Sunday Times 4685 by Jeff Pearce

Found this one quite chewy with some tricky definitions (e.g. 7a) and (at least to me) unusual clueing devices (e.g. 17a). 25a caused some comment on the club Forum in terms of (maybe) a singular definition clueing a plural answer, although personally I found that one fine at a pragmatic level as the hidden was clear once a cross checker was in place.

Maybe it was just me, but 3dn seemed a bit odd all round, although the amswer went in easily enough.

Thanks to Jeff for an enjoyable challenge.

Definitions underlined: DD = double definition: anagrams indicated by *(–)

1 A number of minerals are unstable (4,2,4)
LIFE ON MARS – *(OF MINERALS) with “are unstable” as the anagrind. Second time this particular Bowie ‘number’ has popped up in the ST cryptic in recent weeks (last time 4681) – fitting tribute for one of the great rock ballads of all time
7 More English at school (4)
ELSE – E (abbrev. English) + LSE (London School of Economics). Definition puzzled me for a bit, until I thought of “and I’ll tell you something else…”
9 Loud musician of old captivates a wind player (8)
FLAUTIST – F (loud) + LUTIST (musician of old) ‘captivating’ A
10 Fashionable but not central part of London (6)
POPLAR – POPULAR – ‘fashionable’ loses its middle letter (not central)
11 Small beer and some pudding (6)
TRIFLE – Straightforward DD
13 It’s barking to have wine and beer on the road (8)
AIREDALE – RED (wine) + ALE (beer) on the A1 (road – which for the benefit of our non-UK based chums is a major highway linking London to The North)
14 Archer gets hawk to circle river for game swimmer (7,5)
RAINBOW TROUT – RAINBOW (archer – somewhat poetic definition as a rainbow arches from wherever it starts to its end) + TOUT (hawk) ‘circling’ R (river). And if anyone is wondering about ‘game’ in the clue, amongst UK anglers freshwater fish are divided into two groups – coarse fish and game fish: all trout types are in the game fish category
17 Original uses of DNA might make this secure (4,3,5)
SAFE AND SOUND – *(USES OF DNA DNA) with “original” as the anagrind, with the plural ‘uses’ also steering us to DNA times two. Not seen this particular device before…
20 Screwed up dishes being sent back (8)
STRESSED – DESSERTS (dishes) reversed (being sent back)
21 Large pigs running about rabbit (6)
GOSSIP – *(OS PIGS) – with “running about” being the anagrind and OS representing ‘large’. Chas & Dave’s “She’s got more rabbit than Sainsburys” is still one of my contenders for Top Ten greatest lines in popular music
22 A doctor stops soldier going to a country (6)
GAMBIA – A MB (a doctor) gets between (‘stops’) GI (soldier) getting to A
23 Moving to Norway? You’ll probably get over it! (5,3)
NORTH SEA – As far as I can see, this is a straightforward cryptic clue but there may be hidden depths I have missed – any better offers most welcome!
25 Cuckoo, or just disorganised to some extent (4)
ANIS – Answer hidden (indicated by ‘to some extent’) in disorgANISed. Plural version of the N American bird (one can argue as to whether the definition actually points to a plurality, but hey – took a confident punt based on cross checkers and wordplay so no harm done)
26 Basic heating device on a transport system (10)
ELEMENTARY – ELEMENT (heating device) + A RY (a railway – a transport system)
2 I will deal with abuse (3-5)
ILL TREAT – Contracted form of I WILL + TREAT meaning ‘deal with’ (as in “invitation to treat”, being the first step in the legal dance that might result in a contract…)
3 Rival drops slow Aussie (3)
EMU – The ‘LATE’ (slow – hmm… not too sure about that one) is dropped from EMULATE (rival), leaving the bird that is part of the Australian coat of arms. At least, I think that’s what is going on here but I did find the whole thing a wee bit fuzzy
4 What one carrying hooter around makes? (5)
NOISE – Nice cryptic clue, with the wordplay being I (one) surrounded by NOSE (hooter)
5 Draw reserves over an extended area of land (7)
ATTRACT – TA (reserves) reversed (over) + TRACT (extended area of land – or part of Pythonesque double entendre…)
6 Fed with soup or, for a change, kale? (9)
SUPERFOOD – *(FED SOUP OR) with “for a change” as the anagrind. Learning to view kale as a fine food has been one of the more significant challenges of returning to the UK after many years overseas – it was fed to livestock when I were a lad…
7 Prompt divorcee to get devout and change within (11)
EXPEDITIOUS – EX (divorcee) + PIOUS (devout) with EDIT (change) inside (within)
8 Try the French uniform (6)
STABLE – STAB (try – have a stab…) + LE (the French)
12 Excellent short novel and exotic beers is a tasty combo (5,6)
FINES HERBES – FINE (excellent) + SH[E] (short novel) + *(BEERS) with “exotic” as the anagrind
15 New Faces about to lose leader to Blur (9)
OBFUSCATE – *(FACES aBOUT) – about losing its ‘leader’ – with “new” as the anagrind. Enjoyed the surface
16 A train driver‘s plan (8)
18 An Italian poet is a tad slow for 9? (7)
ANDANTE – AN + DANTE (Italian poet – thank goodness it was him as I don’t know too many…)
19 Air filter (6)
STRAIN – DD – took a while to spot the strain / air (as in tune) equation
21 Blood around end of fingers caused by this? (5)
GORSE – GORE (blood) goes around S (end of fingerS), with the overall cryptic clue based on gorse being prickly stuff
24 Dislike endless opera? (3)
HAT – HAT[E] (dislike minus its end). The definition leads us to the collapsible topper: what a magnificent invention – it somehow epitomises Victorian England for me. Spring loaded, to boot…

