Sunday Times Cryptic No 5097 by Dean Mayer — climbing K2

This surely isn’t “objectively” as hard a puzzle as it seemed to me last Saturday night. I was a bit unfocused (wondering if YouTube coverage of the carnaval in Santa Elena, Argentina, was ever going to start—and then it did!) and there were also a few clues where my footing was briefly precarious as I cautiously ascended from my start at the last, four-letter clue.

But it would be extremely hyperbolic to say that No 5097 was a “Savage Mountain” (and the real K2 is not involved here). It was an enjoyable workout, a worthy challenge that I survived unscathed.

I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and words flagging such rearrangements are italicized in the clues.

 1 Appear, as light on (4,6)
COME ACROSS    DD   The first as in “I don’t mean to be critical, but I guess that’s how it may COME ACROSS,” and the second as in “I happened to COME ACROSS an apt citation”
 6 Bird twice seen on island (4)
IBIS    I(sland) + BIS, “twice”
10 Wall section with mirror installed (7)
11 Island centre of Paraguayan capital (7)
MANAGUA    MAN, “Island” (the Isle of…) + parAGUAyan   Actually the capital of Nicaragua
12 Account about Corinthians running out of time (13)
ANACHRONISTIC    A  (Corinthians)*  C
14 A worshipper of Ganes{h, indu}bitably (5)
HINDU    Hidden, and &lit   The very popular elephant-headed god bestows luck and wisdom and is invoked at the beginning of a new enterprise.
15 Deviant in Russian port piercing nuts (9)
MASOCHIST    MA(SOCHI)ST   The “nuts” are specifically “the fruit of forest trees, such as beech, oak, etc, used as food for pigs” (Collins).   …The surface seems almost too apt. Ouch!
16 Cowards, perhaps in secret, ran (9)
RECREANTS    (secret ran)*
18 Opener keen on grabbing runs (5)
20 Immersion heating that’s tough to start? (7,2,4)
BAPTISM OF FIRE    CD    BAPTISM, “Immersion” with FIRE, “heating” as an initiatory experience (“tough to start”)   …I thought of this answer immediately but was reluctant to enter it, looking for something besides a cryptic definition. (That is, I don’t see as tidy a demarcation between two parts of the clue here as Vinyl does, below, but maybe that’s just me.)
23 Account for old flat (7)
EXPLAIN    EX, “old” + PLAIN, “flat”
24 One who really works as a joiner (7)
GRAFTER    DD   …The first definition is not common in the USA, though I should be used to it by now.
25 Ranch guest right to steal diamonds (4)
26 Neat barrier used in a minor way (6,4)
CATTLE GRID    CD   Apparently something not found on major thoroughfares!   …I’d never heard of this, only the other term that differs by only two letters, and the cryptic definition was mystifying.
 1 Shy about pee specimen (4)
 2 Suspect rising precipitation causes disease (7)
MURRAIN    RUM<=“rising” + RAIN, “precipitation”
 3 Mountain I learn much about crossing area, like K2 (14)
ALPHANUMERICAL    ALP, “Mountain” + (I learn much)* “crossing” A(rea)—as either the second or the penultimate letter, take your pick!
 4 Rat leaves with cat (5)
RETCH    wRETCH   Like kitties sometimes do, you know, often just to expel a hairball   …The definition seemed a guess, though perhaps it was dimly remembered (found later far down in a Collins listing), and is clued by decapitating a word I’m inclined to define differently. I tend to think of a “wretch” as being pitiable, consonant with the first definition in Merriam-Webster, rather than despicable, which is the first definition in Collins.
 5 Number and name hidden in lawgiver’s calls (9)
SUMMONSES    SUM, “Number” + MO(N)SES   …Hammurabi wouldn’t fit.
 7 Short gap opens behind one sports car (7)
BUGATTI    BU(GAp)TT in front of I, “one”
 8 Always cold in office? Leave at home (10)
STAYCATION    ST(AY)(C)ATION, with a cryptic definition
 9 Unfinished food in grass on blanket (14)
INDISCRIMINATE    IN(DISh)CRIMINATE   Here “grass on” means to rat on someone, to spill the beans about their illegal activities.
13 Gravy beneath crisp biscuit (10)
SHORTBREAD    SHORT, “crisp”  (as in speech) + BREAD, “Gravy,” like money, man
15 A single thing (9)
MONOMANIA    CD   …Over a decade ago, I wrote, at the composer La Monte Young’s request, a (scathing) review of a little book (Oxford University Press!) on his work written by a member of the Mormon Church, in which La Monte had grown up, and I called it “Mormonomania.”
17 Dolphins have to get by on herring food (7)
COPEPOD    COPE, “to get by” + POD, “Dolphins”   …NHO, but quickly spelled out for me by the wordplay.
19 One using X now affected by brief name (7)
TWEETER    TWEE, “affected” + TERm
21 Steps out of large box (5)
22 Pitt’s support died (4)
BRAD    BRA, “support” + D(ied)   …I share my birthday with this guy (and a zillion other people).


