Sunday Times 4753 by David McLean

I found this one decidedly tricky, and had to chip away at it over several sessions. When writing up the blog, I was trying to figure out why it had seemed so hard – there were no real obscurities (other than a somewhat unusual but eminently guessable word at 8dn), no particularly odd definitions, and minimal general knowledge was required.

I think maybe the answer is simply that Harry seems very adept at cunning misdirection and disguising definitions and anagram indicators – with 23ac being a particular case in point. Anyway, some fine clues and an enjoyable challenge, so thanks very much to our setter.

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

1 Novelist working in credit these days (6)
CONRAD – ON (working) ‘in’ CR (credit) + AD (these days – as opposed to BC) giving us Joseph, who amongst other achievements features at number 7 in the Daily Telegraph’s “Top 12 Authors’ Beards”
4 Romantic sort of ladies sex appeal enthrals (8)
IDEALIST – *(LADIES) – with “sort of” indicating the anagram – inside IT (sex appeal)
9 Take off with sec, always flipping swallowing it (6)
REMOVE – EVER reversed (always flipping) ‘swallows’ MO (sec)
10 I run out of gear usually where others score (8)
STREAKER – Cryptic definition. A streaker sheds his/her gear, and I think the rest of the clue refers to the fact that this phenomenon is generally associated with major sporting events where others are focused on scoring runs, tries, goals or baskets.
12 Pit outfits offering retirement coverage? (10)
BEDCLOTHES – BED (pit) + CLOTHES (outfits)
13 The sort of beast the solver sounds like (3)
EWE – Sounds like ‘you’ (the solver – from the setter’s perspective)
15 Texan behind movie, valuable sort (5)
ASSET – ASS (Texan behind) + ET (movie). Not sure there’s anything specifically Texan about the use of ‘ass’ for ‘behind’ – I think any American place would have worked equally well – but the point is presumably the American ‘ass’ as opposed to the British ‘arse’
16 Not lively, after wrestling in a wild way (9)
VIOLENTLY – *(NOT LIVELY) with “after wrestling” signalling the anagram
18 I might finally bring up acquiring safe (9)
TREASURER – T ({migh}T finally) + REAR (bring up) with SURE inside (acquiring safe), with the whole thing suggesting the sort of agenda item that a treasurer might indeed raise. To my shame I’ve never fully got to grips with such matters, but I think this might qualify as a Semi & Lit type of clue. Anyway, I thought it was quite clever (meaning I was particularly chuffed when I finally rumbled what was going on…)
20 Exercise time, then shower (5)
TRAIN – T (time) + RAIN (shower). Probably the only gimme in a tough puzzle.
22 Don’t start off one such as Lynn. Period (3)
ERA – {V}ERA – the Forces Sweetheart loses her first letter (don’t start off one such as Lynn)
23 Reorganise free housing for some mandarins (10)
ORANGERIES – *(REORGANISE) with “free” signposting the anagram, and the mandarins being fruits rather than civil servants
25 Ways to knock out another successful play? (5,3)
SMASH HIT – There are many ‘ways to knock out another’ – including smashing them and hitting them
26 Delight in Our Lord Jesus Christ? Not I (6)
SAVOUR – SAV{I}OUR – our Lord without the I
27 Head of state taxing blue emissions? (8)
SWEARING – S (head of State) + WEARING (taxing)
28 Scoff as a joke is delivered by a dictator (6)
INGEST – Sounds like “In Jest” – “as a joke” when said by one dictating. Very neat.
1 Stop Labour only if the leader’s replaced (4)
CORK – WORK (labour) with its first letter replaced
2 What leads newsman to go over Brown’s figures (7)
NUMBERS – N (what ‘leads’ Newsman) + UMBERS (brown’s)
3 Bit of stretching at the rear of support briefs? (9)
ADVOCATES – S (first letter – or ‘bit of’ Stretching) at the rear of ADVOCATE (support), with the definition being a slang term for lawyers, who also act as advocates in court
5 Bottle of sauce? (5,7)
DUTCH COURAGE – COURAGE (bottle) derived from alcoholic drink (sauce). Took a while for the penny to drop. Thinking about it, I’m not sure how widespread “sauce” as slang for alcohol is in the UK, but when I was living in Australia it was very common to hear “he’s been on the sauce…”
6 They might tramp up and down pollarded trees (5)
ACERS – {P}ACERS – people who tramp up and down losing their top (i.e. being pollarded), giving the type of maple tree. It all works fine, but there just seemed something a bit odd about this one to me, although I can’t really work out what it is…
7 Most unpleasant trick I esteemed (to a degree) (7)
ICKIEST – Contained within (to a degree) trICK I ESTeemed
8 Rambling poetry, if no good, is deadening (10)
TORPEFYING – *(POETRY IF) – with “rambling” signalling the anagram – and NG (no good). Not a word I knew but it sounded feasible enough, as being something similar to torpid.
11 Talk of change and a time to stop it (12)
CONVERSATION – CONVERSION (change) with A T inside (A T{ime} to stop it)
14 Bank job, perhaps, held by very poor religious folk (10)
PANTHEISTS – HEIST (bank job perhaps) ‘held by’ PANTS (very poor)
17 Please flirt with host (9)
ENTERTAIN – Triple definition
19 Give out article online friend’s penned (7)
EMANATE – AN (article) surrounded (penned) by E MATE (online friend)
21 Volatile stuff Blair commonly has expert overlook (7)
ACETONE – TONE (Blair commonly) ‘overlooked’ by ACE (expert)
23 To put up with that woman is not like you (5)
OTHER – TO reversed (to put up) + HER (that woman)
24 Singer supporting note that expresses annoyance (4)
DRAT – RAT (singer – i.e. one who rats on another or ‘sings’ as they say in criminal circles) under (supporting) D (note).

