Times 26,151: Gordius’s Revenge

I am a little bit worried that I’m becoming ubiquitous in this blog community so I WILL keep things brief today, in my covering-for-the-inimitable-pipkirby capacity…

This eminently 29a puzzle did seem like a good match for me, actually: like me it is unusually wordy! A lot of clues requiring a good deal of reading and untangling just to work out what is going on in them. Naturally, having tempted the fates recently by claiming that my par time is in the 10-12 minute range, this was the second grid in the row that took me in the region of 13 before I could stop the clock.

Some nice (semi-)&lits in here, I always like an &lit, so I’ll allot my COD award to the neat 3d. The biffed-in-unparsed award goes to 26a… wasn’t I saying just the other day that cricketing clues are my Kryptonite? Cricktonite, if you will. Anyway it wasn’t until quite a bit later that the “on retiring” penny dropped.

Another great puzzle which ever way you cut it. Muchas gracias setter!

1 PAPACY – position of church leader: A{t} P{rayer} [“primarily”] during PACY [fast]
4 EVILDOER – (O [old] + REVILED*) [“criminal”] &lit
10 BETROTHAL – “it should come before the Union”: reverse [“retreating”] of TORT [offence] inside HE inside LAB [workplace]
11 TILTS – isn’t standing erect: STILT [wader] “with head right back”, i.e. the S moving all the way to the end
12 ROOMIER – more amply proportioned: MI{l}ER [runner “disheartened”] by ROO [“short jumper”]
13 THEOREM – deduction to be verified: among THEM [others], O{u}R {m}E{n} [“regularly”]
14 WREST – forcibly remove: homophone of REST [“speaker’s” refreshment]
15 OVERCAME – defeated: OVER [finished] + CAME{l} [transporter in desert, “no learner”, i.e. minus L]
18 ELDRITCH – unearthly: (CHILDRE{n}*) [“endlessly” “dancing”] keeping T [time]
20 ELATE – buck up: E [“last of” {thos}E] + LATE [near the end]
23 AQUIVER – with a trembling hand: and a marksman may place his reserves [reserve arrows] in A QUIVER
25 MUGSHOT – witness may be shown this: and a “warning when drinking coffee” is MUG’S HOT!
26 RIGEL – star: R.I. [spiritual guidance] + reverse of LEG [on “retiring”]
27 SCRIMMAGE – dust-up: SCRIM{p} [pinch “powerless”, i.e. minus P] + MAGE [man of learning]
28 WORSENED – declined: reverse [“recalling”] of DENS [studies] involving E [European] + ROW [bank]
29 KNOTTY – complex: KNOT [measure at sea] + T{rick}Y [“extremely”]

1 PUB CRAWL – “local tour”, i.e. tour of one’s locals: C [caught] in BRAWL [fracas] after reverse of [“turning”] UP
2 POTHOLE – “motorists may go down here briefly”: TOP HOLE [great] with “first three reversing”, i.e. TOP becoming POT
3 CHORISTER – O [“fourth of” {sol}O{ists] in CHRIST [Messiah] + ER [“I’m not sure”], semi-&lit
5 VALET DE CHAMBRE – manservant: (CALMED THE BRAVE*) [“cook”]
6 LITHE – flexible: LI{d} [“almost”] capping THE [article]
7 OIL DRUM – fuel carrier: homophone [“articulated”] of OILED RUM [lubricated | unusual]
8 RESUME – return to: ME [note], with reverse of USER [client “sent up”] coming previously
9 CHARLOTTE RUSSE – sweet: HARLOT [tart] with (SEE CRUST*) [“crumbling”] “at the edges”
16 CLERGYMAN – chap under orders, R GYM [runs | exercises] with CLEAN [decent] “clothing” them
17 FEATHERY – light: (THEY FEAR*) [“on the move”]
19 LOUNGER – sluggard: LONGER [taking more time] “draws in” U [“close” to {yo}U]
21 AT HEART – deep down: A THAT [answer | that] “describes” E + R [both energy and resistance]
22 MARROW – double def: vegetable / vital part
24 VALSE – dance abroad: VAL{i}SE [case, “one gets the sack”, i.e. minus an I]

56 comments on “Times 26,151: Gordius’s Revenge”

  1. This was one that sorted the sheep from the goats – count me amongst the latter.
    I had to raise the white flag after a complete failure in the SW, not helped with putting in PULSES for 22d (well it almost works).
    My COD which had me completely bamboozled at the time is 23a. Neat.
    Didn’t know ELDRITCH, so had to guess it from the anagram.
  2. I excelled myself today by cheating on 26ac and still getting it wrong (REGEL). Stupid internet.

