Times 26,405: A Word In Your Cochlea

It might have had its thunder stolen somewhat by yesterday’s fabulous (and fabulously hard) puzzle, but I thought this was a really good crossword with some very ingenious cluing. I only managed a par time of 13 minutes something, finishing in the SE corner where the exceptionally complex wordplay of 21dn kept me too nervous to put in the obvious answer for ages; this combined with 26ac hiding in plain sight practically forever meant that 24ac was my LOI. I’d wanted it to be PLEURISY from an early stage, and my brain just wouldn’t negotiate with the continuously increasing evidence that it might be wrong, like Ken Livingstone or something.

Like I said, some very high quality clues on offer today. Casting a quick glance back over their number this morning 4dn is very sweet, and I very much liked the misdirections of 17ac while I was wrestling with them as I recall; 12ac and 13dn have fun definition parts… and I adored the Roald Dahl-esque horribleness of 25ac’s surface… oh, 7dn has a very nice surface too. One of those puzzles that I could keep on pointing out fun things from for several paragraphs I’m pretty sure. Great surfaces, some requirement of the solver to have more erudition than is strictly required for day-to-day business in the 21st century (20ac/16dn), clues that attempt to defeat my simple notation scheme by being slightly out of the box – these are all the links a verlaine likes best. So big round of applause to the setter from me!


1 Missing target of small border on left of paper (8)
SLIPPAGE – S LIP [small | border] on left of PAGE [paper]
5 Hold on a bit, excited (6)
OBTAIN – (ON A BIT*) [“excited”]
8 Fitting water-regulator with time-delay? (3)
APT – (T->->)AP [water-regulator, with the T for time “delayed” till the the end of the word]
9 Offer a possible job for an underwater boat (10)
SUBMISSION – a job for an underwater boat could be a SUB MISSION
10 Civil offence by university radical in great distress (8)
TORTURED TORT [civil offence] by U RED [university | radical]
11 Books penned by English elegist demanding attention (6)
GRABBY – B B [books] penned by GRAY [English elegist]
12 Fight’s lost at workers’ food-store (4)
COMB – COMB{at} [fight’s “lost at”] – the workers storing food are course bees
14 Shooter overwhelms sober medical technician (5-5)
FIRST-AIDER – FIRER [shooter] overwhelms STAID [sober]
17 Score piano and hollow block for quick notes (7,3)
SCRATCH PAD – SCRATCH P [score | piano] + A{n}D [and, “hollow”]
20 Beef heart stolen from buccaneer (4)
MOAN– MO{rg}AN [“heart stolen from” buccaneer]
23 Current events sidelining hospital doctor who recorded investigations (6)
WATSON – W{h}AT’S ON [current events “sidelining (H for) hospital”]
24 Illness’s antidote finally put into shot in confusion (8)
FLUSTERY – FLU’S [illness’s] + {antidot}E […”finally”] put into TRY [shot]
25 Eggs and parasites covering rotten US executive’s seat (4,6)
OVAL OFFICE – OVA + LICE [eggs and parasites] covering OFF [rotten]
26 The vessel almost took off (3)
SHE – SHE{d} [“almost” took off]
27 Negotiate with decreasing funds? (6)
BROKER – with decreasing funds, i.e. more broke
28 Scheme replacing aim in French declaration of love for Concorde, say (3,5)


