Times 23783 – I’ve got the subtraction blues

Solving time : 39 minutes, and the last 10 of that poring through dictionaries to find the mysterious last few words. There was a lot here that was new to me, usually literature and art are strong points, but not so today. Thanks to Paul yesterday for the trick on getting at the online crossword in times of crisis. Steady on, gentle readers, this could be a bumpy ride.

1 A,F,FABLE – a deceptively easy start to today’s proceedings
5 C(it)Y,PRESS – this took me a long time, and held up the corner. Pretty straightforward after a fifth reading.
9 TOR(y) more subtraction
11 MAHOGANY – hogan was a new one to me, it’s a type of hut associated with the Navajo
16 BRA,IN,POWER – cute, very cute.
18 BURNE-JONES – (ENSURE,N,JOB)*, and a lucky guess once all the checking letters were in place. Edward Burne-Jones is the artist I was not familiar with.
19 MEAD – MADE with the E repositioned
23 LABOURED – A,B in LOURED, a Middle English spelling of the slightly more familiar lowered.
25 DYER’S ROCKET – (RECTORY DESK)*, and a dictionary was called into play even when the checking letters were in place. Dyer’s rocket weld is a mignonette that yields a yellow dye.Note – edited from my mistake earlier of including “weld” in the anagram
28 REBECCA – a double dose of literature, “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott, and “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier (where Rebecca betrays Maxim de Winter)
1 (l)AT(e),TEMPT(=invite)
4 ENGINE ROOM – Gin taking the role of a machine here, and room being moor(=fell) backwards
5 CHAD – Double meaning, for me brings back memories of the US election in 2000
6 PHI,LIP,PI – nice wordplay, pick your battle, Roman or American civil war
7 (l)EMU(r) – more subtraction for the day
8 S,WEAT(h)ER – and the ‘h’ goes bye-bye
13 NEW YEAR’S EVE – (WE NEVER SAY,E)*. I like “party time”
17 GE(ts),ODE,SIC – the geodesic line is the shortest line between two points on a surface
18 BLINDER – I think the wordplay is referring to “Cornwall blinds”, but I’m not sure. Blinder is pretty common slang in Australia for a great performance. Edit – see comments below about Cornwell and Gloucester in “King Lear”
20 DID,(h)E,ROT – Denis Diderot of the “Encyclopedie” (sorry Denis, I don’t know how to do the accent in HTML)
24 COC(k),A – I hope this is right. Coca is a plant which has leaves that contain cocaine, and cock is plausible as “raise”.

Reminds me of the Sesame Street song…

“I’ve got the subtraction blues
Sitting and crying all day
I’ve got the subtraction blues
Take it away, take it away…”

42 comments on “Times 23783 – I’ve got the subtraction blues”

  1. Also found this tough when tackled late last night. 18:51, with 6 mins or more on the SW corner – solving order: 26, 18D, 22, 25, 17, 28, 24. The plant was the most annoying (you need ‘desk’ rather than ‘weld’ in the fodder by the way) – I saw the anag possibility and got rocket, but rejected the rest as impossible, not thinking of the ‘S, and not knowing that weld was any kind of plant.

    18: Cornwall and Gloucester both suffer from blindness in some form in King Lear. But we drew 1-1 on the literature – I didn’t know about Maxim de W or Ivanhoe’s girl, so just worked from ‘she’.

    24: Coca looks best to me.

    CODs in terms of fooling me: 22 and 26 – both very simple, but both took too long. COD for fun: 16 as a ‘Bra in …’ following on from the famous “Bust down reason (9)”.

    Accents – in theory I should usae something like “& eacute ;” (no spaces) but just pasting in from Windows character map (or typing Alt+0233 for é) appears to do the job – or are there folk out there being very polite about the gibberish seen on their screens when I use them?

