March 28th, 2020

  • brnchn

Times Cryptic No 27618 - Saturday, 21 March 2020. Doubling down on definitions.

I barely finished the horror Friday puzzle by the time Saturdays reached the web site, so it was a relief this one was solvable! My FIO was 14ac, which was so obviously an anagram. My LOI was 8dn, about which I had no idea; even when I saw the wordplay, the answer seemed implausible. Apart from that, my last few were in the top left, where cracking 9ac unlocked the rest.

There seemed to be more double definitions than usual, and several clues where the definition wasn’t at the start or end. My clue of the day was 9ac. I liked both the definition and the wordplay! Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Notes for newcomers: since the Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords, this blog is posted a week later, after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on the current Saturday Cryptic. Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets].
Across
1 Mock? In a second almost comes to like Greek drama (6)
TRAGIC – RAG in TIC[k].
5 In unstable state, I must avoid responsibility (8)
LABILITY – take an I out of LIABILITY, to get this unfamiliar word.
9 Damaging fall in a Jersey ditch? (4,4)
ACID RAIN – A, C.I. (Channel Island), DRAIN. Lovely, well-hidden definition.
10 Look about and pull back (6)
REGARD – RE (about), DRAG (pull) backwards.
11 Girl rejecting dance shows bachelor out (6)
STELLA – [b]ALLETS, backwards.
12 Rail supporter is overwhelmed by jokes (8)
BANISTER – IS ‘overwhelmed’ by BANTER.
14 We barristers’ works bearing fruit (12)
STRAWBERRIES – (WE BARRISTERS*), ‘worked’.
17 With surprising delicacy, open book (12)
ENCYCLOPEDIA – (DELICACY OPEN*), ‘surprisingly’.
20 Weirdly unlucky defendant gets run in (8)
ACCURSED – R in ACCUSED.
22 Ring cleaner (6)
WASHER – double definition.
23 Human being virtuous? About time (6)
MORTAL – MORAL (being virtuous ) ‘about’ T for time.
25 Claire regularly takes foreign language, not the right subject (8)
LIEGEMAN – every second letter of cLaIrE, then GE[r]MAN.
26 Criminal proposal to compass death (8)
OFFENDER – OFFER to ‘compass’ END.
27 First element of telephone number provides lead (6)
TETHER – T[elephone], ETHER (numbing agent=number).

Down
2 Deliver on location, as told (6)
RECITE – RE (on), CITE sounds like (‘as told’) SITE.
3 Buy good new clothes reduced in response to explosion (3,5,3)
GOD BLESS YOU – (BUY GOOD*) ‘new’, ‘clothing’ LESS (reduced).
4 Man arrives at a lake in dense thickets (9)
CHAPARRAL – CHAP (man), ARR. (arrives), A, L (lake).
5 Extended courtesy for killer at Agincourt (7)
LONGBOW – a double definition, the first a touch fanciful.
6 His poetry attributed to Hubbard? (5)
BYRON – L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology. Was Byron’s poetry BY RON? Puh-lease!
7 Stage set up (3)
LEG – GEL (set), ‘up’.
8 Novelist’s revolutionary opening enthrals press (8)
TURGENEV – URGE (press), inside (‘enthralled by’) TNEV, which is ‘revolutionary’ VENT (opening). I’d never heard of this Russian writer, and felt none the worse for that.
13 One can fill lots of cells — start making a bed? (11)
SPREADSHEET – another double definition, the second a touch fanciful this time.
15 Source of funds to stop a pair of lifts trapping people (9)
ENDOWMENT – END (stop), OWT (TWO, ‘lifting’), ‘trapping’ MEN.
16 Stop work as pirate (5,3)
KNOCK OFF – yet another double definition.
18 Boat’s propeller: one gets feet wet (7)
PADDLER – and yet another.
19 Open taking this seed for a spell (6)
SESAME – a quaint reference to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and its magic spell, ‘Open Sesame’.
21 Firm one enters changed hands (5)
SOLID – I (one) entering SOLD.
24 Almost level in match (3)
TIE – TIE[r] (level), TIE (match).

Sunday Times Cryptic 4895, by Dean Mayer — Golden archness

I hope everyone here and their loved ones are well and safe. Having a distraction like a good crossword puzzle in a time like this can be a godsend. To tackle a problem for which there is known to be a solution is a great relief from the more intractable ones facing us, and finishing brings a feeling of being in control that is too often elusive in our day to day lives in the midst of a pandemic. As long as you can concentrate, that is… I found thoughts intruding of aspects of our current mess while working and blogging this excellent offering from Dean.

Slippery surfaces, cunning wordplay, and a few words that you don’t see everyday… Really everything you could ask for, an instant classic.

