Solving time 9:46

I made steady progress with this one until I had 5, 24 and 3 left to deal with. At 24 I’d missed the old ‘de-creased’ trick – nearly as old as distressed = given a haircut. Fortunately I spotted this quickly – on a check through the alphabet for ?R?N I can imagine myself assuming a consonant to start. At 3 I’d just failed to identify the right fodder for the anagram and the amount of the answer that was the anag., partly as “I’m replaced unexpectedly” looked like a def – the Barts/medical connection came to the rescue. Then at 3 I’d guessed at PLUMED, but hadn’t written it in as I wasn’t sure of the def. Here I did run through the alphabet for first letter possibilities and decided I could find nothing better, though I’m still not completely sure of it.

1 FLAGPOLE – cryptic def. – staff=pole, not employees, standard=flag, not level of achievement
5 PLUM,ED – I’ve heard of a ‘plum’ job, and my Collins has plume (followed by on or upon) = to pride or congratulate (oneself), but the need for ‘on/upon’ would make it not legit if I were the xwd ed. Is there some other def. (or answer!) I’ve not seen? There is another def., but more importantly I misunderstood this one – see comments
10 CO(O.K.)-ED BREAK,FAST – co-ed = ‘school’ – I went to a coeducational school, though the abbrev. co-ed was American then, and mainly still is. As a fan of the late night baseball on Channel 5 I noticed that a “European slow-pitched championship” this weekend was described as “co-ed” rather than “mixed”.
11 ON THE WAGON – (a gent who)*,ON
15 YO(u),M.(PIN=nip rev.)G. – one to fox US solvers if they don’t remember another yompy answer a month or two ago, or don’t know about MG (Morris Garages) sports cars.
17 D,RUG,GET – a bit of coarse fabric used to protect a carpet
18 PREP,AID – prep = preparation is a posh word for school homework – the kind often done not at home but in one’s ‘house’ at a boarding school
19 RE=about,PRESS=media
21 NO,A,H – ref. pairs of animals in his ark
25 CLEAR ONE’S THROAT – (actor he learns to)* – a case of ‘cross out the letters for ONES and see what you’ve got left’
27 ATTEND – 2 defs, minister = vb.
28 GrAsS,WORKS=cultivates
3 PREMEDICAL = (I’m replaced)* – a course of study before you go to medical school. Barts = St Bartholomews = a London hospital and med school which is now merged with proudly named ‘The London’ Hospital
6 (s)LAKE
7 ME(AN INGLE)SS – ingle = fireplace – possibly best remembered from inglenook
8 DETROIT = (tried to)*
9 B,E,HOLDER=proprietor
12 TEMPERA,MENT = “meant”
16 GAD=gallivant,A,RENE- ref. ‘Gadarene swine’ in the Bible
18 PANACEA – ACE in rev. of A NAP
20 SEDATES = (set as(i)de)*
23 VEST,A – old word for a match – watch out for lucifer as another option
24 IRON – decrease = ‘remove creases from’ in cryptic xwd whimsy
24 OAR – hidden word – note that ‘oar’ can be a verb.

25 comments on “23961”

  1. 17:38 in the end, but after 10 minutes or so I had just 5, 24 and 27 left. I put in PLUMED as it couldn’t really be anything else, but had to work through the alphabet a couple of times to get the last two, and really kicked myself for not seeing “de-crease” more quickly.
  2. 35 minutes for me today. 3dn fell early but otherwise, like Peter, I struggled a bit with my last two in, 24 and 5. I didn’t know that meaning of “plumed” but I can’t see a problem with it here; isn’t it just a straight definition plumed = congratulated, without an object being specified in either case?

    I have 7 as my COD.

    1. Yes, but I was struggling to find that def. in the dictionaries. My best shot after another look is “chiefly archaic feel a great sense of self-satisfaction” – Concise Oxford.
      1. Dictionary.com offers: To congratulate (oneself) in a self-satisfied way e.g. plumed himself on his victory.
        1. Now I understand – the ‘on’ for ‘plume’ goes in the same place as the one for ‘congratulate’, which also has “followed by on” in Collins, and a similar example.
  3. This puzzle fell into two parts for me. I sped through it to begin with, filling the top half apart from PLUMED and MEANINGLESS in 6 minutes, so thought I’d finish in about 15. But I found the bottom half far harder, and it was quite a while before I had enough to get 16, 23, 24, 25. So 25 minutes rather than the 15 I’d hoped for, but a good thing really; if I’d continued at my initial pace I’d have felt the puzzle was too easy. I’ll settle for 24 as COD since it had me fooled until the end, and like others I was vainly experimenting with consonants first for the initial letter.
  4. Trying to get back into the habit of timing myself. This one took 12.08, with PREMEDICAL holding me up for the last couple of minutes – the clue turned out to be vastly simpler than the tortuous methods I’d been trying to use to batter it into submission.

    I’ve been hoping all week for a fiendish puzzle to turn up, to get it out of the way before Friday, when I’m due to try my first blog. Pinning all my hopes on tomorrow now.

