Times Cryptic No 27202, Thursday, 22 November 2018 Driving you Caracas

I thought this was a bit of a cracker with plenty of entertainment and some rather high quality cluing, characterised by smooth surfaces that really keep you on your crosswording toes. Those who skipped Sunday School classes might well be mystified by the fireproof character at 22a, though it is, to my mind, one of the better told Bible stories. Again, the spy referenced at  10a managed to keep himself out of the limelight for so long you could be forgiven for not recalling him. There’s a homophone that defies you to complain about homophones, and a fine “hidden” answer, and a creative way of getting you to think in Spanish (it makes no mention of Spain). All in all, well crafted stuff: I had fun and have no regrets over taking almost 33 minutes to complete.
I provide you with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS below

[this clickable thingy]


1 Yankee maybe goes around touching cap (5)
BERET Not too tough to start with. Gamblers among you will not only know that a Yankee is a bet, but also how it works. Here, it just “goes around” RE for touching.
4 Dig this good dance party album: the very thing! (6,3)
GRAVEL PIT Certainly something that can be dug. G(ood) party: RAVE (allegedly), album: LP, the very thing: IT, as in “that’s it!”. Assemble and divide.
9 Got up from a cot, cured, miraculously (9)
ACCOUTRED “Miraculously” tells you to create a new and wonderful assemblage of the preceding letters, A COT CURED (so nothing to do with Simon Peter’s mother in law, then). Got up in the sense of dressed in, this form usually in the sense of dressed for battle.
10 Chief impact of old British spy changing sides (5)
BRUNT Anthony Blunt was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and a spy from the same Cambridge stable as Burgess Philby and Maclean. Arguably he did indeed change sides, spilling the beans to MI5 in return for immunity from prosecution, making this a particularly sophisticated clue. For out purposes, turn his L(left) to R(ight)
11 Shelf containing note about wheels for assembly (3,3)
KIT CAR Shelf: RACK, note TI (# a drink with…) Insert B into A and reverse (“about”)
12 Arrived in large numbersif casually late (6,2)
ROLLED IN A double definition of sorts: ODO attests to both meanings, but I think they’re common enough.
14 Old statesman to stand up in grand fashion (10)
WASHINGTON It’s no use saying that won’t wash as a clue because it does. So in that sense, stand up: WASH, in: IN G(rand), fashion TON.
16 Our second city councillor finally coming in behind (4)
BRUM Affectionate version of Birmingham. NB minor crudity alert. Last letter of councilloR in behind: BUM.
19 Something often common seen in pre-1945 Manhattan? (4)
NOUN A common noun is such as cat as distinct from proper noun Siamese or tiger*. Before 1945, Manhattan had NO UN. For what it’s worth, the UN building was completed in 1952
* On edit: as I am reminded, tiger is also a common noun rather than a proper one. Let’s imagine I wrote “Tigger”
20 Very badly twisted bearing corroded — then left (10)
WRETCHEDLY WRY is from “twisted”, ETCHED is from corroded and Left give the L. Assemble as instructed.
22 One protected from being fired retired with new self esteem (8)
ABEDNEGO I’ve always thought that the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the burning fiery furnace should be heard in an Oliver Postgate Welsh accent, such are the mellifluous repeated lists. Retired: ABED (no reversal here) N(ew) and self-esteem: EGO
23 Departs with perfect set of exam results for the City (6)
DALLAS D(eparts) (railway timetables and such) and perfect exam results: ALL A’S
26 What’s inside leading Asian capital (5)
HANOI Right. Now. The inside of what is HA, and leading is № 1
27 Something with element of wood, not of earth, let out (3,6)
TEA KETTLE might well have an (electric) element. Wood is TEAK, not of earth is phone home ET, let “out” gives you TLE
28 Recording conducted in which nothing’s made public (9)
DISCLOSED  Recording is DISC (take your pick which sort), conducted: LED, containing nothing’s: O’S
29 Traveller accompanying Venezuelan for the drive back (5)
REPEL So come on, then, what’s Venezuelan for “the”? Stick it on the end of REP for traveller, as in salesman.


