Sunday Times Cryptic 4993, by David McLean — Olympics-level performance?

Well, out of 10, I’d give it a 7.5, at least. Maybe an 8.
Slick surfaces, indeed.
On which we see pattern dances, arabesques, backflips.
And these always end with a solid two-footed landing.
There are also a couple familiar routines and at least one ostensible CD that leaves something to be desired… But enjoyable enough overall.
What do the other judges think?

I indicate (G-man Sara)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

1 Part of dinner? Moan if there’s no second helping (4)
WINE — W[-h]INE …This was my LOI! Bite? Rice? Side?… Aha!
4 Bird of prey? (4-6)
GOLD-DIGGER — CD …Presumably this type of predator is typically female (and “bird” might hint that this clue is written from a male point of view), but there is much countervailing evidence—such as this Forbes article from 2015.
9 Persons taking up a pattern-making pastime (6,7)
FIGURE SKATING — FIGURES, “persons” + (taking)* …(The scoring of the sport these days is rather complicated.)
10 Mistakes flipping happen, Judas admitted (6)
Shouldn’t have taken that silver?
ERRATA — ARE, “happen” runs backward with RAT, “Judas” inside
11 I needn’t put off acquiring hotel ultimately (2,3,3)
IN THE END — (I needn’t +H)*
12 Lab helping to solve problems of blindness? (5,3)
14 Red warbler leaving sierra for good (6)
GINGER — “Singer” replacing S(ierra) with G(ood)
15 Unopened book about one more highly-strung (6)
17 Guilt and sin maddened one speaking in tongues (8)
LINGUIST — (guilt + sin)*
19 Forecasters announcing gains for businesses (8)
PROPHETS — “profits”
21 Tired and shivering, say, heading off to Balmoral? (3,3)
OLD HAT — [c]OLD, “shivering” + a DBE for the bonnet
23 One ringing a felon on an enforced curfew? (10,3)
ELECTRONIC TAG — CD …not very C, though.
24 Cops report reckless person in a rush, perhaps (10)
PROSPECTOR — (cops report)*… the most famous “rush” being the American Gold Rush of (1848–55)
25 Animals which can be seen in acts (4)
DOES — DD, with some very non-Ximenean connective tissue

 2 Sure to get quartered out of university (2,3)
 3 Nurse overlooks secretory organ that’s in a state (7)
ENGLAND — EN, “(Enrolled) Nurse” + GLAND, “secretory organ”… again with the connective tissue, which seems a bit awkward here
 4 European embarrassed about making a bloomer (9)
GERMANDER — GERMAN, “European” + RED<=“about” …We had this word quite recently, Quick Cryptic 2064, Feb. 4 (Berliner for one rejected colourful herb).
 5 Police operation tailing short criminal is persistent (7)
LASTING — LA[-g], “short criminal” + STING, “Police operation”
 6 One leading royal appearing in silly sketch (5)
DRAFT — D(R[-oyal])AFT
 7 Old coin found by North African (7)
GUINEAN — GUINEA + N …I saw this clued the same way in another crossword just the other day… but apparently it wasn’t one of ours.
 8 American drivers in rigs (9)
ENGINEERS — DD, those who drive locomotives in the USA being the first one, the noun
13 Foreign articles on sport seen as pants, perhaps (9)
UNDERWEAR — “Foreign articles” UN and DER + WEAR, “sport”
14 One rowing couple on an Italian honeymoon? (9)
GONDOLIER — CD …I wrote: I can’t see anything here but a noncryptic definition (a bit by example, hence the “?”). Merely dropping the indefinite article before “couple” doesn’t make the phrase cryptic. Maybe I’m missing something… a hidden bit of Venetian argot in désuet Italian? Pete explains below. Not that you’ll need it. Ha.
16 Admission from hack about their work stress (7)
17 Physically attack oaf who’s a tree-hugger (4,3)
18 You, on drop of plonk, went out refreshed (7)
UPDATED — U, “You” + P[-lonk] + DATED, “went out”
20 Some felt tense backing Sturgeon’s plan (5)
ETTLE — Reverse hidden, Scottish (hence the place name) …NHO
22 Side of fish (5)
ANGLE — DD, the first the sense of an aspect of something or a point of view on it and the second the verb meaning to try to catch those critters

28 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 4993, by David McLean — Olympics-level performance?”

  1. The hope in 14D (and a reason for no definite article) was that the solver would think of the “have an argument” sense of “row”.
    1. Ha! That never (obviously) entered my mind. How sad, for newlyweds to be fighting!

      But it does take two to row, in that sense, and I’d think the most natural phrasing would be “A rowing couple” (or “A couple rowing…”), which wouldn’t, of course, work here. I immediately took “One” to be part of the definition.
      Actually, I had the G and I think the N and didn’t even have to read after “One rowing” to see the answer.

      “Rowing” in this sense is something I only seem to come across in crosswords. It’s quite rare to hear it.

      Edited at 2022-02-13 02:39 am (UTC)

  2. NHO ETTLE, and had no idea what Sturgeon was doing; but I actually saw the hidden, so wotthehell. I had the same reaction to GONDOLIER as Guy, and the ‘arguing’ sense of ‘rowing’ never occurred to me. Guy, you’ve got a typo at GUINEAN: North shouldn’t be underlined.
  3. I took the definition in 21a to be ‘tired’ as this parses. It’s a clever design by the setter that a balmoral is also an old hat.
    1a also my last in, and nho ETTLE, but the cluing was so suggestive of a hidden that I took ETTLE to be a Scottish plan without a great deal of doubt.
    1. Oops, you’re right! Thanks! When I wrote this up, I was evidently distracted by the unusual headgear (for which I have added a link).

