Times 24,022

Solving time: 18:28

Started well, then after three minutes a friend sat down beside me on the Tube. And when I picked it up again, I realised that there were lots of tricky ones.

Also lots of good ones. And I think my favourite is the one I found trickiest – SINEWS at 19. I had worked through the alphabet to P before I realised what it had to be.


1 THINK + ON ONE’S FEET – I used to be certain that in the Times that four-lettered gap would never be YOUR, but now I am not, and so I left a blank until I solved 6D.
9 SHAKE DOWN – second last one filled in, and with no confidence. But it turns out to mean “a temporary bed”
10 WITHE(r)
15 L((h)OBBY)IST – “desire” for LIST is a bit archaic
18 PLAN + T(A)IN – “a canned” for A included in TIN is the sort of thing I expect in the Guardian rather than the Times
19 S.I. NEWS – last one solved. A good clue, and would have been easy if we had had the odd letters checked instead of the evens.
21 DID APPE(a)R – I didn’t know this word at all, but with checking letters and wordplay I got there in the end.
23 LET + HAL


2 I.(MAG)E.
3 KEEP + COUNT – Filmic surface
4 NO-ON(e)
5 NUNEATON (=”none eaten”) – but why tart rather than any other food?
6 S + AWED
8 THE FLAT – two meanings
16 B + RIDEWELL – Fortunately, I recently discovered that there was a Bridewell near my office in the 19th century, so the word was to hand
17 FI + RE-WORK, FI being IF(rev)
20 SOLUBLE – a cryptic def. I put this in, then rubbed it out, then put it in again. I think I found the comma confusing
22 POT TO – and having the final O first, I of course wanted this to be LENTO or LARGO
24 HER(O)D – unfortunately the definition must be “murderer” rather than “mass murderer”
25 FILO – hidden

37 comments on “Times 24,022”

  1. I believe the modern term would be “off message”. When this one was going right, I was looking left. When it was going up, I was looking down. About 40 min, including the full gamut of cheats at my disposal.

    Yet on reflection, a great puzzle.

  2. 24:10 to struggle through this. Abysmal on 1A which should have been easy, jotting down ‘THINK oF’ and ‘ONES SEAT’, the latter from bus/train etiquette. Other slow ones: 11,12, 13, 26, 18D, 2, 4, 5.
    Crumbs of comfort from seeing ‘have good seat’ = RIDE WELL, ‘O LIVE DRAB’, and DIDAPPE(a)R at the end – in Chambers but not my copies of COD or Collins.
    1. Hi Pete. I am curious. Do you think that this would have been easier or harder under competition conditions?


      1. Short answer: I have no idea!

        Just to be 100% clear: my times here are as close to comp conditions as I can get. I’m unsure whether comp conditions slow you down (from nerves and the sight of other quick solvers) or speed you up (much the same reasons!). They can make the last one or two answers feel really slow, but there have been times when re-solving the puzzle afterwards, I’ve not beaten my comp time even though I’ve seen the puzzle before.

        There’s now an extra factor in the champs – you’re tackling three puzzles and can hop between them. If this had been the first or second puzzle, I could have had one or two breaks in the middle, which might have helped. Some people have suggested that you might have a quick look at each of the puzzles to see which is hardest, and try that first. I don’t think this works – for an easy puzzle, going off to another one probably slows you down for that puzzle. Also, what do you do if all three seem to be hard? So I try to finish each one in turn, or nearly finish it. Last year I did this except for one clue in the prelim, and a crossing pair in the final’s first puzzle. Then again, it’s a long time since a comp puzzle took me 24 minutes. If I was as stuck on puzzle 1 or 2 as I was after 15 mins on this one, I’d probably move on and come back.

        1. 9:38 for me, which I felt quite pleased with (and even more so now that I’ve seen your and Richard’s times ;-). All the answers (including DIDAPPER) were quite familiar, and SINEWS was the only one that held me up significantly, perhaps because it was the last to go in. This was my fifth puzzle out of six done in a batch, so perhaps it was just that I’d played myself in by then.

