Solving time 8:32

A minute or so on RETRENCH at the end made up for earlier luck on ANCESTRAL and TRIERARCH.

Speed and comments
I was pleased to see a comment on yesterday’s puzzle from Times2 RTC regular dorosatt – to whom I wish good luck with the job hunt. She said that she doesn’t comment often because (among other things) “I’m no speed demon”. Please folks, don’t hold back for this reason. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who still likes to know what you thought. Those Times setters who drop by to see how their puzzles were received are probably more interested in your comments than mine.

And it’s great to have comments from female solvers. Next time we’re looking for fresh bloggers, I may be trying to recruit you – although I’m pleased with the range of ages, speeds and locations on the team, half of humanity is not yet represented.

1 CA’S SANDRA – maker of unbelieved predictions
6 A(L.P.)HA – if LE is “the French”, ALPHA is “A Greek”.
9 I(NAP)T – a nap is a horse identified by a tipster as almost certain to win – named after the highest call in the card game of the same name.
10 ANCESTRAL – the tree being the family tree. “Ancestral voices prophesying war” is from Kubla Khan, of which I only know about the first five lines.
11 RAILCAR(d) – a British railway special – a Railcar is a coach with engine included, and a railcard is a pass, e.g. for a student or pensioner.
12 I’M POUND – ref. Ezra Pound, a poet, just in case anyone needs to ask.
13 PEFORMING, ART’S – Art Tatum, jazz pianist
17 HAVE A ROVING EYE – def and cryptic def.
21 EPI=pie*,CARP – some part of a fruit. See this Wikipedia article for more fruit anatomy.
23 VOUCHER – ouch! in, er, Rev. rev.!
25 WATER=(art we)*,FOWL=”foul”
26 COVEN(try)
27 YUCKY – Y (year) for L in LUCKY
28 TRIER,ARCH – I quickly saw Trier for the German city, and the much easier cunning = arch, and thought “Captain of a trireme? – Maybe – I’m pretty sure it’s a word”. Turns out my guess was right.
1 CHIR((g)RU(b))PY
2 STASI – hidden word – East Germany’s secret police
5 A,(r)UCTION(s) – ‘ructions’ for disturbances feels like “UK only” stuff to me – a favourite word of my fathers when talking to his sons in their youth.
6 A(ES)OP.
8 AL(LUD)E – “lud” is a frequent shortening of “Lord” among lawyers.
14 RE ALI’S TIC – Ali being Alison or Alice
15 ANN,OUNCE = cat,R
16 RET((w)REN)CH – A wren was a member of the WRNS = Women’s Royal Naval Service, and women in the Navy are still “wrens” in Naval slang. With ?E?R?N?H I was led astray by (t)AR for a while.
19 VIVA,L,DI – Exam’s = “Exam has” in the wordplay
20 L(EEW = wee rev.)AY
22 (h)ARR(A)Y – not the first time we’ve had Potter = HARRY I’m sure, but it fooled me for a while.
24 HAVER – being = person, so the second def is “someone who has”.

30 comments on “23883”

  1. I’ve resolved to stop being anonymous on this, so excuse me for reposting the above. My mistake.
    23 minutes for me. I got properly stuck on 20d – just couldn’t see the definition. My last in was 8d, which I didn’t properly understand until seeing Pete’s explanation. I hadn’t thought of ‘lud’ without ‘my’. I like the way 27 is put together, though I’m not clear about why ‘Head’ is capitalized when ‘year’ isn’t. Anyone?
    1. Good question, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think either letter should be capitalized, so I’m betting it’s a typo.
      1. Kevin – hi. If you were watching Boston Legal, so was I. ‘Head of Year’ is, or was, common in British schools, but I’d expect to see a capital on both nouns, and an ‘of’ rather than an ‘in’. Let’s wait to see what the resident Brits and others have to say in the morning. G’night from YHZ.
      2. The Times daily cryptic is in general fairly relaxed about capital letters. I doubt it was a typo, just a device to improve the surface reading of the clue – and perhaps confuse you a little along the way. Jimbo.
        1. I think there’s a surface issue, as jimbo says. In the cryptic reading, both ‘Head in year’ and ‘Head of Year’ seem to fit ‘lucky’ getting Y as a new head = first letter. Maybe the choice went this way because “new Head in year” could be interpreted as “new Head within the next year”, as well as “new Head of Year”. Either way, the connection to “It’s disgusting” isn’t terribly strong unless I’m being thick.
  2. Took about 45 minutes while TV watching (clearly I stayed up late Tues evening in the US), and thanks to Peter because I didn’t understand the ‘lud’ reference in 8D, at all. Had to look up ‘trierarch’ as well as ‘epicarp’. I liked 20D best in this puzzle, which misled me for some time, trying to find something meaning ‘a little upset’, with ‘met’ inside ‘lay’ or some such construction. Regards in advance to all others, sorry to be so early today.
  3. 23 minutes for me. I got properly stuck on 20d – just couldn’t see the definition. My last in was 8d, which I didn’t properly understand until seeing Pete’s explanation. I hadn’t thought of ‘lud’ without ‘my’. I like the way 27 is put together, though I’m not clear about why ‘Head’ is capitalized when ‘year’ isn’t. Anyone?
  4. I found this one very heavy going in general particularly some clues on the RH side. I think if I’d got the reference at 10 and had known the word at 28 then I would have closed out in about 45 minutes because once I’d arrived at work and looked them up everything else fell into place. In the event I was well over the hour today with help as mentioned.

