Sunday Times Cryptic No 5051 by David McLean — Geronimo!

Excellent, diverting puzzle, with clues of a complexity consistently between the hidden word and the &lit, neither of which type is present here. Some of the definitions took a little delving. Let’s dive right in!

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

 1 Limit big smoke rings primarily around faculty (8)
CAPACITY    CAP, “limit” + A[-round] + CITY, “big smoke”—with “rings” as position indicator
…As it happens, I had come across the term “the big smoke” (in reference to London, as seems to be most often the case) in a Facebook post on the preceding Friday and had already looked it up.
 5 Ignore pressure to get dope at a higher price (4,2)
PASS UP    P(ressure) + ASS, “dope” + UP, “at a higher price”
 9 Put up memo about minimum grade for smart alecs? (8)
10 Leave behind jumper for collection by servant (6)
11 Ring with inset rare gem (5)
12 One looking to interpret remake of Pale Rider (3-6)
LIP-READER    (Pale Rider)*   The anagrist is the title of a 1985 film by Clint Eastwood (producer, director and star).
14 Well house possibly in part of stately home (7,4)
DRAWING ROOM    “Well house”: a covered structure (as a house or room) built around the top of a well… where water is drawn
18 Go down or intimidate one over judge? (11)
DETERIORATE    DETER, “intimidate” + I, “one” + O(ver) + RATE, “judge”
21 After misdelivery, trousers and note turned up (9)
RETROUSSE    (trousers)* + E, “note”  Often used to describe a nose  (Mentally supply the acute accent on the second E.)
23 Divinity’s welcomed by the cardinal (5)
THREE    TH(RE)E   RE is R(eligious) (E)ducation, also called “divinity” (theological studies)   …I originally had RE here as an alternate spelling of the Egyptian god RA—which I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen before I found it in Collins.
24 Work that’s bringing one living with better earnings? (6)
BOOKIE    BOOK, “Work” + IE, “that’s” (id est), with a cryptic definition that plays on “better”
25 Inspire everyone to overwhelm Welsh defence (8)
FIREWALL    FIRE, “Inspire” + W(elsh) + ALL, “everyone”
26 Festival always having a Stone appearing in it (6)
27 Singer causing surprise with split from Heart (8)
 1 Silk item that goes with cords and a jumper? (6)
CANOPY    CD, referring to that rather important part of a parachute that catches the air and slows the user’s descent   …One of my last solved, certainly the last parsed. I was tempted to put this word in earlier, but I didn’t know this definition, and “silk” didn’t seem essential to any other usage I was aware of. (Did you know that there is an insect called the “CANOPY jumping spider”? Me neither. Irrelevant here, though.)
 2 Plain secretaries a politician’s laid into (6)
 3 One winding up bluff setter about daughter (9)
CONCLUDER    CON, “bluff” + CLU(D)ER   …This, my LOI, is a somewhat awkward, slapped-together word that one might use under constraint but I can’t recall hearing lately… or ever. It’s also the only word that fits the crossers, so it appears that the setter painted himself into a corner. But what a clever clue he’s made for it! (Don’t say anything that could be construed as offensive about the “heartily outspoken” [Collins on “bluff”] crossword creator’s “little girl”!)
 4 We tease out tortilla wraps relations put by salt (11)
TITILLATORS    (tortilla)* around IT, “relations” + S(alt), as on a shaker on the dinner table
 6 Calm down if worried by a touch of biliousness (5)
 7 Plant that blooms in spring or a wintery fall? (8)
SNOWDROP    …and to take the name literally…
 8 Men inspired by country view that’s unbroken (8)
PANORAMA    PAN(OR)AMA   MEN = O(ther) R(anks), troops forever standing by to aid the setter
13 I tape Hill’s funny tip for Terence Stamp fan (11)
PHILATELIST    (I tape Hill’s)* + T[-errence]   …An answer that cannot help but remind me of our recently departed colleague David Horry
15 Eminent boozer hanging around English group of stars (5,4)
GREAT BEAR    GREAT, “Eminent” + B(E)AR
16 A party fit to grant membership to Republican darling (8)
ADORABLE    A + DO, “party” + R(epublican) + ABLE, “fit”
17 Posts in channels (8)
19 Right geezer breaking into first-class house in style? (6)
20 Aim at stage on which a tall pirate stands? (3,3)
PEG LEG    PEG, “Aim at” + LEG, “stage”   A “tall” pirate because one such was Long John Silver, in R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island, certainly one of the most famous amputee sailors, though far from the only one (in fiction or history)
22 A shade old to enjoy existence to the full (5)
Have you tried sky-diving, gramps?
OLIVE    O(ld) + LIVE, “enjoy existence to the full”

