Sunday Times Cryptic 4975, by David McLean — just business

I hope someone out there enjoyed this more than I did. Aside from a few clues—notably 7, with its smooth and very apt surface, and 19, which pointedly alludes to and whose entire surface could also be about a certain young Nobel Prize nominee—this seemed rather a slog, which I dutifully completed, duly noting my reflections, reported below.

I indicate (Mara sang)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Jellyfish or hawks? (3-2-3)
MEN-OF-WAR — The aquatic creature is also and seemingly more commonly known as the Portuguese man o’ war—sans hyphens, of which the belligerents in the wordplay are also properly divested.
 5 It’s a mark of success (4)
TICK — CD …but not so very cryptic. Lexico: “mainly British A mark (✓) used to indicate that an item in a list or text is correct or has been chosen, checked, or dealt with; a check mark.” I erroneously remembered this clue as ending with a question mark, as a ✓ can mean things besides “success”—such as, “Remember to look over this clue again.”
 8 Continue to haul box full of goods (6)
CARTON — CART ON, “Continue to haul” …First I was looking for a word with two Gs in it.
 9 Dominate a match in which one appears to be falling apart (6-2)
BEATEN-UP — BE TEN UP, with A, “one” inserted
10 Swear about American soprano (4)
CUSS — C(irca), “about” + US + S …I’m not sure I’d ever seen S as an abbrev. for “soprano” before.
11 Voters tolerate changes around city (10)
ELECTORATE — (tolerate)* with EC (Eastern Central postcode area), the “city” lying within
12 Trousers for some changing gear? (5,7)
16 University course (5,7)
SAINT ANDREWS — Both the eponymous school and the world’s oldest and no doubt most famous golf course (never heard of it) are found in this town on the west coast of Fife, Scotland. Will wonders never cease. Meh
18 Platinum ten thieves melted down (10)
SEVENTIETH — (ten thieves)* …referring not to the atomic number (which is 78) but to the tradition for anniversary gifts. Kudos for the anagrind.
20 Cat eats old carp (4)
21 Servant kept making daughter run (8)
RETAINER — RETAINE[-d]R: “kept” with the final D(aughter) replaced by R(un). Ho-hum
22 Nothing’s flipping just business (6)
AFFAIR — FA, “(sweet) Fanny Adams“ or “Nothing” <=“flipping” + FAIR, “just” …If you don’t know the provenance of the first part, you can look up the Wikipedia page. Fair warning: I won’t be held responsible for your having nightmares.
23 Confectioner in Gateshead (4)
ATES — Hidden. Well, it had to be, didn’t it? But I couldn’t really see it. Finally found a reference, albeit a bit indirect, to one of our accepted sources. The Free Dictionary online cites Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. 12th Edition 2014: n. a shop that sells confectionery.
24 Singer looking about 50 (8)

 1 Bill has small hands etc (8)
MEASURES — MEASURE, “Bill” + S(mall) …I don’t like this kind of clue: mostly a perfectly good noncryptic definition, but given as singular just so a wordplay element is needed to make it plural, and then you must have another definition. But at least the second def. is totally different from the first.
 2 Wind? Wasn’t our lot! (5)
…the ones who smelt it…
NOTUS — NOT US! Pretty simple, especially if you know the name of the old Greek god of the southern wind—which I didn’t, but am glad to learn.
 3 Digital art (6,8)
 4 Walker without jacket on walk (5)
AMBLE — [-r]AMBLE[-r] …I found this clue (excuse me) lame. “Ambler,” of course, also means “walker”—but then you couldn’t take off the jacket but only… the foot? In effect, you’re hit over the head here with the definition: It’s walk, see, walk!
 5 Hire store will founder, I suppose (9)
THEORISER — (Hire store)* Never heard of a “Hire store.” Have you?
 6 Surly conservative needing a brush-up? (6)
CRUSTY — C(onservative) + RUSTY, “needing a brush-up”—as in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”
 7 Dream offered by a chain letter is dodgy (6,2,3,3)
CASTLE IN THE AIR — (a chain letter is)*
13 Passages from law essay I misread (9)
AISLEWAYS — (law essay I)*
14 In the evening, drop of plonk (3)
SET — DD My LOI. I finally saw it… we say the sun SETs “In the evening” as it drops below the horizon. (Though, of course, the moon might SET at any hour, depending on the time of month, not to mention any of the visible planets.)
15 Son in undertaking (8)
SWEARING — S(on) + WEARING, “in” The only thing that makes this hard is the definition, but Collins (if nowhere else that I can find) indicates that “undertake” (“I undertake to finish this blog entry”) can be synonymous with “vow” or SWEAR.
17 Fix that a late don might be in? (6)
CEMENT — Gangster joke
19 English eco-activist not a high-flyer (5)
EGRET — E(nglish) + GRET[-a] …The airline-eschewing Ms. Thunberg was passed over for the Nobel again this year, but she really didn’t expect to get it (as she told The Nation when interviewed for a piece that will post Tuesday morning).
20 Some sit fuming about legal expert (5)
MUFTI — Hidden, reversed That’s an authority in Muslim religious law.

