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Times 27,191: Mesopotamia

An interesting Friday offering, with an unfussy approach that on occasions seemed only a hair above the difficulty level of the Quick Cryptic, but managed nevertheless to confound and deceive with little clever touches throughout. My first ones in came as late as 26 and 28ac; the downs proved easier but I was held up for long minutes at the end by 1dn, which is obviously not very amenable to the seeking of wordplay-based explanations. What can I say in my defence except that it was very early in the morning, and I refuse to let my mind even think about the horror of the daily commute in London until it is almost upon me and there is strictly no other option.

Word of the day to 23ac which is definitely the sort of thing a verlaine would be proud to wear. I guess my COD goes grudgingly to 1dn for defeating me - anyone want to nominate any different candidates?

1 Refuse what can be earned around London? (6)
SEWAGE - London is in the southeast of the country so what can be earned there could be termed a S.E. WAGE.

4 Serene, though surrounded by endless pack ice (7)
PACIFIC - IF [though], surrounding by PAC{k} IC{e}, both "endless".

9 Traveller is author with American accent, speaking? (5)
RIDER - say WRITER [author] in an American accent.

10 Melting in our arms — that’s only seen at night (4,5)
URSA MINOR - (IN OUR ARMS*) ["melting"]

11 Cleric who’s left briefly, late coming in (9)
PRECENTOR - POR{t} [left "briefly"], with RECENT [late] coming in

12 River runs within explosive borders (5)
RHINE - R [runs] + IN [within] that H.E. [explosive] borders.

13 River: one among a number (4)
ARNO - R [one (river)] among A NO [a | number]

14 Alternate energy, extremely different (5,5)
EVERY OTHER - E VERY OTHER [energy | extremely | different]

18 Religious medal if dear must be changed to be accepted (3-7)
GOD-FEARING - GONG [medal], accepting (IF DEAR*) ["must be changed"]

20 A revolutionary force in the kitchen? (4)
CHEF - CHE F [a revolutionary | force], semi-&lit

23 Inoculation to back? It should be on one’s front (5)
JABOT - JAB [inoculation] + TO reversed. A jabot is a lacy frill worn under one's collar, mostly only as part of Highland dress nowadays, alas.

24 Explanation of desert island having left half missing (9)
RATIONALE - RAT IONA [desert | island] + LE{ft} ["half missing"]

25 Apology as starter of chicken leg having feathers on (5-4)
CLIMB-DOWN - C{hicken} + LEG [limb] having DOWN [feathers] on

26 Genevan, maybe, when drunken, is smart (5)
SWISH - SWISS [Genevan, maybe] as pronounced by a drunkard

27 Homeless person delighted to be in side ward (3,4)
BAG LADY - GLAD [delighted] to be in BAY [side ward]

28 Staging erotic content, hot stuff (6)
GINGER - hidden content in {sta}GIN GER{otic}

1 Hold arm up in tube? That may be going to work (5-4)
STRAP-HANG - cryptic definition, related to commuting on the London Underground

2 What bird is doing we misrepresented? (7)
WIDGEON - (DOING WE*) ["misrepresented"]

3 Grand forest that may surround the house (6)
GARDEN - G ARDEN [grand | forest]

4 Bill has no time for puzzle (5)
POSER - POS{t}ER [bill] minus T for time

5 Phone feature defective — nothing working in the country (8)
CAMEROON - CAMER{a} [phone feature "defective"] + O ON [nothing | working]

6 Like a bit of fish, being European (7)
FINNISH - if something is like a FIN [a bit of a fish], it would be FINnish.

7 Cut right through hollow (5)
CARVE - R [right] through CAVE [hollow]

8 Plant endlessly lucrative when propagated (8)
CULTIVAR - (LUCRATIV{e}*) ["when propagated"]

15 Circle character that calls for an answer (8)
RINGTONE - RING TONE [circle | character]

16 New student joins part of army course (9)
REFRESHER - FRESHER [new student] joins R.E. [part of army (Royal Engineers)]

