Times 24922 – This scepter’d Isle…..

Solving time: 90 minutes

Music: Niamh Parsons, In My Prime

The blogger’s nightmare times two – the expression you have never heard of, and four words that seem to fit the literal equally well but don’t fit the cryptic at all. Eventually I made the leap of faith, and saw the light.

There are some other tricky bits in this puzzle, which is probably among the more difficult of the Monday offerings. Most of the clues are not chestnuts, although there are a few instant write-ins to get you started.

At least I can say that the US press was in the same boat as I was when Mrs. Thatcher used this expression at a press conference with Reagan.

1 GLASS, G[ir]L + ASS, almost a giveaway.
4 SOFT SOAP, SO(FT)S + O.A.P, that is to say an Old Age Pensioner, a UK-centric expression which comes up quite often.
8 PRIVATE PATIENT, double definition, another UK-centric bit where you need the NHS to make it meaningful.
10 ABSTINENT, ABS(TIN)ENT, where ‘breaks’ means ‘intrudes into’.
11 GUSTO, G([aug]UST)O.
12 SODDEN, SOD + DEN. A very smooth surface, simple and elegant
14 WOBBLING, W[ife] + [c]OBBLING, where ‘at last’ refers to the cobbler’s position, not a letter’s.
17 ARTESIAN, NAI(SET)RA backwards. I just put this in from the literal, and researched it later. It couldn’t really be anything else.
18 PARDON, double definition.
20 EGRET, GREET with an ‘E’ moved to the front. No regrets, I suppose.
22 DEEP-FRIED, DEEP + FRIE[n]D, as in a friend in high places. A cleverly-designed clue.
24 CIRCUMLOCUTION, double definition, the office being located in Little Dorrit.
26 TIGRE, TIGER with a switch at the end. The region is usually spelt Tigray, but the people are the Tigre – perhaps a minor fluff?
1 GO PEAR-SHAPED, double definition. This phrase is little-known outside the UK, and I was stuck for a long time. It is strange, too, that ‘pear’ is in ‘apPEAR fruity’, which you would think the setter would have tried to avoid.
2 Omitted, the only obvious one tonight.
3 SHADINESS, SH(AD)INES + S[ession]. I had ‘staginess’, ‘snakiness’, ‘soapiness’ and ‘shadiness’ lined up in columns, with lots of lines between the elements. Eventually I found that ‘bill’ was ‘ad’ – for a while I was leaning towards ‘A/P’. This should not have been so hard.
4 SKEWER, S(K)EWER. Almost obvious.
5 FRACTION, FR + ACTION. This held me up for a long time, looking for a specific battle.
6 STING, STING[y]. Another one that is almost obvious.
7 AMNESTIED, anagram of MEANS + TIED. If you get this first, it may help with 18.
9 SONG AND DANCE, double definition. This expression means slightly different things in various places. In the US, we would say ‘a song and a dance’, meaning an elaborate explanation offered to a customer or a manager, designed primarily to discourage further inquiry.
13 DETERMINE, DE[b]T + ERMINE. Not a smooth surface, and one thinks of ‘ermine’ almost immediately.
15 BEAR FRUIT, anagram of FAIRER, BUT.
16 CARDAMOM, CARD + M.O.M.A backwards. The Museum Of Modern Art is in New York City.
19 SECOND, SE(CO)ND. Simple and elegant.
21 TACHE, EH + CAT upside down. We have seen this before as an element of a cryptic, but this is the first time I’ve seen it as the answer.
23 ICING, hidden word in [dyspept]IC IN G[uts]

27 comments on “Times 24922 – This scepter’d Isle…..”

  1. 19:55 .. I think we could call it transatlantic quits – we’ll see your MOMA and raise it a PEAR-SHAPED.

    I followed exactly your line of reasoning on ARTESIAN, vinyl – what else could it be? I’ve always thought of the (former) Ethiopian province as being TIGRE – seems just to be a variant spelling.

