Sunday Times Cryptic 5019 by Dean Mayer — Take a deep breath…

I plunged in at the easy (shallow?) 15-letter CD 10 and, after getting a few others quickly, was thinking this might be a cinch. Then I tackled 13, obviously an anagram, and after surfacing with the (absolutely wonderful) answer, realized that I was heading into more treacherous waters. There are a lot of CDs here, often my Achilles heel, but other things took more effort.

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

1 Character seen in personal column? (8)
BACKBONE  It is, of course, the spinal column that is referred to in the cryptic hint.
5 Take off once, as a crow (6)
AVAUNT  A + VAUNT, “crow”  Archaic, so “once,” for “on your bike!” Begone!
10 Navigate narrow passage, as sewer does (6,3,6)
11 It’s raised in border, mostly (5)
LUPIN  L(UP)IN[-e], &lit  This plant, with colorful spiky flowers, is one you’ll often find in a border, i.e. (Collins), “a long narrow strip of ground planted with flowers, shrubs, trees, etc, that skirts a path or wall or surrounds a lawn or other area.”  …I knew the word from the Monty Python sketch.
13 Lung? Unsure — rib possibly (3,2,4)
RUS IN URBE  (Unsure — rib)*  “The country in the town” “Lung” figuratively (a bit cryptically). The Amazon rain forest has often been, misleadingly, called “the lungs of the planet.” More to the point, here’s the Gotham Center for New York City History: “As the nation’s first great urban park, Central Park was conceived as ‘The Lungs of the City,’ and built in 1858 as an oasis for ‘the sanitary advantage of breathing.’ A half-century later, a letter to the editor of the New York Times glowed [sic] that ‘thousands visit the park daily just to breathe.’” But while the trope “lungs of cities” has often been deployed to argue for the preservation of urban parks, it has also been alleged that “the role of park trees in purifying air…is poorly supported by empirical evidence.”
14 Switches in lifts helpful when kitty’s trapped (10)
CARPOOLING  CAR(POOL)ING  The definition is cryptic!
15 Fiddle carried by Menzies Campbell (4)
SCAM  Hidden  …Never heard of him!
18 English not needed in long story (4)
19 Monk, for example, would park behind here (5,5)
PIANO STOOL  CD, “Monk” being Thelonious. Actually, this jazz giant was prone to get up and dance around the stage during interludes carried by his band.
21 Mark’s US partner, beautiful to see (4,5)
FAIR CATCH  FAIR, “beautiful” + CATCH, “to see”  Wikipedia: “In rugby union and Australian rules football, a loose equivalent to a fair catch is called a mark.” I was remembering the clue as saying “cousin,” which seems more appropriate than “partner,” comparing the respective, somewhat complicated, rules—about which those who care probably already know…
22 Strangely worded play seen regularly (5)
ODDLY “seen regularly”
23 Consider bananas or apples or another offering (15)
COUNTERPROPOSAL  COUNT, “consider”  + (or apples or)*
25 With support, most of them get through first set? (6)
TEETHE  TEE, “support” + THE[-m], with a somewhat cryptic definition
26 Dog’s leash may hurt (8)
SEALYHAM  (leash may)*
1 Keen for action? (6,3)
2 My business runs (3)
COR  CO, company, “business” + R(uns)
3 Egghead needs support on popular TV (8)
BRAINBOX  BRA, “support”  + IN, “popular” + BOX, “TV”
4 Study of life in simple form (7,7)
NATURAL HISTORY  NATURAL, “simple,” in the sense of “careless” or “artless” + HISTORY, “form” in the sense in British slang of a record of one’s criminal past
6 This city makes princess and I very upset (6)
VIENNA  [ANNE, “princess” +  I  + V(ery)]<=“upset”
7 Waiting for cats and dogs in the doghouse (5,1,5)
UNDER A CLOUD  CD, clued with a more literal interpretation of the phrase (by way of another idiom!)
8 Article on Middle East topic (5)
THEME  THE, “Article” + ME, “Middle East”
9 Showing off inner grace with shop manager? (6,2,6)
PERSON IN CHARGE  (inner grace + shop)*
12 Paintings of men feature simple frames (11)
16 Tongue unaffected when turned over (9)
MALAYALAM  A palindromic language name. It’s like you only have to solve 5/9ths of it!
17 Legal impediment lets Pope off (8)
Not so fast, Francis!
ESTOPPEL  (lets Pope)*  I came across this word just the other day. It might have been in a crossword…
20 Put the lid on a drink (6)
21 Newspaper introducing excellent feature (5)
FACET  F(ACE)T  Following long-standing tradition, “Newspaper” is the  F(inancial) T(imes). Sometimes it is the I(ndependent), but you can’t split one letter.
24 Very hard part of scale (3)
SOH  SO, “Very” + H(ard)  In the States, this is “sol.”


