Times 24956

Solving time: 57:12, but it was late, and I was feeling particularly drowsy. My brain didn’t start working until about 20 minutes in when I finished two-thirds of the grid in about 15 minutes. Then I spent another 10 minutes or so on the last four in the NE corner (5/6/8/10), eventually walking away and doing something else for a bit. Solved them all in a burst on my return.

I found it much harder than yesterday’s, and I stand by my comment that I would rather have had that one on my turn to blog than this.

Some good stuff in here, and a few groans, not least of which for UNWEST in 1a.

cd = cryptic def., dd = double def., rev = reversal, homophones are written in quotes, anagrams as (–)*, and removals like this

1 UNWISEST – IS in UNWEST (oh dear!)
5 POMP + OM – I couldn’t find any specific link between pompom and dahlia, but that may be a failing of my dictionary. A pompom (or pompon) can certainly be a flower.
10 FIELDS – dd – Gracie being the singer.
15 ALl ICE
16 HAVE A BALL – dd
18 LAZY + SUSAN – one of those large rotating discs found in the middle of large dining tables. Popular in Chinese restaurants.
19 THO + RN – the Old English letter þ, pronounced like a th
25 OK CORRAL = OK (I agreee) + caRve in CORAL (pink), the site of the famous gunfight in the town of Tombstone
26 END + ASH – in printing, an en dash (–) is a bit shorter than an em dash (—), being the width of an ‘n’ rather than the width of an ‘m’.
1 UMMA – hidden, I didn’t know the word (non-Christian religions forms probably the largest gap in my knowledge), but the hidden word wasn’t hard to spot.
2 WASP = SAW rev + P
3 SHEER + NESS – port on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
6 ORIsON – It took me an age to spot that the apostrophe came after the final s in stars rather than before, so it was a constellation rather than a single star I was looking for.
7 POLL + IN + A + TORy
8 MI’S + CELL + ANY – I’m not completely sure exactly how the MIS breaks down, but I think it’s MI for Military Intelligence and S as an abbreviation for ‘is’
11 RIP + VAN + WINK + LatE – I remember coming across the story of Rip Van Winkle when I was a lad, but I didn’t know he came from Washington. He didn’t, apparently, but the story was written by Washington Irving. Thanks to mctext who got there first in pointing this out.
13 CALL CENTRE, because AL is the centre of CALL
14 FITZGERALD = “FITS” + GERALD – I imagine the poet is F. Scott Fitzgerald, authot of The Great Gatsby, but he’s much better known as an author of prose, so this seems an odd definition. There are other poets with the name Fitzgerald, but none anywhere near as famous. It has been pointed out by better-read people than me that Edward Fitzgerald is probably a better candidate. Not as famous as F. Scott, but at least he was a poet first and foremost. Thanks to vinyl1 for this one.
21 TEENS = TEES about counNtry
22 DROP – a triple def, I think.
23 GLEe + N

53 comments on “Times 24956”

  1. Best puzzle of the week, I thought. Lots of great misdirection, canny wordplay and some well-disguised defs (Tombstone feature, that takes a turn at the tables, etc.). 49 minutes.

    POMPOM: “a dahlia, chrysanthemum, or aster with small tightly clustered petals, [as adj.]: miniature, pompom, and border dahlias“. [NOAD]

    Many contenders for COD but I’m giving it to TRACEY for sentimental reasons.

  2. I spent a lot of time in the NW corner sorting out the mess after putting INVERNESS at 3dn – the OED having persuaded me that “inver” and “mere” were sufficiently close in meaning.

    For 6ac, my father used to grow dahlias which came in two kinds – “pompoms” are those with tight round flower heads.

  3. Tougher than yesterday’s and a much better test, with lots of misdirection and cunning, taking me all of 100 minutes with recourse to Bradford’s near the end to sort out the excellent ‘seven-year period’.

    The south-west corner held me up the longest, reflecting my relative cruciverbal inexperience (took me ages to work out EN DASH, which hopefully wll go straight in next time), as well as my lack of scientific knowledge – EVENT HORIZON being unknown to me. And then there was the seven-year clue, where I had both components but was unable to put them together until Bradford’s told me that Tees is the only 4-letter crosswordian river starting with a ‘t’ and with an ‘e’ in third place.

