Sunday Times Cryptic No 5093 by David McLean — crime and punishment

Hmm… I detect a theme here. A corrupt policeman, a constabulary bureau, a deputy, agents, a chief of police, coppers, cops, a police trap, a bobby and (implicitly) a peeler, all up against a thief or speeder, a criminal mastermind, a hooligan in trouble, a rotten criminal, a habitual criminal, a crook, a gangster, a gang’s head, a swindler, the ultimate of felons. We’re dealing with an informer, a perjuror, a drug-taker, a dope case, a capital offence, a jury, and a trial, a hearing, with mention of jail, nick and (twice) prison.

I entered this one gingerly, my FOI being (ironically enough) 15, a hidden phrase, and my second its reverse-hidden column partner, 3. It was probably just me, as they don’t seem so hard now, but my last ones in were a couple of the four-letter clues—after the five-letter 23.

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

 1 Corrupt policeman you imprisoned in anger (6)
IMPURE    IRE, “anger” encloses MP, Metropolitan Police (see 23—my first guess was “mounted police,” eh?) or “policeman” + U, “you”
 5 A dope case for constabulary bureau (6)
AGENCY    A + GEN, “dope” ConstabularY
 9 Dead wig thief or speeder? (4-5)
DRUG-TAKER    D(ead) + RUG, “wig” + TAKER, “thief”
10 Northern yob catches pig’s outburst (4)
11 Inside, gang’s head rubbed out deputy, say (4-2)
12 Most gruff agents punched informer (8)
14 Port a grand perjurer opens around one (8)
CAGLIARI    C (“around”) + G(rand) + LIAR, ‘perjuror” = I, “one”
16 One with nothing to hide in nick (4)
NAIL    N(A)IL   The wording is a bit convoluted (that’s my excuse): A,“One” has “nothing” hiding it; it has nothing “to hide in.”
18 Off-shore banks which a bad criminal mastermind’s behind? (4)
BARS    You might hope, at least, that such a person would be found in such a position. Is this a “bad” planner of crimes because they got caught, maybe?   …The cryptic hint was elusive because, of course, I was looking for something else.
19 Aim to get hooligan in trouble yourself (2,3,3)
GO ALL OUT    GOAL, “Aim” + LOUT, “hooligan”
21 Criticise a rotten criminal I put inside (4,4)
TEAR INTO    (a rotten + I)*
22 Chief of police rubbish, Spooner said (3,3)
TOP CAT    “cop tat”
24 American coppersround (4)
HEAT    DD   In the US, “coppers” are “the HEAT”; the apostrophe here is solely for the sake of the surface—and to fool you. The other definition refers to a segment of a sports contest, of course.
26 Plain and clear cops good with this on occasion (9)
27 Capital offence lacks primary motive (6)
28 Noticing drugs in half-finished jail (6)
 2 Sponge off Mark? Ace idea! (7,4)
MADEIRA CAKE    (Mark? Ace idea!)*
 3 Habitual crimina{l a usu}rping revolutionary detains (5)
USUAL    Hidden, reversed
 4 European crook insane to lift flipping books (8)
ESTONIAN    Collins has “crook” as “Australian and New Zealand informal, a. ill, b. of poor quality, c. unpleasant; bad.” This is (insane)* with “books” = O(ld) T(estament)<=“flipping”  inserted… somewhere inside that anagrist.    …So I’m told. I immediately saw the answer in (insane to)*, with seemingly an extra spelling hint, supplied for the sake of the surface, telling you that “to” will come out intact in the answer because that will “lift” (include), while “flipping” (reversing), O(ld) T(estament) “books” (which latter word, in another context, might leave you guessing whether NT were meant instead). If this parsing were correct, though, “lifts” would seem more natural, rather than “lift,” which would refer to the letters in “insane to” as a plural rather than to the entire phrase, singular. Then I considered the possibility that the anagrind is meant to apply only to “insane,” “to” being only a connecting word telling you to include, reversed, “books,” but that would be either OT or NT. I wasn’t entirely satisfied.
 5 A Republican involved in trial settled (2,4)
 6 Tearful English gangster accepts proposal (9)
EMOTIONAL    E(nglish) + MOTION, “proposal” + AL (Capone,“gangster”)
 7 Prison of fire (3)
 8 Something edgy? Avoiding jury, perhaps (8,5)
SKIRTING BOARD    A cryptic hint, and rather cryptic definition
13 Model pinches type of car model for excitement (11)
15 Recoi{l as trite s}windler displays unction (4,5)
LAST RITES    Hidden   Or the “Anointing of the Sick,” specifically called “extreme unction”
17 Husband police trap in a small town (8)
HASTINGS    H(usband)  + A + STING, “police trap”+ S(mall)
20 Ultimate of felons breaks marriage agreement (6)
23 Chap who did lines bobby finally nicked (5)
PEELE    PEELE[-r]     That would be actors’ “lines” from George PEELE (1556–1596), who was a poet and translator as well as a dramatist (possibly a cowriter with Shakespeare on Titus Andronicus). Both “bobby” and “peeler,” slang terms for a cop, were coined in honor of British Prime Minister Robert Peel, who in 1829 created the Metropolitan London Police Force.
25 In hearing, I will give judgement (3)
EYE    Homophone of “I”

