Times Cryptic No 26842 28/09/17 Steppe inside, luv

A very fast left half ground crashingly to a crawl in the right half to push my time up to 28.26, with the last few in the bottom right corner creating most mayhem. But there were smiles along the way, including an excruciating pun that Myrtilus would have been proud to put across the top of one of his TLS offerings had it been a bit longer. The setter is also to be commended for presenting the first of the long downs without a nudge-nudge wink-wink, though of course you are welcome to provide your own smut.

For my part, I have provided the workings that satisfied me with Clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS

1 Largely connect thus with leader of students on course (8)
CLASSICS most of connect’s synonym CLASp, thus is SIC, and leader of Students just S
5 Female drivers keeping weapon near front of handbag (6)
AGATHA The drivers are the Automobile Association, AA, which then “keeps” the weapon GAT and H from the front of Handbag
10 Take look round region, mostly flat countryside (5)
LLANO Steppes in S America. Look gives LO, and area is LANd, most of which is contained
11 I valued ground near empty lodge in Normandy resort (9)
DEAUVILLE An anagram (2ground”) of I VALUED plus LodgE emptied
12 At university, dividing students is causing worry (9)
UPSETTING At university UP, and the SETTING coming from the process of splitting students into groups of similar ability.
13 Northern Tokyo, surprisingly first to go for it (5)
NOOKY N(orthern) plus an anagram of TOKYO minus its first: the word order is a bit off-putting, I think. NOOKY, in case you are unfamiliar, is yet another euphemism for thingy or (here) it.
14 Concentrate carefully at first, going in several directions (7)
ESSENCE Concentrate is a noun here, formed from the first letter of Carefully, plus a random selection of compass directions
16 Heard evil eccentric’s in religious meetings (6)
SYNODS A sound alike of evil SIN and eccentric’s ODDS
18 Increase, after reflection, cost in bar (4,2)
BEEF UP Cost FEE in bar PUB all reversed
20 Plain sort of dog? (7)
PRAIRIE Something of a double definition, even if a prairie dog isn’t a dog.
22 Recalled series of Wagnerian operas being broadcast? (2,3)
ON AIR Reverse hidden in WagneRIAN Operas
23 Boat succeeded with unknown German crew? (4,5)
SAND YACHT I’ll leave you to debate whether a sand yacht is a boat. The clue’s rather clever. Succeeded for S, with for AND, unknown for Y, and ACHT a German eight, or crew in rowing.
25 Advertisement for Top Cat making comeback? (9)
PROMOTION Another that made me smile: for yields PRO, and Top Cat is No 1 TOM, which is reversed.
26 One light finally fading at front of old home (5)
IGLOO No idea why this took me so long. One is I, light is GLOW, “finally fading” removing the W, and old is O.
27 Speech problem is, after short time, admitted by mother (6)
MUTISM One of those gettable but rarely seen words, IS after T(ime) included in MUM for mother.
28 Weight of cheap paper stored in US bank (8)
LEVERAGE Another hold up. It’s RAG for cheap paper within LEVEE for the bank you take your Chevy to on the day the music died
1 Learners, extremely unfulfilled in school, worked together (8)
COLLUDED Two L(earners) plus the extremes of UnfulfilleD within CO-ED. Chamber says that’s either the institution or a female student at one.
2 A state’s hoard (5)
AMASS I assume the state is Massachusetts, famous for its large collection of false teeth.
3 Handbook useful to under-12s talent spotters? (8,3,4)
SCOUTING FOR BOYS Baden Powell’s oeuvre, and a title guaranteed to raise an eyebrow these more cynical days. Almost cryptically defined.
4 Jointly direct arrangement of divorce (2-5)
CO-DRIVE Another word which could exist if somehow needed, perhaps at Le Mans. An anagram of DIVORCE
6 Handed a new abridged version of road movie lacking challenge? (5,2,4,4)
GIVEN AN EASY RIDE Handed: GIVEN, a: A new: N, and a shortened version of the original road movie (unless you count the ones with  Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour) EASY RIDER
7 Story about noble king that’s hard to handle? (4,5)
TALL ORDER Story is TALE, noble LORD and king R. Assemble
8 Rare animal? Yes indeed (3-3)
AYE-AYE A Madagascan lemur (voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen?). As I remember, the AYE-AYE (here clued as an emphatic yes) was second only to the coelacanth in rarity value in the vintage game “Zoo Quest”
9 Asian banker’s problem about say getting a rise (6)
GANGES See banker, think river. Problem clues SNAG, and for example EG. Insert one into t’other and reverse
15 Investigates fight with ruler, you might say (4,5)
SEES ABOUT Another smile. A fight with a ruler is a Caesar bout. Well, you might just say it.
17 Form of sugar supplement briefly included in prescription (8)
DEXTROSE Supplement is EXTRA, with its last letter briefed out, and prescription is DOSE. Simple, but took me an unconscionable age.
19 Hardly sparkling wine kept in Piedmont’s borders (4,2)
PAST IT Piedmont’s borders are obviously P and T, and ASTI is your sparkling wine, classy when we didn’t know any better.
20 Prison service welcoming new punishment (7)
PENANCE prison is PEN (as in itentiary in the US) and servise (a good one in tennis) an ACE. Insert N(ew)
21 With display, order something decorative (6)
POM POM A rather vague definition, but POMP for display, and OM for Order (of Merit)
24 Black singer‘s rock sound? (5)
CILLA  I only twigged  how this worked after submission. The “Black” Singer is CILLA (Surprise Surprise), the rock is SCYLLA as in and Charybdis. Before then I was going to grumble about SILL being a rock but not sounding much like the singer.