    According to the Internet, the pompom is a type of dahlia, and, yes, UNWISEST is down there with yesterday’s PUBLISH. I was going to thank you for unravelling that one, Dave, but now I’m not so sure! I’m in your debt for the parsing of CALL CENTRE, ‘though.

  4. I feel quite good about this one which came in at 30 minutes including a very long hold-up before I spotted Our Gracie at 10ac, my last in.

    I didn’t know UMMA which apparently last came up in February 2007, so just before my time – you can read Peter’s comments at 14ac here http://times-xwd-times.livejournal.com/44464.html?thread=240048. Fortunately today, being a hidden word, it was not so difficult to guess.

    I knew POMPOM dahlia because, like anon above, my father used to grow them. The word came up in discussions here quite recently when PONPON (which I didn’t know) appeared.

    Thanks, Dave, for the explanation of MIS in 8dn which completely passed me by. If it had been my Friday to blog I was going to expound a theory that we had ventured into car number-plate territory where MIS might be represented by MI5.

    BRILLIANTINE came up in last Friday’s puzzle.

    1. Yes, I considered MIS for MI5, at first, then wondered if M on its own could mean intelligence. A reference to James Bond’s superior perhaps. But in the end I dismissed both of these ideas.
  5. …well, not, actually, as I quickly got the connection once K in 11d had gone in. 79mins 15secs for me with much time lost pondering 10ac, 5ac and 19ac. Oh, I also spent far too much time fixated on “bones” in 18ac on the basis that bones can = dice so that could have related to “turn at the tables”.
  6. COED (much in evidence this morning) has MIS as Management Information Systems, so perhaps that’s it at 9?
    COD to TEENS closely followed by MUSTERED. UNWISEST something of a blot I felt.
  7. A couple of things you might want to emend: your troubles were in the NE (not NW), and POMPOM is 5ac.
    1. You’re quite right. I copy each blog template from the previous one, and I forgot to change the clue numbers. As it happens they were very similar, and only a few needed changing, but it’s done now.
  8. Felt pleased that I managed as much as I did today, and even got the AL ref at 13dn, but the unknowns (EN DASH, EVENT HORIZON, ORISON -but I did think of orion) made for a DNF.

    Sad start to the weekend 🙁

  9. Very nearly an easy one for me – only the DROP/PETER PAN (nice clue) crossing and the extreme NE slowed me down to 15 minutes. For DROP< I was looking for 1p in there somewhere as the smallest amount, but it wasn’t that clever.
    I took M on its own to be the intelligence bit, and I thought the CALL CENTRE (my CoD) was only rendered tricky because you couldn’t distinguish in print between lower case l and number 1. Perhaps that’s also why “one missing” in ALICE can be letter l?
    As for the much loved singer – not if you’re Spike: “Gracie Fields,” I guffawed, “she’s as funny as a steam roller going over a baby”.
    ASTRODOME made me think of Houston and baseball stars first, and I’ll bet it meant that before it was appropriated by telescopes.
    I also wondered whether O.K. CORRAL should be numbered as 1,1,6, but perhaps that would have been too much of a giveaway as well as being accurate.
      1. Depends which reference you look at, but
        This clearly shows O.K. I don’t know, but I assumed the corral, like most in the West, got its initials from its owner. I wouldn’t be too impressed by a Corral which was just OK, rather than, say, excellent.
    1. It’s “one left out” as in one of ALL’s ls (‘els’) being deleted. You must have known this to have got the answer, but I just point it out in case anyone drops by and gets confused.

      Or am I missing something?

      1. I just took it to mean one (of the the letters) missed out, but I see your point. “Left” is there for a reason, of course.
    2. I justified drop as being droop with an o removed, although looking at it now I can’t see how that would work.
  10. 20 minutes.
    More than usually indebted to the blogger today, so thanks Dave. Several unknowns and I couldn’t parse CALL CENTRE (I thought the L was a 1!) or OK CORRAL, not knowing the Tombstone bit.
    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned the unindicated DBE in 14dn (Gerald).
    I hesitated over 3dn because I struggle to see how “mere” and “sheer” mean the same thing. ODE has “nothing other than” but still I think they mean something quite different. Or am I missing something obvious as usual?
    1. ‘Mere/sheer luck’ would both have the meaning of ‘total’, ot the ‘nothing other than’ that you mention.
      1. But I don’t think they do have the meaning “total”. I think “sheer” means total, unmitigated. “Mere” means “nothing but”. With “sheer” nothing’s missing. With “mere” something is. In a way they are antonyms!
    2. I had the same thought and checked the OED.

