Times Cryptic 28776 – Sat, 2 Dec 2023. She’s the cat’s mother.

I still don’t really understand what She’s up to at 26dn. Otherwise I flew through this one. 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.

Across
1 Sharp sting (5)
SMART
Two definitions.
4 Brigadier bombs transport link (3,6)
AIR BRIDGE
(BRIGADIER)*
9 Seafood source arranged by East Dorset (6,3)
OYSTER BED
(BY E DORSET)*
10 Drop English to a large extent (5)
QUITE
QUIT, E.
11 Mischief from one dancing with Yankees outside game (7-6)
JIGGERY-POKERY
JIGGER, YY (Yankees, plural) outside POKER.
14 Regular test to check a water feature (4)
MOAT
MOT (regular roadworthiness test) to check A.
I wondered why “check” said to put MOT outside the A, but Chambers’ third definition of “check” is to “restrain or hinder”, which seems fair enough.
15 Demonstrate how to go mad with vehicle? (5-5)
POTTY-TRAIN
POTTY, TRAIN. Brilliantly disguised definition, although perhaps understating the job!
18 Show a piece of cake getting cut before presents (10)
EASTENDERS
EAS{Y}, TENDERS.
19 Couple I encountered upon returning (4)
ITEM
I, TEM (MET, returning).
21 Senior minister? Blimey, John, shut up! (4,5,4)
LORD PRIVY SEAL
LORD (blimey!), PRIVY (john), SEAL (shut up). Not a title we use in Australia, but he’s a big deal obviously. Has there ever been a Lady Privy Seal yet?
24 Single whiskey in France one day (5)
UNWED
W (whiskey, in the phonetic alphabet) in UNE (in France, “one”) + D.
25 Nearly weep before each period drama (4,5)
SOAP OPERA
SO{B}, A POP (each, as in “two pounds a pop”), ERA (period).
27 Rough-sounding people in Derby, say (5,4)
HORSE RACE
sounds like HOARSE (rough), then RACE (people).
28 Mongol Empire exhibits being animated (5)
GOLEM
Hidden, as indicated. Another clever definition: a golem is a being made from clay and then animated.
Down
1 Sportsperson, judge, and ref caught in rain (4-6)
SHOW-JUMPER
J (judge) + UMP (ref), caught in SHOWER.
2 Fools bit of rope cut at both ends (3)
ASS
{L}ASS{O}.
3 Not quite number one city in Egypt (6)
THEBES
THE BES{T}. Seen this before.
4 Clumsily redo a baby album (5,4)
ABBEY ROAD
(REDO A BABY)*.
5 Went up on the tail of Chicago Bulls here (5)
RODEO
RODE (went up) on {CHICAG}O.
6 Asks in Spanish what interrupts siestas (8)
REQUESTS
QUE (“what”, in Spanish) interrupts REST.
7 Lowers crate idly at ground (5,6)
DAIRY CATTLE
(CRATE IDLY AT)*
8 Prime number: not the first, like two (4)
EVEN
{S}EVEN.  Seven is a prime number of course. Actually, two is also a prime, as well as being even, as the clue says.  Number theorists have a joke: all primes are odd, except 2.  And, 2 is the oddest prime of all!  That is because 2 is so often a special case among primes, to the extent that lots of theorems in number theory start by saying: let P be a prime greater than 2 …
12 Artisan good with young lady on phone (11)
GLASSBLOWER
G (good), LASS, BLOWER. Does anyone still call a phone a “blower”?
13 Books fan mail rough and ready (6,4)
ANIMAL FARM
(FAN MAIL)* + ARM (“ready”, as a verb).
16 End call in a telephone box? (9)
TERMINATE
TERM (call, as in what shall we call/term it?), IN, A, T{elephon}E. Here, “box” means to use the outside letter of the word.
17 During shift, say, letter finally resent (8)
BEGRUDGE
EG (say) + {lette}R, in (during) BUDGE(shift).
20 Robot dog almost eats young boy at first (6)
CYBORG
CORG{I} eats Y{oung} B{oy}.
22 Old mans expression of contempt for foreign dignitary (5)
PASHA
PA’S, HA!
23 Intro missing from fact book (4)
RUTH
{T}RUTH.
26 Man picked up She’s Electric, maybe? (3)
EEL
I assume the man is Lee, picked up to make EEL. I’ve highlighted “she” as part of the definition because I don’t know what it’s doing in the clue otherwise; perhaps this particular eel’s preferred pronouns are she/her!? PS: I’ve now discovered there’s a song by Oasis: She’s Electric. Make of that what you will!

26 comments on “Times Cryptic 28776 – Sat, 2 Dec 2023. She’s the cat’s mother.”

  1. All green. Don’t remember much about this. My time is 1 hour 40 minutes which means I must have done other things in the middle. Talking of 2 being prime, a couple of years ago I was asked why 1 is not prime since “it’s only divisible by 1 and itself”. It actually could be without breaking mathematics, but we want the fundamental theorem of arithmetic to be true, that all numbers have a unique factorization. And if 1 was prime then 6 would not just be 2×3, but 2x3x1 and 2x3x1x1 and so on, which would create a different set of exceptions for various things. I also wondered about She in 26d and also why Electric was capitalized. But if is a song title I’ve never heard of then I guess that makes sense.

