TLS Crossword 1134 by Myrtilus (July 15, 2016): Dunkin’ Donuts

If anyone’s not doing the TLS Crossword because it’s too onerous compared to the regular cryptic… this fine puzzle from Myrtilus is just the kind of offering to prove they’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick. Essentially this is a normal, well clued crossword that, yes, leans heavily on literary and classical knowledge; but anything obscure is fully gettable from the wordplay, plus just occasionally some half-forgotten bit of knowledge from your schooldays will return to you and you’ll feel very smart. All this and at least one joke concealed in the top row (1ac 4ac), what’s not to enjoy? Many thanks to the setter and the TLS team, and long may erudition thrive.


1 This king’s an idiot at first, cut short (6)
DUNCAN – AN, with DUNC{e} at first. Macbeth’s victim in the Scottish play.

4 It’s crackers sitting about in AC/DC costumes (8)
BISCUITS – “sitting” C in BI SUITS. I don’t think this is a literary reference, but I’d be very intrigued if anyone knows differently…

9 A certain grace is shown by fish (6)
CHARIS – IS, shown by CHAR. The three “Charites” were Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia, myth fans.

10 He loved it back in Avon as a child (8)
CASANOVA – hidden reversed in AVON AS A C{hild}. Giacomo Casanova was notorious for his enjoyment of the ladies.

12 Start off intensely worried about a novel (4,5)
EAST LYNNE – ({i}NTENSELY*) about A. A rather gaudy-sounding Victorian bestseller by Ellen Wood, also made into a 1931 film.

13 Little Nell’s family unit finally split (5)
TRENT – {uni}T + RENT. Most have heard of The Old Curiosity Shop’s Little Nell, if only from Oscar Wilde’s famed quip that “one would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter”, but her surname may be less familiar these days.

14 A US pal ran ads raving about this play (12)
SARDANAPALUS – (A US PAL RAN ADS*) An 1821 play by Byron, about a cross-dressing king who “exceeded all others in sloth and luxury”. This was a write-in for me as I used the splendid name in a roleplaying game I wrote in my dissipated youth, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a role model of mine.

18 Santiago’s story of the left in a revolutionary film (3,9)
THE ALCHEMIST – THE + L in A CHE MIST. Nowt to do with Ben Jonson: Santiago is the boy in Paulo Coelho’s wildly successful 1988 allegorical novel.

21 Time after time, love is a poet’s inspiration (5)
ERATO – T after ERA + O. Erato is one of the nine muses, in charge of lyric poetry.

22 Belva Plain’s work is constantly switching genre (9)
EVERGREEN – EVER + (GENRE*). A 1978 bestseller, and the first instalment in a long-running Jewish family saga.

24 A poet: one linked with a general’s wife (8)
VIRGILIA – VIRGIL + I + A. Coriolanus’s wife in his eponymous play. The main thing I took away from doing Greats at Oxford is a lifelong confusion about whether the poet’s name shouldn’t properly be “Vergil”. But Virgil seems to have stuck regardless…

25 Net product of eleven midsize Scottish banks (6)
ENMESH – produced from the “banks” of E{leve}N M{idsiz}E S{cottis}H. Not literary, unless anyone knows better.

26 Keats, not initially well, turned very thin (8)
SKELETAL – (KEATS {w}ELL*). Keats is well-known for having died of TB at the age of 25, being a sort of Cobain/Hendrix/Morrison/etc of his day.

27 A writer whose beauty spoke for itself (6)
SEWELL – Anna Sewell, whose Black Beauty is an 1877 tale narrated by a horse of the same name. This was my LOI, as although I thought of Sewell and Black Beauty quickly given the crossers, it took a while to remember that Black Beauty could “speak”!


1 Antoinette de Langeais expected to host a musical (8)
DUCHESSE – DUE hosting CHESS. La Duchesse de Langeais being an 1834 novel by Honoré de Balzac.

2 The Physician’s Gordon on an island rescue boat (5,3)
NOAHS ARK – NOAH (Gordon, American author of historical novel and bestseller-in-Europe The Physician, 1986) + SARK

3 Sylvia’s work gathered a dramatic spirit (5)
ARIEL – The last book of poetry by Sylvia Plath, and of course a spirit in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

5 A Lady’s heard to ask if pretty girls are more devious? (6,6)
ISABEL ARCHER – homophone of “is a belle arch-er?”. Isabel Archer is the lady portrayed in Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady.

