26206 Can’t be Sven, Bjorn or Agnetha, surely?

My time of 28.57 suggests (to me, at any rate) that this was a tricky one, though the presence of high-scoring Scrabble letters all over the grid reduces the choices more than somewhat for those who are inclined to throw answers in first and solve the clues later. The serendipitous, maybe-learn-a-few-things vocabulary is wordplay-accessible where your literary, musical and scientific knowledge may be lacking. The prevalence of multi-word answers (33% – I think that’s high) may well have been as a help to some, but actually, for  once, I found them rather refractory, especially in the Outer Hebrides.
Our setter also (mostly) eschews the laconic, which gives scope for some rather evocative mini-dramas throughout. It’s at least possible that Charlotte Proudman, the “Portia” who turned an aging lawyer’s inended gallant comment into a degrading insult/suffered an egregious, sexist assault on her on-line persona*, will have something to say about a couple of the clues. I wonder if she does the Times?
Anyway, I had fun with ths one, and present for your interest, correction and amusement my interpretation of this excellent setter’s intentions, in which, as ever, the answer in bold capitals is followed by the definition, and on the next line(s) justified by the wordplay:


1 NOTE ROW  musical series
More commonly the (slightly unnerving anagram) tone row the basis of serial music favoured by Stockhausen et al (et Radio 3). Constructed by reversing was in: WORE and fashion: TON
5 JOSEPH  one colourfully robed
He of the amazing technicolour dreamcoat (or, in more accurate and prosaic versions, “a long robe with sleeves” – much duller). Kid: JOSH encloses record: E(xtended) P(lay)
8 PLAY A PART  (to) contribute
Freedom (sc of movement) provides the PLAY bit, and to one side APART
9 URBAN  City’s
Note the apostrophe S, so “belonging to the city”. The “wingers” in UproaR BAN, or stop playing. Play to the whistle, guys.
11 NEEDY  Poor
Jounalist is the usual ED(itor) and the old Marshal is Napoleon’s trusted sidekick NEY
12 OVERTHROW  to remove from seat
Spare: OVER; blanket: THROW, of the sort you chuck over the bed to hide a mutitude of Tracy Emin leftovers.
13 NONTOXIC  Ok to take
Can’t make up my mind whether this definition is exquisite or rather loose. The centre of oNCe “co-opts” ONTO XI, perhaps the most common of “teams” in Latin. Much harder to work in the more current XV. Collins has this unhyphenated version, Chambers doesn’t.
Cryptic definition. In cricket, a run/single (or more) is scored when the ball strikes the batsman’s pad (or other parts not necessarily below the waist) and ricochets off in such a fashion as to allow the batsman time to run to the other end. There are other niceties to this concession.
17 ERFURT German town
Matin Luther went to University fhere, and Pachelbel’s greatest hit may well have been composed during his residency. I was there in 1975, when the only light and entertainment in the streets after dark was a gang of men and women repairing the tram tracks. In the DDR, such things pulled in quite a crowd. Here, father produces FR, and in fact produses TRUE. insert one into the other and reverse.
19 FOOTFALL Number of customers in shop
FOOT, to pay, is placed up front of FALL, decline
22 DISHWATER  ….this?
An anagramatical &lit where WASH DIRT and the end of teatimE provide the source materials, off and around the instructions.
23 MOURN  to put on (widow’s) weeds
Maybe another cricket reference, though it doesn’t have to be. Second: MO, and lot of ashes URN.
24 THEISM DEISM belief
Elsewhere also defined as “an unhealthy condition resulting from too much tea-drinking”, which is surely impossible. Take the odd letters from DiEd InSoMe and this mini History of Religion resolves itself into your answer. Thanks to Ulaca for possibly the smoothest and most elegant correction ever seen in these pages. Sadly, my comment on tea drinking is now incomprehesible, but I’ve left it in because it would have been interesting had it been apposite.
25 KILOJOULE Quantity of work
Carefully separating the words of the clue: to do in unfinished is KIL(l), add O(ld) and something that can, in certain circumstances, be understood to sound like jewel.
26 JENNER  old physician
The vaccination man to whom the entire world owes an enormous debt and a life-long fear of pointy things. A common soubriquet for the wren  (Troglodytes troglodytes) is JENNY, which we shorten (briefly) and introduce to the longest reigning monarch in Britsih history.
27 SURPLUS  what’s not required
A (mis?)pronounciation of surplice, the habit/cothing of a clergyman.


