Sunday Times Cryptic 4809, by Dean Mayer — I’m Telling You

A few weeks ago, French citoyen Christophe Février acquired, for €8,000, a mid-nineteenth-century edition (for which Lady Gaga had once made a bid) of Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s humane invention. For a month or so now there has been next to the desk on which I am typing this a book found discarded on a neighbor’s stoop called Guillotine: The Legend and Lore (copiously illustrated, looks pretty interesting). The last execution by guillotine was in September 1977, and the person who had his head chopped off then was one Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant worker—whose attorney admitted his cient had indeed kidnapped, tortured and murdered his former girlfriend, but pleaded extenuating circumstances. This was also the last execution in Western Europe and the EU.

No words were decapitated in the making of this puzzle. It was all fairly straightforward, and the only unknown to (or unremembered by) me was NOT A SAUSAGE. And thereby hangs a tale…

(namarags)* like this, definitions underlined…


 1 Hardly deserved, but no more (4,4)
ONLY JUST—“Hardly” as in “just barely” or ONLY + “deserved” = JUST
 6 Figure of speech describing posh company (6)
TROUPE—TRO(U)PE. “Describing” as in “outlining,” which you can visualize as “drawing around.” But it is my impression that the word means “including” in this way only in cryptic puzzles. What is meant is, rather, circumscribing.
 9 Clear about returning fairly shortly (6)
10 Zip turned into single multifunction device (3-2-3)
11 Abducted, shot in the moorlands (4,2,6)
HELD TO RANSOM—(the moorlands)*. It was hard to see this at first because of the word “in” between the anagrind and the anagrist, a position I found difficult to justify. But I guess you could say the answer can be found, “shot,” in that phrase.
14 Oriental food at the back (3,7)
FAR EASTERN—FARE + ASTERN. It’s not done to use “Oriental” to refer to people anymore, and it’s an interesting case. As an article in the LA Times has it, this is because “it makes Asians sound exotic because it was in circulation at a time when exoticizing stereotypes were prevalent.”
16 US opponents finally erect border (4)
THEM—(erec)T + HEM. Good use of deceptive capitalization (which seems almost de rigueur on Sundays).
17 Tiny amount of intelligence, you might say (4)
WHIT—Sounds like “wit.”
18 Having to take band’s instruction to vocalist (10)
POSSESSING—POSSE + SING. “To take” is mere connective filler.
20 My guillotine’s broken, honestly (2,7,3)
I’M TELLING YOU—(my guillotine)*
23 Remove concrete? No (8)
ABSTRACT—Double definition.
25 Tropical forest floor almost acceptable (6)
26 Importance of eg 17 dubious (6)
27 Played with king in rich surroundings (8)


 2 Bust’s shape (4)
NICK—Double definition. So there’s a UK expression “in good nick,” where “nick” means “condition” or “shape.” I’m not sure I’d ever heard that one before. And in the UK, not only does “nick” mean “to steal,” it also has the meaning relevant here, to catch someone breaking the law. And then, of course, that person might have to spend some time “in nick.”
 3 Where kids can hang out? (5,6)
YOUTH CENTRECryptic definition (just barely). EDIT: As Kevin points out, this is rather cleverer than I thought. OUT is the centre of “YOUTH.” I didn’t even realize I was merely biffing!
 4 To get knots out of short line (5)
UNTIL—UNTI(e) + L. Deviously inconspicuous definition.
 5 Hot sandwich in oven couple will eat (7)
TOASTIE—T(OAST)IE. “Tie” meaning “couple” here.
 6 Give, to queen, cutting weapon (9)
TOLERANCE—TO + E(lizabeth) R(egina) + LANCE. I can’t readily think of a sentence where “give” could be substituted for “tolerance.” Under synonyms for TOLERANCE, I find “give and take” but not simply “give.” Under synonyms for “give” I do not find TOLERANCE (I did not look at all 25 pages but did a search on that site), only under synonyms for “give-and-take” and “give takes” (sic). But, having got the answer, I am in a tolerant mood.
 7 Have nothing when he leaves (3)
OWN—O + W(he)N. Tricky one.
 8 Seeds taken from outside to be put in bowls (5,5)
PINTO BEANS—Near as I can figure, this is IN = “taken from outside” + TO BE, inside [“bowls” = PANS]… I did not immediately see “bowls” as PANS.
12 FA stalled over a rule? (3,1,7)
NOT A SAUSAGE—SAT ON <—+ A USAGE. This FA has (mercifully) nothing to do with any Football Association, being the abbreviation for “Fanny Adams,” commonly “Sweet Fanny Adams!” which means “nothing at all,” seemingly because of another, ruder expression with that sense that is abbreviated the same way. Some Anglicisms I have learned here and promptly forgotten, but this one stuck in my mind. For all the apparent lightness of the expression, the story of the real Fanny Adams is terribly sad and disturbing. As is another usage once given the phrase by sailors in the Royal Navy.
13 Clear story about social event finishing early (10)
FATHOMABLE—F(AT HOM[e]) ABLE. “Fathomable” to me evokes “sufficiently clear” or “understandable with some effort,” rather than “clear” tout court, but so it goes.
15 Begging one to replace walls (9)
19 Problem surrounding criminal, can’t retreat (7)
SANCTUM—S (can’t)* UM
21 Long period of time before November (5)
22 Bird swooped (4)
DOVE—Double definition.
24 I’m grateful for that good mark (3)
TAG—TA for “thanks” + G

