Times 23697/tough birds

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time: 43:30

A lot easier than last week’s Tuesday and a lot harder than yesterday’s. I made quite good progress at first, so good that I thought another sub-30’ was in the cards, but the two long avian clues at 9A and 23A held me up for ages.


1 B,LANDINGS – I’ve seen this or something v. similar before in The Times – Emsworth castle is the seat of the BLANDINGS in the P.G. Wodehouse stories (or v.v.).
6 CUT,IS – it’s the stuff that covers us, namely skin.
9 MONTAGU’S=”Montague’s”, HARRIER – this went in late: with “Romeo’s family” I was pretty sure something like Montague was going to be involved but I was unfamiliar with the bird (a hawk).
10 STERN,E – he of ‘Tristram Shandy’.
11 HEPTAGON – (No hat peg)*: my first clue – nice to have an easy anagram to hang your hat on.
13 ACE OF CLUBS – CLUBS is our “black suit”.
16 R,H,Y[e]S – my 2nd clue. Straightforward wordplay leading to a familiar Welsh boy’s name.
17 B(E’ER,CELL)AR – I kept thinking of the 1923 putsch in the Munich BEER CELLAR (probably ‘subversive’ set me off). CELL is our ‘subversive group’. I was a bit distracted by the online enumeration being (4 6) instead of (4, 6).
23 NIGHTINGALE WARD – one of my last: I’d never heard of this type of WARD (undivided space). Our singer (and bird) is NIGHTINGALE and WARD is typically a minor (in age). Well-constructed clue with a credible surface.
24 ERNIE – Cryptics in The Times have taught me that ERNIE is (was?) the UK lottery computer. My nemesis Foggyweb says it’s: [s]ER(N)IE[s]. thanks!
26 CHAR(LA)T,AN – not sure about LA being an “outstanding US city”: seems like that an adjective starting with a vowel was needed to produce AN. Is there something else here?Indeed — noted in the comments that “outstanding” is the necessary containment operator…


1 BO(M)BS – ref. “…and Bob’s your uncle.”
4 NO,UN – lovely economical amusing clue (since the UN is presumably interested in promoting international cooperation).
5 SCHOEN=chosen*,BERG – quite a well-constructed clue. Turns out that BERG (the Scandinavian (No — PB notes he was Austrian) composer) was indeed a pupil of SCHOENBERG. So almost an &lit (not quite because I assume BERG wasn’t actually bad).
7 THINGS FALL APART – two meanings (unless I’m missing some wordplay: e.g. not sure what “mere” adds to the clue). See Foggyweb’s comment ref. Yeats.
8 STRA,N,RAER – rev(rear, n, arts). Wouldn’t mind knowing how to pronounce this Scots town.
12 ALDERMANIC – (mind clear: a)* – adjective for Alderman.
15 N,E,W,S,REEL=”real” – “all the points” of the compass are N,E,W,S.
18 T(SETS)E – Would have been easier had I not insisted at first that a badger’s den is spelt SETT.
22 RAG,A – my favorite clue: great way to define a “Hindu pattern” (just downloaded some old Ravi Shankar – actually the one with Yehudi Menuhin – to my iPhone on which I can’t do the puzzle since it doesn’t run Java apps… yet?).

21 comments on “Times 23697/tough birds”

  1. I found the answers fairly quickly for me at under 30 minutes but there were six I didn’t understand why at the time. I still don’t understand 6D.

    5D requires more than a passing acquaintance with teacher/pupil relations in the world of music.

    7D & 24A seem a bit feeble and I wonder if there is more to them than I have discovered.

    17A seems to refer to an association between a part of a hostelry and the sort of activity that might go on there which I have not been able so far to verify in any dictionary. I think I understand this association from my knowledge of 20th century history but didn’t know that it had passed into the general usage. Talking of which, what I’m thinking of might justify an alternative spelling of the second word.

    There was one mistake discovered later. I had ‘E’ for ‘S’ as eighth letter in 9A so couldn’t justify ‘Hear’ in the clue.

    1. 7D – From WB Yeats’ The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” — difficult reference if you don’t know it – especially with no reference to Yeats or poetry in the clue.

      24A – N is ‘any number’ in ERIE (unlimited series).

      26A – doesn’t the ‘outstanding’ mean that CHART,AN is outside LA?

      18D – I also insisted that it was sett at first.

      I did this one in 43:15 – just beating ilanc for once!

    2. 17A I completely missed the wordplay here as now explained by the blogger. I just thought of the Putsch association. I have since realised my thoughts of using the German spelling of ‘cellar’ would have needed ‘Bier’ preceding it and that wouldn’t have fitted with the checked letters.

