24,045 – 2008 Champs Prelim 1, Puzzle 3

Solving time on the day (estimate): 9 minutes

As expected, this and the next two Wednesdays will replay the drama of the first Preliminary at Cheltenham. For this one, I can remember the solving process relatively well – can’t promise the same for the other two, as I forgot to keep a fresh copy of these puzzles.

I think the clues I solved on first look were: 6, 13, 16, 20, 1D, 3, 5, 7, 8, 14, 17, 22, 25. I also jotted down 13 __OT__, 27 __US__ (wrong!), and 11 ____RING from the apparent -ing ending and Wagner’s Ring (didn’t I tell you they all loved Wagner?). I should really have got 1A, 18 and 27 on first look too. My last two answers were 24 and 21 – these, 12, 29, and 11 went in without complete understanding of the wordplays.

I’m pretty sure that I took c. 25 minutes for my 6th place in this prelim, and my estimate is that a time of 28-30 minutes was required to qualify – quick, but not as bad as the mad stampede of prelim 2 where the cut-off was about 23 minutes. Without competition pressure you may well go faster, but anyone who can get close to 30 minutes for the three has a chance of reaching the final in future. If on the other hand, you’re a young solver reading that 37 of 79 contestants solved all three puzzles correctly in one hour, and thinking “I’ve spent two hours and still haven’t finished – I must be a complete chump.”: at least one former champion remembers how that felt.

This was a good puzzle to blog and reminds me that the competion puzzles are very good crosswords just for solving – including the Grand Final ones, for which our reports went up last night.

1 TIME SHEETS – (these items)* – interestingly, {‘Times’=this crossword championship} and {‘heats’ = preliminaries} were both passed up as wordplay elements – could have had a good gag there, chaps!
6 W,HIM=’that fellow’
9 W=with,A,GONER
10 EN(FIEL=life*)D – one of the setters’ favourite London suburbs/districts with Ealing, Pop(u)lar and “I sling ton”
12 SHOW=prove,JUMPER=top, “performer in event” is the def.
15 N((zer)O,T)ICE – pleasant = NICE, spot = the def.
16 MARGARET – (AGRA in TERM), rev. – Agra may seem obscure but it’s where the Taj Mahal is, so practically anyone who’s been to India on holiday will have been there.
18 HIGH=drunk,BALL=formal occasion
20 STUC(k),CO.
23 RAM(p) – “with no parking sign” is a good tease – is it (with “no parking” sign), with no (parking sign) or as it turned out, something else – sign (of the zodiac) being the def.
24 AN(TITHES) IS. – “cut in” is the containicator
26 PA(LAD)IN – a knight
27 ORIG(AM.)I(n) – the usual Japanese art for xwd purposes.
28 SID(l)E S(l)IDE – nice example of the initial cap. trick on Wolves – the football team rather than the animals. (Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose glory days are now long gone – you could even say they’ve been on the slide …)
29 SCOTS=”Scott’s”,GREYS=”Gray’s” – my interpretation of “of poets” here is “belonging to more than one poet”, rather than “more than one Scott _and_ more than one Gray”. The regiment is officially the Royal Scots Greys
1 TOWS = swot rev.
2 MUG=attack,SHOT=gunned down – “photo of criminal” is the surprisingly helpful def.
3 SANDWICH=golf course (on the Open rotation),BOARD=committee (Something like ‘Way of advertising food on table’ is a fairly obvious alternative clue)
4 (t)EARFUL(ly) – another ‘more obvious than you think’ one
5 T(HE’S PI)A,N – I’m sure THESP was in a recent puzzle, or one I tried for practice
7 HEEL=be inclined,BAR=stop – ‘platforms’ = platform shoes (those 70s fashions are coming back, even in the Times xwd.)
8 MEDI(T)ATION – one of the classic ‘insert a letter into a long word to get another long word’ wordplays, in the IMP(R)UDENT tradition
11 FOR, E.G. = ‘say’,A=a,THE RING = ‘complete cycle of Wagner’. I thought the ‘say’ indicated FORE=”for”=’in favour of, say’ until just now.
14 ON THE ROPES = (he’s prone to)*
17 PLATONIC – 2 defs. Can we recite our platonic solids? Tetrahedron (4 faces of 3 sides each), Cube (6,4), Octahedron (8,3), Dodecahedron (12,5), Icosahedron (20,3). I promise you that will come in handy.
19 (na)G,AMBLED
21 CH.=check (chess),I CANE = “I am beating”. In bridge, ‘chicane’ is an old-fashioned name for a hand with no trumps. A nice combo of the games that good solvers are supposed to love. Mark Goodliffe plays some Bridge. I quite like the game at a very crude level, but prefer card-games for teams of one or temporary alliances (Skat, anyone?). My chess is poor at best. This was solved from checkers and def. only, and probably the toughest clue in the puzzle – subtle wordplay and a tricky def. I watched the bloke at the next desk fighting with this one as the last five minutes ticked away, and alas he was reduced to an incorrect ‘hit and hope’ solution.
22 ATE OUT = tea* – a nice little bit of wordplay in the answer.