          So far in the new-style championship I’ve tackled the puzzles in their natural order, finishing one before starting the next. However, the one that held me up last year was the third puzzle in the preliminary round, where I’d done the first two puzzles quite briskly – perhaps too briskly for the good of my nervous system!? – and completely lost it. I suspect that if I was left with one or two tricky clues in an earlier puzzle, I’d almost certainly go on to the next puzzle in the hope that the break would clear my mind – though I’d be worried that I wouldn’t remember to go back and fill in the missing answers!

  3. COD 18 Ac. I was so convinced that 22 Dn was going to be LENTO or LARGO after the terminating “O” appeared that the entire SW corner became a quagmire. Not helped by the out of left field, but somehow satisfying, 21 Ac
  4. Having solved 1a at first glance followed immediately by 4, I thought I was in for an easy ride. But I then ground to a halt and was completely stumped by everything else in the top half, so in desperation I abandoned that and looked at the lower half with little immediate success apart from 14, 25 and, after a bit of a struggle, 28. From there onwards it was a slow, very unsteady struggle to complete all but 21 and 22 in an hour and two minutes.

    Along the way I used a dictionary to check three words I didn’t know but had worked out from the wordplay: WITHE, SHAKEDOWN meaning a makeshift bed and OLIVE DRAB, the last two being Americanisms, according to Collins. Also I checked that LIST in 15 can mean “desire”. And finally I resorted to a solver for DIDAPPER and POTTO which I’ve never heard of.

    I don’t really understand “Air pillow” at 9.

    There are one or two rather obscure words and surely 17 needs a question mark or “for example”, so I think a Q point is warranted today. Nothing leaps out as COD.

    QED: 1-6-8.5

    PS: Google spell-checker doesn’t recognise Withe, Didapper or Potto.

    1. A shakedown is a temporary bed. Fair enough. The Shake Down is meant to evoke images of you waving a down filled whatever in the wind in order to air it. I didn’t say it would be easy!
      1. Thanks. Unfortunately you have confirmed my original suspicion that this was what the setter was getting at. Very dodgy cluing in my opinion.
        1. I think the only weakness is using “pillow” for DOWN. Pillows can be filled with down, but that is not a very strong association.

          “Air duvet and bed (9)” would have been fine by me, though of course the surface then is not nearly so good.

          1. But that’s my point exactly, Richard “pillow” does not equal “down” so the clue is fundamentally flawed.
            1. My reading is that if you “air (a) pillow”, the standard method is to shake it, so as long as your pillow contains down, you must therefore “shake down”. This seems better than pillow=down. It’s the association that Richard called weak, but worked for me.

              Edited at 2008-09-18 12:03 pm (UTC)

              1. Point taken, Peter, but even that interpretation seems to rely on a presumption or two. I might maintain that most people would freshen a pillow by beating it at both ends and at the sides in order to plump it up. That isn’t shaking it, nor is it really airing it in the usual meaning of the word. I suppose it’s beating air into it but I don’t think that’s what “airing” means.

                P.S. Guess who’s got time on their hands today!

  5. The blog explains this as: S.I.News.
    Is that the name of a magazine?
    If so, what does S.I. stand for? And please explain the metrication part of the clue.
    1. SI = Systeme Internationale – essentially, the metric system including things other than distances and weights. Sometimes called ‘SI units’. “SI News” is only the name of an imaginary magazine, as far as I know. Hence the question mark at the end of the clue.

      Edited at 2008-09-18 10:53 am (UTC)

    1. I agree. My comment was just an inconsequential observation – Herod could be defined by “murderer” or “mass murderer”. The latter would be a better definition, but in this case we need to have the former.
      1. I think there’s a little more to it. Under Ximenean rules, where in most clue types the def is “the bit that isn’t wordplay”, we must say that “murderer” is the def. But if the def. is “the set of words that made the solver think of the answer”, my guess is for most, “mass murderer” was the def., because I think far more will have seen Herod from this def (plus checking letters in many cases) than by inserting 0=nothing (easy) into the right kind of mass (much more difficult), to get a murderer, unspecified.

