Sunday Times 5086 by Robert Price

20:20. I found this very tricky, with a few answers that were completely beyond my ken and needed to be carefully constructed from wordplay. Excellent stuff though as always.

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

1 Go over the reason plays show promise
CROSS ONES HEART – CROSS (go over) (THE REASON)*. Often followed by ‘and hope to die’.
10 Resolve of partner no longer restrained
EXPLAIN – EX, PLAIN. ‘Explain away’ is a more accurate synonym for ‘resolve’ but I guess if you’re explaining away you’re explaining.
11 First female boxer? On the contrary
PANDORA – CD referring of course to PANDORA’s Box.
12 When cryptic maybe is crudely fashioned
ROUGH-HEWN – a reverse-cryptic clue, since ‘rough hewn’ indicates an anagram of WHEN.
13 Lists of rogues
14 Resort visited by this girl guide
15 A set of Tolkien’s ideas
INKLINGS – Tolkein – with C. S. Lewis and assorted others – was a member of a literary discussion group of this name at Oxford. I had no idea about this and I confess that I checked the answer before submitting.
18 Loud soldiers in Bow, tough place for chickens
FARMYARD – F, ARMY, ‘ARD, where ‘in Bow’ is indicating a cockney dropped aitch.
20 Yarn’s second appearance by Henry
MOHAIR – MO, H, AIR. Henry being the the derived SI unit of electric inductance, but you knew that of course.
23 Old people as a precaution finishing early
25 Balancing when and where to dine with dons?
EVENING UP – because if you dine with dons you do so in the evening, and when ‘up’ (at university).
26 Degree of depression left old bloke terminally lost
27 Phrase repeated by a novel crime fighter
SHERIFF – SHE (crosswordland’s favourite novel), RIFF (repeated phrase).
28 Singers avoid English chap carrying infection
MISSEL THRUSHES – MISS, E, L(THRUSH)ES. I had never heard of these birds so I needed all the checkers.
2 Break in game, neat time to intervene
RUPTURE – RU (Rugby Union), P(T)URE. Neat/PURE as in a glass of Scotch.
3 Casual friends turning up, like Larry?
SLAP-HAPPY – reversal of PALS, HAPPY as Larry.
4 Imperial units of pressure removed from springs
5 Power player
EXPONENT – DD. Both definitions are in Collins if (like me) you were unsure about either of them:
6 Feeling hot, group goes topless
7 After agitating an ape go furthest away
8 Upset over a way to cheat making carpets
TEARS A STRIP OFF – TEARS (‘there’ll be tears/upset before bedtime’), A, ST, RIP OFF.
9 Simple words oaf treated as clever ones
16 Gents harbouring desires for eccentricity
LOOPINESS – LOO(PINES)S. An unindicated definition by example, shock horror! A classic case where the rule makes very little sense: getting ‘loos’ from ‘gents’ is not exactly difficult.
17 Something made up about cafe trading sandwiches
ARTEFACT – contained reversed (up) in ‘about cafe trading’.
19 They could be about spice blending
RECIPES – RE, (SPICE)*. Semi-&Lit.
21 Blood-red when beheaded, like a snake
ANGUINEsANGUINE. A word I don’t remember encountering before.
22 Outspoken man in spring letting off steam
GEYSER – sounds like ‘geezer’.
24 Cake that is cooked with no topping
SCONE – SC (scilicet, that is), dONE.

63 comments on “Sunday Times 5086 by Robert Price”

  1. Did this over lunch, so I don’t have a time, but it was a long time. LOI the birds, which I looked up. Also DNK ANGUINE, which ODE marks as (rare). I knew of the INKLINGS, but it struck me as a bit arcane (ulaca will of course know of them; I wonder who else [well, Vinyl of course]). I had the same problem as Vinyl with PANDORA; only saw the obvious after submitting.
    I thought this was a terrific puzzle; especially liked CROSS ONES HEART, ROUGH-HEWN, EVENING UP, SHERIFF, HUNCH, TEARS A STRIP OFF.

