Times 26287 – Well, I solved it, so there….

Solving time: 82 minutes

Music: Beethoven, Symphony #3, Jochum/LSO

I suppose I wasn’t on the wavelength. That’s the only possible explanation, as I consistently misunderstood every clue offered. I’m lucky I didn’t end up with ‘Ten Fried Bottoms’, but I don’t think they allow those sorts of songs in the schools any more. However, about half the clues were write-ins, although I wrote in ‘Toulouse-Lautrec’ and then started counting the letters, thinking there weren’t three U’s in the anagrist, which of course there were. I should have counted the letters in ‘alter verb’ instead. I probably would have been fresher if I hadn’t spent several hours on Dean’s Christmas masterpiece.

I really can’t tell if the puzzle is that hard or not. I suspect that if you grew up in the UK, and sang ‘Ten Green Bottles’, it might not have been that difficult. Over here in the US, we sing ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’, and the schoolkids actually drink the beer rather than waste it…or so the song goes.

After writing the blog, I have to conclude it was not really that difficult. I should have seen answers like ‘lasts’, ‘arsenal’ and ‘adder’ much more quickly than I did. So there you have it!

1 HAIRSTREAK, HAIR + STREAK. I saw it was probably ‘streak’ about halfway through my solve, but I could not remember any musicals other than ‘Evita’ until much later. The literal refers to a certain butterfly, ignotus mihi.
5 EVIL, LIVE backwards, a write-in.
9 LOTHAIR, L(OT + H)AIR. Another fairly simple one.
10 SQUARES, double definition, one by example. I was completely fooled, and spent a long time playing with CIX.
12 OZONE, OZ. + ONE, this should have been a write-in, as I thought of ‘one’ early on.
13 DUNGAREES, SEE RAG backwards on DUN, another biff for me. ‘Dungarees’ more often mean Navy-style denim trousers in the US.
14 TOULOUSE-LAUTREC, anagram of COUTURE, A SELLOUT, a write-in for me.
17 TEN GREEN BOTTLES, cryptic definition. If you are not a native of the UK, you may be stuck as there is no wordplay to rely on.
20 ATTRIBUTE, anagram of TRAIT + BUTE, a Scottish island I could not recall for a long time.
21 RIDGE, RID(G[loucester])E, where ‘ride’ = ‘spin’ in the sense of a casual trip in a car.
23 DECAGON, DE(C[onservative] AGO)N, another one that proved more elusive than it should have.
24 ART DECO, AR[is]T(DEC)O, a write-in from the literal and the enumeration for me. The cryptic is actually very tricky, but it’s not needed.
25 RUDD, last letters of [dinne]R [yo]U [discar]D, [horri]D. Another obscure fish to add to your ruddy collection.
1 HELIOSTAT, HE(T SOIL upside-down)AT. My next-to-last in, very elusive as I thought ‘earth temperature’ would be E + T.
2 INTRO, hidden backwards in [rep]ORT NI[cely], an easy starter clue.
3 SKATEBOARDING, SKATE (the fish) + BOARDING (the school). I wasted a lot of time thinking the type of school was ‘state’. I would have preferred the chestnut about the fish getting on the bus.
4 REREDOS, anagram of ROSE around RED.
5 ARSENAL, double definition, the football team and the weapons depot
7 VERTEBRAL, anagram of ALTER VERB. Yes, I had ‘vertebrae’ for the longest time.
11 UNADULTERATED, UN-ADULT- (E) -RATED. Another biff here, but fairly easy to
15 UNNOTICED, anagram of CONTINUED, not so easy to see.
16 CASSEROLE, C[aviar] + AS + S(ER)OLE.
18 EQUINOX, E(QU + IN + O)X. If you thought the date was MAR X, you wasted a lot of time.
19 BEEFALO, BEE + OLAF upside-down.
22 DWELL, D[ictator] + WELL.

37 comments on “Times 26287 – Well, I solved it, so there….”

