Times 23938

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 16:04

Lots of good clues. I especially liked 8A and 3D, and 15A though it took me ages to get it.

This was never going to be a fast solve, but I got really stuck on the South West corner, where I only had OFFENCE, and didn’t have complete confidence in it. I was determined that 15A was going to mean dispatch and end with OFF or OUT, which stopped me thinking clearly about 17D, and so on. And I found 24A very difficult: I hope BEETLE is right, but I would never have got it without the crossing letters.


1 COP + Y (DE)SK, that is ED(rev) inside SKY* after COP
5 BIANCA – hidden, though it took me a long time to spot it
8 MAIN COURSE – two defs, one cryptic, one misleading
9 RAVE(l)
10 ANT + I’D E(x)PRESS + ANT – very clever
11 S(PENS)ER(vice)
15 POST HOC(k)
22 SNA(r)G, being (G(r)ANS)(rev)
23 ALTARPIECE (=”alter, peace”)
24 BEETLE – two defs, neither the obvious one


1 C + (w)OMBATS – not much of an indication that the marsupials’ head was to be displaced
2 POINTLESS – ho-ho
3 DEC. IDES, as 15 December is three months before 15 March (Oops. The Ides of December is in fact the 13th. Sorry about that.)
4 SCUPPER – two meanings, not very disctinct
17 THOUGH + T(ough)
Category Score Clues
Literature 1 14D Joe Orton’s Loot
Visual Arts
Popular Culture
Sport & Games 0.5 24A Beetle
Natural World
Science & Tech
Geography 1 5D Beersheba – not one of the first foreign towns I think of
History 0.5 3d Ides of March (or is this literature?)
Total 3

37 comments on “Times 23938”

  1. Solved late last night, taking 20:30. It felt as if it should have been a fair bit quicker though, with wordplays like E in CELEBS and THOUGH+T which I must have seen several times before. Enjoyed 3 and 9 as well as the Gulf weather one.
    1. Indeed! Just finished it in 20:27 (assuming BEETLE is right for 24A, the last one I put in).Had to resort to going through the alphabet for the second word of 15A too. My favourites were 18D and 10A.
      1. If beetle is wrong, three of us have fallen into the same trap. Note for the baffled: Beetle is a game of luck most commonly played at social events called Beetle drives – a village hall classic.
  2. Another slow start for me today. I think I am losing a bit of confidence at the moment following my disaster yesterday which had been preceded by another one on Jumbo 759, and I even struggled to finish off the last few answers in the Sunday Times at the weekend.

    Anyway I got going eventually today and made steady progress, completing it in just under the hour. There were many good clues that took quite a bit of unpicking but they all seemed remarkably fair to me with very few requiring specialist knowledge. I’m choosing 18dn as my COD because it made me laugh.

  3. I made the NW corner very difficult for myself by thoughtlessly entering “sidelined” at 2D. I didn’t sort that out until I got POST HOC. I never quite got on the same wavelength as this setter and so it all seemed like 45 minutes of hard work. I had to guess BLOODIEST. It’s all quite fair I think but nothing like as inspiring as yesterday. Jimbo.
  4. How is this parsed? It’s easy enough to see the answer but isn’t ‘fateful date’ doing double duty? I.e. “three months before fateful date” = DEC + “fateful date” = IDES.

    1. It is simply that the Dec Ides (ie the Ides of December) come three months before the Ides of March, which is a fateful date.
      1. Of course (!) in December the Ides fall on the 13th rather than the 15th, but I don’t think that matters for the clue.
        1. Thanks Richard. Yes, the 13th or 15th doesn’t matter. And 3-months prior to the ‘fateful’ (for JC – at least) ‘IDES of March’ is simply December. That’s all trivial and the answer seemed obvious and to my mind unequivocal.

          But I still don’t understand the construction of the clue. “three months” does not mean December, nor does “three months before” nor even “three months before fateful”. So “three months before fateful date” must be DEC and I ask where does “IDES” come from… unless, of course, ‘fateful date’ = “IDES” in which case it is doing double-time. And isn’t that against the ‘rules’?