      †4. That is what it is in the full sense of the term qualified; nothing short of (what is expressed by the following noun); absolute, sheer, perfect, downright, veritable.
       a. Neither more nor less than (what is expressed by the n.); that and nothing else; unmitigated, unqualified; downright, absolute, pure. Cf. mere adj.2 4.

      1. Yes I saw something similar, and the origin of the word seems to be the Latin merus meaning pure or unmixed. But the meanings of words change and today I think the word “mere” means something different, with a clear connotation of something missing.
        1. I agree with you completely. Although I thought of SHEERNESS very early on, this was my last in because I refused to accept SHEER = “mere”. I keep trying to think up a sentence where they would be synonyms. In spite of what the dictionary says, it’s not the way the terms are commonly used. “Sheer incompetence” means something very different from “mere incompetence”, to give but one example.
    3. I tracked down this line from Woody Allen’s Manhattan, where ‘mere’ carries the meaning (or denotation) of ‘downright’, and where it could be replaced by ‘sheer’ without significant alteration to the meaning: ‘In his most private moments, he spoke of his fear of death which he elevated to tragic heights when, in fact, it was mere narcissism.’
      1. Actually I think this is an excellent example of why they don’t mean the same thing. If you replace “mere” with “sheer” in this sentence you change the meaning, and actually make a bit of a nonsense of it. What this sentence says is that his fear of death was something less than the “tragic heights” he spoke of. “Sheer” doesn’t have this meaning.
        1. Mere can be a lighter-toned way of saying sheer: finishing in 8 minutes I sat still in mere delight. If only. 40, about 10 of them on OK Corral – it finally occurred that Tombstone might be a title. “Unwest” isn’t meant to be a word in use, only a crosswordy def. and I think is … OK. (Sorry to expand the reply to further comment.)
          1. I remembered Tombstone from the 1993 Kurt Russell/Val Kilmer film of the same name which was based around the famous gunfight.
          2. Thanks. I wasn’t familiar with this meaning, and the dictionaries I have access to disagree on it:
            > ODE and Collins don’t give this meaning, but ODE does give the origin as “late Middle English (in the senses ‘pure’ and ‘sheer, downright): from Latin merus ‘undiluted’
            > Chambers has it (thanks Anonymous)
            > The American Heritage Dictionary has “pure, unadulterated” but marks it as obsolete
            1. this might or might not be an archaic sense of the word
            2. I need to get a life

    4. Chambers does have “mere” as a definition of “sheer”. Perhaps the setter just followed that?
  11. I must have been on setter’s wavelength today: I was well on course for a comfortable sub-30 minute solve until ground to a halt for about 10 minutes by FIELDS. Apart from the (irritating) occurrence of the names of two girls, lots to enjoy about this challenge – even when I was not familiar with the answers (notably EVENT HORIZON and EN DASH) and not bothered about the specific poet (FITZGERALD). COD to CALL CENTRE (a clue I would never have cracked until becoming a regular here).

    Thanks Dave for the blog: I’m particularly impressed by the typographical detail for THORN.

  12. Another puzzle that seemed easy to begin with, but I was held up at the end by 3, 9 and 10. But for those it would have been 25 minutes. As it was, nearer 40 and one wrong at 10 with WIELDS. I didn’t think IELDS sounded a likely name for a singer, but then there are lots of singers’ names that are unfamiliar to me, so I didn’t give it further thought. For 9 I was fixed on MOST from ‘so’ in the clue, so wasted time on a red herring there.

    The cryptic for 2 ac escaped me. I resisted putting the answer in for some time because of that, and even wondered if -IEST could conceivably be homophonically equivalent to EAST. Now I’ve seen the explanation here I think it’s a dreadful clue, the worst of the week.