  1. Had some interruptions, but I doubt that I’d have finished under 45 minutes anyway.

    Bit of a grind at the end, with SKATEBOARDING and the unknown HAIRSTREAK taking forever. Nice deception there, with Hair requiring some nude performances if I remember correctly.

    “A little artistic talent” brought a smile.

    Thanks setter and Vinyl (BTW, you have a typo at 7dn).

  2. Started by writing SOIL in reverse for 1dn. But didn’t know HAIRSTREAK to get the corner properly under way. Liked the clue for EQUINOX: not an easy word to clue methinks.

    But … why the trouble in the SW? RUDD was obvious … but hoping for OCTAGON made the rest a bit harder. (Scottish islands seem legion.)

    With Galspray, had a chortle at the sawn-off artist.

  3. so I guess it was on the easy side for me, although the bottles were a bit recalcitrant: Vinyl’s version, I gather, is ‘take one down/and pass it around/ 98 bottles of beer on the wall’; but there’s also ‘if one of those bottles/should happen to fall,/ 98.’ etc. I too chuckled, perhaps a bit self-consciously, at the T-L clue, which I biffed in on the C, after searching for something English that would end in same. DN, of course, K 1ac; ‘Hair’ vied with ‘Evita’ for my attention, which alas was focussed on trying to include something in one of them (‘in musical’). 23ac and 24ac biffed, solved post hoc. COD to ARSENAL.
  4. You weren’t alone, vinyl1, if you struggled with this one, as I certainly did. The long song title was my first one in and remained my only answer for far too long. I wasn’t helped by having three unknowns in the NW quarter: HAIRSTREAK, HELIOSTAT and LOTHAIR – all of which I note have acquired a red wavy line underneath them as I typed them. 73 minutes of torture. I found Dean’s puzzle easier (apart from one clue which proved impossible for me) though of course being a Jumbo it also took me ages.

    On edit: I now note that HELIOSTAT was previously unknown to me when it appeared in February 2013 and HAIRSTREAK when it turned up in May 2010!

    Edited at 2015-12-21 05:58 am (UTC)

  5. 15:10 … really enjoyed this one, which I solved mostly bottom up.

    The song title was almost my last in. I mean, I hate to be pedantic but is there anything in the song that says the bottles smash? I think not.

    Last in SQUARES.

    Especially loved the little talent but loads of clues had an aha! moment, so thank you, setter.

  6. What I consistently fail to understand is why our American cousins tackle The Times Crossword – a British Institution if ever there was one?
    One or two interlopers came unstuck in Colditz.
    I would not dream of having a go at any American Crossword – the cultures are so completely different in both language and style.
    I have lived in China for twenty years but wouldn’t know how start to solve a Chinese Crossword – they do exist!
    I marvel at you ‘guys and gals’ who take on the intricacies of English Children’s Nursery Rhymes, County cricket,Godfrey Smith’s English Difference and Cockney Rhyming Slang (including ‘Del Boy’).
    And that’s without even mentioning the glories of Polari, VIZ Magazine and its tales of the Council Gritter, dear boy!

    1ac (Purple)Hairstreak FOI COD 5dn ARSENAL (who take on City tonight) and LOI 9ac LOTHAIR – 27 minutes


    horryd Shanghai

    1. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll share my own perspective.

      I first came across cryptics in my grandfather’s copies of the New Yorker. I could barely do American-style puzzles at that age, but at least I thought I understood how they worked — the ones in the New Yorker were inscrutable. (Were they even labelled as ‘cryptic’, I wonder?)

      I started doing American-style crossword puzzles in high school, in the LA Times and sometimes in Dell puzzle books. It was in these Dell books that cryptic puzzles were finally explained, and I fell in love immediately. I started writing my own cryptic clues and puzzles (I even wrote one in Hungarian!), and doing them wherever I could find them.

