23,740 – Championship Prelim 1, Puzzle 3

Solving time: 7-9 mins on the day

There’s just a hint of a theme here – two symmetrically placed nervy answers at 11 and 21. There are a few snippets of literature and music, but nothing excessive.

4 SCH.,MALT,(la)ZY
9 INN,(prosp)ER(c)ITY
10 R.,URAL – the latter being a Russian river
11 LOSE ONE’S NERVE – (none see solver)* – a cheeky reference to those with plenty of nerves on the day
14 TO=towards,GO=travel
15 LIGHT=torch,MUSIC=song, perhaps
18 NOTTINGHAM = “knotting”,ham
24 CREDO – (ode,RC) all rev. – an answer we were talking about a week or so ago.
25 DIABOLIST – IS in (tabloid)*
27 S,ANS.,SERIF=fires rev.
28 D=back of beyond,WELL – refers to the girls who lived in the treacle well in Alice. I think Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice explains what a treacle well actually was, somewhere around Oxford at the time. The girls are thinly disguised versions of the ones he was telling the story to – Lacie = Alice*.
1 GUIL(LOT,IN=governing)E – verb usage of guillotine – a House of Commons method of keeping debates short
3 TURBOT = (TO(o),BRUT) rev.
4 SH(I,V)E,RING=call
5 HA(Y)D,N – &lit., The Creation being one of his oratorios.
6 AIR,FRAME – Lancaster = type of bomber
7 TURKEY’S,HOOT – US term for an easily won battle or similar
12 SIGHT UNSEEN – S=seconds,(genius then)* – a curious expression meaning ‘not having seen the object in question’. More surface stuff about championship solvers, though these days you can’t run or walk out to check the answers and your fate quickly. Just play something soothing on the iPod and while away some time …
16 HEADSCARF = (hard faces)* &lit.
17 VITREO=(over it)*,US(e)
20 BYRO(n),A(n)D. Little Gidding must be a village somewhere – it’s also the title of the last of Eliot’s Four Quartets – possibly something best not to know, like me. Or to have forgotten, anyway – I now recall looking up the four titles for a clue a while back – see 8D in this posting on the old sinlge-handed version of this blog.
22 (b)OLDER
23 (n)ICES(t)
26 (e)IRE

17 comments on “23,740 – Championship Prelim 1, Puzzle 3”

  1. Allowing for one small interruption, total time around 12 minutes here which really surprised me. INNER CITY, SANS SERIF and perhaps a couple of others went in without reference to wordplay, no doubt speeding things up for me.
  2. Do they start with them easy like this to get more people involved in the competition?
    1. I don’t think so – by the time you’ve started no. 3 in a preliminary round at Cheltenham, you’ve decided to be involved. The ones they may make relatively easy to encourage participation are the qualifiers, for which you have to quote a solving time. Tough puzzles tend to increase time gaps between solvers, so if qualifiers are the sort of puzzles that take former champions 12-15 minutes, there will be people taking 20 or 25 minutes who would deserve a place at Cheltenham, but they may think their times are too slow.
  3. I really liked this puzzle. I think 1 down is an excellent clue and the joke at 11 across made me smile. I had to guess 28 across so thanks for explanation Peter. Did you guess on the day or did you recall the Alice connection? About 35 minutes to solve. Jimbo
    1. No guessing at 28 Across on the day – I know the Alice books better than a lot of literature, and the treacle well reference has been used before – see 11D in another old post.
  4. It took me 9:11 to fill in the answers today, which is probably about the same as it took me to solve it sight unseen in the competition.

    On this occasion, I was fairly fast on most of the half-remembered answers, and then came to a dead halt on TURKEY SHOOT, having to go through the alphabet more than once before getting it. And I don’t think that one held me up at all on the day.

  5. I re-solved it today in about 8 minutes, having taken about 10 on the day (in the lobby, as I was in the 2nd prelim). I had solved the first half-dozen clues or so before I recognized it though – SIGHT UNSEEN was what jogged my memory.
  6. I solved today’s in different circumstances today. First, I solved it much later in the day (10 pm rather than 1pm), which also meant I wasn’t trying to simultaneously eat lunch. Second, I had to use the interactive crossword from the web site and had to type my answers rather than scribble them. Third, I used a stopwatch, and am pleased to be able to announce seconds for the first time. Total time was 13 mins 43 seconds. Lots to show up my weakspots today with Byron, Haydn, Carroll and Eliot. When are we going to get some more recent literary and musical references in our crosswords?
  7. Is this quite sound? “…as clubs move in” implies that more than one C moves in. Since only one C does so, it needs to be “…as clubs moves in”, which spoils the surface. Or am I being unnecessarily fussy?
    1. Strictly, you’re right and your heart (singular) is in the right place. On the day, no-one seemed to notice, so I guess it didn’t matter much in practical terms.
  8. I didn’t think this was the toughest of the three but apparently it was seeing a solving time of 34 minutes.

    I bogged down on ‘byroad’ because I was hesitating on ‘dwell’ which I couldn’t prove.

    I was confident with ‘sight unseen’ but really couldn’t understand it! Not even sure I do yet!

  9. LOSE ONE’S NERVE describes it completely for me. I must have taken over 15 minutes to complete this one on the day, and just now I ambled through it in 5:44, and can’t think how it could have taken me that much longer. OK, I spent a bit of time trying to justify TARPON for 3D, and I stupidly put in TOUR for 14A (but I felt doubtful about it and was ready to change it if and when I needed to). I’ll just have to hope that the same thing doesn’t happen again next year.
  10. This one took me a long time, but I’d already sunk a few pints and was trying to watch the baseball. Very enjoyable puzzle, 1d of all things was the last entry and took me three innings of scratching my head before it went in. Let’s call my time 2 hours and five pints.
  11. Can someone explain this one? I had “turbot”, figuring that “no brut” referred to some dry alcoholic drink. Are prats dry?


    1. TURBOT is the correct answer. Clue: Fish is almost too dry when served up. “almost too” is TO, then dry = BRUT as in champagne; and the whole is reversed (“served up”, this being a down clue).

      TARPON is just another fish in Tony’s vocabulary that happens to fit the checking letters. I doubt that he put it in the grid, but if he did he corrected it.

      And if the TURBOT I originally put for 3D had been wrong … (a) a previous commenter would have said so, and (b) someone else would have been this years Times champion!

  12. Even though solving times for me are still far to long for the Championships it is nice to know that this Championship puzzle, with some interesting vocab, was not too difficult at all. Good fun to solve.

    Only 4 “easies” not in the blog:

    Note small pig’s appropriate noise (5)
    G RUNT

    19a The flower of Stratford’s returning as star (4)

    2d Uniformed leader required on navy vessel (3)
    U RN

    8d Shout like a coward giving out cry of pain (4)
    YELL (ow)

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