32 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4809, by Dean Mayer — I’m Telling You”

  1. I had a ? at this for a long time, but I’d now say the definition is ‘Where kids can hang’; OUT is the center of YOUTH.
    1. Thanks! I really should have realized there was more to it than that. Worked rather late on a Saturday night, and that’s my only excuse.
  2. I think my LOI was NICK, as I also didn’t know the relevant meaning, and spent some time weighing the merits of NECK. I took ‘give’ as the degree of stress-toleration of a metal, say, and it seemed close enough. Has Dean ever given us a 2-line clue? COD to 5d, with 9ac and 12d close behind.
  3. 42:24. I found this extremely hard, for reasons I now can’t really remember. Thanks to Kevin for explaining YOUTH CENTRE. I had no idea although it had to be the answer. I think NICK was my last in too: I wasn’t sure about either definition.
    Re 13dn: ‘clear’ for FATHOMABLE makes perfect sense if you think a bit more literally.
  4. DNF due to 8dn PINTO BEANS but I carelessly had POSSESSION rather then POSSESSING at 18ac. I never relish trips to IKEA or pinto beans.

    3dn YOUTH CENTRE left me cold. Tiresome! Biffo!

    FOI 7dn OWN

    COD 16ac THEM


  5. I once had a plastic kit (made by ? Revell or similar) of a GUILLOTINE, complete with a victim with a detachable head which fell into a basket when the blade dropped. Very realistic, although admittedly you could then put the head back on again to repeat the process. Hours of endless fun for a ten year old.

    I had ‘Give’ for TOLERANCE as in the sense of allowing slight movement or ‘play’. It’s in my Chambers Thesaurus anyway so that must be right (just joking).

    Missed the cleverness of YOUTH CENTRE which I thought was a cryptic def. too. I liked NOT A SAUSAGE, an expression unfortunately not heard much these days.

    Highlights for me were the innocuous looking ‘To’ and ‘FA’ two letter defs.

    Overall, v. enjoyable as expected from this setter. Thanks to him and to our blogger.

  6. Collins gives this example: There is no give in his moral views. “Tolerance” would certainly fit there.
    1. …where “give” is defined as “a tendency to yield under pressure; resilience.”

      I had already thought of all the examples given so far where the meanings of the two words are very close, but you have presented the first sentence where an actual substitution would work. “Tolerance” seems particularly apt, of course, in the context of moral decision. I’m not sure about a sentence such as “There is no give in his views about the New York Mets.”

      1. When solving, I thought “machined to a tolerance of one ten-thousandth of an inch”, but on reflection, as you say, “give” doesn’t quite fit!
  7. Couldn’t make sense of 2d and for a while I couldn’t make sense of the explanation here. I put NECK for want of anything better but then I slowly came to realise that’s NICK as in the sense of ‘arrest’.
    Thank you, Guy, for PINTO BEANS, another clue that I had a question mark against in my notes. The same applied to FATHOMABLE. I have only vaguely heard of a social event called an AT HOME.
    No problem with TOLERANCE or NOT A SAUSAGE.
    My favourites were DOVE, UNTIL and YOUTH CENTRE. The last named I ‘got’ pretty quickly. COD to UNTIL. I’m getting better at spotting those tiny words that act as the definition.

    Edited at 2018-08-05 05:17 am (UTC)

  8. Still away without torn-out solution. Going home this afternoon with the M6 a nightmare while it is being smartened up. I think my time was in the forties, so not roaring but somewhat buffeted. TOLERANCE is used in engineering circles to mean how far away from specfication can be tolerated in the production process, ie what ‘give’ is there. My son still uses “in good nick” for when he’s batting well, so the expression lives on in the cricketing world, unless its an archaism he’s picked up from Bumble. Great win for England yesterday, by the way, and by my football team. I didn’t parse YOUTH CENTRE, which I was going to criticise as a weak clue before I was saved by Kevin. COD to NOT A SAUSAGE Nice puzzle. Thank you Guy and Dean.

    Edited at 2018-08-05 06:19 am (UTC)

  9. I thought we were in for a pangram here but we are missing an X. The answer T-REX at 16 across could have remedied that.

