Throwback Wednesday (1983) – Throw Me A Bone?

I usually approach these puzzles from the mists of time with apprehension and dread, but I was pleased to see that this one hails from 1983, i.e. within a normal person’s living memory, and it’s not at all impossible that I could have helped my grandfather do this one the first time round, at the age of 8. (Obviously he could have managed most of it himself, but I’d have stepped in for the harder ones.) Anyway I really enjoyed this – a few clues would be far too libertarian to pass muster these days, but by and large we see the modern rules of setting have taken hold here, plus there’s some real wit on display in the definitions, and a very commendable literary flavour. I wonder who the setter was – possibly someone long since no longer with us, I suppose. Many thanks if you are still around to receive them, though!

I came home in under 10 minutes, but my hopes of topping the leaderboard were dashed by messing up in the NW with a wrong entry at 2dn, which required a fair bit of agonising and retracing of steps. I see a lot of people on the board were even more unfortunate and went down by one or more, what happened? I warn you, I shall look askance at anyone who misspelled 5dn…

1 There was nothing in her closet but a modest gown! (6,7)
MOTHER HUBBARD – double def. I knew the nursery rhyme (“…went to the cupboard, to get her poor dog a bone”) but the light did not fully dawn until I Googled to discover that a Mother Hubbard is (or was, in 1983?) a name for a gown.
9 Fellow-resident I try to clean out at cards? (9)
NEIGHBOUR – referring to the card game Beggar My Neighbour, which I do remember being popular back in 1983, though my grandfather referred to it by the more colourful name Strip Jack Naked.
10 Music hall — opening for dancing is firm (5)
DISCO – D{ancing} IS CO [firm]. My first one in, as we still have discos, though they’re for ridiculously young people instead of ridiculously old ones now.
11 Prime supporter of art (5)
EASEL – cryptic def for a very literal supporter of artworks. My last one in, as I was looking for E_T_L for a long while, and EXTOL wasn’t really cutting it.
12 Dan performed the French number (4)
LENO – LE NO [the French | number]. Dan Leno was a Victorian music hall performer that you, like me, might not have heard of if you hadn’t read Peter Ackroyd’s fine book Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem. As that didn’t come out until 1994 though the solvers of this crossword the first time round might have found it harder.
13 Circus celebrity has sore back (4)
EROS – SORE reversed. The wordplay is about as obvious as wordplay gets, but it took a while longer to realise that the “circus celebrity” is immortalised in statue form at Piccadilly Circus.
15 Man appears to be right with sale-room turnover (7)
BERTRAM – BE R [be | right] + MART reversed [sale-room “turnover”]
17 Messenger sent for a newspaper (7)
COURIER – double def.
18 Country mansion let by arrangement in Washington (7)
SEATTLE – SEAT [country mansion] + (LET*) [“by arrangement”]. Took me long enough to get this considering I’ve lived there twice, but I was too busy looking for (LETBY*) in WA.
20 Northern Ireland group in charge of river line as adjusted (7)
NILOTIC – NI LOT IC [Northern Ireland | group | in charge]. Probably referring to Nilotic peoples? Didn’t really have a scooby what the “as adjusted” part was all about, but if the answer is clearly right…
21 Recognizes, say, the smell of tobacco for instance (4)
NOSE – homophone of KNOWS [recognizes, “say”]. Were spellings with a Z in vogue in 1983?
22 One in a race in Borrows’s Lavengro (4)
SLAV – hidden in {borrows’}S LAV{engro}. Noteworthy TLS-iness to the clues in 1983, and the petition to bring this kind of thing back starts here!