    Oh, and there were a couple of guesses along the way. I got AESOP at 6D but couldn’t explain how “es”= “French art”. Having seen PB’s confirmation that it does the penny finally dropped. So another “Doh!” moment.

    I rather like 16 as COD.

    1. On solving times I was a bit put off commenting when I first discovered this forum because everyone seemed to be solving like lightening whereas I was usually taking at least 30 minutes and occasionally double that. Then I noticed a few regular contributors and one of the bloggers whose times were more like my own and I found this encouraging and stuck around. I’m very glad that I did. After all it’s the enjoyment of the puzzle that’s the main thing, if solving it in under 5 minutes turns one on then that’s great, but it’s only part of the experience and certainly not an important one as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Meant to say “speed is only part of the experience”. Solving in under 5 minutes has never been part of mine.
        1. As a relative newcomer to The Times I’m still using my solving times as a guide to how I’m improving as a result of visiting this blog. Having got my PB down from around 30 minutes to 12½ in the space of about 6 weeks it’s obviously helping.

          I do agree, however, that competing against a stopwatch can spoil the overall enjoyment and if I ever crack the 10-minute barrier I’ll use that as an excuse to stop timing myself and stick to solving, taking time to understand the clues as I go along.

    2. French art = ES: In my early days I was stumped by this and for years I had it on a mental list of things that worked, I knew not why. Mother of all self-kickings when I eventually realised why.
  5. About 25 mins, much of that on 16D at the end where I missed the Wrens ref. I suppose ‘girl’ is doing double duty in 1A. No clear COD for me, on balance I’ll give it to 14D.
    1. I don’t think we’ve yet got back to “girl” serving two purposes. I think girl=SANDRA. A “CASSANDRA” has become anybody who is a prophet disbelieved. Jimbo.
      1. Clue is: Accountant’s girl destined to be disbelieved. If she’s not doing double duty, then ‘destined to be disbelieved’ is an adjectival phrase defining a noun, which I’m not keen on, so I’m unsure which way to read it. (I checked for an adjectival meaning of Cassandra, but it’s not there.)

        I bought No. 12 in the current series of Times xwd books a week or two ago, and there’s an example in the sample puzzle at the beginning of the book. (Different to the sample puzzle for No. 11, so presumably a reflection of Richard Browne’s current views.) For “Is the map-room’s shape changing?” => METAMORPHOSIS, he says that “the definition and anagram indicator are one and the same”. So I wonder whether Richard is pushing some boundaries a bit here, though I’m not as aware of it happening as I was with unindicated defs by example a few years ago.

        1. Good point Peter. My thinking was not thorough enough. We also have an anonymous poster raising the question of Tatum in 13A, which I had not noticed. Oh dear – if it is a trend I don’t like it. Jimbo.
        2. Reading through the clues again, I think ‘Tatum’s’ is also doing double-duty in 13A. ‘Field of activity?’ seems an inadequate definition on its own. I’m not very keen on these, but I agree that there seems to be a trend.
          1. I’m less worried by 13. “Field of activity” works OK as a def. for me, as PERFORMING ARTS is a huge area, and including Tatum would raise the question “why him?”. Ignoring checking letters, if I saw “Nurmi’s field of activity” (5,7) I’d count RUNNING TRACK as a much better fit than OLYMPIC GAMES or OUTDOOR SPORT, for instance.
  6. Much more of a struggle than recent puzzles, I think my time was around 45 minutes. Almost cooked my own goose by placing CHIRUPPY at 1D and thus discovering only UMIACKS would fit with letters already checking 11A.
    Not so many jaw-droppers as of late, but my tickets tick was alongside 5D which – well, I just liked it, that’s all.
  7. I thought this another average Times puzzle at 35 minutes to solve with quite a range of clues and devices from very good to perhaps not so good. I liked for example “A Greek” to define ALPHA, “lud” for Law Lord, and “es” for (thou) art. On the other hand both the long clues at 13A and 17A were weak and I read them and wrote the answers straight in. I’m also not completely happy withnthe word “in” at the start of 25A. I think 5D is my favourite. Jimbo.
  8. I suppose like a lot of solvers I was once a bit obsessed by the time it took me to solve the puzzle, meaning fill the grid correctly (which is the criterion used in Championships). Once I realised I was never going to get much below 15 minutes I reappraised my position and came to two conclusions. First that what mattered most was how much I enjoyed the puzzle and second that understanding the nuances of the clues was an important part of that pleasure.

