October 7th, 2016

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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”

Times Quick Cryptic no 674 by Flamande Friday 7th October 2016

Front of 1ac, 24. The clock said 7’55”, about average for me, but there are some beauties here. 1d, 11, 18, 24, the excellent 4d and the sublime 3d all make for a very satisfying Friday challenge from Flamande, who may or may not speak the primary distracter in the aforementioned 3d.

The one obscurity is gettable from wordplay; the potato discussion may rumble on; and any UK-centrism is fairly balanced, as noted below. Can I ask that if you put your time up, you say whether it is better than usual or the opposite? And do please comment if you can.


1. Book tough defender on the pitch (8)

HARDBACK – Definition is book, a BACK is a defender in soccer and other games, HARD = TOUGH

5. Search for food? (4)

GRUB - A double definition, GRUB means to dig or search in the dirt, and is also a colloquial word for food.

8. Keep most important article in metal container (8)

MAINTAIN – MAIN = most important, A is the (indefinite) article in TIN = metal container. The word ‘article’ in a clue should trigger thoughts of either THE (definite article) or A (indefinite article). TIN, meanwhile, can be money, metal, element, backward idiot etc. etc.

9. Kitchen equipment from Coventry (4)

OVEN – C{OVEN}TRY – ‘from’ may be the trigger word for such a clue.

11. Girl associated with cider? One's into wine (5)

ROSIE – From the famous book by Laurie Lee, concerning memories of his childhood, although some may have been embellished. One (I) into wine (ROSE). Clever surface to this clue, but how many other girls would you associate with cider?

12. Train former newspaper employees (7)

EXPRESS – An EXPRESS is a train (in some places and countries anyway; let’s leave aside the differences and avoid discussing infrastructure). EX- = former, PRESS = newspaper employees.

13. Minor rebuff (6)

SLIGHT – SLIGHT as an adjective means minor, SLIGHT as a noun is a rebuff, modern synonyms may be ‘blank’, ‘disrespect’ etc. A double definition.

15. First person to take artillerymen around fleet (6)

ARMADA – definition is ‘fleet’, as in the famous and ill-fated Spanish invasion force of 1688. First person is ADAM, artillery (useful crossword term) is RA for Royal Artillery, part of the British Army. ‘Around’ indicates a reverse, thus ADAM + RA reversed = ARMADA. Adam is the name given to the first person in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. Adam is formed by the Lord God from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) – the ancient Hebrew word for humanity/man being adam, the word for dust being adamah.

18.Inside country house you'll see an orchid (7)

VANILLA – V{AN}ILLA, VILLA being a country house (discussions on a postcard please – up here it’s a soccer team), with AN inside. It was news to me that VANILLA is an orchid; the name derives from the Greek for ‘testicle’, from the appearance of the ‘root-tubers’. This gives me a nice segue into 21ac.

19. Bet it's a long time between start and end of war (5)

WAGER – a WAGER is a bet, a long time is an AGE, start and end of war = W---R

21.Underground root, not right for cylindrical container (4)

TUBE – The clue could be parsed as TUBER (underground root), minus the R (not right) = TUBE (cylindrical container). Or it could be parsed as TUBE (the London Underground (subway/metro) system); TUBE (root = TUBER, without the R); TUBE = cylindrical container – a triplet of indicators. Both parsings are nice, and valid, but only if you accept a TUBER as a root, which it isn’t – this has been the subject of much discussion on these pages.

22. Underwater explorer Edward turned away (8)

DIVERTED – An underwater explorer can be a DIVER (pace Tom Daley); Edward is sometimes shortened to TED. DIVER + TED = DIVERTED = turned away.

23. Head removed from shiny vegetable (4)

LEEK – {S}LEEK = shiny, head removed. Leeks, vegetables possibly similar in taste to onions, associated with Wales (in Henry V, Ancient Pistol is made to eat a raw leek).

24.Certainly not rare words of congratulation (4,4)

WELL DONE – words of congratulation = WELL DONE; in the cooking of meat, this is at the other extreme from ‘rare’. Nice distracters here as could spend a while thinking ‘Certainly not’ is the definition. See 4 down. If you should go to France, and you eat steak, it’s worth knowing the French terms: tartare (raw); bleu (just about sealed); à point (medium or thereabouts, but the French will be impressed as it means ‘just right’); and the Franglais ‘bien cuit’, which can mean ‘thoroughly’ or ‘well cooked’.


