Times 23884 – in which we take the knife to Wales

Solving time : 27 minutes (edit: and one error! Defeated!). Unfamiliar circumstances, having to solve (and blog) this without a paper copy. I found this a real slog, had to take a rehydration break in the middle (New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street is mere steps away), and I have one guess, which will probably be jumped at before I hit the hay. This is another crossword that I expect will really challenge we over the pondies.

1 VALE OF GLAMORGAN: V(=see), A, LEO(=sign), G in (FARM,ALONG). Never heard of this part of Wales, worked it out from wordplay
9 SIDES,WIPE: I guess incidentally is the definition, as in an accident, not sure what the role of “critical” in the clue Edit: see Peter’s comments below, sideswipe is a criticism
11 TANTRA: Very nice, had me held up for a while, TAN,(ART)<=
12 FIRED,AMP: flammable gas formed by small fractions in coal mines
13 DIKTAT: (TAT,KID)<= figured out from wordplay, it’s a proclamation
15 TRICK,LED(=light emitting diode, the glowing feature): my tip for COD, nicely hidden
19 INTENT: hidden
23 FEDORA: sounds like FED AURA, which is a pretty good homophone, unless you pronounce it like the tennis star
26 LLANO: L,(LOAN)*. Where the rain in Spain stays mainly on?
28 COSMETIC SURGERY: COS(=because), MET, I, SURGE(=swell) in CRY. Mephistoish construction, worked it out evenutally from wordplay
1 VISITED: SIT(=pose) in VIED, nice use of the definition here
2 LAD,E,N(=opponents at bridge)
4 GAIT: sounds like GATE(=wicket)
5 ATE,(f)LIERS: the workshop of crosswordly choice
6 O,MB(=megabyte),RE: a cardgame to be figured out from wordplay
7 GRISAILLE: (IS,A) in GRILLE. Another new word, it’s a type of painting, usually religious, done in shades of grey. Wordplay not too difficult.
14 KNOTGRASS: (GOT)* in (RANKS)* and an S to finish
17 SVENGALI: the last part being (I,LAG)<= nice word
18 SHELLAC: SHE,(CALL)<=. Just noticed a lot of reversed words today
24 (b)OUNCE: the preferred 5-letter cat of the Times, it’s a snow leopard
25 COL,S: This is my guess, it seems to fit, but I’m open to suggestions. That I’ll address when I come to in a few hours. Edit: as pointed out below I was in error here, GO,S,S. Probably boot-worthy, but not thinking slang, nothing jumped out at me as ending -OSS when I was “solving”. Bad George

30 comments on “Times 23884 – in which we take the knife to Wales”

  1. 11:47 – started confidently after a probable lifetime PB for Times 2, but gradually slowed down and eventually thought this was championship final material, with one or two answers probably making their first Times xwd appearance. After about 9 mins I had the two crossing pairs 6/10 and 16/19 to deal with. 6/10 fell after 40 secs – BU(I,L)T first, then a big self-kick on O,MB,RE as I reckon to gain time on card games, and 16/19 took another 70 – CON/TENDER then an even bigger self-kick for the hidden word. Then nearly stopped the clock, but just remembered that I should check my answers. Good thing too as 22 and 25 were unsolved – I’d guessed at GNOME for 22 but hadn’t seen that ‘standing on border’ referred to garden ones so left it blank, and GO,S,S = ‘gossip’ took a bit of thought. 1A, 28 and 3 put in without complete understanding of wordplay.
  2. Nightmare
    This could only have been worse if it had turned up tomorrow when it’s my day to write the blog. After 10 minutes I didn’t have a single clue solved. After 60 minutes or so, when I ran out of time,I had most of the LH side in but only a couple on the RH. Then I looked in here and gleaned a couple more answers from Peter’s remarks but I still have 7 clues unsolved with no more than 2 letters in each so the on-line solver is of no use. Must work now; I’ll look in later to catch up with the rest of it.

    If I ever had thoughts of entering the competition they would have been dashed to pieces by my poor showing today.

    1. Having just read glh’s blog I see there were at least a couple more I should have got easily, for example the hidden word at 19. I think my bad start set off a blind panic and I lost all confidence in my ability to see this one through to the end.
      1. I was nearly right there with you and was going to pack it in and resume in the morning. Finally getting VALE OF GLAMORGAN got me “there”. Funny story, I’m glad I did that, since at 3am, while I was typing this up, my anti-virus scan kicked in and started deleting cookies, including my answers in the grid!
        1. I think I would have enjoyed this more if it had appeared on one of my lazy days at home (I’m now semi-retired) instead of one on which I had to go to work and therefore my solving time was limited to the time it takes to get there. Seeing the minutes ticking away whilst making such slow progress was very off-putting and probably added to my difficulties.
  3. I thought this was a superb crossword, which took me just over half an hour – I’d normally give up much sooner. Excellent surfaces abound, I can’t find a false note anywhere. Spoilt for choice for COD, I’ll go for the homophone at 4D. My thanks to the setter.
  4. 9A: A sideswipe is a criticism that’s incidental to the main subject of writing or speech. While complaining about the time it took for delegates to get to the conference in New Orleans, he took a sideswipe at the declining standard of jazz in the clubs on Bourbon Street.

