Times Cryptic No 28494 – Saturday, 7 January 2023. Long live the king!

I was a bit sceptical about 2dn describing the King as “former”. Then, now and always, surely! Still a classical Saturday challenge, with what seemed an unusual number of clues involving adding, subtracting or replacing letters. 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 Temperature effect includes possible victim of warming sea (4)
REEF – hidden.
3 Be off to drink a traditional scrumpy — turned, I’m afraid (7-3)
SCAREDY-CAT – SCAT=be off, drinking REDYCA=a cyder (old spelling), turned.
10 I’ll oppose memorable date, making second to fourth day (9)
ADVERSARY – A(NNI)VERSARY, with letters 2-4 replaced by D.
11 Brutes turn over matter to the courts (5)
OGRES – OG=GO (turn), over + RES=legal term for ‘matter’.
12 Rubber marks guarantee to bring the end forward (7)
MASSEUR – M + ASSURE, with the E at the end brought forward.
13 English climate protesters circling low national park (6)
EXMOOR – E + XR=Extinction Rebellion circling MOO=low.
15 A coming out that’s suddenly shocking? (9,6)
LIGHTNING STRIKE – I think this is just a double definition. Industrial action, or the meteorological kind.
18 Anarchic idea of suited office worker, ignoring page weight for Americans (8,2,5)
PROPERTY IS THEFT – PROPER=suited + TY(P)IST=office worker, ignoring P=page + HEFT=weight (an American usage, apparently). According to Wikipedia, “Property is theft!” is a slogan coined by French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What Is Property? I’d heard the expression, but not its provenance.
21 Adding any number twice could make this field average lower (6)
MEADOW – MEADOW=field, of course. Adding  2 x N=any number could produce MEA(N) DOW(N). An imaginative clue, but it works. Also unusual in that the definition is not at either front or back of the clue.
23 Very old script at hand in library (6,1)
26 Question welcomed by impartial holy man (5)
FAQIR – Q welcomed by FAIR. I’m more used to seeing it spelled with a K.
27 De la Mare’s tragic heroine from Hugo’s book (9)
ESMERALDA – (DE LA MARES)*. The book was The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
28 Die tool fused onto article that measures angles (10)
THEODOLITE – THE=grammatical article + (DIE TOOL)*.
29 Extremely tiny kiddie? (4)
TYKE – T(in)Y K(iddi)E. Cute all-in-one definition/wordplay.
1 I’m serious, see what I’m saying? (4,2,4)
READ MY LIPS – cryptic hint.
2 Former King curtailing speech in Rivendell? (5)
ELVIS – fans of The Lord of Rings will know that in Rivendell, they spoke ELVIS(H). The King may have left the building, but how can anyone describe him as “former”?
4 Discussion about Irish mostly living way up mountain (9)
5 Her and my playing sound similar at the end (5)
6 One’s walked all over Dartmoor, not quite disoriented (7)
7 Cutting of climber almost strangled by my flowering bush (9)
CORROSIVE – IV(Y) strangled by COR=my + ROSE.
8 Projection from mouth  that usually stops kiss at the outset (4)
TUSK – first letters of each (at the outset).
9 Pressing desire never to lose heart (6)
URGENT – URGE + N(o)T. I’m not altogether sure why NEVER=NOT. Any ideas?
14 One with backbone investing billions in green energy tax (10)
VERTEBRATE – VERT=green + E=energy + B=billions + RATE=tax. Again, I’m not altogether sure why TAX=RATE.
16 Unusually strong queen dismissing both knights, not a pretty sight (9)
GROTESQUE – (STRO-G QUEE-)*.  Take out 2 x N=knight, before doing the anagram. We could lend the two Ns to 21ac!
17 Diver’s remorse, eating endless acidic fruit (9)
19 Was suffering but carried on (7)
ENDURED – two definitions.
20 Support broken by climbing ladder, holding post (6)
TENURE – TEE=golf support, broken by NUR=run, climbing. ‘Holding post’  would be TENURED, so perhaps ‘holding’ is not part of the definition?
22 Roll wide part of shoe (5)
WHEEL – W=wide + HEEL.
24 Court helper drops each book in temper (5)
25 Crime-solving tool to help when Ben escapes (1-3)

21 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28494 – Saturday, 7 January 2023. Long live the king!”

  1. 37:55
    A tough one. I failed to parse SCAREDY-CAT, ADVERSARY, EXMOOR (DNK XR, DNK that Exmoor is a national park), & PROPERTY IS THEFT. I also wondered about ‘former’ at 2d; it’s not necessary, and it forces the setter to capitalize ‘King’.