59 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic 5019 by Dean Mayer — Take a deep breath…”

  1. 50 minutes slowed by several unknowns including THREAD THE NEEDLE (other than its literal meaning), FAIR CATCH and MALAYALAM. Also LUPIN as a plant associated particularly with borders, and is PERSON IN CHARGE actually a lexical term? RUS IN URBE I have met before but had trouble recalling it.

    It’s only a couple of weeks since I was celebrating a reference to Art Tatum in one of the daily puzzles and here we have another giant of jazz piano, Thelonius Monk, who’s often mentioned in the same breath. But as far as I’m concerned they couldn’t be more different and whilst I could listen to Tatum’s playing for hours I have never yet heard a single piece by Monk that I have enjoyed. I gather he started out learning to play stride in the style of Fats Waller and James P Johnson (two of my other favourites) but then he went on to develop his own style which I find often tuneless and quite unpleasant.

    1. I have to disagree about Monk. My husband was an avid jazz listener and I remember being completely astonished by his enthusiasm for Thelonius Monk, which seemed to me musical gobbledegook. Then one day I suddenly ‘got’ it and ever since have loved his music. I can’t explain how or why – it was almost like a switch going on in my brain.

      1. Many thanks for your response, alto_ego and I appreciate that Monk had a huge following. I was careful to phrase my negative comments as my own personal taste and I referred to him upfront as a giant of jazz piano, which he undoubtedly was. Just not for me though.

  2. I finished this over lunch, so don’t have a time, but it took me a while. LOI CARPOOLING; couldn’t see CARING as ‘helpful’. Like Jack, I don’t see PERSON IN CHARGE as a lexical item (as opposed, say, to ‘officer in charge’). I had no idea what ‘form’ was doing in PERSONAL HISTORY, or who Mark’s partner was in FAIR CATCH, which I was surprised to see here. I liked RUS IN URBE (where I needed the R_S to see how it worked), but COD to AVAUNT.

    1. You mean, natural history? The clue would certainly read oddly without the “form.”
      No real idea what a “Lexical item” might be. I would recognise a person in charge if I saw one, I think, which is all that matters.
      Mark is a rugby term equivalent to fair catch, of which I had not previously heard…

      1. Sorry; I meant NATURAL HISTORY. I didn’t know the relevant meaning of ‘form’, hence didn’t understand what it was doing in the clue.
        ‘Lexical item’, Jackkt’s ‘lexical term’, something that you’d expect to find in a dictionary. Jon88 in a club forum used the term ‘green paint’ (apparently used by US cruciverbalists) to refer to a phrase that is not a lexical item: e.g. ‘green paint’ as opposed to ‘green room’, or ‘German factory’ as opposed to ‘German measles’ or ‘German shepherd’. We don’t, in fact, find green paints in Times cryptics (virtually never, at least), which is why Jack and I both raised our eyebrows.

        1. Well, I don’t mind quibbling Kevin, if that is your wish :-). “Person in charge” is a phrase not a word, but it still IS a lexical item, (a) because it is in the OED, and (b) because it is implied in both Collins and Lexico. They don’t have room for every possible combination of phrases but they do both define “In charge” in such a way that what is in charge is incontrovertibly a person. For example Collins: “If you are in charge in a particular situation, you are the most senior person and have control over something or someone.” Ie, m’lud, you are the person in charge …
          I still don’t understand why it would matter, mind you. We all know what a person in charge is, don’t we? Finding the exact wording in a book gives it no extra authority imo

          1. I’m not quibbling. I assume that any word is a lexical item, so that any word could be the solution to a clue; and I said nothing about words: ‘person’, ‘in’, ‘charge’ are all lexical items. The question is whether a phrase like ‘person in charge’ is a lexical item. If it’s in OED, I’m (a bit surprised, but) happy to lower my eyebrow. But that it’s a phrase whose meaning we all know is neither here nor there; we all know what ‘green paint’ means, or ‘injure my elbow’, or ‘under the sofa’; but as I said, we wouldn’t expect those phrases to be the solutions to clues.

