Times 25,827

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
So, Day 1 of the new subscription regime dawns (metaphorically, anyway, as it’s still the middle of the night, but you know what I mean). I assume that the long-threatened changeover actually did happen as planned, and it wasn’t another false alarm, but as I was down to blog today, I decided not to wait and see what happened, suspecting I’d find myself locked out of the Club site and waiting for the phone lines to open in the morning.

I thought about whether to renew for some time before deciding to sign up with the cheapest available subscription*. I won’t rehash all the arguments, especially as it’s too late now for it to change anything; suffice it to say, I think the changes could have been handled much better, but in the end, compared with other vices a middle-aged man might have, the Times crossword is fairly harmless, and reasonable value (even if I once more have to buy the entire paper to get it).

Oh yes, the actual crossword. Today’s first return on my investment took 16 minutes, as detailed below. Some novelty, with an occasional whiff of chestnut.

So, I’m still here**. Anybody else?

1 POCHARD – a POD of peas, filled with CHAR(“daily”). This rang a vague bell, possibly more likely from a menu than an ornithological text.
5 BLASTED – LAST(“most unlikely” as in the last person you’d suspect) in BED. Blasted=blooming in euphemistic bad language; see also flipping, flaming, and numerous other minced oaths.
9 STALEMATE – A LEM in STATE; I think if you’re old enough to have taken an interest in the Apollo missions, you might well remember LEM (the Lunar Excursion Module, the bit which actually landed on the Moon), though I expect plenty of solvers to have just whacked it in from definition.
10 CHINA – double def., China plate=”mate” in Cockney Rhyming Slang.
13 MARSH GAS – Good in MARS HAS.
15 PINTER – POINTER minus 0 gives Harold of the famous pauses.
17 RECEDE – RECCE minus its central letter + DEEP.
19 CINNAMON – INN, A.M. inside CON.
22 VESTAL VIRGINS – (SERVANTSVIGIL)*. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth, and the Vestal Virgins kept her sacred flame burning, as well as providing material for Carry On Cleo.
25 SLING – SAILING minus A1.
26 CANDIDATE – CAN(“ditch”, especially if you’re American), DI, DATE(“potential partner”).
27 REGNANT – PREGNANT(“expecting”) minus the first letter; we had a very good recent clue which used this device citing Marie Antoinette rather than a nameless occupant of a throne.
28 SEGMENT – G-MEN in a SET.
1 POSY – PROSY without the Right.
2 CHARMER – ARM in CHER(French for “dear”).
3 AMEER – ME(“this person”) in A E.R.(“head of state”). I hesitated over this for a little while, but was quite prepared to believe in an alternative spelling of “emir”/”amir”, and turned out to be right. Admittedly, most of my confidence came from the multiple spellings I’ve seen in the names of Pakistani cricketers called Amir/Ameer/Aamer, so it may have no basis in fact.
5 BRETON – BAR without A, ETON.
7 TWINSET – (N,S,E) in TWIT(“silly”). I’m not normally keen on answers which involve “three card players”, or “three musical notes”, and this didn’t change my mind.
8 DRAWSTRING – (WARD)rev. + STreet, RING(“band”). Nicely disguised definition in “closing item”.
14 HYDRANGEA – anagram of (ASHADYGARDEN)* without SAD. Even I’ve heard of this plant.
16 MIGRANTS – (I’M)rev. + GRANTS.
20 MISTAKE – M1 STAKE(“hazard” as in gamble).
24 BELT – one of those horrible four letter words with two common checkers; luckily, when you lift and separate the Lake and District, and realise that the third letter is probably L, BELT leaps out, a district as in the Central Belt in Scotland.

*If there’s anyone who’s still seeking advice on the matter, without wishing to act as a shill for News International, I can vouch for the advice given on the Crossword Club forum i.e. to call 0800 028 4173, and quote code CC88X. That gives you access to the cheapest sub, which costs £1 a week for the first 3 months, £2 a week after that.

**for a year, anyway, if spared

40 comments on “Times 25,827”

  1. Hmmm, I’m still here, despite not renewing. I didn’t log out from the Club yesterday, so didn’t have to log in today, and had no trouble accessing the puzzle. Maybe I can stay logged in forever?

