TLS Crossword 1128 by Talos (June 3, 2016) – Like Catching Your Favourite Uncle Crossword Blogging

There have been some pretty gruelling TLS workouts in recent memory, so I was pleased to discover that this was “just” a straightforward cryptic crossword requiring a moderate breadth of literary GK to tackle. Thanks Talos (whose pseudonym derives I assume from being the setter with the shapeliest ankles in the business), most enjoyable!


1 Book his car company to travel around Spain (8,6)

Bret Easton Ellis’s disturbing masterpiece from 1991, that must be sold shrink-wrapped in Australia to this day, avoid contaminating under-18s. I’ve really gone off BEE since I was foolish enough to read the awful “Imperial Bedrooms” a few years ago, but “American Psycho” is brilliant. I once washed my hands of a friend because he insisted that all the horrible things in the book are actually happening, and not just in Patrick Bateman’s fragile mind. Preposterous notion!

9 Perhaps Hughes cries out, describing shrew? (3,6)

I assume the ice skater is Sarah Hughes, 2002 Olympic champion, I’m not sure; but the shrew is definitely the one who was tamed by Petruchio in the Shakespeare comedy, as well as many spinoffs. I idly wonder if Ted Hughes ever wrote a nature poem about a shrew or a vole? He probably at least thought about it.

10 Cassady returned carrying bit of dope, loaded (5)
LADEN – reverse of NEAL carrying D{ope}

Neal Leon Cassady, poster boy for the Beat Generation, and the model for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s “On The Road”. Certainly not above carrying, taking, serving prison time, and ultimately dying young from, drugs.

11 Old priest backing Romeo in Mantua? (5)
EXILE – EX + reverse of ELI

After being banished from Verona for the killing of Tybalt, Romeo did indeed end up an exile in Mantua. The priest we’re looking for is not the one who backs him in the play, Friar Laurence, but every solver’s favourite Biblical clergyman, Samuel’s mentor Eli.

12 Let in relative with hard and Causabon-like tone? (9)

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, but it seems there can be no doubt that its Mr Edward Casaubon, whether he may be an ugly or quite a distinguished-looking man, is the owner of a sallow complexion. But better, to Dorothea’s way of thinking, than a man with “the complexion of a cochon au lait”. Whatever that may mean…

13 Literary books about caseless Wigan defendant? (8)
LITIGANT – LIT NT about {w}IGA{n}

There may be a literary allusion hiding in this surface, but if there is it escapes me. The only bookish thing that springs to mind when I think of Wigan is Orwell’s “The Road To Wigan Pier”: I don’t know if that’s an indictment of me, or of Wigan?

15 Mole at home around area on bank of adored river (6)
ADRIAN – IN around A, on A{dore}D R

Adrian Mole, whose adventures were related to us by the late lovely Sue Townsend, was big favourite in my household, being only a few years older than your blogger, and not all that much wiser either. Additionally, “Adrian Mole!” was the number one taunt I received in the street in my early teens, thanks to my misfortune in being short-sighted and thus having to wear chunky NHS specs everywhere I went. (In later years, due to my emerging dress sense or lack thereof, it would be supplanted by “Dracula!” or “Batman!”, but there’s no need for us to go into any of that here.)

17 Effete, upper-class outlaw upset by the French (6)
UNABLE – U + reverse of BAN + LE

The surface here seems to be referencing the Baroness Orczy’s dashing and damned elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.

19 Animal barking away that holds Carraclough’s heart (4,4)
KING CRAB – (BARKING*) that holds {carra}C{lough}

Lassie was the beloved rough collie of a young Yorkshire lad called Joe Carraclough, and is clearly trying to tell him something in the surface of this clue. What is it, girl?

