Times 23860 – A mal song rang (4,8)

Solving time : I resorted to aids (Chambers and Bradfords) after 35 minutes to get the last few, so 41 cheating minutes.

I found this one tough. Really tough. On a first scan through the acrosses, I only had three, and after a first go through the downs, I got another 5. It was a steady slog from there, I don’t think there were any really unfair clues, but this setter and I are not on the same wavelength. I ended up having to look up a few (I’ll tell you which in the blog), so in the end this feels more like a Mephisto solve to me than a Times.

If you need more laughs at my expense, check out George vs the Listener Crossword, to be updated tomorrow.

1 TOWN CRIER: OWN,CR(=private credit) in TIER(=bank). The first clue to go in, but the last for a whiel
9 LEAD,KINDLY,LIGHT: Figured out word by word from wordplay (had LIGHT from checking letters, then LEAD, KINDLY was the last to fall into place. Hymn by John Henry Newman, 1833
10 DISOWN: 1S in DOWN(=blue). Kind of a giveaway with the blue and bottles separated by a space, denying a Goon Show reference
13 SPOILS,PORT: surface reads better as “left with prize” rather than “prize and left”
14 BOA,(ha)Z(el): Boaz is Ruth’s (eventual) husband in the Book of Ruth. I didn’t know this, but the wordplay makes it easy enough
16 IN,RO: sounds like INN,ROE. Mephisto fans rejoice – remember when it showed up in consecutive crosswords?
17 DERAILLEUR: A,ILL in (RUE,RED)<=. I wanted to put the name of a brightly-coloured coat in here, but it’s the cycling gear that is the definition. It’s the gadget that switches your chain from level to level when changing gears
20 MATINS: MATING with the G changed for S
22 NO,SPRING,CHICKEN: (KINGSHIP,CONCERN)* – I didn’t get this until I got the checking K from 7d
24 SANDY: a nickname for ALEXANDER (Graham Bell) and the last entry to go in after a visit to Chambers
1 TI(L)ED: the first of the downs to go in
2 WHAT’S,YOUR,POISON: (TWO,HOURS’,PAY) – I particularly liked having the apostrophe there to be a part of the anagram
4 (fr)I(nt)O(no)N(se)A: I liked the “couples going” to indicate every third letter
5 RELIEF,ROAD: Another Mephisto-like clue. RE, then (ORFE)<= in DAIL<=, DAIL being the Irish parliament and DIET being the Japanese. Yikes!
6 CELERY: sticks for dipping
7 LEG BEFORE WICKET: cricket cryptic definition
8 COTE,D’AZUR: Z(=unknown) in (EDUCATOR)*
12 A,P(PEA)RANCE: I was looking for a vegetable for the answer for a long time
15 BLOATING: Had to look this up to get the definition – bloating is also curing (as in smoking) fish
18 T,HORNY: made me crack a, umm, smile
21 SYNOD: Y in DONS<=. Two smutty clues in a row, way to go
22 ECHO: The letter after N in GUINEA is E, which is ECHO in radio speak.

29 comments on “Times 23860 – A mal song rang (4,8)”

  1. I agree it was a toughie and took me about an hour with a couple of interruptions but I never really felt stuck until I was left with only 14 and 24.

    I worked out 24 eventually (are we sure it’s quite fair?) and guessed 14 wrongly, never having heard of BOAZ, or perhaps I have just forgotten him.

    6D seems a bit dodgy to me too.

    Other than that it was an entertaining puzzle and 5D is my COD. I’ve little doubt which one Anax will nominate.

