Sunday Times Cryptic No 5083, by Robert Price — exotic hybrids

This looked (enticingly) opaque at first, and I made cautious forays by solving one in each quadrant and finding at least one crossing it. But I gained confidence quickly enough and finished without any significant hang-ups or lingering puzzlement. None of these clues are ultimately complicated nor is any of the vocabulary obscure. But the setter artfully, magically, with nearly imperceptible sleights of hand and oft-amusing surface distraction, keeps the answer hidden until it comes as a surprise.

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


 1 What may stop cars making exotic hybrids? (5,8)
ZEBRA CROSSING    With a cryptic hint taking the phrase literally
10 Like an old ruler or chap in a novel (9)
PHARAONIC    (or chap in a)*
11 Course in mathematics, radical we hear (5)
ROUTE    “root”
12 One with nothing wearing gloomy expression (5)
IDIOM    I, “One” + DI(O)M
13 Time to embrace an unknown beat poet (4,5)
EZRA POUND    E(Z)RA + POUND, “beat”
14 Youth leader in Rhyl cracks jokes in fancy dress (4,4)
16 Secure but not properly free from danger (6)
RESCUE    (secure)*
19 Redress what churchgoers say about God finally (6)
20 Crown placed on girl, say, in error (8)
For one brief, shining moment on Sunday night in Las Vegas, Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutiérrez Arévalo, was crowned Miss Universe. And then the pageant’s host, Steve Harvey, realized that he had misread the card on which the winners were listed. (The New York Times, Dec. 20, 2015)
MISSPEAK    PEAK, “Crown” topping MISS, “girl”
22 Throttle on craft carrying a single sort of veg (9)
ARTICHOKE    ART, “craft” + I, “a single” + CHOKE, “Throttle”
24 Woman tempting soldiers into wrongdoing (5)
25 Bones of fish fin uncovered (5)
CARPI    CARP, “fish” + fIn
26 Little county’s sporting success (9)
TOUCHDOWN    TOUCH, “Little” + DOWN, “county”
27 Game fan after indifferent hand succeeded (5,4,4)
BLIND MANS BUFF    BLIND, “indifferent” + MAN, “hand” + S(ucceeded) with BUFF, “fan” in the rear
 2 Kill off a tree with acid ground (9)
ERADICATE    (a tree + acid)*
 3 Concrete over farm’s last field (5)
Between 20,000 and 30,000 hectares continue to be artificialized each year in France, the equivalent of three times the surface of Paris.
REALM    REAL, “concrete” + farM
 4 Meet Charlie at the side of the road (8)
CONVERGE    C, for which “Charlie” is the common communications codeword + ON, “at” + VERGE, “side of the road”
 5 Awards seen in stretched limos? (6)
OSCARS    OS, oversize or “stretched” + CARS, “limos?”
 6 Agent held back by bands who barely perform (9)
STRIPPERS    STRIPS holding REP<=“back”
 7 Nation to the north managed without a university (5)
NAURU   RU(A)N<=“to the north” + U(niversity)
 8 One can measure in pounds money left after winter (6,7)
SPRING BALANCE    With a literal reading of the term    Wikipedia: « A spring scale, spring balance or newton meter is a type of mechanical force gauge or weighing scale. It consists of a spring fixed at one end with a hook to attach an object at the other. »   The American dictionary Merriam-Webster has only “spring scale.”
 9 Late payment due for old navigator’s work (4,9)
DEAD RECKONING    DEAD, “Late” + RECKONING, “payment due,” the bill, l’addition    Wikipedia: « In navigation, dead reckoning is the process of calculating the current position of a moving object by using a previously determined position, or fix, and incorporating estimates of speed, heading (or direction or course), and elapsed time.… The original intention of “dead” in the term is generally assumed to mean using a stationary object that is “dead in the water” as a basis for calculations. »
15 Wine sale not holding on to a drop (9)
17 Fine southern cricket side gets out quickly (6,3)
CLEARS OFF    CLEAR, “Fine” (as in weather) + S(outhern) + OFF, “cricket side”
18 Group of footballers with long hair (8)
SIDEBURN    SIDE, “Group of footballers” + BURN, “long” or intensely yearn
21 A mechanical foot (6)
BOTTOM    Also the name of one of the six amateur actors whom the sprite Puck, in Shakespeare’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, dubs “rude mechanicals” in reference to their day jobs as skilled manual laborers
23 Climbing group’s year in a mountain area (5)
TYROL    LOT<=“Climbing” has (’s) YR, “year” in it.
24 Foreign address book one keeps up (5)
SAHIB    B(ook) + I, “one” + HAS, “keeps” <=“up”

