Times 26,429: Apples And Pears (And Plums Everywhere)

What a brilliant crossword this was – one of those where almost every clue would be an immediate candidate for COD in most other puzzles. In fact I challenged myself to try and find anything at all *unsatisfactory* about this crossword and the best I could come up with was a minor qualm about whether CRADLE and ROCK are actual synonyms, as opposed to just words strongly suggestive of one another. But yep, that’s it, the only tiny thing I could find to quibble about, with all my substantial powers of nit-pickery brought to bear.

My FOI was 14ac, a good thing probably as the splendidly ambiguous definition there gave me a strong hint about what to expect from the rest of the puzzle; also, the solution is a fun piece of vocab, a very crosswordy word, so hopefully we’re in for that kind of a grid. And, while our finchy friend is actually probably the obscurest word of the day, I was not to be disappointed: before we’re done we’ll be running into writers and historians and philosophers and chanteurs and revolutionaries and my favourite ever astronaut (one who met a very sad and singular 17dn). Which as I’ve banged on about many a time[1] is, to me, kind of what the Times Cryptic crossword is for.

And the surfaces are great, the cluing is concise, and some of the wordplay is spectacular. I’m sure “meat-packing firm” must have been done before but it’s still wonderful, “two hours before noon” is a wonderful thing, 21ac is an irreproachably obfuscated anagram clue, I loved the lift-and-separate element in “pear drop” in 9dn, how clever of 17dn to make me think the answer might be (somehow) an anagram of “designs”… and in a similar vein, my COD in the event, 5dn: hopefully I was not the only one to spend a while trying to jumble “XL corset” into anything useful, while the actual route to the solution was hiding brilliantly in plain sight.

I would have finished in 12 minutes and change if I hadn’t hesitated over 1ac as my LOI – in the end I decided that T_T_ couldn’t be anything else, and slammed the submit button at the 13 minute mark – luckily everything parsed successfully in the event, which isn’t always the case for a seat-of-the-pants solver like myself. I wouldn’t have begrudged spending a lot longer than 13 minutes on a puzzle of this quality though, and I see from the club board that many of you were so taken with it that you did. Many many thanks to the setter – I don’t see the applause for this one 17ac any time soon!

[1] Which reminds me, I didn’t mark the exact date, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been blogging the Friday puzzles for 2 years now. Happy blogday to me! Are you all sick of me yet?


1 Bear’s short tail on parade (4)
TOTE – TOT [short] + {parad}E
3 Wind up watch containing large crack (3-7)
RIB-TICKLER RIB [wind up] + TICKER [watch] containing L [large]
10 Polish meat-packing firm exists (7)
CHAMOIS – HAM [meat] packing CO [firm] + IS [exists]
11 Yank I go after turns, giving thumbs-up (7)
12 Make tracks in the style of Charles Trenet? (4,6,5)
TAKE FRENCH LEAVE – cryptic definition. Charles Trenet was a French singer-songwriter who recorded an awful lot of songs; but those aren’t the type of tracks that are being made here.
13 Philosopher right to stop one abandoning use of irony (6)
SARTRE – R [right] to stop SAT{i}RE [“one abandoning” use of irony]
14 Brakes go for repair: one’s got a hefty bill (8)
17 Job in kitchen cutting rabbit? (6,2)
DRYING UP – double def with drying up as in “running out of things to say”.
18 Writing two hours before noon, backing support for chairman (6)
MAOISM – reverse of MS + 10 A.M. [writing + two hours before noon]
21 No cooker being moved could go inside empty lounge (6,9)
GOLDEN DELICIOUS – (COULD GO INSIDE L{oung}E*); “no cooker” as in, not a cooking apple
23 Constables act unlawfully, holding back lunatic (7)
NUTCASE – hidden in reverse in {constabl}ES ACT UN{lawfully}
24 To travel widely perhaps in sound of interest to marine biologist? (3,4)
SEE LIFE – homophone of SEA LIFE (an interest to a marine biologist)
25 Runs to prevent encounters with strangers here? (7,3)
SINGLES BAR – SINGLES BAR [runs | to prevent]
26 Provide with old cutting device (4)
PLOY – PLY [provide] with O [old] cutting it


