The Gold (from the 16/17/18th of October)

A lot of Gold in one of DA’s best and more creative cryptics for mine.

8 across: X-boxes in one retail complex (3, 5)

Awesome: x-boxes in one retail complex = ten boxes in i mall = tim allen = funny people (the theme).

4 down: Love points to unity (7)

Fantastic use of compass points: love points = o N E N E S S = oneness = unity.

20 across: Mercury lands in light? (1., 1., 6)

I was convinced this one was WC Fields (lands = fields, light = c) until I looked up mercury and discovered its listed in the periodic table as HG: mercury lands in light = HG L and S in neon = HG Nelson = funny people (the theme).

17, 10 across: Oscar blemish in signs of affection (7, 4)

Everyone loves a Sesame Street reference: Oscar blemish in signs of affection = Grouch mar in o x = Groucho Marx = funny people (the theme)

24 across: Sixty-six percent burning (3, 1)

NC makes a good, pedantic point in jest: it should be sixty-six and six repeating percent. We’ll forgive DA on this one, though: sixty-six percent burning = a third alight = Ali G = funny people (the theme).

7 down: Major group loves musical jam, lulling hearts of most Acrosses (funny people) (6)

This one stumped me for a long time, and I think it stumped me for so long because this type of clue I’ve never seen done with the middle letter: major group loves musical jam, lulling hearts = maJor grOup loVes musIcal jAm lulLing hearts = jovial = most funny people.

13 down: In abrupt haste, Roman figures diminished gloom (10)

I wish I worked out the explanation on this one: in abrupt haste, Roman figures diminished =  suddenness DD diminished = sullenness (D (500) becomes diminished, i.e. L (50)) = gloom.

9 across: Drug flight — or drug fear (6)

Is it any surprise that DA seems to be familiar with a lot of drug slang? Here, it’s drug flight — or drug fear = trip OD = tripod = funny people (the theme).

13 down: Marathon characters take ages to coat cracked lips (8)

I even thought of dim sims before it all clicked: take ages to coat cracked lips = eons to coat psil = epsilons = Marathon characters (Marathon is in Greece).

15 across: Having less ants in the pants (7)

I was convinced the answer ended with the letter p. Alas, I was wrong: having less ants in the pants = stiller (cryptic definition) = Stiller = funny people (the theme).

I was tempted to put this one in the bullshit category because I consider Ben Stiller to be the worst comedic actor going round, but the amount of people who laugh at his antics put me in my place.

3 down: Lousy opener of the 90s? (6)

A nice cricket reference: opener of the 90s = Slater = slater = lousy.

14 across: Exercised self-denial, mainly (8)

I thought this one was a little dodge: exercised self-denial mainly = seinfeldal mainly = Seinfeld = funny people (the theme).

Cutting two letters off an anagram with a mainly I thought was stretching things when they’re are so many ways to write a good clue. But Rob in the comments explained why DA did what he did: it’s a reference to the “master of your domain” Seinfeld episode!

DA is genius!

27 thoughts on “The Gold (from the 16/17/18th of October)

  1. 4d: while I have no problem with this clue, i’m curious how far using compass point to make up most of the clue is allowed to go. for instance one would think “points to faculties” for SENSES is too rich? or “directions about volume are idiocy” for SENSELESSNESS? These seem too much to me. On the other hand, I think “All points to current affairs” for NEWS would be fine. (My only problem with this clue would be that it conflates news with current affairs, a crime australian news services seem to perpetuate far too often). Sorry to invent a clue, and then attack it, merely to make a completely non sequitur point

  2. MF: I wondered about this as well. I think “Idiocy: many directions about volume” might be OK, to emphasise the need for multiple directions SE, N, SE, E, S, S, NE, S, S.

