Times 26404: people, places and things!

Solving time : 22:30, which has me first on the club timer, though it is early days. I struggled mightily with this one and was on the verge of looking up a few of the less likely-looking answers when a flash of inspiration got me past the last hurdle. There is a lot going on here – some unusual phrases, crafty definitions, and tricky wordplay. In one place the wordplay was so tricky it left me hanging on three obviously incorrect answers.

My fear from yesterday that I’d run into unfamiliar place names that crossed each other nearly came true – the unfamiliar place names do not intersect

Despite a number of W’s, X’s and Y’s it isn’t a pangram, just a puzzle with plenty of W’s, X’s and Y’s

Took me a while to write this up, and I see there is a 12ish minute time, but I’m still in second. Let’s dub this difficult.

Away we go…

1 WHAT NEXT: anagram of WHEN,TAX followed by (Augus)T
5 ON HOLD: H inside ON(our cricket term #1 for the day), OLD(used)
8 TRADECRAFT: TRADE winds then CRAFT(boat)
9 NOAH: A in NOH(drama) – a host of “couples of animals”
11 DIDDLED: “had” is the definition – the string of diamonds is D,D,D with I inside (wearing), then LED(supervised)
13 SKIPTON: SKIP is the bypass, then (NOT)*. I’ve been through here, when friends from Leeds took me hiking in the Dales in 2011
15 HAYSEED: AY’S(those for) inside (broadening) HEED(mind)
21 WHISPERING DOME: I originally thought this was a cryptic definition, and wrote in WHISPERING WALL, which became DOOR, then GATE, then I realised it was an anagram of WHERE,IMPOSING containing (soun)D
22 PROD: remove the U from PROUD(vain)
23 NEEDLE TIME: NEEDLE(wind up) then EMIT(broadcast) reversed – definition is “allowance for its music” – the near silence where you’d hear a needle in a groove before a vinyl track starts. If you’re a morning DJ you could get in a weather and traffic forecast and a silly noise. Edit: a few people in comments (backed up by Chambers) are telling me the definition is the amount of radio time allocated to music. I went by with what I could remember from my time with a long-gone radio station in Melbourne, Southern FM, in 1989 and 1990. Memory may not be what it used to be
24 STAYER: STAR(lead) covering YE
25 BE MOTHER: very crafty clue – definition is pour (usually tea), and the wordplay is BEER surrounding MOTH. Spent a while dreaming up 2,6 insects, like MR BEETLE and MY TSETSE
1 WATFORD: DRAW(attraction) containing OFT, all reversed. Not ringing a bell – on my first trip to the UK, in 2007, I stayed with friends in Luton, but I don’t recall it being on the train line in to London
2 A RAINY DAY: double definition – something you save for
3 NEEDFUL: anagram of END FUEL
4 XEROXED: hidden reversed (from floor) in inDEX OR EXcerpts
6 HENCOOP: HOOP(ring) surrounding ENC
7 LEAVE GO: LEAVE(holiday) and GO(work)
12 EYE OPENER: EYE sounds like I which is INDIA in the NATO alphabet, the rest is cricket term #2 in OPENER
14 TOMBOYISH: TOMB(grave) then an anagram of SHY,I,0(nothing)
16 AT WORST: A, TWO and the consecutive letters are RST
17 SPIN DRY: IN(hip), DR in SPY
18 DWINDLE: “tail off” is the definition – WIND(snake) and L in DE(n)
19 EL GRECO: alternating letters in tEaL, then GR(Grey), and ECO(green)
20 ROE DEER: sounds like ROW DEAR

55 comments on “Times 26404: people, places and things!”

  1. Entertaining puzzle done slightly over the half hour; so not exactly easy. I like some clever definitions like the ark builder and the pourer of tea. Thank you, George and the anonymous setter.
  2. 2d in two days. I actually thought of DWINDLE, couldn’t make it work–I was stuck thinking that ‘tail off’ meant deleting the final letter of something I never came up with. But I never would have come up with NEEDLE TIME in any case, a term I’ve never come across. Oh, well, as I believe I may have been inspired to say before.
  3. First in ages. Couldn’t get to NEEDLE TIME or DWINDLE. Never heard of the former even though I once spun a lot of vinyl on radio. Must try harder.
  4. An ingenious puzzle delayed by seeing several answers immediately but not writing them in because I couldn’t make the wordplay fit, notably HAYSEED, EL GRECO, and WATFORD.