1 Historian’s account in NT book (7)
TACITUS – AC [account] in TITUS [NT book]
2 Author, one who’s apparently broken into Flower of Scotland? (9)
THACKERAY – HACKER into TAY (a Flower as in a river, naturally…)
4 Gets taken to court, then released (6)
ISSUED – double def with IS SUED [gets taken to court]
5 XL corset adjusted, without being tucked in (3-5)
TWO-SCORE – (CORSET*), with W/O being tucked in. XL as in Roman for 40, of course.
6 Much older partner’s tips for excavator after rock sample (6-8)
CRADLE-SNATCHER – E{xcavato}R after CRADLE SNATCH [rock | sample]
7 Ultimately surreal alias protecting one early space traveller (5)
LAIKA – {surrea}L + A.K.A. [alias] protecting I [one]
8 Artist, Greek, hosting small charity event (3,4)
RAG WEEK – R.A. [artist] + GK [Greek] hosting WEE [small]
9 What several can hold pear drop in (10,4)
15 English girl to shelter revolutionary leader (9)
EDITORIAL – E DI TO [English | girl | to] + reverse of LAIR [shelter]
16 Summer wear? After start of September prepare for shower! (8)
SUNDRESS – S{eptember} + UNDRESS [prepare for shower]
17 Trouble with designs that can’t be drawn on any more? (3-4)
DOG-ENDS – DOG [trouble] + ENDS [designs]; drawn on as in smoked
19 Skill putting answer for first of puzzle’s unknowns (7)
20 State request in a note (6)
ALASKA – ASK [request] in A LA [a | note]
22 Mexican from city with money (5)
LATIN – L.A. [city] + TIN [money]

40 comments on “Times 26,429: Apples And Pears (And Plums Everywhere)”

  1. 36:24 … a walk in the park, assuming the park is on a 1 in 3 hill and you’ve got the complete OED in your backpack.

    I spent I don’t know how long stuck on EDITORIAL / PLOY, which on reflection look like two of the easier clues. And a long time, more excusably, to twig the ‘XL’ reference.

    Brilliant, if hard (for me) to love. Bit like Novak Djokovic. Thanks setter and blogger from this benighted slogger.

  2. Chambers has for cradle (verb): to lay or rock in a cradle; to hold and rock lovingly, so I guess even that’s a nit that resists picking.
    Only to savour the excellence of the clues (of course) I dawdled over this for a full 30 minutes. A couple of things slowed me: I biffed CONFERENCE ROOM (smaller that a hall, so suitable for “several” rather than many, and hesitated over GROSBEAK because I didn’t think this setter would lower the tone to Harry Potter. Wrong in at least two ways.
    I was also puzzled over TOT for short, until I realised that short was a noun, not an adjective.
    1. I know, I know, Mr Rogan is very scrupulous about making sure the definitions pass the dictionary test, but you can use simple intuition to tell you that there’s something different about “cradling” a baby and “rocking” one. Even if such an intuition would never stand up in a court of law. And that’s how I ended up doing 25 to 30 in Pentonville for what was definitely *not* arson in a royal dockyard.
  3. Spoiled this one by rushing in FRYING UP and FAG-ENDS for no particular reason. Agree with V that there is much to like about this puzzle so thanks setter (and V)
  4. Clever, witty and concise. My type of crossword. The Grosbeak is on the cover of my Rare Birds of Britain book – so it finally came in useful.
  5. Great puzzle, taking the hour. Spent too long finding no anagrams for DESIGNS. I wasn’t helped by not seeing life as it is. With a wife 14 years younger, should have got CRADLE SNATCHER quicker. LOI PLOY
  6. Put me down on the side of those who found this very challenging (a side which in fact I suspect = “everyone”), and also immensely entertaining.

    Happy blogaversary, V. When I worked as an office drone, I kept a Dilbert cartoon on my desk which showed one character receiving a mysterious text message saying “KEEP UP WRK”. This, of course, turns out to be his annual performance review; it was strikingly similar to what we got in real life, so I offer you the same sentiments.

  7. Hard work but very enjoyable. Unfortunately by the end I was running out of steam and settled for CONFERENCE HALL at 9dn. I was unable to justify the second word but convinced I was missing something in the clue rather than I might have the wrong answer. Should have tried harder.
  8. Stunning puzzle, worthy of a Friday and the Mighty V’s treatment. Took me 85 minutes, coming in a little behind two of those I particularly look out for on the Club leaderboard, my Monday predecessor Koro and the only blogger to own up to a cracked bottom, Gallers.

    3, 10, 15 and 18 all got ticks; 5 got two.

    1. Argh! I’ve just seen that those 15 seconds I spent dithering over TOTE were the very 15 seconds that the estimable Jason has over me on the leaderboard today… glad to see that no one has cracked the 10 minute barrier yet at least.
    2. Remind me to show you the before and after photos of my cracked bottom. I think you’ll be impressed.
  9. Couldn’t agree more that, this is a super puzzle. FOI LAIKA (who never returned, btw). Despite temptation to biff, kept to my new resolution and finished in 42′. Many thanks to setter and Verlaine.
    1. There’s an album (by Gorillaz I think) called “Laika Come Home”, which always makes me smile sadly to myself.
  10. 40 min, with SE giving most difficulty, ‘revolutionary’ making me sure that 15d had to end -IST, so 26ac was LOI. However, 9dn was my downfall, as after seeing the pear, I was expecting ROOM or HALL, so when checkers confirmed latter went for that without thinking any more about the clue.
  11. This felt like a toughie, but I stopped the clock at 15.44, which was quicker than I thought I’d been.

