24021 – a rum do?

Solving time 17:45

Very slow start to this – got all the way to TOPI at 21A before getting started. Then a couple more of the bottom acrosses and several bottom half downs went in. The top half took longer, with the last entries being the 26/28 pair and 2, which I’m still not sure about. With this as a possible exception, a tough but fair puzzle.

20D is a feeble excuse to pass on one of the winners in some “International Pun Contest” that’s doing the internet rounds: A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The Stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.

As it’s now less than four weeks until the Times Championship, a reminder for any new competitors that I’ve got an unofficial web page with more than you ever wanted to know about it.

At last, the stuff you actually came for …

5 TOSS-UP – ‘raised’ physically rather than as in fund-raising
10 TEMPERA=style of painting,MENTALLY=in mind – ref. ‘artistic temperament’
11 WAR(DEN)SHIP – ‘monitor’ is a name for an old type of warship. Some academic institutions are headed by Wardens – New College, Oxford is an example.
13 ZERO – name for an ineffectual person, and x+0 = x.
15 REDRESS – 2 defs. Is the ‘remedy or compensation’ meaning of ‘relief’ matched by ‘redress’? Yes, says Collins, in the world of Law.
17 THE(no)RMAL – well-hidden subtraction.
18 WOO,D(ocument),CUT
19 ME(LO)DIC – the “pleasant-sound” in the clue (both printed and online) seems to be a typo for “pleasant-sounding”. (A typo you might not notice if you read quickly enough)
21 TOPI = (I pot) all rev. – one of those white “empire-building” hats, aka ‘sola topi’ and ‘pith helmet’
22 FOOTBALLER = (for all to be)* – easy enough but fun with the two ‘left-winger’ meanings
27 T(A,R)IFF
28 SEND DOWN – 2 def’s – to dismiss from university (Brit.), and to send to prison – I think I made the latter fit from memories of “Take him down” spoken by judges after sentencing in TV courtroom dramas. (The cells always seem to be downstairs)
2 RUM – just the sort of poser you don’t want in a championship, so probably good to see it today. RAM, RIM, ROM and RUM must all be considered, and all I can see in the clue is odd=RUM so that’s what I’ve plumped for. I won’t be at all surprised to be told it’s wrong, as the rest of the clue is a mystery to me. Any offers? Almost instant response from foggyweb with “R U M” = “Are you M?”, ref. Bond films.
3 P(REFER)ENCE – advert (vb.) = refer
4 CRASS – L/R swap in class
6 (l)OATH
7 SILVER MEDAL – cryptic def ref. ‘runner-up’
8 P(AY,R)OLL – ay = always as in the fairly common hymn line ending ‘for ay’ – but this variant spelling is only sanctioned for the ‘yes’ meaning of aye in Collins and COD.
9 SERIATIM = one by one – (air in mites) rev.
12 RED-HOT = extremely popular,POKER = game. Unmissable garden plant which originally came from S Africa.
16 SET POINT = (nepotist)*
18 WETSUIT – (use it)* in W,T from loW,T=temperature. My original drivel corrected below: from loW Temperature – I think this is the first time I’ve seen ‘extremely’ used for the last letter of the first word and the first of the second. But they are extremes of the words so no complaints.
23 TRU(C)E – &lit.
24 WOLF = flow rev. – ref. ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
26 IDO = I do – Ido is an artificial language – probably the most useful one for xwd purposes, though EsPeRaNtO is quite a handy grid-filler on occasion. Not having 28, I spent a while pondering ILL = I’ll, ref. to “speak ill” of some one, but didn’t think it quite worked.

42 comments on “24021 – a rum do?”

  1. “Are you M?” James Bond reference.

    Found this pretty easy – three sub-thirty minutes in a row!

  2. I think the “extremely” only applies to the tail end of “low”, then “T” for temperature stands on its own,
  3. I wrote this up at 6:30 this morning before the blog was open and then I forgot to post it, so I haven’t been struggling with the puzzle all this time.

    It took me exactly 40 minutes to complete the grid but at that point I had seven or eight guesses where I didn’t understand the wordplay.

    “Monitor” = “warship” was new to me and I didn’t know “seriatim” though I worked it out from the clue. Whilst resolving these queries I found I had two letters wrong in 3dn having put “precedence” instead of “preference”.

    At 12 I was thrown by the reference to South Africa. We used to grow red-hot pokers in our garden in Middlesex when I was a child so I’ve never thought of them as being particularly foreign, and obviously I never learnt that they originated in S.A. I see their proper name is “Kniphofia” after the German botanist “Knipfhof”. A good name to remember for another day perhaps?

