Times 24031

Solving time : 15 minutes
I think this is the quickest ever solve for me.

I am posting later than I intended to and don’t have much to add to the many comments already posted.

I got most of the clues on first read through – didn’t remember Lady Sneerwell, so that needed checking letters before it went in. The only other problem came from me thinking the first word at 16A ended in -ING, not sure why it took so long, especially as I’d seen a similar clue for BUFFET CAR.


1 R(1,DI,C)ULE
11 ARE(N)A
12 ECLAIRS – CLAIRES with the E moved forward. It took me three counts to make sure that was right!
20 A(POST)LE – POST in ALE rather than vice versa.
21 SURRE[y],A,L
24 LOUD MOUTH – the Cockney rhyming slang for MOUTH can be found at 10D (North and South).
26 CHA(LK)P,IT – LK is the middle of WELL-KEPT. I reread Stig of the Dump last month – so chalkpit was at the forefront of my thoughts!


3 LADY SNEERWELL – anagram of N+IN+WALES+ELDERLY. From the The School for Scandal, which itself was an answer in a Guardian crossword I did recently.

48 comments on “Times 24031”

  1. I thought this was about as easy as it gets. I don’t race, but it can’t have been more than 10-12 mins. 14 was fun, and “vest(a)” made another periodic cameo in 8.

    Agree on den=site – not great. 5 might even be a quad definition – “Say yes to”, “trust”, “agree to” and “buy” (in the sense of “I’ll buy that” = “I’ll accept what you say”)

    By the way I left a final comment on last Thursday’s blog about whether it was appropriate to use “Chinaman” (meaning a Chinese man) in the clues. I am very un-PC, but I think the term is derogatory and I was very surprised to see it. I would be interested to know what others think.

    1. All in the eye of the beholder. Chinaman is only derogatory if it is intended to be so. Cf: In New Zealand referring to a UK citizen as a POM is quite neutral, even marginally affectionate. In Australia it is usually intended to be offensive.
      1. Macquarie (the standard Australian dictionary) – and I think Chambers – note that Chinaman is derogatory or offensive (without qualification). Macquarie has Pom as neutral, offensive or affectionate depending on context. As a Pom, I have never known anyone to be offended by it. This may be because every Englishman knows in his heart that he has “won first prize in the lottery of life”, or more likely because the English have not been the subject of racial discrimination (at least not since the 12C). Not so the Chinese. (Sorry, I don’t mean to hijack the blog with this, but I think it’s a relevant point.)
        1. Concise Oxford and Collins, the main references for the Times puzzle, both say “derogatory or archaic” which I guess is the get-out. All in the eye of the beholder as Ross says – a wikipedia list has Taff and Jock down as racial insults while noting inoffensive usages. I haven’t heard Scottish solvers complaining about the use of Jock or Mac for ‘North British’ words in Azed and similar puzzles. There’s a curious partner to the cricket ‘chinaman’ in the US term ‘english’ for side-spin applied to a pool ball. An echo of ‘perfidious Albion’?
          1. Looked this up, and the origin of ‘english’ as a synonym for ‘spin imparted to an object’ is in fact the French word ‘angles’, meaning ‘angled’, and sounding, at least to somebody, like ‘english’. No apparent perfidious motives.
    2. And on reflection, if you wish to really raise some hackles (or kilts), try misusing the appellations: Scots, Scotch and Scottish.
  2. 14 min was probably one of my best ever, but I fouled up with Smollett’s Steerwell v Sheridan’s Sneerwell which cost me a couple of minutes while I went back to check the anagramatics.
  3. Mostly straightforward and very enjoyable. I thought I was heading for a PB having completed most of it in 13 minutes but I was caught out in the NE cornere where 5,6,8 and 11 occupied me for a further 8 minutes.

    I’m still not sure I see 5. Is it a triple definition? If so, why agree to buy rather than agree to sell? Also den = site in 9? How so? And I wondered why interior in 15, but Collins has that.

    1. In 15, wordplay is BEST = finest with ROAD=highway inside it (ie “in the interior”).

      For 5 see below.

