Times Cryptic No 28488 – Saturday, 31 December 2022. Break out the bubbly!

Two for the price of one today, since the blog for the Christmas Eve puzzle was carried forward an extra week.

Nice to see Champers getting a mention in the NYE crossword. A medium difficulty puzzle, that should have left you all well set up for the evening to follow!  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. Italics mark anagram indicators in the clues, and ‘assembly instructions’ in the explanations.

1 Island that’s really dreary to the west, graduate inhabiting it (8)
BARBADOS – SO DRAB=really dreary. Turn that to the west, and insert BA=graduate.
6 Anything but scruffy wood? (6)
SPRUCE – two definitions.
9 Creature woven in a tapestry, one less obvious initially (5,8)
SPINY ANTEATER – (IN A TAPESTRY -NE)*. Take the O=obvious, initially, out of ONE before doing the anagram.
10 Pipe is back on after measure of acid (6)
SIPHON – SI=is, back + PH=measure of acid + ON.
11 Line on complex diagram noted Renaissance work (8)
13 Bowler on top (3,7)
LEG SPINNER – LEG=the ‘on’ side, at cricket + SPINNER=top (the toy).
15 Fuel in pinch of tobacco, kerosene (4)
COKE – hidden answer.
16 Wine that’s fine in Champagne region? (4)
CAVA – This cute trick has come up before, but it’s still fresh and sparkly! With Champagne to bring in the New Year, as well. To reprise what I said in 2018, “OK” in French could be “ça va”. Regardless of whether Champagne wines are red or white, and whether sparkling or still, CAVA is a Spanish sparkling wine.
18 Jump in vehicle: rank behind post office (10)
21 Support position of white knight in resolution (8)
BACKBONE – BACK=support + B ONE. In algebraic notation in chess, white’s queen’s knight starts at position B1 (B-ONE, geddit?).
22 Immediately bowled in match: duck! (6)
SUBITO – B=bowled (at cricket) in SUIT=match + O=duck (again, at cricket). A musical instruction.
23 Day in Labour far off for Conservative PM (6,7)
25 Man in stronghold … (6)
CASTLE – two definitions: chess, and fortifications.
26 … that I’d mistaken for more than one fortress (8)
CITADELS – (CASTLE ID)*.  Some of the anagram letters come from the previous answer. I generally dislike clues joined by ellipses, but this one is rather nice.
2 Sponsorship: something valuable with added interest (7)
AUSPICE – AU=gold (something valuable) + SPICE=added interest. I’m not sure about the definition: Chambers seems to confirm my thought that sponsorship or patronage would be auspices, in the plural.
3 Wit is bachelor’s field, that’s about correct! (6,5)
4 Carry out currency for elder (5)
5 Visitor at night with mother welcomed by partners (7)
SANDMAN – MA welcomed by S AND N = bridge partners.
6 Far into region, on uphill journey — car slower? (5,4)
SPEED TRAP – DEEP into PARTS, all uphill, in this down clue.
7 Unproductive habit leaving book unfinished (3)
RUT – RUT(H) is a book of the Old Testament. Somehow this clue seemed a bit flat to me.
8 Fish added to chest where space hopefully found? (3,4)
12 Novel featuring chic Siberian family (2,4,5)
IN COLD BLOOD – IN=chic + COLD=Siberian + BLOOD=family.
14 Moot point in our edict redrafted (9)
INTRODUCE – N (north) is a compass point. Put that in the anagram: (N OUR EDICT)*. The definition is a verb: the idea was mooted in the discussion.
17 Middle-class drama that’s sent up just the same? (3,4)
AGA SAGA – the hint is that it’s a palindrome.
19 Cutting tree, first of all, bring in chainsaw (7)
ACERBIC – ACER=tree + B I C, as the first letters of each.
20 Note someone who’s exceptionally gifted (7)
NATURAL – two definitions. Musical, or a person of talent.
22 Smack bottom of scoundrel during argument (5)
SPLAT – L during SPAT.
24 Those articles tawdry, primarily? (3)
TAT – again, the first letters of each word, with the whole clue as definition.

14 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28488 – Saturday, 31 December 2022. Break out the bubbly!”

  1. I biffed LOI CAVA, having no idea how the clue worked, and no memory of the previous example. I knew the Balfour Declaration, didn’t realize he’d been PM. Also DNK SUBITO (Bruce, you’ve got ‘fit’ for ‘match’). 25ac/26ac is a rare example of ellipses actually joining two clues. But does it work? The ‘that’ is not part of the anagrist, so how does ‘castle that I’d’ become (CASTLE ID)*? I liked 9ac SPINY ANTEATER, 13ac LEG SPINNER, & 21ac BACKBONE.