    I have two COD – 2 & 6 though I have a sneaky feeling I have met both (or very similar) here before within the past year or so. I see Peter’s query on 2 has now been cleared up.

    QED: 0-7-7

    P.S. The Google spell-checker has never heard of seriatim either.

    1. … is in the dictionaries, so maybe worth remembering – though I hope they’d give you easy wordplay if it was in the grid.

      (Many common plants turn out to be non-natives – apart from the well-known tomato and potato, Buddleia is an import too.)

  4. 16 minutes, so on the right wavelength again today. I got 2 down quickly, but I tutted (this may be because I’m the sort of person who sends a lot of text messages, but insists on spelling and punctuating them correctly).

    I also don’t remember an instance where ‘extremes’ referred to the beginning and end of two separate words, which meant WETSUIT was last in.

  5. The wordplay is clear enough (air in mites reversed, i.e. keeling over)
    but what’s the definition? Chambers gives the meaning as: in succession; one after another; one by one

    1. ‘Seriatim’ is the legal term for how lawyers look at billable minutes.

      Perhaps Penfold could check the New Uxbridge to see if it’s also a top flight Italian football club.

      1. Alas not there but it may me in the Old Uxbridge:-)

        I can offer aerospace = room for more chocolate (almost airspace) and stretching things a bit here but with “down” as part of the answer to 28 the New Uxbridge has County Down as a Chinese space launch.

        1. Thank you for checking. And for giving me a chocolate craving with ‘aerospace’. Talking of food, I know that SET POINT is when your jelly’s ready, but is CRASS what very posh children grow alongside mustard?
  6. 23 minutes. One of those that I thought was going to be a walk in the park, then turned into a trudge through the swamp. Some tricky clues dotted about the grid.

    I enjoyed the cryptic 1a AIRSPACE and the warden’s hip. I had 18 WETSUIT marked as a quibble on the grounds of dubious wordplay, but I think Rosselliot’s suggested reading (above) works better. Still worth half a quibble.

    Q-0.5, E-7, D-5.5

  7. 90 mins again, and I couldn’t get SERIATIM nor WARDENSHIP 🙁 However overall I really enjoyed today’s puzzle. Lots of fun clues… I put SECOND PRIZE rather hastily so had to replace it with SILVER MEDAL. UNKNOWN QUANTITY was an unknown quantity until I got the K and the Y. I also liked the clues for CARRY ON and Prokofiev’s WOLF very much.


    1. SECOND PRIZE is a very unfortunate red herring solution – it’s just as good as the official answer. Probably not worth taking special steps to avoid these – they’re rare, and something like the final L from ‘footballer’ will often save you.

      Practical advice from SERIATIM and WARDENSHIP, possibly more effective than just remembering rum words for their next appearance: arachnid is much more likely to mean mite or tick than the longer alternatives; study=>den is a cryptic cliché; and -ship as an ending for position=job.

  8. Thankfully the typo at 19 was obviously so and caused no hold-up, but this was a much tougher puzzle all round than most of late – one session of about 10 minutes this morning and a further 10 over lunch.

    Lots of really good invention here and plenty of appreciative ticks. Like others I struggled at 18D, mostly because I started with a mental blank while looking at possibilities for W-T-U–; indeed for some time I thought I must have 21 TOPI wrong.

    No quibbles, and the ticks – several. 5, 18A, 27, 2, 7, 18D, 23, 24.

    Q-0 E-8 D-8 COD 23

  9. I had a sense of smug self-satisfaction after zipping through most of this, and this morning, realize I’d rather stupidly written PRECEDENCE instead of PREFERENCE at 3. So fail…

    The rest made me smile often, I got R,U,M (damn text messages – two woke me up during the night), 7d was well put, as was 5. 18ac was also nice, but I’m on the look-out for deceptive definitions so snagged it.

    Grrrr…. precedence????

  10. The RHS I skipped through quickly enough, but the LHS proved a lot more difficult to crack. I was about to give up, until 12d finally clicked and everything began to quickly fall into place. About 55 minutes in the end, so reasonably difficult.

    I was completely bamboozled by 18d for quite a while. I could see (Use it)*, however insisted on reading ‘Iow’ as ‘low’. A sly trick by the setter, I thought, though I suppose I shouldn’t complain… Gets my COD, anyway, for being so bloody clever!

