DT 28494 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 28494

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 28494

Hints and tips by Mr Kitty

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BD Rating  -  Difficulty ** Enjoyment ***


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Tuesday back-pager.  My opinion of this puzzle went up steadily as the grid filled up.  While I found the top half straightforward and not very sparkly, things picked up considerably towards the bottom.  I thought that the setter saved the best for last, by finishing up with a trio of excellent clues down in the southeast.

EDIT (Wed Aug 2). Clicking on this spoiler box will reveal some comments on the probability of seeing crossword answers repeated by chance

Last week I mentioned that today I was going to discuss the probability of seeing answers repeat within a short period and, as if by magic, Jay goes and repeats rhino in the very next puzzle!  What are the chances of that being a coincidence?  Well, as it turns out, they’re not that low:  I showed here that next-day repeats will occur by chance about ten times a year.  This issue of repeated answers is coming up again because of something I heard from the Q&A session at the recent Macclesfield Sloggers and Betters.  The setters were asked when editors interfere with a puzzle.  The answer was that they sometimes intervene to remove repeated answers in closely-spaced puzzles that have occurred by chance (deliberate repetitions are unlikely because puzzles are submitted far in advance of publication).  I found that news gratifying because I had previously concluded from the data that editors must be doing just that.  Then when I looked back at that early blog I realized that there is a much better way to present that data, which brings me, finally, to what I wanted to share today.

I have a list of all the answers used in Telegraph cryptics from the past 17 years.  I wrote a computer program to draw a crossword’s worth of clues at random from that list, and then do that over and over to create a huge number of artificial crosswords.  Then the computer counted how many times answers were repeated in those simulated crosswords within two days, within three days, and so on.  That tells us what we expect to see when answer selection is random.  I did the same analysis on the real crosswords published during the past 17 years.  The following graph shows the number of repeated answers occurring within a given number of consecutive days that are expected by chance (blue line), and found in the actual crosswords (red line).  The graph shows that the real crosswords have slightly fewer repeats than are predicted by chance.  That’s partly due to that editorial interference discussed above.  The numbers themselves are perhaps also surprising:  the graph shows that in any three-week interval there will be, on average, eight answers that appear twice on the back page.  Coincidences happen more often than we might think.  Click on the graph to enlarge it.

In the hints below the definitions are underlined and the answers will be revealed by clicking on the buttons.  In some hints hyperlinks provide additional explanation or background.  Clicking on a picture will enlarge it.  Please leave a comment telling us how you got on.



1a    Pitcher in side we rated (4)
EWER:  This pitcher doesn’t throw balls, he serves liquids.  Crosswordland’s favourite jug is hidden inside (in) the remainder of the clue

3a    Pilot study, then series of steps, then this by pilot? (4,6)
TEST FLIGHT:  A pilot study to see if something works, followed by a series of steps forming stairs

9a    Manage company training (4)
COPE:  The abbreviation for company followed by the usual abbreviation for training or exercise

10a   Serve salad, blended sauce being required (5,5)
SALSA VERDE:  An anagram (blended) of SERVE SALAD.  This spicy sauce originated in Mexico.

11a   Warn of jam with last bit not used before date (7)
PRESAGE:  A five-letter jam or crush minus its last letter (with last bit not used), and followed by (before) a synonym of date

13a   Two articles about permit for gymnast, perhaps (7)
ATHLETE:  An indefinite article followed by the definite article containing (about) a word meaning permit or allow

14a   Considerate when drunk? Blasphemous behaviour is the answer (11)
DESECRATION:  An anagram (when drunk) of CONSIDERATE

18a   What surveyor may use in flat after ghost is seen (6,5)
SPIRIT LEVEL:  An adjective meaning flat or horizontal following (after) a synonym of ghost

21a   Instrument that may be graduate's shortly (7)
BASSOON:  Stick together a usual graduate (degree), the ‘S from the clue, and an adverb meaning shortly

22a   Flexible sort, odd making stand (7)
ROSTRUM:  Link together an anagram (flexible) of SORT and a synonym for odd or strange

