Times 23,912 – Run of the Mill?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Around 15 minutes for me, which suggests there will be some fast times today: on the one hand this puzzle required some, to my mind, fairly obscure knowledge in the fields of ancient history, religion, law and that frequent bugbear of mine, botany. At the same time it had sufficient unambiguous wordplay and checked letters that I’d expect experienced hands to be reasonably confident that they’d deduced the correct solutions without needing corroboration.

8 NEMESIA – A1 (=healthy) + S.E. MEN all reversed. I deduced it though I wouldn’t recognise one without help (I am hopeless in the garden).
11 INHERIT – IN+H(ER)IT = “be left”.
12 ARABIAN – AR(AB)IAN: the Arian heresy is one of those that I suspect would be deduced from wordplay rather than being common knowledge.
13 OX-EYE = “neat” being an old term for cattle, OX+E(ngineering)+YE.
14 BAS-RELIEF = (S)itter in BARE + LIEF, another somewhat uncommon Old English word meaning “willingly”.
23 OPOSSUM – (SOMESOUP)* without the E.
24 GROMMET = G(ran)T(urismo) encircling ROMME(l).
1 GUMSHOE – Charlie being MUG as in “right Charlie”: (MUG)rev + O inside SHE. I think it’s been a while since we saw this old favourite, which must be much more popular with setters than readers these days.
3 TRACTABLE – (BATTLE)* containing the RAC, which along with the AA, comes up here on a regular basis.
4 MEDIA – straight def. Again, I imagine more people might have heard of the Laws of the Medes and Persians than could necessarily point out the land of Media on a map.
10 RUN OF THE MILL – those who dislike clues which necessitate knowledge of a particular work of literature will doubtless not have been impressed by this reference to this book, though once more the wordplay makes it easy.
15 SOMNOLENT = (O)ld+M(a)N inside the SOLENT.
18 TRIMMER – straight def, once more I wasn’t familiar with this particular item but wordplay made it plain. Obviously I know the difference between a joist and a girder (Joist wrote Dubliners, and Girder wrote Faust. Sorry).
19 PROVERB – “saw” meaning a saying, ROVER inside PB=lead.
22 ESTOP – t(E)am = (POTS)rev. Take my word that the study of the concept of estoppel is not the most fascinating part of English Law.

I enjoyed this, but I might have thought otherwise if I’d been utterly stumped by one of the tougher allusions!

32 comments on “Times 23,912 – Run of the Mill?”

  1. 15 minutes here, too. Very happy to take your word for it regarding the study of ‘estoppel’.

    I was very slow to see 7dn,’INVIGORATING’. I once spent two days stranded in Vigo and it was a lot less than invigorating (prompted lots of “I went to Vigo but it was shut” type thoughts, though it may have changed in the intervening years).

    17dn,’RAVIOLI’ was really well disguised. Plenty of smart surfaces here and, as you say, ample confirmation for the literary and specialist words. Is ‘GT’ a luxury car? I don’t have the right dictionaries to hand. I always thought of it more as a ‘sporty’ car.

  2. So I’ve no idea how long it took.

    There is something called “Neat’s foot oil” that you can get for rubbing into leather. See wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neatsfoot_oil. I bet you didn’t know (I didn’t) that the fat in the legs of cattle has a lower melting point than in the body (so it doesn’t solidify in cold weather) so it soaks into leather well. Anyway, that’s the only context in which I’ve run across ‘neat’ in real life.

    Media and Arabian were both guesses, but fairly confident, and I’ve never heard of a trimmer or nemesia. But I managed to get them all.


  3. I agree entirely with your summary of the puzzle, with any obscurities being balanced by fair wordplay.

    One of the more traditional style Times crosswords (with the obligatory plants), I thought.

    Took me about 25 minutes.

    ‘neat’ = ‘ox’ is one of those things I’ve never come across outside crosswords, another being ‘tent’ for a wine.

    Paul S.

  4. 29 mins., over twice my average. A very old-fashioned feel to it. I liked 19D, though I suspect it’s been seen before.

