Sunday Times 4659 by Dean Mayer

A list of the Top Ten Gags at the Edinburgh Fringe was doing the rounds recently, which included “They’re always telling me to live my dreams. But I don’t want to be naked in an exam I haven’t revised for.” And so it is with blogging. When I put my hand up for blogging the ST in a fit of bravado some months ago, the still small voice within was telling me that at some point I would be tackling a puzzle that was quite beyond me – and I would be exposed and unprepared for what was to follow.

I feared the nightmare had become a reality with this one! First read through yielded a total of three answers, with the remainder having that utterly impenetrable feeling about them. A couple of hours later, I had about half done. Then it was time for a round of golf. Refreshed (albeit humiliated by a number of three-putts which put my score way over where it should have been) I knocked over the second half at a glacial pace, with the final pairing of 18ac & 18dn holding me up for an age.

I can say without a doubt this was the toughest ST offering I have grappled with in the (relatively short) time I have been tackling them. Having written the blog and reflected, it doesn’t seem that hard – but at the time it did.

All of that said, it was certainly a lot of fun, with some brilliantly inventive clues from our setter – so thanks, as ever, to Dean.

As usual, definitions underlined, DD = double definition, anagrams indicated by *(–)

1 Silly old lady and current old man coming back (6)
MADCAP – PA (old man) + C (current) + DAM (old lady) all reversed (‘coming back’)
5 Dilute the fruit regularly through cleaning (8)
WATERISH – Every other letter of THE FRUIT (regularly) inside (through) WASH (cleaning)
9 Old PM is with artist opening shop (8)
DISRAELI – IS + RA (artist) inside (opening) DELI (shop). My FOI on what was to be a long journey…
10 I notice colour associated with Indian native (6)
INBRED – I + NB (notice – nota bene) + RED (colour associated with Indian). This one copped a bit of flak on the Club Forum as being in poor taste: I assume the adverse comments related to the “red” association, rather than any supposed innuendo regarding inbreeding (if the latter, I think “inbred” from “native” works fine and I’m sure no such innuendo was intended – Chambers gives “innate” as a meaning of “inbred”). On the “red” front, must admit I had no idea it had joined the contemporary taboo list. I don’t think many would bat an eyelid if it cropped up in conversation here in Sydney, but I guess things may be different elsewhere – murky waters, let’s move on…
11 Promised time off in the afternoon (4,8)
POST MERIDIEM – *(PROMISED TIME) with “off” as the anagrind. Very elegant
13 River runs through rabbi’s location (6)
SEVERN – R (runs) enters Seven (reference to 7dn where the RABBI is found). Whilst the answer was biffable with crosscheckers, it only made sense once you had got 7dn – which was one of the trickier clues particularly for non UK residents.
14 Absence of gravity, or term describing it (8)
HILARITY – HILARY (‘term’ – the Spring term at Oxford and Durham universities) is going around (‘describing’) IT. Very neat clue with cunning misdirection
16 Sweet lozenge turned into circular shape (8)
LOLLIPOP – PILL (lozenge) reversed (turned) inside LOOP (circular shape)
18 Cheap beer, see? (6)
BUDGET – BUD (beer – Budweiser) + GET (see). Only saw this once I’d got 18dn – which was also damned tricky, making this pair my joint LOIs. Use of product names seems to cause a bit of eyebrow action in some quarters, albeit it occurs quite frequently. There’s a comment on this in the Club Forum from Peter Biddlecombe, which makes for interesting reading
19 You and I are barely talking (12)
MONOSYLLABIC – Wordplay (or secondary Cryptic definition?) being ‘You and I’ as exemplars of monosyllabic words. Ingenious, and sent me down some curious byways as I initially thought we might be looking for something based around a conversation between a couple of nudists
22 Imagine not starting cryptic puzzle (6)
ENIGMA – *(IMAGINE) – first letter removed (not starting) with “cryptic” as the anagrind
