Times 23,926

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 16:09

I made this more difficult for myself than it should have been by writing AIR BRIDGE into 16 instead of 18. That slowed me up a little. Even without that, I was not fast. Although there were no obscure words or references, a lot of the clues seemed rather tough. All perfectly fair though.

The use of the the same phrase “point (or points)” in consecutive clues at 19 and 20 seems odd. And in each case they seemed to be part of a curious construction. But perhaps I have failed to see a simpler analysis of one or both.


1 FAN (= provide air) + CLUBS
10 CHAP + E(vangelica)L
15 I DIOT – DIOT being DIET after E(nergy) is replaced with 0
16 TOR (MEN) TOR – TOR being ROT(rev)
19 S, E, N, S, E – being five compass points. Not sure if first “point” is part of the definition or a second definition (as in “What’s the point?”)
20 DELICATE + SSEN, SSEN being either NESS(rev) (ie point about) or S, S, E, N (ie compass points)
24 F + AGEND(a)
26 ZIT + HER
27 PEER + G(a)Y N(o)T


1 FA + ME
2 NERD – hidden. It was never going to be a Spoonerism with only four letters, but that didn’t stop me looking for one
6 (b)ASHES
8 COLD TURKEY – “horse” meaning heroin here
21 C + A + NOE, NOE being EON(rev)
22 UNIT – two defs, the second being “one”

I can’t see anything to put into a pie chart, with the possible of exception of the wine, Barsac, under “other”. Peer Gynt and The Wizard of Oz are not obscure bits of literature, and each has been popularised in another medium. Similarly, I don’t think “East Ender” or “Blarney Stone” scores any obscurity points. But do tell me if I am missing something.

Pie chart added later

Category Score Clues
Visual Arts
Popular Culture
Sport & Games
Natural World
Science & Tech
Other 2 5ac wine = Barsac; 10ac NUJ members = chapel
Total 2

27 comments on “Times 23,926”

  1. 8:27 here, though I’ll admit to not making sense of all the finer points of “point (or points)” in 19 and 20 while solving. In 19, I think the first ‘point’ is another def. I quite like it when setters notice that a phrase like this can be used in successive clues with totally different meaning.

    I wondered a bit about silly=idiot at 15, but then remembered that “silly” can informally mean “silly person”.

    Agreed about the pie, with the possible exception for US solvers of chapel=”NUJ members”, which (along with ‘father of the chapel’) apparently goes back to William Caxton setting up Britain’s first printing press in the precincts of Westminster Abbey, the NUJ being the National Union of Journalists.

    1. For silly=idiot, I had thought of the adjectival use of idiot (eg “idiot boy”), but silly as a noun works as well.
  2. Around 20 minutes for me, so my best result in recent days. I wonder why this was my favourite puzzle of the week?
    1. Forgot to nominate my COD earlier. I really liked 8 but I’m going for 4 as no-one has mentioned it so far.

  3. 21 minutes.

    I ticked a lot of clues in this one. Some great surfaces, especially in 10a CHAPEL and 21d CANOE. Some pretty good jokes – I really liked 8d COLD TURKEY. And some clever, pithy clues, such as 1d FAME or 23d UNIT. The only clues that didn’t quite work for me were the “(or points)” ones – close but no cigar.

    I also read ‘idiot’ as adjectival in 15a. I seem to remember getting called “idiot child” more than a few times. Still happens, come to think of it.

    Hard to follow yesterday’s Oh Oh Heaven, but this one did the trick. Really good puzzle (or puzzles).

  4. Easiest of the week so far, taking me 24 minutes. 9 was the trickiest; I didn’t get until I had the M. I liked the humour in some of the clues, e.g. 4, 8, 26. 8 for COD.
  5. After a dodgy Monday, this is the third cracker in a row – just hard enough for me. 15:30 but lost 2 minutes at the end on 22d. At first I thought it must begin with a J because it looked like that was the only letter missing. Then I realised that there was also a Q missing but still didn’t twig and started working throught the alphabet. I’ll nominate 8d as the high point (or points) for the a-ha moment when the definition finally dawned. 23’s separation of definitions was also a beaut.

    27a: I once had a musical dog…..all it did was pee agin’t suite.