23a   Conspicuous signs attached to home (2,8)
IN EVIDENCE:  The usual two-letter word for (at) home, followed by (attached to) signs proving what happened and who was responsible for it

24a   First to call round with trendy piece (4)
COIN:  Concatenate the initial letter (first to) of Call, the letter that’s round, and a usual word for trendy or fashionable

25a   Old Fleet Street operative kind to crossword compiler (10)
TYPESETTER:  A synonym of kind or sort followed by (to) the word we use for the crossword compiler

26a   Toy that's in bits on middle of floor (4)
LEGO:  Another name for the on side of a cricket pitch, followed by the central letter (middle of) of flOor



1d    Lark's flight enthralling a daughter (8)
ESCAPADE:  A flight or getaway containing (enthralling) A from the clue and D(aughter)

2d    After drugs, journalists love strong coffee (8)
ESPRESSO:  Chain together the plural of a usual single-letter drug, a word for journalists and their publications, and the usual letter representing a love score in tennis

4d    Remove ages on top of engravings (5)
ERASE:  Some ages followed by the first letter (top of) of Engravings

5d    Conductor of opera popular in Northern Ireland (9)
TOSCANINI:  Start by putting the usual word for popular or trendy inside (in) the abbreviation for Northern Ireland.  Then place that combination after a well-known Puccini opera to get an Italian conductor.  Wikipedia describes him as “one of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and of the 20th century”

6d    Nothing controls flab (4,7)
LOVE HANDLES:  Join together the tennis name for a score of nothing and a verb synonym of controls

7d    Danger could come from such a plot (6)
GARDEN:  An anagram (could come from) of DANGER

8d    Time to support subject set for discussion in police force (3,3)
THE MET:  A subject set or proposed for discussion, followed by (to support in a down clue) the physics symbol for time. The answer is an informal name for the police force responsible for Greater London.

12d   Accomplices in case? Scores I suspect (11)
ACCESSORIES:  An anagram (suspect) of CASE SCORES I

15d   Straightening a tendon without a need initially to replace it (9)
ALIGNMENT:  Tendons connect muscle to bone.  Take something similar that connects bone to bone and replace the A in that word with the first letter of Need (without a, need initially to replace it).  Then put that combination of letters after the A from the clue.

16d   Accomplished advance or defeat? (8)
OVERCOME:  Glue together synonyms of accomplished or completed and of advance

17d   Bird vivid in colour, duck (8)
FLAMINGO:  An adjective meaning “vivid in colour” followed by the letter representing a duck in cricket scoringThe bird is indeed vivid in colour

19d   Old boy is to supply musician (6)
OBOIST:  The abbreviation for old boy followed by an anagram ( … supply) of IS TO

20d   Dozing when cover drawn up (6)
ASLEEP:  A short synonym of when, followed by the reversal (drawn up in a down clue) of a type of cover (e.g., the outermost bit of an apple or an orange)

22d   Regret clothing first two of children in frilly lace (5)
RUCHE:  A synonym of regret containing (clothing) the initial two letters (first two of) of CHildren.  The answer was clear from the word play, but I did have to verify that it’s a type of lace.  If you need to do the same, look here.

Thanks to today’s setter for an enjoyable solve.  I felt that this puzzle repeated itself a bit in both vocabulary and clue structure, which took some of the shine off.  On the other hand, the good bits were really very good.  I liked the 10a and 14a anagrams, and I smiled rather a lot when I got 15d and 23a.  The highlight for me was the 17d, 24a, 26a triplet occupying the SE corner.  The wonderful 24a and 26a are both appearing on the back page for the first time.  I can’t choose between them, so today they’re first equal on my honours list.  Which clues did you like best?


The Quick Crossword pun:  SOLE+MEW+SICK=SOUL MUSIC


82 comments on “DT 28494

  1. A lovely puzzle for me today. Straightforward with a bit of fun on the way. Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the review.