    Not much to say about the puzzle, another good one, a little easier than average I think.

    1. Interesting. As I say, I was curious to see what happened if I just did nothing, but was worried I might end up without a puzzle to blog. Given the Club’s track record, though, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if they’ve dropped the ball again, despite the dire warnings of deadlines…
  2. Like G, I’ve done nothing and am still around. Can’t recall receiving much gen re the CC specifically, even if the Times/ST send me emails from time to time (with unrelated headings) which I typically ignore.

    Not much to say about this one, except it was nice to see the oblique reference to one of Dickens’s more memorable characters at 11a and I needed the dog at 12d to change to the -er ending from the -or. The duck and middle-eastern chappie last in.

  3. Wasn’t too surprised at AMEER, what with the NYT xwords using various forms as it suits them. I was surprised, though, to see CHINA; this would have stumped me 2 or so years ago, when I had first to learn the CRS term; but since then there has been a china=mate clue roughly every 4th puzzle, it would seem. LOI POSY.
  4. I haven’t followed the discussions about the Club much recently so I wonder if I’m confusing two different issues, but I did see a message from the crossword editor (posting as bannman) last week giving assurances that changes being discussed for 1st July would not be taking place any time soon. That was about software and the continuation of the Club in its present form, but maybe there’s something separate going on about existing subscriptions and I have missed that.

    Anyway I’m still here, but that’s because I switched to a subscription to the newspaper some 18 months before the abolition of the standalone payment was first announced.

    As to this puzzle, I was delayed at the end and rather surprised to find that my solving time had extended as far as 50 minutes before I wrote in my last answer at 24dn. Ashamed to say I wondered long and hard about ‘staFINate’ at 9ac before spotting the obvious.

    I can’t say I’m over familiar with ‘silly’ used as a noun as required in the wordplay at 7dn, but SOED confirms it with reference to the wonderful Joyce Grenfell: “I am a big silly aren’t I?”

    Edited at 2014-07-01 05:06 am (UTC)

    1. Just to clarify for any subsequent readers who haven’t followed discussions on the Club forum, you’re right about there being two issues; the first one is the software used for puzzles, and I think the plan is to standardise it across all the puzzles rather than having one version on the Times site and another on the Crossword Club site. That, as I understand it, is going to happen but not yet.

      Second, and more relevant, today was supposed to be the day when crossword-only subscriptions all ended once and for all, so only people with some sort of subscription to the full paper would be able to access the puzzle.

      However, as far as we can see, at time of writing this hasn’t happened (those of us with long experience of the Crossword Club’s ability to deliver IT that does what it is supposed to do will be utterly unsurprised).

  5. I was glad not to be blogging today wondering what might happen. In the event nothing appears to have come to pass!

    Easy puzzle that I worked through top to bottom left to right with no hold ups in a 20 minute jaunt. No stand out clue.

    I like the Ascot hat Jack – suits you!

  6. 11 minutes gentle stroll, pausing to try to remember haw long it was Harold Pinter gained eligibility for the Times Crossword (getting on for 6 years, it turns out).
    Tim’s comment on the LEM was a further confirmation of the passing of the years: time was when, excited by the grand adventure, I could name most of the 3 million parts of a Saturn V moonrocket, and now we live in an age when, for the majority of Earth’s citizens, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are, very nearly, as distant a memory as Alcock and Brown were then. Perhaps even this great achievement, with its constituent parts “familiar in his mouth as household words” will fall victim to ignorance even among this erudite, learned and polymathic crew. My stars, I hope not!
    1. Well said. I wonder how many folk under the age of say 50 know who Yuri Gagarin was?

      Edited at 2014-07-01 08:27 am (UTC)

      1. I’m also under 50, but know that Gagarin played up front for Dynamo Moscow.
      2. …and a fine picture, Jim – Apollo 8, I believe. Borman, Lovell and Anders, Christmas Eve 1968. If ever one picture changed our perception of this beautiful planet, this was it.
  7. I joined the paper but opted for £2 per week with a free paper Sunday Times each week, seems like an OK deal to me. Goeffk007
  8. 34m despite managing to find various red herrings. When I had T_I at the start of 7D I wanted it to begin in TRI due to the mention of three in the clue. I wanted 25A to be AGING – the drink being gin and aging being ‘not tiptop’. And I initially invented EARTH GAS for 13A.

