Times 26,477: Let Them Eat Clues

I was catastrophically drunk for this one, post a nice sloshy evening out at the Greenwich Comedy Festival; and not the good, confidence-boosted, clues-flying-in-on-autopilot drunk, but the barely able to see the screen or find the keyboard kind. Bit of a 3dn then, and I will draw a discreet veil over my time for once, saying only that I did finish, at some point before the sun rose.

Good crossword though, acceptably tricky for a Friday, with some very well-concealed definition parts and the slightly heightened vocabulary level that I strongly favour in the Times – 2dn, 8dn and 11ac all being unfamiliar to me. If you don’t mind I’m going to respect my matutinal queasiness and keep the blog short right now, but let me extend huge thanks to the setter and nominate 18dn as my COD; an intrinsically funny word, a beautifully put together clue and everyone loves an &lit. To the comments with us!

1 Pasty, etc, going off in pigeonhole (8)? (9)
5 Families departed — but not with us? (3,3)
THE MOB – OB with THEM (not us)
10 Mark left by limited old Greek composer (9)
11 Cut narrator’s unable to bear (5)
BARON – homophone of BARREN (a cut of meat, as in “a baron of beef”)
12 Tip for ironing skirt, black (4)
GRIM – {ironin}G + RIM
13 Light scooter, if tested, keeps reversing (3,4,2)
SET FIRE TO – reverse-hidden in {sco}OTER IF TES{ted}
15 Plain fellow meeting with champion too much (4,3,3) (4)
OVER THE TOP – OVERT HE [plain | fellow] meeting with TOP [champion]
17 Lot of cloth is here? Very little (4)
INCHyou’ll find a lot of cloth IN CH (i.e. in church) the “lot” of C{lot}H is “in C…H”. Well spotted, sober solvers!
19 Horse to kick stomach (4)
HACK – triple definition [horse | to kick | stomach]
20 O for one large pub, good or bad! (5-5)
22 See blocks with spikes extended (9)
PROLONGED – LO [see] blocked PRONGED [with spikes]
24 Given time, current returns (4)
WONT – T, NOW returns (because “given” to doing something is “wont” to do it)
26 King or queen deposed, meaning the opposite of order! (5)
IONIC – I{r}ONIC (with R – “king or queen” depose)
27 Sentimental writer succeeded first in description of judge? (3,6)
SOB SISTER – S 1ST [succeeded | first] in SOBER
28 The Irish force people back, tease Welshman (6)
GARDAI – reverse of RAG + DAI
29 One cheering team returning regularly in truck (4-2-2)
PICK-ME-UP – reverse of {t}E{a}M in PICKUP
1 A man may wear one: soldiers sometimes button it (4)
TASH – T.A. [soldiers sometimes] + SH [button it]
2 Plain glass carriage (7,8)
PRAIRIE SCHOONER – PRAIRIE [plain] + SCHOONER [glass] (this is one of those covered wagons from e.g. the Oregon Trail; I learn something new every day)
3 See surrounding area strike disaster (8)
CALAMITY – CITY surrounding A LAM [area | strike]
4 Burrows became hard to see: just the tops (5)
SETTS – SET [became hard] + T{o} S{ee}
6 Cross and upset by horse getting shot (6)
HYBRID – reverse of BY H [“upset” by | horse] + RID [shot]
7 One supposedly recommending cake in slices transformed into meat-eater (5,10)
8 Temperance group force House to outlaw drug stores (4,2,4)
BAND OF HOPE – F HO (that) BAN DOPE “stores” (The Band of Hope was first proposed in 1847 by Rev. Jabez Tunnicliff, a Baptist Minister from Leeds and possibly the closest one man has ever come to being a pangram)
9 Good university’s missing old master (8)
VIRTUOSO – VIRTUO{u}S [good (where) “university’s missing”] + O [old]
14 Pop big John on the wing, switching positions often (3-7)
16 One turning out lies about Gus, no longer with us? (8)
EULOGIST – (OUT LIES G{us}*) semi-&lit
18 For one good with his fork, finally an alternative? (3-5)
EGG-WHISK – E.G. G W HIS [for one | good | with | his] + {for}K, semi-&lit
21 Understood drink to be an unexpected snag (6)
GOTCHA – GOT CHA [understood | drink]
23 ME port of call: capital (5)
DUBAI – DUB A1 [call | capital]
25 Stole hit repeatedly heard on radio? (4)
WRAP – homophone of RAP

44 comments on “Times 26,477: Let Them Eat Clues”

  1. 48:59 .. as I was saying only yesterday, a lot of easy ones this month!