1 Refuses to touch pasty, something most rare (5,4)
BLACK SWAN “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno (“a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan”) Juvenal, Satires. Which was true until Australia turned up thousands of them. In our word play, refuses to touch: BLACKS, pasty: WAN
2 Reflected about opening bank account (5)
RÉCIT (extra points for the accent). “Reflected” is a reversal indicator, bank give TIER, and about the inserted (“opening”) C(irca)
3 Waves finally at vessel carrying a friend across Channel (8)
TSUNAMIS Finally aT, then the vessel is the nautical SS, and a friend across the (English) Channel is UN AMI, carried by the SS
4 Again, rely on ignoring the odd miss? (4)
GIRL leave out the odd letters of aGaIn ReLy
5 Scaled down demands of orthographer, etc (3,2,5)
AND SO FORTH One of the best “hiddens” (scaled down) I can remember seeing. In demANDS OF ORTHographer. The pairing of scaled down with orthographer as one who produces perspective drawings, is especially deceptive.
6 To stop the rot in political party Frenchwoman secures backing (6)
EMBALM Rather a whimsical, if entirely accurate, definition. MME for a Frenchwoman “secures” LAB for political party, the whole “backing”.
7 Principal gutted as newspaper’s staff are sacked (9)
PLUNDERED Principal gutted is PL. As (the way) newspaper staff are is UNDER ED.
8 One enormous purse, perhaps, you might pick up (5)
TITAN An honestly gruesome homophone ( the setter warns you with both perhaps and “you might”), asking us to mumble tighten for “purse” and hear our mythical giant.
13 Comes to get garages refurbished (10)
AGGREGATES Comes to as in the total number of words in the clue comes to. A “refurbished” GET GARAGES
15 A white and gold bird found in South Eastern sierra (9)
SAUTERNES A white, sc. Wine. Gold: AU, bird: TERN contained within S(outh) E(ast) S(ierra) (NATO)
17 Mexicans going by balloon: and why not? (3,2,4)
MAY AS WELL The MAYA are our Mexicans, place the by SWELL for balloon (verb).
18 Don gets early round in for singer (8)
WHEATEAR  Don is WEAR, and an early round in athletics and such is HEAT. Assemble.
21 Dramatist’s outspoken appeal to those about to pray? (6)
O’NEILL That’ll be Eugene. Might just say to a congregation about to engage in intercession “Oh, kneel”
22 One keeping mum, possibly, after turning up concealed bug (5)
APHID The WW2 poster urged us to “be like Dad: keep Mum”. The dad in this instance is PA, who turns up and adds HID for concealed.
24 Drunk conspicuous after dark? (3,2)
LIT UP two meanings, memorably combined in this immortal commentary.
25 One minded attraction being withdrawn (4)
WARD And an easy one to finish: DRAW for attraction, backwards

60 comments on “Times Cryptic No 27202, Thursday, 22 November 2018 Driving you Caracas”

    1. Well, yes, inasmuch as it’s the name of a particular type of cat within the general category. Perhaps I should have added an extra G to be on the safe side.
  1. A classic of a puzzle.

    A few American references – DALLAS, WASHINGTON, O’NEILL, ‘Yankee’ in 1a and ‘Manhattan’ in 19a (great clue) – were a reminder of Thanksgiving Day, even if they don’t really make up a theme.

    It’s pin the tail on the donkey to pick the best, but the hidden in 5d was exceptional and the ‘A white’ at 15d had me fooled for ages.

    142 minutes of my life (really!) well-spent.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  2. Gave up after 90 minutes and looked up RECIT and WHEATEAR. Brillant puzzle – just too good for the likes of me.

    Another vote for tiger as a common noun.

  3. A superb puzzle that took me 78 minutes to complete, but it was worth every moment of the struggle. The hidden at 5dn was my last-but-one in and was so well-hidden that it had me eventually reaching in desperation for the dictionary to find out what an orthographer does, thinking that the answer would then come to me immediately, but it didn’t help a jot so I still had to work it out for myself.

    We had a clue not long ago that required us to think of the location of the headquarters of the United Nations, so that was a help. At 14ac my first thought was WELLINGTON (Duke of, and former Prime Minister) but I was paying close attention to wordplay today so I discovered my mistake immediately.

