Times 23812 – for want of a brass hat

Solving time : After 28 minutes, hit the net to get an answer to 23ac

Another puzzle that took me a long time to get started on. Nothing jumped out at me in an initial read, and after 10 minutes or so (albeit distracted by watching Australia collapse against India, and watching the snow pile up outside, good thing I’ve got a few days food here), I only had three answers. Slowly they came, one at a time, until I was completely stuck for an answer to 23ac.

1 HAGGARD – got it from drawn as the definition, Wikipedia suggests the author is Henry Rider Haggard, author of “King Solomon’s Mines”
5 TAD,POLE – should have gotten this faster
10 K(IS,SING,G)ATE – that was a complicated bit of wordplay, the G comes from first to Get.
11 B(RAINBO)X – RAINBO(w) being most of the spectral colors
12 PO(TAG)E – a soup, made from Edgar Allan POE eating the game TAG
16 AFTERS,HOCK – I liked this clue
18 D(ECO,MP)RESS – Retroactively worked out the wordplay, but an eco-mp could be a member of the green party, and a shift is a type of dress.
22 CHARGE – two meanings
23 BRASS HAT – had to look this up. Wordplay is H(hospital) in BRAS,SAT, and a brass hat is a high-level military officer.
27 (i)BIS – musical term to start the phrase again
28 SHUT-EYE – very cute clue, wordplay is SHUTE+YE, and ASLEEP was the answer to 21d, completing the definition.
1 HAND(=deliver)BAG(=interest)
2 GUTTA-PERCHA – a solid latex, and homophone of a gutter percher
4 DISC,OM,FOR,T – nice construction
5 TWIG – double meaning, the second eluded me for a while, a small part of a box tree
6 DOGHOUSE – another double meaning
7 OVA – hidden
8 EWE NECK – a defect in a horse or a dog where the neck is thin and crooked. Ouch.
14 TEASER(=puzzle),VICE – nice construction, well hidden
18 DU(=”some” in French),CHESS
21 AS(LEE)P – fast being the definition and a tricksy one here.
24 AC(M)E

37 comments on “Times 23812 – for want of a brass hat”

  1. I was similarly foxed for ages by this one and had to resort to cheating eventually if I wasn’t to waste half the morning on it.

    I have some grumbles. For example there were no fewer than three vague references to writers: 1A “Englishman who wrote”, 28A “English author” and 12A “Ghost writer”. Fair enough if this was a themed puzzle but there’s no other evidence that it is as far as I can see. A bit more variety please, Setter.

    I don’t fully understand 6D. What’s the definition? I get the reference to “dog” and I know what “in the doghouse” means, but if the whole clue is supposed to be the definition then I’d have said it’s “Where boxer went…..” not “Where boxer left…..”.

    I’m also niggled by 17. EMIGRATE does not mean “don’t come back”. I know plenty of people who have emigrated but come back regularly on visits.

    If I’ve got it all wrong then put it down to my rotten journey to work with a puzzle that just wouldn’t be solved.

  2. Another struggle but no real complaints, but Jackkt is certainly right to pinpoint 6D. Looks like a typo to me, should probably read “…boxer is…”
    The inclusion of three authors had gone unnoticed until mentioned here. I didn’t mind, and the fairly loose defs (apart from 12A which is more precise) are common practice in this and other cryptics.
    Think you’re right about 17D too, but I’m sans dictionary at the moment so can’t be sure.
    That said, some really nice clues as well. I ticked 16A, 14D and 20D, all worthy COD noms.
  3. 11:52, so fairly tough.

    Also didn’t mind the writers. On EMIGRATE, I think the idea of “don’t come back” is to contrast with a holiday or other short-term visit from which you obviously come back. Well, it worked OK for me …

    6D I’d classify as a cryptic def rather than 2 def’s. A slightly unclear clue, so it was ‘DOGHOUSE??’ next to the clue until I was left with this, 12 and 8 to sort out at the end.

    16A was annoying – one of those classic clues you know you’ve seen at least once before, but still can’t solve until checking letters let the cat out of the bag.

    Minor extra bits: 27A: BIS is also what the French say when we would say “encore!”. Given the “again!” in the clue I think this is what was meant. And at 1A, the Haggard book to remember is one of this xwd cliché trio: Film/movie = E.T. (Spielberg), poem = IF (Kipling), novel = SHE (Haggard).

