Times 23,914

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 8:49

Reasonably pleased with this time for a puzzle with a lot of unfamiliar words and meanings. MASSÉ and TILLER=shoot I simply did not know. And AMERCE, CATALPA and OBEAH are not part of my everyday vocabulary. On the other hand the big straightforward anagrams at 3, 12, 18 helped.

I am a bit rushed this morning, and so I have not attempted the pie chart analysis. Perhaps later. (Happy to say that Peter has done the analysis below and in the face of other comments is going to consult on topic headings separately.)


1 IAMB – I tried to justify “element” defining IAMB, before I realised that this was an &lit. But that was only once I realised that the William Butler here was Mr Yeats.
9 CO-STAR(re)D
13 O B(E)AH!
21 AD + M.I.T.
22 ESCALATOR – I didn’t put this in straight away, because I couldn’t see what was American about it. The answer is that “story” is an American spelling of “storey”
24 MAR + CON + I
25 AP + PROVE, AP being PA(rev) – and the definition being OK(v)
27 STUN(t)


1 INCH + O(r)ATE
2 MASSÉ + USE – I did not know that a massé was a way of hitting a billiard or snooker ball
4 EIDER, being (RED + I.E.)(all rev)
5 RO(CHE)STER – nice change from Ely for “see”. I suppose there must be lots of other bishoprics available
6 BUTTON ON (th)E SLIP – trying to solve from the definition only I was going to leave the middle word (ONE’S or YOUR) till later, then spotted that the wordplay gave the answer. I think actually the Times (unlike other crosswords) always uses ONE’S. (Peter has shown below that I am simply wrong in this, quoting a “your” just last month)
7 TILL + ER – I find that “tiller” can mean “shoot” in the botanical sense
10 ABBREVIATIONS – it took me too long to see that BBC and ITV are given merely as examples
15 LEAV(EN)ING, EN being the first letters of “each novelist”. Odd definition, but “raising agent” would have been too obvious and would have been a poor surface
16 SEA T + R + OUT
19 WARM-UP – it took me a while to realise that this definition was cryptic, but of course heats are part of the competition, not preliminaries
20 A MERCE(r)
23 CH(A)IN(a) – ie CHINA with the A relocated

24 comments on “Times 23,914”

  1. I found this quite a tricky one. Started slowly with a few of the shorter words scattered throughout but it only really began to come together once I had cracked the long ones at 6, 10, 14 and 18. When I had completed the grid I had 10 clues not fully explained although I was pretty sure the answers were correct.

    If I ever knew them, I had forgotten that “masse” is a snooker-shot and “Costard” is a Shakespearean clown so 2 and 9 went on my list to check. At 1ac “element” seemed an odd definition then I realised that it wasn’t. I didn’t recognise “confused” as a definition of “inchoate” until I looked it up later. At 7 I have a feeling that “tiller” meaning “shoot” has come up here recently and I promptly forgot it. 11,13 and 20 I dredged up from the recesses of my mind using the wordplay but I couldn’t have said what they mean without having seen the definition part of the clue.

    All in all I thought this was a pretty good test and I have no real complaints.

    COD for me is 22 though I’ve a feeling I have seen something similar before.

    1. Prediction: if you go to Cheltenham and talk to the people looking fed up because a mistake spoiled their day, most will have chosen a wrong short word like ADOPT for ADMIT. For words up to about 7 letters, I would try to force yourself to do the justification, especially if the bit you’re sure of is a common prefix or suffix like AD-, or if you don’t have all the checking letters yet. If you get an idea like ADOPT, scribble it next to the clue and see if it fits later. If I had done that with my hasty but wrong APHASIA for APHONIA in last year’s final, I’d probably have saved two or three minutes.
  2. In 22ac what does “institute in America” yield? I can guess the answer, though. TIA.


  3. A co-member in a small group had put down ADOPT and I was hard put to explain it. Then I doubted the answer itself and changed it to ADMIT (before reading the message above). She managed to get LEAVENING.

    Sorry for the flurry of messages. I will try to restrain myself in the future.

  4. Actually, I’ve got no excuse for messing up at 20dn AMERCE. I had the crossing letters, glanced at the clue, thought “I know that!” and wrote in AMERSE. So I didn’t know that.

