Times Cryptic No 27666 – Saturday, 16 May 2020. The mellow mists of May.

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic
My brain was in a fog, so my solving time was off the chart. Nothing to do with COVID, thankfully! The puzzle wasn’t easy, but I don’t think there’s anything that should frighten the horses once the mist clears. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Notes for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is posted a week later, after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on the current Saturday Cryptic.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. Deletions are in [square brackets].

1 Wobbly teeth about to rot could be thus described? (10)
PRECARIOUS – delightful pun. Dental decay is caries, of course.
6 Writing about one’s girl (4)
MISS – MS (manuscript) ‘about’ I’S. First one in.
10 Horse has to be killed? Horse escapes (7)
MUSTANG – the mustang MUST [h]ANG. I liked this too.
11 Talk of some corn in grass (7)
HEARSAY – EARS of corn in HAY.
12 Traveller set off, one showing despair going around (9)
SIGHTSEER – anagram (‘off’) of SET in SIGHER.
13 Agreed about coating tip for fencing in Asia (5)
KENDO – OK ‘about’, ‘coating’ END. It’s a traditional Japanese martial art, which descended from swordsmanship and uses bamboo swords and protective armour.
14 Turner, for one, makes inquiries vocally (5)
PRIZE – sounds like “pries”. The Turner Prize is awarded annually for visual art.
15 Flannel in little time eaten by dog (5,4)
SWEET TALK – WEE T[ime] in STALK. Close to home, this: flannels are among the many things our dog likes to chew!
17 Bird close to warming duck’s back (9)
NIGHTHAWK – NIGH (close to), THAW (warming), [duc]K.
20 Claim this used to be a law? (5)
EXACT – an EX ACT, as it were.
21 Part of geranium below flower cluster (5)
UMBEL – hidden.
23 Pass on dirt cut by gutless ecological polluter (6,3)
DIESEL OIL – DIE (pass on), SOIL ‘cut by’ E[cologica]L.
25 Male cat keeps cold in a wind (7)
HELICON – HE (male), LION ‘keeping’ C. That’s ‘wind’ with a long I meaning to coil, not with a short I meaning a breeze, as the context would suggest. One of the setting tricks I always enjoy. On edit: looking up “helicon”, I realise it’s a wind instrument. So “wind ” in the clue would have a short “I”.
26 Stand in lounge in awful daze, as Spooner has it (7)
FIREDOG – a DIRE FOG, per Rev. Spooner. We’ve seen this word twice in recent weeks, so it went in quickly.
27 Bank charge brought back after resistance (4)
REEF – FEE ‘brought back’ after R.
28 I’m amazed about key mixer in drink (4,6)
MALT WHISKY – MY (I’m amazed!) around ALT (a key) and WHISK.

1 Felines leading around family members (5)
PUMAS – UP (leading) turned ‘around’, then MAS (mothers, or specific family members). I found this strangely hard to see.
2 Heard you must leave one synagogue, oddly mellow (9)
EASYGOING – anagram (‘oddly’) of I (one) SYNAGOG[u]E. U sounds like ‘you’, so it leaves the anagram.
3 Separately, people stop maintaining temperature in building (9,5)
4 Entrance painter with head of sylph (7)
INGRESS – INGRES (the painter), S[ylph].
5 Throw junk behind junk removed from tips (7)
UNHORSE – HORSE (junk, aka drugs), ‘behind’ [j]UN[k]. A very neat clue!
7 Stock complaint received by popular playwright (5)
IBSEN – see playwright (5), think IBSEN! I slowed myself down by looking for IN—, rather than I—N. BSE is the animal disease (stock complaint).
8 Variety of blue, edible leaves shoot up (9)
9 Following sign, doctor creates her diagnosis of consumption? (6,8)
MARKET RESEARCH – MARK (sign), anagram (‘doctor’) of CREATES HER. Another nicely misleading definition.
14 Detain criminal retailer, a clerical fellow (9)
16 A flipping low number preserve reptiles (9)
ANACONDAS – A, then ‘flip’ SAD (low) + NO (number) + CAN (preserve).
18 Notice and study prosecutor’s further words (7)
ADDENDA – AD, DEN, DA. Monkey see, monkey solve?
19 Look over suit — it may have a slimming effect (4-3)
KEEP-FIT – PEEK (look, ‘over’), FIT (suit).
22 Part of Hull for one politician on the rise (5)
BILGE – E.G (for one), LIB (politician) all ‘on the rise’.
24 Tired of starter of lamb — like an omelette? (5)
LEGGY – L[amb], EGGY. I didn’t know this usage of LEGGY, but the wordplay was clear.

