A “better” class of puzzle

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Due to the last few weeks being the only time of the year when I actually do some real work, as opposed to pretending (hope my employers don’t read this blog!), I haven’t done many puzzles in the last 2-3 weeks.

At first, I thought the lack of practice was going to handicap me with this puzzle, as I got down to 16ac without putting in an answer. No need to worry though, as the top half came very quickly thereafter.

The bottom half didn’t take long either, and with the help of a fair smattering of general knowledge, I ended up solving the puzzle in about 8 minutes. Considering the grid was still blank after about 90 seconds, I am actually quite proud of that time.

This was an excellent puzzle – I always enjoy crosswords that test your knowledge as much as your ability to work out wordplay. I also noticed a “themelet” around gambling


1 ZOOM-LENS – Lens being a city in France, of course, as any football fan would instantly know.

9 UNDERMILK-WOOD – brilliant wordplay leading to Dylan Thomas’s famous radio play

10 BET-RAY – as an ex-bookie, I am disappointed I didn’t get this clue quicker. A Yankee is a type of bet where you make four selections, and have a combination of 11 bets, guaranteeing a return if you have at least two winners

11 O(<=tar)O-RIO – I guessed that Samson was the name of an oratorio, and upon checking, discovered that Handel wrote it.


15 DIGS – good one


21 CONSPIRE – (prison)* in CE

22 PI-RATE – as in Captain Hook


25 SE(X)T ON


2 OPULENT – (up l note)*

3 MODERN TIMES – fantastic Chaplin movie

4 (p)EARLY

5 (<=nips)-OZ.-A – Baruch Spinoza, a Dutch 17th century philosopher

7 (d)R(a)I(n)-O

8 (g)UNDO(IN)G

12 ORDER AROUND – my employees would never have got this clue!

14 COGNITION – O in (gin tonic)*

17 LO(OK)SE-(grime)E – “butcher’s” is Cockney rhyming slang for LOOK (butcher’s hook)

20 KITCHEN – (the nick)*

16 comments on “A “better” class of puzzle”

    1. Off hand I can’t think of any other radio play famous enough to make it to the Times crossword so, like you, PB, I wrote it in early.

      It was useful as I had pencilled in DAN for 7D tentatively hoping that the old city of that name (in Caanan) may have been a port, so I was able to correct that to RIO before it messed up my thinking in the NE corner.

        1. Yes, maybe, but I think UMW was originally devised as a radio play whereas WotW was a book first and later adapted for radio/film.

          I agree with you about STRAIGHT FLUSH.

  1. 6:07 for me, although I have to admit I put a couple in without worrying about working out the wordplay. There are a lot of FRESHERs here in Cambridge this week, which may have helped. I also have a good friend doing a PhD on Spinoza. 26A I think falls into the “Old chestnut” category. Jason J
  2. Took the plunge this morning and joined the Times club, thus had the luxury of solving while at home wrapped in five duvets. OK, slight exaggeration.
    20 minutes or so, which I’m very happy with.
    Very best of luck to all at Cheltenham this weekend. Have fun!
  3. After a mediocre week I was hoping for a confidence boost today before Sunday. I didn’t get it, after an utter disaster in the top left, only resolved by an adjacent amateur photographer who volunteered the ‘zoom’ bit of ZOOM LENS, whereafter I finally got OPULENT, MODERN (TIMES) and BETRAY. Maybe ‘Yankee’ = BET is questionable without a ‘perhaps’ or similar, but that’s really no excuse.
  4. 9:36 for me, but I was flagging after doing Wednesday’s and Thursday’s. I enjoyed this puzzle very much, but, like Neil, I’d have liked some sort of indication that “Yankee” is an example of a BET; similarly for “Good group of clubs” (STRAIGHT FLUSH), where “perhaps” would have been easy to slip in.
  5. 15-16 minutes here. I too had an unsolved grid until 16ac. From there, the bottom half flew in, but some of the top half had me scratching my head. For the second day running, it took far too long to spot a simple anagram indication (this time at 2dn). The ZOOM bit of 1ac also took far longer than it should. Perhaps its a good job I decided not to try to qualify for Cheltenham. Good luck to all those who did qualify. On that note, what chance is there that the regional finals will be rekindled in the future?
    1. I can’t see them doing regional finals unless a generous sponsor can be found. It’s a pity, as many solvers who would be quite happy to go to Glasgow or York are unlikely to trek to Cheltenham. Now that the link with the literary festival is pretty nominal, the one-day final could quite reasonably be held in different places each year, like the Open golf – there must be lots of other universities with similar facilities that could be used. I may try suggesting this, though the organizers have probably had enough interfering suggestions from me …
  6. Am I the only one who would have liked a ‘maybe’ or similar for the clubs? Unless I’ve misunderstood this, a straight flush can be in any suit.
  7. “Yankee” and “straight flush” have been mentioned as needing a “perhaps” or some such. So also, I think, does “deal” in 9A. Yet things are OK in 15A, 22A, 8D. Are rules about all this changing?
  8. Three puzzles in a week where I couldn’t get a glue, gak! Had ?e?ray from the fish, couldn’t think of anything that meant either yankee or shop, so I took a misguided stab at DEFRAY. Rest of crossword took very little time. Oh, well… you learn something every month.
  9. Another one over an hour. I, too, missed the anagram in 2d and bogged down for easily 15 minutes!

    Didn’t know ‘bet’ for yankee so had to go searching for proof!


  10. I, who lag fainting behind all of you most of the time, found this maybe the easiest puzzle ever. Filled most of it in nonstop, then even after “stuckness” found that the rest filled in steadily. Too bad I never time myself.

    I was mystified by “Yankee,” even though I am one, but “ray” and “shop” worked so I wrote it in anyway. “Under Milk Wood” was my first entry, and “Zoom Lens” my last — I had no idea Lens was a French city.


  11. Magnificent 7 “easies”:

    6a Show surprise (4-2)

    16a Mollusc left in river (4)
    C L AM. Detritus from a picnic basket in a punt?

    26a Local leader ignored by head of state (8)

    6d Look like the next scene in film (4,5)

    19d More familiar person up for the first time? (7)

    22d Adverts for pants (5)

    24d Grass, speed not ecstasy (3)
    RAT (E)

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