    But I’d agree that 20dn is grist to the Levellers’ mill, given that it involves two relative archaisms on the way to a fairly obscure legal term.
    A bit mean, that.

    Another very tough Thursday puzzle (are they always the hardest?), and, yes, a lot of relatively obscure vocabulary, but with a rich crop of devious clues and some belting good surfaces. Too many clues worthy of a mention in despatches, so I’d single out 9 COSTARD and 15 LEAVENING. 6dn is almost brilliant – I think there’s a memorable clue in there somewhere.

    Oh, about 32 minutes, but blown out of the water by my mistake at 20dn.

  5. An American professor, a former student at Yale University, gave an affectionate and very long speech about the benefits he received from his alma mater. He remembered the happy days of his Youth (with a capital Y); the Ability (capital A) which his teachers had fostered; the Leadership qualities they had taught him. As he embarked into a lengthy exposition of the joys of his E for Education, a member of his audience said under his breath ‘Just be glad it wasn’t the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.’
  6. Failed again! Not helped by hurriedly writing in ADMIT in 21a. I should have got 20dn since I grew up in the town where John Mercer lived. He invented the process of mercerising cotton which gives it its shiny appearance. This was a really strange one where quite a lot went in really quickly and the rest had to be forced in. Lots of good clues but I’ll give the nod to 22a
    1. Oops. I wish I had hurriedly written in ADMIT! I actually hurreidly wrote in ADOPT. Thanks Penfold
  7. I found this fairly easy, taking just under 25 minutes to finish. COSTARD, AMERCE, and OBEAH are all so common in The Listener that I didn’t have to think about them once a letter or two was in place, though I can understand complaints about the clue to AMERCE. The only clue that gave me persistent trouble until near the end was 14, which I thought was an anagram of ‘two girls into’ for some time. I have slight reservations about the vague definition – it seems more of a Listener definition to me. A nice bunch of clues otherwise, though nothing standing out particularly. 10 is neat, with a convincing surface, so I’ll pick that as COD
  8. Had the same experience, placing plenty of answers then reaching a brick wall. Major hold-ups were deciphering wordplay at 9 & 14, which I needed for help with 1D. It had even led to doubts about whether I’d got the apparently straightforward 12 right.
    The penny drop moment made 14 a COD contender but I’d previously ticked 5 (hooray – “revolutionary” not used!) and I’ll stick with that.
  9. I think the crossing clues at 20 and 21 were unfairly difficult for a daily puzzle. I’ve never heard of the MIT, don’t know amerce and had no idea what a mercer did so that made it pretty impossible to get these two, especially as “take on” seems such a loose definition for admit. Adopt looked a better bet and that’s what I plumped for, putting in coarse for the down clue even though course and fine are opposites (in the world of sandpaper at least). Add to that costard, catalpa, and obeah (all of which I got from the wordplay, but still) and it’s a stretch to expect this to be solved without a dictionary.

    All of which is a pity, as elsewhere there were a lot of clever clues, like 14 and 22, the latter of which gets my nod for COD.

    1. I didn’t have any real problems with 20 / 21. 21 went in first – AD = commercial was straightforward enough, and MIT seems to crop up fairly regularly in crosswords (though I probably wouldn’t have got it a year ago). Checking letters from 24 and 26 were then fairly easy to come by.

      My quickest time this week. Only problems were in the SE corner. Got myself in a bit of a pickle with 15 / 22 / 23… Also spent too long trying to look up OREOT and OTEAT for 13 (that’s two days in a row we’ve had unusual synonyms for ‘rubbish’). Thought 14 was a tad obscure…

      COD perhaps 1, 10 or 18.

  10. Unwell today so time not quoted as it should have been quicker. Comment deleted and reposted after penfold61 queried the pie analysis – I’d just misallocated the headings. And the headings probably need a revamp for our purposes – it’s bit sad Shakespeare can’t be Entertainment if it’s Lit, and fields like business and law hardly fit anywhere. I’m already using History for old words like mercer and amerce.

