Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016 — Serpentine Wickedness


As a couple of readers have already commented, the setter's have clearly upped the level of difficulty in today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon. In particular, 16d really stretched the grey matter.

I invite you to leave a comment to let us know how you fared with the puzzle.

Solution to Today's Puzzle

Falcon's Experience
- solved without assistance
- incorrect prior to use of puzzle solving tools
- solved with assistance from puzzle solving tools
- solved with aid of checking letters provided by puzzle solving tools
- solved but without fully parsing the clue
- yet to be solved

Legend: "*" anagram; "~" sounds like; "<" letters reversed

"( )" letters inserted; "_" letters deleted; "†" explicit in the clue

Primary indications (definitions) are marked with a solid underline in the clue; subsidiary indications (be they wordplay or other) are marked with a dashed underline in all-in-one (& lit.) clues, semi-all-in-one (semi-& lit.) clues and cryptic definitions. Explicit link words and phrases are enclosed in forward slashes (/link/) and implicit links are shown as double forward slashes (//).


1a   Something that bonds // guys in a sleazy bar (8)

A|D(HES)IVE — HES (guys) contained in (in) {A (†) + DIVE (sleazy bar)}

5a   Intelligence // is painful (6)

SMARTS — double definition

10a   Sad // lute, far off (7)

TEARFUL* — anagram (off) of LUTE FAR

11a   Love writing, // making pen noises? (7)

O|INKING — O (love; nil score in tennis) + INKING (writing)

12a   Alien’s swallowing a // grub (4)

E(A)T|S_ — {ET (alien; E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) + S ('s)} containing (swallowing) A (†)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial[7] (often referred to simply as E.T.) is a 1982 American science fiction film co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.

13a   Arctic Ocean endlessly altered // cooking style (10)

CACCIATORE* — anagram (altered) of {ARCTIC (†) + OCEA (OCEA[N] with the final letter removed (endlessly))}

Cacciatore[5] (also cacciatora) is a postpositive adjective denoting a dish prepared in a spicy tomato sauce with mushrooms and herbs ⇒ chicken cacciatore. The word is Italian and literally means 'hunter' (because of the use of ingredients that a hunter might have to hand).

14a   Even // Theodore admits one (4)

T(I)ED — TED (diminutive of Theodore) containing (admits) I ([Roman numeral for] one)

15a   Overwhelming /and/ popular United Nations social activity (10)

IN|UN|DATING — IN (popular) + UN (United Nations) + DATING (social activity)

19a   Felines, // near morning, taken in by noblemen (10)

C(AT|AM)OUNTS — {AT (near) + AM (morning; ante meridiem)} contained in (taken in by) COUNTS (noblemen)

Catamount[5] is a North American term for a puma[5] [the name by which it is apparently known in Britain]. Other North American terms for this cat (Felis concolor) are cougar, panther, and mountain lion.

20a   Part of a clock // set back (4)

DIAL< — reversal (back) of LAID (set; laid a table in preparation for a meal, for instance)

21a   Sporting interrupts wrong // inauguration ceremony (8- 2)

S(WEARING)-IN — WEARING (sporting; the cheerful nudist sporting nothing but a smile) contained in (interrupts) SIN (wrong)

23a   That woman’s a // top Olympian (4)

HER|A — HER (that woman's) + A (†)

In Greek mythology, Hera[10] (or Here) is the queen of the Olympian gods and sister and wife of Zeus.

25a   Opposite // Kiev’s terminal is car rental company (3-1-3)

V|IS_|A_VIS — V (KieV's terminal [final letter]) + IS (†) + AVIS (car rental company)

Avis Rent a Car System, LLC[10], better known as Avis, is an American car rental company.

Delving Deeper
Avis is headquartered in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, United States and the Cook Islands. Avis, Budget Rent a Car and Budget Truck Rental are all units of Avis Budget Group.

Avis Budget Group operates the Avis brand in North America, South America, India, Australia and, New Zealand. Recently Avis has acquired Avis Europe plc which once was a separate corporation licensing the Avis brand. Avis is the third largest car rental agency in the world trailing behind Hertz Corporation.

Scratching the Surface
Kiev[5] is the capital of Ukraine, an industrial city and port on the River Dnieper; population 2,765,500 (est. 2009). Founded in the 8th century, it became capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1934. In 1991 it became capital of independent Ukraine.

26a   Mostly teach class in drawing // table on wheels (3,4)

TEA C|ART — TEAC {TEAC[H] with the final letter removed (mostly)} + ART (class in drawing)

27a   Signals okay about Mom/’s/ movers? (6)

NO(MA)DS — NODS (signals okay) containing (about) MA (Mom)

28a   Way to shine // piece of brass, with good reason (8)

B|RIGHTLY — B (piece [initial letter] of Brass) + RIGHTLY (with good reason)


1d   Real // jerk pursuing gold, in that case (9)

AU|THEN|TIC — TIC (jerk) following (pursuing) {AU ([symbol for the chemical element] gold) + THEN (in that case)}

2d   Sloshing a beer that // instant (9)

HEARTBEAT* — anagram (sloshing) of A BEER THAT

3d   Small, and frequently // lenient (4)

S|OFT — S (small; abbrev.) + OFT (frequently; poetic shortening of 'often')

4d   An evil soul’s sin, put another way? (14)

VILLAINOUSNESS* — anagram (put another way) of AN EVIL SOULS SIN

The entire clue is also the definition making this an &lit.[7] clue (or, as some prefer to call it, an all-in-one clue).

