Times 23,978 What The Dickens?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving time : 30 minutes

I raced through the top half of this but then found the bottom a bit harder. There is a reference to Scrooge that I don’t understand, which appears not to be needed for the clue to work. However, there is a literary flavour to this puzzle with other obscure references to Coleridge and Dickens, so the setter is possibly showing off arcane knowledge. (On edit – now explained)

For me there are no really good clues, some old chestnuts and a couple of rather weak efforts – particularly 25A. The e-version of the puzzle has “twenty seven” rather than 27, so still no change there.

1 BASSOON – BAS-SO-ON; reference “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge
5 DRESSER – two meanings; a welsh dresser is a piece of furniture
9 EPIDERMIS – (semi ripe + d)*
13 UNGULATE – “undulate” with G=good substituted for “d” = duke
17 SENTRY – SEN-TRY; SEN=State Enrolled Nurse; tax=TRY
19 COMEDOWN – CO(ME)DOWN; ME=yours truly; Bangor is in County Down, Ireland
22 READY,RECKONER – READ(Y-RECKON)ER; the definition is “table”
25 THETA – THE-T(ake)-A – THEA appears in the answer to 27A. A very weak clue in my opinion.
26 EMOTIONAL – E-MOTION-A-L; key=E as in music; L=50 in Roman numerals
27 HOTHEAD – HO(THE)A(r)D; “hoard”=stock and remove the “r”
28 MAYPOLE – two meanings; reference Dicken’s Barnaby Rudge set in the Maypole Inn; another weak one
1 BREN – BREN(da); DA=District Attorney
2 SHINDIG – S-HINDI-G; SG=S(hockin)G
3 OPERA – O-PER-A; REP=commercial traveller, reversed
4 NOMINATE – (an item on)*
7 SEABIRD – (braised)*
8 RESENTMENT – (p)RESENT(i)MENT; presentiment is foreboding then lose the “p” and the “i”
12 OUTSTRETCH – OUT-STRETCH; not in = OUT; to do time is to do a STRETCH in prison
14 LARDY,CAKE – L-(h)ARDY-C-AKE; referencr Thomas Hardy the unreadable; C=caught
16 BOOKWORM – BOOK-WO-RM; reserve=BOOK; a jolly is a Royal Marine
18 NEAREST – (a stern + e)*; I don’t understand the Scrooge reference (On edit: NEAREST can mean “parsimonious”. I didn’t know that. Thanks anon)
20 OTRANTO – OT-RAN-TO; reference Otto Duke of Saxony 936-973; a town in Italy
21 BEHELD – BE(e)-HELD; reference “the bees knees” = someone very good at something
23 NOISY – N-O-IS-Y; New York is our Atlantic port

17 comments on “Times 23,978 What The Dickens?”

  1. Very similar experience to Jimbo – got held up in the bottom left and finished in about half an hour.
  2. 22 minutes, bit of an odd puzzle with some more guesswork. Didn’t get the so-on for the ellipsis until reading Jimbo’s blog, didn’t know the other definition of DRESSER, got COMEDOWN from the definition and part wordplay, READY-RECKONER from wordplay, simliarly LARDY-CAKE (my last entry).

    The clue for 13 was pretty cute, I’ll nominate that for COD

  3. I was also held up by bottom left. I didn’t really like ‘though’ in 12d, which I took to be part of the wordplay for a long time, eventually finishing after 45 minutes with one wrong; at the end I entered LEGEND in 21, thinking it was roughly equivalent to ‘saw’, not understanding the worplay, but having no more time to ponder.
  4. All seemed to be going swimmingly for the first 20 minutes, when about three quarters of the puzzle fell into place. The next 40 minutes spent on the SW corner gradually put pay to any hope of an early finish… 18d it must be said is particularly obscure, given the possibilities for the anagram! I spent far too long trying to work out if Scrooge could have been described as ‘earnest’. Even the mighty Google couldn’t help with that one. That, combined with my inability to get 22ac (I’ve not heard of the READY RECKONER before, so _E_K_N_R, despite the very few possibilities, didn’t help). COD nominations 2d, 12d, 24d, 26ac.
    1. I have sympathy. Faced with N?A?E?T and reckoning it to be an anagram of a+stern+e I struggled to justify NEAREST and Scrooge. I eventually decided “most like” was a key part of the definition and I didn’t get the Scrooge reference. I have to agree that NEAREST=mean is a bit obscure. I’d certainly never come across it before.
  5. A tad under 31 minutes which is slower than the norm and therefore disappointing for a puzzle that didn’t hold too many bear-traps. SW corner was the last to succumb.

    I didn’t understand how 1ac and 8 worked until coming here, and now know that a jolly=RM, so thanks Jimbo.

    7d is a penguin by example.

    COD to 11 for the construction and plausible surface.

  6. A bad day for me with chaos at the station this morning so all my quality solving time was lost. I managed the top third without difficulty and had a few answers dotted around in the rest of the puzzle but I made heavy weather of it and came here with three still unsolved in the SW corner. Hoping for better things tomorrow.
    1. Nothing to do with Dickens. They are a kind of bread found in the west country. It is rich (presumably lard) and also sweet. Usually you have it with tea in the afternoon.
  7. “Thomas Hardy the unreadable”……dorsetjimbo, isn’t that heresy coming from a denizen of Wessex?
    1. Probably. I’m not particularly well read and I’ve tried so hard to read a couple of his books but I find them incomprehensible – good for sending one off to sleep.
    2. Otto seems to crop up fairly regularly in the Times daily cryptic, often as a solution in its own right given its palindromicness (palindromicity?).

      Stick in your mental cupboardry as a useful king to remember.

  8. Lardy cakes, Hardy and Dorsetjimbo writing the blog! Do I detect a West Country conspiracy going on?

    Actually when I wrote in LARDY CAKES I was thinking I knew the expression from Coronation Street in the days when it used to be inflicted on me. But now I’m reminded they are a SW speciality I realise I was thinking of barm cakes for the NW delicacy; I wonder if they will turn up in the puzzle one of these days.

    1. Lardy cake originated north of here in Wiltshire but can be found in all the pig rearing southern counties. It is very sweet with currants and raisins but must be made from lard and not a substitute.

      Dorset is responsible for Blue Vinney an absolutely delicious cheese eaten with Dorset Knobs, special crumbly biscuits and all washed down with a pint of Badgers ale made from the waters of the Stour by Hall and Woodhouse in Blandford.

      1. It’s alright for you folks still living in England. Here in Skiathos it’s impossible to get lard or suet. We also have to stop the butcher cutting off the skin and fat from a rack of pork (and then tossing it in the bin) and we never see the fat on a rib of beef. Who wants to live healthily at this stage of life?


  9. A curious number with some quite difficult clues to unravel. I haven’t read any Hardy recently but I don’t remember it being anywhere near as unreadable as Dickens. Consequently I had no idea about Rudge’s pub but the other part of the clue at 28a was generous.

    Just the 4 “easies” left out:

    10a Reportedly they turn in locks where vessels are unloaded (5)

    15a Property of sage one’s daughter cut back outside (6)
    W ISD OM

    5d Using some blades is to cease (6)
    DESIST. bla DES IS To.

    24d Take to one’s heels, hearing sound of parastite (4)

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