23 It may create space over goal (8)
OMISSION – O (over – cricket abbreviation) + MISSION (goal)
24 Drink bottles use up hot sap (8)
MEATHEAD – MEAD (drink) takes in (bottles) EAT (use up) + H (hot)
25 Many stars possibly camp outside American airport (6)
GALAXY – GAY (possibly camp) goes around (outside) LAX (IATA code for Los Angeles airport)
2 Enthusiastic duck? No, not duck (4)
AVID – AVOID – duck the issue without the O (duck in cricket)
3 Hole in rocklike material – concrete? (9)
CORPOREAL – PORE (hole) ‘in’ CORAL (rocklike material)
4 Suddenly new city (as of 2002) (7)
PRESTON – PRESTO (suddenly – as in “hey presto”) + N (new), giving the northern town that was upgraded to “city” status in 2002. Another one that would probably be tricky for non UK solvers (and indeed for UK solvers who do not keep an eye on city status granting – which is probably quite a substantial constituency…) I was fortunate to know this as I recalled it cropping up in an earlier Times crossword. All of which gives rise to the intriguing question of what is the process whereby a town receives the civic equivalent of a gong and gets elevated to city status? Is there a committee that decides such things? Does the mayor make a quiet approach to Black Rod (or some other mysterious dignitary) to get things rolling? I think we should be told…
5 Before income tax, this is what police heard about (11,4)
WHITECHAPEL ROAD – *(WHAT POLICE HEARD) with “about” as the anagrind, and “before income tax” being a highly cryptic reference to the road in question being the square before Income Tax on the Monopoly board. A very satisfying penny-drop moment when I spotted this. For me, it is this kind of lateral thinking that makes Dean’s puzzles so much fun (and so infuriating at the same time!)
6 Petty criminal may be up for it – sex in custody (7)
TRIVIAL – TRIAL (what the criminal may be up for) with VI (Roman six = Latin sex) inside (in custody)
7 Blue? No time to talk (5)
RABBI – Reference to Rabbi Lionel Blue, who I always associate with homely homilies on “Thought For The day” on Radio 4 when I was living in the UK. Which is all very well if you spent a lot of time in the UK and were tuned in to the right wavelength. This may be an extreme example of “home ground advantage” – I’ve never tried the NYT cryptic so not sure if there are reciprocal challenges to be found there… Wordplay is RABBIT – “talk” minus the final T (no time). That wonderful line from Chas and Dave “she’s got more rabbit than Sainsburys…” comes to mind
8 Copper comes in to arrest different relative (10)
STEPMOTHER – P (copper) ‘comes in’ STEM (arrest) + OTHER (different). Not seen P as abbreviation of copper before – more familiar with PC – but I assume this is the parsing…?
12 Endless praise has church make a fresh start (10)
RECOMMENCE – RECOMMEND (endless praise) + CE (church)
15 Trucker Eddie’s elected to carry fuel (3,6)
RED DIESEL – Hidden (very cunningly, I thought) in truckeR EDDIE’S ELected, with ‘carry’ indicating there may be a hidden answer here. Hands up all those who were convinced Mr. Stobart might be involved, only to be confounded as crosscheckers started to appear…
17 Secretary’s learned to make progress (7)
PASSAGE – PA (secretary) + SAGE (learned). Was unsure about progress = passage, until I thought of the passage of a bill through the House of Commons
18 Small sphere or circle? (7)
BEARING – Definition leads us to ball bearing, I think – with “circle” reflecting the cryptic BE A RING. I’ll leave it to my elders and betters (well, betters at any rate as I rapidly approach my 60th birthday…) to decide whether this is a double definition or a Cryptic. I was just grateful to arrive at the right answer after an unfeasible amount of time spent glaring at it and growling occasionally.
20 Close to – halfway there – death? (5)
NIGHT – NIGH (close) + T (half of To). As regards the definition, Night is (per Chambers) a euphemism for Death – which I seem to vaguely recall from Milton or some such writer who I assuredly should have paid more attention to when I was a peevish schoolboy.
21 Type of cable, about 57% flatter (4)
COAX – 57% (which is near enough 4/7) of COAXIAL

