Times 26,321: Braine Box

If ever I sing the praises of a crossword too effusively, it normally gets slapped down with multiple mutterings of “huh, some good clues but it wasn’t all THAT”, so I’m going to do this particular puzzle a favour by saying I found it slightly on the ordinary side, which by the laws of equal and opposite reaction should see a robust defence of its virtues in the comments. I don’t think I had any particular issues, but I don’t know, a lot of the surfaces looked just a bit too much like crossword clues?

On the plus side, this was on the easier end of the spectrum, which worked for me as I’d just come in from a double bill of swirly 4AD miserabilists Daughter and Pixx at the Kentish Town forum, with several Doom Bars and an equal number of JD&Cs (for balance) in me, so I was glad to be able to polish it off in about 6 minutes. The classicist in me was glad to observe plenty of clues suggesting the setter might have had similarly misspent schooldays: actual Latin in both 11ac and 12ac, and then 2dn, 5dn… Also some pleasing literary references at 5ac, 17ac, and in what is my personal COD 14ac, for neatness and also because the work in question is near the top of my reading pile (I’m working my way down this list, as a kind-of-sort-of New Year’s Resolution).

Not much else I can remember wanting to report except that I struggled on the spelling of 25ac for a silly amount of time, but then I *was* rather drunk. Thank you setter, and I’m sorry if get unfairly belligerent towards crosswords in my cups!

1 FOSSIL – fogeyish old thing: S S [smalls] in FOIL [protective clothing]
5 PARDONER – he had a tale to tell (in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales): PARDON [come again] meeting E.R. [Queen]
9 GALICIAN – Spanish: ALICIA [woman] within G N [“borders of” G{abo}N]
10 VANITY – self-love: in {go}VAN IT Y{ields}
11 GOTHIC – old-fashioned type: GOT HIC [picked up | here “in ancient Rome”]
12 CATEGORY – class: CAT EGO [animal | I “once”] observed by RY [railway]
14 ROOM AT THE TOP – literary work (by John Braine), double def with: attic
17 TOWER HAMLETS – London area: TOWER [one pulling] + S [{bird}S “ultimately”] after HAMLET [play]
20 IRISHMAN – national: IRIS MAN [flag | staff] situated outside H [hospital]
22 CASUAL – not concerned: CAL{l}: [to phone “briefly”], ringing reverse of USA [America “from the east”]
23 COMELY – attractive: COME{D->L}Y [L{ady} “initially” replacing daughter (i.e. D) in play]
25 FAEROESE – Atlantic islanders: homophone of PHAROAH EASE [“sound” old Egyptian ruler | and calm]
26 CEREBRAL – intellectual: CEREAL [corn possibly] restricting BR [British]
27 YONDER – over there: Y [homophone of why (“say”)] + N [knight] plunged into ODER [river]

2 ORATOR – e.g. Cicero: O [old] + R [{flai}R “finally”] coming to A TOR [a | peak]
3 SMITHEREENS – fragments: SMITE N S [strike | poles] around HERE [this place]
4 LOINCLOTH – garment: LO IN CLOTH [look | wearing | clergy]
5 PANACEA – universal remedy: ACE [one] in PANA{ma} [country “mother abandoned”]
6 RIVET – bolt: R [resistance] over I VET [current | surgeon]
7 OWN – double def of: admit / personal
8 EXTERIOR – outside: EX [divorcee] + T{e}E{n} [“regularly”] taking RIO R [port | right]
13 GREASY SPOON – snack bar: (PARSON GOES*) [“mad”] about Y [“opening of” Y{ucky}]
15 TREACHERY – disloyalty: TEACHER [pedagogue] with Y [yen] to limit R [Republican]
16 FOURSOME – quartet: FOR [pro] going over SO ME [notes], about U [university]
18 MINDFUL – taking heed: MIND FU{e}L [object to | power supply “wasting energy”]
19 PARSEE – Indian monotheist: PA [father] on R [river] + SEE [Oxford, say]
21 MAYOR – council leader: R [runs], MAYO [one of 20’s (i.e. Irishman’s) counties] first
24 EWE – wool producer: homophone of YOU [the present solver “talked of”]

49 comments on “Times 26,321: Braine Box”

  1. Agree this was at the easy end of things.. the only one that gave me any pause was 19dn, Eastern religions never a strong point for me and had to overcome a vague feeling it was Farsee anyway.. but got there in due course. also I had to amend my spelling of 25ac twice, as checking letters arrived..

