Times Cryptic No 28542 – Saturday, 04 March 2023. American exceptionalism?

Much to like this week. Answers went in quickly, until I slowed down in the NE corner. My LOI, and also my COD, was 7dn with its clever reference to Washington DC. Exceptional!

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 Revamped Saudi PVC and international rubber business (5,3)

Sadly, the Davis Cup is a shade of its former self.

9 Cruel, having daft host do a tune! (8)
INHUMANE – INANE=daft hosts HUM=do a tune.

One of my last in – HUM eluded me.

10 Something indistinct posh sort of camera conceals (4)
SLUR – SLR (single-lens reflex) conceals U.
11 Deafening activity in cornmill? (3-9)
EAR-SPLITTING – a whimsical hint, perhaps.

I would think a cornmill grinds the corn, rather than “splitting” the ears.

13 Entrance to basilica provided with ancient sort of doors? (6)
BIFOLD – B(asilica) + IF + OLD.
14 Welfare initiative with intent: right for everyone (8)
OUTREACH – OUT=intent (“he’s out for gold”) + R + EACH.
15 Pain keeping yours truly in old Scottish county hospital (7)
ANGUISH – ANGUS keeping I + H=hospital.

The Wikipedia entry suggests there still is a shire/county/council area (whatever) called ANGUS, so I’m not sure why the clue says “old”.

16 Test position pontiff, inelegantly, has adopted (4,3)
FINE LEG – hidden. A cricket clue.
20 With team not qualified, we’re obliged to find station for lift home? (4,4)
TAXI RANK – TA=we’re obliged + XI=cricket or football team + RANK=not qualified, as in “utter nonsense”.
22 Disinfectant no help with dislocation (6)
23 Several guards in front of gatehouse look cocky (12)
VAINGLORIOUS – VARIOUS=several, guards IN + G from Gatehouse + LO=look.
25 Dash from Channel, moving east to west (4)
ELAN – LANE=channel. Move E=east to the west! Cute.
26 Found vase for leading performer (4,4)
STAR TURN – START=found + URN=vase.

Found a business, for example.

27 Bypass that is expanded in Home Counties, with parking (8)
SIDESTEP – ID EST=the unabbreviated form of i.e., meaning “that is”. Put it in S.E.=Home Counties, and add P=parking.
2 Of the fifty US states, ten finally earn a mention of sorts (8)
ALLUSION – ALL U.S.=the 50 States + IO=ten + N=(ear)N.
3 Note what you’re hoping to work out, after sort of light hesitation (12)
IRRESOLUTION – I.R.=infrared + RE=note (do, re, mi) + SOLUTION.
4 Had races organised as party game (8)
5 Hell for quiet supporter of mine! (7)
PITPROP – PIT=hell + PRO=for + P=quiet.

I saw the answer from the helpers quickly, but it took me ages to see the wordplay.

6 Husband effectively to provide this plant? (6)
THRIFT – I didn’t know THRIFT is a plant (of course!) Let’s call the rest of the clue a cryptic hint.
7 Bed you’ll find in Washington DC’s superior (4)
WADI – WA=Washington State + D.I. (detective inspector)=D.C.’s superior.

A beautiful juxtaposition. Well done, setter!

8 One rolling up for protection from fellow corporate head: what a blunder! (8)
HEDGEHOG – HE=fellow + D.G. (Director General) = corporate head, of the BBC for example + EH=what? + O.G. (own goal)=a blunder!
12 Thursday elevenses — small, not large — including a whole lot of water (3,5,4)
THE SEVEN SEAS – TH=Thursday + ELEVENSES with L changed to S, and including an A. Tricky!
15 Militant part of drama to be played out much earlier? (8)
ACTIVIST – ACT IV is one of the later parts of any drama, so it would be much earlier for it to appear IST=first.
17 Acting style by lead on paper better (8)
IMPROVED – IMPROV=an acting style + ED=the leader of the newspaper staff.
18 Point to angle being formed, as protractors do? (8)
ELONGATE – E=point of the compass + (TO ANGLE)*.
19 Films covering game seen in winter sports venues (3,4)
SKI RUNS – SKINS covering RU.
21 Batting team ultimately so determined? (3-3)
ALL-OUT – a cryptic hint from what usually happens to a cricket team when batting.
24 One’s always gracious (1,3)
I SAY – I’S=one’s + AY=always.

19 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28542 – Saturday, 04 March 2023. American exceptionalism?”