40 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4975, by David McLean — just business”

  1. Thanks, Guy. I agree with your headline: “Just Business”.
    Thank you for BEATEN UP, ATES and EGRET.
    That’s all she wrote, folks.
  2. Over an hour. I thought this was fine, with the exception of the ‘In the evening, drop’ wordplay for SET, and the obscure (= I’ve never heard of it) ATES which went in from crossers and wordplay. I didn’t know PEDAL PUSHERS as ‘Trousers’ either – ? a double def cum cd – and MEASURE wasn’t the first word to come to mind for ‘Bill’. I missed the cleverness of the clue for EGRET.

    The surface for yet another unknown in NOTUS was my pick. The name of one more cruciverbal ‘Wind’ to learn and just as quickly to forget.

    Harder than usual for this setter + his alter egos. Thanks to him and to Guy

  3. I think 23a ATES, Goddess of mischief and delusion, was a confectioner in the sense of being a liar. I struggled with this one until I cemented the mafia don in 17d. I considered MARS as the confectioner, but even if based in Gateshead it wouldn’t be cryptic.
    Last in was SET, which was just plonked in without conviction. What’s the ‘of’ doing in the clue? I was looking to remove the letters O&F from a word meaning ‘evening’
    1. Interesting hypothesis, and I might have considered the troublemaking deity eventually—in my desperation—if I hadn’t found the unmistakable definition from Collins, which I don’t think has any connection with Greek mythology. But “confectioner” / liar seems to understate the resources of the goddess, and Gateshead is nowhere near the Aegean Sea.

      Edited at 2021-10-10 04:23 am (UTC)

  4. Finished in 38 minutes with many heroic assumptions, such as the Mafia leader being encased in CEMENT before being sent to a watery grave a la Billy Bathgate. I biffed BEATEN-UP at first and parsed it later. It’s become my COD. I did parse SET at the time but still was doubtful. I’ve not heard of ATES but it had to be a hidden or else I’d nowhere else to run. This also applied to the NOTUS windy God. Hire stores or shops in the UK do just what they say, hiring out to you a piece of equipment you may only need the once, be it a power tool or a tent. Tricky stuff. Thank you. David and Dean.
  5. I gave up on this one and resorted to aids with 5 answers outstanding that I won’t bother to detail here as I wasted far too much time on the puzzle to the point of becoming fed up with the whole thing. I was getting too many answers I was unable to parse or didn’t understand for one reason or another.

    I can confirm that ATES is indeed in Collins 12th edition as I have a printed copy. Unfortunately it gives no indication of its origin as that might have explained why it did not appear in the 9th edition (2009) or 10th (2010). It’s also the first occasion I can recall in which a word in the 12th edition (the latest in my collection) does not also appear in the on-line dictionary.

    This is all I could find on-line but I’m not sure it has any bearing as it seems a bit of a stretch:

    The Ates – Mexican Candy

    Originating in the Middle East, this was brought to Mexico from Spain, since they knew about this dessert from the Arabs. The original recipe dates back to colonial times and it’s based on the traditional quince candy from Spain. The difference is that in Mexico it can be made of several fruits like tejocotes, plums, guavas or apples.