      I read about the history of cryptics, learning the important role the Times had to play in their development. One fateful day I discovered that the Times puzzle was syndicated in the NY Post. I bought a copy and sat down to solve. I was utterly defeated by the puzzle. Didn’t get a single clue. It was like looking at those old New Yorker puzzles again.

      So I found this blog, started learning, and started solving. The way the Times clues are written is just something special. I’ve never found anything quite like it, even in other British puzzles. Almost every Times puzzle is a true treat: the English language comes alive in a silly, witty, dancing, dizzying way. And so what if I have to learn a few abbreviations and postcodes? It’s well worth it to me.

      If, as a British solver, you want a similar American experience, I wouldn’t recommend any of the major paper’s puzzles. LA Times and NY Times seem rather drab to me. The Onion used to have a lovely puzzle. Look up Brendan Emmett Quigley (http://www.brendanemmettquigley.com) or Kameron Austin Collins’s truly wonderful HIGH:low puzzle (https://tinyletter.com/highandlowxword).

      1. “The way the Times clues are written is just something special. I’ve never found anything quite like it, even in other British puzzles. Almost every Times puzzle is a true treat: the English language comes alive in a silly, witty, dancing, dizzying way. And so what if I have to learn a few abbreviations and postcodes? It’s well worth it to me.”

        Beautifully put, plusjeremy. I suspect the editor will want to send you a Christmas present!

  7. . . . So not a ‘walk in the park’ Monday for me. DNK LUTHAIR and bashed in SKATEBOARDING which held up the SW until I realised that I was looking at impossible words. COD the artist. Thanks setter and blogger.
  8. Is this the editor’s way of underlining his contention that Mondays’ offerings are not the easiest of the week?
    Working through, my FOI was 25a which shows what I felt about this, although I finally came in at 45 minutes.
    Having got 1d, the HAIR bit of 1a was straightforward, but as Galspray notes they take their clothes off in that musical, so I spent a lot of time deciphering where the second part of the answer was.
    10a was cunning: 109 is not a square, though 100 & 9 are.
    LOI 26a, though it was easy once 18d, my SLOI, went in.
  9. 23:50, which is about average for me, but it felt harder than that. BEEFALO my LOI; LOTHAIR and HELIOSTAT also guessed from wordplay. I liked 1a… yes HAIR had a nude scene.
  10. Too much for me without the aid of the iPad. Never heard of a hairstreak butterfly and was cross about missing yet again the meaning of cross in 19d. It’s a regular clue.
  11. 14m. I enjoyed this: I always like it when there are slightly obscure terms that force you to engage with the wordplay. HAIRSTREAK was my only out-and-out unknown today but terms like REREDOS, LOTHAIR and HELIOSTAT don’t spring easily to mind for me at least.
    REREDOS is a bit unfair, as the the wordplay can also give you ROREDES. If you don’t know the word the alternatives might look equally unlikely.
  12. 12:06 here, but no DNKs for me. Like Vinyl I wasted a bit of time fiddling around with CIX in 10ac before the penny dropped, and it took me a while to figure out the wordplay in 23ac. Otherwise all pretty straightforward.
  13. 46 minutes, with the butterfly proving most resistant, especially with its double dose of nudity.
  14. More fun and trickier than the usual Monday fare, but very enjoyable, much the same experience for me as Sotira, finished in 25 minutes having checked the unknown Holy Roman Emperor who was only done from the wordplay.
    Much to like here, the FOI diminutive artist, the two squares, the double nudity reference in HAIR and STREAK, the gas… nice work Mr Setter.
    Once again London’s top team appear, ahead of their big game tonight. The result could perhaps decide the Premiership title. And Oxford Blue in the same puzzle! Our cup runneth over.
  15. Much the same experience as most others. It took me 45 minutes, with HELIOSTAT and the unknowns LOTHAIR and HAIRSTREAK being the last in. I was held up for some time in the NE by constantly misreading ‘alter’ as ‘after’ in 7d so missed the anagram construction. 5d, 23 and 24 all left me puzzled, but I didn’t return to them to figure them out. Thanks to vinyl for the explanations.
  16. My 13:15 suggests that this wasn’t too hard but while solving I felt it was a fair bit chewier than a “normal” Monday offering.