    1. Actually I think King should still have a forced capital, because he was “the King”.

      1. That occurred to me afterwards; I was thinking that the clue could have read “King curtailing …”.

  2. I found this a good challenge with Extinction Rebellion barely heard of. I figured the Former King was to avoid having to put “the king” which would be too obvious. But I messed up at the end and put ESMERELDA, since I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t check the anagrist carefully enough. No problem with Exmoor since I used to drive past it when I had to go down the Cornwall to see my Dad (also Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor). I can never remember E-FIT either, which comes up from time to time. I don’ think I’ve ever seen FAQIR spelt like that, but the wordplay was clear and those sorts of words often have alternative spellings.

  3. Damn straight, man! “Former”?! OK, so who replaced him? He’ll always be “the King,” even if Michael Jackson should remain “the king of Pop.” The soubriquet relates to the time in which it was bestowed.

    I have no excuse, having read Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (en français, bien sûr), and I still misspelled the captivating lady’s name. A double fault, then, along with not checking the anagrist. I have to shape up! Nice puzzle, though.

  4. 57m 37s
    I agree with you, Bruce, this was an enjoyable puzzle. I was surprised, though, at the number of clues (3) that required the insertion or deletion of letters, depending on which way you looked at them. 21ac: MEADOW involved two Ns; 24d ALLOY involved two Bs and 16d GROTESQUE involved two Ns again. 25d also required a deletion -BEN- from BENEFIT. While I’m at it, now that you’ve explained it Bruce, 10ac ADVERSARY also requires the deletion of two Ns.
    I agree with you, Bruce, about URGENT. NEVER = NOT?
    NHO Rivendell. Thanks for LINEAR B and PROPERTY IS THEFT.
    Had to take care to spell ESMERALDA correctly.
    CODs to MASSEUR (also LOI) and CORROSIVE.

    1. What about, say, this from the Monty Python Dennis Moore sketch?
      A: That’s [that tree] nothing like a willow.
      B: Well it doesn’t matter anyway! …
      A: Never a willow.

    2. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen “never” equated with “not” in one of these things.

      I think it hasn’t bothered me because the words are equivalent in certain contexts: Green is not red, and wrong is not right; alive is not dead, and day is not night…
      Like, ever, right?

      1. I think there’s a difference, though, between your examples and the willow one: green is never red=there is no time/occasion/case where green is red, etc., where one would not say that there is no time when that tree is a willow. I don’t think one comes across willow cases in American English.

        1. If by “willow case” you mean the usage in the Python sketch, to me that doesn’t seem odd or far-fetched. I don’t think time really has anything to do with it. I think “never” is just an emphatic way of saying “not,” “absolutely not,” “it could never be” the case that the tree was a different kind.

  5. Best part of an hour to solve this but I got there in the end and understood everything well enough. I looked twice at ‘never/NOT’ then shrugged and moved on.

  6. Challenging and enjoyable. Carefully checked ESMERALDA and corrected first draft error.
    Lots of question marks about 22a but I got there eventually thinking incorrectly that LOWER was meant to suggest a Cow.
    LOI the very difficult CORROSIVE.
    Needed a couple of long sessions.

  7. FAQIR not seen spelt that way, but it went in with a shrug. In the end MEADOW had to go in with the checkers, and I was able to parse it, but with a considerable ‘ER’ at the definition being in the middle. I thought that was verboten. My other quibble wasn’t with NEVER/NOT, but with SUITED/PROPER. I can’t think of a context in which they would be interchangeable. Anybody? I didn’t feel at any time on the setter’s wavelength and it was a long, hard struggle to finish, with particular bug-bears being SCAREDY-CAT, PROPERTY IS THEFT and ADVERSARY, which I delayed putting in for ages, as I couldn’t parse it, despite realising it was NNI to D! Nearly gave up on CORROSIVE, LOI. I think my problem was not being able to work out what the definition was on this one, and many others. They were very well hidden.

    1. SUITED means “right or appropriate for a particular person, purpose or situation.”
      PROPER can also mean “of the required type; suitable or appropriate.”

  8. 46 minutes with a very hesitating start: after READ MY LIPS, which I saw right away, LINEAR B was the first clue I could solve and it took ages to slowly fill in all the remaining blanks. I was expecting CORROSIVE to turn out to be a flowering bush and there were many other clues similarly misleading. That the King would be ELVIS would not have been quite as obvious if his daughter hadn’t just died (after the puzzle actually appeared a week ago).

  9. Very tough going for me, even though READ MY LIPS, REEF, LIGHTNING STRIKE and LINEAR B went straight in (know the latter is a ‘thing’ but not what). NHO PROPERTY IS THEFT but probably should have; and wouldn’t have gotten the answer anyway. Liked E-FIT and ESMERALDA (only vaguely remembered!) but generally a very hard slog which defeated me.

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