TLS Crossword 1161 – Three down by Praxiteles – February 3, 2017

This was an unusually (for the Times) political puzzle.  No complaints mind you, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.  There are some time capsule elements to it that made it helpful to have been around in the relevant era.  It was also pretty funny.  And, as the setter and editor could not possibly have known, it was remarkably apt in its timing.  There are quite a few among our solvers who would probably not have needed the “3” prompt from Praxiteles but I certainly found it helpful. There’s one clue I haven’t  parsed but I’m hoping that by post time light will have dawned.  42.12 which included a pause while I straightened out the effect of a too literal take on 23A.  Definitions in italics underlined.  Answers in bold caps.

1.  Provoke offensive about Corbyn? (5)
TEMPT.  TET=Vietnamese New Year surrounding (about) MP=Jeremy Corbyn.  The Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong in 1968 was about the time I started paying attention to politics.  In response (not to my taking notice you understand), President Lyndon Johnson drastically and disastrously widened an already unpopular war.
4.  Not in “Shaft” we hear, at least not at the same time (3,2,4)
OUT OF SYNC.  Homophone – it’s not in the shaft so it’s out of “sink”.  “Shaft” was one of a series of 1970s so-called “blaxploitation” movies.
9.  Did he go on trial, according to Hitchens, for just touching the Queen? (9)
KISSINGER. Henry, former Secretary of State.  He was not yet in office at the time of the Tet Offensive but he had plenty to answer for later on.  Brilliant flame-throwing British author Christopher Hitchens’s 2001 book The Trial of Henry Kinssinger accused him of war crimes.  KISSING=just touching.  ER=the Queen.
10.  Thursby, one of Cecil’s brothers-in-law (5)
ROGER.  1950’s comic novel by Henry Cecil.  Thursby is a young barrister.  I got off track thinking it might be something to do with Floyd Thursby from the Maltese Falcon – the one who gets set up by Mary Astor who gets sent down by Humphrey Bogart etc.
11.  “An End to Autumn” getting advance, more or less (6)
NEARLY.  N=last letter (end) in [autum]N with EARLY=advance.
12.  How a score may appear:  51-11 (8)
LINEARLY.  LI=51 with NEARLY=11Across here.  Internal reference more often found in the Guardian puzzles.  If I were not a regular solver of theirs I’d have been truly addled.  As it was, I’m easily put off by numbers and am not saying how long it took to parse.  I think it means that music is scored that way.
14,  Like Cameron, one who fought the Battle of Waterloo? (3,7)
OLD ETONIAN.  The Duke of Wellington is believed to have said that the battle was won on the playing fields of PM David Cameron’s alma mater.  He must have been talking about the officer corps because it’s more reliably reported that he referred to his 1815 army as “infamous” – apparently referring to the other ranks.
16. A sparkling treat?  It’s the tops! (4)
ASTI.  And lit. and very nice too.  First letters in A S[parkling] T[reat] I[t’s].
19.  If returning to encounter tailless dog, it’ll be Abe Lincoln’s (4)
FIDO.  IF reversed (returning) with DO[g].  He did indeed have a beloved mutt by that name.
20.  Masters feature in Stoker broadcast drama (6,4)
STROKE PLAY.  Anagram (broadcast) of STOKER with PLAY=drama.  A succinct masterstroke of a clue.  I know absolutely nothing about golf but am vaguely aware of a Masters tournament in Augusta GA and I gather this is a form of play under the rules.
22.  Where real fun’s dispensed?  Not likely!  (8)
FUNERALS.  Anagram (dispensed) of REAL FUN’S.
23.  Where Sheridan was taught malicious gossip? (6)
SCHOOL.  Richard Brinsley, School For Scandal was his 18th Century masterpiece of comic drama.  I can only suppose I was under the influence of 14A because “Harrow” was what I confidently entered (he was an old Harrovian), properly painting myself into that corner.
26.One who’ll take tea, say, hot with crushed ice (5)
THEIC.  Another nifty and lit., and a word I learned only very recently from one of the cryptics.  T=homophone (say) of TEA. With H[ot] and anagram (crushed) of ICE.  Person who over-indulges in tea.
27.  6 e.g.  Greek chaps on a date (9)
EUMENIDES.  Another name for the Furies in 6D (aka Erinyes).  Tisiphone, Megaera and Alecto, the children of Uranus and Gaea.  EU (Greece is part of it, at least I think that’s the reference) MEN=chaps.  IDES=date.  O Level Greek is a distant and unpleasant memory so I learned more about these characters from Anthony Powell’s Dance To The Music Of Time where they are part of the plot.  They were called this (the Kindly Ones) by the ancients in an attempt at appeasement to ward off the dreadful stuff they could unleash.  Zabadak and Verlaine are the scholars on this subject.
28.  Pity, America is occupied by first sign of Trump’s ego – that may give them a headache (9)
SINUSITIS.  Sigh, too true.  SIN=pity.  US=America.  IS containing (occupied by) T[rump] and I=ego.  So “pity” is a sin – that was new to me but Zabadak may understand it.  Excellent clue, to be paired with 5D for uncanny prescience by the setter.
29.  Were they not so badly hairy scary, according to Kipling? (5)
OONTS.  This refers to the “commissariat camel” of the Northern India Transport Train on the Northwest Frontier, one of the Barrack Room Ballads by Rudyard.