    1. I like your Drawing Hands logo. I’m a big fan of Escher. Wish I’d thought of using it!
      1. Thanks! I like yours too – might have picked something similar myself if it hadn’t been used already. I hovered for a while between two Eschers, this one and one called Gravitation, but everyone I asked preferred Drawing Hands and I think they were right.
  5. 50 minutes, with a bit of a struggle at the end with 23d / 28ac. I could see the wordplay for 23d, but couldn’t see for the life of me why VESTA = match until I came here after finishing. Eventually untangling the wordplay for 28ac confirmed that it couldn’t be anything else (the checking W gave me lots of grief – I spent far too long trying to fit in SOW or GROW for cultivate). COD 21ac.
  6. I too had trouble with 24/27 at the end. So much trouble, in fact, that I didn’t get them at all. After a speedy start I slowed down to a gentle jog, getting to the last two after 25 minutes. There seemed to be an odd mix of easy clues with some real trickery and a bit of obscure stuff (plumed, gadarene, drugget).

    Didn’t fully get the wordplay for panacea which I parsed as PANA being a sleep round, C = about (as in circa) which left EA and I convinced myself that somehow each and one are the same thing.

    COD Noah.

    1. I’ve changed my mind about COD. If horses are “clean” then Noah took 7 onto the Ark so the clue would be wrong.

      COD 18ac.

      1. In this context, “clean” means “has a split hoof completely divided and chews the cud”. Horses fail on both counts, so the clue is OK.
  7. 16:30

    I spent a lot of time vacillating over whether to enter PLUMED. I’m still not a hundred per cent happy with it since I don’t feel that ‘congratulate’ and ‘congratulate oneself’ mean the same thing at all, but obviously I’m not the sort to get into an argument over semantics. Okay, I am. But I don’t think this one’s worth the battle. I nearly blew the whole thing by throwing in ‘ragworts’ at 28, but I’m sure these days I can actually hear PB sigh every time I shove in an answer that I can’t explain, and that made me go back and look at the thing properly (if you’re going to hear voices, at least hear smart ones).

    1. PB would hardly sigh at all if you wrote a last answer that fits all the checking letters and the def, but you can’t see the wordplay – or one that fits all the checkers and the wordplay, if you don’t know the def. But in this case RAGWORTS would have got a big sigh, because it doesn’t fit “plant” – the def for ragworts would have to be “plants”.

      On PLUMED, as the “substituion test” works – “plumed himself on his victory” means the same as “congratulated himself on his victory”, then I’m happy that ‘congratulated’ is a fair def. – finding the right sense of ‘congratulated’ is part of the game.

      1. On another day I might have struggled to justify it to myself because I would have looked in the Big Three first. But on working days, on arrival at the office my first port of call with any queries is dictionary.com and their definition and example given fitted the bill perfectly.
  8. 13-14 mins. I hadn’t seen the ‘decrease’ gag before and enjoyed it. I’ve spent the morning trying to decide how I pronounce the last syllable in ‘temperament’…

    Tom B.

  9. Is there not a convention in the Times crossword that the bottom-right square should not be an “s”?


    1. Almost. The rule is that no two plural forms (noun or verb) should intersect at their final S. Setters are also advised to avoid filling the east vertical or south horizontal with “easy” letters as in e.g. SETTERS.
  10. You’ve just saved me from trying to work this out from solutions in recent Times xwd books. (Picky correction: for verbs I think you mean “third person singular” as in “he intersects” – regular plural forms would all be like “we/you/they intersect”.)

    What we know about the house rules is in this post, which I’ve just amended – it’s one of the ones tagged ‘tips&tricks’.

  11. Like some others have said, this started out like a breeze, but at length I bogged down. Had to consult the web to confirm re: Gadarene and drugget, and was still lacking 5, 22, 23 and 24 after about 40 minutes. When I got the ‘v’ in 22 I then checked dict’y.com and found vesta, then plume, and finally saw the ‘decrease’ gag last of all. Overall about an hour, so a tough one for me. Note to PB: I actually recalled the ‘yomp’ appearance of some time ago, so that went in right away, although accompanied by a slight roll of my Yankee eyes. Regards all.
  12. Thought I’d follow the new trend of having part of a famous work of art as an avatar. Hope you like it.
    I enjoyed this one. It presented no real problems and I finished it in 10:15. 7d gets my nod
    1. Very nice, I expect, although I am sure I remember being told that the model for this particular poster was actually a man.. 🙂 I never remember to time myself for this crossword but at least it didn’t take me all day! Sarah B.
  13. Some unknown vocab in this with PLUMED at 5a and DRUGGET at 17a. Also some tricky wordplay with cultivates = WORKS at 28a and decrease = IRON at 24d. All entered successfully if a bit tentatively in the end.

    There are just the 4 omissions from the blog:

    13a Put removable cover round swimming pool (4)
    LID O

    2d A party song and dance (3)
    A DO

    4d Party member with yen to oversee a whole country (5)
    LIB Y A

    14d Providers of such entertainment work hand in glove (6,4)

Comments are closed.