63 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5093 by David McLean — crime and punishment”

  1. In 4D, “lift” (=to take hold of) is a containment indicator for OT< in insane*. I don’t think “books” meaning OT or NT is at all unusual in British cryptics, or unfair compared to “state” meaning one of 50 choices.

    1. I clearly said that “lift” means “OT,” reversed, is included in the jumbled letters of “insane”—or already part of “insane to”—making ESTONIAN.
      My point is that if you’re taking in “books” (which I of course am well aware quite commonly refers to OT or NT in British cryptics; by “in another context,” I meant in another clue) without consideration of the “to” that immediately follows “insane,” excluding that “to” from the anagrist, then with the choice between New Testament and Old, we’d have an indirectly clued element in what is part of the ultimate anagrist. You’d have to guess the answer word with “O or N” in one place.

      1. Correction to my previous statement – the containment indication is “to lift”.

        You either think that the logic is OT< in insane* or that it’s (insane to)*. As the latter is exactly what your explanation starts with, and your later comment ends with calling OT “part of the ultimate anagrist”, it seems bizarre to claim that you mean something else.

        If there is an interpretation of the wordplay that makes sense and indicates the answer fairly, the fact that some other interpretation makes less sense should be a sign that it’s the wrong one.

        You have the same kind of mistake at 21A, which is not “(a rotten + I)* but “I in (a rotten)*”. If you see that clue as a complete anagram, you must think that the anagrind “criminal” applies to words on both sides of it. I don’t think you’ll ever see that happen in a properly written crossword without a word like “with” added to the indicator.

        If you have a problem with choosing between NT and OT as something with two letters to insert backwards into the anagram of “insane”, I’m wondering why there is no comment about other similar and more difficult choices, like the one between GEN, ASS and NIT (and probably others) in the 5D wordplay.

        1. I never said I meant anything other than what I meant. I worked that clue by seeing “insane to” as the anagrist. I also presented the other possibility, which occurred to me later. I don’t see how including another letter or two somewhere unspecified inside anagrist does not make it part of the anagrist! It’s the same as reducing a mathematical formula to its most simple terms. I know we will always disagree about this. Dommage !

          5D isn’t an anagram, so not relevant. I don’t understand that part of your comment anyway, but I’m going back to bed. (Oh, you mean 5A. Also not an anagram, though.)

          To my mind, it’s a big mistake to have “to lift” immediately after “insane” and insert TO into the word while ignoring the “to” that’s already there. You could have, say, “European criminal insane, lifting flipping books.” You’d still have an incompletely spelled-out anagram, with an indirectly clued (guessed) letter, though (assuming one got the biblical reference instead of trying BB for the two missing letters).

          1. I confess I don’t understand the objection here. ‘To lift’ to indicate ‘which lifts’ is a completely standard construction: it appears again here in 19 (‘to get’). The fact that ‘insane to’ provides the necessary anagrist is confusing, but that’s the setter’s job! Subject to that, the construction of the clue is completely standard: E [European], (INSANE)* [crook insane] containing [to lift] TO [flipping books].