17 Bone half upright on bare ground (8)
VERTEBRA - VERT{ical} ["half" upright] on (BARE*) ["ground"]

19 Big band arrangement is briefly touching (7)
DABBING - (BIG BAND*) ["arrangement"]

21 Direction from husband say, stifling a row (7)
HEADING - H E.G. [husband | say], "stifling" A DIN [a | row]

22 A haughty type turns up one miniature (6)
BONSAI - reverse A SNOB [a | haughty type], plus I [one]

23 Judge a horse and a sheep (5)
JACOB - J A COB [judge | a | horse]. Jacobs are the piebald, multi-horned ones.

24 Capacious jumper, wow! (5)
ROOMY - ROO MY [jumper | wow!]


( 78 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 9th, 2018 08:06 am (UTC)
Nice crossword, easier than some but with a lot of nice touches.
My COD is 9ac, a red rag to the TfTT homonymphobes, if ever I saw one.
Another exercise in concise cluing .. is it just me, or are clues getting shorter?
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:32 am (UTC)
We had one of these examples of North American Intervocalic Flapping a while back, and as I recall there was indeed some comment. Of course for me, the homophony is perfect, as it is in medal/metal/meddle/mettle.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Nov. 9th, 2018 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jerrywh - Nov. 9th, 2018 06:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ulaca - Nov. 10th, 2018 06:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paul_in_london - Nov. 9th, 2018 09:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:28 am (UTC)
I'll second 9ac as COD for sheer nerve and because it nearly defeated me. Spent ages trying to justify RISER (derived from 'reisen? a step on a travelator?) before spotting my typo in 2d. Unless I misunderstand you V, surely there's no need to separate with/in in 12ac?
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:49 am (UTC)
Re: 15.49
Oh yes, there isn't really, is there? Look at me trying to make things more Libertarian when they're perfectly Ximenean...
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:41 am (UTC)
Swishing on a star...
30 mins with no nosh. Heading to York, so will stop for brunch at Betty’s, Northallerton. Hoorah.
Didn’t like 9ac. And 1dn seemed a bit weak.
Thanks setter and V.
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:42 am (UTC)
Too clever for me. Gave up at the end of my hour with the unknown priest, the unknown river, the unknown bird and the American author all defeating me, especially as I'd desperately bunged in WENDIGO at 2d, on the grounds that it's an anagram of "doing we" and I knew it was a word for some kind of creature.

Might've managed it if my unknowns hadn't all been crossing! Thanks for the explanations, V.
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:51 am (UTC)
And wintry walks the Wendigo,
The farmers curse their fear,
The season's wheel is slowly halting,
The mound folks' time is near.
(no subject) - gothick_matt - Nov. 9th, 2018 11:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pootle73 - Nov. 9th, 2018 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:43 am (UTC)
Took a while to get going but then all done in about 30m. I'm not quite getting the supposed equivalence of 'though' and 'if' in 4ac.
Could someone think of an example?
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:14 am (UTC)
"The show was enjoyable, if a little too saccharine for some tastes."
(no subject) - pserve_p2 - Nov. 9th, 2018 09:29 am (UTC) - Expand
If I may... - z8b8d8k - Nov. 9th, 2018 09:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:44 am (UTC)
Agreed. Isn't it runs R Within= IN bordered by explosiveHE? Sorry, on train.
Nov. 9th, 2018 08:53 am (UTC)
I must have been off the wavelength for this as I found it the hardest I've seen for some time. Not knowing the river, I came up with AINO, which would seem to fit 'one among a number' just as well as ARNO. Alas, it doesn't happen to be the name of a river.
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:19 am (UTC)
AINO was the first name of Mrs Sibelius, the River Arno flows though Florence. Sorry, but I am a mine of quiz trivia and a Sibelius groupie.
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:13 am (UTC)
River, river on the wall
A very, very special day for me with exactly the same time as our esteemed blogger: well done V for being so quick!
I'm all for playing around with mildly dodgy homophones: two in one crossword, the American and the p*ssed Swiss looks like teasing of the friendly kind, and only a churl would object (go ahead, churls!).
I liked FINNISH - UED clues add to the gaiety of nations - and the (very) slightly risqué "melting in our arms" surface at 10. And a plant that's generic rather than NHO specific - what's not to like?
I did wonder whether there was more to 1d than a rather stranger surface image CD, but it appears not.

