Times Cryptic 28698 – Sat, 2 Sept 2023. Sweet little lies?

So, how many are into non-alcoholic drinks, I wonder? (We may not believe 15ac.) Clever wordplay, without esoterica – my kind of thing! Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle. How did you all get on?

Note for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is for last week’s puzzle, posted after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on this week’s Saturday Cryptic.

Definitions are underlined. (ABC)* means anagram of ABC. Italics mark anagram indicators in the clues, and other ‘assembly instructions’ in the explanations. {Curly brackets} mark omitted letters.

Answers, and their components in the explanations, are in BOLD RED CAPITALS (although that may not show if you’re viewing in dark mode). Let me know whether you like it!

1 Old pair of keys — somehow he cut two more the same — snap! (3-3-4)
O = old + FF = in the key of F, twice + (HE CUT)* + FF = in the key of F, twice more.
6 English flower found around Lake Placid (4)
CAM = English river (“flower”) around L = lake. The capital letters on “Lake Placid” are just for disguise.
9 One that’s excessively emotional, Democrat with hit piece about head of agency (5,5)
D = Democrat + RAM = hit + A = head of A{gency} + QUEEN = chess piece.
10 Begin — right away, immediately (4)
STA{R}T = begin, with R = right, away.
12 Theatre worker turned a handle hidden in floor (5,7)
EMANA = A NAME (handle), turned, and hidden in  STAGGER = (to) floor.
15 Everyone’s into alcohol-free drinks — lies! (4,5)
ALL = everyone, into TT = alcohol-free, + ALES = drinks.
17 Sharp refusal to accept empty threat (5)
NAY = refusal, accepting TT = empty T{hrea}T.
18 Vehicle keeps parking by island — this one? (5)
CAR keeps P + I.
19 Fish that’s gone bad in angler’s basket (6,3)
(GONE)* in CREEL = basket.
20 One breaking rocks in prison having gone across border with heroin (12)
SLAMMER = prison, having gone across EDGE = border + H = heroin.
24 Press club (4)
Two definitions, both of them straightforward; but an elegant combination!
25 Into scrap, very crafty in retirement — easy money made on this (5,5)
= very + YTRA = ARTY (crafty) in retirement, all into GRAIN = scrap (“a grain of truth”).
26 Ultimately, casual pick-up that has strings attached (4)
= ultimately {casua}L + UTE = an Antipodean word for pick-up truck.
27 Authority finally defeated in French city after case is scrapped (10)
D = finally {defeate}D, in NANCY = French city, after (CASE)*
1 Prospect of deliveries dismissing Surrey’s openers? (4)
First letters (openers) of each word.
At first glance, I wondered if the definition should be “prospects”(plural).
2 Following rule leads to breach (4)
F = following + LAW.
3 If moving, they’ll receive a tug, right as stern comes adrift (12)
The definition evokes an emotional appeal to one’s sympathy.
4 Caught with reduced thrust, getting stuck (5)
C = caught + LUNG{E} = thrust, reduced.
5 Brother, in secret, beginning to fix me up — within reason (9)
F = beginning to F{ix} + EM = ME, up (in this down clue), within REASON.
7 Entirely normal to get hernia? Not entirely (10)
Not entirely => hidden.
8 Scrapping of loco met with cry for transport alternative (10)
11 Couple relaxed around noon, becoming bored (12)
UNITE = couple + RESTED = relaxed, around N = noon.
13 Not moving investment — it’s up a couple of pounds (5-5)
STOCK = investment + TSI = IT’S, up (in a down clue) + LL = a couple of pounds.
14 Knackered, overwhelmed by allotment, drank last of prosecco (7,3)
LAPPED = drank + O = last of {prosecc}O, overwhelmed by CUT = allotment (‘what’s my cut?’)
16 Fight Korea’s top brass after officer goes to the north (4,5)
LOC = officer (colonel), going to the north + K = K{orea}’s top + HORNS = brass (instruments).
21 Contend with flash in picture (5)
MO = flash + VIE = contend.
22 Squashed by slate, one’s hurt (4)
= one, squashed by PAN = slate.
23 Tip of little finger goes black (4)
{P}INKY = little finger. The tip goes.

22 comments on “Times Cryptic 28698 – Sat, 2 Sept 2023. Sweet little lies?”

