Sunday Times Cryptic No 5027 by David McLean — the unexpected

“…the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”

—Charles Baudelaire

I can’t tell whether this (mostly) very fine puzzle is really much harder than it seemed at first or if my state of distraction on the eve of a suddenly necessary trip to Philadelphia was to blame for my delayed finish. Last Saturday evening, I saw 1a at first glance and was happy to remember a UK usage that I am familiar with only thru working these things. Several more came easily before I started using crossers. And yet I did not finish until Monday morning, and—although another clue that deploys East End lingo had posed no problem—my LOI was 2.

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

 1 A row of homes (8)
DOMESTIC   DD   Edit: Reverting, on the editor’s advice, to my first choice.  I had switched that to CD, playing on “row.” I wrote: Collins defines it in this sense (“esp in police use”) as something more than what “row” need imply: “an incident of violence in the home, esp between partners” (emphasis added).   …Since “of homes” alone sufficiently defines the word, this almost looked like a DD (and then I was tempted to call this an &lit!), but that would require “row” alone to also be deemed a sufficient definition for DOMESTIC, though a qualifier referring to households is certainly necessary for a dictionary definition. Still seems to me that the first of the two ostensibly separate definitions has to lean on, as it were, the second, for “row” to clearly mean DOMESTIC.
 5 One completely lacking in IT experience (6)
VIRGIN   CD, playing on the sense of “it” as the old “how’s  your father”—nudge, nudge, say no more
 9 See just one man regularly take it easy (2,6)
10 Primate and bishop getting a blessing (6)
BABOON   B(ishop) + A + BOON, “blessing”
12 Polish and English blokes heading for Deal (5)
EMEND   E(nglish) + MEN, “blokes” + D[-eal]
13 An extremely fair woman in Barnet (3,6)
ASH BLONDE   CD, playing on the Cockney rhyming slang sense of “Barnet” as “hair” (Barnet Fair)
14 Ridiculous past haircuts and jumpers (12)
PARACHUTISTS   (past haircuts)*
18 Square knot I’m to unravel? (8,4)
QUESTION MARK  (square knot I’m)*   COD
21 Show no thanks or fondness of feeling (9)
AFFECTION   AFFEC[-ta]TION   …Took me quite a while to get the wordplay here, though the definition seemed clear after all the crossers were in.
23 Part of old theatre article Times rejected (5)
ARENA   AN, “article” + ERA, “Times” (as in, e.g., Charlie Chaplin and His Times)  <=“rejected”   The word has, of course, contemporary uses, but this clue refers to the original meaning, which is the first definition given in most listings: the oval space in the center of a Roman amphitheater for gladiatorial combats or other performances.
24 Some der{ide a te}acher … imagine (6)
IDEATE   Hidden
25 Worn out army uniform needs alteration ultimately (8)
26 I agree, the old chap smothers son (3-3)
YES-MAN   YE, archaic “the” + MAN, “chap” hug S(on) tightly.
27 One ruminates about India always being poetic (8)
REINDEER   RE, “about” + IND(ia), + E[’]ER, Keats and company’s “always”  Edit: We’re actually meant to take “India always” together as a poetic phrase, as “Ind” is an archaic poetic contraction, as well as a lesser-seen abbreviation.
 1 Might one really like an old Aussie soldier? (6)
DIGGER   The cryptic hint is not phrased affirmatively, so I’m not calling this clue a DD. It works, whatever you wanna call it. The origin(s) of the term as it relates to Australasian soldiers are interesting.   …I may have come across this definition before. DIGGER can also mean a 17th-century English religious/political dissident, or a radical activist and street theater actor based in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco from 1966 to ’68.
 2 Bit of music expected with boat race coverage (6)
MASKED   M[-usic] + ASKED, “expected”  “Boat race” here is CRS for “face.” ASK is used in this sense (Collins) “esp in the phrases ask a lot of, ask too much of.”
 3 Constant or variable dates before Lent? (9)
STEADFAST   (dates)* + FAST, “Lent”
 4 So in pain, laid up in a foreign capital (12)
INDIANAPOLIS   (So in pain laid)*   …Not “foreign” to me, of course, though I’ve never been there.
 6 Crim{inal, l}arcenous to an extent, or altogether (2,3)
IN ALL   Hidden
 7 Moral excellence can be found in GOSH (8)
 8 No reason to consume starter of niffy rhubarb (8)
NONSENSE   NO(N[-ifty])SENSE   The sense of “rhubarb” as “nonsense,” which is not found (unless by inspired inference) in Collins or, originated in the theatrical practice of actors’ repeating the word “rhubarb” to give the effect of indistinct background chatter or crowd noise (see   …I feel that NO SENSE is not different enough from the entire answer for this clue to have any spark.
11 US anthem played with care around Hue mostly (3,5,4)
THE HUMAN RACE   (anthem + care)* nesting HU[-e]
15 Damn American version of “Limeys”? (9)
TARNATION   A mild curse of US provenance (my dad used to say it), clued with a cryptic hint alluding to the fact that a “Limey” can mean a sailor (TAR) or any English person (a use, says Collins, that some people find offensive)
16 Players’ union to ring City about level playing field? (8)
17 Turn quickly by bar as Cherry is naked (8)
Thanks for the tip!
LEAFLESS   LEAF, “Turn quickly” + BAR, “less” in the sense of “minus, without”   If you thought “Cherry” was a woman, you were barking up the wrong tree.
19 For each exercise, study closely with care (6)
PERUSE   PER, “For each” + USE, “exercise”   This is one of those words, like cleave or (indeed) scan, that can also mean its opposite: to leaf thru (see above!) cursorily.
20 Run if snake is found under loo’s lid (6)
LADDER   L[-00] + ADDER   “Run” in a stocking, that is
22 Bed with short brown cloth cover? (5)
COTTA   COT, “bed” + TA[-n]   A word (cognate with “coat”) meaning a short surplice worn by clergy and sometimes others in performing ecclesiastical functions   Edit: As Peter points out, below, my underline started too late. “Cloth” is obviously part of the definition—in two ways. …NHO


