23,722 – a slow one

Solving time 13:36

Pleased to see that this time is substantially quicker than at least one other past finalist, but not attaching much significance to it – my times can vary widely in the few days before a championship. Most of the voabulary was familiar or could be worked out, so apart from one or two little quibbles, I’d say this was a fair test. But a bit of barred grid puzzle experience helped.

1 S(HAM=act poorly)AN,I/C
5 ST(RE)ET – as noted in the comments, stet = “let it stand” or “it may stand” – a proof-correction instruction
10 PRE-,ACHE,RS=Sr. rev.
11 DE=Ed rev.,COR = My! (exclamations)
12 L,AWN = beard (of barley). I remember being fooled by a clue using blades=grass before – something with a sporting surface that led to LAWN TENNIS rather than anything about ice-skating or fencing.
13 TO(MA,TILL)O – a berry used in Mexican cooking.
15 ECDYSIASTS = (Sid,ecstasy)* – the answer is an old Times xwd favourite
17 sEnT oUt In – a barred-grid puzzle cliche, this word – it’s a case for sewing articles or similar. Nicely timed as we approach a postal strike, but the lead time on puzzles makes this a fluke.
19 EX,A.M. – realised after solving that EX as in ex-wife or similar is “half of old item (=couple)” – understanding the morning and paper bits seemed like enough.
20 HOLY SPIRIT = “wholly spirit” = neat
22 AT,AL(l),OWE,BB=billions – another slightly rushed one – some instinct told me that very little else would fit.
24 G,OL(a)F – anyone else think of Bjorn Borg?
26 ISA,A/C – ref. Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac in the OT
27 TABLATURE = (a brutal)* in te=note – a fingering guide for guitar players or similar. Someone commenting on a Jumbo recently asked whether ‘criminal’ was a common anagram indicator – this is at least the second time I’ve seen it since then.
28 NEEDED = “knee did” – didn’t worry exactly how managed=did
1 S.E.,P.T. – an Irish tribe/clan division – another seen in barred-grid puzzles. SE = “from top left” should be easy for any regular reader of this blog.
2 ALEXANDRA=Sandy,P(A)LACE – not totally convinced that Sandy = Alexandra as well as Alexander – the Chambers first names appendix says the equivalent is Sandra. Possibly a nod to the venue for Times Championship London regional finals in 2000, my lucky year. The last sharing of a venue with the Mind Sports Olympiad, and therefore quite a lot of random people walking around, not necessarily understanding that the people sitting at tables were actively competing. Plus the hoop-la associated with the wordcross.net sponsorship, including dolly birds in swimsuits and sashes, making for some incongruous photos with the typical middle-aged ‘solving bloke’.
4 INERT – reverse hidden word
7 ESCALATOR CLAUSE – (so recalculates a)*
9 I,”SOME TRY!” – had a good early guess at the iso- part so the rest was easy later from checking letters
16 AMORETTO = (room Tate)* – not totally convinced by the def – it’s a cupid and therefore a boy as part of a drawing etc., rather than the whole thing – and I think this point could have been preserved without spoiling the surface.
21 T(OUCH)E – te = French for some grammatical case of ‘you’, making this &lit possible
25 HER,R

27 comments on “23,722 – a slow one”

  1. I took 30 something minutes and am still baffled by 6A for which I entered STREET. At least it means “way”, and I couldn’t find any shred of justification for ATTEST.

    I guessed things were going to be bad when the first clue I solved was the seventh across, ECDYSIASTS. Apart from 6A, the North West corner took me longest. Looking at the clues now, I have to admit they are rather good and entirely fair.

    1. I thought I was going to race through this having immediately spotted ALEXANDRA PALACE at 2D but I didn’t write in anything else for a full 10 minutes and struggled with just about every other clue to some degree. I also put STREET for 5A and have just worked out RE = touching inside STET = stand.
      1. Thanks for explaining 6A. It’s probably STET = “it may stand”. A very neat clue.
  2. What an ugly crossword (40 minutes or so).

    12A would have been more at home in a Mephisto puzzle, 19A’s construction would work just as well without half of the clue (“Old morning paper (4)”), 21D is both uncommon and a poor &lit (the whole point of a button (MOUCHE) is not to hurt the opponent), 28A’s homophone is shaky unless I’ve missed the point (knee,did = NEEDED) and I’m still stumped as to 11A’s construction (ED rev. + COR?).