    24D: I was going to tell Jon, who commented late about yesterday’s puzzle, that he’d soon see cat=ounce again, but this puzzle has done it for me!

    25D: I’m pretty sure of GO=pass on S,S (final letters) => GOSS = short for gossip – ‘Brit. informal’ as COD says. (Or you can take “pass on” as GO – both mean ‘die’ – instead of treating ‘on’ as a ‘goes on top of’ indicator. This kind of choice with ‘…. on’ expressions happens from time to time.)

    I’d say 27 mins was good going for this, even with one mistake – esp. if solving without being able to scribble ideas next to clues.

    1. Thanks, Peter… I would never have gotten GOSS out of that clue, edits have been made.
    2. And I didn’t get ‘ounce’ this time either, which just goes to show that you don’t always learn from your mistakes!

      This was very hard, with about four or five left blank in the bottom half at the end. Vale Of Glamorgan I got very quickly, having the advantage of working down here in Cardiff.


  5. Really good, if difficult. 37 minutes for me, finishing with 7d, which was just a wordplay deduction with no ieda what the word meant. I went with ‘goss’ for 25. Nothing else makes much sense to me. But this, and 1a, must have been tricky for non-Brits. Since moving to north America I can’t recall hearing ‘goss’. Loads of great clues. My COD is 10a – cunning as a crate of ounces.
  6. A very quick scan of the clues first thing and nothing at all sprang to mind, so I knew this would probably be tough. So I tried a different tack – had a good think about 1A and if you get that you’ve got several starting letters to immediately help with the downs. Spotting the def quickly was a big help although I had few minutes pondering before the answer went in – I’d guess five down answers followed almost immediately, then it was time for mental blockage.
    So I went for the same approach at 28, eliminating what looked impossible as def, and got the answer reasonably quickly.
    A very slow process all round and a solving time around the hour mark, but not the kind of puzzle I was prepared to give up. Limped home, but very satisfied.
    Among many, many candidates, went for the great semi-&lit at 25.
  7. Very enjoyable and very, very tricky. I think glheard said yesterday that he rates himself on a par with me as far as solving goes. Spookily, this took me 27 minutes and I got one wrong – a different one to him but the one diagramatically (?) opposite at 4dn. I eventually guessed at GOIN, since that’s what cricketers do when they’re out. I’d considered wicket=gate but the bells didn’t ring loudly enough to convert GATE to GAIT. Today’s correct guess was GRISAILLE. My nom for COD is 5d.
  8. Thank you for a lovely description of the pain of the long-distance crossword solver. We’ve all been there. I always console myself, when struggling, with the thought that every difficult clue solved is perhaps another brain cell saved from atrophy. The lady who lived next door to me growing up is now approaching her ninetieth birthday and still solving the Times and the Telegraph before breakfast every morning. I’m hoping to do half as well.
  9. BTW, the answer to 28A was also the clue phrase for the last-completed cluing competition of the Times Crossword Club – so members can compare today’s clue with the prize-winners as judged by Roger Phillips. I would paste these in here, but I’m not sure on copyright.
    1. Last Thursday’s was a stinker, but at least I didn’t get any wrong! I alternate Thursdays with Richard (richardvg) but he and I swapped one – you’ll see him the next two Thursdays. There doesn’t seem to be a conscious decision to make one day more difficult than the next, like in the New York Times.

      For more of my poor solving, check out George v Listener, updated tomorrow.

    2. Sometimes I hear on the grapevine who wrote the Times puzzle, and I don’t think I’ll upset any apple carts by telling you that it’s not Roger’s puzzle today. The time lag from setters sending puzzles to the puzzles appearing in the paper seems to be several months, so my guess is that today’s appearance of COSMETIC SURGERY is a fluke. Or just possibly today’s setter mentioned to Roger that he’d found it tricky or interesting to clue, and suggested (or Roger decided) that it would be good to use in the clue comp.
    3. I think you may be right about the setter – the brilliant clues suggest Kea/Nestor to me.
  10. Well, this was no walk in the park. Took me well over an hour in two sittings, finishing with 25D while driving to work this AM. I guessed ‘GOSS’ from the wordplay; I’d never heard it, like ‘YOMP’ the other day, but today’s clue was far more tricky. Also unfailiar with 7D, 6D, and Welsh vales, so it took every bit of my long solving time to finish. I thought 10A the best clue today, but there were plenty of tricky ones throughout. Regards.
  11. Looked at it carefully, got 1Across.
    Carried on looking. And looking.
    Got no more.
    Went to feed cats 🙁

    And this after ripping through yesterday’s like a bush fire.

