Saturday, October 31, 2020

Saturday, October 31, 2020 — Precarious Perches


The bottom half of today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon was a treat, falling into place fairly quickly once I had established a couple of 28a. The top half, on the other hand, was far more tricky, demanding considerably more mental effort on my part before it eventually surrendered.

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

Symbols and Markup Conventions
  •  "*" - anagram
  • "~" - sounds like
  • "<" - indicates the preceding letters are reversed
  • "( )" - encloses contained letters
  • "_" - replaces letters that have been deleted
  •  "†" - indicates that the word is present in the clue
  • "//" - marks the boundary between wordplay and definition when no link word or link phrase is present
  • "/[link word or phrase]/" - marks the boundary between wordplay and definition when a link word or link phrase is present
  • "solid underline" - precise definition
  • "dotted underline" - cryptic definition
  • "dashed underline" - wordplay
  • "double underline" - both wordplay and definition
Click here for further explanation and usage examples of the symbols and markup conventions used on this blog.


8a   Delicate // arachnid is hungry at first, eating piece of lettuce (8)

TICK(L)IS|H — {TICK (arachnid) + IS (†) + H (hungry at first; initial letter of Hungry)} containing (eating) L (piece [initial letter] of Lettuce)

9a   Island // also accommodating base (6)

TO(BAG)O — TOO (also) containing (accommodating) BAG (base; one found on a baseball diamond)

10a   Make a hash of popular // composer (6)

CHOP|IN — CHOP (make a hash of) + IN (popular)

11a   Urban dwelling // which one involved in wake (3,5)

RO(W HO)USE — WHO (which one) contained in (involved in) ROUSE (wake [from sleep])

12a   Irish patron bounding along with // stick (5,3)

ST(AND) PAT — ST PAT (Irish patron) containing (bounding) AND (along with)

14a   Cunning about Delaware, // to a great extent (6)

WI(DE)LY — WILY (cunning) containing (about) DE ([postal designator for] Delaware)

15a   Two pushers concealing // work (4)

_O|PUS_ — hidden in (concealing) twO PUShers

17a   Not dry yet // not very tasteful (5)

TACKY — double definition

18a   Two notices backing // movement in art (4)

{DA|DA}< — reversal of (backing) {AD + AD} (two [commercial] notices)

19a   Tenor stuck in introductory section, // for the moment (3,3)

PRO (T)EM — T(enor) contained in (stuck in) PROEM (introductory section)

21a   Reserve // time in shore region (3,5)

SE(T) ASIDE — T(ime) contained in (in) SEASIDE (shore region)

24a   With cons, arranged // trip (6,2)

{SWITCH ON}* — anagram of (arranged) WITH CONS

26a   Bad feeling // Al carried in vermin (6)

M(AL)ICE — AL (†) contained in (carried in) MICE (vermin)

27a   One Arab ship, // without a doubt (3,3)

AN|D HOW — AN (one) + DHOW (Arab ship)

28a   New tool shed /for/ small purchases? (8)

TOEHOLDS* — anagram of (new) TOOL SHED


1d   Plastic in that // helmet (3,3)

{TIN HAT}* — anagram of (plastic) IN THAT

2d   Insect put in curling captain’s // sportswear (3,5)

SKI P(ANT)S — ANT (insect) contained in (put in) {SKIP (curling captain) + S ('s)}

3d   Volunteer // using new piece of paper (4,2)

{SIGN U}*P — anagram of (new) USING + P (piece [initial letter] of Paper)

4d   Blacken // fish found in the Arctic (4)

CHAR — double definition

5d   Say “Wow” at tricky, // sneaky rider (8)

STOWAWAY* — anagram of (tricky) SAY WOW AT

6d   A second-rate street // in a foreign land (6)

A|B|ROAD — A (†) + B (second-rate) + ROAD (street)

7d   Picnic dish // provokes a boy (3,5)

EGG S|A|LAD — EGGS (provokes) + A (†) + LAD (boy)

13d   Gathers // speaker’s formal wear (5)

TUCKS~ — sounds like (speaker's) TUX (formal wear)

16d   Tiny opening admitting double // drink (4,4)

POR(T WIN)E — PORE (tiny opening) containing (admitting) TWIN (double)

17d   To mother, sell // hatchet (8)