            1. Besides OT, “books” could mean NT… or BB (not here, though, because there would be no point to “flipping” it then). The clue is an anagram, but with an indirectly clued element. If that’s fine by you, fine. As for the “to” that is not part of the anagrist, as I first took it to be, I can assure you that at least two setters of my acquaintance would find that unduly confusing. This kind of thing has come up before in test-solving their creations.

              1. The clue is _mostly_ an anagram, with insertion of content (your “indirectly clued element”) that is NOT anagrammed. You have said that you and I will never agree about your notion that such a clue can be regarded as a complete anagram, and that’s for a reason expressible in 6 letters – it isn’t.

                1. The clue was solved by me as an anagram. I don’t know any other way it would be done. I didn’t “solve” the anagrist “insane” and come up with all the letters in order except for the two missing and then deliberate over whether NT or OT (BB not being flippable) made a word for “European.” I’d already guessed the word, of course (having seen it—in a flash—in “insane to”). But let’s leave aside the question of the indirect way TO is clued. Trying out TO, I would put it in with all the anagrist and solve the wordplay as an anagram. If you don’t like clues that work like that, you can stop passing them.

                  Look, Peter, I’ve edited the blog.

                  1. I have no problem with clues that can be solved (reaching the same answer) in a way that wasn’t intended, as well as the intended way. That’s just something that happens occasionally.

              2. Well yes but ‘European’ could mean French, German…
                ‘Books’ for NT/OT is indirect in that they are abbreviations, yes, but this is extremely common, both specifically (it’s more or less the first thing I think of when I see ‘books’) and generally (army=TA, conservationists=NT, bible=AV etc etc).

                1. Plus cases with multiple possibilities, like “doctor” or a synonym indicating at least MO, GP, DR, and MB

                      1. Only an indirect part to that clue. An anagram is a word or phrase whose rearranged letters spell out another word or phrase. But the letters of “insane” do not give us all of ESTONIAN. I am contemplating using different notation for such cases.

                        “I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues. I also italicize the indicators of jumbled letters that don’t spell out the entire answer word, which I indicate like this: [nag a ma]† (with a dagger).”

                        1. This is a standard and very common clue structure: an anagram with some other piece of wordplay inserted. 21ac in this puzzle is the same: (A ROTTEN)* with I inserted.

                      2. “This is a standard and very common clue structure: an anagram with some other piece of wordplay inserted. 21ac in this puzzle is the same: (A ROTTEN)* with I inserted.”

                        Tell me about it! This has bothered me for some time. “A rotten” is not really an anagram—at least (haven’t tried other combinations) not of TEAR INTO—without the I. It’s common to call the jumbled letters from one word or phrase used to make just part of an answer an “anagram,” but they’re really just jumbled letters. Adding something else to them doesn’t really make “anagrist” either, then, a point I would have to concede, but merely the makings of a kind of charade that involves jumbled letters.

                        1. It’s just a set of sequential instructions: make an anagram of this, then insert that.

                      3. “It’s just a set of sequential instructions: make an anagram of this, then insert that.”

                        Obviously. Rather, insert something into a rearrangement of the letters from a particular word. The way they should be arranged may not—indeed, probably won’t—be apparent until you add the missing bit. The word “anagram” would be used just as loosely to describe the answer as it is to describe the word whose rearranged letters make only part of it.

                        1. The clue just tells you what to do with some letters. Why does it matter whether this matches your understanding of “anagram”?

                  1. « The clue just tells you what to do with some letters. Why does it matter whether this matches your understanding of “anagram”? »

                    I like to use words according to their dictionary definitions and am not aware of my using a made-up personal definition of any word that lexicographers have collected. But, indeed, what does any of this matter?

                2. You are clearly giving this clue a pass by not considering the whole thing an anagram, OK. I never took any issue with having multiple possible answers for other kinds of clues and it seems odd that this is being talked about.

            2. Minor point: “European” in the clue is the definition – TO< in INSANE* provides the whole answer.

              1. I just double-checked, and found that I underlined “European.” When I was writing, I honestly wasn’t sure which parsing was intended, for the reasons I won’t rehash.