  2. Burne-Jones? Never heard of him. Dyer’s Rocket? Never knew he had one (whoever he is). A double whammy since both account for much of the SW corner so this added at least 15 minutes to solving, by which point I’d given up on the idea of timing it anyway.
    Some very nice clues – COD 8D, would have nommed 26D but feel sure someone will describe as a chestnut, 21D another contender.
    Very surprised by 7D where I thought “hands” was questionable, and where “wings” would have been more effective.
  3. Judging by the speed with which I completed the top half and most of the SE I thought this was going to be another fairly easy ride but then I became bogged down for a while sorting out 19 and 20.

    I thought of MEAD quite early but wasn’t sure until I confirmed the D by solving 20. Even then I didn’t understand why as I was thinking “replace” = “substitute” instead of “reposition”.

    Was the SW written by a different setter? I sat looking at a corner blank apart from INSIDE at 22 and the last few letters of 2 until I got bored with it and resorted to dictionaries which were of no help, and eventually to a solver.

    I just wasn’t on his wave-length here, however the only ones I am kicking myself over are 26 which I should have solved immediately and possibly 24 which I would probably have got if I’d had a checking letter in place. All the other references I just didn’t know and even though I had spotted the two anagrams I didn’t recognise the answers when I saw them.

    Not a good day, but at least it wasn’t my turn to blog it.

    1. I forgot to nominate 16 as my COD as it raised an early smile which was soon wiped from my face.

      I thought 7 was okay. Left-hand, Right-hand? Also aren’t they being knocked of the lemur rather than the emu so wings would not be appropriate?

      1. My concern was that “hands” to imply left/right wasn’t quite explicit enough, especially bearing in mind it’s a down clue. “Wings” certainly points more towards extremities and because LEMUR is only a word (thankfully, ring-tailed creature might not automatically lead solvers the think of lemur) “wings” would be valid.
        1. For the cryptic reading, I’m happy with “hands” as simply a way of indicating L and R, in any clue, just like “partners” = NS or EW, or “taps” = H and C. The fact that this L and R are respectively the left and right ends of LEMUR is a coincidence that’s possibly causing some confusion here. I think this might be exploited in clues for L…R words, though I can’t remember any examples.
          1. Oh my word! Really can’t believe I hadn’t spotted that the actual letters to be removed were L & R – I was thinking only of first & last letters! Of course it makes perfect sense now in terms of scanning, so no doubts on that score.
            That’s not to say I don’t maintain that “wings” would make a better surface…
  4. Like ‘jackkt’ above whizzed through the top half and then slowed to a crawl. Finished with a couple of doubtfuls – since confirmed by others here. Still don’t quite see CHAD – and what’s it got to do with American elections?
    1. A chad is the small piece removed from a punch card by the punch. When Dubya was elected there was great controversy over “hanging chads” in the punch cards used in the state governed by his brother. Jimbo.
  5. Quite a collection of fairly obscure stuff here that needed some inspired guessing (all the ones mentioned above such as Burne-Jones and Dyer’s Rocket), since checked using dictionary and Google. Not often one sees mathematical terms like GEODESIC used either although if you don’t know it you can derive it from the word play, which is fair enough. 16 across made me laugh, so I’ll go for that as my COD. About 40 minutes to solve.Jimbo.
  6. In 25 ac the anagram material is surely RECTORY DESK rather than WELD RECTORY, weld being the definition.

    The King Lear reference in 18 dn: I haven’t checked, but if memory serves, the Duke of Cornwall is not afflicted with blindness himself but puts out the eyes of the Duke of Gloucester, and thus literally “plays a blinder”. And they say there’s too much violence on the stage nowadays!

    1. Sorry, I read my Google hits screen carelessly. Cornwall was only blinder than Gloucester in a metaphorical sense relating to decisions made.
      1. And as Gloster says:
        “I stumbled when I saw…” ..

        Disaster for me this. I invented the Derry-socket and a painter called Buren-Jones. I therefore was nowhere near getting GEODESIC or EBB (or REBECCA!) Five down at the final whistle!