23 James I offers Sydney a spot of leisure (5)
BONDI – BOND I. As with the SEATTLE clue above we have a definition that doesn’t pass the substitution test that would probably be applied today.
26 Italian city named in sea-trip (5)
SIENA – (IN SEA*) [“trip”]. A bit libertarian by modern standards.
27 Apparatus of Scotch manufacture destined to be abortive (9)
STILLBORN – STILL BORN [apparatus of Scotch (whisky) manufacture | destined]
28 Beautifully got up like a dish at a Borgia feast? (7,2,4)
DRESSED TO KILL – the Borgias having a terrible reputation as poisoners, of course.
1 Brother setting up the old firm in sharp practice (6,8)
MONKEY BUSINESS – MONK [brother] + YE reversed [“setting up” the, old] + BUSINESS [firm]
2 Reverse call (5)
TAILS – a cryptic def for a coin toss, which wasted minutes of my time as I tried to go for a double def in TWIST, and then couldn’t get EASEL.
3 Cheer the XI, a real smasher! (10)
EXHILARATE – (THE XI A REAL*) [“smasher”]
4 There’s a gangster covering Jack’s chimney (7)
HOODLUM – the answer is quickly obvious, and LUM is a chimney, but is “Jack” Jack Hood, the boxer? But he was still alive in 1983!
5 Having the lordly manner of a Greek champion (7)
BYRONIC – cryptic def, Byron being both a Lord and, like all right-thinking people, passionate about all things Greek. Very kind of the editors to have included this word in the Concise today, to make it easy for us to think about it.
6 The lad died in any case! (4)
ANDY – D [died] in a “case” of ANY
7 Attachment warranted to shatter traditions, nothing less (9)
DISTRAINT – (TRADITI{o}NS*) [“to shatter”]. A lot packed into the definition part: “attachment” is legal seizure of property, and presumably you do need a warrant for it!
8 Explanation supported by a student of building (14)
CONSTRUCTIONAL – CONSTRUCTION [explanation] supported by A L [a | student]. I thought of this immediately but wasn’t sure if CONSTRUCTION meant explanation so didn’t put it straight in, but it really was as easy as all that.
14 Uproar in northern town over a fictional bear (10)
HULLABALOO – HULL [northern town] over A BALOO [a | fictional bear]. This clue had another outing in recent years didn’t it? And I remember it winning plaudits, everyone loves Baloo.
16 Dora set out with a note of anchorage (9)
ROADSTEAD – (DORA SET*) [“out”] + A D [a | note]. I think we’ve had this word in a puzzle not too long ago too, or else I might have found it considerably harder.
19 Joins forces in French scene of combat (7)
ENLISTS – EN [in, French] + LISTS [scene of (jousting) combat]. Definition is literally joining the (armed) forces here, not allying or whatever.
20 Churchman rose about five to six, worked with a shovel (7)
NAVVIED – reverse of DEAN [churchman “rose”] about V + VI [five (to) six]
24 Bereaved widow booked wrongly on a motorway (5)
NAOMI – (ON A*) [“wrongly”] + M1. Hopefully we are all more familiar with events of the famous Book of Ruth than some of us are with Nahum and Nehemiah? Naomi was the widow of Elimelech, though he never seems to turn up in crosswords for some reason.
25 A mere reddish pigment (4)
LAKE – double def. I put this in speculatively, intending to go back and ponder if it was definitely correct, but forgot about it. Luckily for me it wasn’t wrong…

32 comments on “Throwback Wednesday (1983) – Throw Me A Bone?”

  1. … with our resident poet that this was better than many of the retros we’ve seen lately. Perhaps because it was more recent than others. And I think I enjoyed it more than the actual Wed. puzzle which was blandish.

    As for Jack at 4dn, I suspect a typo for “Jock”??

    Had no idea that a Mother Hubbard was a dress. Bet it won’t turn up again.

