23,770 – the curse of the 17 strikes again?

Solving time: 18:37

The curse of the Times crossword club certainly strikes again – no online puzzle and I left home before the papers landed on the doormat, so had to buy a paper at the station. This started off even slower than last Wednesday’s puzzle, with only one across answer on the first look through. 23, 20 and 11 were the last few to go in. Some novel vocabulary including a couple of fairly tricky place names, but all well-clued save the odd quibble. 19 is my COD but there are plenty of other candidates.

Added later … It now turns out that the puzzle is a tribute to at least some of our original team of Times for the Times bloggers – see the comments.

1 PAN(O.R.)AMA – it’s those men = ‘other ranks’ (i.e. not officers) again
9 GOO,D.=departs,WILL (verb) = leave
10 SRI LANKA – lank=limp in airs rev.
11 SNIP(PET)S – duck = pet = familiar form of address. I was very tempted by SMIDGENS=small portions, but didn’t fall into that trap
12 S.,E.,A(ORANGE)S – new word for me, but it was fairly clear that the real problem was finding the right fruit.
14 MIN.,I – “A series of ticks” is good for ‘minute’.
15 AT,L.A.,N.T.,A ref. the Olympic Games of 1984 (or 1932) and 1996.
17 B,LOGGER – logger = ‘saw employer’ is more good stuff, and unsurprisingly this clue raised a laugh here
22 FA(ISALABA = (A.B.,alas I) rev.)D – had SALA scribbled next to the clue from the off but needed checking letters to confirm the right kind of sailor and finish this off.
23 B=book,IND(W=wife)EED – a clever clue but maybe just a bit too clever – is ‘strangler’ really a fair def? Not sure. In combination with “smothering wife, certainly” for the containment, this is very difficult, good as the surface reading is.
25 E(X=ten,P=page)LICIT
26 HO(WITZ=”wits”)ER (hoer=hero*) – very good unless you’re a despiser of non-word homophones, which I’m not.
27 SANT=ants*,IAGO=character – would have been nice to find an adjective that could describe Iago (in Shakespeare’s Othello) and the character of the ancient city in the clue. But that’s me being ignorant – there is an extra clue here, as Iago is, I’m pretty sure, described as an “ancient” – whether this is the ‘elder’ or ‘ensign’ meaning, I don’t know. I guess I’ve reached the limits of what you can learn about the play by listening to Verdi’s version without knowing Italian well enough to understand much.
2 ACRE FEET – Fe in create* – today’s Times xwd factoid: apparently an acre foot is the volume of water equivalent to an acre at a depth of one foot (43,560 cubic feet). Sounds useful for insurance assessors these days.
3 O.K.,LA(HO.)MA – Lama as in Dalai, Panchen, etc. Latest entry in the contest to find ways to clue Oklahoma, or is this just a coincidence?
5 AGA SAGA – hidden word. “A popular novel in a semi-rural middle class setting” says Chambers – Agas being posh modern-day versions of kitchen ranges. More background in this Guardian article, which makes me wonder when we’ll have ‘bonkbuster’ in the Times xwd.
6 TONIC SOL-FA – (cast of lion)* – this took a long time even as a musical mafioso. (It’s “Do, re, mi” as in the Sound of Music song)
7 HI(R)E,LING – surface referring to Paul Macartney and Heather Mills?
8 C(LASSIE)R – tony = US informal for posh
15 AUTOBAHN = (about an, h.=hour)*
16 LI(LONG=marathon (adj.),W.)E
18 G,R.A.,FFITI=(tiff I) rev.
19 ENA=girl,BLING=cheap jewellery
20 BI(D(ea)D)ERS – in doubtful taste but clever stuff
24 SPUN – the doctors here are those of spin.

Music: A summer holiday memory – the opening chorus of Otello, sung with gusto by the Black Sea Fleet ensemble, accompanied by a stage band including an accordion or two. Followed by Desdemona’s Ave Maria – on the previous holiday, a choir singing trip to Italy, our Royal Academy soloist Meeta Raval stole the show with this. If she gets to be famous, you read it here first.