47 comments on “Times Cryptic No 26842 28/09/17 Steppe inside, luv”

  1. Apparently I’m French — I spelled it PRAERIE — and not very smart on yesterday’s evidence as I can’t even count to sixteen

    Don’t know if I liked 3 down: “under 12s” was too vague to give me “boys” and didn’t seem especially witty or intelligent otherwise, but then I am not very smart so I’m probably missing something

    I did enjoy the entire NE section though, especially NOOKY

    Edited at 2017-09-28 02:00 am (UTC)

  2. I started with …ING FOR KIDS, finally was forced to change to BOYS, but couldn’t come up with SCOUTING; DNK the book, although of course I assumed B-P had written one. CILLA was my other gap; I think, in retrospect, that I’d come across the singer once here, but a de facto DNK. I was looking for a bird. Surprised, almost shocked, to find NOOKY, a word I’d hardly call a euphemism; I certainly wouldn’t use it except among friends. Much as I dislike non-rhotic puns, SEES ABOUT did amuse.
  3. I couldn’t quite believe, either, that I was seeing NOOKY here, and, as I reluctantly put it in, told myself that perhaps it means something different in the UK.
    “Connect” is probably not the first synonym one would think of for CLAS(P), the latter more commonly working primarily in one direction (a hand clasps something, though when hands are “clasped,” it goes both ways) and “GLO(W)” took a minute to connect with “light.” The scholastic sense of “SETTING” I took on faith. Had never heard of a Sand Yacht, but looked it up before putting ink to paper.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 04:00 am (UTC)

    1. I agree that in the US both NOOKY and SCOUTING FOR BOYS clued as talent spotting would be considered crude and vulgar.
      1. Well, I didn’t say anything about SCOUTING FOR BOYS, because the sous-entendre, to be fair, is not required by the surface of this rather weak clue, which alludes to 12-year-old talent scouts, not anyone looking for 12-year-old “talent.”
  4. This was the third beast in a week but I conquered it in 61 minutes – Jack!?

    FOI 2dn amo AMASS amat.

    LOI 1a CLASSICS unparsed CLASP and connect (GRASP!!) Not liked as I suffered five years too much Latin at school- it was all Greek to me!

    I also note that CAESER gets a mention in 15dn SEES ABOUT another poor clue, rhotic or not! (CAESER IACCIT BRICBAT!)

    COD 24dn CILLA!

    WOD 13ac NOOKY we all like that!

    I thought 3dn SCOUTING FOR BOYS was off the menu these days.

    Tomorrow should be easier….

    Lou Weed is getting smaller!

    Edited at 2017-09-28 04:39 am (UTC)

  5. Three-quarters of this was standard fare for me at the moment; not easy by any means, but I progressed steadily through it, confident that I would at least complete the grid in under an hour. However I then arrived in the SE corner where I had only three checkers in place (S from PAST IT, N from PROMOTION and R from TALL ORDER) and I ground to a complete halt.

    And there I remained with nothing further solved for 15-20 minutes so at that point I tried resorting to standard aids to get me kick-started but I had so little to go on they were of no use. Eventually I did something I have never done before, i.e. used the ‘Reveal’ facility to complete the answer to 6dn where I had only GIVEN AN. The remainder of the expression seems obvious now but in my defence I’d mention I have never seen the film EASY RIDER and didn’t know it as a ‘road movie’ (if that’s what it is) – a term I associate (as referred to above) with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

    The Y checker this provided for 23ac brought SAND YACHT immediately to mind but then I was stuck again and I needed to reveal two more answers (LEVERAGE and PRAIRIE) before the grid was complete. This was my worst disaster in recent memory but there were too many things obscure to me concentrated in one quarter.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 05:14 am (UTC)

