Sunday Times Cryptic No 5023 by Robert Price — the spice of life

A very tasty assortment!

I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Music hall playing every hit — a treat! (7,7)
VARIETY THEATRE   (every hit — a treat)*
10 Before cruises, outspoken sailor lets himself down (7)
ABSEILS   AB, “sailor” + SEILS, “sails” (“cruises, outspoken”)
11 Vote against either side in Carlsbad agreement (7)
CONCORD   CON, “Vote against” + C OR D
12 Food lovers try with rums and nuts (9)
GOURMANDS   GO, “try” + (rums and)*   Not to be confused with gourmets—though one can be both
13 Lush plant in fresh soil from the east (5)
TOPER   REPOT<=“from the east”
14 Thoroughly trendy dog found in Oz (2,4)
IN TOTO   IN, “trendy” + TOTO, “dog found in Oz,” Dorothy’s
15 Boat’s front bit attached to its prow at sea (8)
BOWSPRIT   B[-oat] + (its prow)*   &lit!
18 Afraid of current, next to river keeping dry (8)
INSECURE    IN, “current” + SEC, “dry” + URE, river, with the first-mentioned two parts holding the other part
20 Good health argument supporting rest (6)
PROSIT    Salut!   PRO, “argument supporting” + SIT, rest    … rather than PRO STAND (the option widely deemed to be the healthier)
23 Acute accent (5)
25 Killer before entering beat back bodyguards (9)
MURDERESS   DRUM<=“back” + ERE, “before” + SS, “bodyguards” (Hitler’s Schutzstaffel)
26 Keen to pay without delay (7)
HOTFOOT   HOT, “Keen” + FOOT, “pay”   Yes, this can be an adverb.
27 Staff guarding the new chopper (7)
MACHETE  MACE, “Staff” with (the)* interpolated
28 Regular fee one ground typically slashed (10,4)
PEPPERCORN RENT   PEPPER, “one ground typically” + RENT, “slashed”  The term is used in modern times for (Collins) “a rent that is very low or nominal,” but the original sense was quite literal: “a rent formerly often stipulated in deeds and consisting in supplying a certain amount (as a pound) of black peppercorns at stated intervals” (Merriam-Webster).
 2 A rating on a phone battery (7)
ASSAULT   “A salt”   A “rating” being a naval enlisted man, a sailor, a salt
 3 Graduate’s silly to go round speaking like a native (9)
IDIOMATIC   IDIO(MA)TIC   The apostrophe-S is for “has.”
 4 Bergamot is a neat ingredient for herbal tea (6)
TISANE   Hidden
 5 Gathers hard work is in store for pupils (4,4)
TUCK SHOP   TUCKS, “Gathers” + H(ard) + OP, “work”   A new term for this Yank, but I knew the Brit slang “tuck” for food.
 6 Painter in Arles is fed drink periodically (5)
Have to keep the creative juices flowing…
ERNST   E(RN)ST—EST, “is” in any French town, like Arles, swallowing  dRiNk    …nothing to do with Vincent!
 7 Soldier’s uplifting story about love (7)
TROOPER   REPO(O)RT<=“uplifting”
 8 Doyens, say, among Bush’s people (5,9)
ELDER STATESMEN   ELDERS, “Bush” w/ STATE, “say” inside + MEN, “people”
 9 Rod getting caught by joint provides leverage (10,4)
BARGAINING CHIP   BAR, “Rod” + GAINING, “getting” + C(aught) + HIP, “joint”
16 Desire, perhaps represented by Sartre, etc (9)
STREETCAR   (Sartre, etc)*   From Tennessee Williams’s eponymous play…
     A Sailor : Can I help you, ma’am?
     Blanche : Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.
17 Married in Croatia, plastered with perfume (8)
AROMATIC   (M + Croatia)*
19 Big name placed over new business (5-2)
START-UP  STAR, “Big name” + PUT<=“over”
21 Worker in a novel initially, not still here? (7)
SHEBEEN   SHE, “novel” (by H. Rider Haggard) + BEE, “worker” + N[-ot]   In Irish and Scottish and in South Africa, a SHEBEEN is a place where alcoholic drink is sold illegally—such a place might indeed house its own distillery. Collins says the word is from Irish Gaelic síbín, beer of poor quality.   …LOI
22 Textbook three, maybe third of three (6)
PRIMER   PRIME, “three, maybe” + thRee
24 Wear what the chap did on ’is ’orse (5)
ERODE  Amusing ’omophone


15 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5023 by Robert Price — the spice of life”

  1. 38m 44s. My notes say “Straightforward, unlike Dean’s the previous week.”
    Thank you, Guy, for your blog and particularly for your notes on PEPPERCORN RENT. They explained things for me.
    Also thank you for SHEBEEN.
    Other than those two, no problems. I enjoyed CONCORD (“Either side in Carlsbad”) and ERODE made me smile. 6d -ERNST- was very clever in pointing us towards Vincent.

