DT Cryptic No 25912 – Review

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 25912 – Review

A full analysis by Peter Biddlecombe

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment ***

The best thing about this puzzle for me was the set of answers – these make a pangram (all letters of the alphabet appear at least once). Some tricky letters appear several times – there are 3 Zs and 4 Vs for example. The bad things for me were a couple of the selections for answers, and some clues that were either not very cryptic or could lead to more than one answer. Some will be delighted to see no obscure place names in this puzzle.

Across
1 Pass without harm when windy storm has finished (4,4)
BLOW OVER = Pass without harm. Not sure whether the wordplay is just a gentle cryptic definition, or a charade of BLOW=windy storm,OVER=finished. I’m guessing at the cryptic def because blow=storm doesn’t quite work from dictionary defs.
9 Nevertheless seeking a monopoly (5,3)
AFTER ALL – 2 defs, one commenting on the nature of a monopoly
10 Bill enters cab. On the contrary suffering from inability to control movements (6)
ATAXIC – cab=TAXI, in bill=A/C, rather than t’other way round. “suffering from inability to control movements” is the def (from ataxia, don’t you know) – and Bill is not a man – good use of the “initial capital letter trick” if you thought he was. (Old cryptic hands have probably warped their brains to see the noun definition first, so Peter is a safe, Tom is a cat, etc. etc.). This medical term seems a fairly dull answer – it and 4D seem to be the price of 1A and 3D which are (to me) more entertaining words. I’m not troubled myself simply by the possibility that some solvers might not know the word – the wordplay is gettable. But I’m using to making up possible words to be confirmed by wordplay because of long experience of “barred grid” puzzles where many of the answers are unfamiliar words which you have to confirm with Chambers. Should DT setters expect their solvers to do this? Not sure. If you have the time to get into them, puzzles like this can vastly improve your daily solving as a result of stretching your vocabulary – I know people, myself included, who were finishing Azeds regularly before they were finishing the Times daily puzzle reliably.
11 Completely ruined whilst climbing drainpipe (2,3,5)
UP THE SPOUT – 2 defs, separated by “whilst”, in it’s “but” meaning, which for me is OK as a join when there’s some contrast between the two sides. Not sure that’s the case here.
12 Put weapon down on this part of seat? (7)
ARMREST – CD about resting an arm=weapon.
14 Players’ lively passage (7)
SCHERZO – the players being musicians. But if they’ve got a “passage”, musicians is surely what they’re most likely to be, so the clue is not really at all cryptic. Truer for me than some as an amateur musician, but so are quite a few solvers it seems. Another problem is that this leads to other equally valid answers of 7 letters – I’ve got ALLEGRO, ANIMATO and STRETTO, without cheating with a thesaurus. Of these, ALLEGRO and STRETTO match 2 or more of the checking letters – STRETTO is arguably a better solution as it’s an instruction for a passage whereas a scherzo is usually a complete movement. Unless the intention is to add to puzzle difficulty with mini-lotteries, this issue needs careful attention in clues without “construction kit” wordplay.
16 Cultivated land until Thursday, only partly (5)
TILTH = hidden word, or a charade of TIL=until,TH.=”Thursday only partly”. The hidden word was almost certainly the intended route. A bit of a dictionary word but these central 5-letter words are well-checked so not a big problem. And the “easy clue to a difficult word” principle is observed.
17 Merriment with this French lady (5)
JOYCE = JOY,CE=”this French”. First of two “lady” defs today. I don’t mind this one much because the surface reading is quite fun.
18 View station after early evening (5)
VISTA – VI=six=”early evening”,STA. = station. Six could of course be the early morning too, but that seems relatively harmless.
20 Take a back seat (5)
MOUNT – Cryptic def based on being seated on a horse or similar beast’s back. Surface reads well and is misleading, so this one is pretty good.
22 Very large unspecified number not well in Jerusalem (7)
ZILLION – ILL=not well, in ZION = Jerusalem, among other religious things and places.
24 Twisting to right, second electrically charged particle (7)
TORSION – a not terribly convincing surface, so a pretty obvious charade of TO,R=right,S=second,ION=the particle. But at least ION was not clued as “charge”.
26 One accepted by many with quite remarkable evenness of temper (10)
EQUANIMITY – I=one in (many, quite)* – the split anagram fodder and pretty good surface make this quite a tricky clue. Any time a potential anag clue has a word like “with” or “and” in it, watch out for the possibility that this is a word talking about the anagram fodder, rather than a part of it.
27 Lower island (6)
JERSEY – 2 defs – lower = “something that lows”, with low as in “the cattle are lowing”. Nice change of meaning for ‘lower’ in the surface reading too, so this is my
favourite clue in the puzzle – or was until I wondered how much “lower” an island could be without becoming a reef – maybe I remembered an example like “Lower Caisse” in a famous Guardian April fool spoof. Compare it with the “lively passage” one – there are plenty of 6-letter islands, but no other “lower” ones (Guernsey and Alderney are cattle too but the wrong length), so you can write the answer in pen.
28 Not going with the current trend (8 )
UPSTREAM – the trend of a river’s current being downstream. Pretty decent as another meaning of “current” is suggested by the surface – the real meaning is in the depths, as it were.
29 Physicist from Sweden has anxiety with gypsy (8 )
