i Cryptic Crossword 2874 Hob

April 24, 2020

Hob is one of my favourite setters, and appears less frequently than most, so it was a great delight to find one today. Perhaps slightly easier than is typical from Hob, this one took me about my average length of time to complete, and I was able so without recourse to aids. This is a tribute to Hob’s faultless setting; I had no queries whatsoever about any clue.

I do wonder, however, what younger solvers than me (and I am not that old myself, being a child of the ’60s) make of references to the Fat Owl of the Remove. Are Billy BUNTER stories still known or read? I’m not sure how or why I know the references to the schoolboy in question and that the ‘remove’ is a year-group in certain independent schools. I never read the books, so perhaps there was some television adaptation from which I may have absent-mindedly absorbed the information.

More puzzling is the defining of CARSON with “republican”. If it refers to a certain current member of the American government, then he is a somewhat obscure (at least in this country, I think) personage requiring rather more than “republican” to point the solver in the right direction. If it refers to Sir Edward, who is a historical figure whom British and Irish solvers might have heard of,  then it is not just wrong but seriously wrong, as he was famously a Unionist.

CARSON is part of a ghost theme based upon fictional butlers, and they are identified in the esteemed BertandJoyce’s original blog from February, 2016. I didn’t spot it myself. I had wondered whether there might be something emerging when I got MAHARAJAH in the top left and SOVEREIGN in the bottom right, but I was wrong.

There are lots of good clues today, making it hard to choose one in particular. I was impressed by the aforementioned MAHARAJAH, an impeccable reverse charade, made all the more entertaining by having only four consecutive As as crossing letters. GEORDIE made me laugh with its neat surface reading. But in the end it had to be the superb double inclusions of 6d: “Those undesirable periods of dishonour if father and mother affected (4-4)”.

7 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 2874 Hob”

  1. Cornick said

    Had to be that double hidden for COD – excellent!
    I messed up by entering LATIN instead of BASIC at 8a – something along the lines of Vulgar Latin I didn’t fully think through – but otherwise a relatively gentle challenge by Hob’s standards as you say, And just as well I checked who the setter was before starting the puzzle online – necessary to know for 12a.
    Theme escaped me – at least in part because I had no knowledge of the butlers Hobson, Poole, Carson or Bunter.

  2. batarde said

    Ben Carson was quite prominent four years ago as one of the Republican presidential hopefuls … let’s just say that he did not come all that readily to mind today. Lots of water under the bridge since then.

    A nice set of clues with a good spread of difficulties, this, which makes me think the crossword might be better received than previous Hobs, especially given the surprising moderation in the giddy-goatery department. Just goes to show that an innovative approach can be pursued in an accessible way. It seems to me that the Fat Owl of the Remove is probably a lot better remembered than Lord Peter’s valet, but both are distinctly pre-war figures with an improbably long afterlife. At least, had I my wits about me (and it goes without saying that I did not), I’d have recognised him as a 22ac, unlike several of the others.

    Thumbs up, then, but the grid is a shocker. Granted yesterday’s was rickety, but this one adds a full set of peripheral unches and a checking rate of under 47%. That really is pushing it.

  3. dtw42 said

    Ecch. No wonder I didn’t see the theme: 22ac was one of two answers I couldn’t get. I had “batter” pencilled (“man in”, y’see – as Dormouse thought over on 15²) but didn’t like it much. Then for 8ac (irritatingly under-checked as Batarde has said) – given _A_I_, I’d noted in the margin “LATIN, TAMIL, CARIB??” but couldn’t see why any of them were crude. Carson = republican baffled me too.
    On the other hand I did like 22dn (although I too wondered what the younger generation would make of that) and 12ac.
    Does deny mean disprove?

    • saboteur said

      Now that you mention it, I’m not sure at all that “deny” and “disprove” are sufficiently the same. At the time it was a bit of a write-in for me, so gave it little thought.

  4. jonofwales said

    Pretty tricky I thought. On a better day I might have noticed the theme, or the Nina, but I didn’t spot either. A big question mark by Carson at the close, who I suspect was as obscure to me all those years ago as he is now.

  5. Gasmanjack said

    Just a word of thanks to al those here yesterday who gave the steer to Galaxy Quest. Watched it last night; really enjoyed it!

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