Times 23,718 (detecting the architects)

Solving time: 9:26 – my most disappointing time of the week (though not my longest) – after a minute’s thought, I got going OK at the start, and didn’t realise I was getting held up so much as I neared completion. Poor French geographical knowledge stopped me from getting a useful checking letter between 13 and 20 and probably added nearly 2m to my time.

As for the puzzle, a series of brilliancies, particularly in certain consecutive downs, really lifted this puzzle out of the ordinary – in the end, an absolute pleasure to solve.

1 NOT (A) TALL, ‘answer’ for A is one of those abbreviations that gets into the Times without being really commonplace in my book. The “short?” = NOT TALL is amusing.
10 S in NASA + U, I thought of this city early, but without any real justification. Maybe my subconscious had cottoned on to NASA long before my conscious mind.
15 OUT + DO, it’s always worth making sure that one unnaturally considers “best” as a verb – especially given the compiler’s delight in equating “best” and “worst” sometimes.
16 IR in HAS + PRAY, “on board” is unusually just a container indicator – the definition “a fine solution” is excellently misleading.
18 IS(rev) + S in MON(d)AYS, an original answer, and a great spot with MONDAYS – as well as an example of a substitution used cleverly and economically.
19 ACCRA, initials – I think this may be the easiest clue I’ve seen in the Times for many months
20 MAINE + E(*TLO)IRE, Very poor knowledge of French departments by me; I got the ET-LOIRE bit reasonably handily, but despite (correct) suspicions couldn’t justify what the first five letters would be. I think I just wasn’t thinking about a “foreign state” potentially being a state in a foreign country.
26 ERR + AND, This reads to me as an elliptic definition – purists prefer that the definition (“run one” in this case) be interchangeably the same part of speech as the answer – I suppose there is an argument that “run” is an adjective or participle describing the “one” but for me this is an unnatural reading (which doesn’t invalidate it I suppose). But since I don’t mind elliptic definitions, it doesn’t bother me technically, it just makes the clue harder.


2 THAI (=”tie”) – tough homophone, even with the checking letters.
3 KENDO + W in TAN, the awesomely apt phrasing of this clue deserves enormous kudos – “use of staves” is superbly misleading, let alone its conjunction with “opening beat” and “noted”. A brilliancy
4 LONELY HEARTS, 2 defs – If “singletons” had gained the currency it deserves from Helen Fielding’s novel Bridget Jones’s Diary, this could have been a one-word clue. As it is, it’s still excellent.
6 ADAMS, 2 defs – well, I say 2 defs but it’s really 5 definitions. Robert Adams and Thomas Adams both make Wikipedia as famous architects, while John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both among the first six USA Presidents. The clue’s phrasing also (deliberately) allows an even more famous architect Robert Adam to be referenced as well. And since Thomas Adams was one of the early presidents of the Institute of Landscape Architects, maybe it’s an &lit as well. Awesome! (and you thought it was a boring general knowledge double-def…)
7 MA’S TERRACE – Funnier than the last 3 brilliancies, and therefore (maybe) even better?
11 RAIN + SP in TOTTER, just worth noting for the fact that “request for a better” = a well-disguised SP (starting price). And for the fact that I tried to use RAINSTORM and make this BRAINSTORMER (© me) for a while.
13 MAT in CONSUME – wonderfully misleading “hoover up” = CONSUME.
14 M in EG in STINGER, an unusual example of convolution in this puzzle without, for once, a convincing surface.
17 ST(A)IR + CASE, “position” = CASE as in ‘as the case may be’.
21 (l)ESSEN, nice wordplay but everybody’s favourite familiar German city.
22 I + DIM (rev) – I for “individual” is exemplary rather than abbreviatory, I suppose (?) – but don’t be tempted by MINI (good advice, generally).
23 WREN, 2 defs – “of two wings” being an elliptical 2nd def, as much as to say: Architect, as if one with two wings. And a nice surface, to round off an architect-themed puzzle (NASH at 1dn of course complements wren here and the various ADAMS at 6.