  2. I had no inkling that Tolkien belonged to this set, but with the checkers nothing else would do.
    21d, ANGUINE, was a new word for me. I reverse ninja-turtled it, i.e. found a more esoteric route to it, knowing that Anguilla dieffenbachii is the New Zealand long-finned eel and thus anguine might well mean snakey.
    COD: Exponent
    Relatively slow at 37mins, but most enjoyable. Thank you setter and blogger.

  3. I liked the reverse-cryptic 12. Had all the crossers for 15 and INKLINGS went in, but I had to look up the connection. ANGUINE was new to me too. MISSEL THRUSHES must have been my LOI, and I was confused when Google turned up only the (much) more common spelling, but Collins has this.

    I’ve always thought “happy as Larry” a very amusing expression. TEARS A STRIP OFF was impossible until all or most of the checkers were in. We had HUNCH the week before.

  4. I knew this was going to be a struggle when I noticed that 12 minutes had elapsed before I was able to write an answer in the grid. The struggle continued throughout and I didn’t bother to note my total time spent because it was off the scale and well over an hour.

    I needed aids for INKLINGS as my LOI, a word which I may have thought of as fitting the checkers, but there was nothing to suggest to me that it was the right answer so it didn’t go in.

    ‘Dining with dons’ made me think of the high table which was no help.


  5. 79m 42s
    Mention of ‘neat’ in 2d made me look for a cow!
    I liked 9d a lot: it reminded me of a clue from #26946 in 2018: “Pearls from Rouen, maybe, for old actor A:Norman Wisdom.
    CODs today: PANDORA and ROUGH-HEWN

  6. Like others, took a very long time to get goin. Then on the fourth attempt the answers started to flow. I quibble slightly with referring to mussel thrushes as singers (yes I know it’s conventional) as they produce the most unsonglike noise like a football rattle. Also known as the storm cock. They are one of our more common thrushes, more common than the song thrush where I live (Hampshire).

    I thought this was quite an enjoyable and puzzle. A few things to learn, some very cleaver surfaces. Isn’t there a bit more to 11ac in that ‘First female boxer’ would be sufficient. ‘on the contrary’ suggesting all Dora’s as on pan-Dora?

    1. For the Pandora in Greek myth, “first female” is sufficient. “boxer? On the contrary” is about her receiving the box* and opening it, hence actually being an “unboxer” in the sense indicated by many Youtube videos.

      *apparently, “box” is a long-ago mistranslation and it should really be “Pandora’s pot” or similar, which is a possible extra reason for “On the contrary”.

  7. This took me a while, and two sessions – easily an hour plus overall – but it’s done. Very pleased since Robert Price usually defeats me. Spent quite some time up the wrang dreel on 15ac because I thought “a set of” might be an anagrind and made ILKESTON out of TOLKIEN’S! A brain reset got me going again. Though, like many, I’d never heard of the answer INKLINGS. I assumed it was just me! Biffed 24d – had no idea about that one. And NHO 21d ANGUINE. Thanks, all.

  8. Inklings and literature:

    By modern standards, I guess the Inklings are obscure literary knowledge. But as it’s now visible on a well-known bookselling site, I can reveal that I’m working on a “100 years of Sunday Times Crosswords” book (the puzzle will be 100 years old in Jan 2025). For the puzzles before I was here, I’m gathering a few for each year, selecting one that looks solvable to me, and getting comments on batches of those puzzles from a few people including a couple connected with TfTT. Aside from noticing that for quite a while, the prizes were copies of novels, I’ve discovered quite a few books and authors I didn’t know about …

    1. The Inklings have come up in at least one episode of “Lewis”, which perhaps enabled a few Ninja Turtlers.

  9. I would be grateful for an explanation of Mohair. anything scientific is beyond me therefore the parsing shown above doesn’t help

  10. DNF, whole SE corner more or less blank apart from 21d MADDERY, from M + ADDERY (Uxbridge ED rather like an adder) rather than (s)ANGUINE. OK I got the beheading the wrong way round, but the clue works either way. NHO ANGUINE. Maddery is in Wiktionary and means red, like the dye madder.
    Know Mistle Thrushes but NHO the other spelling.
    Knew Tolkien went to the Angel & Child with literary mates but didn’t know any of the others nor their group name.

