February 11th, 2019


Times 27271 - Call me Deacon Blues

Time: 40 minutes
Music: Carmen Highlights

I have to admit this was a bit of a biff-fest, as I quickly discovered that this setter tended to use simple and obvious literals, often a single word.  Many of the longer answers were obvious once one or two checkers were present, and in they went.   It is only as I came to write the blog that I realize how casually I tossed in the obvious answer.

Another feature of this setter is rather loose usage of language.   Is a 'maestro' a 'virtuoso'?   Can a Spartan be described as 'austere'?   Is 'E' hallucinatory?   Does a 'fisherman' use a lobster pot?   Well, not exactly.

Tonight's two long answers may cause some solvers trouble.   Had I not researched the origin of the South African currency unit, the rand, I might have come a cropper; as it was, I was able to get the most difficult part of the word, and just had to put the remaining letters in likely places - look what I found!   This is what I have been doing in my attempts to solve Mephisto without reference books, but unlike Mephisto not every letter is checked.   But if the word looks like it's correctly formed in the target language, it's likely to be correct.

1 Scot left during talk with, say, another Scot? (10)
GLASWEGIAN - G(L)AS + W + E.G. + IAN - what could be simpler?
6 Dandy clutching large bomb (4)
FLOP - F(L)OP.   Formerly, a 'bomb; was a big success in UK theatrical slang, but the US version seems to have taken over.
9 Society role played by an austere old Greek (7)
10 Authorise retired military engineers to lock up prisoner (7)
EMPOWER - EM(POW)ER, where the enclosing letters are a reversal of our old friends, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
12 Executive area in feeding-place finally in regular use (10)
MANAGERIAL - MAN(A)GER + [f]I[n]A[l]L[y].
13 Instrument from east associated with this country (3)
UKE - UK + E.  Not particularly valid in Connecticut, but I see the intent.
15 University academic, a Times subscriber, perhaps? (6)
READER - Double definition, an Oxbridge title.
16 Malign ward supervisor entertaining at home (8)
18 Cultural traits unexpectedly shown by current clubs (8)
ARTISTIC - anaagrm of TRAITS + I + C.
20 Fine-tune first of devices used in a fair (6)
ADJUST -  A(D[evices])JUST.
23 Large vessel initially unpopular with sailors (3)
URN - U + R[oyal] N[avy].
24 Self-educator executed turn with American car (10)
26 Italian fellow’s extremely cool sound reproduction (7)
27 Amount of writing covering European leader’s ancestry (7)
28 Study used by English prime minister in the past (4)
29 Throw rest out, returning most important fisherman’s trap (7,3)
LOBSTER POT - LOB + anagram of REST + TOP backwards.
1 A big blow when visitor rejects hallucinatory drug (4)
GUST - GU(E)ST.   Even I know that ecstasy is not a true hallucinogen.
2 A graduate with a research room in the Birmingham area? (7)
ALABAMA - A LAB + A MA....not the Birmingham you were expecting?
3 Intelligence steward deployed having worked in S African region (13)
WITWATERSRAND - WIT + anagram of STEWARD around RAN.
4 He may have a hissy fit — look! (6)
GANDER - Double definition, the first one allusive.
5 Mimic provided with Italian wine, possibly, before meal (8)
7 Case in which canon takes formal wear (7)
LAWSUIT - LAW + SUIT.     Besides being an eccleisiatic title, 'canon' refers to the one of the laws of the church.
8 Maintain right for union leader to perform (10)
PERPETRATE - PERPET(+R,-u)ATE, a simple letter-substitution clue.
11 Old man developed seaside land for social venue (6,2,5)
PALAIS DE DANSE - PA + anagram of SEASIDE LAND.   Thanks to the Kinks for this one.
14 Fantastic, one taking pledge — an older relative! (5-5)
GREAT-UNCLE - GREAT! + UNCLE, that is, the pawnbroker.
17 Curios thus gathering round maestro? (8)
VIRTUOSO - VIRTU (O) SO.   'Virtu' refers to a group of artistic objects.   However, a 'maestro' is chiefly a conductor, while a 'virtuoso' is an instrumentalist.
19 Charge for carrying horse resting in shade (7)
21 Release a French set finally missing end of prep (7)
UNCLASP - UN + CLAS[s] + [pre]P
22 Mature persons a police officer has arrested in the last month (6)
ADULTS - A D(ULT)S.   The officer is a Detective Sergeant, and the month is pre-WWI business English, now obsolete.
25 An achievement, having units of poetry recited (4)
FEAT - I believe this is supposed to sound like 'fit', even though speakers around the world use wildly different vowels in both words.   Er, sounds like 'feet'.   I sometimes miss an obvious one.

QC 1285 by Teazel

I think this is the third blog in a row that I have come up against Teazel, and I also seem to remember that my first ever blog was on one of his puzzles. So he feels like an old friend now and today's puzzle is probably the most lively one I have ever blogged (from him or anybody). Full of entertaining clues, including a couple of clever misdirections as well as two clues that I found a bit questionable as you will read. I really enjoyed it, so many thanks for a 10-minute (medium difficulty) work-out. It really was great fun.

FOI was 5A I believe, and my LOI was the lovely 22A, which was also my COD on a day when there were several good candidates. Coming in close behind were 8A, 16A, 20A, 3D and 9D.

