23,764 – I thought I was supposed to be good at this?

My first chance to report on a completely unseen Times puzzle since the championship, and I have to record …

Solving time: 26:43

… which means that I found this very tough indeed, especially the SW. But there’s no really difficult vocabulary or clues that seem unfair – just lots of very good disguise. A definite win for the setter. I’ll let you try to find the clue of the day – there are nearly 30 candidates, and I stopped bothering to put “clever combination of wordplay and surface” as it happens so often. If there’s any other contender for puzzle of the week, we’re in for some treats.

1 C(L)AMPER – a witty starter
5 W.I.=Jerusalem singers,RETAP=pater rev. A clever indication for the W.I. (Women’s Insititute for foreign solvers – I suspect wikipedia has something on them, but what you need to know here is that Jerusalem (“And did those feet, in ancient time, …”) is their song). I got this eventually from a combination of checking letters and a mistaken hope for pa rev. at the end.
9 M,ISJUDGED = (DJ guides)* – very good work this one, with novel but apposite anag indicator and definition.
10 V.I.P.-ER
11 NEOCLASSICISM – AS in (some clinics)*
17 DI(g)S,MAY – this one I didn’t understand until I’d finished the puzzle and written the rest of this. As DISMAL could just about be ‘having no good’, and ‘shock’ could be disman as well as dismay, I wondered whether I’d slipped up. Having part of the wordplay and the def (could = MAY, and shock = dismay) turned out to be enough. It was digs = accommodation that I’d missed.
19 M(IS SOUR)I – MI = Michigan – the abbrev’s for the 8 “M” US states are devils to remember, as dorsetjimbo found yesterday. Of the following, I managed 5 or 6: MA Massachusetts, MD Maryland, ME Maine, MI Michigan, MN Minnesota, MO Missouri, MS Mississippi, MT Montana
22 FIELD HOSPITAL which I thought of early on, but then took ages to understand ‘back-to-front’ and write it in – the front is as in ‘All quiet on the Western Front”.
25 IN=admitted,DIA=aid=charity, rev. – ‘is of Eastern origin’ might be a bit of a stretch for the reversal, but a new clue to India must be tough to find.
26 BRILLIANT – (a)LL in Britain*
28 TEAS=eats*,HOP=bound
1 CO-MO – I guess if the name Lake Maggiore is 13A, it probably is the second biggest
2 bArRiStEr,NIC(k) – another great working together of the cryptic reading and surface
4 REGUL=luger rev.,ATE=took
6 REV(EILLE = Ellie rev.)S – to gun a car is to rev it.
7 T(OP=operation,S)IDE – tide (vb.) is ‘run like the tide’
8 PARA,MNESIA=ma(r)ines*
12 D(AND IF)YING – the key to my eventual cracking of the SW – thought of AND IF, but didn’t see the def., nor dying = last as in the football commentary cliché “the dying seconds”.
14 ROALD DAHL – had = nicked, rev., in dollar*. I don’t know whether nicked here is {nicked = stolen} or {nicked = arrested} but I can imagine that at least one of the two can equate to ‘had’.
18 S(L)ENDER – this should have been much quicker than it was – a case of a tough puzzle making an easy clue hard.
20 UN(c)LE,ASH
21 FORBID – initial letters of “first offence recorded but it doesn’t” – good disguise of what’s often a doddle clue-type, which meant that this was my last clue solved – a mighty kick-self moment.
23 TULSA = (as LUT(on)) rev. – Tulsa is in Oklahoma = OK.

34 comments on “23,764 – I thought I was supposed to be good at this?”

  1. Thanks God I didn’t have to analyse this one as my first attempt. I polished off three-quarters of it in the hour it took me to get to work, but I had several unexplained amongst these. Couldn’t spend any more time on it so I used reference books to polish it off.

    In the end I was left with only one unexplained, 17A, which Peter has now covered.

    It’s the sort of puzzle I enjoy a lot when I have nothing else to do or think about. Unfortunately not my position today.

    My COD goes to 5A for which I required the self-kicking boot when I eventually spotted W.I.