I indicate (maragnas)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

ACROSS
 1 20 shillings, cents or euros? (5)
SCORE — S(hillings) + C(ents) + OR + E(uros)
 4 Marine guide possibly working for island (6,3)
DORSAL FIN — (for island)* I guess the appendage can fulfill other functions, hence the “possibly.”
 9 Best time to run in defeat (9)
WORTHIEST — WOR(T)(HIE)ST Yes, “worst” can mean “best,” in referring to coming out ahead in a competition.
10 Golden arches—usual rubbish is consumed, primarily (5)
AURIC — Gag me with a spoon! First letters, COD. The irony is that the most (in)famous patron of the fast-food chain so clearly alluded to here doubtlessly does not know the answer word, nor could even guess its sense (even though it is the first name of the James Bond villain Goldfinger). It has nothing to do with the ear—unlike auricular!—but it is the last name of French composer Georges. It has a very precise meaning in chemistry, and a homonym refers to the auras that soi-disant psychics supposedly see.
11 Perhaps those in rubber will excite more of us (8)
FOURSOME — (more of us)* I suppose the reference is to the game of bridge. I have included “will” in the anagrind, because otherwise it isn’t doing anything.
12 Go about as a bird would go! (4,2)
BEAT IT — BE A TIT This phrase has been clued many times here by breaking up the words this way, with sometimes TIT meaning a silly person.
14 Liquid runs so if retaining “A”, “X” being liquid property (7,7)
SURFACE TENSION — (runs so if)* surrounding ACE + TEN
17 Keep going to Latin classes (3,11)
NIL DESPERANDUM — You can probably attend them remotely now… ”Never despair!” in Latin. A watchword for our fraught time. Keep Calm and Carry On!
19 Lounge lizard initially bends over (6)
SPRAWL — L[-izard] + “bends,” WARPS<=“over”
20 Ready for battle (3,5)
WAR CHEST — Got your mask on? CD, “Ready” in the sense of available money
23 Old magistrate taking bible class the day before (5)
REEVE — R(eligious) E(ducation) + EVE
24 Spring lecture given without single drink (9)
ORIGINATE — OR(I)(GIN)ATE
25 Sea lion swallows a large piece of meat (9)
MEDALLION — MED(A)(L)LION, “Sea” being the MEDiterranean
26 Dyed fabric clothing sailor returned (5)
BATIK—“Clothing,” KIT + “sailor,” AB<=“returned”

DOWN
 1 Forced to leave prune? (3,3)
SAW OFF — DD “See off” with this precise meaning was new to me; it’s a strictly British usage.
 2 Work in China for US? (3,6,6)
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND — “China,” of course, being CRS for ”pal,” and “US” an example of the deceptive capitalization we haven’t seen on Sunday lately. We had a reference to this book not so long ago.
 3 Standards maintained by internet hosting (5)
ETHOS — Hidden
 4 Daughter opens robe in fantastic scene (10)
DREAMSCAPE — Paging Dr. Freud… D(aughter) + REAMS, “opens” + CAPE, “robe” The closest definition I’ve found for REAM is “to enlarge (a hole) as with a reamer” (Collins). MER at CAPE clued by “robe”; the words are not synonyms of each other at thesaurus dot com, nor listed as such anywhere else that I’ve found.
 5 No introduction needed for gospel book (4)
RUTH — [-t]RUTH
 6 Greek hero soon captures willing maiden (9)
AGAMEMNON — A(GAME)(M)NON
 7 Officer left in tears, unit disbanded (5,10)
FIRST LIEUTENANT — (left in tears, unit)*
 8 Good to admit oxygen can poison (8)
NICOTINE — This is actually true! NIC(O)(TIN)E The substance is merely addictive taken via conventional tobacco products, but liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes can be hazardous, as the stuff in a purer form and at higher doses is indeed quite toxic.
13 Result of zero fare? A motorhome to take Channel crossing (10)
STARVATION — No, this isn’t the clue to the next one…! CD, ST(A)(RV)ATION
15 Coast, where waves seem to gather? (9)
FREEWHEEL — (where)* caught up in FEEL, “seem”
16 Physicist’s worry over traveller (8)
ANGSTROM — ANGST, “worry” + ROM, “traveller,” singular for Roma, which is short for Romani (sometimes called Gypsies, which some take as pejorative). The unit of length named after Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström, equal to one hundred-millionth of a centimeter, is mainly useful in expressing wavelengths and distances between atoms.
18 Run out of clothes? (6)
STREAK — Well, the closest laundromat is limiting its hours now, but I’m not going out much or for very long, and most things can be washed in the tub… CD
21 Conservative member’s rise (5)
CLIMB — C + LIMB Bit of a chestnut, easiest clue here.
22 Wet place over one dry place (4)
GOBI — BOG<=“over” + I I guessed GOB was a “wet place” in the sense of “mouth,” either yer own or even perhaps that of a river, until Peter pointed out what should have been obvious!