Times Cryptic No 28638 – Saturday, 24 June 2023. Aced comprehensively!

I had no idea what was going on with the “ace” clue at 9ac. I could see what the answer must be, but the word-play whizzed straight past me for the ball-kid to catch. When the penny finally dropped, what a delight! One of the clues of the year, for me.

I mis-spelled the name of the author at 23ac, until problems with 12dn forced me to revisit it.

Thanks to the setter for a wonderful 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 Celebrity beats retired adventurer (8)
SPACEMANNAME=celebrity + CAPS=beats, all backwards (retired).
6 Century before capital gains tax finally ending (6)
CLIMAXC=century (C is the Roman symbol for 100) + LIMA=capital (of Peru) + taXfinally.
9 What ace is in lap literally, an all-time champion? (6-7)
RECORD-BREAKER – tricky, this: A=ace; L.P.=a sort of record. If you put A in LP to produce LAP, you could say the A is a (ta daRECORD-BREAKER!! I put the answer in from the crossers, and took ages after I finished the rest to figure out the word play. How wonderful!!
10 Blend including oxygen, unknown quantity in air (6)
MELODY – MELD=blend, including O=oxygen + Y=(algebraic) unknown.
11 Make-up put on cheek (8)
LIPSTICK – STICK=put, on LIP=cheek. “Stick” can mean “insert” or “set in position”, so that seems close enough to “put”. Any eyebrows raised?
13 Order pie, virtually packed with stuff, kilo sent back (5,5)
QUICK MARCH – QUICHe=pie, virtually, packed with CRAM+K=kilo, sent back.
15 Little bit in and out, say, oddly (4)
IOTA – odd letters (oddly) of In + OuT + sAy. Ignore the connecting “and”.
16 Explorer, not beginning to take in south European city (4)
OSLO – Marco (P)OLO=explorer, not begining, and taking in S=south.
18 Garment blue — one of Poe’s perhaps? (5,5)
SHORT STORYSHORTS + TORY. It appears Poe wrote dozens of them.
21 Support a revolutionary complaint (8)
BACKACHEBACK + A + CHE. (Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the setter’s go-to revolutionary.)
22 Boldly confront savage grabbing king (6)
BREASTBEAST grabbing R=king.
23 Author, one on the prowl in the Blue Ridge Mountains, could you say? (8,5)
VIRGINIA WOOLF – Looking at a map, it seems the Blue Ridge Mountains run through North Carolina as well as Virginia, but it was fairly obvious which part of the world and which animal was required. It’s a “sounds like” clue (could you say?), so you have to know how to spell her surname. I didn’t!
25 Track on a hill (6)
26 Immature and sneaky pest (8)
GREENFLYGREEN=immature + FLY=sneaky.
2 Arriviste in average location briefly (7)
PARVENUPAR=average + VENU(e)=location, briefly.
3 Nuts become fastened: first of cogs secured in timing mechanism (6,5)
CUCKOO CLOCKCUCKOO=nuts + C(ogs), first of + LOCK=become fastened.
4 Historic Scottish county seen in twinkling light (5)
MORAYMO=a twinkling + RAY=light.
5 Cloudy oil: managed to bottle that up (7)
NEBULARRAN=managed bottles LUBE=oil. Turn all of that up in this down clue.
6 Low blow has the cop in a bad way (5,4)
7 Crown pinched from material sort (3)
ILK – (s)ILK is the material. Its crown is pinched.
8 Month before Oct 1 appearing woozyis one stoned? (7)
APRICOTAPR(il) before (OCT 1)*. No anagrams at all, then two in a row!
12 Bit of fluff was director in the aforementioned municipality? (11)
THISTLEDOWNLED=was director, in THIS TOWN. This clue forced me to revisit  23ac.
14 Russian resort closed off by staff, one happy to suffer (9)
MASOCHISTSOCHI=Russian resort (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) closed off by MAST=staff.
17 Accessories in fashion aboard ship (7)
SCARVESCARVE=fashion (eg make something out of wood) aboard SS=ship.
19 Opportunity coming in first (7)
OPENING – double definition.
20 Calm in fluster? That’s not right (7)
22 Name on knife, weapon that is (5)
BOWIEBOW + I.E.=that is. The Bowie knife, originally designed by Rezin Bowie for his brother Jim, according to Wikipedia.
24 Reportedly crooked grass (3)
RYE – sounds like (reportedly) WRY.

21 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28638 – Saturday, 24 June 2023. Aced comprehensively!”

  1. L(A)P was the highlight of this for me.
    The Blue Ridge range also crosses a border of my home state of West Virginia, but not enough to justify its inclusion in the lyrics of John Denver’s geographically challenged “Country Roads.” (I think he needed a two-trochee state name to fit his meter.)

  2. 19:54, but used aids for MORAY
    I wrote ‘put=stick?’ at 9ac, but I suppose it’s allowable.

  3. 33m 14s
    Thank you, Bruce, for decoding RECORD BREAKER!
    Otherwise I found this pretty straightforward.
    My one* bit of trivia about VIRGINIA WOOLF is that she wrote a charming, slim, eponymous biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pet Spaniel, ‘Flush’.
    *…oh, and Nicole Kidman wore a prosthetic nose to play Woolf in ‘The Hours’.