  1. This is a bit hard to look at, honestly. Adding red seems to be a minor fad among our bloggers these days, but what is most distracting is the extra space between the solution and the explanation. There’s more space there than before the next clue. To my eye, trained in print typography, the last line of each clue entry looks like it belongs with the next clue. I think I would have put a soft return (shift-return or a tag with “br”) after the solution, so the explanation appears right below with no intervening linespace (if you really don’t want to start the explanation on the same line).

    The puzzle? I’ll be back. After giving you time to get over your annoyance with me. Ha.

    1. Thanks for that feedback. Strangely it doesn’t look as bad in draft. I need to figure that out.

        1. Should look a bit better now. I’m not sure where the extra spacing after each clue comes from.

  2. I see that I was all correct in 50 minutes, but I don’t remember much about the puzzle a week later. Maybe too many free drinks!

  3. I agree with Guy: too much red. Maybe putting the solutions in black?
    Anyway, about 27′, part online part over lunch. Biffed OFF THE CUFF & HEARTSTRINGS (damn font! couldn’t tell if it was stem or stern), parsed post-submission. Couldn’t parse CLAPPED OUT. I liked SLEDGE HAMMER & ALTOGETHER.

        1. I sampled both this from Judy Garland, and a Sinatra version. Sadly, neither sounded nearly as good on YouTube as in my memory!

          Would they really have dared present a same-sex love song back then?

          1. Such a suspicion is no doubt at least partly a result of the song sequence’s being taken out of its context in the movie.

        2. Thank you Guy; you took me back six years further than expected. I thought I was going to St. Louis, but no. First time I’ve come across this song; delightful!

  4. 48 minutes but with very few workings or notes in the margins, suggesting my solving was steady and methodical throughout.

    I did make a note of the re-appearance of ‘immediately / STAT’ so soon after I had met it in a puzzle for the very first time.

    I gather from comments that some adjustments to the formatting may have been made since the blog went up. As of now the spacing looks fine to me apart from 4dn which has a large gap between solution and explanation. I’d agree that there’s maybe too much red. Solutions in red are fine but I find the constant switching between red and black in the extended explanations is not easy on the eye. Might I suggest using black throughout for these, with components of the answers in bold black?

  5. I only remember that I found a lot of this easy but had limited opportunityas Saturday was final day sightseeing on and around Lake Maggiore and Sunday travelling by four trains through Switzerland from Italy to Germany (near the Neckar!). Recall a pdm with HEARTSTRINGS but DNF because of a few tricky clues among the easier. Seeing the blog, OFF THE CUFF would likely lhave been LOI. Thanlks Branch and Setter.
    I don’t care which colour, font or typeface is used, eg, to indicate the definition or to remind that F is a note on the musical scale and therefore a KEY, but will find it helpful when there is consistency between bloggers

  6. 78 minutes. Last two in by a long way were ODDS and ALTOGETHER; initial letters and a hidden respectively. Oh dear. Solved on Tuesday or Wednesday evening so I continue to blame the heat.

    P.S. Today’s concise crossword has just started working. I’m simultaneously fourth on the leaderboard and the slowest correct solver.

  7. No problems with this one, at least that I can remember. The paper is completely free of ? or !

    I am not keen on all the red. It makes the page look too busy. Three different colours and three different fonts as well, is just too much. Simplicity = readability

  8. I thought this was very good, but my enjoyment was a little spoilt by the thought that I’ve seen 24ac before. More than once. Liked the hidden at 7dn, not instantly gettable, by me, anyway.

  9. Well this was another straightforward Saturday crossword without much to hold me up. I even remembered the French place. As is often the case the shortest clues gave most trouble and ODDS was my last in. I completely missed the first letters device. ALTOGETHER was an impressively long hidden. ‘It’s up a couple of pounds’ is a lovely surface. MO for flash might have held me up if the crossers hadn’t been in place. CLAPPED OUT took some unravelling although easily biffed. STAT, CAPRI and LUTE are all staples.

    Thanks setter and branch

  10. First “nearly finished” for the week, so quite happy with that – held up by ODDS , as had PRIMA DONNA at 9a at first, and also because I forgot the ‘openers’ hint; and I was looking for an alternative name for the child’s game of Snap for 1a. Eventual change to DRAMA QUEEN fixed all that, but still have problems with associating snap with OFF-THE-CUFF. ( Of course, a “snap decision” is an “off-the-cuff” one!). Really like the SLEDGEHAMMER, and the IRON (which I suspect is a chestnut), and the CONGER EEL, which gave me pause, despite getting the creel bit in place.

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