February 27th, 2020

Linus van Pelt
  • z8b8d8k

27598 Thursday, 27 February 2020 Ĉu ni ne amuzas nin!

Well. That was exciting! There are some Mephisto-ish words around, mostly workoutable from the wordplay, and quite a few places where the setter tries to bamboozle you into thinking you need some specialist knowledge to understand the clues or produce the building blocks of the answers. I’ve done the research on at least some of those so you don’t have to, but it helps to try not to panic because you have no idea who Zamenhof is or what happens is the second book of Kings (the hapless king Ahaziah dies, along with quite a few of his soldiers, on the word of Elijah). I spent 41 minutes plus (only just over 3 Verlaines, so not too bad) doing the solving, and a lot more digging out the mostly unnecessary detail.
I take this to be a proper, if rather bruising contest, and I expect to see it registering on the hard side. Lots of clues that would be CoD in lesser grids. Does it help that it’s a pangram? I saw the likelihood early on, but don’t think it helped me to any of the answers.
Here’s my stuff. Clues are in italics, definitions therein also underlined, and solutions look nice in bold capitals



Across
1 One not thinking to take from Scripture (5)
ROBOT The definition works at least until AI develops still further. The wordplay? Take from: ROB, Scripture O(ld) T(estament)
4 Hill walker in fog could, say, wrongly (8)
MISSPEAK After trying for way too long to find a hill walker to fit into MIST, you realise it’s a pun: in fog, a hill walker might miss peak. Well, he might. I’ll stick with the definition being say, wrongly
8 Most unheard of! (6,8)
SILENT MAJORITY A cute cryptic definition
10 Bad weather expected to occur mostly in spring month, returning (9)
RAINSTORM Somewhat topical in the UK. Expected to occur (mostly) is IN STOR(e), thrown into a backward version of MAR standing in as a spring month
11 American’s game and, without question, profligate (5)
ROQUE …“is an American variant of croquet played on a hard, smooth surface. Popular in the first quarter of the 20th century and billed ‘the Game of the Century’ by its enthusiasts, it was an Olympic sport in the 1904 Summer Games, replacing croquet from the previous games.” Cheers Wiki. If you take the Q(uestion) out of the sport you get ROUÉ, “a profligate, rake, debauched man, esp an old man.” Cheers Chambers
12 Slowing down after abnormal power and vigour (6)
ESPRIT Slowing down, known to musicians as ritardando, is conventionally abbreviated to RIT. Your abnormal power is ESP. Combine.
14 You texted and tweeted about indication of inflation taking over (8)
USURPING You, texted, is U, though in these days of autocorrect it seems unnecessary. Tweeted is SUNG. The indication of inflation (one of them) is the Retail Price Index, or RPI. Assemble.
17 Bear with immature, backward and belligerent cry (3,5)
WAR WHOOP which Chambers assures me is a thing. The bear (of little brain) is POOH, with provides the W, and immature is RAW. Put them together and reverse the lot
18 Dope runs across grass becoming increasingly active (6)
SPRYER Right. SP is dope, from racing jargon (it’s short for Starting Price, the odds on a horse when the race begins, and by extension information about its capabilities). Runs gives you the (second) R, and grass the RYE. Assemble
20 Scandinavian drunk as a lord? (5)
ROALD The best known two being Amundsen and Dahl, though the latter was born in Wales. “Drunk as” is your anagram indicator, and the fodder is A LORD.
22 Something quotable from champ appearing on channel (5,4)
SOUND BITE Champ is BITE (one of its other meanings) and channel is SOUND, the seagoing version
24 Which story unfolds in 2 Kings I, 2 Kings II? Trivia time! (5-5-4)
RIKKI-TIKKI-TAVI Kipling’s tale of a belligerent and feisty mongoose. You don’t need to know your Old Testament, you just need to read the code and sort out the anagram (unfolds) fodder. So you have two Kings: KK. I: I. Two Kings: KK. II: II, TRIVIA and T(ime). I’m willing to bet you biffed this and only worked out the wordplay to see how clever it was.
25 Attack article penned by surrogate NCO (8)
PAROXYSM That sort of attack. The article is A, “penned” or enclosed by PROXY, standing in for surrogate. The NCO is a S(ergeant) M(ajor)
26 What Mayerhof and Zamenhof do that’s final (3,2)
END OF I believe this to be a vulgar expression use by the lower classes. Again you don’t need to know who Mayerhof (Otto Fritz, German physician and biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1922) or Zamenhof (Ludwik Lejzer, Polish ophthalmologist, linguist and the inventor of the international language Esperanto) are, just that what they do is end (in) OF



