Sunday Times 5040 by David McLean

Morning all. Apologies for the delay this week. I had this all ready to go and just forgot to press ‘publish’.

9:09. I enjoyed solving this puzzle more than blogging it. I thought it was great fun as I breezed through it last week, and there are without doubt some really good – and in some cases amusing – clues in here. When I came to unpick the thing in more detail for the blog though I found a number of things I felt were a bit loose, or vaguely unsatisfactory somehow. The original enjoyment is of course more important (in a non-blogging week I’d have been none the wiser) but if we are seeking the platonic ideal in crossword setting this might perhaps be said to fall short in a couple of places. Or more likely I’ve just got the wrong end of a certain number of sticks. Anyway, I’ll be even more than usually interested this week to hear how you all got on.

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

1 Sick of France after drinking European tea, say
MEAL – M(E)AL. MAL doesn’t really mean ‘sick’ in French. It can mean ‘sickness’ (as in ‘mal de mer’), ‘aller mal’ (go badly) can mean be sick (or rather unwell), and ‘mal à la tête’ (or gorge, estomac etc) means a head ache, but I can’t think of a context in which you can translate ‘sick’ directly as MAL.
3 Teach gloomy poet to grasp piece from Eliot
BLACKBEARD – BLACK (gloomy), B(Eliot)ARD. Edward Teach.
9 Fabric modelled on openwork fabric one models
SATINET – I (one) contained in (wears, models) SAT (modelled), NET (openwork fabric).
11 Whatever happens in North Broadway?
ANYROAD – I’m not sure I understand this. ANYROAD is a Northern English expression for ‘anyway’ (whatever happens) but I can’t see how Broadway fits in, other than as a general reference to a road. More precise interpretations welcome. See first comment from Stephen below: it’s A NY ROAD. Very good.
12 Music producers unfortunately pain this group
14 Corbynistas to tax loaf and ginger nuts
REDHEADS – RED(HEAD)S. ‘Tax’ is an unusual containment indicator, if that’s what’s intended. One of the definitions of ‘tax’ in Collins is ‘steal’, but that isn’t much of a containment indicator either. Hmm.
16 Holiday to Egypt is a load of rubbish
TRIPE – TRIP, E. I’m not sure in what context E stands for Egypt (I’m more familiar with Spain) but it’s in Collins.
18 Really like the Thing’s finger
DIGIT – DIG IT. A neat reference to The Addams Family in the surface reading.
19 Predict warning given to guy who targeted Apple
FORETELL – FORE (warning in golf), William TELL.
21 One whose pupils are not yet fully developed?
24 Yellow that comes from egg
CHICKEN – DD. Neat. But where does the egg come from?
25 Discover a foreign article on the place you live
UNEARTH – UN (French article), EARTH.
26 MS unit ramps up screening considerably at first
MANUSCRIPT – (UNIT RAMPS)* containing Considerably. The surface reading refers I think to medical screening for multiple sclerosis.
27 Last guard for castle building
KEEP – triple definition.
1 Sort of ball made square after manipulation
2 Go off about backsliding in-house worker?
ACTOR – reversal of ROT, CA (about).
4 Room height forcing head down a touch
LATITUDE – ALTITUDE with the first letter dropping one place.
5 Key stuck in public lav I salvaged
CLAVIS – contained in ‘public lav I salvaged’. I had never heard of this word meaning ‘key’, and I don’t know when you’d use it, but it seemed obviously related to ‘clavier’ and similar and the wordplay could hardly have been kinder. Fun surface too!
6 Where Jack might end up sounds unacceptable
BEYOND THE PALE – I think this is a homophone referring to the pail in Jack and Jill but I’m not quite sure how Jack might be said to end up ‘beyond’ it. Perhaps because the pail of water didn’t tumble down the hill after them? Or perhaps it’s something else entirely.
7 No enjoyable existence if gas and dole cut
A DOGS LIFE – (IF GAS DOLE)*. ‘Cut’ as in drunk for the anagram indicator. A wholly inaccurate expression if the existence of three members of my own household is anything to go by. They’re lying around me as I type this, walked, fed and sleeping in luxurious comfort.
8 They won’t go off clothes of a retro style
DUDS – DD. Not sure why ‘retro’. I wouldn’t have said this was an archaic term and neither do any of the dictionaries I’ve looked in.
10 Ordinary reason drinks-lover avoids McDonalds?
NO GREAT SHAKES – a straight definition and a mildly whimsical one. From what I remember (it’s many years since I had one) McDonalds milkshakes aren’t really drinks at all. More a very sickly dessert.
13 Unqualified pharmacists up on latest trends in business
DEALERSHIP – DEALERS, HIP. I know some won’t like it but I thought ‘unqualified pharmacists’ for DEALERS was rather good.
15 Gin diet so fantastic it helps with a breakdown
17 One could blow up dinghy or commit hit in Bow, Spooner said
FOOTPUMP – spoonerism of ‘put fump’, ‘fump’ being how a Cockney would supposedly say ‘thump’. A combination of two setting tricks that both seem to attract a lot of negative comment, so I’ve no doubt this will be a very popular clue. If only DM could have contrived to get a dodgy homophone into the mix as well, and possibly an obscure word indicated by an anagram…
20 Flash risible leader? One’s into that!
MOONER – MO(ONE), Risible. I suppose you’d have to call this &Lit, even though the words ‘risible leader’ are superfluous for the definition. A sort of DBE I suppose (other moonees are available).
22 Stockings wrapped round face of Rodney Trotter?
HORSE – HO(Rodney)SE. Only Fools and Horses reference, excellent clue.
23 Chartered accountant involved in S&M racket