30 comments on “23,770 – the curse of the 17 strikes again?”

  1. Well here I am ready for an early start, it’s 7.30 a.m. and there’s no online cryptic available.
    I wonder if this is a cunning plot to make us buy the printed version.
    Or could be just incompetence I suppose. It can’t be that hard for somebody to make it part of their job to check early doors that the new crossword has gone on OK.
    1. Yes, it’s disappointing. I bought the printed version on the way to work but by then I had lost my quality solving time. That’s my excuse for struggling so long get through it anyway.

      I’m rather hoping to hear that as with last Wednesday’s puzzle, this provided some problems for the experts, but perhaps they are a lot better at geographical names than I am.

      I have a number possible quibbles at the moment but I shall save these until I’ve read the blog as I expect most of them are ill-founded.

      17A is my COD.

      1. Having read Peter’s blog I have no quibbles with the clues; any problems were entirely of my own making.

        Unfortunately I was too busy thinking ON/OFF/LEG for the cricket side at 10A that I didn’t consider it might be the name of a country until I had all the checking letters in place, and the final A from AGA SAGA was a long time coming.

        Some of the NE corner took ages too as I convinced myself that 9A was GOODNESS derived somehow from GOOINESS if such a word exists, until I solved 8D. I also fell into the elephant trap mentioned by Peter at 11A so I ended with one wrong answer today.

        I wonder if I’d have fared any better if I’d had my usual 5:30 A.M. run at it.

  2. Well it’s 10.30 and still no online puzzle.
    I emailed them about it at 7.30, but no doubt they haven’t got round to checking the emails yet.
    What I find amazing is that they charge so much for it, but can’t be bothered even to make sure that the main puzzle is there each day.
    And yes, I know, I’ll have to stop moaning.
  3. I do think the lack of online availability is unforgivable. A) The service isn’t cheap, B) The task of preparing, hyperlinking and updating one daily crossword can hardly be called a stretch on resources. Complaints are thoroughly justified.
    Anyway… Another very nice puzzle and the “saw employer” element at 17A makes it my COD, but there are many to choose from.
    My sole uncertainty was 24D – SPUN or SPAN?
    1. This gave me some pause for thought – as it happens, I’ve been reading Steven Pinker’s Words and Rules which has lots of stuff about irregular verbs.

      I’m pretty confident that spun is right except if you want to be archaic, as in “When Adam delved, and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” – one of those phrases understood by very few, not including me until I read the explanation here – scroll down to the last couple of responses. And while Googling for it, I find that one of my local churches has a picture of them doing so.

      Edited at 2007-11-28 12:59 pm (UTC)

  4. An online version is in the archive when using the number search, but not the date search.


  5. Another superb puzzle that took me longer to solve (1 hour 35 minutes) than last Sunday’s Mephisto. There are so many good clues. I don’t mind “strangler” for BINDWEED because it adequately verifies what one has worked out from the rest of the clue, I’ve heard of IAGO and even WITZ really does sound like “wits”. My only real outright guess was ACRE FEET. Picking a COD is very difficult but again I’ll go for the one that made me smile, BLOGGER at 17 across. Jimbo.
  6. 30 minutes, a mere 12 unsolved. This was far too hard for a daily. I’m off for a sulk 😉
    1. The clue is an exceptionally good presentation of alternate letters in VALUE NOT. “Preserving the right of every couple” is a clever way of saying you have to split VALUE NOT into groups of two letters and keep the second of each pair.
      I very nearly nommed this as COD!
  7. Does bling necessarily equate to “cheap”? For example, the archetypal bling, that worn (or driven) by US rap musicians, is anything but inexpensive (although it does still manage to be incredibly tacky).

    In my opinion, “flashy”, or maybe “cheap-looking”, jewellery, is a more accurate definiton.