            1. PERSON IN CHARGE isn’t, as far as I can tell, in the OED. I had the same reaction as you and jackkt, I don’t think it’s a lexical item and I was surprised to see it.

              1. Pasted from the online OED:
                ” b. in charge (of) is used both actively and passively; e.g. to leave children in charge of a nurse, or a nurse in charge of the children. The latter is the more recent use; thence curate-in-charge, officer in charge, priest in charge, etc. (see the nouns), here meaning ‘having actually the charge or care (of a place, business, etc.)’, ‘on duty’. to give (an object) in charge (to a person): (a) to commit (it) to his care, entrust him with it; (b) to give an order or command, to charge (see sense 15, and charge v. 14). to give (a person) in charge: to hand over to the custody of the police. So to have, take in charge.

                I think I’m done with this, now

                1. Right. It’s not there. It doesn’t bother me very much but if the test is that something should appear in a dictionary (which it needn’t be of course – see Peter’s response below) then PERSON IN CHARGE fails that test.

  3. What a struggle! Started well, but got bogged down. Eventually realised the AYLESHAM terrier had to be exchanged for a SEALYHAM. Couldn’t see CARPOOLING for ages ( wondered if CARROLLING was a thing and therefore a ‘roll’ might be a kitty in synonymous disguise). Loved the pdm when I finally saw it- my COD.
    I still don’t see the US partner in FAIR CATCH. I understand the ‘mark’ and the ‘beautiful to see’ parts. Is it a triple definition to do with US marriage rules?

    1. In American football, the player receiving a kick can signal that he won’t try to carry the ball but will stay where he caught it; this is a ‘fair catch’. The kicking team must not touch the receiver, and play resumes from the point where the receiver caught the ball.

    2. I cited Wikipedia: “In rugby union and Australian rules football, a loose equivalent to a fair catch is called a mark.” I said “cousin” seems a better word than “partner” for this similarity; one doesn’t accompany the other, after all, but they have a certain “family resemblance” among sport rules.

  4. 73 minutes. The expected enjoyable challenge from Dean. Took me until this week to finally see RUS IN URBE, which I had just entered from enumeration and anagram fodder, as “lungs of the city”. I liked the cryptic def + wordplay construction of CARPOOLING and the similar UNDER A CLOUD. As a non-jazz fan, I was happy to remember the name of the relevant’Monk’ for my LOI, PIANO STOOL.

    I’m asking in ignorance, but doesn’t the question mark as part of the def for 9d excuse PERSON IN CHARGE not being a dictionary term?

    1. I took the ? as simply indicating that the definition (“manager”) is by example.

      PERSON IN CHARGE is defined as a phrase in some specialized legal lexicons but not in the usual sources I consult for this. Perhaps Peter will show up and point to an entry in the print edition of Chambers or something.

      1. Collins says: “If you are in charge in a particular situation, you are the most senior person and have control over something or someone.”
        > you are the person in charge

        1. This is COBUILD, a dictionary for non-native speakers of English. Not that it matters here, as there was never any question of what ‘in charge’ or ‘person in charge’ means.

          1. This is interesting because it shows that PERSON IN CHARGE clearly is a lexical item, albeit in a rather narrow technical context.

  5. 46m 46s
    All Dean’s puzzles are good, in my view, but my notes say “no real wizard clues”.
    Thanks for an entertaining blog, Guy. And thanks for the explanation of COUNTER PROPOSAL.
    In Rugby Union, you can only call “mark” if you are catching the ball within your own ’22’; i.e. that part of the pitch which is marked as being within 22 metres (formerly 25 yards) of your own try line. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules have changed. There’s so much tinkering with them that goes on these days.
    In 20d, ‘squash’ was my first thought.
    PIANO STOOL and UNDER A CLOUD were very good but my COD (and LOI) to CARPOOLING (but without the karaoke).

    WOD 11ac LUPIN simply divine smell

    ’er indoors

      1. Mama-huhu (马马虎虎)!
        I thought today’s blog was dire, with at least 26 mentions of the lexical possibilities of ‘Person in Charge’. I thought Phil summed it up best.
        I have had e-mails bearing good wishes, sent to me by your good self, Guy, Paul in London, Lord Galspray and Pedwardine. But nothing from the people in charge.


        1. Currently enjoying “Ghosts”.
          Also enjoying the spy novels of the modern day Len Deighton, Mick Herron.
          Thinking of you….

