Solving time 16:57

Had all but four solved in about 10 minutes and then a mighty struggle. Those four were in the SW corner that troubled many – 20/23/21/19. I didn’t understand cannabis commonly = ’emp when soplving, but have no objectiohn on seeing the explanation.

1 PREPA=paper*,RED=socialist – the initial anagram only dawned on me from checking letters, which was a bit slow.
9 OVER=finish,FALL=trip – a stretch of turbulent water that was new to me but clear from wordplay
11 FREE,STANDING – independent of another, er, structure, he says after looking it up
13 RIT(U)A,L – nicely worked in ref. to Educating Rita
14 AIR SCOUT = (atroci(o)us)* – a Scout who beings to a troop specialising in flying, gliding, etc. New to me but clear from “troop”
15 STUDDED = “studied” – which I’m slightly surprised to see raised no hackles (true when I typed this, but no longer…)
16 TRINITY – a Christian “threesome” and a univeristy and legal term
20 AN,GEL,ENO=’one rebuffed’ – GEL = posh girl requires Chambers rather than COD or Collins but is a “facetious rendering of an upper-class rendering of ‘girl'” – so maybe an “upper-class ‘girl'” rather than an “upper-class girl”. “Gal” is “slang” of “North American informal” for ‘girl’, depending where you look. Both matched my memory. Oh, and Angelenos are denizens of LA.
22 TO,ECAP = pace rev.
23 PASSE,P,ART,OUT – which I didn’t know was a picture frame, only knowing the word from Round the World in 80 Days
25 fArMhOuSe – an Old Testament prophet once heard about on the Picadilly line – the Gill Sans font used on the tube makes it easy to misread Arnos Grove, esp. if you’re a stranger to London (maps on trains rather than station signs which are upper case). Doubly effective when done in a strong Yorkshire accent. “Look, Obadiah, Amos Grove!”. (OK, I made up Obadiah, but the rest is true)
26 SHOE TREE – cryptic def. based on Oxford = shoe, as opposed to type of trousers or marmalade, University, movement, etc. etc.
27 SO,LITAR=trial*,Y=Jury, ultimately
5 DOG STAR – 2 defs
7 RAN,I = island briefly
12 D,ECONGESTANT=(nose can’t get)*
17 RATIONAL – letter change at beginning of ‘national (newspaper)’
18 TRAPDOOR = (rood part) rev. – rood=cross (look up rood for more), part=section
19 COURSES – 2 defs – an improvement on my initial guess at ENTREES, not written in fortunately.
21 ‘EMP.,IRE – ’emp = “cannabis, commonly”, ire = “strong emotion”, NY being the “Empire State”, independently of the building
24 S,LOG – a big hit, esp. in cricket

29 comments on “23,997”

  1. As it stands I’m utterly defeated by much of the SW corner. 20, 26, 19 and 21 remain blank – the first half of 26 is obvious enough but the second? I’m pretty sure but if I’m right it seems to present a plural/singular conflict I’m not happy with.

    With the lunch break over I’ve given it about 50 minutes. Can’t offer a QED rating yet, of course, but fairly sure the difficulty reading will get the full 10.

    I’m not complaining, though. I think it was Sotira who mentioned in a previous blog that occasionally we need a really tough one to keep us on our toes.

  2. I think I have it solved after 31 minutes. A smattering of tricky things throughout and a veritable Monsters’ Ball in the southwest. A few doubtful clues, and one terrific clue at 4d. I think 26ac is fine, but will await Peter’s take on this and others with interest.
  3. Jackkt is the man! All answers are now in place and I salute the setter – I’ve been beaten very fairly and squarely.

    There is going to be some debate, I think, about 26, but – while I didn’t find it on dictionary.com, I did find companies selling shoe-trees and my initial concern over the clue was based on me thinking a shoe-tree was an apparatus for storing several pairs, whereas it is a singular item so the clue seems fair enough.

  4. 50 minutes saw me with all but 20ac / 23ac /26ac /19d / 21d done. Another 20 minutes or so, and more than a little help from jackkt in the thread below, and I’m finished! Could we award a difficulty rating for the different parts of the crossword? A 5/6 for the NW, NE, SE, and a definite 10 for the SW corner!
  5. didnt think this puzzle was fair..isnta posh girl a GAL rather than a GEL… not sure emp is fiar either and as to 19 donw i am stuill stumped!
    1. GAL / GEL. The former is not regarded as posh, but the plummy British accent would say GEL.
      ‘EMP as a common pronunciation of HEMP seems fair enough, and it’s a well-established device in crosswordland.
      COURSES at 19D is just a double definition; a course is a direction as in east, north etc., and a course as part of a meal may well be the starter.

      I’m going to stubbornly stick with my zero quibbles count!

      1. My only real quibble is with 15ac. I don’t normally worry about loose homophones, but if I have this one right then it’s a case of “the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue”.. it is STUDDED, isn’t it? (if not, this comment will self-destruct after ….)
        1. Good point, and I’d noticed it while solving – should have resulted in a Q-1 really. There are people who use the “EED” pronunciation for words such as STUDDED/STUDIED but they’re in the minority, surely?

          Do not self-destruct. How could I survive a day without being able to gaze upon those lovely long ears?