    Never mind, things could be worse (it could be 2-0).

    Thanks setter and blogger.

  3. A good puzzle … but quite hard. Got a bit landlocked in the SW corner with VALSE last in.

    3dn reminded me of a Two Ronnies sketch where R1 and R2 were playing choristers of a certain age and complaining about “modern” music, especially its repetitious lyrics. They then proceeded to belt out “Halleluja, Halleluja, Halleluja … ”, usw.

    Ta to Verlaine for the parsing of CHARLOTTE RUSSE where I thought “tart” was part of the fodder and couldn’t explain the CH… starter.

  4. 35:47 .. which puts me in the goat category, too, though I did spend the last 16+ minutes on MARROW and WORSENED, so I’m maybe a hybrid goatsheep.

    Tough puzzle, but fair and very fine.

    I’m not sure if I’ve met ELDRITCH before. It’s too good a word not to remember and cherish. You can hear our ancestors in it.

    1. I’m sure we’ve had ELDRITCH before in a puzzle I’ve blogged (so within the last year or two?), and an ensuing discussion with others who might have known it from dubious 80s Goth band The Sisters of Mercy, whose lead singer styled himself Andrew Eldritch. On the other hand, I might have dreamed all that…
    2. It came up on 11 August last year (puzzle 25866). You’ll be glad to know this isn’t one of those cases where ‘and you didn’t know it then either’ applies. 😉
  5. Close to 45 minutes, a llama by the looks of it, and most of that spent on the left side after the right went in fairly quickly. Liked the two long lights but AQUIVER for COD. Really enjoyable.
  6. Only two answers in after 25 minutes gives an idea of the problems I had with this one, and I fared little better on resumption after a couple of hours sleep. This morning I made a concerted effort and eventually completed the grid without aids except to check RIGEL. Never worked out the wordplay for CHORISTER and still don’t understand it as &lit or semi. This would have been my nightmare scenario had I been on blogging duty.
    1. Well, Handel’s Messiah is a work with solos for choristers, yes? Judging by this link the “fourth soloist” is probably a soprano. Which makes the “could he be… I’m not sure” bit all exceptionally clever, if it was fully intentional.
      1. Well if you say so. To be honest it has never occurred to me. All a bit esoteric for a cryptic crossword, I’d have thought.
    2. Same as you. In NY, so started valiantly at 8pm; felled by sleep, which did nothing to improve my chances.
      I don’t envy you the terror that one like this might pop up on your day.
  7. 35m. After yesterday’s catastrophe I took great care today, parsing everything as I went. This meant that I was able to appreciate properly what I thought was an absolutely first-class puzzle. I should really do it like this every day, rather than rushing for the finish line and missing all the scenery. I can tell you now that I won’t.
    Fantastic time, verlaine! And for the record your ubiquity and prolixity are both just fine by me.
    Thanks to you, and to the setter.
  8. I enjoyed this puzzle, but had one error at 27a, with SCRUMMAGE instead of SCRIMMAGE. I think it works just as well. Anyone else?
  9. I also struggled with this and in particular SW corner plus 27A where I thought both SCRIM and SCRUM would suffice and eventually opted for SCRUM

    Lots of scribbles in the margin indicated a lot of untangling of complicated wordplay – I normally enjoy that but wasn’t quite on good form today

    Good stuff setter – thanks

  10. Must confess that I’m wildly happy that I didn’t think of the other alternative while solving: if it came to having to choose which of SCRIMP or SCRUMP is a better synonym for “pinch”, I think I’d probably plump for SCRUMP!
    1. Other camp: scrimp means pinch, scrump means pinch fruit. Very different sense of word, for me.
      I considered both, and chose scrimp because scrump was just… wrong.

      But DNF anyway – had to look up the RUSSE (seen before in Times) and misspelled rigAl (unparsed, obviously, and also seen before in Times). And put in pothole with trepidation – obviously answer but there is no such saying as TOP HOLE. In Australia.

