Times 23,936 – Occasionally knotty

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time : a straightforward and enjoyable 20 minutes, including a quick Google where wordplay made an answer obvious, but the actual knowledge which explained it was outside my ornithological experience…

1 SANDPIPER – (George) SAND + PIPER; at first I assumed that this was something like a Turk’s Head, but Google reveals that a knot is also the ash-coloured sandpiper.
10 UNFITNESS – UN+FIT+NESS; a ‘fit’ is an archaic term for a part of a song or story, as in “Fit the First” etc. Best known, I would imagine, in The Hunting of the Snark or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which started as a radio series in six fits.
11 BLOOMSBURY GROUP – BLOOMS + BURY + GROW UP; a group of intellectuals who weren’t afraid of Virginia Woolf
14 ATHENE – A(ssociated) + THE N(orth)E(ast) (of England)
16 NOISES – (edited for clarity) as well as being a stage direction indicating a sound effect from offstage, Noises Off is also a play by Michael Frayn; a big hit in the West End and on Broadway, and also a film (just in case you’re called upon to perform it in a game of Charades).
18 PASSABLE – PARABLE with the (R)ex replaced by S(team)S(hip)
21 SUMMONED BY BELLS – the autobiography in verse of former Poet Laureate John Betjeman in whose early life any number of domestic servants would have figured. Very nice.
25 ERNIE – double reference to the noted playwright ERNIE Wise (I couldn’t remember whether he was still alive, but clearly he couldn’t be if appearing here…) and ERNIE, the computer which regularly fails to award me a large cash prize in return for my rather small holding of government bonds.
26 TAUNT – TAU(N)T; guy is one of those words that can easily throw you because there are so many meanings, in this case the one meaning to mock
27 GREEN BELT – double meaning, geographically an undeveloped area around a city, in martial arts a sign of one’s grade
2 NATIONALISM – anagram of T(ensio)N+IN SOMALIA
4 PLUMBING – double definition
7 BYE – sounds like BUY; non-Commonwealth or non-cricketing solvers, even if they know nothing about the game, soon learn about byes, wides and the on side as per yesterday’s puzzle
8 NOSEPIECE – Spoonerised version of POSE NIECE
12 OVERBALANCE – O(ld)VERB+A LANCE would be my COD for the way the surface works
13 HINDSIGHT – another double definition, they were popular today
15 JAMBOREE – BORE inside JAME(S) gives the party
19 SUBDEAN – question of trial and error here – if not Pat or Liam, then the Irishman must be SEAN, but what letters to insert? I tried to convince myself of the existence of the worshipful office of the SABAEAN before alighting on the correct degree, the B(achelor) of D(ivinity)
22 SMELT – a very popular fish in the Northern Hemisphere, not least with crossword setters for its useful clueing combination of fish and smells
24 SOU – old French term for a low-value coin, which sounds like SUE

As regards the knowledge, I’d say SANDPIPER is obvious, but that a species of sandpiper is called knot…is not. Not sure whether a point is needed for the BLOOMSBURY GROUP (particularly as all that was required was the knowledge that they existed) or that Northumberland is the north-east, and I think SMELT and SOU are too commonly used to be described as obscure. I’ve included the play and the poems, however, on the grounds that the written word appears to be the area where there’s least consensus over what’s common knowledge. However, I am open to disagreement.

Category Score Clues
Literature 2 16ac, 21 ac
Visual Arts
Popular Culture
Sport & Games
Natural World 1 1 ac
Science & Tech

18 comments on “Times 23,936 – Occasionally knotty”

  1. Is this a record or what?
    I had barely woken up and started to download the Times Crossword when, out of curiosity, I came to this page to see whether there are new comments to my blog yesterday. And there in full glory is your blog. How do you manage to solve and blog so quickly?
    1. As per Peter’s comment below, the time displayed is a record of when one starts to post, not the time of the finished version. I am normally without internet access at work these days, so prefer to work from the online puzzle when midnight ticks around, rather than leave it hanging for most of the day…

  2. I just did the same as yfyap, and saw the answer to 1a so I’m now going to go and solve the rest of the thing and, pssst, tell you what, if anyone asks, I was never here, right? Nudge, nudge …. fiver in the post.

  3. 3 minutes and 48 seconds. Though I lost some time by falling briefly asleep during 1a SANDPIPER – honestly, test me, will you?

    Okay, okay, it was more like my par score of 17 and an ‘arf minutes, taking other offences (like my inadvertant peek at the blog) into account. Guilty as charred, m’lord.

    A nice, breezy puzzle that I feel confidently I could have solved on the intercity service between Cheltenham Spa and Gloucester. Did I ever tell you about the time I had an interview at Imperial College, London, and, having boarded the train at Gloucester, I asked the guard some thirty minutes later what time we would be arriving in London and he said “Ma’am (they were so much more polite back then) we’ll be arriving in Cardiff in no more than 38 minutes. Shall I find you the number of a taxi firm?”?

    I would never have seen JAMBOREE without the headstart from the other day.