36 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5097 by Dean Mayer — climbing K2”

  1. Don’t remember much about this. I liked MANAGUA. Guy, there should be an I at the end of BUGATTI.

  2. Yes, this seemed tough in places, and took me past the hour mark. Some superb clues for the long solutions, but for all that COPY was my favourite. Like Guy, I winced at the surface reading of MASOCHIST, but it’s still funny.
    COPEPOD also unknown to me too, but similarly I pencilled it in from wordplay and crossers.
    CATTLE GRID went in fairly quickly. I recently clued it as ‘Bars Galloway avoids?’, a reference to the breed of cattle and an old Twitter spat between a brewery and George Galloway, who was asserting his teetotalism. Alas, I was the only one who remembered it!

  3. This took me ages, and I failed to parse COPEPOD & SUMMONSES. ‘Cat’ took me a long time to recall (only seen it here, to the best of my knowledge). Liked MASOCHIST & MONOMANIA.

  4. I forgot to note my starting time. I struggled with this but eventually won through without resorting to aids which I had thought would become inevitable at some point.

    There were rather too many unknown or forgotten words and references for this to be an enjoyable experience overall, but also some delightful moments along the way. I particularly liked CATTLE GRID – very neat!

    1. I picked up on the ‘cattle’ reference straight away, and this was one of my happier PDMs, along with STAYCATION, in a generally exhausting puzzle.

  5. This was surely one of the most abstruse Dean Mayers I’ve come across. My LOI, RETCH, was entered some 3 days after the majority had been done laboriously and RECREANTS, though an anagram, was NHO and therefore a problem with just 3 crossers. NHO COPEPOD, had to use aids for SUMMONSES, and only then did the second half of 1A reveal itself. I still don’t understand the definition of either RETCH or DUDE unless ‘cat’ can be a verb meaning to retch and ‘ranch guest’ has a NHO non literal layer of meaning. Overall, too much pain without the usual rewards in the form of PDMs.

    1. As I said, far (far, far) down in Collins online (this from Penguin Random House), for “cat”:
       19. Brit slang | to vomit

      You’ll find the DUDE at a “DUDE ranch.”
      in British English | US and Canadian | a ranch used as a holiday resort offering activities such as riding and camping

      1. And ‘dude’ in isolation is defined as ‘a city dweller, esp one holidaying on a ranch’.

  6. Oh dear. This was such a frustrating fail this week. Struggled to get 10 answers, got stuck, tried aids to get me going again, but between being unable to figure out how those answers resulted from the clues – 1ac, 10ac – or being words NHO as well – 16ac, 17d – I retired scunnered. DNF. Hopefully I’ll learn something from the blog!

  7. No trouble with cattle grid as they’re a thing in my part of the world. I did have a problem with ‘prod’ though – in 22dn I never thought of the actor so had support = PRO, died = D and hoped there was some unknown medieval instrument called a Pitt which was used to prod cattle. Can’t win ’em all.

      1. thanks Jerry. I’ve been around a fair few years and never heard of the word neat in association with cattle. mind you I’ve never heard of copepod either. mystery solved

        1. Ah, never been a neatherd, then? 🙂
          That usage died out about a hundred years ago, barring crosswords. Although possibly you may have heard of neats-foot oil? Made from cows’ feet, to put on leather. You can still buy it

  8. Did this over several sittings but with three either not fully parsed or understood:
    IBIS Bifd I didn’t know the BIS = twice bit.
    BAPTISM OF FIRE went in not knowing what was WP and what was the definition until reading the blog and vinyl1’s comment.
    RETCH I understood the obscure definition but not the rest.

    Some unknowns MURRAIN, MANAGUA and COPEPOD but the WP got me the answer.

  9. I didn’t find this too difficult, for a Dean puzzle anyway. RECREANTS and COPEPOD both forgotten but gettable from wordplay and it was good to meet some old crossword friends in RETCH for ‘cat’ and MURRAIN.

    Favourites were the HINDU &lit and the CATTLE GRID and MONOMANIA cryptic defs.

