Sunday Times No 5063 by David McLean — What it’s all about

Most of this, by far, was very zingy, and more than one clue was spiced with an allusion to… country matters (in Hamlet’s phrase). As is certainly fitting on a Sunday, whatever a 27 might say.

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

 1 One in bed that might get you going? (6)
OYSTER   CD, playing on (!) “bed”  Wikipedia: « Traditionally, oysters are considered to be an aphrodisiac, partially because they resemble female sex organs. A team of American and Italian researchers analyzed bivalves and found they were rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Their high zinc content aids the production of testosterone. »
 4 Problem faced by professional who takes the knee (8)
PROPOSER   PRO, “professional” + POSER, “problem”
10 Charming finale enthrals listener (9)
11 Turning tail to male, walk off with energy (5)
STEAM   STEA[-l, +M]
12 Watches losing a second or minutes? (7)
14 My flipping favourite dance (3-4)
ONE-STEP   ONE[’]S, “My” + PET<=“flipping”
15 Dog in a belt and panties isn’t right (7,7)
…It does seem highly unnatural!
TIBETAN SPANIEL   (in a belt + panties)*
18 Completely out in the wilderness? (4,2,3,5)
DEAD TO THE WORLD   The cryptic hint “in the wilderness” is another idiom meaning (Collins) “no longer having influence, recognition, or publicity”; “used [in journalism] for describing a part of someone’s career when they are inactive and ignored, and do not have an influential role”… when, as far as le monde (which is to say Le Monde) is concerned, ils ont cessé d’exister.
22 Name a Mark you’ve heard on the radio (7)
APPOINT   “a point”
24 Lake passed on line leaving terminus (4,3)
DEAD SEA   DEAD, “passed on” + SEA[-m]   …I’ve been there… It took me a while to parse this, being stuck on thinking “line” must be L and that the letter would be missing from a word meaning “terminus.”
25 Topless photo sessions amusing people (5)
HOOTS   [-s]HOOTS   …Possibly complicating matters for some is the fact that anagrist for the answer is found as a hidden word in “photo sessions.”
26 Dude with a drink’s totally out of it (9)
CATATONIC   CAT, “Dude” + A + TONIC, “drink”
28 Mr Astley rocked like the Boss (8)
MASTERLY   (Mr Astley)*   …Irrelevant and  politically pointed aside: The rocker commonly called “the Boss” says he hates the sobriquet, which began as a joke among his band in the early days when he had to do all the managerial stuff himself… and which now perhaps cuts a little too close to the bone? In any case, I am not Bruce Springsteen, but I approve his message: “Unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in this country.” (And in yours too, I’d wager!)
29 Rested American athlete finally seen in first place (6)
LEANED   LEAD, “first place” with [-america]N [-athlet]E inserted
 1 Light work a potter sorted round back of house (8)
OPERETTA   (a potter + [-hous]E)*
 2 Occasionally squalid and deplorable (3)
SAD   Every third letter, a device we don’t see very often
 3 Gaunt earl’s had it with spies breaking in (9)
EMACIATED   E(arl) + MATED, “had ‘it’” infiltrated by the CIA, “spies”
 5 Men turned up to support right, say, in rally (7)
REGROUP   R(ight) + EG (say) + O(ther)R(anks)<=“turned” + UP   Assemble as directed.
 6 Give the ball to another player to get English out (5)
PASSE   PASS, “Give the ball to another player” + E(nglish)
 7 Lovers of offal-filled puddings (11)
 8 Former American rock band, when including piano, charts again (6)
REMAPS   REM, “Former American rock band” + A(P)S
 9 Starts scoffing at home with first-floor lodgings? (4,2)
DIGS IN   IN, “at home” + DIGS, which can mean either any residence or specifically rented rooms; the latter are typically not on the ground level but above.  EDIT: See below. Apparently “first-floor” refers to the position of DIGS above IN in the Down clue.(!)   …I wasn’t aware of the second sense for DIGS until I looked up the word in Collins.
13 Servers able snoop hacked into to surveil leaders (11)
TABLESPOONS   T[-o] (able snoop)* S[-urveil]
16 Recent move to give stronger defence to Man City (9)
NEWCASTLE   NEW, “Recent” + CASTLE, “move to give stronger defence to [m]an”
17 A further bit of data (8)
ADVANCED   ADVANCE, “further” + D[-ata]   As in  AP for “ADVANCED Placement”
19 Coalpit with a new layout of lamps (7)
OPTICAL   (Coalpit)*   Collins and mark “lamp” for “eye”—verb and noun—as slang (Collins classing it as American)…  while Merriam-Webster only has the noun, with no indication of its being an informal term!
20 Have old nurses mostly studied guidance for Muslims? (6)
21 Chaos old PM brought upon border (6)
MAYHEM   MAY, really a fairly recent “PM” + HEM, “border”
23 Flow of supply (5)
ISSUE   DD, the first either a noun or a verb, the second a verb   …Meh
27 Woman with a habit nobody listened to (3)
NUN   “none”