    RECIT was unknown but I spotted the wordplay and hoped for the best.

    If I have one minor gripe it’s the definition at 1dn as I’ve seen black swans in various locations around the UK, so whilst they may be rare I’d query ‘most rare’, and even if they were it’d be an extremely non-specific definition. If it’s a reference to a quotation (is the blog suggesting this?) then it’s an utterly obscure one. I had no problem solving it from wordplay and it was my second answer to go in so it didn’t hold me up at all.

    Edited at 2018-11-22 07:00 am (UTC)

    1. The idea of a black swan as an extreme rarity or impossibility is well attested in all the usual sources, and does indeed spring from the Juvenal quotation, which became commonly enough proverbial.
      Of course, it’s next to impossible to look up on the interweb, which naturally defaults to the film of the same name, but try “black swan theory” for a discussion of the phrase and its metamorphosis once the news reached the rest of the world from Australia.
      All black swans seen elsewhere in the world are derived from the Australian ones, introduced as a novelty and occasional forming viable populations, which takes some doing as (apparently) around a quarter of the pairings (which are usually for life) are gay.
      1. The concept has also been prominent in the financial/economic world since it was the title of a best-selling and much discussed 2007 book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

        Edited at 2018-11-22 08:58 am (UTC)

      2. Thanks. Brewer’s redirects ‘black swan’ to ‘rara avis’ and that (in translation as ‘rare bird’) I HAVE heard of.
        1. Great puzzle.

          I’d not heard of BLACK SWAN as being a ‘thing’, so doubted its qualification for inclusion (cf Manley’s distinction between BROWNSHIRT, a ‘thing’, and YELLOW SHIRT, not a ‘thing’). But if you’re all saying it is a thing I’m okay with it.

          1. It’s a dictionary entry (meaning “something rare”) so definitely not an arbitrary phrase.
            I’m not sure the Manley example is a very helpful one as BROWNSHIRT is all one word anyway, but I know what he means 😉


    1. RE is common enough in crossword speak for “about” or “concerning”: “re your letter of the 15th of this month” and so on. If I can be permitted a longish quotation, Fluellen, the verbose prototypical Welshman in Henry V, uses “touching” in this same way
      “Captain Macmorris, I beseech you now, will you voutsafe me, look you, a few disputations with you as partly touching or concerning the disciplines of the war, the Roman wars? In the way of argument, look you, and friendly communication, partly to satisfy my opinion, and partly for the satisfaction, look you, of my mind, as touching the direction of the military discipline, that is the point.”

      Edited at 2018-11-22 08:56 am (UTC)

  4. DNF – with yoghurt, granola, blueberries, etc.
    I gave up after 50 mins with the Wretchedly/Wheatear crossers left. I was never going to think to put ‘etched’ in ‘wry’.
    I think ‘waves’ for Tsunami is a tad understated.
    Mostly I liked: Abednego
    Thanks setter and Z.
  5. 25:51. Very tough but enormously enjoyable and satisfying to solve. Thanks for explaining how HANOI works: I couldn’t work it out.
    How can you pronounce ‘tighten’ so that it doesn’t sound exactly like TITAN?

    Edited at 2018-11-22 08:54 am (UTC)

    1. You may well be right, but it would seem we have the setters spooked enough to qualify their soundslike clues with “some say” and here “you might” in case some regional variations defeat the whole enterprise.
      1. ‘You might pick up’ could just be a form of words chosen to help the surface reading.
        I’d be curious to know if anyone pronounces these words differently. The pronunciations given in the usual sources are all identical.
        1. People who don’t speak English, for instance Scottish people, might pronounce it differently? I remember a Scotsperson coming on this blog fulminating about a homophone between poor and pour, decrying the parentage, race, and political bias of the setter.
  6. This was truly a gift that kept on giving and I was very pleased to finish, even more so now I see it’s rated Very Hard on the Snitch. There are so many clues it’s hard to choose a COD but I’m going to go for AND SO FORTH on the basis that after I’d finished it still took me several minutes to spot the hidden answer in the clue.
  7. ROLLED IN in an exceptionally casual hour and three quarters. Gosh. I was tempted to go back to bed about half an hour in, or at least swap to this week’s Mephisto for an easier ride.

