Sunday Times Cryptic No 5041 by Robert Price — Eyes wide open

It’s unusual for me to start writing up the puzzle so late… Friday, already! I always like to have time to review, rethink and revise before publication—and I hate to be rushed. I don’t envy the heroes who answer the call of duty the very day of a puzzle’s appearance.

But what to say? Bob always satisfies, and leaves me with nothing to quibble about. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

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

 1 Publicity video new duke supplied (8)
PROVIDED   PR, “publicity” + (video)* + D(uke)
 5 Drink for everyone abandoning a conspirator (6)
CASSIS   CASSI(-u)S   • (Gaius) Cassius (Longinus) was, of course, at the dark heart of the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar.   • The British Film Classification Board gives a U(niversal) rating to movies deemed acceptable for audiences aged 4 years and over—while carefully acknowledging that “it is impossible to predict what might upset a particular child, especially at this lower end of the category range.”   • CASSIS is (Merriam-Webster) “a syrupy liquor of low alcoholic strength made from black currants and used chiefly as a flavoring and sweetening agent”; the word is French for, “literally, black currants, perhaps from Latin cassia”  …So, though French indeed, not—much to my surprise—related at all to the region immortalized by Rimbaud in “La rivière de Cassis.” You learn something new every day (if you’re not careful).
 9 Paddy infiltrating soldiers’ defences (8)
PARAPETS   PARA(PET)S   PET = “Paddy” in the sense of a “snit”
10 Put up with Love Island (6)
BORNEO   BORNE, “Put up with” + O, zero, “Love” in tennis
12 Fine cotton reel’s last inch (5)
LISLE   [-ree]L + ISLE, “inch” (Scot, “a small island near the seacoast”)
13 Racecourse punters not exploited yet (9)
NEWMARKET   Cryptic (and, if not cynical, clear-eyed at least) hint plays on the fact that “punters” can mean “customers” as well as “bettors.” The racecourse is in Suffolk.
14 Go without a small, sweet dish (5,7)
PEASE PUDDING   PE(A)(S)E + PUDDING, “sweet”… which this fare isn’t
18 Red card leads to another frank exchange (5-2-5)
HEART-TO-HEART    Cryptic hint literally interpreting the idiom by reference to the suit of HEARTs, beneath a surface that evokes a dispute on a football field
21 Tug crew take care of (9)
MANHANDLE   MAN, “crew” + HANDLE, “take care of”
23 Snapper’s part in shamin{g a Tor}y (5)
GATOR   Hidden
24 Wound exposed on front of shark (6)
SNAKED   S[-hark] + NAKED, “exposed”
25 Flatter bloomer, less cooked on top (6,2)
26 Party animal twisting to the hits (6)
27 Careful bosses keeping note of liabilities (8)
 1 What may enlarge as it gets dimmer students (6)
PUPILS   DD, one of them a CD playing on the ambiguity of “it,” which, decrypted, does not refer to whatever it is that “may enlarge” but is rather the (Merriam-Webster) “subject of an impersonal verb that expresses a condition or action without reference to an agent,” as in “it is raining.”
 2 Old cat, losing it, turned man-eater (6)
OGRESS   O(-ld) + [-it<=“turned”]GRESS
 3 Device put into effect (9)
 4 Retract weapons after English make amends (3,4,5)
EAT ONES WORDS   E(nglish) + ATONE, “make amends” + SWORDS, “weapons”: assemble as directed
 6 Meeting place ready for Israel’s smallest unit (5)
AGORA   DD, the second cryptically playing on “ready” as available money, cash. The new Israeli shekel (NIS) is divided into 100 agorot.
 7 Language Society cryptic ranks above sex (8)
High praise indeed!
SANSKRIT   S(ociety) + (ranks)* + IT, “sex”
 8 Sharp decline in poverty (8)
SHORTAGE   SHORT, “Sharp” + AGE, “decline”
11 Outfit wife dons to work on case (3-5,4)
TWO-PIECE SUIT   T(W)O + PIECE, “work” + SUIT, “case”
15 Front of tatty, dog-eared novel made to look inferior (9)
DEROGATED   (T[-atty], dog-eared)*
16 Clobber worn by sub playing okay (6-2)
THUMBS-UP   THUMP, “Clobber” interrupted by (sub)*
17 Head runs out of school preserve (8)
MAINTAIN   MAIN, “Head” + T[-r]AIN
19 Hi-fi using disc before case of tapes turned up (6)
STEREO   O, “disc” + ERE, “before”+ T[-ape]S  <=all “turned up”
20 Final exam over, covered in mistakes (6)
22 Beer crate regularly dropped on your toes (5)
ALERT   ALE, “Beer” + RT from cRaTe


30 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5041 by Robert Price — Eyes wide open”

  1. 28:37
    Terrific puzzle, as always. I biffed a few, parsing post-submission: 9ac PARAPETS (finally remembered ‘paddy’), 4d EAT ONES WORDS, 7d SANSKRIT, 17d MAINTAIN. I never figured out NEWMARKET, knowing ‘punter’ only as a bettor. Elegant cluing; 6 words per clue. To paraphrase Robert (or Myrtilus), mostly I liked MANHANDLE, SNAKED, PINATA, EAT ONES WORDS,THUMBS-UP, MAINTAIN.

