Times 26,333: Il faut imaginer solveurs heureux

Didn’t last long once the mighty Magoo and Jason strolled onto the scene, of course, but at the time I submitted this crossword I was topping the TCC leaderboards for both the Concise and the Cryptic at 1m19 and 6m32 respectively, which was nice. Seemed like a fairly straightforward number on the fun end of the spectrum, lots of double definitions which are obviously write-straight-ins for those on the wavelength, and a number of highly biffable answers that couldn’t be anything else given a couple of letters, 12ac and 16dn springing to mind. 17ac and 7dn were also bunged by me, without feeling the need to parse until after the event.

I was grateful that 20ac had appeared in another puzzle not too far back, if I recall correctly – it seemed unfamiliar then but feels like an old friend now. COD territory was vied for today by various impressively concise feats of cluing – check out the number of 2- to 5-word clues: not always easy to pull off! I liked 6dn quite a bit for its penny-drop qualities but I think 19dn might have been my overall favourite, simple but clever and effective. Thank you setter for a bundle of Friday morning fun!

1 SCHILLING – old currency: {market}S [“at the close”] + CHILLING [cooling down]
6 CUTIS – skin: IS touching CUT [axe]
9 BUSTARD – bird: BUD [shoot] to bag STAR [brilliant (as in “star performer/pupil”)]
10 TABLEAU – scene: TAU [Greek character] “embodying” ABLE [powerful]
11 TROUT – witch (as in unpleasant old woman): double def with “one shouldn’t drown” (having gills as it does)
12 GIBRALTAR – foreign territory: reverse of BIG [major “revolutionary”] + R{espected} [“leader in”] + ALTAR [place of workship]
14 AUK – bird: A UK [A | British]
15 IN A NUTSHELL – to be concise: double def with “something hard to crack here”
17 ANKLE-BITERS – Aussie infants: ER [little hesitation] wrapped in (BLANKETS I*) [“gathered”]
19 WAG – double def of: wave / card
20 CLOISONNE – panelled enamelwork: IS ON [is working] in CLONE [duplicate]
22 PULSE – double def of: sign of life / seed
24 IRKSOME – tedious: “partial” {sm}IRK SO ME{morably}
26 BRETONS – Frenchmen: reverse (“on reflection”) of NOT “welcomed by” SERB [European]
27 TAROT – pack member: reverse of TO RAT [to sneak “back”]
28 FLYING FOX – bat: FLYING [doing well] + FOX [puzzle]
1 SABOT – shoe: S.A. [it] is on BOT{tom} [the foot, “not half”]
2 HASSOCK – cushioned footstool: and that which HAS SOCK “is able to cover foot”
3 LEASTWISE – at any rate: and LEAST WISE is “most stupid”
4 INDIGNATION – anger: IN DIG NATION [at home | appreciate | the state]
5 GUT – internal channel: reverse of TUG [boat “capsizes”]
6 COBRA – poisoner: CO [poisonous substance (i.e. carbon monoxide)] + BRA [cups etc]
7 TRESTLE – supporter: L [left] in TR{i}ESTE [Italian city “having lost first of I{nternationals}”]
8 SQUARE LEG – position: SQUARE [Conservative] on LEG [stage]
13 BLUE-EYED BOY – much admired chap: and Blue-Eyed Boy might be the younger incarnation of Ol’ Blue Eyes, i.e. Frank Sinatra
14 ANARCHIST – revolting type: homophone of ANNA KISSED [“in speech”, girl showed affection]
16 SISYPHEAN – endlessly laborious: (PHASES IN*) [“complex”] housing {strateg}Y [“finally”]
18 KNOCKER – one strongly criticising: double def with “a rapper”
19 WELL-OFF – flush WELL OFF [water source | rancid]
21 SPORT – double def of: put on (as in wear) / entertainment
23 ESSEX – Queen’s favourite: SEX [relations] under E{uropean} S{overeignty} [“primarily”]
24 ELF – spirit: {s}ELF [“topped” ego]

57 comments on “Times 26,333: Il faut imaginer solveurs heureux”