  10. Tough but fair I would say.
    Had to cheat and it took a long time, but.
    Decided not to worry about retch=cat, but it seemed likely. Surprised the blogger found it!

  11. Also had to cheat to confirm that COPEPOD was a word, but the cruciverbal deities see all …. and I was rightly punished with a typo in today’s crossword, seen only after I hit the button.

    Tough but fair, but also very enjoyable.

  12. I found this hard and it took a couple of days on and off, not helped by putting BAPTISM BY FIRE which caused its own problems. The long anagrams were also a struggle. K2 was brilliant once I realized what was going on. Of course, I’d never heard of COPEPOD, it seems more like a Mephisto word.

    Dude on a ranch reminded me of the great movie City Slickers which is set on one. I use it in consulting on marketing where Curly (Jack Palance) says that life is all about one thing and nothing else matters. For a startup company that is also true, you hae to find the one thing to get yourself a repeatable business model.

  13. Surprised by hesitation at 20A if the answer was thought of promptly. With answers of three or more words, anything that fits the word lengths and clearly matches at least some of the clue is worth lightly pencilling in and seeing whether the implied checkers help with anything else. If a couple do, you would be very unlucky indeed if there was a correct alternative.

    That idea probably comes from practical experience when I didn’t really understand what was going on in cryptic clues but I think realised how few phrases match some enumerations. Later confirmed by the nifty “Chambers Phrase File” (out of print) which listed phrases in alphabetical order, once by overall length, and once after grouping by indicated lengths like (7,2,4) – a set of about 30 in that case.

  14. This was as difficult for me as Dean’s previous one was straightforward. It was full of things that at the time I regarded as stretches typical of Dean, but after I read the blog seem just about OK, so I don’t really have a case. I can’t see how in 8dn office = station. And in 13dn gravy = money, bread = money, so does that imply that gravy = bread? You might just as well say form = bench, magistrates = bench, so form = magistrates. However, in this case perhaps gravy = bread directly. I am embarrassed to say how long this one took me, and early on I shrugged and used aids freely.

    1. has “office” as a “strong match” for STATION. Dictionaries will show you how they converge.

      “Gravy” is old slang for money. Like “dough.” Thought I said that?

      1. Re, gravy, well yes, and I’d be very surprised if Wil hasn’t heard the expression ‘gravy train’ for an easy source of financial benefit.

    2. One match for “office” and “station” is “room, department or building used to provide a particular service” (ODE on “office”) and “place or building where a specified activity or service is based” (ODE / station). Your local post office and police station are examples. No native speaker of English would talk of a post station or police office, but if a second-language English speaker did, you would know perfectly well what they meant.

  15. 24.35

    Maybe found this a smidgeon more accessible than others though couldn’t parse SUMMONSES and had to trust to COPEPOD.

    Liked BAPTISM OF FIRE quite a lot – immersion heating indeed

    Thanks all

  16. I liked this, which took me a full hour (a bit less for all but one clue, RETCH, which took me a few minutes of peaceful thinking before I understood the wordplay and knew that really would be the right answer). A large number of clues needed to be biffed before I could confirm the answers from the wordplay (CATTLE GRID was one, where I needed to realize that the minor way would not be a B ROAD). I remember cattle grids very well from my extended bicycle tour of Scotland 50 years ago — not too pleasant to cycle over. As usual for Dean, there were many really excellent clues such as STAYCATION or BUGATTI, among others.

  17. Completely flummoxed by this, I’m embarrassed to say, with no hope of getting the long answers, and only luckily hitting on the shorter ones. Several NHOs: CAT for retch, MURRAIN, COPEPOD, MONOMANIA. But BUGATTI went straight in, as did CATTLE GRID (from definition), and BAPTISM OF FIRE a happy BIF. Is STAYCATION a ‘new-fangled word’? As I’ve not heard of it before. Enjoyed getting RECREANTS, which some here claimed a NHO. Ashamed not to see the definitions for INDISCRIMINATE and TWEETER.

  18. Thanks Dean and guy
    Found this pretty difficult, taking three spaced sittings across both days of the weekend. In fact, the final 2/3 of the puzzle was basically using a word-finder to get an answer and then using the parsing of it for the enjoyment factor.
    Didn’t help matters by smugly writing in GUARANI in at 11a – thinking that it was GU (centre of Paraguayan) + ARAN (island) + I (oops another island) to give the Paraguayan currency – hmm nearly worked – but was still incorrect !
    Finished in the SE corner with INTRO, FLIGHT and GRAFTER (after googling the British slang term). A different solve where the chief takeaway was the additions to the vocabulary. Oh and that K2 clue !

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