1 To practise fighting, cuts a worried gladiator (9)
SPARTACUS – SPAR [to practise fighting] + (CUTS A*) [“worried”]
2 Fit and well-kept, full of energy for acting (7)
INTERIM – IN TRIM [fit and well-kept] full of E [energy]
3 Someone trying to impress regrets surgery after uplift (6)
POSEUR – reverse [“after uplift”] of RUES OP [regrets surgery]
4 Husband and father, born great, overthrown? There’s no sense in it (9)
GIBBERISH – reverse [“overthrown”] of H + SIRE B BIG [husband (and) father | born | great]
5 Dynamic hosting whenever target is viewed (2,5)
ON SIGHT (HOSTING*) [“dynamic”]
6 Border possibly limiting island’s loyalty (9)
TRIBALISM – TRIM [border possibly] limiting BALI’S [island’s]
7 Low, reverberating sound of bell that priest holds up (7)
IGNOBLE – BONG in ELI [bell that priest holds] reversed [“up”]
13 Requirements for coffee, gossip and access to gigantic home? (9)
BEANSTALK – BEANS TALK [requirements for coffee | gossip]
15 Very slow, slinky creature trapping sick one (5-4)
SNAIL-LIKE – SNAKE [slinky creature] trapping ILL I [sick | one]
16 Fled before enemy’d sacked treaty site (9)
RUNNYMEDE – RUN [fled] before (ENEMY’D*) [“sacked”]
18 Extremists in civil partnership in secret, for crying out loud! (7)
CLAMOUR – C{ivi}L [“extremists in…] + AMOUR [partnership in secret]
19 Outline argument against travel (7)
CONTOUR – CON [argument against] TOUR [travel]
21 Endless ocean having restricted places for carbon? (4,3)
OPEN SEA – O{c->PENS}EA{n}. Take “ocean”, make it endless (OCEA), replace the C for carbon with a word for restricted places, ending up with some kind of &lit.
22 Poisoner catches American general napping (6)
ASLEEP – ASP [poisoner] catches LEE [American general]

49 comments on “Times 26,405: A Word In Your Cochlea”

  1. What a great puzzle as V so eloquently puts it. My fave: 23a. Oh, and 15a. And 25a and 13d and…
    I wasn’t sure about TRIM=border unless said with a Yorkshire accent T’RIM, but, hey, I’ll go with it.
    Thanks V for 21a – an obvious answer but the parsing had me flummoxed.
    1. I think it’s fine in decorative contexts, e.g. an oak frame with gold trim.
          1. Oh yes, wasn’t trying to gainsay you, just to contribute a corroborating example. I’d personally wear a fur-trimmed cape but not a gold-trimmed oak frame though.

  2. Was determined to finish this one, and did so after about 45mins, with only a couple part-parsed: COMB (loi) from def, and MOAN from MO (hic) AN. Is a mohican even a buccaneer ? And I paid careful attention to wp in 1dn, so managed to spell SPARTACUS correctly this time. Was held up by writing in SNAIL pace for a bit (ace=one, right?). Took an age to realise OBTAIN was an anagram… Good puzzle, good blog, thanks V!
    1. Oh I saw immediately that it was an anagram. Sadly I saw it as an anagram for OATBIN, assuming it was one of those quaint British words meaning somewhere you keep things, or a “hold”. Very embarrassing. Please don’t tell the others.
        1. And just to be clear, you keep valuables in a safe, not oats or other cereal grains.
      1. And one reason why OBTAIN didn’t click is, I think, because the meaning of “hold” (to retain something you already have) is rather different from “obtain” (to acquire something you don’t already have). Not a great clue, imho.
        1. As much as I appreciate the bail-out, don’t forget the other meaning of obtain, as in “that rule doesn’t obtain in this instance”. For this definition, “hold” is a totally acceptable synonym.
          1. Yep, it’s very much that meaning of OBTAIN that is being looked for here. No need to worry about fine distinctions between “to have” and “to hold”.
  3. I didn’t find this unreasonably difficult or obscure though some uncommon terms such as GRABBY and FLUSTERY. Held up for too long by FIRST AIDER trying to get ‘TT’ in for ‘sober’. Many excellent clues of which my favourites were OVAL OFFICE, IGNOBLE and WATSON, but my COD was the humble three letter SHE.

    Thanks to setter and blogger.

