Solving time – 16:34 

I enjoyed this very much but it was one of those puzzles that I looked at when I’d finished and wondered why it took so long to solve. On reflection, I can see that there are some good disguises at work and many natural sounding phrases in the clues, which meant they took more time to parse. There are probably 3 or 4 candidates for COD but I’ll go for 12d.

11 S in IVORY COAT – simple enough wordplay but a tricky clue to solve because the definition is well-disguised.
15 GUFF,(WAS)* – spent a while trying to make something out of (H AIR WAS)*.
19 ROMP in SUE (reversed) – EURO MPS. Got this from the definition as I always think EURO when I see “Strasbourg”
22 (PAL I)* in CHANCY
25 L in FIBBER,TI,GIBBET – the hardest clue of the puzzle for me, even though I knew the word. I didn’t understand why GIBBET = Tree but that’s explained by Peter in a comment.
27 KO,BEER (reversed)
28 alternate letters in “PeEpInG iNtO dIaRy”
1 [-m]ISS in KING – good clue, with a misleading definition.
3 KEY,WAKE in WAY – and this is good too. Filled it in fairly quickly but it took much longer to work out what was going on, mainly because I thought “means” was part of the definition or a link word.
7 (DIRT THEN HAM)* – THE THIRD MAN. “Flick dirt” disguises the definition well but to me the whole clue read like it had to be an anagram so it wasn’t as deceptive as it could have been.
12 FOR DS in OX HIRE – I liked this one too.”Lower-rent houses” is very deceptive and it took me a while to see D[etective] S[ergeant] for “Sgt Lewis”.
18 M in CHAFER
20 SHY,STER[-n]
24 B in [-h]ERO – EBRO is a Spanish river (“runner”)


34 comments on “23831”

  1. Bit of a beast, this one. Gave up and cheated after about an hour still with five or six not completed on the RH side.

    Not sure I can explain 25 exactly and I don’t think (4-3)at 19 is exactly fair though I’ve been assured in the past that this sort of thing is okay so I’ve only myself to blame for being caught out yet again.

    My COD nomination goes to 12D.

  2. 11:48 here – slowed down after a promising start, partly because I couldn’t get IVORY TOWER out of my head. 1D as an alternative for COD.
    1. Yes, I had all that in mind but still wasn’t quite sure of it as I can’t actually find “gibbet” defined as “tree” anywhere despite the well-known example you quoted.

      Also “fickle” wasn’t the first quality that came to me to define a flibbertigibbet though I am satisfied now that it’s fine.

      1. Jackkt if you look up TREE rather than GIBBET you’ll find it defined as a gallows. Jimbo.
  3. Hardish today – and I can’t get 19A , even with cheating.

    And once I’d got one runner as Ebro, he had be looking for an African runner which turned out not to be a river at all. I liked that.
    1D or 23D for COD for me.

    ps I’m getting a bit fed up with setters using APSE. It’s lazy, as I can think of at least one other word which goes A-S-!

    1. Glad I wasn’t the only one! It’s EURO MPS. I got stuck trying to make EURO MOB work which didn’t help me solve 20D
      1. Thanks jackkt.
        It’s obvious now you’ve told me!!

        I stuck at EuroMas which I’d convinced myself was something to do with Maastricht. I could be a bad loser and argue that EuroMPs isn’t allowable, but Peter would no doubt tell me why it was 🙂

        1. I’m not too bothered by the part-abbreviation Euro-MPs, partly because I solved it! Some will doutbless say that it shouldn’t be allowed, but I’m happy for the Times setters and xwd ed to tweak the boundaries sometimes, presumably in the cause of having a few new words to test us with. I would quibble about MPS as a three-letter answer, though.
          1. I think it would be difficult to enumerate it any other way, since the S acts to pluralise the preceding two letters, so 1,1,1 would also be wrong.
          2. Does anyone rememeber when 20000 appeared as an answer on the occasion of the 20,000th Times puzzle, with the cross-checking 2, 0 and 0 being a word beginning “TWO” and two words beginning with “O”!
            1. I do indeed remember that one – great puzzle – and was disappointed to discover it’s not available in the Times archive.
              1. A puzzle never to be forgotten. It took courage to write 20000 at 6 across . In the down answers the zeros became “O” but the “2” was used as the first “letter” of “2-STEP” the dance. The puzzle can be found in The Times Crosswords Book 20 published in 1997 ISBN 1 902254 00 7. Jimbo.
  4. this rather than guffaws at 15A resulted in difficulties with 12D which i can’t quite decode though the answer is straightforward. Smiled to see Flibbertigibbet making it’s annual appearance .Now i am on the lookout for the rarely seen Tatterdemalion.
  5. Hardish (must be if even Peter B took nearly 12 mins – nearly an hour for me), but enjoyable. At it happened, I plumped for “flibbertigibbet” almost immediately, in one of those inexplicable flashes of definitional inspiration, but only worked out the cryptic reading after I’d completed the whole xword. I didn’t help myself by initially spelling the word with a y instead of an i in the middle, but spotted the error fairly quickly. Was pretty sure I’d seen the word in Times cyptics before. Does it really appear once every year?

    Members of the European Parliament are strictly MEPS, but I guess the term Euro MPs has become acceptable shorthand for same. Another possible niggle: MEPS certainly used to meet in Strasbourg in the early days, but I thought the whole shebang moved to a new headquarters building in Brussels some years ago. So “Brussels group” might have been fairer.