  11. Don’t think scrummage works well for a dust up whereas scrimmage most certainly does.I vote scrim and besides scrummages nowadays often take far too long.
    1. Indeed, but the dictionary of choice, as it were, Collins, lists ‘scrummage’ as a variant of ‘scrimmage’, which rather seals it.
      1. Chambers man meself,this also confirms your position however I always feel that variants are the weaker of the species.
          1. Whilst scrimmage might have the edge over scrummage for the “dust-up” part, I’d argue that scrump has it over scrimp for “pinch” (although both require 3-point-turns via steal and stint respectively). Let’s call it a draw.
            1. I see now that I misread the_toff’s comment, and I’m not sure who’s disagreeing with who about what now. In any event I think both answers are perfectly valid.
  12. After 40 mins I was running out of time so resorted to aids for my last three in the SW, which were RIGEL, MARROW and WORSENED. If I had been able to parse Rigel that would have gone in as soon as I had the ??G?L checkers, for some reason I had forgotten all about the marrow, and I was too fixated on the S from the reversal of “dens” being at the start of 28ac that I didn’t think about an alternative way of structuring it. There was nothing at all wrong with the cluing and I was just being a muppet. At least I had SCRIMMAGE and didn’t even contemplate the alternative.
  13. 38 minutes for this, finishing with RIGEL (parsed post-solve), the RUSSE (never knowingly tasted) and AQUIVER.

    There is a bit of a discussion at the Crossword Club about 27a, with some arguing that ‘scrummage’ is fine, on the basis that to scrum is to pinch and Collins lists scrummage as a variant of scrimmage. Seems a decent argument to me.

    Regarding 3d, I did a bit of a double-take, before realising that in amateur choirs it is of course quite possible for the soloist to be a member of the choir. Interestingly, in a recent performance of Haydn’s Creation (his crowning achievement and a superior piece in my opinion to Messiah) I took part in, the three professional soloists were joined in the final chorus by a member of the choir. This must happen most of the time, as the alto solo part consists only of a few bars, but I hadn’t noticed it before, not least because I’d sung only Parts I and II on previous occasions, once 40 and once 20 years ago.

    Will I still be around for a repeat in 2035, I wonder?

    Edited at 2015-07-15 09:05 am (UTC)

    1. Of course it may not really matter if a chorister can be a soloist or not, as the clue contains its own self-doubt about its accuracy. The more I think about it the more CODdy it gets for me…
      1. But the surface depends to a large extent I feel on the knowledge that most performances of Messiah, in Britain, at any rate, would feature professional soloists. Unlike the choir you link to from the States!
    2. I was puzzled by your comment and spent a minute or two trying to find out how ‘scrum’ can mean ‘pinch’ before realising you meant ‘scrump’ (which incidentally my predictive text changes to ‘scrimp’).
      Both answers must surely be acceptable.
      1. Sorry to be the unwitting cause of a couple hundred more brain cells biting the dust! If only some of those I work with would think so carefully about the language they – let alone others – use.
  14. DNF. Defeated by SW corner, convinced that 28a was S-R-ENED, so never found the vegetable and plumped for ALGOL as the star 26a. Thanks for parsing RIGEL, Verlaine. Annoying as I had completed the rest in just over 30 minutes. Lots of great clues today. NW corner my favourite – 1d, 2d, 3d and 12a.

    Edited at 2015-07-15 09:34 am (UTC)

