Sunday Times 5004 by Dean Mayer – three good men unhanged

12:26. Another excellent puzzle. There were one or two in this one that I found a bit odd, but if that’s the price for Dean’s extraordinary creativity it’s one I’m happy to pay. What a great setter he is.

How did you get on?

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

1 Union member carrying good spanner
4 Hassle about last poor opera
FALSTAFF – FAFF containing (LAST)*. My last in: not the first opera to come to mind.
10 Country club refusal to open rally round back
MACEDONIA – MACE, reversal of AI(NO)D. This isn’t actually a country any more: since 2019 it has been known as North MACEDONIA following the settlement of a naming dispute with Greece, where MACEDONIA is a region and a geopolitical concept with an importance I can’t pretend to understand.
11 Got it right about work returning
ROGER – R, reversal of RE, GO.
12 Really want those nearest to move ahead
14 Old American journalist
USED – or US ED.
15 Carries plough like a statue?
18 Struggled with foreign currency racket
BATTLEDORE – BATTLED, ORE. An ORE is a hundredth of a Swedish Krona (öre), or Danish or Norwegian Krone (øre).
19 Blue feathers
DOWN – chestnutty DD.
21 Tropical butterflies, for example
FIGURE OF SPEECH – CD. I think the idea here is that ‘butterflies’ in its TROPICAL, i.e. trope-related or figurative sense (butterflies in the stomach, presumably) is a FIGURE OF SPEECH. A bit of an odd clue.
24 In blood vessel, new poison
25 Prison misses spirit
MAIDSTONE – MAIDS (misses), SPIRIT (tone).
26 Poorest procedure to determine allergy
27 Cancun is only holding this concert
UNISON – contained in ‘Cancun is only’.
1 Collision from behind upon parking
BUMP – BUM (behind), P.
2 Gain in material for building over river
3 Keep talking about Nintendo console for a child
GODSON – GO(DS)ON. The Nintendo DS is a hand-held games console. One of my kids used to have one, we’ve probably still got it somewhere. I suspect it may be unfamiliar to a majority of Times crossword solvers.
5 Author wants this chair carved in stone
6 Seaweed turned into moss — a grass
SARGASSO – contained reversed in ‘moss a grass’
7 Nothing taken, head off
AUGHTcAUGHT. Doesn’t this mean the exact opposite of nothing?
8 Clement holds girl in converted van
FIRING LINE – FINE containing (GIRL IN)*. The van is the front, and the FIRING LINE is the front line of troops. I realise that I have always misunderstood this expression, assuming it to mean that you’re in the line that the bullet would follow, so akin to being in the sights of the gun.
9 Quotes from “Macbeth”
INVERTED COMMAS – another odd one, the idea being presumably that there are inverted commas around Macbeth.
13 Victor, in grief, buys new game
RUGBY FIVES – V in (GRIEF BUYS)*. I’ve never heard of this game, which turns out to be a form of handball, related to Eton Fives, that originated at the same school as the funny-shaped ball game.
16 Decoration made of smooth foil
IRON CROSS – IRON (smooth), CROSS (thwart, foil).
17 Orchestra member wants wine to drink at home
20 Not so much work, for example
LESSON – if you have not so much work you have LESS ON. Very much not the case for me this week, but sleep is over-rated, right? The funny thing is that the periods when I’m working the hardest are when I enjoy my job the most.
22 Info on two bottled spirits
23 Wife slices chicken to be carved

28 comments on “Sunday Times 5004 by Dean Mayer – three good men unhanged”

    1. This strikes me as very Mephstoish: justifiable if you scratch around in the right dictionary but very far removed from actual usage.
      1. Well, at least one needn’t dig up a copy of Chambers in print or have access to the OED to justify the clue.
        Here’s Collins (Just noticed how my link is different from Pete’s:
        NOUN 1. anything whatever for aught I know | 2. a zero
        ADVERB | 3. Archaic to any degree; at all
        However, Lexico has the first definition above as a pronoun and archaic, and tags the definition as “zero” as US.
        The American Merriam-Webster (our standard at The Nation) has “ANYTHING” and “ALL, EVERYTHING” as pronoun definitions, the archaic adverb for “at all” and the noun definition as “ZERO, CIPHER” as well as, tagged as archaic, “NONENTITY, NOTHING.”