21 comments on “Sunday Times 4685 by Jeff Pearce”

  1. Took a while to get into this one with a few seemingly simple clues eg EMU holding me up. Didn’t know FINES HERBES, an opera HAT (seeing what it is, I like the idea of one) or ANIS though all solvable from wordplay. STABLE for ‘uniform’? I suppose so, but not the first word that springs to mind. Some v. good clues including those for AIREDALE, RAINBOW TROUT and the humorous SUPERFOOD anagram. (Don’t know about kale, but I like turnips which probably now also qualify under the ever expanding superfoods umbrella). LIFE ON MARS was my LOI – I fell for it and was stuck on ‘number’ in its numeric sense.

    Not quite up to the standard of the last two ST offerings but worth spending the time on nonetheless.

    Thank you to setter and blogger.

  2. Two should-have-been-DNKs, 1ac and 10ac, except that they both showed up recently enough to remain somewhere in memory. (As I think I said here the first time 1ac showed up, I couldn’t name a Bowie song to save my life. All I remembered of him was that he acted–rather well, in fact–in a rather bad Japanese movie.) I have no idea how long this took me, but half that time was spent, I’m sure, on 7ac and 8d, my penultimate and ultimate OI. The club forum has some discussion of ‘cuckoo’; suffice it here to note that ANI is yet one more in the collection of NYT chestnuts. I ‘got’ 17ac ages before I could make any sense of the clue; one of those times where the solution sticks out from the checkers somehow. Once I finally twigged, though, I thought that was my COD. And I was right.
  3. If you can have a field full of grouse, presumably the same for cuckoo? Or maybe we need a list of birds where the singular does for the plural? Is the cuckoo one of them?

    That didn’t bother me too much. But the LUTIST being “of old” did. Tell that to that String? fellow (the ex-Police-man who calls himself a lutenist — which is also a genuinely old word for a luthier).

    3dn (EMU) appeared to be a bird. But I assumed it was just a local beer. Cheers!

    1. Cuckoos: not on the list with grouse as far as I can tell, possibly because nest-stealing works best if you’re solitary. I think the ‘singular plurals’ belong to animals often seen in groups.

      Lutist: Collins agree that this is is an alternative to lutenist as a ‘player of’; also that it’s this word and not lutenist that’s an alternative to luthier.

      1. Thanks PB.
        Obviously, I was mixing up my lutists and lutenists — though my luthier is the nicest man in the world! Still, we have to admit that the lute is an up-and-going-instrument. (Will now have to find a left-handed one!)

        So, if cuckoos aren’t on the list, is there a problem with the clue?

