guy_du_sable (guy_du_sable) wrote in times_xwd_times,

Sunday Times Cryptic No 4875, 3 XI 2019, by Robert Price — Trilling info from a whistle-blower!

I heartily enjoyed my time with this, which time I, as always, can’t put any number on. I forget what was on my SmartTV last Saturday as I leisurely strolled through the clues, but you can bet I was not trying to beat the clock. And I’d go so far as to claim that the puzzling might even be done much more quickly this way than it would if I started timing myself—since that would make me neurotic (all at once).

I was thinking that the one thing this excellent, exceedingly entertaining puzzle lacked—besides an &lit (but I’d rather have none at all than a “semi”-one, to tell you the truth)—was a bit of unusual, borderline-Mephisto vocabulary that I could discover for the very first time through the art of decryption. Here the most interesting word, taken in isolation, seemed to be 4. But I was overlooking 16, which I had gotten quickly but which might be rarer, and which even, though its derivation is a bit obscure, may tie in (as I have just now discovered while doing the final edits here) with clue 19.

Seeing X and Z on opposite corners, and W and Y sticking out on the edges as well, made me wonder if this was a pangram, and, lo, so it is.

I do (anasargm)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Times writing about a festival (4)
XMAS — Times is X, with M(A)S. Too early!
 4 In shops, woman and daughter hold hands? (10)
STEVEDORES — ST(EVE)(D)ORES They work in the cargo holds of ships. I don’t think the quirk is necessary, but it may have helped someone. The word entered the languge (says Wikipedia) through its use by sailors, and started as a phonetic spelling of estivador (Portuguese) or estibador (Spanish).
 9 Cheated and voted twice (6-7)
DOUBLE-CROSSED — This week’s Public Service Announcement: Election fraud is actually very rare in the United States. CD (though no quirk) along with the straight one.
10 Film director needing an ending went overboard (4,2)
FELL IN — I’ve seen a few flicks like that. FELLIN[-i] Wins my nod for COD.
11 Design surrounding emblem is oddly vulgar (8)
PLEBEIAN — PLAN corralling the odd letters of EmBlEm Is, which latter element is very cleverly disguised
12 Academic rooms for recording university dons (8)
STUDIOUS — STUDIO(U)S Bob has a knack for inverting the usual grammar in the cryptic to throw one off the track. (I’ve recorded in my apartment, but that’s not why it’s called a studio.)
14 It’s lucky the old lady has somewhere to sleep (6)
MASCOT — MA’S COT This is more of a strong hint than a definition, strictly speaking, though it’s a stronger hint than what passes for a definition in 19. (I’m not complaining.)
15 Agreed to a German weapon after it’s cut a gemstone (6)
JASPER — ”Agreed[,] to a German,” JA + SPE[-a]R
17 Girl this writer recalled in prayers (8)
19 With less fluid they sometimes contain peas (8)
WHISTLES — (with less)* Although I fancy myself a musician, I never knew that the little stone-like object found inside whistles that warble is called a “pea.”
21 When to start to seek first aid (6)
ASSIST — AS, “when” + S[-eek] + I(1)ST, “first”
23 Put an end to bank sheltering stray dog (6,7)
SCOTCH TERRIER — SCOTCH, “put an end to” + T(ERR)IER
24 Like one separating people making spiteful remarks (10)
25 An Olympian retired somewhere in Egypt (4)
SUEZ — ZEUS<=”retired”

 2 Insect turning up, say, before dark (5)
MIDGE — EG, “say” + “dark,” DIM <=”turning up” (I think this works; EG turns up “before” DIM does.)
 3 Repulsive gang getting in the middle of police (7)
SQUALID — SQUA([-po]LI[-ce])D
 4 Brilliant appearance of sub, over in Tottenham, cut short (9)
SPLENDOUR — ”Tottenham” SPUR[-s] with LEND, “sub” + O(ver) inside. After biffing, I somehow got to the bottom of the parsing with little trouble. I must have first Googled “Tottenham.” The relevant UK slang sense for “sub” was found in Cambridge, “to lend someone money until they can pay it back to you“—although in Collins the definition closest to that is a bit different: “to grant or receive (an advance payment of wages or salary).”
 5 European heads, with coolness, finally admitted leaks (7)
ESCAPES — E([-coolnes]S)CAPES
 6 Scratching insect makes mammal run off (5)
 7 Removing the head destroys fresh seafood (7)
 8 Labour aim always to be heard (9)
ENDEAVOUR — END, “aim” + “ever,” audibly
13 Trains carrying sixty-eight empty boxes (3,6)
TEA CHESTS — TEACHE(S[-ixty-eigh]T)S
14 Mother cares awfully about sons being butchers (9)
MASSACRES — For or against? MA, “mother” + (cares)* around SS, “sons” (In the surface, the possessive-with-gerund rule seems to be, as too often, flouted. Ma cares about their being butchers, right?)
16 Old coin shop is to let, but not all of it (7)
PISTOLE — Hidden. Dictionaries tell you first that it was the French name for a Spanish coin, but add that the same name was also applied to other French and European coins. Though the term is “of uncertain origin,” it is said to probably come from a Czech word meaning WHISTLE.
17 Very dry port overwhelms Italian food (7)
RISOTTO — RI(SO TT)O, “dry” being TeeTotaling. Here’s that inverted syntax again.
18 Good-looking girl is entertaining weirdos (7)
20 Tastes defeats (5)
22 Ages used up wrapping Eastern garment (5)
SAREE — E(E)RAS<=”used up”  Variant spelling of “sari,” which is, incidentally, an eastern garment.
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