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Well, that was too hard for me! Two clues had wordplay that could be used to confirm the (unknown) answer, but for me weren’t specific enough to construct it. Several other answers I biffed, and will have to try to work out the wordplay so I can finish this blog. We’ll see how I go! It was a shame, I thought, because there were many clues, even the unknown 13dn, where one could work out the answer with the aid of the wordplay and checkers and with a sense of triumph.

Several comments on last week’s blog pointed out the problem with 16ac. Although they were all careful to avoid spoilers, it’s worth a reminder that we try not to say anything relating to competition puzzles until the deadline has passed.

My clue of the day was 5dn, where I saw the answer and noted that I would have to look up the relevance of Newcastle for the blog. It turned out to be a nice surprise! Thanks to the setter for a very challenging puzzle.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets]. The blog is in Times New Roman font, as part of a gentle campaign to urge the club site to use a font in which it is easier to tell one’s stem from one’s stern.

Across
1 Reduced visibility with large eye shade (5)
HAZEL – HAZE, L[arge].

4 Big loans arranged by on-line control centre (6-3)
SIGNAL-BOX – “arranged” (BIG LOANS X*), where X is “by”.

9 Push on taps to obtain drink in pub? (4,5)
MILK STOUT – TOUT (push) after MILKS (taps).

10 Great enthusiasm to blow over (5)
GUSTO – GUST, O[ver].

11 Chap needing transport periodically when on breaks (6)
JOHNNY – JOY (transport) ‘broken by’ -H-N-N (the alternate letters of ‘when on’).

12 Stick around with girl after five to get the tube (4,4)
VENA CAVA – CANE (stick) backwards (around) with AVA (girl) after V (five). The two vena cavae are large veins that return deoxygenated blood from the body into the heart.

14 Girl in club’s second tango in the dress (6-2-2)
MOTHER-TO-BE – MO (second), then T (tango) in THE ROBE (dress). (Just cracked the parsing now.)

16 Synthesiser’s small volume expanded by twin buttons? (4)
MOOG – oops. A milligram (MG) is a weight, not a volume. Z8b8d8k described this in the comments as a “category error”. That sent me off to explore the internet, until I finally gave up trying to understand what those philosophers are talking about! Anyway, I assume the two buttons are O-O.

19 Cutting short Scotsman’s shirt (4)
SARK – SARK[y] is cutting, as in sarcastic. I could think of several words that might mean “cutting” or near enough, and had no idea which one gave “shirt” in Gaelic, so I looked this one up.

20 Welshman taking cruise after year in the country (5,5)
IVORY COAST – IVOR, Y (year), COAST (cruise).

22 Swears it’s wrong for woman to give orders (8)
WAITRESS – (SWEARS IT*) ‘wrong’. The woman you give orders to, not the one you take orders from. (Hint: that’s your wife!)

23 City’s silent pledge after missing the final (6)
MUMBAI – MUM (silent), BAI- (‘missing the final’ L from ‘bail’).

26 Muscle linked to hip or tongue (5)
LATIN – LAT (latissimus dorsii muscle), IN (hip).

27 Jack maybe to ask for comb (5,4)
COURT CARD – COURT (ask for), CARD (comb, used to prepare e.g. wool for spinning). In card games, kings, queens and jacks are court cards.

28 Quietly detests being involved in key software trial (5-4)
ALPHA-TEST – P, HATES in ALT.

29 Symbol in, perhaps, Persian he backed to preface poem (5)
MOTIF – the Persian ‘he’ is a TOM. Turn him around and put him in front of the crossword setter’s most well-used poem.


Down
1 English press probing old PM’s instruction to coachman? (4,5)
HOME JAMES – E, JAM (press) ‘probing’ HOME’S (Sir Alec Douglas-Home, that is). Home, James was apparently a 1928 silent movie. I knew the quote but not its source.

2 Bet revolving around husband’s love (5)
ZILCH – ZIL (Liz, Bet, Betty, Elizabeth ‘revolving’), C (around), H (husband), all giving love (zip/nada/zilch).

3 Spellbound lover in forest led astray with yarns (8)
LYSANDER – (LED, YARNS*) ‘astray’. The character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

4 Drop clock setting (4)
SPOT – triple definition!

5 Contracted Newcastle disease, possibly, after consuming last of our port (10)
GOTHENBURG – GOT (contracted), HEN BUG (Newcastle disease), ‘consuming’ R (last of ‘our’). I dreamed up all sorts of theories about what ‘hen’ had to do with ‘Newcastle’, but I now discover it’s a highly contagious poultry disease, aka a hen bug. Very clever!