50 comments on “Sunday Times No 5063 by David McLean — What it’s all about”

  1. 1D is strictly E from “house” inside (a potter)* – I discourage clues that tell the solver to carefully assemble letters with insertions or similar wordplay and then throw them all in the air for an anagram.

    1. That’s how I read it too, and what I think my notation adequately represents.
      Inside the parenthesis with an asterisk after it, indicating anagrist, I have “a potter” and the last letter in “house,” singled out by use of the minus sign and square brackets (which I reserve for this use; letters that are common abbreviations I explain with the rest of the word in round brackets). Now, if the E followed (or preceded) an anagram of “a potter,” it would have to go outside the bracket. But it’s in the midst (though neither E is in the exact middle) of the answer, so clearly part of the anagrist.

      1. It doesn’t look like part of the anagrist to me: ’round’ indicates inclusion (of E in (potter)*, as Peter says.

        1. If there were a complete word that is an anagram of “a potter,” in which, spelled out correctly, one might insert E, this explanation might seem more plausible. Obviously, though, OPERETTA is made up of the letters in “a potter” plus E stuck somewhere in there (yes, those letters are “round” it). Neither OPRETTA nor OPERTTA are anagram solutions. You don’t have the whole anagrist for OPERETTA without the E.

          There is, of course, no disagreement about how the clue is solved but only one, apparently, about how it should be notated or talked about.

          1. For 13D, you were perfectly happy to record the “(able snoop)*” that goes between T and S, despite “ablespoon” not being a word.

            If you want “anagram” in clue discussion to match its dictionary definition, maybe you should say that * indicates a jumble of letters, which may or may not be an anagram. Or maybe you could just accept that “anagram” has acquired a slightly different meaning in cryptic clue analysis, as it logically must have done if “anagrind” means “anagram indicator”.

            1. I really just think all the anagrist belongs within the parenthesis followed by the asterisk. That seems the clearest way to indicate how such a clue works.

              1. I honestly thought that my first comment would simply lead to you admitting that the annotation wasn’t quite right, and the replacement of
                (a potter + [-hous]E)*
                [-hous]E inside (a potter)*
                which is what’s actually going on in the process of solving the clue. I don’t understand why anyone would think that version is unclear. And that simple change would have needed no discussion about what is or isn’t an “anagram” when explaining cryptic clues.

                1. As I later admitted, the only pertinent part of my (late-night, here, one-sided) “discussion” concerned what constitutes anagrist.

                  I have always marked clues this way, when the anagrist is made up of a string of words with an element or two added from parts of other words. I can’t know about anyone else, but I certainly didn’t solve the clue from getting seven-eighths of the word from “a potter” first and finding place for another E but from, indeed, “throwing all the letters in the air for an anagram.” (Actually, I wrote them in a circle, something that the late Tony Sever recommended.)

                  But how’s s this: ((“a potter”)* ([-hous[E))*?

                  1. Always? Have a look at your report on STC 5051. 21A in that puzzle could actually be understood as an anagram of all the letters involved, or equally logically, an anagram of most of them followed by a single letter. Your annotation indicates the latter. 13D is more like today’s clue, and once again you correctly indicated the anagram plus the single letter.