19 comments on “Sunday Times 4753 by David McLean”

  1. Definitely tricky, but in a good way. LOI 1d; I had ‘clog’ (slog) for a while until I finally got REMOVE. Biffed 3d, slapped forehead vigorously post-submission. I have a marginal note on my copy, “22ac Vera?”–didn’t know her, but it seemed likely. I think the problem with 6d, Nick–at least my problem– was that it’s hard to tramp up and down a tree.
  2. One has to presume after a fortnightly reminder, that Dean Mayer’s real name is Harry!? And that he is a very cunning setter. Ecce icky axiom! I would expect nothing else from Tom, Dick and Harry! Having this mantra every week is of little interest – and the ‘enjoyable challenge’and ‘drollery’ etc do not make up for the blogger’s lack of a given time!


    COD 5dn DUTCH COURAGE – sauce is well-known in the environs of London.

    I too was done in no time!

    1. Read the blog, David: ‘had to chip away at it in several sessions.’ And why this obsession with how long it is, anyway?
    2. Knowing your SOH, horryd, I’m probably missing some intentionally subtle point, but it’s David McLean who is Harry, not Dean Mayer, and he sets every three weeks, not every fortnight. Additionally Nick alternates with keriothe so in the normal course of events he’s only blogging one of Harry’s puzzles every seventh week.
      1. Harry McLean! No wonder you are against the personalisation of the 15×15. It is quite beyond confusing.

        I look forward to the next lervefest in seven weeks time!

        Horry David – Elizabeth

        1. You may not know the half of it, as David McLean sets elsewhere as Hoskins, Talos and Ned! Maybe other names too. I don’t know that he ever sets as Harry, but that’s how he usually signs his on-line messages.
  3. The Blog is called -‘Times for the Times’-!
    Your good self and almost everyone else gives the time of completion. Obsession or requirement?

    It is, generally, a most useful guide to have the stats from ‘Joe Bloggs’ himself. Whether it is Verlaine, Sotira, Jack or Pip Kirby their comparative times have meaning and give information on the degree of difficulty to the solver.

    I believe it’s also why we have The Championships – we live in the age of speed. Not everyone wants to enter these events but thousands do!

    NB First time I’ve been called David on these pages!

    Edited at 2017-07-09 09:31 am (UTC)

  4. I’ve lost the torn-out puzzle but remember finding it deceptively tricky as our esteemed blogger says. It looks much easier today. FOI was 1ac CONRAD so it wasn’t because of a slow start. COD SMASH HIT. (Fergus Cashin Daily Sketch?) Thank you Nick and setter.
  5. As the person identified by 1 across, 1 down, it behoves me to drop by to thank Harry for the fun, and Nick for the blog. IMHO Harry is getting better and better.

    Conrad Cork

    1. Are you really Conrad Cork or Konrad Bottlestopper? Or Harry Cork?
      IMHO horry is getting better!
  6. 59 mins 38 secs, so pleased to dip under the hour for this tricky offering. FOI 10ac. LOI 6dn where Kevin has identified what struck me as odd about the clue. It took a while to get into this one but I very much enjoyed elements like “Texan behind” and 3dn. 27ac took ages because I spent too long looking for “s” (head of state) followed by a word meaning “taxing” and a word like “down” for “blue” to get a word meaning “emissions”. Did not appreciate until late on that there was no lift and separate required of “blue emissions”. I liked 28ac, 17dn, 23dn but COD to 23ac for the reasons Nick gives in the blog.
  7. I’m an idiot. An hour for this, then ten minutes more in a separate session, and I never did reconsider “EYE” for 13a despite putting a question mark next to it. I suppose I just saw something that fit and assumed, as one does after doing cryptics for years, that there’s an animal called the same thing as virtually every English word…

    No Sunday puzzle for me this week; sadly my sub has run out, and I’m certainly not buying the titan that is a Sunday paper in physical form just to do the crossword and throw the rest away 🙁

    Edited at 2017-07-09 08:57 am (UTC)

    1. You are not an idiot!
      Probably the most improved solver in the first six months of a very good year. Keep going Matt:)!!

      Edited at 2017-07-09 01:46 pm (UTC)

      1. Thank you, horryd, that’s kind of you to say, and very encouraging.

        I shall indeed keep going (though it’s possible that I may have to jump ship to the Guardian for a while for financial reasons; they have a much cheaper sub for just doing the crossword. My heart will always be with the Times puzzle, though!)

    1. I am Alan Riley (Badger) in Perth Western Australia and I’m a techno dummy. I am 71 and I’m an Aussie novice at the ST and TC at the weekend only. I don’t give up until I finish each one. Sometimes it takes me hours but I always finish them. Maybe I’m thick and illiterate despite my being a classics scholar with a UK honours law degree. Certainly I’m no Verlaine.
      I’ve checked my solutions for years against your excellent blogs and I admire the time, courage, intelligence, wit and humour of all the bloggers. I also appreciate the effort you guys go to in posting them. And I admire the setters and their profound knowledge. So what right does anyone have to snipe at the blogger or setter? Let us stop doing that, Horryd, and learn from each other. I don’t know Nick but he seems a nice chap. No one of us is the repository of all knowledge.
  8. Tried my hand at this puzzle,after about 45 minutes finished all of it except 14 down….can somebody please explain why “pants” is very poor?

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