Times 26427 – something of a milestone

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
A few years ago, when I was less practised in these cruciverbal arts, I’d have managed a few clues in this puzzle before putting it aside and getting on with my life. It must say something about my progress, that this morning, although initially flummoxed and with an almost unmarked grid after five minutes, I persevered and got there in the end. Much more satisfying than an easy Monday stroll; yet I’m also glad I’m not one of you single-figure chaps and ladies for whom the fun is all over so quickly.
This fine, witty challenge took me around 35 minutes, once a few pennies started dropping. The bottom half was complete before the top had anything in; then the NE quarter followed and finally the NW, with an eyebrow raised over 1a.
I’ll be interested to hear how easy or hard others found it.

1 PITCH UP – I think this is ‘pitch up’ in the sense of turn up, arrive, surface; and ‘up’ meaning the pitch is being repaired. Of course I was toying with PATCH UP in light of the ‘repaired’ angle, but the tense would be wrong.
5 CREWS – D companies, sounds like cruise.
9 OMEGA – Last letter of series i.e. Greek alphabet; O for old, MEGA for excellent. One of the few write-ins today.
10 RESTRAINT – Thankfully no BRA for support here. TRAIN = coach, inside REST = support (as in snooker); D reserve.
11 FRIGATE – FRI(DAY), GATE = opening; D escort, for larger warships.
12 THE BARD – Will here is Mr Shakespeare; THE BAR for barristers, D leading letter of Debate.
13 UPSTANDING – UP as in up at uni, at Cambridge if you must; STANDING for reputation; D honest.
15 DELI – DELIGHTS = entrances, take half; D shop.
18 DALE – A double definition, where both DEAN (also spelt DENE) and DALE are male names and words meaning a wooded valley; as in Durley Dean in my native Bournemouth.
20 PEDESTRIAN – (PADRE IN)* around EST (is in French); D dull.
23 SQUIRTS – Double definition; not very nice for us little people. Better to be 5 feet 7 though, when you’ve spent half your working life flying around Europe.
24 POT-SHOT – POTS for Chambers, HOT for stifling, D criticism. No dictionary involved.
25 NIGHTGOWN – Anagram of WRONG THING without the R; An &lit, I think.
26 NISAN – Hidden in agai(N IS A N)uisance; first month of Hebrew calendar. I know next to nothing about things Hebrew, but remembered this from a previous puzzle. I don’t know how to search the old blogs to find its number, though.
27 DARTS – STRAD(IVARIUS) reversed; D game.
28 NUTCASE – NUT = teachers (union); CASE = legal action; D eccentric.

1 PRELIMS – MILER = runner, inside SP = special, all reversed; D tests. I did these after my first year, and survived, before the rot set in, but it took me an age to see it, my LOI.
2 TEARAWAY – A TEAR AWAY strip would be a rip-off; D tough.
3 HORSE – MORSE code, replace M (spymaster) with H (hard); D junk, heroin.
4 PAST TENSE – PA = pop, ST = street, TENSE = under pressure; D what’s for example ‘gone’, past tense of go.
5 CAREER – CARE! = attention, ER = Queen, D calling, vocation.
6 EMIRATE – EMIGRATE (leave the country) loses a G; D Dubai (for example).
7 SITED – SIFTED = strained, lose the F = force; D in position.
8 CONFOUND – C (large number), FOUND (discovered), around ON; D floor.
14 DRESS DOWN – Cryptic double definition for reprimand and a possible wardrobe malfunction.
16 IGNITING – (GIN GIN IT)*; D getting fired up.
17 STOTINKA – TOT (small amount) inside SINK (pot, as in snooker), A; D European’s ready. Fortunately I’ve been to Bulgaria and I remembered there were 100 of these to a LEV.
19 LOUNGER – Insert U into LONGER = more time; D chair.
21 IN HASTE – EIN, CHASTE would be one German, abstaining; take ‘heads’ off, D fast.
22 GRATIS – RAT = traitor, inside GI’S = soldiers, D free.
23 SYNOD – SYN sounds like SIN, OD like ODD = not even; D this assembly.
24 PINOT – PINT for beer, insert O = love, zero; D wine, named after varieties of grapes such as pinot noir.

50 comments on “Times 26427 – something of a milestone”

  1. ​I really liked this one, even if it took close to 2 hours and was a real struggle to finish. Not too many write-ins and so many good clues they could almost be picked at random. PRELIMS, SQUIRTS and THE BARD (LOI) were all excellent, but the &lit NIGHTGOWN gets my vote as the best of the day.

