This clue is a good example of why crossing letters are so important. Without them, the sheer length of the clue puts me off ...
17a. Enchanting person’s period in front of reaping-machine (11)
S _ E _ L _ _ _ _ _ _
This clue is a good example of why crossing letters are so important. Without them, the sheer length of the clue puts me off tackling it - however, with the crossers, the definition and answer present themselves to me in an instant.
So what are they?
'Period' comes first and that's a good match for SPELL. 'In front of' is a simple positional indicator meaning SPELL is 'in front of' the next bit of fodder which, being 'reaping-machine' seems a pretty good match for BINDER.
Sure that I have my answer and all is right with the world, I stick the answer in the grid with a charismatic flourish and move in to the next clue.
4. Teacher outside is seedy American, one free from false ideas (11)
D _ S _ _ _ _ _ I _ N
Where to start with this one?
It seems as if the definition will be 'one free from false ideas' as in a realist. But, the crossers, which end in '_ I _ N' don't seem to support this.
When this sort of thing happens, it's time to look at the clue again, could the setter be misdirecting me on the definition?
Yes - yes they could.
On second examination, I find the definition and the clue falls into place. The def here is 'free from false ideas' and the 'one' is a clever misdirection which is actually part of the clues wordplay. Ah, I forget to mention the answer is DISILLUSION.
This is how the wordplay works:
'Teacher' is DON. 'Outside' is an indicator telling me DON will go around the outside of the following pieces of fodder. 'Is' is IS! 'Seedy' is ILL. American is US and, finally, that tricky 'one' is I.
Lets break it down further:
DON [goes outside of] IS & ILL & I
When we carry out the instruction we get:
After all that, I kick back and put me slippers on - but not before moving onto 15a which, having solved the previous clue, has the letter U in a tasty looking position.
Crossers to the rescue again - that U, in conjunction with the 'lookalike' in the clue surely means the first word must be DOUBLE ...
15a. Degree lookalike’s taken before anyone else? (6,5)
D _ U _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _
D O U B L E - _ _ _ _ _
I can't get an immediate handle on the rest of the wordplay, but I see 'degree' as a likely definition and, although I got a 'triple-first' at uni (I was the first ever to fail to get my first, middle, and last name correct during finals) I see DOUBLE-FIRST matches the definition degree.
That leaves 'taken before anyone else' which can mean FIRST and, after taking a Richard the Third, I write the answer in the grid and move onto 16d which now has and F as its first letter.
16a. Shrub’s strange history in borders of Florida (9)
F _ R _ _ _ _ _ _
Uh-oh, what I gots here is some kind of a plant. Now, the only plant I know anything about starts with an M and ends in an A, so it looks like I'm out of luck. However, the wordplay is screaming anagram that'll be put into the end letters of 'florida' so perhaps all is not lost.
And how do I know it's an anagram?
Now, the only plant I know anything about starts with an M and ends in A, so it looks like I'm out of luck ...
And how do I know it's the end letters of 'florida' which the anagrammed strange will be put into?
The key here is the words 'in' (which is an insertion indicator) and 'borders of' (which is often used to mean the end letters of the following word).
So, I have an idea of how it works, but not much knowledge of plants - what do I do?
Cheat is what.
I stick the letters 'history' and the letters 'fa' (the ends of 'florida') into an anagram solver and it spits out:
A quick check of my trusty dictionary tells my it is, indeed, a shrub and, with a prayer to Sir Bruce of Forsythia, I whack the answer in the grid and head for 12a which begins in L.
Aha! After the nasty plant of the previous clue, this one is a write-in ...
12. Sea monster Jacob’s son observed close by, briefly (9)
L _ _ _ A _ _ _ _
First up is 'Jacob's son'. I know from previous crosswords (rather than a high level of religious education) this is LEVI. The second part of the wordplay is more tricky, but here's how it works:
'Observed close by' translates to AT HAND and 'briefly' is a last letter subtraction indicator telling me to lop the last letter of AT HAND to leave ATHAN. I stick LEVI with AT HAN and get LEVIATHAN.
With everything looking tickety-boo, I think about renaming one of my bathroom rubber ducks and move on to 13d which now has four crossers and starts with a delicious V.
13d. Win involves Welshman saying farewell (11)
V _ A _ D _ C _ _ _ _
Not much to frighten the horses here:
Not much to frighten the horses here: 'win' accounts for the VICTORY, 'involves' is a container indicator, and a Welshman who isn't Dai must be ALED. So that's VICTORY with ALED in it meaning 'saying farewell' = (V(ALED)ICTORY).
Sad to say goodbye to this clue, I move on to 26a which now starts with an O.
Although this clue has a simple answer, it's worth taking a look at how the setter seeks to misdirect the solver ...
26a. Moor boat finally in ring? That’s a surprise (7)
O _ H _ _ _ _
Although this clue has a simple answer, it's worth taking a look at how the setter seeks to misdirect the solver.
First, lets look at the answer:
Now, lets look at the deception.
In a cryptic crossword (especially in The Times) the word 'that's' is often found at the start of a definition to bring it into noun form. In having 'that's a surprise' the setter seeks to make us believe this is the definition.
At the other end of the clue, the setter is using a part of speech deception - in the surface of the clue, 'moor' is a verb meaning 'tie up', but in the cryptic reading - the one where we get the answer - it's a noun by which the Shakespearean character is known.
Finally, there is a question mark thrown in to break up the two parts of wordplay and further sell the fake definition.
Still, all the deception doesn't stop me picking up my trusty four-colour Bic and whacking the answer in the grid. Hooray!
