TLS Crossword 1142 by Myrtilus, September 16 2016 Buddy can you spare a definition?

There are a lot of very concise and not terribly revealing definitions scattered throughout: An author, a writer, a queen, a poet, a nurse, this rifleman, so it’s just as well they’re tied to lucid and usually elegant word play.
“Terry Pratchett in one of his Ankh Morpork themed fantasies, makes great play of the phrase “it’s a million to one shot, but it might just work”. His city guards go to great lengths to make an important crossbow shot as difficult as possible to get the odds of success to a million to one, on the grounds that only then might they actually make it”.* That’s how I approached this crossword, with a tiny computer possessed of a touch screen which seemed to respond enthusiastically to the trampling feet of flies, and the occasional breath of wind; an internet connection borrowed from the auberge next door; on a sunny balcony in the Alps Maritimes which, at whatever angle I had the screen, allowed the sun to reflect directly into my eyes. Any checking of facts had to be done on an even smaller smartphone, eating into my ludicrously expensive data roaming charges. Naturally, the connection to the Times came up with a “cannot read property b of null” error when I pressed submit, so when I eventually resolved the puzzle back in Blighty, my registered  time was 14.25 under 7 days, which may well be a record. Despite all that, I managed a coveted null pwang and enjoyed the actual solving, helped by 1 across being (for me, a shameless reader of popular Regency fiction of the not-Heyer kind) probably the easiest clue I have ever encountered in the TLS.
Did anyone else spot the roadrunner  (perhaps with a slight speech impediment) leaving a trace at the beginning and end of the 5th horizontal?
* It’s not often you get the chance to quote yourself. Indulge me.

Clues, definitions, SOLUTIONS


1. This rifleman’s a one-off, wrinkly dog (6)
SHARPE  Richard, Bernard Cornwell’s magnificently improbable creation who served in King George’s Army throughout the first years of the 19th century and managed to be at both Trafalgar and Waterloo. Translated into a really rather good series on ITV. Could knock an I off the end of a Shar-Pei  at 50 paces.
5. Who wrote Amelia’s line in German? (8)
FIELDING  Henry, wrote Amelia, his fourth and last novel. Line: FIELD (think “of work), in: IN, G(erman). Amelia was translated into German a year after its publication, adding a sense of roundness to the clue.
9. One of the King’s Men who could put an end to a quarrel (8)
FLETCHER If you know quarrel is an arrow, this is easy, though it also helps if you know that John Fletcher is the first named of the King’s Men, just before William Shakespeare, when the actors’ company was chartered by that name in 1603
10. The first to make cheese? There’s no way he was a poet! (6)
MILTON John, of course. The first to make is M, the cheese STILTON  from which you remove the ST(reet), because there’s no way.
11. Like the story of the lost child’s ice cream (10)
NEAPOLITAN the enigmatic Eleanor Ferrante wrote “The Lost Child”, the last of her series of Neapolitan novels. In my youth, the pink, white and brown ice cream was the height of luxury. Ms Ferrante is thought to be still living, somewhere, but none to know where. Neapolitan ice cream can be found in a supermarket freezer near you.
13. Writer holding back a tide (4)
NEAP PEN is a writer, A plays itself. Turn back, the tide.
14. I share bed with Jude after his first break-up (3,9)
SUE BRIDEHEAD  Near enough an &lit, an anagram (break-up) of I SHARE BED plus Jude “after his first”, i.e. UDE, The whole clue is a remarkably concise and accurate summing up of the story of Jude the Obscure (Hardy)
17. A writer almost bagging another’s piles of dosh (1,5,6)
A KING’S RANSOM  I almost gave up on unravelling this one, but here’s light: A (Arthur) RANSOM(e), “writer almost” bags KING’S, “another’s”  might as well be Stephen, who currently lives here
20. A nurse who drinks this used to stay dry (4)
GAMP  Sarah,  the seldom-sober nurse from Martin Chuzzlewit, who donated her name to large, untidy umbrella (so says Chambers)
21. Public schoolboy’s haircut’s an aberration (10)
CARTHUSIAN a pupil of Charterhouse College. And an “aberration” of HAIRCUT’S AN. John Wesley is one of many famous alumni
23. A preface to Bear Island (6)
KODIAK. I think just a word you can put in front of both bear and island, though for what it’s worth, Bear Island is a novel by Alistair Maclean
24. A Queen’s become abusive about another (8)
GERTRUDE  Hamlet’s mum. Become abusive: GET RUDE about R(egina), another queen
26. Steer around Burns’s old river vessel (8)
CAULDRON  Burns version of old river would be AULD R, and CON is to steer (sometimes with an extra N). “You have the con, Number One”
27. An author’s relentless energy (6)
STERNE  A simple conflation of STERN for relentless and E(nergy)