1 Sound of funny bone (7)

HUMERUS – Haha, a homophone for humorous, a bone in the upper arm. Incidentally, ‘humorous’ is spelt the same way in British and US English, despite the differences in humo(u)r.

2. Defeats Republican in US manoeuvres (5)

RUINS – R (for Republican) + an anagram (manoeuvres) of ‘in US’. It’s too serious to be flippant about this.

3. Dutch gambler having modest amount of ale? (6,4)

BETTER HALF – Definition is ‘Dutch’ = wife in cockney slang (probably from duchess) = BETTER HALF – jocular or serious term for spouse. BETTER = gambler; HALF = ‘modest amount of ale’, as in half pint. Undoubtedly my COD (clue of the day).

4. Shout about former president's goodness (6)

CRIKEY – Definition is ‘goodness’ as in the exclamation, a mild oath or expression of surprise, derived from ‘Christ’. cf COR, MY. We have CR{IKE}Y – CRY = shout, about IKE, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US President 1953-6.

6. Disorganised, I arrive in holiday area (7)

RIVIERA – anagram (Disorganised) of ‘I arrive’.

7. Initially brassed off with students getting extra money (5)

BONUS – ‘extra money’ = BONUS; ‘Initially brassed off’ = BO (first letters of words) + NUS (National Union of Students).

10. We helpers arranged to install a car part (5,5)

SPARE WHEEL – Anagram (arranged) of ‘We helpers’ including (to install) A = SPARE WHEEL.

14. Mean US soldier lifted old coin (7)

IGNOBLE – Definition is ‘mean’. This is a down clue, so ‘US soldier lifted’ is G.I. reversed = IG, + NOBLE, an obsolete gold coin.

16. Reduce size of brigade after reorganisation (7)
ABRIDGE = ‘reduce size of’, anagram (after reorganization) of ‘brigade’. Nice surface to this clue, but ‘reorganisation’ sets off alarm bells.

17. Some brought a gin, especially for N. African stew (6)

TAGINE – Sometimes in crossword land you have to take the wordplay and make a word you’ve never heard of, as in this case for me. Thus we have ‘Some’ (indicating an extract) of BROUGH{T A GIN E}SPECIALLY = TAGINE, a North African/Berber stew named for the pot in which it is cooked, also known as tajine, marqa or maraq. You can buy a posh cast iron tagine (pot) for £140, but it won’t be authentic as they should be made of earthenware.

18. Five Italians, not half lively (5)

VITAL = ‘lively’. V = five in Roman numerals, appropriately + ITAL (Italians not half). If this were clue number 17 I could digress about why Italians believe 17 (XVII) is unlucky.

20. Annoy husband leaving densely populated area (3,2)

GET TO = ‘annoy’; ‘husband leaving’ indicates losing the h for husband from G{H}ETTO, ‘densely populated area’, although the word has much uglier associations.

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Times 26,537: Sauce For The Reverend's Merry Goose

I'd better whirlwind this as due to the Crossword Club being inaccessible all morning, I did it on the old papyrus on a rainy station platform (in 9 minutes 40, my stopwatch claims) and I've had to write it up just now at work. An enormously fun puzzle I thought, though it may prove to be too far towards the Libertarian end of the setting spectrum for some. According to my notes 11ac was my FOI, I biffed or partially biffed 24ac, 2dn and 16dn, and my LOI was 17dn. My COD was the strange and wonderful apercu at 19dn. Alright, time to go not be sacked: over to you, my dears!


1 Article put on aircraft carrying journo from E London (6, 6)
BOMBER JACKET - BOMBER JET [aircraft] carrying 'ACK [journo "from E London"]

9 Bones found in bag next to top drawer? (5)
SACRA - SAC [bag] next to R.A. [top drawer (= respected artist = Royal Academician)]

10 An element of comic book language? (9)
MANGANESE - Manga are Japanese comics, but if manga had a language, by analogy to Java's Javanese, it'd be...

