Times 23894 Spencer Thingumabob

Solving time : 25 minutes

A largely straightforward, enjoyable and very fair puzzle unusually without homophones or a hidden word but several multiple meaning clues.

Nothing held me up although I guessed ESURIENT and for the blog I had to look up Jarndyce and verify PRIMUS. I hope SPENCER TRACY is still well known to younger solvers and that older folk like me know Bob The Builder from their grandchildren. The very old slang POODLE FAKER may cause some problems.

1 UGLINESS – UG(LIN)ESS; (guess)* surrounding NIL backwards
9 SWEET,PEA – dessert=SWEET; vegetable=PEA; a climbing leguminous plant
10 RELIEF – RE(LIE)F; REF=umpire
12 DEAD,RECKONING – the bill is the RECKONING; gone=DEAD which is ahead of RECKONING
16 RED,SALMON – (lands more)*; “training” is anagrind
17 WORKFORCE – WORK,FOR,CE; CE=Church of England
19 CABIN – CAB-IN; if your “in” your at home
20 IRRECLAIMABLE – (climber + aerial)*
22 PRIMUS – PRIM-US; presiding bishop in the Synod from the Scottish Episcopal Church
23 SEA-HORSE – move the “S” in seashore to the right; the hippocampus
25 LAGGED – LA(GGE)D; EGG=slang for bomb
26 ESURIENT – (retinues)*; our less well known word for today
1 UPSIDE-DOWN – UPSIDE=advantageous aspect; UPSIDE DOWN means in confusion as well as inverted
2 LIE – two meanings; a whopper is slang for a lie
3 NATURAL – and now three meanings; a NATURAL at pontoon is 21 dealt as 2 cards
4 SPENCER,TRACY – SPENCER-T-RACY; one of the Hollywood greats; a SPENCER is a short coat named after Earl Spencer
7 THINGUMABOB – THIN-GUM-A-BOB; runny=THIN; reference Bob The Builder from kiddies TV show
8 RAFT – two meanings; a RAFT is a large collection
11 POODLE-FAKERS – POODLE(freak)*S; very old Victorian slang for a lothario
14 IN,ANY,EVENT – IN(ANYE)VENT; (j)A(r)N(d)Y(c)E; Jarndyce v Jarndyce from Bleak House
19 CAMPHOR – CA(MPH-O)R; MPH=miles per hour; a ketone made from the camphor tree
24 RUE – EUR-O loses O and “rises”

24 comments on “Times 23894 Spencer Thingumabob”

  1. Caught a premature glimpse of your headline, so must add some kind of penalty to my 6:37 – call it 9 or 10 mins. And now see that I carelessly put ‘AN ANY EVENT’ so count one mistake.
  2. 14 mins, not helped by thinking the actor’s first name was ‘Spenser’. I only knew poodle-fakers as it cropped up in the Times about three years ago; I haven’t managed to use it in conversation in the interim. 16A works nicely, so I’ll choose it as COD.
  3. This took me the best part of an hour to complete but it was a day of slow but steady progress and I never felt really stuck so I enjoyed this puzzle, and there were some unusual words and good clues to keep me amused. POODLE-FAKERS was the last to go in, worked out solely from the wordplay as I have never heard of it.

    SPENCER TRACY also put up some resistance as I didn’t get jacket reference; I’m wondering if the presence of “Frank” in the clue immediately above it played any part in suddenly dropping “Spencer” into my mind.

