Sunday Times 4739 by Jeff Pearce

I managed to romp through the first three quarters or so of this puzzle without too many alarums and excursions, but was then left with a handful of clues that put up stout resistance and took an age to unravel.

In particular the SW corner (except for 21ac) was particularly hard going (although with the benefit of hindsight I can’t understand why it took me so long to spot the cartoon cat), and 7dn stumped me altogether (an unknown word and the key components of the wordplay were also unknown to me). But, all good clean fun and some fine clues with the ingenious lettuce stunt at 22ac getting my COD nomination, closely followed by 8dn (great surface) and the cunningly constructed 18ac.

Thanks as ever to Jeff for a very enjoyable challenge.

Definitions underlined: DD = double definition: anagrams indicated by *(–): omitted letters indicated by {-}.

1 Added gold bar roughly (4,2,4)
MORE OR LESS – MORE (added) + OR (gold) + LESS (bar – as in ‘all bar one’)
6 After a month, returned and got a hole in one (4)
ACED – DEC reversed (month returned) comes ‘after A’ giving the golfing jargon
9 Loud senator going around with tin (10)
STENTORIAN – *(SENATOR + TIN) with “going around” indicating the anagram
10 Circus performer is to escape during broadcast (4)
FLEA – sounds like FLEE (‘to escape’ when ‘broadcast’). Must admit whilst I’ve heard the term “flea circus” many times, I’d never actually thought about what might be involved or how it might work. Anyone with too much time on their hands and who shares my fascination with the more eccentric fringes of human endeavour might find this brief article interesting
12 Reptile disfiguring canal’s central parts (6)
IGUANA – Neat wordplay where the answer is constructed from the “central parts” of disfIGUring and cANAl
13 Fuss by pub about the French sweet (8)
ADORABLE – ADO (fuss) + BAR reversed (pub about) + LE (the French)
15 A lot of water replacing cider, as it’s being consumed by
non-drinkers (8,3)
ADRIATIC SEA – *(CIDER AS IT) – with “replacing” pointing to the anagram – inside (consumed by) AA (alcoholics anonymous – non-drinkers)
18 School head comes round with toiletry (7,4)
SHAVING FOAM – S (abbrev. school) + FOAM (head – as in the froth on top of a beer) go ’round’ HAVING (with). I always particularly admire the artistry of clues where seemingly innocuous conjunctions such as ‘with’ turn out to be key components of the wordplay. Very nice.
21 American female — elegant and wealthy (8)
AFFLUENT – A (American) F (female) + FLUENT (elegant)
22 Stop pretence about a possible alternative to sweetheart
ACCOST – ACT (pretence) goes around (about) COS (possible alternative to Sweetheart since both are varieties of lettuce). Very droll – in fact a Little Gem of a clue, one might say.
24 A place to hide port (4)
ADEN – A + DEN (A place to hide)
25 Master chess player is heard to be big-headed beaky type
KINGFISHER – FISHER sounds like (heard to be) Bobby Fischer (master chess player) with KING (big) in front (headed). The cryptic definition is a refreshing change from ‘flyer’ or ‘singer’.
26 Twist and slip when taking top off (4)
EDDY – This one went in on a wing and a prayer, as my research over the years into the mysteries of female under garments had failed to include learning that a {T}EDDY is a type of slip.
27 Slow month on railroad, with terminally tiresome speed
DECELERATE – DEC (month) + EL (abbrev. of the Canadian Erie Lackawanna ‘railroad’, apparently) + E (last letter – ‘terminally’) of tiresomE + RATE (speed). I thought the railroad reference was very obscure, although the remainder of the wordplay and cross checkers meant the answer could not really be anything else.
1 Endless row after problem about fabric (6)
MUSLIN – LIN{E} (endless row) ‘after’ SUM reversed (problem about)
2 Bitter herb dock packed makes you apologetic (6)
RUEFUL – RUE (bitter herb) + FUL{L} (packed after being ‘docked’)
3 Vulgar promises to pay after a lot of port gets on shabby
clothes (12)
OSTENTATIOUS – IOUS (promises to pay) comes ‘after’ OSTEN{D} (a lot of port) + TAT (shabby clothes)
4 Fat boy cramming in last of burger (4)
LARD – LAD (boy) with R (last of burgeR) ‘crammed in’
5 One in bed is game to continue for a while! (10)
SNAPDRAGON – The occupant of the flower bed is derived from SNAP (game) + DRAG ON (continue for a while)
7 Carriage circles a bay tree (8)
CALABASH – CALASH (carriage – a type of horse drawn buggy) goes around (circles) A B (a bay). Did not know the tree, or the carriage, or indeed that B is a recognised abbreviation of Bay. Other than that…
8 Doctor amazed with pi and another possible number (8)
DIAZEPAM – *(AMAZED + PI) with “doctor” pointing to the anagram, giving the drug that was first marketed as Valium. “Number” as something that makes one numb is an old chestnut, but I invariably fail to spot it for a long while whenever it crops up. I thought this was a cleverly constructed clue and a pleasing surface – very neat all round.
11 Does it provide a better way to play “Oranges and Lemons”?
FRUIT MACHINE – Neat cryptic definition requiring us to see “better” as ‘one who bets’
14 Be training around a ship (10)
BRIGANTINE – *(BE TRAINING) with “around” indicating the anagram
16 Key on a dead mushroom (8)
ESCALATE – ESC (key – on your keyboard) + A LATE (a dead)
17 Paper reviewed green comic strip (8)
GARFIELD – RAG reversed (paper reviewed) + FIELD (green)
19 Susan regularly found behind joke book (6)
JOSHUA – UA (sUsAn regularly) ‘behind’ JOSH (joke) giving us the sixth book of the Bible, which is one I seem to dimly recall contained much smiting.
20 Something rude to do is eating very fast (6)
STARVE – It’s rude to STARE, which in this case also contains (is eating) V (very)
23 Fit date seen outside Uni (4)
AGUE – AGE (date) wraps around (seen outside) U (Uni)

20 comments on “Sunday Times 4739 by Jeff Pearce”

  1. I assumed the railroad in 27ac was the Chicago “EL”, short presumably for “elevated”.

    Edited at 2017-04-01 11:24 pm (UTC)

    1. You may well be right (and further comments below suggest you are, although the NYC version referred to by Vinyl could be yet another contender…)

      I think this is an “all roads lead to Rome” thing – with my key take away for future reference being that “railroad” may well be giving us an EL, irrespective of the line in question!