24 comments on “Sunday Times 4659 by Dean Mayer”

  1. No idea how long this took me, but long. Helping slow things down were a couple of DNKs, 15d for one, and 7d–never heard of the man (in the US there’s no such thing as a head rabbi). Somehow got 5d from checkers, although without any comprehension of the wordplay. BIFD 21d, after first toying with ‘latt’ and ‘atte’, believe it or not, and not thinking much of ‘flatter’ as a definition of ‘coax’. I came to STEPMOTHER late for the reason Nick alludes to–the P rather than PC (spent a lot of time with ‘cu’). LOI 24ac. One might argue as to whether ‘beer’ is an appropriate definition for Budweiser.
      1. Thanks Mctext – that makes sense to me, although I have a small residual doubt as I seem to recall copper for penny was in vogue more in the days when the penny was a D rather than a P?
    1. Indeed: bud = beer? Never heard of red diesel, so that was second last in – very well hidden. Guessed bearing, didn’t see the “be a ring,” which till doesn’t convince. Also not convincing was flatter = coax. And why even worry with the 57%? If you’re going to shorten budweiser to bud, why not shorten co-axial to co-ax, which is what everyone calls it anyway?
      Got it in the end, and while there were some superb clues (Whitechapel Road), there were a few too many loose ones for my liking.
      Rob, time: into the second day.
  2. I have no idea where things stand in Oz, but in the US one would no more refer to a ‘red man’ than to the ‘yellow race’.
    1. Well I left Sydney about 30 years ago and it was well and truly taboo by then. Not sure what circles Nick is mixing in!
      1. To which I suppose the only legitimate answer is “different ones to you”, it would seem…

        Out of interest, I have just got back from a social function comprising 20 or so Sydney-siders from a variety of industries, but pretty much all of whom you could probably reasonably describe as well educated, decent characters in senior management roles (about a 60/40 split gender wise, and multiple ethnic backgrounds). As I had just posted the blog and I anticipated potential commentary on this issue, I took the opportunity to conduct a straw poll of most of the attendees. Only one reckoned it was a taboo – the rest just associated the term with old cowboys and Indians stuff from childhood, and saw no issue. I’m not suggesting this is a statistically significant sample, and for all I know they may be a bunch of dinosaurs (although seems unlikely given the roles they are in at work) – but it just might indicate that this is not a cut and dried issue here.

        All I can do is call it as I see it.

        1. Indeed. And I defer to your more diligent research. Can’t say I’ve heard the term used in conversation for many many years though.
  3. Indian red is a pigment associated with India and not America. No doubt the setter had that in mind rather than Red Indian, which I would find unacceptable. A little clumsy, perhaps but more than made up for by the rest of the crossword.
  4. You weren’t alone in your struggles, Nick. I only managed about half of it at one sitting last Sunday, and left it till yesterday to complete it, not without difficulty.

    The big problem for me turned out to be not having played Monopoly for about 35 years! That one crossing with the unknown WATERISH made it hard to get a foothold in the RH side.

    I wouldn’t put this among my favourite DM puzzles. I’m particularly perplexed by COAX, which itself can be the name of the cable type, can’t it? “coax cable” is given in Chambers.

    1. Equally perplexed here. Especially as Dean plays electric bass and (assuming he hasn’t gone wireless) must use a coax cable all the time. On Merseyside, some lads used to nick coax telephone cords and string them together to get between guitar and amplifier. Of course, I was not among them.
    2. Yes, I went back and forth on COAX for the same reasons, not least because (working in the IT industry) I hear engineers talking of Coax cables on a frequent basis.