        I propose we call defs like “mass murderer” “functional definitions” unless anyone can dream up a better term – recognising that the functional def may not be the same for everyone.

  6. Ok “did appear” minus “a” would have given an answer. But when you’ve heard of didapper…. I was more inclined to think of “dipper” as a bird…
    1. Of two blokes with about ten Times xwd championship finals between them, neither knew the word ‘didapper’ before today! I’m sure many others thought of DIPPER too, but if you can’t make it fit to give wordplay that gives you a complete answer and at least a plausible def, you have to reject it and consider the possibility that ‘grebe’ or ‘little grebe’ means something else.

      That said, it helps a lot if having thought of “really seemed” = “did appear”, you recognise it as the kind of trick some Times setters love to use. That’s the benefit of many years of experience.

  7. I’m happy with my 32 minutes for this (anything that takes Peter over 20 minutes I’m content just to complete).

    An odd, unsettling, and rather splendid crossword. There’s something slightly bad – in the sense of good – or even whack about it (I’m getting down with the kids). For some reason it made me think of Schoenberg (and there goes my street cred).

    SINEWS (shurely a guest publication on HIGNFY) is very good. As is SAWED. But I can’t get NUNEATON out of my head so 5d gets my COD vote. I had a few quibbles, but this is the sort of puzzle that makes a virtue of questionable things, like the metonymic ‘pillow’ for ‘down’ in the difficult, but brilliant, SHAKEDOWN.

    A weird, and wonderful, solving experience. Q-0, E-9, D-9

  8. Wednesday’s crossword was hard, but today’s was much more difficult. I finished it with cribs and, apparently, I got it all right.

    However, I do not understand 20D at all. What has SOLUBLE got to do with the clue please?

    My COD is PLANTAIN-brilliant.

  9. Thought I was in for a potential non-finish. On first fly-through of the acrosses I’d got BLEACH and LETHAL, but that was followed by a huge sigh of relief at the easy-to-spot ‘gram at 28. It was a big help and many of its intersecting downs dropped in quickly.
    The real problem area was the NE corner where, despite having ESTUARINE in place, 10, 12, 15, 6 and 8 proved stubborn.
    In all just over 25 minutes, but looking at times above I think it wasn’t too bad.
    The final entry was 18D – just like yesterday’s WETSUIT.
    5D has to go down as a quibble as “tart” really doesn’t seem justifiable as padding; I was actually trying to find potential removals of ACID from something or other.

    Q-1 E-7 D-8 COD 18D

  10. I didn’t like this very much; I’m not sure that I’ve got any major gripes, but a few niggles. I think it was the fact that I filled all of the left-hand side and bits of the right fairly quickly, even though I was not familiar with several of the answers (Shakedown, plantain as a fruit rather than a weed, Didapper), then really struggled to complete 7, 15, 19, 20 and 23. I prefer a more balanced solve where the tough clues are dispersed more evenly. I didn’t like the clue to 7 at all – it seems pretty lame to me. I don’t really understand the definition in 1a, either. How does “leave prepared speech” mean “think on one’s feet”? I can only get a rough approximation by interpreting “leave” as “ignore”, but I’m very uncertain. I also share some of the reservations expressed above about the clue to ‘shakedown’.
    But there were plenty of very good clues to outweigh what I saw as a few weaknesses.
  11. Glad I wasn’t the only one that had a good old struggle with it, printed it off around 11pm US Eastern time and had less than half in when I decided to sleep on it (almost literally). A bit of headscratching in the morning and I took the leap of lack of faith on SHAKEDOWN AND NUNEATON (which I’d remembered as a town from somewhere). OLIVE DRAB caught me on a crossword (a Jumbo?) before.

    DIDAPPER and POTTO were guesses from wordplay, but seemed the most likely (DIDPPEAR is more a Mephisto word).