  2. A fun run today. Thank you Mysteron. Kitty – thanks for hints but no time to study all your other findings now however will apply myself later – what a labour of love. 6d a new one on me but it made me LOL so that’s Fav today.

  3. The trio might even be in the SE corner! Whatever, the two across clues (24 and 26) were my last in and needed, for me, quite a bit of unravelling to understand the parsing.
    Thanks to Mr Kitty for his review (and breathtaking statistical analysis!) and to the setter for an enjoyable puzzle.

  4. A comfortable solve with a fair measure of enjoyment to be had during its completion. I agree that the bottom half held more interest than the top, yet my favourite was 5d. No real hold-ups so 2*/3* overall.

    Thanks to the Tuesday setter and our resident statistician.

  5. I agree with Mr Kitty about today’s puzzle both in terms of rating (2*/3*) and the way it improved while working through it. I also agree that 24a & 26a (my last two in) were the pick of the day.

    Many thanks to Mr Ron for the entertainment and to Mr Kitty, not only for a great review but for a fascinating statistical analysis on repetitions.

  6. That’s an interesting analysis, Mr Kitty!

    Your examination of the actual answers used is after the editor has intervened, which will obviously pull the red line down from where it would have been, had you been able to analyse the submitted crosswords instead.

    I’m not clear from your description whether there’s another effect being shown here. When you say that you randomly selected a subset which is “a crossword’s worth of clues”, do you just mean a number of words, or did you also take into account the lengths of the words so as to fit the profile more closely?

    For example, today’s cryptic has 28 words, and the profile of their lengths is:
    4 of length 4
    2 of length 5
    4 of length 6
    4 of length 7
    4 of length 8
    2 of length 9
    4 of length 10
    4 of length 11

    Yes, I do appreciate the increase in complexity when trying to fit a profile :-)

    1. Hi steve, that’s an interesting point. A related issue is that if the setter just picks a set of words with lengths that match the grid, those words probably won’t interlock in a way that allows the grid to be filled. So the setter has to put some back and draw some more. In the end, though, they have still drawn a crossword’s worth of clues from a list of possible answers. Because my computer is drawing from the list of actual past answers I don’t think there’s a bias caused by those factors. One simplification is that I am just using an average number of clues per grid (the measured 29.5) and not the actual distribution of grids.

      I believe that the main reason there are fewer repeats in the published puzzles than the simulation predicts is that the set of possible answers that setters choose from is larger than just the list of past answers – setters are constantly introducing new words and phrases. Or, since this was just an afternoon hobby project, it’s entirely possible that I have overlooked something :)

  7. Solved the top half right to left , then the lower half right to left with 26a the last in last in, failed to parse it properly thought in must end with the o from the middle of floor but the ‘on ‘ bit did for me- I just reasoned that it was a cryptic definition of lego , ie a toy that’s in small pieces strewn about the floor-never mind ,thanks Mr Kitty.
    Liked 5d and 6d, very enjoyable solve.

  8. It took me far longer than it should have done to sort out the 10a anagram (permission to enter the ‘dim’ corner, Kath?) and to accept 24a as a definition of ‘piece’ but the rest of the answers slotted in quite smoothly.
    Gave myself a pat on the back for correctly parsing 26a – although I confess that cricket wasn’t the first thought I came up with!
    Top of the pile for me were 1&6d.

    Thanks to Mr. Ron (no, I’m not even going to have a stab at laying the blame today despite the pointer!) and to Mr. K for the very interesting facts and figures along with a great blog. Enjoyed both the clips and it was interesting to see that the orchestra was composed entirely of men – I wonder when it became more common for women to be accepted as members.
    The 26a pic was excellent – I would recommend all our dog loving commenters to enlarge the image.

    1. Glad you liked the illustrations, Jane.

      For those viewing on small screens, my runner-up pic for 26a might be a better hint than the one above:

  9. Quite straightforward today and I agree with most of you that 24a and 26a were excellent clues. The cricket term was well hidden in 26. **/*** today. I liked 11a and 6d as well. Enjoyed that statistical analysis Mr Kitty. But can I suggest you get out more! [insert smiley]

  10. A very pleasant romp through crosswordland.
    26a was my favourite as well.
    Thanks to Mr Kitty for the blog and analysis and thanks also to the setter .

