Sunday Times 4717 by David McLean

Thoroughly enjoyed this offering from Harry, which I tackled in a couple of sittings of about an hour each – which by my standards is not too bad for this particular setter, who I generally find the most difficult of our Sunday trio.

A couple of the clues (19ac and 1d) copped a bit of flak on the Times Forum as being in dubious taste. As mentioned in previous blogs, I’m probably the last person anyone would turn to as an arbiter of good taste, so my opinion on the matter is of little consequence. Suffice to say I thought 1d was a relatively straightforward Spoonerism (I generally find this clue type particularly tricky), and for me 19ac was one of the funniest clues I’ve seen for a long time – and particularly neatly constructed.

Several top flight clues (in addition to 19ac), with 12ac, 29ac and 1ac being the standouts for me.

Thanks to our setter for a most enjoyable puzzle.

1 Game official suspending offenders (7)
HANGMAN – DD – the second being an inventive (if somewhat macabre) cryptic definition
5 Do understand, a bit of leg goes to the head (7)
SHINDIG – DIG (understand) with SHIN (a bit of leg) at the beginning (goes to the head)
9 Dark horse that might upset the rest (9)
NIGHTMARE – NIGHT (dark) + MARE (horse)
10 Farewell note heard easily (2,3)
BY FAR – Sounds like (heard) BYE (farewell) + FA (note – “a long long way to run” as per the Sound of Music, which remains my “go to” source for such matters)
11 The first of rooks in spring sound flat (6)
BORING – R (first of Rooks) ‘in’ BOING (spring sound – thank you, Zebedee)
12 Street with a flash Hackney pad? (8)
STABLING – ST (street) + A + BLING (flash). Loved the definition (and the overall elegance of the surface).
14 Cut inside leg to get around uniform rules (10)
GUIDELINES – *(INSIDE LEG) – with “cut” as the anagrind – and U (abbrev. uniform) also in the mix. Nitpickers might mutter that a guideline is not a rule as such, but for my money it’s close enough and I’ve certainly worked in some organisations where things labelled as “guidelines” were in fact treated as holy writ.
16 Not as much or more, as they say (4)
LESS – DD, with the second based on the maxim “less is more”
18 Joint carried around by greenkeeper (4)
KNEE – Hidden in (carried) and reversed (around) in grEENKeeper. Clever surface which had me stumped until the K from 18d came into view.
19 Singer Conchita Wurst to her critics? (7,3)
BEARDED TIT – DD. Hmm. Panurus biarmicus (the bird) is the Singer, and the second definition is a playful reference to how ‘critics’ of the bearded drag artist / singer (and winner of the 2014 Eurovision song contest) might describe the Austrian entertainer.
22 Jewellery investigations announced in Bow (8)
EARRINGS – Sounds like “HEARINGS” in East End speak (investigations announced in Bow)
23 Italian region that tops the Lake District (6)
UMBRIA – {C}UMBIA – first letter removed from the county where the Lake District is located
26 Empty potty in which son must go (5)
INANE – S (son) removed from (must go) IN{S}ANE (potty)
27 Had insomnia, but wanted to do this? (2,2,5)
GO TO SLEEP – To start with I just thought this was an unusually generous cryptic, but then I spotted the additional wordplay ‘Got zero sleep’ (had insomnia) whilst writing up this blog
28 Fervent desire to scoff when lubricated (7)
GREASED – GREED (fervent desire) takes in (scoffs) AS (when). A perfect summation of that late night kebab moment…
29 Earl wears briefs in a stellar collection (3,4)
THE BEAR – E (abbrev. Earl) surrounded by (wears) THE BAR (briefs – i.e. barristers). Very neat.
1 Accessory for Spooner’s geriatric groupie? (7)
HANDBAG – In Spooner’s case we are looking at BAND HAG (geriatric groupie). Like it or loathe it (personally I liked it).
2 Country knight put up British and American soldiers (5)
NIGER – N (knight – chess notation) + RE GI reversed (put up British and American soldiers)
3 Reunite cast in support of married Christian? (8)
MUTINEER – *(REUNITE) – with “cast” as the anagrind – below (in support of) M (married) with the definition referencing Fletcher Christian, ringleader of the mutiny on The Bounty
4 Pure ecstasy found in upended bronze (4)
NEAT – E (ecstasy) ‘found in’ reversal of TAN (upended bronze)
5 Happy as three wet ducks (10)
SWEETHEART – *(AS THREE WET) with “happy” as the anagrind. ‘Ducks’ as a term of endearment is apparently still widely used in parts of the Midlands. It is not, however, used by employees at the ENO who have been warned that it constitutes sexual harassment. So I’m told.
6 Take in confession of AC/DC chap live (6)
IMBIBE – ‘I’M BI’ (confession of AC/DC chap) + BE (live)
7 Timid rebel using fine force for bodyguard (9)
DIFFIDENT – DISSIDENT (rebel) has its SS (bodyguard) replaced by FF (fine force). Rather neat, I thought.
8 Chat with passion in some housing estates? (7)
GARAGES – GAS (chat) has RAGE (passion) ‘in’ it – and some garages will indeed house estate cars. Nice cryptic definition.
13 Record contracts promised, but withdrawn (10)
DISENGAGED – DIS{C} (record) loses its last letter (contracts) + ENGAGED (promised)
15 One with a beer tin, wobbling about (9)
INEBRIATE – I (one) + *(A BEER TIN) with “wobbling about” as the anagrind – & Lit (I think…)
17 Allow yours truly to visit? Hmm … (3,2,3)
LET ME SEE – LET (allow) + ME (yours truly) + SEE (to visit)
18 Charge vegetable magnate reported by Spooner (7)
KEEPING – which the troublesome Reverend might say when referring to a PEA KING (vegetable magnate)
20 One exploiting hides close to frontier? (7)
TRAPPER – TAPPER (one exploiting – as in tapping into a source of knowledge) wraps around (hides) R (close to frontieR). ‘Hides’ does double duty being both part of the definition and a key element of the wordplay, and the question mark suggests that something a bit nefarious is going on… Tricky clue that took me a while to unravel.
21 Plungers of varying types from the past (6)
DIVERS – DD, the second reflecting the fact that ‘divers’ in this sense is now archaic usage
24 Someone with a tale about the First Lady (5)
REEVE – RE (about) EVE (the first lady), giving us Chaucer’s chap with a racy tale about the humiliation of a miller
25 Relations supporting volunteers up for working hard (2,2)
AT IT – IT (relations) after (supporting) TA reversed (volunteers up)