        With all this comparative obscurity I wondered if there was a NINA lurking.

        1. I don’t know if this helps but there is an art to “detective guessing” and you appear to be guessing prematurely. I adopt a sort of “suck it and see” approach. Faced with the SW corner today the first key clue is 18 down. The Cornwall stuff means nothing to me but I know “to play a blinder”. So I check that 18 across letters contain a B and 25 across a D and then pencil in BLINDER.

          Next I look at 17 down. I try to see how the clue is structured and decide to experiment with “shortest line” as the definition. That leads me to pencil in GE as the first 2 letters (gets halved). Next I look to 18 across and with B and that E in place BURNE-JONES looks promising.

          I return to 17 down and I’m looking at GE?D? at the start. ODE=poem looks worth a try and then I remember GEODESIC. The SIC fits and I go firm on that. Now 25 across is D???S-?O?K?T and using the anagram letters DYERS ROCKET looks the most promising. With that penciled in I get EBB and so on.

          I don’t know how the fast guys do it but I hope that helps. Jimbo.

          1. Trouble is I was sort of convinced I’d heard of a DERRY SOCKET before, which royally cocked things up.
            Also, having solved all but the SW corner in 7 mins there was only so long I was prepared to keep going, esp as I had to get back to work!!
            There are occasions when you just have to admit defeat 🙂
      2. I’ve edited the notes upstairs as well, it didn’t occur to me at all that this could be another literary reference.
  7. I don’t understand the wordplay for this clue:
    ‘Needing to replace energy, concocted sweet drink’
    OK for def.(sweet drink), but stumped by ‘needing to replace energy’
    1. I didn’t manage to work it out either, but it’s explained in the main blog above. Concocted = MADE then E = energy which is replaced i.e. moved.
  8. Have a laugh on me! I originally (and confidently) put in “TONSURE” for 8D.
    SOUTHERN -H (sky = toss away); less hot = cooler; put on this = cryptic def?

    I eventually realised my answer was wrong and looked here for an explanation; but I still don’t understand how SKY = WEATHER. I’ve looked up a couple of dictionaries online – and they don’t seem to make a connection either.

    Thanks for any feedback,

    1. I know it’s not the primary source for this crossword, but it’s the closest dictionary… to quote Chambers:

      sky – the apparent canopy over our heads; the heavens; the weather; the upper rows of pictures in a gallery; sky blue.

      I had all the crossing letters except the “s” at the top when I filled it in, though I don’t think I’ve ever used “sky” to mean “weather”, it may be a more British use of the word.

      Tonsure would have been clever word play, but there’s nothing in the clue to suggest an anagram, nor a definition of tonsure. Let’s rewrite the clue

      Less hot Southern drunk? Give a monk a cut! (8).

      Look, I’m a poor setter as well as a poor solver!

      1. Thanks – I did (eventually) notice the lack of an anagram indictor [I think I gave ‘sky’ {as in cricket} and ‘less’ three jobs at first reading]. If you forgive me that, then surely putting a tonsure on would make you less hot?

        And thanks for the Chamber’s reference. It’s a use I’ve never come across before: and I’ve lived in the UK for almost eight years now…

        How about “Southern could be less hot with less hair? (8)”

        Look! I’m a far worse solver – and thus have no claims at being a setter at all 🙂

        1. On second reading I still think your clue sounds better!

          How about: “What cut makes Southern drunk less hot?”

            1. The difference between the novice and the master. Oh, I’m meant to be blogging today

              Down (revisited)
              8 TONSURE – Anagram of SOUTHERN minus the H. Cutting the tresses off a monk would be to tonsure, it is the noun and the verb so fits fine with the definition.

              1. sorry about that, I’m with you now.
                I read it as S = southern and Winds = Weather, minus H for hot.
                Think I’ll go for a lie down in a darkened room.
            2. Very nice; although is ‘for monk’ extraneous?

              Southern winds blowing hot? That’s distressing!

