June 10th, 2021

Times Quick Cryptic No 1893 by Alfie

Well, I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that this puzzle will cause some problems, and not just for the SCC.  Others more experienced will recognise the setter’s name and be looking for hidden depth, which isn’t too hard to find, and some more experienced solvers may just have some difficulty with a couple of the clues, answers and wordplay.  I struggled home in 18 minutes, three over target, and had difficulty with some of the parsing, particularly 12a, which I finally parsed to my satisfaction (just) after completion.

Alfie is an occasional setter who invariably gives us a puzzle on an Alfie-betical theme, and this is true here as well.  Themed crosswords can appear contrived, and annoy some solvers who might find them clunky.  However, I always enjoy their cleverness and craft, so count me as a fan.

I’ll describe what I have found at the end of the blog, to give you all a chance to find it for yourselves.  Also, sorry for my radio silence on this blog this week.  I started the week with a 72 hour golf trip to Wiltshire, and yesterday did a round trip from Surrey to Scotland for a very sad family funeral.  However, that is all behind us, and we can now move on.  I have completed all of the QCs this week with times between 10 and 13 minutes (except for this one!), which may be related to exhaution.  However, I have had neither the time nor opportunity to comment here until now.

Across

Sale that sounds weird to some? (6)
BAZAAR – Sounds a little like BIZARRE (weird).  One of those homophone clues that doesn’t quite work in my opinion.  The first syllable is definitely not the same sound in the two words.
Told stories added by brief, regularly recalled (6)
FIBBED – Alternate letters (regularly), reversed (recalled) in aDdEd By BrIeF.
8 Reports Athletic Club matters (8)
ACCOUNTS – A{thletic}  C{lub} and COUNTS (matters).
Fish a healthy red colour, tailless (4)
RUDD – RUDD{y} (healthy red colour), tailless = drop the last letter.
10 Measure of length of payment time (4)
FEET – FEE (payment) and T{ime}.
11  Widespread agitating I’d suffer endlessly (7)
DIFFUSE – Anagram (agitating) of [I’D SUFFE[r}] (endlessly).
12  Returning favour to Ms Darling perhaps, as compensation (6,5)
SAVING GRACE – This is where I struggled with the parsing.  Ms Darling is Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter whose participation in the sea rescue of a handful of survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838 brought her to the attention of society, and made her a heroine.   A SAVING GRACE is a compensation, or compensating virtue or quality, so answer and definition fit.  However, how does the wordplay work?  The best I could arrive at is this:  Grace Darling undoubtedly saved lives in her heroic rescue,  If one were to save Grace, one would be returning the favour.  Can anyone do better than that?
15  Arrogant school bowler, perhaps (4,3)
HIGH HAT – HIGH (school, as in HIGH school) and HAT (bowler is an example of a type of HAT).  To HIGH HAT is to adopt a superior attitude towards, or to ignore socially, or to be arrogant.
16  Pilgrimage starts off hopeful and joyful journey (4)
HAJJ – First letters from (starts off) H{opeful} A{nd} J{oyful} J{ourney}.  The HAJJ is the name of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
17  A couple of lines penned by each girl (4)
ELLA – A couple or pair of L{ines} to give LL, which is inside EA{ch}.
18  Back in Paris, I annoy local French citizen (8)
LYONNAIS – Reverse hidden (back in) in {pari}S, I ANNOY L{ocal}.  LYONNAISe (usually written with the final E) is a cooking term meaning cooked or served with onions, but comes from ‘a la Lyonnais’, of or made in Lyon or the Lyonnais region, which can equally apply to a citizen of the region.
20  Lincoln’s assassin, by front of stage, stalls (6)
BOOTHS – BOOTH (John Wilkes, assassin of Abe Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre) and S{tage} (front of stage).
21 Stylish clothes, ultimately, dyer’s transformed (6)
DRESSY – Anagram (transformed) of [DYER’S] and S ({clothe}S ultimately).