    This one had so many unknowns and missed parsings that it might hold my record for the number of question marks in the margin, so thanks Z for all the elucidation! FOI 4d, then I painstakingly got everything bar 19a on the left-hand side, spent about an hour filling in the right, finishing with the WRETCHEDLY and unknown WHEATEAR crossers, then finally back to get NOUN as LOI. And quite the roller-coaster along the way.

    I’m starting work nearly an hour late and I feel much stupider than when I woke up. Nevertheless, I thank the setter for the challenge.

  8. 72:34, but with a despairing NOUS at 19a, derived from common sense. Very disappointing after untangling the rest of the puzzle. The only clue I wasn’t totally happy with was ROLLED IN where I though the second half of the wordplay was a bit loose. I was pleased to extract ABEDNEGO from the wordplay, and although I couldn’t have told his story, I knew the name. BERET was my FOI and WHEATEAR kept me struggling at the end, until a prolonged battle with WRETCHEDLY, gave me the H I needed to finally crack it. Thanks devious setter and Z.
  9. Absolute belter of a crossword. Enjoyed every one of the lengthy 51m it took so thank you very much indeed to the setter for providing such a great start to the day. Well, OK, it’s 10am so ‘start’ may be pushing it. Too many excellent clues to single out a COD but 19ac, 26ac and 5d were of the first water.
  10. Wonderfully entertaining! — the BBC commentary referenced in z8b8d8k’s blog as much as the puzzle. I spent 3 minutes on the former and a full hour on the latter. The setter has a particular style with definitions, I thought: ‘wheels for assembly’, ‘a white’, ‘dig this’, ‘something with element’, ‘one protected from being fired’, ‘one enormous’. Those were devious, but ‘comes to’ = AGGREGATES seems dodgy to me.
    LOI was NOUN. Actually I failed by entering NOUS (sharing john_dun’s desperation) but then saw the real answer. Chuffed to get the Old Testament martyr the moment I saw ‘ego’ = self-esteem at the end.
    Spiffing puzzle, spiffing blog. Thanks, both.
  11. ….HANOI me, as I really struggled through it, and finally resorted to a biff out of the blue.

    I agree with Vinyl1 that this is tougher than the Championship puzzles so far….but the really nasty ones won’t appear until after Christmas if the Wednesday pattern is continued.

    I lost a few seconds by biffing “Wellington” incorrectly at 14A.

    Thanks to Z8B8D8K for his usual excellent blog, and especially for unravelling my LOI where I again failed to spot the “hidden”. It was a really good one though !

    COD BRUNT, with honourable mentions to WHEATEAR and PLUNDERED
    TIME 21:08

  12. 75 minutes with LOI RECIT, without the accent. I had ‘well’ for ‘stand up’ for most of that time, thinking it was wrong, but Wellington had apparently been confirmed by the brilliant BLACK SWAN. That WASHINGTON never did know his place. Shadrak, Meshack and ABEDNEGO were well known from Daniel and Babylon in the days of Nebuchabnezzar. I was always puzzled by the nursery rhyme about him as the King of the Jews selling his wife for a pair of shoes. I guess at that point he was a King of some Jews. I’ve never called it a TEA KETTLE, but it had to be. I’ve not made a KIT CAR either. COD AND SO FORTH was a brilliant hidden. I also liked O’NEILL and MAY AS WELL. Thank you Z for the enlightenment and setter for making me late for the rest of the day.

    Edited at 2018-11-22 10:42 am (UTC)

  13. Great puzzle. I sat through a very long lesson from Daniel on Sunday in which ABEDNEGO was mispronounced many times, the D and N being transposed. COD to AND SO FORTH, wonderfully hidden. Didn’t really get TITAN, thought it may be to do with austerity, as in tightening one’s purse, now I see. No idea what a TEA KETTLE is, tea is made in a pot, the water is boiled in a kettle. 44′, thanks z and setter.
  14. Bravo, setter. I thought we’d got to the Grand Final puzzles early with this one, and I don’t think there’s higher praise than that for a Times puzzle. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who put in WELLINGTON, then realised that in a puzzle this precise, there was almost certainly a better W____INGTON to be found for that wordplay. Likewise, slapped my forehead when I finally spotted the hidden 5dn, having had to get all the checking letters before I spotted it. I also added some unnecessary complexity to 29ac by wondering if there might be a well-known story about a Venezuelan and a LEPER, possibly something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez which all intelligent people were expected to know about…
  15. Another Wellington here – which was pretty stupid of me because it’s Thanksgiving and as soon as I’m dressed I MAY AS WELL start peeling the spuds. We had that NO UN trick once a long time ago and it fooled quite a few of the best solvers. In spite of a lot of new edifices filling in the space between I can still just see the Secretariat building (the one Hitchcock features in North by Northwest) from our living room windows.

