23,662 – fiendish

Solving time 25:46

As tough for me as for some others…. 

5 BABYSAT – I nearly slipped into the wrong ‘babysit’ but then saw the significance of ‘minded’, past tense.
9 ELMER GANTRY – (r,men greatly)* – this one I should arguably have solved faster
10 BEL – Bel and the Dragon is the book in the Apocrypha being mentioned, and volume = loudness
12 GLAD,IfOnLyIf
17 IN VINO VERITAS – gospel = truth (=veritas)
23 BON(XI)E – a name for the skua
25 N.(U)T. – “Matthew and the rest” is a freash way of getting to N.T.
26 GROUND = School (=teach),’S,WELL=OK
27 (m)END WAYS
28 PUNSTER=(sent up)*,R – should have had this faster too – I think I’ve seen it before.
1 JE(EVE)S(t) – “woman tempted” = Eve
4 TOAD = “toed”
5 BATTLEDORE – (treble,toad(=4))*
13 BO(V,V)ER,BOYS= “buoys”
15 RAT POISON = (Soprano it)* – ref. Pied Piper of Hamelin
16 S(I,X)PENCE(r) – Tracy = Spencer
18 VAULTED – 2 meanings
20 FELLER – planes = plane trees
22 DOGMA – rev. of a mg, O.D.
24 K,NAP

21 comments on “23,662 – fiendish”

  1. I found the top half quite easy and had it finished after about 4 minutes, but the bottom half was another story entirely! IN VINO VERITAS was slow to come, as was GROUNDSWELL, BOVVER BOYS, ENDWAYS and KNAP. I had no trouble getting BONXIE though, as I saw it in Chambers over the weekend while looking up some other word for the Listener or EV. 17:34 in the end.
  2. That is the hardest one I remember for some time. Some distraction from my family, but it took me 36:34, and I was close to giving up on SIXPENCE as the last one (admittedly, I was unnecessarily slow on that one and some others.) I had only vaguely heard of ELMER GANTRY, and never of BEL and the dragon. Others were admittedly cleverly hidden, like BABYSAT, GUNPOWDER PLOT and IN VINO VERITAS, or indeed BATTLEDORE. BONXIE and KNAP were just difficult words, although I knew the former from a Listener crossword a few years ago, and the latter from my frequent psalm-singing (although I seem to remember it is cedars that are knapped in the Psalms, rather than stones.) Even a straight anagram like 15D took me a while to spot because of the misleading definition. The puzzle leaves me with a mixture of admiration and a feeling that it might be slightly over the top! Jason J
  3. Nice to have a challenge, but his was nearly enough to send me racing to the Telegraph…


  4. Heavens, today’s has been a struggle. Vicariously comforted that others had a spot of bother too.
  5. I came home last night from dinner close to midnight and thought I’d do the crossword before going to bed (I’m in California so it is already available). I just assumed that after a couple of glasses of wine and the late hour my brain wasn’t working very well when I couldn’t really get going.

    I still had a few left after another attempt at breakfast. Of course some things like putting in “boxine” (a much more likely word than bonxie) didn’t help.


  6. It’s odd that an exceptionally difficult puzzle should elicit so few comments (currently only five).

    It was a good 5 minutes before I tentatively entered NUT as the solution to 25A and then I spotted ELISHA in 11A. Gradually the top 2/3 came together and I had RAT POISON for 15D but then I came to a grinding halt and gave up for a while. There was still no progress later in the day so I resorted to on-line help.

    Nobody has commented on 19D which seems more like a PE clue/solution than something worthy of the Times, but maybe I’ve missed the double entendre that would render it more acceptable.

  7. Extraordinary how we vary, and not just through having different abilities. I usually reckon that I’ve done well if I’ve achieved Biddlecombe times 4, yet today it was less than B. times 2. This crossword seemed no harder than usual to me, yet on other days it amazes me how people announce what seem to be ridiculously short times and I’ve laboured and laboured over it.

    By the way, I never really understood 19. I suppose humping = sex and something that’s picked up = pert? Very doubtful. Please could one of these sharp people explain.

    1. 19D – I saw it as a cryptic definition, with “picked up” meaning “learned” or maybe even “increased in frequency”!
    2. Same here. I usually take about 4 times as long as the speed merchants but I got this done in just over an hour. I’ve also struggled with some of the easier puzzles this week.
  8. I was amused to hear Gary Imlach’s comment when watching the Tour de France yesterday, discussing Alexander Vinokourov’s attempts to defend himself against his positive doping test:
    “We can’t be sure that is the Vino Veritas…” or words to that effect 🙂
  9. You have it right. Pert = “Open, unconcealed; manifest, evident” (SOED) ie picked up not overlooked. Or so I assume.