    I lost a bit of time by failing to think of the right sort of cross for BEEFALO and missing the significance of “back” in DECAGON. I also misread the end of the skateboard clue as “school report” rather than sport.

    Needless to say I hadn’t heard of the emperor, but doubtless Verlaine is currently listening to the audiobook of his second memoir, in Latin.

    Once I had the V in vertebral I wrote down all the “nasty” letters ready to cross them off as the inevitable pangram emerged, amazed at how clever I was. I’m still looking for the J.

    As I wrote in ten green Bs I had similar thoughts to Sotira, imagining that the bottles could quite easily be falling onto a mattress.

    Thanks to the setter for making me laugh with the Lautrec clue, definition of the year.

  17. 45m here but had to check 1A my LOI which had held me up for the last 7m. Enjoyable challenge which seemed impenetrable as I vainly sought a way in but gradually revealed its secrets, mostly thanks to my remembering Jimbo’s advice to ‘lift and separate’ – really useful for 3D. Thanks setter and blogger today!
  18. 57:25.

    A fair number of these clues were of the “hit and hope” variety, including HAIRSTREAK, LOTHAIR, … in fact, all the HAIR-related clues gave me trouble, like HAIRSENAL, TEN HAIRY BOTTLES, and HAIRIOSTAT.

    But I perservered and thankfully finished without an error! I hope this will be a portent of a lovely day.

  19. I got through most of this and then stopped without HAIRSTREAK. After another 10 minutes I surrendered and looked it up, so a DNF for me. If I’d met the butterfly before, I’d forgotten it. I was trying to fit any creature I could think of inside ‘Hair’, so I was really barking up the wrong tree anyway. Regards to all.
  20. 14 mins with SQUARES my LOI after UNADULTERATED. I confess that DECAGON was biffed once all the checkers were in place, and HAIRSTREAK went in from the wordplay. Like a few others I thought the “a little artistic talent” definition for T-L was a gem even though it wasn’t the hardest of clues to crack, and as there were a few other inventive definitions scattered around the puzzle it was most definitely one I enjoyed.

    As far as US puzzles are concerned I quite like them, and now I’ve been doing the Washington Post puzzle for a couple of years the language differences don’t faze me at all. The biggest problem I have is when I come across crossing clues that both require US-centric GK, but I usually manage to solve them without recourse to aids. I really used to enjoy the late Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzles for their quirkiness.

  21. Enjoyed this puzzle. FOI Ten Green Bottles without a thought, LOI Hairstreak (thought I’d invented this word in desperation). Whilst realising that 10a had to be squares, I still spent a few moments chuntering that 109 isn’t a square, until the penny dropped.
  22. 24 minutes for me, which is surprising given (a) my inadvertent sobriety and (b) my general slowness over the last few weeks. The slightly sci-tech clues at 1d, 12ac and 7d were appreciated and my only unknown was LOTHAIR who sounded far too Scottish to be a Roman emperor of any type.

    My COD was UNNOTICED, because I like long 1:1 anagrams.

    So, with nothing left to do for the remainder of the evening, I shall attempt to remedy point (a) above, in celebration of the winter solstice and the lengthening of the days. The internet tells me that the solstice this year is actually on the 22nd rather than today, which I will take as an indication that I should continue celebrating beyond midnight.

  23. Despite not being even remotely on the setter’s wavelength and finishing in a disappointing 16:33 (including spending far too much time trying to fit HAIRSPRING into 1ac, and making heavy weather of all the anagrams apart from “alter verb” in 7dn), I thought this was a first-rate puzzle and actually enjoyed it very much.

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