Edited at 2018-11-09 09:40 am (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:54 am (UTC)
RE: River, river on the wall
I used up all my speed last Saturday and now I have none left!
RE: River, river on the wall - (Anonymous) - Nov. 10th, 2018 12:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - z8b8d8k - Nov. 10th, 2018 12:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:23 am (UTC)
Paperback rider
23 minutes, much fun, no problems, 1d was last in after a flirtation with CHAIN-GANG but once all the checkers were there it fell in quickly, nice clue. 9a just about tolerable as I have no real idea how many Americans say RIDER when the word is writer. Why would you do that?
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:44 am (UTC)
"rider" for "writer"
I sure don’t.
Or not that I’m aware of.
Re: "rider" for "writer" - kevingregg - Nov. 9th, 2018 11:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "rider" for "writer" - guy_du_sable - Nov. 9th, 2018 11:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:27 am (UTC)
LOI was PRECENTOR, which I'd NHO. Wasn't quite sure what a JABOT was, either—and that crossed with JACOB, a sheep I wouldn't know except from previous puzzles here. It will be interesting to see how others here will feel about "within" as one word in the clue for RHINE (at first, I thought this had something to do with the hidden rest of the word, after R for "runs," in "witHIN Explosive")… but the puzzlers at The Nation have done something even more outrageous in an upcoming entry (to appear months from now), in a clue that took me ages to parse, and I am going to have to let them have it. (Maybe in both senses. Ha.)
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:38 am (UTC)
Within acceptable limits
Within is just there to give you IN, which is entirely permissible. It doesn't need to be read as two words.
Re: Within acceptable limits - pserve_p2 - Nov. 9th, 2018 09:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Within acceptable limits - guy_du_sable - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:40 am (UTC)
31 mins and most enjoyable. My COD to the &lit quality of CULTIVAR: very clever. I wasn't hampered by it, but surely a word that means 'something like a fin on a fish' would have only one 'n' and then to avoid a clash with 'finish'=conclude it would be necessary to hyphenate? So maybe the clue required a homophone indicator? Anyway, it didn't spoil a jolly good puzzle. I had vaguely heard of JABOT, though had no idea of what it might mean. I saw STRAP-HANG quickly: I like a good CD.

Thanks to the setter. Thanks, V, for your blog.
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:53 am (UTC)
I don't know - you'd say "clannish" or "fannish", with two n's, wouldn't you?
(no subject) - pserve_p2 - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - philip jordan - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:42 am (UTC) - Expand
FINish? - guy_du_sable - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: FINish? - pserve_p2 - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:34 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: FINish? - philip jordan - Nov. 9th, 2018 10:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: FINish? - penge_guin - Nov. 9th, 2018 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: FINish? - mikelima - Nov. 9th, 2018 09:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: FINish? - guy_du_sable - Nov. 9th, 2018 11:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: FINish? - guy_du_sable - Nov. 9th, 2018 11:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:42 am (UTC)
Easier than some of late. First 8 down clues were write-ins which made the top quite easy. Knew both JACOB and JABOT so no real problems in southern half either.

Thought 9A a bit daft - so many other ways of cluing the word why go for this offering? Liked the clue to URSA MINOR, the Little Dipper
Nov. 9th, 2018 09:45 am (UTC)
Very enjoyable and great fun although for a while I wondered if I would, ever get started, never mind finished! In the end I checked out in 42 minutes which is a reasonable time for me although I must admit that because of time constraints I stretched the rules a bit by checking the unknown words worked out from wordplay as I went along, just to make sure they existed (JABOT, CULTIVAR and PRECENTOR). Special thanks to whoever was writing 'The Archers'back in the 1960s for having one of the characters keeping a special herd of JACOB sheep.

Edited at 2018-11-09 09:46 am (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2018 10:02 am (UTC)
H Rider Haggard
Thought about him a lot while trying to make sense of 9ac, eventually put RIDER in, seemed weak. I liked 1d, spent some time with wrong wordplay, used to do that, horrific in the seventies, can't imagine what it's like now. Dnk JABOT.

Thanks verlaine (did you see the correction in the Times?) and setter.

Nov. 9th, 2018 10:47 am (UTC)
RE: H Rider Haggard
What correction in the Times? I guess it's too much to hope that you're talking about an error found in one of Roger Crabtree's finals puzzles solutions, several days after the fact...
Re: H Rider Haggard - robrolfe - Nov. 9th, 2018 12:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 9th, 2018 10:20 am (UTC)
Not that easy a RIDER
I was slower than most on this at 48 minutes, watching cricket at the same time. LOI was the ARNO after STRAP-HANG was remembered. Nowadays, I often get offered a seat by a kind, young person, not that there are straps to hang on any longer. That makes a happy man feel very old. DNK JABOT but JACOB made it clear. I was thinking of RINGTONE for 5d and it came in useful a few clues later. I wonder if the setter did the same. I liked EVERY OTHER, RIDER, and SWISH, all three worthy of COD, but BAG LADY takes the honour as that was what we called my daughter when she was little. She had a penchant for bags within bags. Good puzzle. Thank you V and setter.
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