    In 1595, Dominican Nuns arrived in Morelia (back then named Valladolid) and remained there until 1738. The nuns used to cook the mixture of fruit and sugar cane in the harvest season along with other fruity desserts. That was the beginning of local candies named “Ates” , since the mixture was named from the fruit that includes “membrillate” (quince) “guayabate” (guava) or “manzanate” (apple) all those names ending the same three letters ATE that became a generic word for the candy.

    Even if that’s it, another leap is required for the word to become a generic name for a confectionery store that’s listed in an English dictionary!

    Edited at 2021-10-10 05:23 am (UTC)

    1. The latest of Collins is the 13th, which is presumably what the online edition reflects, so perhaps it was taken out again.
      1. Interesting. I wasn’t aware that Collins drops words. I know the one-volume ODE does as it’s used for Countdown and Susie Dent often disallows what to me are everyday words that for one reason or another have been excluded with the passing of time. Perhaps the setter would care to explain where he dredged ATES up from.

        I believe you have access to the multi-volume OED, which I don’t any more. Is it in there?

        1. It isn’t in the OED.
          Almost all dictionaries drop words, otherwise they would keep getting bigger and bigger!
  6. Shame that a crossword with some good clues such as the anagrams is let down by an awful clue like ATES. Why didn’t David reset the grid and put in a different word?
  7. 4dn is (r)AMBLE(r). A write-in for me, being one.

    Not keen on ATES, i confess. Better clues were available ..

    Edited at 2021-10-10 07:18 am (UTC)

    1. That’s what I have. I marked it as in my subject line.

      Edited at 2021-10-10 07:22 am (UTC)

        1. I felt that the fact that a subtraction from “ambler” would give the same result, and the context being clearly pedestrian ambulation and not some clever distraction by reference to verbally going on and on as I’m about to made the choice of “rambler” instead sort of wasted and the clue only more obvious, as if it could be such. “Rambler” allows the wordplay of removing the “jacket,” whereas with “ambler,” you might remove a foot, is what I said.

          Edited at 2021-10-10 07:31 am (UTC)

  8. This took me a long time. There were some excellent clues but, as stated above, a couple were a bit of a let down. I got ATES because nothing else would parse or fit. MY LOI was 14d and I have written SET next to the clue but SIT in the crossword. I never did work that one out. Plonk yourself down = Sit your self down?
  9. Around an hour start to finish. FOI 1ac MEN-OF-WAR, and onward to LOI 23ac ATES, which I can see is within Gateshead but I didn’t understand how it related to confectioner. Similarly 20d, I didn’t get the logic of MUFTI, nor 14d SET, which was frustrating. Done, though. Enjoyed? I suppose so; it’s always satisfying to see all squares filled. Thanks to blogger and all other posters above for the insights.

    Edited at 2021-10-10 08:29 am (UTC)

  10. 1A: man-of-war is hyphenated in Chambers, Collins, ODE and my iPad Merriam-Webster, for both the soldier and (in Collins) the jellyfish, or strictly speaking, “complex colonial hydrozoan”

    5A: A tick/check mark meaning anything other than success is news to me. On any solving copy of an ST crossword it means “this clue is OK and need not be looked at again”.

    10A S=Soprano slipped through the editorial net. Easy enough for someone who has sung in a choir (in which SATB often represents the four parts), but not in either of our reference dictionaries (unlike the ODE’s “Svedberg unit” or “(in mathematical formulae) distance”, both of which I’m hoping not to see).

    23A: ATES is very puzzling. It’s in my iPad version of Collins along with the print one, but I can’t find any convincing real-life usage anywhere

    14D: One commenter has mentioned SIT=“plonk” as a possibility. The “in the evening” part was intended to make SET a clearly better answer

    15D: undertake: the four dictionaries mentioned for 1A all have “undertake” defined as “promise” or something amounting to it

    1. Soprano = S has been used before in ST puzzles. Without trying too hard I found two examples in 4741 (Apr 2017) and 4810 (Aug 2018) both set by David M. I don’t have a problem with it, whether or not it’s in the dictionaries.

      I note it’s in the American English section of Collins online and also in Chambers (printed and free online version).

