Times 24958 – How far off the deep end?

Solving time: 65 minutes

Music: Boccherini, Cello Concertos, Bylsmer/Concerto Amsterdam

I solved all save four in 25 minutes, but the last ones were very elusive, as is often the case. One had to be gotten from the wordplay, but the rest should have been much quicker but I just couldn’t see them. Unfortunately, one cryptic is still unexplained, but I may very well get it as I write the blog.

This was a relatively tricky puzzle for a Monday, with a couple of unusual techniques in the clues. Those are the sorts of things I am likely to see right away, but then I turn around and struggle with the obvious ones.

1 ESTHER, ES([jacke]T)HER. The town of Esher is rather obscure for overseas solvers, but the answer should have been obvious enough, only it wasn’t.
4 AT A PRICE, A T(AP = PA backwards)RICE. I wanted this to be ‘up a creek’, but saw that wouldn’t do.
10 HELVETIAN, anagram of HAVE LET IN, a quick write-in for most solvers.
11 Omitted….sue me!
12 BEYOND REPROACH, anagram of NOBODY, PREACHER, another easy anagram that opens up the whole top half.
14 TRAIL, T[aken] + LIAR backwards.
16 ENCHANTER, EN(CHAN[t])TER, where the ‘t’ is taken away, and immediately given back by the encloser.
18 OUTFITTER, OUT + FITTER, where the mechanic is presumably a gasfitter or something of the sort.
20 SPROG, S + PRO + G.
21 CONSTANTINOPLE, CONSTANT + IN + O + PL[ac]E. If you thought ‘firm’ = ‘co’, you’ll never figure out the cryptic.
25 OPINE, O(P[encil] + I)NE.
26 INVERNESS, IN + VERNE’S + S. Another one experienced solvers will write in immediately.
27 KEY STAGE, KEYS + anagram of GET A. Bureaucratic jargon not known here in the US, but the cryptic gives it to you.
28 NANTES, N(ANTE)S, another easy one involving the North and South Poles.
1 EXHIBITION, double definition. I was beating my brains out over this, going through all the obscure Oxbridge jargon of sizars and wooden spoons, but after twenty minutes or so it hit me.
2 TALLY, TALL + Y[ear], as in a tall story.
5 TON-UP, which is what NOT is!
6 PERGOLA, P(ERGO)LA[n]. A very difficult one for me, as I wasted a lot of time with ‘so’. I finally saw it, but wasn’t sure if a ‘pergola’ was the required item – for all I knew, it might be an Italian desert or some sort of carriage. But my guess turned out to be correct.
7 INDICATOR, INDIC + A TO R. Elegant and well-constructed.
8 EARL, [n}EARL[y]. The DBE is clearly indicated, another crafty clue where it may be hard to find the literal.
9 FIERIEST, FI(ERIE)ST. My last in, not easy to get without the first letter, especially if you want ‘lake’ to be ‘l’.
13 PROGRESSES, PR(OGRESS)ES, where the ‘leader’ appears to be of the US variety.
15 AUTHORITY, AUTHOR(IT)[stor]Y. Having the literal ‘IT’ in the clue is a weakness, in my opinion.
19 INSPECT, INS[P[itch])ECT, another non-cricket clue.
20 SANGRIA, SANG + [rest]RI[cted] + A. An excellent idea, might improve the service.
22 AWING, A + WING, where both ‘wound’ and ‘wing’ should be taken as a verb.
23 PLEAT, P(L + E + A)T, rather vague and sloppy. I never like clues where ‘note’ is one of ABCDEFG….and two of them is worse.
24 Omitted, there’s no approval required.

38 comments on “Times 24958 – How far off the deep end?”

  1. I found this the easiest for a while – 17mins. Having had INVERNESS for SHEERNESS a few days ago, I managed to get it in right today.

    Following ulaca’s comment, the Tiger Balm Gardens are the only gardens I know with a pagoda as a feature! Australians tend to pronounce PERGOLA with the stress on the second syllable, perhaps through confusion with PAGODA.

