Times 26,417: Sir Topham The Morning To You

Smarting from ulaca‘s quip that, based on my performances earlier this week, I am the John Aldridge of crosswords (with my limited knowledge of sports I’m not sure who that is, to be honest – perhaps only the fifth man to play golf on the moon?), I’d determined to do better on “my” Friday puzzle. But things did not get off to an auspicious start when I nodded off reading tales of lovely Ludwig Van, G.F. Handel and aversion therapy in A Clockwork Orange and woke with a startled thought of “crossword blog!” at 1am and tottered blearily downstairs. Throughout my solve a far-distant electronic device was making a pained buzzing sound which was very distracting, and let me tell you, my clue-droogies, I did not think this would be a week in which I would cover myself in any glory.

Fortunately it does seem as though my 13 minute time was at least reasonable – it’s still top of the leaderboard 8 hours later, anyway. I thought this was a lovely crossword, full of some very cleverly concealed stuff and just as importantly some very funny stuff. I don’t know if Dean Mayer had anything to do with it but I felt a lot of the same admiration/fear as when I set to work on a Sunday puzzle with his name on it: so let’s just say it felt a little bit Anaxesque. I mean just glancing at the finished grid you can see it’s a fun one: FAT CONTROLLER, WHEELIE-BIN and so on. The inevitable sporting references, well, as usual I don’t know what on earth they mean, but they have the great virtue today of sounding completely filthy: TOUCH JUDGES and WRIST-SHOT? I could talk about unusually lateral devices and brilliant definition parts (“members meeting at centre”, ha) for quite a while I’m sure, but let’s save that for the comments as there’s little girls to be dressed.

I’ll nominate 7dn as my COD though, for the lovely “jogging things” – fun also that it crosses with the equally crafty “running things clue”. My LOIs were in the SE corner, where the D of KNOCK-KNEED allowed me to get 28ac at which point I could finally be sure that 26dn was not (somehow) IRK. Really good puzzle, tumultuous applause to the setter!


1 Cross after heading for beach to find litter (5)
BROOD – ROOD [cross] after B{each} [“heading for”]
4 Apt to rise fast, perhaps, when crossing motorway (4-5)
WELL-TIMED – WELL TIED [to rise | fast, perhaps] when crossing M [motorway]
9 Rock fan maybe after excitement googles it (9)
GEOLOGIST – (GOOGLES IT*) [“after excitement”]
10 Athlete doing marathon initially wearing running things (5)
ADMIN – A{thlete} D{oing} M{arathon} [“inititally”] + IN [wearing]
11 Station master in fact not moving posh car (3,10)
FAT CONTROLLER (FACT NOT*) [“moving”] + ROLLER [posh car]
14 Work, as non-drinkers do, after retirement (4)
OPUS – reverse [“after retirement”] of SUP O == “sup nothing”, as non-drinkers do
15 Joyful exclamation: morning in bed devouring book that’s trashy? (7,3)
WHEELIE BIN – WHEE [joyful exclamation] + LIE IN [morning in bed] devouring B [book]
18 CO perhaps to run out of things to say? (7,3)
EXHAUST GAS – (CO as in carbon monoxide) double def with EXHAUST GAS [to run out of | things to say]
19 Group to stop broadcasting (4)
BLOC – homophone of BLOCK [to stop “broadcasting”]
21 Active early Liberal plugging slogan in support of wildlife sanctuary? (2,4,3,4)
UP WITH THE LARK – L [Liberal] plugging UP WITH THE ARK! [slogan in support of wildlife sanctuary]
24 Winter Olympian’s weapon? (5)
LUGER – double def with LUGER [one who luges]
25 Poor condition of rhino and crocodile (9)
BREADLINE – BREAD [rhino] + LINE [crocodile]
27 Offensive street drawings that could get you going! (4-5)
PUSH-START – PUSH ST ART [offensive | street | drawings]
28 One left evidently indebted and annoyed (5)
RILED – I L [one | left] “evidently indebted”, i.e. in the RED


