Times 26,369: Taking A Bath

Happy Easter! Due to the rare privilege of not having to go to work on a Friday, I tackled this puzzle not with the chimes of midnight, but immediately upon getting up in the morning, pre-coffee even, a time when my brain is notoriously subpar. And as the seconds turned into minutes with vast tracts of unfilled white squares starting back at me, and the minutes turned into a quarter hour, I began to think I might have made a strategic error. It turns out though that this was quite a tough one, a good Friday puzzle for Good Friday, and my leaderboard position (thus far) actually quite respectable and within 2 Magoos. Just barely.

As you may have realised by now I am a big fan of clever construction in a crossword, and the construction here was, well, I think I’d go so far as “immaculate”. Most of the clues were hard to unpick without a fight, often due to some really impressive cluing economy. Admire if you will how the nearly invisible “with such” comprises such a large part of the solution to 12ac, how well hidden the anagram fodder is in 14ac, how 27ac teases solvers with the full expectation that it’s a Spoonerism they’re looking for. I got 1dn quite quickly but couldn’t put it in because I couldn’t see why AIR was backwards, all because of the superb sleight of words that makes you file that S in “the definition part”. It was all so nice that I can even forgive the multiplicity of sports-related clues which always leave me in an 8dn. FOI (and the only across clue I got on the first pass 23ac), LOI 22d the brilliantly laconic 22ac after 15dn.

COD to 17ac, just because everyone grumbled about it in the club forum until NeilR picked up the penny and waved it in their faces. And a wholehearted “bravo, maestro!” to the setter from me…

1 WINNOW – fan: WOW [to bowl over] outside INN [pub]
5 BATHCUBE – person who washes may use one: (BUT BEACH*) [“bum”]
9 TENNYSON – poet: TEN [cardinal] + N [{si}N, “ultimately”] + reverse of NOSY [snooping “around”]
10 PRENUP – contract for union: PEN [writer] “overcoming” R [resistance] + UP [completed]
11 BISTRO – restaurant: hidden backwards in “imports 2”, i.e. in {imp}ORTS IB{eria} [“revolving” “displays”]
12 HANDS-OFF – not getting involved: AND SO F F [with | such | females] after H [hours]
14 FOSTER-PARENT – guardian: (AT PRESENT FOR*) [“working”]
17 SHAVING-STICK – what gets worn (down, not as an item of clothing!) in the bathroom: H [husband], SAVING [tightening belt] around that + STICK [stomach]
20 FOURBALL – competition for (golf) clubbers: FOUR BALL [a square (2*2) | dance]
22 TABLET – PC: TAB LET [reckoning | restriction]
23 SHOVEL – digger: SHOVE [barge] meets L [large]
25 GRATUITY – present: GRAY [elegist] hides TUT [disapproving word] about I [one]
26 ODOMETER – a measure of how far someone has come: O DOER [old | actor] has MET [satisfied] “inwardly”
27 LADLER – spooner : L [“close to” {classica}L] + ADLER [harmonica player Larry, 1914-2001]
2 IBERIA – European region: I BE [one | live] + reverse of AIR [broadcast “from S”]
3 NINE-TO-FIVER – typical office worker: N [new] + (TIE ON*) [“waving”] + FIVER [banknote]
4 WISCONSIN – state: WIN [land] including IS CONS [islands | does]
5 BANSHEE – a howler: BAN SHEE{p} [to enforce mutton embargo (!) “in short”]
6 TAP-IN – straightforward goal: TA PIN [we’re obliged | to fix]
7 CUE – prompt: homophone of Q [letter “read out”]
8 BLUE FUNK – panic: BLUE FUN [obscene | enjoyment] over K [king]
13 STRIKEBOUND – halted by those out: STRIKE BOUND [to remove | border]
15 PAINTBALL – simulated combat: PAIN [drag] + B [bishop] “into” TALL [unlikely]
16 WHOOSHED – sped noisily: O [something round] in WHO SHED [which person | took off]
18 ST LEGER – fixture for the flat (race): (LEG-REST*) [“is unusual”]
19 WESTIE – dog: reverse of IT’S in WEE [it’s “gathered up by” small]
21 AGLET – A [article] + GET [acquire] around L [“top of” L{ace}], &lit
24 VIM – enthusiasm: V I’M [see | the writer’s]

54 comments on “Times 26,369: Taking A Bath”

  1. Yes, this was a very rewarding solve and I was pleased to finish under the hour, which had looked very unlikely at the 40 minute mark with still nearly half uncompleted, but it suddenly all came together.