  6. Agree with much that has already been said: had a fast start and then slowed down a bit in the SE, clocking in just under 8 minutes in the end. Hugely fun puzzle with the likes of CILLA and NOOKY to enjoy; my compliments to the setter.
    1. I wonder if I’m the only person whose mind went straight to SCOUTING FOR GIRLS for 3dn, much against its will given how terrible that band actually is.
  7. 14:13. I got through most of this quite quickly but then got badly stuck in the SE corner. Eventually I twigged that 20dn was PENANCE which meant my bunged-in SAIL YACHT must be wrong. I was slightly surprised to find that the required answer wasn’t actually a boat but the wordplay was clear. After that point it still took me a few minutes to get my last two. ‘Weight’ seems a rather oblique definition for LEVERAGE, and CILLA’s singing days were well before my time. I know her as a kind of female Bruce Forsyth: someone who used catchphrases to host TV shows I never watched.
  8. Well, I had a lorra, lorra fun with this, romping home in 27 minutes, a rare sub-Zed. Never having joined either the scouts or the CCF, I was a little unsure about the boy manual, but it rang a vague bell. I once had tea with the great man’s three spinster daughters. A bit like a geriatric Blind Date, looking back on it, but I came out unscathed without even a hint of nooky.

    Great word. Splendid stuff, setter and editor!

  9. Didn’t know a few such as SETTING for ‘dividing students’ or the AYE-AYE but managed to finish in 40 minutes.

    No real 1a’s, but I liked the 60’s/70’s cultural references with CILLA (her singing days weren’t before my time I’m afraid), EASY RIDE(R) and prompted by our blogger, the LEVEE from ‘American Pie’ – I always remember ‘them good ole boys drinking whiskey and rye’.

    ASTI equivalent here, again back in the 60’s, was ‘Porphyry Pearl’. Very sophisticated drinking.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  10. 17:04 … fun stuff, with CILLA correct but half-misunderstood — with my sketchy mythological knowledge, I was pretty sure Cilla must have been a Lorelei, or a lorra lorra lei.

    The long down clues were both biffed late on, with the predictable and no doubt unworthy snicker at the Baden Powell book title — was this ever not a cause of snickering? Perhaps no one at the publishers dared tell him.

    COD to NOOKY, obviously

  11. It was all going so well until I came to the last one – was it MOTISM, MATISM OR MUTISM? Dumbly I plumped for MOTISM.
  12. 50 mins (but the last 15 on the SE) – while munching toast, firstly with Victoria plum jam, then lime marmalade. Different slices obviously, I’m not crazy.
    Generally smooth and enjoyable – especially COD, Sand Yacht – brilliant, IMHO.
    Then it came alive in the SE – all good clues, and tricky.
    Mostly – as predicted – I also liked Caesar bout.
    Thanks clever setter and Z for a great blog (and title).

    PS – I justified the CLAS? in 1ac as CLASS (to ‘connect’ things together is to ‘class’ them together?). I know it is a bit odd, as it then gets the S added back again.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 07:41 am (UTC)

  13. They didn’t cross my mind until you mentioned them but I echo your sentiment – they are truly execrable.
    1. Their cover of Pulp’s Common People is, I think, the most upsetting thing I’ve ever heard.
      1. Thanks for the warning. I’ll make a point of never listening to it. Although even as I type my curiosity is piquing…
      2. As a palate-cleanser, see if you can find William Shatner’s cover of it. It’s… differently exquisite.
  14. As with others I was held up in the SE for some time but gradually managed to chip away at it. It didn’t help that for some time I was convinced that the US bank was ‘Fed’. LLANO was helped by Susie coming up with LLANERO on a recent Countdown.

    I liked SEES ABOUT and it reminded me of a recent joke I heard. What do you call a chicken with lettuce in its eye? Chicken Caesar Salad.

  15. 28 minutes with SE last to fall. LEVERAGE LOI. Sadly in later life I tend to forget Archimedes and think of balance sheet gearing. It’s a word which a CFO had to say differently in US and UK. Of course I went looking for Bing, Bob and Dorothy before Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on 6d. The other side of the pond feel to this puzzle was mitigated by Cilla, which I did see straightaway. I think we’ve had a similar clue before. I had a vacation job at Bibby’s in Liverpool in 1964. I was asked to take weight samples on the lard plant where about 100 scouse girls were packing up boxes of the stuff. You’re my World was blaring over the loudspeakers with all the girls joining in, a truly unforgettable experience, however hard I try. COD SCOUTING FOR BOYS, which those girls certainly were! Thank you Z and setter.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 08:38 am (UTC)

    1. Since leveraged buy-outs are my daily bread and butter I always think of balance sheets first too, but of course it’s the same meaning, just used figuratively.
  16. Very lucky that the two long down clues were write-ins, the second concerned with Easy Rider not understood. Road films for me, like others, are Bob and Bing and Dorothy. I’ve seen the CILLA clue before. Thought SAND YACHT very good.

