Times Cryptic No 26850 – Saturday, 07 October 2017. Devilish stuff.

Lots of obscure references in this one, at 13ac, 3dn and 14dn particularly, but everything was gettable from wordplay or definition so a fair challenge. I am writing this blog belatedly so I don’t have a good read on the difficulty, but the club statistics suggest it was a bit on the easier side for a Saturday.

My clue of the day was 11ac for the nice definition. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Anagram indicators are in bold italics. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, followed by parsing of the wordplay. (ABC)* means ‘anagram of ABC’, {deletions are in curly brackets}.
1 Splendid son — little learner taken out (8)
SPIFFING: S / PIFFLING, after taking out L for learner. Very Wooster! Anyone for tennis?
6 Everyone in punt comes to Swan Lake? (6)
9 Slip article inside French one in market (9,4)
PETTICOAT LANE: PETTICOAT is a slip, then AN is an English article, put inside LE as a French article. For us foreigners, Petticoat Lane Market is a fashion and clothing market in the East End of London.
10 Presentation intended to reach China shortly (6)
FORMAT: FOR=intended to reach / MAT{e}=China in CRS.
11 Satan with aim to create Devil’s Island? (8)
TASMANIA: (SATAN AIM*). Cheeky definition, referring to the local marsupial, the Tasmanian devil.
13 Trojan woman with memory suffering (10)
ANDROMACHE: AND=with / ROM=computer memory / ACHE=suffering. I toyed unsuccessfully with RAM rather than ROM for a while. Wikipedia tells me Andromache was born in Thebes, but married Hector of Troy.
15 Pass note something that associates Cabbages with Kings? (4)
COLE: COL=pass, E=note. Cole slaw is made of cabbage, giving a loose association with Old King Cole. (On edit, with thanks to Guy’s comment: Nat King Cole deserves a mention too.) Nothing to do with Lewis Carroll or walruses!

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–

And whether pigs have wings.”

16 Faustina regularly seen in vast region (4)
ASIA: alternate letters of “Faustina”.
18 Abide With Me no hymn for this actress? (5,5)
GRETA GARBO: cutesy cryptic definition of she who wanted to be alone.
21 Shell ready to devour an experimental facility (8)
CALABASH: CASH=ready (money), “devouring” A LAB.
22 Something to sell that animal feeds on (6)
ABOARD: AD=something to sell (stuff), “fed” by BOAR. I thought of BOAR early but still found this answer hard to see.
23 Neglect correspondence and abandon duty (5,4,4)
LEAVE ONE’S POST: double definition.
25 Turn aside from wife having cut benefit (6)
SWERVE: W{ife} inside SERVE.
26 Venery perhaps consuming mum in drama (8)
EVERYMAN: MA inside (VENERY*). Lucky it was an anagram, since I was a bit shaky on the meaning of “venery”. The reference is apparently a late 15th-century morality play by an anonymous author.

2 Old copper wearing blue material that puffs up in the heat (7)
POPCORN: O=old / PC=copper, wearing PORN.
3 Solid privateer appearing in two areas creates mirage (4,7)
FATA MORGAN: FAT / A / MORGAN / A. Once I saw “fat”, I heard a bell ring faintly, and when I turned my mind to pirates, the answer came quickly to mind.

According to Wikipedia, Fata Morgana is “an unusual and complex form of superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is the Italian name for the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages, often seen in the Strait of Messina, were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths.”

4 Mug — I had nothing to fill it (5)
IDIOT: I’D=I had, then O inside IT. Sometimes “it” is just “it”, not a euphemism at all.
5 Learned one tune that points up uncontrolled movement (7)
GNOSTIC: SONG backwards, then TIC.
6 Male in Sabbath-breaking who found lover in Troy (9)
BATHSHEBA: HE inside (SABBATH*). Nice misdirect for those who thought, “but surely Bathsheba wasn’t Trojan?” This Troy is totally unrelated to the reference at 13ac. Frank Troy is a love interest of Bathsheba Everdeen in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.
7 Land sown with grass over in Michaelstow (3)
LEA: backwards hidden word.
8 Book from oriental port about Zen mostly (7)
EZEKIEL: E for eastern, KIEL is a port in Germany, with ZE{n} in the middle.
12 Study always covers troublesome Horace account (11)
ARCHAEOLOGY: AY=always, around (“covering”) (HORACE*) and LOG=account.
14 Greek physician nurses duke in West College (9)
MAGDALENE: a Russian doll clue. MAE is the West in question, containing GALEN (a Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher it seems), in turn containing D=duke.
17 Weak plant taken outside lobby (7)
SHALLOW: SOW=plant, outside HALL=lobby.
19 Chaps gamble — neither begins to improve (7)
ENHANCE: MEN / CHANCE, both words beheaded.
20 Attire worn by bishop? (7)
BIRETTA: B=bishop / (ATTIRE*). A literal definition!
22 Passage your compiler will read aloud (5)
AISLE: sounds like “I’ll”.
24 Excellent reason to start with show (3)
AIR: A1=excellent / R{eason}.

17 comments on “Times Cryptic No 26850 – Saturday, 07 October 2017. Devilish stuff.”

  1. 9ac and 3d both biffed from enumeration and definition, then parsed. At 14d, ‘Greek physician’ cried out ‘Galen!’, and ‘West’ is always MAE. I liked the wordplay of 19d, but COD to ABOARD. On edit: I forgot to mention that I was one of those wondering about the Bathsheba/Troy connection. ‘Jude the Obscure’ put me off Hardy for good.

    Edited at 2017-10-14 07:42 am (UTC)

  2. Yet another case of hard work not completely rewarded as I fell, yet again, at the last hurdle and resorted to aids for my LOI, this time MAGDALENE. CALABASH and ANDROMACHE were amongst several unknown words and meanings. The Tasmanian Devil is worth remembering.