  1. 26 minutes for this pleasant Mondayesque number, finishing with the tricky – for mere mortals – Sisyphean. Agree that well-off was rather good. Not sure I knew ankle-biters, which gave rather an unfair advantage, I thought, to our Antipodeans solvers…
    1. …for once. Compare to say the UKian advantage of knowing Hove was a resort in tomorrow’s puzzle. (I’d heard of it, but thought it was probably a land-locked industrial suburb of Brighton.)
      But advantage or not scored the obvious error, not knowing how to spell SISYPHEN and guessing I and Y in wrong places.
      Otherwise quick and breezy and enjoyable.
      1. As long as we don’t start getting suburbs of foreign places like Melbourne and Leeds, I think we can allow the odd bit of Antipodean slang.
  2. Thanks for the explanations of SABOT and COBRA which I were sure were the answers but couldn’t parse. I got in a rut with SABOT thinking the OT was the second half of FOOT and I have known for decades that CO was a poisonous gas so I must need a rest.
  3. Thanks for the blog Verlaine. I was stumped by the parsing of 14d until the penny dropped regarding the ‘in speech’ meaning, hence my impatient post on the quickie.

    I wasn’t very quick myself, but inside my 40m average at about 32 minutes while standing on a crowded train. Most of that was getting started which seemed very hard, so I was pleased with the time in the end.

  4. 17 minutes … really enjoyable, satisfying solve. Except I probably won’t be the only person to get the ‘i’ and the ‘y’ of Sisyphean the wrong way round. Doh!

    Stellar time, Verlaine.

    1. I have always been “the boy most likely to be able to spell Sisyphus correctly” and even I had to triple-check that I’d put the ‘i’ and ‘y’ in the right places, I don’t mind admitting…

      Edited at 2016-02-12 10:19 am (UTC)

  5. What bufforp said about SABOT and COBRA, and what sotira said about SISYPHEAN. About 35 mins or so. Thanks, V, for sorting those out.
  6. 38 minutes. CLOISONNE remembered from a spate of previous appearances including two last year. Didn’t know HASSOCK as a US footstool as in the UK it’s a kneeler in church. 16dn is another of those damned anagrams of foreign words where if one doesn’t happen to know it, there’s no means of being sure of the correct answer without reference to aids.
    1. I think they are also hassocks in the UK. John Betjeman wrote about “The dry smell of damp rot, the hassocky smell”, and you can’t get much more English than him.
  7. I’ll join the dislike of 16D – these days I don’t mind looking things up but if it’s still a matter of pride to finish without aids these anagrams of obscure words are simply unfair IMHO

    Reasonable middle of the road puzzle but no real stand out clues

    1. Noon. . Sisyphus is not obscure Jim. Not hereabouts
      (JerryW, out shopping so not logged in)
  8. 15.22, but I did spend a bit of time at the end trying (and failing) to work out the why bit of COBRA, so thanks for that V. Come to think of it, I didn’t work out SABOT either: just a jumble of thoughts around S for it’s, a boot and um… Is there a whiff of Dean Meyer in the background for this one, with the bra, and EsSEX? I used a computer for a while with Microsoft’s child protection thingy switched on, and couldn’t work out why any reference to Essex was censored (sic).
    Fun to solve with, as the mighty Symbolist points out, some rather elegant and laconic cluing.
  9. As usual, I sputtered to the end of the week. Held up for ages by KNOCKER and ANKLE-BITERS, believe it or not, which pushed me past the 30-minute mark.

    Not that it mattered as I was another that caught the SYSIPHEAN bug, so to speak.

    Thanks setter and Verlaine.

  10. I think Sisyphean is fair game as it is an acknowledged word in English (cf Procrustean, tantalize) and one I have been known to use to describe my own lot at times. Those Greeks certainly had a way with infernal punishments.
    33 minutes – not bad by my standards.
    I know I can be bit dull but I still don’t see the S.A. bit of SABOT. Can someone enlighten me?
    1. We’ve had people query this before – it’s definitely something that only ever comes up in crosswords, as opposed to real life.

      S.A. is “sex appeal” which is the same thing as “it” (the It Girl, etc etc).

      Just don’t try to add sex appeal to your gin, that’s a different sort of “it”.

    2. I’m with you on Sisyphean, deezaa. It’s in fairly common use as an adjective so I wouldn’t put it in the unfair anagram class. I’m really just annoyed at myself because if I had bothered to write down both spellings I think I would have recognised the right one.
      1. Well, maybe not. I put in the right one, then hesitated, then spent about five minutes writing both variants on my tablet in very thick lettering and finally switched to the wrong version. My first inkling was of course the spelling I do remember and oh, dear, it would have been right.
  11. 20 min – same as bufforp on 1d & 6d – also biffed 14d, not getting homophone. ‘Foreign’ at 12a delayed me, as it’s so very British!
    1. Interesting – maybe the setter is a closet Hispanophile, though what s/he makes of Ceuta and Melilla, heaven knows. It is of course officially an Overseas Territory of the UK.