  12. Very tough, 43:08 with SINEWS missing – as Richard said, it would have been easier with the aternate checking letters.

    Like philipc I don’t quite get how soluble works (is it more than just a pretty floppy CD?) and look forward to an explanation. I’m going to give a Q point to cover a gaggle of minor niggles.

    I’ve come across Nuneaton in a riddle, where a man gets on a train with a bag containing 8 buns and when he gets off there are still 8 so where does he get off the train?

    I’m happy with leave prepared speech where leave = deviate from.

    Q-1, E-6, D-9

    1. Soluble: “floppy CD” is a fair enough description. I can’t see anything more. I had less doubt than Richard, but possibly because I had ??L?B?E from checkers.
  13. I had several doubts about this crossword, which was clearly produced by someone who doesn’t care about definition by example (2dn comic-mag, 17dn rocket-firework):
    9ac: agree with some of the comments above – a bit unconvincing.
    19ac: how does ‘strength’ = ‘sinews’? Close, but not the same thing, unless there’s a meaning of ‘sinews’ that I don’t know.
    5dn: ‘tart’ seems meaningless padding. Or perhaps it’s yet another case of definition by example.
    20dn: either this is an amazingly weak CD or I’m missing something.
    1. Wil,

      Dead right on all nearly all counts, from the strict point of view.

      “sinew” is down in Chambers as “(often pl) (a source of) strength or power of any kind”. The smaller dictionaries don’t justify the strength def. exactly – Collins has much the same with no brackets around ‘a source of’. You could say that Chambers shouldn’t be needed (I’d have said that until recently), but it now seems to be used for the odd word or two (e.g. ‘didapper’ unless in a more recent COD or Collins than mine).

      Edited at 2008-09-18 04:40 pm (UTC)

  14. My feelings exactly, Peter. Well over an hour for me, and then only with ultimate resort to aids of one sort or another. Oddly, 11, 12 and 13 ac, which were “slow ones” for you (i.e pretty fast by most other people’s standards), were my first answers to go in. On the other hand, LOBBYIST at 15 ac went in last, even thought it was surely one of the easiest of the whole puzzle (once you’d worked it out, of course). There were some obscure words, WITHE, DIDAPPER and POTTO, all new to me as to most others, but reasonably get-at-able from the wordplay. I very much liked NUNEATON at 5 dn for COD, but (like richardvg) I wondered whether “tart” could strictly be justified by the wordplay. “Told all left town” would have been more accurate, if far less entertaining. When the surface reading is as good as this, perhaps some padding is permissible.

    Michael H

  15. I can’t really claim a time as I got stuck on SINEWS and resorted to Bradford’s for synonyms of strength. DIDAPPER took a little while, but did eventually ring a very small bell at the back of my mind.
  16. well i have been to scotland and back today and the x-word kept me very good company along the way. agree with the criticsim of 5down although itdidnt stump me. with Potto, Didapper and Potto i am pleased that the “professionals” had some degree of trouble…All in all a great way to while away over 1 hour of travelling time….
  17. Just realised that withe is familiar. It was in general use in the alternate form withy (hard “th” as in the) in the South of NZ when I was a youngster. Not a word you always wanted to hear, since it was often associated with a painful posterior. This would suggest a Scottish heritage.
  18. I thought this one was excellent. A bit of birding with the DABCHICK at 21a – the alternative DIDAPPER must have been lurking in the back of my mind – probably from a previous encounter in these parts? S.I. News at 19a was my favourite. My last one was 7d ESTUARINE despite being geographical and one of the 5 omitted “easies”:

    12a Avalanche that puts and end to voyage? (8)
    LANDFALL. All very well but an avalanche is strictly a layer of snow – no “land” involved.

    26a A fight joined roughly (5)
    A BOUT

    7d Being very shake, retain use of mouth (9)
    ESTUARINE. Anagram of (retain use).

    14d It’s impressive, so reading novel (9)
    GRANDIOSE. Anagram of (so reading).

    18d School to discard downloadable files (7)

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