    1. Just seen the full post. COR = My! in 11A I’d just not noticed – but are you sure about TOUCHE for 21D? I went for ‘I’m hurt (OUCH) with you (ME) fencing’ to produce M(OUCH)E – being the button on the end of an epee that would be what you strike your fencing opponent with.
    2. 21D = touch√© not mouche, and I can’t see how you can get “you fencing” to be m(…)e. 12A is a bit Mephisto, but that’s life in hard Times puzzles sometimes. 19A does work in three words, but I don’t mind the more challenging form used. 11A – see notes above, and we’ll have to agree to differ on 28.
      1. ‘you fencing’ = M(…)E – simply that the ‘you’ in the clue could be read as referring to the reader (ie, me) – but I agree with TOUCHE in hindsight.
        1. For me, if “you” means the reader, then logically “me” must mean someone else! If you can find a cryptic puzzle where ‘you’ and ‘me’ are supposed to mean the same thing, that sounds like one to avoid.
  3. About 35 minutes here. Some really tricky stuff, especially in the top half. I also “guessed” at STREET, using “way” as my definition (thanks to the poster above for the explanation – it all makes perfect sense now)
  4. Great puzzle but I suffered badly today from not knowing ECDYSIASTS, which despite the obvious wordplay was my last entry (and a slow one at that, having looked at all the possibilities), and limped home in 23:42. Of the other long ones, ALEXANDRA PALACE is a great clue but I couldn’t get it and with a few crossing letters nearly entered ‘Andromeda Galaxy’, and I also didn’t know the phrase ESCALATOR CLAUSE. I couldn’t explain STREET or NEEDED while solving, and somehow only thought of ‘act poorly’ = ACT*, not HAM, for 1ac.

    And I’m bunged up to the eyeballs with a cold. All very discouraging for the weekend.

  5. I know at least one Alexandra called Sandy, though that may not be a substitute for an entry in Chambers.
    I managed this one in 23, which I now see wasn’t too bad. ECDYSIAST came in a flash of shamanic intuition from some subconscious dictionary in a locked mental vault – the kind of thing that would come in handy on Sunday! Mick H
  6. The wordplay leads to archness, but that doesn’t seem like a proper definition of ‘being playful’.
    If the def. had been playfulness, OK.
    1. For me, if an example of archness is an example of being playful, that seems enough.
  7. I thought my 21 mins was poor but I feel better having read other peoples’ times. Still v dubious about ALEXANDRA = sandy.

    Good luck to all you brave souls in Cheltenham!

    Mike G

  8. I found this one a struggle, with STREET taking me a long time to work out, apart from more obscure words, some discussed above. I too am doubtful about Alexandra, and I just filled it in having got most of the letters. It took me 18:57. Jason J
  9. did you deliberately omit the following answers:

    29 ac. menswear

    3 dn. archness

    23 dn. bible

    1. Yes – follow the “About this blog” link at the top to find out why …
  10. I did this with some (non-crossword) friends on holiday in Minorca. Took about 40 minutes and this after me telling them that these puzzles were never really too obscure!
    Total lucky guess at ecdysiasts – toughest puzzle I can remember for years
    John P Marshall
  11. After being told there was something to find in this puzzle, I eventually spotted “(sha)MANIC STREET PREACHERS” in the top couple of rows of across clues.
    1. There’s more – Generation Terrosists at 14dn/8ac and (The) Holy Bible at 20ac/23dn (the Manics’ first and third albums respectively).

      How did I miss all that?! And why wasn’t the answer to 24ac GOLD (as in Gold Against The Soul)?

  12. Just did Mon, Tue and today’s crosswords back-to-back, which probably helped me get ‘in the zone’ for this one, which I finished in 18:02.

    Only real problem was with 14D, as I had REAM for 19A at first and spent a while trying to justify RECREATION. I thought “work that’s accepted” was a strange definition for BIBLE, but the wordplay was straightforward enough.

    1. BIBLE def: this is ‘bible’ as in “Anne Bradford’s Dictionary is the solver’s bible”.
  13. Over an hour for me, the ‘palace’ in Alexandra Palace last to fall into place. Foreigners!!!

    And I always enjoy nicely constructed clues like 18ac.


  14. I didn’t get this one out, kicking myself for making a bad job of a (now) obvious clue. Desperately wanting 17ac to not be ETUI, I had

    regularly missing (LeTtErS)* = LEST (in case)

    and was thinking that was a clever clue. D’oh.

  15. A tricky part-themed (MSPs apparently) one with ONLY 4 not in the blog:

    29a Ties, say, bishops and others to pledge (8)
    MEN SWEAR. Think chess for MEN.

    3d Bow head, being playful (8)
    ARCH NESS. I also have a bit of trouble equating ARCH with playful. So Moriarty was Holmes’ playful adversary? Must be true though – so just accept it.

    6d Reason suitor’s come so far? (2,4)

    23d Anger about second-rate work that’s accepted (5)
    BI B LE. Accepted by whom?

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