  2. 12:27 – NO SPRING CHICKEN took a while to work out. Thought the ECHO clue was quite clever. 18/19/24 were the last group to go in. Odd to see Sandy fairly soon after Sasha (both Alexander diminutives).
  3. If you like them tough then this is the one for you and we were due one. I’m with Glheard in thinking this was closer to Mephisto than the daily cryptic and took just over an hour. This might be an Anax puzzle as it has some of his trademark style both in difficulty and innuendo although the several religious references perhaps don’t quite fit. I was OK with BLOATING because we used to eat bloaters years ago. I didn’t think any of it unfair although CELERY is a bit of a stretch. Jimbo.
  4. Resisting the temptation to peak at answers above, this is one I’m struggling with at the moment – made a start this morning but ran out of time.
    But just wanted to jump in and thank Jimbo for the compliment; this is a tough puzzle and there’s some nice innuendo at work – but it’s not one of mine. It’s encouraging, though – the first Times COD bonus puzzle appeared there because I thought it perhaps slightly too fruity for the Times. I think I’ve just learned differently!
  5. I thought 4D was a joke about the fact that until the year 2000, Frinton had no pubs. So I went for the fairly regulary placed ‘couples’ in frINton oNSea and wrote INNS. That’s the trouble with defining place names by “where” …
    1. I had no idea Frinton was an actual place (apologies to any Frintonians) – would this be the sort of dilemma that opens Pandora’s can of worms in a championship, or am I just plain wrong?
      1. Here’s a story about Frinton’s first pub.


        I don’t know whether INNS would pass in the championship. I’ve never yet come up with an alternative answer there that felt good enough to argue about. (And I’ve only known of one accepted alternative, which happened the very first time I entered, back in 1989 – HATTIE for HATPIN, for which the clue referred to Harriet I think (dimunitive: Hat or Hattie).

      2. I think IONA is correct. I had no idea Frinton had no pubs, never having been there so was not tempted down the “inns” route. Jimbo.
        1. I’m sure IONA is what I was supposed to write too – the INNS possibility is just a weird coincidence.
          1. I just read your link to the article on Frinton. I thought we had some odd places down here but Frinton reads like a nightmare. At least with our smuggling history we have plenty of very old pubs that were once used as storage houses for contraband. Give me Christchurch any day! Jimbo.
            1. I’ve never been to Frinton, but the no pubs bit strikes a chord as I spent some of my childhood in Sanderstead, which also has none – to this day, I believe.
              1. I knew about Sanderstead because for some years I worked in Croydon and drove from Hurst Green up Titsey Hill (there’s a name for Anax to play with) and through the very dry Sanderstead. Later, my business partner lived in Warlingham, which is just down the road, and the last time I was there whilst Warlingham has a good supply there were, I think, still no pubs in Sanderstead. Jimbo.
      3. I had no idea Frinton had been “the place with no pubs”. But I wouldn’t expect to have known. It would have been an inn-joke.
        1. We used to live in Colchester (about 30 years ago) and Frinton was dire then – unless you were over the age of about 75. I gather it now has just the one pub (a Wetherspoon’s ??), so I’d guess that the plural INNS could be discounted!!
          Some off-topic info – I think I recently read that the local residents are now up in arms that the old-style level crossing (which stands at the entrance to the town and is viewed by them as the same as a national frontier) may well be removed. So it’s just possible that Frinton may become reconnected to the UK in a few years.
    2. I was a child in East Anglia in the sixties when an annual holiday meant a week at Clacton-on-Sea, Felixstowe, Walton-on-the-Naze etc. Even as a child I remember Frinton’s conservative reputation. I seem to remember Fish & Chip shops were also forbidden. At a seaside resort!
  6. This morning’s hiatus left only 6 or so answers after 20 minutes but returning to it in my lunch break did the trick, around 15 minutes needed to finish. I’m glad I didn’t stop to parse some of those I put in because they seemed to fit – I needed a further 3-4 minutes to work out what was going on in 5D; George is right, a real Mephistolean (made-up word?) clue and very ingenious.
    4D very nearly got my COD vote (Frinton-on-Sea is a terrific spot) but I agree “where” puts some strain on finding the right type of location and PB’s interpretation seems quite valid.
    18 & 21? OK guys, I admit, they came close! But I’m going for 2; a friend of mine did p/t work at a pub while at university and the pay was rubbish – this clue sums it up rather nicely.
    1. I think if I was adjudicating on IONA/INNS I’d have to disallow INNS on the grounds that the couples for the latter don’t really ‘go’ regularly – rather they ‘appear’ regularly – or rather symmetrically. But indeed, a cautionary word for using WHERE in the definition, as pointed out.


  7. Very tough indeed. After 30 minutes I was ready to throw in the t but was enjoying some of the clues and pressed on. Eventually stopped the sundial at 1hr 10 mins with 16 and 24 missing (not helped by having spy planes instead of ski planes) and having incorrectly guessed GOTZ for 14. How does BOA satisfy man?

