Sunday Times 4760 by Jeff Pearce – O Captain! My Captain!

DNF. I struggled with this, for reasons I largely can’t see now that I come to write up the blog. I failed at the end on FOIE GRAS, and I’m reasonably clear on why I couldn’t get that one. My main problem was that I don’t think I would ever have thought of it as a ‘course’, any more than I would think of ‘beef’ or ‘spaghetti’ as a course, rather than an ingredient. It seems perfectly fair to me now (‘I’ll have the beef’) but I just wasn’t on that train of thought at any point. My second problem was FOE as an abbreviation for Friends of the Earth: I don’t remember coming across it before and I was certainly never going to think of it, which meant the wordplay route was closed to me. I think I was also distracted by the fact that the definition is in two parts so I kept trying to fit bits of it into the wordplay. No complaints though: a perfectly fair – and rather good – clue where I just had a bit of a blind spot.

I do have a couple of queries/objections this week though, neither of which actually caused me any problems while solving (because to be honest I didn’t even notice them until I tried to unpick them for this blog).

Firstly, 27ac. Unless I’m very much mistaken, in this clue S is indicated by ‘final plans’. This is a Ximenean no-no, and whilst I’m no blind follower of the old master I think that in this case his objection was entirely sound. ‘Final X’ means the last of a series of Xs. It does not in any context mean ‘the last bit of X’.

Secondly, 3dn. What are the words ‘in order’ doing in this clue? The only way I can read it is that this an instruction not to change the order of the A and N from ‘action’. So AN is indicated by ‘action on both sides in order’. I suppose I can’t fault this from a logical or technical point of view, but on this basis you could insert the words ‘in order’ pretty much anywhere in any clue. This strikes me as not cricket.

I expect I’ve firmly grasped the wrong end of the stick in some way, so I look forward to being publicly humiliated courteously corrected. Even if I haven’t you may well disagree with me. As the late lamented Mrs Merton used to say, let’s have a heated debate!

[As an aside, a quick note on the club site. I have three devices on which I can and do (or used to) solve: my iPad, my HP (Windows) laptop, and my wife’s Apple laptop. The new club site has never worked on my laptop: I get a repeating ‘loading’ symbol, but never any puzzle. On the iPad and the Apple laptop it’s been fine, until now, subject to a lot of glitches including a weird one whereby if you solve the puzzle on one device, you can’t see the answers on another. The techies at the Times have obviously been busy, though, because now the complete inability to access the puzzles on my HP laptop as been helpfully rolled out to its Apple equivalent. I can still solve on my iPad, but no doubt this fault is under review and I look forward to reverting to the printed edition in due course. Now, the puzzle…]

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*.

1 Forecast operating cost must change
PROGNOSTICATE – (OPERATING COST)*. A very tidy anagram to get us started.
10 Fictional character wandering around Peru with horse
11 I deface cute deer’s feet
12 American schoolgirl’s out of order
13 Observe famous person in front of judge
14 Being cut left a doctor and policeman outside hospital
LAMB CHOP – L, A, MB, C(H)OP. One of those rare clues where the definition isn’t at the end, albeit here only because of a bit of padding.
16 Butcher‘s male goose
GANDER – DD. This must be a chestnut (appropriate for stuffing the goose) but for some unfathomable reason it took me ages to see.
19 Dispatched message to railway guard
SENTRY – SENT, RY. The word ‘message’ seems extraneous here. SENT just means ‘dispatched’.
20 Urgent request for help follows commando finally joining desert rats
SO-AND-SOS – S(commandO)AND, SOS.
22 One interrupts vendor shortly after stain is seen on fabric
MARSEILLE – MAR, SE(I)LLEr. A ‘strong cotton fabric with a raised pattern’ according to Collins. News to me, but the wordplay is clear.
24 Request van after parking
PLEAD – P, LEAD (van, short for ‘vanguard’).
25 I grumble about biblical woman
NAOMI – reversal of I MOAN.
26 Couple after book — by him?
MARK TWAIN – MARK (book of the bible even I’ve heard of), TWAIN. One of those where the definition (‘him’) relies on the rest of the clue to make sense. I wouldn’t call this a semi-&Lit because the whole clue doesn’t serve as a definition.
27 Letter read out to staff is about final plans to acquire colony
CAYMAN ISLANDS – CAY (sounds like K), MAN (staff), IS containing S (final plans), LAND (acquire). See above.