    1. If Jack was Jock everything would be clear enough, but I’m still puzzled about the clue as it stands… could it really be a typo?
  2. Surely the easiest of these historic objects we have had for some time? Still not entirely straightforward though. There are some very neat clues – I particularly liked 19dn, simple, correct, but quite misleading..
    Re 4dn, I think the covering is HOOD, and LUM is jack’s chimney.. not sure why Jack’s in particular. Typo for Jock, perhaps? (as I now see McT suggests too)

    Jack, comments are disabled on your Qualifier post, so just to say that it is available from the Club home page now…

    Edited at 2017-06-21 06:33 am (UTC)

    1. If it is there, it’s not obvious.
      The retro replacement always says there’s a .pdf available on the club site. It’s in that waste of printer space at the top.
      But it’s never visible. And I had to go to the Times newspaper site to find it.
      Enlightenment would be much apprecaited.
      1. Bottom right corner of the home page, Mc, under “Latest News.”
        Previous qualifiers are also still available, on the “Club News” page

        Edited at 2017-06-21 07:09 am (UTC)

  3. 18:26 … sort of. I couldn’t get the Crossword Club site to load this morning (seems okay now), and being out of printer ink I had to solve this using The Times online site. I really, really dislike that solving experience — everything about it, from the way the clues fade as you solve them, to the way the clue columns jump around as you move from light to light, to the infuriating business of the entire grid disappearing the instant you fill in the last square to be replaced by a naff message. And the arrow keys and tab don’t work, at least not with my browser. Here endeth the rant.

    Oh, the crossword. I liked it, too. Some lateral thinking required for things like SEATTLE and BONDI. I’d be happy to see a return to that kind of thing today. You know they’re right once you have them, which to me is what matters.

    LENO the only real gripe, as it might have been LANO for all I knew.

    Okay, I don’t understand the NILOTIC clue either, but I have a feeling there’s some clever anthropological, geographical or Egyptological thing going on there that’s escaping most of us. The clue feels too sure of itself for there not to be an explanation.

    Edited at 2017-06-21 07:02 am (UTC)

  4. This 1983 retro-jobbie was how I like ’em. No IKEA-style entanglements, no bloody Bard and as Sotira notes once you’ve got it that’s it! Only 5dn gave me pause for thought as the good Lord had to be BYRON.

    All done and dusted in 24mins although I cracked the qualifier in 21 minutes. So a decent day’s work for a change – before the files for my new book have to go the printer.



    Dan Leno was so famous in his day as was Le Petomane – but fame is but a fickle flame.

      1. …indeed Beerbohm was part of staples corner.

        Fyi – an ad in the ‘Oldie’ asks – ‘Do you miss Araucaria’s crosswords?’

        Araucaria araucaria – the Chilean monkey puzzle tree – gave name to the Guardian’s most celebrated crossword setter back in the Good Old Days. offers offers five puzzles a month one of which will be a genuine oldie from the master himself.

        I was absent on leave last month and Jack may have already pointed this out –
        I apologise if so. However I am sure it might be of interest to many of the group – even though it is the grauniad!


        1. Araucaria sounds good to me, he was my favourite in my younger days (of course).

          Now if only it would promise that at least one of the five a month would be a Bunthorne, too…

  5. A deeply depressing two typos and a misspelling anchor me to the bottom of the table and an unimpressive time to boot. I used to be able to do these things.

    By 1983, the crossword had pretty much reached the contemporary style: this could pass for a more recent offering.

  6. Definitely an improvement over recent substitute puzzles, although it helped that I knew MOTHER HUBBARD (or thought I knew it; something like a muu-muu?) and especially LAKE. I thought the Borgias had an excellent reputation as poisoners.
  7. Gave up at about 90 minutes with a few left to do. As it turned out I was on the right track for several, having thought of CONSTRUCTIONAL, EROS, DISTRAINT and even ROADSTEAD, but not being sure enough to put them in. A few others I might not have got to, given than I didn’t know BONDI was near Sydney and couldn’t get “BARBI” out of my head… I also doubt I’d have got to the completely unknown NILOTIC.