    Agree that 6 was iffy (I bloody hate celery anyway so may be prejudiced) and would have expected 8 to me marked as (4,1’4) rather than (4,5).

    Of the two smutty clues my vote goes to 21. The thought of a bunch of clerics pinching ladies’ bottoms is rather amusing.

    1. Sorry, meant “how does BOA satisfy STOLE?” and now see that it’s one of those things made out of dead foxes that elderly aunts wear.
  8. Agreed – really tough. I managed to get all but two entered in 20 minutes but 15/17 were a total impasse and seeing the answer for 17 I can conclude I would never have got it.
    In addition I put in Inns – which still looks ok to me
  9. 4:55 here (before I got my first answer). As others have said, it’s nice to have a hard one now and again (steady Anax!), and maybe this one was a bit too hard for a daily. Some really good stuff though and, in the main, thoroughly enjoyable. I have no complaints at SANDY – I just think it’s a very devious cryptic def. Ditto CELERY. I also guessed 14a wrongly as GOTZ and, shamefully, forgot my cycling days and invented the word REGAILLEUR at 17a. (GEAR)* + ILL + RUE<. I thought it sounded a bit like French regalia. I’m giving my COD to 22d
  10. Like 7dpenguin I too invented REGAILLEUR. How many others did the same? 10 or so would perhaps be enough to make this right!
  11. Like 7dpenguin I too invented REGAILLEUR. How many others did the same? 10 or so would perhaps be enough to make this right!
  12. I didn’t invent anything for 17, I simply had never heard of it so couldn’t solve it, nor did I solve ‘BLOATING’, so I admit defeat today. A really tough one. Not to be a contrarian, but I thought ‘CELERY’ was clever, made me giggle, as did ‘THORNY’. Regards all.
  13. Tough indeed, but as always, nobody minds hard but fair, as opposed to just plain hard, which is nobody’s idea of fun. Approximately 40 minutes, but no idea exactly how long because a) I was cooking dinner and b) laptop required rebooting in very leisurely fashion half way through.

    However, never felt it was an unfair challenge and when the final 18 down went in, I did smile with more than usual satisfaction.

  14. I don’t think anyone has mentioned this clue, which struck me as quite the best. Absolutely brilliant.
  15. This was one of those puzzles where I was feeling tired when I started it and exhausted by the time I finished it in a gruelling 24:08.

    I was intrigued to see that Peter had put INNS for 4D. I put in IONA myself, but thought it was a rather poor answer and might have been tempted by INNS if I’d thought of it. (I have stayed at Frinton once, but since Janet and I were performing at the Walton Folk Festival with the Reading Traditional Step Dance Group (aka Reading Cloggies) and Walton has plenty of pubs, we weren’t unduly troubled by their absence from Frinton.)

    I’ll go for 24A (SANDY) as my COD for the pleasure it gave me when the penny finally dropped – with 22D (ECHO) as the runner-up for the same reason.

  16. Count me with the INNS at Frinton for 4d. Well done for those who followed the word-play strictly to get IONA. I was dissatisfied with how INNS was clued – now I know why!

    My LOI was the prickly lover at 18d. Perhaps like others I did not expect to see the H-word appear in a Times. I don’t have a problem with it though.

    With one of the “easies”, at 3d, I am only familiar with the word from the Claude Debussy piano piece – part of his “Children’s Corner” suite of 6. For PC reasons we are discouraged these days from using its full title. I note that the title of one of the other pieces is “Jimbo’s Lullaby” – about a Sudanese Elephant. This title is not a reference to our friend from Dorset but due to the apparent inability of the Parisian French to pronounce Jumbo. Zut alors.

    There are half a dozen on the bench in this blog:

    6a Visiting cliniC I LOCate back pain (5)
    COLIC. The condition many of us may have had but do not remember.

    11a Ally with (brief)* works to complete (8)

    19a Stories about fine chap call for attention (4,4)

    25a Put on stretcher, (not a ledge)* when wounded (9)
    ELONGATED. Not a washing-up rack Cardinal Biggles!

    3d One’s certainly not trying exercies after pudding (8)

    13d Overlook tracks made by these vehicles? (3,6)
    SKIP LANES. I found this tough as I don’t think of aircraft as vehicles.

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