    Edited at 2016-01-29 09:58 am (UTC)

  2. OK, Verlaine, you did ask for it.
    I am leaping to the defence of the setter by which I mean I enjoyed the puzzle. But there again I do have low standards: any such crossword I can finish in under 40 minutes (33 today) without aids and being able to parse everything is good by me.
    COD for 17a which was also my LOI after at least 5 miutes of head-scratching.
    1. I did like 17ac’s “pulling birds”, which reminded me of many happy Paul crosswords of my Guardian-solving yore.

      Edited at 2016-01-29 10:03 am (UTC)

  3. Mostly straightforward for a while once I had a foothold in the SW but then I got stuck on the Indian monotheist (my heart sinks whenever I see a combination of words like that in a clue) and finally hit the wall with most of the NW corner remaining empty for ages and not helped by being unable to think of a district of London to fit 17ac. I’d already been sidetracked there thinking ‘one pulling birds’ might be ROMEO which might also have had something to do with ‘play’. I came to this with some trepidation and lack of confidence after struggling with the Quickie. 47 minutes.
  4. 12m, including a couple at the end failing to see TOWER HAMLETS, for some very strange reason. It’s about as obvious from the checkers as they come.
    I saw the answer at 25ac immediately, put in FAROESE, saw that I was missing a letter, and left it blank until I had all the checkers.
    I wonder, did anyone who had the P from PARDONER read beyond ‘universal remedy’ at 5dn?
    1. I spent an eternity on Tower Hamlets – I think the main roadblock is that the answer is clearly singular but you have an S at the end and it’s not a -ness ending.
      1. Glad it wasn’t just me. I felt a right muppet when I finally saw it. ‘Play’ in the clue and checkers that include H_M_E, for Pete’s sake.
  5. Having now had the chance to peruse the late Mr Bowie’s reading list, it has some interesting choices.. I did love The Leopard.. but I can’t see me ever bothering to plough through all that modern fiction. Give me Sam Pepys (and the occasional Heyer) any day.
    1. I guessed I may not have read many of Bowie’s picks, and I’m at eleven (including Beano and Private Eye).

      Inferno is good, but Purgatory is better.

      1. I think I’d started about 11, but finished no more than 5 or 6, which ably demonstrates what kind of concentration span I have… an intellectual lightweight and fly-by-night.
        1. My totals (including Beano, Viz and Private Eye) are 21 started, 14 finished: an intellectual lightweight and fly-by-night who happened to read English.
    2. I’m on 16 including the comics.. and a couple of books I’ve read but wished I hadn’t done, like Last Exit to Brooklyn & A Clockwork Orange
      1. Oh, Jerry, A Clockwork Orange is magnificent, as is the film. Only yesterday I finally got around to watching Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon – a real Marmite film. Of course, I enjoyed it.
      2. Thanks for the list – does anyone else think it has a very distinct mid-atlantic flavour? A good 15 or 20 that I wouldn’t expect to see on many London-based top 100s, and vice versa for US based lists.
  6. 24:20. This started off at sub-10 pace but then the last third or so slowed me quite a bit. As with our esteemed blogger I spent quite some time convincing myself of the spelling of FAEROESE (indeed on rereading before posting I just had to correct my spelling here). LOI TOWER HAMLETS, where similar to keriothe I couldn’t for the life of me see what would fit in _O_E_/H_M_E_S despite an alphabet trawl. Strange how some words or names tend not to jump out even with so many letters in place.
    1. I was lucky because TOWER for “one pulling” occurred quite quickly, and I don’t live that far from the borough in question!
  7. Easy, musty sort of puzzle with all those irritating references to dead language etc. I thought FOSSIL was an apposite opening.

    TOWER HAMLETS is much of the old East End and is interesting for its diverse ethnic make-up with Bangladeshi being the largest single grouping. It used to boast a good many 13D but ‘ealth and safety has probably closed them all.

  8. 40 minutes with everything sorted out ….. which makes me a PARSEE?

    COD to 20a for the surface.

      1. I’d like to be able to call myself myself a Parsepartout, but mostly I end up lost in a logophileous fog.
  9. 26 minutes. The easiest of the week, but enjoyable enough. Odd that a few had trouble with 17a. So did I, despite the straightforward wordplay. Having read Julian Barnes’ ‘Arthur and George’ fairly recently, I didn’t have any trouble seeing parsee quickly.
  10. 19:07 with a fair bit of time spent on the (to me) odd spelling of FAEROESE. Like keriothe, to me they are the Faroe Islands. I associate GREASY SPOON with transport cafes rather than snack bars but it had to be. Anyway, thank you setter and verlaine.
  11. 13:09 … an ‘easy once you know how’ kind of puzzle. I enjoyed it just fine and got a few smiles from it.