36 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5051 by David McLean — Geronimo!”

  1. Divinity in 23A is not Ra but an old British name for a school lesson – later called Religious Instruction (RI) or Religious Education (RE).

    1. Well, damn. I should’ve thought of that. Thanks.
      The variant for “Ra” found in Collins is surely very obscure.
      I’m still trying to account for the O in DETERIORATE, by the way. Haven’t found O as an abbreviation for Over in a dictionary yet.

      Whew. Just found it, here
      (I knew that, of course. But I’d omitted the O from the notation, and then had post-post jitters!)

        1. Didn’t think twice about it when working the puzzle. Have been seeing it in xwrds for years.

  2. 23:06, which is probably my fastest time for one of Harry’s.
    DNK ‘big smoke’. I inferred that ‘divinity’=RE. Didn’t get ‘split from Heart’. I liked LIP-READER. Guy, at BOOKIE ‘one’ needs to be underlined. ON EDIT: The canopy jumping spider, being a spider, isn’t an insect. (I tried to post this comment separately, only to be told that I was posting too fast! What does that mean?)

    1. Re “insect”: I am aware of the distinction and also of the secondary definition: “any of numerous small invertebrate animals (such as spiders or centipedes) that are more or less obviously segmented —not used technically” (M-W)—but am certainly sorry now not to have had “arachnid”! (Or maybe “critter.”)

        1. If the name were introduced in the same manner as I did, “spider” would be the kind of repetition that I eschew.

  3. I found the ‘if’ in the clue for 6d rather iffy, though I can see it’s needed to smooth the surface.
    My last in was 24a. With the B-O-I- checkers I was fixated on BIOPIC as a work, with ‘one living’ somehow relating to ‘bio’ as in biology. Luckily the excellent BOOKIE rescued me.

  4. I think “acute accent on first E “could be confusing. Clearer would be second E, middle E,or second last E.

    1. Actually, I had input it wrong. There are two Ss, only two Es.
      And nez is masculine anyway!

  5. Unable to finish without resorting to aids as I went down too many blind alleys. NHO DRAWING ROOM as housing for a well. We have E = English almost every day, so why would W = Welsh feel so strange, I wonder? One to remember! But I’m less happy with S = salt. As a single-letter abbreviation I doubt it’s supported in any dictionary and I suspect salt and pepper shakers labelled in this manner virtually died out years ago.

    1. DRAWING ROOM isn’t a room housing a well in any accepted sense. That was a joke or a cryptic definition. A play on the word draw.

      1. Ah, I see. In that case I’m even less keen on the clue as it is (or certainly was) common practice to refer to rooms in quite modest houses as the DRAWING ROOM as an alternative to sitting room or lounge.

        1. I must admit, I thought that was the answer early on, but held back until I had some cross checkers.

  6. Had to admit defeat on this with several unsolved. When I had a tentative answer like DRAWING ROOM I was too uncertain to ink it in.
    The NW had the most blanks. I wasn’t on the wavelength this week.