  11. Nice puzzle today pretty good in all ares no real favourites as all entertaining.
    Thanks to Mr Kitty and setter.

  12. Thanks for a great blog, Mr. K.
    I made heavy work of this, particularly the NE corner.
    Was finally beaten by 11a as it’s a word I am unfamiliar with and the wordplay was too obscure for me. Shame as I am constantly being beaten by words I have not heard of.
    I could not parse 26a.
    Thanks both!

  13. Solved whilst 20d so it could not have been too difficult. Loved the clue at 26ac. Surely the most painful things to tread on in the world. Thanks to Mr K (sorry but I will stick with words things and pass on the numbers) and thanks to the setter.

    1. Sticklebricks are even more painful, especially when you tread on them while trying to creep out of the bedroom of an annoying toddler who had actually for once decided that sleep might be a good idea, so his poor exhausted mother didn’t dare indicate how much it hurts

  14. A very enjoyable, if not too challenging puzzle, that was extremely well-crafted.

    My two favourites were the popular 26a and 6d.

    Thanks to today’s setter and to Mr K, especially for his analysis of repeated words. What was particularly remarkable about last week’s two successive instances of “rhino” was that they occurred in identical grids, in the same numbered clue. Rarely, if ever, can that have occurred before, surely?

    P.S. Any statistics on my personal bête noire of repeated indicators in the same puzzle would be most welcome, but I suspect that would require far too much research!

    1. I can certainly look for back-to-back repeats where the clue number is the same and then check by hand whether the grids are identical. Not sure if I will have time to do that today though.

      Getting statistics on repeated indicators is a hard problem because it would require the computer to parse the clue and I don’t believe that’s possible (yet).

      1. Thank goodness there are some things left that humans can figure out more successfully than computers!

  15. Enjoyable fun. Agreed the SE corner had some great clues. 6d was my best giggle for a while.

  16. Good fun, I liked it all. I needed Mr. Kitty’s explanation for 26a, though I knew it had to be right, I had no idea of the crickety bit. I thought it was very good and worthy of a fave, the pics in particular, but my fave was 5d, and I also liked 6d.
    Thanks to today’s setter and Mr. Kitty for the interesting research. I did a little wonder at the mixup of SW and SE? Hmm …

    1. I’m blogging today from the US southwest, and so perhaps when I started to think “south..” writing the intro, mental autocomplete took over and output SW instead of the intended SE.

      1. I was only kidding! I find it amazing that people whose work involves constant time-zone changes, manage to know what day of the week it is, let alone where they are.

  17. Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the review and hints. A very good puzzle today, with some super clues. I liked 21a,5&8d particularly, but my favourite was 3a. Last in was 26a. Was 2*/4* for me. As regards Mr Kitty’s analysis, I thought it was very interesting. The Rhino answer was also in the same place on the grid on both days, the grids being identical.

    1. When I get time I will investigate the question you and silvanus raise about the probability of getting two rhinos in the same slot in the same grid. I need to research how many different grids the Telegraph uses and how many five-letter slots they contain.

      1. Like that one, Mr. K – ‘the probability of getting two rhinos in the same slot in the same grid’ – sounds rather reminiscent of the one about getting four elephants in a Mini!

  18. This kept me occupied while I waited to see a Consultant whose clinic was running very late. By the time I was seen I had completed it and the Quick XWord. No particular problems but putting the past tense of 16d delayed solving24a. 5d and 15d were my favourite clues.