    1. I’ve just remembered I was going to query in what sense “co” means “equal”? I know “co-” as in working together, for example, but that doesn’t necessarily mean equally, does it?
      1. There is an ‘equal’ meaning of co- – e.g. in ‘coextend’ – to extend equally. It’s true that a co-pilot or co-driver is often the inferior partner.
  2. The first time in years that I’ve needed more than an hour to finish a puzzle. I reckon 1 hour 20 minutes in all, allowing for breaks. I was so pleased to read Peter’s comments! At 23 down I looked at T?L?A for goodness knows how long before I saw OK = Oklahoma (not my week for US States). I don’t think there’s a duff clue amongst them and in any other puzzle a great many of them would a COD. I’ll go for 1 across simply because it made me smile. Jimbo.
  3. No problem with the wordplay, but I have no idea what a clamper is. Dictionary is no help. Please enlighten me.
    It was an eternity before I was able to enter even one word in this very tough puzzle.
    1. Someone who puts a wheel clamp on your parked car or van. I don’t know what the dictionaries say but it made sense to me.

      Edited at 2007-11-21 12:16 pm (UTC)

  4. I agree with all the praise. It would have taken me well over an hour to complete (which I didn’t). As somebody else mentioned, we’re spoilt for choice for COD. I’ll plump for 15A, which is superbly concise. 1A made me smile.
  5. I finished this in 20:20, which seems better now that I have read others’ comments. But there were a fair number of answers I could not explain when I finished, and even after spending 10 minutes afterwards there were four (WIRETAP, DISMAY, MISSOURI, UNLEASH) that I couldn’t work out. So thanks for the explanations, Peter.

    One minor quibble with 26A. It seems that “all but devoid of capital” is being used to indicate LL, even though in this clue “all” is not capitalised. I don’t think “capital” can be used to mean the first letter, whatever size? Or am I missing something?

    1. I can’t see any other interpretation than capital = first letter. I don’t know whether this can be precisely justified with COD or Collins – I guess I worked from some vague memory of the etymology (L. caput = head).
      1. I’m not sure how to parse the wordplay in this one. I don’t think ‘derelict’ can mean ‘state of dereliction’, but if not doesn’t ‘houses’ have to be ‘housing’ for the wordplay to hold together.
        1. You’re absolutely right – my apologies! The clue is an amendment to an earlier version in which (if I remember correctly) “housing” was used. The substitute “houses” was, I fear, the result of mis-remembering on my part.
          1. Many thanks for this clarification, and congratulations on a superbly innovative crossword. Absolutely 26A.
  6. I thought I’d knock this one off before turning in last night, but wasn’t the case – like a gremlin, this was not a crossword to solve after midnight. Had to check the spelling at 8d, this made 16ac the last word to go in. Enjoyed the wordplay, lots of obscure definitions. 21d was my COD, but I’d go for others.
  7. I saw Pete’s time before I started solving, so thought I would be in for a hard time. I only get a 30min lunch break, so anything unsolved after this remains so. After 20 minutes I had all but one. After 30 minutes I had all but one. I checked here for the answer, and was thoroughly disappointed to realise that it was one of the easier ones of the day. So it’s 30 minutes with 21d missing. Pass the large self-kickers. Spoilt for choice for the COD, but I’ll plump for 1ac.
  8. I thought my brain had died when I took ten minutes to get no answers at all.
    So pleased to see that even Peter didn’t breeze through it.
    There were half a dozen I didn’t get at all, but some of the clues are just brilliant. Como was the first one I worked out, and I love the ingenuity of it.
    A very enjoyable puzzle, even if it beat me.
  9. Allegedly it should take me less than an hour to solve The Times — but Peter’s 26′ was my 90′. 15A ALLEGE is my COD — succint. clever and surprising.
  10. A difficult but entertaining puzzle. Got stuck on 15A due to entering PARAMENSIA for 8D. This word is mentioned several times in this context on the internet, presumably as spelling mistakes. That’ll teach me to verify properly! COD definitely the excellent 10A.
  11. This was a challenging (very!) but fun puzzle that more than repudiates the allegations I’ve occasionally read that the Times puzzle has become a bit stuffy and sameish. If it took Peter over 20 minutes I’m not too ashamed that my solving time was over twice that! This was a good case of a fine set of clues that managed to stick to the “rules” while being vert entertaining at the same time. More, please!