  7. Loved this one, as usual with Dean. Best surface readings there are.
    Though fair catch was new to me. I struggle enough with English sporting terms, though I had vaguely heard of “mark.” But once I had the F and the H it was the only option..

  8. I spent a lot of time on this, but it was satisfying gradually winkling out the answers. LOI was PIANO STOOL having been totally misdirected.
    FOI THEME. As noted a few easyish clues allowed me to make progress.
    And,as always, it depends on your personal GK. RUS IN URBE occurred to me very quickly as did SEALYHAM, a breed I don’t think I’ve seen for years.
    Good stuff from Dean.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed about half of this, relishing the clever clues and how they fed through to the answers. Very satisfying. But then I hit the buffers with a whole bunch of clues I just couldn’t figure out – 14, 19, 21ac, 9d – and words I’d NHO: AVAUNT, RUS IN URBE, MALAYALAM, ESTOPPAL. And when that’s the case you’ve really got no chance. Just too obscure in all respects for me this week. DNF. But as ever also thoroughly enjoyed the explanations and discussion offered here. We live and learn. Thanks, all.

    1. All of us, no matter how experienced we are or however big our vocabulary, come across clues with an unfamiliar word as the answer pretty regularly. All the more often if you do the Mephisto, say, or Azed or the Club Monthly. And it is absolutely not true to say that in such a case “You’ve got no chance.”
      If you think you haven’t perhaps you are right and you haven’t. But I regularly fill in answers I don’t recognise by following and trusting the wordplay. And I recommend you do the same. Just fill in the answer the clue seems to demand and check it when you get the chance, see how you went wrong or pat yourself on the back if you got it right.
      ALL successful solvers have to solve clues with unknown words in. All of us.
      Take estoppel as an example. It seems fairly obvious, looking at the clue, that the answer is an anagram of LETS POPE. If you solve all or most of the surrounding clues that gives you _S_O_P_L and E,T,P,E to fill the blanks with. Can you see any reasonable way to do that, other than ESTOPPEL?

      1. Hi, and thank you so much for your response. I really didn’t intend to sound whiny with my “no chance”. My problem is that I’m still pretty erratic on reading the clues and figuring out how they’re trying to guide me, and what the wordplay might be, and I often need the answer to work back from. Eg, I hadn’t got that “off” indicated an anagram (sorry, but that’s where I am!). And if the resulting word is one I don’t know and therefore can’t take a punt on, I’m stymied at both ends of that process. But it’s all part of the learning process which is where I find this blog extremely helpful. Not complaining, honest!

        1. Oh, I am feeling guilty now. I had no intention of saying you were complaining!
          It is just such a fundamental thing … nobody solves these crosswords every day without dealing with unknown words. And having blogged the Club Monthly for years, it upsets me when folk say they can’t solve a clue because they didn’t already know the answer word

          1. No need to feel guilty, no offence taken, etc etc. Happy to shake on it and be friends. Now, time for today’s….See y’all next week.

  10. On “person in charge”: I test solve ST blocked cryptics by solving them in the same way as I would have solved such a puzzle before getting this job — with my brain and pen, and no dictionary unless I really need it. In theory I might look up every single answer to confirm that it has “lexical status”, but I don’t. A search for “person in charge” confirms that there are explanations of its meaning, which there aren’t for something like “man on horse”, and that “person in charge” has been used as a non-cryptic crossword clue for answers like CEO.

    We could fill a grid with answers like “physostomous”, “piacularity” and “piarist” (all on the same Collins page as “piano stool”. Or we could use a few phrases which aren’t in the dictionary but are in this case apparently comprehensible enough for young children – see . I know which I would prefer.

    1. I don’t know what or who you think you’re arguing against, but it was never a question whether ‘person in charge’ was comprehensible; the non-appearance of ‘physostomous’ is simply irrelevant. You don’t look up every single answer largely because you don’t need to: ‘green paint’, ‘in the city’, ‘buy a sandwich’, etc. aren’t ever solutions in these puzzles, while ‘green room’, ‘in Dutch’, ‘buy the farm’, etc. might well be. The question was whether ‘person in charge’ is an example of the former or the latter group, and I’m happy to accept that it’s in the latter. If it’s in the former, it’s exceptional.

      1. It’s firmly in the former. JerryW was citing the OED for “in charge,” not PERSON IN CHARGE.

      2. I imagine one day soon “green paint”itself will make it into one of the relevant lexicons and then can appear as an acceptable solution.