28 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5083, by Robert Price — exotic hybrids”

  1. 53 minutes. I was shaky on a couple of parsings but worked my way through this, albeit rather slowly. I had NAURU noted as unknown but it came in handy when solving a QC later in the week.

    1. It may help you to remember Nauru to know that it’s the fattest country in the world: 85% of all adults are obese.

    2. I feel I see a lot of supposed crossovers from other Times crosswords and then wonder whether setters see recent crosswords and utilise the same word for fun. But then I suspect these crosswords are planned weeks or months in advance so probably a “frequency illusion” (Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon).

  2. I puzzled over the parsing of 7d until I realised managed=run as a past participle and not the past tense.

    I read the parsing of 8dn slightly differently: definition being ‘one can measure’ with pounds indicating ‘after winter’ = spring ‘treads on’ (pounds) ‘money left’=balance.

    1. I remember it took a minute to sort out, but having “pounds” in the definition and “money” in the cryptic hint simply provides a smooth surface, rather than being redundant in the former. I don’t see how “pounds” could mean “spring” (even disregarding tense), or have any idea where “treads on” came from.

      1. Pounds doesn’t mean spring. Spring is ‘after winter’. Pounds is used to indicate spring goes above balance. ‘sping pounds ballance’. The definition is simply ‘one can measure’

        1. The clue says ‘pounds [balance] [spring]’, not ‘[spring] pounds [balance]’. And spring is before winter, not after it. I think GdS has it right.
          I had the same problem as you with NAURU. I thought there were too many Us and note enough As!

          1. In that case I fail to see how you get spring if ‘after’ doesn’t serve to suggest the season following winter. I am reading it as ‘pounds balance, spring’ ie spring balance. It’s surely legitimate for the setter to alter the punctuation to mislead? If pounds is part of the definition, then what suggests spring precedes balance?

            1. “Money left after winter,” I.e., at the beginning of spring, is the cryptic hint (a phrase that makes sense but is not the dictionary-status definition). I assumed that was obvious enough to not need spelling out. Guess you never can tell…

              1. It nothing to do with dictionary status. My objection is the order. To me the cryptic part, as explained, leads to BALANCE SPRING. I was attempting to explain the reversal. The only way I could do that was to employ POUND as a reversing indicator.

                1. “Order”?
                  In this clue, the definition comes first:“One can measure in pounds.”
                  The term SPRING BALANCE is in the dictionary as a kind of weighing device. The definition is self-contained, ending with the word “pounds.”
                  Then comes the wordplay, which is not a charade but an interpretation of the term that differs from the dictionary definition—a cryptic hint: “money left after winter.” Since another definition of “balance” is what remains in a financial account at the end of a purchase or statement period—and winter does indeed come before SPRING—the funds you could draw on as of March 22 could be called your SPRING BALANCE.
                  This isn’t an Ikea assemblage. There are no leftover parts.

                  1. I understand all of those parts. There’s nothing mysterious about a spring balance, being a common or garden object of which I’m sure we have at least three about the house. The derivation of the parts are also obvious. It was an easy clue to spot. I note that POUND is superfluous to the definition thus making the definition part slightly more cryptic.
                    So here’s the question: why is it acceptable to have BALANCE surfaced before SPRING in this clue, whereas in many others there would be an indicator to this effect? Without that device I would relegate this to be a rather ho-hum clue; with it I say it was rather subtle and clever.

