December 14th, 2020

Astarte1

QC 1765 by Oink

After having had a long run of very easy Monday puzzles we have had two on my watch that I believe have been a bit more difficult. I found this a medium challenge in QC terms and enjoyed a lot of the clues so many thanks to Oink for a skilful and entertaining puzzle.

Having said that there was plenty of easy meat with the hidden words and the anagrams so there should have been lots of checkers to help with the more difficult clues and so I would class this as a good educational puzzle.

FOI was the obvious 1A and my LOI was 16D which I didn't see straight away. For COD I liked 11A, 9D and 14D but would probably go for 24A in the end.

14D is interesting because it uses the same device ('on vacation') that caused several comments on my last blog. Quite a few people commented that they could not see how this device worked, how (using this week's example as opposed to the previous one) 'girl on vacation' led to GL. I and some others pointed out that if you take the internal letters out of the word then you are left with the first and last letters, but it still seemed that some people didn't get it. In fact one commenter answered one of the later queries rather testily by saying if they couldn't understand it then they should read the earlier comments before posting because the question had already been answered. And that set me thinking: maybe I as a blogger and the other commenters as seasoned crossword solvers weren't answering the right question.

So when one final (anonymous) person posted at the end of the day that they couldn't understand this device I answered them and repeated the earlier explanation, but then also speculated that maybe I had misunderstood their difficulty. I suggested that perhaps the problem was not with the idea of deleting the middle letters and leaving the outer letters behind, it was with being unable to get through the surface meaning of 'on vacation' and therefore not understanding why we were deleting the middle letters in the first place. I pointed out that although the surface meaning of 'on vacation' was 'on holiday', it could also be cryptically taken to mean 'on vacating' or 'on emptying', so that we were being instructed to 'vacate' the word, or 'empty it of its contents'. This did indeed strike a chord with the commenter in question and I received a grateful note of thanks back saying that, yes, now they understood what was going on.

The lesson for me was that, as I said in another context a few weeks back, we seasoned solvers sometimes take too much for granted. For me, as I imagine for most 15x15 addicts, when I see that phrase 'on vacation' in a clue I immediately think of that device. The 'straight' definition of 'on holiday' just doesn't even go through my mind. Paradoxically, a more difficult clue for me would probably be one which used the 'easy' straight definition!

I have therefore decided to try and adapt my blogging style a bit. I have always been somewhat afraid of 'explaining too much' and of people thinking I am insulting their intelligence. But of course it's not like that at all. It's not really about intelligence, it's more about experience. As we keep saying, these QCs are meant to be educational, and there are lots of people out there who are embarking on cryptic crosswords for the first time and for them at the beginning of their journey all explanations are helpful. I am therefore going to try and look at the clues with a beginner's eyes and try and see past the blinkers that I have developed over the years. I'm going to try to talk more directly to the beginner and so you will probably notice in this week's blog that I am explaining things at a more basic level.

Finally I would like to say that it is lovely to read all the comments that come in including the anonymous ones because it is the anonymous people who are most likely newcomers. But it would be even better if as a newcomer you were to come on in and join our community so that we know who you are. Do please therefore take a few minutes to set up an identity and come in and introduce yourselves properly. We don't bite. Well most of us don't anyway. I am sure you will find us a friendly and by and large helpful community.

Anyway, on with the blog. Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can.

