Times Crossword 23963

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 12.31

I suspect I made heavy weather of this. Probably lost a minute to pre-blog-debut nerves and another as a result of scribbling the first answer I saw, INSOMNIA, at such speed that the final A looked like an N, which made the easy 19 down somewhat problematic. Other than this, the last to go in were 8D/15A. But I’m not sure about the wordplay to some clues, and in one case at least not even certain I have the answer right.

  SC(AB I)OUS(e). I hadn’t heard of this somewhat unpleasant sounding plant which is apparently used to treat skin diseases, perhaps of scabious people (it also means scabby). I knew there was a word SCABROUS, but the wordplay here was clear enough.
  PURPLE EMPEROR – with penguin-related avatars so popular here I’m sure people spotted this butterfly easily.
  ST,RING – I think the meaning is a train, set of things, or series, though “tier” is more like a level or rank, which doesn’t seem quite the same. “Second string” soiunds more tierlike.
  (b) LAKE – when I forced myself to think logically about this I realised there weren’t actually many sorts of poets that I knew of. The Lake Poets are Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.
  EMMA? surely “titled heroine” has to be EMMA? – but why?.
  STA(L, ACT I)TE – “it depends” in the sense of “to hang down”. I wrote this in confidently enough, though now I look at it more closely, why should the L go in that position? “Play’s opening at length” translating to “Long Act One”?
  PRECIS(ely) – Ely is a very popular see with crossword setters.
  GRIMES – a reference to the eponymous fisherman hero of the opera Peter Grimes, by Benjamin Britten.
  CAP I (LOT reversed).
  BURK(e)IN A FA SO, with the de-tailed Whig orator being Edmund Burke.
  O, FLAG -a German POW camp, the most famous of which is probably Colditz.
  S(LEIGH)T. Ms Leigh was the first Vivien that came to mind and I still haven’t thought of many others.
  HIPPOLYTA – (happily to)*. I didn’t get the reference, nor did I put the I and Y the right way round first time off. Turns out Hippolyta is the Queen of the Amazons, engaged to Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  NO (R) FOLK, a place with no folk being apparently empty. For a while I thought “apparently empty” might be AY, which was not helpful.
  M(I NIB)AR – this month was a bit easier to handle than Sept yesterday. NIB is always one of my first thoughts for “writer”.
  PET(e)R A – the ” rose-red city half as old as time”, and the apostle is our second Peter of the day.
  MAR, a reversal of 7D.

20 comments on “Times Crossword 23963”

  1. Hi Sabine. And congrats on your debut (I’m doing likewise on Sunday but I get a whole week to think about it, which isn’t quite the same).

    If you made heavy weather of it, I made a veritable tempest. 26 minutes. I couldn’t get into it at all.

    The Emma is Miss Woodhouse. Quite.

  2. Well done Sabine. I started off thinking “this isn’t too bad for someone’s first report”, but then it all slowed down and I ended up taking 12:01. Same bafflement about Emma, now explained, so I spent a cautious minute or so on a check for anything else to fit ?M?A. And 23A took much too long – even with ???S-?E?T ?O?P I only saw the SOUP.

    At 18 both Collins and COD have L=length, so ‘Play’s opening at length’ is just ACT1 next to L.

  3. In 10A, STRING ties parcels, so its a ‘tier’. This was a 30-min struggle for me. I read ‘Emma’ last year but had forgotten her surname till reading the blog above.

    Tom B.

  4. Good blog, Sabine – 12 mins was an excellent time for this one. I was going pretty well but finally got stuck on the French colony, which I had to look up.

  5. Well done indeed on your first blog, Sabine, and thank God it wasn’t my Friday to write it!

    I hardly dare show my face here today after yesterday’s debacle, and this was even worse.

    After an hour I had precisely 8 answers scattered in all quarters. Four of those (the 3-lettered ones, GRIMES and STANDARD) went in within the first two minutes so you can deduce my poor rate of progress over the next 58.

    I gave up and returned a little later for a 30 minute session and managed to complete about two-thirds of it. Then I resorted to on-line cheating but still didn’t get 22dn or 22ac.

    I just wasn’t on this setter’s wavelength so I didn’t enjoy the puzzle much, but I will pick 17 as my COD.

    One minor quibble, I’m not very keen on famous plays that have been turned into films, being clued as films. I realise my complaint isn’t really justified, but after being beaten soundly I feel like having a moan. Put it down to my chagrin at not solving 19dn despite having all the checking letters in place and the original production of the play at the NT being among the best experiences of my theatre-going life.

  6. Thanks for the kind comments, and good luck with your own debut, sorita.

    I’m kicking myself viciously for not seeing tier = something that ties, and even more so over Emma, because I knew perfectly well what her surname was, but had somehow convinced myself that the second half of the clue must refer to a different Emma from the definition. I do seem prone to slamming these mental doors. You’d have laughed to see me sitting here at 2 am, trying to twist the dictionary definition of “emma” – a signaller’s name for the letter “m” – into some theory whereby signallers obviously used to log messages from the cabin or a ship or aircraft… yes, honestly.

    This was quite a literature heavy puzzle, with Austen, Shakespeare and the Lake poets – maybe it was a conscious decision to clue 19d as a film rather than include another play?

