Championship Qualifier 1 – a fairly easy starter

Once the closing date for the championship qualifiers is safely in the past, we’ll discuss them in the usual way. I’m writing about the first two, and richardvg is covering the third and fourth ones. Please comment as usual – the only thing I’d ask you not to do is to speculate on the exact time required to be one of the 50 qualifiers. I’ll add the odd tip for those new to the championship, and leave Richard to decide whether he wants to do the same.

Solving time 6:54

Did fairly well with this, but took a minute or two at the end to make sure of CLAP at 25D. Like many puzzles used in the championship, this had its fair share of novel words, some with relatively tricky wordplay, plus some old favourite tricks to annoy you if they still take a while to spot.

1 SAW,N Some of those old tricks right away – deal = timber, saying = saw
3 A,PO(CALYPS(o))E – the original Calypso was a nymph (a naiad, specifically). Writer = (Edgar Allan) Poe. Oh, and Apocalypse is another name for the last book of the Bible.
11 MORON = “more on”
13 SWATHE – 2 meanings
15 BY FITS AND STARTS – (standbys at first)*
18 SLEEPING PARTNER – cryptic def. – slightly loose perhaps, for “roommate”.
27 DI = I’d = I had, returned = reversed,THE RING = cycle (Wagner operas)
28 PODIATRIST – (idiot’s part)*
29 BEAR – 2 mngs – “big head” puzzled me a bit, but is mentioned in Collins as an ursine characteristic
1 SECOND,BEST – second = S,best = TOP. Clever, but “wordplay” in this sense is cryptic crossword jargon, which ideally solvers shouldn’t have to know to be able to solve the clue.
4 PORC(ELA=ale rev.)IN(e)
7 PER(CHER)ON – the president is Juan Peron (Mr. Evita), and Cher is a centtrally located French department
8 ETNA = ante (stake in poker or similar) reversed
14 ASTROL(l),O,GER. Refers to Old Moore’s Almanack, published every year since 1697, when the original Moore was an astrologer at the court of King Charles II.
16 FREE(BOAR)D – distance from waterline to upper deck level on a boat.
17 D(evote)E,PILATES – this interpretation of “distress” is one of the oldest tricks of all.
24 RAISE = “raze/rase”
25 CLAP – I struggled to remember this word’s “place quickly” meaning, but it’s fairly familiar from “clap in irons”.

Championship tips
There’s a longer list of tips here. Various old ideas not used for a while seem to reappear in championship puzzles, so if you’re an experienced solver but relatively new to the Times puzzle, it’s possibly worth trying the puzzles in a book of Times crosswords – one with puzzles printed a year or two before your time. I’d also encourage you to do barred-grid puzzles like Azed, Mephisto or Beelzebub. Learning some more difficult vocabulary will help, and so will practice at the art of using wordplay and checking letters to discover words you don’t know yet.

2 comments on “Championship Qualifier 1 – a fairly easy starter”

  1. Was puzzled for quite a while by 14d as my first thought was Patrick Moore, who is of course an astronomer (who thinks astrology is bunk) and also still alive, which I vaguely remember would rule him out. Remembered OLD MOORE eventually. Kicked myself when I finally got 17d (I could only think of DEPRESSES which doesn’t quite work). Gentle exercise?Setter obviously hasn’t seen my Pilates DVD. (I’ve watched it several times and I still don’t feel any fitter).
    R. Saunders
  2. I’ve only just done this and I have to say I thought it was a pig – much more tricky than the first qualifying puzzle last year. I’m glad I’ve already qualified for Cheltenham as my time was a pathetic 14:01. I agonised over CLAP and BEAR – spooked by “big head” in the latter clue, and a bit worried about “place” (could = PL?) in the former.

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