Times 23,806 – too good for me

Solving time: 25 minutes – with two errors

Lots of tough clues, interestingly constructed clues, and simply brilliant clues. My favourites included 10 (AIR KISSES), 13 (KING JAMES BIBLE), 4 (ANAGRAM), 14 (NILE GREEN) and 18 (ACRONYM).

I filled in all but four answers in about 14 minutes, then 25, 6D and 8 (wrongly) in a further 7, and finally put my guess in at 6A (inevitably wrong). Apart from the definition of each, I still cannot explain 11, 26 or 27. But I expect that commenters will fill in the gaps. (In fact as I am posting this at lunchtime, they may well already have done so. (On edit: All explanations now supplied – thanks to Anax and Peter. Major self-kicking for not understanding 26 (TAMIL). And I would now add 11 (SLENDER) and 27 (DANDY) to my list of favourites.)

The clues were so interesting that it was quite a challenge to identify a couple to skip in the analysis below.


6 SW + IZZ (=”is”) – with a final L (from a wrong answer at 8D) I guessed SKIRL, which at least means “racket”
9 RE + BUS, BUS being SUB(rev)
10 A (IRK I) SSES – brilliant
11 S(L)ENDER – SENDER being the opposite of “receiver”, and L(eft) being the opposite of “right”!
12 I N(F(ootbal)L)AME
17 CLUB(SANDWICH + E)S – I suppose Sandwich can be clued as a port because it is one of the Cinque Ports, even though it is now two miles from the sea.
21 BIG (H)AIR – ie H in (I I GRAB)*
23 MA(HAT)MA – for once “pork pie” does not indicate “lie”
25 STET + I(E)N N.E.
26 TAMIL – which becomes TAIL if you remove the heart
27 DANDY – “Marathon running strip” here meaning long-running comic!
28 MISS WORLD – cryptic def


1 APRES SKI – cryptic def that would have been more difficult if they still spelled out cross-reference numbers in clues in the online version
2 C + ABLE, ABLE being ELBA(rev)
3 IN SIDE JOB – the minimal definition (“case”) made it difficult for me to work out the wordplay, but the three elements are clearly indicated
5 DE + R(B)IES, RIES being RISE* – “rent rise” misled me into trying to insert B into something like TORN(rev)
6 SNIFF – two meanings
7 I N SHALL A H – took me some time to work out that “is going to” indicates SHALL
8 ZEST(min)ER – I substitued LUST instead of ZEST to get the wrong answer LUSTER
14 NILE GREEN (hidden rev)
15 IRIS(H)’S + TEW, TEW being WET(rev)
18 A + CRONY + M
19 DI(M(i)NE’S)S
22 AM(I T)Y – Fortunately “March girl” made me think of Little Women straight away
24 TIM(id)ER

21 comments on “Times 23,806 – too good for me”

  1. Stinker! 19:53 for this, with only 3 acrosses (10, 12, 28) and 5 downs (5, 15, 16, 18, 22) on my first run through the clues. 12 answers after 10 mins, then sped up, but slowed down at the end for ZESTER at 8D – only realised just as I typed this that “miner’s short time” is the “min.” in miner – had to go with just clementine = orange and lack of anything else to fit checking letters (I didn’t remember zoster = shingles fortunately – I might just have linked “rubbing off” and a skin condition).
  2. Got there in the end but what a struggle; 20 minutes or so to get the NE corner completed even though, unexpectedly, I got ZESTER quite early. Really kicked myself on SWIZZ which should have been obvious (kept thinking BLITZ for some reason).
    Lots of fantastic clues today, nice to be spoilt for choice. I ticked 12A, 13A, 21A and 15D but edging it was 23A which is a beautiful surface reading from limited wordplay options.
  3. 25:44 for me – after 10 minutes I only had 6 answers entered. All very fair though, with some excellent clues (although I don’t understand the wordplay to 27A). My favourite has to be 13A today.
    1. Double meaning: “Marathon running strips” refers to the Dandy comics which ran (still run?) for many years, and “one of stylish ways” = a dandy.
      1. Just to add, wouldn’t be surprised if this gets a COD nom. The clue instantly conjured up that Paula Radcliffe moment…
      2. Doh! I got it from “one of stylish ways” but was wondering what “D and Y” had to do with athletes’ running strips! It looks like The Dandy is still going, but not as we remember it!
  4. This was a puzzle of two halves for me. Everything from 13A to the bottom went in quite easily and I had a few in the top half at 4 10 and 7 (guessed), but I took for ever to crack the rest of it, hampered by the wrong answer I had written in with every confidence at 9, namely POSER, which as far as I can see fits the clue perfectly when solving it cold (SOP in the sense of a bribe).

