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Sunday Times 4826 by Jeff Pearce

13:18. Nothing too hard this week. The bird at 4dn has come up before, including in a puzzle I blogged some time back, and I remembered it. This is perhaps fortunate because the wordplay strikes me as a little ungenerous. This bird actually seems to be something of a Jeff Pearce favourite: it came up in ST 4691 and 4712, which were both his, and 4328 which may have been (the setters weren’t named in those days but I think Jeff was a setter).

There were a couple of new words to me in here, in the religious thingummy and the scientific unit, but there the wordplay was clear enough. I thought the definition of ‘gambit’ was a bit odd but after further rigorous research (looking it up in Chambers) I concluded it was OK.

So thanks to Jeff and without further ado…

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*, anagram indicators like this.

Across
1 Compost bin with strange vegetable
STRING BEAN - (BIN, STRANGE)*.
6 Say a heartily dodgy oath
EGAD - EG, A, doDgy. The first of two outings for this word last week.
9 Head off opening compass
AMBIT - gAMBIT. I don’t know much about chess but I thought this was a bit of an odd definition if only on the basis that there is such a thing as an opening gambit, which would be tautological if a gambit was necessarily an opening. However according to Chambers a gambit can be ‘an initial move in any strategy or battle’, which seems close enough even if ‘an’ (as opposed to ‘the’) still suggests it doesn’t’ necessarily have to be the first move. Edit: see below for more learned chess-related commentary that clears this one up.
10 Opening in shortened Swan Lake, perhaps, is a light piece of music
BAGATELLE - BA(GATE)LLEt.
12 Professional who’s polite on Mastermind
CIVIL ENGINEER - if you ENGINEER something, you could be said to ‘mastermind’ it.
14 Looking forward to a serving
AWAITING - A, WAITING.
15 Drunk bishop introduces gambling game
BLOTTO - B, LOTTO.
17 Copy key — primarily for bolt
ESCAPE - ESC (key) preceding APE (copy).
19 Spooner’s blue material advertising dance
HORNPIPE - a spoonerism for ‘porn hype’.
21 Discount extremely ugly dinner table needing repair
TURN A BLIND EYE - (UglY, DINNER TABLE)*.
24 Donkey left in fine pasture
GRASSLAND - GR(ASS, L)AND.
25 Polish right for small flower
RHINE - SHINE with the S (small) replaced with R.
26 Rank kipper, say, beginning to rot
TIER - TIE, Rot. Kipper ties were fashionable in the 70s.
27 Monster can upset vessel
MONSTRANCE - (MONSTER CAN)*. ‘The ornamental receptacle in which the consecrated host is exposed in Roman Catholic churches for the adoration of the people’ apparently. I didn’t know the word but it seemed the only possible arrangement of the letters once all the checkers were in place.

Down
1 Being upset, criticises photo
SNAP - reversal of PANS.
2 She’s on live — with little volume at start of act
REBECCA - RE (on), BE (live), CC (little volume), Act.
3 Shows around in mid-December?
NATIVITY PLAYS - CD.
4 Bird’s up and down movement over bridge?
BOBOLINK - BOB, O, LINK.
5 Inert substance oceanographer carries back
ARGON - contained reversed in ‘oceanographer’.
7 Soldier beginning to leave guy’s unit for force
GILBERT - GI, Leave, BERT. The CGS unit of magnetomotive force, apparently, whatever that is.
8 An old tree is firmly fixed
DEEP-ROOTED - because an old tree will have deep roots. Not a very cryptic clue.
11 Experimenting until a solution is found, pilot ran off with order
TRIAL-AND-ERROR - (PILOT RAN, ORDER)*. Edit: thanks to anon below for pointing out that this is complete nonsense. It is of course 'pilot' for TRIAL, followed by an anagram of RAN and ORDER.
13 Drunk’s after a non-alcoholic drink — perfect
WATERTIGHT - WATER, TIGHT.
16 Jets swirling around in the air?
TORNADOS - another not-very-cryptic cryptic definition.
18 Slaughter horse and worry about it
CARNAGE - CAR(NAG)E.
20 West African left out Spaniard?
IBERIAN - lIBERIAN.
22 Look around lake and an extensive 24
LLANO - L(L, AN)O. 24 being 24 across, GRASSLAND.
23 Nothing more than a pond
MERE - DD.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Dec. 2nd, 2018 02:51 am (UTC)
An enjoyable challenge. Took me a while to commit to MONSTRANCE as it seemed too obvious. A double bluff perhaps. STRING BEAN and TURN A BLIND EYE were great, and REBECCA was a very nice charade.
- Blorenge
kevingregg
Dec. 2nd, 2018 03:13 am (UTC)
18:48
LOI HORNPIPE. Didn't understand TIER; strictly speaking, I suppose I 'knew' kipper ties, since I think they were mentioned once here, but. I had the same thought as Keriothe about 'gambit', still have. I'm sure it took all the checkers before I solved. 'Knew' MONSTRANCE, though I couldn't have told you what it is.
jackkt
Dec. 2nd, 2018 05:51 am (UTC)
A tehnical DNF here because of the wretched Spoonerism clue (how I hate them!). I was convinced that 'blue' was clueing DOWN so if Spooner was involved that would make the second part of the answer begin with D. On reflection I'd have done better trying to biff a word meaning 'dance' to fit the checkers. Also struggled a bit with MONSTRANCE - vaguely known of, but the clue was something of a dead duck.