      1. Sorry, kurihan, I wrote 15 when I meant 17. I knew the relevance of “interior” in 15; it was the one in 17 that gave me pause for thought as “Art Deco” is a style not restricted to interior design and therefore the use of “interior” seemed unnecessary. But Collins defines it as “a style of interior decoration, jewellery and architecture…” so I guess that covers the setter’s back.
  4. 5:36 here and should probably have been a bit quicker.

    For site = den, Collins has “a site or haunt” for den, giving ‘den of vice’ as an example.

    1. Thanks, Peter. Interesting that it’s in the Collins dictionary but doesn’t appear in their thesaurus – I have the pocket version and the big one. I must admit I still can’t see it, even with the example given – site of vice/den of vice?
    1. It’s CLAIRE’S (= girl’s) with the sixth letter replaced at the beginning (= in her mouth)
      1. Tom,

        Sorry, I think I jumped in with both feet and missed the subtlety of your question. I suppose we are asked to just ignore the apostrophe for the purpose of the wordplay.

  5. An enjoyable puzzle. Thought I was heading for a sub 5 mins PB but was slowed up by having to work out the anagram for LADY SNEERWELL and getting stuck on CHALKPIT. 7 min eventually.
  6. Yep, a 20 min cakewalk.

    Surely the online Times version can be programmed so as to recognise incorrect answers?

  7. I found this one fun and pretty easy, 9 minutes, but I stopped to take a phone call , which my phone tells me was 1 minute and 23 seconds, so if I was cheating I could claim seven minutes. I hadn’t heard of the character in 4D but managed to guess it from checking letters. I liked 15 for the surface, and 20 for thinking about drunk apostles (weren’t they?).
  8. 14:30 (weather affected). Do I get bonus credits for solving in the midst of a hurricane? Hurricane Kyle swept over us here in Nova Scotia last night and at about 1am I turned to the crossword to try to take my mind off events outside. It worked, but for once I wish I’d taken longer!

    Several A* clues, of which I’d single out 15d BROADEST (great surface) and 8 TRAVESTY (for that use of ‘fix’).

    Q-0.5 (like Tom, I’m not convinced by 12a), E-10 (context is everything), D-10 (see ‘E’)

    Later last night, while trying to sleep, I found myself in a surreal, half-waking dream in which the Times Crossword Championship had been ‘rebranded’ in a bid for TV ratings. Pete ‘the whirlwind’ Biddlecombe was up against George ‘hurricane’ Heard and Cyclone Anax, all striding into the solving arena at the Crucible to the strains of the March of the Valkyries…

    1. A few nights ago I also had a dream about the championship! What can our states of mind be like?

      It was slightly strange though. The competitors'”arena” was overlooked by a spectator gallery and I was sitting in the front row. Soon after the competition started it transpired that one puzzle contained a serious error that made solving impossible – and dozens of pairs of accusative eyes swivelled my way as it was assumed the puzzle had been set by me.

      I awoke, laughing.

      1. Ja, I see. Ein interesting wariation on ze ‘naked in public’ terror. Tell me about your childhood…

        Seriously, you’re fine. How am I? See you at the next Solvers Anonymous meeting…

      2. A sort of opposite of a true Championship story. For the first thirteen years or so of the Championship, Edmund Akenhead was the Times Crossword editor. When he retired from editing, he was allowed to enter the Champs so had a go. He completed one puzzle in 23 minutes, which was considered a good effort, until it transpired that it was one of his own.

        We should be safe from errors affecting solving – with a former champion and at least one other former finalist on the setting team, I believe the selected puzzles are carefully vetted for both accuracy and difficulty.