1 Malnourished patient possibly doctor’s particular interest? (3,2,5)
BAG OF BONES – a BONES is a doctor, and a BAG someone’s particular interest…
2 Horse wearing pair of spectacles? That’s a surprise! (3)
OHO – H [horse] wearing OO [pair of spectacles]
3 Court case involves uplifting music (3-3)
DOO-WOP – reverse [“uplifting”] of WOO [court] (that) POD [case] involves
4 Stroke women’s T-shirt so wantonly (5-4)
WRIST-SHOT – (W T-SHIRT SO*) [“wantonly”]
5 Still life’s half mounted on print (5)
LITHO THO [still], (with) LI{fe} mounted on
6 Wake, taking hobnob for energy snack (5,3)
TRAIL MIX – TRAIL [wake] + MIX [hobnob]
7 I love 1AM ramble, after changing into jogging things? (11)
MEMORABILIA – (jogging things as in things that jog the memory) (I O IAM RAMBLE*) [“after changing”]
8 As cellar, maybe, was sinking, last of beer removed (4)
DANK – D{r}ANK [was sinking, “with {bee}R removed”]
12 Sports officials are concerned with book (5,6)
TOUCH JUDGES – double def with TOUCH JUDGES [are concerned with | book]
13 Members meeting at centre criticise poverty vocally (5-5)
KNOCK-KNEED – KNOCK [criticise] + homophone of NEED [poverty “vocally”]
16 Stick up marquee perhaps to accommodate mass staging (9)
ENACTMENT – reverse of CANE [stick “up”] + TENT [marquee perhaps] to accommodate M [mass]
17 Contents of cask — raw lubricant — tipped over ramparts (8)
BULWARKS – “contents of” {ca}SK RAW LUB{ricant} “tipped over”
20 Person selling part of cooker with two rings missing (6)
VENDOR – {o}VEN D{o}OR [part of cooker “with two rings missing”]
22 Bill and Al on reflection the pair to beat! (5)
TABLA – (as in a pair of drums to beat) TAB [bill] + reverse of AL [“…on reflection”]
23 Small round cuff (4)
SLAP – S LAP [small | round]
26 One’s going to some trouble (3)
ILL – double def with I’LL [one’s going to…]

54 comments on “Times 26,417: Sir Topham The Morning To You”

  1. Completely agree Verlaine, top class puzzle worthy of your advanced blogging talents
    I think the fifth man to play golf on the moon was Buzz someone. Lightyear, perhaps?
  2. Yes, maybe an Anax, with even a bit of ice hockey (I think) thrown in. A few easy ones early before roadblocks started cropping up regularly. Held up by entering ‘kick start’ which initially seemed OK for 27, so took a while to get TOUCH JUDGES and SLAP. Many v. good clues including the def. of KNOCK-KNEED, DOO-WOP, ADMIN and WELL-TIMED.

    Thank you to setter for an entertaining puzzle, and to blogger.

  3. Sounds like I was doing well by my standards to finish in 23:39. I thought today’s crossword was worth the price of entry for VENDOR alone. Genius clue!
  4. Just over the 30 mins with a LOL moment on KNOCK-KNEED. I assume incidentally that the other version of this crossword have this enumerated with a hyphen but not the iPad Times app. I think that Sir Topham Hatt was a bit more than a station-master but I recall that in some stories the Thin Controller appeared. Anyway a fine puzzle so thanks setter and v.
  5. Rather the opposite of yesterday. I was up early, so when I’d failed with lots left in my normal hour, I carried for a while and got a few more before giving up. At least most of the ones I’d failed on related to things I didn’t know about — I knew of rood screens, but not of ROODs themselves; DNK TOUCH JUDGES, learned about RHINO, had only the vaguest recollection of DOO-WOP (apparently popular twenty years before I was born.) I might have got TABLA if I’d not been fixated on A/C for bill, as once I saw the word I at least knew it had a musical connection.

    Fairly pleased with myself for getting the rest, though. Enjoyed 15ac and 13d, but yes, COD to VENDOR.

    Thanks for today’s enlightenment!

    Edited at 2016-05-20 08:12 am (UTC)

    1. Always happy to help enlighten a fellow gothic Matt. When I first saw your username I had to go check that you weren’t actually me!
      1. Heh. Our relative solving speeds can be used as a distinguishing factor if anyone else ever has that problem. I notice we have nja and shereenb in common, so I’m guessing we may have hob-nobbed before, perhaps in another Other Place…
  6. (1) No sooner had I claimed to be still top of the leaderboard than Mohn toppled me with predictable ease. Sic transit gloria Friday!

    (2) I always assumed that all this sports terminology had no relevance in real life, but I just bumped into a competitive old buffer in the queue for the tills at Sainsbury’s who demanded to know my height and weight (he was only 6’3″, but lighter than me) and then asked “are you a second row forward?” I had to just nod and smile noncommittally!