    Biggest hold-ups were THE MOB, BAND OF HOPE and BARON (latter 2 unknowns) and the IONIC/GOTCHA crossing.

    Too many fine things to enumerate, but EULOGIST is great, and EGG-WHISK takes some beating.

    All in all, phew …. but I’d love to see these a bit more often.

  2. Phew what a scorcher! One to make seasoned solvers scratch around, there being very few automatic connections. Take 1d: the components TA and SH are usually easily spotted and ho-hummed in, but I loved “soldiers sometimes” once I realised where the divisions came and “button it” was nowhere near obvious.
    Good to be able (I was, anyway) to compare two fine &lits for practically the same word: see below in TLS 1133 for EULOGY. EULOGIST here was my LOI, and I came within an ace of cheating to get it: as ever, laying it flat made it easier.
  3. I didn’t touch a drop yesterday, but this still took me 26:00, I don’t mind admitting! Brilliant puzzle I certainly wouldn’t have fancied tackling after a skinful, so bravo Verlaine.
  4. Very glad to discover it wasn’t just me who found this a great challenge, great in both senses. Many brilliant clues, including 11ac, 21d, 2d and my COD 27ac. Could not parse 17ac, now have two options! Held up by banging in HICCUP for 21d and DELHI for 23d (everyone in Maine goes to delis?). Very pleased and feeling accomplished to have completed in 48′. Thanks setter and Verlaine.
  5. I can add GOTCHA to V’s list of unknowns.

    This one took me a mere two hours some, with ‘bank of hope’ making something of a dope out of me. Last in and ultimate favourite VIRTUOSO, but ticks against 5a, and 1 and 27d.

    If a mark of a good puzzle is the difficulty of the multi-word clues, then this one was very good, indeed. Which it probably was, anyway.

  6. I read 17 ac as the LOT in cLOTh is in between C and H, i.e. in ch


    1. I had the same as Verlaine and jackkt but I think you’re right, Gandolf, and what a clever clue that is.
    2. That does look superior to my parsing! My brain was not capable of navigating such nuance last night…
    3. Oh, that’s good too, and probably the right parsing, but I somehow prefer Verlaine’s (which was mine too and I was so pleased with it).

      Edited at 2016-07-29 08:26 am (UTC)

  7. A brilliant puzzle solved stone-cold sober but I also wish to draw a veil over my solving time. My favourite clue was 16dn which I found laugh-out-loud funny when I finally cracked it, probably because it reminded me of some of the eulogies I have sat through in my time. INCH was also exceptional and had me trying to establish whether the Isle of Inch was particularly noted for its cloth production, before the penny finally dropped.

    Re 8dn: Somebody complained about f for force recently (I’m pushed for time now so can’t check) but it’s in Chambers and COED.

    Those familiar with Cambridge pubs should have no problem with Baron (of Beef).

    Edited at 2016-07-29 08:23 am (UTC)

  8. Broke my rule and spent more than the hour before cheating. My classical knowledge is superficial so had to verify SCARLATTI. Biffed BARON as homophone but have not knowingly had a BARON of beef. Just did not see IRONIC and therefore did not get IONIC. Eventually got the rest. FOI BAND OF HOPE. Knowing that I guess is an age thing. I realised today that I first saw Lancashire in 1953. The county championship started in 1890. 63 years ago and 63 years later. O their Hornby and their Barlow, my Washbrook and my Statham long ago.
    1. I used to play at least one piece by Scarlatti as a young pianist (scraped though my Grade 3 exam but no further) so fortunately that one came quickly to me…
    2. You might be interested to know that Ximenes once clued SPECTRE BAT – a leaf-nosed bat – by giving “my Hornby and my Barlow long ago” as examples (in the wordplay). I’m not sure whether any setters would dare to do that nowadays.

      Edited at 2016-07-29 11:49 pm (UTC)

      1. What a brilliant clue! I really wanted to use two batters as that was what Hornby and Barlow were, such as Washbrook and Ikin, given that Peter Tinniswood’s favourite, Winston Place, didn’t scan. But I thought people would know the great Brian Statham. I’m pleased you knew what I was on about
  9. I was GOTCHAed! DNF (Over an hour) Missed 21dn GOTCHA and 17ac INCH

    20ac BLOOD GROUP was bloody as was 5ac THE MOB (which I had early but just wasn’t sure). 22dn WONT also defeated me.