  11. Liked this one but nho anguine, and was initially confused by not-mistle thrush.
    Knew the Inklings, having been big into Tolkien in my teens. Robert does both these and TLS crosswords, and may have got them mixed when writing that clue!
    “Time and Again” is the title of a rather fine SF book by Clifford Simak.

  12. By ‘Azedian/Ximenean’ standards, shouldn’t 1ac
    — “Go over the reason plays show promise”
    — “Go over BEFORE the reason plays show promise”
    — “Go over the reason PLAYING show promise”
    for the cryptic parsing to be correct? Of course, both of these need further work to salvage the intended surface reading.

    1. I don’t think so. The two wordplay elements [go over] and [the reason plays] appear in the order of their respective solutions, so the word ‘before’ would be entirely superfluous. And ‘plays’ is as good an anagram indicator as ‘playing’.

      1. Sure, I’m aware of the component order, and I agree that both conjugations are fine as anagram indicators, but neither of those address the point at issue — almost certainly my fault for not making it explicit earlier. AFAIK, direct juxtaposition of two or more adjacent components of wordplay — certainly in strictly Ximenean barred puzzles — is allowed only when they are nounal under cryptic parsing. However here only the first element is so, hence to connect it to the verbal phrase that follows it does indeed require a linking preposition. Alternatively, if ‘plays’ were converted to ‘playing’, the second element would then be a noun under cryptic parsing and the juxtaposition justified. Either way, salvaging the cryptic parsing breaks the intended surface reading. I’ll try to dig out some Azed slips regarding this matter.

        1. I’ve never heard that rule, and I confess that it doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would it need a linking preposition? What does it add?

          1. To (try to) answer the two questions:
            —[1] because it is required to assemble nounal and verbal wordplay components that can be respectively viewed as being ‘completed’ and ‘under construction’;
            —[2] because its addition results in a clue that, when parsed under the rules of standard English, is an air-tight cryptic instruction that obeys the mantra ‘you must say what you mean’.

            To illustrate this, consider the following three wordplays, each grammatically equivalent to those in: the published clue (1) and the two examples (2,3) given above.
            — [1] Go over pedestrian crosses
            — [2] Go over before pedestrian crosses
            — [3] Go over pedestrian crossing
            As sentences in plain English, only [2] and [3] make sense, and these examples also highlight the subtle consideration demanded of the present indicative and present participle, the latter of which usefully misleads as a noun.

            Though I’ve not been able to dig up any Azed slips on this, the link makes for interesting reading regarding Ximenean clueing principles, which seem to be much more strictly adhered to in the world of barred puzzles. That’s a real shame, as there’s a joy in cracking a fiendish setter who can still mislead tortuously even given the self-imposition of a tighter set of linguistic constraints.

            1. Why does it matter a jot if sentence 1 doesn’t make sense in isolation? Wordplay is a set of assembly instructions for distinct bits of language. They can be treated as a list, and often are in charades.
              In this case ‘go over the reason plays’ only makes sense in the context of the definition, but so what? Creating surface readings like this is part of the setter’s art.

              1. As you’ve agreed, [1] makes no sense in isolation, so it is a wordplay whose cryptic parsing does not (actually, cannot) say what it means: this is the point at issue. Of course, whether it ‘matters’ is clearly down to personal taste: for Ximeneans, it very much does. And I’d agree with your last sentence, noting that it is incomplete: the goal of the setter’s art is to create smooth surface readings that hide air-tight cryptic parsings — that is, the pair go hand-in-hand.

                1. Its cryptic parsing absolutely says what it means! It says [wordplay element A], [wordplay element b]. The solver simply has to interpret the wordplay elements independently and put them in order.

                  1. As stated above, Ximeneans won’t juxtapose [nounal element A] with [verbal element B] without an intervening preposition, so we’ll just have to agree to differ.

                    1. Hmm. The original Ximenean position (that is, that of Derrick Somerset Macnutt), is:
                        A good cryptic clue contains three elements:
                         1. a precise definition
                         2. a fair subsidiary indication
                         3. nothing else.
                      The Listener’s PDF adds to that “ a grammatically and consistently worded description of how the answer is constructed.” I’ve always felt clues are more elegant without such Ikea instructions. Constructing one such is, of course, a feat.