22 Buttercup, perhaps, by spring in old prison (9)

Buttercup was the Princess Bride in William Goldman’s rollicking yarn of the same name. I had a pal at college who was a big fan of this book, and went so far as to enthuse to me about Goldman’s versatility and range as a writer, being able to produce works as seemingly diverse as this one and also Lord of the Flies. I almost didn’t have the heart to break it to him…

23 Middle-Earth knight that’s travelled by horse around and about? (5)
ENDOR – N that has RODE reversed about it

Before it was overrun by Ewoks, Endor was the Elvish name for Middle Earth in JRR Tolkien’s pedantically crafted fantasy milieu. Not to be confused with the Bible’s Witch of Endor, who may or may not have been on speaking terms with our friend Eli.

24 Who wrote: “Blest is that government where no art thrives”? (5)

Which is presumably why so many people keep on voting Conservative, boom boom. The quote is from “Summer’s Last Will and Testament”, published in 1600.

25 Without it, Gibson’s 1988 work is just a great picture! (9)
OVERDRIVE – MONA LISA OVERDRIVE, minus this, is just the Mona Lisa

As far as I’m aware, William Gibson basically single-handedly invented the cyberpunk genre in the 1980s with his groundbreaking trilogy Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Once, in an idle moment, my brain decided to come up with Canadianised versions of these, being New Brunswickmancer, Prince Edward Zero, and Manitoba Overdrive, and was really rather undeservingly pleased with itself for a while thereafter.

26 My orders force Oceania’s leader to change play (6,2,6)

The Comedy of Errors is I think my 6-year-old daughter’s favourite Shakespeare play, on account of it being the only one she’s seen, mum having vetoed my taking her along with me to Titus Andronicus. (Something about the Bard’s style must have impressed her: only yesterday she was watching John Lewis (D-GA)’s impassioned speech to Congress re gun control and asked u “When is he going to stop talking in Shakespearean?’) The only thing I know about Oceania is that it has always been at war with Eurasia.


1 Mr Right that Sebastian Melmoth knocked out? (2,5,7)
AN IDEAL HUSBAND – “Sebastian Melmoth”, aka Oscar Wilde, wrote this

Ah, dear old Oscar, surely the second greatest foppish Magdalen College classicist Libran ever to walk the earth. Isn’t it nice to see that even though he was born and died way too early for cryptics, poor fellow, he still had a crosswordy pseudonym of his own? One of us.

2 Donne was one to upset English society and leg it (7)

An elegy was originally a lamentation for the dead, and I believe I’m correct in saying derives from the Greek e e legein, i.e. to make a funereal repeated groaning sound. Not to be confused with an ehlegy, of which the best known example is the national anthem of Canada.

3 Childish little introduction pulled from Taxi Driver? (5)
ICKLE – (Travis) {b}ICKLE

You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here…

4 Royal Society plays with short satanic mechanics (8)

I would have associated satanic mechanics with the Rocky Horror Picture show more than with the Royal Society, myself.

5 It was broken by Valjean and Monsieur Thénardier in the theatre? (6)
PAROLE – M. Thénardier in the play would be a PA ROLE

Jean Valjean endured an arguably excessive 19 years in prison for stealing some bread in Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”, so perhaps we can forgive me for subsequently breaking his parole. Especially when he has to suffer horrible human beings like the Thénardiers in his life at liberty…

6 Money man’s novel response to cuts? He howls! (6,3)
YELLOW DOG – YELL OW in response to cuts, and a DOG howls. Money being another novel by Martin Amis.

The only book I can recall reading by Amis fils is London Fields, which was alright; Tibor Fischer memorably reviewed Yellow Dog as being so “not-knowing-where-to-look bad” as to be “like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating”, which I must say has never felt like much of an incentive to add it to my reading list.

7 One in Hardy novel heading to imbibe pitchers (7)
HYDRIAI – I in (HARDY*) + I{mbibe}

Stout-hearted yeomen like Gabriel Oak are constantly swigging good English ale from honest earthenware pitchers, in stark contrast to the pretentious carafes of French wine sneeringly sipped by such as Sergeant Troy and Angel Clare. “Hydriai” is by some distance the most obscure vocabulary in the crossword this week, but seeing it made this ageing Graecist very happy, I assure you.