    Wonder if the clue for 18 gives a hint as to who the setter may be? Thanks, whoever you are and to blogger.

    1. I wondered that too, especially given the mildly saucy wardrobe malfunction and the striptease at 25.
      1. I don’t think he’s in the regular daily rotation. I occasionally have a stab at who is who and am usually dreadfully wrong at picking a setter in a daily.
  2. Over the hour and did not finish. A bit too hard for me but some great clues. If someone SURFACES, then I haven’t seen them for a while,; if they PITCH UP they arrive, maybe unexpectedly. Anyway, I didn’t get it , nor DALE. Biffed PRELIMS despite doing MODS myself. That meant I had my first year’s summer social diary badly curtailed, and that I looked a rank novice when punting as a second year.
  3. A very similar experience for me too for what I’d term as a devilish puzzle. The first pass yielded a grand total of 2, so I thought I was onto a certain loser. However much, much later only the NW corner remained, though I had to biff DALE (assuming this was a synonym for Dean) and HORSE (knowing next to nothing, of course, about drugs and their slang except for what these puzzles teach me).

  4. 66 minutes of rewarding challenge, with 3d being last in, as I’m not a druggie.

    Surprised about 4d, when of course it’s WENT that is the past tense of ‘go’, with GONE being its past participle.

  5. Like Pip I completed the bottom half more easily than the top. I very much enjoyed THE BARD, DRESS DOWN and NIGHTGOWN. I am personally not a lover of the 6d and 7d clue configuration.
  6. 25:34 … So my days of snapping at Jason’s heels numbered precisely one. It took me five minutes to solve a clue, which I’m putting down to self-imposed pressure from my briefly raised expectations.

    Like others, an uphill process, finishing with HORSE. Mostly very satisfying stuff (not counting ‘chambers’, which is a weird).Favourite clue was SQUIRTS.

    Well done, Pip, and thanks.

    1. My turn for that honour today – I took just 57 secs longer than Jason – that’s me done for the year.
  7. 32:36 of steady uphill solving. I remembered NISAN from last time, and like last time, it struck me as Japanese, NI and SAN being Japanese for 2 and 3 (I think!). Guessed DALE and liked NIGHTGOWN. Thanks setter and pip.
  8. 19m. A good challenge but with a few niggles: I don’t think 1ac really works, and Dean/DALE, chamber/pot, junk/heroin are all a bit obscure.
    NISAN appeared in puzzle 26,349 in March of this year, which you blogged Pip. You commented then ‘I know nothing of Hebrew months’, so ‘next to nothing’ this time is an improvement! If it’s any comfort I had forgotten it completely. I can never remember any of these Hebrew months, but just knowing they exist is usually enough to get me there.
    We also had STOTINKA recently (December).
    1. Surface of playing area being repaired? (5,2)

      I had no problem with this – thought it very good, in fact – with ‘of’ operating as the link word and ‘Playing area being repaired’ the sort of thing you might read on a sign as an alternative to ‘Playing area under repair’. Especially from someone who is not that hot on grammar. No names, no pack-drill!

      1. But how does PITCH UP mean ‘playing area under repair’? And while I’m at it how does PITCH UP (arrive) mean ‘surface’?

        Edited at 2016-06-01 10:44 am (UTC)

        1. I suppose in order to repair a cricket pitch after a tough summer of rain and frost, you might actually have to dig it up and rebuild, so pitch up. I think it works.
          I likewise thought chamber/pot straightforward, probably driven by the sort of Carry On humour that Dean(??) often espouses.
          1. I found chamber/pot straightforward too, I think because I’ve come across it in various permutations in Mephisto, which is sort of my point.

            Edited at 2016-06-01 11:14 am (UTC)

        2. As in ‘The cricket pitch is being dug up and relaid with new turf’

          Edited at 2016-06-01 10:50 am (UTC)