                    When I said “what’s going on in solving”, or similar, I should really have said “how the clue logically works”. There is plenty of evidence that the moment when you see the answer may have little to do with the logic – e.g. the fact that people talk about “bunging in from definition”. Although there isn’t a similar name for it as far as I know, there is a major role for “guessed from a possible definition and then confirmed because the rest of the clue provided wordplay that made logical sense”. And that logical sense is what the annotations for answers provide – they say nothing about how the solver worked them out.

                    Your newly suggested alternative doesn’t make sense to me, because there are not two anagrams involved in the logic, whether you see it as an anag with a letter inserted, or the complete anagram which isn’t indicated by the logic but still produces the same result.

                    1. Yes, the alternative formulation was intended to be logically redundant and thus not to “make sense.” That’s what I meant by “Ha.” That’s because, just as you say, “whether you see it as an anag with a letter inserted, or the complete anagram,” it “still produces the same result.” Beg to differ as to whether the inclusion of the E in the anagrist is implied by the “logic” (the wording?) of the clue.
                      I am not surprised to be reminded that I have not been entirely consistent in notation style (though I do try to be)!

                    2. Yes, the alternative formulation was intended to be logically redundant and thus not to “make sense.” That’s what I meant by “Ha.” That’s because, just as you say, “whether you see it as an anag with a letter inserted, or the complete anagram,” it “still produces the same result.” Beg to differ whether the complete anagrist is indicated by the “logic” (the wording) of the clue.
                      I am not surprised to be reminded that I have not been entirely consistent in notation style (though I do try to be)!

                    3. I quite agree with you Peter in all this. The only thing that bugs me is why you both repeatedly have (-house). I can’t see what the minus sign is doing. Surely ‘back of house’ is simply [hous]e?

  2. I put this aside last week with 5 clues marked for checking. Possibly a record, at lest in recent time. So, thanks for the blog, Guy!

  3. 34:27
    NHO the spaniel, DNK REM’s nationality (barely knew of REM). ‘old’ seemed a bit odd for May. I don’t much like the use of light verbs like ‘do’ as synonyms for regular verbs (like ‘study’ here); if a housepainter did the bedroom, he painted it; if the burglar did the bedroom, he burgled it, etc. I liked SWEETHEARTS & LOI STEAM.

  4. LOI also STEAM. Didn’t twig the parsing of that one, but it seems perfectly obvious now. This was a good weekend’s crosswording for me. I’m not a fast solver but this was done in a couple of hours as was the mephisto (which I haven’t attempted since my student days in the 70s).

  5. As the hour approached I gave up on the two missing answers HADITH (NHO and the wordplay wasn’t helpful) and CATATONIC (which I might have biffed from definition and checkers if I’d had them all). Deflated by failure I also gave up on trying to parse some of the clues solved with relative ease, e.g. the SEA in DEAD SEA.

    I explained DIGS IN as Guy did (second meaning) but wasn’t entirely happy with the ‘first floor’ reference.

    1. I think “first floor” is intended to indicate that DIGS is “upstairs” relative to IN in the grid entry. It’s borrowing a bit from the surface reading, but a mild change from the usual “on top of” indications.

      1. Thanks, Peter. Oh yes, now you have mentioned it, that thought had occurred to me and I suggested it as a possibility when writing to another solver during the week. On reflection I think it’s the best explanation and, as such, I wonder why I had forgotten about it.

        1. Yes, I wasn’t persuaded that the clue was referring to the position of “DIGS” in the clue, finding the definitional explanation more plausible and straightforward, less “meta.”

  6. 48m 35s
    NHO TIBETAN SPANIEL. Do they chant ‘om’ instead of barking?
    24ac: I understand DEAD for ‘passed on’ but don’t get SEA(M)
    9d: Regardless of the presence of “at home”, “First floor lodgings” indicates DIGS UP. My online Collins says nothing about DIGS being on any particular level.
    Thanks, Guy, for HADITH, OPTICAL and ADVANCED.
    I did like STEAM and REGROUP.

    1. The “first floor” bit regarding rented rooms was a bit of info that made sense to me when presented by Jackkt. Honestly, I originally had a quite different explanation that rested on my forgetting the distinction between ground and first floor that holds in the UK and I was relieved to have an alternative. Which was also wrong!