  2. CAGLIARI brought boyhood memories of Luigi Riva flooding back. 80 this year, and still Italy’s leading goal scorer, the working-class lad from Lombardy took his adopted club not only into Serie A for the first time but also to the Scudetto itself in 1970 -the same year the national side lost the World Cup final to the feted Brazilian outfit.

    Viva Gigi!

        1. Yes, I actually know that; but I refuse to use emoticons, and was hoping no one would take it seriously.

  3. I didn’t enjoy this at all. I found the theme repetitive so that my thoughts were constantly looping round trying to dredge up words and meanings related to criminal activity in one form or another. However technically sound the puzzle may or may not be I simply found it boring so that I longed to finish it and get onto another puzzle that would stretch my mind on a variety of different subjects.

    I’m still none the wiser as to the context in which ‘fire = CAN’.

    My only unknowns were George PEELE and ‘heat’ as US police.

    ‘A’ for ‘one’ (16ac) used to be a no-no in The Times and still jars with me even though I’m used to seeing it in Guardian puzzles almost daily it seems. But at least its appearance here gave me a chance to remind myself of current policy as confirmed by our Editor in 2019:

    The word from a fairly recent copy of the Times notes for setters is that “A” in a clue can’t indicate I in the answer, and “one” in a clue can’t indicate A in the answer, except in a phrase like “One cup” for “A TROPHY”. The ST version doesn’t worry about this.

      1. Thanks. I wondered if that might be the answer but I never heard ‘can’ used with that meaning here. Perhaps other UK contributors may know it.

          1. Well I mainly worked for US companies and CAN was normal. I never realised it was an Americanism. Indeed I’m not sure it still is.

    1. I think A = one is OK. Etymologically they seem to be related qv French Une, German Ein and British Ane=An=A. All three Une, Ane and Ein demonstrate Grimm’s (as in the brothers) Law.

      A=one in the Times is not recent. I recall seeing this in the 1970s.

      I think the indefinite nature of the article is not the number but the attached noun.

  4. Another scramble. Took me a long time to get any sense of the wavelength bar crime, crime, crime. Finally started to see past that and made stuttering progress until left with five that just stumped me: 18, 22 & 24ac, and 23 & 25d. Resorted to aids. No idea why 18ac was BARS, thought 22ac TOP CAT was lame, and saw that I should have got 24ac HEAT if I’d only thought of that sense of round. I knew it must be a poet at 23d but never heard of PEELE and couldn’t quite work out the “Bobby” part of the clue – I was trying to use the Y inserted into a word for nicked. And should have got 25d. So, DNF, frustrated! Hey ho, onward. Thanks, all.

  5. 15:14, but with CENT. I read the clue as “American copper’s round” so was looking for a singular and couldn’t think of anything else. If I had thought to look at the clue again I’d have got it, as I’m familiar with the expression from two movies with the phrase in their title.
    I didn’t spot the theme while solving but in retrospect I suspect it contributed to the slight feeling of awkwardness with this puzzle: a bit more ‘I suppose so’ than ‘eureka!’ It’s nonetheless an impressive feat.

  6. I’ve never really enjoyed fully themed crosswords, and this one did nothing to alter my view of them. Solving this puzzle was like walking with a stone in one’s shoe. Crosswords stand or fall by their entertainment value, and fully themed puzzles generally fall into the trap of causing unnecessary fatigue and irritation and thus failing to maintain the solver’s interest. In this regard, they resemble puzzles that rely too much on sequential clues linked by ellipses or feature too many clues that reference other clues. All of these devices are fine in small doses, but when they are entirely dominant, they spoil the solving experience.
    Thanks, Guy.

    1. The only fully themed puzzles I actually enjoy and look forward to are by Paul in The Guardian. I think I read somewhere recently that Paul is one of our QC setters but I’ve lost the detail and may have misremembered that anyway.