Down

Family on radio taking their bow? (7)
ARCHERS – A cryptic hint to give the name of British Radio’s most famous family, the ARCHERS, broadcast since 1951 (a good year, that!).
3  Sailor not at home?  That’s concerning (5)
ABOUT – AB (sailor) and OUT (not at home).
Manage to flee (3)
RUN – Double definition.
5  Female at first rubbished this gift, causing a punch-up (9)
FISTFIGHT – Anagram (rubbished) of [THIS GIFT] with F{emale} (at first).
6  Live with artist, accepting vilification, in Caribbean location (7)
BERMUDA – BE (live) with RA (artist) containing MUD (vilification).
7 Fellow spun around endlessly (5)
EDDIE – EDDIE{d} (spun around) endlessly = drop the last letter.
11  Foul places knight visits heaving dull sigh (9)
DUNGHILLS – Anagram (heaving) of [DULL SIGH] with N (Knight, N, chess notation) ‘visiting’.
13  Wandering around Virginia, on allowance (7)
VAGRANT – VA (Virginia, standard abbreviation) on GRANT (allowance).
14  Exhorts, in French, to marry son (7)
ENJOINS – EN (‘in’ in the French language), JOIN (to marry) and S{on}.
15  A greeting the chap is going to love (5)
HELLO – HE’LL (he will, the chap is going to) and O (love).
16  Joint that’s nothing exceptional inside (5)
HINGE – Hidden (inside) in {not}HING E{xceptional}.
19  Elderly Cockney’s influence (3)
OLD – HOLD equals influence.  If said by a cockney, he’d probably say ‘OLD and drop the aitch.

Back to Alfie’s theme.  Answers to all of the across clues contain double letters, starting with AA in 1a, BB in 5a, CC in 8a, etc, working through the alphabet in order, but missing occasional letters.  We continue with DD, EE, FF, GG, HH, JJ, LL, NN, OO and finally SS in 21a.  A couple of the down answers also feature double letters, 11d and 15d.  In addition, all but seven of the twenty-five clues, across and down, feature double letters.

Alfie also sets under the name Noel, usually at Christmas.  Famously, in one of his Xmas puzzles a few years ago, Alfie / Noel included a grid that was one letter short of a pangram (called a Lipogram).  The missing letter?  It was L that was missing – No El!  Today, the only clue that does not contain a letter L is 14d.

Please let me know if you spot anything else.

Times 28000 - when we fall on a round number

Time taken: 15:01, though I had a very very very silly typo at the end of 5 down. I was wondering if there would be a nod to this being puzzle 28000 and there may be a tip in the answer to 14 across, but otherwise I found this a pretty tricky offering.

Looking at the early times it seems I am not alone in finding this one tricky. How did you do?

I'll be back with a postscript in the early afternoon UK time, but if there is  something you don't get, please check the comments, as I am in the East coast of the USA and will not be conscious for a few hours.

Postscript: Had a busy day yesterday so didn't do a lot of checking in to see how people did but there doesn't seem to be much contentious in the comments other than this was a difficult puzzle.

Away we go...

Across
1 Particular bit of fish, unpleasant (7)
FINICKY -  FIN(bit of fish), and ICKY(unpleasant)
5 Even better, one's peaked (4,3)
FLAT CAP - FLAT(even), CAP(better)
9 Top left (11)
OUTSTANDING - double definition, the second referring to left meaning unpaid
10 Vital force only somewhat achievable (3)
CHI - hidden inside aCHIevable
11 Puzzle briefly referring to river (6)
AMAZON - AMAZE(puzzle) missing the last letter, then ON(referring to)
12 Acting so uncertain — is one? (8)
AGNOSTIC - anagram of ACTING,SO
14 Steps taken in Scotland as corrupt regime shot slippery character (9,4)
EIGHTSOME REEL - anagram of REGIME,SHOT and then EEL(slippery character). Keen crossword fans will also note this as being one of the occasional entries in the Azed series of puzzles.
17 Shocking — as a secret? (13)
UNMENTIONABLE - double definition
21 Secure document for manual worker? (4,4)
NAIL FILE - NAIL(secure), FILE(document), manual referring to on the hands here
23 Beyond belief originally, irregular accent (6)
BROGUE - after the first letter of Belief, ROGUE(irregular)
25 Pocket purse (3)
POT - double definition, referring to a pool shot and the purse for a comptetition
26 A dribbling Tory? (5-6)
RIGHT-WINGER - double definition, the first referring to a soccer player
27 Very different topic has fellow on strike (7)
TANGENT - GENT(fellow) after TAN(strike, hit)
28 Capital needed, get old man to invest cash, finally (7)
BAGHDAD - BAG(get) and DAD(old man) containing the last letter in casH
Down
1 Blooming disheartening final test (6)
FLORAL - the outer letters of FinaL, and ORAL(test)
2 Dope and speed in compound (7)
NITRATE - NIT(dope) and RATE(speed)
3 Business money secures gripping tool, mostly for machine on plantation (6,3)
COTTON GIN - CO(business) and TIN(money) containing TONGS((gripping tool) missing the last letter
4 American Symphony Orchestra in Newark, last of all (4)
YANK - last letters of symphonY orchestrA iN newarK
5 Decent reason for play area (10)
FAIRGROUND -  FAIR(decent), GROUND(reason). I think I tried to type FAIRGROUNDS and so in my grid this read FAIRGROUNS which kept me from an all correct
6 Newspaper cut up about leader in general — bother! (5)
AGGRO - ORGAN(newspaper) reversed, missing the last letter surrounding the first letter in General
7 Bird stuffed with first of chestnuts on the empty dish (7)
COCOTTE - COOT(bird) containing the first letter of Chestnuts then the exterior letters of ThE
8 Magnificent nose broken by nice deceptive left (8)
PRINCELY - PRY(nose) containing an anagram of NICE, and L(left)
13 Long Tube journey in minute (5,5)
STRIP LIGHT - TRIP(journey) inside SLIGHT(minute)
15 The setter having sprung up, cuckoo setting off (9)
EMBARKING - ME(the setter) reversed, then BARKING(cuckoo)
16 Shifts hell for old servant (8)
TURNSPIT - TURNS(shifts) then the PIT of hell
18 Wet day touring site in need of development (7)
MOISTEN - MON(Monday, day) surrounding an anagram of SITE
19 In conclusion, good time promised (7)
ENGAGED -  END(conclusion) containing G(good) and AGE(time)
20 General and Marxist eyed with disdain (6)
LEERED - General LEE and RED(Marxist)
22 Strength shown by triathlete initially in front (5)
FORTE - first letter of Triathlete inside FORE(front)
24 Shot, use weapon (4)
STAB - double definition
verlaine

