I still don't really know why solvers of 40 years ago apparently found No. 13,428 so much easier than today's solvers did. However, I suspect I'm more typical of the former group than the latter, so perhaps it will shed some light if I go through the clues in the order I tackled them. As you will see, I made a slow start, but then managed to find the setter's wavelength.
1ac: "This man was part ape (8)". Could be anything - move swiftly on.
5ac: "Humble craftsman, or a kind of bell fairy? (6)". Hm! Can't think of anything - move on (a bit reluctantly).
10ac: "XXXX? (9)". No idea - move swiftly on.
11ac: "Salary of Archimedes for inventing one? (5)". At last an easy win. SCREW = "salary" is/was standard Times crossword fare, and the old edition of Chambers's Dictionary
my brother gave me when he bought the new Mid-Century edition (sometime in the 1950s) has a nice picture of an Archimedean screw.
12ac: "Love stormy seas, popular with ships of the desert (5)". Another easy win: OASES = O + anag. of "seas".
13ac: "Proposal in ale distribution gets us worked up (9)". EMOTIONAL = MOTION inside anag. of ALE. I was a bit slow getting this, but at least I cracked it before moving on.
At this point I was just about to switch to the down clues, but I could see another easy win coming up.
14ac: "The dramatic ones! (7)". I first came across the dramatic UNITIES in a Times crossword, but I've since met them outside crosswords several times. Things were going reasonably well now, so I decided to stick with the acrosses.
16ac: "It’s rum, anyway - it’s obvious (6)". Another easy win: TRUISM = anag. of "It's rum".
19ac: "That’s about the North-east corner of England’s garden (6)". I can't remember when/where I first heard Kent referred to as the "Garden of England" but it came to mind immediately, though I was a bit slow actually getting THANET = "That" about NE.
21ac: "Jules Verne captain is seen in one Scottish flower (7)". Another easy win: ANEMONE = NEMO (standard Times crossword fare) in ANE (a word I used in my first ever HC in one of Ximenes's monthly clue-writing competitions :-).
23ac: "It let loose a flood of scandal (9)". No idea - move swiftly on.
25ac: "Belshazzar’s notification of short weight (5)". Probably TEKEL, but with no crossing letters I chickened out, despite having known MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN since my schooldays (and also being familiar with the story that William Walton had to abandon composing Belshazzar's Feast
for several months after reading Beachcomber's suggestion that the writing on the wall was actually AIMEE, AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSON
26ac: "Street arab put a leg in (5)". No idea - move swiftly on.
27ac: "Cooked hot meal - so disgusting! (9)". Another easy win: LOATHSOME = anag. of "hot meal - so".
28ac: "Revolutionary artist?" (6). An old chestnut: TURNER.
29ac: "Bust supporter (8)". BRASSIERE? Obviously not - it won't even fit. Move swiftly on.
And so to the down clues.
1dn: "No amateur villain can hold up parliament (8)". Another easy win: PROROGUE ("pro" + "rogue") is/was standard Times fare.
2dn: "Figure of fun to one in Piccadilly Circus (9)". ‑‑‑‑S‑I‑H. Hm! Of course: LOCKSMITH, since "love laughs at locksmiths" (though I've no idea when/where I first heard this).
3ac: "“Borrowing - the edge of husbandry” (Hamlet) (5)". DULLS. Familiar enough - I probably had to learn the speech at school.
4ac: "Horse’s moribund part? (7)". ‑‑‑‑E‑S. Hm! Aha! WITHERS.
6dn: "Establish where Sir Joseph Porter passed his law exam (9)". Another easy win: INSTITUTE (I could probably sing you a good part of "When I was a lad" from G&S's HMS Pinafore
, which I may have first seen on an outing from Dotheboys to the Theatre Royal, York).
7dn: "Prophetic words (5)". ‑‑R‑N. I can't remember whether I got this immediately or not, but KORAN should have been another easy win.
8dn: "They can make a horse go faster - or slower (6)" ROWELS = anag. of "slower". I suspect I may have been a bit slow getting this, given that I had ‑‑W‑L‑, but at least I cracked it before moving on.
9dn: "Armed guard of the eastern kind, about 100 (6). ‑‑‑O‑T. Easy: ESCORT = E + "sort" about C.
15dn: "Cluelessness of the one Christian outstripped (9)". Must be from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
(read at school, but never really warmed to). I‑N‑‑‑‑‑E. Hm! INNOCENCE would fit, but doesn't feel right. IGNORANCE seems much more likely. Worth taking a chance anyway.
17dn: "What all good wine merchants do in Cheshire (9)". S‑O‑‑‑O‑‑. Hm! STOCKPORT? Yes, that sounds right.
18dn: "In a confused rush premier includes one measure on top of another (4-4)". PELL-MELL presumably. How does that work? (Brain seizing up by this point.) Ah, yes.
20dn: "Scandal-school’s nap-raiser (6)". Er, TEASEL. Except it's T‑‑‑L‑. Try TEASLE. (We must have read through the play in English classes at school, and I've seen it on stage and/or TV a few times since.)
21dn: "Require a lady to do so? That’s mean! (7)". Probably involves "age". A‑‑‑A‑‑, so AVERAGE of course.
22dn: "Old Copper Isle makes general presidential nomination (6)". Hm! Not immediately obvious (with just the final T in place), so move on.
24dn "Cratchit Minimus takes gold from the sea (5)". TIMOR = (Tiny) TIM + OR. Presumably the sea round Timor.
25dn: "A bit of a laugh having the governor in place of the driver (5)". TEHEE = HE in TEE is/was standard Times crossword fare, so another easy win to finish with.
Back to the beginning.
1ac: P‑L‑D‑W‑. PILTDOWN. (Should perhaps have got that first time through.)
5ac: ‑I‑‑‑R. Oh good grief! TINKER. (Definitely should have got that first time through!)
(Did I have the K in place as well? If not, then KORAN was now an easy win for 7dn.)
10ac: O‑C‑L‑T‑S. Something ending in ITIS? No, hang on! How about OSCULATES?
23ac: ‑‑T‑R‑A‑E. WATERGATE. Obvious now I've some crossing letters. (Good grief! Was it that long ago?)
25ac: T‑K‑L. Doh! I should have taken a chance with TEKEL first time through.
27ac: ‑‑M‑N. GAMIN. Obvious now.
29ac: ‑E‑E‑T‑L. PEDESTAL. Obvious now.
22dn: ‑W‑G‑T. DWIGHT. Obvious now (to someone of my generation, at any rate).
Final check. No point in blowing it now with the prospect of a decent time, so be extra careful. OK. OK. OK. ... Hang on! TEASLE? That doesn't look right. Think! It's been on your list of difficult words for years. Sir Peter and Lady ...? TEAZLE isn't it! Isn't it? Change it, and pray! OK. OK. ... Submit. Stats. Phew! All correct.
The obvious difference between this and today's puzzles is that you need more raw knowledge because the wordplay is less helpful. Which would have suited me because I'd probably come across everything apart from UNITIES and PROROGUE (oh and WATERGATE of course) by the time I left school. Someone compared this to a TLS puzzle, but the literary knowledge needed here was far more basic, requiring a passing acquaintance with a few standards: Shakespeare's plays, the Bible, The Pilgrim's Progress
, The School for Scandal
, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
- the sort of works that it was openly suggested Times crossword solvers were assumed to be familiar with. So am I right in thinking that they're no longer included in the school curriculum? (And, if so, what does Mr Gove propose to do about it? ;-)
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: still puzzled