Times 26,237: Come, Bombs, And Fall On Slough

An excellently chewy puzzle for a Friday, I thought, that I did not manage to solve inside the quarter hour mark, alas. 9A was my FOI, closely followed by 10A, 12A (South London dweller’s advantage), 15A… but for every clue that fell easily there was another that gave me serious pause. My well-attested blind spot for the beautiful game (or is that the other one, where the players use their feet?) meant that I’d never heard of a sporting rabbit, 18D’s duck was very clear from the wordplay but quite unknown to me, I had DISMISSIVE at 4D for a while which helped matters not at all, but fortunately light dawned after it became increasingly obvious that a justification for HOSPITIA at 11A was never going to happen.

20D held me up for an awful long time, I had the ANNUL- part but ANNULUS, ANNULUM, ANNULET? With hindsight I feel like I’ve seen US for “unserviceable” in crosswords at least once before, but playing it safe seemed like the best bet, and fortunately 29A ending with an “s” made ANNULUS the only reasonable guess. 5D also held out till almost the end, though my LOI was in fact 26D, simply because I hadn’t even noticed it until then. Another reason not to be too quick on the submit button.

COD-wise I liked the wordplay and surface of 25A (“road race” becoming MI NATION is rather need!) but it might be pipped by 10A simply because I’m now imagining a mismatched buddy cop show in which George and Peter team up to fight crime.

Laud and exaltation (no bombs) to the setter. For the rest of you, a reminder that there’s only 51 weeks to go till the next Times Crossword Championships. Get practising!

1 BEMIRED – covered in soil: BED [part of garden] in which EMIR [ruler]
5 DESPOND – lose hope: DES [boy] finding POND [still water]
9 TIN – cash: NIT [fool] “set about”
10 BEST SELLERS – they do well in bookshops: BEST [footballer (George)] + SELLERS [comic actor (Peter)]
11 HOSPICES – more than one home: HO [house] + SPICES [substances in jars]
12 CAMBER – bank: CAMBER{well} [south London district “not in good shape”]
15 PHEW – thank goodness for that: P HEW [“minimal” power | cut]
16 CLAMOURING – yelling: CLING [stick] when AMOUR [love affair] “is admitted”
18 GOING UNDER – sinking: UNDERGOING [bearing] with “components swapped around”
19 MEGA – great: A GEM [a | flawless person] “recalled”
22 DISMAY – alarm: DIS MAY [The devilish underworld | can]
23 DOBERMAN – dog: MA [master] spotted in BERN [European capital] after DO [party]
25 ABOMINATION – a disgrace: A BO{y -> MI} NATION [a | lad “should lose yen for” road | race]
27 ILL – bad: {w}ILL [legal document “that’s cut wife out”]
28 LUMP SUM – one-off payment: SLUMP [financial crisis “beginning to end”] + UM [little hesitation]
29 LOTUSES – plants: LOUSE S [insect | “beginning to” S{tarve}] “nibbles” T [“first of” T{hem}]

1 BOTCH-UP – bungling: B [bishop] + (TOUCH*) [“lost”] + P [“head of” P{arish}]
2 MONASTERIES – religious institutions: “given external” MONIES [funds], ASTER [plant]
3 RABBIS – teachers: RABBI{t}S [poor performers “wasting time”]
4 DISPELLING – getting rid of: DI [“little” woman] + SPELLING [a series of letters]
5 DESK – part of newspaper office: DESK{ill} [mechanise “with 27(ac) leaving”]
6 SYLLABUB – dish: SYLLABU{s} [“short” program] on B [British]
7 ONE – I: homophone of WON [took the prize “for recitation”]
8 DISHRAG – cleaning item: SH RA [quiet | academician] “found in” DIG [archaeological exercise]
13 BRIDESMAIDS – dressed-up females: (B{o -> I}SS ADMIRED*) [“naughty”, “nothing becoming one”]
14 IMMEMORIAL – ancient: MEMO [note] “penned by” I’M RI{v}AL [this writer’s | “heartless” opponent]
17 IGNATIUS – saint: (USING IT*) [“rarely”] “to pen” A [article]
18 GADWALL – duck: G AD [grand | bill] on top of WALL [barrier]
20 ANNULUS – ring: ANNUL U.S. [to declare invalid | not fit for operation]
21 PEANUT – food plant: NU [foreign character] put in PEAT [soil modifier]
24 BALM – “element of” {her}BAL M{edicine}, semi-&lit
21 OHM – resistance unit: homophone of ‘OME [“report of” Cockney in]

45 comments on “Times 26,237: Come, Bombs, And Fall On Slough”

  1. Excellent stuff, but a DNF for me after 25 minutes. If I knew Camberwell was a district of London I had forgotten the fact, though I must admit that most of my head scratching involved trying to fit a ‘B’ into a notional South London district to come up with a slang word meaning “not in good shape”. So I was quite on the wrong track, in any case.