                    1. No idea (still) what you are getting at. The clue is fine. It’s even perfect. Sorry you can’t see that.

                    2. Because it’s not a charade. It’s not “spring” clued cryptically and in need of an indicator saying it comes before “money” clued cryptically. The wordplay is a straightforward, unified phrase that expresses the same thing as “spring balance” in this sense. There’s nothing cryptic about saying “after winter” for “spring,” if you mean the season and not something else, so that word is not cryptic in the phrase. Same with “money left over” and “balance.”

  3. 31.35

    Took a while to get going but got into the swing of it. Usual high standard of surfaces from this setter. Particularly liked SPRING BALANCE

    Thanks Guy and Robert

  4. Chuffed to bits to finish this, and in a decent hour or so, too. Trickiest for me were the NHO NAURA, which I will now endeavour to remember as “the fat place”, and ROUTE since my brain goes into panic mode at any suggestion of mathematics. In all other respects it was careful steady progress with a side order of increasing excitement. Hurrah! Thanks to setter and all you bloggers.

  5. My FOI was 2D, which gave me the E for ZEBRA CROSSING, which was then bifd. This was a pleasing solve from beginning to end, with some lovely surfaces. LOI MISSPEAK, after an alphabet trawl of the last 4 letters. I particularly liked GLAD RAGS and ARTICHOKE. BLIND MAN’S BUFF was quite a quick entry, but took me a lot of time to parse before remembering the ‘indifferent’ sense of blind.

  6. 39 minutes. I had LEVEL CROSSING (?) Which I had to alter to get LOI REALM. I liked GLAD RAGS

  7. The usual elegant crossword from Robert Price, with lovely surfaces and, as Guy says, nearly imperceptible sleights of hand. It took me 61 minutes and if you think that’s a long time it is, but that didn’t matter in something so enjoyable. I can’t see what the SPRING BALANCE problem is: the money left after the winter is your bank balance come spring, ie your spring balance. For 23dn I initially had playa [(y in (a alp)), all reversed], which would just about work OK if a playa was a group.

  8. 61 minutes is a long time! This mere mortal takes as long as it takes. I suspect some have finished before I’ve found a pen that works
    no less enjoyable for all that

    1. I take all week usually. This one was finished on Saturday, just in time to start on 5084 today. Only six clues left though – what will I do for rest of the week if I finish it tomorrow?!

  9. Get my copy on Saturday and ‘do’ Saturday’s puzzle then, leaving me the delight of trying to crack a “Robert” in more leisurely fashion on the Sunday. The top half went in relatively easily, but I struggled with a few in the southern half: second half of SPRING BALANCE, AMENDS, TOUCHDOWN and REDUCTION especially. MER at SIDEBURN for long hair, and BOTTOM as foot – but a very clever clue! So cheated on a few to enable a bit of biffing to finish. Liked DEAD RECKONING, IDIOM, GLAD RAGS and CARPI. Well, all of it, really!

  10. Thanks Robert and guy
    This was my Sunday fare this week and took just under the hour to get it out after slowly getting the IDIOM / REALM pair to start the ball rolling. No easy gets which made it a very enjoyable challenge, with words only gradually emerging, often with a penny drop moment. SPRING BALANCE was the third one in – liked it a lot as I did all of the long perimeter clues.
    NAURU was very familiar as the place that made a lot of its money from mining the superphosphate, a fertiliser – my dad used it on his farm back in the day. There was a hexagonal shaped office tower that they owned called Nauru House in Melbourne that I once had a contract role in for a short while. Unfortunately for the country, most of the money was frittered away and the strip mining was an ecological disaster for the island. It did keep its relationship with Australia by hosting refugee boat people at one stage.

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