Sunday Times Cryptic 4973, by Dean Mayer — Try to see… watch your step!

You’d be well advised to beware
And cross this terrain with due care.
The surface is calm,
But maybe a bomb
Is lurking not far under there…

This entry is dedicated to the American pullout from Afghanistan.

I indicate (a ragman’s)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Awkward call traps one with the wrong mobile (12)
CRINGEWORTHY — CRY, “call” enclosing I, “one” and (the wrong)*
 9 Exist, drinking water, finally alive (9)
BREATHING — BE A THING with [-wate]R inserted To exist is certainly to be a thing, but to be a thing (as any good existentialist would insist) is the exact opposite of living. (And for living, water is certainly necessary!)
10 I’m into stories showing the inner self (5)
ANIMA — AN(IM)A… ANA being that old standby of Crosswordland, defined in Lexico in two ways (both under the rubric archaic), as (treated as plural) anecdotes or literary gossip about a person or (treated as singular) a collection of a person’s memorable sayings
11 Given caution, unless given makeshift bomb (8)
NOTIFIED — NOT IF, “unless” + I(mprovised) E(xplosive) D(evice)
12 Prosper from most of the rent (6)
THRIVE — TH[-e] and RIVE, “rent”… well, that’s what I have, but… RIVE is present tense, while “rent” is past (of “rend”). If anyone can resolve this (with an obscure Chambers reference, most likely…), I’d appreciate it. (Edit at 29:25 NYC time.)
14 After being single, catching cold (4)
ONCE — ON(C)E… “Once the puzzle is worked, we will argue about the definitions.”
15 Jungle area about to suffer, cutting veg out? (10)
RAINFOREST — REST is “veg out” and A(rea) + IN FOR, “about to suffer” are interpolated.
17 A group assignment (10)
18 Detect medium strength chromosome (4)
ESPY — ESP, “medium strength” + Y, “chromosome” A medium’s only real strength is mastery of the arts of deception.
20 See where sun sets closest to horizon (6)
LOWEST — LO, “See” + WEST, “where sun sets”
21 Pull out and pull out (8)
WITHDRAW — WITH, “and” + DRAW, “pull out”…as your six-shooter at high noon, your sword from its scabbard or a card from the magician’s deck. Seems there’s but a cigarette paper’s width of distance between the definition proper and the charade. Anyway, this was very elusive to me (as Keriothe can testify).
24 Staff try tropical fruit (5)
MANGO — “Staff” is MAN (v.) and “try” GO (n.).
25 Driver and guide stole stuff, reportedly (9)
CHAUFFEUR — “Show” “fur”
26 Public protest unusually direct (12)
UNRESTRICTED — UNREST, “protest” + (direct)*

 1 About to abandon woodland home (5)
CABIN — CA, circa, “about” + BIN, “abandon”
 2 Striking matches mother put out (9,5)
 3 Left work with man about town (3,3)
GOT OFF — GO, “work” + TOFF, “man about town”… but I really wanted to underline all of “Left work.”
 4 Therewith a powdered chalk for example (5,5)
WHITE EARTH — (Therewith a)* Wins the coveted Creative Anagrind Prize. A term new to me.
 5 Cook given a port (4)
RIGA — RIG, “Cook” (verb) + A
 6 Airport boss not closing shed (8)
HEATHROW — HEA[-d], “boss not closing” + THROW, “shed” (as in shedding light, e.g.)
 7 While not busy, picking up (8,6)
CITIZEN’S ARREST — CD… “busy” being Brit slang for a cop
 8 Hanging videos shot (8)
…shades of William S. Burroughs…
TAPESTRY — TAPES, “videos” + TRY, “shot”
13 Hot on ex, I’m unable to drink (10)
INTOXICANT — INTO, “Hot on” + X, “ex” + I CAN’T, “I’m unable to”
14 Ex model about to tour Florida (3,5)
OLD FLAME — (model)* surrounding FLA (abbrev. for “Florida”)
16 Soldiers go in after shelling from this (3,5)
EGG SPOON — CD, playing adroitly (“shelling”!) on the British slang term for thin strips of toast that are dipped into runny eggs. One theory is that the term arose from a supposed resemblance of the aligned pieces of bread to orderly ranks of assembled troops; another links it to “all the king’s men” who would presumably have gotten slathered in yolk and white while trying in vain to put Humpty Dumpty together again. More info, from Wikipedia: ‘The specific term “eggs with soldiers” appears to date only from the 1960s. The modern phrase first appeared in print in 1966 in Nicolas Freeling’s novel The Dresden Green (where [the bread strips are] used to eat soup). It is possible that it was either popularised or invented in 1965 in a series of TV commercials for eggs starring Tony Hancock and Patricia Hayes.’ In any case, I’m getting hungry.
19 Butcher’s fine, slicing seal on island (6)
SHUFTI — The definition is CRS (short for “Butcher’s hook” = “look”); SHU(F)T, SHUT, “seal” divided by F(ine) + I(sland). But where does this word come from? Lexico: “1940s (originally military slang): from Arabic šāfa ‘try to see’.”
22 Promise broken by Labour — “We’re all in it together” (5)
23 Crave feta cheese sandwiches (4)
ACHE — Hidden