Times 28,001: Just One More Wafer-Thin Clue

Very straightforward for a Friday - I did this while articulating my thought processes as I'm trying to work out how to livestream, and it still look me only 7 minutes odd. The surfaces are pretty coherent and I did like my deceptively simple LOI 10ac, the nice word 27ac, the device at 17dn and the surface of 14dn, which reminded me of Mr Creosote and inspired this blog's title. Many thanks to the setter, and maybe by next week I'll have worked out how actually to get a recording of my musings!

ACROSS
1 Trainee giving nitrogen to plant (6)
INTERN - give N to INTER [plant, as in bury]

5 Risqué nature of playwright’s succeeded (8)
RACINESS - RACINE'S S

9 Denial duke takes House of Lords allowances, perhaps (10)
DISCLAIMER - D IS CLAIMER

10 Atom bombs? Ring for security (4)
MOAT - (ATOM*)

11 Vacant Berkshire farmland is unlikely to be rejected (8)
BEARABLE - B{erkshir}E ARABLE

12 River in India, certainly (6)
INDEED - DEE in IND

13 Punt ace, not the brightest (4)
BETA - BET A. Second brightest, of stars

15 Break’s very warm — a record at the moment (8)
SNAPSHOT - SNAP'S HOT

18 Volume of Poe needs a note for scholarly readers (8)
LITERATI - LITER [American volume] + A TI

19 Host is very foolish wasting billions (4)
ARMY - {b}ARMY

21 Country taking power from an older one (6)
RUSSIA - {p}RUSSIA

23 Semester, say, in which one may get to train (8)
TERMINUS - a "semester" is a TERM IN U.S.

25 Cheese of fine character (4)
FETA - F ETA

26 Scribbler’s tattoos don’t fade away? (3-7)
INK-SLINGER - INKS LINGER

27 A serving girl over in hotel, one carrying tea? (8)
INDIAMAN - A MAID reversed in INN

28 Island dividing traffic gets railing (6)
TIRADE - I dividing TRADE

DOWN
2 Disturbing sounds perhaps not at all lacking in watts (5)
NOISE - NO{w}ISE

3 Former partner with company, one brought in to evaluate and criticise (9)
EXCORIATE - EX + CO + I brought into RATE

4 Close Scottish bank set up in US financial centre (6)
NEARBY - reversed BRAE in NY

5 Dwarf with odd skin mostly raises family (15)
RUMPELSTILTSKIN - RUM PEL{t} STILTS KIN

6 Red woollen jacket, new key line (8)
CARDINAL - CARDI N A L

7 Not one check over migrant (5)
NOMAD - NO [not one] + reversed DAM [check]

8 Where the Queen entertains most are to run round (9)
STATEROOM - (MOST ARE TO*)

14 Gourmet’s colossal waste ending in bin (9)
EPICUREAN - EPIC UREA {bi}N

16 Supplier of paper one artist ordered (9)
STATIONER - (ONE ARTIST*)

17 Metal vehicle carrying goods for street at one end of sports ground (8)
VANADIUM - {st->VAN}ADIUM

20 Thrash metal involving right band (6)
ARMLET - (METAL*) involving R

22 Trod water, perhaps, with one teacher (5)
SWAMI - SWAM with I

24 Overturn university marker over delta (5)
UPEND - U PEN over D