    I’m glad it wasn’t my day to launch the blog.

    1. When people mention alternative answers, I often find myself trying to find polite words for “think lad, think!”. But in this case I have to admit that I’d almost certainly have put in POSER if I’d thought of it. Only an extremely canny solver might have wondered whether payment=SOP is just a tad too indirect, or maybe why the clue wasn’t about a “bribe rejected”. If there’s anyone out there who did stop themselves from writing POSER, give yourself a big pat on the back.
  5. 11A: exactly the opposite means that in “right after seizing receiver”: receiver becomes SENDER, seizing works the other way round, and right becomes left to give S(L)ENDER.

    26A: heartless Tamil is TAIL

  6. I got ZESTER as ZEST(=enthusiasm)+ER(=short era).Admittedly this doesn’t explain “miner” in the clue, but I took this to be setter’s licence since Clementine was a miner’s daughter.

    If the above is wrong, can someone please explain more fully how the wordplay works.

    I think the use of “Marathon running strips” is OTT!

    1. You wrote this at about the same time I was editing in the explanation of ZESTER. In case that isn’t enough, the Miner of the clue loses MIN(ute) (short time) and replaces it with ZEST.
  7. A real struggle but managed to finish although I think I wrote skiff for 6d. A lot of words that you don’t see very often in a crossword and very clever clues.
    My COD was going to be 13a – good anagram – until I saw the explanation of dandy – brilliant! I suppose I should have seen this , coming as I do from the home of the Dandy & Beano etc, Dundee.
  8. I came to this late today and after half an hour began to wonder if I wasn’t going to finish it. Thought I must be having a bad day so now relieved to see everybody found it difficult. Just under an hour to complete. I got ARCHIBALD immediately but then fell into the POSER trap, which made life hard until CABLE cleared it up. I had to guess 7 down and 8 down from word play. Very hard to pick out one clue from so many but DANDY made me laugh, so I’ll go for that. Jimbo.
  9. I was clearly failing to realise how the time was drifting away, because although the last two (SWIZZ and ZESTER of course!) may well have taken over 2 minutes on their own, I was still surprised to see nearly 11m having elapsed.

    I hadn’t helped myself by writing in KING JOHN’S BIBLE and regularly reading clues for the wrong spaces, but on the other hand I think I was luckily moving around the grid in about the right order. And I saved lots of time by not fully deconstructing wordplays while solving (dangerous tactic).

  10. I found this an excellent puzzle, tough, but very satisfying to finish. COD: 28ac, closely followed by 11ac
  11. Glad I’m not on the receiving end of Pete’s wrath for writing in “poser” and thereby scuppering my chances of doing the NW corner.

    Didn’t have time for a concentrated session today and got nowhere near finishing it.

    I thought my brain had packed in till I checked on here just now and saw that even the experts thought it challenging.

    ps Amazon have put the £5.39 dictionary back up to over £20 now, but not before my friend and I each got one!

  12. This has to be one of the hardest but fair crosswords ever. At first run through I had 2 acrosses and 3 down. Nothing was added for another few minutes, but then they all slowly came to me. In the end I’m delighted to have finished at all, my time being 28:56. Every clue was good, but I’m choosing 27a as my COD. It was my last one in and I only got it after running through the alphabet, trying to find words that fit. Eventually I plumped for DANDY, which fit with “one of stylish ways”, but couldn’t see how “marathon running strips” worked until it was explained above. Full marks to the setter today. I’m going for a lie down 🙂
  13. I’m not going to mention my time, but the late hour of my post here may just give me away!

    Lots of fun clues so it was hard to pick a COD. I’ve gone with 11a in the end.

    And I was surprised not to see Peter claiming a small victory with the numeric 2 in 1d! Well done!

    1. I think the numeric 2 is there by mistake – we’ve had the odd (or even!) number in on-line clues before. My guess is that some of the Times site software goes haywire if numbers appear at the beginning of a clue, but I’m pretty sure the xwd club staff think the rule to apply is “no numbers anywhere in a clue”.
  14. 13:56 for me, with the NE corner making for a slow finish after what had been a reasonably brisk start. A most enjoyable puzzle with several ingenious clues, of which 27A (DANDY) is my COD.

  15. That is I normally do OK with anagrams except when ANAGRAM is the answer! This is not the first time that my LOI has been ANAGRAM (at 4d).

    This was another excellent example that even took the speedsters into double figures – hooray!

    Just the 2 omissions:

    16d Attacked and wounded (dies, alas)* (8)
    ASSAILED. No problem with that 4d.

    20d Lying about our party being exploited (6)
    AB US ED

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