        1. Sure! Defined as “term cruciverbalists used to typify a nonlexical term appearing as a solution.”

      3. I think I’m arguing against the apparent idea that an answer has to be a “lexical item” to appear as a crossword answer. There are plenty of recognisable expressions that don’t need to be in a dictionary on their own because their meaning can be worked out from their parts, like “cheddar cheese” and “after-dinner speech”. If some crossword editors want to rule out those answers, that’s their choice.

        PS: Looking back at the notes for Times setters, they say that “Words and phrases should ideally be justifiable by inclusion in one of [a set of dictionaries]”, which implies that some “non-lexical items” could be permitted.

        1. Such “green paints” are very rare in UK cryptic crosswords, though I don’t know whether that’s sheer coincidence (I’m guessing that grid-fill software won’t suggest them) or if most setters/editors deliberately (try to) avoid them. Perhaps the latter, as most of the examples I’ve seen have been in the Sunday Times rather than evenly distributed across all puzzle sources. There are obvious benefits to using words/phrases whose definition(s) can be confirmed in a reference work, whereas I’m struggling to see the benefit of including words/phrases that aren’t.

          1. Well, if you look up “person” and “in charge”, a dictionary will tell you all you need to know, should you actually need to. So far, I’ve yet to hear of anybody who didn’t understand what “person in charge” meant.

            1. I admit that there can be exceptions to the kind of clue found (“ideally”—as per your citation) in a standard, general dictionary. The mere intelligibility of the phrase hasn’t been an issue here.

              1. Well, I don’t think “intelligibility” deserves to be placed next to “mere”. The reason why we have crossword editors and governing principles is surely to achieve intelligibility rather than the opposite, at least when the cryptic trickery has been seen through. Looking at dictionary content is just the main means to that end.

                1. Mere in the (nonpejorative) sense of being nothing more than something specified; from Latin merus pure, unmixed. Which is to say, intelligibility in and by itself was not at all the issue.

  11. Rus in Urbe: Another pointless anagram unless you have actually heard of the (foriegn) phrase.

  12. Not at all easy and, I felt, something of a slog, with the result that when I ended up with 14A LOI I was in no mood to spend hours trawling through the alphabet to find something that might suggest an answer, so I gave up and used aids. I’m no Latin scholar, but unlike Michael Connolly I liked RUS IN URBE, which I deduced from the definition and the anagram. However, FAIR CATCH went in because it had to be correct, but made no sense at all, having to come here for an explanation. Thanks to Sandy and Dean for the enlightenment and challenge.

  13. 15:12. Excellent puzzle. Slight MER at PERSON IN CHARGE as mentioned above, but it didn’t bother me unduly. Remembered RUS IN URBE from somewhere (probably a past crossword) but no idea what was going on with FAIR CATCH.

  14. Same comments as Keriothe but 3x slower. I do think Kevin has a good point which Peter didn’t fully answer but like Keriothe it didn’t bother me – indeed it didn’t occur to me as an issue. I just gratefully bunged it in when I got it.

    Personally I think Myrtilus pips Dean for smoothness but much to like here and thought BACKBONE was superb

    Thanks everyone

  15. What a lot of fuss about very little! I don’t imagine any cruciverbalist here would mis-understand the term “person in charge”…so what’s the big deal? However I failed on a few fronts, with my ‘O Level’ Latin not up to RUS IN URBE, CARPOOLING not a familiar term, as wasn’t FAIR CATCH ( being disgracefully unsporty). Not finishing didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the (as ever) clever CDs, especially PIANO STOOL, BACKBONE and UNDER A CLOUD. Roll on next Sunday!

  16. Thanks Dean and guy
    Started this one on a flight from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast. Without aids up there, only had to put it aside after about an hour with about 2/3 completed. Didn’t get back to it until the next day and needed help to identify the jazz pianist / US football term for a ‘mark’ (which we have in AFL here) and the Latin phrase (we studied French, so not even O-level Latin experience) and besides ‘lung’ was a curious definition for the unjumbled anagram. Had no idea with the parsing of COUNTERPROPOSAL and NATURAL HISTORY was more ‘cos it has to be’ rather than detailed parsing, especially with the HISTORY = ‘form’ synonym.
    PERSON IN CHARGE took a bit of going over and double checking the anagram fodder but it was convincing enough and thought that CARPOOLING was excellent.
    Finished with FAIR CATCH, PIANO STOOL and RUS IN URBE in what was a difficult but enjoyable solve.

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