Across
1 One flying out of Yugoslavia to Romania (7)
AVIATOR - hidden word: 'out of' YugoslAVIA TO Romania.
5 Charlie in sanatorium for a test (4)
SCAN - C (Charlie, phonetic alphabet) 'in' SAN (sanatorium).
7 Cry when husband leaves for a fly-by-night? (3)
OWL - hOWL (cry) when husband (H) 'leaves'. Left behind is an OWL, which may cryptically be termed a 'fly-by-night'.
8 Diverted tramline — ending here? (8)
TERMINAL - straight anagram ('diverted') of TRAMLINE.
10 River, extremely rough one (5)
RHONE - RH ('extremely' RougH, i.e. take the extreme letters - those at either end - of the word ROUGH) + ONE.
11 Survive, being first to follow U-boats? (7)
SUBSIST - IST (first) following SUBS (U-boats).
13 Greedy guts allowed to be Pooh’s friend (6)
PIGLET - PIG (greedy guts) + LET (allowed). PIGLET is Pooh's best friend in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories of A A MILNE.
15 Swear Madagascar is concealing fleet (6)
ARMADA - hidden word: sweAR MADAgascar 'is concealing'.
17 Leave a Mafia boss outside bar (7)
ABANDON - A DON (a Mafia boss, as in Don Corleone for example) 'outside' BAN (bar).
18 Group initially believing Cockney’s intuition (5)
BUNCH - B ('initially' Believing) + hUNCH ('Cockney' intuition. A HUNCH is a form of intuition and Cockney accents are popularly perceived to drop their 'aitches', so any reference to being a Cockney, or an East Ender, or from Bow or similar in a clue is likely to be a cryptic indicator to take an initial 'H' away from a word).
20 Alas I’m no fancy oil painting (4,4)
MONA LISA - straight anagram ('fancy') of ALAS I'M NO.
22 Small chocolate perhaps unwrapped (3)
WEE - sWEEt. A chocolate might be a SWEET, and if you 'unwrap' it, i.e. take off the outer layer (the first and last letters) you get WEE.
23 Love god angry when rejected (4)
EROS - if you are angry you might be SORE. Reverse this, i.e. 'reject' it, and you get the Greek god of carnal love whose statue is NOT in Piccadilly Circus (as I think has been mentioned in this blog before). If you don't know who the statue REALLY represents it's worth going and asking Uncle Google.
24 Is annoyed by alien’s way of thinking (7)
MINDSET - MINDS (is annoyed) + ET (Extra-Terrestrial, alien, either generically or more specifically from the Steven Spielberg film).
Down
1 Carol happy when drunk? That’s not true (10)
APOCRYPHAL - straight anagram ('when drunk') of CAROL HAPPY.
2 House in India with grand bathroom (5)
IGLOO - I (India, as a country abbreviation and also a phonetic alphabet letter) + G (grand) + LOO (bathroom).
3 Proof of ownership? Doctor deleted it (5,4)
TITLE DEED - straight anagram ('doctor') of DELETED IT.
4 Others holding artist up? Most unusual (6)
RAREST - REST (others) + RA at the beginning and so 'holding artist up'. An artist in Crossworld is usually an RA (Royal Academician, a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, just down the road from the famous statue q.v. supra) and here the artist is 'held up' by REST, that is to say it is on top in this down clue.
5 Runner is going back to protect king (3)
SKI - IS 'going back' = SI and K = King (abbreviation for the Chess piece, as opposed to R (Rex) as an abbreviation for a human king). 'Protect' K by putting it inside SI to get the answer.
6 Language used in Yemen to get a coffee (7)
ARABICA - ARABIC (language used in Yemen) + A gives this variety of coffee bean.
9 Affection that may come with email (10)
ATTACHMENT - double definition, the latter one slightly cryptic. An email will often have an ATTACHMENT with it.
12 Clever chap supporting Turkey? Or a fool? (9)
BIRDBRAIN - Again, a clue that only works in the down part of the puzzle. BRAIN (clever chap) is placed underneath, and therefore 'supporting', BIRD (turkey).
14 Attractiveness of girl on vacation having affair (7)
GLAMOUR - here we have the same device (but used on a different word) that caused some difficulty in my last blog (see comments in the preamble above). Girl 'on vacation' = GL, and then we add AMOUR (affair) to get the answer.
16 One northern company is in poor health (6)
INFIRM - I (one) + N (northern) + FIRM (company).
19 Information about last of giant amphibians (5)
NEWTS - NEWS (information) 'about' last of gianT.
21 Idiot girl removing top (3)
ASS - Another specifically down clue. lASS (girl) 'removing top', i.e. the first letter when you write the word in the downwards direction.
New RCA
  • vinyl1

Times 27847 - Mad Plan leads to Nervous Antelope

Time: 20 minutes
Music: Holst, The Planets, Previn/LSO

We're back to a typical Monday, as I trotted through in 20 minutes with scarcely a pause....except to erase answers I had put in the completely wrong place:   this sort of thing can really mess up your solve.   I also  managed to misspell the WWII battle, despite it being a hidden.   But in the end, I was all good in this pretty easy puzzle.    There were some rather feeble attempts to obfuscate the literal, which might puzzle the inexperienced solver, but the crew we have here  will merely use the cryptic and the crossers without breaking stride.   Without any obscure vocabulary or esoteric knowledge, I think we can expect some pretty fast times on this one.

