rail” – I’ve gone for the latter, and we’ll have to wait for next week to see what’s what.

    I’m in Canada, and have a cryptic website at – take a look when you get a chance, and would love to have your comments.


    1. I actually looked at the answer key on the Time site (the solution to 4208 is already available) and in fact it’s LIVE RAIL. I see the argument for SIDE RAIL but… it’s not in Chambers. Which is a pretty good arbiter in cases of apparent ambiguity.

      I’ll definitely take a look at your site. Canadian cryptics are pretty good — every once in a while I visit Vancouver and do the Globe and Mail.

  5. If a Rail really is a small Crane – the Cranes and Rails/Crakes are only separated by Bustards in my Bird Book – then I suppose it may be rendered inoperable by parking itself on a live rail. Not that there are likely to be many of these in the marshlands that Water Rails inhabit … So – not a very good clue but most of us still arrived at the correct answer except our Canadian friends who should probably know more about railways than we do according to Gordon Lightfoot’s Railroad Trilogy. But I digress – the “easies”:

    6a Sheep can be heard by these trees (4)
    YEWS. SL ewes. Sheep in trees conjours up more Python… it is my considered opinion that they are under the misapprehension that they are birds ….
    10a (Its a) rum drink? (4)
    ASTI. The x-word bubbly of choice.
    15a Opening (a tin), (l)arge (gnat is)* revealed – making one’s mouth water? (11)
    TANTALISING. A bit tricky spotting the anagrist in this one.
    22a (I am top)*, somehow producing best possible results (6)

    2d Islands to which I advance with Scotsman (6)
    I ON IAN. I on = I advance! See you Jimmy.
    8d Liquor lost, though it’s simple, swallowing medicine (8)
    S PILL AGE. Where simple = herb in x-word land.
    16d Pole, given time, makes a speech, but falters (8)

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