    I had ABEDNEGO in a long ago blog (for the TLS probably) which reminded me of Louis Armstrong’s take on the story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6r1baNdgImo

    A very hard-fought 32.57. Doffed BERET to the setter. P.S. I loved the LIT-UP commander. Sounded like an episode of the Navy Lark.

  16. 29:27… of a long succession of PDMs as I unravelled the tricky wordplay and deceptive definitions and surfaces. Too many candidates for COD, so I’ll got for my LOI, ABEDNEGO. Terrific puzzle and great blog. Thanks setter and Z.
  17. 32:39. I’m glad everyone else found this tough and I haven’t suddenly lost my crosswording mojo. I was particularly disappointed that Sauternes was my last one in: whilst I’m no Jilly Goulden I do know a Bordeaux from a Claret, as Basil Fawlty would have it.

    There was a point when I had about 8 clues still unsolved at which I thought I was never going to finish. Bravo setter and well done Z for unraveling everything.

  18. Cracking puzzle but I was beaten by NOUN because I did not understand the brilliant clue and SAUTERNES because I had the darned Duke at 14a and no NOUN at 19a.

    WHEATEAR was almost a write-in for me – last seen at Cape Wrath in August. Our guide to the Cape pointed out WHEATEARS as we drove across the moors on the single track that serves the lighthouse. Part of his “Scottish banter” – his definition not mine – was to explain the origin of the name. The WHEATEAR has a conspicuous white rump. According to the story its original name was WHITEARSE. However – when these things were formalised – possibly in Victorian times – this was considered a bit vulgar so it was changed to WHEATEAR. I don’t know how true that is but I like it.

    Great puzzle – was that one of our regulars? – and blog – thanks Z8.

    1. Speaking of which, my first thought for the BRUM clue was ARSE (last letter of councillor going into a word to do with cities to get a word meaning behind).
  19. Is it a coincidence that Dallas comes up on the 45th anniversary of the tragic event? I think not.
    1. Oh I dunno. Did you not notice the word MAF in the 5th row? Does the setter know more than most about the mob’s connection with the grassy knoll? Why does s/he put ME immediately after MAF? I think we should be told.
  20. I had to give up and resort to aids with only the left half done in an hour. I did eventually finish, by using Word Matcher to supply suggestions to fit the checkers I had, in about another 40 minutes – so thanks for several explanations.
  21. DALLAS is indeed part of a Nina, but nothing to do with 1963
    More sporting than political …

    The setter

    1. The Dallas Cowboys are playing the Washington Redskins this afternoon. The et al is beyond me.
      1. Ha ha no that’s another red herring

        Stuart DALLAS, Conor WASHINGTON, Chris BRUNT, Jamie WARD and manager Michael O’NEILL at the time all part of the Northern Ireland football team.
        Not something I’d expect anyone to pick up on, but the oddity of the Kennedy assassination anniversary prompted me to mention it

        1. Ah, now you’re really spoiling us. I wondered if there was something extra in the grid, but couldn’t see anything. Mind you, I’m the guy who completely missed a NINA that was aimed squarely in my direction, noting the number of Zs but not making the (brilliantly conceived) connection with my nom de blogue.
          Was there something about a kit car rolling into Washington (brum brum)- some anniversary of Knight Rider, or Hasselhof making an unlikely bid for the presidency? Thank goodness that wasn’t it.

          I’m quite pleased that the NINA I missed this time was one I would only spot with the relevant clues lit up in neon. and even then with some judicious Googling.

          I trust it’s clear that the appreciation level for this puzzle has gone through the roof, and congratulations on fitting in the extras without straining the grid.

