Sunday Times 4948 by David McLean

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic
8:15. A very unusual grid this week: one that I don’t remember seeing before. The long series of unchecked lights black squares around the edges give it an odd look, and there are no short words. All the answers are 7, 8 or 15 letters long.

The puzzle itself was straightforward, I thought, but I enjoyed it as I always do Harry’s puzzles. He has a very original and quirky style that I like.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (TIHS)*, anagram indicators are in italics.

1 My husband takes wrong turning from Newquay?
CORNISH – COR, H containing a reversal of SIN (wrong).
5 Where to take down fighter in mohawk from Bow?
AIRSTRIP – a mohawk (or mohican) hairstyle consists of a single strip of hair down the middle of a shaved head. Hence in East London…
9 Some diplomat in Algiers of a morning
MATINAL – contained in ‘diplomat in Algiers’.
10 One prompting motion reconstituting a vile tax
11 Working port on banks of Tarragona lake
ONTARIO – ON (working), TarragonA, RIO (port).
12 Writer of The Third Man might be doing it in play
FIELDING – ‘third man’ is a cricketing term for a fielder in a particular position. For our overseas friends wondering exactly where, it’s behind and to the off side of the slips, approximately level with gully or point.
13 Party in power that tends, mostly, to waver
19 Old earl and duke near country inn’s entrance
20 Horse and dope found around old prison cell
21 Marine with dog getting shot of British predator
SEA EAGLE – SEA (marine), bEAGLE. A common visitor to crosswords, but usually under his other name, ERNE.
22 Hit record a little offensive to the Hooters?
NOISOME – NO 1 (hit record), SOME (a little).
23 In account, trained hitmen like songs of devotion
ANTHEMIC – AC containing (HITMEN)*.
24 Record man originally set by US city a while ago
1 Flower person heads to irrigate arable land
CAMBODIA – CAM (flower), BOD, Irrigate, Arable.
2 Turn helping to secure book collection
3 Groan nit needs to change, being thus?
IGNORANT – (GROAN NIT)*. A bit of a weird clue: the surface doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, and there doesn’t seem to be a proper definition. Am I missing something?
4 Student digs horse called Fine Going
6 Broadcast about manor lacking in depth
SHALLOW – S(HALL)OW. A word that has no direct equivalent in French.
7 Old prince more likely to have showers than others?
RAINIER – there have been a few but this is mostly likely a reference to the Prince of Monaco who married Grace Kelly.
8 Book rook pinched taken into Police Department as promised
13 School established by a governor from Italy
PODESTA – POD (school), EST, A. I had heard of John PODESTA, he of the Democratic Party and the email leak, but did not know the word.
14 Needing break, homeworker tours street for a bit
INSTANT – IN(ST)ANT. The words ‘needing break’ are unnecessary for the wordplay here, but add to the surface reading. Edit: see comment from kapietro below: ‘needing break’ indicates that you have to separate home and worker for the wordplay to make sense.
15 Spooner’s little barrel that’s used for serving drinks
TEAWARE – spoonerism of ‘wee tear’. When solving I thought the barrel was a tare here, and assumed an unknown usage, but it turns out to be something simpler.
16 Men suffer pain, losing heart as Trump appears?
ORANGISH – OR, ANGuISH. Fortunately not so much these days.
17 Many of our menus must be updated
18 Sweet comment brought up over dinner for men?
ETON MESS – reversal of NOTE, MESS. The ‘men’ here are soldiers. MESS can refer to the meal, the people eating the meal, or the place they are eating it!

31 comments on “Sunday Times 4948 by David McLean”

  1. I spent an undue amount of time on FIELDING before deciding it must be a cricket thing. I made the mistake of Googling ‘third man’ afterwards and finding out much more than I wanted to know about cricket positions. DNK ETON MESS. DNK Disraeli was an earl. Biffed PLEDGED. Liked ‘one promoting motion’.