  15. Over an hour – mostly on SW, where I had nothing but a possible PULSES at 22dn,as S____NED looked likely at 28ac (perhaps SICKENED or SOFTENED, but couldn’t get the bank). Eventually saw VALSE, which gave me AQUIVER, and then LOUNGER. Then spent a while trying to parse ALGOL till I thought of RIGEL (& RIGIL) – that put on track for 22dn, and finally 28ac.
    On final pre-submit check I decided that ‘scrump’ was better than ‘scrimp’ for pinch, so changed I to U in 27ac. 🙁
  16. It’s never safe to apply American sports terms to British puzzles but I got away with it this time and I must admit scrummage never occurred to me. Some discussion on the Club forum yesterday about Thomas Tallis in which it emerged that Jason had been a chorister at King’s Cambridge. One of those crosswordland coincidences, so 3d went right in. This took some unravelling but was worth it. 23.18
  17. 24.10 Always a relief to come here after a struggle and find that it wasn’t just me. After a very slow start and a bit of biffing I was left with the SW where luckily enough MARROW was the second vegetable to occur to me (after carrot of course) which got me out of the S—-NED rut and made me more confident about an unparsed RIGEL. Spotted the choice to be made at 27ac and was more certain that scrimp = pinch than I would have been had I thought about it longer.
  18. My first Times puzzle for a week and I’m pleased to note that I’m not the only one that found this tricky in places – 14:45.
  19. Glad to hear that I wasn’t the only SCRUMMAGE. I had no idea about RIGEL though so still a failure!
    1. Remember the star – it definitely comes up, or I wouldn’t know it. I couldn’t remember if it was RIGEL or RYGEL though so I spent ages trying to figure out the fiendish wordplay.
      1. I was fortunate to see the “R.I.” part quickly, which cemented my confidence in the answer, even if I then spent an embarrassing amount of time pondering how “retiring” could be a kind of gel. Perhaps something that can be applied to mend a puncture?
        1. I gave Regel fleeting consideration on the basis of R.E. instead of R.I. and only a vague familiarity with the star.
      2. It’s obviously passed me by, as a quick check shows it has appeared in 2010, 11, 13 & 14!

        I’m curious now as to why the same obscurities appear again and again. Good letters I guess.

  20. 27:37 with only pothole unparsed (for which thanks) but I was a scrummager. Worsened was LOI, just one example of some pretty tricky wordplay.

    Very good puzzle, COD to mug shot.

    Verlaine, I’m not sick of the sight of you yet.

    1. It was a tricky one for sure, but as for me, I still wake up bathed in a cold sweat from dreaming about 26102.
  21. Defeated by SW corner. I saw the RI at 26a but ended up bunging in ORION – seeing “calls for spiritual guidance” as “O RI” and conveniently ignoring the fact that “ON” should have been reversed. By then I had lost the will to live. That’s my excuse. Ann
  22. Well, that was tricky. About 35 minutes ending in the SW corner with the unknown VALSE, after fighting through MARROW/WORSENED and biffing RIGEL. Also biffed CHARLOTTE RUSSE but was at least sure that one was correct. Very good puzzle altogether, and the blogging is outstanding. Regards to all.
  23. Solved in around 23 minutes in two widely-separated sessions. Decent crossword.
    For Sotira: Your comment on Pluto yesterday inspired a version of the image in B&W (my kind of Clanger) with the Clanger community at the top. Of course, NASA’s picture could be upside down, in which case the Clangers are hanging on by sheer personality and the heart is a rather fetching bottom. My grandson (3) adores it.

    Edited at 2015-07-15 08:06 pm (UTC)

    1. Oh, that’s wonderful. Thank you, Z8. Perhaps it will find its way back to NASA and inspire them to look just that teeny bit harder …
    2. That is indeed wonderful. The Clangers entered my imagination when I was about the age of your grandson and they’re still there.
  24. Started this last night, but had to come back to it over lunch today to sort it all out. Very tricky but ultimately fair, though I see what commenters are saying about SCRIMMAGE/SCRUMMAGE (I had only heard of the former). Only one from wordplay alone was VALET DE CHAMBRE
  25. 16:04 for me, finding this one generally a little too convoluted for my taste, though I have to admit there was some clever stuff in there.

    Lots of similar experiences to others. I thought of SCRUMMAGE first, followed quickly by SCRIMMAGE, but plumped for the former because SCRUMP = “pinch” seemed just too obvious for the setter and editor to miss. (Humph! But I’m pretty sure SCRUMMAGE would have to be allowed if the clue came up in the championship.)

    As soon as I had the G and L for 26ac, I thought of RIGEL, couldn’t parse it, thought of ALGOL, couldn’t parse that either, assumed there must be some other Arabic-derived star name and moved on. It was only when I at last got MARROW that I realised that the answer really had to be RIGEL and finally parsed it successfully.

    I’ve probably sung in too many performances of Messiah with large forces (including one at the Ally Pally conducted by Yehudi Menuhin!). Anyway, like ulaca, I prefer Haydn’s Creation.

  26. Thankfully, I own a large bottle of aspirin. Now slightly less full than it was yesterday. cod: mug shot
  27. After several days i still could not work out why rigel was the answer, finally have in an searched the internet. Thanks so much for that!!!!

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