  19. I found this a bit tricky in parts after initially believing that it was R & W 😬 So ***/*** some interesting clueing 😳 Liked 21a & 10a which was yet another new word for me 😜 Thanks to Mr Kitty for the blog and also the interesting statistics and also the unknown compiler 🤔

  20. As some singer said, delightful – delovely 👩‍💻 This was very enjoyable today, also yesterday’s (when I didn’t have time to comment). Did most of this in ENT waiting room this morning. 10a anagram held me up also, but I don’t, can’t eat spicy foods, so that’s my excuse. 18a is frequently used in our house, hubby is ace at DIY, and outside when laying brick edging etc. COTD 25a. Hope the fun continues tomorrow.

  21. Being a cricket fan, I’m very disappointed with myself for not being able to parse 26a,

    But a very nice clue!

  22. Nothing to disturb the horses here today. A pleasant solve with no real hold ups although putting ‘fed’ instead of ‘met’ didn’t exactly help.
    14a was my fave; quite how the same letters can construct two such diverse words is quite amazing.
    2/3* overall.
    Thanks to the setter and to Mr K for all his hard work.

  23. So we were not alone in having the parsing of 26a as the final act in solving this one. We have left a blank in the margin of the puzzle where we usually write our guess at the identity of an unknown setter. It would be good if someone could pop in and own up to this really good fun offering.
    Once again we are amazed at the statistical analysis offered by Mr Kitty. Two levels of amazement, one at the ability to put this stuff together and then more amazement at the results of the project and the insights they give us into cryptics.
    Thanks Mr Ron and Mr Kitty.

  24. Late here this evening having spent the day in London with the Elder Lamb, her partner and my gorgeous grandson, Georgie.
    I thought it was a pretty straightforward crossword – I’ve been caught out too many times to hazard a guess as to who may have set it.
    An average number of anagrams.
    I confess that I missed the ‘crickety bit’ of 26a – is anyone surprised?
    8d was my last answer – who knows why? I certainly don’t.
    Thanks to whoever set this one and to Mr Kitty.

    Mr Kitty – I know that some commenters seem to find your statistics interesting but this is about crosswords. I can’t help feeling that someone stumbling on BD’s wonderful blog for the first time on a Tuesday could just get the wrong idea, be intimidated and never seen again which would be a pity.

      1. When I applied the latest WordPress update this morning, i found a new feature had been added, which I have now enabled! Every comment now has a “Like” button.

    1. Hi, Kath. It hadn’t occurred to me that my crossword analyses might scare first-timers away. I certainly wouldn’t want that to happen.

      So I’ll stop. There’ll be no more analysis or data or maths or charts from me.

      1. I can’t see why those analyses would scare first timers away so long as they are presented in a light-hearted way. I say, keep them coming Mr Kitty. I like numbers as well as words,

      1. I can help you with that, SL. Just scroll back up the page until you hit a heading that says “Across”. The hints and tips start there. Do you see a problem with them?

        1. Gee – you are a clever chap and full of wit. I was really getting fed up with your obtuseness and thought that you might wind your neck in a bit regarding the ‘statistics spreadsheet’. But – no, you’re going to carry on as usual.

          That’s a shame as I’m afraid that my enjoyment of the blog has now come to an end. Have fun.

          Sorry BD – but you can now remove me as a contributor to the site.

            1. Agreed – don’t be rash. If you don’t like the stats and analysis just ignore them please.

          1. Commenting about the content of a post is fair game – but there is no place on this site for personal attacks. Had I seen this comment before the replies were added I would have deleted it.

    2. Some people do find the statistics interesting, though. Perhaps if they got put at the end of the hints and tips rather than before them, you could have the best of both worlds?

      1. Thanks, snape, that’s an excellent suggestion and definitely worth a try.

        I shall therefore continue with the statistics. But I will put them and other intro material unrelated to crosswords at the end of the hints under a spoiler box. We’ll do the experiment and see if that fixes the issue.