TO|MA|HAWK — TO (†) + MA (mother) + HAWK (sell)

18d   Bar // tag turned sickly yellow (8)

DI<|SALLOW — reversal of (turned) ID (tag) + SALLOW (sickly yellow)

20d   Irritable // in heat, etc., hydrate (6)

_T|ETC|HY_ — hidden in (in) heaT ETC HYdrate

22d   Cap for every // tinker (6)

TAM|PER — TAM ([Scottish] cap) + PER (for every)

23d   Choose // dice Ed cast (6)

DECIDE* — anagram of (cast) DICE ED

25d   Observe // Bond’s school from behind (4)

NOTE* — reversal of (from behind) ETON (Bond's school)

Early Start
Commander James Bond[7], the fictional Intelligence Agent created by the British journalist and novelist Ian Fleming, briefly attended Eton College at "12 or thereabouts", but is removed after two halves [two half terms]* because of girl trouble with a maid.

* The English school year generally runs from early September to mid or late July of the following year. Most schools operate a three-term school year, each term divided in half.

Autumn term runs from early September to mid December (half term falls in late October). Spring Term runs from early January to Easter (half term falls in mid February). Summer Term runs from Easter to mid July (half term falls in late May or early June).

At the end of each half term, in October, February and May, there is a holiday which lasts about one week (usually nine full days, including two weekends).

The Christmas holidays separate the autumn and spring terms, and the Easter holidays separate the spring and summer terms. Each holiday lasts about two weeks.

The 'summer' holiday begins in late July, even though summer is largely over in England, and is usually about six weeks long, sometimes ending only two weeks away from the Autumnal equinox.


The title of today's review is inspired by 8a and 28a.

Key to Reference Sources: 

  [1]   - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
  [2]   - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
  [3]   - (American Heritage Dictionary)
  [4]   - TheFreeDictionarycom (Collins English Dictionary)
  [5]   - Lexico (formerly Oxford Dictionaries Online) (Oxford Dictionary of English)
  [6]   - Lexico (formerly Oxford Dictionaries Online) (Oxford Advanced 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)
[12]   - (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
[13]   - (Macmillan Dictionary)
[14]   - (COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary)

Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. Good morning,

    I found today's puzzle to be a bit tougher than usual. I expected to see a Halloween theme but if it's there I'm not seeing it. Have a good weekend!


  2. Good day Falcon and friends,

    I have to agree that today's puzzle was more challenging than usual, particularly the NW corner. Thankfully the down clues made it a little easier. No complaints. Last one in was 12a and really liked 3d.

    Thank you for posting Falcon. Enjoy the frosty but boo-tiful weekend.


  3. Happy Halloween everyone!
    It's coincidental (and very sad) that Sean Connery died last night.
    I did most of the right side and had a few on the left mid way through the puzzle, 12a was near the end. Last one was 16d. Really like 3d - didn't see the anagram. Nice to see my favourite composer.
    Indeed, one had to be cunning, to a great extent, to solve today's offering from C&H.

    1. I suppose Halloween was called on account of COVID 19?

  4. Started off slowly (in the SE corner, picked up speed in an anti-clockwise direction and finished in a flurry in the SW ending with 16d.
    Some clever clues and very enjoyable.
    Goodbye October....we'll see what next week brings!!!!

  5. And we should 25d the passing, yesterday, of the best Bond of the big screen.

  6. Hi Falcon, I learned a new word today - PROEM.
    And did you know the generic words for ship in Arab are markab and safiinah. Fulk is used in the Quran. The word daw is a Swahili name, and not used by the Arabs, although it was popularized by English writers in the incorrect form of dhow.
    Just a couple of fixes:
    1a your initial entry has a typo
    24a too many letters in the answer
    Signing off for now.

    1. Thanks, Henry

      Well, I can be thankful that only the initial initial was incorrect.

      I'll blame it on being nearly a year late for my appointment with the eye doctor. I clearly am in need of stronger glasses.

  7. The NY Times has a cryptic this weekend and the Wordplay blog referenced this puzzle. I used to solve it all the time but it fell by the wayside in my plethora of puzzles. Anyhow I gave it another go and I found it more challenging than I remember which is a goid thing. Favourites were 11a, 12a, 3d, and especially 7d. Thanks to all.


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