Sunday Times 4691 by Jeff Pearce

I find that quite a few of Jeff’s puzzles share the same overall characteristics – a significant number of nicely constructed but eminently gettable clues, laced with two or three where the answer is something pretty obscure. This one was no exception, with 5a, 2d and 17d all being words way beyond my ken, but the rest of it going in pretty smoothly.

What did make this one different (for me at any rate) was that, whereas usually with Jeff’s “unknowns” the wordplay and cross checkers combine to enable me to enter the answer with a fair level of confidence (as indeed was the case with 5a today), 2d and 17d were anagrams and offered no additional signposts – which made it a bit hit or miss (and, of course, I missed!) Not a whinge, more an observation – but I will be interested to see what others thought.

Anyway, much to enjoy (as usual) – with 8d, 27a and 20d being my personal favourites, and 22a stirring unpleasant memories of the worst hangover of my life after a very silly night in Milan!

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

1 About to go back to a security organisation – one with several branches (6)
ACACIA – CA reversed (about to go back) + A + CIA (security organisation)
5 Old head has a gin, say, after school (6)
SATRAP – A TRAP (a gin) ‘after’ S (abbrev. school), giving us a kind of Persian governor of old. New word to me, but mercifully it fell into place OK from the generous cluing and the cross checkers.
9 One can’t go off at nights (9)
INSOMNIAC – Gentle cryptic
10 Perth perv returned to dance (4)
REEL – LEER (perv – as in the verb “to perv”) reversed (returned). The Perth reference threw me a bit for a while, but I think it is probably a reference to Perth in Australia, on the basis (maybe) “to perv” was originally an Aussie expression, although I think it is now mainstream UK as well (or maybe I just spend too much time with UK based Aussies…)
11 Seat in tree is rare (6)
BREECH – R (abbrev. rare – on a waiter’s notepad I suppose) ‘in’ BEECH (tree)
12 French policeman or criminal armed with information (8)
GENDARME – GEN (information) + *(ARMED) with “criminal” as the anagrind
14 Train Earl to get more canny touring Pennsylvania (8)
ESPALIER – E (Earl) + SLIER (more canny) go round (tour) PA (Pennsylvania)
16 Monkey outside small recess (4)
APSE – APE (monkey) goes round (outside) S (small)
18 Ruined a sculpture (4)
BUST – Neat economical DD
19 During psalm conductor talks foolishly (8)
PRATTLES – RATTLE (Sir Simon of that ilk – conductor) is found inside (during) PS (abbrev. Psalm). Is it just me, or does Sir Simon bear an uncanny resemblance to David Gower (although his square cut is probably not as elegant)?
21 Robert put old tie on American bird (8)
BOBOLINK – BOB (Robert) + O (old) + LINK (tie)
22 Doctor entertains artist with piano and a brandy (6)
GRAPPA – GP (doctor) ‘entertains’ RA (artist) + P (piano) + A
24 Bats finally settling on stove (4)
GAGA – Last letter (finally) of settlinG + AGA (stove)
26 Short belt – one form of punishment creating a storm! (9)
HURRICANE – HURR{y} (short belt) + I (one) + CANE (form of punishment)
27 Great cricketer becomes more like a judge? (6)
SOBERS – Super DD, featuring Sir Gary (for me the peerless all-rounder) and invoking “sober as a judge” (one of the more misleading similes of our time based on my observations attending dinners at a certain Inn of Court)
28 Flat behind the Spanish cardinal (6)
ELEVEN – EVEN (flat) goes after (behind) EL (the in Spanish)
2 Painting Caruso performing with choir (11)
CHIAROSCURO – *(CARUSO CHOIR) with “performing” as the anagrind, giving us a painting technique involving strong contrasts of dark and light, as I subsequently learned. A DNK for me, and whilst the anagram fodder was clear enough, I ended up opting for what turned out to be the wrong left over letters between the cross checkers – the first of two similar experiences in this puzzle.
3 Class left out of big house (5)
CASTE – CAST{l}E (big house) loses its L (left out)
4 A jolly cleaner goes round one piece of furniture (8)
ARMCHAIR – A RM (a jolly – old slang for Royal Marine which crops up quite often here but nowhere else in the world that I have ever discovered) + CHAR (cleaner) going round I (one).
5 Back in a short while (6)
SECOND – Another neat DD which took me a fair while to spot
6 Swimming manager fills dry bag (9)
TERMAGANT – *(MANAGER) – with “swimming” as the anagrind – ‘filling’ TT (dry)
7 Grog makes you dim when put under pressure (3)
ALE – If you were to add a P (pressure) on top of ALE, then you’d end up with a word than can mean ‘dim’
8 Farm facility with fallen leader, grabbed by criminal mastermind with yen for dodgy deals (7-6)
JIGGERY POKERY – Loved this one, although it was a bit of a brute to parse. PIGGERY (farm facility) with the P transposed to the end (fallen leader) is surrounded by (grabbed by) JOKER (criminal mastermind – Batman’s nemesis) + Y (yen)
13 To defeat hunk is an outstanding achievement (11)
MASTERPIECE – MASTER (to defeat) + PIECE (hunk)
15 American left a flashing light outside as a navigator’s aid (9)
ASTROLABE – A (American) + STROBE (flashing light) going round (outside) L A (left a). And for the benefit of anyone (like me) who is far more familiar with the (very good) Kiwi wines under the Astrolabe label than with navigation, this is (loosely speaking) a kind of ancient Sat Nav.
17 Stupid angler almost hit pipe (8)
NARGHILE – *(ANGLER + HI{t}) with “stupid” as the anagrind, with the answer being a kind of hookah. Well, the anagram material was clear enough and we had the benefit of four cross checkers, but still I got it wrong (Hangrile somehow looked more plausible!)
20 Blackpool is known for such organs (6)
LIGHTS – DD. The illuminations for which the resort is famed, and the innards that butchers used to sell (at least they did in Somerset when I was a lad – “bag of lights for the cat please”). Nice clue, I thought, but probably tough for our friends from overseas.
23 Quickly take horse from native American (5)
APACE – H (abbrev. horse) is taken from APAC{h}E (native American)
25 Bother sandboy, now and then (3)
ADO – Every other letter (now and then) of sAnDbOy

