Sunday Times Cryptic 4983, by Robert Price — One more cup of coffee

…and I still didn’t finish this on Saturday night (it wasn’t a 3). As the remaining answers dawned the next day, I had to ask myself why this had seemed the most difficult of Bob’s puzzles I’d yet encountered. Some of the surfaces appear more elaborate, more worked-over than usual, and harder to get a clear (even if misleading) picture from (21, I’m looking at you).

Coffee and cake. I’ve never had a 14, but at the Thanksgiving feast, one guest’s candle-topped birthday confection was actually the famous spotted dick (splashed with the de rigueur custard sauce), whose name occasioned much merriment among my high-minded friends.

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

 1 Remove the manual from co-driver? (8)
AUTOMATE — AUTO MATE …Ha! The term “co-driver” has more currency than I realized, and this seemed an inauspicious start—so I didn’t work the NW until last, and here I discovered that the wit was hidden in the answer, rather than displayed up front in the clue.
 5 Opera beginning to look average (6)
NORMAL — NORMA, “Opera” often referred to here + L[-ook]
 9 Job easily done at home, firm admits (8)
So why not let us telecommute permanently?
10 Ruler of China erodes another’s borders (6)
CAESAR — C[-hin]A + E[-rode]S + A[-nothe]R …Brilliant!
12 Sounded or rather sound like an animal (5)
NEIGH — “Nay,” or “or rather” (as in Shelley’s “Men of England”: “Drain your sweat—nay, drink your blood?”) …As it happens, “Nay” is also clued “Or rather” in today’s Sunday (28 November) New York Times non-cryptic.
13 Timely work left by a Parisian (9)
OPPORTUNE — OP, “work” + PORT, “left” + UNE, “a” in French …My FOI, just leapt out at me at first glance.
14 Small caterers working with hot cakes (12)
SACHERTORTES — S(mall) + (caterers + hot)* …Invented by one Franz Sacher, supposedly in Vienna in 1832 for Prince Metternich. My LOI.
18 More nuts in his hoard, arranged as piles (12)
Doesn’t this squirrel seem a little… anal?
HAEMORRHOIDS — Ouch! Inside (his hoard)* we find (More)*—two anagrinds!
21 Final contribution to a score draw by the short outside left (9)
TWENTIETH — TIE, “draw” + TH[-e] with, inside them, WENT, “left”
23 Something one could play by oneself (5)
APART — A PART, a role
24 Free case dropped off by wine shop (6)
REPORT — [-f]RE[-e] + PORT, “wine”; “shop” in the sense of ratting on someone, turning them in to the authorities
25 Absorbed by dance music, zip about feeling giddy (8)
SWOONING — SW(O, or 0, “zip”)(ON, “about”)ING
26 Hard nut picked for games master we hear (6)
CONKER — “conquer”
27 Where things put out for disposal might be tipped? (8)
ASHTRAYS — CD, playing on two senses of “put out”

 1 Green light and how it was transmitted (6)
ASSENT — AS SENT …Well, of course. Why did this take me so long?
 2 Chemical processing hides missing gallons (6)
 3 Host introducing a type of seed to coffee (9)
MACCHIATO — M(A)C + CHIA, “type of seed” + TO, “to”
 4 De-tailed fish dish shows manifold improvement? (12)
TURBOCHARGER — TURBO[-t] + CHARGER, “dish” + a slightly cryptic definition by way of automotive lingo, a “manifold” being (Collins) “a pipe with one inlet and several outlets or with one outlet and several inlets, for connecting with other pipes, as, in an automobile, for conducting exhausts from each cylinder into a single exhaust pipe” (I don’t drive!) …My POI, but should’ve seen it sooner!
 6 Training not needed in outside broadcasting (2-3)
ON-AIR — O[-pe]N AIR, PE being “physical education” (and sometimes we have PT, literally “physical training”) …I had this answer early on, but refused to put it down until I could see how the clue worked. Seems obvious now though!
 7 Fly low with nobody on board (8)
MOSQUITO — MO(SQUIT)O …Wrote this in as soon as I saw MOO = “low” but had to check SQUIT, pejorative British slang that must have come up here at least once in my time.
 8 Picked up capital from Spain’s generosity (8)
LARGESSE — “Large S”
11 More than one bird box line sells door to door (12)
SPARROWHAWKS — SPAR, “box” + ROW, “line” + HAWKS, “sells door to door”
15 I can’t fit in a clue for “amount” (3,3,3)
ODD MAN OUT — Reverse anagram! ODD is the anagrind, “MAN OUT” the anagrist.
16 Oratory of MAs leaving choirmaster confused (8)
RHETORIC — (choirmaster)*
17 Play safe and sleep over (5,3)
PETER PAN — PETER, “safe” + NAP<=“over” …Says here, “In crosswordland, the most famous Peter is probably Biddlecombe. The second most famous must be ‘safe’.” But the discussion of its derivation linked on that page offers no definitive answer. “Peterman” for a safecracker can also be “peteman,” according to Collins, which source sounds quite sure of itself: “1805–15; peter a safe or cash box, orig. a portmanteau or trunk, as an object to be stolen or rifled (of obscure orig.) + -man”
19 Plate of lamb for one that’s upset (6)
LAMINA — ANIMAL<=“upset”
20 Beastly male excesses, hollow legs! (6)
STAGES — STAG, “beastly male” + E[-xcesse]S
22 Writer’s epigram, not entirely to the point (5)
TERSE — Hidden