    1. Unless I’m just about to discover that I messed up the puzzle, V and X are missing as well as J.

      Another “up North” pun: On a record of Beecham orchestra rehearsals, he tells a tale of a trip on a charabanc (there’s old-fashioned for you). Going down a hill quickly, the tour leader says “Some speed!”. To which a little old lady supposedly responds: “Aye. That I ‘ave, for one”.

      QUAY = “kee” is a classic sound/spelling stumper.

      1. As another newby (who is very grateful to have stumbled on this great site) is the fact that there are missing letters a help in solving? Do certain letters have to have been included?

        Also is there a reason why some clues are not written in at the top (eg 4D, 25A today)? I quite often cannot get them and it is only when they are referred to later in comments that I find out the answer!

        1. Are missing letters a help?

          Not normally. On occasion, the setter decides to make the puzzle pangrammatic, ie include all 26 letters. So if you see a J, K, and X, it is worth considering a Q for an answer you are stuck on.

          Is there a reason why some clues are not written in?

          We generally only include clues where we feel there is something to explain. But if we miss out one that you do not understand, feel free to ask.

        2. There’s no requirement to include (or exclude!) any letters. There are at least a few Times setters who like to produce “pangram” grids, which include every letter of the alphabet. A double pangram has been done (every letter at least twice), but as far as I know, no triple pangram grid has been published as the Times xwd (If I remember rightly from e-mails received, at least one has been submitted). The upshot is that if you notice at least 3 of J/Q/X/Z in the grid, the possibility of a pangram is worth considering, and just occasionally, noticing which letters are not yet used will help you solve the last clue. “Just occasionally” is my way of saying that this has happened to me about twice in the last fifteen years.

          As for the “missing clues”, there is a reason – follow the “About this blog” link in the “blue sky” area at the top.

          1. I replied from my e-mail inbox without checking what anyone else had said. Hence the duplication of advice.
  6. Excellent puzzle that evidences a recent upsurge in quality – I ticked 5, 18, 24, 4, 7, 17 and 23. Haven’t made a decision yet!
    I didn’t have a problem with the “(or points)” double but thought both clues were perfectly good without them – they felt like an unnecessary addition despite being technically sound.
  7. I blew up completely by putting in FACE at 1D and then agonising over 9A. I didn’t know 5A either. A nice crossword, however; I thought 2D was a clever bit of deception and I nominate it as COD.

    Tom B.

  8. Just like everybody else an enjoyable but straightforward and very fair 25 minutes.

    I want to suggest that pie charts are not much use in isolation. Like all the best statistics they should be used to highlight trends and differences. The fact that this one scores low (say 2 for NUJ/Chapel and East Ender) balances the very high scoring one (13?) of not so long ago and should be recorded. At the end of say a month we should be able to say that the norm for a puzzle is say 6 but that 4 of 25 scored over 9 and 2 of 25 under 3. Also that literature outscores science by 3 to 1 (but that’s my unfounded prejudice showing through). Otherwise, what’s the point? Jimbo.

    1. My original intention was just to get some idea of how often the literary bias often grumbled about was really there. And I’m reluctant to create extra work unless there are people with time to do it.

      Trends are worth watching IF the measurements used to get the numbers are consistent. So if we can get a team of about three people who are happy to massage the current charts a bit, put them in an Excel spreadsheet or similar, and produce a regular analysis, that’s wonderful, but I for one don’t have the time.

      If we’re going to do stats, we should probably record a few other numbers per puzzle, such as:
      * a count of UK-specific items – this is where ‘Eastender’ would have gone today, as UK solvers can be expected to know about popular soaps that have been running for decades.
      * some assessment of the obscurity of the vocab
      * a difficulty rating based on times for solvers who report times often and know the kind of numbers I once worked out for myself based on a 6-month spell, like “20% take 6:30 or less, 40% take 8:00 or less, {times for 60% and 80% too}”
      * a “crossword cliché count” for stuff that’s obscure for beginners but easy for moderately experienced solvers – it=SA, muse = ERATO and the like.

      This may mean that a member of the “stats squad” does the pie chart for every puzzle, rather than the blogger – that makes consistency easier to achieve.

      If there are bloggers (or commenters) out there willing to get stuck into a bit more discussion and then doing the work, send me an message using the e-mail address on my crossword site or LiveJournal’s ‘send this user a message’ option. I’ll put you all in touch with each other, participate in initial discussions about methods, and then let you get on with it.