15 comments on “Sunday Times 4691 by Jeff Pearce”

  1. I now know the names of two cricketers; my cup runneth over. Fortunately the clue left no doubt as to what to put in the unches. LOI BREECH; persisted in thinking that ash was the tree. ‘Perth’ puzzled me, as the only person I know who uses ‘perv’ is an American, albeit with strong Oz ties. There was some discontent expressed on the forum with 20d. I didn’t know that Blackpool was famous for its illuminations, but I did know LIGHTS (“I’ll have his liver and his lights” for some reason is in my memory), and with the checkers I was happy to biff. Also biffed 8d, solved post hoc. Is this the BOBOLINK’s first appearance here? I’ve failed to paste a link, but you might want to Google ‘bobolink youtube’; it’s got a remarkable vocal repertory.
  2. Rather an unsatisfactory solve for all the reasons mentioned in your blog, Nick, though I note you are observing rather than whinging like I would if I were on blogging duty and my displeasure had not had a week to subside before the time came to pass comment. I will just say that I have the impression this usually excellent setter has decided to beef up his act a bit in a bid to keep up with the competition and so he throws in occasional obscure references or words with unhelpful wordplay.

    If the explanation re Perth is correct, I can’t imagine why the setter thinks the average UK solver would possibly know this. Our blogger has an advantage in this respect of course.