    10 ac for my COD – definition-wise not especially hard, but I liked the simplicity of the linear cryptic reading.

    1. I’m sure flibbertigibbett doesn’t appear exactly once a year, but there are words like it that old solvers recognise as occasional but regular visitors.

      Those MEPs are still wasting money by meeting in both Strasbourg and Brussels and moving regularly between the two. (That doesn’t mean I’m anti-Europe, but this particular practice is really silly.)

  6. 21 minutes here. Lots of trickiness and well hidden meanings. I have to agree with 12d as COD – a great example of “lift and separate”. I didn’t understand 3d until neildubya explained it here – now I think it’s brilliant. I also liked 12d.
  7. A very fine crossword. I can’t disagree with 12D as COD, but I also liked 28A; it’s not very often that an ‘alternates’ clue has such a lovely surface. Did anyone else stick in POO(L) at first for 26D?
  8. Well I still think there’s an anagram of ‘for Sgt Lewis’ that would go in here!
  9. Can someone please explain the wordplay etc. in 6D (AIRS{?}), 8D (CITIZEN), 9D(SKI SLOPE).
    1. 6d – double definition. AIR is another word for tune or song (“strain”) and “affected demeanour” could be “airs and graces”.

      8d – iz (sound like “is”) in CITE,N (abbrev for Newton)

      9d – cryptic def. “In need of a fall” refers to snowfall, which is what you need to ski.

      1. Minor improvement for 6D: airs as in “give yourself airs” or “put on airs” gives you “affected demeanour” without needing any graces to help.
  10. Easily the hardest this week which took me 45 minutes. I think someone has already mentioned that strictly speaking they are MEPS but I guessed in these days of anything goes it would be MPS from the word play. I liked lots of these clues but 12 down is exceptionally good; very misleading but entirely fair. Jimbo.
  11. A bevy of bonzer clues in this one and a real pleasure to (eventually) solve. My major hold-up, accounting for 5 minutes of around 30 to solve, was the ridiculously straightforward 23D.

    Lovely to see a great alternative to TORSO – no trunk, no twisted roots – hurrah! Like others I’ll nom 12D which is just brilliant.

  12. Roundly and soundly beaten. Couldn’t get on to the Times late last night so tried to do this in the morning after staying up to watch the cricket. No Euro MPs for me, gave up on trying to find a suitable answer for 12d, and was starting to question flibbertigibbet because I really wanted 18d to be CHAMPER.

    Only a teeny bit relieved to see where I missed out. I wouldn’t have gotten Oxfordshire without help. Euro MPs is a completely alien phrase (awaiting to hear what fellow Antipodeans and Americanos del Norte think of that, I guess it must be in Collins), and I am now enlightened as to what a chamfer is fer.

    Sigh… at least I don’t have anything happening tomorrow morning, and can attempt to redeem myself on a jumbo and a Listener.

    1. It’s a double meaning – “prime” as a verb meaning to brief, i.e. arm with information, and of course also a “golden age” as in “in one’s prime”.
      A self-kicker when you realise how straightforward it is.
  13. Wow!

    Stumped badly, after working on and off all day still blank at 3D, 12D and 18A. Yikes! As you guys say, full marks to the setter! Tough go of it, hoping to do better tomorrow. Regards all.

  14. Also just realized I was coompletely wrong on 15A where I entered ‘gasbags’, screwing up everything below. As I said earlier, completely stumped! See you tomorrow.
  15. Too hard for me. Got to about three-quarters done after at eternity so gave up and came on here for enlightenment. Most of the clues I missed were very clever indeed. Must try harder I guess.
  16. A most enjoyable puzzle. Like glheard I wanted 18D to be CHAMPER – annoyingly the one clue that prevented a very slow clean sweep (9:56).

    I’ll go for 12D as my COD.

  17. A tricky little number that foxed quite a few of the regulars. I am among the foxed and had to resort to aids for the fickle chap at 25a but did unravel the wordplay once he was revealed. I had vaguely heard of Mr PHIZ at 12a but misspelled him as FHIZ. My LOI was PRIME at 23d – a double def that eluded me until the end. Quite a few of the omitted answers have been requested above but here they are together in one place:

    5a Spicy cuisine taken with cold water (6)

    13a Illustrator’s sparkle when speaking (4)
    PHIZ. Sounds like FIZZ – illustrated some Dickens apparently.

    17a Flood because of leak (7)
    OVER RUN. I think – don’t really get it?

    18a Aggressively pass a share of the spoils (5,2)
    CARVE UP. A daily experience on the mean streets of MK.

    21a Part from onE’S PArents returning for recess (4)

    2d Last of all, professionaL goaliE tO sign (3)

    4d Body peaks before start of Olympics (5)
    TORS O

    6d Strain’s affected demeanour (4)

    8d Subject is mentioned in quote by Newton (7)
    CIT IZ E N. Sounds like IS inside CITE next to (N)ewton.

    9d Decline in need of a fall? (3,5)
    SKI SLOPE. Nothing to do with the Roman Empire although there are plenty of great ski resorts in Northern Italy.

    16d Stone drain concerned with trapping high acidity (8)
    SAP pH1 RE

    23d Brief golden age? (5)
    PRIME. As mentioned in comments above – a DD of to prime or brief someone before a meeting, say, and the prime or golden age of one’s life. Clear?

    26d I disapprove when reserve falls short (3)
    BOO (K)

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