  25. Yes. Good stuff. Liked it. Befuddled brain cocked up 11a, but otherwise fine. Thanks to Mr K and our setter. 2*/3*

  26. The statistics were very interesting and I just cannot see how they could possibly detract from the “business as usual” which is right there a couple of centimetres beneath the stats…

  27. Pretty much a read and write. Hasn’t happened to me for a long time.
    Last one in was 11a for some reason.
    Actually I do know why. I was trying to get some letters away from preserve and that was getting me nowhere.
    Then I thought the pre was before date and that didn’t make sense either. Well anyway. Had no problem with the construction in 15d. Just followed the instructions.
    Love the freedom of speech on the blog but feel it’s a shame when people get so upset.
    We have all endured music we didn’t want to hear, pictures we don’t want to see, total lack of pictures in some cases but every blogger has his or her style and I thank them for the work they put in.
    Thanks to the setter, to Mr Kitty, to BD and to all the bloggers and contributors.

  28. Enjoyed your analysis of repeated answers. I wonder about frequency of multiple solutions. e.g. Jam without last bit could have been “preserve”.

  29. I enjoyed Mr Kitty’s statistics much more than SL’s criticism of them. Cheers to jean-luc for emphasising that all bloggers and contributors have their own styles. Vive tous les differences!

  30. I got everything out in this puzzle EXCEPT 26a. Now I know why – it was a blooming cricket clue so of course I STILL dont get it :-( The only aspect of cricket Ive ever been interested in was the deck chairs in University Parks — but then as a student this was but a romantic notion – the turf was an adequate substitute for an impecunious student who simply wanted to dream to the music and rhythm of the game. The weather was always better then.

    Ace clues for me this time around were: 6d and 17d

    A very enjoyable puzzle (bar the cricket)

    1. It’s useful in cricket to distinguish the halves of the pitch on either side of a line joining the wickets. For a right-handed batsman standing facing the bowler the left side is called the on side, and the right the off side. When that batsman is waiting to receive the ball his legs are on the left (on) side of the pitch, so that’s also called the leg side. So in cricket ON = LEG.

  31. I also enjoyed the analysis.
    I imagine the graph is based on one crossword a day. I suspect a goodly number that contribute to this blog do both the backpager and the toughie everyday ( without, certainly I’m my case, remembering in which one the previous same answer was) Therefore the apparent chances of repetition of an answer would be almost four every ten days – hence the interest in the subject.
    Just as a further matter of interest how many different answers have there been over those 17 years?
    Thanks hugely Mr Kitty.

    1. Hi, Gordon. Yes, the horizontal axis on the graph is really number of consecutive crosswords. My list of back-pagers and toughies contains 7529 crosswords, which amounts to 221,265 answers. The answer list contains 60,412 different words & phrases.

      1. Thank you Mr Kitty
        Given that the average English speaker is estimated to have a vocabulary of 10,000 – 20,000 words, then 60,000 is quite impressive

  32. I did this last night and had some chuckles along the way. Good fun and **/*** from me.

    My fave was 26a (albeit I missed the cricket allusion). My immediate response was ‘How very true!’.

    Many thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the intriguing research findings and blog.

  33. I’m just thinking that if a setter has the same entry in the same grid at the same place two crosswords running, it could also be intentional. (S)he might have come up with two excellent clues the first time around, and did not want to waste the second one. Simplest thing is to start another version of the crossword, although most would probably be tempted by different grid. The intention may not have been to publish back to back – often setters have a number of puzzles in the queue with the editor, so there’s some chance there.

    1. Hi, dutch. That makes sense. The pair of puzzles that prompted the discussion were last Tuesday, set by Samuel, and last Wednesday, presumably set by Jay. Identical grids and rhino occupying 22d in both puzzles. That has to be a coincidence, I think.

  34. Thanks for all of the supportive comments above.

    When I wrote the blog I did not register how long the intro had become after adding the discussion about probabilities. Apologies to anybody who had to wade through all that on a phone or a tablet. I’ve now edited the blog to hide that section under a spoiler box, which is what I’ve done in the past and what I should have done here.

    1. There are no such things as problems, only opportunities for improvement and that for me is an improvement. Today’s problem is the like button.

      1. Tried to “like” a comment, but was so confused trying to register with WordPress that I gave up.

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