    In the case of HAYSEED I never got near the wordplay probably because AYS (plural) meaning “those for” does not exist. In that context it’s spelt “ayes”

    Enjoyed NOAH and BE MOTHER

    Edited at 2016-05-05 04:38 am (UTC)

    1. With you on “ays” Jack. I’ve only ever seen “the ayes have it” which as a phrase is in Chambers.
      1. Yes,Jim, that was one of the sayings I checked before sounding off. Googling “the ays have it” redirects immediately to “ayes”. If you then insist on seeing the results for “the ays have it” it brings up only a rag- bag of references, translation dictionaries and odds-and-sods of no consequence, no authoritative source. The OED has “aye” and “ay” generally as alternatives but in the plural and in the context of a group of people approving something the only examples are spelt “ayes”.

        Edited at 2016-05-05 09:35 am (UTC)

    2. Interestingly, a quick search reveals that one of our counterparts at fifteensquared used the expression (not the setter, note) a couple of years ago:

      13 Horribly rude about the Yes vote — regret it happened


      The setter is asking you to put THE in (RUDE)* and follow it with AY. ‘The Ays have it.’ Will the Ays have it in Scotland next month? Doubtful

  5. Great stuff, which I persevered with and was rewarded by an all-correct in 95 minutes. My alma mater Haileybury has a dining hall with a fine whispering dome. Favourites today were BE MOTHER (always slow onto it whenever it occurs) and TOMBOYISH.

    ODO has an undifferentiated ‘aye (also ay)’, so maybe that is the setter’s out. Anyway, a tip of the hat to him or her.

  6. Looks like an excellent time, George – I took half as long again, and never really got going until I conceded that 8ac didn’t end in -SHIP: and then I remembered my Le Carré. After that, everything rather fell into place. BE MOTHER the best of many penny droppers.
  7. 22:30 for me on the train this morning. According to Chambers, NEEDLE TIME is the amount of time allocated to music on a radio station.
    1. Yes, that’s what I had in mind too, but I think it may have been more precise in the days when musicians unions held sway at the BBC. They could broadcast music all day if they wished but only a proportion of it could be commercially produced records and that was called “needle time”. The remainder of the music output had to be performed in the studio either live or at a special BBC recording sessions. IIRC, SATURDAY CLUB hosted by Brian Matthew was one of the programmes that had a large “live” input whereas PICK OF THE POPS would be all commercial recordings. I’m not an expert, but I think that was the general idea of it.

      Edited at 2016-05-05 09:53 am (UTC)

      1. Interesting – I used the definition I vaguely remember from a stint in radio in the late 80s, where we would avoid the dead air in front of records by taping them to reel-to-reel and snipping. I used to have fun making my own censored versions of promo records with dirty words, or records I just wanted a lot shorter.
        1. It’s odd that after all the discussion it seems that nobody (including myself) thought to look on wiki:


          I’m pleased to see this bears out what I dragged up from memories of 40+ years ago so the old brain still functions on occasion.

  8. A bit of a struggle this one, most of it very entertaining and a good challenge. Derived NEEDLE TIME and looked it up in Chambers having never heard of it. Like others thought both TOMBOYISH and BE MOTHER very good

    More town names I note – we seem to have a veritable plethora at the moment. At least I’ve been to these two. What I wonder will tomorrow bring – how about Piddlehinton?

  9. A nicely knotty exercise done at leisure at home. Liked NOAH and BE MOTHER. HAYSEED last in after finally parsing it, and NEEDLE TIME went in on wordplay and confirmation in Chambers.
  10. Enjoyed this, some quite devious clues such as 19dn.
    Agree with Andy re needle time def.
    George, Watford is best known as a northern outpost of london, and londoners sometimes dismiss the rest of the country as “everywhere north of Watford” or similar.
    1. I believe the ‘north of Watford’ thing arises from a confusion with the Watford Gap, which is much further north than that Watford and is a long-established connecting (and hence dividing) point between the Midlands and South of England, lying as it does on low ground between two hills. So there was always a logic to ‘north of the Watford Gap’.

      Edited at 2016-05-05 09:43 am (UTC)

      1. I was born and lived about 5 miles south of Watford for the first 35 years of my life and we knew exactly what we meant by “north of Watford”! 🙂
        1. I lived in Hatfield for a while when I was a kid, so I’m also well aware of where Watford is! But when people use ‘north of Watford’ to indicate the North it is (in my experience) always ironic, and if you’re going to pick somewhere not very far north as a humorous dividing point between the North and South there’s no reason to pick Watford over, say, St Albans. So the ‘Watford Gap’ derivation has always seemed feasible to me. Mind you when it comes to the origin of words and expressions the most feasible-looking explanation is usually wrong!

          Edited at 2016-05-05 10:07 am (UTC)

          1. I remember hearing “north of Watford Gap” as much as if not more than “Watford”, back in the day when I lived in England and was schooled not a million miles from Elton John’s place. It rather depends I imagine on one’s familiarity with the service station on the M1.
            1. Perhaps, but the Watford Gap has been a waypoint on the route from North to South (and vice versa) since long before the M1 existed.
          2. This is probably apocryphal, but I understood that the big guns on the bow of HMS Belfast are elevated in such a way that, if fired, the shells would land in the car park of the Watford Gap service station on the M1.