    Edited at 2021-04-04 05:48 am (UTC)

  2. Yes, it was an odd grid, wasn’t it!
    I knew I had seen the name PODESTA fairly recently but couldn’t place it.
    It was going to be a quick solve but then I got stuck in the SW corner with the aforementioned PODESTA as well as DISRAELI, SEA EAGLE and TEAWARE. I was looking for a more marine predator.
    COD to FIELDING. I thought that was clever.
    1. I was wondering how I knew PODESTA, as I didn’t know of the email guy, and I certainly didn’t know of the Italian magistrate (pronounced podesTA). Finally remembered Podesta Baldocchi, although I couldn’t remember what it was; it was perhaps San Francisco’s oldest florist. I used to walk past it when it was on Grant Avenue. Does this count as Ninja-turtling?
  3. ….caused me no little amount of head scratching. TEAWARE seems a strange word, and I can’t think who would ever use it.

    I always thought that there was an E after the G of ORANGISH, which looks as if it should indicate resemblance to an ape. Mind you, the more I think about Trump…..

    TIME 13:54

    Edited at 2021-04-04 06:11 am (UTC)

  4. 14 minutes. I’m not sure the surface works with the ‘of’ for FIELDING. This is my COD if I can be persuaded otherwise. If not, AIRSTRIP wins it. I found this surprisingly straightforward so must have been having a good day. Thank you David and K.
    1. The ‘of’ seems fine to me, as a filler word meaning ‘consisting of’. [Definition] (consisting) of [wordplay].
  5. …now it’s perfectly clear. (Har har)
    Great puzzle, refreshing grid.
  6. I still have my paper or treeware copy of this with everything filled in apart from TEAWARE. I did get it eventually once I stopped thinking about trays and teacakes.
    FOI was HALL OF RESIDENCE which gave me lots of letters.
    Managed the first 14 clues in only 12 minutes but then got stuck. COD to FIELDING or PAINT THE TOWN RED.
    Enjoyed this one.
  7. Some explanation about the grid:

    When I started work at the Sunday Times in 2011, all our crosswords were on stock grids, in a set of 24. 8 of them had been designed by Mike Laws, using similar rules to the Times stock grids, but the other 16 included some that were not ideal, so I dropped 7 of those and added about 32 new ones, in two groups. The first group were what I counted as “normal” designs, using the same rules as the Times ones, except for allowing 13-letter answers with 6 checking letters and 15-letter ones with 7. The second group was of “extreme” or “eccentric” grids which I didn’t expect to be used as often. This grid was one of them, and is a variation on a former Times stock grid which had the same two central 15-letter answers and 8-letter answers everywhere else. I just reduced half of those to 7 letters, and happened to create a more striking image than most grids offer. There is another variation on that Times grid which no-one has tried yet, like some others in that group. Setters are also allowed to design their own grids, following the same rules.


    Addition today:
    * I think you mean “sequences of black squares around the edges”. By my understanding, unches are white squares.

    1. Those of us who habitually begin by looking at the 3 and 4 letter clues were a bit confused to start with, but overall I liked the unusual layout.
      “Sequences of black squares around the edges” is rather a handful .. perhaps we should call them “Bunches?”
      1. As we talk of barred and blocked grids, I “block” is the best single word name, but I wanted to be completely clear.
    2. Yes, of course – I don’t know what I was thinking! I just wasn’t, presumably.
  8. At the easier end. Groaned at IGNORANT which I think is just a bit weak. COD to the AIRSTRIP. Thanks all.
  9. Sometimes I get on better with Harry’s crosswords and sometimes worse but no problems with this one. In the end I liked the unfamiliar layout.
    Always thought a sea eagle was an osprey, but I see now that it isn’t .. live & learn, eh?
  10. A good steady solve finishing in just over the hour. Unfamiliar words were helpfully clued.
    At 14dn I think “needing break” has a job to do, indicating that “homeworker” needs to be broken into two separate words?
    I got TEAWARE by assuming (wrongly) that tare means barrel. I’m baffled by “wee tear”. COD to the clever FIELDING
    1. Yes, good point, thank you. I don’t know if it’s strictly necessary but it certainly helps.
      And yes barrel as in to ‘travel or move very fast’ (Collins).

