Times 23,948 – Play Your Cards Right

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time : a slightly longer than usual 30 minutes. One answer I was unfamiliar with and checked, but the construction meant that with the checking letters in place it literally couldn’t be anything other than what it is. A good challenge, this, with some special cunning shown in disguising definitions.

Given the price of petrol, my COD has to be the terribly topical 3 down…

1 SIXPENCE – “piece” meaning coin; X(times)+ PEN = writer, inside SIC=so + E, the close, or end, of DEADLINE
6 DECODE – not scrupulously accurate but a DEC(ember) ode is quite likely to mention Christmas, I suppose
10 BRAIN DRAIN – also known as Human Capital Flight, which is les catchy and doesn’t rhyme. I liked it better when we had Personnel, not Human Resources.
11 CONFIDENCE – a secret made by the CON(vict) and the FENCE round ID(entification)
13 VALE – VALE(t) gives you the all-purpose Roman salutation. Literally wishing good health, as per the modern day “Cheers”.
14 MAILDROP – M(idwife)+AIL+DR+OP gives a delivery which has nothing to do with childbirth. Following from yesterday, I imagine purists will raise the matter of “Caesarean” being allowed to do duty as OP…
16 ABLEST – double definition, those who most able are another spelling of a-blessed.
22 OGPU – anagram of GROUP without R(un): one in a long and unpleasant line of Soviet police forces. What are the rules regarding the use of acronyms? Or is this considered to have become a generic noun?
26 LONGFELLOW – L(ine)+ON+G(ood)FELLOW: I don’t think Longfellow actually wrote anything memorable about good friends, but he died rich, which is more than most poets do.
30 PERFECTO – PERFECT (tense) + 0 = a particular type of fine cigar, which bulges in the middle.
2 INAMORATA – (A TAR + OMANI) all reversed
3 PIPEFUL – PIP = spot (as in, say, dominoes – not the most obvious def. but perfectly valid) + (FUEL)* with the anagrind of flogged, all defined by the less regular meaning of quid, as in enough tobacco to fill a pipe.
5 NO BID – NOB + I(shoul)D. In the game of cribbage, there is a special scoring system which means (doubtless to the delight of several people in these parts) that matching a Jack from your hand with one in the exposed cards allows you to score an extra point, and announce it with the words “and one for his nob”…
6 DANCE BAND = players; BAND sounds like BANNED after DANCE = ball
7 CARAVEL – a cutter which wasn’t a boat might CARVE + L(ength) around A to give this boat.
15 ROADSTERS – one for the transatlantic contingent here: D(riven) inside ROASTERS to give the type of car.
17 SPOTLIGHT = SPOT (place) + LIGHT (land)
19 TRUDGEN – (GRUNTED)* gives this swimming stroke which I had never heard of, but a seven letter anagram where you have T_U_G_N checked only leads to one solution.
23 GLOBE – I only had the E to start with and thought briefly about “All the world’s a STAGE” before thinking better of it and inserting the Bard’s actual theatre.
25 POWER – one in debt to the tune of a penny is presumably a P-OWER; clout as in “to have some clout” or power rather than giving someone a clip round the ear

28 comments on “Times 23,948 – Play Your Cards Right”

  1. 17 minutes, which I think is my par score over the years.

    An outstanding crossword, in my book. Full of witty, clever clues, and a nice balance of all the tricks.

    I put ticks all over the place so I’ll just pick out a few: SIXPENCE (rare for me to enjoy intricate wordplay), UNDERDOG, PIPEFUL and CONFIDENCE (for their surfaces).

    OGPU, PERFECTO and TRUDGEN were new to me, but, as Tim suggested, they were all susceptible to the Sherlock Holmes “When you have eliminated the impossible..” thing, which is how it should be.

    A five-star, two-pipe puzzle. Thank you.

  2. Struggled with this one, not getting any acrosses on first look, and starting with 8/17/23/25/27 of the downs. NE corner was the last big gap, then 7/13 finished it off. Stopped the clock at 20:35. No complaints, just lots of well-disguised clues.

    Acronyms, strictly understood, have been OK as answers for quite a while I think – I’m sure we’ve had others.

  3. I got off to a good start in the lower half but became bogged down in the NE corner trying to justify CORACLE at 7dn to go with the C_R checkers I had in place. The definition’s fine, CORE is there for what a cutter might do and it’s sort of overtaking A and L(ength). Only the second C is missing.

    Looking back on it now I don’t really understand why I made such heavy weather of this puzzle, coming in at about an hour; just not quite on the setter’s wavelength today, perhaps. 3d for COD, mainly for its topicality.

    Incidentally I have solved a puzzle within the past year, possibly in the Times but possibly not, in which the clue “Shakespeare’s world” appeared and the answer was STAGE.