    1. Equally puzzled by this ref. even though I live (near) there!
      Must be mainstream as it’s used in today’s puzzle sans Oz wording in the clue.
    2. ‘Perv’ is listed in all the dictionaries as Australian, but in my experience this is now a pretty mainstream English usage.
  3. To be fair I’m not sure this crossword (or the daily cryptics, for that matter) are actually aimed at the “average UK solver.” I think they are aimed at slightly above average solvers and some general knowledge is assumed. It is just a question of how much, and there opinions will always differ. All the words you remember are GK, all the ones you don’t are obscure. I knew all the words although if asked to describe a bobolink I would struggle.. but I did know the word. And in a spirit of full disclosure I remembered narghile because my daughter lives in Qatar where you can hardly move for hookahs, hubble-bubbles, kalians and narghiles (which I would spell nargileh).. but that is what general knowledge is all about isn’t it, hanging on to these words once seen?
    Anyway I enjoyed it
    1. Not sure if we’re are cross-purposes, Jerry, but I meant the average UK solver of Times cryptic crosswords who I’d assume to have an above average vocabulary and probably GK to start with. Some of the things that come up seem to go beyond that, which is fair enough as we all need to learn and expand our knowledge, but 5 or 6 borderline things in a single puzzle is going it a bit, particularly when the wordplay is unhelpful too.

      Edited at 2016-05-01 08:11 am (UTC)

      1. Well I stand by my comment that it is not about knowing, so much as remembering..

        I’m really sorry to do this to you Jack, but narghile (for example, didn’t look for the others) has actually come up several times before. I haven’t looked at all of them but in 2012 when it came up you said “Yes, but it’s not so much that a word is unfamiliar but how it’s clued. As keriothe has pointed out there are candidates for double obscurities in this puzzle where there’s no easy way in if you don’t happen to know the word.” .. so there is a consistency there, anyway!!

        1. No need to be sorry, Jerry, the fact that a word has come up before and I’ve forgotten it (albeit 4 years later) is par for my particular course!
  4. 15m. I think you’re quite entitled to whinge, Nick: as far as I’m concerned 2dn and 17dn are poor clues and there’s no need or excuse for this sort of thing. As I think I’ve said before, we all do these things because we enjoy cryptic crosswords. If we wanted a general knowledge test we could go to the pub.
    Now as it happened I did know both of these words, almost certainly remembering them from past puzzles, but I don’t accept that appearing once in a crossword four years ago makes a particular word fair game. Of course the line between obscurity and fair play is subjective but we’re well on the wrong side of it here.
    Rant over. I wonder what today’s puzzle is like…
    1. Glad to have some support, k. And you didn’t even need to mention the incomprehensible 10ac!
    2. Thanks for your comments K (and Jack and Jerry) – helps me pick up clearer perspectives since I am still conscious of being a new kid on the block around here and feeling my way.

      My reserved reaction was due largely to the fact that (taking Jerry’s point) I’m never quite sure if a word that is an unknown to me is actually reasonably well known by others here – so I generally assume it is a gap in my GK rather than a real obscurity.

      Plus, having recently turned 60, I’m making a concerted effort to become a benign old buffer!

  5. I’ve looked through all the crossword club entries for this puzzle, to see what mistakes were made. (Not difficult, as they’re highlighted in the email produced when you press submit). The most popular wrong answers were SAGA for 24A (fitting possible wordplay, but leaving no definition as far as I can see), and SIGHTS for 20D (possibly what Blackpool is known for, but not an alternative to eyes as organs). There were a few CHIARASCUROS, but no alternative spellings for that one matching the anagram fodder, and there was just one such alternative for NARGHILE.

    1. It’s worth observing that 17dn was particularly nasty as in fact the fodder was not certain. Is it ANGLE (angler almost) + HIT, or ANGLER + HI (almost hit)?

      Given that the puzzle showed a willingness to be sly with word order elsewhere (11ac comes to mind), it was reasonable to be on your guard about these alternatives!

      On the other hand…I don’t see anyone mentioning that Perth is the capital city of Western Australia as well as that lesser village in the north…!

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