      Edited at 2021-04-04 10:31 am (UTC)

      1. It’s necessary while I’m the xwd ed – based on my distaste for “indeed” meaning “inside ‘deed'” in some crosswords. You could argue that the components of “homeworker” retain their meaning as individual words in a way that doesn’t apply for “indeed”, but I don’t think that’s enough.
        1. Noted! I think this rule applies in the daily Times puzzles too, but not elsewhere as you say. A recent Paul puzzle in the Guardian had a clue like this which caused me a problem.

          Edited at 2021-04-04 10:53 am (UTC)

        2. I’ve recently taken to doing the Guardian every day and the ‘indeed’ trick seems to crop up regularly so it’s one of the things that as a solver I have to factor in. That and I/one for A and vice versa.

          On the grid, although I noticed the unusual arrangement of black squares when printing the puzzle, when it came to solving this didn’t affect me at all. I tend to seek out 3 or 4 letter words if I’m stuck, but on this occasion 1ac went in straightaway and everything flowed smoothly from there. I wasn’t even aware of their absence until I read the blog.

          Edited at 2021-04-04 01:53 pm (UTC)

        3. I’m glad you allow such things. Once I entered a clue that used this device for an Azed competition and he mentioned it in his slip, saying that it was unsound because it was a ‘clue to a clue’. Which seems a bit odd to me. [I forgot that when there are several replies one gets shunted to the bottom. I was replying to Peter B]

          Edited at 2021-04-04 05:35 pm (UTC)

  11. Like Jerry, I usually look for the 3 and 4 letter words to get started, but as it happened, I didn’t have a problem with this grid. CORNISH went in first and I was all done in 22:39. I think TEAWARE was my LOI but I’m not certain. Liked LAXATIVE. Also thought 3d a bit odd. Thanks Harry and K.
  12. 25.25. I was a bit discombobulated by the unusual grid but soon got underway with FOI the hidden matinal. I found the Third Man so distracting in my LOI that I couldn’t see past Harry Lime for ages, there was a nice if unintentional echo with zither appearing in the same week’s Mephisto. Eventually moved on to Abel and then finally concentrated on writer to come up with Fielding. Delighted to read the blogger’s helpful description of the cricketing position for our overseas friends, for me it’s up there with “whispering” Ted Lowe’s: “…and for those of you watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green”!
    1. Yes it’s a classic and it does sound silly, but for snooker fans it would make perfect sense if the green was still on its spot. I’ve no idea if that was the case on the day in question.
  13. Yes that’s true. It does sound funny but the likelihood (unlike whenever I’ve played) in a frame between two professionals is that most of the colours would be undisturbed and on their spots.
  14. Count me as liking the unusual grids from time to time. Mostly I was pleased when 1d did not turn out to be a plant, and I’m not sure I completely understand the definition at Noisome. Nice puzzle, Harry; thanks k
    1. A hooter is a nose, and one of the meanings of NOISOME is smelly. I didn’t actually know that it could have this specific meaning, so I hesitated a little bit before putting it in.

      Edited at 2021-04-04 05:51 pm (UTC)

        1. I don’t think I’d have connected the dots if I hadn’t had to have, having had the blog to have done.
          A sentence for English students.
  15. Thanks Harry and keriothe
    A little daunting at first, but ended up being quite straight forward in a single sitting after starting, like others, with MATINAL. Initially had trouble making sense of the definition of 3d, but think by putting a hypothetical comma after ‘groan’, then the ‘thus’ points to the ‘nit needs to change’ – strange one all the same.
    Am used to the lift and separate type clues as 14d from the FT setters, but didn’t notice the helpful two words indicating that it was at the front of the clue. Plenty of interesting clues throughout with the FIELDING one being favourite.
    Finished in the SW corner with ETON MESS (taking longer than it should), EPHESUS (dragged from the depths) and ORANGISH (with its unusual definition) the last few in.

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