Times 23619/prickly

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 25’ but…

Pretty fast for me but… I cheated a bit with online references: e.g. OPUNTIA. I found this a rather prickly puzzle since some of the wordplay was subtle and some of the vocab was unusual. I really don’t understand the surface of 16A (OVERREACH).


1 WATTLE=”what’ll” – My last clue: a sort of homophonic &lit: “which material will” is “what will” which is “what’ll” which sounds like, etc. – I couldn’t get “neighbors” out of my mind at first (since good fences make them).
4 F,LAWLESS – So both Nancy and Bill Sikes weren’t law abiding in ‘Oliver Twist’ – I suppose Nancy is needed in the clue to make the “female” surface work.
11 NO=rev(on),PAL – first prickly clue: checked that NOPAL is a type of cactus.
12 ELDER(STATE)S,MAN – I tend to freak out a bit at first when I see an ecclesiastical clue: in this case, “presbyter” just means ELDER.
14 BASIL[don] – reverse engineered the “new town” (Basildon) once I had ??S?L and could only think of the seasoning BASIL
16 O,VER,RE(AC)H – I wonder what the surface could possibly mean here: “Get the better of Old Bill, taken in by backing of that woman priest”. Complex wordplay (thus weak surface in my opinion): O=”Old”,AC=”Bill” in VER=rev(rev=”priest”) and REH=rev(“that woman”=HER). Sorry about the unintended rev(rev) pun!
20 [r]OVER,T – assuming that a “pirate” can be a ROVER.
21 SOUTHSEA, BUBBLE – double def: one cryptic
27 SHED,EVIL – &lit
28 L(AR)YNX – AR for Arkansas (AL, AZ, AK are other US states).


1 WE,AVER,BIRD – it sings but I’m not sure about BIRD and “sentence”: some sort of police/criminal slang thing? Is BIRD a slang term for judge perhaps?
2 TIRED – without checking, I’m going to assume that TIRED is archaic attired (thus “dressed once”).
3 LITERAL – (“all rite”)* – I think we’re supposed to interpret the quotes around “all rite” as indicating that the misprint is intentional, i.e. to be taken as LITERAL.
5 L[ad],I’M,IT – I had to check that “tig” is a synonym of “tag”, i.e. the game of IT.
7 E,S(PLAN)ADE – I wildly guessed promenade during my first pass through”: ref. Marquis de SADE.
8 SOL,O – O is the 6th letter of “BeethOven’s” – nice surface.
9 BEET=”beat”,ROOT=”route” – Incidentally, Americans pronounce route to rhyme with rout.
13 C,HATTER,BOX – The Mad HATTER is a frequent cryptic party animal.
15 S(HEM)OZZLE[d] – only got this with ??E?O?Z?E in place – it’s Yiddish for a mess or “commotion”.
17 EXCHANGE – two meanings: though I’m not convinced about the second: “Swap truck”. Chambers anyone?
19 MA(TIN,E)E – cryptic rule of thumb: East is East and West is MAE.
20 OP(U)NTIA – another prickly clue that I had to look up even though I understood the wordplay: U in (in a pot)*. OPUNTIA is another kind of cactus.
22 SINAI – hidden in “hillS IN AIredale”

18 comments on “Times 23619/prickly”

  1. I found this entertaining; interesting without being overly difficult.

    re 1dn: “doing bird” is slang for time spent in prison, so bird = sentence

    re17dn: to “have truck with” is to have communication or relationship with, so truck = exchange (of views, say), if you stretch things rather…

  2. The surface might make some sort of sense if one interprets “backing” in a motoring context. No? Well in that case I give up.


  3. I’ve got a feeling that tig/tag is a North/South thing (respectively) – I would also question whether anyone says “I’m it” in tag (or tig, for that matter) – surely it’s only ever “You’re it”? A minor quibble.
    I did enjoy 28a for some reason, even if it wasn’t particularly difficult – a nicely misleading surface, I suppose.
    1. Surely if the lad were playing IT all by himself, he would have to say I’M IT…
  4. Re 9 down — SOME Americans pronounce route to rhyme with rout (but try singing “Route 66” that way). Others pronounce it correctly.
    1. Is there a word for words like “ROUTER” that are pronounced differently depending on their meaning? Rhyming with “OUTER” it’s a woodworking tool; with “HOOTER” it’s computer equipment.

      R. Saunders

      1. “Is there a word for words like “ROUTER” that are pronounced differently depending on their meaning? Rhyming with “OUTER” it’s a woodworking tool; with “HOOTER” it’s computer equipment.”

        Yes, a heteronym.

    2. Most Americans pronounce “route” to rhyme with “toot.” We do, however, generally refer to beetroot as “beets.”


  5. The EL in “belay” had me non-plussed as well. However, Chambers allows EL as an abbreviation for “elevated railroad” in U.S. colloquial speech.
  6. No mystery about 3D or 16A: A “literal” is a misprint of a letter, similarly one definition of “OVERREACH” is to outwit or get the better of.

    R. Saunders

    1. Sorry, I totally missed your point about 16A. I agree it doesn’t look very meaningful!
  7. I think I must have gone through every clue at the start thinking “no, don´t know that one. Move on.”

    However I eventually found a chink in the armour, kept hammering away and actually finished it (although I put Onuptia instead of Opuntia for the cactus). And all this in about three quarters of an hour, mostly done in my 2-year old daughter´s bedroom by torchlight (don´t ask).

  8. In my heyday I’d have made short work of this, but I couldn’t seem to type straight, and I made all sorts of stupid mistakes on the way (e.g. misparsing 6D and assuming it was going to end in S), finishing in a pathetic 10:41 and feeling very old – disappointing for what was basically a most enjoyable puzzle.
  9. Solved in 9:20 or so in an Istanbul hotel lobby this morning – first puzzle since Weds two weeks ago. NOPAL was new to me though I’d seen opuntia in one or two previous xwds.

    In 1D, “bird” is rhyming slang – birdlime = time.

  10. The 7 “easies” omitted from this blog include a reference to “railway” signalling an “EL” in the answer at 23d. As far as I know this is a reference to an “Elevated Railway” somewhere in the USA – Chicago perhaps? I only know this from Times Cryptic crosswords and it is still being discussed in this forum in 2017 – see the Sunday Times blog on 2nd April 2017. It is interesting to see that it was considered too “easy” to be blogged 10 years earlier.

    10a Current way to enter bearing bundle of papers (9)

    18a (Hurt, I came)* out suffering pain (9)

    25a A number study outside Australia (5)
    D OZ EN

    26a Hot spot near centre of constable’s beat (9)

    6d Travels indirectly around monarch’s town (7)

    23d Stop horse crossing railway (5)
    B EL AY

    24d Works by Pindar originally obtained from the French (4)
    O DES

    1. Hmm… so, I’m basically American and El=elevated railway is quite well-known here (yes, it’s in Chicago). It’s my revenge for all the cricket obscurities I’ve had to absorb.

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