    1. I’d have less of a problem with the three writers if they had been clued less vaguely, though I take Anax’s point that 12 was more specific.

      I’d find “don’t come back” more acceptable if it had a subsidiary function in the clue but it’s the definition here so it’s not good enough in my opinion. I don’t see how one can define doing something by not doing something else.

      1. I guess it depends how clearly two possibilities are mutually exclusive. I can’t see much objection to “Don’t eat quickly” as a 2-defs clue for FAST, for example. As you point out, “don’t come back” isn’t quite as strong for EMIGRATE.
        1. I think ‘don’t come back’ is OK; because everything is grand in the emirate, i.e. some foreign place, it’s something you don’t do (come back home, that is). So you’re not just visiting, you emigrate. That’s my take, anyway.

          I thought this was a great bit easier than yesterday, but had to look up ‘ewe neck’, and guessed at ‘twig’. Otherwise I thought it was tough but fair, as others said. Identified Poe as a ghost writer right away, so POTAGE is my favorite here. Regards.

      2. As a complete aside, I was “sort of” introduced to Poe by accident. Years ago on the Birmingham Post, when setters had their initials printed with puzzles, one of the regulars was EAP. I suspected nothing, but Roger Squires let me know it was actually him; he just used Poe’s initials to give the impression it was a different setter.
  4. Had to cheat on this one, and still couldn’t finish it. Quite liked several of the clues though when they came to light.16 for COD.

    Was expecting another dog with “Setter”, but it was Gel again – only the other day we had that.

    And I’m not clear why he needs to say “English” author/”Englishman” who wrote, unless to contrast with Poe who wasn’t.

  5. Peter, I don’t understand your french reference. I saw this as “flier won’t start”=(i)BIS and BIS literally means “again” in music notation. Jimbo.
    1. I should have said: Given the “!” in the clue …
      Unless you’re an absent-minded music reader like me who’s added stuff in pencil, the ‘bis’ in music notation doesn’t have an exclamation mark. When a musical performance in France ends and the audience want more, their “Bis!” does, like the ‘again’ in the clue.
      1. I think both definitions come from a similar root. I’ll admit I was not familiar with the French “Bis” (I guess they got sick of us shouting “Encore”), so I went with the one more familiar to me, the exclamation mark probably does mean the setter intended the French def.
        1. Same root? Most definitely – ditto bi- as in bifurcation, biped, etc. etc. I’m sure this goes at least as far back as Latin, and quite possibly much further into the Indo-European past.
  6. I rather enjoyed this one. Another 40 minute exercise so we are having a run of quite tough puzzles. I solved the authors easily enough, guessed DOGHOUSE once I had D?G at the start and took EMIGRATE to mean permanently change country of abode. I think if you come back after that you emigrate again, back to your original country. I thought there were a lot of good clues but as I don’t like homophones I’m going to nominate 2 down, which worked and made me smile. Jimbo.
  7. I can see the construction but is the setter using ‘shouldered responsibility’ as a definition for handbag ? Or am I (more likely) missing something ?
    1. That’s the way I read it too. I suspect you think it’s a little weak and I confess I do too but I got it from the word play once I remebered “Its not my bag” to convey an interest. Jimbo.
      1. Can I throw in my twopence worth, Jimbo, by observing that strictly speaking a handbag is not “shouldered” as that would make it a shoulder bag?
  8. Are they trying to get rid of me? For two days running now I’ve been beaten by a rubbish clue. Surely there are enough of us who speak properly (ie pronounce the R at the end of words) to warrant the scrapping of homophones like “gutta sounds like gutter” (no it doesn’t) and “percha sound like percher” (again, it doesn’t). Shame really, because today there were several excellent clues – 11a, 16a and 14d – but my vote for COD is 18a and the Eco-MP.
    1. Well, I speak with post-vocalic Rs, or whatever one calls them, but I didn’t give this a second thought.
      It’s not the way I pronounce it, but it’s the way I often hear it pronounced (come to think of it I;m not sure I’ve ever seen it outside a crossword!)

      The clue to AFTERSHOCK is one of my favourites, so I recognised it immediately when I saw it again 🙂

        1. Gutta percha used to be used as the central core of golf balls. My uncle was a professional golfer and often used to talk about it when we discussed this and that about the game. He always pronounced it “gutter percher” in a soft southern irish brogue. Jimbo.
          1. Yes, and wrapped around it was an extremely long, well, glorified elastic band really.