              2. FWIW, the sense I got out of that imperative sentence or sentence fragment is that it has to do with discussing why certain untried theatrical productions might be worth staging.

                To me, it matters much more than “a jot” that a surface seem to make sense. Flagrantly nonsensical surfaces are something test solvers for my friends Henri and Joshua often flag for improvement. I don’t find nonsensicality of the surface, however, listed as a flaw in the PDF at the link.

                1. The surface reading is not in question, and discussion thereof drifts from the issue. All I can add is that this clue has (in unpublished, private enquiries) got the unanimous thumbs-down — for precisely the reasons raised — amongst some pretty big hitters in the setting community. With reference to the additional info you’ve listed, the sticking point falls, I think, under your item 2. It may be that the bar has been raised over the years so that ‘fair’ has evolved to include ‘grammatically precise’. The wordplay construction under question makes no sense grammatically — this is, as seen above, not in dispute — so it can be reasonably argued that it cannot be deemed to offer a fair cryptic parsing. So, as stated above, it comes down to personal taste, the Ximenean one being for misleading surfaces emerging from utterly flawless clue grammar.

                  1. OK, I can see an objection to the tense of “plays” as the anagrind.

                    Moreover, the plural verb “show” seems off as a connector in the cryptic; it’s the preceding phrase that shows the phrase that means “promise.” This seems better, anyway, than saying that all those words, plural, show it.

                    I wonder, though, if the definition isn’t, rather, “show promise.”

                    1. I always read it as ‘show promise’ being the verbal definition of the verbal answer because, for the plural verb ‘show’ to ‘demonstrate’ the alternative definition ‘promise’, the clue would have to read “[nounal element A] AND [verbal element B] show …” . This sort of thing has been much discussed re, eg, anagrams of the form “A, B, C changes” but “A, B and C change”.

                      And your comment re ‘plays’ means that we’re in agreement, so thanks!

                  2. Just for the record, no “Ximenean big hitters” or other people have contacted the Sunday Times to say how terrible this clue is, or claim that it doesn’t make enough grammatical sense. I cannot recall this rule about nounal and verbal components from any reading of books by Ximenes or Azed.

                    There are at least some “Ximenean” rules which are stricter than Ximenes. Many people these days say that hidden word clue “hiding places” cannot contain any words that don’t provide part of the answer. But X in his book (last page of Ch. 6) allows the possibility of including “a”, “an” or “the”, which seems a totally harmless way of making some of those clues read much better. Somewhere between 1966 and today, this bit of common sense has been lost, and I’m quite pleased that when writing a guide for STC setters, I decided that one short extra word was permissible if needed, without realising who had said much the same.

                    1. Responding to paragraph 1 (paragraph 2 digresses from the thrust of the present discussion), there is no argument here about cruciverbal rules, and certainly there has been no prior implication that the clue is “terrible” — that would be plain rude — or that it makes “enough” grammatical sense.

                      There is simply the observation that, if the cryptic parsing of a clue is not sound under the rules of English grammar — which has been demonstrated [via example 1 above] to be the case for 1ac — it can’t in all fairness be deemed to be an instruction to the solver. That’s all there is to it.

                      Additionally, the definition should in all fairness have been “make [a] promise” — rather than “show promise” — because, as mentioned above, if the intended definition was “promise (v.i.)” then the directional linkword “show” should have been “shows”.

                      Finally, though I can’t [seem to] reply directly to Keriothe’s latest comment, I can say that I very much enjoy “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” 😉 .

                    2. Replying to myself about anon’s reply, as we seem to have hit some limit on the number of replies:

                      I think Ximenes (and Afrit previously) did cryptic crosswords a great service by suggesting standards to ensure that clues were solvable and comprehensible. I’m not sure that they intended to create opportunities for serious fussiness about grammatical rules in the cryptic reading of a clue, as well as the surface reading. In this case, that grammar is not perfect, but the instructions for the solver seem clear enough, and as far as I can tell, making it perfect would clobber the surface reading.

                      As far as “show” is concerned, I saw it as a verb (with “promise” as a noun), and part of the def, as in the “by” or “especially by” part of the Collins and Chambers defs.