1 NO PUN INTENDED  didn’t mean to joke
A religious sister, or NUN, embraces (for example a) nose job, or OP (definition by example justified by the ?).  Fiancé provides the INTENDED.
2 TRADE-IN  …this?
Not quite as flawless an &lit, perhaps, but it’s a hidden reverse in deNIED ARTicle.
3 READY  on hand
Touching is RE, and the woman is, though topless, unmistakeably a (l)ADY. Sniggering at the back is probably now illegal. Stop it.
4 WHAT OF IT Does it matter
HOW, FAT and 1 (one) are awfully well arranged over T(ime)
5 JOTTER notepad.
The writer in French is JE. (Electrical) resistance gives thr R, and OTT the too much stored within.
6 SQUATTEST  shorter than the others
A SQUAT is “a weightlifting exercise in which a weight is lifted by a person rising from a squatting position”. An assessment thereof is a TEST.
7 PUB GRUB  Local (sc inn, hostelry) dishes
The boxer is a PUG(ilist). Insert B(lack) (The Times hasn’t got round to K, yet) followed by ointment, (a) RUB.
Tempting to waste time looking for anagrams. Try not to. Your Swede is ANDERS (such as Celsius) which follows NEW (mint) and ZEAL (heat).
14 OARSWOMAN One female in eight.
We could be in trouble here for this damn lie of a statistic (probably). For those lady lawyers easily upset and unfamiliar with cryptic crosswords, let me explain that the words “IS A MORON” are simply the letters of our answer treated roughly, and not a comment on the mental prowess of the – um – fair sex. Dear me no. Not at all.
16 NO FRILLS  plain
N(ame), plus OF standing in for “associated with”, and streams are RILLS. Ryan Air style flying, except they keep trying to sell you the frills throughout your airbourne captivity.
18 FESTIVE  for carnival
I liked this one. Once you twig that V is 5 (Latin again), placing it round a convolution of SET is easy.
20 AS USUAL  predicatably.
Two A articles and two US Americas and one L(arge) are assembled in the order given by the clue and reversed.
21 STOKER  Irish author
Which came as a surprise to me. Anyway, think Dracula and you have him. Feed provides STOKE, and Rumour at the outset adds the R
23 MAJOR System of changes
I think this refers to campanology, in which a major bob is a series in which eight bells are rung in a constantly changing sequence until you get round to the one you started with. Major Barbara is a play by (George Bernard) Shaw. You wait all crossword for an irish writer, then two turn up at once.

*delete according to taste, courage or sensitivity.

54 comments on “26206 Can’t be Sven, Bjorn or Agnetha, surely?”

  1. For some reason ‘New Englanders’ suggested itself to me at 10–I had NEW and a couple of checkers at the end–and once I dismissed that idea, at least it provoked the right answer. I don’t think I knew about ‘jenny’=wren–although Jenny Wren is the assumed name of Fanny Cleaver in ‘Our Mutual Friend’–so I tried ‘Werner’. LEG BYE was beyond me; couldn’t make heads or tails of the clue.At least I got KILOJOULE, following up on my triumphant getting of TRIVALENT yesterday; 2 science terms in a row. Biffed MAJOR; thanks for explaining this.
    1. LEG BYE is a fine illustration of the hazards in cryptic definition clues: there’s no way to it in the word play if you don’t know the answer. Even the fact that it’s cricket is not that obvious, so my sympathies to those who were caught out or stumped by this googly (see what I did there?)
  2. If I may say so without offence/offense?
    All the trouble was in the SW where the Latin and the quack let me down.
    As with our Anon poster, very tempted by WERNER. No idea why.

    Nice touch of Eliot’s Quartets at 19ac.

  3. I also went for Werner, thinking maybe of the coordination chemist, though I did have a question mark next to it. Some challenging stuff in here.
  4. A good work out for a Thursday –
    One wrong – I put Werner instead of Jenner

    I was thinking (wrongly) of S/S Dr Werner Haase.