    Another enjoyable solve – our setters are doing us proud at the moment. Nice blog Z8

  17. 30:48 having been much delayed in the SE corner, finishing on CILLA. This was one of eight clues ending with a question mark, which I found mildly irritating (enough to go back and count them at least). It gave it a sort of ‘look how clever I am feel’ – or maybe my diet is making me more grumpy than usual.

  18. …ending in SE as others with an parsed CILLA and the tricky DEXTROSE. The fact that Cilla is pretty much always referred to as, well, just Cilla meant that ‘Black’ was a brilliant misdirection imo. Even coming here it took me a couple of mins to work out why she was Black. Doh!

    PS LEVEE will always remind me of American Pie too, the first time I came across the word.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 09:35 am (UTC)

  19. 25 minutes, with an overlooked typo – I must remind myself to check carefully before submitting! SE corner was LOI – I’d been thinking of ‘reserve’ for a US bank, and had forgotten that Cilla had qualified for inclusion a couple of years ago.
  20. Convinced myself early on that this was an Anax (NOOKY) which induced the usual sort of mental paralysis until thinking – oh pull yourself together. Still had to hack it out of the coalface. Yes, we’ve definitely had that CILLA before and it addled me then. And that meaning for “setting” was new to me. I’m fine with terrible puns so enjoyed the classic Caesar. 28.50
  21. Great puzzle, made a real mess of it, distracted by bad news from the doc and ever reliable VW sitting down on me, not a good day. Invented a (French?) lady called AGATHE and the animal as the EYE-EYE (can’t tell you why why), and totally failed to twig the clever CILLA idea and the workings of 28a. Don’t remember seeing CILLA before and I think I would have remembered. (What’s yer name and where d’yer come from?)
    Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln… the play was fine.
  22. After reading all the comments, all I can really add is “me too”. I must’ve spent 15 minutes on 4 of the clues in the SE and 5 of those were spent thinking surely it must be CILLA, but she’s not black! When the penny finally dropped it was with an almighty clang.
  23. Since over here, as Merriam Webster points out, the first definition of “nooky” (or “nookie”) is “the female partner in sexual intercourse,” and I had only heard males use it, I always thought it referred to a specific feminine body part. D’oh! (Not that it’s a word I ever used myself.)
  24. Still reeling (wonderfully) from a reely reely gud (adopts Cilla-like axesent) by The National at Hammermith Apollo. So not reely in the mood and couldnt get the SE corner. V sees them tonight and I’m hoping for positive feedback. Excellent blog and sooper puzzle
  25. Another terrible performance here. I wasn’t in the mood for a puzzle like this this morning, but despite failing to finish in my hour, I thought I’d carry on this evening and see if I was less grumpy and annoyed with it.

    After a further half an hour, having correctly guessed that DEAUVILLE was more likely than DUAEVILLE for the unknown resort, plucked a LLANO and an AYE-AYE from somewhere, finally got “puff up” out of my mind and put in BEEF UP, and ditto with “enhance” and ESSENCE, I finally came to C_L_A at 24d. Eventually figuring it had something to do with Cilla Black, but unfortunately thinking it couldn’t be that simple and half-remembering SCYLLA from somewhere, I changed it to CYLLA at the last minute.

    So, one and a half hours, one letter wrong, and I am very much not any less grumpy than I was when I started this morning. Bah, and double bah.

  26. Wow, that brought me back to earth! 53:22 with the last 15 of those spent on LEVERAGE and CILLA. I was working with FED and RESERVE for 28a and C_L__ was getting me nowhere. Finally remembered Chevvy and Levee, and then CILLA, which I’d considered and discarded, hit me between the eyes. Some tricky stuff in there! Well done setter and great blog Z.
  27. About 30 mins on the train this morning and then 6 mins at lunchtime to polish off but with one absolutely inexcusable howler, the river Maegus anyone? I wouldn’t mind but the Ganges is hardly obscure, I would think it probably ranks about second after the Nile in terms of famous rivers of the world renown. Must have got too bogged down in the parsing to see the wood for the trees. Other than that a good challenge but straightforward apart from the SE. COD to 14ac, I’m not normally keen on the “assemble an unspecified set of points of the compass / musical notes etc in an unspecified order” type of clue but I thought this was a really good one, I think the definition tipped it for me. Nice to see “nooky” make an appearance, called to mind Jim Dale’s hapless Dr Nooky in Carry on Nurse, I think and Roger De Courcey’s Nooky bear, though one or possibly both may well be spelt with an “ie” rather than a “y”.

    Edited at 2017-09-28 08:15 pm (UTC)

  28. Scraped in just under the 30 mins after staring at the blank grid for at least 5 mins. Thought that NOOKIE was ventriloquist Roger de Courcey’s cross-eyed bear so no horses frightened here. Great stuff S and Z

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