Sunday Times Cryptic 4801, by David McLean — Getchyer marketing cream here

I have every expectation that some of the infallible wits here will come up with some clever remarks about some of these clues, where I have utterly failed. But honestly, it all seems a bit phoned in. A number of the surfaces aren’t particularly compelling, either being blandly obvious double definitions or with parts rather forced together (a limit on washing headwear? a “store” in (a) “hospital department”?). The surface for 3 makes no sense at all.

(agranams)* like this, definitions underlined…


 1 Loads of weight (4)
TONS—Meh. Are these really two different definitions? Not by much.
 4 Limit on washing headwear for a crawler? (7,3)
BATHING CAP—Two defs, again, really. One jokey/cryptic, and one a bit cryptic but qualifying as a straight definition.
 9 Vote totally heartless Twitter user hampers (6)
BALLOT—“Totally” being ALL and a “heartless” (not human) BOT enclosing it like a basket or “hamper”—“hampering” it. I guess. I find this as odd as the enclosure indicator “trousers” recently. But I’d have to say the clue stands out here for its inventiveness, and plausible topicality (as it can’t help but bring to mind recent electoral trauma in the United States).
10 New EU boast about pound not changing in value (8)
ABSOLUTE—(New EU boast)* surrounding (“about”) L, or “pound.” I think the EU would be more likely to boast about a stable euro.
11 Pain redhead might show after separation (8) (5)
SORENESS — I was reluctant to accept this as the answer, but can only conclude we are to take “red” as SORE (if something is red, it might be sore, although the opposite is not necessarily true) and NESS as “head.” But (and I only realized this while doing the blog) I’m not sure what “after separation” contrirbutes to the clue. If you take the two parts separately, you would have “red head,” not “redhead.”
12 Venomous type of volunteers I criticise (6)
TAIPAN—I vaguely remembered the snake of the same name as the island. “Volunteers” = TA, the Territorial Army so often seen here, I is “i” and “criticize” is PAN.
13 Grey-haired as some squirrels? (4,2,3,5)
LONG IN THE TOOTH—So some squirrels have shorter teeth?
16 Exemplary MP, say (14)
REPRESENTATIVE—Another double definition, the latter by example.
20 Intelligence shown by strike on the ball (4,2)
WITH IT—Wit / hit.
22 I share digs with sailor on returning to dock (8)
ROOMMATE—“Sailor” = MATE, “on” (connected to) “to dock,” MOOR <—“returning.” Smooth surface, at least.
24 One avoiding feeling for judge (8)
SENTENCE—“Feeling” = “sentience,” subtract the “i.”
25 Graduate heads west, dispatched miles away (6)
ABSENT—BA <—-, “dispatched” = SENT
26 Silly English Tory set upset record label with a generalization (10)
STEREOTYPE — (E[nglish] Tory set)* + EP <—-
27 Fans of Brazil perhaps heading to stadium (4)
NUTS—“Brazil, perhaps” is a DBE of NUT, and then you have the “heading to stadium.” Just a shade more clever than TONS, above. Although that is a really smooth surface.


 2 Where one might see Marge enjoying a run of luck (2,1,4)
ON A ROLL—“Marge” being short for “margarine,” with deceptive capitalization. Go, Marge! (Says Homer?)
 3 Centre for Devon boards mostly marketing cream (5)
SALVE—[De]V[on] “boards” (goes inside) SALE[s], “mostly marketing.” The surface is pure word salad. As far as I can see, anyway.
 4 Military units that can be sources of power (9)
BATTERIES—Two definitions again, the latter maybe a bit more oblique.
 5 Passage published in Times about South Island (7)
TRANSIT—“Published,” RAN, inside two Ts (“Times,” deceptively capped), which encompass, as well, S[outh] I[sland].
 6 Group supporting popular addition to magazine? (5)
INSET—The question mark is because it’s a DBE. “Group” is SET, under (“supporting”) IN for “popular.”
 7 Old campaign goal I set to contain Liberal margin (9)
GALLIPOLI—(goal I)* with L[iberal] + LIP (“margin”) inside. [EDITED. I hurried over this one too quickly when writing the blog. Thanks to the person who pointed this out. Everyone must’ve got this one, as no one else seems to have noticed my mistake.]
 8 Draw a lot, say, to secure lead in theatre (7)
ATTRACT—“A TRACT,” with T[heatre].
14 Short rant about Polaris (5,4)
NORTH STAR—(Short rant)*
15 Cast are able to go on with extras (9)
ELABORATE—(are able to)*
17 Outstanding store in hospital department (7)
EMINENT—“Store” = MINE, in the “hospital department” ENT.
18 One who cares for whisky’s last drops makes room for a tot (7)
NURSERY—“One who cares” = NURSE, + “foR whiskY’s last drops.”
19 Obsolete old money: coins and tenners primarily (7)
EXTINCT—“Old” = EX, “money” = TIN, + C[oins and] T[enners]. Fine surface!
21 Make tracks with beat on top for dance music (5)
TANGO—“Make tracks” = GO, with “beat,” TAN, “on top.”
23 Two relations one might sculpt in stone (5)(5)