  4. I enjoyed this fairly challenging puzzle. 9ac had me chuckling as I typed it in (the last one I got, so a satisfied chuckle).

    My reading of 16ac ABLEST is

    a = abbreviation for are (the unit of measurement) + blest.

    Paul S.

    1. Yes, that was my reading of it too. I have a notorious blindspot for a = are but I spotted it immediately today.
  5. I thought this quite a difficult puzzle. Most of it is very clever and satisfying to solve. I also had 16A as A+BLEST, one of many good clues. The hidden word EARTHA at 18A is very good. However, some of it gives me personal grief.

    Piece=SIXPENCE should I think have some reference to it being a coin no longer in circulation; DEC does not equal Christmas by any stretch of the imagination; as for Caesarean=OP, I shuddered when the light dawned. For me a pity to see these in an otherwise first class offering. Jimbo.

  6. I took almost 55 minutes with this one, though in slightly adverse surroundings. I didn’t know TRUDGEN or PERFECTO, which could have been PRESENTO as far as I was concerned until I got POWER. Mainly a very good set of clues, but I agree with dorsetjimbo about 6 and 14. 6 was the first clue I solved because ‘Christmas’ for DEC is becoming quite common in The Times, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable in my view. I also thought that the use of the third person present tense ‘dumps’ to agree with ‘woman’ in 24 was stretching things. The solver or the setter or the answer all do the dumping; the woman does not – SHE just precedes the dump in the city.
    However, quibbles over, I thought 11, 15 and 22 were all particularly good. 11 gets my nomination for COD.
  7. After over half an hour and only 7 clues filled in I threw in the towel. Mr Biddlecombe’s 20 minutes at least assured me that this was a rough day, and that my own dimness wasn’t the only thing to blame for this poor showing… Any chance of some easier ones as the week goes on?

  8. I’m going to play God’s Advocate on this since I enjoyed it so much.

    I’m with Michael H – December for ‘Christmas’ is surely fine, given that Advent, the ‘coming’ of Christmas, runs across the whole month. And talking of Christmas, the sixpence is still very much in evidence, at least in my mum’s rightly famous puddings. And Brian May of Queen uses one as a plectrum. And there was a Grammy nomination for Sixpence None The Wiser in 1999. The word, at least, is still fairly commonplace.

    I think the setter is entitled to a little license on things like ‘Caesarean’=’op’ when it makes as coherent a surface as is found in 14 (even if it’s a rather dark surface which might not be to everyone’s taste).

    Dyste’s quibble about 24 seems fair. ‘dumps’ looks like padding. But I think this a venal sin so I’m still arguing for canonisation.

    1. I don’t think the quibble about “sixpence” is particularly important but how would you feel about piece=as with no qualification?

      If Christmas=DEC is OK then presumably Vets=NOV and Labour=MAY are also permitted?

      I guess one either doesn’t mind definition by example or one finds it mainly (not always) a little unfair. You know where I stand and I think this one Cetc=OP is unwelcome. Jimbo.

      1. I’d feel it was very unfair. The whole point I was making about sixpence is that it is commonly heard and used, whereas ‘as’ in that context plainly is not. You’re really going to extremes there, Jim, and veering rather a long way off the path of common sense (sorry, according to George I’m supposed to preface that remark with “You make an interesting point, but…”).

        Ditto with Vets and Labour, neither of which is commonly associated with those respective months in anything like the same way that Christmas is with December. We say “’tis the Season” for a reason. Nobody, I’m fairly confident, ever talked about the Veteran Season or the Labour Season. Ask just about anyone in western culture what they think of when you say “December”, I think “Christmas” is going to come out a long way ahead of anything else.

        I’m not fond of definition by example, but if it’s done with a bit of style and the clue admits no real alternative, then it doesn’t seem such a serious offence.

      2. There must be something in the simple fact that from the -pence, “sixpence” is obviously likely to be a coin. As well as the difference between 28 years and tens of centuries since the sixpence and as were in circulation.
    2. It was “Sixpence None the Richer”
      Perhaps fittingly given most solvers are indeed often wiser after the Times puzzle but sadly also none the richer (unless they are Peter Biddlecombe, Helen Ougham or that man Magoo )
  9. Very enjoyable, with lots of clever stuff. Glad to see I wasn’t that far behind Peter this time (ten mins isn’t far for me anyway)!.

    Thrilled to use Trudgen, which knowledge I’ve had stored away since I was a lad and saw a pic in a comic of an old guy with a moustache and wearing a striped bathing suit doing the trudgen, given there as a precursor of the modern crawl.

  10. I would have gone along with topicaltim’s choice of 3 dn (PIPEFUL)as COD, except for a pedantic quibble: all the dictionaries I’ve consulted define “quid” in this sense as a lump of tobacco for chewing in the mouth and not for putting in a pipe. It is apparently a variant of “cud”, both words deriving from the same Old English term. So instead I’ll nominate 10 ac (BRAIN DRAIN), obvious when you twig but a wittily quirky definition.