          1. We are obviously at cross-purposes in some way. I am not breaking up the phrase “three months before the fateful date” at all. If you know that the fateful date was the Ides of March, then the phrase defines the Ides of December, or DEC IDES.

            Does that help?

            1. Indeed it does. It seems so clear now. Could someone please hand me the self-kicking boot?

              Thank you.

  5. 7 hours and 5 minutes. Some of which was sleep.

    Another good one for the fans of word subtraction. I thought I was off to a good start spotting CUVETTE quickly, but as I was starting to fade last night I only had most of the right side filled in.

    BEETLE was a guess (nasty checking letters there for the guessers). CELEBES, FORFEND and POST HOC were new words derived from wordplay. I nearly wrote in POST POR(t), but the penny dropped that the opposite of AD HOC must be POST HOC. On the other side of the coin, I got POINTLESS and SCUPPER from the definition without understanding the rest of the clue.

    3 and 10 were brilliantly clued, and both took a while to see.

  6. 14 and an ‘arf minutes, so I guess I was on the right wavelength. But I’m not sure how I feel about that since I thought 1d COMBATS was a pretty rotten clue, and that undermined my confidence in all that followed. Perhaps wariness if a good starting point for solving.

    Otherwise, some decent stuff. BAHRAIN tickled my fancy, and ANTIDEPRESSANT is upliftingly well-done. The double-def for BEETLE I’d seen somewhere before.

    5a conjured images of Bianca from Eastenders being snatched by white slave traders… boy, would they regret that.

  7. I felt a bit like jckkt when I started this, getting only three of the across clues on the first run through (13, 23, 25), and not faring much better with the downs, but gradually my brain got into gear and I filled about 75% in 30 minutes. It took me another 15 minutes to get the remaining 25%, with great uncertainty about my guess of BEETLE for 24.
    I don’t see that 1 down works. I was trying to think of a marsupial with C in it that moves to the top to give ‘fights’, which is how the clue reads to me. Can anyone explain how the clue can be read so that C replaces W?
    1. I’m guessing the idea was something like the ‘w’ being ‘knocked on the head’ with a club.

      But “doesn’t quite work” would be kind.

    2. I agree with the noted ambiguity at 1D – the positioning of C is clear but there’s no explanation for the removal of W.
      The bottom half of this was filled pretty quickly but the top was murderous. Not too sure about 4 as it appears to consist of different wordings for the same defs, although I do like the devious verbification of “hole”.
      Like others I’d select 5A and 10 as highlights, the latter shading it as COD.
    3. Now that you mention it – no I can’t. I didn’t clock it as I was doing the puzzle but the wording is a bit weak unless there are stange Aussie creatures called ombacts?

      On the pie chart I’ve added a music point for Ravel at 9A and a literature point for Spenser at 11A. Jimbo.

      1. I have a theory that Spenser deliberately misspelled every word knowing he’d have an eternal place in the Mephisto and Listener.

        I was looking for something like an ombcat for a while

      2. Can’t agree with a point for Ravel. Even if you can’t drag “Ravel’s Bolero” out of your memory, he’s one of the stock crossword composers that you seem to get in cryptics most weeks of the year (Arne, Ives and Verdi are other usual suspects.) Personally wouldn’t count simply knowing that Spenser is an author as worth a point either. If these are points, why no Geog point for Celebes, for example?
  8. Two very bad days in a row here, though I did manage 7 clues today before running out of time and turning here. In retrospect, though, all very fair. While I can see the answer, I can’t work out the word-play in 25ac…
    1. 25A: Anag. of ATTENDS + U = University. The Times puzzle sometimes likes to disguise anagram ‘fodder’ with abbreviations like this – usually single-letter ones.
        1. Thanks from me too, Peter. As you might have noticed, I have listed 25A above and then forgotten to put in the explanation. I will pop it in now. And remove the word “placeholder” from the title.
  9. 31 minutes which is pretty pleasing as that equates to PBx1.5 rather than my customary PBx3.