        1. Many thanks. So one of our original QC setters, starting with #19 and still going strong 236 puzzles later.

  7. This was a rare DNF, as even when I came back to it during the week, after the daily had been done and dusted, I couldn’t fathom out PEELE or HEAT. I suspect that unless you watch US cop movies or TV series you would never have heard that piece of slang. In the end we went with BEAT, which at least tied in with the second part of the definition. I was expecting to have heard of the ‘lines’ chap, but he’s completely unknown to me, so even if I’d thought of PEELER (last used in the 40’s?), it would have been entered with no confidence. So lack of GK did for me in this instance!

    1. That’s where I knew it from, but in the case of the Pacino/de Niro movie Heat there’s nothing to indicate that the term has that particular meaning. It’s more obvious in the McCarthy/Bullock movie The Heat.

    2. I also had BEAT rather than HEAT. I do think the clue works for both potential answers, as a round belonging to American coppers could well be a BEAT – and that answer makes the apostrophe a meaningful part of the clue rather than something to be explained away.

      On the other hand, the clue would be pretty literal for BEAT and the fact that this is a cryptic crossword should have made me suspicious – but I stopped thinking when I got an answer that worked.

  8. DNF. Desperately 12a RuStIEST, unparseable, and 24a CENT (as keriothe) – well it is a copper and it is round, DNK or had forgot HEAT=cops. Had to look up 23d PEELE poet as was lacking confidence in him and was amazed to find he was so well known. I’m sure I remember people saying Peelers, and that wasn’t in the 40s as I was born in 1949.

      1. When I studied English in Toronto late sixties George Peele wasn’t specifically on the curriculum but my college did mount a production of his Old Wives’ Tale. I got to play a simple rustic named Frolic(alongside my fellows Antic and Fantastic).

  9. I missed the theme, so wondered why 23dn had to bring in a poet so obscure that he wasn’t in my Chambers lists of poets, when it would have made perfectly good sense to have piece (actually he could have had piece, because it’s a word for a gun) or other simple words. And that’s the trouble with this sort of totally themed crossword: the setter stretches things to fit the theme and one ends up with tiresome clues. Was unaware of HEAT, so tried for ages to make beat work. Unsuccessfully.

  10. I have always had a love/hate relationship with Mr Mclean, whose love affair with illegal drugs always irritates me . Not to mention his clunky surface readings. So it will come as no surprise to say I particularly disliked this one, to the point where I have decided to give his crosswords a miss in future, for a while at least.
    Compare and contrast with today’s.

  11. This was a cheerless slog throughout – not even a eureka moment to liven things up. I was looking for an obscure poet at 23d but this one was far too obscure for me – and I taught English for 30 years. I had problems with EYE defined as ‘judgement’ – one of a few answers not properly understood even after reading the blog. I saw the homophone and bunged it in, but it, like the crossword as a whole, was deeply unsatisfying.

  12. Thanks David and guy
    It seems that the Australian syndication of these puzzles has moved up a week to be only one week behind now.
    This was a crossword that I struggled with across an hour and a half in stints during the day and ended up with a couple of errors with two of the short ones – had an unparsed CAYS at 18a (don’t know whether it would have helped if had of recognised the theme whilst solving) and had BEAT (which seemed like a straightforward cd – as in a ‘policeman’s round’ – but guess there is nothing specifically American about that).
    EYE was the last in – was a definition that was new to me.

    1. Consequently we have to wait until after midnight UK summer time to read the blog. Result: character building lesson in patience. Or another mild angst to while away the insomniac hours. I tend to the latter.

      Thank you setter and blogger. NHO Peele, should have remembered peeler.

  13. Yeah, Brucew@aus, good to see the syndication has finally caught up down under so much easier to keep in touch with solutions, comments etc. I also thought we Aussies had a slight advantage with the use of our “cops” in 26A to indicate “catches” (so “includes”) so that was my FOI, and “crook” for “sick” as an anagrind : ) Like many I had CENT for 24A but knew it didn’t fit the parsing (the apostrophe). I did quite enjoy the theme; the challenge was when to ignore it! Thanks to setter and Guy

  14. I did notice the theme (interesting idea!). And actually spent most time pondering how well 2d fitted in with “Crime and Punishment”.
    Does sponging off Mark suggest criminality? Can “sponge” imply blackmail or extortion? Living off immoral earnings?
    Or does the cake have a file baked inside?


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