    The many question marks alongside my now-proved-correct answers shook my confidence too much (MOTHER HUBBARD? NEIGHBOUR? HOODLUM? BYRONIC? ENLISTS?) and I didn’t want to lead myself up the garden path, really. At least I got LENO right, despite never having heard of Dan Leno, on the grounds that I’d heard of Jay Leno but nobody called Lano…

    Edited at 2017-06-21 08:43 am (UTC)

  8. … and in 1983 I was trying to run a business in Dublin, with a leg in plaster for months. Wheelchairs at aiports were efficiently managed then.
    Agree with all, better than most retro puzzles, although a few clues were a bit weird. Foolishly I put in BARONIC for 5d so had one wrong; I didn’t like the answer but forgot to go back and think again. The surface of 20a just doesn’t make sense, NILOTIC means to do with the people or langauges of the Nile valley, but ‘as adjusted’? I liked HULLABALOO because it’s a jolly nice word.
    It took me 20 minutes to get it done with one wrong, before going on to the qualifier.
    I agree SOTIRA the online solving is a pain, I go for the print off and solve option whenever I can print.
    1. Re 20ac: The ‘as adjusted’ is an anagram indicator for ‘line’, giving the name of the river.

      Edited at 2017-06-21 09:16 am (UTC)

      1. Ooh, good spot Contrarian! And obviously right once you “see” it.

        It’s clearly been a long time since we last had to jump through a second hoop of wordplay to reach the definition part!

        1. Yes, this is a device that might appear in a Guardian puzzle perhaps, but not, I think in the Times these days.
  9. In our household, the card game in 9ac was called either “Strip Jack Naked” or “Beat Your Neighbour out of Doors”.

    I was held up by the use of “prime” in 11ac. Is it just that an easel is the “first” supporter of a picture (ie while it is being painted)?


    1. I just assumed it meant “main”, “most frequent” but it does seem like an interesting choice of word…
  10. These dresses turn up quite a bit in the Somerset Maugham tales of the South Seas. Apparently the missionaries thought the traditional lavalava was indecent (leaving too little to the imagination) and had the natives dress up in these instead. I very nearly did the same as Pip with “baronic” thinking it might have been some Greek football star of the era (or something) but it came to me when I was proofing. Magoo had another sub-4 minute time…. 20.37
    1. He’s really mastered the art of being able to see what the answer is at a glance, hasn’t he? I guess I’ve got to that point for *very easy clues*, perhaps *all non-egregiously-tricky clues* will come with another decade or three’s practice?
  11. I quite enjoyed this one. As others have said it’s a lot more like the modern style. I still struggled to get into the swing of it, but EROS set me on my way and I finished in 34:45 with TAILS. Guessed LENO rather than LANO, and also didn’t know that a M.H. was a dress. Liked BONDI and HULLABALOO. Thanks setter and V.
  12. No complaints here, just a spelling error with EXHILIRATE and a moronic BARONIC.

    Thanks setter and V.

  13. 15:05 but with a couple of typos. I still can’t get the hang of doing it online, Luddite that I am. I enjoyed this. 2d my favourite for the sheer simplicity.
  14. No. I stopped when I realised that I was dealing with an oldie, I dont like these
  15. I’ve been too busy to comment today, just popping in very late to say that on my commute this morning I got precisely two answers and gave up. I’m not sure why I found such a relatively recent puzzle so impossible: i haven’t had time to work it out.
  16. 7:23 for me. I must have done this one before, but probably rather faster in 1983 when I was almost at my peak (though I could still only manage second place behind John Sykes in the Championship Final that year).

    There was nothing particularly 1983-ish about it, so I comparatively little advantage over today’s solvers. However, I did know who Dan Leno was. He’s well known in the clog-dancing world (he started out as a clog dancer), and I used to dance with Camden Clog along with Dr Caroline Radcliffe (as she is now) who is the world authority on Leno.

    I’ve just had a quick look at the Times Archive, and it should indeed have been “Jock” rather than “Jack”.

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