    I’m not sure I have seen a reversal incorporating part of the answer to another clue in the Times before, and it strikes me as more the sort of thing I’d expect in the Guardian, which gets a mention elsewhere.

    As for the SHAVING STICK, thanks to Neil I now see that what the setter was getting at but I didn’t feel he was waving it in anyone’s face by quietly pointing it out.

    1. Oh no, I wasn’t implying he was waving it obnoxiously! However I was another of the people who didn’t see that particular penny and needed to be shown it up close.
  2. About 35 mins at the Doctor’s waiting room for a very Good Friday Crossword.

    8dn BLUE FUNK was my FOI & COD.


    I vaguely remember 21dn AGLET being the metal bit at the end of shoe laces which for me are a thing of the past, as are AGLETS!

    1ac WINNOW is a word one hardly comes across these days either.

    horryd Shanghai

  3. A delightful concoction. 44.40. The real McCoy. What a difference a light lashing of original wit makes. (One can imagine a European directive some day trying to measure it all out and banning too much.)
  4. About an hour but DNK AGLET so biffed ALLOT. For once didn’t biff a lot actually. COD to 14a. Also sad to glee that 27a was not a spoonerism.
  5. Toughie indeed, an hour or so with breaks in between to watch cricket and make more coffee. Didn’t know AGLET but got the rest eventually, with a frown for S STICK, another thing I wasn’t familiar with. Gel, foam, cream, brush, yes, but stick?
  6. Over the hour on the odometer and still didn’t know aglet. Spent ages on Westie which was annoying since nephew has one. I still call them scotties.I tried toshave with cream and towel before using a stick.
    1. I must confess I only knew “aglet” in the context of “pointless words that you’ll be amazed to know exist”, in which lists it often features near the top. I don’t think anyone actually ever talks about them!

      Edited at 2016-03-25 10:57 am (UTC)

      1. For me it is one of those words I know only from crosswords, but then can’t quite remember when it appears. It is in the company of a number of lemurs, parrots, and monkeys and a variety of knives and swords. Since I might not get to the bottom, I’ll say nice blog, nice puzzle here
      2. Aglet known, but not from where – probably a trivia list. A word last brought to mind in the 80s or 90s in the movie Cocktail where Tom Cruise is talking about them, calling them: flugelbinders.
        Otherwise difficult but enjoyable. No time as couldn’t finish. Went off, had lunch etc, came back and cleaned up the last 10 or so words.
        Liked St Leger – saw it quickly, but it didn’t fit – I had an E from METRE across the bottom, rather than the R from ODOMETER.
  7. Six years ago, the Good Friday puzzle entered the archives and this one was a worthy successor. I got 21 down wrong (funnily, I was only just polishing my shoes and wondering if I could avoid taking out the laces on the basis that the plastic bits round the top were frayed – they weren’t, but I’d already decided to be lazy and leave them in – now I know what they’re called) and had no clue how 2 down worked till I was on the way to tennis and I suddenly realised. Yes, it’s been an exciting Public Holiday for me…

    Thee ticks and three double ticks, namely, 27a, and 5 and 6 down. If you twisted my arm, I’d have to give it to TAP-IN.

    Thanks setter and the V. (73 minutes)

    Edited at 2016-03-25 11:19 am (UTC)

  8. I suspect Verlaine is right about BISTRO but I got there with either BI=2 or BIS=encore. Now I see that was too convoluted but it was that kind of puzzle. I had a most unfortunate although appropriate typo (corrected on proof thank goodness) in 8d. 30.59 and a Happy Easter to all
  9. As Verlaine says, there was a lot of tricky wordplay that needed unpicking. I agree with most of the examples he’s singled out for special commendation, though I found the anagram fodder in 14 pretty obvious (thankfully, since the answer got me moving again after a hiatus). I’d add 16d for the surface smoothness arising out of a wonderful piece of cryptic engineering. I also liked the whole anagram part of 5a. I knew there was a word, AGLET, but had forgotten the meaning, so hoped for the best with that. Just over 40 minutes by the end.
  10. I meeant to say that I also thought 2 in 11a was BI, but, apart from being an indirect hidden, on reflection I don’t think it would work since it would result in IBSTRO – [(imp)ORTS BI]<. Verlaine’s parsing makes far more sense.
    1. The Times in my experience has a hard and fast rule: A digit eg 2 is a cross-reference to another clue; a written number eg two refers to the number itself not the clue.
      Said rule broken just a few days ago in 26364: the 4C bid in bridge cluing “FORESEE” homophonically.
  11. One of those crosswords where I really didn’t think I would finish it. DNK “aglet” and have probably already forgotten it. Biffing “shitsu” for the pooch did not help but eventually came in at 47 mins. There is much more joy in completing a tricky one than knocking a second off a PB IMHO.
  12. Unsure of the time as while it said 46:27, this included feeding the dog and getting a cup of tea. I agree with those who feel that this is a Deano (or an impersonator) and while I thankfully did not do an Olivia with 8dn, I originally typed in BLUE FILM. My heart sank when I saw the reference to Spooner so a fine d’oh moment and COD.
    1. I was working with ‘dead fink’ – knowing neither that nor the correct version – but prefer Olivia’s, especially having watched Ken Russell’s Music Lovers recently.
  13. Hello. I have not posted much but I always check here after solving to see if I’ve slipped up at all.