      Edited at 2016-02-12 11:37 am (UTC)

  12. Managed to get the Rock (Gibraltar) which is more than Sisyphus did.
  13. 17:16. Having slogged through Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus more than once (first time uni, second pleasure), the spelling was not an issue. What is it though about setters and cricket? Not a problem here but is it now a rule that a puzzle must include a cricketing clue/answer? Thanks, V
    1. I’m sure they put in a cricketing clue on Fridays just to vex me, as I’m very much on the record as getting stumped (as it were) by cricket references. I am familiar with the term “square leg” though, even if I have no idea at all to what it might refer.
  14. 35 minutes for this very pleasant, slightly tricky puzzle. I had to think about the wordplay on several occasions after getting the answer from the definition or letters in the grid.
    I had to write down both possible spellings of SISYPHEAN before rejecting the wrong one. I cannot see why it’s in the least bit unfair. The myth of Sisyphus is surely well-known enough to warrant an anagram clue. In any case, if you’re not sure then look it up, unless you’re taking part in the timed competition. There’s no rule that says these puzzles have to be done under test conditions. They supposed to be a bit of fun, though of course we all take them very seriously.
    1. I think these things should be solvable without having to look things up, personally, and I believe that’s the overall aim. However I think the setter is within his or her rights in considering that we ought to be able to spell SISYPHEAN.
  15. I liken the fate of Sisyphus to many of the daily roadblocks I meet (obtuse “academics” for the most part) so that was a write-in. Pretty quick solve here only held up a touch at the end by the top left corner where SABOT and HASSOCK were far from the first words to come to mind.
  16. 12:23 and far from being a write-in Sisyphean had to be pieced together like an Airfix kit. Thankfully I put the pilot in his seat before I glued the cockpit canopy down. He was the stone bloke right, and not the eyes pecked out one?

    I did biff Gibraltar and ankle biters though and enjoyed the punning clues for hassock and leastwise.

    1. Not sure about the eye-peckee, but Prometheus has his liver picked out by an eagle every day, while it grows again overnight.
        1. Happy to leave it to Dr Thud but it sound as if whatever else Prometheus suffered from, it was not cirrhosis.
  17. I was a bit slow to get going but once the clues started to fall they fell pretty quickly and I enjoyed the solve. Thanks for explanation of sabot, trout and ankle biters which I biffed. I know I’ve had S.A. explained before, but had forgotten; didn’t realise ankle-biters was an Australian expression, as have heard it here, along with rug rats which I believe is an American version of the same! Thanks to setter and blogger.
  18. Maybe the way to remember SISYPHUS is that only a SISSY would complain about having to push a little rock like that up the hill.

    On the other hand his job does bear some resemblance to that of a SYSADMIN though.

    I’ve just confused the issue in my head beyond any salvaging I think.

  19. 15m. An enjoyable puzzle, tricky in parts.
    I managed to correct SYSIPHEAN. I think I’ve been trapped by this before, because I had a notion that I find it easier to spell SISYPHUS, so I did that. Sure enough SYSIPHUS looks much wronger to me than SYSIPHEAN. It’s a bit harsh as an anagram, but I certainly wouldn’t classify the word as obscure.
    When I am in charge SA/IT will be banned.
    1. If I were a setter I’d definitely include an anagram resolving to BUMBOMACHIDES CLYTOMESTORDYSARCHIDES, a humorous character in a Plautus play I did at school that I’ve never forgotten how to spell. It puzzles me that none of the crossword editors ever return my calls.
      1. I don’t mind that one. At least it’s just a slightly old-fashioned term for something familiar. No-one uses either ‘SA’ or ‘it’, and I’m not convinced they have ever really meant the same thing.
        1. We agree on that, K. Without It, my Martini has no SA.