  4. of which the last 8′ were spent agonizing over 24ac; where I’d decided that ‘Illness’ was the definition and tried for the longest time to come up with a disease that would fit, which meant endless playing with the alphabet until finally the light dawned. Took a while to remember Morgan, too. Anyway, a wonderful puzzle, with not a meh clue to be found.
  5. Really nice puzzle today, particularly liked 21d, and the two uses of different ‘trim’ in 2d and 6d. Also tried to get TT in 14ac, despite having an up-to-date FAAW certificate. A 39’ dnf, stared at 23 ac for ages, but a great experience.
  6. Time doubled to 38 and some by the SE corner, a few of the clues. The penny has only just dropped for me on SHE, which I now assume alludes to the fact that all ships are shes, and not to the (extremely old) allusion to the “weaker” vessel – heaven forfend. And it’s not Ayesha, either, is it. I had to do an alphabet run on that…
    OPEN SEA was likewise unparsed, but post solve thought rather a clever &lit – too clever for my early morning state of mind.
    Again, my knowledge of arcane musical terms let me down for 15, mostly because it was not needed. For no reason I could think of, I actually refused to accept slinky creature with snake, thinking more weasels and stoats and such. None of them like it when you push them downstairs, mind.
    Another fine crossword.
  7. Very hard work but enjoyable. Needed aids in a few places after an hour had passed.
  8. ..at 24ac I couldn’t find FLUSTERY in the dictionary, so put BLUSTERY on the basis of BLUES being an illness with the E moved in to TRY. Well it worked for me….
  9. BIffed SNAIL PACE too quickly and needed the OVAL OFFICE to put me right. Eventually sae FLUSTERY and thought it must be GRABBY. Took a full hour.
    1. You will know of course that not once did Conan Doyle make Sherlock say ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’
      1. Yes, I know, but I can never resist a weak pun. “Not exactly, my dear Watson,” wouldn’t even have been weak.
        1. From The Strange Case of The End Of Civilisation As We Know It:
          Watson is reading our crossword clues for Holmes…
          Watson: 1 Across. A simple source of citrus fruit, 1, 5, 4.
          Holmes: A lemon tree, my dear Watson.

          Watson: 2 Down. Conservative pays ex-wife maintenance. 7, 5.
          Holmes: Alimony…alimony Tory, my dear Watson.

          Watson: 2 Down. Southern California style. 1, 2, 8.
          Holmes: A la Monterrey, my dear Watson.

          Watson: 4 Down. Burglar’s entrance
          Holmes: Alarm entry, my dear Watson

          Watson: That’s rather poor, isn’t it, Holmes? Right. One to go. A cowardly fish with a sting in its tail.
          Holmes: Yellow manta ray, my dear Watson
          Watson: Brilliant, Holmes

          1. Watson: the description of the internal channel from mouth to bum?
            Holmes : Alimentary my dear Watson
          2. I thought “Burglar’s entrance” should have been “Felon Entry”
            I remember reading this several decades ago and, sadly, have since lost my dog-eared copy


  10. 24:36. A fine crossword. The last time WATSON came up it was my LOI and I stared at it for many minutes. Quicker today as it should be, given that it is my name. All parsed apart from OPEN SEA so thanks V (and setter)
  11. I just didn’t get anywhere near 24ac. I couldn’t make head or tail of the wordplay, and my alphabet trawls never registered the possibility that FLUSTERY might be a word. It all seems so obvious now, of course.
    Great puzzle, though, full of really neat stuff. 26ac had me bamboozled for ages until the penny finally dropped. APT, the other three-letter clue, was also an absolute corker I thought.

