Times Cryptic No 28404 – Saturday, 24 September 2022. Mathematically non-trivial.

Several things here I’d never heard of: snooker venue? NHO. British telco? NHO. Rings round clouds? NHO! More than made up for by three delightful mathematics references, which admittedly may have failed to delight some of our group! End result: rather a slow solve. But, thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle. How did you all get on?

Note for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is for last week’s puzzle, posted after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on this week’s Saturday Cryptic.

Definitions are underlined. (ABC)* means anagram of ABC, with anagram indicators italicised.

1 Play snooker here (3,8)
THE CRUCIBLE – two meanings. A play by Arthur Miller, or a venue for snooker championships. NHO the second.
7 I’m dismayed“, foreign character said (3)
FIE – sounds like the Greek letter PHI. My first thought was that ‘fie’ means ‘shame on you’, but I suppose that’s much the same thing.
9 Engineer electing to save energy, having a certain appeal (9)
TELEGENIC – (ELECTING E)*. The final E is for energy.
10 Young man’s bread from New York, maybe bagel (5)
BUCKO – BUCK=money in New York + O=the traditional shape of a bagel.
11 Entrance in side of vessel I start to climb over (7)
PORTICO – PORT=side of vessel + I + C(limb) O(ver).
12 African swaps volume for book about capital (7)
NAIROBI – change an IVORIAN’s V to B, and write the result backwards. Nice work, setter.
13 Decorative covering hard to remove from Taoist text (5)
ICING – the I C(h)ING is an ancient Chinese text.
15 Ring hotline with a strange name (9)
ANTHELION – (HOTLINE A)* + N=name. NHO. It’s an optical phenomenon. Read more here.
17 One digs up wine drunk by e.g. retired politician, mostly (9)
EXCAVATOR – EX TOR(y) ‘drinking’ CAVA.
19 Parts of the leg almost drop a little lower (5)
CALVE – CALVE(s). ‘Lowers’ here are cattle.
20 America repeated claims about Russia’s leader: they generate much interest (7)
USURERS – US + US ‘claiming’ RE=about + R(ussia).
22 Close shaven, saving face (7)
24 A tot of Islay or Loch Lomond? (5)
BAIRN – a cryptic definition: the Scots word for a child. Nothing to do with whisky.
25 Bon vivant Elaine periodically eats overly good treat (9)
EPICUREAN – EAN from ElAiNe, ‘eating’ PI + CURE.
27 Guy is not a reputable source of news (3)
RAG – two meanings. Making fun of, or the sort of newspaper most useful as a fish and chips wrapper.
28 Stirred limeade into dish for viewers (7,4)
MATINEE IDOL – (LIMEADE INTO)*. Dated concept, perhaps?
1 Make fabric so long, but slightly shortened (3)
TAT – TAT(a).
2 A number whizz about, spinning after regular servings of tequila (5)
EULER – EUL from tEqUiLa, followed by ER=re (about), ‘spinning’. Leonhard Euler – he’s come up before.
3 Fixing a system of wires and cables (7)
RIGGING – two meanings.
4 Letter from relative seized by crook and wino (9)
CONSONANT – CON=crook + SOT=wino, ‘seizing’ NAN.
5 Perhaps rasher rightist goes after bonanza on vacation (5)
BACON – B(onanz)A + CON.
6 Current offer to absorb phone company inside another (3,4)
EBB TIDE – EE=a phone company (NHO). BT=another such (this one I’d heard of). BID=offer. Assemble thus: E (B {BT} ID) E.
7 Fail badly to restrain player — it’s shown by this! (9)
FACTORIAL – ACTOR=player, in (FAIL)*. I love it when a punctuation mark is part of the clue!  In this case, it’s the definition, since in maths an exclamation mark signals a factorial function: so, 5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120. Some of you knew that. Some others may be unhappy!
8 English still displaying a stiff upper lip (11)
11 Paint with new colour for one such as five? (5,6)
14 Admitting case of insubordination, detective has stuck around (9)
INCLUDING – I(nsubordinatio)N + CLUNG=stuck, ‘around’ DI.
16 In America, curse desert going over land (9)
TARNATION – TAR=rat (desert) ‘going over’ + NATION.
18 Drive takes in famous mount in eastern state (7)
19 Prompt to follow Conservative Party (7)
21 Course is fixed, containing opposite directions (5)
SWEET – W(est) and E(ast) in SET.
23 Pieces my boss receives, and what he may do to them? (5)
EMEND – MEN=chess pieces, in ED=the setter’s boss.
26 Portion of macaroon I left for a round figure? (3)
NIL – hidden.

