Sunday Times Cryptic No 5081 by David McLean — downright hedonistic

I knew this was going to be fun when I had 1A to start and soon acquired 1D, much to my delight. It has five excellent anagrams, which is indeed right up my alley—with two right down the sides of the grid. We also see two cities (three, counting another “City” in a clue) and identify two “duck”s—as well as, if we’re on the lookout, the “police” which turn up here (counting “Coppers”) three times. I also very much enjoyed writing this up, as maybe you will be able to tell.

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


 1 Thing for drink (3,2,3)
CUP OF TEA    The idiom—with the sense of “Thing” as in Collins (British): “an activity or mode of behaviour satisfying to one’s personality (esp in the phrase do one’s (own) thing)”—and the literal sense for a hint   …TEA is not my thing (except in one passé slang sense; see below).
 5 Rouse support to expel a Republican (4,2)
George Santos?
10 USSR operation for content censorship (9)
REDACTION    RED, “USSR” + ACTION, “operation”
11 Coppers pressure crook to give up leader (5)
PENCE     P(ressure) + fENCE
12 One into retro-rock and Help! (5)
AVAIL    L(I)AVA<=“retro”
13 Film performers screen: Renegades (9)
TURNCOATS    TURN(COAT)S   Collins has a definition for TURN as “performer or performers” of a short variety show act. COAT is the “Film” that the former word is deployed to cover or “screen.” …Last one parsed! I knew TURN as a performance but not as a performer.
14 Design a bespoke NT monitor (4,4,2)
KEEP TABS ON    (a bespoke NT)*   This expression originated in the mid-19th century USA, when bartenders began using a slate, called a “tablet”—“tab” for short—to write down the number of drinks each customer had consumed, a history echoed today whenever a bar patron opts to “run a tab.”
17 Effects of drugs (4)
GEAR    DD   “Effects” as in “personal…” and “drugs,” in the UK slang term, specifically of the illegal sort   …All my favorite drugs (coffee, alcohol, cannabis) are legal, here in the great city of New York!
19 I’m sorry brief cuddle repelled (4)
OOPS    SPOOn <=“repelled”
20 Police propose and second tailing criminals (10)
CONSTABLES    CONS, “criminals” + TABLE, “propose” + S(econd)
22 Key authority presiding over problematic Yale opening (9)
LOCKSMITH    CD, playing on both “Key” and “Yale”
24 Note lead falling from house — duck! (5)
DODGE    D, “Note” + lODGE
26 Tool stuck on end of merry-go-round — duck! (5)
DRAKE    merry-go-rounD + RAKE, “tool”
27 Big air lad pulled takes the biscuit (9)
GARIBALDI    (Big air lad)*   Wikipedia: “The Garibaldi biscuit was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general and leader of the struggle to unify the Kingdom of Italy. Garibaldi made a popular visit to South Shields in England in 1854.” I haven’t seen “pulled” used as anagrind in a clue before nor in any list (having checked several just now).
28 Worrying defeat with British sent packing (6)
29 Police leader catches out-of-head Lord driving (8)
STEERING    ST(pEER)ING   “Police” here being the band, among whose hits was the STING-penned stalker’s confession, “Every Breath You Take,” mistaken by the masses for a tender love ballad.
 1 It ruined large deck on lawn (6,9)
CARNAL KNOWLEDGE    (large deck on lawn)*
 2 City father lawyer shows round uni (5)
PADUA    PA, “father” + D(U)A    An unflagged Americanism in D(istrict) A(ttorney) here, but you’re used to that, aren’t you?
 3 Skill City fail to crack (8)
FACILITY    (City fail)*
 4 Be one stone under limits for eco-tax (5)
EXIST    Eco-taX  + I, “one” + ST(one)
 6 Where a cineaste might go matters (6)
 7 Adolescents primarily into phone calls … sound familiar? (4,1,4)
Nowadays, they’re just incessantly texting.
RING A BELL    Adolescents between two words meaning “phone call” (the latter not familiar outside the UK)
 8 Real genius keeps working out for fun (8-7)
PLEASURE-SEEKING    (Real genius keeps)*
 9 Brobdingnagian moorh{en or mous}e-sized bears (8)
ENORMOUS    Hidden
15 Imagine worker possessing a big belly? (9)
EXPECTANT    EXPECT, “imagine” + “worker,” (one kind of) ANT
16 Voice disapproval at royals’ reservations (8)
18 Praiseworthy God a nonsense, I’m told (8)
“The most unpleasant character in all fiction,” someone said.
LAUDABLE   “Lord,” “a, ”bull”
21 A small seabird near back of ship (6)
ASTERN    A + S(mall) + TERN, “seabird”
23 Artist beginning to prefer husband to female (5)
HIRST    [-f, +H]IRST   That is, of course, the notorious Damien H.   …about whom a story was circulating online last week that he had contemplated having his hands cut off and then sewn back on (what could go wrong?) by a Mexican surgeon—all filmed, of course, as performance art. I think he must have been kidding, but it would have put Chris Burden or the Viennese Actionists to shame.
25 City hotel I managed to turn around before (5)
DELHI   LED<=“to turn around” + H(otel) + I


30 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5081 by David McLean — downright hedonistic”

  1. I just couldn’t sort out 7D precisely. I kept trying to do “phone” = “ring”, and then “call” would be “bell”, but why was it “calls”? I was unable to see we were after two different “phone calls”.
    So, thank you very much for that, and the always interesting blog.
    In 13A “Turn” for performer/performance, always sounds rather old-fashioned to me, what you hear in showbiz reminiscences of music-hall etc. But “star turn” to refer to the main performer (or performance), I think is more current.

  2. I didn’t record my finishing time but there are very few workings in the margins of my print-out so I doubt that it presented any major problems. I marked the homophone at 18dn with an exclamation mark which suggests that I enjoyed discovering it when the penny dropped.