          1. Seems more like replacement than repair to me, but I’m no cricket expert. Just seems like a clue where both parts are rather loose and/or oblique.
          2. Actually it occurs to me that there’s no reason the UP (being repaired) has to relate to the PITCH (playing area), so whether or not you’d say that a cricket pitch was ‘up’ is irrelevant: you’d say it about a road. Lift and separate! Objection withdrawn.
            I still don’t like ‘surface’ though. 😉
              1. The surface makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t know much about cricket, but it doesn’t say anything about a cricket pitch being ‘up’. I can’t find any support for that usage either in a dictionary or by googling. But it’s not required.
          3. ‘Up’ means ‘being repaired’ in the context of roads (this meaning is in ODO) so I think that’s what’s required. I was confusing myself by taking PITCH and UP together, whereas in a wordplay context you can separate them. So whether or not you can say that a PITCH is UP is irrelevant.
    2. Ah so. Thanks K for reminder, at least I am consistent. So how do I search by blogger, keyword or number? Can’t see a search box anywhere on LJ or the Community front page.
      1. I just typed [“times for the times” NISAN] into Google. The quotation marks restrict the search to exact occurrences of the text inside them so you get any TfTT pages where the word NISAN also appears.
        1. Doh! Thanks. I see (thanks to Google), it (NISAN) also appeared in a ST puzzle in 2013 which Dave Perry blogged; we’ve now had 3 ways to clue it. I’d assumed there was some more arcane LJ method of searching, of course Google is the simple way.
          1. You’re welcome. If there were an arcane LJ method it is unlikely that I’d know about it!

            Edited at 2016-06-01 11:14 am (UTC)

      2. There’s a magnifying glass at the top right of the page which expands into a search box, however it doesn’t work very well and I’d instead recommend either keriothe’s suggestion or (for a bit more precision) use Google’s site: operator.
  9. A sedate 26 minutes, which seems to be my sort of time this week. A little frisson of the naughty in this one (see my comments above). Or maybe it’s just my aged and twisted mind that spots sauce where it ain’t.
    1. A little gentleman’s relish never did anyone any harm.

      Edited at 2016-06-01 11:20 am (UTC)

  10. I agree this was an excellent puzzle but very hard work for which I needed 1 minute over an hour. OMEGA went in straight away but I took nearly 5 minutes to find a second answer in the lower half and like our blogger I worked my way up the grid from there.

    STOTINKA has come up before but I never remember it and needed to rely on wordplay to dredge it up this time. NISAN was unknown or forgotten, if as k says it appeared in March. Sometimes if wordplay leads too easily to an unknown word the new word fails to register in the brain for future reference. DALE was my LOI though I had considered it previously as a man’s name but at that stage didn’t get the dean/dene connection.

    Edited at 2016-06-01 10:04 am (UTC)

  11. I’m surprised I got as far as I did. I doubt I’d have recognised STOTINKA as a word even if I’d figured out the wordplay, but that was the only answer in the bottom half I missed.

    Missed a few obvious ones in the top half that meant I didn’t stand much of a chance with the less-obvious ones. Well, less obvious to me, anyway: I’d never heard of PRELIMS or “miler”, which didn’t help, and had written in “harker” for “CAREER” in desperation towards the end. I also still can’t quite see 1ac, even though I wrote in the right answer.

    But, given what others are saying, I’m going to be happy enough to have got it three-quarters done in an hour.

    1. The way I read 1ac is as follows:
      > The definition is ‘surface’, which you can substitute for PITCH UP in a sentence like ‘no one had seen Bob for weeks and then he pitched up/surfaced at the pub last Friday’. I don’t really think they’re synonymous even in this sentence but I think it’s what’s intended.
      > The wordplay is PITCH = playing area, and UP = being repaired. One of the definitions for UP in ODO is ‘(of a road) being repaired’.

      Edited at 2016-06-01 12:59 pm (UTC)

  12. STOTINKA appeared in another puzzle recently so it was a write-in. It was the PITCH UP/PRELIMS/TEARAWAY bit of the grid that kept me from speeding through today. Hopefully I’ll have a better brain going tonight.
  13. This took a bit of doing, about 40 minutes. I couldn’t get anything in the NW corner until the end, so I sort of went around in a circular pattern from the NE, then down, and back up. LOI was the strange DALE which is certainly a man’s name, but I had no idea of ‘denes’ or anything else happening there, so twas BIFD. I liked SQUIRTS. Regards.
  14. I have just started doing the Times crosswords over the last week, did anyone else ever find it almost impossible at first? I’ve been doing the Quick Cryptic and finished it for the first time today in 4 attempts, gradually improving day on day. But I have REALLY struggled on the main crossword. Couldn’t get any clues today, although could work out how 95% of the answers were reached when I eventually revealed the grid. At least that was an improvement on yesterday where I even found that difficult.
    1. Goodness, yes, and even now I struggle more often than not! Today I seemed to take all day (on and off), and I still managed to get two wrong (patch up at 1ac and stitonna for the unknown foreign currency). Keep on going, and keep using the clever folks on this forum who never (seem to) tire of answering questions (even when the answer is something so obvious it’s embarrassing…)
    2. Stefan, yes indeed. I started off doing the Telegraph crossword and found that difficult for a long time. I started doing the Times crossword several years later and bit by bit my solving ability and times improved, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight. Practice and perseverance were key with me. I might have got better quicker had I had access to a site like this when I started.
    3. I think everyone finds it almost impossible at first. I certainly did. Stick at it!