    1A was OK once I recalled that the Butler who wrote Erewhon was Samuel. Of the obscurities, CATALPA was probably the worst for me, and tiller as a shoot felt only slightly more familiar. Amerce comes up in barred-grid puzzles because of its high ‘friendly letter’ content.

    I beg to differ with Richard about ONES and YOUR – we had SET YOUR HEART ON in 23,876 on 1st April, for example. I’m about 98% sure I could find a few other YOURs given enough time.

    A couple of nifty resources:
    Anglican dioceses in England – 43 of the possibilities for ‘see’.
    Shakespeare characters – ignore the ‘A-K’ in the heading – there are ‘first letter’ links near the top for the whole alphabet.

    A pie analysis:

    Category Score Clues
    Arts & Literature 2 1A, 9
    Geography 1 5
    History 1 20
    Science & Nature 3 11 (14) (24) 7
    Entertainment 0
    Sport & Leisure 1 2
    Total 8

    Edited at 2008-05-15 01:23 pm (UTC)

  11. A bad week for me too. 26 mins for this, of which an inexplicably long time on 10D. I liked 22A most. A very good crossword, I think, just a bit too good for me today.

    Tom B.

  12. Like others I found this an odd mixture of the eay and the slightly obscure. I agree 20D is a difficult clue. If you want to find out about The Worshipful Company of Mercers (the premier Livery Company in the City of London) go to Wiki and look up Livery Compamy.

    I think experience of bar crosswords like Mephisto helped with this one both because some of the vocab crops up from time to time and because they make you disect clues and look for cunning definitions.

    Peter, I’ve been thinking about these trivial pusuit categories and I don’t think they suit the objective. The analysis could be helpful but first it has to be more meaningful. Jimbo.

    1. I was thinking the same. Maybe something like:

      visual arts
      ‘pure’ sciences

      I don’t think things like ‘leisure’ and ‘entertainment’ are much of a concern since they tend to come under ‘common knowledge’ and are so broad as to be almost meaningless.

      1. Yes, on those lines. Other topics that occur to me: religion; food and drink; military; and the catch-all general knowledge. Jimbo.
        1. I’m opening the floor for discussion of possible topics this a separate posting tomorrow…
  13. Collapse of stout party! Having sniped the other day at those whingeing about there being too many obscure Waggledagger references, I was stumped today for ages by 9 ac, having no memory – if indeed I ever knew – of a clownish Shakespearean character of that name(a peasant in Love’s Labours Lost, apparently, who tries to be a learned wit, coming out with such nonsense words as “honorificabilitudinatibus”, and speaking of the “contempts” of a letter).

    I thought this difficult, with some exceedingly obscure definitions (eg tiller = shoot) and words, such as “amerce”, though I’m fairly sure that one has come up before. Brilliant effort by richardvg to have managed a time of 8:49. Close to an hour for me. 22 ac has to be my COD because of the quirky definition and the nice play on the American spelling of “storey”.

    Michael H

  14. Back from a few days at a conference without access to blogging; my first confession is that I was utterly stumped by yesterdays puzzle. So, today’s seems like a relative walkover. About 30 minutes for me, to get everything but ‘amerce’ which I had to look up when I got to the computer. I liked 2D as the best clue today. Regards all.
  15. About 25 minutes either side of dinner. What struck me most was, as seems to have been almost universal, the uneven degree of difficulty. After the first five or ten minutes, I thought this was going to be one of those where you find yourself on exactly the same wavelength as the setter. Then I hit the wall, and took an age figuring out the 7dn / 10 across and 20 dn / 21 across intersections. I thought perhaps I must have had a glass of wine too many with dinner, but after confirming the solution, I can’t help thinking that words such as AMERCE and CATALPA belong in a different, and more evenly difficult, puzzle…

    I liked 22 across, though.

  16. I found this to be an excellent challenge with good clues leading to some words that I had not known before. A good educative solve. If only I could remember some of these for next time?

    There are just the 5 “easies” not in the blog:

    3a Rogues treating (port as beer)* (10)

    12a Dreadful (boor never)* subdued (9)

    18a Drunk (denigrates me)* resulting in quarrel (12)

    8d Bandage the man’s given after hit (6)

    17d Fish making (tongues) wag – whoppe(r)* finally caught (8)

Comments are closed.