35 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4983, by Robert Price — One more cup of coffee”

  1. This took me a long time, and I see I never parsed a couple completely. DNK MACCHIATO or CHIA. Like Guy, DNK SQUIT (although I knew ‘the squits’, which reinforced my inference that it meant ‘nobody’). Liked PETER PAN and (COD) ODD MAN OUT.
  2. Brilliant crossword. Great clueing and wonderful surfaces. Spoilt for me by guessing wrongly in 4d – would it end in R,S or D? I picked S as it seemed most likely given I was looking for something meaning ‘shows manifold improvement’, and I still don’t see how dish = charger.
    I certainly wasn’t turbocharged. I was fuel-injected( solving after breakfast) and firing on all cylinders, but still took 54:27 with the engine pinking.
    1. Y’know, I was just asking myself if I should’ve have glossed that. I know this sense only from these crosswords. If it comes up again, we’ll see who hasn’t read the comments.
      From Collins:
      charger | in British English | antiques | a large dish for serving at table or for display

      Edited at 2021-12-05 01:35 am (UTC)

      1. Thanks for that Guy. Perhaps I should watch “Antiques Roadshow” but I can’t bear it.

        Edited at 2021-12-05 01:20 pm (UTC)

  3. 14ac SACHERTORTES the Viennese cake was my long awaited LOI which I am not sure I have partaken of.

    FOI 3dn MACCHIATO an espresso with a little bit of milk to go with it.

    COD 4dn TURBOCHARGER -manifold improvement!

    WOD 26ac CONKER the inedible nut of the magnificent horse chestnut tree. It is used by English schoolboys of yore for autumnal fights – “conkers” or “kingers”. The conker is threaded with a string and then bashed in alternate ‘goes’ of three – the winner being the one who ‘busts’ the other’s first. ‘Vinegered’ or ‘baked’ conkers are considered foul play. Winning examples are known as ‘oners’, twoers’ etc rarely does one become a ‘tenner’. The first recorded game of ‘conkers’ was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. It was modelled on a 15th century game played with hazelnuts – known as cobnuts.

    This took quite a time and I do not appear to be the 15dn

  4. ….according to my notes; and I had to use (several) aids. Total time: 2hrs 01m 50s. Gloom.
    Thank you, Guy, for ASSENT, CAESAR, LAMINA and TURBOCHARGER.
    I should have solved TERSE, APART and REPORT much sooner than I did.
    In 27ac, the clue had me looking for a type of restaurant. “things put out for disposal” meant ‘meals’ to me; and “might be tipped” meant a tip you leave for a waiter.
    Guy, I’ve had SACHERTORTE in the Hotel Sacher in Vienna and it was lovely.
  5. 67 very enjoyable minutes. It was hard but I never felt I was not going to solve it all. I missed two parsings – the unknown CHIA and I always forget zip = 0.

    No problems with CHARGER as a big dish.

  6. 85 minutes, finishing with TURBOCHARGER, having checked that a charger is a dish. MACCHIATO was a biff as I didn’t know the seed despite them having superfood status and their own futures market. I had the wrong anagram fodder for SACHERTORTES, and that took ages, even though we were sitting in the Cafe Sacher in Vienna eating the said dish a couple of years ago. COD to ODD MAN OUT. I was once asked why a Lancastrian in London is like a HAEMORRHOID. Apparently, he’s Ok if he goes back up but a pain in the arse if he stays down. Great puzzle, whatever Robert was on. Thanks to Guy and him.

    Edited at 2021-12-05 07:32 am (UTC)

  7. “peter” meaning “safe”: OED says “probably alluding to the identification of St Peter as the holder of the keys to heaven”.

    Another recommendation for the torte – ideally served “mit schlag” – with whipped cream.

    Extra shade of meaning in 27A: cigarettes can be “tipped” (equipped with a filter, traditionally given the appearance of the cork they were once made of), or “untipped”.

    1. We had la crème chantilly aussi—with the spotted dick, that is. An embarrassment of riches.

      I’d certainly heard of “filter-tipped” cigs, but not “tipped” tout court for that.

      Edited at 2021-12-05 07:45 am (UTC)

    2. My Dad worked for Gallaher’s Tobacco for 35 years, and I know from occasionally helping him collate sales figures that some brands of cigarettes (Park Drive maybe ?) could be sold as plain, cork tipped, or filter tipped — so I suspect there was a subtle difference between the two types of tip.

      Dad got through 40 cigarettes a day (he probably actually smoked 30 as a lot burned away in his ASHTRAY) and died at 81 from a drinker’s disease despite barely touching alcohol.