    Tom B.

  5. I had distractions during what is normally my quality solving time on the way to work and I didn’t find it that easy, but I got there in the end with several queries which are now all cleared up except 9ac. Why “one coming into line”? No doubt I shall be requiring the boot when someone explains.

    And talking of footwear, I had problems in the NW segment having chosen the wrong novel and written in GUMBOOT. I guessed it might be wrong as I couldn’t explain “love” but I had a mental block and didn’t think of an alternative until the checking letters were in place.

    Not one of my better days.

    1. Dressing the line is something that would have been better-known in the days of National Service and cadets, when drill instruction was much more common (reinforcing the old-fashioned feel of this puzzle). It’s what happens when everyone’s done a bit of marching up and down and / or turns on the spot, and it becomes apparent that the ranks and files are no longer perfectly straight. On the command, everyone takes the person to their left or right as a fixed point, and shuffles around until everyone is an arm’s length apart and properly lined up.

      As described here.

      As you were 🙂

      1. Thanks for the explanation, Tim. Now you mention it, I have heard of “dressing the line” but didn’t know exactly what it was. I don’t think I deserve the order of the boot after all.
  6. By no means a romp, around 25 minutes but with constant interruptions from somebody else’s mobile phone (makes mental note: find out where Brian McFadden lives, visit, kick to death for making world’s most annoying ringtone contribution).
    Got there in the end feeling, as others, that this was quite an old-skool offering. No bad points, technically sound (apart perhaps from the TRIMMER thing which Wiki suggests may be wrong, but what does Wiki know?), but no moments of genius either, so can’t suggest a COD.
  7. 4:31 for this – it should be easy for anyone with long Times (or other) xwd experience, as there are plenty of ‘stock’ answers. Nemesia and Ox-eye, for example, fit such handy sets of checking letters that they’ll be near the top of your mental lists of plants. Others include INVOICE, OPOSSUM, ESTOP, GRENADE and the R?????I pair RAVIOLI and ROSSINI (Rabboni and reversi are probably the only other options). There are quite a few routine wordplay elements too. The grid probably helped a bit too – all answers are 5,7,9 or 12 letters long, and 5/7/9 are bread-and butter answer lengths for a tidy-looking 15×15 grid.

    Neat’s foot oil is the way for me to remember neat=ox/cattle, too – I had some back in about 1980 to care for a pair of Adidas Tokyos (running spikes – made of kangaroo leather, supposedly). I think you can meet tent=wine in Shakespeare or similar lit.

    Didn’t know about ‘dressing the line’ but had seen {dress = adjust} enough times to make the connection. No possums in Britain – nor continental Europe, Asia or Africa I believe.

    1. Just a quick note that whilst opossums are frequently called possums they’re not. Possums are natives of Australia, Papua New Guinea etc…
  8. Perhaps I’m missing something but doesn’t the Wikipedia article suggest that a trimmer is a vertical beam not a horizontal one as in the clue?
    Mike O
    1. Not necessarily. Stand up, point straight ahead with your left arm, and to the right with your right arm. Your body is vertical. Your two arms are both horizontal, but also perpendicular to each other. This def confirms ‘horizontal’.
  9. If Topicaltim took Peter’s headline then Peter took my blog! Nobody will be surprised that I both enjoyed this puzzle and found it really quite easy – about 25 minutes to solve. I’m surprised that “dressing the line” isn’t better known – I suppose younger folk have no experience of the military although I first came across this term in The Boys Brigade that kept me off the streets. Also Arianism, which I learned about at school. Jimbo.
  10. After my slow solve yesterday I was very happy to finish this in 19 minutes. I very rarely finish in under 20 minutes (in fact very rarely under 25). There were enough clues dotted around the grid that I could solve immediately, so then it was just a question of filling in the gaps, often from the definition or the letter patterns. Only PEACH gave me brief pause for thought since I didn’t know the first definition, but it sounded a Shakespearean version of ‘impeach’, so it was a pretty safe bet. Some nice clues: 1ac, 14, 15, 19. Not sure which to pick as COD, so I’ll pass on that today.
  11. 16:40 but a little hampered by juggling knife & fork and pen, so call it 16:39. It barely needs saying that I hated 10d. Making the rest of it quite easy doesn’t excuse the requirement for specialist knowledge. Stop it!
    I always thought there was a “rule” which specified no brand names etc? If that’s the case, are the RAC and AA arbitrarily excused like her madge is from the “no living person” rule?
    Apart from 10, I found this enjoyable enough but, like others, can’t see anything worth nominating as COD.
    1. Dyste has pretty well said it for me on the specialist knowledge side.