    There was some great stuff in there – 5d was my COD – but my reaction was the opposite of our blogger’s: I thought there were more weaknesses than normal. I’m always prepared to admit if I’ve missed something, but I thought 2d was a stretch, 22d too vague, 13a weak, and I’ve marked a couple more with crosses as well.

    Maybe I’m just in a bad mood because I’ve just discovered I’ve entered four incorrect Listeners already this year…

  12. Glad you liked it!

    I didn’t finish it!! I’m not keen on clues where the answer is a person (my general knowledge did not stretch to Tacitus (or even Titus – had the “ac” though)). Did know of Sartre, but did not get that either. Did get Thackeray somehow, despite not even knowing what he’s written! (American novelist?)

    I think one “person” is enough in a crossword.

    Had never heard of Gk for Greek, but put it in anyway, and it apparently is a thing.

    Agree, cradle = rock seemed dodgy, but I had enough letters to be confident. Wasn’t sure about tot = short either, but put that in. Never heard of chamois as a verb, but put that in.

    Gutted I didn’t see nutcase. Couldn’t do Maoism either, but great clue.

    Couldn’t see the definition for two score, but put that in anyway (yes, great clue!).

    So, a very clever crossword, but for me not enjoyable as: I couldn’t finish it, and; half the ones I put in I still had queries on, so not confident about my checkers!! V stressful.

    Hats off to all of you who did it!!!

    Mark I

    1. William Makepeace Thackeray is very English – one of our great 19th century novelists, up there with Dickens! I guess having been big in the c19th is no guarantee of still being read today. “Vanity Fair” is, I’d guess, the work of his most likely to be brought to mind by the beleaguered solver.

      Edited at 2016-06-03 12:15 pm (UTC)

    2. If you haven’t read Vanity Fair you have a pleasure in store! I have re-read it several times, and if I was allowed one book to take to a desert island that would be it. The BBC did an excellent adaptation which is probably still available on DVD.


  13. Agree it was very tough. For a long time I just had 1a, 1d, 7, 16, 20 and a tentative GROSBEAK After 50 minutes I had to resort to aids to complete bits of the SW and SE. I completely missed the hidden in 23.
    There are lots that could be CODs; probably my favourite is 5, with that great definition.
    My only query in the end was 13, where I wasn’t wholly convinced that the cryptic syntax works as intended. Can “right to stop one abandoning use of irony” really be read to mean the same as “right to stop irony that one has abandoned”? I’ve come across the construction before and it’s always troubled me (and others with whom I’ve discussed it).
    1. I see the issue and it’s a very interesting question! After all even an amateur sophist like me would be hard-pressed to argue that “a dog leaving its kennel” refers to an empty kennel, rather than the roving dog…
    2. Interesting point : fine by me, as you can read ‘X abandoning y’ as an entity that can also refer to y as well as X
      Where I draw the line would be something like ‘X that’s abandoned y’ where X becomes the grammatical focus of the clause and in that case, to me, it could only reasonably refer to x and not y


    3. I think this is case where the cryptic grammar just doesn’t follow the surface grammar, which is fine in my book. If you accept ‘right to stop X’ as an indication of R inside X, then any valid cryptic indication of X can be substituted for it. So if ‘one abandoning use of irony’ is a valid indication of SATRE (which I think it is), then ‘right to stop [one abandoning use of irony]’ works as an indication of SARTRE.
  14. Agree that this was a cracker, topping off a very challenging (humbling?) week.

    Was very satisfied to finish all correct, and just inside the only target that matters (refer to Ulaca’s comment above).

    Nothing to add to the deserved praise already bestowed, but my favourite was the TWO-SCORE.

    Brilliant blog as well. Thanks setter and V.

