Times Cryptic No 27180 – Saturday, 27 October 2018. Open book exam?

This was a very interesting mix of clues. There were some lovely definitions, like 1ac and 2ac for a start.

There were also some clues that would only appeal to me if the puzzle was an open book exam. 14ac for example has a botanical answer that no doubt you could biff from the helpers if you knew it (which I didn’t), or you could derive from the wordplay if and only if you knew the other botanical term used there (which I didn’t). Otherwise, the whole clue might be a hell of a bore (sorry – couldn’t resist). Fortunately, I detected my vast ignorance early and looked up several answers, so for the purists I am an unrepentant DNF on this puzzle.

There were also many nice clues, but none stood out to me as the clue of the day. Perhaps I’ll pick 8dn for the pleasure of getting an unknown answer from wordplay. Feel free to make your nominations in the comments. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’, with the anagram indicator in bold italics. Deletions are in [square brackets].

1 Sacks returned for final part of letters (5)
SERIF: FIRES (sacks) backwards (returned). Very clever definition, I thought.

4 Weaving carpet and matting would surely defeat me (3-6)
TAP-DANCER: (CARPET AND*). And another clever definition – the whole clue describes a problem that might stump a tap-dancer.

9 Peace created by fog and frost by a river (9)
ARMISTICE: A / R (river) / MIST (fog) / ICE (frost).

10 This trailer is a water container (5)
GOURD: double definition, I assume, although I don’t know whether gourds necessarily grow on (trailing) vines. Some do, clearly.

11 Just know Eskimos will have little time inside (6)
INTUIT: T (time) inside INUIT. Another nice definition.

12 Way for London to lose its attraction and shopping centre (4,4)
PALL MALL: PALL (lose its attraction) / MALL (shopping centre).

14 Round campanula flower turned back in present flowering plant (9)
HELLEBORE: O (round) + BELL (campanula flower) all “turned back”, inside HERE (present). An open book clue as far as I’m concerned, since I didn’t know either the answer or the flower in the wordplay.

16 Bluff chap (5)
CLIFF: double definition.

17 Will possibly sounds like a small child (5)
MIGHT: sounds like “MITE”. I had to look carefully to identify the definition, since it’s so natural to assume “possibly” is a wordplay element.

19 Girl group with European dance number (9)
SARABANDE: SARA is the girl, BAND is the group, E is the European. I didn’t know the dance.

21 Large wild agaves adjacent to sierra resort (3,5)
LAS VEGAS: L (large) / (AGAVES*) / S (sierra, in the phonetic alphabet).

22 Man and woman creating fine woollen cloth (6)
VICUNA: VIC is the man, UNA the woman.

25 Way to change one’s view when queen enters (5)
TRACK: to change TACK after R (queen) enters.

26 Prickly, good for temperature, as most desert crops are (9)
IRRIGABLE: IRRITABLE (prickly) with T (temperature) changed to G (good).

27 Some rowing about agreement with king’s order to forces (4,5)
EYES RIGHT: the rowers are an EIGHT. Insert YES (agreement) and R (king).

28 Fail with a Japanese poem (5)
TANKA: TANK (fail) / A. Another that would be obvious if you knew this form of Japanese poetry.

1 Dish for a European spread is in character, mostly (7,8)
SPANISH OMELETTE: SPAN (spread) / IS / HOME (in) / LETTE[r] (character).

2 Right to give out pardon (5)
REMIT: R (right) / EMIT (give out).

3 What’s established during a number of Christmases? (7)

4 Weak object loses its end (4)

5 Small flat pastry with fruit? Sin coming up! (4-1-5)
PIED-À-TERRE: PIE (pastry) / DATE (fruit) / ERR (sin) backwards.

6 Strangely genial Conservative is exceptionally kind (7)
ANGELIC: (GENIAL*) / C (Conservative).

7 Reason for action about America? No, it’s over (9)
CAUSATION: CA (about) / USA (America) / NO IT backwards (is over).

8 Film a red car for novel adaptation outside suspect café in Oxford location (9,6)
RADCLIFFE CAMERA: (FILM A RED CAR*) outside (CAFÉ*). Again, one anagram inside another – amounting in the end to one big anagram. I didn’t know of this building, but got it from the anagram.

13 Prophet’s hurrying to give an example of joint endeavour (3,7)

15 Member misses deadline to vote through law (9)

18 Challenged traveller in space series killing star king and queen (7)
TREKKER: STAR TREK is the space series. Kill the STAR, and add K (king) and ER (queen).

20 Girl is cross over ending of benefit (7)
BRIDGET: BRIDGE (cross over) / [benefit]T.

23 Merged group of four banks in the City (5)
URBAN: hidden answer.

24 Run in Oscar Wilde, perhaps for a court order (4)
WRIT: R for run inside WIT.

32 comments on “Times Cryptic No 27180 – Saturday, 27 October 2018. Open book exam?”