37 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4973, by Dean Mayer — Try to see… watch your step!”

  1. CRINGEWORTHY was a cracker to start with. It wasn’t my fastest Dean solve but definitely less troublesome than 3 weeks ago.
    His CDs are usually very good, but IDENTICAL TWINS was outstanding.
    I did have a question mark over L for Labour in WORLD, although it makes sense with C for Conservative, but I thought it was Liberal, not Labour.
    Cheers to setter and blogger. (Twmbarlwm)
      1. My apologies. It was supposed to be “labour leader” – a backspace over-deletion that was unlikely to be picked up in editing because the surface remained plausible.
  2. Absolutely brilliant from Dean! The citizen’s arrest and the identical twins deserve special mention, but are just two of the many gems here. It took a while at 42:03, with pdm steadily succeeding pdm. Last one in was GOT OFF, after toying with GET OFF ( Geoff being the man about T ) , which didn’t quite work in the past tense.
  3. I put in GET OFF, thinking like corymbia, meant to think about it later, and of course didn’t. As I hit the submit button, I thought, ‘But it’s ‘left’!’
    Anyway, also like corymbia I’d give CODs to CITIZENS ARREST & IDENTICAL TWINS; also liked BREATHING, ESPY, OLD FLAME.
  4. Excellent as usual. Loved the ARREST and the TWINS but special mention for ‘medium strength’.
  5. …really a DNF as I used aids for several clues: CRINGEWORTHY, IDENTICAL TWINS, CITIZEN’S ARREST and TAPESTRY. Obviously I wasn’t firing on all cyclinders.
    Thank you, Guy, for INTOXICANT and RAINFOREST.
    SHUFTI was a word my father used from time to time. He served in North Africa during WWII so would have learnt it there.
  6. I had lots of problems and was 56 minutes on this, not helped by first putting the two words the wrong way round on WHITE EARTH. “Earth white, the eggshell paint for the natural effect.” LOI was the brilliant CITIZEN’s ARREST, my COD. Special mentions to INTOXICANT and CRINGEWORTHY, which lived up to the answer. Thank you Guy and Dean.
  7. I obviously struggled with this as my condition deteriorated, before improving later in the week. I’m not sure whether my pink square for ESGY was a typo or a delusional moment, but I took 78:32 to get through the puzzle. Never saw “medium strength” until I looked at the clue again this morning. I think I might now make it COD! RAINFOREST and CITIZENS ARREST were my last 2 in, but I have the feeling I might have used aids to get at least one of them. I did manage GOT OFF rather than GET OFF. Great puzzle, but too much of a challenge in my weakened state. Thanks Deano and Guy.
  8. The enjoyable crossword for several weeks for me with Dean in top form. My favourites were the same as others, especially CITIZEN’S ARREST and IDENTICAL TWINS. I took the two ‘pull out(s)’ for WITHDRAW to be the transitive and intransitive forms of the verb and therefore parsed this as a double def. A week on, I think your parsing is probably better.

    Done and dusted in 39 minutes.

    Thanks to Dean and Guy

  9. ….but a technical DNF from me (I altered my error and submitted after discussing it with friends !)

    I’d confidently entered GOT OUT at 3D (totally unjustifiable with hindsight) and thus could only fit “netsukes” in at 14A — and that was patently incorrect.

    I wondered about that L for Labour, but shrugged and moved on. I’m sure it didn’t spoil it for the majority.

    Liked the “stole stuff” and CITIZEN’S ARREST, but COD to IDENTICAL TWINS.