42 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4801, by David McLean — Getchyer marketing cream here”

  1. I think your underline should extend to ‘label’; EP is ‘record’, and to stereotype is to label something with a generalization.
  2. Not one of Harry’s best, by a long shot. I didn’t know TAIPAN, and spent a bit of time considering the possibility of ‘tairap’. ‘Redhead’ needs to be separated because, while a red head might indicate soreness, a redhead doesn’t. Looking forward to next Sunday.
    1. Aha. I might have vaguely realized then when working, but then forgotten when typing out the blog. Still, “a red head” is a little odd; I would think dyed first, rather than sore.
      David McLean is “Harry”?

      Edited at 2018-06-10 12:08 am (UTC)

      1. Yes, David McLean is known as ‘Harry’. I’m not sure why. He’s also Hoskins in the Independent.
        1. If I recall correctly (we had both taken drink when the conversation took place) David’s dad’s nickname for his young son was Harry Hoskins, and it sort of stuck. You can imagine a father saying something like “come on Harry Hoskins, let’s go and feed the ducks” or whatever.
        2. David also compiles under the pseudonym Hoskins and has a website Hoskins where, in his blog posts, he sometimes signs them as Harry.
  3. Granted it’s not the smoothest of surfaces but there’s some local knowledge required that renders it not completely ludicrous (“a word salad” as Guy has suggested).

    For a long time in the UK (1933-c2002) there was a Milk Marketing Board which controlled the production, distribution and promotion of dairy products including cream. Devon is noted as a centre of the dairy industry, and especially for Devon clotted cream, the unique ingredient of the ‘cream tea’ which featured in a puzzle I blogged here very recenty. All this accounts for the following words in the clue: centre, Devon, boards, marketing, cream.

    It may be of interest that the MMB was responsible for the advertising slogan “Drinka pinta milka day”, the origin of the word ‘pinta’ in connection with milk which has come up in numerous puzzles in the past.

    9ac: hamper (vb) – restrain by confinement.

    1ac: ‘tons’ and ‘loads’ as slang can just mean a very large number of something and neither is necessarily related to weight.

    Edited at 2018-06-10 04:59 am (UTC)

    1. I’ve heard of Devon clotted cream. “Centre for Devon” is a bit odd, if Devon is a town, though it could mean a centre for the cream (which would, however, be the town). In the surface meaning, does this “centre” “board” the “marketing cream” in the sense of giving it a place to stay? Is “marketing cream” elliptical for “cream of the marketing biz”? Hmm…
      1. As I said, it’s not the smoothest of surfaces, but it’s not just a collection of random words.
        1. I asked how you interpret it…
          But I think I’ve got it now.
          Maybe the boards are mostly marketing [verb] cream?
          The surface asks for
          [The] centre for Devon boards [that are] mostly marketing cream.

          Edited at 2018-06-10 06:06 am (UTC)

          1. FWIW even understanding all the context jackkt gives, the surface is fairly nonsensical. It asks you to imagine more than one dairy marketing board just in Devon, and then that there would be some kind of ‘centre’ where they, er, all do their marketing together…?

            Edited at 2018-06-10 09:24 am (UTC)

    2. ALL is certainly “confined” by BOT. I don’t really see how it is “restrained,” but whatever.

      The meaning of “tons” as “loads” is merely a figurative extension of the first sense.

  4. 18 minutes on this, solved after my morning constitutional and before the early Communion service, with Mrs BW still in the Land of Nod. My only real pauses were on SORENESS and BALLOT. I parsed them both in the end. I thought SORE for RED was a bit of a push, or maybe it was because SORE and PAIN are too closely related for one to be part of a clue for the other. As you say, Guy, COD BALLOT is the most inventive clue. BOT as a heartless Twitter user was clever and only seen after the event. In my limited experience too many Twitter users are heartless. Thank you Guy and David.

    Edited at 2018-06-10 06:10 am (UTC)

  5. 11ac: After separation of ‘redhead’, ‘red’ and ‘head’ are clued separately in the wordplay.

    I was thrown by the BOT thing at 9ac but it didn’t delay my solving of the clue.

    I don’t have a solving time noted, but from memory, and judging by the lack of question marks and workings in the margins, I think it was a fairly smooth solve.

