Times 26,297: Wasn’t He In Take That?

And a Happy New Year to you all. 2016 seems to have got off to a good start with this puzzle, which I really enjoyed despite doing it (somewhere inside a quarter of an hour) late at night post-festivities. Every clue outstandingly concise while quite often containing an above average level of cleverness, what artistry! And the surfaces are mostly great too. Top marks to the setter from me.

Was happy for 4ac to be a write-in, since 2015 was the year when I moved to Greenwich borough, just down the road from the vessel in question; 20ac was a complete DNK and held me up till near the very end, leaving 18dn to me my LOI even though that’s the first abbey I thought of when I looked at the clue (I naturally assumed that this being the Times we’d be looking for somewhere loftier, Tintern perhaps). Hard to choose a COD from this impressive field: I loved 7dn, one of those great clues where everything makes perfectly lucid sense in the superficial reading, but needs to be completely rethought for the cryptic one. But perhaps the crown has to go to 22ac for the neatness of “rearwards then forwards”.

Oh and I should own up to the fact that, while I got Merle for 2dn easily enough, when I Googled the name afterwards I was surprised to see a woman’s face popping up. For a moment I thought I’d been confusing her with Merle Haggard, until I realised I’d actually been thinking of Milton Berle. Funny how brains (don’t) work, isn’t it?

1 DUMAS – dead author: [“starts to”] D{eliver} U{nusually} + MAS{s} [“brief” service]
4 CUTTY SARK – old boat: (STRUCK YA{ch}T*) [“out of control”, “after chain’s slipped” (i.e. minus CH)
9 STRINGENT – tight: STRING {b}ENT [cord | flexed “when first pulled”]
10 OTAGO – where kiwis are: O TAG [old | label] attached with O [ring]
11 PEEWIT – bird: PIT [set] to catch WEE reversed [little “round”]
12 MAINTAIN – keep: AIN’T [isn’t “commonly”] guarded by MAIN [chief]
14 EISENHOWER – president: reverse of I.E. [that is “backing”] + E N [opponents at (bridge) table] in SHOWER [disreputable group]
16 ACES – services — the best: ACE [outstanding] + [“head of”] S{ocial}
19 RELY – bank: R [run] and ELY [see]
20 GARRYOWENS – high kicks: (SWORE, ANGRY*) [“about”]
22 BACKPACK – hike: BACK [rearwards] then PACK [forwards (in rugby)]
23 SNOOZE – nap: SNOO{ker bai}ZE [“that’s been cut off-centre”]
26 ANIME – film genre: ({c}INEMA*) [“about to quit” (i.e. minus C) “new”]
27 HARMONICA – organ: HAR{d} MONICA [“short” tough | girl]
28 AUNT SALLY – scapegoat: {t}AUNT [“do not begin” to tease] + SALLY [attack]
29 NYMPH – gorgeous girl: N.Y. [US city] taking M.P.H. [speed]

1 DISAPPEAR – walk: I SAP P [one | fool (given) power] to stop DEAR [favourite]
2 MERLE – Oberon perhaps: L [left] stranded in MERE [lake]
3 SENTIENT – conscious: SENTI{m}ENT [“male is avoiding”, i.e. minus M, mawkish emotion]
4 CHEW – champ: C HEW [clubs | fashion]
5 TETRAHEDRA – pyramids (EARTH RATED*) [“fantastic”]
6 YVONNE – girl: V [against] wearing YON N{ighti}E [that | nightie, “extremely”]
7 AVALANCHE – come down heavily on: A VALANCE [a | hanging] for smuggling H [heroin]
8 KNOWN – famous: K N [king (and) knight] wrapping NOW [present]
13 LOW-ALCOHOL – pop might be so: LOW [dejected] with ALL [everything] about C OHO [cold | interjection]
15 SELECTION – choice: S ELECTION [second | vote]
17 SASSENACH – in Scotland, English: SCH [school] accepting A NESS A{ppointed} reversed [a | head | “initially” appointed “from the south”]
18 DOWNTOWN – in Central Park?: W [wife] visiting DOWNTON [an abbey]
21 UPPERS – stimulants: {S—–>}UPPER [meal’s “starter fully dropping”]
22 BRAVA – excellent woman: BRA [lingerie] + V{ery} A{lluring} [“up front”]
24 OPIUM – number: (10 U{pset} MP*) [“following reshuffle”]
25 ARMY – host: {b}ARMY [off trolley “after bishop’s gone”, i.e. minus a B]

33 comments on “Times 26,297: Wasn’t He In Take That?”

  1. Typo at 27A Verlaine – A missing from harmonic-A

    Another in a line of enjoyable puzzles that aren’t taxing but are fun to solve

    Don’t recall Merle Oberon appearing before – film star famous for pretending she came from Tasmania rather than India. Terrible commentary on the times she lived in.

  2. Glad to see you didn’t know these either. I just applied the Sherlock method – when you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains etc. No New Yorker would call Central Park “downtown”, although technically of course it is from anywhere above 110th street. That’s a quibble. Nice puzzle, nice blog. HNY to you Verlaine.
  3. 25:35. I enjoyed this too. The SE corner held me up most, but 25d, when I eventually got it, was my favourite. And the second Test Match in South Africa starts tomorrow, doesn’t it?

    Edited at 2016-01-01 12:03 pm (UTC)

  4. 15 mins, so not quite as much on the setter’s wavelength as I was yesterday. I agree with V that it was a fine puzzle, and like johninterred I was held up in the SE the longest, with OPIUM my LOI after the HARMONICA/SASSENACH crossers. I associate IO/ten with the Guardian and Indy’s house styles much more than that of the Times.