2. An author’s nightmare about capsizing (6)
HELLER  That’ll be Catch 22, then. Nightmare: HELL plus RE, about, capsizing so appearing upside down.
3. Work by Clavell, not King or Grass (3)
RAT  James Clavell wrote the novel King Rat in 1962. Remove the King as instructed. Grass/rat both slang terms for betray or inform on.
4. She visits Golden Pond before the lakeside stores (5)
ETHEL  Stored by beforE THE Lakeland. Ethel Thayer, played by the inimitable Katharine Hepburn in the 1981 film version of On Golden Pond
5. Nurse pinches bottom of popular novelist (7)
FORSTER   As in EM. The bottom of popular in a down clue is R. Care for gives FOSTER, which, um,  fosters the R.
6. Fateful day for Brussels bureaucrats? Kindly ones? (9)
EUMENIDES   If you look this up, you may struggle to understand “kindly ones” because you will see “Furies”. But kindly ones is what the Greek means, and it’s also the title of the third part of the play cycle Oresteia by Aeschylus, so translated. The wordplay is fateful day: IDES, Brussels bureaucrats EU MEN.
Clue writing competition! Dean Meyer ran “Some union workers — that is, mostly, monsters” in the ST two days later. I know where my vote goes.
7. He wrote On the Marriage of a Virgin: sadly, a month out (5,6)
DYLAN THOMAS  Who, rendered in anagram form, is SADLY A MONTH
8. Recently arrived, one out of one’s seat (8)
NEONATAL  Not parsed at the time, but it’s one “out” NEO, followed by of one’s seat NATAL, the adjectival form of nates, buttocks.
12. Mate holding out pints ordered after the match (11)
POSTNUPTIAL   Mate is PAL, who is holding an anagram of OUT PINTS, the match being of the matrimonial variety.
15. Eliot’s village festival involves endless drink (4,5)
EAST COKER  One of several TS Eliot villages, but Little Gidding doesn’t fit. The festival is EASTER, the unfinished drink COKe
16. The Joads left this city house after consent by mother (8)
OKLAHOMA   Not the musical (that would need an exclamation point) but the one in the Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), the Joads being the impoverished tenant farmers forced to trek west in search of a better life. In clue sequence, city: LA, house: HO, consent: OK, mother: MA. Assemble in the pattern suggested.
18. An island gathering shot Portia’s suitor (7)
ARRAGON  The island is ARRAN, which gathers GO for shot, attempt. Yes, I know Aragon only has one R, but Shakespeare didn’t. In the take your pick contest for Portia’s hand (Merchant of Venice), the prince of Arragon picked silver and lost.
19. Harding’s one in conflict then retreat (6)
WARDEN  Trollope’s The Warden carries the name Septimus Harding, so read the clue as “Harding is one”, then conflict: WAR, and retreat: DEN
22. God of the Dawn sounds less cold (5)
HORUS  So not a God of the Dawn, then, and not less cold: something –ER, which is why this took me so long to work out. It’s the Dawn sounds: CHORUS, (as in the appalling racket with which the avian species attempts to reprove the slugabed) without its C(old)
25. Part of a Manhattan schoolboy’s dream workplace? (3)
RYE  The Manhattan schoolboy is JD Sallinger’s Holden Caulfield whose fantasy construction on Burn’s “If a body catch a body coming through the rye” gives rise to the job of saving children running around in a vast rye field from falling off its cliff edge, the “catcher in the rye”

4 comments on “TLS Crossword 1142 by Myrtilus, September 16 2016 Buddy can you spare a definition?”

  1. Thanks for the parsing Z – mine was more than a bit lackadaisical since I wasn’t on blog duty. I couldn’t tell from your comment on the EUMENIDES which clue you preferred – I liked both but must give the edge to Myrtilus over Anax. The best explanation I know of The Kindly Ones comes in the book of that title by Anthony Powell in the Dance to the Music of Time sequence. Actually the explanation may well appear first in one of the earlier books but I haven’t time at the moment to do a wade-through to find it.

    Ferrante may have been outed in a recent NY Review of Books. Unfortunately my husband seems to have “disappeared” that issue and I’ve forgotten the details.

    I haven’t read any of the Sharpe series but I am a devotee of Heyer’s Infamous Army (if you can get past the awful jacket illustration that is).

    Speaking of devotion and duty, I salute your efforts to produce the blog under less than ideal conditions.

    1. There’s a lot of stuff out there about Ferrante being “outed, but the upshot still seems to be that she’s (he’s?) maintained a degree of privacy.
      On the EUMENIDES clue, lest there be any doubt, I’m for Myrtilus. It made me smile broadly, and has the better/more teasing definition. Are the Furies monsters? I think I’d like to suggest there’s a difference between beings whose appearance can be described as monstrous (snake hair, that sort of thing) and beings that are monsters. A lot of the art out there (I accept little if any is taken from life!) seems to pander to the artist’s or the sponsor’s taste for attractive and preferably unclothed women (even if with snaky locks). Probably just a quibble.
  2. Hi, Great blog.
    I’ll try to do better on definitions, but tricky defining Milton without making the wordplay redundant.
    Roadrunner was not deliberate.
    But the Dylan Thomas joke being followed by postnuptial, prenatal was.
    As was the top line nod to the end of the cricket season.
  3. Ah, the things one doesn’t see! One of the many things I like about the TLS in its current incarnation is that there’s always that bit more to find. I nearly made a comment on cricket, especially with the vintage (Keith) Fletcher in the next line (and André currently for the W. Indies, and Duncan of course for Zimbabwe), so that wasn’t completely missed.
    And I have no issue with stripped down definitions when the wordplay is elegant. It’s not as if it’s “a writer, guess which one”

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