31 comments on “Sunday Times 5040 by David McLean”

  1. 35 minutes. I had a few MERs along the way but I think by the end I had satisfied myself that they were all okay. I knew CLAVIS as ‘key’. I took the Jack and Jill reference as whimsical without worrying about the exact logistics of the event.

  2. Failed on BLACKBEARD. I put BLACKBOARD, thinking to’ blackboard ‘ something might be newspeak for teaching it, and the O being a one of the 5 pieces of ELIOT. As soon as I saw the one error I knew exactly what it was , remembering Edward Teach as the pirate.

    1. I was very tempted by BLACKBOARD for the same reason, and didn’t remember Teach. Fortunately the ‘if in doubt go with wordplay’ policy paid off for me this time!

    2. Me too!
      I checked and BLACKBOARD can be a verb, at least in Merriam/Wiktionary.
      I was aware of Blackbeard’s real name, but plumped for the board.
      DNF – missed 20d MOONED, still seems a bit quaint to me.

  3. 55 minutes. I was unsure of FOOTPUMP at the end; made a change to the dropped aitch at the front of the word anyway. I liked the not obvious ‘Teach’ def (thanks wordplay) and the CHICKEN double def (even without considering the “What came first…?” aspect).

    Only semi-parsed MOONER which I can’t see as a cryptic def for it to be an &lit. Didn’t understand BEYOND THE PALE and now you’ve made me think about it, ‘tax’ does seem like an odd containment indicator at 14a, even if it does help with the surface.

    Thanks to setter and keriothe

    1. I don’t think the definition is cryptic. It says (in a somewhat convoluted way) ‘one of these is into flashing a risible leader’.

  4. If you tax a rich man’s money , you are “taking in” some of his money. If that sense is possible could tax then be a containment indicator?
    The language website shows, among different translations for “sick at heart” in French, an”exemple d’usage”: “it makes me sick at heart”= ” ca me fait mal au coeur”. There seems to be a disclaimer, however, that this example might not be correct! (so why do they give it?).

    1. I think that’s a bit of a stretch personally.
      ‘Avoir mal au coeur’ means to feel sick (nauseous), but the ‘cœur’ bit is essential to that meaning.

  5. A few pinks. I teach something called “whiteboarding” at my company (to teach a concept with a whiteboard). Hence BLACKBOARD=teach seemed fine to me, NHO of Edward Teach.

    E=Egypt ? Maybe from Egyptian Pound, the £E? Couldn’t think of anything else.

    The Cockney/Spooner clue was too much. I went for BOATPUMP, since the example was a Dinghy.

    My final error was JOINER for MOONER. I thought Flashing as on a roof was a kind of Join, and one who is into lots of things, like clubs and societies (like a Freshman on Freshers Week) would be a Joiner. I had considered MOONIE, but thought “risible leader” for the Rev Moon might be a bit controversial.


  6. I didn’t note a time, but remember I found this tricky. I also had BLACKBOARD. I thought ANYROAD, DIGIT, HORSE, MOONER and NO GREAT SHAKES were excellent, so a very good crossword overall IMO. Thanks setter & k.

  7. I enjoyed all of this. I saw 1ac as mal = evil in French – sick/evil minded worked for me. Thanks for clearing up a couple of not-quite-parsed answers.

    1. ‘Mal’ only means ‘evil’ in French as a noun. ‘Le mal’ is evil but you wouldn’t say ‘il est mal’ to indicate someone was evil.

  8. “Être mal : Être sérieusement malade.” (Wiktionnaire) Ça suffit ?
    My LOI was the inscrutable Cockney clue. I’d forgotten somefing about the accent.