      1. After just under 30 years as a hooker, I played in a joke game where the backs played as forwards and the forwards played as backs (and if you scored a try, you changed sides). It was only then that I discovered what the backs actually did and I know that the effete backs were horrified by the set scrums.
      2. Yes, rather luckily I wasn’t dressed in the outfit I posted a picture of in last week’s TLS blog, on this occasion.
  7. 35 minutes of great enjoyment. Like V, I thought of Dean. Too many excellent clues to pick one. Thank you setter (and blogger) for making me smile.
  8. Really enjoyed this puzzle. Some fiendish definitions and clever clueing.
  9. The NE corner finally did for me, so a DNF. However I’m not so downhearted as the puzzle was top notch.
    Strictly speaking Sir Topham Hatt was not, of course, a station master, but the boss of the whole railway.
    Indeed, in the original Thomas the Tank Engine books in 1946 he was known as the Fat Director since it was pre-nationalisation.
  10. Very good clues, and like others I loved VENDOR. A 31′ dnf as I invented TRAIL PIE, but overall very enjoyable.
    1. I was going to say “a hobnob isn’t a pie!!!” But then I suppose a Jaffa Cake isn’t a cake, so anything clearly goes in the devil-may-care world of biscuits…
      1. Funnily enough, a mix is a pie, so maybe with a three point turn in the Thesaurus, there’s grounds for an appeal.
      2. Cakes go hard as they age biscuits go soft. Ergo a Jaffa cake is indeed a species of cake


  11. Shows how much I know: I thought John Aldridge was from the Archers. Probably turn out to be Brian Aldridge’s long lost brother – fee from the BBC please if the idea is taken up.
    I did this one cheerfully in 22.43, which still looks pretty good and felt quick for this level of cluing. I share Deezzaa’s misgivings about Sir Topham: no Station master he, unless you’re going to accept that it’s a really broad reference. I thought it should have been “Railwayman’s diet?” or somesuch.
    My fave of the day was UP WITH THE (L)ARK, but it a goodie in a field of goodies.

    Edited at 2016-05-20 10:18 am (UTC)

  12. I think the fact that it was clued as “station master” rather than “stationmaster” or “station-master” may absolve it? Perhaps that’s a tiny nuance too far…
  13. Very enjoyable with a few taken on trust such as TABLA, TRAIL MIX and WRIST SHOT.
  14. 22:03 .. finishing with the estimable ADMIN.

    Nothing remains except to heap more praise on a fine puzzle and to thank the setter. I wonder if setters get frustrated when they spend ages (surely) putting together something as subtle and pleasing as this and then Magoo knocks it over in 6 minutes.

    1. 6 minutes! Sounds like this puzzle was REALLY tricky then… When was the last time a daily puzzle took the man over 10, I wonder?
  15. A fine puzzle which kept me busy for an hour exactly. Some very clever clueing! FOI, OOH, which stopped me seeing the anagram at 9a until I’d moved the spectacles to the outside of the horse. SOI, BROOD. LOI, TRAIL MIX which I was certain was going to be some sort of energy BAR until WHEELIE BIN surfaced. Too many excellent clues to highlight just one. Couldn’t see the parsing for ILL, so thanks to V for the usual estimable blog. No trouble with TABLA as I had a personal experience with them when visiting Coll in the Hebrides, where a visiting musician was giving Tabla lessons to the locals in the afternoon, before the evening performance. My grandson and granddaughter both had a go. Great fun! As was the crossword. Thanks Setter and V. I wonder if the setters ever get together and discuss how to foil Magoo?

    Edited at 2016-05-20 10:51 am (UTC)

  16. DNF in NE corner and gave up struggle after 45 minutes when the cricket started. Been one or two WELL-TIMED shots already. I love to go a-wandering but I’ve never taken TRAIL MIX with me. To be picky, ADMIN don’t run things, or at least they’re not meant to! A great puzzle.
  17. 16m, very enjoyable as others have said. Lots of head-scratching followed by eurekas.
  18. 25 min, but had biffed in CLIP at 23 dn and forgot to recheck before submitting. (cuff=’clip round the ear’ and there are a small number of rounds in a clip of ammunition, but that’s not really satisfactory)
    Agree: Sir Topham is the boss of all the stationmasters etc.
    Google informs me that John Aldridge was a footballer, but not why ulaca would liken him to Verlaine
    1. I believe he missed a crucial penalty shot at some point, not that I know anything about that kind of thing!
  19. Doo wop has had a bit of a single handed revival recently thanks to Ezra Furman. Admittedly he’s relatively unknown, though I expect our blogger to be au fait with him.
  20. Still learning my craft but was very pleased to make a good stab at this wonderful puzzle. Got off to a dodgy start putting HOO for 2d which held me up in NW. All but TRAIL MIX where I just couldn’t see the answer (unlike Verlaine my late night on the sauce doesn’t free the brain). Double-loved the KNOCK KNEED clue when I finally thought of the first word. But the setter has a lot to answer for as my ear worm for the day will now be the Thomas the Tank Engine theme. Nooooo! Thanks V for the normal Friday fun.
  21. Went a few minutes over the hour today, getting bogged down in the NE corner. I nearly convinced myself there must be a snack called VITAL KIL — that’s VIGIL (wake) with TALK (hobnob) instead of G (energy). Thankfully, reason returned. Not even the most desperate marketing firm would call a snack VITAL KIL. I think.