Down
1 Kept promise, while being an example in Java, say (8,4)
RESERVED WORD The wordplay is just kept: RESERVED, promise: WORD. The definition is “a word in a programming language which has a fixed meaning and cannot be redefined by the programmer” (cheers Wiki) and might just as well be in Java. The programming language, not the place Krakatoa is east of
2 Italian left party after serving up hot food (5)
BALTI This really got to me. It had to be, but that “left” was one L too many. Except LAB is (in the UK) a party of the left, until it re-forms itself to become electable, as under Tony Blair. So IT(alian) plus left party LAB for the Brummie take on Indian cuisine (probably)
3 Composer minus the lyricist ultimately useless (9)
TUNESMITH So again, no obscure composer needed, though I lost time trying to think of one. The thing is an anagram (“useless”) of MINUS THE plus the last letter (ultimately) of lyricist. Which is a T
4 Staff acquiring millions: instant wealth (6)
MAMMON We have staff, the verb, for MAN, bringing in M(illions) and MO for (an) instant. It’s what you can’t serve as well as the Deity (Matthew 6:24, KJV)
5 Judge getting in way disarranged royal court (2,6)
ST JAMES’S Where monarchs meet Their Excellencies. J for Judge finding its way into way: ST(reet) and disarranged: A MESS. It looks odd without the apostrophe.
6 Sound of matchmaker’s cutting tool? (5)
PARER Oh, gosh, an easy one! Except I didn’t see it for thinking of what the Yiddish word for matchmaker was. It’s not actually Yenta or Yente, but she’s the matchmaker if Fiddler. It’s actually Shadchan. Squeeze that into five squares! Anyway, the easy version is that a matchmaker is a PAIRER, of which the sound is our answer
7 Times long ago opposing Leave? Yes, at first (9)
ANTIQUITY Maybe it just seems long ago that one could oppose Leave (the setter’s capital) without being trashed, but hey, we’ve Left! Whoop di do! Enough politics: here it’s ANTI QUIT for opposing leave, plus “at first” Y(es)
9 Pulling leg, eg a fibber cannot be credible (6,6)
BEGGAR BELIEF Looking a bit awkward without the S, I think. It’s an anagram (pulling) of LEG EG A FIBBER
13 A head start for police with, in time, better IT (3,6)
PER CAPITA Head of Police P, then in time: ERA, both better: CAP, and IT in plain sight
15 Tick off papers put out and delivered fast (5-4)
RAPID FIRE I think it’s tick off: RAP (as in reprove, censure) plus ID paper, plus put out for FIRE, which seems a bit soft.
16 Stays on track, gracious and firm (8)
CORSETRY Clever misdirection. The track,  separated from the stays, is RY (railway), the gracious is the similar exclamation COR! And the firm bit is SET
19 Rubbish I must think should be placed under bed (6)
BUNKUM UM is the noise we make while pretending to think, the bed’s a BUNK. That’s history.
21 Butcher’s cleared up, packing last of pork (5)
DEKKO (can be DECKO, but not here) Butchers is CRS for look (-hook). Cleared is OKED, a variant spelling of okayed, and in this down clue it’s reversed “up”. Throw in the last letter of porK. The word is of Hindi origin.
23 Monitor possibly not needing large chamois (5)
IZARD Monitor is LIZARD. It doesn’t need L(arge). A Pyrenean chamois (cheers Chambers)
RolyToly

Times Quick Cryptic No 1558 by Joker

On the gentle side from Joker, giving my first sub-6 minute blog in... quite some time. All but three of the acrosses went in on a first read through (1, 22 and 23 being the stubborn ones), which made for a lot of merry biffing come the downs. There were a number of nice clues and good surfaces that I didn't get a chance to look at much during the solve, my favourite being the neatly put together 6d - many thanks to Joker!