  10. My newspaper copy shows I started in the SW and then got stuck. I think OLD FLAME was FOI. I also had EARTH WHITE at first. Subsequent sessions online got me home. CRINGEWORTHY was my favourite; that was very late in. LOI was GOT OFF after careful parsing.
    Tough but very enjoyable.
  11. What a great crossword. I put GET OFF which is silly, because it fits neither the definition nor the wordplay. Plus another typo. But there are too many great clues to list them all.
  12. Guy, you forget the Marmite bit: ‘Marmite Soldiers’ were a thing! However, we enjoyed the original ‘Splendo Soldiers’ in the mid- fifties. They lasted until 1959 when Oxo discontinued to manufacture the black-stuff. Very few English folk have ever heard of it! I believe the soldiers somehow came from A. A. Milne’s ‘Changing of the Guard’ – with Alice.

    FOI 1ac CRINGEWORTHY – a bit too obvious to be COD

    LOI 22dn WORLD – Lib-Lab it’s all a long time ago

    COD 2d IDENTICAL TWINS – I am a fraternal twin – my brother is better looking than me.


    Time unrecorded so about an hour.

    Edited at 2021-09-26 09:35 am (UTC)

      1. Someone has just bought my avatar sketch, from the artist in London, for a handsome load of wonga! See you next week!
        1. 1. Wonderful news
          2. Was the purchaser your twin? He could have just taken a selfie. Bruce Chatfield wrote a novel about it ‘On the Black Hill’.
          1. My twin only buys aboriginal art- he has quite a collection. (I did note we are fraternal twins (not zygotic) so a selfie was just not on!
            The purchaser was one Malcolm Gluck of ‘Glug-Glug-Glug’ fame. This masterpiece is already hanging on the wall of his guest toilet! Life can be so very cruel!

            Edited at 2021-09-26 05:32 pm (UTC)

  13. Dean Mayer at his best: tricky, sneaky, clever, whimsical. FOI FETA, the final clue at 23d after a fruitless first and second pass. LOI, approx two head-scratching hours later, ANIMA at 10ac. Phew. Particularly liked IDENTICAL TWINS. Don’t think this novice has ever encountered SHUFTI in a crossword before! Busy for police only remembered from Brookside… Haven’t figured out the “how” of RAINFOREST or CRINGEWORTHY. Thanks, blogger, and Dean, of course. Thoroughly enjoyable.
  14. 19:13 but for some reason I put in WHITE HARTE, which really is exceptionally dumb.
    In 12ac I wonder if ‘most of’ is supposed to apply to both ‘the’ and ‘rent’, to give THe, RIVEn.
    1. Hmm… I think that would be quite odd, since the first word that is not quite all there in the answer is all there in the clue, but the second one is utterly absent. And the clue doesn’t seem to ask for more than one extraction. Wish Dean had deigned to say something about this.

      Edited at 2021-09-26 02:18 pm (UTC)

  15. L for Labour: strictly wrong, and I should have noticed, though it turns out that even L=Liberal is something that’s crept into blocked grid xwds from a Chambers definition – Collins and Oxford don’t have it.

    Soldiers: the 1996 use is the oldest example in the OED, and I can’t find anything earlier in a Google Books search for “egg soldiers toast”.

      1. I’m happy to believe that it was in earlier editions, but I can’t see this in my 2008 print copy of the revised 11th edition, or the iPad version which I believe is more up-to-date.
        1. I wonder if we’re at cross purposes? My Shorter Oxford is the 6th edition published in 2007 and I can’t find trace of any subsequent updates, let alone 5 to get to the 11th.
          1. “Cross purposes” seems a very polite version of “read more carefully Peter!”, or “‘shorter’ does not mean the same as ‘concise’ when it’s a dictionary name”.

            The SOED is a great dictionary, but I don’t think blocked grid crossword solvers should ever need to use it.

            1. I often get confused by the names of Oxford Dictionaries as there have been many versions with similar titles over the years.
  16. 52.41. It took me ages but I thought this was a brilliant puzzle. Citizen’s arrest the pick of a high quality bunch for me.
    1. Our parsing as well.

      BTW We are the former “anonymous” Jan and Tom, Toronto. I setup this a/c in 2006 and have finally found out how to access it.

  17. Apart from the two little booboos, I thought this was wonderful stuff. Thanks to Guy for unravelling RAINFOREST.
  18. Thanks Dean and guy
    Found this tough going last weekend, taking over 2 hours across most of the Saturday. Had no idea about the parsing of RAINFOREST, although in hindsight was familiar with the term ‘veg out’ – it just didn’t twig at the time. ‘Busy’ as a term for a policeman was new though.
    Enjoyed the rest of the clues, marvelling at how much he can pack into them. BREATHING tickled my fancy as well as that RAINFOREST when it was explained.
    Finished in the NW corner with NOTIFIED, GOT OFF and WHITE EARTH as the last few in.

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