        Edited at 2022-05-01 03:14 am (UTC)

  1. I’d never heard of BATTLEDORE, but knew it had to be BATTLED___, so was set straight by the author whose name was unaccountably late in coming. Never heard of RUGBY FIVES either (of course). And I’ll be the first here to admit that I had no idea about the Nintendo console.

    Edited at 2022-05-01 12:36 am (UTC)

  2. That was tough. I was stuck for the last 20 minutes on 3 in the NE. I eventually saw FALSTAFF, then the reverse hidden SARGASSO and finally FIRING LINE. 65:32. I’m also baffled by FIGURE OF SPEECH. Dean has just posted on Twitter wondering what the response to FIGURE OF SPEECH will be, so he was obviously pushing the envelope! Thanks Dean and K.
  3. I don’t use Twitter, but you can tell Dean that I liked FIGURE OF SPEECH (COD). I liked the whole puzzle, for that matter. DNK DS, but assumed it was a Nintendo console. I’m sure we’ve had FIVES, without the RUGBY, since I was able to biff it. Also biffed 5d, from an A, R, S. I couldn’t remember ‘shuttlecock’, so I wasn’t sure if BATTLEDORE was the racket or the other thing, but it had to be. I liked FIRING LINE, RUGBY FIVES, INVERTED COMMAS.

    Edited at 2022-05-01 02:37 am (UTC)

  4. The usual long time for an ST puzzle, especially Dean Mayer, clocking in at 68 minutes. No idea about FIGURE OF SPEECH. On Dean’s Twitter feed he now acknowledges it as “Maybe in TLS or Club Monthly territory, but it was irresistible”. Whatever the explanation, it was way beyond me. At least I’ve heard of, but know nothing else about, a ‘Nintendo’ DS. Unless there’s something else to it that I’ve missed (probably), I thought INVERTED COMMAS only sort of worked.

    I didn’t think so at the time, but after reading the discussion here (thanks Guy et al), I’ll go for AUGHT as my favourite. I’m a sucker for those contronyms.

    Thanks to Dean and Keriothe

  5. I was very pleased to complete a Dean puzzle in 45m 02s. That is good for me.
    I endorse pretty much all of keriothe’s comments but I’m still not sure about AID = rally (reversed) in Macedonia.
    In 12ac I’m also a little puzzled about ‘ahead’ = ON.
    I definitely agree with keriothe that 21ac – FIGURE OF SPEECH- is a a bit of an odd clue.
    Here in rugby mad NZ, I have heard of Rugby Tens but not FIVES.
    Thanks, keriothe and thanks, Dean. I use no social media whatsoever so can’t thank Dean through Twitter.

    Edited at 2022-05-01 04:14 am (UTC)

    1. I took AID to be indicated by “rally round”—and can’t account for “round” otherwise.

      Continue on, continue ahead; go ahead, go on; march on, march ahead… Close enough for government work.

      I thought FIGURE OF SPEECH made perfect sense when I got it, and now I can’t see it any other way! Granted, though, this is not usually—if it is ever—the way “tropical” is used. The adjective meaning “of, relating to, or characteristic of tropism or of a tropism” is “tropic.”

      1. But ODE at least gives ‘tropical’ (sv) as “(archaic) of or involving a trope”; although under ‘trope’ (NB not ‘tropism’) it only gives ‘tropic’. Collins skips the archaic and simply (sv tropical) says “(rhetoric) of or relating to a trope”. So I think Dean’s in the clear.
      2. Thanks, Guy. Yes, AID makes sense now.
        Also, very good thinking on “tropical”. I would never have thought of that!
    2. I think it is “rally round” = aid, Martin. Is that more like it? Seems OK to me.
  6. Usual top class fare from Dean, if a tad quirky in places. But one person’s odd, or quirky, is another original and creative…
    Once I twigged that tropical was an adjective of trope 21ac made perfect sense and I like the clue. Nho the Nintendo, but it seems only fair when younger solvers are expected to know the likes of Beerbohm Tree…
    1. I forgot to mention it in my own comment but the note I made for myself last week on 3d was “You expect this crowd to know Nintendo DS?”
  7. Despite a few unknowns and difficulties with parsing I raced through this in 23 minutes and thought Dean was giving us an easy time for once – I now see that others didn’t find this to be so and I must just have got lucky.