  9. Also a personal best, solving in 13 minutes. NW quadrant was very easy, and that gave enough letters to start meandering through the grid filling in answers often on definition or letter patterns alone. LADY SNEERWELL was the 4th clue I solved, giving me a nice spread of letters in the rest of the grid. I wavered slightly at the end with 5, wondering if there was any alternative to ACCEPT. I don’t really think it’s a suitable word for a double or triple definition, all of which are very close and come under the same headword.
  10. 5.59, with at least a minute of that spent checking the letters of LADY SNEERWELL. Everything else went in pretty much straightaway.
  11. Monday? Easy? Yes, but I was a tad concerned on the first run-through as 16 was the first to fall. The rest seemed to come pretty quickly but there were a few pauses at clues which turned out to be easier than they looked. While relieved at a time of just over 9 minutes I can see from comments above it wasn’t that great a performance.

    I’m with Kurihan in seeing four defs at 5A (is this a first quad def? Must surely be extremely rare). And I counted five clues with a cricketing theme, thankfully none requiring cricketing knowledge.

    Q-0.5* E-6 D-7 COD 25

    *I join the minor quibblification at 12A where “got” doesn’t feel quite right, although I don’t have a problem with “girl’s” = “Claire’s”.

  12. A PB of 11:25 but disappointed not to have gone sub-10.

    Like others was slowed in the Geordie corner and by chalkpit.

    Some nice surfaces made this entertaining.

    Q-0, E-6, D-2, COD 23 – I liked “stretch of” as a containicator

  13. They don’t get much easier than this. 6:07 with lots lost on the anagram at 4d (in case anyone is wondering, I have no complaints about the literary reference as it was clued as “Sheridan character” and not “snake’s employer” or such nonsense.) and for some reason 5a which I ended up guessing (duh!). 14a gets my COD nod.
  14. This was so easy it was boring at less than 15 minutes to solve including deriving the unknown to me Lady S. I don’t recall a quad definition before but it was so straightforward it caused me no problems. Even Mephisto is very easy this week. Let’s hope for a better test tomorrow.
    1. In the belief that it encourages new solvers to keep going because they finish all of the puzzle or much more than usual, I’m in favour of about one puzzle a week that’s this easy, and wouldn’t strongly object to two.
      1. Or, to add another hoary one, some concession to the times. I mean, there’s reactionary and then there’s the Times Crossword…
        1. A tad unfair. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had bowl=ARENA (‘stadium’ was not in Chambers def. for bowl until 1993), HAPPY CLAPPY (new in C. in 1998), FATWA, Telethon in wordplay, and LASER PEN. There are restrictions imposed by the paper and xwd editor which restrict some present-day material, but there are setters who do their best to get in what they can.
          1. Politics aside, I still don’t see why we couldn’t have puzzles of (for example) a Nestor-esque (Independent) tenor in the Times, where modern-day stuff is seamlessly included (at least, to my mind) with no loss of gravitas (I concede that many ‘modern’ inclusive xwords are facile and cringeworthy).
      2. Indeed, I don’t argue with that and have defended easy puzzles in the past on exactly those lines. However, you can take things too far. I don’t know if people these days still start on the Telegraph and then graduate to the Times perhaps via the Guardian or Indie. If they do then there is a level of simplicity below which the Times shouldn’t venture and in my opinion this puzzle wasn’t even Telegraph standard. I certainly wouldn’t want two like this each week.
        1. I think this “working up” approach is over-rated. Maybe the Telegraph puzzle was previously consistently easier than the Times, but (admittedly based on limited DT experience which may mean I’m slow through unfamiliarity), I don’t think it is now. My guess is that if I did both puzzles every day, I’d be slower on the DT a couple of times a week. I don’t think the Independent is significantly easier than the Times, and doubt that the Guardian is either.

          My own experience included a switch to the Guardian because I wasn’t getting anywhere with the Times, but that was nearly 30 years ago, when the Times was much more “literary/classical”.