    Pace dorsetjimbo, I don’t myself feel think we need to be told that a sixpence piece no longer exists for 1 ac to be a fair clue, and I’m sure I’ve often encountered DEC as an indicator for “Christmas time” rather than specifically Christmas Day. But I agree with him that making “Caesarean” do generic duty for OP without any indicator such as “say” or “possibly” was below the belt.

    Two unusually tough ones in succession to start the week. I hope he won’t mind my saying that it was gratifying for us slowcoaches to see even Peter B taking longer than 20 minutes today (still only about a third of my own time). Was this a Personal Worst, Peter?

    Michael H

    1. By no means a PW in absolute terms – I’ve been delayed for more than half an hour by a few puzzles in the last few years. It may turn out to be in relative terms if some more of you give your times. (And I assume you’re letting me forget the ones with wrong answers, and the days before about 20 years ago, when I wasn’t that quick at all.)

      Edited at 2008-06-24 12:34 pm (UTC)

  11. Started this after midnight, put it down with 19 and 22 unfilled, got up this morning and worked through the guesses, and somehow managed to pick the right combination.

    This was a medium-tricky one, but nothing unfair. I got TRUDGEN, OGPU, PERFECTO and CARAVEL from the wordplay. I love cribbage (surely a game on the endangered species list?) since my grandfather taught me, so I have to go for 4D as my COD.

    1. You’re not the only one to be taught crib by your grandfather.

      Of the various quibbles, the inaccuracy of the ‘quid’ of tobacco and the problem with “dumps” bother me more than the other stuff.

      1. I should have added PIPEFUL to the list of words gotten from wordplay, I didn’t look up that meaning of “quid” after finishing.

        Similarly, I didn’t think about “dumps” until reading your comment. By itself it is ambiguous, but on a re-read, doesn’t dumps ___ in work as an insertion indicator (there’s probably a real term for this, but I’m going to invent “inserticator”). HER then PISH in ELY (which isn’t a see or a cleric today).

        1. I don’t mind “dumps ___ in” as an ‘inserticator’. The niggle is with “woman dumps ___ in” when as dyste says, it is not the woman who is doing the dumping in the cryptic reading. If “dumps ___ in” is an insertion instruction to the solver on its own, it should be “dump ___ in”, but of course that breaks the surface.
          1. Now I get the dump/dumps quibble.

            Look for inserticators galore in the blog for this week’s Mephisto!

  12. There were times a-plenty during the 55 minutes it took me to solve this when I was ready to give up. Around half of the first 10 or so clues I got were words or meanings I hadn’t come across before (vale as a greeting, ogpu, perfecto, caravel, trudgen) but I suppose the fact that they were among the first in must mean that the clues were fair.

    11 has been done so I’ll pick 25 as COD.

  13. I got stuck at the end on TRUDGEN (never heard of it) and KEYNES (how many well-known economists are there anyway, but it took me ages to trawl his name up). Must have wasted a couple of minutes on those, eventually finishing in 20:54.

    Just 19 seconds behind Pete, pretty good!

  14. After a thoroughly exhausting day I’ve finally got round to a blog visit. I’m mildly disappointed that my COD choice of 3D turns out have been a less than perfect clue, but COD it remains.
    Yes, I accept that the def turns out to be slightly inaccurate but it brings to mind yet more Monty Python – this time the wedding scene where the bride’s father suggests nobody should be bickering about “who killed who”; what I mean is the def worked for me simply in the sense of being “an amount of tobacco”. I didn’t feel compelled to find out exactly where said quantity would usually be found/used.
    I didn’t think “dumps” worked too well but, if it can be added to the arsenal as a specially designed inserticator (thanks Goerge), I’ll go with it.
    Somewhere around the 30 minute mark today, although my lunch break had turned into a string of interruptions interrupted only by a few non-interrupted moments which weren’t inserticated as often as they should have been.
  15. But, that’s a reflection of how long it took me to solve this. I finally finished the NW corner on my ride home from the office. I’d say it was full of very well hidden clues, with some that were extra intricate, at least in my opinion. So I’m patting myself on the back for sticking with it. The uninterrupted time I spent on this today was hard to figure, but certainly an hour plus. My favorite was 2D, my last entry. Regards.
  16. The d. by e. in 14ac has already been mentioned, but there was one also in 21dn: we are asked to go from ‘Brother’ to ‘sib’ – a sib can be a brother or a sister.

    I know that some people don’t mind definitions by example, but I also know that some people do. If enough of us grumble every time The Times does this appalling sloppy thing, perhaps the crossword editor will take notice. Some hope, but it’s worth trying.

    1. 28A Thing = bag: I think this is from colloquial usage – “cryptic crosswords are Peter’s thing/bag”

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