ANGSTROM – the chap who invented the tiny measurement unit was A J Ångström from Sweden, as any dictionary entry will confirm. ANGST=anxiety,ROM=a gypsy. Quite tricky if you’re not familiar with the unit and/or the gypsy – another weird word I’ve picked up from xwd experience.
Down
2 Disinclined to meet a South American city seducer (8 )
LOTHARIO = a seducer. I had a vague notion this was from Shakespeare, but no. It’s from The Fair Penitent by Nicholas Rowe. Who? Well according to Wikipedia he was Poet Laureate. Back at the clue, LOTH=disinclined,A=a,RIO=South American city. You didn’t think you get away with no place names at all, did you?
3 Talk effusively about songlike hits’ sound first (3,7)
WAX LYRICAL – charade of WAX=”whacks”=hits, LYRICAL=song-like. The “hits’ ” in the clue is a bit awkward – if “wak” is “hit’s sound” from whack, what is “wax”? I’d say “hits’s sound”, just as I’d say “St James’s Park” not “St James’ Park”, and only change for cases where the “iz” sound would be repeated – as in “Mrs Bridges’ marmalade”. But the modern trend seems to be to use the apostrophe after any “S” sound, as done here. So in the surface meaning we’re effusivley discussing the sounds of several hits, all of which were “songlike”. Too complex to work well I think, though I don’t have a shiny improved version to offer.
4 Empty thinker (7)
VACUIST – a new word for me. Def from the internet: “One who holds the doctrine that the space between the bodies of the universe, or the molecules and atoms of matter., is a vacuum”. So it’s a cryptic def. A good cryptic def makes you smile at the skill when you see what’s really going on, but with words this obscure you don’t get the same fun because you don’t think “I should have seen through that!”. In my case you just wait until the checking letters suggest something that seems plausible. Vacuist is not in COED or Collins, only Chambers, where the def (under vacuum) is rather unhelpful – “a person who thinks there are empty spaces in nature”. You already know my views about C-only words in daily paper puzzles.
5 Irritable Raymond races in (5)
RATTY – TT in little Raymond. The IoM TT races really ought to have a joke poster somewhere – “Sponsored by the combined setters of all UK newspaper cryptic crosswords”. Not totally convinced that “A B in” really indicates “B in A”, but I deal with fancy word order in other puzzles so not troubled on a practical basis.
6 Spell ‘exaggerate’ (7)
STRETCH – 2 defs, with the required noun meaning of stretch well-disguised.
7 Show preference for Bible quartet included (6)
FAVOUR – Bible = AV (Authorised Version) in FOUR=quartet. Watch out for the Revised Version = RV too. Canny clue as the wordplay could also suggest IV=quartet in a four-letter Bible. If I hate a clue for having a def with multiple possibilities, why not hate this too? I guess I’m just used to the idea that the def should be precise when understood, but the wordplay may have more than one interpretation and the def/checking letters/word validity as the way to choose between them.
8 From portal he moved more than enough (8 )
PLETHORA = anag. of “portal he”. A plethora is more than enough
of something – e.g. snarky comments about the poor setter’s clues.
13 Cross cat (5)
TIGON – a cross between a tiger and a lioness. Cross blogger too, as the LIGER born to the jilted tigress and lion has 5 letters too and it’s another toss-up. Curiosity: in these names, it’s gentlemen first, not ladies.
14 Can, in a way, be one’s allotted task (5)
STINT – TIN=can in ST=street=way. A stint is a set task or session of work. “be” is “surface padding which does nothing in the cryptic reading. A shame as the rest is pretty good.
15 Demon drink? (4,6)
EVIL SPIRIT – cryptic definition – but as “demon” is also a plain def, not very cryptic and could have been used in any DT puzzle from No. 1 onwards.
17 Made music more lively? (6,2)
JAZZED UP. Another which you can read as a plain def, though it’s supposed to be two defs. Arguably this makes it very neat, but sometimes you need a trickier clue to make sure we notice.
19 Farewell to owing money, Leo has nothing (6-2)
TOODLE-OO – TO,O/D=overdrawn,LEO,O. Pretty poor surface. If it’s “farewell to owing money”, you’d think Leo had something rather than nothing, wouldn’t you? I suppose he’s got exactly nothing left after paying all his debts. Cue Mr Micawber…
20 Heard girl’s nickname (7)
MONIKER = “Monica”. Fair enough but an old xwd gag.
21 Reportedly too near cooler mug (4-3)
TOBY-JUG – TO=”too”,BY=near,JUG=prison=cooler. Much debate at the Times blog about “partial” homophones recently. They can certainly make a clue quite tricky, especially when the sound of the corresponding letters in the answer is different. But I don’t think this practice is actually unfair. There are no complaints when an element in a charade makes a different sound to the corresponding letters in the answer. I don’t see why the fact that the different-sounding letters happen to come from a sound-based clue-writing device makes any difference.
23 Lady found ousel fluttering round island (6)
LOUISE – I-island in anag. of ousel. “found” is another bit of surface padding, and ‘ousel’ is sore-thumb anagram fodder.
25 Letter about gas, I’m perplexed (5)
SIGMA – anag of “gas I’m”, with two anagram indicators (about, perplexed), unless “about” is more padding. A bit strange, but two is better than none! Sigma is a Greek alphabet letter name as I’m sure the Mine confirms.

One Comment

  1. Tom Grey
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    First visit to your blog following frustration at being unable to complete this crossword. Great site by the way!

    ‘Vacuist’ answer really ruined this one for me! 12 across had to be ‘armrest’ but only feasible word for 4 down was ‘vacuous’ (in my dictionary at least). Anyway, turns out I too needed Chambers dictionary!

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