    Some really nice surfaces and canny clues – COD to SODDEN for me.

  2. A few, as per Jonathan, went in on a wing and prayer (MOMA was a no-wayer and ARIAN, somewhat ironically, a guess for Nigerian), but I just went with my hunches and finished in 47 minutes. 3dn was a bridge too far, as it turned out: my last in, I ventured ‘sCAliness’. Overall, the puzzle left me with a slightly disappointed feeling: too many guesses, e.g. CIRCUMLOCUTION and TIGRE, as well as the ones noted.
  3. A familiar solving pattern for me these days, an assured start with all but a few going in within 30 minutes and the remainder taking for ever. Eventually I abandoned it overnight with 3dn,10ac, 12ac, 13dn and 17ac outstanding. On resuming this morning SODDEN and DETERMINE came to me fairly swiftly but I had to resort to aids for the other three.

    I didn’t know the Little Dorrit reference, DEEP = cunning or the Nigerian currency.

    I have just acquired the latest Collins (£15 from Amazon, delivered) in expectation that the setters have too and we shall have lots of new and unexpected examples of jargon and street usage to deal with in the coming months.

  4. Very sluggish today – I even had to work through the alphabet to get AMISS. Solving the Dickens clue eventually got things moving, although it went completely over my head. 58 minutes, with my COD nomination to SOFT SOAP for the nifty wordplay and the clever concealment of the definition.
  5. Nice and knotty for a Monday. TIGRE out of wordplay, CIRCUMLOCUTION out of definition and ARTESIAN out of nowhere.
    Fluked the spelling of CARDAMOM and, minus the dots, thought MOMA was yet another museum I had never heard of.
  6. Found this exceptionally difficult for a Monday but quite fair. Limped home in just over the hour, with no real excuse but impending senility.
  7. Thanks for a brilliant blog, vinyl, in particular your convincing explanations of the wordplay for SHADINESS (‘seaminess’ was yet another option I’d considered), WOBBLING (couldn’t be anything else but I would never have spotted ‘[c]obbling’) and CARDAMOM (I knew BM didn’t fit …). Overall a good challenge to start the week: mostly straightforward but with enough twists to get the brain working for about an hour.
  8. 27 minutes with customary interruptions – it was easier when I was doing it on the Tube.
    That makes it a Monday toughie, with CIRCUM-thingy, SHADINESS and (unaccountably) SECOND proving most obdurate, not knowing my Dickens well enough. It doesn’t help either that CARDAMOM is a b****r to spell, especially if you initially think it’s pappodom.
    I thought there were some excellent diversions here – “black and white” in 13, “working at last” in 14 – my CoD.
    Betjeman may well have influenced my early try of SLOUGH for 12, and I’m glad I didn’t try googling 21.
  9. 20 minutes, also made a fast start and slowed down to a crawl on the last few – DEEP FRIED from the definition, CIRCUMLOCUTION from one of the definitions.
  10. Like others I raced through lots of this and got held up with the last couple: SHADINESS (does ‘bill’ = ‘ad’ in the advertising sense?) and ABSTINENT (good clue, should’ve got it earlier).

    Elsewhere, same queries as Jack (‘I didn’t know the Little Dorrit reference, DEEP = cunning or the Nigerian currency’). All in all an enjoyable way to start the week.