      AA and RAC are indeed “permitted brand names”. You could probably say the same about things like ‘footballers = FA’, or ‘gallery = TATE’. So if you want to remember a rule so that you never consider “Boots the Chemist” as an answer , it needs to include “except for cases that provide useful bits of wordplay” – the reason for the ER exception.

  12. We all have our likes and dislikes (and I certainly have a number of pet hates), but the trouble with outlawing clues that rely on “specialist knowledge” is that the latter is very subjective. I regard any cricketing, football or rugby term as “specialist knowledge” since these sports are anathema to me, but I don’t expect them to be outlawed. I’m pretty good on plants, having been keen on gardening at one time, but some that appear in daily cryptics would be regarded as “specialist” terms by some people. 10d could be solved from the definition alone, given the 3-2-3-4 word arrangement, so I don’t see that it poses a particular problem.
    1. There’s a huge difference between having “Mill on the floss” as an answer and being expected to know that Tom and Maggie Tulliver were in a book with “mill” in the title and could therefore be said to have the “run of the mill”. Yes, I got the answer from “routine” and (3,2,3,4) but if I wanted to do that, I’d do the Times 2. I have no problems with book titles, authors, poets, composers etc being answers in clues, even Shakespearean characters are also fair game as long as they’re clued as such and not merely by reference – that’s where it becomes specialist rather than general knowledge.
      Michael’s comment below, ‘anyone who doesn’t know that the phrase “bubble reputation” comes from the “seven ages of man” surely deserves a kicking.’, is surely a contender for Pseud’s Corner. You’d better come and give me a kicking then!
  13. Didn’t time myself, solved most of it while waiting at the mechanics, then knocked the rest out when I got back. Most of it has been said, very nice crossword on the easier side. Some confident guesses from wordplay (NEMESIA, GROMMET, GUMSHOE – which to me has always meant to hunt around for things), and RUN-OF-THE-MILL from definition. I hadn’t seen the construction at 19 before and immediately liked it.
  14. Re the wordplay for PROVERB.

    In an Everyman crossword some months ago, we had:

    Saying name of dog held by lead (7)

    I would say the present clue-writer does it still better!


  15. Hi, and thank you.

    Well, I can’t argue with that. If I’d ever owned anything that wasn’t one careless gearshift away from the breaker’s yard, I might not have needed to ask.

    Glad your investment in a shiny new Chambers is paying off!

  16. GT: Chambers describes a gran turismo car as one “designed for touring in luxury and at high speed”, which I guess makes the definition OK.

    Neat = cattle is now such an old Times xwd favourite as to be obscure only to non-cruciverbalists. The most recent example of its actual use in this archaic sense quoted in my edition of the OED dates from the 1850s, though it seems to have survived a little longer appositively in the phrase “neat cattle”.

