Times 23553/Sicily vacation

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 55’ but not sure about one answer

I did this mostly on a paper copy over breakfast in Manchester (that’s N. England not Sicily). Fortunately on my Sicily vacation I took a wrong turn on the autostrada and drove to Taormina via MESSINA.

A couple of now familiar idioms in this puzzle: “neat” for ox and “kitchen” for percussion section. Several months ago these would have brought me to a grinding halt – though I do have some questions still about the NE corner: especially 3A which I’m not sure about.


3 CEILI(DHI)NG – definitely not BEGLADDING! (I’m off to check at the Manchester library but I’m sure by the time I’m back someone will have resolved this for me!)…and when I got back, found that buzzword has let us know that it’s a Scots social gathering
9 ME(ERK)AT – I had to confirm that ERK is a low-ranking RAF serviceman.
11 US,U,ALLY – This time “American university” needs to be separated and doesn’t indicate MIT or Yale etc.
12 ANGLO-CATHOLIC – (locating a loch)* — my Sicilian friends will be happy to know that there are some of these left.
14 THREW – two meanings: I’m going to guess that “produced no-ball” is a cricket allusion since you have to bowl not throw the ball.
17 CAST,A,NET,S[upplying] – clever clue: “kitchen” as percussion section in which you might need a CASTANET.
21 PUS(ILL)ANIMO,US – ILL (“sick) in (san, opium)*
25 MESS,IN,A – Thanks to my wrong turn I learnt that MESSINA is a port in Sicily.
26 BREATHLESS – lovely antonymical double definition: ”Still panting?”.


1 GYM=”jim”,NASTICS – (cast sin)*. Nice surface but I don’t really like TLM (three-letter men) being used.
2 A(VEN)GER – VEN (for Venerable as in Bede) in rage*.
4 EX,TRAD(IT)E – “old craft” produces EX TRADE.
5 [p]LOUGH – cheeky clue: take away P for pressure from what the ploughman (“shareholder”!) holds and you’re left with an example of something wet: namely an Irish lake.
7 ILLICIT – def is “not allowed” — Buzzword again: ILLICIT=”elicit”.
8 GOYA – he made etchings but what about the wordplay? ”Express derision endlessly, seeing his etchings?” — buzzword proposes: GO,YA[h]. Maybe..
10 KNOW WHATS WHAT=”Watt” – nice clue: I fixated on Bell as our Scots inventor so took me longer than it should have.
13 UNDER,S(T)AND – had to look up launce to learn that it’s a sand-burrowing eel.
16 LAS (P,ALMA)S– not a very common girl’s name ALMA but if you’ve read Don Manley’s manual you’ll know it’s his mother’s name (perhaps hinting at the provenance of this puzzle). I didn’t remember that LAS PALMAS was in the Canaries but in the taxi from the train station there was an ad for Monarch Air which runs charters to Spain… so got lucky again.
20 OX,O,NI,AN – “neat” is archaic cattle (OX) and NI for Northern Ireland which is still a part of the UK.
22 LOSEL – hidden in: “OsLO’S ELections”. Turns out that LOSEL is a worthless person.

18 comments on “Times 23553/Sicily vacation”

    1. I’ve convinced myself it’s correct, ilan, as in “Yah booh sucks”.

      Unless anyone knows different.


      1. You’re probably right — i only said “maybe” in the blog because I don’t like the clue: as Mr Magoo said it’s quite elliptic. A bit too much in my opinion since it’s doubly endless — i.e. YA[[h] booh sucks]
  1. Excellent amusing blog, Ilan – bad luck with 3ac – I know CEILIDH but had no idea that it could be a verb. LOSEL is also an extremely recherché entry, and the wordplay to GO YA(H) as elliptic as anything that occurs in the Times. Very amused by your recent encounters with MESSINA and LAS PALMAS.


