Sunday Times Cryptic No 5047 by Robert Price — curious incidents

This was all solved at a steady and unhurried pace (as I watched a YouTube livestream of carnaval in Santa Elena, Entre Rios, Argentina). No mysteries remaining (except maybe what we’re expected to visualize from the surface of 11), but I wouldn’t exactly call the ratiocination required “elementary,” my dear reader. A barking brilliant puzzle!

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

 1 Duck’s wing action (8)
SIDESTEP   SIDE, “wing” + STEP, “action”
 5 Retired old lady’s dog ointment (6)
BALSAM   MA’S, “old lady’s” + LAB, “dog” <= all “Retired”
 9 Popular bandleader’s clothing retailer (8)
MILLINER   MILL(IN)ER   That’s Glenn Miller, presumably (not Steve). Here “clothing” is, strictly speaking, only part of the wordplay, rather than the definition—although the entire phrase fits the proprietor of a hat shop.
10 Sweet female in tears sadly (6)
AFTERS  (tears + F)*
12 Garment often with fur ripped off (5)
13 I’m leaving dog advice to Spooner (6-3)
TOODLE-PIP   “poodle tip”
14 Commonplace freedom a factory owner enjoys (3-2-3-4)
RUN-OF-THE-MILL   With a literal reading of the idiom for a cryptic hint. As a noun, it wouldn’t be hyphenated.
18 Well informed cast for a movie (2,3,7)
IN THE PICTURE   Two definitions, the latter more occasional than idiomatic
21 City store called Habitat (9)
STOCKHOLM   STOCK, “store” + “home”
23 Best digs around so they say (5)
PRIZE  “pries”
24 A poet’s devouring duck eggs? (6)
25 Vegetable hamper collecting muck in the middle (8)
26 A tense trial witness (6)
ATTEST   A + T(ense) + TEST, “trial”
27 Mystery of hound with curtailed barking (8)
WHODUNIT   (hound + wit[-h])*   The surface surely alludes to Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “Silver Blaze,” in which Sherlock Holmes draws a conclusion from “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
 1 As usual, regularly eating a second pastry (6)
SAMOSA  [- a]S[-u]S[-u]A[-l] interrupted by A + MO, “second”: S(A)(MO)SA
 2 Helping party with election coming up (6)
DOLLOP   DO, “party” + POLL<=“coming up”
 3 Old computer in decline, on order (5,4)
SLIDE RULE   SLIDE, “decline” + RULE, “order”
 4 True, God shaped Zion — there’s no escaping it (5,7)
EVENT HORIZON   EVEN, “True” + THOR, “God” + (Zion)*   In astrophysics, this is a boundary beyond which events cannot affect an observer, a term most widely seen in its application to the rim of a black hole, from which it is thought no light, even, can ever emerge.
EVEN and “True” can be aligned as verbs (definitions from Collins).
EVEN: (sometimes fol. by out) to make even; level; smooth | to even a board with a plane
TRUE: (esp in carpentry) (often fol. by up) to make even, symmetrical, level, etc. | to true up the sides of a door
 6 Allowed to go topless? Terrible! (5)
 7 Novel sort of piped disinfectant (5-3)
SHEEP-DIP   SHE, “novel” + (piped)*   H. Rider Haggard’s SHE: A History of Adventure, came out in 1887 to popular acclaim and has been in print ever since, as well as ubiquitous in crosswords for longer, no doubt, than any of us can remember.   …I must confess to having known no more, essentially, about the book than that its title is convenient for crossword setters. I wasn’t aware (before reading the Wikipedia entry) that She was a product of the late nineteenth century (nor, which almost inevitably follows, that it unabashedly endorsed the racist illusions of British imperialism), and certainly not that it was an influence on some writers a bit more highly regarded by literary critics and a seminal text for a few nascent genres of fiction. (As a kid, I read virtually all of—not one of the critics’ favorites—Edgar Rice Burroughs: Tarzan, John Carter of Mars… Much later, it was E.R.’s cousin—many times removed… ha—William.)
 8 Girl with skin like alobaster? (8)
MISSPELT   MISS, “Girl” + PELT, “skin”
11 Estuary closed by “Jaws” life-saver (5-2-5)
MOUTH-TO-MOUTH   MOUTH, “Estuary” + TO, “closed” + MOUTH, “Jaws”
15 Generation embracing unknown beat poet (4,5)
EZRA POUND   E(Z)RA, “Generation embracing unknown” + POUND, “beat”   Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg did embrace the very well-known (downright notorious) Pound, endlessly writing letters, undeterred by the lack of any response, to the treasonous non-Beat (albeit beaten) poet incarcerated in the psych ward of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and later (reportedly) receiving and accepting an apology from Pound for his (inarguably) “worst mistake…the stupid suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism.”
16 Tricky Pisa road race, covering a lot of ground (8)
DIASPORA   (Pisa road)*   …Just noticed a weird resonance between this and the clue just above.
17 Nothing on old, empty beer bottles was unusual (5,3)
STOOD OUT   ST(O, zero, “Nothing”)(O[-l]D)OUT
19 VIP generous about a historian (6)
GIBBON   NOB, “VIP” + BIG, “generous” <=all “about”   That would be Edward.
20 Private about to enter camp (6)
22 Up country, what may be done for prestige (5)
KUDOS   UK<=“up” + “DO”S, “what may be done” (as opposed to “don’t”s)   …This particular use of the word was new to me, and still seems odd.