  13. Also resorted to the doing something else for a bit trick to solve the NE corner, where POMPOM, POLLINATOR & Gracie just simply eluded me. Otherwise about 40 minutes. Like others I found this a tricky and rewarding challenge. The clue for EVENT HORIZON is perhaps the best explanation one could give of it, but COD to CALL CENTRE over LAZY SUSAN. Unlike others, I’m still slyly smiling to myself at 1ac, but I’ll let Gracie have the last word. Regards to the setter.
  14. Held up for a while by having ‘lump’ for 22dn (‘slump with no S), but otherwise got through this in around 40 minutes. Took a long time to remember Gracie and to get the pompom/miscellany crossing. Hated ‘unwest’.
  15. I’ve obviously had an off-day. 42:10 and I was close to throwing in the Egyptian cotton bath sheet on Fields and Miscellany.

    COD to teens.

  16. Your dads may have grown them in the past but in the UK dahlias have made a major comeback because of the late summer and autumn colour they deliver – and they are great cut flowers too. They come in pompom, cactus, waterlily and single/double shapes and I was solving in my garden which is full of them so 5ac no trouble. A 30 minute solve for me except for wretched Gracie. My COD Call Centre too. Unwisest almost unacceptable.
  17. I didn’t find this too difficult, perhaps because I was in a good mood after an excellent round of golf. I even laughed at “UNWEST” which on another day would I suspect have irritated me

    I knew the literary references (dear old RVW has passed this way before) and of course the gun fight and Wyatt Earp were all the rage in days of yore. Quite how people haven’t heard of Gracie Fields is something of a mystery – a bit of an icon along with Vera Lynn

  18. Well after breezing through this I was left with 3 and 10.

    SHEERNESS went in with a sigh of “this will be wrong” resignation. And now to 10.

    I giggled when I wrote in GILLIS, and left it at that.

    I don’t mind being wrong when I can make myself laugh.

  19. A tired and dopey half-hour on the train left me still with about 9 or 10 answers to get, but when I looked at it again at lunchtime they all seemed obvious and I finished it in two minutes. I’m not a morning person.
  20. Not much trouble today, about 25 minutes to finish unaided, perhaps spurred along by the Americanisms at Tombstone and the Washington Irving clue. I also took FIELDS to be another US-slanted item, thinking the reference was to Totie Fields, entering the answer, and not thinking any more about it. Last entry was SHEERNESS, where I’m quite fine with equating ‘mere’ and ‘sheer’. ‘Unwest’ is strange, but on reflection, not much different than accepted crosswordese such as ‘flower’, ‘banker’, or for that matter, CALL CENTRE. Regards to all.
  21. I left this after 40 minutes with a few still to go. I had to check EN DASH, which was new to me, and was slow to spot our Gracie at 10a. (In spite of the fact that I’ve spent this afternoon playing for a singalong including one of her greatest hits. “Sing as We Go” anybody?) I refused to accept SHEERNESS until the checkers left me with no option!
  22. Is there a clever reason for the ‘much-loved’ in 10a? Otherwise it sounds a bit redundant and wet.
    1. Can’t think of one and on reflection I’d agree it’s not a very good clue as the second definition is ungettable without the checkers in place.
  23. this comment is so late that no one will see it. I was really cross about the FiELDS clue. It’s the expression “much loved”. By whom? I’ve always hated the sound of the owman, and found it a mystery how anyone can listen to the cacophony.

    What made it worse is that the phrase made me think of FIELDS when I saw it, because she is so often referred to in that way, but inexplicably that didn’t help me get the answer, hence a DNF on that one clue. Grr.

    1. Well ‘much loved’ is not the same as ‘universally loved’ and it’s undeniable that she was ‘much loved’ in her day and probably is still by many who remember her. However I would agree that ‘much loved singer’ is not really a definition worthy of a Times cryptic crossword clue. Assuming we’re not all missing something as discussed above.
  24. 11:42 here – not a disaster but slower than it should have been, with time wasted trying to justify WIELDS (bad luck, dyste), and TRACEY and TEENS (both obvious with hindsight) holding me up at the end.
  25. Like Dyste had WIELDS instead of your Gracie. Despite an alphabet trawl didn’t see Fields as a possibility! Doh!
    33 mins with one letter wrong.

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