    COD 7dn

    43 minutes

  5. Yes, very heavy going. I awarded myself an A for erfurt ( and a few others), but B- for speed. 50+ of your Crossword Club minutes expended on this one.
  6. Very heavy going – just add an hour and a bit to the blogger’s solving time to get an idea of the effort involved here. But it was quite a satisfying puzzle and I was pleased to get there in the end, albeit with one incorrect answer at 26 where I also went for WERNER parsed as anagram [maybe] of WREN + ER (the Queen).

    Actually, if it were not for the word “briefly” being unaccounted for, WERNER might have been a valid alternative as, having completed the grid, I Wiki-ed the name and came up with this bloke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Werner. Now science is not my hottest subject though I have a working knowledge of the basics, but it is not unusual for a name to come up that I’ve never heard of only to find that the rest of the world (led by Jimbo) are intimately acquainted with every invention or discovery for which they were responsible. So finding a physician called Werner had actually existed and got his name in the reference books was good enough for me and I didn’t think to look any further.

    I had no idea what was going on with KILOJOULE but it was within my limited scientific knowledge (see above) so I biffed it and moved on. ERFURT has also managed to pass me by despite many holidays spent travelling in (admittedly Western) Germany. Still I’m surprised I never heard of it.

    [A further thought on 26ac, I now remember when solving I accounted for “briefly” by applying it to “the Queen” to give ER. It’d be unconventional as Queen = ER is enough on its own usually, but not impossible?]

    Edited at 2015-09-17 06:17 am (UTC)

    1. I put WERNER in initially, and went through the same thought process, but eventually I decided that 1) in the phrase ‘briefly met by the Queen’ ‘briefly’ couldn’t really belong to ‘Queen’ and 2) ‘Queen’ for ER is so conventional that it was much more likely that ‘briefly’ had to apply to ‘wren’ somehow. So I took WERNER out and kept thinking.
  7. 30:02 … very enjoyable, even if it took some serious frowning to finish off.

    I must have typed in and then erased FESTIVE at least three times before the penny dropped with the wordplay.

    Thanks for the equally entertaining blog, Z8, especially your memories of ERFURT, a place I had never heard of and am surprised to find exists at all, a fact about which its DDR-era residents presumably had mixed feelings.

    I did spare a thought for our American cousins when putting in LEG BYE. All of you who dredged that one up should probably be granted British citizenship. Any of you know how to bowl leg spin?

  8. I enjoyed this in a leaving the dentist after having your teeth scrubbed type of way. Having left my cash in the ATM the other day, and after leaving my briefcase at the quiz yesterday, I’m giving myself an enormous pat on the back for sort of remembering JENNER from a crossword past and for dredging up ERFURT from somewhere, even if it were Frankfurt. 79 minutes – less than 2 Verlaines, which can’t be bad.
  9. You need to reverse the process of CS Lewis’s conversion, whereby he passed from Deism to Theism.
    1. I too noticed that the blogger had put theism in a 5 letter space, and since “no pun intended” ends with a “d” I was happy with my answer “deism” parsed from DiEdIn SoMe.
  10. It looks as though we are going to be divided today into those for whom “wren” immediately invokes the name “Jenny” and those who say “you what?”. WERNER looks like a decent enough call for the physician, and “maybe” gives licence for an anagram, but I’m not wholly convinced by attaching “briefly” to Her Maj.
    In any event, I urge regulars to place Edward Jenner firmly in the pantheon of the Science greats: without him, many of us would have died from any of those infections we get jabs for, and smallpox would still be a scourge instead of a research curiosity securely kept in labs in Atlanta and Siberia.

  11. Always those pesky sporting references that baffle me (LEG BYE)…

    I too had WERNER. Not even a ? beside it, I was so sure it was right… Couldn’t parse MAJOR or KILOJOULE (unfortunate that they crossed). ERFURT u/k, but gettable.

    Thanks for comprehensive blog, Z, definitely needed it today!


  12. Quite why my 16.30 today was only two minutes longer than I took on Monday is one of those mysteries that most of us probably encounter from time to time. I biffed TONE ROW at 1ac and JOTTER had me convinced that 5ac was going to be JOCKEY but helpful intersecting answers led me to consider the wordplay in both cases. I might well have come up with WERNER had I not felt that ‘maybe’ didn’t cut the mustard as an anagram indicator.