29 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5027 by David McLean — the unexpected”

  1. ‘row’=argument; DOMESTIC is a family quarrel, a fight between husband and wife.

    1. Yes, that’s clearly the definition clued by the CD. This is the UK usage I mention in my intro.
      I can see how my subsidiary musings could have been confusing, and I have not deleted them but clarified (I hope).

      1. I was in a hurry and probably didn’t read your comment carefully; sorry if my comment was superfluous.

  2. 58m 12s For me this was the sort of grid that I don’t like; one which gives very limited opportunities to break out of each quadrant. On top of that I had numerous queries, so thank you Guy for answering them. I now understand ARENA, GO STEADY, ASH BLONDE (although I got the Barnet bit), AFFECTION, MASKED, LEAFLESS, PERUSE and TARNATION. I’m sure we’ve seen TARNATION recently.
    I did like the use of CAPITAL LETTERS as in IT, GOSH and US.
    No problem here with DIGGER.
    Clues that made me smile: ? QUESTION MARK, DOMESTIC (very common Downunder), VIRGIN and THE HUMAN RACE.

  3. DNF
    I had no idea what was going on with 2d, never having come across ‘boat race’=face (and not thinking of asked’). DNK COTTA. I liked THE HUMAN RACE & QUESTION MARK.
    DIGGER was a term applied to various American Indian tribes, a term of opprobrium as Britannica says. I was taught in the 3d grade that the Indians of San Francisco were Diggers, primitives who lived in holes. I didn’t realize until I Googled ‘Digger Indians’ just now that the term was widely used.

  4. 40 minutes for this. I had a few MERs to investigate after I’d finished but soon resolved everything satisfactorily. One was that I don’t recall seeing Ind as an abbreviation for India before, which I may not have done, but it’s perfectly valid.

    TARNATION appeared in the prize puzzle on 24th September. I thought I associated it with a particular cartoon character but research suggests that would have been ‘Yosemite Sam’ whom I have never knowingly seen. I suspect now that I first heard it said by Gabby Hayes in numerous old Westerns.

  5. I definitely associate ‘tarnation’ with Gabby Hayes; tarnation and sarsaparilla.
    I took IND to be, not an abbreviation, but a poetic word for India; so that ‘being poetic’ applies both to ‘India’ and ‘always’

    1. I had a doubt about Ind as an abbreviation but it’s in all the usual sources. I’ve certainly never come across Ind as poetic for India but that’s supported by Collins and Chambers. Separately, those two sources plus the Oxfords have IND as the international car registration for India, so who knows what the setter had in mind?

    2. I remember too that while Gabby liked his “vittles” he had no use for “varmints”.

      1. IND IMP (India Imperatrix/or) was on all our coins until Indian independance, so the abbreviation should be familiar to all Brits who handled pre-decimal currency. That D-Day was in the early 70s but a lot of florins (2s) and shillings (1s) were still in circulation quite a lot later than that.

  6. Phew, a tricky old exercise. Couldn’t quite get with the setter’s thinking process. Completed eventually but through some guesswork, with question marks at 23ac, and 2 & 17down. Couldn’t figure ‘em out, even though getting boat race=face. NHO COTTA – needed aid for that. Well over the hour to complete. Thanks and well done to blogger for the explanations.

  7. 16:53. I found that tricky, but very enjoyable. The cryptic definitions across the top row are both brilliant and set the tone. Private Eye refers to Rupert Murdoch as the ‘dirty digger’ which helped me with 1dn even though in that context I think it just means an Australian rather than specifically a soldier. LEAFLESS (where I think the word ‘as’ is part of the definition) was my last in and required a few minutes of head-scratching.