    FAEROESE looked (and looks) all wrong. How do Faroese people spell it?

      1. Rather puts paid to any grumbles, doesn’t it. I should have known — I’ve watched every episode of The Killing and The Bridge so my conversational Danish is excellent (as long as the conversation is about murder).
      2. I’m sure it is easy for them to say: they don’t really pronounce anything. I expect it’s pronounced ‘Feugh’.
  12. Post tomato soup, I took one minute longer than our young blogger. The extra minute was probably taken up working out how to spell 25a!
  13. 9:28, no problems with Taar ‘Amlets as the locals call it but I lost a lot of time on my LOI, the unfamiliar PARSEE, where I thought Oxford had to be a shoe, uni or Morris.

    Thanks for the blog V, your preamble refers to the non-existent 4ac.

  14. Thanks for the reading list link V – interesting and I hadn’t heard about it this side of the pond. I spend a lot of time avoiding anything topical these days for fear it will feature the orange-haired T-person. Bowie does seem to have had a taste for books where the reader knows almost from p1 (if they didn’t know already) that “this is not going to end well”. I’m rarely in the mood for that.

    Oh yes, the puzzle. No complaints – nothing wrong with vanilla, I like it. 12.21

  15. I for one struggled with this, taking well over my average time. I saw the attic quickly and had no trouble with the Indian monotheist, but like others, I just couldn’t see the London borough. The penny eventually dropped, and I couldn’t understand why it had been so difficult. I liked LOINCLOTH.

    Top hats off again to our blogger V for finishing in so short a time despite handicapping himself last night.

  16. Three years ago I was one of 1200 who disembarked a cruise ship in the Faroes islands for two hours and none of the shops bothered to open ! Perhaps it is the way we spell Faroese.
    1. 30-odd years ago, I was dossing around in the Turkish port of Izmir for a few days when I suddenly noticed (as you do) that the price of beer had trebled. Apparently this was because a cruise liner was arriving for passengers to visit nearby Ephesus. I mentioned that patently, I was not from the liner and the price to me reverted to pre-liner levels.
  17. 28m today so easier than average for me and a lot easier than some Friday offerings of late with a pleasing absence of obscurities. Like others held up on some spellings and the London region; I couldn’t see beyond the second word having TOWER or drawer in and only when nearly all the checkers were in did it fall with MINDFUL my LOI. Good puzzle and blog today so thank you setter and V, though how you manage those times after all that ‘neck oil’ is beyond me. I’d just fall over and then asleep!
  18. Pretty easy, agreed. I went through without a hitch until my last two, the crossing FAEROESE and PARSEE. They extended my time to 20 minutes. Not much else to say. Regards.
  19. Nice and easy, easy and nice. Liked the interplay of TOWER HAMLETS/ROOM AT THE TOP in the grid. FAEROESE last in after finally seeing the SEE of PARSEE. Bowie’s reading list is interesting. Life wasn’t the same after ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the…’
  20. After two disastrophes, I got through this one unscathed in 21 minutes, which for me is exceptional. I’m therefore going to ignore everyone who said this was an easy one.

    My only NHO was PARSEE, but even that seemed to be vaguely familiar. Or perhaps I was thinking of Farsi, which is very similar in all but spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Either way, though, I got there.

    I was slightly held up by having “careful” at 18d, but then decided to parse it and saw my error. When all else fails, read the instructions.

  21. 7:45 for me. I don’t mind easy puzzles, and I enjoyed this one. Like others I was held up by TOWER HAMLETS for an unconscionably long time.

    A fascinating list from Bowie, containing several books I feel I really ought to have read but will almost certainly never get round to reading now. (Deep sigh!)

  22. Stiffened by three difficult QCs this week, I had a quick look at this. I got the top half quickly and decided to plough on.Anyway,after a good while, I had one clue left -17a- and wasn’t going to give up. I finally saw Tower as One Pulling at 1130 pm last night and it was done. And I live in the London area!
  23. I see most had troubles with 17a-like me.
    I joined the idea of play = sport to West Ham (the Hammers and in London).
    Earlier had Green Hammers ( a bird perhaps). Foursome ruled that out.
  24. Not much to say here other than congrats to BloodNThunder. I never did get Parsee or the Islanders.

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