          Judging by the reports of PB’s today, there may not be another Times one this easy before Christmas anyway …

      3. I agree,Peter, as one who often struggles more than some of the regulars around here, it’s encouraging to have an easier ride sometimes. And I found this one more entertaining than many of late. Let’s not forget that the Times has to cater for its general readership, not just for seasoned crossword enthusiasts.
  15. About 20 leisurely minutes today, held up at the end by CHALKPIT. Reference to Ms. Sneerwell was new to me, but I have to admire Mr. Sheridan for the great name created for this character; I’m also guessing she wasn’t the heroine. Regards.
  16. I didn’t attempt this puzzle, but I am interested in the debate about difficulty. A while back The Times thought about introducing a second easier cryptic crossword puzzle in T2, and recently The Daily Telegraph has introduced a second cryptic Toughie (and some of them are/will be quite difficult). The fact is that, although each paper may carve itself out a difficulty niche, there are many dedicated solvers who buy the paper for its journalism but who want to solve cryptic crosswords at a level of difficulty different from the one predominantly on offer. One way of dealing with this is to take on a team of named setters each of whom takes a separate place in the difficulty spectrum so that overall there is something to please everyone (thus Rufus is generally quite a bit easier than, say, Paul or Pasquale in The Guardian). One problem with websites like TfortheT or 15Sq is that they will tend to attract the views of those at the wanting-it-hard end of the spectrum who may then be taken as representative of the whole. Given that there is a wider audience, Peter’s argument carries more weight with me than Jimbo’s. And if you have an easy puzzle you can always spend a bit longer on another tougher challenge (e.g,. Listener 4000!). Crossword editors are very aware of the ‘difficulty dilemma’ and on the whole I think they do pretty well — and I don’t say that simply because I work for so many of them! DFM
    1. Well put (jumping on an opportunity to agree with DFM)!

      If you are annoyed that the Times only took you a few minutes, look deeper into the puzzle spectrum – I’m not meant to give anything away about prize puzzles, but this week’s “pseudonym for the Devil” puzzle would be a good place to start. After my quick time last night, I got to spend some quality time with the Listener.

    2. I think the answer for the Times or any other paper pondering an easier cryptic is very simple. Use whatever space you would have given to the easier puzzle for proper explanations of yesterday’s answer instead of just showing a grid of unexplained answers.

      One of my intentions in having this blog is to provide this kind of information so that beginners can make faster progress. Whichever beginners are reading us, please chip in sometimes! Your lack of experience/knowledge does not make your views less important.

      1. As a real beginner: my attempts in the past to get to grips with the Times crossword have usually resulted in very modest success (half the answers being a good day, more being a cause for celebration!) and then a tougher crossword would leave me almost unable to start, and would put me off for months. Seeing the answers the next day was little help if the logic of the clues escaped me, which it generally did. A “how to do crosswords” book was little help.
        Then I discovered this blog a few weeks ago and I’m delighted! I chip away every day, then work through the ones I couldn’t crack from your commentary. Its such a huge help and encouragement. Keep up the great work.
        And you can’t underestimate how much an “easy” one like this does for the likes of me who finished it, albeit in rather more leisurely fashion than you regulars.
  17. Like a previous comment , I find this blog very very helpful. My completing the crossword quota has improved enormously since I started to read it. Thanks to all who contribute such erudite explanations.
  18. I’m with the “always time for an easier one” brigade.

    This one was deemed soooo easy that there are 10 answers left out of the blog:

    5a Say yes to trust and agree to buy (6)
    ACCEPT. A triple definition I think as someone pointed out above?

    13a Runs slip away causing setback to recovery (7)

    14a Bay and hazel, maybe, on either side of box tree (5,8)
    HORSE CHEST NUT. Is this an “old chestnut”?

    16a Rail fare may be put away here (10,3)

    23a Best stretch of thoroughfare lit extensively (5)
    ELITE. Hidden in last 3 words.

    2d Live with wife in small wooded hollow (5)
    D W ELL

    3d Sheepdog right for a miner? (7)

    10d Book bridge partners (5,3,5)
    NORTH AND SOUTH. A book by Elizabeth Gaskell apparently. East and West did not fit. I did wonder whether it was a Cockney version of a book called Mouth?

    14d On air, this rambling chronicler (9)
    HISTORIAN. Anagram of (on air this).

    17a Style of interior design having red coat applied (3,4)
    ART DECO. Anagram of (red coat).

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