23,465 – hurrying too much? / Puzzle difficulty

Solving time: 5:08

This could, and probably should, have been a sub-5 time, but I was delayed by first writing AMEND at 4, and by initially guessing SA(LIE)NT at 25, with part of the wordplay happening to fit, and in the right place too! So thankful for any easy 25D to get me out of trouble.

1 S(U)BORDER – confines = border is fair, but the apparent plural led me astray for a bit
15 GIRO,N – Yet another heraldry word – a new one for me.
18 COPER – punning definition on cope = manage.
20 RESOURCE – letter swap in “theology lectures” = R.E. course
26 TITUS ANDRONICUS In the NT, the epistle to Titus follows a couple to Timothy. Then R in anag. of “and cousin”. Not sure what “oddly meeting” indicates – combining R with the other stuff before making the anag., or containment in the anag. But it’s all worrying after the event. If I can see T?T?S as the first word of a 10,5 and “play”, the clue-writer’s other work is wasted on me. With all but one checked letter as T/S/N/R I can see that this is a very useful answer, but it’s nearly as tired as OKAPI or TRIPOLI.
28 B,LUD,GEON=(NO e.g.)<= Someone from a country where the judge is not “m’lud” asked me about “law lord” the other day. If it was on the web, I’d put in a link here to the A P Herbert “misleading case” about crosswords.
1 STAFF,A – Scottish islands, like bits of heraldry are stock cryptic xwd fare. I guess a staff=stave can be used for temp. building purposes.
3 REF(IN)ER – advert = refer is another old favourite.
4 E(MEN)D – which I have to admit is a bit better than AMEND for “edit” – has “improvement” coonotations
7 B(LEA)t – with “recognised” = “seen in the answer”
14 SERGEANT = (Sir Malcolm) “SARGENT”, probably best-known as the conductor at the Last Night of the Proms in the late 50s and early 60s, either introducing the conductor’s speech or taking it much further than the fairly gruff “Timber”, and I think he was responsible for adding Jerusalem at the end. You get full detail from me on Proms stuff – I used to have season tickets and go often enough to once have the privilege of putting the chaplet (which you must not call a wreath) on the bust of Henry Wood. Around 1990 you could often see two Times setters in the Arena.
22 TOCSIN = “toxin” – an old favourite for beginners to note
24 RATE,L – the honey badger
25 R.U.=rugger=game,R.A.=artist,L=left – more stock xwd stuff for beginners to note.

Difficulty of Times puzzles
In September I contacted Richard Browne, the Times Crossword Editor, about the difficulty of Times puzzles.  At that time I felt that a few recent puzzles had been too difficult for many solvers, although the experts could finish and appreciate them.  Richard acknowledged the difficulty of combining original clues with accessible puzzles.  Over the last couple of months, the “stinker” puzzles seemed to disappear, so I recently contacted Richard to say so.  He confirmed that there are moves afoot to encourage “fresh and interesting ideas” without too many clues that are “too tricky by half”. If there are one or two puzzles a week in the 10-15 minute range for me, I think that’s about right, but some old hands will probably start to complain that the puzzles are getting too easy.

Times for recent puzzles: 23,460 – 12:40, 23,461 – 8:05, 23,462 – 7:10, 23,463 – 7:05, 23,464 – 6:08 but one careless mistake (TEST for TOSS).

15 comments on “23,465 – hurrying too much? / Puzzle difficulty”

  1. I have to confess that I failed to get STAFFA, SHEBANG and GIRON (though I should have guessed GIRON from the wordplay) having spent about 30 minutes on the puzzle and having no time for more pondering. The second definition of “staff” in Chambers is: “a building material consisting of plaster and hair used for temporary or decorative work”. It’s new to me.
  2. We Listener solvers had a big advantage here, as this play was the theme of a recent puzzle by Salamanca.

    As a result, and with everything else falling into place with amazing rapidity, I clocked up my fastest Times solve ever – 11 mins.


  3. Too many unfamiliar words (at least five) for me to get more than half this one, sadly. I can usually cope with 2 or 3 but anything more is fatal.
    1. If unfamiliar words are a stumbling block, I recommend some goes at Mephisto, Azed or Beelzebub – so that you become confident that if the wordplay and checking letters fit, you’ve got the right answer. If you can do most of the Times, you’re ready for these puzzles. I fought my way through my first Azed at least a year or two before my first Times finish (though that was back in the days of quotation clues and being expected to know much more literature).
  4. I completed in just under 2h30m — I nearly gave up twice. I found this very hard-going. Plenty of words I didn’t know: RELIEVO, TOCSIN, GIRON… Plenty of places where I just could not see what the clue was getting at. Never heard of She or bang — this was the last answer I wrote in, just after 5A 7D and 12D.
    10A was also quite late going in – I know very little about Kings and Queens apart from their names and when they reigned.