Across
1 Survive like most football grounds? (9)
WITHSTAND - I suppose if "with child" is pregnant, a ground could be "with stand". (The vast majority of football grounds don't have a stand, but the OED does cover Joker by saying a ground is "especially a football stadium".) The earliest quote for football dates to 1409: "the games called foteball and cokthresshyng". Ah, the venerable game of cock-threshing: get a cockerel, tie it to a post, throw sticks at it until it dies. That's the type of thing we did before crosswords.
6 Father takes daughter home (3)
PAD - PA (father) D(aughter)
8 A Balkan national hugs British gymnast (7)
ACROBAT - A CROAT (a Balkan national) hugs B(ritish)
9 Little Sarah working in hairdressers (5)
SALON - SAL (diminuitive of Sarah) ON (working)
10 Dance club certain about politician and old disturbance (12)
DISCOMPOSURE - DISCO (dance club) SURE (certain) about MP (politician) and O(ld)
12 Cut up about wife being clever (6)
SHREWD - SHRED (cut up) about W(ife). I confidently entered SHRWED, wondered why it didn't look right, and changed it to SHWRED. I'd have been some 15 seconds quicker were it not for that. Has a dunce lost his cap somewhere?
13 The French boy’s time at school (6)
LESSON - LES ("The", French) SON (boy).
16 Occasional short insect breaks inside camping shelter (12)
INTERMITTENT - TERMITe ("short" insect) breaks/breaches IN (inside) TENT (camping shelter)
19 Scholar to talk endlessly (5)
RABBI - RABBIt (talk, "endlessly")
20 Mad about Queen and Wedgwood, perhaps (7)
POTTERY - POTTY (mad) about ER (queen)
22 Greek character wanting English dish (3)
PIE - PI (Greek character) wanting E(nglish)
23 Always envious, for constantly popular person (9)
EVERGREEN - EVER (always) GREEN (envious). I don't think I've seen this as a figurative noun, but it makes sense. Nice clue.

Down
1 Spent seven days speaking (4)
WEAK - "spoken" the same as WEEK
2 Dog’s tons more fun, but not male (7)
TERRIER - T(ons) mERRIER (more fun, but not M(ale))
3 Very black blubber (3)
SOB - SO (very) B(lack)
4 Gold corporation down at last for three months of the year (6)
AUTUMN - AU (gold) TUM (corporation) N (dowN "at last").  "Corporation", via the sense of "body", crops up occasionally for stomach, generally of the large variety: as Charlotte Brontë wrote in Shirley, "Looming large in full canonicals..with the dignity of an ample corporation."
5 Crafty recipe — one has little time (9)
DISHONEST - DISH (recipe) ONE'S (one has) T ("little" Time)
6 Rice recipe: unlimited Apulian cooking (5)
PILAU - unlimited = no ends of aPULIAn, which is then "cooked".
7 Waste material one’s thrown in underground cell (7)
DUNGEON - DUNG (waste material), and an anagram (is thrown) of ONE
11 Company conflict over gamble shows lack of courage (9)
COWARDICE - CO. (company) WAR (conflict) over/above DICE (gamble, verb as in to dice with death)
12 To incite’s about right: rider’s put his foot in it? (7)
STIRRUP - STIR UP (incite) about R(ight)
14 Heartfelt selection of words in ceremony (7)
SINCERE - "selection" of the letters of wordS IN CEREmony
15 Depression in gloomy place, on ecstasy (6)
DIMPLE - DIM (gloomy) PL. (place - abbrev. as in a square on a map)
17 Firm losing small data chart (5)
TABLE - sTABLE (firm, losing Small)
18 Church melody form — Christian, ultimately (4)
HYMN - &lit, with the ultimate/final letters of churcH melodY forM christiaN
21 Label’s strange with odd letters missing (3)
TAG - s T r A n G e, with "odd letters missing"
verlaine

Times 27,599: Doctor Doctor

Yes, of course I'm upset that I didn't get to blog yesterday's brawny colossus, but this was a perfectly good middleweight puzzle, with a few chuckles to be had: I especially liked 21ac's "fighter in his early years". FOI 10ac, LOI 17ac I believe, all done and dusted in a little over half the time of yesterday's. Thank you setter, you had a hard act to follow there. See you all again in March!