            “Oh come ye friendly bombs and rain on …”

            1. I thought that was Scratchwood. Bloody good guns if they reach Watford Gap. The north starts at Crewe. I thought everyone knew that. Stoke’s in the south. Although I did like the gag of the sign at Watford Gap, “No salads beyond this point.”
          3. Watford serves perfectly as the dividing line as long as one is living south of it. No need to extend the boundary unless living to the north. When I moved to South Beds the boundary moved to Milton Keynes.
            1. Well of course, and I think of people who live in Shepherd’s Bush as Northerners! The point is that using Watford like this is obviously silly, whereas Watford Gap is a point with a reasonable topographical claim to being a dividing point.
      2. When I lived in Yorkshire, the south was “south of Leeds”; when I moved to London, the north was “north of Barnet”.
        1. I’m starting to think this is all just nonsense that I have somehow imagined.
          Why Watford, though? Why do people in London always say ‘north of Watford, ho ho’ and never (say) ‘north of Luton, ho ho’?
          I guess I will never know.
          1. I’m with you James, I’ve always understood “North of Watford” to be a corruption of the more logical “North of Watford Gap”.

            As someone born in Hampshire, raised in Kent but living most of my adult life in Lancashire and Yorkshire I should be some kind of authority on the North/South divide, but I’m not.

            1. Thanks. It’s one of those things I’ve ‘known’ for ages but I’ve no idea where from and so was genuinely starting to think I might have made it up!
  11. About an hour, but a technical DNF, as I couldn’t decide between HAYSEED and mayseed (whatever that might be…). Really enjoyed this one, some crafty definitions (a host of couples, pour, tail off) giving rise to many satisfying pdms!
  12. Flying this morning, after collecting paper myself when delivery failed. 21’30”, so must have been keen. Couldn’t parse HAYSEED though. COD 25ac, really good. Coming from South London (sarf lunnon), Watford not in consciousness at all. North was anything ‘over the water’.
  13. 22m. What a cracking puzzle. Full of tricky clues (too many to mention in fact), but all tricky by dint of cunning rather than obscurity. NEEDLE TIME a possible exception, but the wordplay was fair.
    I wondered about AY, rather than AYE, but all the usual dictionaries have it as an alternate spelling for AYE. The Chambers entry is:

    1. (In parliamentary use and generally aye) a vote in the affirmative
    2. A person who votes in the affirmative

    I take the fact that AYE is not specified as indicating that Chambers recognises AY for the second meaning, which for me gets the setter off the hook.
    Brilliant stuff, thanks setter.

    Edited at 2016-05-05 09:42 am (UTC)

      1. Collins likewise. I cited Chambers just because it confirms that it’s always AYE in parliamentary usage (as in “the ayes have it”, discussed above) but that in other contexts it can be AY.
        1. As a linguist, I’m typically (always?) wary of the word ‘always’, especially when it’s not actually there in the dictionary. In a recent performance of The Creation I did with the HK Phil, the mandated pronunciation of ‘aye’ kept changing, much to everyone’s amusement/bemusement. No wonder other versions replace ‘His praise shall last for aye’ with ‘His praise shall last for ever’.
          1. Fair point: in matters of language nothing is ‘always’ anything. Other than Simon Heffer, who is always wrong.
    1. I’d have said that NEEDLE TIDE, which I very nearly put, can also be justified from the “fair” wordplay on the basis that an EDIT as a noun could be a broadcast.
      1. Sort of, although EDIT for ‘broadcast’ is pretty oblique so if I’d thought of it (which I didn’t) I think I’d have tried to find something better.
  14. Biffed NOAH from couples. not knowing NOH. Didn”t know HAYSEED could be an unsophisticated rustic, being a bit of one myself but got it from the cryptic. Difficult anagrams today apart from NEEEDFUL.That was enough to get going. About three quarters of an enjoyable hour in a sunny garden, helped by our border collie, who wasn’t happy at being called a HAYSEED either.
  15. Excellent crossword, with lots to enjoy. However, DNF as I failed on my LOI where I entered NAAN instead of NOAH, partially parsed as follows: Definition HOST as in bread, pairs of letters (2 x A and 2 x N). Alright, the act in drama didn’t get a look in, but otherwise, and in my desperation to finish, it looked OK. I simply must remember that NOH is a Japanese drama – it catches me out every time.
  16. 24:13, slowed somewhat by somehow transcribing WHISPERING DOME as WHISPERING DOWN.