      Rather than months, I think we should do 4-week spells starting on a Saturday, analysed just after the last Saturday puzzle in the period is safe to talk about. But please think about the time involved – maybe 10 hours each a month if shared between 3.

      1. My problem isn’t so much the frequency of literary references in crosswords, but the level of obliqueness that some setters seem to find acceptable when clueing them. For example, if it’s a botany ref the definition part of the clue will usually be “plant” or similar and the wordplay will give you a fair chance of solving it. Even if you’ve never heard of the answer you know it’s a plant. On the other hand, if it’s a literary clue, some setters seem to think that “market trader” is an adequate definition for “Tom Splatter” who happens to be a market trader in “Much Plentifulness Of Spleen” by Gladys Sprogknackers.
    2. I agree, Jimbo, and I had been thinking this too, but had sort of assumed that Peter was planning to do something along these lines once we had accumulated a few weeks’ worth of stats. If not, then I certainly think we ought to do as you suggest, and once it’s up and running then perhaps some of the bloggers might volunteer to maintain it each week or month or whenever.

      I do think the “pie-chart” is a good idea, though I’m a bit concerned about how one judges whether a reference is “specialist” knowledge or too simple to be scored, and it’s at that point the exercise becomes perhaps a bit too subjective. I wonder if it’s possible to draw up any meaningful guidelines on how to make this judgement.

      1. OK. I will edit in a table up top. Though I agree that with a different blogger doing it each day, there will be a lot of noise when we try to look for trends.

        For example, Jimbo thinks East Ender (for “TV character”) is specialist knowledge, and I am inclined to think it is too general to be scored.

        I guess we keep this up for a month or so, and then review whether it is worthwhile.

  9. 12.50 today. 1a was my COD.Held up a bit by splitting 11d as 6,6 instead of 7,5.
    Eastender – probably should be on pie-chart?
    After yesterday I was looking for a reference to Everest today as Google logo today celebrates the anniversary of the first ascent – nothing appeared – although Wizard of Nz might have done?
  10. 12 minutes, I was definitely on the same wavelength as the setter and thus enjoyed this muchly. Last two to go in were FAG END and MICROLIGHT – surely that personal computers were once called microcomputers (as opposed to the hulking CYBER 990 that I had to use as a student that still had the punch card reader) is now arcane knowledge?

    Crafty definitions aplenty today, I liked 9a, 1a and 12a for that reason, and the wordplay in 16, 27, 26 and 20 gave me a smile.

    1. I too have typed and fed stacks of cards – still have one, used as a bookmark, for which they’re excellent.

      My favourite was the school computing course on which, once a week, we filled in coding sheets that were posted to typists 25 miles away, who in turn ran the program, got the error on line 30 and sent the cards and printout back. Getting anything to run before the end of term was a major achievement.

  11. I am sure that FA + MA is the intended cryptic reading of 1 dn, as other commentators say, but I took it as a reference to Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, a British jazz and rhythm and blues singer and keyboard player of some renown in my distant youth! Perhaps others are sufficiently advanced in years to remember him also. Clearly not the right explanation of the clue, but it worked well enough.

    I agree with the general view that this was a first-class puzzle. My COD is 8 dn. Ingenious, amusing and nicely disguised, it held me up for some time until I recalled Peter B’s useful reminder of a few days back that “horse” can mean “heroin”.

    Michael H

    1. I can just remember Georgie Fame, though I think from after the time of the Blue Flames. It can’t be him though, as I find he is still alive.

      I didn’t think of him, though I did wonder about the 1980 musical film (and TV series and musical) Fame.

      “Noted” is slightly approximate for FA+ME, but the surface is better than “Notes celebrity” would be.

  12. We’re off to see the Wizard!
    No unknown obscurities for me today – hurrah!

    There are 5 “easies” not in the blog:

    25a Favour expected from star performer (4,4)
    GOOD TURN. Potential winner of BGT?

    4d As the latest report must be? (4,2,2,4)

    11d Tourist attraction (nearby stolen), unfortunately (7,5)
    BLARNEY STONE. Visited said attraction when a youngster but declined to make lip contact. Yuk.

    13d Excellent Australian sought by Dorothy (6,2,2)
    WIZARD OF OZ. Supplanted in more recent times by Shane Warne?

    23d Part of Navy, Army or Air Force One? (4)
    UNIT. A lift and separate where Air Force is part of the cryptic and One is the literal.

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