      Edited at 2021-10-10 10:02 am (UTC)

      1. Maybe I’ll add SATB to my “real life usage” exception list that currently just has Y=yes and N=no.
    2. The jellyfish is indeed also hyphenated in some online sources (and even “man-o’-war” in at least one), but the only “man-of-war” that has dictionary status besides the fish (which M-W and Collins have as “man-of-war fish”) is the warship, not the warmongers (“hawks” referring most usually to politicians or others advocating armed conflict).

      That would be your solving copy’s TICKs, not those of the puzzles I regularly get sent by a friend requesting explanations! The definition I cited gives more possibilities for the meaning of a TICK.

      I am still very curious about the derivation of ATES, and even starting to suspect that in that lone edition of Collins it was a fictitious entry meant as a copyright trap.

      Edited at 2021-10-10 12:48 pm (UTC)

      1. The non-jellyfish sense is indeed hyphenated in some online sources (and even “man-o’-war” is in at least one), but the only ETC.

        Edited at 2021-10-10 01:24 pm (UTC)

      2. It does seem extremely odd that it was in that edition alone, without appearing in any previous edition, or the current one.
        1. FWIW, the shop definition of ates is in my print copy of the 2018 13th edition of Collins E D, which is the most recent print copy AFAIK.
          1. Curiouser and curiouser. The online dictionary is in most aspects a replica of the printed version. This usage is not in any other dictionary – including the full OED – other than The Free Dictionary, which in turn refers to Collins. As far as I can tell no-one has been able to find a single instance of this word being used in the wild.

            Edited at 2021-10-10 02:16 pm (UTC)

        2. As a footnote, I took the opportunity when playing Scrabble online this morning to make the word ATES. In the version I have, you can click on a word after it has been played to find out what it means, and it came up with ‘reckless ambition that drives one to ruin’. I don’t recall seeing that in any of the usual sources when researching the word earlier. Perhaps David would like to remember that for another time!
        1. My friend Judy uses a TICK to choose which clues she will ask me to explain in Out of Left Field puzzles that I have already worked before they were published.

          Edited at 2021-10-10 02:44 pm (UTC)

  11. ….I found this a very odd puzzle. In fact I ATED it.

    Nothing to add otherwise. COD CEMENT when I finally parsed it afterwards.

    I’ve never seen ST.ANDREWS written out in full.

  12. Took me a long time to see PEDAL PUSHERS. ATES went in last purely because it appeared as a hidden(I half expected it to be wrong), and I’m a North Easterner who spent many hours wandering around Gateshead in working and leisure capacities. I used to park in that car park that Alf Roberts fell off in Get Carter! MEN-OF-WAR was FOI. NOTUS went in from wordplay. 31:04. Thanks Harry and Guy.
  13. Hiya all,

    New ST solver and first time here.

    Got stuck on 23a and 17d and appreciate the help here …. although agree with others …. the only online reference to ATES that I could find was something about Phillipine aunties!

    Anyway, I’m puzzled about 20a which I pencilled in without knowing how Cat equates to Man. Can someone help me out please?

    1. Oldish slang: OED has “mainly North American informal (especially among jazz enthusiasts) a man”. I thought “hep cats” were around in the 1950s but some online coverage suggests the 1940s
  14. DNF. I saw that 23ac might be a hidden but couldn’t quite believe it, so I checked in the usual dictionaries and discounted it when I found it wasn’t in any of them. I considered MARS but couldn’t justify it in any way other than the definition so I gave up.
  15. I quite enjoyed this one, despite struggling on a number of clues which took me past the hour. Put in ATES without an idea of what was going on, but it had to be. I liked the two long clues. Thanks Guy and Mr McLean.
  16. Just did this in the Weekend Aus, so possibly this is too far in the past now for other readers.
    Long time lurker and relative but improving novice, I think we’ve all missed 14 Down and what is going on.

    I believe the “evening” part is not night time at all rather describing the process of making 2 things even.
    So “In the evening, drop of plonk”……….evening is “ofset” drop the “of” and you are left with set for Plonk.

    Of course Offset is spelled with a double “f”

    So maybe the clue should read “In the evening, drop off plonk”

    1. Whatever beliefs you might hold, however fervently, the editor has already commented on this clue, in this thread, and that, even more than my or anyone else’s opinion of it, invalidates your inspired theory.

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