6d   City on the Irrawaddy // ruined many a lad (8)

MANDALAY* — anagram (ruined) of MANY A LAD

Mandalay[7] is a port on the Irrawaddy River in central Burma (Myanmar); population 961,000 (est. 2007). Founded in 1857, it was the capital until 1885 of the Burmese kingdom. It is an important Buddhist religious centre.

7d   Cracked horn broken by one // large beast (5)

RH(I)NO* — anagram (cracked) of HORN containing (broken by) I ([Roman numeral for] one)

8d   Make a transition // among house guests (5)

_SE|GUE_ — hidden in (among) houSE GUEsts

9d   Snake // tossed narcotics to bro (3,11)

{BOA CONSTRICTOR}* — anagram (tossed) of NARCOTICS TO BRO

16d   Rambling // point led into the matter at hand (9)

I(TINE|RAN)T — {TINE (point) + RAN (led; managed or controlled)} contained in (into) IT (the matter at hand)

This looks so simple in hindsight; however, I spent nearly as much time deciphering this one clue as I expended on the entire remainder of the puzzle.

17d   Launch framework taking every // bit of mettle (9)

G(ALL)ANTRY — GANTRY (launch framework; the structure that supports a rocket prior to launch at Cape Canaveral) containing (taking) ALL (every)

18d   Feeling better, // little scamp went wandering (8)

IMP|ROVED — IMP (little scamp) + ROVED (went wandering)

21d   Number // observed divided by five (5)

SE(V)EN — SEEN (observed) containing (divided by) V ([Roman numeral for] five)

22d   Poems trashed // racing venue (5)

EPSOM* — anagram (trashed) of POEMS

Epsom Downs[7] [which most certainly would be referred to informally simply as Epsom] is a Grade 1 racecourse near Epsom, Surrey, England. The course is best known for hosting the Epsom Derby, the United Kingdom's premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies, over a mile and a half (2400m). It also hosts the Epsom Oaks for three-year-old fillies and the Coronation Cup for all ages over the same distance.
The "downs" referred to in the name are part of the North Downs, a ridge of chalk hills in south east England.
24d   Disallow great // explosion (4)

BAN|G — BAN (disallow) + G (great; abbrev.)

I have no idea why G should be considered to be an abbreviation for great. My extensive search certainly failed to find support for this notion.


The title of today's review is inspired by the long entries at 4d and 9d.
Key to Reference Sources: 

[1]   - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
[2]   - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
[3]   - (American Heritage Dictionary)
[4]   - (Collins English Dictionary)
[5]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford Dictionary of English)
[6]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford American Dictionary)
[7]   - Wikipedia
[8]   - Reverso Online Dictionary (Collins French-English Dictionary)
[9]   - Infoplease (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
[10] - (Collins English Dictionary)
[11] - (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. I found this puzzle more difficult than the ones from the last few weeks. Still stuck on a few in the lower right hand quadrant - 16d, 20a, 28a. It took me a while to work out 4d.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Believe it or not, I really did write my comments before I saw yours. Seems we're on almost exactly the same wavelength!

  2. Good morning all,

    I found today's puzzle to be tougher than usual. 19a was a new word to me. 4d is such an awkward word that I wasn't sure it exists. And assuming the definition for 16d is "rambling" I know the answer but can't parse the clue. Nevertheless an enjoyable challenge this morning.


  3. Happy cool end of April to all! I too, thought this one was going to be tough when after skimming a dozen or so clues only a couple of answers came to mind. Once again I feel C&R are playing fast and loose with the EOD with their use of the word 'mettle' in 17d. It certainly slowed down any hope of figuring out the answer. It didn't help that I thought 28a might end in an N or R. Well done on the solutions, Falcon!

    1. I tend to agree with with you regarding "mettle" but Collins English Dictionary does include gallantry in the list of synonyms for mettle.

    2. These days I suppose it's true, if you want to be gallant, you have to be made of sterner stuff.

  4. A quick and easy solve. And an enjoyable break from some sticky Telegraph puzzles over the last few days.

    13a always makes me thing of a Liberal running in Alberta.

    1. It would appear that the Liberals did not run hard enough. The NDP beat them to the goal.

    2. Richard! When I first read your comment on being reminded of Liberals running in Alberta, I didn't catch it at all (and a few times after that, too.)But I just caught it - Catch-ye-a Tory?? Really, Richard...

  5. Hello Everyone!
    I had a similar experience to most. Learned a new feline and launch framework. Other than a couple of sticking points, the rest of the puzzle went pretty quickly.

    Thank you for posting!

    1. ... and thank you for commenting.

  6. Hi Falcon and all,
    I found that this one went quickly except for the increasingly difficult-to-parse last three: after crosses allowed me to understand 15a, I was able to write in 16d and 17d and then do some brain-racking over the clue-to-answer connection. Eventually I saw the "point" of 16d and figured out the rest; and finally, from deep memory recesses (early years of the space program when TVs were brought into school classrooms for launches) emerged the gantry that sorted the last one out.