    Whether or not literary references have a proper place in cryptics has been much discussed in recent blogs. I side with those who feel it’s perfectly OK.
    Shakespeare aka Waggledagger seems to be a particularly bone of contention. But, surely, it is entirely reasonable for the setter of a Times cryptic to assume that knowledge of our greatest writer’s better-known passages is or should be part of the mental furniture of any moderately literate English speaker. Unreasonably obscure references are tiresome (and requiring solvers to know exactly how the first line of Troilus and Cressida begins perhaps comes into that category). But, on the other hand, anyone who doesn’t know that the phrase “bubble reputation” comes from the “seven ages of man” speech from As You Like It (another Bardic reference from the same xwd as the Troilus and Cressida one) surely deserves a kicking. References to the titles of novels also seem to me perfectly fair provided they are reasonably well-known (and Flaubert’s Parrot certainly qualifies on that count). As Peter B says, you don’t have to have read the novels to know the titles and to be able to solve the clues (though it helps). I confess, to my shame, that I’ve never read The Mill on the Floss, referred to in today’s 10 dn, but I know the title well enough, as must almost everyone else, I would have thought. Certain poems feature fairly regularly as reference sources – Coleridge’s Xanadu and the
    Rime of the Ancient Mariner come to mind, as do various verse by Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll (e.g The Owl and the Pussy Cat and The Hunting of the Snark). Again, this seems to me the sort of stuff that everyone should know and, if it is not known, it can be learnt. Scope here, I feel, for one of Peter B’s elegant little monographs along the lines of Poems That All Times Crossword Addicts Need to Know?

    Congratulations to Peter B, by the way, on his 4.21 mins. Well within semi-soft-boiled egg time (Yes, Peter, I know that the Provost of Eton story is apocryphal). I guess, from the comments above, that today’s xwd would have been a fastish one for most of us (according to our own lights – about 30 mins for me), but Peter B’s time was gobsmackingly fast.

    Michael H

    1. I wouldn’t think it reasonable for the setter of a daily cryptic to assume that moderately literate English speakers have in their mental furniture a knowledge of the lemma from Principia, the 10 tenets that underpin Origin of The Species or the works of Heisenberg. Nor should the same setter assume an equivalent knowledge of English literature.

      I wholly agree with 7dP. Where a setter resorts to this type of device they are in my opinion either showing off their knowledge or too lazy to think up a proper cryptic clue. Jimbo.

        1. Tush! Jeff Lynne’s Xanadu, surely. ELO and Neutron Bomb merely performed it.
          1. Surely, it must be “The Legend of Xanadu” performed by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley).

            Mike O,

            1. Whoa, that takes me back. That’s the first performance I can ever remember on Top of the Pops, with the old whip cracking away.

              Anyway, back to thinking impure thoughts about ONJ.

              1. No, no, no. Whip crack away was Doris Day singing “The Deadwood Stage” in Calamity Jane
    2. Kicked and congratulated in the same comment! (I failed on ‘bubble reputation’ last week). I’m not going to attempt a poetry list – partly because it depends on what the setter/editor think is OK, and partly because sometimes it’s just a tiny snippet of the poem that you need – “Ben = battle” from Hood’s Faithless Nelly Gray is an example.

      There’s always stuff that some people don’t know. I’ll start worrying when it’s always stuff of the same kind. But I’ve failed on DIY/engineering, botany, early British history, astronomy and doubtless many other things as well as literature. How many people can honestly say today that they didn’t know the Tullivers but did know every single other snippet of general knowledge that was required or would have sped things up?

      I’ll conduct an experiment tomorrow by counting up the number of snippets in each of the six slices of the 6 Trivial Pursuit (TM) “pie”. I dont’t promise to continue it, and Whether other bloggers want to add extra work by doing the same is of course up to them.

  17. I see that I inadvertently shaved 10 seconds off Peter B’s time in my earlier comment. But 4.31 is still mind-boggling.


  18. 35 minutes or so (a bit of a guess as I cocked up timing myself) and a bit of a slog, with far too many obscure definitions crammed into one puzzle for my liking (lief, peach, saw) and double botany. I was close to cursing the setter for including a violinist other than Menuhin, Grapelli, Kennedy and the bloke out of Dexy’s as well until the penny dropped on ravioili (my COD).

    BTW, I’m another who deserves a kicking – not because I’m Brian McFadden but because I wasn’t hitherto familiar with the seven ages of man/bubble thingummy (Anax, I think you should cut McFadden some slack for having to put up with that Katona woman for as long as he did).

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