23,442 – trouble in the North-West

Solving time : 14:50

Good start, with 1A, 1D and the two long ones across the centre filled in straight away. But then trouble in the corners, and five full minutes at the end to get 10A and 2D. Three ships or vessels feature (scow, lighter (both in 25D) and barque(23A)). Ships are one of those things I know lots of words about from crosswords, without any understanding at all of what they mean. Besides those three, my favourites include brig and prau. Cultural references in the puzzle include Edith Sitwell, Our Mutual Friend, Paddington Bear and Carousel.


3 S + CHO (LAST) IC[e]
10 T (HORN + B) ACK – I’d never heard of this fish, so the distinctive looking pattern (T???N?A?K) didn’t help. It was only when I started trying to fit instruments in that I managed to build up the word.
11 car(OUSEL)- I was very pleased to get this straight away. The musical Carousel appears surprisingly often in crosswords. Perhaps I should see or listen to it some time.
12 SITWELL – There aren’t many famous Ediths, and only Sitwell has seven letters
21 DAMMED (= damned) – Good to have a homophone that works in all accents, unlike the second one in 14D
26 CHI(L)D – Good of the setter to include “once” to signal the slightly archaic CHID
27 DRAG ON + 1’S H – I am not entirely sure about the parsing of this clue. What is there to tell us that “drag on” comes before “one’s husband”?
29 BEAR – meaning brook (verb)


2 S + TO A T – ie initial letter of Satisfied and “to a T” meaning perfectly. I could quibble about the definition – “Eating rabbit, he”. But that would just be sour grapes, as this was the last clue I solved and probably shouldn’t have been.
4 CHA(LLEN)GE – ie NELL (reversed) replacing R (instructor ultimately) in CHARGE.
7 TOSCA + N(IN)I – perfectly correct cluing, but strange to find IN being clued by “popular” just before the word “in” in the clue, and then the same two letters being clued as “the Province” (for Northern Ireland)
9 ANNE + AL (Capone) – I am not sure why the elements in “Gangster (=AL, as usual) with girl (ANNE)” are reversed
14 BELL+WETHER – Interesting choice to use two homophone indicators: “Utter” for BELLE = BELL, and “say” for WHETHER = WETHER
19 DAMON (rev) + 1 + C – Apparently Damon pledged his life to enable his condemned friend Pythias to go say good-bye to his family.
22 DO(D)GE – I have a strong déjà vu feeling about this clue, but I may be mistaken
24 QUITE – three meanings, though all rather similar. Odd not to use the fact that it is one of those words with more or less opposite meanings (=”completely” and =”not completely”). There is a list of such words here.
25 S(C)OW

12 comments on “23,442 – trouble in the North-West”

  1. I think 27 and 9 both work like “tea with milk” – two things served together with no order specified. (In 27, “wearing women’s clothes” = “with drag on”, I think.) As far as the wordplay goes, ISHDRAGON and ALANNE are possible answers, but I don’t think there’s too much of a problem unless both A,B and B,A are real words. Seems just like choosing CHILD instead of CLHID or CHLID at 26.
  2. After 12 minutes and a few struggles I too was left with 2D and didn’t get it – had to come here for the answer. Wordplay for this one is very good but, imho, should have been tempered with a slightly easier def since S_O_T offers too many possibilities for a simple guess.
    1. After about 14 mins I was left with 10A and 2D. I eventually figured out 10 but didn’t see 2 at all and in the end did the same, came here for a peek.

      Pretty hard day today – the Guardian’s by Paul, one of the toughest setters they have. It was also my first post on Fifteensquared

      1. I also struggled with 2d, eventually finishing in 7m38s.
        I think 27 works as a full-word pun: “Drag on one’s husband”, ho-ho.
  3. Guess what? After around 13 minutes I too was left with 10A and 2D. I worked out that the B was going to make T???NBACK so got the fish. I then nearly took a stab at one of the S?O?T possibilities, but resolved to try and work it out. Managed to see it and post a time of 17:57 in the end. Would never have got it from the definition though!
  4. Well, I clocked an hour and fifteen seconds. I don’t care. It was nine in the morning and I was sitting under a blue sky and hot sunshine at a harbourfront cafe with a cappuccino and a toasted sandwich. My last two were WRETCHEDLY & SCOW with the infamous STOAT & THORNBACK immediately preceding them.
    Mike O.
    1. If I’d been sitting under a blue sky and hot sunshine at a harbourfront cafe with a cappuccino and a toasted sandwich I think I’d have been happy to take at least an hour, preferably two, or maybe the entire winter!!
    2. You’re quite right not to care. Apart from some friendly rivalries, the benefit of the quoted times is that people can use them to judge the difficulty of a puzzle. They can also show how much relative times vary for an individual puzzle, often as a result of a few tricky clues.
      1. PB said: They can also show how much relative times vary for an individual puzzle, often as a result of a few tricky clues.

        Indeed. After a good recent run, this took me 24 mins, with over 15 of that on the last 6 or so. As well as STOAT and THORNBACK, I struggled with BELLWETHER, BAROQUE and QUITE, and even DAMMED, having tried to make JAMMED work for a while. Got there in the end though.

  5. A regular Times solver gave me his last unsolved clue, 2D, to solve yesterday evening, and it took me a few minutes. When I explained the clue he thought the definition unfair. We agreed that the clue might have been better might have been ‘As eater of rabbits …’. Clever idea though!
  6. Today’s analysis of 23,445 reminds us that a wether is a castrated ram. This makes the “she” in the clue seem rather flaky. I wondered about this when solving the puzzle but only looked up bell-wether, not wether.
  7. Here are the answers left out of the blog – the “easy” ones?
    1a Too illogicAL SOmehow? Not entirely = ALSO (too)
    13a Common like Dickens’s friend = MUTUAL
    15a Where the sleepers are found at every point = ALL ALONG THE LINE
    18a (Quaint lines once)* oddly unrelated to the foregoing = INCONSEQUENTIAL
    23a Highly ornate vessel crossing mouth of Orinoco = BAR O QUE
    1d Representation of (Titian’s cat)* not attracting dust = ANTISTATIC
    5d Fibre obtained from tree with hesitation = OAKUM! Easy enough wordplay but hardly GK unless you’re a 200 year old shipwright?)
    8d Little room that may be wet or dry = CELL (cell also = battery)
    16d Well paid (vicar let)* loose about (u)*niversity = LUCRATIVE
    17d Sort of sketch Tom needs to secure = THUMB NAIL

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