    1. A fair comment, but if the setter has decided to have a sly dig by referring to bling as cheap (as in tacky) then hats off to the setter!
      Tongue-in-cheek, but I’d be more upset if reference was made to “rap musicians”. In my experience rappers generally nick someone else’s music and overlay it with a stream of meaningless gibberish.
    2. Cheap has more than one meaning, not just “costing little”. From Collins, it also means “vulgar” (flashy?)and “shoddy” (cheap-looking?).Jimbo.
  8. This is the week I’m destined to not have time to finish a crossword. And what a doozy this one was. In five sittings of about 10-15 minutes each, finally a penny dropped (I was stunned to have less than half the crossword filled out by lunch), and I scribbled in the rest, had to check a map for Lilongwe (the capital of Malawi, which is on my shower curtain of obscure world capitals). Lucky (or well-educated) guesses were classier, sea oranges, and bindweed. With my luck this week, I’m glad I’m not up tomorrow!
  9. There is a NINA (albeit it rather opaque and not as up-to-date as it would have been when the puzzle was set 11 months ago) concealed in the answers.
    The answer to 17ac should give a big hint…
      1. Something hidden by the setter in the grid – a message or some stunt like using every letter of the alphabet twice. If you read the Tony Sever Times 2 RTC blog you’ll find out about many types, as most Times 2 puzzles have one. The name, invented by Nestor/Kea, comes from the instances of ‘Nina’ hidden in drawings by Al Hirschfeld.

        Edited at 2007-11-28 09:38 pm (UTC)

    1. Too opaque for me, though 17 should probably have made me look, given the recent tribute to fifteensquared by Virgilius in the Indie.

      I think I can see five of our original team of seven:
      In 1/9A, Magoo – panoraMA GOOdwill
      Then in 10, Ilan – srI LANka
      At 20D ‘Bidders’ might mean me (and getting Biddlecombe into answers would be hard).
      TAL/BIN/HO is in the beginnings of 21/23/26
      and GRAF/EN ditto, 18 and 19D

      The others in the original rotation of seven bloggers – linxit and foggyweb – I can’t find, though I’m half expecting to be told they’re there in knight’s tours or something like that.

      And thanks! – Whoever you are.

      1. Linxit is there, but hardly counts as it’s so split up (sorry Linxit!)
        Even more apologies to Foggyweb, who I just couldn’t fit in – nothing personal! next time 🙂
        1. Hear hear, many thanks, Anon.

          Most unexpected and a rare treat. Good gridding effort, and I loved LILONGWE as an entry, which I eventually got from the wordplay…

        2. Serves me right for having such an intractable pseudonym, I suppose. I can see a couple of LIN’s, plus an X and a separate IT. Thanks for trying!

          Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to solve this puzzle at all due to excessive pressure at work and a party that night, so didn’t find out about until now (Saturday morning).

  10. I guess I’m lucky that I solve nearly a day behind most people here so I avoid the delays in puzzles being posted.

    Anyway, treacherous puzzle! A few guesses that proved correct, ie 22a and 16d. Kicking myself for taking so long with ‘Sri Lanka’ given they’ve just been here!

    I thought 26 a good clue but will give my COD to 17.

    1. Elaborating on Peter’s solve above…
      tick can mean a second, like on a clock, so a series of ticks = min attached to one = i

      Took me a moment, though as an Australian, I should have gotten tick as a unit of time.

  11. V tough puzzle and v satisfying. 17 (COD for many) was the first I solved maybe cos I ply that trade (occasionally here but also on fifteensquared referred to). Liked that but my COD (among many worthy candidates) was SPUN.
  12. What an excellent puzzle. I like lots of geography and a bit of cricket. Didn’t spot the Ninas though – too good for me there. I remember going for provisions in Lilongwe (Malawi) whilst working in Mozambique in the early 1980s. The pub/club near the airport was a lively old place …

    Only the 3 “easies” left out of this cracker:

    21a Go after missing head’s lecture (4)
    (S) TALK

    4d Relative vAlUe, NoT preserving the right of every couple (4)
    A U N T. An ingenious way of cluing alternate letters.

    13d Agent making for unlikely setting in winter (10)
    ANTIFREEZE. Top cryptic definition. Is this a chestnut or something?

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