          Edited at 2016-02-14 02:16 am (UTC)

  20. Hi all. About 35 minutes ending with the unknown old hag at TROUT, although the fish part seemed unavoidable. But as I fessed up above, I fouled up with SYSIPHEAN. It’s certainly not obscure as a word and the meaning is clear, but alas the spelling is not. At least to me and a bunch of others, I see. But he fault lies not with the our setter, but with ourselves, so to speak. Regards.
  21. Very enjoyable once I got into it. Couldn’t parse 1d – though the answer was obvious from the checkers. No problem with the rock roller. Have never heard of the Aussie infants but worked it out from the checkers. Very colourful phrase – on a par with rug-rats. 28 minutes. Ann
  22. A knock-free 14 mins, and I finished with HASSOCK after TROUT. I had no problem with the correct spelling of SISYPHEAN even though I’m far from being a classicist. Count me as another who wasn’t aware that ANKLE-BITERS is an Aussie term, and while the wordplay for CLOISONNE was clear enough and I knew the word I couldn’t have told you it was panelled enamelwork.
  23. 9:44 for me. I’d have been faster if I hadn’t a) taken ages to spot that I’d typed in CLUE-EYED BOY (a description of me as a young solver), and b) taken a punt with STAGE for 21dn (SPORT), though I had a shrewd idea that I was going to have to change it once I had some checked letters.

    I had a moment’s hesitation with the spelling of SISYPHEAN, but fortunately SYSIPHEAN looked so wrong that I was left in no doubt.

    An enjoyable solve, with 6d (COBRA) my COD.

  24. Well, this puzzle just goes to show that persistence is futile. I gave up with the entire northern third of the grid as unsullied as new-fallen snow. Ah well.
  25. Had another busy day and didn’t start this until 23:30 and completed all bar 16d 22ac and 26ac in 40 minutes, at which point computer updates distracted me for 20 minutes. Came back and spotted PULSE straight away then saw SISYPHEAN but I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to think hard about the spelling, so looked it up and then popped BRETONS in as my LOI. FOI was SCHILLINGS. Knew Ankle Biter as an Antipodean sprog, but had to work out CLOISONNE from the wordplay. No real problems with the rest of it. Nice puzzle and excellent blog as usual. John
  26. More like a Monday than a Friday methought.

    No problem with SISYPHEAN
    About 32 mins

    Fine Blog but saddened to hear of the lack of cricket expertise.

    horryd Shanghai

  27. I thought DOWSE was quite a good clue at 11a (at least in parts of the US dowsing, water-witching, and witching are synonymous, and getting doused/dowsed won’t drown anyone). But it wasn’t. Thanks for a nice blog, Verlaine.
  28. Firstly, thank you all. As a novice I find this site extremely helpful. I know this is late, however, I operate from the hard copy in “The Australian”, which arrives a few weeks later than your version.

    Can I be bold enough to suggest that shout is an equivalent answer to sport.

    My basis is (a) Shout is the name of a musical (two in fact). The first one chronicles the life of Johnny O’Keefe (admittedly an Australian rock icon). I did some research on this to see if it ran in the UK, when I discovered there is another Shout musical that definitely has run in the UK (and on Broadway I believe).

    (b) If one has to shout a round of drinks, couldn’t one be said to “put on” a round of drinks.

    It is probably obvious by now that I had confidently entered shout here. As a novice it means the difference between getting this one right – or not!

    If it is not too late appreciate a view on this as I believe shout fits just as well as sport.

    Barry M.

    1. I put this to the Cryptic Crosswords community on Facebook (which plays host to a bunch of setters, editors etc). Peter Biddlecombe answered rather comprehensively as follows:

      “put on” is a phrasal verb, and standard dictionaries have been known to miss PV meanings which are familiar in everyday life. So I’m pleased to have an old copy of the Longman Dictionary of Phrasal verbs, which I’m sure was intended to help EFL students get to grips with issues like “hand up” not being the opposite of “hang down”, but which I also use in crossword editing to allow these meanings sometimes. It has “cause to happen” as a meaning for “put on” but associates it with a “performance or show” rather than something like a round. Also, the verbal version of that kind of “shout” seems to be specific to Aus and NZ, so would really need an indication of that origin if used in a puzzle first printed in the UK. Verdict: SPORT wins.

      Edited at 2016-03-16 12:05 pm (UTC)

    2. There does seem to be a backlash though, to the effect that “sport” means “wear” rather than “put on”… and in that sense is perhaps as iffy in its own way as “shout”! *sits back with popcorn*
  29. Thanks Verlaine, much appreciated what you did. Interesting to hear of the backlash and the editor’s admission that “put on” is the equivalent of “cause to happen”. Given the looseness one seems to find in cryptic definitions I would have thought that was ok. Also, bit disappointed in this final comment that SPORT wins. I am not arguing against sport, just putting forward I believe a justifiable argument that in this case there is an alternative acceptable answer.
    Thanks again and Regards
    Barry M

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