  2. I went over the hour on this, mainly because I initially entered “Tell what’s what” for 10 down, which really screwed up the top half until I spotted the error. Like Ilanc, I’ve now got used to “kitchen” as an indicator of musical instruments, and LOSEL was probably recognizable to anyone who is a regular Listener solver. CEILIDHING went in last, but when I later checked to confirm it in a dictionary I could not find Chambers, COD or Collins supporting a verbal/gerundive form of CEILIDH. Perhaps it is in a fuller version of Collins than is to be found online. Can anyone give an authoritative source?
  3. 8:14 here, with a couple of minutes at the end to find (you guessed it) 3A. Intrigued by the use of this “non-existent” word, but not that bothered by it – the meaning is obvious to anyone who knows the root word.

    5D: I think the idea is that the (plough)share is held by the plough.

    1. A web-search on the non-existent word throws up a number of places where “ceilidhing” is on offer so it appears the word is in general use whether not it has made it into the dictionaries. According to Chambers a ceilidh is a visit, so if one can go visiting it seems logical that one can also go ceilidhing.

      I was quite pleased that this one didn’t give me any problems because I spotted “ceiling” from “inner roof” straight away which put me on the right track and I was already familiar “ceilidh” as a noun. But I was disappointed to be thrown by 14A where I settled for the not completely satisfactory “throw” without ever considering the correct solution “threw”.

  4. I was surprised at the use of “launce” in the clue for 13D. I did know the word, but only from doing Listener crosswords (where it or its variant spellings seem very popular). It doesn’t seem entirely reasonable to make the clue so impenetrable to most. At least for LOSEL, which I did not know, there are few alternatives (is “lysol” better known?), and a hidden is a kind approach to an obscure word. But there are lots of ways of approaching UNDERSTAND.

    I am not sure, Ilan, that your Sicilian friends would be pleased to learn of the existence of Anglo-Catholics. These are not English Catholics: rather they are (I think) members of the Church of England who choose to believe that it remains linked to the Catholic Church. I think a sensible Sicilian would quickly lose interest.

    Finally, I should not admit that I cheerily started this puzzle by putting in NEAT(h) at 1A. 15:28 seems reasonable in the circumstances.

  5. 7:31, but bizarrely I spent the first 6 minutes, at least, reading 26ac as “Still painting?”. Only when I had all the checking letters and spotted the answer did I realise.

    Thanks for the blog, Ilan – it’s prevented me from ‘learning’ that a castanet is some sort of cooking utensil…

  6. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who read 26A as ‘painting’!

    2 incorrect guesses on 1A and 5D did for me on this one, although I was just glad to fill the grid after yesterday!

    Love the blog by the way. Keep up the good work


  7. No problem with 3 ac (there are few nouns that can’t be verbed!), but I was stuck for two or three minutes on 13 dn: with “launce” in the clue and the light ending -S-A-D, I found it extraordinarily difficult to get thoughts of Eel Pie Island out of my mind! Alma Cogan will no doubt be familiar to older solvers. (9:32 – disappointing, but not as bad as yesterday.)
    1. And (dare I whisper it around here?) Alma (Baldwin) was in Corrie for 20 years or more, played by Amanda Barrie.
  8. In which we find Scots making verbs out of nouns, invent a plural form of a native American tribe and equate Meerkat & Mongoose – wheras the latter has NEVER been used to sell insurance!

    A few “easies” to play with:

    1a Alluring old Welsh county, in short (4)
    GLAM (organ). The name still lives on in Cricket-land.

    15a Unusually (long title)* dishonestly obtained (3-6)

    19a Completely different in centre? Thats what was said (5)
    QU O TE. Instead of QU I TE presumably?

    24a Nurseries church introduced to Native Americans (7)
    CRE CH ES. The Cree are surely the Cree – not the Crees?

    27a Geraint’s wife’s conclusion about island (4)
    EN I D

    6d Lookalike stops pinching gold – it’s a gamble (6,2,5)

    18d Cream sauce soldiers eat at the front (7)

    23d Strikebreaker showing evidence of recent injury (4)

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