  1. WADI was my LOI, and very good it is!
    PITPROP was a very late one too, NHO—and “pit” by itself is much more often “mine.”
    And TAXI RANK required an alphabet trawl, as it’s not a term this Yank is familiar with.
    All the expected fun.

  2. I ran out of steam on this one as the hour approached and resorted to aids to finish off the NE quarter where I was missing THRIFT (NHO as plant, or had forgotten it) and WADI (vaguely knew of but needed help from wordplay that wasn’t forthcoming).

    Elsewhere my inability to parse 10ac should have told me that my answer, BLUR, was incorrect but since I didn’t know SLR as ‘single-lens reflex’ the wordplay was never going to rescue me.

    I noted in the margin last weekend that I had never heard of BIFOLD doors although I got the answer without too much difficulty. Later in the week the expression came up on Countdown!

    1. Those old enough to have used the pre-decimal £sd coinage will remember the THRIFT plant as the design on the ‘tails’ side of older threepenny bits.

  3. Made a quick start with DAVIS CUP ankd a few others, but gave up with little over half finished. From most comments I must have been on the wrong wavelength. I saw how GUARDS worked in 23a, but put in a diffeent answer, which didn’t help. Looking again at THRIFT, one which eluded me, I now see a clever double definition, taking HUSBAND as a verb! Thanks,Brnchn and setter.

  4. I biffed DAVIS CUP but couldn’t see why. Apparently matches are known as rubbers in that competition. I found the puzzle hard but it was an entertaining challenge.

  5. 13:41 but I somehow managed to think THRIFT (based just on ‘husband’) but type in SHRIFT. Drat.

  6. DNF – another ‘blur’ here rather than SLUR, for the same reason as jackkt above. Like the blogger, I took ages to see the wordplay for PITPROP, and the penny drop moment for HEDGEHOG was pretty satisfying.

    COD Inhumane

  7. This was an enjoyable, if tricky puzzle, but the trickiness was the result of clever clueing. I was helped by getting the 2 long Across clues fairly early on, but most of the LH side was complete before I broke into the RH side. LOsI were THRIFT and HEDGEHOG. The former was simply a matter of recalling the plant, the latter was eventually bifd and parsed subsequently. Both excellent clues, as was WADI. I didn’t understand 1A, as I hadn’t realised the matches were called rubbers, but the answer was obvious. I also couldn’t parse 20A, apart from XI, though it seems fair enough now it’s explained. FINE LEG was well concealed – luckily I got the answer from definition before realising it was a hidden! PHENOL only unknown (or rather unfamiliar), but luckily there was no guessing involved. All in all, a great puzzle.

  8. I’ve always thought the Davis Cup is a silly competition. A country with two or three strong players can win with judicious arrangement of who plays what. What ever happened to the ideas of a team and of strength in depth?

    The crossword has largely been forgotten: I have no record of my time or any notes, as I usually have, and can’t now remember if I found it easy or hard. Certainly it seems a bit of an effort to parse the THRIFT clue.

    1. Tennis is the only sport I have ever followed closely but I have rarely watched any Davis Cup, or Olympic tennis for that matter. I have a dislike of nationalism in sport and the appeal of tennis to me is that in the other competitions (ATP etc) the players are in theory at least, playing for themselves and not their country. I will support any good or interesting players regardless of the flag that might be attached to them.

      1. I rather agree with you about nationalism in sport. That doesn’t stop me from watching England-France and being a bit sad about the result!

  9. Finished in 4 days, which is good for me, with 7 unparsed clues! So thanks for the explanations.

  10. I’m another who thought it was BLUR not SLUR. I know what an SLR camera is (or was – I suppose it’s a tad outdated now. You can get digital SLR’s but the man in the street would probably just refer to one as a “digital camera.” anyway.) but the wordplay banjaxed me. Otherwise, pretty much a biff-fest overall.

  11. The wordplay for activist completely eluded me so thanks for what is a very obvious explanation now I’ve seen it.

  12. With my (admittedly self-imposed) time restrictions, I managed a good deal of this before finding this site for the blog; but DAVIS CUP had me beat (even with the anagram fodder!) as I’d forgotten about the ‘rubbers’, and TAXI RANK an untangle too far…NHO WADI, which would have helped with INHUMANE, but otherwise all correct. So all-in-all happy with my effort, and admiring of the setter’s artifice, especially in ACTIVIST and I SAY.

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