  7. I thought I might say hello. I stumbled across this site several months ago and have checked it out almost every weekday since. I’ve been attempting the crossword very occasionally for more years than I care to remember, with some brief spells of more regular effort. With the added incentive of having clues I don’t understand explained here, I have been attempting it almost daily for the past few months. As a result my performances are better than they have ever been, although I’ll never come close to matching the faster performers here. (I don’t normally time myself, but did once note a personal best of around 11 minutes. However my normal speed for a relatively straightforward puzzle would probably be in the 20 to 25 minutes range.)

    I thought today’s puzzle one of the hardest that I have been able to complete unaided. I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to finish it before coming across this site, so a big thank you to you all.


  8. I found this quite tough-going, but did finish in about 40 minutes without resort to any references. On my first run through I didn’t solve any clues until I reached 22a, and 7d was next, so precious little in the grid first time round, but MAR gave me the M for HUMANE and HIPPOLYTA followed immediately. From there on I made fairly steady progress, but paused at 11, not understanding the wordplay at all and hesitating between GOOD SHOW and GOOD SHOT. Instinctively I went for the former.
    I didn’t like ‘just’ in 1a -there for the surface and unfairly misleading in the cryptic reading, since ‘docked’ alone is enough to indicate the final deletion. Otherwise no quibbles, and some nice clues elsewhere to compensate. Both 13 and 17 particularly appealed. I’ll pick 17 as COD for its engaging surface.
  9. Is it just me, or has this been a pretty tough week overall? Completed three quarters of this in an hour before throwing in the towel and coming to peek here. My chances weren’t improved by trying to use ‘LEE’ in the wordplay for 5d rather than ‘LEIGH’. A real slog…
  10. Found this a real slog, finishing (albeit that I might have messed up 15) in 38 minutes with a bit of wizardy assistance.

    For 15 I have Luke in that it’s a book. I can’t see how the rest of the wordplay works (apart from maybe Lake having the ‘a’ removed (ignored another’s first)) and seeing Sabine’s explanation I think lake is right but it’s a dodgy clue – another should be another sort of poet rather than another poet for it to make sense, and why is “first” necessary?

    I thought there was too much obscurity in here and some clumsy surfaces, so I didn’t enjoy it much at all. Burkina Faso didn’t hold me up (Ouagadougou is my favourite place name) and whilst I can’t remember what my wife reminded me to do 5 minutes ago I can remember things like Burkina Faso having previously been Upper Volta and that Dutch Guyana is now Surinam.

    Nice blog BTW Sabine. I can’t imagine that there are more than 5 or 6 women in the world who are smarter and wittier than me yet 3 of them blog on here. What are the chances of that happening eh?

    1. As many as 5 or 6? You big soppy New Man, you.
      Looking again at 15, you’re right. It looks very ropey on both counts.
  11. Good blog Sabine! I had heard of scabious and just put in Emma without justifying it (which definitely saved minutes)
    19 got the “Triple Crown” for me as last to go in, longest to solve and COD.
    Why do I always want to spell the word – stalagtite? The wordplay kept me right
    Unlike Maximus the puzzles seemed to have suited me well this week. 9.52 today
  12. Nice blog, Sabine, and thanks for explaining exactly the ones I needed. Took two sittings to finish this off, I found it pretty tricky.

    Solved from definition without full understanding: EMMA, LUKE, BURKINA FASO (helped greatly by the B to start off with and it being a popular place in bar quiz nights). Solved from wordplay without being sure of definition: SCABIOUS, STALACTITE, HIPPOLYTA. Solved from missing it in the Mephisto a few months ago: OFLAG.

    That’s a pretty high density of guesses for me…

    1. i thought that lake was a poor clue and Emma and grimes rather tricky…particularly as i love opera!
      anyway friday is usually easy…this was hard.
  13. This was my worst performance for decades. Expecting us to turn LOG CABIN into WOOD HOUSE and also know that WOODHOUSE is EMMA’s last name is just lunacy. Whig orator detailed = BURK(e) – what’s that all about? Jeez, if I was Sabine I’d be livid
    1. Agreed, 7d. And it’s all the worse for coming the day after the ridiculous “Buttercup” clue and the others itemised by Anax yesterday. Give us a chance please, Setters, this isn’t the Mephisto or Listener.
    2. I have to admit that I didn’t understand the Emma wordplay until reading this – but I’d say that it’s perfectly fair to expect Times crossword solvers to know Emma’s surname.
      I agree with you on Burke, though. Not that I’d heard of Burkina Faso either.
  14. Having BIFD EMMA from “Titled heroine” – being blissfully ignorant of her surname – I was about to be smug before I discovered from the excellent blog that another BIF at 15a turns out to be wrong. I had LUKE for “book” and did not see the (B) LAKE where William cedes his book to Wordsworth and the like. I wondered what all that was about.

    There are 7 “easies” omitted in this one:

    6a Merciful shade covers chap (6)
    HU MAN E

    13a Joke store holds new sale (10)

    21a In restless state, I redesigned mansion (8)

    23a Starter that should have included egg? (5-4,4)
    BIRDS-NEST SOUP. Odd sort of clue?

    26a Classic sort of lamp (8)

    7d Ruin most of planet (3)
    MAR (S)

    12d Break back in no time (5,6)

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