      25A I took ‘oustanding’ to mean standing without, so LA is enclosed by the remaining letters.

  2. 10:30 – neither long answer came quickly, and my Wodehouse is shaky.

    Minor correction – In the “musical mafia” clue at 5D, Alban Berg was Austrian.

    1. Just wondering what you mean by ‘neither long answer’ – I can see four 15-letter answers!
      1. You can – I meant the across ones really, but the Yeats one had to wait for all checkers before I wrote it in.
  3. My time of around 30′ is irrelevant really as I didn’t get 1A. A considerable leap in difficulty versus yeterday’s puzzle and my time not helped by inadvertently putting LET ON instead of LED ON.
    7D was a complete (happily, correct) guess – relieved to see the explanation for it here. Without dictionary to hand, is there standard provenance for THINGS FALL APART?
  4. Yeats’s poem The Second Coming has

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    so that’s the significance of ‘mere’.

    And Berg took private composition lessons from Schoenberg in 1904.

  5. I’m finding that doing three puzzles in a row is leaving me in a poor state by the time I come to the third one, and for the second week in a row I screwed up on Tuesday’s puzzle, putting MONTAGUE HARRIER (thinking even as I did so that I didn’t remember Romeo’s family being spelled MONTAGU).

    I knew the Yeats quotation, but spent a couple of minutes agonising over SCHOENBERG (eventually reckoning it was probably because Berg was his pupil, but worried that there might be another composer that would fit – remember SCHUBERT and SCHUBART). At least I resisted the temptation to put in CHARLSTON for 25A as a (misspelt) US city!

    1. Well apart from a bit of Yeats and the types of harrier (Montagu’s, Hen, Marsh, Pallid), that’s my new bit of trivia for the day. A bit of Googling reveals that I haven’t read my sleeve notes carefully enough – Schubert’s song “Die Forelle”, on which one movement of his Trout Quintet is based, was a setting of a poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart.
  6. I think this would have been above the norm on the difficulty scale for me – except that Wodehouse, British birds and Scottish towns are all strong points. So despite not knowing Nightingale Ward and pondering over cellar/ keller for a minute I was pleased with 13 minutes.
    Stranraer (earlier question) is pronounced Stran as in Bran and rar as in bar (silent ‘e’ but please pronounce the ‘r’ at the end – it is not Stran-rah 1 – FawFah 2 as the football classified results might have it!)
  7. Like Tony, I screwed up on MONTAGU’s HARRIER, so my time (17.26) isn’t all that relevant. Nor did I know that Berg was Schoenberg’s pupil, but I just stuck it in anyway thinking it must mean ‘pupil’, and pretty confident there couldn’t be any other composers called SCHOENB_R_ (or equivalent with different anagram at front). I like to think I was hampered a bit by my children mucking about playing the piano while I was doing it, but I’m not confident I’d have got that bird right (never heard of it) under competition conditions. Jason J
  8. 11:27 for me. BLANDINGS, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and MONTAGU’S HARRIER were the first three I put in, in that order. Most of it went in quickly after that start, although THINGS FALL APART took a while, as I didn’t know the poem, and CUTIS and CURATE were the last 2 to go in.
  9. At the risk of sounding rather pedantic. Ernie is the Premium Bond computer, not the National Lottery.


    1. Wilfully sounding more pedantic, Ernie is a hardware random number generator and not at all programmable, and so it is not a computer by modern definitions.

      I only got round to doing the puzzle this evening. 10 minutes, but MONTAGUE HARRIER.

  10. Just for the record; Blandings Castle is the seat of the Emsworths, not the other way round.
  11. A good deal trickier than yesterday’s. Still the 7 easies to fill in:

    14a Not fancying a man throwing up defence (4)
    OFF A. The defence being the linear ditch and mound that marks the English / Welsh Border between the ancient Kingdoms of Mercia in the east and Powys in the west. The Offa’s Dyke path is 176 miles long according to Wiki.

    19a Noisily inflated a bit horrible (8)
    GRUE SOME. There is a very old joke about a curious lady tourist and a Scotsman in kilt …

    20a I recall humourist’s country (6)
    I SRAEL. I then (Edward) LEAR’S backwards.

    3d Very loud direction for Christian soldiers to come up, then pulled back (5,3)
    DRAWN OFF. FF (very loud) and ONWARD (Christian Soldiers) upside down.

    6d Sweet taken out of drawer for minister (6)
    CU RA TE. “Taken out of” means “put without” here.

    13d Respraying (car orange)*? That’s some conceit!(9)

    21d The French teacher was encouraging (3,2)
    LE DON

Comments are closed.