    Edited at 2016-05-06 01:32 pm (UTC)

  12. My comment on the clue site – “24 is rather cunning…” – has proven rather prescient. Tremendous stuff – SHE has to be my favourite. Ingenious. 37 minutes.
  13. 22 min – but having seen TT=’sober’ in 14ac, biffed in FIRST-TIMER even though it doesn’t parse & then failed to think of anything else that would fit.
    Couldn’t parse 6dn either, trying for ‘island’= I or IS
  14. I agree, a fine puzzle. Managed it in 9m 29s, with no idea how TRIBALISM worked – I’m so used to island = i that I didn’t even think of looking for examples. Fortunately the checking letters didn’t leave a lot of choice.
  15. Great puzzle, the envelope just about holding, though not quite sure about the tribalism def. Couldn’t see the ‘she’ def. or the ‘open sea’ parsing(the first not till halfway through the comments here) so a laboured finish in 53′. Turned to the academic treatise but couldn’t face it. I hope it deals, however dryly, with the wit ingredient in a good puzzle as here. Probably something, in its own Times way, of a national characteristic. (That’ll put the catta among the columbidae.)
  16. …with a mistake that I don’t want to talk about.

    Agree with others that this was a cracker. It was very much a negative split for me, with the grid still very sparsely populated after twenty minutes.

    Enjoyed BROKER, WATSON, COMB and SHE, but they were all good.

    Thanks setter and V.

  17. Top puzzle with some very devious definitions. Like phmfantom I got stuck on TT for sober and couldn’t see past it which meant I also ended up with FIRST TIMER. So often with hindsight I wonder why I get such tunnel vision. Anyhow, I was happy enough to have cracked the rest of it.
  18. Correctly completed, but it took me an hour to do. Failed to spot the anagram in 5d, so biffed it from definition, and like Janie, derived MOAN from Mohican with a shrug. Took me an age to untangle the anagram at 5ac, but that enabled me to get 6d and 7d. SE was the last to fall. FOI APT followed by the eponymous gladiator. LOI FLUSTERY. Thanks to V for the entertaining and enlightening blog, as usual, and thanks to the setter for an excellent puzzle. Too many good clues to single any out, but I was tickled by the gigantic residence and the inverted priest with his bong 🙂
  19. Hard work and well worth the effort. Too many good clues to worry about a COD but I like OVAL OFFICE’s graphic imagery. Don’t usually think of a FIRST-AIDER as a technician, more an emergency helper.
  20. I found this hard work. I did persevere, but after a long haul yesterday I wasn’t really in the mood for another marathon. An hour, with occasional breaks to mist the orchids, wash the dishes and give the brain a rest. Lots of good clues, but many indirect and cryptic definers made it a tough one to crack. IGNOBLE was my LOI. Somehow I managed to make a meal of an easy one like 5a, so even that was one of my last entries.
  21. 14:31 which suggests I was on the right wavelength from the start. Only oval office was biffed suggesting that this was a well-crafted puzzle. Which it most certainly was of course. Thanks all round.
  22. About 25 minutes, ending, for some reason, with OBTAIN, which I had simply failed to see until then. The SE corner was the most fiendish area today. But surfaces were quite good throughout. It hadn’t struck me that today’s puzzle was much different than usual until reading comments; I looked back and I’m happy to agree that it is very well done. In retrospect, 5D is wonderfully written – others too. So is the blog. Thanks to the setter and Verlaine, and regards.
  23. I didn’t begin to time this one because I knew I’d have at least one disturbance, as it happened I had two, and I haven’t got a clue how long each session lasted. I echo the praise for a second consecutive corker of a puzzle. Like others I found the SE the hardest to finish, and the OPEN SEA (unparsed)/SHE crossers were my last ones in after FLUSTERY.
  24. A sluggish 11:36 here for a puzzle I suspect I’d have romped through in my heyday. Looking back over it, I despair at the heavy weather I made of some very easy clues.

    Another interesting and enjoyable puzzle.

    1. Yes, come on, Tony! Such easy clues and you spent an appallingly sluggish 11 minutes on it?? For goodness’ sake, anyone could do this in under ten minutes — whether in their heyday or not! Pretty poor show, I’d say.
      1. Tony expressing huge irritation at “only” posting the fastest score of any of the day’s commenters is a regular, and to my mind entirely loveable, feature of this blogsite!

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