    My office is a converted stable next to the house and these days I commute there, make my strong black coffee and indulge myself in the puzzle without a thought as to the time I take. I would urge all solvers to participate in this site irrespective of their personal times. And don’t be frightened of making a fool of yourself. We all make mistakes. I just wish something like this had been available 50 years ago when I was learning. Jimbo.

  9. Today was an abject failure, almost as many squares unfilled as filled.
    Roll on tomorrow
  10. 20 or so minutes for me, started very quickly, but it got down to the “must work out using wordplay” section and I limped home. VIVALDI was the last go to in, but only because I was convinced that it was a ROMING(sic) eye that the lecherous gent had.

    Adding my bits in to the timing thing, I started commenting on the blog at about the same time as Peter stopped collating the daily times of the readers. I didn’t start timing myself (and I don’t really time myself that well, I try to remember to look at the time on my computer or phone when I start and again when I finish) until I was added to the bloggers. It can make you feel really smart sometimes, and you see kind of where you are in the world of solvers (I try to compare myself with the 7dpenguin, penfold, anax range).

    So far as good (or titillating clues) 4d I liked a lot.

  11. I don’t usually time myself except that I glance at the clock when I start sometimes. My solving times are usually 30 mins to an hour, once in a blue moon under 15 minutes. Since I live in California, the crossword comes available at 4pm (at least through the back door) so I usually do it when I get home before dinner. Or before dinner and after dinner if it a tough one.

    Having said that this one took a long time since I got blocked on trierarch and retrench. I didn’t know trier (where in germany is it?) and like Peter I eventually guessed that trierarch must be captain of a trireme. But does retrench really mean curtail?

    I liked “french art” for “es” which I’ve not seen before.



    1. retrench in Collins is (inter alia) “reduce or curtail (costs)”. Trier is in the Rhineland Palatinate – follow the link in the explanation above for a ‘where in Germany?’ map. You’ll see French art again, I promise!
  12. A bit of a curate’s egg this – there were some nice clues but after about half an hour of solving time (spread over a longer period thanks to interruptions) I got bored and put the lid back on my pen with 10 lights unfilled.

    I got 13 easily enough despite associating it with Tatum O’Neill (glad to discover she’s not dead) and the Kubla bloody Khan reference went way over my head. I was looking for a homophone suggesting impending war.

    I liked 27 but will go for 2 as COD due to the entirely relevant surface reading.

  13. I think Peter B is right that “girl” has to be doing double duty (for SANDRA and CASSANDRA) in 1 ac, otherwise the definition doesn’t work properly. I’d be interested to know why some of the old hands object to the double-duty device? It seems to me a perfectly legitimate ploy. It’s not as if it made the clue unfairly difficult. I took 45 minutes or thereabouts for the whole puzzle but 1 ac went in after a few seconds – pretty much of a cinch if you were familiar with the name of the hapless prophetess.

    Michael H

    1. Reason for objecting: “no double duty (except in &lits where the whole clue does double duty)” is one of the principles of Ximenean clue-writing which I’m sure was enforced by Brian Greer and Mike Laws, the previous two Times xwd editors. But you’re right that in this case the clue was so easy that I’d solved it and moved on without realising there was anything to moan about. I’ve mellowed a bit about rules and I’m on possibly shaky middle ground between strict Ximeneans and ‘libertarians’: I believe in having rules, as long as their purpose is to help make sure that solvers can complete the puzzle. I don’t believe in having rules just because it’s good to have rules, and I’d prefer solvers to use their own wits than knowledge of a rule book. Richard Browne’s gentle easing of some rules has helped make some entertainingly difficult puzzles.

      Let’s watch out and see how often this happens before getting too steamed up about it either way.

  14. An easier day for me after yesterday’s disaster. Only 28ac and 16d (I not only had ‘tar’ in mind, but also the possibility of a truncated ‘mariner’ there somewhere) remained blank, so thanks for explanations. I got 15d without understanding the wordplay – would never have got the double meaning of ‘ounce’!!!


  15. An excellent entertaining puzzle with varied subject matter and some unknown words gettable from fair clues.

    I managed to get ANCESTRAL at 10a without knowing about the reference to Xanadu – “coming down the tree” and all the checkers were sufficient. I wonder whether ALPH(A) the sacred river at 6a in the line above had any influence?
    I was also very pleased to see that my LOI was the same as our founder’s at 16d – RETRENCH. This probably came after 10x the time but I am perfectly happy with that.

    Only the ONE “easy” left out of this blog:

    3d (Take choir)* out to get something to eat (9)
    ARTICHOKE. As I am not a jazz fan it could be, perhaps, something to do with Tatum at 13a?

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