OK, now for a word from TftT Management.   Some of the commenters have been posting pictures in their comments, which takes up a lot of space on the page and may be distracting to others.    Live Journal is not consistent in their treatment of these posts, and you may get just a picture URL on the platform you are on, but that doesn't mean that the whole picture won't show up for those using actual computers.   I am therefore requesting that you, our honored and honorable commenters, not do this.   Thanks for your cooperation!

Now, on to the puzzle.

Across
1 Bachelor, say, crazy to put down fruit (9,6)
BUTTERNUT SQUASH - B+ UTTER + NUTS + QUASH.
9 Singer to surround source of beer, Spooner says (3,6)
BOB MARLEY - A perfect spoonerism of MOB BARLEY.
10 A fight ending in gold medal, perhaps (5)
AWARD - A WAR + [gol]D
11 Area is overrun by flipping tiny creatures! (6)
LLAMAS - SMALL backwards containing A.
12 Toes tilt awkwardly in this? (8)
STILETTO - Anagram of TOES TILT.
13 Northern European that was close relative? (6)
NEPHEW - N + E + PHEW!
15 Survey the view (8)
PROSPECT - Double definition, hardly cryptic.
18 Document banks called crazy (8)
DERANGED - DE(RANG)ED.
19 Plan start of play set in Titanic's hull? (6)
TACTIC - T(ACT I)C, where the hull is T[itani]C.
21 Naval agreement, we hear, with ship producing make-up (3,5)
EYE LINER - Sounds like AYE + LINER.
23 Not oddly worried after controversial coat causes uproar (6)
FURORE - FUR + [w]O[r]R[i]E[d]
26 Antelope I caught leaving the country (5)
ELAND - [ic]ELAND, every setter's favorite antelope.
27 A kid on medication, powerless and uncomfortable (3,2,4)
ILL AT EASE - [p]ILL + A TEASE.
28 Study hesitatingly prepared for oral examiner? (6,9)
DENTAL HYGIENIST - DEN + anagram of HESITATINGLY.
Down
1 Youngster to yearn endlessly for ruined city (7)
BABYLON -  BABY + LON[g], torn down by Bob Marley, perhaps.
2 Bone idle at first during a little uprising (5)
TIBIA -  A(I)BIT, all upside-down.
3 Site of a battle in Basel — a lame insurrection (2,7)
EL ALAMEIN - hidden in [Bas]EL A LAME IN[surrection].
4 River's inlet almost diverted (4)
NILE - Anagram of INLE[t].
5 Plays conservative film (3,5)
TOY STORY - TOYS + TORY.
6 Old writer briefly covers a game (5)
QUAIL - QU(A)IL[l].
7 Paintings by men put in suitable studio, maybe (9)
APARTMENT - AP(ART, MEN)T, like my former residence in Manhattan.
8 Most of repulsive regiment finally retreat (7)
HIDEOUT - HIDEOU[s] + [regimen]T.
14 Beer batch served up in delicate containers (9)
PORCELAIN - ALE CROP upside-down + IN
16 Sand layer from ancient city covered by modern one? (3,6)
SEA TURTLE - SEAT(UR)TLE, one that lays its eggs in the sand, that is.
17 Hot swimmer is accommodating at any time (8)
FEVERISH - F(EVER)ISH.
18 Part of pool table ultimately breaks bank (4,3)
DEEP END - DE([tabl]E)PEND.
20 Merciful post-war prime minister, say? (7)
CLEMENT - CLEMENT Attlee, that is.
22 I help Northern Island from the south (5)
INDIA - AID N.I. upside down.
24 Middle Eastern country without borders (5)
OMANI - [r]OMANI[a].
25 Game's up for hawk (4)
FLOG -  GOLF upside-down, a chestnut.