6 An eagle hadn’t every second passed over the sea (6)
AEGEAN – A-E-G-E-A-N- are the alternate letters of ‘an eagle hadn’t’.

7 Brazilian steps put of van as boos reverberating (5,4)
BOSSA NOVA – (VAN AS BOOS*) ‘reverberating’. Blame it on the Bossa Nova!

8 Cross book’s dispensing with English language (5)
XHOSA – X (cross), HOSEA (book), without the E. An ethnic group from South Africa and their language.

13 Poisonous plant in a way welcome — almost blessed (10)
STAVESACRE – ST (way), AVE (welcome), SACRE[d] ‘almost’. Didn’t know of the plant.

15 Vegetable roll and one pint before work (6,3)
TURNIP TOP – TURN (roll), 1 (one), PT (pint), OP (work). I constructed this, but had trouble believing it’s a vegetable. I looked it up. It is.

17 Hear about double celebration, arriving in force for one returning (3,4,2)
GET WIND OF – TWIN (double) DO (celebration), all in F (force) EG (for one) ‘returning’. For a while I thought ‘double’ might be TWO, and was trying to make GET WORD OF.

18 Get used cents in gold: most unusual (8)
ACCUSTOM – CC (cents) in AU (gold), then (MOST*) ‘unusual’.

21 Inspiration for stars raised in a form of football academy originally (6)
URANIA – IN A RU (a form of football), all ‘raised’), then A[cademy]. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Rugby Union admitted as football in the Crossword! Usually it’s just ‘a sport’. Anyway, Urania was, in Greek mythology, the muse of astronomy.

22 Girl is going to, may never quite finish (5)
WILMA – WIL[l], MA[y]. Not sure I’m convinced I’ve understood this!

24 Cracker that’s filled maybe automatically (5)
BEAUT – hidden answer.

25 Still avoiding eastern desert (4)
QUIT – QUIT[e]. On edit, thanks to isla3, QUI[e]T is a better fit to "still".

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
jackkt
Oct. 18th, 2019 11:19 pm (UTC)
Before discussing this puzzle, just reporting that there's currently a problem with today's 15 x 15 puzzle when viewed online in that all but two of the Down clues are missing. I have reported this in the Club forum and hopefully somebody at the Times will see my comment and sort out the problem asap.
guy_du_sable
Oct. 18th, 2019 11:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, the work-online version is complete, but the print version (which is the one I use) is chopped off as you say. Damn!
jackkt
Oct. 19th, 2019 05:18 am (UTC)
The work-online version can be missing the clues too depending on the route taken to arrive at it. Via the Club it seems okay every time, but via the newspaper it's erratic - I've been in more than once and sometimes the clues are all there but other times it's like the print version with all but two Down clues missing. Like you I got there in the end by doing a copy-and-paste job.
jackkt
Oct. 19th, 2019 05:46 pm (UTC)
Problem now sorted
guy_du_sable
Oct. 18th, 2019 11:25 pm (UTC)
this was a BEAUT
Didn't finish in one session, to say the least, but the only utter unknown was STAVESACRE, which the wordplay gave me. Turns out it's familiar enough to some people to be the name of a band.
jackkt
Oct. 18th, 2019 11:28 pm (UTC)
Resorted to aids eventually to polish this off. I got some of the unknowns from wordplay (such as XHOSA) but not others (such as VENA CAVA).

Not really very enjoyable.

It's a pangram, btw.
isla3
Oct. 19th, 2019 02:54 am (UTC)
7dn
Shared your MER at mg for volume. Scientifically The Times usually gets volumes and weights correct, but incorrectly equates force/power/energy. My other MER was at the surface of 7 down. I'm guessing they missed by one key on the keyboard: "Brazilian steps out of van as boos reverberating". I also parsed 25 differently: quiet, not quite - both work.
Managed to finish with a few guesses, and quite enjoyed it even with the obscure plant and Scottish word and a plethora of random names.
brnchn
Oct. 19th, 2019 05:36 am (UTC)
Re: 7dn
Thanks. Quiet is clearly better!
isla3
Oct. 19th, 2019 07:02 am (UTC)
Re: 7dn
COD to 9ac. About 6 months ago in a busy pub there was a group of young girls. Rather than wait for the barman, one leant across the bar, pushed on the tap, and refilled her glass. More than once. We guessed the barstaff knew, but the girls were young, attractive, outgoing, and a bit drunk so were allowed to get away with it.
kevingregg
Oct. 19th, 2019 03:01 am (UTC)
DNF with knobs on
NHO MILK STOUT, NHO SARKY--I put in TART, which put paid to any hopes of getting 1d--all in all a disaster. XHOSA at least was a gimme--language beginning with X. It's a click language, and was Nelson Mandela's mother tongue.
horryd
Oct. 19th, 2019 03:03 am (UTC)
Clueless!
As per the mad axeman, I have just had to type out all but two of today's down clues. Wakey-wakey!!