  6. I found the top half straightforward and completed that plus a couple in the SE corner in 20 minutes.
    I then spent twice that time polishing off the SE and making very little progress in the SW.

    By the time I resorted to on-line help I had spent over an hour on it and had three unsolved at 20, 21, 23. The solver cracked 23 for me and there I stayed stuck in the mire for the whole morning, looking at it again whenever I got the opportunity at work.

    Over lunch I got into a discussion about it in another thread and found I had made a mistake at 19, and having put that right I solved the two remaining clues, though I still don’t get the cannabis reference in 21.

    I’m having a very bad run at the moment. Apart from the Saturday and Sunday puzzles I have had to use on-line help for a couple of clues every day since Thursday.

    1. I think the cannabis reference is ‘hemp’ for one who drops their aitches. Hmm…
    2. EMPIRE: It’s ‘EMP (cannabis commonly – i.e. drop the “H”) + IRE.
      PASSEPARTOUT: PASSE (faded) + P(re-Raphaelites) + OUT (square). Devilishly good.
  7. Not at all. Long ears or not,if they don’t do The Times crossword they just don’t get my attention, honest. Anax is fussy.
    1. Quite right, too. A quick topical note: having just watched the incredible Usain Bolt, have you thought of doing a clue-writing contest for his name? I know living people aren’t normally considered, but his name is rich with potential – (ablutions)*, for a start.
      1. Hmmm…

        Having entered sprint, American comes first (5,4)

        Love the “ablutions” ‘gram!

  8. I must be on form today – no great problems and about 30 minutes to solve. Shall I mention “studded”? Better not – perhaps that’s how gels pronounce “studied”. I always think of passe-partout as a hyphenated word whilst shoetree is one word for me and not two. Do people still use them? I remember my mother had several. I thought 23A very good and 4D excellent.
  9. I think this is a DD. Parts of a meal are courses, and the first part is the starter course.
  10. Sorry – just don’t like this one. I even managed shoe tree without difficulty.
  11. The wreckage I inflicted on the SW corner was quite something to behold. First I put in SHOE HORN, believing such an implement more likely to be used to prise feet out of a shoe than in. As for 20ac, I “knew” it ended in AN (a North) and that the definition was therefore “American citizen”, so I soon spotted ENTREES at 19D, which led me to correct SHOE HORN to SHOE TREE. By this point my misconceptions were too confirmed in my mind to be escapable, and I set about finding a feasible answer for 20, taking in all of the Americas (ANDESEAN, anyone?). When this, unsurprisingly, failed I gave up and used a solver to find ANGELENO. So, two wrong, in about half an hour.
    1. We followed very similar paths in the SW corner Sabine, HORN and ENTREES and a shared conviction that 20 must end with AN.

      My guess on that one, posted on the previous thread, was ALBERTAN and I nearly convinced myself it was right. “North American citizen” as the definition was no problem but the rest of it took some justification and required stretching things a bit i.e. ALBERTIN is a variant of Albertine, the female equivalent of Albert, and surely only a posh woman would have a name such as this? And “one rebuffed by a” had to be a replacement indicator, so change the I (or 1) in ALBERTIN to make it ALBERTAN.

      These were desperate times this morning!

      Off for a lie-down now.


  12. Very tough, took over an hour but I reached all the right answers before coming here. The SW was a bear to unravel, with the NY reference in 21 being the last entry. I fouled it up like some others by first trying ‘shoehorn’ in 26 and (now get this) ‘pathos’ in 21, thinking that pot was cannabis and ‘attracts’ somehow meant ‘has’, all in a state of confusion (the state of NY!), and I was inwardly taking umbrage at the cross-oceanic insult! Well, I eventually saw angeleno (though I thought the posh girl = angel) and passepartout was the only thing that fit, and I repaired the damage I’d done earlier, and limped home. This deserves high marks for difficulty, and a lot of very clever clues. See you tomorrow. Regards all.

  13. For maestrotempus: a gal is not necessarily posh, but “gel” is definitely a posh rendering of gal.

    Don’t understand why there should be any objection to the studded/studied homophone. They are both pronounced in exactly the same way – unless you’re some kind of Martian.

    Michael H

      1. Not to my ear either, I’m afraid. Is this some sort of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing? I don’t regard myself as being a disciplinarian in the matter of homophones usually, but I raised a metaphorical eyebrow here.
  14. What a stinker. At least an hour spent on this, most of which was on the SW corner, like everyone else. I finally used electronic help for 23, but still ended up with two wrong and one incomplete: ENTREES for 19, ALBERTAN for 20 (without knowing why) and 21 incomplete. No complaints. A tough one that defeated me.

  15. ‘EMP ‘IRE

    A shop in Soho where you can do rent-a-reefer?

    I managed to navigate through ALL of the rapids of the SW corner except for the common cannabis at 21d. Once I came here to find the solution I removed the 26a SHOE TREE from my self-kickers and applied the 22a TOECAP in 15d SHARPISH fashion.

    Just the solitary “easy” left out at 10a:

    10a Singer from Scotland making comeback (4)
    ALTO. Hidden reverse in dn ALTO cs. Summoned up images of the return of the White Heather Club! Och noooo.

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