28 comments on “24,045 – 2008 Champs Prelim 1, Puzzle 3”

  1. Good blog, Peter. Yes, we had THESP a week or so ago.

    I thought this was a good puzzle and went through it like a dose of salts until I got to 21D.

    I’m an occasional bridge player but had never heard “chicane” outside motor racing, and it made me start questioning GREYS (wondering if it might be “Grays”?) until I worked it out.

  2. A very quick solve for me – about 15 minutes – since I played a lot of bridge in my younger years, followed Culbertson slavishly before converting to variations of ACOL, and knew CHICANE, the only clue in the puzzle to present any real head scratching moments. Good blog Peter, particularly the explanation of PLATONIC.
  3. Similar experience, a bit of a gimme all in all.

    Of the trickier ones, 17d was fresh in my mind from Marcus Du Sautoy’s ‘Story of Maths’ program and 21d was a sleepwalking solve; ‘check’ could arguably be said to be doing double duty, as a chicane certainly checks race proceedings.

    1. Thanks for the pointer to the Maths series. Why oh why do they park good stuff like this out on BBC4? I’ll try to catch or tape the last episode or two on the box. UK residents can find it on BBC iPlayer where you’ve got 19 days left to watch to the episodes currently listed.
  4. Before starting this I suspected the time would be quick, so my stress-free 7:30 probably equates to 12 or 13 minutes under championship conditions, i.e. not particularly good versus the experts.

    Quite a selection of good clues in here;
    9 – http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A obviously!
    16 – cleverly put together.
    5 – ditto.
    14 – rare for me to like a full anagram but this reads particularly well.

    Great fun all round.
    Q-0 E-8 D-6 COD 9

  5. 15 minutes to solve all but 16 and 21 plus another 5 minutes on those two alone. Without a reference book to hand I couldn’t explain 17d but I was thinking along the right lines. Q=0, E=7, D=5.
  6. That would have been it for me, I’m afraid. After 12 minutes I was staring at 29 and had written in SCOTS G-E-S and could not dredge up a good word to go in the second half and opted for GLENS. 24 is a very nice clue, and you went for “cutinicator” instead of “inserticator”?
  7. 11:30 I didn’t realise this was a prelim puzzle while solving it, although it dawned while looking through afterwards when I noticed the ‘Times Heats’ at the top. I suspect this was intended, but left understated.

    CHICANE was a “thing that I knew that I didn’t know” but eventually deduced from wordplay, after which I got the feeling it had been a “thing that I didn’t know that I knew” as a faint bell rang from days learning bridge in the sixth form common room.

    Q-0, E-7, D-7 .. COD – no real stand-outs for me, but WAGONER is grimly amusing.

  8. I didn’t realise was one of THE puzzles. I made steady progress finishing in my average time of 25 minutes. No real hold-ups, but the odd delay caused by 19 (looking at the wrong end for definition) and 21 (unfamiliar with the definition) and the last to go in, 24, which gets the COD from me for it’s clever deception with the definition appearing to be a container operator.
    1. I should have said more about 24, which was mentioned by quite a few people as a very good bit of deception on the day. The def. (“The opposite”), or the similiar “just the reverse” is often used in Times puzzles to indicate that you need the reverse of the apparent wordplay. In this case you might think the def. is ‘Taxes’, and wordplay something like {an island} inside {cut}, instead of {cut} inside {an island}. So I’d call the def an apparent “oppositeness indicator” rather than an apparent “container operator”.

      Edited at 2008-10-15 12:05 pm (UTC)

  9. I believe the wordplay is S(L)IDE, which satisfies the definition of the clue: go downhill, leaving lake (L).
  10. Fairly straightforward, at half an hour, apart from the mess I got myself in in the SW corner, where I carelessly entered GAMBLES for 19d, and struggled then for too long with S.S. in 28ac.
  11. About 10-12 minutes for this on the day. This was the third puzzle in the 1st session, and I eventually turned to it after spending at least 20 minutes on the second puzzle, with one left to get.

    24A was my COD for the deceptive “looking like wordplay” definition, although the last one to go in was CHICANE. Others I talked to in the pub later confirmed that CHICANE was either the one they failed on or the one they put in without fully understanding it.