    (since SSNE is not a direction)

    For those that got the theme, what was it that tipped you off? Mine was 22A (and then 14A to confirm). I do like a themed DA – although if you can’t crack the code, it does make for a frustrating weekend …

  3. I reckon the “gold” bar is being set lower and lower! Surely 3D (to name but one) is very humdrum. And, whilst NC may have objected “in jest” to 66%, I am serious! Why not be accurate and say two thirds? If you’re going to round to the nearest whole number, then it should be 67%. I’m sorry, 66% was just plain SLOPPY! I may be guilty of labouring the point here, but 66% of “alight” is “ali” plus most (but not all) of the “g”!

  4. I nominate 14A for gold (Exercised self-denial, mainly = SEINFELD) because it cheekily alludes to the classic Seinfeld episode where they bet on who can go the longest without masturbating. It’s gold, I tells ya!

  5. My first comedian was 26A.

    “Factory” = MILL immediately made me think of MILLIGAN. Spike was confirmed by the rest, which was plainly an anagram of GAIN.

    You could abridge the clue, too: “Factory profit misplaced”. Chuck out the “one”.

  6. Which way does 22A work?

    “Freight” = “cargo” = “car go” = “key”, from car key.

    “Freight” = “kee”, from the American slang for “kilogram”.

  7. Milligan was my first comedian too.

    I think 22A is one of those frustrating hidden clues: liKE A TONne.

  8. Shame on you, AS: “the amount of people” should be “the NUMBER of people”!(15A) And “less ants in the pants” should be “FEWER ants…”, but I think that one is now a lost cause.
    I agree with MF and haiku about points and with RB about 24A, and add 7D as a mistake comparable to 2D, it should be Hearts of major…

  9. You’re right, JG (NUMBER of people). And thanks for your support re 24A. But re 15A, although I didn’t particularly like the clue, and at first I too blanched at “fewer ants”, I later realised that it’s not the number of ants that is being qualified, but the state of agitation – “ants in the pants”. Hence I think “less” is appropriate here.

  10. My first was 24D (Amis) followed by my first comedian 24A (Ali G), confirmed by my 3rd, 18D (Hooligan). I wasn’t sure about the theme for quite a while (it could have been TV shows, or comedy TV shows, like 14A Seinfeld). I got Ali G by searching my brain for a synonym of “burning”, and coming up with “alight”. Is anyone else like me, finding it more satisfying to get the answer by guessing the wordplay first, rather than guessing the answer first, then confirming by finding a wordplay to fit? I got 9A early but that didn’t help as I’d never heard of them.

    Re 3D (slater = lousy), can we have another adjective = noun outraged debate. Please? I have more objection to this one than most of the other similar ones we have discussed where the parts of speech don’t match. Unless a slater is really “like a louse” entomologically?

  11. I started off exactly as you did NC, although I solved 24A by guessing Ali G from the peculiarity of the letter arrangement and the initial A I’d uncovered.

    And certainly, guessing the answer from the direct clue is much less satisfying than getting the answer from the wordplay.

    I immediately thought funny people/comedians, though, mostly because I knew the TV show was called Da Ali G Show. And whaddayaknow: there’s a DA at the start of his TV show’s name! I hadn’t noticed until writing it down just then.

  12. JG and RB, I love slang in cryptics. I figure if I love slang in cryptics, I should be happy with more modern ways of speaking being reflected in the clues. I certainly don’t advocate anything goes, but I’m OK with a “less” to be included instead of a “fewer” because it’s so common these days even if I do grimace on occasion when I hear “less” instead of “fewer”.

    Concerning “the amount of people” and “the number of people”, I don’t see the slightest difference between the two expressions. Both seem correct to me. What does everyone else think?

  13. On the question of slaters, they’re bugs, which are like louses to me, so the clue is fine. Whether or not they’re related entomologically, I don’t really care — they’re all in the same vicinity to me.

  14. Rob, thanks for noticing the Seinfeld joke within the Seinfeld clue. That’s definitely worthy of gold in my book.

    And RB, yep, I reckon I have been a bit slacker about awarding gold status to clues recently, but I reckon I’ve done that more than anything because I note in the comments what clues people like and just collate what’s gold from that.