  2. My home state of West Virginia was once big in the glassmaking industry and there are a few factories there still where you can watch glass being blown. One thing the landlocked state has in common with Venice, as I discovered when I visited.

    LORD PRIVY SEAL is a funny name—can’t help being reminded of POTTY-TRAINing. Keep that privy sealed! But then again, I’m from West Virginia.

  3. 33 minutes. I wasn’t sure about ‘umpire / UMP’ which my dictionary has since advised is chiefly N. American with reference to baseball, but I’m guessing it is probably used Down Under too in cricket and other sports.

    I also had, and maybe still have doubts about ‘ready / ARM’ at 13dn.

  4. 20:25
    I have a note, “ready/arm?”, but I suppose when one loads/arms a torpedo tube, say, one is readying it. I also had a note, “5d up?”. I could make nothing of 26d, although it had to be EEL; DNK “She’s Electric” (barely knew Oasis), and if it plays a role in the clue, it’s that poorer a clue. There are nine clues dropping a letter: 18ac cut, 15ac nearly, 2d cut, 3d not quite, 5d tail of, 8d not the 1st, 20 almost, at 1st, 23d missing. I did like POTTY-TRAIN, a lot; and LORD PRIVY SEAL.

        1. Collins: ride up
          in British English
          VERB
          (intr, adverb)
          to move or work away from the proper place or position
          her new skirt rode up uncomfortably

          It’s also under RIDE,
          9. (usually fol. by up)
          to work or move up from the proper place or position
          Her skirt rode up above her knees

          1. Well fwiw, I parsed it as Adrian did. ‘Up’ meaning ‘on a horse’ is engrained in my brain as a seasoned crossword solver and the answer RODEO set me thinking of horses too. Not saying your version is wrong, only reporting how I got there.

            1. Oh, that could very well be it. I see it’s definition 42 in Dictionary.com and 27 in Collins. I’m fairly “seasoned” too, but it didn’t occur to me, though I wasn’t quite satisfied with the alternative, with “rode” lacking “up” in the clue.

  5. All completed but no time recorded.
    Needed the blog for the parsing of SOAP OPERA and TERMINATE.
    I bunged in EEL from ‘Electric, maybe’ and guessed LEE being the man but also didn’t understand ‘She’s’
    Favourite POTTY-TRAIN.

  6. Around 50 minutes of steady progress, but then stalled at 16d & 26d. They were last-ditch biffs needing this blog to clarify. Some nice clues, though; 21ac particularly tickled my funny bone. Thanks, all.

  7. Loved potty train.
    I think that bombs are unarmed when in storage by having the fuses removed. They have to be “readied” before being loaded onto the plane, so I thought that was fine. I thought “rough and ready” was an excellent surface.
    I had thought that privy the noun was spelt privvy, but no, it isn’t.
    I think it is typically Brit barmy to continue using a title like Lord Privy Seal. I remember a TV prog, possibly It’s A Square World, where in a dig at the overuse of pictures in newscasts they had an article about said title illustrated by a man in a crown, an outdoor loo and a performing seal. Ho ho. Another was Minister Without Portfolio, with a man in a dog collar and a crossed-out briefcase.

    1. Haha, I remember that also! Though the programme you mention rings no bells, so it might have been something else.

    2. Oh yes, Michael Bentine, The Fourth Goon, but much funnier when he left them and ploughed his own furrow of zaniness. I never ‘got’ The Goons. Do you remember ‘The Bumblies’?

    3. I am reminded of the occasion when Winston Churchill was in a House of Commons lavatory when there came a knock on the door. “Prime Minister, the Lord Privy Seal wishes to speak with you.” “Tell his Lordship that I am sealed on the privy, and I can only deal with one sh*t at a time.”

  8. I finished this on Wednesday night, revisiting after my Saturday attempt left me with 15A and 16D blank. Finally TERMINATE hove into view, though I was completely unable to parse it, and that revealed POTTY-TRAIN, a brilliant clue. I had been fixated on it being a vehicle, so could not eliminate GOODS-TRAIN from my mind until the T forced a rethink. The rest of the puzzle was fine with some excellent misdirection and very few write-ins except 1A.

  9. Didn’t really understand the ‘She’s’ in the clue for EEL either, and didn’t parse SOAP OPERA, but this was straightforward enough otherwise.

    FOI Ass
    LOI + COD Potty train

  10. 17.34

    POTTY TRAIN completely flummoxed me and needed a good couple of minutes at the end. Not the hardest but no worse for that

    Thanks Bruce and setter

  11. Of course I loved that too, but also the inclusion of the old JIGGERY-POKERY – a term I haven’t heard for some decades! Very well clued. Fell at the last hurdles with HORSE RACE and TERMINATE , but otherwise plain sailing (to mix up a couple of metaphors)! Agree with Adrian COBB on “up”: definitely means “on a horse”. Thoroughly enjoyed as it was more my level than recent crosswords. 😑

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