  15. Failed on the philosopher with a mombled SARKRY, with my mind having gone blank. After 50 minutes I only had half of the grid filled in and was then interrupted by the arrival of the grandchildren, who are staying with me for the weekend. I guess it took another 45 minutes to finish with the one wrong. EDITORIAL and PLOY took me forever to workout. Managed THACKERAY and TACITUS and changed FAG ENDS to DOG END once I got DRYING UP. I also spent ages trying to make anagrams of designs and XL corsets until the pennies dropped. Liked MAOISM. Some very clever clues. Thanks to the setter and congratulations V on your much appreciated blogs.
  16. 40m. Very hard, but a thoroughly enjoyable challenge. I wondered about ‘rock’ for CRADLE, and whether SEE LIFE was a real expression (I initially put in SEA LIFE, which didn’t help) but they’re both in the dictionaries.
    My only niggle is with 2dn: I can’t see how it works. Doesn’t this require HACKER to be defined by ‘one who’s broken’?
    1. Hmm, if a HACKER’s gotten in something, how else would they have effected access? Perhaps it is a little saucy…
  17. But there’s no indication that the HACKER has gotten in something. The poor dear is just broken!
    1. THACKERAY = (a) HACKER in (the) TAY = someone who’s apparently hacked/broken into a Scottish river. I’m not sure how *well* it works, but it doesn’t *not* work for me…
      1. Aaah, I see what you mean now. In the same way someone who’s apparently edited their way into a poem might give us FERRET.
  18. Grrrrr … wrote down MAOI– from the cryptics, then decided that no English word could contain such unlikely letters, and scrapped it. Got the rest of the answers, though. Bearing in mind my hungover state and the relative difficulty of the puzzle, I’m calling this a win.
  19. I wasn’t as taken with this one, it was biffy-biffy-biff fest, TAKE FRENCH LEAVE is a bizarre CD, didn’t see wordplay for EDITORIAL, CRADLE-SNATCHER, or GOLDEN DELICIOUS. I did like TWO SCORE and MYSTERY.
  20. Well after getting 7 yesterday, my venture into the world of Times Crosswords took a slight step backwards today, but I still managed 6 before I hit the brick wall. But I will take that, as the clues today seemed really clever and were a lot more cryptic that earlier in the week. Clues I got were Laika, Alaska, Grosbeak, Okaying, Ragweek and Nutcase – so these must be the easiest ones haha
  21. My first DNF for a while. Just couldn’t get my head round the clues in the SE mainly because of a fixation that 18ac started with MAX. No idea why I assumed the Roman 10 but probably the first time a classical education has let me down in Times crosswordland.
  22. 27:33 for me, feeling very tired after a busy day and still decidedly under par, so actually quite relieved to finish within the half-hour.

    As others have said, an absolutely cracking puzzle – one of the best in my 50+ years of solving the Times crossword. I’d dearly like to know the identity of the setter; anyway, if they’d care to tap me on the shoulder the next time we meet, I’d be delighted to buy them a drink.

  23. Way too late but I liked this one so much I just had to “share the love”. I too finished in close to 13:00, the only difference between me and our esteemed blogger being in the trifling detail of the time units. Still it was definitely worth it with fantastic clues everywhere. It’s unfair on pretty well every other clue in the puzzle, but GOLDEN DELICIOUS, CRADLE SNATCHER and MAOISM were real classics which repaid all the effort.

    A v. big thanks to setter, and to verlaine.

  24. Thanks Verlaine for the great way you set out the blog, which helps novices like me. 23 describes me by the time I finally completed this on and off over twelve hours or so. Don’t know how you guys can do something like this in the times you do.
    Thanks for the correct parsing of 1a. I got it, but the wrong way. Thought bear’s equals totes, take off the last letter giving tote, which I took to be a possible meaning of to parade (as a verb). Notwithstanding, given the degree of difficulty (to me) of this crossword, I will still take it.
    Thanks again.
    Barry M
  25. As a latecomer to this puzzle I’ll no doubt find that this post will go unnoticed! I don’t often get the opportunity to try Times crosswords, but as an experienced solver of cryptic crosswords I have to say that I thought Colin Thomas’s succinct assessment of this puzzle was spot on, and, like him, I could cite some examples of doubtful definitions, clues that were too contrived or ponderous surfaces. The only other Times crossword I’ve tackled recently was last Saturday’s, which was more the finished article in my opinion.
    In spite of that, I admire the many clever clues and the inventiveness that the setter brought to this puzzle. The only clues I had difficulty with were 1A (TOTE), 19D (MASTERY) and 26A (PLOY). There were several answers that I had to guess and then retrofit the wordplay – and in most cases I could see what the setter was getting at. 21A was an amazing and unexpected anagram that fooled me for a while.
    1. I don’t know if anyone *else* sees them, but I as the original poster always do. Glad to have your input, Alan!

      Finding the sweet spot between clever and a bit too clever is definitely the crossword solver’s art. I’m definitely happy for them to try to push that envelope personally…

      1. Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to such a late post. Many views have been expressed here, and mine is just one. I like a puzzle to be challenging, but I also like a dictionary (a blunt tool at tmes) to be used wisely. I also appreciate ingenuity on the part of the setter, and there was plenty of that here.
        Thanks again
        Alan Browne

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