1.  The beginning of Forman’s Hollywood career (6,3)
TAKING OFF.  1971 savagely funny satirical movie made in America by Czech director Milos.  His most famous US movie may be One Flew OverThe Cuckoo’s Nest.  The first of his I saw was as a teenager – The Fireman’s Ball, when he was still in Czecho.  I think I missed a lot of the bite then.
2. …while entering Moscow’s her aim primarily (5)
MASHA.  And lit.  Part of the theme – from Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters.  Olga also appears in the puzzle but Irina does not.  M=M[oscow].  AS=when.  H[er] A[im] first letters (primarily).  They want to go to Moscow.
3.  After transactions I slept badly with such as 6, 21, 22D, and 27 (8)
TRIPLETS.  TR=transactions (this abbreviation was new to me) with anagram (badly) of I SLEPT.
4.  Gaol perhaps for the Beautiful Spy (4)
OLGA.  Anagram (perhaps) of GAOL.  Another of Chekhov’s sisters.  Also perhaps Pullofski from a popular number by the Henry Hall Dance Orchestra of the 1930s and 40s.  I had no recollection of this comic song but when I was very small indeed his renditions of Hush Here Comes The Bogeyman and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic were often heard in our 1950s nursery.
5.  Torment Arnie suffered without some directions in this role? (10)
TERMINATOR.  Anagram (suffered) of TORMENT ARNIE, removing one E and one N (without directions).  Movie franchise starring the heavily muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger (we also had Rambo quite recently)  Catchphrase “Ill be back” and he was, many times.  The very day before this puzzle came out Donald used the setting of the National Prayer Breakfast to diss Arnie for the low ratings of The Apprentice (catchphrase “you’re fired”, now changed to “you’re terminated”) since he took over as host.  Arnie said – fine, we should switch jobs…..
6.  Their shrine‘s originally found at old city that’s at the foot of Acropolis (6)
FURIES.  Another trio.  F[ound] (originally) UR=old city.  IE=that is.  S=foot of [Acropoli]S.  Very neatly executed.  Paired with 27A.
7.  “Trembles — ‘s ash yet standing” (Voluspa, Prophecy of the Seeress) (9)
YGGDRASIL.  I always have trouble spelling this.  The giant ash tree of Norse mythology.  Poem from the poetic edda.
8.  One of 3 amusing scapegoats, grumpy, making second a bit comical (5)
CURLY.  One of the Three Stooges (the others were Larry and Moe) who were a pie-in-the-face staple of late 1950s American tv.  My husband watched them with his parents.  I didn’t know they’d penetrated UK tv.  I just about remembered that “stooge” was another word for scapegoat but this took me a long time to parse because I got stuck on “curmudgeonly”, omitting the middle, which didn’t make sense and didn’t account for the rest of the clue.  As often happens I saw it as I typed this.  Replace the S (second) in SURLY=grumpy with the C from C[omical].
13. Episode in which silent Tam gets in a tizzy about middle of dance (10)
INSTALMENT.  Anagram (in a tizzy) of SILENT TAM with [da]N[ce] (middle letter of).
15.  Oracular bird, one going back and forth about back of grove (9)
DODONAEAN.  DODO=bird.  NA and AN=one, going back and forth, surrounding (about) [grov]E (back of).  There was an ancient Greek oracle at Dodona in Epirus.
17.  Way stupid little girl returns to poets like Tennyson (9)
IDYLLISTS.  ST=way.  SILLY=stupid. DI=little girl.  All reversed (returns).  As in Idylls Of The King and the like.
18.  Patchett’s sonorous prose featured here? (3,5)
BEL CANTO.  2001 novel by American author Ann.  I thought that just referred to singing but perhaps not.  Apparently it’s also a kind of prosecco.
21.  Burns’s lassie’s leaving Italy with Greek trio (6)
GRACES.  Another set of triplets and the one your blogger can’t parse.  I couldn’t think of the name of a single one of his lassies, and it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Selkirk Grace.  Other than GR=Greek I’m stumped.  Someone knows.  Boltonwanderer knows!  See below.  Nothing to do with the Bard of Ayrshire at all.  Nice work setter and BW.
22.  Start to feel a setback under their influence? (5)
FATES.  And another trio, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.  F[eel] (start) with A and SET reversed (back). 
24.  Salinger’s antihero ditching heroin one time (5)
OLDEN.  [H]olden Caulfiield from JD’s Catcher In The Rye, ditching the H=heroin.  
25.  Either of two novelistsEuropean friends? (4)
AMIS.  Kingsley and his son Martin.  Also friends en Francais.