    Edited at 2017-10-14 04:53 am (UTC)

  3. 45 minutes on this with LOI ABOARD, the answer to mean ‘on’ not dawning on me even after cryptic construction spotted. I’ll make COD BATHSHEBA for these lovely images of Julie Christie now occupying my head. The younger, more innocent me couldn’t understand how she could prefer Sergeant Troy to Gabriel Oak. Enjoyed the lack of company from GRETA GARBO too. ANDROMACHE and CALABASH constructed from cryptic while needing the crossers, and in both cases with some inkling that the answer was right.The only thing wrong with this puzzle is that visions of Julie are accompanied by a soundtrack of Taz of TASMANIA, a wretched cartoon which was forever on the box as my children were growing up. Thank you for this and the rest, B and setter.
  4. Had a hard time with this one, finally failing last night while trying to get my last two. I successfully guessed the right way for ANDROMACHE—which could for me just as easily have been ANDRAMACHE—but had no idea of either the FATA MORGANA nor that Captain Morgan was a privateer, so eventually just bashed in FATA MARIANA as it seemed to sound like something.

    Always a bit disappointing when you’re down to 50/50 chances on the wordplay, or find that you weren’t missing anything other than the GK required for both the wordplay and the definition. Ah well. Shame, as I was very pleased with myself for getting the Thomas Hardy reference elsewhere.

    Edited at 2017-10-14 07:22 am (UTC)

  5. 20:31. A tricky but satisfying puzzle. I happened to have most of the knowledge required: the only obscure thing from my point of view was the GRETA GARBO reference, but with these checkers and ‘actress’ it didn’t really cause me much of a problem.
    1. Out of curiosity, K, and brought to mind by Ezekiel, are you busy memorising the books of the bible in prep for next month?
      1. On the contrary, I am making a conscious effort not to learn them, as a matter of principle.
  6. I also found this tricky, taking 1:29:45 to get through. Some very obscure stuff. My FOI was BALLET and LOI MAGDALENE. Liked the devilish 11a. Failed to spot the parsing for Greta, but like Keriothe, found the checkers and enumeration enough to go on. Thanks setter and Bruce.
    On edit: 15a reminds me of the slightly modified version of Mr Carroll’s ditty we use as a valediction in my local:

    “The time has come,” the walrus said,
    “To sod off home and go to bed!”

    Edited at 2017-10-14 10:30 am (UTC)

  7. 44:11 for me with ages spent on LOI 22ac. I actually thought of aboard long before I was able to see how it parsed. Glad to see from 8dn that setters are taking up the “cluing books of the OT” challenge. Verlaine’s dream of a Haggai comes ever closer.
  8. ANDROMACHE and FATA MORGANA were the two I gave up on.

    I liked the Lewis Carroll reference and I vaguely remember a children’s TV programme called Cabbages and Kings with Johnny Ball and Derek Griffiths, but I can’t remember what it was about – a quiz of some sort I think.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog, especially the explanation of 6d. I got it from wordplay and just assumed that Bathsheba must have been Trojan.

    Edited at 2017-10-14 12:07 pm (UTC)

  9. I enjoyed this taking a little less than 20 minutes. 22a my last one in. ANDROMACHE was unknown and O chosen over A as it seemed more likely…. HERROMACHE being scotched by 1d. I had 15a as a triple definition COLE meaning cabbage and the nursery-rhyme King as well as the COL + E, with no need for the slaw. I liked the Devil’s island, and 19d, but the bishop’s hat was my favourite. Thanks blogger and setter.
  10. There were some very tricky, and very clever, ones in this. Nice, setter. I’m not especially ashamed that I DNK Spiffing (Spiffy, on the other hand, would have come right to mind – though perhaps not exactly as splendid), and was only vaguely aware that Spiffling might be a word; but I am ashamed of not knowing Faya Morgana. I had thought the Cole Cabbage connection, via cole slaw, was a bit tenuous until I checked the dictionary (OED) and found that cole all by itself is both cabbage and also some other related brassicas. Off to study my Wodehouse. Nice blog, brnchn.
  11. In the end I managed to get all of this without aids. I had to check Fata Morgana afterwards, words I vaguely knew but could not have told you the meaning of. Similarly I knew the name Andromache but nothing about her.
    I agree with our blogger, this was a very enjoyable puzzle.
    I cannot now avoid thinking of the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch whenever the name Great Garbo appears. David
  12. DNK FATA MORGANA,so it took me ages to crack.Almost a similar answer to 11a in this Saturday’s Times.
  13. Spiffing and super duper! Really very satisfying.

    Congrats on the very natural BIRETTA &lit

    I spotted “something to sell” = AD, but the clever parsing of “feeds on” forced me to biff ABOARD as LOI to struggle over the finishing line in 30 minutes. I was distracted for a while with acorns.

    COD for me was COLE: a very nice find.
    TASMANIA is lovely too.
    BATHSHEBA is particularly good in combination with genuine Trojan reference in ANDROMACHE.

    Four females are “Dancing to the Music of the Times” (cf Poussin) at the grid centre: BATHSHEBA, ANDROMACHE, GRETA GARBO & MAGDALENE. Was this “PETTICOAT LANE” theme deliberately designed?

    Nit: BATHSHEBA was *Everdene*. Blogger maybe thinking of Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”?

    New vocab often involves checking after the fact for exact meaning of words that I’d sort of heard before: venery, Faustina, CALABASH, FATA MORGANA.

    Thanks to compiler and blogger.

    Edited at 2017-12-22 07:27 am (UTC)

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