    I can’t claim to have understood how FIGURE OF SPEECH worked but given the enumeration and the checkers that were available when I arrived at the clue, it was a write-in for me.

    I saw GODSON easily and took the NHO Nintendo thing on trust.

    I was tempted by ‘venom’ at 24ac, never having heard of VENIN, but fortunately the second ‘N’ checker saved me from going astray.

    Edited at 2022-05-01 05:00 am (UTC)

  8. 46 minutes, falling for the INVERTED COMMASand FIGURE OF SPEECH deceptions for ages as usual. There’s one born every minute. AUGHT and NAUGHT have always meant OWT and NOWT in my life. My children did go through games consoles so I did get the DS in GODSON, but not before I’d tried to fit a Wii in. COD to STOCK-STILL, an expression I haven’t heard for a while. I liked SKIN-TEST too.Thank you K and Dean.
  9. As usual, a great and challenging puzzle from Dean Mayer, but I did have a bit of a MER at GODSON being defined as ‘child’, since a godson is any male with a living godparent. Despite being quite an opera fan FALSTAFF was my last in, embarrassingly.
  10. Knew the racket but not the poison but got through them OK. Really struggled on ROGER (forgot go=on) and AUGHT.
  11. This was excellent entertainment for a holiday challenge. LOI VENIN was new to me. BATTLEDORE maybe came up recently as I entered it without too much hesitation. And I knew there was a prison in Maidstone.
    I also failed to see INVERTED COMMAS until the end.
    The whole thing took me quite a while but I was on holiday and had time. Very pleased to complete correctly.
  12. I didn’t have a problem with 21ac: tropical being the definition for which Chambers has the exact phrase used in the answer; butterflies (in the stomach) being an example. But this could be viewed as an &lit clue as well.

    As for 7dn, I agree that aught really means the opposite of naught, except possibly in Yorkshire where ought means also bought as in “there’s ought wrong with that”

    1. I can’t see any reference to butterflies in Chambers. I don’t think this clue can be considered &Lit because there isn’t any wordplay, at least that I can see.
      P.S. you can edit comments after you’ve posted them, as I am doing now!

      Edited at 2022-05-01 10:38 am (UTC)

  13. Stopped after an hour with FALSTAFF and FIRING LINE unsolved. With ought in instead of AUGHT for a long time and not knowing faff the opera was ungettable. Lucky to get VENIN, MAIDSTONE and FIGURE OF SPEECH even though A.I only knew venom and B.didn’t know it was a prison and C. failed to think of trope.Thanks to setter and blogger for great stimulation! My solving may not be showing marked improvement but am enjoying myself. Have decided to keep my copy of Milton Cross’s Complete Stories of the Great Operas within arm’s reach for future puzzles.
  14. 33 minutes, very good for a Dean Mayer puzzle, so, like Jack, I found it surprisingly easy. I did biff a number of entries before seeing the wordplay (my LOI FIRING LINE, for example). I saw the INVERTED COMMAS right away (since they were in plain sight in the clue, of course — somehow that made an impression on me). Nice, and for a change relaxing puzzle.
  15. My goodness me Dean does push the envelope, with many definitions etc that, to say the least, don’t come easily to mind, but as jerrywh says, ‘one person’s odd, or quirky, is another original and creative…’. 21ac utterly defeated me, but now I see how good it is. In 2dn this is the first time I’ve ever seen, in a Times or Sunday Times crossword, ‘over’ used as a containment indicator. I know it can be more or less justified, but I had always regarded it as naff and the sort of thing you see in inferior crosswords, says he with his nose in the air. In 3dn I wonder why a godson is a child. My godson is 42. In 8dn van = firing line seems very loose.
  16. Thanks Dean and keriothe
    Completed this one over the weekend in just under the hour. Clever and tricky in places as is the wont of this setter and the ‘tropical butterflies’ went through unparsed but with a high confidence that the answer was correct. Some new learning with VENIN, the Nintendo DS controller and the two games (BATTLEDORE and RUGBY FIVES).
    Finished in the NE corner with that AUGHT (which always brings into question whether it is nothing or everything), FALSTAFF (aware of the Shakespearean character but not the Verdi opera) and FIRING LINE (just tricky and needed all of the crossers).

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