2 He makes good stuff
REPAIRMAN – CD. ‘Good’ looks like an adjective but in fact it’s part of the verb to ‘make good’. Is it still an adjective? Ask a linguist.
3 Starts action on both sides in order to leave Europeans
GERMS – remove ActioN from GERMANS. Again, see above.
4 Char in charge of chef
OVERCOOK – OVER (in charge of), COOK. I accidentally overcooked some leeks to the point of charring recently. I was about to throw away the resulting blackened sludge in the bottom of the pan when I realised that it smelled rather good, so I used it (in a risotto) and the result was absolutely delicious. In spite of several attempts since I have been completely unable to reproduce this effect on purpose. No doubt this information has made your Sunday.
5 Put bits of bread at front of tunnel for cave-dwellers
6 It’s painful to see Bill struggling in manacle
CHILBLAIN – (BILL)* contained in CHAIN.
7 Volunteer force takes politician over a US resort.
TAMPA – TA, MP, A. This clue wouldn’t work as an across.
8 Foundation altering NHS timetables
ESTABLISHMENT – (NHS TIMETABLES)*. The Jeremy Hunt foundation, perhaps.
9 Marshal pens directive for senior politician
VICE PRESIDENT – (PENS DIRECTIVE)*. President-in-waiting, with any luck.
15 Enjoy the present from Rome!
CARPE DIEM – CD. It means ‘seize the day’, of course, not ‘fish poison’.
17 Push aside pan and fish in wine
18 Course it’s very controversial if I join environmentalists — mostly green
21 Old priest‘s extremely forgetful — so be it
FLAMEN – ForgetfuL, AMEN. A priest serving one particular god in Ancient Rome, apparently. I don’t remember coming across this before but the wordplay was kind.
23 Port and nearly a carafe of wine
RIOJA – RIO (a port often frequented in Crosswordland), JAr. I’m in Spain as I make the finishing touches to this, looking forward to a bit of RIOJA this evening.
24 Where you might find scavengers looking over bread
PITTA – reversal of AT TIP. In Canada a few years ago I encountered scavengers at a tip in the form of bears. As I stood hesitantly by my car holding bin bags, the attendant (a shirtless man with no teeth, as is the tradition over there) shouted at me to ‘just go ahead, he won’t hurt ya’. After due consideration I concluded that this was a piece of advice I would not follow.

29 comments on “Sunday Times 4760 by Jeff Pearce – O Captain! My Captain!”

  1. I actually know FOE–a couple of friends of mine worked for them years ago–but this clue was out of my reach. I also didn’t notice the problems with 27ac and 3d–or if noticed, didn’t stop to think about them; probably just as well, since I’m not a blogger.
  2. So you are mortal,Keriothe,to be beaten by FOIE GRAS,got it easily with help of checkers and ‘course’.As for GANDER,it was a write-in for me.COD IAMBI.
  3. I solved this in 28 minutes with SO-AND-SOS both COD and LOI. As to our esteemed blogger’s problems with this, I thought the ‘in order’ superfluous on 3d but maybe it made the surface reading more rounded. I didn’t even think of the S in CAYMAN ISLANDS (not too taxing an answer) to be unusual, perhaps because I’m not so well-educated in these matters. As a former director of the CEGB and National Grid, I’ve used FOE for Friends of the Earth for at least 30 years. Some are FOM (friends of mine) but I’ll admit that occasionally I’ve wanted to put an additional F at the front. FOIE GRAS, something I won’t eat (virtue signalling, see I’m not a complete b*****d), was late-in for me also. Enjoyed this, K and Jeff.

    Edited at 2017-08-27 07:28 am (UTC)

  4. The “in order” in 3dn seems superfluous to me, can’t see what it adds. No problem however with 27ac – I never did give a toss about Ximenes’ “rules.” All I care is that the clue is fair, makes sense, and is solvable, which this one must be since I did.. I also got foie gras, though it’s funny, I don’t remember parsing the clue at all and certainly never spotted FoE for Friends of the Earth. Must have just bifd it I suppose. I never buy or order the stuff.
    1. I had a feeling you were going to say that! Normally I agree with you (on definition by example, for instance) but in this case to solve the clue you have to ignore the meaning of the words. This is doable (and I did it), but I don’t like it.
  5. Thanks for FOIE GRAS and for CAYMAN ISLANDS. They really puzzled me. I’ve now stored FOE away for future use!
    Regarding your Apple laptop, keriothe, I use a MacBook Pro and started having problems with the crossword club site a few months ago. I used Safari. Customer Services advised me to change browsers so I went to Firefox and haven’t had a problem since.
    80m 10s
    1. Thanks Martin, I’ll try that. I have tried IE, Firefox (my default) and Chrome on my PC and none of them work.
      1. Have you tried going into the browser settings and making the Times puzzle site a trusted site/allow all cookies?
        1. Firefox is what I was using before. I’ve never come across a site that is so device-dependent. I’m no expert but making the thing work on different operating systems and browsers strikes me as pretty basic.
          1. Agreed! Things used to be simple, didn’t they. We paid £24.99 p.a. to join the Crossword Club and crossword life went on at a steady pace without problems. Now we have to pay a lot more to get something many people don’t want, change browsers and cope with a new club site that has, for example, played havoc with the Forum. I’m pleased TftT is still here!
  6. Enjoyed this puzzle, though I have no idea now how long it took. Not too long, at any rate. I work for a polluting company, too, so FOE was pretty much top-of-mind. As for the other two controversial clues, I rather liked the ‘in order’ – taking it in the technical sense I assume was intended – while the ‘final plans’ device seems fine, as a sort of ellipsis, which seems fitting in crossword clues, which are, typically, if nothing else, elliptical.

