Times Cryptic 28770 – Sat, 25 Nov 2023.Why, why, why – dilemma!

Tom Jones baffled me at 1ac. Not a good start! In fact that was my LOI, and the explanation only came to me a day later. It took not quite so long to figure out 23ac.

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 in bold and 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 CAPITALS.

1 Fielding’s terms for material including Tom Jones? (9)
SLIP and COVER are fielding positions at cricket, so the fact that Henry Fielding wrote The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling was a red herring.

The definition baffled me. Could a Tom Jones be some kind of sofa or easy chair? That could have a slip cover, perhaps. But, no! I discovered later that the paper jacket on a hardback book can be called a slip cover. Yes – it was Tom Jones, the book, after all; not altogether a red herring then.

9 Ban this person returning British ship built long ago (7)
EM (ME, returning), B, ARGO (Jason’s ship).
10 Marginal former area between right and left (7)
LATE (former); A (area) between R and L.
11 Isle of Wight town council’s head is in debt (5)
12 Deal with several things I must talk about (9)
13 No good man needs strange and ineffective remedy (7)
NO, ST (good man), RUM (strange).
15 Chap given a second mission (5)
AL (today’s random chap), A, MO.
17 Young son given walk in the shade (5)
S, MALL. I didn’t know a mall is specifically a shaded walk.
18 Happening in Minas Tirith (5)
Hidden as above.
19 One sitting part of hard examination? (5)
Cryptic hint.
20 Redoubt rebuilt to stand out clearly (7)
23 Secretiveness of triads finally revealed by Secret Service evidence (9)
“triads finally revealed” means the last three letters of each word: {sec}RET {serv}ICE {evide}NCE. That took ages to see.
25 Worry of worker about first signs of general strike (5)
ANT about G{eneral} S{trike}.
27 Called about article removed from roofing material getting weather-beaten (7)
GNAR (RANG, about) LE{A}D (with the ‘article’ removed).
28 Show a boy yelling? (7)
29 Badly restored Yankee ship (9)
(RESTORED Y)*, with Y for Yankee in the phonetic alphabet.
1 A line in an unspecified opera (6)
A + L (line), in SOME (loosely, something unspecified). An opera by Strauss.
2 Bigoted relation curiously not without heart (10)
(RELATION)* + N{o}T.
3 Day one got into physical prime (8)
D + I got into CARNAL.
4 Where everyone’s put up after sex (5)
VI (sex is Latin for six, written VI in Roman numerals), LLA (ALL, put up). A playful literal definition.
5 What can secure speed of coral formation? (4,5)
REEF (made of coral – at least, pending the impact of global warning), KNOTS (speed, at sea).
6 Area with carbon in a vehicle’s frame (6)
A + C (chemical symbol for carbon), in A BUS.
7 Language he’s left to develop (4)
{He}BREW is the language.
8 Fine film to start with crowd rising before queen (8)
GO (start), SSAM (MASS, rising), ER.
14 Dispense with partner sensibly (10)
RATION (dispense), ALLY.
16 Sign obstructs worker in the East End? (9)
AMPERS (obstructs, with the H dropped), AND (worker, ditto).
17 Seconds to drag off unwelcome traveller (8)
S, TOW (drag), AWAY (off)
18 Jolly tea in carriage seat (8)
RM (Royal Marine, aka “jolly”) + CHA, in AIR (carriage).
21 Scruffy nudity is disturbing (6)
22 One joining with senior community figure (6)
W (with), ELDER.
24 Name me a river (5)
TAG, US. “Us” meaning “me”, as in “give us a kiss”, perhaps.
26 Chickpeas good with batter (4)
G, RAM. I vaguely remembered this meaning of GRAM.

27 comments on “Times Cryptic 28770 – Sat, 25 Nov 2023.Why, why, why – dilemma!”

  1. Thanks for parsing 23a RETICENCE, which baffled me. Now that you’ve explained it I can fully appreciate the setter’s ingenuity. It’s not a device I’ve seen before.
    I almost fell for GROW at 7d. With -R-W checkers, and looking for the definition ‘develop’ surely it had to be, even if it resisted parsing? It was my last in, and I found it difficult to resist the temptation to bung it in for a fast time. Then the Hebrew language appeared to save me from the growth trap.

  2. 42 minutes. Surprised by ‘me / US’ in TAGUS. I was also baffled by SLIP COVER as a book jacket as I thought it was bed linen, but having looked it up afterwards it rang a faint bell and I think we may have had it before. Possibly an Americanism?

      1. ‘Dust jacket’ is very common here too. I’ve now checked the TfTT archive for SLIPCOVER and it appears not to have come up before, but I may have met it in a puzzle elsewhere.