      I never bothered much with ciggies, but enjoyed a small cigar until I could no longer smoke in the cab. I quite simply stopped.

      Edited at 2021-12-05 09:54 am (UTC)

  8. This took mental gymnastics that challenged this novice. FOI 6d ON AIR, LOI 24ac REPORT. Relieved to pass the HAEMORRHOIDS spelling test, the most impressive anagram I’ve ever seen! Liked the sneakiness of 21ac, one of many clever clues here. Some biffing – eg 12ac, 1d. This blog required for explanations. An enjoyable – oh, two hours? So hardly speedy but got there in the end.
    1. On a crossword of this high standard, that is still an impressive performance for a novice. You’re clearly cut out for this rewarding pastime.
  9. This required a turbocharge, even though I knew Sachertortes it was my LOI. COD TIPPED – for fags was it not – “tipped or plain?” when purchasing Park Drive etc? Bit of a puzzle!

  10. Excellent crossword at the tough end of the spectrum. Loved ‘remove the manual’, TWENTIETH and ‘manifold improvement’.
  11. ….and I was fortunate in knowing what a charger was in its tableware sense. I biffed TWENTIETH, ON-AIR, and NEIGH — the first two parsed later, but the last explained by a friend, as DNK ‘nay = or rather’.

    It took me a fair while to rumble SACHERTORTE, not helped by thinking wrongly that it was two words.

    At the end, I needed to back out and correct ‘repeal’ at 24A before I could get my LOI.

    Besides my COD, I particularly liked the uncomfortable anal affliction (enhanced by Bolton Wanderer’s joke), the smoker’s accessories, and J.M.Barrie’s little boy who never grew up.

    A superb puzzle, though I do hope Mr.Price will turn it down just a notch or two next time !

    TIME 20:18

  12. Very tough from Robert but I recorded a same day finish -8.15pm per my notes.
    LARGESSE was FOI, an excellent clue.
    Very late in were NEIGH with parsing unclear and MACCHIATO. This was laboriously worked out; then I remembered I have had chia on my porage.
    LOI was LAMINA. I could not justify PATINA so I had another look; just as well.
    Good puzzle for a cold and wet winter day.

    Edited at 2021-12-05 10:10 am (UTC)

      1. We have two brands in the house: Scott’s Porage and Quaker porridge oats. Spelling as per the boxes. As ever, you pays your money …
        1. Scott’s is owned by Quaker and the word ‘Porage’ is a trade name invented by their marketing department in order to further differentiate it from other brands. Thus it doesn’t pass the Scrabble Test. Chias!

          Edited at 2021-12-05 04:18 pm (UTC)

  13. 31:09. Very tough indeed but also highly enjoyable. Nothing obscure from my perspective though, so the difficulty all came from devious clueing, which is how I like it.
    Thanks to Bob for a superb puzzle, but let’s not have them like this every week, eh?
  14. Same experience as others. Wasn’t Dean Mayer the week before? Finished with all in after 69 minutes, though with several unparsed, eg MOSQUITO.

    Lots of great clues, but seeing ASHTRAYS was my favourite and made the struggle worth it.

    A big thanks to setter for an excellent (and hard) Sunday puzzle and to Guy for the blog

  15. Enjoyed this one. Finished in just over the hour with a good deal of time working on the clues for AUTOMATE, MACCHIATTO, TURBOCHARGER and NEIGH. All good stuff. I really liked all of the above as well as LARGESSE, STAGES, REPORT and ASHTRAYS.

    I remember cork tipped cigs very well. Luckily gave up in time to save my health! I hope….

    Thank you Guy and Mr Price.

  16. Top class clueing from Robert as ever… though I don’t think neigh = “nay” = “or rather.”
    Nay = no, plain and simple. No preferences implied. “Or rather” is different.
    1. Take it up with Shelley—or with Lexico, which has as the first definition (in UK English):
      Or rather (used to emphasize a more appropriate word than one just used)
      ‘permission to build the superstore will take months, nay years’
        1. It clearly depends on how it’s used.
          I gotta hand it to you, though. It takes a lot of nerve—nay, chutzpah—to argue with Oxford Dictionaries.
          1. I am not arguing with the Oxford English Dictionary, apparently. As for lexico, I couldn’t say.
  17. I think of Robert’s puzzles as brilliantly clued but not all that difficult. But with this one, only the first of those was true. I struggled (but got there in the end) I think in two sittings.
  18. Thanks Robert and guy
    Tough – for all of the right reasons, just very clever misdirection of key words in the clues. Started off by seeing the subtraction anagram for RHETORIC and then battled away for just under two hours of solve time across five sessions over a day and a half.
    Loved the penny drop moments of AUTOMATE and TWENTIETH. Took a while to work out why ON AIR (similar to the blog, it was one of the first answers to come – but had to justify it before writing it in).
    Finished in the SE corner with ASHTRAYS (with it’s clever play on ‘put out’ and ‘tipped’), APART (not sure why it was among the last) and LAMINA (where I went down the PATINA path, couldn’t parse it and went back to the drawing board, fortunately).

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