    My LOI and my COD is DRAWSTRING – a well hidden definition.

  9. 21 mins. For some reason it took me much longer than it should have done to get on the setter’s wavelength. Once I’d got the answers I was wondering why it had taken me so long to see some of them, such as VESTAL VIRGINS, PINTER, AVOCET, CANDIDATE, HYDRANGEA, and even CHINA where I was looking for a homophone for a while. The BLASTED/ACCRETION crossers were my last ones in.
  10. 17:25 … I’m still here, though not sure why. But then I often feel like that.

    Last in were MISTAKE and SLING.

    Good thing I bothered to check my work today as I had ‘improvisor’ before correcting it.

  11. Decided not to risk being blocked out on blog day so spent ages yesterday trying to sort the subs issue. Online helpline chat (typing) proved useless, she said I had to call an 0800 number (not from here) then gave me wrong 0207 number. Skypeing took 20 minutes of tedious chat ending with a £2 a week sub for Web access, no android access, that would be £6 for the full digital pack. No mention of the 3 months £1 offer.

    Nice quick solve today 17 minutes, nothing to add, hope tomorrow’s is as easy.

  12. 12m. No hold-ups, but an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.
    I haven’t really been following the crossword club stuff but it has never been clear to me where the idea that it was all going to end today came from. I usually solve on the train, so I have to buy a full subscription to the paper anyway.
    I’m not usually a fan of the ‘some letters’ device in 7dn either, but I thought that in this case, where you need three out of four possibilities, it was less imprecise than it can be.
    1. Essentially, a year ago the folks at the T/ST emailed those with a Crossword Club membership to tell them that CC subscribers had been switched over to their (the T/ST’s ) “Web Pack” in replacement of the original “decentralised” CC arrangement (25 quid a year). Subscription to that “pack”, we were told, would expire on June 30, 2014.

      Ulaca (um, not logged out of anything, just on the wife’s iPad while I recharge)

      1. Ah, I see, thanks. I think I was getting this mixed up with the idea that they’re going to merge the crossword club and the puzzles on the main site, which based on past experience will no doubt be a horrible mess if an when they do it.
  13. Still here, but that’s because I bit the bullet and went for the web pack last October. As I’m in NY I always seem to end up making a phone call when it’s time for renewal, but I’ve always had good service.

    I too love that picture Jim. Quite a few knuckleheads around the world would do well to contemplate it now and then.

    Enjoyed the puzzle although in sluggish mode this morning. In the nursery bookshelf in my grandmother’s house in Rutland, along with Little Lord Fauntleroy and the Secret Garden, was the Making of a Marchioness, also by F.H. Burnett. None of them were my cuppa. 18.13.

    1. With you on the others but even a mention of ‘The Secret Garden’ awakens a memory of something special in my childhood reading and inner life. A bit like ‘Chimborazo, Cotopaxi’ in that Hudson poem.
      1. Sorry -that was joekobi, at present unable to log in for some reason.
  14. Another survivor here. Had left myself logged in last night anyway, but I just tried logging in from a different machine and the membership still seems to be active.

    Always nice to start a puzzle with a good clue like that for POCHARD, and I also nodded appreciatively at MARCHIONESSES and DRAWSTRING.

  15. 13:38 with the unknown crossers pochard and ameer last in.

    I thought the LEM was the “lunar landing module”, remembered from the lovingly pieced-together Airfix model. I even made a lunar landscape to display it on, using inverted jar lids for craters with papier-mache and flour & water paste.

    Re the CC I panicked yesterday and used the same code as Tim to get the £1 a week for 3 months offer.

  16. Straightforward solve today – just as well given I’m still a little jetlagged after getting back on Sunday from a wonderful two-week holiday in Alaska.
    LOI Blasted.
    FOI was Breton – came to mind immediately because Bretons appeared throughout my holiday book (The Man In The Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas).
    Didn’t know what a LEM was but have heard of Gagarin and recognised the amazing ‘Earthrise’ photo.
    No subscription renewal angst today – the missus and I signed up for the Times digital pack six months or so ago.
  17. There is something mysterious going on with the comment form. Clicking on Anonymous to get to the Live Journal login, it jumps and won’t work but only shows 5 comments as opposed to the 24 there were when I started.