    Like V I had been trying to fit “Tintern” into the answer for 18dn before the DOWNTON penny dropped, but unlike him I knew of Merle Oberon so didn’t have a problem seeing how 2dn worked.

    1. It’s not so much that I had a problem with 2dn, as that I had the wrong mental image of Merle Oberon! SERIOUSLY the wrong mental image.
      1. I now see what you meant V, and I can’t imagine why I thought anything different this morning, except for the fact that it was probably too early on New Year’s Day. I remember seeing her in a few old black and white films and she was a fine looking girl so I had no problem forming the correct mental image.

        Edited at 2016-01-01 03:41 pm (UTC)

  5. 19:30 so not at all easy for me. No probs with 20 as I, like many others I’m sure, can still hear the excellent Bill McLaren using the term many a time in his rugby commentaries.

  6. 35 minutes with 23a LOI. Knew the “up and under” and thought, like V, that Merle was a man (or a blackbird). Lots of great clues.
  7. 23:18 of enjoyable solving, thereby leaving more time for the Jumbo. Knew 20ac which sent me off into memories ‘They’ll be dancing in the streets of Hawick tonight’, and even ‘Early bath’, although this was more Eddie Waring. I thought that 18d might be problematic for non UK-based solvers but obviously not. Liked 22ac.
  8. A long haul after a merry evening but I found this enjoyable enough and am very disappointed to have missed SHOWER in 14ac which always cheers me with memories of Terry-Thomas.

    Pop is non-alcoholic so unless I’m missing something and meanings have moved on, LOW ALCOHOL is simply incorrect.

    Similarly Central Park is not in downtown New York which is the broadly the financial district, even if there’s an acre or two that might just qualify.

    Never heard of GARRYOWENS.

    Edited at 2016-01-01 02:08 pm (UTC)

  9. … before the blog appeared and before being hustled out for the normal Jour de l’an 7 course lunch in our local Relais; so had three clues yet to drop in. Back on dry land, went to the blog, too late to re-boot the grey cells, so a DNF with unfinished Garryowen (which I knew), ANIME (which I try not to know) and UPPERS (which I had yet to see.)
    Also had NON ALCOHOLIC for 13d so was heading for the rocks anyway. Thanks for the blogging, Verlaine, and for another year of entertainment under all those influences. A la prochaine.
    1. Maybe , but not that low! anyway I was so convinced that pop has no alcohol I failed to return to my answer of “non-alcohol”!
      1. Of course, many thanks! I’d derived the s from the apostrophe s on “Meal’s”, so assumed “supper’s” was dropping its initial s (hope I’m making sense!).
  10. No time for this, because my browser crashed just as I was coming to the end and I had to type in all the answers again. Not that it made any difference because I was utterly defeated by 20ac. Never mind one arrangement of the letters making more or less sense than another, I couldn’t find an arrangement that made any sense whatsoever. I’ll blame my hangover.

    Edited at 2016-01-01 04:50 pm (UTC)

  11. Not too surprising that Garryowens proved difficult for the Sassenachs, given the term derived from the tactic of a Limerick rugby club. JFR
  12. It should be pointed out that Sassenachs is the Gallic term for Saxon speakers, so should not only include the English but also lowland Scots.
    So no cricket terms today, just two rugby ones instead.
    Understandably difficult both to concentrate and to find some uninterrupted time today – also I fell into the NON ALCOHOLIC trap, though “pop” BTW is a slang term for an alcoholic drink such as beer or lager.
  13. Just right- neither too easy nor too hard, and no obscure gk. Did wonder about downtown, and toyed with non-alcohol, but not appropriate for the day.
  14. I don’t know how to check but I think I recall that we had the opposite of a garryowen not so long ago. A garryowen is a high kick upfield to enable you and your colleagues to arrive at the landing point at the same time as the lucky opposition catcher. A hospital pass is almost a ‘same side’ garryowen, namely a high slow back-pass, usually from scrum half to fly-half, which reaches the latter at the same time as at least one large opposition wing forward, moving at speed and with a keen interest in discussing the matter further.

    Edited at 2016-01-01 07:56 pm (UTC)

  15. Not relevant to this crossword, but there appears to be an error in today’s Bank Holiday Jumbo Crossword – the enumeration of 24a should be (5,4), not (4,5).

    Paul G

  16. 12:37 here for a pleasant, straightforward start to the year – still off the pace, but at least better than yesterday.

    I was worried about Central Park being described as DOWNTOWN, so am glad that NYC residents aren’t too keen on it either.

  17. Took me just under an hour with 24dn OPIUM LOI.

    GARRYOWEN was a monumentally high kick (rugby)delivered to the oppositioms goal line making it a 50-50 ball.The team won threee Senior Cups 1924-1926 using this method of ‘mortar-attcack’


    Also EISENHOWER – disreputable group – shower – shadeth of Terry Thomath – abtholute shower!

    horryd – Shanghai

  18. That’s right, folks. Central Park is not up, and it’s certainly not down. It’s not left and it’s not right. It’s…
  19. Many thanks (from the setter) to all for the comments, and especially to Verlaine for a very flattering blog to herald a very cheery start to 2016 🙂 Just to point out that the Nina seems to have been missed by all!
    1. I feel like I used to when I spent hours staring at those stereoscopic magic pictures, unable to make anything swim into focus…
    2. Are there some noteworthy new E.U. laws I should know about? I might if I wasn’t buried in crosswords all the time…
  20. The four rotationally symmetric 8-letter entries share a common structure 😉 Bonne annee, Verlaine!
    1. D’oh! The line between being able to spot Ninas and not being able to spot them is a FINE LINE.

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