    1. It’s a strange coincidence that you should mention Flush as I was unaware of its existence (the book or the spaniel) until a couple of days ago when I read about it in an excellent new biography of Noël Coward called Masquerade. Apparently Coward at the height of his early fame loved the book and heaped lavish praise on it publicly which led to correspondence and a meeting with Woolf which established a warm if somewhat unlikely friendship that lasted until her death in 1941. Their art had little in common but there was much mutual respect and they seem to have enjoyed each other’s occasional company at least to a degree.

      1. Yes: snippets of trivia like this are indeed fascinating! Although long being an admirer of both great names, I never would have imagined they would be ‘buddies’.

      1. Not a fan of any Olympics, nor sport in general, though I make an exception for grass court tennis.

  4. Mostly enjoyed with several PDMs and filled grid in avetage time but DNF, defeated my MELODY, spending far too long on 9a, where I missed the clever ACE and solved from crossers. I also thought the definition a tad weak, as such champions are only ALL TIME until someone else inevitably sets a new RECORD! FOI MASOCHIST, COD GREENFKY, LOI CLIMAX. I, too, needed to wait for crossers to complete the lupine author; does anyone know why Edward Albee was afraid of her? Thanks Bruce and setter

  5. I took this on the train last week to go up to London for the tftt get-together, and my first run through yielded only the 2 four-letter answers, so I shoved it back in my bag lest it embarrass me into not turning up! A couple of days later I got it out and finished it without much trouble – quite bizarre how one’s mind works! I didn’t get the parsing of THISTLEDOWN – thanks for that, Bruce. I was also hazy about the location of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but as soon as the V appeared, the author was obvious. 9A is surely one of those clues that have to be post-parsed with checkers supplying the obvious answer, but none the worse for that. I enjoyed it – thanks to the setter and to Bruce.

  6. Barking mad
    A quick sort of solve in 17 minutes, but inventing the lesser known Virginia WOOFF, misremembering she had a double F at the end of her name. RECORD BREAKER was a fine, inventive clue with a laugh out loud effect.

  7. 45 minute DNF, because although GREENFLY seemed a more likely pest, SLY seemed a more likely version of “sneaky”. But apart from that lapse in my vocabulary, this was a very enjoyable puzzle with many delightful clues. I didn’t bother trying to parse RECORD BREAKER, fortunately, because I wouldn’t have managed. And the crossing letters saved me from calling her VIRGINIA WOLFF (I have neighbours with that surname). Among the really good clues I particularly liked THISTLEDOWN (I was expecting an ibid in there somewhere) and ASCENT, but there were many others.

  8. 34’15”
    Steady pace throughout, stayed on gamely.
    I enjoyed this and was chuffed to finish on more or less my average.
    Along with Jack, Stan & Ollie gave me VW.
    Listening to her Mrs. Dalloway took me down some interesting rabbit holes. The frequency with which the Westminster Chimes, more accurately Cambridge Quarters, cropped up seemed to rival the number of semicolons. This led to trying to recreate the mechanism, which once you’ve written out the sequences, is quite easy. Then I got side-tracked into Lord Grimthorpe’s Double Three-Legged Gravity Escapement
    ( Westminster/Trinity Cambridge) and then Arnfield’s Escapement -a beautiful work of genius of 1987! – and finally to designing and building a skeleton Lego clock using the latter escapement for the education of me and other curious children.
    Thank you Bruce, setter and contributors; it’s always an education coming here.

  9. Didn’t see how RECORD-BREAKER worked, and I think I only got the unknown THISTLEDOWN thanks to Lady Whistledown from Bridgerton… a kind of ninja turtle once removed, I guess. Didn’t know the BOWIE knife either, but the cluing and the checkers eventually helped.

    FOI Rye
    LOI Bowie
    COD Lipstick

  10. A pleasant hour spent with this and a coffee on the patio very early before house guests rose. Everything seemed straightforward working from Mr Bowie northwards. I needed the crossers for RECORD BREAKER, having chucked in rocket booster, until I saw it was one of ‘those’ clues and a clever one too. I liked the Blue Ridge prowler.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

  11. Looking back I apparently finished this in 23 minutes.
    I got the record breaker quite quickly, because of L*P immediately suggesting record, maybe that’s my age!
    The lonesome pine song meant virginia was almost instantaneous.
    I think David Bowie chose his name for the knife?
    LOI was MORAY
    Thanks setter and blogger

  12. Good (Friday morning) entertainment for me: following ILK which went straight in, I had a break and therein CLIMAX just emerged from somewhere- likewise RECORD BREAKER (from definition alone, unfortunately, as it was far too clever for me to unscramble). Worked steadily around the grid until screeching to a halt with THISTLEDOWN ( trying to shoe-horn in triviality somehow). And if I’d attempted the down clues earlier and got the relatively easy SCARVES I wouldn’t have been left floundering for the author! Good clue, among many others. CODs to APRICOT, SHORT STORY and PARVENU.

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