                    3. Likewise replying, perforce, to Peter.
                      Why can’t wordplay elements simply listed in order be an ‘instruction to the solver’? In the absence of an indication to the contrary you just solve them in turn. That’s all we’re asked to do here and the clue is perfectly clear. What you’re asking for is completely arbitrary.

  13. Very difficult. There was almost a complete fail over the bizarre spelling of the Mistle thrush, forced on me in the end by the impossibility of 24D being anything other than SCONE. INKLINGS was good, though Mr Ego actually came up with the answer; I just confirmed it! A bifd ROUGH-CAST held up 4 and 5D for ages, though the latter would always be problematic. I never noticed the hidden ARTEFACT! I didn’t like 25A or 5D, but did like LOI PANDORA, GEYSER and ROUGH-HEWN.

  14. Very tough, very good (well, it’s Sunday!), but the MISSEL THRUSHES defeated me, although I did think of mistle as in mistletoe and other spellings of that, but not this other spelling. I though you could avoid something by masking it as well, so I had MASKED THRUSHES, which seemed far more likely and fit the wordplay with DES as a chap. COD to TEARS A STRIP OFF, by the way, but there were many other superb clues.

  15. As there seems to be no “Reply” button in the appropriate place, a couple of residual comments.

    [1] Re PB’s “as far as I can tell, making it [the clue grammar] perfect would clobber the surface reading.”
    — Absolutely agreed, in which case reworking a clue is the usual course of action when a good surface reading is at the expense of a grammatically unsound cryptic parsing. To be fair, I did concede some way above that this was a matter of personal choice, and it’s clear from the vast majority of blogs that many off-beam clues go unnoticed as such.

    Re K’s “What you’re asking for [grammatically air-tight cryptic parsing] is completely arbitrary.”
    — I’m not sure about that, since just about every barred-puzzle editorial team and clue-competition judge implicitly or explicitly expects or rewards this practice. By way of evidence, I can barely (actually, cannot) recall so much as a misplaced punctuation mark in recent years of, say, Listener and Magpie puzzles, whose grammatically forensic clues continue to astonish, even under some incredibly complex thematic constraints.

    1. Literally the first barred-grid clue I looked at to check the universality of this rule (Azed 2,663):

      Worthless pay’s said to be revised – whoops! => BUMPSADAISY

      The structure of this clue is, as far as I can see, identical to the one you’re objecting to here.
      (P.S. I agree with you that the definition should be ‘show promise’ and have revised the blog accordingly).

      1. The Azed clue is perfectly sound, and is grammatically equivalent to, say, {Cheese biscuit to be nibbled}. In the cryptic parsing, the apostrophe-s is not a contraction of the indicative “is”, which at a stroke distinguishes it from the clue under discussion. Rather, the string PAYSSAID is merely a single noun comprising the anagram fodder. So the clue is rather subtle, and also Azed skilfully uses a dash to preserve correct grammar. Though you persist in calling it a rule, it’s not: as stated repeatedly above, it’s simply grammatical accuracy, and no more.

        Though I raised the possibility of “show promise” being the definition, I must now reject it on two grounds. First, Chambers has “make a promise” defining CROSS ONE’S HEART so, by the ‘substitution test’, one would never say “I show promise” in this context. Second, “show promise” is a phrase having the specific meaning “have potential”. So I think this confirms that what was indeed originally intended was “[two juxtaposed elements] show(=directional linkword) promise”, which should have been (as explained above) “[a single conflated dual-element string] shows promise”.

        1. I’m giving up on this. I honestly have no idea what you’re on about. You call a verb (go over/cross) a ‘nounal phrase’, but when an adjective is performing exactly the same function it’s just an adjective.
          The physical act of crossing your heart is a way of showing (demonstrating) a promise. That’s the definition.

  16. Thanks Robert and keriothe
    Much later than usual for this one. Took well over the two hours to get this out with numerous lookup checks – INKLINGS, MISSEL THRUSHES and ANGUINE and lots of time spent parsing a number of others. Ended up needing the blog to see how the word play for SCONE worked – been a while since I have seen the scilicet abbreviation. Still plenty to enjoy and a sense of satisfaction that the grid was eventually correctly filled.
    Finished with a couple of the aforementioned – SCONE and INKLINGS with the tricky PANDORA the last one in.

Comments are closed.