    1. Kee gardens in w London has a pagoda as a feature. And gardens don’t come much more famous than that. There is also one in the Japanese garden in golden gate park here in san francisco
      1. And the “chinese tower” in the English Garden in Munich. (Forgive the Anglicisations here. I can’t cope with the German for “Chinese”!)
  2. A very Mondayesque puzzle, neither too demanding nor inspiring. The anagram at 12ac took a bit of working out, while CONSTANTINOPLE’s ‘firm’ only caused a brief hold-up until enough crossing letters gave it away. My lack of landscaping knowledge proved a useful thing for once, as I had only ‘pergola’ and ‘pergoda’ (I know, embarrassing, especially for one living in the Orient) as possibilities for my last in, plumping for the former when I saw the Latin. 35 minutes.
  3. 40 minutes with 25ac and 9dn accounting for the last 10 of them. Wasted time at 25ac thinking of ‘lead in pencil’ as H or B before spotting the obvious alternative.

    I’m feeling a bit dim this morning so can somebody please run the explanation to 5dn past me again? I know TON-UP and understand that TON is ‘Not’ reversed but still can’t make complete sense of it.

    I thought the clues were mostly really well constructed so it was a pity that many of the answers went in on definition and a couple of checkers and the wordplay could be virtually ignored whilst solving.

    1. I think “Not” is the wordplay (= TON rev) and the rest is the definition. “TON-UP” can be an adjective with that meaning.
        1. One of the (adjectival) definitions given by Chambers is ‘fond of travelling at high speed’, the first being the more expected ‘travelling or having travelled at more than 100mph’.
  4. 21 minutes and some enjoyment for an essentially quite easy puzzle. Only thing to ponder was KEY STAGE. (They changed the system since I went through it and I’m glad to have missed the bureaucratisation. No doubt the Stage One littlies now have KPIs to meet.) As Vinyl says, gettable from the cryptic but.
  5. Sour grapes certainly but should there not be a distinction between times recorded for grid completion and actual solving?
    Grid completion – 40 minutes. But this misleads as thereafter A TO R caused me more problems than I care to admit as did SANG for “was a chorister”. Remained unconvinced by TON-UP and didn’t know the scholarship or KEY STAGE reflecting no doubt my lack of either.
    1. Angry from Tunbridge Wells
      I don’t like your suggestion one little bit. I didn’t even know what you were referring to with your A TO R until I did a page search and found I’d shoved the relevant answer in with a) no clue how it worked and b) no subsequent effort to find out.

      I deeply resent your effort to break the thin, and very sensitive, skin of my little bubble of self-satisfaction.

      Proud to be 35 … for a day.

      1. Dear Angry
        Long time no hear. Was beginning to worry. And when did you change your name from Disgusted? Thanks for the laugh out loud rant, never a bad thing on a Monday morning even for us retired folk.
        Yours as ever
  6. Nothing too taxing today, but I did spend an inordinate amount of time on my last two: the OUTFITTER/AUTHORITY pair.

    Again, today I found that with one or two checkers, lots went in on the literal defs alone, and I worked out the cryptics subsequently (or not: I needed the blog for the A TO R bit, eg, so thanks for that, vinyl).

    A quick query: how does wound=WING? Is it ‘to wing’=’to wound’?

