Sunday Times 4816 by David McLean – breaking news

DNF. I whizzed through most of this, then got completely stuck on two clues: 12ac and 2dn. I eventually figured out 12ac but couldn’t get anywhere near 2dn. It was only thanks to a hint from TfTT regular mytilus2000 that I realised how it was supposed to work.

Now this may just be sour 5ac but I am not particularly happy with this clue. Wordplay usually consists of instructions to do things with words or collections of words before inserting them in the grid: mix up the letters, split them apart, turn them around, insert them into one another and so on. In 2dn the words ‘after a break’ look like they are doing that, but in fact they are a rather vague instruction to amend the clue in order to make it solvable. This strikes me as not quite cricket. Will we see setters inserting random words to help the wordplay, followed by an instruction to remove them to make a solvable clue? 25dn for instance could be ‘remaining men support women’s lib after first couple removed in violent row’.

Ah well like I say it’s probably just sour grapes. What did you think?

Other than that, straightforward stuff. A rather strange verbed adjective in 27ac, a couple of slightly Mephistoish abbreviations, and some unusual indications in 23dn 24dn for instance, but we’re used to that sort of thing from this setter, who was voted ‘most likely to push the envelope a bit’ in crossword school. No complaints from me though, it makes his puzzles fun to solve which is the important thing.

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

1 Note fish in sea abroad seem diseased
MALINGER – MER (sea abroad) containing A, LING.
5 23 scoffing slice of Roquefort and these?
GRAPES – G(R)APES. Vague definition based on the fact that you’re reasonably likely to eat them with your cheese. The best thing to consume with Roquefort is Sauternes. This combination also works well if you leave out the Roquefort.
10 I slate bed, awful bit of furniture
11 Accountant with a job in a bank?
CAPER – CA (Chartered Accountant), PER (a). ‘A crime, especially an organised robbery’ (Collins). I wasn’t sure of this definition. It’s a definition by example (since a CAPER can take place elsewhere), which is indicated by the question mark.
12 Leading side in cup round play away
CHEAT – Cup, HEAT (round, in a competition). To play away is to be unfaithful.
13 What I meet whizzing around Turkey?
14 Possibly grey and tired top lavvy salesperson?
OLD-LOOKING – or OLD LOO KING, geddit? ‘Tired’ for OLD here seems a bit loose, but it’s close in the sense of hackneyed or stale.
17 My word is very good around hospital
GOSH – reversal of SO, G, then H.
19 Unknown vehicle reversing is blue, close to Oxford
NAVY – reversal of Y, VAN. Oxford blue and NAVY blue are both dark shades.
20 Play about beginning of universe …
RECREATION – RE (about), CREATION. ‘Beginning of the universe’ needs a question mark if you ask me.
22 … a certain success? Certainly!
24 Instruments other than flipping accordions suck primarily
TUBAS – reversal of BUT (other than), Accordians Suck.
26 Pork pie eaten by AN Other
ALIEN – LIE (pork pie) contained in AN. Nice use of ‘AN Other’.
27 Capitalise on pressure to back dons in court action
UPPER-CASE – RE, P (on pressure) reversed inside (dons in the sense of wearing) UP (in court), CASE (action). They say there ain’t no noun that can’t be verbed, it seems you can do it with adjectives too.
28 Might one burn a little rat
SINGER – two definitions, one mildly cryptic based on the fact that a SINGER can be someone who singes as well as someone who sings.
29 Storms a sailor’s radioed in
ASSAULTS – sounds like “a salt’s”

1 Something nice that comes from cans?
MUSIC TO ONES EARS – the second, slightly cryptic definition plays on the fact that ‘cans’ means ‘headphones’.
2 After a break, remove bottom of bookshelf
LEDGE – LEDGEr. As mentioned in my introduction, the first three words are telling us to insert a break somewhere in the clue to make it solvable. The resulting clue is ‘remove bottom of book shelf’.
3 People consuming books in symbolic representation
4 One bent on drinking pints of beer?
6 Dodgy business support lacking breadth
RACKETbRACKET. B for ‘breadth’ struck me as a bit Mephistoish. It’s in Collins but shown as an American usage so I’m a bit surprised it was allowed.
7 I reopen app for an update, but there’s not a sausage
8 He neglects sorts ordered to take a hike?
9 Knight tucks into gin-infused brew for starter?
BEGINNER – insert GIN into BEER to get BEGINER, then insert N into that.
15 Amusement papers served up with subjective account
DIVERSION – reversal of ID (papers), VERSION.
16 Continue the good work as 3 can be seen to do?
KEEP IT UP – because NOTATION (3dn) contains a reversal (which is up, since it’s a down clue) of IT.
18 Bugs bit ear badly, a Charlie admitted
BACTERIA – (BIT EAR)* containing A C.
21 With expert circling, “abrupt” Blair’s on the spot
AT ONCE – here ‘abrupt’ is telling us to cut TONY (Blair) short. This seems like a slightly odd way of indicating that now but it didn’t bother me when solving. Insert the resulting TON into ACE (expert).
23 Training with a gas mask is widely spread
GAPES – another slightly odd indication here: training (PE) is wearing a mask of, i.e. is contained in, GAS.
25 Support women’s lib in violent row
BRAWL – BRA (support), WL. I can’t find WL for women’s lib in any of the usual dictionaries. Perhaps we’re supposed to take them separately – W for women’s, L for liberal – but then L for liberal isn’t in Collins or ODO either.