    I particularly enjoy M Verlaine’s blogs as although his brain moves several times faster than mine we generally seem to have similar tastes in clues as well as similar views on their quality. I remember being stunned at the brilliance of ‘REARM’ a few weeks back and silently agreeing with his almost speechless admiration of it. I also seem to share his taste in music and was at that very same musical soiree provided by Savages that he mentioned in his blog the other day. I found the enterainment most diverting, particularly the thunderous final number.

    I suppose it would be too much of a coincidence if he turned out to be the anonymous guy I shared a drink with over the road afterwards? But no, it couldn’t be. On his recommendation we drank some evil concoctions called ‘Smokescreens’, not the Guinness that I believe is Verlaine’s favoured intoxicant.

    Never mind. Maybe I’ll bump into him at Wolf Alice on Monday? I will have a red carnation in my buttonhole and a recently completed Times Crossword under my arm.

    1. While I very much enjoyed Wolf Alice at Glastonbury 2015, you can only really count on seeing me at gigs I get to go to through work – so artists signed to 4AD, XL, Rough Trade, Matador, Young Turks… I feel rotten about going to see things tribally rather than based purely on quality, but being “on the list” can get quite addictive :-/
  14. Sorry that got posted twice. Still getting used to using the Captcha thingy.
      1. Oh yes and the handle? A combination of myth and reality. Tried to use Astarte (Phoenician goddess of all things naughty and beloved of crossword solvers everywhere) but it was a ‘mothballed’ account or something like that so I couldn’t have it. So I chose (presumably like her priests of old) to essay a heavenly communion between us, giving rise to the traincrash prodigy progeny (prodginy?), my son, Astartedon, in whom I am well pleased!
  15. Excellent holiday puzzle, too many good clues to single one out but I’d go for WHOOSHED if pressed.

    A swim and breakfast at Cottesloe, nice chewy crossword and an easy win in the T20. No wonder they call it Good Friday.

    Thanks setter and V.

  16. I didn’t finish. I might have eventually figured out “SHAVING-STICK,” though I’m not sure I see how “stick” means “stomach,” but I’d never heard of ST LEGER and, though I’m sure I’ve encountered “flat” for “race” here before, this bit of info was lost in the mists of time (I’m still not sure I get the clue totally: the race track is a “fixture”?). It is often one of the puzzle’s rewards for this American to decipher a previously unknown British expression or discover a facet of UK life, but I was too tired last night to go the extra mile. A delightful puzzle anyway.
    1. The St Leger is a classic horse race (flat i.e. no jumps) for 3 year olds run annually at Doncaster. It was first run in 1776 when no doubt you Americans had your mind on other weightier matters!
      1. Yeah, thanks, but I looked it up already. Can you sharpen my appreciation of the “fixture” part?
            1. Thanks for the clarification, K. I must admit I tend to think of fixtures only in relation to football and rugby etc. but I can see that a horse race also matches the definition of fixture as “a sporting event on a particular date”.
              1. Yes, me too, and the dictionary definitions don’t mention racing specifically. But it’s clear from a quick google that it’s widely used for the gee-gees as well as other sports.
    2. STICK UK informal to ​bear or ​accept something or someone ​unpleasant
      (i.e., “stomach”)
      I’ve probably come across this here before too.
      I invite anyone here to check out The Nation’s (bi)weekly crossword by Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto (which I edit) and tell me what you think (sandy at thenation dot com). It’s currently free online (if you don’t read six other articles first).