    I had no problem justifying ‘give / tolerance’ to my satisfaction but ‘bust / nick’ didn’t quite ring true at first. I came round to it eventually having found an example ‘we’re going to bust/nick him for possession of heroin’, which is close enough for my sensibilities

    Edited at 2018-08-05 05:39 am (UTC)

    1. I’m thinking this is the third or fourth “panagram except for one letter” we’ve had in the past month or so. Any chance the setters having us on?
  10. 1hr 8 mins. I found this tough. I didn’t see the nick for shape meaning in 2dn but entered it anyway. I didn’t really get the parsing of pinto beans or not a sausage at the time. Held up with 9ac (the “fairly shortly” took a while) and 4dn seeing the “to” def. Pleased to finish it all correct in the end.
  11. I found this very hard. Managed to get five clues in an initial session and then gave up.
    I was on holiday and decided to revert to my holiday reading, a novel my wife and daughter had recommended,Eleanor Oliphant … They thought it might be a book for a female audience. I rather enjoyed it.
  12. As usual with a Dean puzzle, it required a lot of thought and had some devious clueing. I managed to complete it correctly but it took 42:25. I also missed the parsing of 3d and thought it was a weak cryptic. NICK was my LOI as I finally though of “in good nick”. Liked NOT A SAUSAGE. Thanks Dean and Guy.
  13. Mr Grumpy here. Umpteenth attempt to sign in, but have almost given up. DNF so obviously I’m a little grumpy, but I thought there were some badly-worded clues in this. Starting with the dreaded needless apostrophe- why not say ‘bust shape’ ? And if the apostrophe in 18a is supposed to be possessive, then that clue doesn’t really work- ie one is instructing the posse to sing rather than the vocalist. If the clue is merely ‘band’ + ‘instruction to vocalist’, then fair enough but there is no need for the apostrophe in that case. 8d is pretty loose too-‘from outside’ should surely be ‘into’, in which case there is a superfluous ‘to’ in the clue? ‘Around the moorlands, was abducted’ gets rid of the unnecessary ‘in’. Something that is fathomable is not really ‘clear’. It’s likely unclear until you’ve thought on it and solved the conundrum. Fathomable means ‘capable of being worked out’ in my book. Most cryptic crossword clues are fathomable, but not immediately clear. Of course all of these clues are gettable, but it’s the imprecision that’s disappointing. This is ‘The Times’ for goodness sake. Grump over! COD to ‘sanctum’.
    1. Hi Mr Grumpy!
      In 18a the apostrophe is possessive in the surface reading but short for ‘has’ in the cryptic reading I think.
      ‘Taken from outside’ seems OK to me as a description for something that is IN.
      In a literal sense to ‘fathom’ is to discover the depth of a body of water, in which case ‘clear’ seems a perfectly good synonym for FATHOMABLE to me.
      1. As I said, I think “fathom” = “clear” is OK here; very few synonyms have the same nuance and clues have to be a bit oblique—but are you saying there is a technical sense of “clear” that is equivalent to finding the depth of a body of water?

        The use of an apostrophe for “has” when it is not the helping verb indicating tense always strikes me as quite odd. I never see it in real life.

        1. No I’m just saying that if a lake is clear it is FATHOMABLE because you can see how deep it is!
          This use of HAS can seem a bit odd but I think it’s just an example of having to detach individual wordplay elements from their context, which is absolutely standard in cryptic grammar.

          Edited at 2018-08-05 03:57 pm (UTC)

          1. The apostrophe, possessive on the surface and whatever underneath, is supposed to connect the two parts. But this is not a charade clue. It’s a double definition. The two definitions don’t need to be connected in the cryptic reading, and I’m not sure what is gained by connecting them on the surface. “Bust shape” means the same thing, or is just as ambiguous, as “bust’s shape.”
            1. We seem to have our wires crossed here: the clue we’re discussing is 18ac, and I see now that my interpretation is wrong, because it leaves me short an S. It’s just [band’s] = POSSES. For wordplay purposes it doesn’t matter if this is a possessive or short for IS or HAS.
              In 1dn I read the apostrophe-S as short for IS.
                1. No need to apologise. I specified 18ac but in the context of that clue what I said was nonsense!
          2. Provided you remember about refraction and know the refractive index! So in this sense, fathomable means capable of being determined, I think.
            1. Well indeed, but if you can see the bottom of a lake you can estimate its depth in a way that is not possible if you can’t. This makes it FATHOMABLE.
  14. Very late to these comments, probably too late. I never finished this; it didn’t help that for 2dn I had CAST, which fits the clue although both bust and shape are rather similar senses of cast. I bunged it in with only a mild doubt and it didn’t occur to me to look at it again; so 1ac and 9ac were difficult.

Comments are closed.