    Also, this week I think there were some clues that I haven’t really seen that much of before. For instance, 20 across, the L and S clue, ain’t that special, but I thought I should note it because they’re especially tricky and a little rare.

    Same as 4 down with the compass points and 7 down about the middle letters all in a row.

    And JG, I don’t see why 7 down is syntactically mistaken. I figure “hearts” is fine where it is.

  15. And RB, I’m willing to give DA about a 1% leeway from absolute cryptic precision. Any less, and I’m complaining. Two-thirds of a percent I’m letting slide.

  16. It’s hard/impossible to get complete accuracy with words. But it IS possible with numbers. And where the surface reading of the clue is not harmed by striving for accuracy, then a crossword compiler should indeed strive! As I said earlier, what’s wrong with using two thirds (or 2/3) instead of 66%. So the clue could have been: “Two thirds burning”.

  17. On the less/fewer issue: I don’t mind slang. But illiteracy is another thing altogether………As I said earlier, I reckon the 15A clue is OK because it can be argued that “less” is qualifying the state of agitation (ants in the pants), not the actual number of ants. But if you don’t accept that and you want the surface reading of the clue to be grammatically correct, then you’d have to say JG is right: “less” should be “fewer”.

    NC, re 3D: slater (noun) = lousy (adj). As TT remarked last week, DA often uses “?” to get out of a tight spot. Here I think it’s completely kosher since “? is often used to signpost a pun clue, which this one is, as TT has observed above. So “Slater” really relates to the first two words or even the whole clue, rather than just the first word.

    JG, re 7D: I think you’re suggesting the phrase “hearts of” is misplaced. I’m with AS on this. I reckon the clue is perfectly OK as long as you consider the word “hearts” belongs to the preceding words and “of” belongs to “most Acrosses”. So “of most Acrosses” is the definition of “jovial”.

  18. Re less/fewer, Wikipedia has an article with a “list of English words with disputed usage” to inform the eternal prescriptivist/descriptivist debate. It quotes Merriam-webster dictionary that “Less has been used to modify plural nouns since the days of King Alfred and the usage, though roundly decried, appears to be increasing”.

    RB, I don’t follow your drift re 3D. Slater (the insect) = lousy (like a louse) & Slater (Michael, the cricketer) = opener of the 90s is the only possible way this can work as far as I am concerned. Slater = “lousy opener” leaves “of the 90s” hanging and no slater=insect in sight. Besides being libellous and inaccurate. From “Aside from the period between October 1996 and March 1998, Slater occupied a position at the top of the Australian Test batting line-up for close to a decade. Amid a golden run of success for the team as a whole, individual highlights have included his 219 against Sri Lanka in Perth in 1995-96; and his brilliant home series against New Zealand in 1993-94 (which netted him 305 runs at 76.25) and England (623 runs at 62.30) in 1994-95. His signature trait of kissing his helmet whenever he reached three figures was seen 14 times, and he made scores in the nineties on a record-breaking nine occasions. He also played in each of the 16 matches between late 1999 and early 2001 which delivered the then Australian team the greatest run of consecutive victories in the history of Test cricket.” I would add: 7 tons in 20 Ashes Tests, 221 in 260 balls vs Pakistan in 1998 Test in Karachi, etc. I rest my case.

    I also think the structure of 7D is fine. Although, if I were to quibble, it would be because to be a comedian is not neccessarily the same as being jovial in my book. But I am happy to let that slide.

  19. Re 15A, i’m happy with ‘less ants in the pants’ being slangy, where it is not the ants that are fewer, but the state of having ants in ones pants is lessened. I think this kinda slanginess is fine in a cryptic definition, but wouldn’t be in the literal definition

    Re 24A: I defy any of you to remove a further 2/3% from “ali g” and not be left with “ali g”. Perhaps you would be removing the dot from the ‘i’…

    Re 3D: I agree that the question mark is critical here in letting the clue work. The literal clue indeed has to be the same part of speech as the answer, but in a “?” clue, features of the answer can be described in the cryptic part.