Edited at 2018-12-02 09:15 am (UTC)
gothick_matt
Dec. 2nd, 2018 07:25 am (UTC)
And a DNF for me, too, as I just couldn't see the "O" coming from "over" in 4d and I'd never heard of the unlikely-sounding bird. At the moment my "crossword words" list is growing faster than I can revise it, I think!
kevingregg
Dec. 2nd, 2018 08:01 am (UTC)
Isn't O=over another cricket abbreviation, like C=caught?
gothick_matt
Dec. 2nd, 2018 10:51 am (UTC)
Yes (though I only know it from crosswords.) I just didn’t spot it at the time! In a down clue, I was assuming that “over” was a positional indicator, so I was looking for a five-letter word for a bridge.
johninterred
Dec. 2nd, 2018 07:39 am (UTC)
25:07 for me but I needed my dictionary for the bird. DNK the (obsolete)unit of magnetic moment, but it did vaguely ring a bell or the ostensorium at 27a. It looked odd having the first 4 letters of the anagrist at the start of the answer, but nothing else fitted. HORNPIPE my LOI and TORNADOS my favourite. Thanks K and setter.
kevingregg
Dec. 2nd, 2018 08:11 am (UTC)
It's a New World bird, although it doesn't reach my part of the New World. It has a complex call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N32LdaoHoJw
jerrywh
Dec. 2nd, 2018 08:10 am (UTC)
Use of "gambit" without "opening" is common enough .. there are eg the King's, Queens, Evans' or Danish gambits which collectively are known as gambits, which seems sufficient for the clue .. to a chess player a gambit would imply a deliberate offer of material in the opening stages, whereas later on it would be called a sacrifice..
Bobolink is a fine word and I can see why Jeff would be attracted to it. No clue what they might look like, or whether they turn up on my bird table (suspect not)
keriothe
Dec. 2nd, 2018 09:30 am (UTC)
To me though ‘opening’ on its own necessarily refers to the first move.
jerrywh
Dec. 2nd, 2018 09:48 am (UTC)
Yes perhaps, but not to me .. there is the opening, the middle game and the endgame. The opening would normally last 15-20 moves or so
keriothe
Dec. 2nd, 2018 10:36 am (UTC)
And could/would you describe the whole of an opening like that as a ‘gambit’?
jerrywh
Dec. 2nd, 2018 10:42 am (UTC)
Technically, yes, could do, but i would expect the person i was talking to to want to know which gambit.. so would say eg Evans Gambit.. the offer for which occurs on move 4 so would defo. cover the whole opening
keriothe
Dec. 2nd, 2018 10:46 am (UTC)
If the Evans thingy is both an ‘opening’ and a ‘gambit’ then that’s good enough for me.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 2nd, 2018 11:04 am (UTC)
Trial and error
Maybe I'm being stupid, but PILOT RAN ORDER doesn't contain the same letters as TRIAL AND ERROR.
keriothe
Dec. 2nd, 2018 11:07 am (UTC)
Re: Trial and error
You are not the one being stupid, anon! This is what can happen when composing blogs hastily at the last minute...
Blog now corrected.

Edited at 2018-12-02 11:09 am (UTC)
special_bitter
Dec. 2nd, 2018 12:38 pm (UTC)
29:29 fairly easy going puzzle with Gilbert unknown but guessed from checkers.
john_dun
Dec. 2nd, 2018 12:56 pm (UTC)
I was familiar with MONSTRANCE and was happy to get GILBERT from wordplay, but I only got as far as BOB for the bird and had to look it up. That was my LOI and took me to 34:38. LLANO remembered from my failure to get it last time it cropped up. No trouble with AMBIT. Thanks Geoff and K.
sawbill
Dec. 2nd, 2018 01:30 pm (UTC)
Not very taxing
Monster beginning the clue for MONSTRANCE, MERE, TORNADOS, TRIAL AND ERROR, DEEP ROOTED, NATIVITY PLAYS all write-ins for me.
jackkt
Dec. 2nd, 2018 01:56 pm (UTC)
MONSTRANCE
There seem to have been a spate of these 'dead duck' clues recently* - I call them that since we had 'duck' clueing 'something-DUCK' in a puzzle I blogged a few weeks ago. I can't make up my mind whether they are lazy setting by the compiler or a not very imaginative ruse intended to throw solvers off the scent.

*though this may have been the first in the ST.

Edited at 2018-12-02 01:56 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Dec. 2nd, 2018 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: DUCK
I remember that. "Female by chance catching tail of crested duck" for SHELDUCK in The Times. I think that's likely to have been a momentary slip of the brain that went unnoticed rather than a ruse or bad clueing. The original clue probably said "bird".

- Blorenge
davidivad1
Dec. 2nd, 2018 03:35 pm (UTC)
QC report
Did not quite manage to finish this one: Bobolink and Rebecca defeated me.
I was pleased to get the Spooner clue after a lot of thought and,with so much chess in London last week, Gambit occurred to me easily.
I was thinking of going to watch the chess but the ticket prices were astronomical. I think something like £75 for 30 minutes. In one of the games I followed one player took 38 minutes to make a move. Makes paint look fast. David
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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