  1. I knew HELLEBORE (it’s in the title of a book by the hero of ‘A Fine Madness’; no idea why that stuck in my memory all these years) and TANKA of course, but not RADCLIFFE CAMERA. And for some reason I panicked and looked it up once I had RADCLIFFE. Had IRRIGATED in 26ac for a while, until URBAN made me see the light. COD to TAP-DANCER.
  2. Cliff, Sara, Vic, Una, Job, Bridget and a cast of thousands. I not a fan of random names as part of a solution so this puzzle made me a bit irrigable. Even thought about entering ALPACA for 22ac – we’ve had the Spanish Inez not so long ago, why not the equally Spanish Paca? Lucky to know most of the general knowledge, except campanula and that Job was a prophet. COD to causation for “no, it’s over.” Also liked cross over being bridge – was expecting someone else being irritable.
  3. Sara was the one who irrigated me, but I’d already used up my “grizzle” quota.

    Edited at 2018-11-03 01:47 am (UTC)

  4. Commenting early after returning late home from an evening in the pub. This one took me 42:31. I might have been quicker but for adverse solving conditions (the conditions being on public transport, the adversity being other commuters). I’m no botanist so I think I must have associated campanula with campanology to derive bell in 14ac. Preferred tank to tonk in 28ac. The Spanish omelette held out for a while and the unknown Radcliffe camera was constructed from most likely disposition of available anagrist around checking letters. Tricky in places.
  5. I wish I’d had special_bitter’s inspiration about HELLEBORE, but must admit to cheating for that one (and Googling to find the name of the Radcliffe building too). 14d is a strange clue, as you seem to be expected to know the special name for the plant (sans such etymological ESP), whereas an unusual, technical term like that is more often part of the wordplay.
  6. HELLEBORE only vaguely known but at least I recognised it as a word once I had derived it from wordplay.

    I was a victim of my own (partial) ignorance when it came to RADCLIFFE CAMERA, the second word of which I needed to look up. I’m familiar with Radcliffe’s assocation with Oxford mainly because the (John) Radcliffe Hospital is referred to time and again in episodes of ‘Inspector Morse’ the TV detective series that’s set in the city. The domed building that I now know is the RADCLIFFE CAMERA also features heavily in the location filming – every single episode, multiple times – but until now I had always understood it to be the Bodleian Library. And so it is, apparently, as the library expanded into the CAMERA building as long ago as 1860.

    To add insult to injury, since doing this puzzle I watched an episode of ‘Endeavour’, the pre-quel to ‘Morse’, in which the detective took somebody on a sight-seeing walk around the centre and referred to the RADCLIFFE CAMERA by name, so if the clue had turned up in today’s puzzle it would have been a write-in for me. On top of all that, I live within 30 miles of the place and have only been there once in as many years.

    Edited at 2018-11-03 06:14 am (UTC)

    1. And, of course, that red car being filmed in the clue to RADCLIFFE CAMERA makes it pretty certain the setter had an episode of Morse in mind.
      1. Plus ‘novel adaptation’ and ‘suspect’ makes it a rather good clue all-round, but only in retrospect for this solver unfortunately.
  7. …they dance no Sarabande. My old English master Peg-leg Wakefield has come to the rescue again, with the memory of us reading Sitwell’s poem in class circa 1959. 32 minutes. As an Oxford alumnus, the RADCLIFFE CAMERA was a write-in, and it is a fine-looking building, but I can see that the clue is unfair. As a gardener, I usually know crossword plants and HELLEBORE is no exception. Indeed, I had an email this morning inviting me to buy some. I vaguely knew VICUNA, remembered when Ms Stubbs became clear as the last three letters from crossers, but Mr Reeves would have been ungettable. I never consider JOB a prophet, but I gather that he is described as such in Islam. COD to SERIF. I enjoyed this as I knew enough. Thank you B and setter.
  8. An hour and fifteen for moi. Wasn’t too put upon by the HELLEBORE, as I’d remembered the campanology/campanula connection from some encounter in the past. I also tumbled to the CAMERA of 8d quite early, and then vaguely recognised the building once I played with the anagram, probably from an episode of Morse, as with Jackkt… However, I have a rude word written by 22a’s unknown VICUNA, so I think it must have been that one that pushed my time out!

    As a Blake’s 7 fan I at first thought that 18d must be a tip of the hat to the British space show that famously killed its star (we’re okay for spoilers from 1982, right?) but finally settled on the right universe.

    Thanks for the parsings! I needed quite a few of them.

    Edited at 2018-11-03 08:07 am (UTC)

    1. Fine crossword .. and 8dn is a heck of a good clue.

      One person’s commmon knowledge is another’s obscurity. Some general knowledge has always been a requirement for solving the Times crossword .. that means that words you don’t know are bound to feature from time to time. Treat them as a learning opportunity, is my advice.. though how you cultivate a retentive memory, I wouldn’t know!