  9. Tough, and I needed to look up dyers rocket and rebecca.

    Love 18d and that’s my bad taste clue of the day.

    In Lear, Cornwall was the man who blinded Gloucester, hence he was a “blinder”, simple as that.

    ps Thanks to Paul for the instruction how to get the online Xword when the link is knacked, as it was this morning. I’ve set it as a bookmark!

  10. Now I’ve got it! However, I think the clue would be much better written as:
    Sweet drink concocted needing to replace energy
    1. Quote from the information page linked under “About this blog …” at the top of this page:

      We don’t give solutions to all the clues in each puzzle, for two reasons. One: lack of time – writing this stuff takes longer than you might think! Two: so that we’re not seen as completely ruining the paper’s chance to make money with their “Phone for today’s answers” service.

      If you are stumped by one of the omitted answers and ask about it in a comment, you will get an answer.

  11. Yep, a slog indeed but it’s been a while between tough puzzles.

    7d got my first tick for COD, then 18d, then 16a, then 20d… Gonna go with 7d.

  12. Terrible crossword. Double literary reference, a plethora of words that nobody has heard of and an artist that only his mother knows.

    OK, moan over. May I add my thanks to Paul for the tip on getting the crosswords when the site is down. Do you realise that the link works without a login? If I was dishonest, despicable and a downright bad egg, I might have cancelled my subscription and got them for free. Fortunately for The Times, I’m only two of these. Mind you, with any more examples like today’s offering, I’ll be sorely tempted.

    1. It is very odd that most of the puzzle was more or less standard fodder but in the SW corner the setter went off on a different tack causing so many of us difficulties and rendering that quarter impenetrable as far as I was concerned.
  13. Although my 9:52 was a lot slower than it ought to have been (tiredness my usual lame excuse), I thought this was a delightful puzzle. My only real problem was a senior moment with DYER’S ROCKET, where I knew exactly what I was looking for but just couldn’t make DYER’S out of DERSY (it was so obvious once I’d tumbled to it at last, but then I often find apostrophes tricky).

    1D is my COD, with the word-play neatly concealed.

    (Can it really be true that people haven’t heard of Burne-Jones?)

      1. I was really thrown by the BURNE-JONES clue. I think this was really the problem for me (as well as inventing the DERRY-SOCKET). I couldn’t believe that there was such a person or I’d have heard of him.
        Perfectly fair, IMO, but as someone said, the SW corner did seem out of all proportion in difficulty to the rest of the puzzle, which was actually if anything easier than average.
    1. Some haven’t even been to Oxbridge, Tony! In my case, I had ‘heard’ of him, but was delighted to get anagram fodder to establish how he spelt his name. 10:59 for me here, ruining a shot at the half-hour-for-the-week target.

      I found CHAD tough as well as the SW corner.

  14. Really like the “Derry Socket”. I’m going to add it to my list of mythical tools that I hunt for as a lame excuse to go and listen to TMS in the shed…
  15. I hate 4 letter double defs. This one at 5d doesn’t make sense at all. How can “From country” = CHAD? That would be CHADIAN which does not have 4 letters and is not a small piece forcibly removed. People in the US appear to be familiar with it because of some electoral rigmarole with the election of Dubya (see comments above). What is your excuse for Trump then?

    There are XI omissions from the blog. Some have been enquired about above but I must have missed any responses. Here they are in full:

    10a (Intrigued at)* extraordinarily base behaviour (11)

    12a Ring little bird, say(6)

    15a Play about black man in jug (4)
    TO B Y

    22a Imprisoned, having done such a job> (6)

    27a Bit of corn one hears (3)

    29a Outburst from one briefly engaged is in French (7)

    2d Approving Hitchcock’s work is contemptible (3,3,5)

    3d Game that may involve suspension (5)

    14d Dreadful (flak – I eject)* in this? (4-6)

    21d Crack around dry bed (6)
    BO TT OM

    26d Drop of water (3)

Comments are closed.