    1. Doh! Just read some of the comments above, and realised I’ve been double bamboozled by 18d. I got the right answer, anyway, if none of the workings…

      Slinks off to the corner…

      1. Don’t worry too much.

        It took me a while (and an e-mail version of your comments in a different font) to see that you’ read it as ‘Iow’, starting with capital I, meaning ‘Isle of Wight’, I guess. This is a time when pedantry pays off! IoW for the island always has at least the I and W in caps, so it had to be the word ‘low’.

        In the fonts used by the Times (both online and print versions), upper case I and lower case l are distinguishable if you look carefully – unlike some sanserif fonts where they look identical.

  11. Some obtuse moments in the top half and I’m slow on crafty parsing such as 18. It does seem to me that the Wednesday xword is almost always tough however?
  12. 22:55 with ido, seriatim, monitor = warship and advert = refer being new to me.

    Q-0, E-6, D-5.5, COD a 5a between 19 (what sort of doctor would that be then?) and 24.

  13. 16.50, 1 mistake. I had PRECEDENCE at 3d – I KNEW it was wrong, but just couldn’t get it out of my head – I think the meaning was so temptingly close that it somehow blocked my brain from accessing the (obviously correct) PREFERENCE.
  14. Go back a century and offenders in public schools were beaten “privatim and seriatim” – in private and one at a time. The expression comes up in Kipling’s Stalky and Co for instance.

    Latin tags are perhaps a bit unfair these days for those who have not had to struggle with Latin daily for 10 years but this is The Times crossword after all :-))


    1. 10 years is a long stretch! I got away with about 2 days a week for 2, enough for most Times xwd Latin. Dear old “Fanny” Taylor, who taught me, often played the “Latin is relevant” card of asking ‘what word do we get from this’, so matching up words like SERIAtim and SERIAlly is a well-worn path.
      1. SERIATIM won’t have cropped up in school Latin lessons, as it’s not a Classical word. It dates from Mediaeval times and was presumably formed by analogy with GRADATIM, which is Classical.

        More like 11 or 12 years Latin for me. Sometimes comes in handy for thematics, but not of much help with daily cryptics (and rightly so).

        Tom B.

  15. About 30 minutes for me, and I enjoyed all of them until the end, where I had to puzzle over 28. I entered SEND DOWN as a guess, from the crossing letters and assuming ‘dismiss’ as the def., but I didn’t understand the UK-istic wordplay. On WETSUIT I also thought the W,T were from extremes of lo(W T)emperature; are we now assuming the W is ‘extremely low’, and the T is Temperature? If so, I’d offer that ‘extremely low’=’W’ is pretty sketchy. Overall though, a very clever puzzle, with graceful surfaces, and a tip of the cap to today’s setter. Regards to all, I’ll be missing for a few days while travelling in the US.
    1. As far as I know, the ‘extremes’ of a two-word phrase have so far been the equivalents of L(ow temperatur)E, L(ow) T(emperature), or (lo)W (temperatur)E. On the basis that temperature gets you the T with no need to mention extremes, that’s the simplest route – and in cases of multiple wordplay possibilities like this, my instinct is to think that the intended wordplay is the simpler/simplest version. ‘extremely low’ for w is sketchy, but no sketchier than two of the two-word methods above, which I’m pretty sure have been used.
      1. Thanks Peter, I generally agree, and I also think today’s puzzle was a fine piece of work, but I humbly think the setter could have pointed us toward the ‘final extreme of low temperature’, say, instead of just ‘extremely’.
  16. Hmm – rather an interesting point, this, and one perhaps worthy of some discussion in terms of what solvers prefer.

    As a setter, I’d expect my editor to demand that wordplay instructions are specific. To allow “extremely” devices which could point to a number of interpretations is to my mind no fairer than placing e.g. a homonym or reversal indicator between fodder and def in such a way that either result could be the required answer.

    How do other solvers feel?

  17. I think the important diff is that the homophone/reversal problems are where you have two alternative answers that fit the slot, and either one could be the def. With alternate bits of wordplay, I’d hope that only one of the alternatives led to a ‘real-world answer’ that matched the (known) def. Best I can do for an answer in a few mins…
  18. Quite a tricky one but the previously unknown SERIATIM at 9d was gettable from the clue despite 13a long years of learning Latin.

    Just the 3 omissions from the blog:

    1a Region controlled by government that’s above us all (8)
    AIRSPACE. Where you take your 20d?

    1d Some combatant I warned against fighting (4-3)
    ANTI-WAR. Hidden in combat ANT I WAR ned.

    20d Don’t give up in kind of case one handles personally (5,2)
    CARRY ON. Luggage that is.

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