Times Cryptic No 28536 – Saturday, 25 February 2023. Sleightly slippery.

Today’s setter did some delightful “sleight of hand” with words that deceived the solver. The definitions in 12d and 14d looked like something entirely different; I smiled at mention of the playmaker in 17d too. The puzzle was about standard difficulty for a Saturday, but high for enjoyment!

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 Cramped hotel with some current difficulties at first (8)
HAMPERED – H=hotel + AMPERE=a unit of electrical current + D(ifficulties).
6 Accountant plugs something essential to make capital (6)
MUSCAT – C.A. plugs MUST.
9 Want to catch ball, playing ties? Perhaps use this (8,5)
LACROSSE STICK – LACK=want, to catch CROSS=ball (when passed from one footballer to another) + (TIES)*. I thought lacrosse players might use rackets or bats, but no: sticks.
10 Eco, we’re told, is a 20th-century novelist (6)
GREENE – sounds like GREEN=eco.
11 Dope engaged by factory sounding mournful (8)
PLANGENT – GEN=dope, in the sense of information, engaged by PLANT=factory.
13 The setters with erudition pocketing pounds? It’s merited! (4-6)
WELL-EARNED – WE=the setters + LEARNED, pocketing L=pounds.
15 Assert someone partying wildly will lose face (4)
16 Old writer not keeping any secrets (4)
18 Bighead caught by copper around bar (6,4)
CLEVER DICK – C=caught + LEVER=bar + DICK=copper.
21 Intoxicated female this person’s greeting (4-4)
HIGH-FIVE – HIGH=intoxicated + F=female + I’VE=this person has.
22 Rating given to bachelor with timid clothing worn (6)
SHABBY – AB=naval rating + B=bachelor, worn by SHY=timid.
23 Scout in story books, small boy doing magical things (6,7)
TALENT SPOTTER – TALE=story + NT=books of the Bible + S=small + POTTER=Harry the magician.
25 Dug into strip of earth, in favour of starting (6)
PROBED – PRO=in favour of + BED=strip of earth.
26 Holy place admitting use of tech’s a pressing matter (8)
PRIORITY – PRIORY=holy place, admitting IT=use of technology.
2 Cheers up, having drunk lager for free (2,5)
AT LARGE – AT=TA up. Then (LAGER)*.
3 Meal was short of alcohol, according to Spooner (6,5)
PACKED LUNCH – LACKED PUNCH, according to Spooner.
4 In France, current ruler ultimately perfect? (5)
RHONE – (rule)R + HONE=to perfect.
5 Refuse to go here, with stand-up being funny (7)
6 Almost fail to catch name for butcher (9)
MISHANDLE – MIS(s)=fail to catch. HANDLE=name.
7 Baseless bit of satire is to go downhill (3)
SKI – SKI(t).
8 Call for new fab dresses, showing how one may look (7)
ASKANCE – ASK=call for. ACE=fab dresses N=new.
12 Relative, endlessly strict and formidable mater? (11)
GRANDMASTER – GRANDMA + STER(n). Delightful definition! Checkmating at chess; nothing to do with mater and pater.
14 Warned about getting demoted and publicly flogged (9)
AUCTIONED – CAUTIONED=warned, with C=about getting demoted.
17 Advice from English playmaker receiving ball (7)
POINTER – PINTER receiving O=ball. Cunning setter, making him sound like a footballer instead of a playwright!
19 Balances fizzy drink, moving head down (5,2)
EVENS UP – SEVEN UP, with the first letter moved down.
20 Travelling act goes round without furnishing entertainment (7)
CABARET – BARE=without furnishing. (ACT)* goes round the outside.
22 Problem screening Love Island in European country there (5)
SUOMI – SUM=problem, screening O=love, then I=island. “There” is in the definition because the answer is the local Finnish name for Finland.
24 Throw up, with layabout appearing topless (3)
LOB – (s)LOB=layabout.

14 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28536 – Saturday, 25 February 2023. Sleightly slippery.”

  1. I think this took me about 35′; it was slow going, anyway. 10ac took me a ridiculously long time to see; I couldn’t get away from Umberto, who was a 20th-century novelist. COD to GRANDMASTER, which also took me forever.

  2. Liked that, for the definitions Bruce mentions and its general humour and good fun. Was miffed at the time by the extraneous “to catch” in the clue for 6 dn having parsed it as MIS(s) = almost fail, but I now see how it works. Nice puzzle, thanks setter and blogger.

  3. GRANDMASTER was my LOI. I remember now that never fully parsed LACROSSE… “cross=ball,” eh? OK, good to know!

    1. You’re not the only one… I was quite miffed when I finally realised that was what was meant, although I had no problem getting the answer, as I had STICK and the L.

  4. 38 minutes. No problems apart from wondering about ball / CROSS in 9ac for a while, but then I figured it was probably a term for a passed ball in soccer. SUOMI came up in an ST puzzle blogged on 19 February so it was fresh in my mind although I knew it anyway from stamp collecting.

  5. Tricky, so frustrating, but eventually satisfying; a brilliant puzzle. I really enjoyed the crafty, unusual definitions in AUCTIONED and GRANDMASTER (my COD), even though at the latter’s level, mate rarely actually happens as the defeated player usually resigns when s/he sees it coming. FOI AT LARGE followed by GREENE went in very quickly, and I expected a quick solve, but could not have been more wrong. However when the MATER penny dropped the remaining spaces in the SE corner yielded as quickly as the first two. I finally twigged how my LOI, SUOMI worked, but must wait a week for the blog to see where the BUTCHER fits in the half-parsed 6d. Update 4th March: I took “almost fail to catch” as the definition, saw the NAME but not the BUTCHER! Much enjoyed, thanks, Setter and Brnchn.

  6. An excellent puzzle with some tricky bits as mentioned.
    I remembered SUOMI from its recent appearance.
    The two which held me up were GRANDMASTER and AUCTIONED.

  7. DNF, defeated by GRANDMASTER. Despite having all the checkers, I couldn’t get away from thinking ‘relative’ was the definition, even though nothing would fit… I’m going to blame my Saturday brain.

    COD Auctioned

  8. SUOMI was a write-in after its recent appearance, but MUSCAT was entered with much puzzlement, as I’d heard of the grape, but not the capital, which I checked afterwards. It doesn’t seem to come up in the news much. In 21A I had HIGH-TIME initially – there is always a heart-sink when I see ‘this person’s’ or ‘the setter’s’ as there are so many possibilities. Luckily, ‘female’ nagged at me before I’d managed to convince myself it was right. FOI HAMPERED followed by most of the NW corner, LOsI OPEN and POINTER – I really can’t say why – the former is QC stuff! Anyway, a good challenge, with some lovely PDMs. COD GRANDMASTER.

  9. Straightforward, barring a slight MER at parsing lacrosse stick, and a nice crossword overall.
    As a chessplayer, I did like Grandmaster… (dream on)

  10. 23.11

    GRANDMASTER was also my LOI despite being an avid player and having just blitzed out some 3 minute games on chess.com (other sites available). Well disguised indeed.

    Nice puzzle

    Thanks all

Comments are closed.