  12. 13.42. I’d have given this my full attention if I’d realised it was a puzzle from Cheltenham; as it was, it was competing with a baseball game that was just getting off to a very lively start. The puzzle seemed to fit in rather well, including as it did a bat, a miss and a high ball. I thought for a moment I’d even found INFIELD but it turned out rather disappointingly to be ENFIELD.

    Main difficulties were in the SE corner; I had the SCOTS bit but couldn’t see GREYS for a while. I play bridge and the word that kept popping into my head for 21d was CHICAGO (a variant where you play four deals, one at each possible vulnerability) – much more familar to me than CHICANE.

  13. I think this was about 7 or 8 minutes on the day. Unlike many others, I seem to go faster in the competitions. Faster than when sitting at home in my armchair, but still not as fast as the Goodliffes and Biddlecombes. That is why I know I don’t have time to stop and check all the puzzles before putting my hand up, and that in turn is why I finished in 10th place in the first heat but with two cells accidentally left blank.

    I did put in CHICANE because I could see the I-CANE and didn’t see what else could fit. I am very glad I didn’t stop to think about it. ANTITHESIS was the last one I filled in, for the reason Peter suggests – I assumed “the opposite” was part of complex wordplay. I do seem to remember something like “contrary” being clued in the same deceptive way.

  14. If i had been in this prelim i would have been defeated by 21D though obtainable by construction my chess being sound enough but my bridge a bid short of Stayman and the Scots Greys would have taken an age to muster. I also fall into the category who are much faster in ‘exam conditions’; i don’t feel the urgency elsewhere. Saying that the tendency to distraction in the event is a fearful thing and i now thinking in terms of blinker design. I do enjoy that ‘flow’ once attained but the accompanying light-headedness is pushing me to err at the last ditch.
  15. well..all was going very well until i came unstuck at 21 down…just didn’t know the bridge usage…so that was that…and had 16 across wrong as was looking for a city in India that fitted…so think 16 across was a good clue…
    all in all a lovely puzzle by my standards…
    and learnt something new today
  16. Hello from a lurker. Having put my mind to completing cryptic crosswords (can’t do the T2 forever!) I’ve found this blog tremendously useful over the past 3 weeks. So thanks to everyone. But can anyone help me with the wordplay in 5D? Where does the PI in THESPIAN come from – I’m assuming it’s an abbreviation for ‘very good’?

    Ah, one other thing that’s bothering me since I’m here: I’ve seen ‘U’ used for ‘acceptable’. e.g. 1D in 24038: “Cellist packs acceptable clothes(7)” = CAS(U)ALS. Why ‘U’? Film classification?


    1. Michael H has answered your “U” query below. As for PI, it’s a shortening of “pious” as in self-righteous. I’m not sure how it came to be shortened (to the extent I can’t say I’ve seen it in everyday use), nor how its less than complimentary meaning has been adapted so that “very good” appears to mean “very good”!
    2. PI = old-fashioned colloquial abbrev. for ‘pious’=’very good’ – unlikely to be heard from anyone under 65, these days.

      There is a U film classification, but that’s usually given as something like “for all to see” or the “Universal” for which it stands. “acceptable” is the U/non-U discussed below.

      Don’t stop doing T2 – it’s written by John Grimshaw, a current (or possibly former) Times setter, and will teach you plenty.

  17. U is short for “upper-class”, and Non-U for genteel “middle-class” types whose linguistic attempts to sound upper-class are considered by the latter to betray their true origins. The terms are generally thought to have been coined, with tongue in cheek (or perhaps not), by the novelist Nancy Mitford. They also inspired John Betjeman’s poem How to Get On in Society:

    Phone for the fish-knives, Norman
    As cook is a little unnerved;
    You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
    And I must have things daintily served.


    Michael H

    1. I thought “serviette” was non-U and the U said “napkin”. IIRC, Mitford borrowed the terms from a forgotten academic.
  18. 25 minutes here which leaves me a hypothetical 35 minutes for the next two. Exciting stuff. Mind you, I’d have needed a couple of litres of tippex to splodge over the mess in the SE that resulted from my stab at Scots Guard for 29.

    Lots of amusing and clever clues here. Q-0, E-8.5, D-6, COD showjumper.

  19. Regards all. Didn’t catch on to this being one of the competition puzzles til coming here. I found this a relatively easy puzzle, with 21 being last in, but which word I knew after getting all the checking letters. HEEL BAR was new to me though, but no other answer seemed possible. Right about 20 minutes, no real holdups. See you tomorrow.
  20. Thanks very much for the information anax, Pete and Michael. I can stop fruitlessly Googling now!

    The lurker (Richard)

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