        Edited at 2016-03-20 08:42 am (UTC)

  4. 17a – I thought this was an anagram of USES OF DNA to give you the two words SAFE (and) SOUND, with no need to repeat the DNA in the anagrist, as the ‘and’ arises naturally? If you see what I mean.
    Really fun puzzle as usual on a Sunday, a 20 minute stroll apart from checking ANI(S) once guessed.
    1. Ah yes – thanks Pip (and subsequently keriothe and Jerry below) – looks like I made life over complicated here.
  5. I was just about to comment on 17ac but pipkirby has aired my thoughts. Whatever, a pleasant Sunday morning with COD to LIFE ON MARS for its smooth surface.
  6. Enjoyable enough, with ANIS going in last because it had to be. The feeble barely cryptic clue at 23ac should have been chucked overboard at the earliest opportunity, though I did enjoy Nick’s “hidden depths” comment it gave rise to.

    Edited at 2016-03-20 08:58 am (UTC)

  7. 31:39. I really struggled with this for some reason. I didn’t notice the problem with 25ac: ANIS could just as easily have been a singular as far as I was concerned.
    I agree with Pip on 17ac.
  8. Enjoyed this, and agree with above comments re: 25ac not being quite right, 23ac being just an awful clue, and 17ac being an anagram of “uses of DNA” as Pip says
  9. DNF but enjoyed it very much. Am personally not bothered by the Cuckoo as a family or by cuckoo(s).

    I am, however, about to join the debate championed by other far more esteemed bloggers with regard to today’s ST 4686 where my favourite setter (in any paper) had a 10 letter anagram of a foreign word(s). I did not know the answer. He is capable of much better because I am in utter awe of his wit, brevity and ingenuity.

    If I wanted to shuffle (with limited interest) 10 letters around after a wonderful lunch and glass of Sancerre I am sure there is a puzzle in Woman’s Realm or Cuckoo Breeders Weekly.

  10. I didn’t know the answer either, but I worked it out. To be discussed further next week, no doubt!
    1. Agreed this is not the best moment to discuss a prize puzzle, but isn’t it rather the point that one can’t work such things out, one can only guess, although knowledge of the foreign language in question and its customs may inform one’s thought processes and help to eliminate certain possibilities. One of the regulars in the Club forum reckons there are at least 24 combinations possible for placing the remaining letters around the checkers for the clue under discussion, any one of which is plausible.

      Edited at 2016-03-20 07:17 pm (UTC)

      1. Yes, must admit I am broadly in sync with the observations that have been made by others on this issue. That said (particularly from my perspective as someone who is still a significantly less experienced solver than most of the regulars here), I’m not too sure that it is the combination of foreign phrases and anagrams that is unfortunate – I would most likely have similar problems with a long anagram of an obscure plant or animal (or, indeed, a former head of the Post Office…)

        Anyway, look forward to the discussion next Sunday.

      2. Clearly one can workout the answer, because I did! And I was sure that it was right.
        I look forward to a lively discussion next week…
      3. I agree with keriothe, not least perhaps because I also solved the clue.. I would love to see a list of these equally plausible 24 alternatives. I doubt if I would find them so.

        Actually it is no bad thing if you can’t solve the occasional clue because you haven’t the required knowledge, Jack. I reckon I spent a solid decade (mid 60s-mid 70s) solving most of The Times crossword, but not always all… I never thought it the setter’s fault, always my own.

  11. I found this very hard and interesting bordering on odd. A bit UNCO, as the Scots would say, which was my first attempt at the bizarre 25a, a clue not helped in the solving by the fact I hadn’t a clue what FINES HERBES were, and so couldn’t find the hidden I was looking for in ‘disorganised’.

    I also had – thankfully – never heard of the silly marketing trick-word SUPERFOOD, and had no clue at all how SAFE AND SOUND worked. Well done unravelling (almost) all of this, Nick, and a nod to Mr Kirby for pipping others to the post on the rather tasty 17a clue.

  12. I have to say that leaving us with the simple word “number” for 1ac is not cricket.
    Rubbish clue.

  13. Please please do you have answers for this? We filled it all in but are mystified by the parsing of at least half a dozen clues!
  14. ………….have a thought for us in the Colonies. ;>)

    We won’t see the clue you are discussing in your current xword for two weeks so it ruins that puzzle for us.


    Jan & Tom.

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