    Edited at 2015-09-17 08:44 am (UTC)

    1. Agreed it’s not the best of anagram indicators, but it does come up occasionally (possibly even regularly) so one can’t rule it out.
    2. I note the Times crossword editor has commented on this clue in the Club forum and said that as a matter of policy he does not allow “maybe” as an anagram indicator, so either it has been slipping through or I have been imagining it. Or perhaps the Sunday Times has a different policy and that’s where I have seen it. Anyway, compared with some of the dodgier indicators we have to deal with, “maybe” is a perfectly clear and legitimate example and it’s listed in the Chambers cryptic crossword guide, so I see why it would be banned.
      1. Thanks Jack. It’s good to know that my instincts were correct on this occasion! I was just reporting my reaction while solving this crossword, not intending to suggest it should never be used in such a way.
        1. Thanks for this, malcj, and I hadn’t taken your comment in the way you feared. I would however take issue with the editor’s apparently arbitrary decision permanently to exclude a perfectly legitimate anagrind whilst sometimes permitting others that really do stretch the bounds.

          In the meantime I see I completely negated the point of my 12:23am comment by omitting “not” from the last phrase of the last sentence. Unfortunately now that it has been replied to I can’t edit to correct it.

          Edited at 2015-09-18 09:16 am (UTC)

  13. 20m, with a few at the end agonising over JENNER (see above) and NONTOXIC. On the latter I was rather pleased with myself for noticing that the clue said ‘Ok’, not OK, and wasted time trying to fit something like NO KILO or NONE M into the grid.
    Thanks for explaining 23dn: I wondered who on earth Barbara Shaw was, although I do remember the GBS play now.
    Good stuff, I thought: chewy. Thanks setter.

    Edited at 2015-09-17 08:13 am (UTC)

  14. I was feeling smug to have avoided WERNER then found I had an incorrect SURPLIS at 27A. I couldn’t remember how you spelled the clothing item and thought it might be surplis which sounds like surplus rather than the other way round. Immediately when the error was flagged I realised it was SURPLICE so possibly it could have been avoided with some more thought.
  15. Thank you Z! Trying to parse 7d, I spent ages trying to convince myself that a PUG was a type of Boxer dog! And in 10d, I spent too long thinking the answer was a an anagram of SWEDE, MINT and FIRE. 1hr 35m 09s

    Edited at 2015-09-17 09:36 am (UTC)

  16. 28:21… but another one with WERNER instead of JENNER. Rather tricky today, I thought. I’d only heard the term TONE ROW for 1 ac, but the splendid 1d (COD for me) made me think again. I’d never heard of TON for ‘fashion’, though. The SW corner held me up. Spotting we were on for a pangram helped with 13a, and I eventually came up with ERFURT from the wordplay and unparsed FESTIVE – thanks for explaining that one Z8 – and 23d, which had me baffled wondering who MAJOR Barabara was.
  17. Frustratingly, DNF as I could not see 2dn for the life of me. That said, pretty happy to have got the rest of it all present and correct within a feasible timeframe (by my pedestrian standards).

    Albeit tough on non-cricket aficionados, I thought 15ac was a fine cryptic, and 19ac was witty. Very enjoyable puzzle, and thanks to Z for a fun blog.

  18. Just over half an hour – couldn’t parse 10d: was trying for anagram of Swede with ZEAL in there as did not know Anders. (The pangram confirmed the need for a Z)
    I nearly went with WERNER, but was unconvinced with no anagrind, so had a quick look for alternatives to fit checkers, and right one was obvious.
  19. Excellent puzzle and first rate blog – not an easy puzzle to have to deal with – well done z8

    In contrast to its use of poets, overall the Times has a poor record when it comes to names of scientists, mainly sticking to the most well known, so JENNER was always going to be favourite over Werner.

    Felt very sorry for particularly our US cousins over LEG BYE – not really a suitable term for a cryptic definition in my view. Liked KILOJOULE

  20. Happy with that time for what was a very challenging puzzle. Some excellent clues.

    COD to OARSWOMAN, not that I endorse the sentiments expressed in the clue.

    Thanks setter and Z.