    Edit: meant to add that I was guilty of some dismal biffing in this one: CLAMOROUS, BACKNUMBERS and GOING SOUTH (south going?). I’m rediscovering the mess it makes when you do this while solving on paper!

    Edited at 2015-10-23 09:28 am (UTC)

  2. Spookily there was a duck in this one.I term the tougher ones “canards” in homage to that delightfully stupid exchange between Dell boy and Rodney. Dell boy: what’s french for duck…….
    Wasted a lot of time with geological periods tribes etc at 14d until the bug bit me at 29a
  3. Another sedate Friday solve, coming home in 28 minutes. I see a GADWALL looks much like a sepia mallard, and Mrs Gadwall probably gets mistaken for Mrs Mallard whenever Mallards get drunk on a Friday night.
    1. While a keen youngster, a RSPB Warden once told me that there were only 3 British birds (sparrow, duck and seagull) and that ornithology was the mis-identifying of them.
  4. I biffed 5d quite early on and never got around to tying it up with 27a. Just as well as I don’t think I’d have puzzled it out.

    Lots of aids I’m afraid, but at least I finished it (objective #1).

    Edited at 2015-10-23 10:08 am (UTC)

  5. Phew! 40 mins with 5d LOI. I kept wondering what a DIST was. Cod to 10a (and 18d, of course, when added to smew, eider and merganser).

    Verlaine thanks as always for the blog – I have just got the title reference.

    Edited at 2015-10-23 09:16 am (UTC)

  6. I thought this was hard without being unreasonably so. Particularly liked SYLLABUB (mainly because of the sound of the word) and IMMEMORIAL. GADWALL was new to me and LOTUSES took a bit of parsing to finish off. COD as Big Statement was DESK.

    Thank you to setter and blogger.

    1. When
      Beelzebub called for his syllabub in the hotel in Hell
      Where Proserpine first fell,
      Blue as the gendarmerie were the waves of the sea,
      (Rocking and shocking the barmaid).

      Nobody comes to give him his rum but the
      Rim of the sky hippopotamus-glum
      Enhances the chances to bless with a benison
      Alfred Lord Tennyson crossing the bar laid
      With cold vegetation from pale deputations
      Of temperance workers (all signed In Memoriam)
      Hoping with glory to trip up the Laureate’s feet,
      (Moving in classical metres)…

      Like Balaclava, the lava came down from the
      Roof, and the sea’s blue wooden gendarmerie
      Took them in charge while Beelzebub roared for his rum.
      …None of them come!

  7. Not knowing my ducks, I ended an otherwise flawless week of solving with a GADRAIL which, as for jackkt, sounded more plausible to me.

    With a nod to the toff’s cultural reference, I found this crossword canard.

  8. 23m. I did about half of this fairly quickly, but then I ground to a halt and the second half was a struggle, albeit an enjoyable one. A few not-very-familiar words (rabbit, GADWALL) contributed, but in the end I struggled most in the SE corner with words like ‘plant’ or ‘insect’ where the number of possible answers was huge.
    ‘Deskill’ is a horrible word, but not as horrible as ‘dechef’ which I came across in a restaurant business a few years ago.
    I thought the idea in 10ac that people buy books in shops was rather quaint.
    1. Our local bookshop has been trying to go out of business for years, so far without success.
  9. Very nearly crept in just under the hour without resorting to aids, but with the intersecting pair 14dn and 29ac still outstanding I cheated to get IMMEMORIAL which then allowed LOTUSES to fall into place.

    I found this very hard to get started but after that it flowed reasonably well until I hit the wall already described. My only unknown was GADWALL and I lost time there considering GADRAIL which on the face of it is a more likely answer, fitting the wordplay perfectly and RAIL in itself can be a type of duck, so I’m not sure now why I plumped for ‘wall’ instead.

    Edited at 2015-10-23 09:35 am (UTC)

  10. Chewy indeed! 45:37. I thought I might 5a (excellent title as always, Verlaine), but I got there in the end without aids after a long struggle with the SE corner – finishing with 29a, 21d and 14d. I too had never heard of a GADWALL, but the wordplay was clear. The M1 NATION was my favourite.
  11. 39:16, so for me a bit harder than usual. Having got the B from 1ac, I almost biffed an alternative answer to 1dn which a) did not parse and b) would probably not appear in a Times crossword anyway. Spent time thinking what a DISHBAG was before sorting out that an Academician is different from an Academic. Thanks setter and blogger

    PS Unforgivable bragging. I see today that I have won (one?) the Spectator Crossword prize. Yay!