    I thought this was a brilliant crossword, and it did not take me quite as long, or appear as difficult, as some other recent ones. Endways last to go in, not sure why

  10. Actually I’m pretty sure the clue is just a cryptic def – a “sexpert” would cause one’s humping to pick up.
  11. Like most others, I found this v difficult (“bel” and “bonxie” eluded me to the end), but then I speak as one for whom a Biddlecombe time of 25 mins would be wonderfully good in any circumstances.

    On 19 dn, I read the cryptic definition as follows: “to hump” is slang for to “have sexual intercourse”, and “humping” here a gerund or verbal noun serving as a synonym for “sex” or “sexual intercourse”; it seems to me that “picked up” can then be understood either as “learned”, in the sense that sex is something you could be taught by, or about which you could pick up tips from, a sexpert, or (more credibly) as “improved”, in the sense that better sex would be a hoped-for benefit of consulting said expert.

    This clue is also an interesting example of the growing use in Times cryptic xwords of sexual slang/double entendre that would once, I suggest, have been deemed too rude or risqué for the august columns of The Thunderer and better left to crosswords appearing in such louche publications as The Guardian. Indeed, my slowness in solving 19 dn was partly attributable to my initial primness in ruling out the sexual definition of “humping” on precisely the forementioned grounds. But such sexual slang is now far more common in Times xword clues – I make no comment on this trend other than to note it as a symptom of changing social mores!I would be surprised to find any comparable examples dating from much more than ten years ago, but perhaps historians of the Times cyptic can prove me wrong.

    1. Very difficult crossword – I’m pleased that I got it nearly all done, without bothering to think about timing! But 19d was disappointing, not only because the solution was one of the crude half-words that are now frequently coined, but because of the nature of the clue. I’m trying to picture my Grandad solving it – and it makes me shudder.
      While I’m complaing, 3d appeared to have ‘females’ to mean ‘hen’ rather than ‘hens’ – how does this work?
      1. That puzzled me at first too, but I think it’s “for females” – e.g. a hen party is a party for females. Jason J
        1. Definitely correct I’d say. Otherwise, where would the “for” come in.
    2. I think the Times puzzle needs to move with the, er Times. I quite enjoyed this clue and am rather astonished at the prim reaction to it 🙂
  12. I can’t remember a harder one than this – took me 45+ mins in three mini-sessions with three mistakes (didn’t know KNAP, and was convinced ‘Tracy’ was ‘Dick’ at 16dn so wrote in ‘dispanic’ fairly confidently, then couldn’t get the crossing ENDWAYS). And slow from the start as I didn’t know ELMER GANTRY and struggled badly on GROUNDSWELL and on a trio of long answers which I only vaguely knew – IN VINO VERITAS, BATTLEDORE and BOVVER BOYS. BONXIE and BEL were also half-guesses.
  13. I’ve noticed in the past that my errors tend to come in pairs, so I hope this will be the last one for some time. I simply failed spot that “absent minded” didn’t have a hyphen in it, and put in BABYSIT, feeling a bit doubtful about it but relieved to finish in 14:20. Even when I saw the answer was BABYSAT, I assumed that the “absent-minded” part was because the parents were saying “baby’s at … – dammit, can’t remember where we left it”. That still didn’t seem entirely satisfactory, but I couldn’t think of any other explanation.

    Memo to self: must get eyes tested, preferably before October!

    1. My best shot at an explanation is that “For parents who are absent minded” is really; “For parents who are absent, minded”. But this still raises the question: why not “For parents who were ….”?
  14. I don’t know how long it took me to complete this as I do ’em bit by bit when I have a moment but I am very happy to have completed it at all in the light of the times posted by the speed merchants.

    I had not previously heard of the film at 9a but have made a mental note to watch it sometime. I also did not know the local bird name for the Great Skua at 23a despite having been dive-bombed by them whilst doing fieldwork on the northernmost Shetland Island of Unst. If they think you are threatening their nests they go for your Bonxie (Bonse)?

    Just the 5 “easies” omitted from the blog:

    1a Small ball with which to shoot pool (7)
    JACK POT. The definition is pool as in the pooled stakes of all gamblers playing the game?

    11a Prophet in purdAH SILEntly returning (6)

    21a Sacks quietly left beneath spades (8)

    7d Reserves fuel – it’s found under the bed (7)

    19a Humping something that’s picked up on his advice? (7)
    SEX PERT. A controversial &lit?

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