20 comments on “Sunday Times 4717 by David McLean”

  1. … much enjoyed, regardless of any questions of “taste”. Particularly liked the construction of TRAPPER. Brought to mind the outrageous pun from Gravity’s Rainbow: “For DeMille, yon fur-henchmen can’t be rowing”.
  2. NtN congratulations on giving us your time taken on filling in this crossword – about 2 hours – not quite the usual bloggers’ standard.
    This blog is called ‘Times for the Times’ and nice to see you complying at last.

    And you did only manage to mention the ‘@’ word four times – something of a record. Bt we really don’t need to be told such things – axiom my dear Nick.

    You noted ‘a playful reference’ in 19ac BEARDED TIT and praised it but never explained exactly why!Do you find the lady in question ‘Gorgeous or repulsive?’ Please state your preference. Unlike Graham Norton who found her warm and fuzzy, I find her unamusingly repulsive. Or are we no longer allowed to grasp that nettle any more?

    Not sure about 29acasaclue as I thought there were two constellations – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor – therefore not singular.

    My time 34 minutes – COD 25dn A TIT (as per 19ac)
    LOI 26ac INANE

    1. I see you’re back to your accustomed rudeness to this particular blogger. Why don’t you give us all a rest from it and stick to making interesting comments on the puzzles?
        1. I have just finished today’s JP offering and now understand your reference to 27a. I am in agreement too. Times for the Times for me are not just solving times but all the pleasant times grappling with the setters’ logic. These can sometimes extend to the early hours of the next morning for me.

          Such comments are well harsh and would surely put off a lot of slower (but accurate) solvers from offering to contribute with a regular blog.

    2. It’s always the cap wearers….the ” I say chaps, this one took me nearly 4 damnably long minutes, very upset with self, mind I did have a finger stuck in a bear trap and the East wing appeared to have taken fire: always puts a fellow off his game timewise, that sort of thing what?”
      I think it’s refreshingly honest to read that a solver took over an hour or more.
  3. I didn’t care much for this one, although not on grounds of taste, but because I had no idea who the hell Conchita Wurst was and had to look her up; GK that I’m just as happy not to possess. THE BEAR took me a long time for the reason horryd alludes to. COD to BORING.
  4. This one gets a big tick from me. Lots of amusing clues, including both of those possibly seen to be in ‘dubious taste’, the ‘some housing estates’ def. and the &littish 20d. Really good Sunday fare.

    Thanks to setter and to blogger.

  5. Well I liked it, it had that amusing and offbeat flavour which makes Sunday different from the other six days. I confess I had to Google the Wurst person and didn’t parse THE BEAR, so thanks Nick (the no longer a novice) for that. 35 minutes at leisure, with the one look-up.
    I always enjoy a Spoonerism clue and 1d was no exception, well done setter.
  6. DNF for me, giving up after about an hour and a half. For some reason I couldn’t convince myself that BY FAR meant “easily”, I didn’t know the bodyguarding bit of the SS’s duties, and had never heard of Conchita Wurst. Really didn’t seem to be on the wavelength or in the mood. Let’s hope today’s attempt goes better.

    Edited at 2016-10-30 08:33 am (UTC)

  7. 24:45. I was a bit surprised by 19ac but thought ‘ah what the hell, it’s Sunday’. I also wondered about 1dn, not on grounds of taste but on how you get HAG from ‘groupie’. I thought perhaps it’s supposed to be an adaption of the phrase ‘fag hag’, but then I did wonder on grounds of taste.
    Last in THE BEAR: I’m not much of an expert on constellations but I thought there were two of these so I hesitated, and it took me ages to figure out the wordplay.
    Good fun puzzle.
  8. According to the ODE, this means “Russia” informally, but according to Collins it also means whichever of the two Ursa constellations you like.
  9. A delightful puzzle from our newest ST setter that delayed me past caring about time as I was enjoying myself. Some of the clue construction had a slight feel of Guardian about it but any thoughts that we may be in that territory were dispelled by occasional details of parsing, though not (later) by some comments in the forum.

    I biffed TRAPPER as &lit and needed to look up Conchita Wurst. I last watched the Eurovision Song Contest in the days of Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson.

  10. l have to confess that this one took me a week to complete,the two DMs on Sunday are quite tough,Jeff is gentler.Ong’ara,Nairobi,Kenya.
  11. My best effort yet! Got seven out with no help then more with a bit of help. Still find some quite a stretch. Thank you, Nick,

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