  7. I hadn’t left notes for this, which suggests that by the time I’d finished, I’d had enough! I wasn’t too impressed over DRAWING ROOM – I understood it alright, but thought it too much of a stretch and erased it before checkers confirmed it was correct. R for ‘rare’ was unknown, likewise PEG for ‘aim’, so I had to come here to see if that was actually correct.
    I did indeed think of Horryd with 13D – and, as so often happens, we also got Philately one day this week. This is clearly not coincidence – I’ve seen it again and again – and I’m intrigued to know the time frame in which puzzles are submitted for publication – the repeated use of specific words or variations on the root would suggest it’s only a matter of a couple of days. Does anyone know?

  8. 16:24 but I was wearying of this by the end and bunged in BIOPIC without thinking about it enough.
    PEG is (according to Collins) a transitive verb meaning ‘to aim and throw (missiles) at a target’, so I think it is indicated in the clue by ‘aim at‘.

    1. OK, I’ve moved the quotation mark.
      Did you have any thoughts on W(elsh) and S(alt), flagged by Jack?

      1. W for Welsh is in Collins: hard to object when E for English is so common.
        S for salt is an interesting one. It’s not in any dictionary I have found (not even Chambers!) but those little salt and pepper grinders are still very common in my experience. On pragmatic grounds it seems perverse to exclude an abbreviation that you’re far more likely to see IRL than many of the others that are commonly used.

        1. When solving, I just assumed W for Welsh must be used in some dictionaries and lexicons. Looking back, after a desperately needed good long sleep, I see that Jack’s comment was less skeptical than I remembered.
          My friends Joshua and Henri use S for Salt, not sure I’d ever seen it here. It’s seen not only on little shakers but also other containers.

  9. DNF with lots in the west empty.
    Thought DRAWING ROOM was weak.
    BOOKIE – I didn’t get it – is COD now I’ve read the blog; tough but fair.
    Just got bored as several I didn’t get are easy RETROUSSE for instance.

    1. Having corrected 24ac to BOOKIE my first thought was that it is an excellent clue, but on reflection I’m not so sure. Being a bookie is work, but I wonder if the name of any job can be substituted for the word ‘work’. Does ‘butcher’ or ‘baker’ or ‘candlestick-maker’ = work?

      1. Work = a term for any working person would be pretty broad, and inferior to “worker” which would be equally broad but at least a synonym. But as indicated in the report, “work” in this clue means “book”, and the definition is elsewhere.

        PS My job is “crossword editor” and my work = my job, but work = “crossword editor” feels like two steps.

    2. Same feeling as you, Andy, as I would (possibly) have put more effort into the more obvious clues if I hadn’t already been dispirited by my overall lack of understanding of the rest. That said, did appreciate the cleverness of the clueing – just a tad too clever for me. FOI LIP-READER (easier anagram) and COD THREE (because I got it!)

  10. It may well once have been the case that drawing rooms were particularly part of stately homes, but Noblesse Oblige by Nancy Mitford in about 1956, in which ‘lounge’ was decried as non-U, probably caused many aspirational middle-class people in, as Jack says, quite modest houses, to use the term ‘drawing room’.

  11. As we did, in the 40s and 50s ; but we were only allowed to watch television in there a couple of times a week (when it was introduced) as it was to be left “ready to receive visitors”. This was in a house without a bathroom, initially!

  12. Thanks David and guy
    Was able to complete this in 50 minutes between 3:30 and 4:20am in an insomniacal period – obviously when the brain cells were in a reasonably efficient solving mode. Only had to resort to aids with the last couple in, but needed the blog to see the proper parsing of a couple – CAPACITY (couldn’t get past seeing C-APAC-ITY and the definition as ‘limit’) and BOOKIE (where I thought that it was a very clever cd, but with the BOOK I.E. word play, makes it even better) !
    Finished with the odd CONCLUDER, DRAWING ROOM (which needed to be corrected from an unparsed DEALING ROOM and a check of how even DRAWING ROOM related to a ‘well’) and the clever BOOKIE last of all.

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