7d. State of agitation overwhelming English kid, perhaps (7)
L _ A _ H _ R
Without delay, I smash the clue into the grid and move on to 8d.
'state of agitation' is a LATHER. 'Overwhelming' is our surround indicator. And English has the abbreviation E. Which makes, drum roll please:
Without delay, I smash the clue into the grid and move on to 8d.
Aha! The first word to pop into my booze-sozzled mind is POSTNATAL and so I go hunting for the definition ...
8d. Old African province holding up mail after delivery (9)
P _ S _ N _ T _ _
At first, I think I may need to go to Google for this one as 'old African province' is looking like the definition. However, I scan the clue for wordplay possibilities which'll match the letters I already have and find one in:
I pencil this into the grid and see if the resultant word string rings any bells:
P O S T N _ T _ _
Aha! The first word to pop into my booze-sozzled mind is POSTNATAL and so I go hunting for the definition and find it in 'after delivery'. Sounds good to me, and that leaves NATAL as the 'old African province' and 'holding up' as a positional indicator which means NATAL is found under POST making POSTNATAL.
After a little gas, air and a quick call to the vasectomy department of the nearest hospital, I write the answer in the grid and move onto 19a - a three letter word ending in an L.
19a. Worry porter possibly talked of (3)
_ _ L
Hmmmm, for such a short word, and a short word ending in an L, I am stumped!
But what would that be?
'porter possibly' - well, 'possibly', rather like the 'perhaps' in the previous clue, can be a definition by example indicator which would mean I'm looking for a type of porter - ah, perhaps it's ALE, porter is a kind of ale and, when said out loud, it sound the same as AIL which means to 'worry'.
Satisfied all is in order, I head to the cold beer department pop a Bud, and move on to 19d.
Hmmm ... I can't see much there, and so I do what I always do when there is a girl's name to be put in a grid, I try ANN first (Ann being a girl's name forever popping up in cryptics).
19d. Ring girl allowed to go round university (7)
A _ _ _ L _ _
Not so many crossers here, so I look for any words in the wordplay which may give me a match with what I do have. I immediately see 'allowed' and think LET would work and fit with the L I have. Pencilling that in gives me:
Well, I think 'university' will be a U and 'to go round' a surround indicator. This leaves 'ring' as the definition, and a girls name as the first part of the clue. Stumped, I write out the possible word strings with the added U
A U _ _ L E T
A _ U _ L E T
A _ _ U L E T
Hmmm ... I can't see much there, and so I do what I always do when there is a girl's name to be put in a grid, I try ANN first (Ann being a girl's name forever popping up in cryptics). This gives me:
A U N N L E T
A N U N L E T
A N N U L E T
Double hmmm ... not much doing here, but that last possibility sounds a bit like AMULET which, like a ring, can be worn as jewelry. So I look ANNULET up in my dictionary and there it is! A small ring.
Into the grid it goes and I don't mind admitting I bring out the patented Hoskins celebratory dance (though I make sure I pull the curtains first).
22. Ages given by retired engineers quitting US city (5)
Y _ N _ _
Somewhere from the depths of my brain - in the section marked 'words my sister used to say in the mid-eighties' - comes YONKS
'Given by' sounds like a link to the wordplay (as in: answer 'given by' wordplay). 'Retired' sounds like a reversal indicator, 'engineers' is the XWD abbreviation for RE (royal engineers) and quitting sounds like a subtraction indicator. Put this together and it reads as an instructions that ER (the reversal of RE) must be subtracted from a city in the US to form the answer YONKS.
Only one city I can think of fits the bill: YONKERS - and, when I take out ER, I'm left with the answer YONKS and a smug sense of satisfaction as I write the answer into the grid.
I think this is a double definition clue ...
24a. A prospective spouse may show it off? Something fishy here (7)
H _ R _ I _ _
Bish bash bosh and into the grid it goes - only three more clues to go!
25d. Disparity prospective students may enjoy this year? (3)
G _ _
... the answer has to be GAP and I bang the answer in the grid without delay.
Smelling victory (at least I hope that's what it is) I bang the answer in the grid without delay.
With the crossers, I see this semi &lit clue very quickly ...
28a. He distributes pounds at first (rates may vary) (9)
P _ Y _ A _ T _ _
'Pounds at first' (the first letter of pounds) = P, followed by anagram fodder 'rates may' and then anagram indicator 'vary'. Once I have rearranged the letters of 'rates may' and stuck them behind P I get PAYMASTER.
Without further delay (not even a second of backslapping) I move on to the last clue in the grid.
23. Small substandard track (5)
S _ O _ R
The S seems to be accounted for by 'small' (clothing size abbreviation) and I see POOR for 'substandard' would fit ...
All that's left to do now is stick the answer in the grid, and head to the cold beer department for a celebratory end of grid can of the most tasteless booze America has to offer - lovely.
In the meantime, feel free to post a comment to tell me what you thought about this post, take a look at the site's solving guide, or have a go at my crosswords.
So, there it is. A walk-through of the second half of the clues found in The Times #25920. Hopefully, going through the clues this way has provided an insight into basic solving methods, and also into a few tricks that crossword setters employ.
Next month, I'll provide a two-part 'walk-through solve' of the quiptic crossword found in The Guardian, and will continue to make it a regular feature until I've covered each of the cryptics in the UK broadsheets. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment to tell me what you thought about this post, take a look at the site's solving guide, or have a go at my crosswords.
Thanks for listening and I hope to see you around the site soon.