  12. With apologies if this is the second posting. We often seem to lose contact when mailing from France. My wife and I usually either finish or nearly finish the crossword but managed only six clues today. As for time- about 4 hours!!! But we are on holiday. We thought it was an awful crossword with poor, badly thought out clues, many of which were impossible to work out from the word play alone. Not worthy of the Times. Many thanks for your most helpful and enjoyable blog. Regards Mike and Fay

    1. Chacun à son goût!

      You’re in the minority of commenters here, but we have been reminded from time to time that the bloggers and commenters here are not typical solvers, and I suspect that when I was finishing most but not all Times puzzles I’d have fallen short on this one too. I’d be interested to know what you found so bad about a couple of clues, given knowledge of the answers.

  13. 16:38 for me, though it really ought to have been faster.

    I totally disagree with Mike and Fay. I thought this was an absolutely first-rate puzzle and a credit to the Times.

    Lots of delightful clues to choose from as COD, but I’ll go for 4D (GAIT), at least partly because I kicked myself when the penny finally dropped.

  14. For the most part, I’m with Tony – a number of clues which, when I finally got them, left me feeling like I did when my pocket was picked by a tiny tot in Italy – annoyed, and really impressed. But after some thought I’m inclined to agree with Mike and Fay that 1ac, from which so much else might flow, is a bit too abstruse. I could only ‘back-solve’ it, guessing the solution from crossing letters, then explaining it. Given how pivotal it is to the top half of the grid, and given how hard some of those crossing letters were to find, maybe it is a little too obscure.
  15. Many thanks Pete for your kind reply. Perhaps we have been overdoing the liquid gout. We felt for example 1 accross which might have eased the task was obscure with v for see and leo for sign (there are quite a few signs). 9 accross is also very obscure – hands for sides? As for Goss – well where does the compiler get words? like that. In general it seems there are too many clues that have to be answered before working out the reason for the answer.Your comments are as always extremely helpful and appreciated. Mike et Fay
    1. v = vide = see is a bit old school but fairly routine for the Times, and Leo for sign is like Arne or Ives for composer – the shortest candidate, so first to consider for wordplay once you’ve seen what kind of sign is needed. hands = sides was unusual but I thought it was fair as left and right are often the two sides of something. Goss: he gets them from the Concise Oxford Dictionary, though I suspect this is first GOSS with this meaning in the Times xwd. I barely knew it, but as a shortening of gossip it was possible to work out. The SS part was clear in the wordplay, though the craftiness of “Bird mostly” = AVOCE(t) in 27 probably robbed you of the checking O to help see pass (on) = GO. Enough already – tomorrow’s is available!
  16. I think this was the most difficult of the many hundreds I have done, with the exception of the old Championship eliminator puzzles (which weren’t necessarily expected to be completed). Mostly fair, though. Spent ages on 19 ac after promising myself I’d never get caught out on a hidden word again.
  17. I decided to buy The Times on Thursday – a rare event for me. Stared at the crossword for 24 hours but it was like a sheer rock face with no footholds. It seems another day it might have been easier. Oh, well – back to the Glasgow Herald then.


  18. Je suis dans le camp de Mike et Fay. If I wanted a challenge like this I’d try mephisto or Azed or the other one whose name escapes me.

    A total inability to get past half way (I got gait and goss no probs so ya boo sucks to George and Pingu) is a real confidence knocker to those of us still trying to get to grips with the Times crozzer.

  19. I thought this was a bit of a Dinsdale Pirhana sort of puzzle. I did not get GOSS at 25d but it is now stored in the back of the brain for the next time it rears its very ugly head.

    The answer to the previous comment/question about 21a is YES. Here it is with the rest of the answers omitted from the blog:

    10a Objection to case one lawyer initially made (5)
    BU 1 L T. Objection (BUT) cases or contains one (1) lawyer initially (L).

    21a Taking part and winning (8)
    ENGAGING. Double definition. Engaging smile = winning smile for example.

    27a Bird mostly seen around island, twitching (and)* ducking (9)
    AVO I DAN CE (T). When trying to parse this it took me ages to see “twitching and” = DAN. The Avocet is the symbol of the RSPB. You can see plenty of them at Minsmere Reserve on the Suffolk Coast.

    3d Watchful (Boers)* playing leading part over time (9)

    8d Item to write on drama followed by bit about recording (7)
    NO T EP AD. The Japanese NO or NOH dramas are staged regularly in Times X-word land.

    16d Rook, young one in the field (9)
    CON TENDER. Where rook = CON and young = TENDER and “one in field” is the literal.

    22d Saw statue standing on border? (5)
    GNOME. Where SAW = GNOME = “wise saying” and (Garden) Gnome may be situated in or on the border of a garden.

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