      My rationale (right or wrong) was that whilst COAX as an abbreviated form of the word has now passed into common usage to the point where (as you say) Chambers acknowledges it as a word in its own right, it remains an abbreviated form of COAXIAL. Probably an imperfect analogy, but would a clue based on “PLANE” being 5/9 of AEROPLANE pass muster? I think it might, but then again…

      Edited at 2015-09-21 06:45 am (UTC)

  5. Another very tough solve, so well done, Nick, on your marathon effort. As usual with this sort of puzzle I can’t be bothered to rethink every clue a week after the event, but overall it seemed fair enough for the most part.

    The possibility of PC problems never occurred to me re 10ac, but now it’s come up I recall that this very week one of the daily TV quizzes had a question about “Little Plum” of The Beano and on checking this I find that he is still going strong today, which surprises me in view of what’s been said here. I don’t know if he maintains his nickname “your redskin chum”.

  6. 46:43. Ouch! I’m not sure I can really say that I enjoyed this, but it was brilliant.
    I can see how 7dn would have caused problems for non-UK solvers, but for me at least it was nice to be reminded of an old friend. ‘Good morning John, good morning Sue, and good morning everyone’…
    I winced a bit at 10ac though.
    I had similar thoughts to others on 21dn, but COAX is undoubtedly four sevenths of COAXIAL, as well as being an abbreviation.

    Edited at 2015-09-20 10:34 am (UTC)

  7. No time because I tend to do the ST cryptic in the evening while watching the television, but it would not have been quick! My problem with 21d was that I spotted the 4/7 gimmick and went for FLAT as a type of cable which was only corrected when I got GALAXY. I see flat cable is advertised, albeit usually as ‘flat flexible cable’, and appropriately enough exactly 50% of flexible is FLEX.
  8. Well done on a fantastic blog, Nick. This was a seriously tough puzzle. It took me about 3 hours, with pauses along the way, but I got there in the end. As you say, lateral thinking is essential if one is to make progress with Dean’s puzzles. What I especially enjoy about his clues is that they often look completely baffling, but when you finally crack them you sort of feel that the answer was staring you in the face all the time, and that you should have got there sooner. Great stuff. Thank you Nick, and hats off to Dean for a very entertaining and challenging puzzle.
    1. Thanks very much for your kind comments – much appreciated.

      Yes, fully agree Dean provokes that feeling you describe of “why didn’t I see that before?” I guess its masterly sleight of hand…

  9. For some reason (not too much wine on Saturday night?) I breezed through this in 20 minutes of pleasure, knowing my Radio 4 rabbis, new cities in Lancashire, Monopoly boards and university terms. Only WATERISH as a dodgy word had me a little worried.
    Well done Nick in sticking with it and finishing the blog. I too await that fateful day, when the white squares remain white and the LJ clock is ticking.
    It never occurred to me that Red and Indian might be non-PC, don’t kids play cowboys and Indians any more?
  10. That was a workout. Had no idea about rabbi blue. Funnily enough red indian never occurred to me aand i just assumed, correctly, that like indian ink there was an indian red. Like others i thought coax was the cable and was trying to find a word of 7 letters like coaxing that meant flatter.

    I went on a few dates with an indian of the native american type. She told me that they all hate the term native american and much prefer indian, with red indian as the longer term when it is necessary to distinuish from someone from India. As so often with PC things it is not the people affected who care it is the SJWs getting upset on their behalf.

  11. As a North American (Canadian) solver, I have to try to put myself in a U.K. mindset when doing these puzzles. I recall that as a young boy when reading U.K. kidlit (Enid Blyton perhaps?), I noticed that very often North American natives were referred to as “red indians”. Therefore, to me, “red” associated with “indian” seemed quite natural, though we never use the term here.
  12. Thanks to Dean for a great puzzle and to Nick for a great blog.

    For the first time in 25 years of cryptics (more than 15 of ST’s) we didn’t get a single clue in the read-through. Then Rabbi Blue came to mind. It certainly helps having lived that side of the Atlantic.

    We weren’t helped in 4dn. by finding that CHESTER was named a FAIR TRADE CITY in 2002. That also slowed us with 1ac. which we eventually parsed differently.

    MA + DC with PA reversed.

    Jan and Tom. Toronto.

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