    Re 7D: am happy with how hearts is working. NC, in fairness, DA did imply only “most” acrosses were jovial. Then again, i don’t think any of the acrosses are/were particularly deadpan.

  20. re less v fewer, NC notes “Wikipedia… quotes Merriam-webster“: I rest my case! Seriously, I was/am annoyed with the clue because I believed that DA was hinting that the clue should be read as a two-part clue, with “having less” and “ants in the pants” being two separate clues. I suppose you might say it’s DA misdirection of pedants that that is not the case.
    7D I think tells us that for DA, X hearts Y is pretty much the same as Hearts X Y; I didn’t think it was, I was wrong.
    re amount v number, Eric Partridge, in his Usage and abusage writes “amount applies to mass or bulk, not to number. ‘A large amount of books’ is absurd”. I’m sure one would find similar pronouncements in other style books.
    And finally, on compass points, it’s easy to construct a clue for 13D that illustrates that 4D is a bad clue.

  21. 3D: NC – I erred in suggesting that “Slater” could relate to the first two words of the clue. Even so I still intended (as I’m sure DA did) the “?” to imply that a question was being asked to which the obvious answer is “no”. i.e. Slater’s cricketing ability is not seriously being questioned.

    I think the confusion here stems from deciding what type of clue you think it is:

    If you think it’s a cryptic (or pun) definition (and the “?” suggests it is) then it’s OK. Many (most?) clues of this type don’t have a direct definition e.g. from the previous week’s DA “Where to make a mint?” Ans: HERB GARDEN.

    On the other hand, if you think it’s a double definition with the clue split into two definitions (“lousy” and “opener of the 90s”) then it’s not OK, because we have a noun/adj mismatch.

    For description of cryptic and double definitions, see

  22. 24A: Re 66% v 2/3:
    The point I’m making is that, by being inaccurate, DA led solvers astray (or at least those solvers who know that 66% is not 2/3). Now, it is perfectly OK for DA to lead us astray. Indeed it’s his duty! But this must be done with trickery and subterfuge. Not inaccuracy.

    I note that no-one has yet pointed out why DA didn’t use a fraction instead of 66% (“2/3 burning” or “two thirds burning”).

    I reckon if DA used 364 days to signify “year” there’d be an uproar. Yet this error is much less in percentage terms than the one I’m complaining about. Stand by for 100 dalmations, 75 trombones, 38 steps, Heinz 56 varieties. The Battle of Hastings was 1065, Magna Carta was 1214, and 9/11 (or was it 8/10?) happened in 2000. And next time an Aussie opener is out for 100, try telling him he didn’t score a century!

  23. One cool spinoff from doing cryptics (epecially excellent ones like DAs) is the variety of tangents they lead you down, ending up in noteworthy Teachings.

    To wit, 3-down. After a bit of research I discover that while a louse is an insect, a slater (also called a wood louse!) is a crustacean, from the same family as shrimp.

    Here is a recipe for wood louse (slater) sauce:
    “Collect a quantity of the finest wood-lice to be found (no difficult task, as they swarm under the bark of every rotten tree), and drop them into boiling water, which will kill them instantly, but not turn them red, as might be expected. At the same time put into a saucepan a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, a teaspoonful of flour, a small glass of water, a little milk, some pepper and salt, and place it on the stove. As soon as the sauce is thick, take it off and put in the wood-lice. This is an excellent sauce for fish. Try it.”

    I wonder why I have no qualms at eating shrimp but I think I would gag on this recipe.

  24. NC, was my last attempt to justify 3D (slater) convincing? Or are you still unhappy with the clue?

  25. RB, re 3 down: Lousy opener of the 90s? (6) = SLATER, I am indeed convinced by your explanation. I think this is a cryptic definition clue-type, as you say. This one is better than most of that ilk for me.

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