    The week after next I’ll be off to see HAYSEED DIXIE, the brilliant band whose specialty is bluegrass covers of classic rock songs, including many by AC/DC, hence the clever name.

    Enjoyable puzzle with Noah a particular highlight.

  17. Great puzzle, thanks setter and George.

    You’re all Northerners as far as I’m concerned.

  18. I found this very difficult and felt lucky to finish. Liked the clever definitions for NOAH and BE MOTHER. I always thought NEEDLE TIME was the amount of a radio show allocated to music. 48 minutes. Ann
  19. 53:18. A good puzzle, which I had to chip away at in several goes. LOI HAYSEED, which I knew from Hayseed Dixie as mentioned by Penfold. I thought there had been a review of them in The Times this week but now I see it was the Dixie Chicks. Definite opportunity for a ‘supergroup’ there.
  20. No time as I had to stand on a ladder while someone fixed our errant burglar alarm which has been making a noise like a rampant bullfrog at random intervals for a while now. I estimate around 45 mins. Biffed “hayseed” and “prod” and then spent ages on “dwindle” and “needle time” until the penny dropped. I have been to both Watford and Skipton – of which the latter is even nicer than Bridlington. Being a Yorkshireman I always thought the South began at Sheffield.
  21. No time for this one as I did it in a number of sessions over the day due to various commitments. I found this quite difficult although I did manage to parse all the answers as I went, including NEEDLE TIME which I hadn’t heard before. Had a laugh when I saw NOAH. The SW held me up for the longest, but I got there eventually. However I spoiled it all by not looking carefully enough at 7d, biffing a careless LEAVE TO. Doh! FOI WATFORD, LOI DIDDLED,(and no GAPS :-)) Was held up for a while with WHISPERING DOME as I’d biffed RED DEER for 20d until I read it more carefully.
  22. 1AC and 1D – surely the setter’s comment on Leicester City’s triumph as Premiership winners.
    1. Nice spot! But I’m hoping Tottenham next year rather than Watford. That’s if we can get back to playing football instead of fighting the opposition.
  23. A knock-free 28 mins so definitely on the tricky side for me. I agree that there was some ingenious cluing and there were some crafty definitions, so a definite tip of the hat to the setter. After I finally got TOMBOYISH NEEDLE TIME was my LOI when I finally saw the wordplay. Despite getting WHAT NEXT/XEROXED/NEEDFUL and OF NO FIXED ABODE relatively quickly I struggled with the rest of the NW quadrant as well. On the flipside I saw OUTBACKER quite quickly and thought that it would have been a virtual write-in for our antipodean contributors. I was also surprised not to see Jimbo complain about SKIPTON after yesterday.
  24. failed. I realized BE MOTHER was going to be pour, but I was looking for a phrase like raining stairrods. I also got TOMB but then decided no word could start that way. So DNF after about 30mins for the rest
  25. Just under 30 mins, but a chewy puzzle so thanks setter and thanks blogger.
    Like many, I enjoyed NOAH and BE MOTHER.

    Edited at 2016-05-05 09:22 pm (UTC)

  26. Sorry to be so late today. They expect me to work around here. Apparently the setter does too, because this wasn’t easy at all. Took most of an hour, finally ending with DWINDLE (clever) after following wordplay only for NEEDLE TIME. Like others, I had to look NEEDLE TIME up to see if it existed, and had anything to do with the definition. New knowledge today, and quite a workout along the way. Oh, I forgot, BE MOTHER was from wordplay only also, after I finally identified some ale and an insect that would fit and spell something. Odd, that. Regards.

    Edited at 2016-05-05 09:31 pm (UTC)

  27. 16:10 for me – but I’m relieved it wasn’t worse considering how tired I’m feeling.

    It’s a good week for places in Yorkshire. SKIPTON is familiar enough as I used to live about 12 miles away in Ben Rhydding (just on the other side of Ilkley).

    With the checked A, Y and E in place, I thought of HAYSEED at my first read-through of 18ac, but I couldn’t make out the wordplay then or later, so I eventually biffed it as my LOI. My first thought for 23ac (given the I and E of the second word) was NEEDLE LIFE, but the wordplay pointed me at NEEDLE TIME, which felt familiar enough once I’d thought of it. WHISPERING DOME was new to me but sounded plausible enough given the Whispering Gallery of St Paul’s.

    Another very fine puzzle. My compliments to the setter.

  28. I appear to be 48 hours late arriving here but, having hacked my way through this one, I’m not going to let that deter me.

    This one took me just under an hour, and looking back at it I can’t see why. I think parts of my brain may have shut down in the warm weather to avoid overheating. LOI was TOMBOYISH – for some reason the parsing just refused to crystallize and I ended up wondering what on earth “tombo” meant.

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