  21. Another New Englander here – and one who went looking for an anagram for the longest time. I managed to dredge up the cricket after staring at a tea bag far too long.

    I had a great aunt who lived near Chipping Sodbury and she took me to visit Berkeley Castle and Dr. Jenner’s house which is just round the corner – both well worth it. Milk maids and dairy maids had a well deserved reputation for beauty because the cowpox they picked up during their work gave them immunity from smallpox so their faces were never disfigured. I grew up with the Caldecott book of nursery rhymes which includes “where are you going to my pretty maid? I’m going a milking sir she said”. 33.11

    Edited at 2015-09-17 10:18 am (UTC)

    1. That’s a wonderfully QI bit of knowledge, Olivia. Thank you. I shall overuse that titbit in future.
      1. Um QI Sotira? That’s new to me and could be almost anything. Quite Irrelevant perhaps. Speaking of irrelevant – there is discussion here about which famous woman to put on the $10 bill in place of Alexander Hamilton. When asked about this in the Republican debate last night Jeb Bush suggested Margaret Thatcher. To which my husband and I, after we stopped laughing, said oh lets go all the way and put ER.
        1. Quite Interesting, a somewhat perverse general knowledge programme hosted by my annoying but omnipresent fellow alumnus Stephen Fry.
          The thing that I learnt in my youth about Berkeley Castle (where Edward ll was murdered) was that his screams were heard in 3 counties. As mine would be if I was introduced to a red hot poker to avoid external evidence. Apparently all rubbish and contemporary spin though.

          Edited at 2015-09-17 03:53 pm (UTC)

        2. Apologies. QI is a BBC2 television panel quiz show hosted by Stephen Fry. It revolves around arcane and surprising knowledge. I haven’t watched it for a few years as it seemed to be veering more towards the silly than the interesting, though it was once required viewing for me. I believe the abbreviation is for “Quite Interesting”.

          Regarding the dollar bill, trust a Bush to overlook the blindingly ironic. If he wants to make amends, I would suggest Wallis Simpson. Look at the trouble she caused us!

          Edited at 2015-09-17 03:57 pm (UTC)

  22. 20 minutes on the train, 15 minutes pondering while walking to the office and still left with what turned out to be ‘nontoxic’; thrown by the lack of hyphenation and having parsed it completely incorrectly and looking for something including ‘nc’ and ending in ‘ie’; the little known word ‘noncomie’ coming to mind for one who is co-opted into an army… fortunately the penny dropped before I went with my made-up effort.
    1. It sure is. It’s that small short-haired dog with a wrinkled face, upturned nose, and short curled tail (also pug dog) And a goblin or sprite (in Ben Jonson, Pug, an inferior devil); a term of endearment; a prostitute; a senior servant; a monkey; a fox; a pug nose; a pug-moth; a pug-engine; clay, ground and worked with water; an animal’s footprint. And of course a boxer, a shortened form of pugilist. That’s just the nouns, all lifted from Chambers.
  23. Man, I crashed and burned on this one – intoxication (Wednesday night is boardgames at the pub night) may have played a part, but equally I just ran into a brick wall over LEG BYE. Sport is a completely alien language to me and though I eventually extrapolated what the cryptic definition must have been about, I just don’t know how I’d get it except by luck. Now I know how keriothe (was it?) felt when confronted with a cryptic definition for OREAD a while back!
    1. If I remember correctly (which I do: I checked) I biffed OREAD without difficulty but then defended over-vigorously the proposition that it was obscure enough to warrant an alternative way in for the solver who didn’t know it.
      I did wonder about LEG-BYE, and I’m in two minds: on the one hand, it is rather an arcane and specific bit of sporting knowledge. On the other hand, it’s cricket, and for some unknown reason we seem to be expected to know about cricket for these puzzles.
      1. Hardly’arcane’ compared to some of the esoteric references in the Times Crossword ( which I do not complain about! ) . A chance to broaden your knowledge and do a bit of research on the subject? For some unknown reason we are expected to know about the classics in these puzzle! 🙂
    2. From memory I was one of the whingers on that occasion, and Keriothe rose gallantly to my defence.