  2. 17:19, but I looked up PEPPERCORN RENT, as I didn’t know what to put after PEPPERCORN. I think we’ve actually had it once, though. ERNST finally parsed,, ages after submitting. Typical Myrtilus production; I especially liked ABSEILS.

  3. This Sunday Roast took all of fifty minutes but no beef hereabouts.

    FOI 1ac VARIETY THEATRE such as the famous Leeds City Hall, where we used to cast for northern talent, for ‘Ben and Mary’ Bird’s Eye and commercials, and for Whitbread Trophy and Hovis – cue brass band.
    LOI 21dn SHEBEEN, doh!
    WOD 5dn TUCK SHOP terribly, terribly British ‘Billy Bunter’ lingo.

    Sandy, It would appear that 28ac PEPPERCORN RENT is perhaps a Dickensian London thing as it was a write in for me.

    On edit: only 10 comments today’s, only 5 from UK! Has there been a stop put on crosswords, during the period of mourning?

  4. No time recorded, but this one didn’t delay me unduly apart from the parsing of INSECURE (trying to have ‘current’ = I) and BOWSPRIT where the source of the B eluded me for a while.

    I’m very familiar with PEPPERCORN RENT having worked at one time in a legal department where part of my duties was reading title deeds, but I never came across the pound of peppercorns mentioned in the definition quoted in the blog – always ‘one peppercorn’ in my experience, and I don’t remember the colour ever being stipulated.

    I’m fascinated by the history of Music Hall and Variety, the first gradually evolving into the other. Most of the theatres that hosted the former would have hosted the latter if they survived long enough, but they had a habit of burning down!

  5. I solved the top half quite quickly but three clues in particular held me up. SHEBEEN was vaguely remembered and worked out from the clue. HOTFOOT was almost too clever for me. And LOI was MURDERESS which was very hard to unravel.
    Overall a very enjoyable Sunday test. Too hard to pick COD; lots of good ones.

  6. 27 minutes. As I remember I wasn’t held up by too many though had the same problem with INSECURE as Jack. I liked the BOWSPRIT &lit and the surface for IN TOTO. Thanks for the extra information about the term PEPPERCORN RENT.

    It looks like there’s an inadvertent typo (maybe influenced by the wordplay for CONCORD at 11a) in the explanation for PROSIT. I’m definitely a lazy CON STAND person myself.

  7. DNF after 30

    Incredibly couldn’t see PEPPERCORN RENT despite coming across them all the time in my line of work. Got fixated that the second word was RING or RANK. Problem was I couldn’t see BARGAINING CHIP w/o the H in HOTFOOT. Went through every synonym for keen and pay but couldnt make anything work. Think I’ve had a mental blank with FOOT for pay before.

    Got rather frustrated with so many checkers but couldnt see either word. Back to drawing board

    Excellent puzzle. I know he’s a regular here but I really do think there is no one else with his level of smoothness of surface and neatness. Every clue is spot on.

    1. Thank you. I don’t usually come here on a Sunday, but your comment has tempted me. I do aim for exactly those qualities: smooth surface and neatness. I know this is sometimes at the expense of difficulty or deviousness.

  8. I look forward to Robert Price (and Dean) so much I cannot tell you. The neatness, consistency and wit blow me away. Thank you.

  9. I’m sorry but in 2 Down I can’t work out where the phone comes in. I have S and U left over from the answer (Assault) after removing A SALT.
    Thank you.

  10. “On a phone” is one of the typical ways that a homophone is indicated here. ASSAULT sounds like “a salt.”

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed, as per usual for a Sunday Xword, but could not see PEPPERCORN RENT for the life of me – despite growing up in a house where that is what my parents paid to live there! ( Like Dvynys I was fixated on the second word being RING, which didn’t help). Also felt sure (hah!) that 3d included the word inane for silly – silly me.

  12. Thanks Bob and guy
    Did this one holidaying in South Australia and finished quite quickly in just over the half hour – lightning speed for a Sunday times puzzle for me !
    BARGAINING CHIP was a very early entry(3rd or 4th), although the parsing had to wait until the end and PEPPERCORN RENT was not all that long after – having known it, probably from crosswords, for a pretty long time. ELDER STATESMEN happened toward the end and never did parse it properly – not seeing the ELDER’S / bush’s – so more a biff.
    Although quite easy, the ERODE clue brought a wry smile.
    Finished in the NE corner with TROOPER (neat reversal clue) and ERNST.

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