12 comments on “TLS Crossword 1161 – Three down by Praxiteles – February 3, 2017”

  1. You will have read “An Infamous Army,” by our Georgette, Olivia.. her best book, some say, and notable for its careful research, always her hallmark. The DofW had no illusions about his troops but he was very fond of them, as were they of him.
    I enjoyed this crossword, if only because I managed to finish it without undue difficulty. Never heard of Dodona though and never laid eyes on even one Stooge, never mind three
    1. Infamous army was indeed Georgette’s best book in my book. Her account of Waterloo is riveting and was I believe on the syllabus at Sandhurst for a number of years. She would turn in her grave at some of the covers it’s sold under though. You didn’t happen to unpack 21d did you Jerry? I never did.
      1. Gracie Allen, Olivia, George Burns’ wife from the Burns and Allen show of the fifties. Take away an I for Italy.
          1. Sadly I bifd it, on the grounds of the Greek trio! Though I do remember George Burns, who seemed to live a very long time for someone who smoked as much as he did..
  2. The clue for 21D contains “lassie’s” rather than just “lassie”, which might have been what prevented you from seeing the parsing.
  3. I thought linking the triplet clues was quite generous: I don’t think I would have got the Graces clue without it. I did uncover the devilish George Burns connection, but had managed to forget it altogether and chased around the Immortal’s collection of girlfriends again when prompted here.
    Excellent crossword, excellent blog. I think I appreciate being an expert on sin: in this instance, I’m tempted (!) to go via G&S’ Mikado, in which Pitti Sin is one of the three little maids. Undoubtedly the pun was intentional: Chambers has sin and pity linked as “old informal”, the words being interchangeable, along with shame, in the phrase “it’s a pity”. Perhaps not so much now.
    I did wonder if the SINUSITIS clue was a late rewrite, and a brilliant one, for current relevance, but I’m not privy to the production schedule.
    All great stuff, 25 minutes to solve, a lot more time to fully understand.
    1. Pretty good time Z. I never thought of the G&S trio – how ingenious. The only one I ever remember is Yum Yum.
  4. Just caught up with this, which seemed gentle in parts but by no means throughoutI couldn’t parse CURLY or fully understand LINEARLY either until just now, so many belated thanks for the blog!

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