    1. Yes, that much was always clear, and is how I parsed it above. I already discussed this with Kevin.
      Often the need to separate parts of the wordplay is left implicit in the clue, but two weeks ago I just assumed “red” was SORE and “head” was NESS and left it at that.

      But it would seem “redhead” is supposed to show SORENESS when it becomes two words, “red head.” I didn’t see this because, to me, “red head” would mean a possibly sore (possibly dyed) part of the body, not the pain itself…  Oh, well.

      Not that bad a surface though.

      Edited at 2018-06-10 05:40 am (UTC)

  6. I enjoyed this and the difficulty level was just right for me after a big struggle the previous day.
    FOI was 2d then 1a. No big hold-ups. My last two were Ballot (could not parse it) and 15d where I thought Extras referred to something in cricket and I missed the anagram. Taipan was a guess.
    Just over an hour in all -quick for me. David
  7. 17 minutes, so a par score for me. I rather skimmed over BOT: I know it’s some sort of automated internet thingy and that had to do. Heartless, now I think about it, is quite clever.
    On the long toothed squirrels, I reasoned that, as rodents (chic rats, my Father in Law called them) need to keep their teeth constantly worn down: we had a hamster that didn’t bother and grew unfeasibly long incisors. Similar squirrels likewise?
  8. the fictional saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age films, may not be so fictional after all, says this article. I wondered about the long-toothed squirrels too, so just had to look it up.
  9. 15:43. I thought this was quite inventive. I liked BALLOT in particular. I see Jack has already explained the marketing board thing at 3d. I was slightly dubious about “MINE” for store at 17d. Not a meaning I’ve come across – I thought a mine was something you dug stuff out from rather than put stuff into.
  10. I liked it because I managed to complete it in my quickest time for a while. 10 min 25 secs. A relief after last week’s daily puzzles which pretty much all floored me. Next target is a sub 10 minute.
  11. I agree that this was easy and a bit lacking in this setter’s usual spark. My way over par time of 51 mins is only accounted for by an unaccountable spot of word blindness preventing me from seeing the word representative for quite some time.
  12. 7:55. I was slightly disappointed by this one, if only because I found it pretty easy and I always relish a difficult David McLean puzzle. I thought it was quite a fun and inventive puzzle though, and I never notice surface readings so if they’re a bit clunky (and some of these undoubtedly are) it doesn’t really bother me. I particularly liked the BOT. Very topical, particularly today.
    1. I agree with you about surface readings which I tend to ignore most of the time (cryptics and &lits aside) and I don’t believe it’s necessary for them to make literal sense anyway and 3dn certainly doesn’t.
      1. I do think that a good surface reading is an essential part of a really good clue. My failure to notice them when solving is really a product of my focus on speed: once I know what the answer is I put it in and move on without pausing to admire the scenery. I make no claims for how sensible this approach is!
        1. I agree. It’s the thing I enjoy about doing my blogging duty – a chance to admire the setter’s art in not only good surface readings but the wordplay for answers I might otherwise have just biffed.
            1. I agree it’s great when they do, but am not overly concerned when they don’t.
      2. 3d makes sense to me now, with “boards” as subject of the verb “marketing.” It’s far from obvious, though.
        Surfaces should always make some sort of sense. If you ignore the surfaces in a really good puzzle, you’re missing half the fun, as well as something to which the setter gave a lot of thought.

        Edited at 2018-06-10 03:09 pm (UTC)

  13. 7d GALLIPOLI – it’s actually (GOAL I) set, containing L (Liberal) and LIP (margin).
    18d grateful for parsing GdS, I failed to find the R that I was looking for…
    17d didn’t like mine/store equivalence!
  14. Sorry I’m coming to this late in the day. This clue took me ages, but I did manage it without recourse to the MMB. ‘Centre for Devon’ is V, which boards (gets into) SALE, which is most of ‘marketing’ (sales) to give SALVE, which is usually a cream.

    Edited at 2018-06-18 05:53 pm (UTC)

    1. Sorry, that was me!
      What is the MMB?

      Edited at 2018-06-18 06:01 pm (UTC)

      1. The Milk Marketing Board, which was referred to in one of the earlier comments (the one that talks about ‘drinka pinta milka day’).
        1. Oh, of course! (It’s been so long…) Well, that’s not necessary for decrypting the surface, only for making it appear to make sense in itself.
    2. Bravo! That’s how I parsed it myself… [quote]De]V[on] “boards” (goes inside) SALE[s], “mostly marketing.”[/quote] The part that didn’t make sense to me (for the longest time) is the surface. Which, as Keriothe pointed out, still doesn’t make much-real world sense after one figures out how it works grammatically.

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