    Admittedly I needed a bit of electronic help for some of the last few, thanks to unhelpful checking letters (exonerate, altar piece, beetle) but that’s just initiative, rather than downright cheating, Sir Alan.

    18 made me larf too but I’ll go for the cleverly-engineered 10a as my COD.

    Not as good a puzzle as yesterday’s but still above average in terms of being a fair but tough challenge with clever clues and hence enjoyable. I think I was pretty close to being on the setter’s wavelength with decides and frozen shoulder, for instance, going straight in with no checkers.

  10. I got this right, but COPY DESK is not in my dictionary: what is it?

    Also, I do not understand how COP is suggested in the clue.

    My COD is 24A; very clever double definitions.

    1. In newspaper offices the copy desk traditionally took over-the-phone dictation from journalists in the field. Now I suppose the technology is a little different, which is a shame, because the old way of doing things gave rise to some great misunderstandings and misprints, like the notorious “Crew Station” for “crustacean”.

      ‘cop’ is Police Constable.

  11. I got through this in about 25 minutes without any real problem today, which boosted me somewhat due to getting stumped a lot earlier in the week. Like many others I dislike 1D, but 10 and 18 were real gems. I also guessed ‘beetle’ as my last entry, a real guess since I’d never heard of the game. Not familiar with Mr. Orton either, so I have to admit I entered it only from the definition. Those seemed the only obscurities today (to me, anyway). Regards all.
  12. I share the concerns about headless wombats and left 24A blank in the end – but BEETLE looks right. There’s another case of definition by example in 19D, and this one seriously misdirected me – I spent a while thinking of 3-letter canines. Some nice clues, however, and like some others I’ll go with 10A as COD.

    Tom B.

  13. Highly unusual to beat PB’s time – even if only by a head.I too thought 1d was a bit weak and should have been cwombats.Had never come across post hoc but deduced from ad hoc. I thought this was another good, tough puzzle with a lot of original clues.Beetle? I though it was always a “beetle drive” which was the game? Vaguely remember being dragged along to the church hall by my mother to take part in one as a very young schoolboy. 18.55 today
    1. Beetle is the game and a beetle drive is where one plays a series of games of beetle. Jimbo
  14. 21:10 but with stops for chats, so call it 20:31 ;o)
    I liked this one very much indeed. I new about LOOT at 14d and SPENSER. Am I becoming a literature buff? BIANCA took an age to see – I really like it when hiddens are well hidden. 8a was brilliant but not quite as brilliant as 10a which gets my nod.
  15. Nobody has clarified the wordplay for this answer.
    The def. is clear, but what about Single-track railway?

    Clue: Single-track railway might be so irrelevant (9)

  16. Or single track Sulawesi as we might also say.

    There was a query about 2d which (maybe because some comments have been deleted) has gone unanswered all this time.

    At 2d a single track railway would have no “points” as this is a name for a track layout to change a train from one track to another. If you have a single track then, therefore, it will be pointless. My knowledge of railways comes from Hornby 00 and Thomas the Tank Engine by the way.

    There are 4 “easies” in addition:

    18a With support no longer available, retreat (4,3)
    BACK OFF. I had BACK OUT until I saw 20d FORFEND.

    21a Getting alternative to fresh cut meat could be a pain (6,8)
    FROZEN SHOULDER. Quite simple once I had given up trying to get an anagram out of “to fresh cut meat”.

    6d … area in war-torn Serbia, hardly a no-fly zone (7)
    AIRB A SE. Area (A) in (SERBIA)*. Anagram indicator is a very naughty “war-torn”.

    16d Hurt in military attack (7)
    OFFENCE. Hurt in its noun form rather than a verb.

    19d Cake, or fragment of it shortly given to dog (7)
    CRUM (B) PET. The PET bit, of course, is derived from “dog”. There are some who object to this definition by example. Not all dogs are pets for a start. Ho-hum.

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