Readers should take careful note of the milestone number of today's puzzle as it figures prominently in the puzzle itself. This puzzle also boasts an unusual feature described in 16a and 1a.
I quite enjoyed the challenge posed by this difficult puzzle. I failed to solve one clue, and some of the wordplay left me scratching my head.
Marking a Milestone
Today's puzzle is number 26000 for the Daily Telegraph. Although there is a very long litany of comments on Big Dave's site in response to this puzzle, it was well worthwhile plowing through to the end where the setter himself dropped by to explain the puzzle. I reproduce here his remarks for the benefit of those who may not have the stamina to follow the thread to its conclusion.
As the setter of the puzzle, may I thank everyone for the input. To mark a number like 26,000, my idea was to do something a little out of the ordinary, but to give plenty of other clues in the quick crossword that accompanied it.By the way, I suspect that the "the quick crossword" referred to in John's remarks might be a parallel set of non-cryptic clues to the puzzle. If I am correct, then readers of the Telegraph would have the option of solving the same puzzle using either the cryptic or non-cryptic clues (or "cheating" by using the non-cryptic clues as additional hints). However, as that would hardly seem to be cricket, especially for the "Saturday" prize puzzles, I may well be mistaken.
Yes it was harder than usual, but it wasn’t intended to be, given that there were various hints. I guess you had to notice the number of the puzzle.
For everyone, here are the compiling steps:
Grid (the Telegraph has a finite set) was selected because THOUSAND went in at answer 26.
Then LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET (a group of 26).
Then DOUBLE at 13ac. (2×13, no-one’s mentioned that).
Then, all the letters of the alphabet.
Then realised TWENTY could fit, and then, after email with editor, the clue for PRAXIS was written to incorporate SIX.
It’s great to have the feedback, for which I thank you all.
Elgar on Friday is far, far easier, and I never went on “holiday” to avoid you!
Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle
foursome - a Scottish reel for four dancers
shriek - an exclamation mark
Gazza's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Telegraph Crossword Blog [DT 26000].
Commentary on Today's Puzzle
13a Like word with two meanings, and big clue to anagrams? (6-6)
The wordplay here is hiding in plain sight - with the anagram being so obvious that I completely missed it. Luckily, I was able to solve the clue based on the definition alone.
24a This sound pierces! (6)
I have to admit that I was unable to solve this clue. I thought the solution might be SCREAM or SCRAPE (e.g., the shrill sound of fingernails on a blackboard or a scrape that pierces the skin), or even SIRENS (although the wording of the clue seemed to rule out a plural).
As it turns out, the punctuation is important to this clue. A SHRIEK is a term used by computer programmers (and perhaps also by typesetters and printers) for an exclamation point. As described by Wikipedia, "Several computer languages use '!' for various meanings, most importantly for logical negation; e.g. A != B means 'A is not equal to B', and !A means 'the logical negation of A' (also called 'not A'). In this context, the exclamation is named the bang character; other programmers call it a shriek or screech. Invented in the US, it is claimed that bang is from Unix and shriek from Stanford or MIT; however, shriek is found in the Oxford English Dictionary dating from the 1860s. Also, bang was used in typesetting or printing and therefore when spelling text out orally the exclamation mark could be called, 'a screamer or a bang.'"
16a & 1a. 26 all in attendance herein for today's 3 6dn (7,2,3,8)
There are lots of cross-references in today's puzzle, but the Arabic numeral "26" is not one of them.
21a Parasite exercising power to spear Burns' hero (8)
Again, I found the solution (TAPEWORM) using only the definition. As for the wordplay, I got no further than mistakenly thinking that "exercising" might be PE (physical education) and "power" might be W (watt).
5d London thoroughfare not entirely blessed by Vera Lynn? (3,4)
A big thank you to Gazza for explaining the connection between THE MALL and Vera Lynn (who sang, "Bless 'em all, bless 'em all").
8d Doctor's aim: get train going west! (8)
"Going west" often appears as a reversal indicator (in a horizontal clue). However, today it plays the role of an anagram indicator - although I'm not sure why it feels it is qualified for the part.
13d Complete trademark at 9, employing computer's ultimate printing method (3,6)
Once again, as at 16a, we find an Arabic numeral (in this case, "9") that is not a cross reference.
Signing off for today - Falcon