  4. …or 20 mins in championship mode i.e. guessing for Spencer Tracy, In Any Event and Natural and thinking about after; well checking blog anyways. alanjc
  5. I’ve been struggling a bit recently, so I’m delighted to have got a sub-10. It took 9:10, a lot of which was spent at the end shoehorning in DEAD RECKONING, POODLE FAKERS and SPENCER TRACY. A very enjoyable solve though nothing really stands out as COD.
  6. Ditto. It was a pretty fast solve, possibly nearer to 8 minutes – never heard of POODLE FAKERS but the wordplay gave the answer. At least the def cleared one matter up – until today’s puzzle, if anyone called me a poodle faker I’d have hit ’em.
    No complaints but few high points, COD nom going to 16; very easy, but reads well. 1D was interesting in terms of a 15-word clue; setters rarely go to these lengths. I don’t remember seeing other very long clues but this one probably isn’t a record. Anyone recall seeing longer ones in the Times?
  7. Another easy one (that’s two in a row) but I found this more enjoyable than yesterday’s. POODLE-FAKERS went in last, a complete stranger to me, and I expected to be wrong. Several good clues: 23, 14, 18, for example. I’ll settle for 14d as COD because of the unusual use of ‘Jarndyce’.
  8. I spent too long thinking that 4d might be Vincent Price (spirited film star?!?!), but no real problems once I’d sorted that one out… COD possibly 10ac or 7d.
    1. Yes, I also pondered on VP for a while before getting a checking letter in the first name.
  9. 22 relaxing minutes, a good few spent wrestling with poodle fakers, as it were. What a great piece of slang – how did we ever let it fade away?
    1. I did do some research when compiling the blog. It is apparently anglo-indian slang based upon “poodle” being slang for a woman. It was used to describe particularly young army officers who seduced older, wealthy women. Jimbo.
      1. Jimbo – as in “Flashman – that demnable poodle faker!”, perhaps. I recently read The Last Mughal, and the term seems to fit right in with the language and mindset of the latter day Raj colonials as described there. Thanks for the pointer.
  10. Like yesterday’s, much of it fairly straightforward, with one or two harder clues costing time at the end. But overall very enjoyable. Just over 30 mins for me in the end.

    14 dn is my COD. Ingenious cryptic wordplay, plus clever use of Jarndyce, which tempted (successfully in my case)unwary solvers to pursue the false trail of trying to work out how the endless lawsuit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Bleak House might be reflected in the answer.

    Michael H

  11. Poodle-fakered out of a very fast time here too, didn’t manage to get an uninterrupted time, so not sure what the actual solving time was. I had the FAKERS part for a long time before getting the POODLES part. Nothing stood out as exceptional, I guess I liked 17a’s construction.
  12. About 20 minutes to solve, without any real difficulties, with ‘Poodle Fakers’ and ‘esurient’ last to go in. I googled the ‘fakers’ to make sure there was such a term. Thanks, jimbo, for the explanation. I enjoyed this, but nothing jumped off the page for nomination as the favorite today, except perhaps the poodle fakers themselves for being such an outlandish bit of slang. See you tomorrow.
    1. Why, thank you. I was out of commission for a few days, then my Club account expired and I had the annual fun and games trying to reactivate my account, thus breathing new life into a long, sometimes stormy, but always passionate relationship with the Times Customer Service desk.
  13. I seem to be in a minority here in thinking that there were some absolutely cracking clues here. 35 minutes but a good 10 were spent wondering if esurient and poodle fakers might fit at the end. I was too tired to get off the sofa and look them up.

    Aghree that 14 was a neat clue (even without the literary linke of Jarndyce to cases) also marked 5 (simple but effective) and thought thingumabob was a bit of genius. COD, though, goes to 23 – very original and great surface.

    Loved this puzzle. Thanks to the setter.

    1. I totally agree, for what it’s worth. Some gems of construction. And you’re so right about 23.
    2. I also really enjoyed this. 37 minutes here. Just held up for a bit with POODLE FAKERS at the end. I have Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang on my desk, so looked it up and spent the next ten-or-so minutes looking up naughty words and phrases!
      ESURIENT always reminds me of the Cheese Shop sketch.
      1. Wonderful cheese shop sketch, had never seen it. If you’re a choral singer (however bad) you’ll have come across ‘esurientes’ in Latin masses, and possibly wondered what it meant.
        1. Well, Latin vespers more commonly: “esurientes implevit bonis” turns up in the Magnificat.
  14. Having struggled lately completed this in 13.35 very rare for me – knew poodle faker and esurient which, I reckon, saved time.

  15. I had to cheat to get the Poodle-Fakers despite having all the checkers. Hopefully I will remember it if there is a next time? Fortunately I calculated that you did not have to know about the derivation of Jarndyce to solve the clue at 14d. Very satisfying to have solved that one correctly.

    Just the 4 omissions from the blog:

    5a Learn from teacher (6)
    MASTER. I am still trying to master the guitar after 50 years of trying.

    15a Wicked person was about (5)
    DEVIL. LIVED about or backwards. As in “to be” = “to live” therefore “was” = “lived”.

    13d (I’d given star)* unusual publicity (11)

    21d Gem given by old friend (4)
    O PAL. The national gemstone of Australia. The main source in Oz is Coober Pedy in South Australia. I managed to get a very nice one for Mrs npbull in an Adelaide jewellers some years back. Good decision.

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