    1. Non! I’ve never heard anyone use the word this way, and my Petit Robert doesn’t have anything of the kind.

      1. Neither does my (bedraggled) 2000 edition of the Petit Robert. There are just barely over 10 lines given there to mal as an adjective. The Wiktionnaire definition (3.) is preceded by a notice: “Il est aussi employé comme adjectif invariable dans les expressions suivantes :
        Être mal : Être sérieusement malade.
        Être fort mal : Être en danger de mort.”
        Larousse online ( has (under “adverbe”): “Être, se sentir mal, ne pas être à son aise psychologiquement ou physiquement.”
        Va savoir…

        1. Yes ‘être mal’ can mean ‘to be ill at ease’ but that doesn’t mean sick.

          1. Although (Larousse encore) “Se sentir, se trouver mal” = “avoir un malaise*, s’évanouir” and “sick” can also mean “queasy, nauseated” as well as “sickened” by various nonmedical causes.
            * Trouble plus ou moins léger de la santé, qui ne peut guère se localiser avec précision.
            (Sens figuré) Sorte d’inquiétude ou de gêne résultant de causes obscures

            1. OK, so if you root around for long enough in a French language dictionary you can find a rough equivalence! I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say this.

        2. I wondered if “va savoir” meant “go figure” but online research suggests “who knows”. “Va comprendre” seems to equate with “go figure”. I think if I stayed on this blog for another decade or so, by unpacking Guy’s and keriothe’s French discussions, I might possibly someday approach semi-fluency in that tongue.

          1. “Go figure” and “who knows” mean the same thing in English, and in French too:
            Va savoir, infinitive aller savoir, “Se dit pour exprimer le fait qu’on n’a pas de réponse à une question” (Wiktionnaire): “Is said to express the fact that one has no response to a question.”

  9. I forgot to look at the blog this morning, so somewhat late to the party. But I also had a MER over ‘mal’ meaning simply ‘sick’. Another MER over ‘ginger nuts’. I would have assumed that this expression was well past its sell-by date and not really acceptable in these more enlightened times – it’s equivalent to calling someone ‘fatty’. There were a few tricky unknowns – eg 3A, where, having put in BLACKBEARD, I was still completely at a loss as to where Teach came in, until I looked up the pirate. And ‘piece from Eliot’ equals E? I also entered SATINET with crossed fingers, as I always assumed it was only spelled Satinette. That said, it wasn’t too difficult a crossword, and maybe I’m being more grumpy than it warranted. Liked ANYROAD and CHICKEN a lot.

    1. Haven’t found a dictionary citation (only for the cookie), but I took the “nut” in “ginger nuts” to mean “head.” My late mother was and my brother, his son and his daughter are all ginger nuts. I think it sounds cute!

  10. 3ac As far as I’m concerned BLACKBOARDis a pe rfectly acceptable answer. Why can’t “piece of Eliot” indicate the O? Do we just have to guess what the setter is thinking? Harumph

    1. I have a lot of sympathy on your first point: ‘piece of’ (or ‘bit of’) is very imprecise as an indication of a first letter. I don’t remember seeing it until quite recently but it seems to have become standard. I’m not a fan.
      However unless you can find some reputable dictionary support for BLACKBOARD as a verb meaning ‘teach’, I don’t think your appeal has much hope.

      1. According to Wiktionary and – blackboard verb “to use a blackboard to assist in an informal discussion? ” “Blackboard can be a noun or a verb.”

  11. Thanks David and keriothe
    Took three sessions and 53 min to fill the grid for this one – tough but quite enjoyable. Got everything correct and the only couple that I couldn’t parse was FOOTPUMP (which I came here only with hope that it was right – forgot the Cockney use of ‘f’ for ‘th’) and the very clever A NY ROAD (hadn’t heard the term to mean ‘whatever’ for a long, long time).
    Was pleased to remember Edward Teach was BLACKBEARD.
    Finished with SATINET (not really familiar with it), ACTOR (which I thought was an excellent clue) and MOONER (after the penny finally dropped and then some further thought to sort out the word play).

  12. Thought at first that this could not be one of David McLean’s, as it was more than usually quirky. Happy to get the lion’s share of it, but failed with not knowing the name of BLACKBEARD’s origin and was thinking of teach as the verb here (despite having all the necessary crossers!). But the ‘B’ crosser was correct ANYROAD, as I’d guessed at 6d being BUYING THE FARM which would also be an “unacceptable” place for Jack to end up ( in his parent’s home!!) . Wrong Jack. That misstep made solving UNEARTH impossible . The rest – no problem. Enjoyed REDHEADS, CHICKEN and NO GREAT SHAKES – couldn’t agree more!

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