    I’m a little surprised that the anagrind lists don’t contain ‘pull’ or any of its derivatives.

  3. One of the more straightforward offerings from David McLean, though the Police reference took me a while to get.

  4. Guy, for 24A the note is D, not Do, as otherwise there is a spare O. Very entertaining blog, however! Not too problematic a puzzle – sometimes I just don’t get David McLean, but this was on my wavelength and good fun. I enjoyed STEERING a lot – lovely surface – and the double reference to police and duck. LOI GEAR, after an alphabet trawl. Thanks to David and Guy!

  5. 40:03
    I was surprised by the references to STING and HIRST, as I thought the crossword never had references to living persons other than royalty. Does that rule only apply to the Times, and not the Sunday Times?

  6. I haven’t noted my time but I think it was around my usual 45 minutes. All done, though I had q. marks at some -13ac, 29ac, 15d – to check here. Enjoyable puzzle, thanks, and blogger, too, of course.

  7. Just over 25

    Last few held me up including gear and LOI TURNCOATS where my classical education pleaded for THRACIANS.

    Superb puzzle IMHO with the two long down anagrams very good indeed

  8. In 12ac lava and rock are equated. Are they the same? For 24ac I had ‘douse’ (which surely works if you allow pouring liquid over someone as a ducking), and thought it was a bit too easy for the ST. I imagine that there would have been a crosser (my digital version has gone) and can’t remember how I coped with that. The Police reference was beyond me.

    1. I had DOUSE too, which works very well. The first definition in Collins reads “to plunge or be plunged into water or some other liquid; duck”. The only problem with it is it doesn’t have a D in the middle for 25dn DELHI

    2. PS. Many years ago a friend told me he had stopped at a motorway service station and the Police were there. His son (a teenager?) had gone and sat with them and they chatted with him and were really great. I totally didn’t understand until ages afterwards

    3. Collins: “Lava is the very hot liquid rock that comes out of a volcano.”
      You should get a dictionary, Wil! Collins online is free …

      1. I do have a dictionary — Chambers, on my phone, I think the 2014 (? 15, 16) edition which I tend to go to first when my phone is nearby, and it says nothing about rock. I only tend to use Collins online when I’m sitting at the computer without my phone around.

        1. Even the free cut-down Chambers on-line equates rock and lava: 2 the solid rock that forms as a result of cooling and solidification of this material (the magma erupted from a volcano or fissure).

          Collins and the Oxfords have this too but also have lava as ‘molten rock’.

          1. I paid for mine. Not much, around £5.99 or something like that: It says that lava is “1. Molten material discharged in a stream from a volcano or fissure; 2. Such material subsequently solidified.”, the same words as those in my paper 2008 and 2011 editions.

            Nothing about rock.

              1. Do they have an official dictionary these days? I was interested to hear from RR yesterday that he does try to put difficult puzzles on Fridays and easier ones on Mondays. His predecessor always denied this.

                1. I think RR stated here within the past year or two that for Times puzzles the principal sources are Collins and the ODE whereas in the past the Oxford source was the Concise version.

                  It has become a bit confusing now because we don’t know whether Collins is print or online, and if the latter, might this be taken to include the Webster and Cobuild entries?

                  Similarly for ODE since it merged online with The printed version hasn’t been revised since 2010 and I’ve noticed that on Countdown Susie Dent is using an online version that allows words that are not in the printed edition.

                  1. The online Collins is identical to the print version (updated to varying degrees depending on which print edition you have). I would assume the ‘extras’ (Cobuild etc) aren’t treated as references.
                    I discovered recently that ODE was not in fact merged with it survives. I was really pleased about this because I think it’s excellent. Unfortunately it’s no longer free but if you have access to the OED (which I do through Wandsworth libraries) that works here too.

                    1. I’ve no access via the library unfortunately as my county withdrew the option maybe 10 years ago.

                      It’s good to know that ODE survives independently, so why, I wonder, can’t they publish a new or updated edition 13 years after the last one? There seems to be no means of subscribing to it online other than signing up for the whole range including OED and foreign language dictionaries.

                    2. That is interesting information, K .. but it turns out I can indeed log in with my (Kent) library card, but it does not give me access to any of the dictionaries! They are all padlocked.
                      Will look into it further when I have time. The library card does give me access to the full OED (I also have a print version, but the online is easier to manage) so it is a bit odd that I can have that but not the ODE..

  9. Rather enjoyable this one, especially with the homophone being everything it should be, excruciating, like jokes in Asterix. And quickish, too, at a bit over 16 minutes.
    I seem to remember GEAR was another word for fab in Beatles days, but I’m hip with the meanings here.

  10. Thanks David and guy
    A pretty straightforward puzzle from this setter this week, done in a single sitting and a tad over 40 minutes. A number of neat clues throughout, particularly liked CUP OF TEA (an early entry), the humorous LAUDABLE, LOCKSMITH and STEERING (when the penny dropped with what ‘Police’).
    Finished in the SE corner with DELHI (with its original construction), the artist HIRST and that STEERING the last one in.

  11. Loved it! Mainly because after staring at the across clues for a few minutes and being completely nonplussed, the redoubtable penny finally dropped and I “saw” ! After entering 1a and 1d the puzzle just seemed to flow from there, with chuckles elicited from OOPS, LOCKSMITH, DODGE and DRAKE, and the brilliant anagram at 8d. So much to like. Unfortunately I missed the reference to Sting at 29a, so that was a ‘look-up’, and LAUDABLE hard to get, as I’ve always pronounced it LOW (as in Ouch!) DABLE., so missed the homophone. Great start to my Sunday- thanks setter and Guy ( for the reference to the God quote too!)

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