23,459 – the fifth qualifier

Solving time – 9:42

This was the last of the qualifying puzzles for the Times Crossword Championship. It was on their crossword club website so I solved it then, and wrote these notes from a kept copy. Looking back, it seems quite a tricky puzzle. There are some very clever clues in here, though also one or two that made me wonder a bit.

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1 GIRTH – right*
9 NEW(MARKE(d))T – “proverbially drunk” = “pissed as a newt” without quite saying “pissed” in the Times crossword.
10 RO(GrEy)T – “maker” of Roget’s Thesaurus
11 NOT NOW = wonton<= – not totally convinced that a wonton is a “snack”. Would the xwd ed allow “snack” to indicate “dumpling” or “crouton”?
12 BAG,UETTE=”ate”
16 SNUFF – ref. Snuff films. What happened to that Times rule about “drawing room conversation” then? Including slang like “minging” is fun, but this seems a bit less than tasteful. May be this applies “with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell” he said, using a quote one clue too early.
21 EST,RAG ON – a “waiter” for Godot in the Beckett play
22 W(HAT)IF(e) – sticklers will point out here that “partner’s almost secured cover” is being used to mean “(almost partner) has secured cover”, which is stretching things a bit far for me. “partner’s almost finished securing cover” seems to fit the surface and describe the containment a bit better.
25 IDIOT – ref. The Idiot, one of those thick Dostoevsky books I bought years ago and never actually read. I think I made it to the end of Crime & Punishment but not this or the Brothers Karamazov.
28 E,JE(C)T – a rather wacky &lit.


1 GONE,WITH THE WIND – “pat on the back” being what you do to a baby with wind.
3 HEAD OFF – we’re back in Wonderland again here.
5 TE(TRAM)ETER – feet as in poetry. In English poetry, it is of course the iambic pentameter that rules the roost – example from some 60s/70s charity comedy revue’s cod Shakespeare: I think | that I | should now | go off | to bed, to sleep | off all | the non-|-sense I’ve | just said [More accurate version in the comments, full sketch here.]
8 BUTTERFLY EFFECT – all that stuff about “what happens when a Butterfly beats its wings in the jungle?”, a skipper being a type of butterfly.
13 YOU KNOW,WHO – “like” and “you know” both being meaningless time-fillers in informal speech, plus corny old Doctor = Who.
15 GHASTLIER = (ale rights)* – “death-like” is one def. of ghastly, which I guess could be equated with “pale”.
20 ACH(I)E,VE = ‘ve = have
23 T,ROPE – a figure of speech

My times for puzzles since my last posting
23,454 – 5:31 (Interactive version – don’t know whether this makes it quicker or slower)
23,455 – 6:30 – approx – paused to feed an insistent cat
23,456 – 7:17
23,457 – 6:55
23,458 – 7:46

Well, shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.

20 comments on “23,459 – the fifth qualifier”

  1. I convinced myself too rapidly that 9A was “newcastle” since both an ale and a town. Only got of trouble when 4D and 5D just wouldn’t give.

    Nice puzzle: I loved 14A — never heard it before and so apropos.

    1. The beer is always Newcastle Brown Ale here. The main Newcastle/proverbial connection is “coals to Newcastle” (= “snow to Eskimos”).
  2. I think it is

    And now shall I most royally to bed

    To sleep off all the nonsense I’ve just said.

    The same piece contained the immortal line

    O saucy Worcester …

    1. The text of the sketch is here if you scroll down. It is wonderful. Beyond the Fringe originally, before it was reprised at a number of charity comedy revues.

      Do you people really pronounce “ate” the same as the last syllable in “baguette”? And if so, are they both the same as the way you pronounce “eight”? I fully accept that Times Crossword homophones are worked in a South-East of England accent unless otherwise specified. Just annoyed that after a few decades of living here, I haven’t yet learned the accent very well.

      1. Baguette is “b&GGETT” where & is a neutral vowel, or “baggett” with less emphasis on second syllable. So neither second syllable is the “ait” sound in both “eight” and “ate” as pronounced in RP/BBC English. But in everyday/rapid speech (mine at least), there’s a fairly common “ett” alternative for “ate” which doesn’t get used for “eight”. That’s the one used for the purpose of this homophone.
  3. Bit baffled. Do you mean this puzzle was a potential tie-breaker or have I actually solved it before and didn’t realise? That wouldmake my time of 4m57s less good than I hoped! But it would also explain how the lovely WON TON reversal has now occurred ‘twice’ in a couple of months. Feeling very absent-minded…
    1. Not a tie-breaker, no. After they printed four puzzles in the paper for sending in with your solving time and cheque, they put this one on the xwd club website but not in the paper, presumably as bonus for the online club members. If you solved more than one qualifier to make sure of qualification, you may have done it before. How many people actually qualified from this puzzle alone, I have no idea.
      1. I get it. And yes, I did do it before, so please discount my time entirely. What a moron I am.
      2. I did this one when it came out, and did vaguely recognise it (at least, some of the clues), hence solving time today of 6:33.