            Close to where I lived as a teenager were the grounds of an old hospital, which had a cricket pitch. The pavilion had a large veranda and one summer evening my friends and I “undid” a golf ball and used the elastic to create a huge (and rather convincing) orb cobweb that covered the stepped entrance. By the time night fell you couldn’t see it until you were less than a foot away and we could just imagine some unfortunate couple choosing the location for a late night cuddle…

            Evil, we were.

            1. Just to play advocate’s devil on gutta percha, it is derived from a tree common in Australia, and is in fairly common use there. When I pronounce the two parts of the homophone, they sound very much the same.
          2. Ah well, if I ever take up golf and one of my balls needs a new core, I’ll know what to ask for down at the Asda. Will it be in the fruit & veg department? 🙂

            Thanks for the explanation

  9. There’s an interesting discussion of these in David Crystal’s ‘The Stories of English’. Crystal writes: “the omission of [a postvocalic R] is accepted as a standard feature of Received Pronunciation – indeed, it is one of its most distinctive characteristics”. There’s nothing new about the controversy – Keats was taken to task almost 200 years ago for rhyming ‘thoughts’ with ‘sorts’, ‘thorns’ with ‘fawns’ etc. My father (a Scot) could never quite believe that ‘roar’ and ‘raw’ are for me (English-raised) homophones.
  10. In the hope of reducing the traffic next time, I’ve added my understanding of the house rules on homophones to the ‘House Style’ post under the tips&tricks tag.

    Edited at 2008-01-17 05:49 pm (UTC)

  11. Quite a bit of work and I see all my quibbles addressed here apart from the need for “on” in 26d. I don’t think I quite understand the “drink” in 8d.

    And don’t I always think of Nevil Shute as an Australian author! Surely he’s an honourary one!

  12. I wasn’t comfortable with either of these (nor with several others, which have been addressed above: shouldered responsibility indeed). How can “it’s tough” be even halfway to being a decent definition of gutta-percha? And how does “as king” relate to “with queen in mind”?
    1. G-P: You have a point …

      “with queen in mind” – it’s about a marriage proposal from a king.

      1. I’m surprised it’s not – it’s in the Concise Oxford and feels like fairly old slang.
  13. 12:34 here for what I found a most enjoyable puzzle (I wasn’t too bothered by the things that seem to have worried others).

    A toss-up between 18A (DECOMPRESS) and 14D (TEA SERVICE) for COD. I’ll go for the latter for its neatness, but I did like ECO MP.

  14. This crossword took me a long time to complete, and not for good reasons either. A number of the word definitions I thought were sloppy and/or inexact. How can “it’s tough” possibly be an adequate definition of “gutta percha?” Ditto hand/shoulder bag, emigrate and several other clues as well. Eg “ewe neck” is not a complaint, it’s a deformity.

    I didn’t enjoy this one, because it didn’t quite play fair. imho.

    1. I feel I must defend the use of some of the definitions used in this puzzle. None of them, it is true, would pass muster in the Times 2 or similar, but in a cryptic one has two bites at the cherry with extra help in the form of the wordplay, as we all know. Usually the info we get from the latter is enough to counterbalance the perceived inadequacy of the simple definition and indeed often one can gain a lot of pleasure (as I did) from definitions like “shouldered responsibility”. But I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
  15. I’m with the detractors on this, finding it in many respects an unsatisfying puzzle for reasons already given. My paper is covered with the written equivalents of groans (though there were clues about which I had no complaints). I’m not sure that anyone’s commented on the clue for ACME, so I will; easy enough to solve cold, so I’m not saying it’s unfair, but even Chambers, which usually has the most comprehensive range of definitions, does not give “standing outside” (in the sense of enclosing) for “outstanding”, so at the very least the clue needs a question mark to indicate a plausible, but unsupported meaning invented by the setter.
  16. I like Marmite and this puzzle.

    Nine answers left out of the blog:

    1a A cracked head? (3)

    15a Setter embraces a Celt (4)

    19a High-jumper taking a knock when falling backwards (4)
    PAR A

    25a Grant a basic right to fiddle with (her finances)* 11)

    29a Describe as beautiful now? (7)
    EX – PLAIN

    13d Suffering with this, space out!(11)

    17d It’s grand in sheikhdom, so don’t come back! (8)

    20d Take tip from champion craftsman (7)

    26d Infection passed on quickly, they say (3)

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