6 Each tune’s special for someone like Piaf (9)
CHANTEUSE – (EACH TUNE*). Edith Piaf is a French chanteuse qui ne regrettait rien.

7 Her mole’s uncovered one way of working with information (6)
IMOGEN – I + M.O. (modus operandi) + GEN. TLS setters seem moderately obsessed with this episode in Cymbeline, where Iachimo peeks at a mole on the sleeping Imogen’s breast, later using this information to drive Posthumus wild with uxoricidal jealousy. Anyway this pushes the running score to Shakespeare 4, Dickens 1: is the Bard unbeatable?

8 Where Paris took Helen painting in spring (6)
SPARTA – ART in SPA. Paris took Helen *to* Troy, but he initially snatched her *in* Sparta, where she was Menelaus’s queen.

11 Wells’s Veronica: a girl in a novel (4,8)
ANNA KARENINA – ANN + A + KAREN + IN + A. Ann Veronica is a worthy but perhaps lesser known H.G. Wells novel; but you probably just biffed in the Tolstoy novel given a couple of crossers.

15 Anchises’s lover or the paid alternative (9)
APHRODITE – (OR THE PAID*). If you know your V[i/e]rgil you will recall that Anchises is pious Aeneas’s dad, and hopefully from there remember his mum as well. One imagines he was a good-looking chap, Aeneas; Dido certainly seemed to think so.

16 Pope’s Cotta, perhaps put on before psalm 51 (8)
MISERERE – MISER put on ERE. “His court with nettles, moats with cresses stor’d, with soups unbought, and salads, bless’d his board” – a textbook miser from Alexander Pope there. Have mercy on him, O God.

17 An author’s way to shut down a computer (8)
STENDHAL – ST + END + HAL (HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey). A nice TLS clue as it requires just a pinch of literary knowledge on both the wordplay and definition ends.

19 Timeless play about the first lady to get a valet (6)
JEEVES – JES{t} about EVE. Not just “a” valet, but surely the most famous of them all?

20 Scary book published with the ending cut (6)
CARRIE – CARRIE{d}. Stephen King’s first published book in 1974.

23 It’s over, said Yeats’s sweetheart (5)
GONNE – homophone of GONE. Maud Gonne was quite famously Yeats’ main muse, though she mostly turned down his marriage proposals, as her daughter subsequently did too. And it is indeed over!

8 comments on “TLS Crossword 1134 by Myrtilus (July 15, 2016): Dunkin’ Donuts”

  1. I second all of that rather long motion. This was a peerless example of the setter’s art, with the added fun of literary allusion. I like to confirm the lit bits (if they’re unfamiliar) as I go, which adds to the fun. Myrtilus has a happyknack of including apposite detail in his clues, such as “it’s over” in the last.
    Thanks V for highlighting the fun with biscuits at the top: I hadn’t spotted that, and it adds to the delight. We seem to have a fine set of, um, setters to carry Tantalus’ torch. Are we not entertained?

  2. Yes – good one indeed. I was reminded of the Robert Redford/Paul Newman buddy movie The Sting in which Newman refers to one of these as a “shantoosie”. Took me a long time to get what he meant.
  3. I thought this was mostly on the easy side, apart from the SE corner which took me as long as the rest of the puzzle together. I mentioned the top-row pun in my comment on the Forum, but nobody bit.
    1. A dunked biscuit is too soggy to bite, it must be slurped!

      I must confess I only got around to doing this crossword a few days ago, and only noticed the top row while I was writing up. Got to get back on top of my TLSes…

  4. Very enjoyable. I think I got most of this (in my 6-odd hours) unaided, though with a fair bit of checking after the fact. My policy with the TLS is to try not to reach for Google until I’m 83% sure I have the answer.

    Definitely learnt a few things, like the wonderfully trippy Sardanapalus. I can see why you nicked his name, V. Out of curiosity, where does one put the stress in Sardanapalus?

    1. I say it a lot like “Indianapolis” but goodness knows if that’s right.

      Thanks to a day of long train journeys to and from Dover Castle I was able to pull off the rare (for me) feat of finishing the Inquisitor in the i… amazing (and amazingly hard) puzzle by Phi! Am feeling unnecessarily pleased with myself accordingly.

      1. I was torn between an ‘Indianapolis’ and a ‘Tyrannosaurus’ model.

        Well done on the Inquisitor. I’ve sworn off advanced puzzles now. A few hours slogging away at The Listener or whatever leaves me stupefied. I’m like one of those people who just about can run a marathon but, by the look of them at the finish line, probably shouldn’t.

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