    I really hope this wasn’t a typical ‘accessible’ puzzle – it was a bit too much of a slog to be fun.

    1. I’m surprised it took that long – I guess there are some things in here that suit the older generation, and some “Times xwd stuff” that you haven’t picked up yet. How you’ve missed “novel = She” I’m not quite sure – it’s as ingrained for old hands as “poem = If”. But I probably failed to see some of the old favourites for ages when I started.

      Kings and Queens: try David Starkey on Channel 4 or his program’s website.

      1. Funnily enough, I don’t recall novel=SHE in the few years I’ve been doing the puzzle. I had “Scoop” in my brain.
      2. Yes it was interesting that ACT OF SETTLEMENT should come up in Wednesday’s puzzle, the very subject having been covered by Dr Starkey in his programme on Monday night with reference to George I who was also mentioned in the clue. Unfortunately for me I recorded the programme and didn’t watch it until Wednesday evening having had to dig deep in my memory to come up with the answer when solving the puzzle on Wednesday morning.

        P.S. Is there anything that can be done about the spell checker on this site that only seems to recognise U.S. spelling? It’s just queried “programme” and I know it won’t like “recognise”!

    2. I found this one tough as well. RELIEVO brought me no relief. GIRO is a Brit thing and I spent far too long looking for an anagram of medic+to meaning wine. Which was a drastic mistake.

      The only thing I got lucky on was ACT OF PARLIAMENT I mean SETTLEMENT… (and I’d noted “She” recently in an ST puzzle and “shebang” is quite an americanism so I managed to make some headway).

  5. 4D leads to either AMEND or EMEND; both answers fit both definition and wordplay. I thought that clues were supposed to lead to a unique answer, and that one shouldn’t have to use crossing words to make the answer clear. Isn’t that so?

    Wil Ransome

    1. Yes, it’s best when clues lead to unique answers, but English quite often has choices like this. If the crossing answer eliminates one, I’m much happier than with cases like WITENAGEMOT a couple of months ago, where the wordplay could lead to a plausible alternative that could not be eliminated except by knowing this rather obscure word.
  6. “I guess there are some things in here that suit the older generation”

    Reading the later comments, I am more surprised than ever than it was my fastest ever “time for the Times”. Peter’s comment above may partly explain it.

    Yes, I was lucky in one or two but She (Rider Haggard book, I think – know nothing whatsoever about it except the title) I’ve seen – it must be hundreds of times. Looking at the puzzle again the words may have been unfamiliar in some cases except to “old hands” but the clue constructions were, on average, simpler than usual.


  7. Oh dear oh dear. 4:30 on the clock, 1ac left. Taxonomy? Is that something to do with animals, I thought? No, don’t be silly – that’s taxidermy! Taxonomy must be… money… or anatomy… or…

    And I fell hook, line and sinker for the false plural, and couldn’t get any further than ‘subareas’ or ‘suburbes’.

  8. 5a Posh fur fit to wear = U SABLE – U = posh, non-U isn’t and Sable = fur of an Asian species of Marten
    10a Squaring-up process that made George I king? = ACT OF SETTLEMENT – where you aren’t eligible to be King or Queen of England, Wales & Scotland if you are Catholic or don’t pay your bills but being German is OK
    11a Accepting grant, little man looked worried = FR OWN ED – own as in admit and little men Al, Ned and Ed welcome Fred to their number
    12a Desperate medic about to imbibe wine = DR ASTI C – where the medic = DR about = C (circa) and the wine = ASTI. I also spent a lot of time trying to get a wine name out of this before I got all the crossers
    13a Coffee from Home Counties retiring journalists love = ES PRESS O – where it is the Home Counties = SE retiring to ES and not the journalists who never retire as SSERP doesn’t fit into any words
    23a Italian word first used by English for white ant = TERM IT E
    27a One visits everyone in church, regularly at first = C ALL E R

    2d Drink with weaver, saying this in encouragement? = BOTTOM SUP – weaver = bottom is Shakespeare – Midsummer Nights Dream – yer need a basic bit o’ the Bard to do these x-words
    6d Novel hairstyle adopted for affair = SHE BANG – where the x-word novel SHE, by H Rider-Haggard in the late 19th century, combines with the American word for fringe
    8d Attractive cake topping served by hospital department = ENT ICING – Ear, Nose and Throat is probably the only hospital department included in x-words unless someone has attempted to use A&E?
    9d Painstaking boss promises to pay = STUD IOUS – IOUs are the earliest known use of txt – speak preceding the mobile telephone by several centuries probably
    17d Being transported from city, stuck in a jam = EC STATIC – here EC = City = London district where we all get ripped off by bankers, stockbrokers and hedge fund managers
    19d Somehow (use rise)* to get book brough tout again = REISSUE
    21d Like some notepaper without wrinkles = UNLINED – unlike my brow when trying to solve the Times cryptic!

Comments are closed.