  7. 58 minutes. Just under the hour, with HADITH new and the aphrodisiac sense of OYSTER unknown or more likely forgotten. At least I did see ‘first-floor’ at 9d as a positional indicator. Some quite tricky parsing, eg DEAD SEA and REGROUP.

    I liked the surface for TIBETAN SPANIEL and the almost invisible ‘A’ definition for ADVANCED.

    Thanks to Guy and setter

  8. This was a chewy one, that I believe I covered over a couple of days. DNK the dog, so the anagram was useful. LOI was 11A, when I finally realised the significance of ‘with’ in the clue. Before that, I eventually managed to tease out HADITH, with no certainty whatsoever, looked up after entering. And my previous entry enabled it – I’d had the more obvious ARAL SEA, (obvious in the sense of a lake that comes to mind more readily than the DEAD SEA). However, when it failed to parse, despite best efforts, ‘passed on’ suggested the answer. While I knew the ‘Sea of Galilee’ was a lake, I didn’t know that the Dead Sea was also one. Every day’s a school day… Oh, and never understood the significance of ‘first floor’ and don’t much like it now I do…

  9. Interesting puzzle. I got but couldn’t parse STEAM or ADVANCED but failed on HADITH. Thanks for the blog.

  10. 16:22. I got completely stuck on this with three left to solve: OYSTER, ENTRIES and OPERETTA. I very nearly gave up but then I think OYSTER occurred to me from the ‘bed’ reference.
    I read 18ac as a specific reference to the phrase ‘you’re dead to me’, which indicates a breaking-off of all relations.

    1. I assume that your “read” is past tense here.

      “You’re dead to me” never occurred to me, being superfluous for the main definition, “Completely out” (bit of an echo in the clue for CATATONIC!). In Collins, DEAD TO THE WORLD is “unaware of one’s surroundings, esp fast asleep or very drunk,” but I thought everyone would know the sense of it.

      1. Past and present!
        I’m not questioning the main definition (unconscious). I’m trying to explain ‘in the wilderness’, which is not justified by any normal use of the word ‘dead’. You don’t use ‘dead’ to refer in the third person to someone who has been generally cut off by society. But ‘you’re dead to me’ is a specific expression that does indicate exactly this on an individual basis. So in this sense if you were dead to [every individual in] the world then you would indeed be ‘in the wilderness’. I think that’s what’s intended. Can’t be sure of course.

        1. Hmm. I didn’t (evidently) give it a second thought. Maybe because I’m always reading in Le Canard etc. about French politicians seeking ways to “exist,” which means of course to be in the public eye, as UK politicians “in the wilderness” are not. And no doubt because “dead to me” is a common enough expression.

  11. I rather breezed through this one in just under 20 minutes, taking time to work out why STEAM was right, pretty much as has been mentioned concerned with what letter after STEA has anything to do with walking.
    I’m aware of an oyster’s reputation, but I’ve never quite understood how the lookalike thing works, innocent that I am. Sid James used a passion fruit to make the same suggestion to Barbara Windsor. I can more easily see how that worked.

    1. Two items for comparison, and I’ve never really had the chance to do so. when offered, other things on my mind ..

  12. I was about to congratulate myself in solving this in quick time for me but I stumbled on two answers. Whilst I get Appoint I am a little confused as to why radio was specifically mentioned.
    Hadith escaped me ( NHO ) but I got bogged down thinking of old nurses rather than Have old. I looked up synonyms for to nurse and discovered ‘ to do for’ (did)
    My first thought was that if say person A did for person B that would have rather sinister overtones.
    Secondly if person X did for person Y it may mean X did domestic work for Y. Perhaps rather old fashioned meanings.
    Thus to do for as a nursing term eluded me

    Finally while Sad was the only possible answer the nuance of the clue escapes me

    1. In the “hadith” clue, “nurses” is a containment indicator (“to clasp carefully or fondly” being a “nurse” definition), and “studied” indicates “did” as in “he did chemistry at uni”, from the “work at, especially as a course of study or a profession” meaning of “do”.

      1. You are having a busy day, Peter 🙂
        FWIW I have no complaints or queries, about this one, rather unusually for Mr Mclean..