    Edited at 2015-10-23 12:14 pm (UTC)

  12. Camberwell is an easier place to recall if you’re familiar with cult classic film “Withnail & I”, which features the smoking of a very impressive “Camberwell Carrot”.
  13. Really good pretty hard one (pronounced ‘wan’) today; came home in about 45m. With regard to 7D I’m afraid I just can’t subscribe to the pronunciation of ‘one’ as ‘won’. To me it just sounds plain ridiculous.
    OK I grew up in Nottingham but that still doesn’t account for it.
    Thought ‘annulus’ was superb but might take issue with 1D where ‘botch up’ and ‘bungling’ are held to be synonymous. Surely the first is a noun and the second is an adjective? Or am I missing something? Probably.
    1. I pronounce “one” and “won” literally exactly the same way. But then I’m a yobbo raised in Deeside.

      I assumed “bungling” to be some kind of gerund here… “The bungling of the robbery…”

      Edited at 2015-10-23 11:06 am (UTC)

      1. Funny, when I posted my comment saying exactly the same thing yours, yours didn’t appear, even though it was posted before. I’ll leave mine as evidence that great minds think alike/fools never differ [delete according to mood].
        I’ve been sitting at my desk saying ‘the wan one won; I won a wan one; having won, one’s wan…’

        Edited at 2015-10-23 11:46 am (UTC)

    2. I’d be interested to hear how you pronounce them! Out of my mouth they’re identical. As is ‘wan’.
      In 1d I think you have to read both as nouns: in the case of ‘bungling’, a gerund.

      Edited at 2015-10-23 11:11 am (UTC)

    3. For once I thought this homophone wouldn’t be controversial! They’re certainly identical in my horrible public school accent. How does someone from Nottingham pronounce them?
      1. One is wan and two is too and won is done…
        But thanks for the responses; I realise that old chestnut about one Englishman opening his mouth etc but
        we are what we are.
      2. Sorry you were lumbered with a horrible public school, Justin. So many good ones around!
  14. Slow progress but got there eventually, with GADWALL from wp and checked afterwards and DISMAY unparsed. 45 minutes. Can someone explain the DIS part of 22a please?
    Otherwise another top bombing puzzle, CoD 10a for the wit.
    Thanks V.
    1. I just understood Dis – I’ve come across it in cryptics before – was another term for Hell. Undoubtedly someone will have a more learned explanation.
    2. According to t’internet:

      “Lower Hell is the City of Dis.
      In Dante’s scheme, Dis is mostly reserved for intellectual sins rather than mere sins of passion. Demons throng here. The suburbs include heretics and violent criminals, and the central rings various frauds.”

      Sounds like it’s where we lazy crossword setters and prideful solvers are likely to end up…

      Edited at 2015-10-23 11:02 am (UTC)

  15. Didn’t know rarely meant anagram though worked it out. Rabbits tend to be bowlers who come in at the end of the innings and supposedly can’t bat- if they can they are all-rounders a species that don’t have the same breeding capacity.

    On another subject I’d love to know if any of you aces have a method- all across first for example- or simply build on ones you solve straightaway.

    1. Not an ace by any means but I always work on existing answers first. The crossers have to help. Would be interested in how the superstars like Magoo and Jason go about it.
      1. I do the Concise by filling in as many of the acrosses as I can, then doing the same for the downs, and repeat until done; perhaps if you’re good enough at solving the same would work for Cryptics…
    2. My default method is to go through the acrosses then the downs, but if I get the first letter of a word I always look at the clue. I’d also be interested in how the stars do it, perhaps starting with our resident finalists?

      Edited at 2015-10-23 11:50 am (UTC)

    3. Quick look at 1 across, if no joy then look at next two acrosses. If still blank then anything could happen:
      – look for 3-letter answers which are often easy, then build from there;
      – look for multi-word answers;
      – go for a down clue that will give me first letters of several across clues…
      – or vice-versa;
      – go for whatever catches my eye.

      Whichever happens I’ll tend to build from where I am until I get stuck, I certainly don’t follow Verlaine’s quick crossword methodology.

  16. Crumbs, this was so good that I was disappointed to finish it fairly quickly. RABBIS was last in after getting BEMIRED. Neither seems difficult now. BEST SELLERS and GOING UNDER were very good but I didn’t see the need for the question mark after “plants” in 29ac.
  17. A rather shaky 28:40.