  2. I seem to have tossed my hard copy, but evidently I missed one; not sure which one. I agree with Brian about EL, although I’d imagine that Chicago’s El is still on the obscure side for non-Murcans. Surprised to see that awful comic strip showing up, too. DNK ‘sweetheart’, but inferred that it is a lettuce type.
      1. Reading this made me realise I was guilty of the same thing in a comment re your blog yesterday, Bruce. I have posted an apology in that thread now.
  3. I agree with Kevin on 17dn GARFIELD – what a lousy comic strip – rotten clue too!

    WOD 7dn CALABASH one has to have read J. F. Horrabin’s wonderful ‘Japhet and Happy’ (News Chronicle) comic strip to know all about Mrs. Noah’s calabash tree.

    Last time I was in UK I tried unsuccessfully to buy 18ac SHAVING FOAM – it was that horryd blue shaving gel only! Yuk!


    Edited at 2017-04-02 02:21 am (UTC)

    1. Next time look for “Lab Series..” they do both foam and a shaving cream, and both are excellent. Any decent size Boots will sell it, as well as Army & Navy, House of Fraser etc etc.
  4. We had EL for the Chicago transit system somewhere recently and I didn’t know it then. This time I’d forgotten it but could see DECELERATE anyway. My only experience of Chicago is running like (h)el(l) across O’Hare airport to make a connecting flight. Has it figured in one of the many popular movies or sitcoms I haven’t seen? Penultimate in, the constructible CALABASH, also American in origin, and not available in our local garden centre.They do sell SWEETHEART lettuce seeds though, but it took me a while to twig ACCOST. I’ll give COD to FRUIT MACHINE for the smile, although I saw it straightaway, and maybe SNAPDRAGON (also available in the bedding plant section) is more worthy. LOI DIAZEPAM, needing all the crossers, although I did know the drug. Was Valium the proprietorial name? Can’t see why I took nearly 50 minutes on this nice puzzle unless the Communion wine slows me down on a Sunday. Thank you Nick and setter.

    Edited at 2017-04-02 06:59 am (UTC)

  5. My aged brain can’t remember a thing about this one. A starting time with no finishing time suggests I found it hard and ran over an hour, but on the other hand, very neat writing in the grid and lack of workings in the margins might suggest that I coasted through it without problems.
  6. This took “about 1 3/4 hours”, according to my notes, with the east half finished long before the west. FOI 4d, LOI 7d CALABASH, and I’m still not sure how I got it, given that as with our blogger I didn’t *think* I knew any of the components or the definition, but I must have dredged it up from somewhere.

    According to my exclamation mark, SNAPDRAGON was my COD. Must’ve given me a giggle at the time. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  7. 22:50. Quite tricky this. I hesitated for ages at the end over EDDY, not knowing the required meaning of ‘teddy’, and eventually bunged it in with fingers crossed faute de mieux.
    7dn didn’t cause me a problem because I knew the carriage, and that CALABASH was a word meaning something or other, but I think it’s a terrible clue.
  8. An enjoyable puzzle which kept me busy for 50:59. I can’t remember where I started but I remember struggling with CALABASH, my LOI. Remembered EL from a recent puzzle. Liked DIAZAPAM and SNAPDRAGON. Thanks Jeff and Nick.
  9. Hello everyone I’ve been lurking for a while and decided to start contributing. Thanks to all the bloggers and posters here my solving has improved to the extent that for me this was a rare DNF. I managed to put “mustie” instead of the rather obvious (in retrospect) “muslin”. Doh! Ah well, there’s always tomorrow. COD to 15ac and thanks for unravelling “decelerate” I had an inkling probably from previous crosswords that EL might have been a specific line but thanks for the enlightenment.
    1. Hello, special_bitter and welcome! Glad you like it here and find it useful. We look forward to hearing a lot more from you now that you have de-lurked. May I also recommend the Quick Cryptic? It’s a great training ground for those who are new to cryptics but also useful to more experienced solvers for practice and warming up for the main event.
      1. Hello Jackkt, I will certainly try to contribute regularly. I did try the first few quick cryptics when they came out and I think they have done the cryptic crossword community a great service. However, I don’t solve them that often anymore – I tend to prefer the meat and potatoes of the regular 15×15, Saturday Jumbo or ST. If I do revisit the odd one I will remember to post my thoughts on the blog. Thanks again.
  10. Normally Georgette Heyer is my go-to author for obscure vocabulary. But today I have been grateful for Sara Paretsky and her Chicago based private eye who uses the EL on a regular basis. I had to cheat to finish this puzzle having come to a standstill in the SW corner. 40 minutes up to that point. Ann
  11. ……knew Calabash from one of those boy’s adventure stories (Swiss Family Robinson, Coral Island, Martin Rattler, Robinson Crusoe??????????????) from the dear dead days beyond recall. The hero was always using the gourds as containers.

    Seems there is also a vine that produces bottle shaped gourds.

    Thanks as always to all the bloggers and setters.

    Janet and Tom, Toronto.

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