26 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28404 – Saturday, 24 September 2022. Mathematically non-trivial.”

  1. Yeah, I loved the FACTORIAL clue. The number of possible permutations of a deck of cards is 52! and is much larger than the number of all the atoms on Earth.

    I didn’t know the snooker place either, but the answer could be nothing else, and it made sense that there would be a famous club or tournament of that name.

    And ANTHELION is an addition to my vocabulary, but it entered quickly and easily.

    1. I hesitate to bring this up, but I hope that 27a was not the setter taking a dig at our eminent Sunday Times blogger. Surely not.

      1. Haha.
        I have to admit that the thought crossed my mind.
        I am confident, however, that the reference could only have been meant facetiously, if meant at all (which I doubt).

    2. Guy, The Crucible is not a snooker club, it’s a theatre in Sheffield that also hosts events, most notably the annual World Snooker Championships.

      1. I didn’t think that I positively asserted that it was (edited). My intent was to say that my passing thought when putting the answer in without looking it up was that it could easily be a club or a tournament. I did look it up later. It’s certainly a “venue for snooker championships,” as per the blog. “Crucible” would be a good name for a championship, wouldn’t it?

        When I Google just the two words “Crucible snooker,” the search engine immediately offers “Crucible snooker club.” Yet—because of my intense interest in all things sport, no doubt—I did find out about the theater, I mean, theatre. I may have added “championship” to the search terms.

        Pursuing that earlier Google offering, though, I find that there is indeed a Crucible Snooker Club on Nicholas Well Lane, Blarney St, Gurranabraher, Cork, Ireland.

        I find also that there is (or there are) Crucible Sports & Social Club(s), “based in Newbury and Reading”…

        a Crucible Snooker Club of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association at 75 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol…

        a “Crucible Snooker Club on Instagram”…

        a Crucible Snooker Club, Commerce House. 54 Derby Street. Manchester (on Yelp)…

        and apparently also a Crucible Snooker Club in Cork.

        There’s a link to the Crucible Theatre here, too. Penultimate entry on the first page of results.

        1. Okay, and I see you’ve amended the wording now. I wasn’t taking you to task, only pointing out since you’d written that you didn’t know ‘the snooker club’ that The Crucible is a theatre and events venue rather than a snooker club. It’s no big deal, just a point of information that if I hadn’t written somebody else would probably have come along later and done so.

          Anyway, having googled it myself I now see what has happened here. Because the Sheffield venue is famous for hosting the World Snooker Championships there are any number of local snooker clubs around the country that have been named ‘Crucible’ after it so a google search is of course going to bring them up .

          Edit: And I see whilst I have been writing this you have re-googled and posted some of the results which are the same as my findings mentioned in my final paragraph. Anyway an end to all this.

          1. Look, it’s been suggested (I don’t believe it) that the blogger was questioning the reliability of my information. I found the theatre a week ago, but it admittedly seems to have slipped my mind when reporting here. I just remembered that it was the name of a place that hosts the championship—rather than the name of the championship tournament (so is this theatre named after the play by Arthur Miller, or what?).

            It’s conceivable that there are people who deal with that part of the clue only by remembering that there’s a Crucible Snooker Club in their town, but who have never heard of the eponymous theatre. I mean, I’ve never lived over there, but I guess it’s possible.

        2. None of these are in common parlance in the UK – which doesn’t include Dubin. There is a resort in New Brunswick called ‘The Algonquin’ but it has nowt to do with ‘The Algonquin’ off of Time Square in Manhattan.

  2. Well done setter! The exclamation mark in 7d was a highlight!
    MATINEE IDOL was second favourite. Recognising that it would be an anagram I was trying to force MEAL to be the second word (thinking of something like a TV dinner as a dish for viewers) until Vietnam forced a strategic rethink.
    A toughie at 35:01

  3. 36 minutes. FACTORIAL was definitely my highlight, but there were some other good ones such as NAIROBI and CONSONANT. Happened to know THE CRUCIBLE and the two UK phone companies which helped. Had no idea about ANTHELION and after reading Wikipedia on the topic, I now know even less.