        I think I did it in around 9 minutes first time around, which is really quick for me anyway.

        1. In that case, I also completed it before, though I have no recollection of it at all.

          I remember sending the website qualifier in with a time of 13:10. So I took slightly longer today at 13:55.

  4. Some nicely deceptive definitions (“bookmaker” etc), but I wasn’t taken by “taken” in 17 across. It seems to be padding for the surface only, to supplement “in”. Unless I’ve misread the clue (quite possible)”taken” messes up the wordplay. I also didn’t like 22 ac for reasons that Peter has already spelled out. I’m also a bit dubious about having to split I from VE in the wordplay to 20 down. Fine if the main reference is Chambers (which has ‘ve as a separate entry), but that’s not the case with the Times Cryptic.
    1. Surely we don’t need to look up ‘ve to know what it means? But if we do, it’s in the Concise Oxford too, which is one of the two main references for the Times puzzle.
      1. I thought I might regret making that comment about 20 down, but having checked ‘ve in the New Shorter Oxford (which is the only edition I have) and not found it, I assumed it wouldn’t be in the smaller Concise, which I don’t have and have no means at the moment of getting hold of as it’s not available in my part of the world. All I can say in my defence is that I’ve not previously seen “I have” to indicate “I ‘ve”, though I admit that treating “I” and “have/’ve” as discrete elements does enable the clue to work (though my original comment did ackmowledge that).
        1. You can search the Compact OED (next size down from Concise I believe) with the “Dictionary Search” option in the top right corner of this page from OUP.

          If you try the Times each day I’ll be pretty surprised if you can’t spot an “I have” => “I’ve” some time in the next month.

          What is your part of the world? It’s good too find out about readers outside the UK.

          1. Oh dear. My message became truncated during transmission. I’m not such a clueless novice that I don’t realize that “I have” usually indicates IVE, though usually as a consecutive group of letters. What I wrote was that I’ve not previously seen “I have” to indicate “I SPACE ve”. I didn’t write “SPACE”. I left a large space between “I” and “ve” to indicate that VE have become separated from I in the clue. Somehow, the space disappeared during transmission. To put it another way, apart from in the Listener, I don’t recall seeing “have” on its own used to clue VE (which is the only way the cryptic syntax works in this case.
            My part of the world is currently Thailand and getting hold of dictionaries other than those on my computer (Chambers, NSOED and Merriam-Webster) is quite difficult, so thanks for the link to OUP. It’ll come in most useful for checking legitimate abbreviations in the Times Clue competition. Sorry if this all seems off topic.
            1. Nothing like garbled communication to get people talking! Browsers often treat N consecutive space characters as just one, and have other quirks like making (this) invisible if you use angle-brackets rather than round ones. Conclusion: the Preview button is worth using.

              You’re 100% right about ‘ve => have. The other on-line dictionary worth knowing about is Collins – which seems to be the complete current or very recent text of their largest dictionary.

  5. Strangely, I’ve found all of the championship-related puzzles much easier to get started on than most typical dailies. I got through 3/4 of this in well under 15 minutes – fast for me – compared with two clues in total yesterday (admittedly without trying that hard).
    1. This was the slowest of the five for me. Others were (in order) 4:53, 8:09, 8:12, 6:25. That gives an average of about three-quarters my Times average (10 mins give or take 15 secs).

      I wasn’t this quick for the preliminary or final puzzles on the day (roughly 12 mins each for the final, unsure for prelims but probably at least 9). If you found these as easy as the qualifiers, the effect of stage fright and extra caution on the day must be bigger than I thought.

  6. 14a Disagreement over wanting to have children = TUG OF LOVE?? (fits with the crossing letters but I am not familiar with this saying)
    17a Corners taken in carriages = TRAPS (traps = corners verbally and traps = carriages nouns – but taken seems a bit much as discussed above)
    19a Fend off advice for laying boat up in calm water = KEEP AT BAY (another over verbose construction?)
    26a Complete a bit? Good for you! = WHOLE SOME (did not get this for a long time as I seem to be incapable of spelling achieve at 20d – had acheive for ages)
    27a Skulduggery? (I’d try)* fresh employment = DIRTY WORK

    2d Argue over a name for tree = ROW A N
    4d Like the printing trade in part of America = IN KY (KY = two letter code for Kentucky State)
    6d (Refusal)* turned out to bring reprimands = EARFULS
    7d Pale daffodil should brighten things up = LIGHT BULB (not all bulbs are daffodils so this clue is a bit dodgy?)
    18d Dark (star – why)* exploding = SWARTHY
    24d Music to lull St Peter = ROCK (triple definition or TD)

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