1 Roughly cutting round border (4)
ABUT - AB{o}UT [roughly], "cutting" O = round

4 A little extra, Spooner says to enliven partner? (10)
MAKEWEIGHT - Spoonerised WAKE MATE [enliven | partner]

9 Recordings heard, with illustrations worked in (10)
TAPESTRIED - or TAPES TRIED [recordings | heard]

10 Very smallest part of anatomy? (4)
ATOM - hidden in {an}ATOM{y}. FOI

11 British banker requiring separate note (6)
SEVERN - or SEVER N [separate | note]. The old "banker" = "thing with banks" = "river" gambit.

12 Bird's audibly wavering cry (5,3)
TAWNY OWL - dodgy homophone of TORN [wavering], + YOWL [cry]

14 Masses retiring, arriving at bar (4)
STOP - reversed POTS [masses]

15 Ruled reply, we hear, required for one taking set steps (4,6)
LINE DANCER - LINED [ruled] + homophone of ANSWER

17 Professed chief spotted scratching head (10)
MAINTAINED - MAIN [chief] + {s}TAINED [spotted, its head "scratched"]

20 Doctor taking in most of sick and faint (4)
MILD - M.D. taking in IL{l}

21 Fighter in his early years needing extra weapon (8)
CLAYMORE - CLAY [Fighter Cassius, who would in his later years be Muhammad Ali] + MORE [extra]

23 Protective gear from criminal haunts (6)
SUNHAT - (HAUNTS*)

24 Miserable medic particularly drained (4)
MOPY - M.O. P{articularl}Y

25 Athletes penalised for this most deceptive of skills (5,5)
FALSE START - or FALSEST ART

26 See English going in once play's abandoned (4,4,2)
CLAP EYES ON - E going into (ONCE PLAY*)

27 Disturbances which parading soldiers are in? (4)
ROWS - double, non-homophonic, def

DOWN
2 Pioneer with coat pinching hat commonly leading to trouble (5,1,5)
BLAZE A TRAIL - BLAZER [coat] "pinching" 'AT, + AIL [trouble]

3 Edging away, other troops leading at that point (9)
THEREUPON - {o}THE{r} + R.E. [troops] + UP ON [leading]

4 Graduate translated Latin used in morning service (7)
MATINAL - M.A. + (LATIN*)

5 Screwing up irks couple employed by Mme Defarge, say (8,7)
KNITTING NEEDLES - KNITTING [screwing up] + NEEDLES [irks], items indispensable to a tricoteuse...

6 I'm amazed journalist seizing papers is left alone (7)
WIDOWED - WOW ED [I'm amazed! | journalist] "seizing" ID [papers]

7 Make bug (3,2)
GET TO - double def; as in reach, and annoy

8 National Trust's originator raised capital abroad (5)
TAMIL - T{rust} + reversed LIMA [capital of Peru]

13 Women’s shoe repair outlet scrap simple carrier (11)
WHEELBARROW - W HEEL-BAR ROW [women's | shoe repair outlet | scrap]

16 Prospective MP needs one constituent in division (9)
NOMINATOR - is "the constituent in division" like a DENOMINATOR? Dunno really.

18 Head of Admiralty can navigate remotely (7)
ALOOFLY - A{dmiralty} + LOO FLY [can | navigate]

19 Rescind newly-issued notice (7)
DISCERN - (RESCIND*)

21 Stand-up artist perhaps of vast size hasn't succeeded (5)
COMIC - CO{s}MIC [of vast size], minus S = succeeded

22 A Greek last seen in Sparta? (5)
ALPHA - also the last letter in Σπάρτα