      Even though LEG BYE sits squarely within my (very narrow) field of expertise, and it brought a smile to my face, I still think it’s unsuitable for a fully cryptic clue. Just no way to solve it if you don’t know the answer.

      At the time of the OREAD clue, a comment was posted (and subsequently deleted) suggesting that I had “rubbish GK”. Glad that such charges haven’t been levelled against the non-cricketing complainants on this occasion!

  24. Got through this in the end after some 40 minutes; knew the science (Jenner, kilojoule) and twigged the cricket clue, but was surprised to find NONTOXIC not a hyphenated word? Had a long wait before finishing with JOSEPH and SQUATTEST although had the TEST bit in for a while. Oh. never heard of ERFURT but GIFW.
  25. 28 mins. I thought this was a top quality puzzle, especially as the definitions weren’t easy to spot in plenty of the clues. LEG BYE was my FOI but I have a lot of sympathy for those of you who know next to nothing about cricket. I saw how JENNER was parsed so didn’t consider an alternative, although I confess that it didn’t exactly go straight in. I finished back where I started with TONE ROW after READY.
  26. Struggled with this one. Saw that FESTIVE and NEW ZEALANDERS fitted but baffled as to why they might be the correct answers. Liked your explanation of FESTIVE but as for NEW ZEALANDERS!!
  27. A sluggish 17:01 for me, making heavy weather of some easy clues, with tiredness upon me after a particularly trying day.

    I dithered at the end over ERFURT, which sounded half-familiar, because I wasn’t entirely sure of “fact” = TRUE (I think the “in” is needed for the insertion, isn’t it?). I find that it does seem to be supported (more or less) by Chambers though.

    I thought of WERNER, but was unconvinced and so thought further.

    No real problem with LEG BYE, except that I now find its definition is rather different from what I’d always thought it was. Anyway it’s entirely reasonable that any attempting the Times crossword should be expected to be familiar with the term, at least in name.

    An interesting and enjoyable puzzle – and blog entry.

    1. Beaten by NONTOXIC, which I’m rather annoyed about having – this time – got the obscure cricket reference at 15ac.
  28. Although I’m probably talking to the void here, since I’ve done this puzzle at something of a lag, for completeness for any other reader after me I feel I should comment on 23d.

    I ring church bells, and it never occurred to me that “System of changes” could mean “Major”. Mainly because it doesn’t.
    A ‘Method’ is the word that means a system of changes.
    ‘Major’ refers means quite simply to the number of working bells in a method. You are correct it means 8 bells.
    Having said that, I suspect your parsing of the clue is correct in that it is supposed to refer to this, and that there have been no other concerns from solvers reflects that this has been accepted as legit.
    Quite Interesting since this thread talks so much of required knowledge, bemoaning cricket and classics, when something as arcane as bellringing is happily ignored, especially with a clue so obscure it beats a campanologist with toshness!… 🙂

    Great puzzle all the same, and excellently blogged.


    1. You’re quite right, hence my hesitation when writing up the blog. Occasionally, and quite possibly when the setter’s knowledge of a subject derives from the dictionary rather than experience, the answer and the clue are merely nodding acquaintances. When solving, and later when researching, I was aware of the splendid terms used in campanology, and “bob major” which I take to be that series which rings all the changes (sc on eight bells) seemed to be the nearest association I could fathom to connect “major” and “series”. No others have been suggested, though I wondered if the majors might form a series in golf.
      1. To me, I can’t see how it can make sense in golf or Tennis either. These sports have Majors, but not ‘System of Changes’ I suspect you correctly found the intended conceit. Albeit as you say – dictionary rather than knowledge driven.

        I don’t want to bore you with ringing terms, but since you bothered to research a bit … ‘Bob Major’ is a method, and is a shortened term for ‘Plain Bob Major’ where ‘Plain Bob’ is the specific method and ‘Major’ means on 8 bells.
        All the possible combinations of rows on 8 bells is 8! (factorial) – 40320. This can’t be done in a method without using ‘calls’ to cause bells to change places within the methods. These calls are called a “Bob” … which just goes to confuse the matter.
        The full number of changes on 8 bells has only been done a couple of time as it takes approximately 24 hours to complete! Easier on 6 bells (called Minor) – 720 rows, nearer 20 minutes…

Comments are closed.