      Edited at 2016-03-25 03:55 pm (UTC)

  17. 19m. Brilliant, incredibly rewarding puzzle, with loads of clues that required serious grappling with the wordplay.
    I had absolutely no idea what a SHAVING STICK was: it certainly didn’t sound like something you’d wear but it just had to be.
    Thanks very much indeed, setter, whoever you are.
  18. Took an hour to complete this one. As has been said already, some very clever clueing which took a lot of unpicking! I was happy with the parsing apart from BISTRO which I sort of understood, but wasn’t convinced of by the partial reference to another clue. Not that the answer could be anything else. FOI CUE, LOI WHOOSHING. Knew aglet, so no problem there. Too many good clues to pick one out, but I did like BANSHEE.
  19. Wonderful crossword. Didn’t know AGLET but got it anyway. Never heard of a shaving stick (I’ve had a beard for 40 years so shaving equipment is not my thing). I kept getting stuck for 5 minutes and then a penny would drop and I’d be off for a few more clues. No time since I took a break to cook dinner and then take the crossword up again while I ate.

    SHOVEL was obvious although you don’t really dig with a shovel.

    1. I do recall having used a shaving stick once back in the mists of time, but it seems a bit elaborate in these days of shaving gel and disposable razors. Mind you if I was looking for people likely to eschew the convenient trappings of the modern age in favour of elaborate pseudo-Victorian ritual, the habitues of the Times Crossword Club would be my first port of call.
  20. This one was right up my alley – loved it! Took an age but well worth the time and cursing as it eventually all fell into place. LOI Bistro – thanks for unravelling that one V. as I had no idea what was going on – the serendipitous fact that Bistro is an anagram of Orbits (with revolving also being in the clue) was enough for me to slap it in, albeit this seemed to defy any usual clue construction convention!

    Personal favourite was the wonderfully misleading (and imaginative) 27a. Thanks to setter and to Verlaine.

  21. All praise to the setter and to V today. Nothing to add as I thought this a joy of a puzzle with 27a my COD because I cursed at the spooner hint, was stuck until I read the clue closely and then chuckled as the penny dropped. But lots of other clues to savour.
  22. Traditional stock market advice is: “Sell in May and go away. Don’t come back until St. Leger day”. I believe the St Leger is the last classic horse race of the year in September.

    1. It is indeed the last of the UK Classic races of the year and the oldest one, predating the Derby, Oaks and the Thousand and two Thousand Guineas
  23. After yesterday’s triumph, solving the puzzle without aids, I decided to give this the once-over. Nothing occurred to me at all during an admittedly very busy return journey on the underground. Perhaps I should blame the tourists.
    I shall retreat back to QC land for further training. David
  24. Well, I’ve just about made a clean sweep of this week – failed on every one, including this one. I have no seaworthy excuse for not getting STRIKEBOUND, but I do have one for not getting SHAVING STICK – I have never heard of it. I did wonder if there was such a thing as a shaving shirt (there isn’t), or possibly a shaving shift (there isn’t one of those either, as it happens), but neither of those would have parsed anyway.
  25. Good grief! What an amazing puzzle. I’m very surprised I finished it at all, even if it took an hour and a half. PRENUP was my LOI (it didn’t make sense until I read it with the right pronunciation) and there was a spate of unknowns: FOURBALL, the Adler in LADLER, AGLET, ST LEGER (I thought it might be some strange kind of furniture or a device for repairing tyres, but a horse race?), WESTIE … and all sorts of amazing clues. TABLET was just biffed as I could make no sense of the wordplay. Wonderful.
  26. 16:16 here for this Championship-grade puzzle – a delight from start to finish.

    I got off to a good start with WINNOW and BATHCUBE going straight in, and had the top half finished reasonably quickly, but the bottom half gave me a much harder time.

    I remember coming across AGLET many years ago (probably half a century at least), so no problem there. In fact the only unfamiliar word was WESTIE; however, the wordplay and the similarity to YORKIE left me pretty confident that I had the right answer

    I thought of SHAVING-STICK early on, but only bunged it in once I had all the checked letters in place and finally twigged the subtle use of “wear”.

    I join others in raising my hat to the setter.

  27. Not much to add to the plaudits above. DNK shaving stick and still have no idea what a bath cube is, didn’t twig the fan part of winnow, but the cluing was so tight the DKs weren’t stoppers. I also back Verlaine up regarding appropriate mental prep: I did the top half relatively quickly after coming home with a couple of well-placed pints; then struggled with the bottom half in the morning with coffee in the stick. I mean stomach.

    Edited at 2016-03-26 01:08 am (UTC)

  28. A day late with my comments because I wasn’t able to access LiveJournal for over 24 hours for some strange reason. To keep it short I echo V’s comments and I came home in a knock-free 21 mins thanks to the bank holiday.

    Edited at 2016-03-26 06:34 pm (UTC)

  29. Can’t agree about the setter’s brilliance. The clues may have been painfully difficult, but we also found them painfully inelegant: a dogged piecing together of bits of unrelated (and often forced) meaning from all over the dictionary. I know that’s basically what a crossword clue is, but where was the wit?

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