    1. This always makes me think of Nigel Rees’s Graffiti books. Under a notice saying
      someone is supposed to have scrawled
  11. 36 minutes is a bit better than par for me, so I’m feeling a little smug. Didn’t know DEEP could mean CUNNING, and never heard of CARDAMOM, but what else could they be?
    GO PEAR-SHAPED is very common here in Australia these days (especially when discussing our cricket team), and there’d be no grass in Perth without ARTESIAN water, so I guess it was just one of those lucky days.
    Slightly curious as to why a SEWER needs to be a woman.
  12. 16 minutes here, so I must have been on the right wavelength.
    SOFT SOAP is an expression I didn’t know the last time it came up, but I remembered it from then. However I’d forgotten the Dickens connection in 24ac and didn’t know TIGRE.
    My last in was ARTESIAN, and I was surprised to find it was right as I didn’t know either the currency or the physical principles by which the wells work. The definition seems a little bit iffy to me: Artesian wells operate under pressure but the word itself is a geographical reference. It means “operating under pressure” in the way “French” means “soaked in eggs and fried”, for instance. Much more specific though so justifiable.
  13. No hold-ups, but a slow start until I got to the (for me) easy 24 across, which got me going on the bottom half of the grid. Finished in 35 minutes with one spelling error and several question marks en route. For 16 I took the museum to be MOMI (Museum of the Moving Image). CARDIMOM didn’t look right but I left it. I didn’t see what the axed initial letter was in _OBBLING (14), but that didn’t prevent a correct answer; TIGRE was unfamiliar, and finally I failed to see the old chestnut, ‘ready’ for cash in 17, so ARTESIAN was my least confidant answer. Actually I’m not keen on that clue since logically the hyphen can only operate on SET, not on NAIRA, so I was looking for a Nigerian, A_ _A_

    Some trickier clues than is the norm for Monday. My favourite ones were in some ways the neatest, not the most complex: 10, 18, 25. Overall, it was the sort of puzzle that I enjoy solving.

  14. I was surprised to finish this in 39 minutes. At one stage I thought I’d have to abandon it. I think the turning point came when I remembered Dicken’s “Circumlocation Office” – a wonderful description of certain sections of the Civil Service! ARTESIAN went in as a guess – the only word that would fit the checkers. I knew about Artesian Wells but I didn’t know about the “operating under pressure” bit. I realised that “ready” referred to the Nigerian currency but had no idea what it was. Though I knew that ARIAN means “silver/money” in Welsh . (So the clue would have worked equally well with “Welsh” substituted for “Nigerian”!) SHADINESS was my last in. I was trying to fit AC for “bill” instead of AD and ended up trawling the alphabet. It seems so simple in retrospect.
  15. 25 minutes for me and struggled at times. Found parts of it irritating such as 8A, 17A and 24A. Other parts quite reasonable though.All in all a bit of a curate’s egg (as Dickens didn’t say)
  16. Solved this OK but still can’t see how it works. I can see that Bolshevik = red and appeared = seemed, but where is the instruction to remove the ‘s’? Thanks.
  17. Solved this OK but still can’t see how it works. I can see that Bolshevik = red and appeared = seemed, but where is the instruction to remove the ‘s’? Thanks.
  18. This took me forever; I could have saved a half-hour or more if I had looked up NAIRA when all I had left was1d, 3d, 10ac, &17ac. With 17 everything fell into place instantly, except 3d, where I gave up and chose ‘snakiness’. There’s a wonderful scene in ‘Little Dorrit’ where the hero tries to make an inquiry at the Circumlocution Office; he gets as far as, “I want to know…” when an offended official interrupts, ” You want to KNOW? You want to KNOW? You, you can’t just come in here and say you want to know, you know!” A friendlier official thinks it just might be possible to make the inquiry–no one’s ever tried, so he’s not sure–“but you’ll have to fill out a lot of forms, you know. Thompson, give this gentleman a lot of forms.” Plus ca change. COD to TACHE
  19. My experience mirrored vinyl’s, not knowing the pear expression, the Dickens bit, Nigerian money, etc. Took me about an hour all told, and I had to go to aids for the pear-shaped clue. A stiff test for a Monday puzzle, and COD to the succinct SECOND. Regards.
  20. 11:41 for me. I knew all the bits, but found it hard to get on the setter’s wavelength so that I could put them together. I’ve only ever seen TIGRE spelled that way but I’ve now noted TIGRAY in case it comes up in the future.
  21. >…
    >TACHE … this is the first time I’ve seen it as the answer

    The blog entry here suggests otherwise (though perhaps your mind was on the golf ;-).

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