    1. Just realized I’d underlined the wrong part of the clue to NEWMARKET! You didn’t flag the slip this time (for a change), but the fact that you posted made me look at this again.

  2. All but 26ac in 32 minutes, but after another 10 I hadn’t any idea about the missing word so I gave up and resorted to aids. Having found PINATA which didn’t mean anything to me I read its description as a party game and realised it’s a word I have met before clued with reference to a donkey (ass, actually, having since looked it up) and that was in October 2017. It was defined cryptically on that occasion too, and I also failed to solve it.

      1. Thanks. I wonder why I missed that when I searched this morning, although it was mainly my rant about the ‘ass’ reference that I was looking for.

        I came within a whisker of the correct answer on this later occasion (I had PINITA) because at least the clue had wordplay to work with. Just a shame I missed PINTA for ‘some milk’ and only got as far as PINT.

  3. Great crossword. I think the only unknown for me was AGORA in the part of a Shekel sense (I knew the meeting place). I guess it helped that I went to Cambridge so I knew TRIPOS, and NEWMARKET was nearby. And I live in California where, on any given summer weekend in the park, you will see kids swinging sticks dangerously while blindfolded trying to hit the PIÑATA and shake some candy out.

  4. 14:49. I found this quite tricky. Mostly of the very high quality we’ve come to expect from RP, but there were a couple of things I thought a tiny bit loose: ‘tug’ for MANHANDLE, and 8dn where I thought both sharp/SHORT and decline/AGE were sufficiently oblique for the combination in a single clue to feel a bit stretchy. These are tiny nits though and with most other setters I wouldn’t even notice them.
    The PINATA is very familiar to me from countless children’s parties but it was entirely absent from my own childhood so I suspect this may be a generational thing where you have to have had kids (or grandkids) in the fairly recent past.

    1. I did look twice at tug = MANHANDLE. Though definitions of the latter tend to refer to pushing more than pulling, something like (first Google result) “move (a heavy object) by hand with great effort” seemed close enough. Decline = AGE is easily, if sadly, extrapolated from a definition like’s “to make old; cause to grow or seem old,” though of course it doesn’t pertain to whisk(e)y or fine wine (up to a point). I admit that it’s a bit oblique. But for “sharp” not equating to SHORT, I can only say, “The nerve!” 😉

      1. I obviously copied the wrong definition for AGE as “decline”—meant to grab the intransitive—and now it’s too late to edit.

  5. PINATA 26a easy enough as son-in-law is Mexican, but I don’t find any reference to any animal, such as an ass. Am I being dim or looking in the wrong dictionary?

    1. The Oxford Dictionary of English has “animal” in the definition, and a Google images search for “pinata” suggests that “donkey” is a common example, or at least the name often used in English for a common design.

    2. For reference, PINATA was an answer in ST4768 set by David McLean and blogged on 22 October 2017 by keriothe. The clue was:

      Sweet-hearted ass kids give stick to at parties?

      Here’s what I wrote in my comment that day:

      I was spitting blood over this, having spent at least 20 minutes on this clue alone, first trying to solve it and then, having given up and found the answer eventually by resorting to aids, trying to understand it, as not one of the usual sources mentions anything about a donkey or ass.

      Starting in print: COED doesn’t list the word at all. Chambers only uses the word ‘figure’, Collins calls it ‘a decoration’. ODE has ‘figure of an animal’. SOED has ‘decorated container’.

      Going on-line: Chambers (free version) doesn’t list it at all (!). ODO has ‘figure of an animal’. Collins has ‘decoration’ again and has ‘figure’.

      I found the ‘ass’ connection eventually on Wikipedia where the very long article mentions ‘donkeys’ once only (in its 78th line) and goes on to explain that these days the device is most commonly in the shape of a star, a ball with points or American cartoon characters.

      So what it boils down to is that the cryptic clue is utterly unsolvable unless one happens to know the word, and on top of everything else the mention of an ass makes it a definition by example. Yes, I know it has a question mark at the end but that doesn’t mitigate in my view in this case. I don’t mind being beaten fairly by a clue but this one should never have been allowed through.

      My reaction on today’s clue is much cooler, but I still think it’s one of those things that one will either know or not, so perhaps a cryptic clue with no other way into it was a little unfair.

      1. When I was a child in a little town in West Virginia, we had across-the-street neighbors who were from Mexico, and at the little girl’s birthday party there was indeed a PIÑATA. I’ve always thought of them as burro-shaped. The word appears so often in US crosswords that it didn’t occur to me that folks an ocean away might find it obscure.

  6. I have no record of anything to do with this crossword, although I can remember doing it and as usual thinking how good it was. Certainly PINATA would have floored me because I have never heard of it. I wonder if Love Island has reached the USA and suspect not because otherwise Guy would I’m sure have explained the reference in 10ac. Wonderful clue.