31 comments on “Sunday Times 4816 by David McLean – breaking news”

  1. I did not whiz through this; 34′ online, and then I forget how long off. But no errors, anyway, although I didn’t understand ‘play away’ or ‘cans’. And I definitely didn’t get how 2d worked: I finally broke ‘book’ from ‘shelf’, figured ‘shelf’=’ledge’, and gave up. No problem with CAPER, nor with ‘abrupt’. Shouldn’t 28ac have had a question mark? It’s a question. I can’t say I enjoyed this very much; although I did like GAPES.

    Edited at 2018-09-23 12:36 am (UTC)

    1. The frustrating thing for me is that book=ledger and ledge=shelf both occurred to me almost immediately, but try as I might I couldn’t find a way to make the cryptic grammar work. I expect older solvers will tell me that this is because I’m trapped in new-fangled ximinean thinking, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be right.

      Edited at 2018-09-23 01:25 am (UTC)

  2. Overall I found this a relatively benign solve waiting on a flight to Santa Barbara (ref avatar), and I was pleased to get all correct after some thumb sucking and pencil chewing. If I had not been in a departure lounge with an extra 10 minutes to kill, I might not have done the re-thinking, and would have had 28 wrong.

    I parsed 2d as a not quite working &lit, (F)ledge. Fledging being more or less what chicks do after breaking from their eggs, and the bottom of bookshelf being the lost F and the almost &lit. I don’t have a problem with bookshelf in its entirety being a ledge. That’s probably wrong, but it got me to enough comfort that I put the puzzle down feeling satisfied. In the also almost wrong column I had Racy for a long time at at 19 – the wordplay works, it’s certainly blue but not so clearly Oxfordian; and whilst it’s only possible that a rat could be a sinner, a sinner will surely burn at 28.

    Otherwise, I’m on the same page as Keriothe – a number of not-exactly-spot-on definitions, some unusual constructions, and a pleasant 25 minutes. Thanks K, thanks DM

    1. I considered ‘bookshelf’ as the definition but I didn’t think it worked and every dictionary I consulted agreed with me.
      1. Yeah – I definitely found a wrong way of justify what had to be the answer.

        A philosophical question is: it is accepted that punctuation is ignored. That’s easy when it is caps, italics, commas, quotation marks, even sometimes a possessive ‘s on the end of words. It’s also roughly understood that if the wordplay uses a proper name the reference must be capitalized, as when Mae clues West or vice versa. But should spaces or the lack of spaces be considered ignorable punctuation, as in bookshelf or book shelf?

  3. You could do this clue as simply “Remove bottom of bookshelf,” if deceptive compound-word creation were a common trick—but I’m afraid it’s not. I had to sleep on this clue to get it, but then I didn’t mind that it pushes the envelope a bit. I don’t think there is much reason to suspect the break would be anywhere else in the clue besides the last word. (I am rather a Ximenean myself, but the two guys who make the puzzles I edit at The Nation are somewhat less so, so I’m tolerant.)

    The other one I had the most trouble parsing was also 12a.

    Edited at 2018-09-23 04:10 am (UTC)

  4. I never figured out how that worked, and I’m not sure I’m at peace with it yet, but thanks for explaining!
  5. I think I did this over more than one session as I have a starting time but no note of how long it took to complete, yet I don’t recall struggling with it unduly.

    2dn was my only answer annotated with a question mark so I assume I never parsed it fully, but I had biffed LEDGE without much hesitation, based on enumeration, checkers and the definition ‘bookshelf’. Elsewhere on my print-out I see have written ‘ledge{r}’ so after completing the grid I must have spotted that accounted for ‘book’ and ‘remove bottom’ in the clue without realising exactly what was going on re ‘after a break’.

    I think on reflection, as I was able to solve the clue and came so close to understanding the parsing, and also allowing for this being a Sunday Times puzzle where boundaries tend to be stretched a little more than in the Times, I can’t get myself too excited about the deviation from the norm. Maybe if I had been on blogging duty I’d have felt more strongly.