As an aside, a few weeks ago I referred to CID (I think) as an acronym. Kevin (I believe it was him) rapped my knuckles on the basis that an acronym has to be pronounced in general usage as a word rather than as a series of letters, as in UNESCO, or NASA, or FIFA. I acknowledged his comment and owned up to loose usage as that was my understanding as well. However I heard on the radio the other day the string of letters 'MTCSA' referred to as an acronym in a comedy programme. In fact, in that context it was set up as a self-referential joke as the letters stand for 'Mysterious and Therefore Cool-Sounding Acronym'. So I thought I would check up on it in the dictionary and it seems after all that an acronym is simply a string of initial letters, whether it can be pronouced as a word or not.

So having straightened that out I deployed my own acronym, the NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter), which yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

1 Things people are going to say? (8)
GOODBYES - cryptic definition. GOODBYES are what people who are going (i.e. leaving) will say. I don't think the syntax quite works, but it is such a neat idea that I feel it would be churlish to complain.
5 London statue painful to put back (4)
EROS - SORE backwards ('put back').
8 Persevering, even if difficult terrain (13)
THOROUGHGOING - can be rewritten as THO' (even if) ROUGH GOING (difficult terrain).
10 Edged forward, with hooter? (5)
NOSED - hooter = slang for nose. Reminds me of a dear friend now departed who had a very big nose. I once mentioned to someone that he had passed my room and "put his nose round the door", to which the reply was "not all of it, surely?"
11 A little European larva (7)
TADPOLE - nice bit of misdirection here if you only had the last checker 'E', as I did, in which case you might have started looking for a 6-letter word meaning 'little', onto which you could tack E for European. As it is the parsing is TAD (a little) + POLE (European).
12 Profit from one number by country-and-western singer (4,2)
CASH IN - I (one) + N (number) 'by' CASH (late lamented C&W singer Johnny). I never cared for his music much until he started producing some very thoughtful stuff towards the end of his life, most notably for me an excellent cover of Nick Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'.
13 Compete to block drunkard in Russian council (6)
SOVIET - VIE (compete) 'blocking' SOT (drunkard).
16 Popular, Castro, but no Christian (7)
INFIDEL - IN (popular) + FIDEL (Castro, the late Prime Minister and latterly President of Cuba). OK, the defiintion is 'no Christian', but it could equally well be 'Christian', as the word INFIDEL is also used by Muslims to describe non-Muslims.
18 Fit in curve round lake (5)
BLEND - BEND (curve) 'round' L (lake).
20 Person consulted appearing uninterested in listening (8,5)
SOUNDING BOARD - if you are listening to the words SOUNDING BOARD you could hear them as SOUNDING BORED (appearing uninterested).
21 Crazy food for squirrel (4)
NUTS - double definition.
22 Drink beginning to befuddle Dame Edna (8)
BEVERAGE - a lovely misdirection. The first thing any self-respecting solver would do here would be to pick out 'befuddle' as an anagrind and attempt to apply it to DAME EDNA as anagrist. This even remains feasible after you have all the vowels as checkers [sorry, this is incorrect - see comment by templarredux below] and then you are left with the unpromising Scrabble selection of D, M, D, N. At this point the light should dawn as you realise that Dame Edna's surname is Everage, and if you take B (the 'beginning to' Befuddle) and put it in front you get BEVERAGE.
1 Board work harmoniously (3,2)
GET ON - double definition.
2 Players sit: boos break out (7)
OBOISTS - straight anagram ('break out') of SIT BOOS.
3 No puritan, keen on American women? (5-6)
BROAD-MINDED - BROAD is American slang for a woman. If you are keen on American women, therefore, you might always have them on your mind, and so might be said to be BROAD-MINDED.
4 Crews have no head for heights (6)
EIGHTS - take the 'head' off Heights and you have EIGHTS (rowing crews).
6 One impaled on terrible horn — its? (5)
RHINO - the definition is 'ITS?', as the horn on which one is impaled could be that of a RHINO. This is another clue where I don't think the syntax quite works. I (one) 'impaled' on an anagram ('terrible') of HORN. Except that to my mind it is the 'terrible horn' that is impaled on 'one', given that it is the I that goes right into the middle of RHNO rather than the other way round.
7 Section of, say, people in street (7)
SEGMENT - EG (say) + MEN (people) in ST (street).
9 I obliged Ben to arrange feature of hotel room (6,5)
GIDEON BIBLE - a lovely little anagram (of I OBLIGED BEN ('to arrange')) and pleasing definition. Is it still the case in these godless times that the Gideon Society manage to sneak a bible into every hotel room? I must look for one and check next time I'm in a hotel.
12 Edges into study, bright red (7)
CRIMSON - RIMS (edges) in CON (study).
14 President to refuse to allow a Japanese art form (7)
IKEBANA - the two most common presidential visitors to Crossword Land are probably ABE (Abraham Lincoln) and IKE (Dwight D Eisenhower). Here we have IKE (president) + BAN (to refuse to allow) + A = IKEBANA, the Japanese art of flower arrangement (in case you didn't know).
15 With power thrust forward and fall precipitously (6)
PLUNGE - P (power) + LUNGE (thrust forward).
17 Quickly grabbing uniform for opera (5)
FAUST - FAST (quickly) 'grabbing' U (uniform).
19 Avoid Santa Fe Trail city (5)
DODGE - double definition, the second one being Dodge City in Kansas.