11 Where one takes off, but doesn't actually undress? (8)
AIRSTRIP - Cryptic def: one "takes off" from an airstrip, but one doesn't actually "strip" there

12 Glass raised to oneself daily? (6)
MIRROR - Cryptic def: not an alcoholic glass, but a looking-glass here. Pretty sure I drink more pints than I
tidy myself up in mirrors, but your own mileage may vary. ETA: I failed to spot that "daily" here refers to the Mirror
newspaper. I'm sure it would be on my radar if it had a better crossword, so it's only got itself to blame

13 Belt for strangling with is a hazard of course (4, 4)
SAND TRAP - STRAP [belt], strangling AND [with]. The course in question refers to the sport with misshapen
whacking sticks and little holes

15 Lord's conclusion perhaps is baffling (4)
STUMPS - double def, with STUMPS also being a possible conclusion at Lord's, which is a venue for the sport
where people throw red spheres very fast at lightly armoured sentries who must deflect them

17 Female motorists requiring assistance briefly (6)
RACHEL - R.A.C. [motorists (Royal Automobile Club)] + HEL{p} [assistance "briefly"]

18 In place of patient article, engineer moves anticipating conflict? (3, 5)
WAR DANCE - WARD AN C.E. [place of patient | article | (civil) engineer]

20 Point after brother, making face (6)
BREAST - EAST [(compass) point] after BR [brother]

21 Tragedy of family left packing possessions (4, 4)
KING LEAR - KIN [family] + L [left] "packing" GEAR [possessions]

24 Old film about a ref, songs from the right shows (9)
NOSFERATU - hidden reversed ["from the right"] in {abo}UT A REF, SON{gs}

25 Bathsheba's husband's backpedalling a shock perhaps for all (5)
URIAH - reverse ["backpedalling"] of HAIR U [a shock perhaps | for all (in the cinema)]

26 My small three wheeler: get off! (6, 1, 5)
STRIKE A LIGHT - S TRIKE ALIGHT [small | three wheeler | get off]


1 Concession to the elderly that's enough to be getting on with? (3, 4)
BUS PASS - Cryptic def: with a bus pass an OAP has enough to be getting on (a bus)

2 Food processing areas come without specialist? (8, 6)
MACARONI CHEESE - (AREAS COME*) ["processing"] "without" NICHE

3 Praise no longer key (5)
EXALT - EX ALT [no longer | key (on a computer keyboard)]

4 Spot fine, then jail for West Indian (8)
JAMAICAN - JAM [spot] + A1 [fine] + CAN [jail]

5 99, maybe, or two more? (4)
CONE - A 99 is an ice cream cone, C ONE suggests to the trained solver "one hundred and one",
which is two more than 99. Haven't we seen this clue in another puzzle really recently?

6 On reflection, short feature appeared wasted (9)
EMACIATED - reverse ["on reflection"] of DETAI{l} CAME ["short" feature | appeared]

7 Corrupt practice of daughter in marring energy recycling (14)

8 Girl who'd come out with gentleman heading north remains (6)
DEBRIS - DEB [girl who'd come out] + SIR reversed [gentleman "heading north"]</i>

14 Petty in the extreme? That is the way with adolescents (9)
TEENSIEST - I.E. ST [that is | the way] with TEENS [adolescents]

16 Work on hand satisfied patient of mine? (8)
MANICURE - If I am a doctor, a "satisfied patient of mine" might be a MAN I CURE

17 Artist's career's having to be pigeon-holed (6)
RUBENS - RUN'S [career's] having BE "pigeon-holed"

19 Condition, but not necessarily range, of person under discussion? (7)
EARSHOT - a person under discussion's condition is EARS HOT (their "ears are burning")
even though they are not in EARSHOT. Allegedly

22 Set to consume game, finding something less appetising (5)
GRUEL - GEL [set] "to consume" R.U., which is the sport where both the really beefy and
the comparatively weedy chaps chase around after some kind of leather egg

23 Bundle of cash one found in dry river bed (4)
WADI - WAD I [bundle of cash | one]. Real Scrabble players' word, this