42 comments on “Times Cryptic No 27666 – Saturday, 16 May 2020. The mellow mists of May.”

  1. I lost track of the time and went off leaderboard; which was just as well, as I had one wrong: not knowing of the Turner Prize, I biffed PRISE, I’m not sure why. Also DNK KEEP-FIT, HELICON, LEGGY. Liked PRECARIOUS.
  2. No time recorded but I wrote ‘hard’ on the print-out, so I must have struggled a bit before completing the grid without resorting to aids. My only unknown was UMBEL. Seeing NIGHTHAWK at 17ac reminds me I am enjoying a box-set of ‘ALLO ‘ALLO to brighten this gloomy time. All very non-PC but hilarious none the less. Good moaning!
  3. I took 55 minutes to finish this, with PRECARIOUS and ANACONDAS unparsed biffs like snakes dangling from the branches of a plane tree. After the event, I managed to construct the instruction for ANACONDAS, and finally the PRECARIOUS pun dawned on me like a joke you laugh at at a party but don’t get until the next morning. It was a good joke worthy of COD, but under my rules is ineligible for that competition as I didn’t see it at the time. So COD to HEARSAY. This time I remembered FIREDOG, and knew LEGGY as a term used in football commentary. A good Saturday puzzle. Thank you Bruce and setter.
  4. A steady solve, c20 mins although held up by writing HELCION which caused a it of an apartment blockage for a little while.
  5. ….and the FIREDOG ? OK, I know it was a firecat in the album title, but there’s no denying that this was a teaser. It took me over my 20 minute target, but I’m not complaining since it was time so well spent.

    I was convinced that “wobbly teeth” was the indicator for a partial anagram at 1A, but fortunately I moved on quickly. I then wasted time trying to fit T inside a breed of dog at 15A.

    However, my biggest peccadillo was biffing “goosander” at 17A as “close to warming” indicated G followed by OO (“ducks”). I had to eat UMBEL pie and erase it. Then I thought “‘Allo, ‘allo” and the truth was revealed.

    The bottom half was complete in 15 minutes, apart from my eventual LOI, which took me a three minute alpha-trawl to nail down. The late trawl has been a regular feature of last week. I feel like a striker who has seen off four defenders, and then frozen when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. I need to get one in the back of the net soon to cure my affliction !

    Finally 28A – a mixer in MALT WHISKY ? Utter sacrilege !

    TIME 24:40

  6. I found this difficult. Only 7 clues solved after my first session and only 11 by 2pm when I took another break.
    In the end I failed to find PRECARIOUS and 2d also defeated me. I consider myself easy-going but was a bit annoyed to find this as a single nine letter word.
    Managed to guess the unknown UMBEL;for me, all flower parts are in the Unknown category so I’d better learn some. COD to SWEET TALK.
  7. You give a vague definition of ‘helicon’. It may have a long ‘i’ but it could be short. Is it a wind, perhaps, like the Sirocco or a musical instrument like a sousaphone? Wikipedia is not particularly helpful.
  8. I found this really hard going, with PUMAS inexplicably holding me up righ to the bitter end, which was 56:44 into the proceedings. NHO HELICON or LEGGY in that sense. Liked PRECARIOUS, when I eventually got it! Retired bloodied but unbowed. Thanks setter and Bruce.
  9. According to Chambers:

    helicon /helˈi-kon or -kən/
    A circular bass tuba
    ORIGIN: Poss from Gr helix spiral

      1. Having recently checked this, one definition of ‘wind’ in Collins is ‘a wind instrument.’

        Edited at 2020-05-23 08:35 am (UTC)

        1. I know setters like their obscure words and play fast and loose with language but this is either a deliberately perverse construct or a typo. ‘…a wind’? If it is the wind instrument, it should be clearer, if it is not, then what? It’s as bad as last week’s ‘tank’. If it’s going to be like this, why bother?
          1. I reckon the setter is being generous (after being annoying by including an obscure word). Helicon is named from the fact that it winds around the player. It is a woodwind instrument. There’s double help there.
            I only guessed at the helico = winding part (helix, helicopter, etc), had no idea what the word meant – musical instrument? really? – but there was enough there to solve it.