    May I beseech the setters – no more Ernie! I’m a child born in the week of JFK’s death, when radios were transistorized, twinsets were tweedy and all the best carpets were orange – I even have a couple of premium bonds gathering dust somewhere, but…. come on, how many people under the age of 40 have a clue what ERNIE is? Move on, setters. That’s no more part of our heritage than Eamonn Holmes on the National Lottery.

    1. It was a very good puzzle, agreed. And I’m a little bit drunk. Shhhh.. see ya Wednesday.
  4. Blogging time: the timestamp for the blog is (unless amended) the time when you start editing a report, not the time when you finish.

    I took 7:05 for this – no long periods of being stuck, though did ponder a bit over the SUBDEAN’s degree.

    At 16A, “noises off” is also ‘sound effects heard from offstage’, so you don’t need to know the Frayn play. Maybe still half a point. “Visual arts” was intended to be painting, sculpture and so on – plays count as literature, as well as poems. I might have given a ‘literary terminology’ half point for ‘fit’. At 21A (maybe a half pointer for me), I think at least some of the bells involved are church bells. The book cover shown here seems to agree.

    Odd to see more gunnery (13D) to follow the Gatling and Maxim guns. Not so bothered about ERNIE – it’s still going, though now ‘ERNIE 4’, and wasn’t outshone by the National Lottery until 1994.

    1. I’ve stuck the play in the right place now, though will leave it open for debate whether it’s worth a full point. I guess it depends whether people are more likely to know the stage direction itself, or the play, without really thinking where the title comes from…
  5. This took me longer than it probably should have and having completed it in about 40 minutes I was left with four to look up and check later, one of which turned out to be wrong (why on earth did I put SUBBEAN at 19?). I didn’t know FIT at 10 and was trying to explain it with reference to IF (rev) which didn’t really work.

    I would query a reference to the Michael Frayn play at 16. “Noises off” is a stage direction in common usage that he took as his title. One doesn’t need to know his play to solve the clue though of course it helps if one does. Incidentally, although it was a big hit and is continually revived it didn’t open to universal critical acclaim. I read three reviews of the original production only the other day in which two of the reviewers had strong reservations about it.

  6. Mea culpa, I took the stage direction as being implicit in the play title, so have revised the entry to make it clear.
  7. Oh, and the film is terrible; you need to see the play on stage to appreciate it.
  8. No problems with this one – about 25 minutes to solve. Very enjoyable with some unusual vocab not as answers but within the clues of which knot=sandpiper I had to guess and verify afterwards. Some overseas solvers may have a lot of problems with ERNIE since both definitions are very UK oriented if hackneyed. Jimbo
  9. I enjoyed this though was flummoxed by 21A. 23A was nice (a reference to Simon Magus in Acts?) but my COD is 15D.

    Tom B.

  10. Easy to get going on, but I spent some time getting PASSABLE (too fixated on ‘fable’ for ‘story’) and didn’t get JAMBOREE until I had PASSABLE. I didn’t understand the definition for SANDPIPER nor the indication of FIT in 10, so there were several queries at the end of solving. I did like the clue to 21 – clues like that are so satisfying once the penny drops, so that’s my choice for COD, but 13a and 18 come close.
  11. 15 minutes, started this one pretty late at night last night, but it was a fun solve. Some more good examples of clueing tricky words with approachable wordplay. Hadn’t heard of SUMMONED BY BELLS, but it seemed to fit, had to get SUBDEAN, NOSEPIECE, SANDPIPER, BLOOMSBURY GROUP from wordplay as well (though the last two were familiar once I wrote them in).

    I find spoonerisms feely runny, so I’ll go for 8 as my COD.

  12. I forgot to write down my start time but I finished at 2:15 if that helps. It seemed like 10-15 minutes. No problems with the literary ones – I haven’t heard of Betjeman’s autobiog but the clue said it was a poet’s early life so that’s fair enough. A good, entertaining crossword, my vote going to 12d. Thanks to the setter for not being tempted to say that SANDPIPER sounds like SANDPAPER!
  13. About 30 minutes of which about 10 were spent on the last four clues in the SE corner.

    To my shame I wasn’t familiar with the Betjeman work and only got it when I’d finally convinced myself that SOMEONE’s something something was never going to make sense. Also got held up on 18, thinking that I had to fit a king’s vessel (whatever that may have been) into tale, fable or lie. The BD in 19 caused me problems and like Tim (entertaining blog by the way Tim) I also considered sabaean (and subaean). Jamboree was last to go in – it was the only word that would fit and I didn’t see the wordplay until afterwards.

    A very good puzzle though, ticks against gospeller and nosepiece but my COD is 18, passable, for tricking me for so long.

  14. I got stuck for a minute on passable (good clue) but apart from that sailed through this one. Didn’t know the Betjeman but had vaguely heard the phrase. Jamboree definitely helped by appearing the other day.
    I saw Noises Off in the West End 4 or 5 years ago and though it was very funny – although I didn’t know it was a stage direction. 9.18 today which seemed quite fast
  15. I guessed this, my last entry, from having E_N_E, since I couldn’t think of any other word/name/acronym that fit, but I’d never heard of either Mr. Wise or the number picking machine. Thanks for the explanations here. Overall this took about 40 minutes, my favorite being JAMBOREE, where ‘bore=’pain in the neck’ made me laugh. Regards all.

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