8 Blunt with comrade, one known for mangled Russian? (7,7)
ANTHONY BURGESS – ANTHONY (Blunt) + (Guy) BURGESS. The mangled Russian is the Nadsat teen-speak in A Clockwork Orange.

As far as I can remember, Blunt and Burgess were dirty spies selling us out to the Reds, which makes the surface of this clue once again very clever indeed. As it happens I read A Clockwork Orange quite recently, as part of my “reading all of David Bowie’s 100 favourite books” project, and found it rather morally and socially irresponsible; personally I much preferred Kubrick’s bleak ending to Burgess’s redemptive one. But it’s certainly true that Nadsat is a wonderful literary invention, displaying such joy in language, definitely my favourite part of the book.

14 Fiftieth anniversary look at Fleming’s estate (9)
GOLDENEYE – GOLDEN (anniversary) EYE (look at)

James Bond, whose adventures were written up by Ian Fleming from his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, is over 60 years old now, but the surface of this clue is still in the right ballpark. Because I have difficulty separating fact and fiction, I spent a long time convinced the Fleming’s estate was Skyfall, which is a really silly name for an estate, but does have the virtue of having an excellent theme tune.

16 This writer offers one way to get off smack (4,4)
WILL SELF – one could WILL oneSELF off smack I suppose?

I’m not saying Will Self was the Neal Cassaday of his generation or anything, but he was quite famous for a while for having snorted a line of heroin in the bathroom of Tony Blair’s private jet, but that was almost 20 years ago now and he may well be clean these days, which is more than I’d be willing to say for Tony.

18 Noble, perhaps, to take care of old Italian poet (7)
ARIOSTO – ARISTO to take care of O

Ludovico Ariosto, author of Orlando Furioso.

20 A gulled gentleman lacks energy to be a composer (7)

Roderigo is the gentleman much gulled by Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. Not to be confused with 20th century Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo, who though nearly blind was nobody’s fool.

21 “The true art of — is the art of attention” (Samuel Johnson) (6)

Note to self: come back and put something witty here later.

23 Note bit of dynamite that’s going up and duck! (5)
EIDER – reverse (going up) of RE D{ynamite} I.E.

Road Runner cartoons are high literary art too, right?

6 comments on “TLS Crossword 1128 by Talos (June 3, 2016) – Like Catching Your Favourite Uncle Crossword Blogging”

  1. 48.19, as a glance at the leaderboard has disclosed. I got stuck for an eternity on the ADRIAN clue, looking, as I’m sure we were meant to, for the Wind in the Willows connection.
    I don’t think I made all the literary connections either, such as the mangled Russian, but that’s the glory of having three weeks between puzzle and blog – or it is for me, anyway.
    I did wonder whether a DEFENDANT was also a litigant: for me the latter has overtones of active pursuit of a plea, and a defendant may well not be there out of choice, but hey ho: I had no idea about Hughes the skater either, but still put it in.
    Thanks for an erudite, informed and informative blog. I’m intrigued by the urge to hide: don’t think I’m going to follow the example partly because I don’t think you need to – scrolling down does’t take that much energy and time = but mostly because I wouldn’t know how!
    1. Perhaps I just like to hide my lit under a bushel?

      And obviously, last time around, it was of primary importance to shield the world from terrifying images of me in lipstick and braids…

  2. Just in case anyone other than the handful of diehards is looking, Talos is none other than our new Sunday setter David Maclean aka Harry Hoskins. And very good he is too. Yes, this one was quite a relief and the Burgess clue was first rate. I didn’t know about the Goldman book and thought The Princess Bride came fully fledged as one of my daughters’ favourite movies. We saw it so often that I can still hear Mandy Patinkin saying “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die”.
    1. Oh, that’s such a brilliant film (and I’m much more familiar with it than the book, I must admit). My favourite thing is the swordfight, which you remember as the most dazzling spectacle in the world, until you watch it with the sound off and it’s just two men making X’s with their swords for five minutes. The amazing transformative power of dialogue.
      1. One of my favourites too, seen it several times. Loved the “Inconceivable!” from the bad guy Vizzini (had to look him up) every time Westley beat one of his men!

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