    Neil Shepherd (Alberich)

  12. Excellent puzzle, with nearly every clue requiring a bit of work but then appearing so obvious when solved! I finished with ‘dandifying’ and a very loud FINALLY! that made the cat start.

    It is hard to pick a COD so I’ll stick to my first tick at 16d. 17a also has a tick.

  13. Unfortunately I decided I’d tackle this puzzle very late at night (or rather in the morning) and was incredibly slow getting started, but it appears that my 18:20 (which I’d thought was a disaster) wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared.

    IMO this is exactly what a modern-day Times puzzle ought to be, and I raise my hat to the setter. The answer to 26A sums it up: BRILLIANT. In fact having looked at it again I’m not sure that isn’t the best Times cryptic I’ve ever solved!!! Pretty well every clue is a gem.

  14. A setter should accept praise (and criticism, of course) with traditional anonymous grace, but your reactions to this puzzle have so taken me by surprise that to ignore them by saying nothing just seems wrong somehow.

    My aim as a setter has always been to entertain and something about this puzzle evidently struck the right chord, but it’s an arcane alchemy and I can only hope that future puzzles get the right mix.

    My heartfelt thanks to you all – you’ve made my week!

    1. Anyone who can set a crossword that makes Peter say “I am supposed to be good at this” and Tony Sever say “Might be the best Times Cryptic I’ve ever seen” has surely achieved something special.

      I have been solving the cryptic daily since 1966. Unfortunately I can no longer remember which was best 🙂 but this was certainly a candidate. Well done, and do keep taking whatever tablets they are…

  15. Before recourse to this site, I had managed only nine of the answers from this puzzle (1, 13, 17, 25, 27 across & 2, 3, 14, 18 down since you ask), and not for lack of trying. Having seen the answers, I recognise what a great crossword this is (my favourites are 1a, 22a and 16d), but being unable to solve the vast majority means I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I’d have liked. It’s always more pleasurable to get a tricky one yourself than have it explained!
  16. Did not have time to tackle it on the day, but saw it referred to on Crossword Centre Message Board. So did it today and would like to add my congrats to the setter. And, like some others, my last was FORBID.
  17. This puzzle was selected by Tim Moorey for detailed coverage in his “How to Master the Times Crossword” Book – Chapter 17 – Leaving the Best Till Last.
    1. I did the puzzle after buying Tim Moorey’s book ( the rave reviews in Crossword Unclued had me scrambling for the book); almost 12 years after the puzzle was published. The puzzle retains its charm and I had a struggle to complete it. The plaudits are richly deserved and I congratulate the Setter. Bravo!
  18. I tackled this as part of my sweep through the blog’s ‘classic puzzles’ and it’s arguably the toughest of them all so far, right up there with Good Friday 2010. I needed to take recourse to aids with seven or eight remaining and even then I couldn’t get most of them and needed Peter’s fine blog. Like one or two others, I’ll stick with 16dn for COD but there’s not an ordinary clue among them. I’m rather proud of getting BRILLIANT from the wrong end, i.e. ‘capital’, as the wordplay (albeit the least satisfying in the puzzle) proved beyond me … like much else in this thing of beauty.

    I must check Tim M’s book, which I thought I’d read in full. It would be depressing indeed to find I’d already had a stab at this puzzle!

  19. At 23d I got Tulsa from AS LUT (on) upside down but did not twig why it is considered an OK place. Nice one.

    I liked 27a Incoherent as follower of fashion? (7)

    ONLY 3 “easies” not in the blog:

    3d Remote orbiter’s power line knocked out (5)
    P L UTO. Weas this before or after Pluto’s planet licence was revoked?

    16d Road race (or should that be ‘road rage’?) (8)

    24d Move waSTE Paper bags (4)
    STEP. Move as in Strictly Come Dancing.

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