    1. I’m guessing Love Island is a “reality TV” show…? That’s what it looks like, even if only imaginary. Even if the series has made it to these shores, it’s not surprising that it hasn’t reached me.

      1. It is indeed a reality TV show. I’ve never watched it – the premise and the press puff were enough to convince me it would be an addictive waste of anyone’s time. Extremely beautiful and largely gormless individuals with very little in the way of brains thrown together on a ‘desert’ island in order to see what the outcome might be. I would be willing to bet quite a lot on zero long-term stable relationships resulting…

  7. Well here was another UK solver who had to resort to aids to get 26A, and was pretty fed up for exactly the reasons Jackkt gives above in his comment on the first encounter. It is, in fact, completely unsolvable unless you have heard of the word. He says: ‘My reaction on today’s clue is much cooler, but I still think it’s one of those things that one will either know or not, so perhaps a cryptic clue with no other way into it was a little unfair.’ An anagram would also have been unfair, as it could also have been ‘panita’ or ‘panati’ since the tilda is not flagged. I don’t think I was doing the Times crossword regularly back in 2017, and though I speak fluent Spanish, I have never been to Latin or Central America (or California) and never encountered one of these in literature or in the flesh. So that’s my moan over – however, I did like 4D and 16D for the surfaces though both were bifd and post-parsed. I didn’t know LISLE was fine cotton – I’ve come across it with reference to stockings, and had assumed they were made of wool so, as Guy says, you learn something new every day.

    1. The only pinata cultural reference I can think of is in the 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite where Napoleon’s pal Pedro belabours a pinata effigy of his school president rival Summer Wheatley.

    2. On an earlier appearance (was it really 6 years ago? Maybe so), it was a new word for me too, so I asked my wife whether she’d heard of it. She had, and IIRC seemed mildly surprised to be asked. Amazon (UK) has four pages of “pinata” search results, and a Google search suggests availability from a fair number of well-known supermarkets.

  8. All green started in SE corner which went in fast.

    PINATA was not a problem for me (Mexican-American wife, and I lived in California during my daughters’ Pinata days). The burro was the canonical form, for sure.

    Struggled to feel happy with NEWMARKET, as I has “mark” as punter and couldn’t account for the ET.

    The only conspirator I knew was BRUTUS, so that was a problem for CASSIS. I learnt of another one in one of the puzzles yesterday. I guess there were quite a few responsible.

    NHO Pet=Paddy, though I guessed that it was the sense of the word “paddy”. PALISADE was an early biff for “defences”

    I tried taking IT out of MACAVITY (old cat), for the MACAVY which I looked up to see if it might be a man-eater.

  9. Much amusement at PINATA getting flak in the company of AGORA (is it the singular of ‘agorot’?(in any event we are somewhere between Ancient Greek and Yiddish(?))) and TRIPOS.

    Elegant blog.

    1. Thank you. Maybe too elegant, if you had to ask about “agorot.” The answer, to spell it out quite clearly, is “yes.”
      Hebrew is not Yiddish.

      1. I thought I had picked up somewhere that Yiddish was the Official Language of Israel. Hebrew so.


        1. OK, to be fair, I hadn’t heard of AGORA in the sense of Hebrew coinage. But as it was clued also as a meeting place, it came readily to mind with the crossers. My point about PINATA was that there was no second reference to aid you in solving the clue. I’m pretty sure that next time it appears, I will remember it, however. That is how we improve.
          Modern Hebrew is a construct based on ancient Hebrew, and was the chosen language for the new State of Israel. Yiddish was the language spoken by Ashkenazy Jews and at one time was the predominant language amongst the Jewish people. It evolved from High German in the 9thC. Many words such as ‘schmuck’, ‘goy’ (non-Jew) and ‘chutzpah’ have made their way into current English and greatly enrich the language.

          1. I wish I could be confident about remembering PINATA but this is its third appearance in 5 years and so far it hasn’t stuck. One of the problems is that there are so many elements to the game that the definition can vary considerably whenever it appears. There’s no single trigger-word that brings it immediately to mind.

            1. The elements of the game are few, and the piñata is the central one, the idea of which seems simple enough. Apparently, though (according to James), it’s not always a donkey or even an animal anymore.

  10. Would have liked to have done better on this, as it had some fine clues, indeed. As it was, I missed out on (as others) PIÑATA, TRIPOS (NHO), and CASSIS (looking for a word ending in LL -“for everyone (all) abandoning a). Also tried to shoehorn INSTRUMENT into 3d, before realising my mistake (so hard to see the alternative). Better luck next Sunday…

  11. Gritty puzzle that I had to chip away at across a couple of sessions, adding up to 77 minutes. Was able to complete most of it unaided – was not familiar with PINATA at all, that only came from a word finder and then it still took some looking around to understand why it was right. Had to check up on the PEASE PUDDING and AGORA (as a monetary unit). TRIPOS was vaguely familiar and needed help with the word play for SHORTAGE. Was pleased to sort out the parsing of EAT ONE’S WORDS and thought that it was rather clever.
    Finished in the SW corner with THUMBS UP (neat), SNAKED (even neater) and that PINATA as the last one in.

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