    Would have preferred Jude to Mark, mind…

    1. You say ‘ellipsis’, I say ‘missing out random words irrespective of meaning just to get the surface to work’, let’s call the whole thing off. 😉
  7. 51mins 11secs. Had all but 3dn done in 41mins. The “in order” bit of 3dn works ok for me as part of the surface and as you have indicated as an instruction to keep the letters indicated in the order in which they appear there, in the solution. Problem for me was the unusual plural, the idea of which took some time to settle. 27ac was solvable but I agree that “final plans” doesn’t quite work as an indication of the last letter of “plans”. It contrasts with “commando finally” in the excellent 20ac where I think “final commando” could have worked just as well in the surface but not in the wordplay. Foie gras entered from enumeration and on the basis of a course being controversial to environmentalists. Did not twig the FOE abbreviation. 22ac unknown and thrown in from checkers. DNK the old priest so got 21dn from wordplay. When it wasn’t Eli I wondered if it was going to be the chap who warned the Trojans not to bring that big wooden horse inside and then got bitten by a couple of snakes for his trouble, but that was someone else.
  8. Foie gras a regular treat aorund here, where they make it, so no problems writing it on unparsed. Had to check FLAMEN after finishing, otherwise an enjoyable 45 minutes.

    I use both chrome and firefox on Windows 10 and have had no problems with either, online or printing off the PDF, on the Club site or the TImes site, which seem now to be the same in printout terms.

  9. For what it’s worth I reprise my comment from yesterday in the hope it spreads a bit of light over the mess that is the new site:
    I could be wrong, but I have a feeling the new site uses cookies on our devices to store our puzzle results rather than their own servers, which would explain why you have to use the same device and same browser to see the review. I did have to reset my Chrome browser last week due to various other issues, so that may be why I lost last week’s puzzle. Or maybe the site is just full of bugs.
    On edit: I have just gone back to the Club site and found that every puzzle I solved before last Thursday when I had to clear various history and cookie settings, no longer allows me to view my completed grid, so it looks as though my postulation that the information is stored on our own devices is correct. I suppose it saves Rupert a bit of expense on Disk Storage. What a crap system!!

    Edited at 2017-08-27 11:35 am (UTC)

  10. I caremelise my leeks by frying them, finely chopped, in olive oil until they turn nicely brown. I then add them to salmon fillets, flash fried in the resultant olive oil to seal them, wrap the whole in tinfoil, pop the parcel in the oven for 20 minutes and then serve with hollandaise sauce. Add several glasses of sauvignon blanc to taste.

    Edited at 2017-08-27 11:43 am (UTC)

    1. Nice! The only ingredient I would change in that would be the wine (more of a Chardonnay drinker myself).
      My leeks were much more than caramelised: they were very close to being completely burnt, and I’m sure if I had scraped off the stuff that was stuck to the bottom it would have been disgusting. I’ve achieved something similar by charring the leeks under the grill or on a hot barbecue, but it’s not quite the same.
  11. I appear to have completed this puzzle, but it took me 64:45, so not an easy solve. MARSEILLES and FLAMEN from wordplay, and if I remember correctly, I got fed up on my LOI GERMS and looked it up. FOI AMISS, I think. Had ISLANDS for a while before deciding which ones. Thanks Jeff and K.
  12. For me this was a good test but there were enough clues where I could gain a foothold. Eventually I got Flamen, Foie Gras and Cayman Islands -delighted with those.
    I had two outstanding at the end 3d and 20a. I looked at those for a long time before giving up.
  13. I was also left stranded by FOIE GRAS, and (as with our esteemed blogger) I would never have made the FOE link in a month of Sundays. To make matters worse, I convinced myself that I was looking for some kind of ARTS “course” as soon as I got the cross checkers from 26a and 27a, and could not get past that line of thinking.

    Other than that, I found this one reasonably attainable, albeit quite challenging (which is my definition of a splendid puzzle!) Did not baulk at the FINAL PLANS, I suspect because I’m less au fait with the Ximenes rules than I probably should be. And the “in order” device in 3dn also struck me as a bit odd, albeit I concluded it was simply (and somewhat superfluously) telling us that the imports from ActioN retained their original sequence.

    Thanks for the enlightening blog K, and also to Jeff for a very enjoyable puzzle.

  14. For what it is worth, Firefox is undergoing big changes at present.. the last release has brought lots of my extensions to a shuddering halt.. and I have moved to another browser called Pale Moon. You can google it – it is a clone of Firefox and as such, familiar to any Firefox user – but much better imho.
  15. Defeated by 3d. I couldn’t see the definition even after being given the answer. The penny has now dropped. The rest seemed quite straightforward. 31 minutes but a DNF. Ann

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