            Edited at 2020-05-23 12:38 pm (UTC)

              1. A brass instrument is a wind instrument. I do find the definition-by-category odd though, in spite of what Collins says. It’s like defining ‘spaniel’ as ‘dogs’.

                Edited at 2020-05-23 02:04 pm (UTC)

                    1. I’m replying, I think, to Isla3 who uses the term in the comment above. Like my twin brother says: ‘Ullo John, got a new helicon?’
                    2. Yes I think there’s some confusion between the terms. As I mentioned below, I never even realised before today (or had perhaps forgotten) that wind and woodwind didn’t mean the same thing.
                1. Actually, cymbals are normally brass.

                  So, more accurately, winds (alternatively, wind instruments) can be wood or brass.

                  1. ‘A woodwind’ – which is a usage that no one is disputing – is obviously ‘a wind’ made of ‘wood’.
                    1. The usage I don’t recognise here is ‘a wind’. It’s in Collins so technically I can’t really complain I suppose but still it grates. Perhaps that’s just my musical ignorance though.
                1. Never mind, I didn’t know my helicon from my sousaphone. Aren’t we ignorant plebs?
    1. I’m familiar with the term ‘woodwind section’ but not ‘a wind’. Is a violin ‘a string’? A triangle ‘a percussion’? Anyway, wouldn’t a tuba or sousaphone be ‘a brass’?
      1. Chambers again:

        wind instrument noun
        A musical instrument sounded by means of a current of air, esp a woodwind or brass instrument sounded by the breath.

          1. Hang on, the blogger says it is a long ‘i’. Do you think someone is trying to wind us up?
            1. Oh, now he/she has changed it to a short ‘i’. Maybe had the wind put up them.
  10. 24:12. It says “Nice one!” and “Proper chewy!” on my copy. PUMAS and PRECARIOUS my last 2 in. I liked the “wobbly teeth” misdirection. I hadn’t heard of the tuba like instrument and the meaning of LEGGY at 24D. Lots of ticks on my copy. I liked the intersecting KEEP FIT and MALT WHISKY best. Thanks Bruce and entertaining setter.
  11. 52:22. Should’ve known that a puzzle number ending in 666 would be fiendish. Certainly a few times when I wondered if I was going to finish. Knew mount Helicon as home of the muses in Greek mythology, dnk it as an instrument. I liked the diagnosis of consumption definition and thought precarious a very good clue.
    1. My first thought too was a Greek mountain (or river or spring) with a Muses connection. Perhaps it’s the wind that blows up there, inspiring them so that they may inspire us. Is there, one wonders, a Muse for cryptic crossword setters? Daidalia?
  12. 37:28. A tough one. I had no idea what a HELICON was but from the discussion above I realise that I have always thought that in an instrument context ‘wind’ was synonymous with ‘woodwind’. You live and learn.
  13. I always thought of bilges rather than BILGE (PUMP).

    FOI 6ac MISS

    COD 11ac HEARSAY

    WOD 25ac HELICON

    DNF 1ac and dn remained stubborn so I retired to something more interesting

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  15. Really struggled with this but got there after many sittings. Precarious took forever but all the toil was well rewarded by 9ac – market research. Excellent!
  16. Done this am. 45 minutes. An immensely satisfying puzzle – though not a quick solve. LEGGY was the only unknown. I only know it as a word to describe garden plants that have grown stalky rather than bushy. I knew HELICON as a curly brass instrument so “wind” seemed to be a reasonable definition. 1a was my LOI and gave me great joy when the penny dropped.

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