I was defeated last week 12ac VENA CAVA, 19ac SARK and 21dn URANIA. Clueless!

FOI 6dn AEGEAN

COD 1dn HOME JAMES

WOD 8ac MILK STOUT (Ena Sharple's favourite tipple.)

As today's, not really very enjoyable.



Edited at 2019-10-19 03:04 am (UTC)
guy_du_sable
Oct. 19th, 2019 03:51 am (UTC)
Re: Clueless!
I took two screenshots of the down clues, printed them and pasted them onto my copy.


Edited at 2019-10-19 03:52 am (UTC)
gypaetus44
Oct. 19th, 2019 05:12 am (UTC)
19ac
Sark is Lowland Scots, most famously the “cutty sark” in Tam O’Shanter
boltonwanderer
Oct. 19th, 2019 06:14 am (UTC)
Hesed
Bang on the hour. A hard but decent puzzle apart from being somewhat spoilt by MOOG not being MOOL. I even refused on principle to put it in until GET WIND OF forced me. But Hosea seems to have become the minor prophet of choice, so let’s show the setter mercy and not demand their sacrifice. I vaguely remembered Cutty SARK from Tam o’Shanter, so one more for my old English master Peg-Leg. The unknown STAVESACRE was LOI. COD to SIGNAL-BOX, the sort of clue that brightens up the day. I needed to join Ena, Martha and Minnie for a MILK STOUT after this one. I’ve been involved with software engineers in beta-testing their system, so I just assumed they’d ALPHA-TESTed it themselves first. Thank you B and setter.

Edited at 2019-10-19 06:15 am (UTC)
davidivad1
Oct. 19th, 2019 06:48 am (UTC)
Blankety blank
Looking at my copy of last Saturday's puzzle, the LHS is almost full of blanks. I got SIGNAL BOX and GOTHENBURG so I had plenty to work with. Also no problem with MOOG as my science isn't up to much. I think this was the hardest puzzle for a very long time.
To cap it all, the clue writing contest definition was Scafell Pike -peak difficulty last weekend.
David
keriothe
Oct. 19th, 2019 07:36 am (UTC)
37:11. Very hard, but for me a very rewarding puzzle slightly spoiled by the error at 16ac (I just bunged the answer in from the definition so didn't even notice while solving) and ambiguous wordplay for 12ac. VENA CADA didn't look very likely though.
philjordan
Oct. 19th, 2019 07:41 am (UTC)
If you are a....
....MOTHER-TO-BE, MILK STOUT is supposed to be good for you (in moderation obviously). I had bought a bottle of Guinness's recently introduced version of Ena's old favourite last week, and so drank it in celebration of finishing this tricky puzzle in a decent time. It was rather good, but I've never forgiven them for discontinuing the original bottle-conditioned Guinness. Guinness Original actually isn't !

The error in 16A passed me by, science and I being uneasy bedfellows, I noticed that "put s/b out" in 7D and moved on, but I had a MER at 22A. Surely it should be "woman to be given orders" ?

DNK STAVESACRE, the story of LYSANDER, or the easily guessable muscle.

I totally misparsed GOTHENBURG, reading it as "NE bug" and not suspecting fowl play for a moment ! I never parsed JOHNNY at all, so thanks for that one Bruce.

FOI GUSTO
LOI SPOT
COD GET WIND OF
TIME 14:54
john_dun
Oct. 19th, 2019 09:34 am (UTC)
This beast kept me occupied for 71:19, and I had to confirm SARK, URANIA and STAVESACRE as I'd never heard of them. JOHNNY was my LOI, and I dithered over JOHNNO for quite some time, before I managed to see the proper parsing. I also raised both eyebrows over MOOG, but knew the synthesiser well enough to move on. Some clever stuff here. Thanks setter and Bruce.
special_bitter
Oct. 19th, 2019 09:39 am (UTC)
I needed the best part of 2 hours for this and even then aids were required for the unknown Urania and stavesacre. I also had to look up the Scotsman's shirt, so to speak. A very tough puzzle, fiendishly high quality cluing at the outer limits of my solving ability.
jerrywh
Oct. 19th, 2019 09:46 am (UTC)
The print thing for today's crossword is working now...
falooker
Oct. 19th, 2019 05:15 pm (UTC)
I was very tempted to give up on this. I had the LH side quite early on but the rest refused to give. I went away, came back to it and finally clocked out at 75 minutes - the worst time I can remember. But I did get there in the end without aids. Not my finest hour. Ann
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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