    1. Indeed it does. To hit someone in the arm/shoulder for example. Probably number 49 definition in Chambers.
      1. This came from game shooting, where the bird in flight is either killed outright, or ‘winged’ if only wounded.
  7. One may be winged by a bullet (janie) and a time distinction between grid completion and conscious tracing of all clue rationales is surely impossible (barry). Often one has the rationale but it hasn’t all come to the surface; often there’s a a confident guess, as mine was with indiacator today; but that’s part of meeting the challenge which is merely a complete grid. Rather liked this one, just a little trickier than it seemed to set out to be. 24 minutes, COD 25.
  8. 10 minutes. A straightforward puzzle where quite a few went in from definition. I didn’t know this definition of TON-UP and couldn’t parse INDICATOR, so thanks for that. This A TO R device has caught me out before.
  9. 34 (enjoyable) minutes on the puzzle, but far longer trying to get access to the site. I’ve been locked out since last Thursday – can’t get anywhere with Safari or Firefox, and IE is telling me there’s a certification problem. Has anybody else been having difficulty? I’ve reported it to the IT bods, but I’m not holding my breath.
  10. 15 minutes, would have been about three and a half weeks if I had tarried to work out how INDICATOR worked. Cute device, but I was struggling to work out how the letters of OUTFITTER had anything to do with it, such as how it might after all be -ER at the end and therefore CATER was in there somehow. There comes a time when feverish and fantastic speculation has to give way to “what else could it be?” Nice device, though, and must have been used before, as in the one about the guy who looked for relationship advice in the Encyclopaedia Britannica volume HOW to HUG.
    CoD to ETERNAL, though I also liked the elegant preacher clue. PLEAT fed my dislike of clues which invite you to take a random selection of letters from the first seven, though I’d love to clue DEFLATE sometime as “three notes are a letdown”
  11. 8:03 but with typing errors. Curse these giant fingers.

    As per discussion above, that’s not my real solving time, of course, as I had filled in INDICATOR a looong time before I knew why it was right. However, the penny-drop moment was worth the price of admission on its own.

  12. A pleasant enough, 25-minute stroll. The only hold-ups were with 9, until I decided the lake was not L, and 1 ac, where I was racking my brains for a suitable Surrey town and could only come up with Epsom for a while. the rest was plain sailing.

    The surface of 25 is not up to much, but I liked the misleading use of ‘lead’.

  13. I had no particular problems with this, although I didn’t see the end bit of INDICATOR until reading this blog. 25 enjoyable minutes.
  14. Pleasant 21 minute solve.

    Watching Spooks last night, it occured to me that we’ve never seen anyone on ‘the Grid’ solving the Times puzzle. Ruth, in particular, would clearly be a sub-10 minute solver. I don’t know, sometimes I wonder if the programme isn’t entirely realistic.

  15. About 30 minutes, ending with ESTHER. I have very little knowledge of Surrey towns other than Kew, because my brother, an ex-pat banker, once lived there. But, to my surprise, I see I have 1 wrong, having entered SPRIG instead of SPROG, with ‘S’ being the point and ‘PRIG’ meaning ‘good’, or ‘overly good to the point of annoyance’. With “S?R?G” what else could it be? SPROG, apparently. Oops. Better luck tomorrow, I suppose. Regards.
  16. 16 minutes, but would have been under 10 if it wasn’t for me putting in OUTRIGGER instead of OUTFITTER and wondering why I couldn’t get 9 down to work. CONSTANTINOPLE without even looking at wordplay.
  17. 7:20 for me – but I’d have been a good minute faster if I hadn’t dithered, trying desperately to justify the wordplay for TON-UP and PROGRESSES, and fooled (by “leader” in the clue) into thinking that the word to be shortened in the latter was PRESS.
  18. Over an hour because of three or four very sticky entries. One of the frequent puzzles where I have everything right and feel confident that I do, but don’t really understand why. In particular, I couldn’t make out the wordplay for TON UP (but TON seemed to fit the high speed, so I left it in) or INDICATOR. And there were many others I entered into the grid and then erased again because I couldn’t explain them, only to reenter them when the penny dropped (EXHIBITION and OUTFITTER, for example). For some reason I first put in TRIAL rather than TRAIL at 14 ac (not good at spelling LIAR backwards) and only corrected it when I couldn’t make sense of 15 dn. Still, not a bad puzzle with a number of hard but edible nuts to crack.
  19. Enjoyable but no idea of my time today (yesterday): broke my coffee machine (disaster!) and only managed to tackle this in fits and starts, suffering from caffeine withdrawal, between trying to get my coffee machine fixed and various other tasks of the day. Thanks for the blog, vinyl, and to all other contributors for a good series of comments. Now to download today’s crossword …

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