  8. It felt like the usual McLean curate’s egg to me but as others have mentioned, the various mers dissolve under the harsh light of the dictionary. Though leaving a nagging feeling that the setter is relying on unusual dictionary definitions rather a lot.
    Tarnation from whiskered old timers in westerns. 1ac is surely a DD, and is 17dn a DBE? (not that they bother me, mind)

  9. No problem with TARNATION on its reappearance; I didn’t get it last time.
    I did struggle with MASKED, ARENA,THE HUMAN RACE and the rather odd LEAFLESS.
    Spent quite a long time over it and liked several clues: YES MAN was favourite.

  10. 1A: makes much better sense to me as a double definition, partly as a “domestic” is more clearly a “row of” just one home/household. The Collins def seems overstated – a “domestic” can be just an argument

    27A: “Ind” meaning “India” is more poetic language, rather than an abbreviation, though probably from an earlier time than Keats

    4D: As “foreign” can just mean “strange and unfamiliar”, it could conceivably apply to Indianapolis for someone in the eastern US

    17D: the definition is really “as Cherry is(,) naked” with a slightly naughty invisible comma. I don’t think many sentences like “Cherry is naked” can be definitions in cryptic clues.

    22D: “cloth cover” is really the definition, either in the obvious way or from “the cloth” being the clergy

    1. Thanks, Peter. I’ve extended the underlines, at which I clearly should have looked more closely. I wouldn’t have guessed “Ind” was intended a poetic contraction rather than an abbreviation in prose, which just seemed obvious, but, as Jackkt says, the poetic usage is in Collins.

      I had DOMESTIC as a DD originally; I second-guessed that, and settled on a CD, for the reasons given. As for the plural “homes,” that poses no problem. It could be a phrase like “A characteristic [singular] of small towns [plural].” I may have seen “domestic” used to define (as example) “row” as part of some charade clue somewhere; I don’t think (could be wrong) that I’ve seen “domestic” clued as simply “row.” “Row” tout court doesn’t seem sufficient for a definition, but maybe close enough for government work? And if this clue is taken to be a DD, it would also be an &lit.

      Surely, Indianapolis might seem strange and foreign to me or another Easterner for various reasons (or even to an Indiana country boy on his first visit to the big city), but it seems to me a stretch to justify “foreign” in the way you’ve tried to do here. I really can’t believe that the setter didn’t simply mean to indicate that the capital is not in the UK (as well as to provide misdirection with a word resembling an anagrind).

      1. The other clincher (as opposed to the somewhat obscure poetic Ind = India) is surely that it’s an international car registration which we accept without comment with regards to many other countries. I admit I wasn’t aware of it in this case, but that’s down to my ignorance.

        1. Well, that alternative explanation doesn’t seem to be the “correct” one, but it’s not one’s first thought to go rummaging thru archaic poeticisms for “Ind” if more up-to-date uses are at hand.

            1. Right. So more up-t0-date uses were not. My guess it that you were familiar with “Ind” as a poeticism and didn’t have to go rummaging.

                1. As I said above, IND IMP was on all our coins from Victoria up to India’s independance.

                  1. It was, but aside from one translation online for IND IMP being INDIAE IMPERATOR, the text on coins was hugely abbreviated. In some other coin text back then, you can see DG as meaning “deo gratia(s)” in dictionaries, but not D=Deo ot G=Gratia(s).

                2. “From the east to western Ind
                  There is no jewel like Rosalind..”
                  from As You Like It.

                  1. Aha! Bravo!
                    It seemed a bit hard to search for, just out of the blue… lots of irrelevant results…

        2. I forgot the IVR possibility. I encourage STC setters to stick to the IVRs that are reasonably likely to be seen on British roads.

    2. 2 errors. A problem with finding many DNK answers in these crosswords is that it creates a readiness to enter invented words. For 2d I decided that a fashionable Victorian dandy would use a musnet to keep his moustache pristine on his way to a party. For 23a I did not think of arena and invented the asega.

  11. Lots to like in this crossword, especially 18ac, but there were one or two things that grated on me. There were three CDs in the first six clues, but fortunately that was that. It seemed that ‘and’ and ‘or’ were used too often as link-words (I counted six — not a great sin, just what seemed to me to be a slight superfluity). And there were three clues where the definition either was all in capital letters, or used such words.

  12. Thanks David and guy
    Started this last weekend, when it was published here, but held on all week with an unhappily unparsed MASTED sitting at 2d. Finally, before starting this week’s challenge, I googled ‘boat race’ and found the rhyming slang meaning to allow the penny to drop and MASKED to go in. Still, it took some more time to research why ASKED was ‘expected’. Similarly, with LEAFLESS – was clearly the definition and better explained by PeterB, but had to rely on the blog to twig to leafing through pages and that ‘bar’ definition.
    Surprising how tricky it is to see those QUESTION MARK type clues !
    Finished after just short of the hour and a half of solve time stretched across a week.

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