      Edited at 2016-06-01 05:10 pm (UTC)

    4. Stefan

      Welcome to a wonderful community.
      If you can understand 95% you will have great fun over the coming years.
      If it was easy, it would not be the Times Crossword.
      Enjoy this unique blog and please add your thoughts.

    5. Welcome, Stefan. If it’s any help, you picked the wrong week to take up The Times’ main puzzle …. the last few days have been decidedly tricky. They’re not all like today’s, thank heavens.
  15. 34 mins from start to finish with an indeterminate amount of time lost due to drowsing and then nodding off. I finished the second half of the puzzle fairly quickly once I’d woken up so I may have been able to post a decent time if I’d been alert from the start. I wasted far too much time in the first half of the solve trying to decide between “patch up” and PITCH UP. Like a few others DALE was my LOI because I’d forgotten the alternative spelling of “dene”, although the penny dropped eventually. I thought this was a quality puzzle with some cunning definitions, so a tip of the hat goes to the setter.
  16. Did this on a train back from seaside hols in windy, overcast Bognor, with children dropping felt tip pens on the floor and placing books on top of my paper throughout: not ideal conditions by any means and I think about 25 minutes were taken. Can’t say I much go in for this type of high-wordplay low-vocab/GK puzzle, but it takes all sorts to make a happy world… Back to the normal routine from tomorrow!
  17. Another puzzle that taxed my brain for almost 90 minutes! I did manage to complete it correctly with only a few not fully parsed (THE BARD, IN HASTE(saw (E)in but not (C)haste) and NIGHTGOWN(saw (thing)* but not (wong)*) so thanks to Pip for the enlightenment. FOsI, DELI and IGNITING, then gradually teasing the rest into place, LOI, RESTRAINT. DNK NISAN but saw the hidden once I had the checkers. Some tricky wordplay, so I second Andy’s tip of the hat to the setter.
  18. I don’t often tackle the Times cryptic, but recalled the European ready from a previous occasion.
    21d was a gimme, having already solved 3d of today’s Telegraph cryptic: “Virgin eschews top speed (5).”
  19. Like Verlaine I’m just back from a seaside holiday (not far along the coast from him at Shoreham) during which I started a cold which has now been exacerbated by sinusitis. Hence I’m not feeling at my best, and struggled to find the setter’s wavelength, finishing in a miserable 24:35.

    There was a lot of good stuff in there; however, as a Yorkshireman – who once lived in Wharfedale – I don’t think much of 18ac, since a “dean” is dingly little affair.

  20. !ac: Surface = Arrive = PITCH UP! 4d: ‘Gone’is most definitely not a tensed form
  21. Good to read that STOTINKA had appeared recently, dnk it, and thus a 41’dnf. Nevertheless an enjoyable puzzle.
  22. If we need a past tense of “go” we say “went”. Gone is used in the compound perfect and pluperfect tensed ha has/had gone. It is the past participle.
  23. I have a gadget on my computer for Scrabble, Countdown etc which contains a list of all the words allowed in Scrabble. It tells me that Stotinka is the only word that fits *T*T*N*A.

    But is this a word? The dictionaries tell us that this is the way we spell a Bulgarian word meaning a unit of currency. Bulgarians do not use our alphabet so what is the merit in knowing that some clerk in a tourist office has decided that we write the Bulgarian word Stotinka rather than Statinka or Stutinka?

    The first stage in compiling a puzzle is to fill in the grid. Did today’s compiler, fresh from a holiday in a country whose alphabet he does not use, decide to write Stotinka at 17 down? I doubt it. I suspect that he got into the same difficulty I did, of finding any word *T*T*N*A, and used a gadget similar to mine to get out of it.

    1. I vaguely recall STOTINKA appearing in a Championship “eliminator” many years ago, since when it’s probably come up every few years in the daily Times cryptic. An experienced setter would almost certainly be able to pluck it out of thin air without recourse to any solving/setting aid.

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