    Edited at 2018-09-23 05:09 am (UTC)

    1. Yes I might just have bunged it in and moved on if I hadn’t been on blogging duty, but I don’t think ‘bookshelf’ works as a definition.
      1. I agree ‘bookshelf’ doesn’t really work, but it was close enough for me to see the answer so I let it pass. I did return to it later and got a bit nearer to the intended parsing but left it at that.
        1. Well indeed, that’s why I only underlined ‘shelf’ in my blog! 😉
          I was just responding to jacket’s comment that he entered the answer on the basis that ‘bookshelf’ was the definition. I do wonder if I might not have done the same if it wasn’t my turn to do the blog. I don’t consciously change my approach but the awareness that I will have to explain everything perhaps makes me a little more attentive to wordplay.
          1. I would have deleted that if you hadn’t replied to it. I meant that comment more for Jackkt but on rereading see that he wasn’t (still) confused either.
  6. A good challenge, testing for a Sunday. 57 minutes with penultimate CHEAT and LOI LEDGE. I did manage to parse the latter before reading the Myrtilus/ Keriothe exchange last week, so that is definitely also COD. I’m never keen to one clue being necessary for the solution of another and thought GAPES/GRAPES a bit weak. I’d already biffed KEEP IT UP when I got NOTATION. You’d have to solve it this way round. I guess I feel my personal autonomy threatened by linked clues, although the order I can solve things in is dictated by the clues anyway. I’m being irrational.Thank you K and David.
  7. As a fully paid up Antiximenean, I enjoyed this, though it did take me quite a while to finally parse 2dn. I did guess the answer but I’m always uncomfortable with clues I can’t explain. I thought a couple of other clues were a little bit weak as well, at the time.
  8. Put in LEDGE for 2d after an hour and ten, and it was only coming back to it later after seeing the comments on the blog that I kicked myself. Oddly, I’d probably have been fine with this one had it not had the detailed instructions to lift-and-separate “bookshelf”, as I’m used to that kind of thing from the Guardian…

    FOI 23d GAPES (so I must’ve found it hard to get started!), LOI the aforementioned; enjoyed 26a ALIEN for its creative use of AN Other.

  9. Yup, that’ll be me.

    FOI WHITE MEAT, but 10 minutes later I put the puzzle down, having added only PEPPERONI and BRAWL. When I returned to it a couple of hours later, I didn’t set a timer, but I reckon it was about a further half an hour to see it off.

    Some biffing was involved here. Thanks to Keriothe for parsing UPPER-CASE. Post-solve I saw the light with GOSH (LOI), SINGER, and LEDGE ( which I wasn’t struck on, and largely agree with Keriothe’s beef).

    I took SIDETABLE on trust, since it doesn’t seem to be right unless it’s (4,6).

    COD CHEAT with MUSIC TO ONES EARS a very close runner-up.

    Somebody should have cut Tony Blair short years ago, but I have to wonder why the “dead persons only” rule doesn’t apply on a Sunday.

    1. I’m more inclined to worry why it does apply on the other days!
      Tony Blair is a modern-day Cassandra. I do wonder why he bothers.
    2. The Sunday Times crossword is completely separate from the Times crossword.

      So any ‘rule’ self imposed by one is irrelevant as far as the other is concerned


    1. So I have, sorry! I hear you are something of a setting wizard…
      As for 17dn, I’ll let you know when I’ve solved the puzzle!
  10. Last Sunday I was on my way to the Chiswick Book Festival to see Misha Glenny talk about McMafia. An excellent festival by the way if you are based in or around London. And beautiful weather,unlike today.
    I solved this puzzle en route there,and home.
    I always enjoy DM’s puzzles and I made good progress on this one. My last two were 2d and 1a. For 2d I had Ledge as best case but struggled with the parsing; I finally decided that FLEDGE minus F was the solution ( I see another contributor also thought that). I agree it was left-field.
    And I got 1a wrong. I thought the definition was Diseased so I invented Malinged. (The sea abroad being the Med.)
    Very annoying just to have one letter wrong. David
  11. 38:45. Checking the anagrist and confidently putting in tableside for no logical reason at 10ac delayed me slightly but no real problems once that was sorted out. Bookshelf and l-d-e was enough for me to get ledge. Like others I had the vague idea that it was something like fledge minus the last letter of bookshelf but I didn’t really get into the finer details of the parsing.
  12. Like a lot of you I struggled to parse my LOI, LEDGE, but did eventually see it. I wasn’t aware of the required definition of CAPER, but followed the wordplay. Can’t remember where I started, but I found the puzzle quite tricky, taking 37:14 to complete. Thanks Harry and K.
  13. Oh right. I don’t think he’s arguing that it’s the definition, just that it looks more or less feasible if you’re not paying close attention.
  14. I always think that I’m very Ximenean, but we are told that it is unXimenean to use the device that DM uses in 2dn. It always seems fine to me: where does X specifically say that this sort of thing is bad? Azed in his slip once criticised this sort of thing as being ‘a clue to a clue’ and I couldn’t see what’s wrong with that, either.

Comments are closed.