  2. I saw (or maybe remembered) the “ça va” trick and I knew CAVA was Spanish sparkling wine. I didn’t know SUBITO. I was fine with the CASTLE being used as part of the anagram (and I’m sure some purist will be along to say that it is a Rook and not a Castle…but we are doing crosswords, not playing chess). I don’t think I’ve ever come across AUSPICE in the singular but it seemed pretty plausible. I knew BALFOUR had been a prime minister (and made a declaration) but I don’t think I knew his first name.

    But I got there in the end. BACKBONE was my last one in and I messed that up since I assumed support was the definition, I got the b1 bit, but BACK doesn’t mean resolution and it didn’t quite work anyway. But with the crossers it couldn’t be anything else.

  3. I knew “subito” from the end of the second verse of Charles Trenet’s “Le Soleil et la lune,” a song I often perform at karaoke (where my nom de chanson when I sing in English is SANDMAN): “C’est alors que docteurs, savants et professeurs / Entonnèrent subito tous en chœur / Le soleil a rendez-vous avec la lune / Mais la lune n’est pas là et le soleil attend,” etc. Thing is, the moon is there, but the sun can’t see her(!) because he (!) keeps on shining… As the song says, it’s a common story. Anyway, “sudden” is “subit(e)” in French, so pas de problème.

    Collins will go only so far as to say that the “patronage, sponsorship, protection,” etc. sense of AUSPICE is usually in the plural, while Merriam-Webster strictly confines the singular to the sense of a favorable omen, or any ostensibly prophetic sign, and I’m surprised that Chambers, by the blogger’s report, is equally strict.

  4. 80 minutes with some resort to aids towards the end and with several unparsed. I noted that after the first 20 minutes I had only two answers in the grid to show for my efforts.

  5. 35:17
    Was considering Robert “Piggy” Muldoon for the conservative PM when he fitted my early crossers, but a NZ politician did seem a bit obscure.
    As a chess player I knew that the knight’s position in 21a was B1. It didn’t help at first, as I was trying to put BI into the answer. MER at 25a of course.
    CAVA was last in; thinking of an alternative spelling for the south pacific drink KAVA which isn’t a wine. Nho the Spanish variety.

  6. Since 17D, my LOI, was a wild guess, I have to say that this puzzle was a bit of an ‘Ala-Bala’ for me! Yes, of course I’d heard of an Aga Saga – I’ve read enough of them over the years! – but I failed to do an alphabet trawl except on the middle letter, assuming (wrongly) that A-A had to be Ala… I did think it was a bit unfair to have only As as crossers with no other cryptic definition, but clearly it hasn’t prevented the rest of you from getting the answer! Otherwise, all correct. A mix of the very obvious and the baffling for the rest of the puzzle – I failed to parse CAVA (embarrassingly, as I speak French), LEG SPINNER (also embarrassing), BACKBONE (I don’t play Chess) or CITADELS until post-submission, though the answer was obvious enough. History not being my strong point, I didn’t know Balfour’s first name, so lucky it was an anagram. I was grateful for the extra solving time on this one, like the previous week’s one, as I wouldn’t have had time to complete a daily.

  7. Enjoyed CAVA once I’d figured it out. SPINY ANTEATER took a long time to come, and I never parsed BACKBONE. Don’t remember there being too many problems otherwise.

    COD Introduce

  8. B1 was far too clever for me, so not parsed. I would normally refer to that square as QN1, although I gather that A-H is more usual nowadays. Anyway, usually fail to translate 1 to ONE, so unsurprised I couldn’t parse.

  9. 25a I don’t see how “man” is a castle in chess? The castle in chess is a ,er, castle.

  10. Well it took me nearly 3 weeks but I got there. Backbone was only one I couldn’t parse so thanks. Afraid that when I learnt chess the squares were called QKt1 etc. I do know th e more usual modern notation but really didn’t occur to me. Maybe next time something similar comes up I will be more with it. Thanks to setter for a puzzle that kept me guessing but was really very fair.

  11. Unlike the rest of you, I only had a breakfast-time hour to start and finish this, so just left out the NHOs without too much head scratching, and came here for elucidation. The aforementioned were: SUBITO, AGA SAGA (?) and poor old ARTHUR BALFOUR. But I was pleased to get most others without too much angst, and especially enjoyed the PDMs of SPINY ANTEATER, LEG SPINNER ( know nothing about cricket), BARBADOS and BRIGHT SPARK, and the novel went in without a blink. Thanks to setter and brnchn.

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