    Enjoyable puzzle and blog, thanks.

  22. I’m surprised this is the first protest about doo-wop , a word which I have managed never to encounter even once in a long and fulfilled lifetime , pop music free admittedly . Mind you , the same applies to slang references to drugs , very obscure French composers , and innocuous sounding American euphemisms various unpleasantries .
  23. Great stuff, indeed, as evidenced by the fact (for me) that the 2-word answers were among the hardest. Sadly I didn’t check the puzzle very carefully, aware that 50-odd minutes had already passed, and made one error. Never mind John Aldridge, I wanted to give myself a good elbowing like Marouane Fellaini.
  24. Greatly enjoyed this one. Last in was TRAIL MIX, which I had to check. BAG OF BONES is pretty good but VENDOR the best of all.
  25. Started quickly with BROOD, but then took an age to get it all done correctly, and mostly parsed. Rubbish time, great puzzle and blog. Nuff said.
  26. Once again I took a Friday knock after the working week caught up with me, and I took 37 mins from start to finish with an indeterminate amount of time lost in the middle. Oh, and I got one wrong because I biffed “clip” for much the same reason phmfantom did, and even though I wasn’t happy with it I didn’t try and think of an alternative. Muppet. I don’t have a problem with FAT CONTROLLER being defined as “station master” because a person who runs an entire railway is the master of all the stations. Of the ones I got correct the TRAIL MIX/ADMIN crossers were my last ones in. I wish I’d been more alert for this puzzle because I thought it was a gem.
  27. Brilliant puzzle. Thanks to the setter and Verlaine for sorting it out, although I believe I had it all parsed when done with the exception of the clearly correct answer, LITHO. The ‘still’ as ‘tho’ bit eluded me altogether. Overall, tho, a welcome reminder of why we do these things in the first place. Great fun, great definitions, and admirable panache. Bravo! Regards to all.
  28. Echo all above, top class puzzle, amusing and hard in places, never heard of DOO-WOP nor do I think I would like it. Had a punt at TRAIL MIX after thinking PIE was a bit crusty and using the thesaurus for hobnob.
    So many good clues to applaud. Forty minutes in two tranches, wanted to savour it.
    I thought John Aldridge was in the Archers but Mrs K tells me I am thinking of John Tregorran and/or Brian Aldridge (and she KNOWS these things). So it must be the footballer although Wiki (disambiguation) gives you a few more options.
    Nice blog V.
    1. There was a John Archer,pip,who had an argument with a tractor and came second.
  29. Indeed, there was, but this was about a John Aldridge in the Archers … not an Archer.
  30. 14:59 for me, held up badly at the end by TRAIL MIX, which I knew I’d come across before (in No. 22988, 28 May 2005, now I’ve looked it up) but just couldn’t remember the second word of, and in the end had to work through the alphabet from both ends until the X finally jogged my memory!

    A delight from start to finish. If the setter is reading this and cares to tap me on the shoulder at next Tuesday’s get-together, I’ll be happy to buy him or her a drink.

  31. As a relative new-comer to the crossword scene, I can admire this sort of crossword, but never imagine getting anywhere close to completing it. I don’t even understand and can’t find anything useful on the Internet to connect “rhino” with “bread”. Any pointers would be gratefully received. Thank you.
    1. Rhino is a slang term for money, likewise bread.

      According to a footnote in the Wikipedia page I just looked at, “rhino” as a word for money may date back to the 17th century or so… which did surprise me!

    2. Rhino’s pretty obscure; it’s a slang term for money (no, I’ve never heard or even read of it being used like that.) And bread is a less obscure slang term for money, of course.
  32. This is x-word 26417, not as listed. Way beyond me so gave up feeling very peeved.
    1. Ah, thank you! Have edited the number now, better late than never and all that.
  33. “Fat Controller”? “Crocodile” line? “Hobnob” biscuits? “Wheelie bin”? “Touch judges”?
    I enjoyed this puzzle very much, but I did not finish it. (I made a correct guess with that last one, though.)

    Edited at 2016-05-21 03:39 pm (UTC)

  34. Good heavens – Saturday already? My watch must have stopped.

    Anyway, this one took me somewhere over three quarters an hour, with DOO WOP my LOI. The rhino at 25ac didn’t cause too many problems, though for some reason I was convinced it was a specific amount of money (like a pony, only more so). I’ll give my CoD to 13d, though there were many fine clues in this one.

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