      Edited at 2022-02-13 04:37 am (UTC)

  4. 55 minutes delayed by some loose stuff (e.g. 14dn) and the odd NHO (e.g. 20dn) ETTLE – btw Sturgeon is not a place name in this context, but Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National party.

    GOLD-DIGGERS were traditionally female but of course the meaning has spread over the years to include both sexes. The expression dates from the early 1900’s when it was widely applied, though not exclusively, to young showgirls looking for rich older husbands. Several very popular films had ‘gold-diggers’ in the title and many more continued the theme.

    Edited at 2022-02-13 06:54 am (UTC)

  5. Just under the hour. There’s as much subjectivity in the assessment of the quality of a cryptic def as there is in the scoring of an ice-dance routine, but I gave the CD’s a 9.0 today. Anyway, my vote won’t count as I think the highest and lowest scores are discarded. Who knows as I haven’t seen any ice-dancing, or FIGURE SKATING for that matter, since the days of Torvill and Dean.

    NHO 20d, but should be prepared for a re-appearance soon, probably with the wordplay including a first letter deletion. The “Forbes” article on millennial male GOLD-DIGGER(s) was interesting. My favourite was the GUIDE DOG CD. Had me thinking of “CERN ” there for a while.

    Thanks to setter and to Guy

  6. 50 minutes. ETTLE was a word I’ve never heard but it was the only reverse that made sense. I took ages to see ENGINEERS, not a UK usage. For a long time afterwards, I could hear Johnny Cash singing it somewhere in my head. More famously, Chuck Berry did in Johnny B Goode, but I associate JC more with trains. I’m not sure if I liked GOLD-DIGGER, although it was the best clue. On the basis that the answer is no, COD to PROSPECTOR. Thank you. David and Guy.

    Edited at 2022-02-13 07:56 am (UTC)

      1. Maybe I was a bit too old. I did hear the song of the show with my children at Disneyland but that was much later.
  7. I messed this up by biffing SQUARE DANCING that turned out to be figure skating. Also put CATS at 25A (anagram of ACTS). Took some time to get myself out of the hole I’d dug for myself.
  8. FOI 11ac IN THE END, though feel that should have been LOI! That was 4d GERMANDER which I figured out but NHO and had to confirm with dictionary. Was challenged by many of the clues here – and some answers: I’m a Scot yet NHO of ETTLE, only “fettle”. Overall around an hour taken in a good brain work-out. Thanks to setter and blogger.
  9. My last two were IN FOR and WINE. UP FOR and DO FOR were contenders. Perhaps the definitions were a little loose but, as people have noted above, you had to go with the flow on this puzzle.
    Overall I enjoyed it.
    My other problems were in the bottom half including the NHO but easily derived (with checkers) ETTLE.
  10. Liked GOLD-DIGGER a lot

    I was bamboozled by OLD HAT thinking the def was Balmoral? and HAT was WHAT (say) without the first letter. What a load of nonsense you can persuade yourself of if you’ve only got a few to go!

    Thanks Guy and setter for an enjoyable half an hour or so

  11. I can’t remember much about this solve, but I didn’t know ETTLE and trusted it was a reverse hidden. I think ENGINEERS was LOI. Biffed GONDOLIER. All done in 29:25. Thanks Harry and Guy.
  12. How right is the comment that you can convince yourself of rubbish.
    Had plumped for UP FOR at 1d; now I am given the IN FO(u)R answer it is COD. I went for PUL(s)E at 1a; pule=moan (Shakespeare has an infant puling and puking I think somewhere) and the pulse=beans etc could be part of dinner. Oh well.
    1. mewling and puking, from “As You Like It”; the first of the 7 stages of man:
      … the infant,
      mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms
  13. Just under 50 minutes. I enjoyed this one despite being baffled by GONDOLIER and not knowing ETTLE. I liked EDGIER and DOES. I was surprised to learn that STING is defined specifically as a police operation, but it is; the film (the one with the music) was not about a police operation. 13dn (where pants = underwear) deserves a mention. Last Sunday Keriothe noted in his blog the appearance of “pants” in a rarely seen non-anagrind capacity, and here it is again in consecutive weeks. We have the pair
    1. SOED has it all covered: A carefully planned and swiftly executed theft; a swindle, a confidence trick. Also, a police undercover operation to trap a criminal. slang (orig. & chiefly N. Amer.)
      1. Thank you. Yes. I’m wrong, I know. I still like the idea that a sting is a thing — a device for getting something out of someone else by trickery — that can be used by anyone, goodies or baddies. On which basis it just needs a qualifier: a police sting. Never mind. I’ll get over it. Thanks
  14. Couldn’t even find Saturday’s ‘er indoors probably popped it the shredder – her turn next!


    LOI 21ac OLD HAT!



    Time? Must have been over the hour.

  15. Thanks David and guy
    An oldie that I did on publication here (in Feb) but it got lost in the pile. Notes say that it took just under the hour (57 min), notwithstanding some reference checking for ETTLE and the US meaning of ‘driver of a rig’. Had a couple where the parsing only happened post solve – as in ERRATA and trying to make something more out of GONDOLIER.
    Agree that GOLD DIGGER was clue of the day.
    Finished up the top with FIGURE SKATING (which needed to be changed from SKATERS to fit the ENGINEERS in) and GUINEAN (so easy in hindsight) as the last one in.

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