    2. ‘you’ve heard on the radio’ is simply the homophone indicator. Either ‘heard’ or ‘on the radio’ could have done the job but the setter went for something that makes for a better surface reading. Some setters specialise in using as few words as possible in a clue, but not this one.

  13. DNF. Several left blank but 11a STEAM and 8d REMAPS I refused to enter them just out of pique; they were biffable but I could not parse.
    I was never going to get ADVANCED from a def of “A”, so there were some gaps in the SE. Should have recalled HADITH at 20d easily, but it just didn’t come to me. Oh well.

  14. Sorry to post off topic but since I don’t think you give the ST Concise its own article… my mum was wondering how

    (Middle row) ____ (7)

    was meant to indicate LEBANON in a non-cryptic!

  15. I had a whole lot of queries, all of which are simply down to my failure to grasp the niceties of the clues. So I rather liked this in the end.

    1. I can’t reply to you up there, since we reached our limit in that rather academic back-and-forth. My addition of the minus sign within the square brackets when subtraction is clear from the context may be somewhat compulsive, but at least it makes my practice consistent when, as with STEA[-l, +M], I use them to mark a substitution. I’m sorry that it bugs you!

      1. Perhaps it was a slight misuse of the word ‘bugs’. I was using it to mean ’causes me to fail to understand, so I’m bewildered (but not annoyed)’. Maybe the word has a slightly different sense in the UK and the US.

        1. I am sorry that it bewildered you before you knew the “why” (such as it is). I always aim for clarity (believe it or not).

          1. One of the Mephisto setters uses notation like “~M” to indicate the final letter M of a word in the clue (usually the only word in the clue ending in M or whatever other letter it happens to be). I have used this and the similar “M~” for a first letter in clue explanations in the ST clue writing reports for about the last 4 months, and none of my readers has said that they found this confusing. I think notation that emphasises the part of a word that’s used in the wordplay is clearer than notation that specifies something like 4 letters that are missed out of a word as well as the one letter that’s actually used.

  16. One hour exactly, with OYSTER, APPOINT and ISSUE my LOI. I didn’t know about the aphrodisiac qualities of oysters, but “going” can have other meanings, one of them even literal if one thinks of the Oyster Card in London. The bed and the crossing letters at least enabled me to biff it. And as for the other two, it’s good that I didn’t leave in the words I made up: APPELET borrowed from French for “name” and LISSE borrowed from French for “supply” as an adverb, as it often is in cryptic crosswords. As for the TIBETAN SPANIEL, it was clear it would be an anagram and SPANIEL would give a dog, but it took me ages to see the TIBETAN part of it from the remaining letters. Not an easy puzzle, but quite enjoyable.

  17. As I only have ( or more accurately “have allowed myself to have”) the very first hour of each Sunday morning to see and complete the crossword (and then read your blog and comments), I feel a little disadvantaged by my lack of subconscious brain-work rattling away and solving these clues without my obvious knowledge. That said, I got stuck on a few unknowns, like HADITH, REM, A for ADVANCED, etc, so overall a DNF, but an enjoyable romp with what I did get. Rushing in with DEAD IN THE WATER for 18a threw me out somewhat (could also mean “completely out”?), but although I’d never heard of a TIBETAN SPANIEL it was easy enough to work from ‘some kind of SPANIEL’, and others needed a fair bit of work . Especially in a rush today as it’s my 79th birthday, and I’m being treated to a special lunch out.

  18. I enjoy reading the comments but cannot see any explanation for why 12A has watches when it seems it should be watchers, as in sentries.

    1. It’s a less-common usage these days, but all dictionaries back it up. Here’s
      a person or group that watches, as a lookout, guard, or sentinel:
      A watch was posted at sunset.

  19. Thanks David and guy
    Did this one last Sunday and then tested positive to Covid before finishing the parsing of the higher than usual number of clues that were not completely parsed. Whilst it took a tad over the hour to complete the grid, a week later I still needed the blog to see [S]HOOTS, STEA[L] M (missed ‘walk off with’ = steal), REGROUP (had some other incorrect compilation), SEA[M] (got stuck with ‘line’=L), and HADITH (way too tricky for me).
    Still it was an enjoyable solve and happy to see the back end of that virus as well !

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