    Anyhow, crypticsue here – this enjoyable puzzle took me 10:15 and I was delighted at the return of the POCHARD to Crosswordland. When I first started cryptic crossword solving many moons ago, this lovely duck was a regular in the crossword but hasn’t been in favour for many a long year.

  18. Same as Daniel, I get the whole paper as I am too lazy to walk to the newsagents. The crossword obviously comes with it. Marchioness(es) only brings to mind the pleasure boat that sank on the Thames with great loss of lives. :-((
  19. Two quick peeks – I did know LEM from taking the nephews to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (be warned, they have replaced the old half-decent food court with a massive McDonalds). My one eyebrow-raising moment was at PROSY to become POSY but it had to be that from the definition.
  20. A slowish 32.42 with 5′ looking at the checkers for stalemate. And I see I made the mistake sotira avoided in 12. Still, post-work and still dozy, I enjoyed the puzzle. The words have a vigorous ring somehow. Splendid word, marchionesses. – joekobi
  21. Anonymous – the wordplay is A(ME)ER where “me” (this person) is entertained (enclosed) by A (the A at the start of the clue) and ER (Elizabeth Regina, our head of state).
  22. About 20 minutes ending with TWINSET. I half expected to be unsubscribed but everything went as usual. At some point if I can get the 2 pounds/wk subscription I’ll take it, but I went online to research such, the Times site claimed the only option available to international users was a very expensive one. I don’t know what would happen if I dial the phone # mct suggests from a US phone. As for the puzzle, not much else to say. I’m in the age group that knows of the LEM. Regards.
    1. Kevin – fellow New Yorker to the rescue (I hope)! When my membership expired last fall I called the Times at 01144-207-711-1523 (I gather an alternate # is 711-1527) and got the so-called web pack. It’s L1 per week for the first 3 months and L2 p/w thereafter. I am billed monthly. I’m not sure where Tim was calling from but I don’t think the 800# he mentions in his blog intro works for us, although it couldn’t hurt to try. As he says, and also according to Mike of NewsIntUK on the Club Forum, you should quote this number – CC88X. I make sure they know I’m calling very long distance and what it’s all about and they’ve always been very nice and quick about it.

      P.S. I’m now not so sure my membership was really about to expire because others seem to have been on borrowed time for months until now – so I could have saved myself a few bucks. No further comment on that subject.

      PPS Let us know what happens.

      Edited at 2014-07-01 07:57 pm (UTC)

      1. Thanks Olivia. I’ll be sure to give that a try, when needed. I appreciate it very much.
  23. 52 minutes, never heard of POCHARD but got it from the clue.
    COD drawstring – very well hidden. Bar was also a region of France, but in Lorraine where I’m sure they didn’t speak Breton…..
  24. Well, I managed to spin this one out for 35 minutes just to be sure of getting my money’s worth. The trick is to use a glass to obscure your view the screen at regular intervals.

    No idea how I knew POCHARD – pretty sure I’ve never eaten or been bitten or infected by one, which is how I know most species. Liked MARCHIONESSES, not for the clue but for the answer, which is one of those words I cannot see myself ever using.

    Spent a while insisting that 28ac had to be “dissect” (sect, with the introduction of DIs), and had “plot” at 24d (a L(ake) in “pot” – as in take a pot at something… a bit tenuous I know). Still, got it sorted in the end.

    Knew LEM, although sadly I was just slightly too young to have bought the giant Airfix Apollo model – my older brother had it, and I well remember the endless nozzles, widgets and propellant tanks. I was dead jealous; on the other hand I’ve now got a Jag and he’s got a knackered Volvo, so there’s some justice.

    I liked VESTAL VIRGINS too, but only because it reminded me of the most obscene drinking song I’ve ever heard, taught to me by a muslim Ob/Gyn (lapsed, I very much suspect).

  25. 10:29 for me, with the last few minutes spent agonising over 25ac (SLING). As so often, the mention of food and/or drink put the wind up me: I wasn’t wholly convinced by SAILING (once I’d thought of it, that is), and worried that there might be some other drink (possibly completely unknown) that was eluding me.

    Like others, I find I still have access to the Times Crossword Club, but I don’t expect it will last too much longer.

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