    No complaints though and I really enjoyed this.

  4. 70m 34s I thought this was a lot of fun. I put my extended solving time down to switching between the puzzle and watching the UCI Road Cycling World Championships, in this case the women’s road race, and failing to pause the puzzle from time to time.
    They were held in Wollongong, NSW, just across the Tasman. They might as well have been on another planet for all the media attention here in NZ. At least Sky covered them. TVNZ is very parochial.
    No problem with snooker or British telcos but I had never heard of ANTHELION.
    The only real hold-up was in 10ac where I had BUCKS for a long time and that messed up 8d.
    Being unmathematical I completely missed the significance of the ! in 7d, but at least I did solve the clue.
    Several CODs: CAROUSE, AIRLESS, BAIRN (“A tot of Islay”) and MATINEE IDOL (“Dish for viewers”)

      1. Thanks, David. I thought I had just edited it but obviously not. First version now deleted.

  5. For some reason, I biffed THE CRUCIBLE wirh just the T and C, and not knowing the snooker connection. DNK EE, but EBB TIDE seemed pretty safe. Definitely COD to FACTORIAL.

  6. A DNF due to the mispelling of 19dn CAROUSE and at 19ac CALFS instead of CALVE.

    FOI 1dn TAT – and not Tit-for-Tat.
    (LOI) 16dn TARNATION where l wrongly assumed that ‘Rats’ was the curse.
    COD 28ac MATINEE IDOL – Valentino – George Raft – Errol Flynn – Rock Hudson – Tony Cutis – Cliff Richards par example.
    WOD 25ac EPICUREAN -Michael Winner comes to mind.

    ‘The Crucible Theatre’ in Sheffield, is world famous as being ‘The Home of snooker’. Well it was until now! It has become too small financially, so there are plans to either expand it or even move it elsewhere in Sheffield. Meldrew

  7. 45 minutes for this one. I had real problems with 7ac before the checkers forced me to consider FIE sounding like “phi” whilst still not being totally convinced that the definition worked.

    Another problem was parsing NAIROBI but I worked it out eventually and it helped me later in the week when Ivory Coast (or rather Côte d’Ivoire) came up clued an African country and it was still fresh in my mind.

    I never did figure out exactly how EULER worked but I was pleased to remember his name thanks to Dorset Jimbo.

  8. My wife is a maths whizz, and so
    Leonhard EULER’s a name that I know
    At sums, I am dumber
    And FACTORIAL’s funny. Ho ho!!

  9. Clearly some people managed to solve this without aids but I was some way off.
    At 7a I considered GAD, BAH and DOH. I recognise the word FIE from old plays but it never occurred to me.
    At 10a I had BUNNY which seemed to work, just about.
    I assumed the curse in America was DARN. The NHO ANTHELION remained undiscovered.
    And so on. No carousing here. One for the very advanced solvers I think.

    1. Not so, David. I think it was a question of wavelength for you, since I did solve it, and am certainly not an advanced practitioner!

    2. Me Too, David! I was way off track – firstly by sticking to my guns with 1a as THE BALLROOM, and then NHO BUCKO, nor ANTHELION nor FACTORIAL. So a slow unsatisfactory solve for me with one surprise…I had recently made what I thought was a rather neat clue of “A little lower on the leg” for CALF , when , Lo and Behold, along comes 19a !! So, back to Square One ( no mathematician either!)

  10. I found this fairly difficult, though time and concentration eventually cracked it. Being on holiday in the US helped, as I think I tackled it, stress-free, over a couple of days. Knew EULER from previous puzzles, no idea about FACTORIAL, but it seemed the most likely, and that gave me the somewhat less plausible FIE. FOI CALVE, LOI ANTHELION, NHO, but deduced as the most likely distribution of the remaining letters. COD to BAIRN, for the clever misdirection.

  11. “One for the very advanced solvers I think”, says David above, my thoughts exactly. Which is fair enough. Satisfied to have unscrambled about one quarter of this without aids, and happy to read and learn here for the remaining three-quarters. One day, one day…

  12. I got completely the w. end of the s. at 15 where I though what was needed was an anagram of ‘O (ring) hotline a’ to make a random name.

    I also misread 7 and initially put in PHI and spent time fretting trying to remember (per discussion on a previous puzzle) what the other Greek letter was that sounds like an expression of disapproval (PSI/sigh).

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