18 comments on “Times 23,718 (detecting the architects)”

  1. 13:48 for this only got about 4 acrosses on the first look, though I should have added OUTDO.
    The SW corner was the last to go in, as I forgot about the French version of Maine and remembered various other 5-letter Fr. rivers ending in E. More good work by the setter – only a couple of hard answer words but lots of well-crafted and original wordplay like ‘request for a better’ = SP (starting price). And 7D seems so simple but I don’t think I’ve seen it done before.

  2. Disastrous. After 30 minutes almost all of the left side of the grid remains blank – 8 answers to go. Like Pete I took longer than necessary over the eventually straightforward OUTDO; credit to the setter for hiding it well. Good observation at 7D, and I liked the imagery at 10A. Partly screwed this up by accidentally putting the answer at 5A – took me a few minutes to spot it thanks to 6D being unaffected by the error.
  3. …for the second day running but got there in the end with the aid of a dictionary or two. It didn’t help that I wrote in Indre et Loire until STEM GINGER sent me back to the reference book.

    I’ve still a couple I can’t explain (thanks to PB for SP in 11D, that clears up one of them) and one I may take issue with, but I’ll wait for the main blog before raising it.

  4. It took me 18:54, with SWANKING taking almost 5 minutes of that (I kept wondering whether perhaps THAI was wrong). MAINE-ET-LOIRE (assuming that’s correct) was also slow, since I didn’t know about MAINE in France. I have to admit there were some clever clues, some of which I don’t have time to work out now and will look at later! Jason J
    1. I didn’t get SWANKING. Or anything remotely similar. Clue-writer’s paradise, that one. “Son with a box of tissues to hand…” etc etc.
  5. “Son with a box of tissues” – best laugh of the day thank you 🙂
    Almost makes up for leaving four clues unanswered.
    1. You’re very welcome…
      And I’ve only just noticed the subject heading for this particular thread. Just keeps getting better!
  6. Not much to add. Plenty to enjoy and some to slow me right up. I didn’t know an anorak was an obsessive type, and I got consummate from just th O and the S long before I saw the wordplay – too hooked on ‘up’ as a reversal indicator. First part of Maine-et-Loire was a guess, but I couldn’t think of anything else to fit ‘foreign state’. Bit of an architect’s puzzle, this one.
  7. For the first time in ages, I’ve managed a complete run of all-correct solutions from Saturday to Friday without resorting to reference books or dictionary searches ( assuming 13 is CONSUMMATE ).

    Today’s took about 20 minutes. I particularly enjoyed 4, 7 and 9


  8. An architect’s puzzle, yes, and also one for the connoisseur. Full of brilliancies, can’t remember one I’ve enjoyed more. Really enjoyed the use of ‘hoover up’, ‘kendo’ and ‘anorak’.
  9. 16:52, but CONSUMMATE, ERRAND and the MAINE bit of MAINE-ET-LOIRE took almost 10 of those. Incredibly frustrating, especially as I wrote down ‘??RONE’ but not ‘??RAND’.
  10. How on earth did these people solve this crossword in a few minutes? I spent ages, eventually giving up and resorting to all sorts of reference books and electronic aids, and even then couldn’t do 20A, since I couldn’t believe it was a French department, the word “From” seeming to go with “French” and imply “de”. What is the word doing there, apart from – in my humble opinion – unfairly misleading?

    When The Times is particularly hard, as it was on Thursday, and one hopes for an easy day to follow, one is often disappointed.

  11. As a neophyte cruciverbalist, I deeply appreciated Magoo’s thorough and enlightening post-mortem of today’s puzzle.

    I do, however, disagree with his or her analysis of 21 down.

    Surely everyone’s favourite familiar German city is Eschenbach in der Oberpfalz?

  12. Eight “easies” my bunnies:

    5a Jack offered coat, black one (6)

    9a Posturing, mute husband of the Queen? (8)
    SWAN KING. Not the Duke of Edinburgh.

    12a Blooming awful (since Ron left)* (12)

    24a Precious element, wind, which is supposedly hot (6)

    25a (Emirates)* unfortunately more like a sauna (8)

    27a Heretic gathering people from Yerevan? (8)

    1d Architect demands new wood (4)
    N ASH

    8d Noble Irish name hugging married farmer, perhaps (10)

Comments are closed.