          Many thanks from me, and, it would seem, the rest of the party.

    1. I found only a handful of today’s clues difficult. The others were just impossible, at least for the lump of dough I’m using for a brain these days.

      I would declare “DNF”, but that would be like declaring that I didn’t make it to the summit of Everest, having only managed a stopover at Kathmandu airport.

  22. A toughie. After an hour I had all but 5dn (super hidden), 18dn, 12ac, 20ac and 23ac. Those five fell when I returned to the puzzle much later. Pleased to finish all correct in the end. Lots of unlikely answers suddenly appearing from out of nowhere. Thanks for explaining Hanoi, the parsing of that one was beyond me.
  23. Wow – great puzzle – I did not finish by a long chalk but can still admire. I even figured out “ego” but NHO “Abednego” – or maybe somewhere in the far recesses of my dormant brain. I was toying with Washington/Wellington/Walsingham which did not help. Smashing puzzle and thanks for the blog.

    Edited at 2018-11-23 10:23 am (UTC)

  24. Late to this, so presumably talking to myself, but this was a wonderful crossword, difficult but perfectly fair. I had to do it in two sessions and it must have taken 40mins easily. I did love 29ac even though I needed Z to parse it for me.
    And the nina, which I never would have spotted but now it is kindly pointed out, makes the identity of the setter perfectly clear, for once 🙂
  25. Had to do this today and managed it in bits over several hours of other things. What a truly fine example of the art. Bravo setter.
  26. Just now got around to this one. It was mainly brilliant. But it’s hard to see how “scaled down” indicates a hidden word in that clue. (An orthographer is an expert in spelling or a skillful speller, by the way… nothing to do with maps.) I guess it refers to using only some of the letters. But that doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing.
    I also find the definition for AGGREGATE “dodgy,” as one of our regulars said. Maybe “come together,” instead of “come to”—but it would more properly be “put together.” (Oxford: “Form or group into a class or cluster.”)
    1. I refer the honourable gentlemen to the answer I gave earlier: while an orthographer (correct writing/spelling) is a person skilled in spelling (not me, then), orthography has a secondary meaning as “orthographic (right drawing?) projection; especially its use to draw an elevation, vertical projection etc. of a building”, and an orthographer a proponent thereof, so indeed not map making, but architectural drawing, presumably to scale.
      As for aggregate, I didn’t have an issue with it while solving: Chambers includes an informal use meaning to amount to. Comes to and amounts to look close enough to me, even if technically improper.
      1. Thanks! Sorry if I sounded too sure of myself. I looked at five dictionaries, though only online, and did not find the architectural meaning you reference, but I was only looking at “orthographer.” Just now, when I looked for “orthography,” I find the secondary definition at the top of the Google results. And it is, indeed, in Chambers, which I had not yet checked (it never comes up in the Google results, somehow).
        I didn’t see that hidden word, in any case, could only wonder what was going on there!
      2. I could see an abbreviation of a word, or an acronym of a multi-word name, as a scaling down of the original, since the sense would be preserved in a shorter form, but omitting some letters from the middle of a phrase is not scaling down: “To reduce the size of something while maintaining proportion”—and then it’s would still be a bit strained. We may cut the setter some slack here for the sake of the wordplay’s utilization of the (rather obscure) secondary meaning of “orthographer,” but only this once, I think!
    1. If you click on “this clickable thingy” the clues are in italics, the definitions are underlined italics, and the solutions are in BOLD CAPITALS
  27. Thanks setter and z
    This was an older puzzle that I finally got around to doing and has been said, it was a beauty! I can’t believe that I messed up on the key word on the publication date – had an unexplained NAPLES instead of DALLAS with a note to come back to it … and didn’t !! Am afraid that the rest of the theme was a complete waste on me down here.
    Also missed the complete parsing of TEA KETTLE (missing the phone-home character) and glossed over the common NOUN part of 19a.
    Many clever clues – in fact it would be hard to nominate one that wasn’t. Finally finished after breaking the ton of minutes with SAUTERNES (which scuttled my ‘Wellington’), the fixed up WASHINGTON and RECIT (a completely new word for me) as the last few in.

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