23 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5047 by Robert Price — curious incidents”

  1. I think 1 down works better as s-a-s (as usual regularly) round ‘a mo’. Great blog! Thanks.

  2. 37:49
    My last two, 24ac OVOIDS and 16d DIASPORA, took about 10′. Didn’t care much for the definition of DIASPORA. A cucumber is actually a fruit, of course, but I don’t feel any need to object to ‘vegetable’ here. I liked 9ac MILLINER and 8d MISSPELT (Have we had that kind of clue before?).

    1. Fruits, veggies… don’t ask me.
      Wikipedia: “The cucumber is a widely-cultivated creeping vine plant in the family Cucurbitaceae that bears cylindrical to spherical fruits, which are used as culinary vegetables.”
      For lexicographers, isn’t usage the last word? Ha.

      MISSPELT is the kind of thing my friends Joshua and Henri would do in one of their Out of Left Field puzzles. I don’t recall seeing that trick here before.

      1. That’s why I said I felt no need to object to ‘vegetable’ in the clue; although ‘fruit hamper’ would have worked just as well. I wouldn’t, though, expect a dictionary to call a cucumber a vegetable, although in fact COBUILD does. But COBUILD is a dictionary for non-native speakers of English.

  3. 36m 12s
    I found this straightforward.
    Never mind all the fancy literary allusions….”And Bruce here is in charge of the 7d”! 😁

  4. 55 minutes. EVENT HORIZON held out longest and I didn’t really understand the definition. Some enjoyably difficult parsing to work out, eg for EZRA POUND and CUCUMBER; possibly an OVOID as well as a fruit and a vegetable. I still have my SLIDE RULE in my desk top drawer and remember the excitement when we were issued them at school as the very latest thing. Favourites were MISSPELT – not a complaint, but a bit more The Guardian than The Sunday Times – and the Holmes association in the surface for WHODUNIT.

    If you’re interested, there’s a SHEEP DIP whisky, originally from that well known whisky producing county of Gloucestershire, though now blended and bottled in Scotland.

    Thanks to Guy and Robert

    1. Slide rules as “the very latest thing”: I hope your schoolteachers were joking. The one I have kicking around is pretty obviously mid-20th century, and the usual person credited with inventing the slide rule is the priest and mathematician William Oughtred (1574-1660). Later on, Peter Mark Roget was apparently the first to add a log-log scale, before he worked on his thesaurus.

      1. Well, to be honest they were only sort of joking. I’m talking about 1968-9 (maybe 1970), before the widespread use of electronic calculators and our shiny new SLIDE RULE(s) replaced log table books which we had used until then. I remember the cursors were easily breakable; mine is cracked but intact so it’s still useable. I can lend it to you if you like; as a bonus, it even comes with cos, sin, arc and tan.

        1. Bit later for me – I’m pretty sure I used one in my 1976 maths O-level unless any questions required me to use a log book, and think I’d switched to a Casio calculator for A-levels. No need for loan – one’s enough.

  5. I was held up for a long time by STOCKHOLM -must be some sort of syndrome.
    But LOI was STOLE.
    I thought this was an excellent puzzle.
    19d reminded me of the schoolboy recommendation to read Empire’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Gibbon.

      1. Wasn’t that the funniest radio series ever? I know some people thought the humour childish, but I adored its silliness, although I came to it somewhat late, getting most of the episodes from BBC cassettes. I can still remember whole sections of dialogue from various sketches.

  6. I found this relatively easy for a Sunday crossword, but none the less enjoyable for that. FOI SAMOSA, followed rapidly by the others in the NW corner. I particularly liked MISSPELT and the clever surfaces and misdirection for DIASPORA and EZRA POUND. My LOI was 19D, which I eventually bifd and then parsed. I couldn’t think of a word for VIP that worked with the letters and I was expecting an ‘a’ somewhere rather than a reverse indication. Quite often it’s not the difficult clues that hold me up, but the ones that are obvious to everyone else! Many thanks to Robert and Guy for another cracker.

  7. English, Geography and History were my strengths at senior school 1960s. I never did understand logs or how to use a slide rule.
    Seriously I didn’t get Event Horizon probably because I’ve never heard of it

  8. Thanks Robert and Guy
    Took about an hour on a Sunday afternoon, a week later than you folk. Found it quite tough but able to be steadily plied away at until completion. A good mix of seeing the definition and then untangling the word play or having the word play worked out and then seeing the often tricky definition in the rest of the clue. Also liked MISSPELT after finally giving up that there must have been a typo in the clue.
    Somehow the eyes slipped down to ATTEST before getting back to SAMOSA at the start, finishing in the SW corner with KUDOS (took a while to understand the DO’S bit), STOCKHOLM and STOOD OUT (another tricky word play after the crossers presented the answer).

  9. We only get this crossword about 2 weeks after it’s published. I did better than I usually do, having to cheat on only seven answers. Loved toodle-pip, an expression we don’t use in Canada. Always a challenge, and enlightening when the answers are revealed.

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