    Kudos to the setter as in too many places I was hoodwinked into looking at the wrong end of the clue for the definition, such as “mechanise” rather than “part of newspaper office” and “(heartless) opponent” instead of “ancient”. In the case of the latter I deemed it highly probable that everyone but me would know of the terribly famous heartless opponent from a particular play, opera or mythological tale (As Heracles thrust his mighty sword into the side of the screeching Amberopius he was shocked to discover that the heart he intended to cut out was not there…).

    I also had the same trouble at 1ac, where I actually wrote in BEMERUD, a garden feature I constructed by putting ER inside BEMUD.

    I was also held up by the QM at 29 which made me think there was something “funny” going on with “plants” (factories? snooker shots? dishes out a kiss or punch?). I might have saved more time if I’d looked at bestseller earlier, but I decided as a long single word it wouldn’t be easy with no checkers.

  18. My printer failed this morning so I had to fill in answers ‘on screen’

    Long time since I performed via this method and it slowed me right up. What should have taken 25mins stretched to 35!Call me old-fashioned but I do prefer a pen.

    Next week the clock’s go forward so the crossword won’t appear until 8am Shanghai time rather than 7am. Rats!

    horryd Shanghai

  19. I allowed myself 30 minutes for this and failed to finish. I made steady progress, pausing briefly to wonder how Dean Mayer might have clued ANNULUS on a Sunday, but was left without CAMBER and SYLLABUB. This despite realising CAMBER was the likely answer but failing to remember CAMBERWELL which for someone born within 20 miles of London Bridge is shameful. I had various cunning plans for parsing the last two which might well have kept me going for the rest of the day but for my deadline.
  20. This took me 40 minutes, but I had to look up the unknown SYLLABUB, so really a DNF. Quite a word, that one. I also put in CAMBER without knowing why, my knowledge of South London districts being a bit spotty. Or a lot spotty. But a good puzzle on the more difficult end of things, I thought. Regards.
  21. 15 mins. I was wide awake, obviously on the setter’s wavelength, and I finished with HOSPICES. I knew the GADWALL so didn’t have to spend a lot of time puzzling over than one. I would have been a tad quicker if I hadn’t shown symptoms of brain rot by initally spelling 6dn “sylabbub”. Eejit.
  22. Confidently entered ROCKERY for 1ac as soon as I (mis)read the clue, so I was bemired by that for a while! [ROCKY (covered in soil?) around ER (ruler): def. “part of garden”]. Nope, doesn’t work at all!

    Otherwise a fairly quick solve, and still finished in under 15 mins.

    Interesting what horryd says about solving online – I always solve on paper on my daily commute from Coventry to London, but I’ve found that on my days off when I solve online I always shave up to 5 minutes off my normal average, and I’m not the quickest of typists.

    As for the pronunciation debate, to me (from Southampton) ONE and WON are exact homophones, like “wun”. To my wife (from Coventry), they’re both exact homophones, like “wonn”.

  23. Thought that I would be in the dunces corner with my completion time as, in retrospect, there doesn’t seem to be anything too difficult, but looking st other people’s times makes me feel a bit more satisfied. A very nice puzzle to end the working week (for those poor beggars who haven’t achieved the happy state of retirement).
  24. A rather disappointing 13:58 for me, starting slowly (as usual), and making heavy weather of some easy clues (as usual).

    When I was about prep-school age, my brother used to read to me from A. A. Milne’s The Day’s Play and Once a Week which had been read to him at his prep school. I doubt if anyone reads these now (has anyone else even heard of them?), but I found them very amusing at that age, and they featured a bunch of middleclass types who called themselves “The Rabbits”, which I assume reflected their general lack of sporting prowess.

    No problem with ducks either. Or US. Or anything else really. Should have been a lot faster!

  25. Interesting discussion on the ‘homophone’; it had never occurred to be before that anyone would pronounce those two words identically!
    I thought one is pronounced WONN and won is WUN.
  26. Just to demonstrate that persistence can be an adequate substitute for intelligence, here I am. I have no idea how long I spent on this one, having given up with four missing, then come back to it a few times over the weekend.

    CAMBER was my LOI. I was convinced that I was looking for somewhere ending in “ing” which, with the addition of a “b”(ank) would become a shape. Failing to parse it correctly, or to recognise Camberwell, I trawled the alphabet trying to find a better answer than CAMBER. Along the way I came up with “gaybar”, “harbor”, and numerous other red geese. Finally gave in and put CAMBER.

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