        Edit: I tried again as two words and found this from October last year: Fielders that may be brought to book? (4,5). I commented then that I thought it was another term for ‘loose cover’ as sometimes put on sofas etc.

        Also on 8th December 2014 we had: Fielding spots a case for Tom Jones perhaps (4,5) blogged by vinyl1 who commented: SLIP COVER, SLIP + COVER, two different cricket fielding positions making up what we would call a ‘dust jacket’ in the US, suitable for any book, including famous 18th-century novels.

        1. I made a grumpy note that SLIPCOVER is two words in the Chambers app. Interesting to note it was previously clued as (4,5). Other dictionaries are available but I remained slightly miffed.

          1. Yes, Chambers has it as two words but Collins and the Oxfords have it as one, although they both qualify the definition as chiefly N American or Canadian.

            Chambers with its two words, is the only one of the usual sources that doesn’t make that qualification.

        2. The old clues had fielding not fielding’s. I can’t see how “fielding’s positions” could be correct?

          1. I thought the apostrophe would pass must if you read it as “terms of the fielding side”.

  3. 37:48
    I can’t remember why this took me so long; POI SLIPCOVER & LOI CARDINAL took over 5 minutes, before they suddenly came to me almost simultaneously. Like Jack, I was surprised by (TAG) US. ALAMO seems to come up fairly often, always clued by ‘mission’. And I’ve finally learned what to do with ‘sex’, so to speak. COD to RETICENCE.

  4. SLIPCOVER seemed harder than it should have been, but, no, haven’t heard that term much for a dust jacket.
    We had both DESTROYER and “Kind of knot…”: REEF the Saturday just before!
    RETICENCE is very good.

  5. DNF, stumped by the top left corner – and that’s an unconscious cricketing pun. Ho ho! Usually the cricket stuff flies over my head. Thus, failed to get 1ac, plus 10, 17ac, and 2, 3d. Oh, and plumped for the incorrect GROW at 7d. Otherwise all done and understood, bar the how of RETICENCE. Found this a challenging grid so pleased to have got this far.

  6. There was a vaguely unsatisfactory feeling on completing this puzzle, with far too many ‘Really?’s. I thought some of the definitions were very odd, such as defining an abacus as a frame, which is irrelevant to its purpose; and whereas ‘batter’ implies repeated hitting, ‘ram’ does not – you would qualify it with an adverb such as ‘repeatedly’. Having said that, I thought SLIPCOVER and REEF KNOTS were good – the former very devious! And the best clue is the one that I totally failed to parse – RETICENCE.

  7. Thank you for 1a, was totally unaware of the dust jacket alias. slipcover is in wiktionary, but only the furniture thing.
    Never understood 23a RETICENCE. Clever.

  8. 25.39

    Slightly delayed by bunging in CARCAS. 1ac was LOI, with SMALL preceding it with crossed fingers

    Thanks setter and for a great blog as always

  9. DNF, defeated by SLIPCOVER, CARDINAL, SMALL and GRAM.

    Absolutely no idea what was going on with SLIPCOVER beyond thinking that it might involve cricketing terms; like the blogger, didn’t know that a mall is a shady walk so never considered SMALL; and have never heard of GRAM chickpeas so bunged in ‘grap’. Also had no idea how RETICENCE worked, and took ages to remember sex=six to get the ‘vi’ in VILLA.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Cowes

  10. I found this very easy, except for SLIPCOVER, for which I had SOILCOVER instead. It’s not that I didn’t think of the right answer, but I didn’t know the cricket terms and was put off a bit by “material including Tom Jones?”, and considering the ribald nature of Tom Jones, at least by reputation (I’ve never read it) I thought of SKINCOVER, which made little sense, and SOILCOVER, which I thought might just refer to the topsoil of a field, thus perhaps “fielding”? The rest of the puzzle was fun, if not all that much of a challenge.

  11. Thank you for the blog, and interesting commenters too.

    I like it when the Saturday puzzle has some “beginner-level” clues like COWES, ASTIR, and ANGST. Often I find myself in company, and it can be nice to show a couple of examples.

    RETICENCE of course was at the other end of the scale. But the fact that both clue and answer both ended with “ence”, seemed to me rather unusual, and started to point me in the direction of what was going on.

    The slightly strange one for me was the “SOME” in SALOME (1D). I wonder if the “an” in the clue is important. (The surface could almost work without it). So, the example given in Collins:
    some idiot drove into my car
    …could be understood as “an unspecified idiot drove into my car”

  12. Crawled over the line with a desperate GRAM entered in hope with little expectation of it being right. SMALL caused me difficulty too.
    Thanks to the blogger.

  13. Really enjoyed this although done much later than Saturday. Very pleased to say I worked out all the clues. Love ampersand and Tagus.

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