      1. I have a Big List of Crossword Words that I very occasionally revise as well as frequently adding to. At some point I might make some flashcards, or something…
      2. Nicholas Riasanovsky was a history prof at Berkeley, and a rather intimidating one. A friend of my brother’s, who was doing his bachelor’s thesis on Tolstoy, tried to ask him for advice on taking notes from his novels. “I never take notes,” said Riasanovsky; “I have a photographic memory.” So what, asked the student, about someone like me who doesn’t have a photographic memory? “Develop one.” End of interview.
        1. Yes .. funny how intimidating used to be normal amongst alpha males. I hope those days are ending now, not before time
      1. He only appeared in two episodes in the last two seasons, so there’s plenty of scope for missing him if you’re were a late arrival. (And even in one of those he was a computer simulation…)
        1. Hmm, I see you know your Blake’s 7! Were you aware that Celebrity pointless quite recently had Avon and Villa on it .. Villa looked much the same, Avon rather a shock! And I have seen Servelan as well, in the past. (But not Blake!)
          1. Ah, yes, a friend of mine mentioned the Pointless to me. Must see if it’s on iPlayer. I’ve met Blake, Servalan, Vila and Avon in person, Paul Darrow both before and after the unfortunate aneurysm that led to the loss of his legs, poor fellow. He can still trade on that distinctive voice, though…
            1. I’ve also seen some of the Blakes 7 cast at SF and Star Trek conventions. I was sorry to hear of Paul Darrow’s health problems. And, of course, Jaqueline Pearce died only a few weeks ago. I always thought Servelan and Avon were the real stars of the show. It’s one of the very few dramas I can think of that ended by killing off the entire cast. The others are Blackadder and Hamlet. Back to crossword. A bit of a struggle today. 34 minutes. Ann

              Edited at 2018-11-03 07:22 pm (UTC)

              1. Oh, I hadn’t seen that, what a shame .. you are so right, the stars were Servalan, Avon and Orac .. heavens, now I *am* feeling old .. but there is something so wonderful about a television series filmed in a quarry, with scenery that wobbles
                1. Yes,the scripts had more substance than the scenery. It really was made on a shoestring. I remember listening to the model-maker (Matt ??) who designed the spaceships. It seems that the “Liberator” started life as a hairdryer. But the show worked well as drama.
  9. I found this really difficult. I solved 10 clues on the train up to Crewe -and back! I managed a further 8 on Sunday morning before giving up and moving on to the Sunday Times.
    I did get Hellebore and Radcliffe Camera which I knew from visits to Oxford, not my alma mater.
    The SE corner was virtually empty and looking at the blog there were several answers I would never have got.
    For 5d I was fooled by the setter into looking for something to eat: it looked like it had to be PRET A ….
    For 22a ANGORA pencilled in; at least there’s a woman in there. And so on.
    Victory to the very demanding setter.
    I shall be joining the crowd at The George later,for drinks only. The Telegraph bloggers should also be there -Big Dave (not me) and co. David
  10. 21:24 but with two errors. Trecker and Jimuna. I’ve just done this on the train down to the “Big Smoke”. Coming into Euston now. Wish I’d gone to bed earlier as planned and had more sleep.

    COD: Spanish Omelette.

  11. This one kept me busy for a whisker under 45 minutes, but RADCLIFFE CAMERA seemed such an unlikely name for a building that I looked it up. No trouble with HELLEBORE or VICUNA though. Thanks setter and Bruce.
  12. Americans old enough to remember Eisenhower will remember the Sherman Adams scandal. Adams was Ike’s chief of staff, hence a major power in the administration, but was forced to resign in 1958 when it was revealed that he had accepted a vicuña coat from a businessman. A scandal back then; wouldn’t make the papers today.
  13. 22:05, but I had to look up VICUNA. 26A had me puzzled as I knew 8D had to be RADCLIFFE CAMERA so IRRIGATED didn’t fit, but I found the word eventually. DNK TANKA so had to trust to the wordplay. Nice puzzle apart from that irritating man and woman cloth.

    Edited at 2018-11-04 09:12 am (UTC)

  14. Only just got round to this puzzle, and didn’t time it accurately, but I reckon it took me around 15 minutes.

    I arrived at CAUSATION with no idea how it worked, and also needed Bruce’s wisdom to parse SPANISH OMELETTE. Knew RADCLIFFE CAMERA thanks to Morse, but only appreciated the beauty of the clue after reading comments earlier in the blog. However, COD unarguably TAP-DANCER which was a LOL moment when the penny dropped.

  15. VICUNA impossible unless general knowledge is known. Could have been JIM, KIM, TIM, SID, RIK, etc. Bad clueing there sir.

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