    I did eventually solve 7dn MARIE ANTOINETTE and 18 dn EGG WHISK

    but I began to tire rapidly.

    I stuck in 28ac as GARETH but DNK GARDAI as such with an I.

    FOI TYPECAST was quickly followed by EULOGIST.

    A Friday to forget. Maybe I should have been ratted but hard at



    horryd Shanghai

  10. Finally defeated by VIRTUOSO, in more than one sense.

    Great crossword, especially now that I see the correct parsing of INCH (I had Verlaine’s version). And even more so if Sotira’s correct about the role of the clue number in THE MOB. If that was intentional then please step forward, setter, and take a bow.

    Thanks to all involved, have a good weekend everyone.

    1. It does seem loose. But one possibility is that this is more extreme cleverness … the clue is:

      5 Families ….

      … and “the five families (of New York)” are pretty much synonymous with The Mob.

      1. Gosh, that would be superlatively clever.

        Wikipedia tells me ‘the Sicilian Mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra (“our thing”), is a criminal syndicate in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organisational structure and code of conduct. The basic group is known as a “family”, “clan”, or “cosca” or “cosche” in Sicilian.’ And I guess that structure is replicated in the mob diaspora…

          1. Or possibly even the Corleones, the Tattaglias, the Barzinis, the Cuneos and the Straccis, in a parallel universe…
              1. In my English teaching days I used to build lessons around clips from The Godfather, especially with the adult managerial types I taught for a while. It started when I was working in Frankfurt and had a particularly dour group from Siemens. I tried this on them and they absolutely loved it, which always slightly worried me, but it’s great for exploring the language of negotiation! I can’t tell you how entertaining Mob summit meetings, as role-played by a group of German executives, can be. They were awfully good at it, too. I wish I had a film of them in action, but this will have to do.


                Edited at 2016-07-29 11:18 am (UTC)

                1. Brilliant. Personally I may have overdone the Godfather quotes over the years. These days whenever I ask my son for a favour he just shakes his head and says “Can’t do it Sally”.
    2. As noted above, the mob (i.e. the M***a) are organised into families.

      Edited at 2016-07-29 09:52 am (UTC)

  11. Oh, dear. 35 mins. Some fiendish clues – EGGWHISK – what a corker of a clue.
  12. 38 min., but had WENT at 24ac, having thought of NEW for current, got the idea that the answer was a given when it went in – not convinced, but couldn’t see anything better.
    1. I also had WENT. I was pleased to have everything else right though after such a fine challenge of a crossword.
  13. Jackkt (08:22): walked past the Baron of Beef in Cambridge twice this morning, but still didn’t twig it.


    1. I never managed to walk past it once without popping in. But luckily I was never a resident in the City.
      1. I did live in Cambridge for a while but the Baron of Beef fails to have lodged in my memory. I don’t know whether that means I never went there, or I went there far too much?
  14. 44 mins. I took a slight Friday knock but nothing excessive, so my time, as with others, was almost entirely down to a brute of a puzzle. In the nicest possible way of course. HYBRID was my LOI after THE MOB. Well, sort of. I’d originally entered “brim” at 12ac with “tip” as the definition and “b” for “black” with the correct “rim”, but that obviously didn’t account for “ironing” as it clearly wasn’t an instruction to put the “b” at the front. I’d forgotten all about it until I glanced again at the puzzle as I was firing up my laptop, saw the correct GRIM and how it parsed, and changed it accordingly. Definitely a tip or two of the hat to the setter.
  15. Phew. Got there in the end, but spent my entire lunch-hour and the Tube ride home pulling faces at it. A good work-out, but I wouldn’t want them all to be like this.
  16. 26m, ending with a couple of minutes agonising over WONT vs WENT until I realised what the definition was driving at.
    Smashing puzzle, as others have noted.
  17. This took a while over 2 sittings, probably 45 minutes, ending with a guess at HACK. I’m not perfectly familiar with any of the 3 definitions, to be honest. HACK as stomach, as in hack it = stand it=stomach it makes some sense to me. Horse and kick, no. PRAIRIE SCHOONER was clever, but calling it a carriage is a real stretch. Admiration, though, for the brilliant MARIE ANTOINETTE clue. That’s just wonderful. Thanks to the setter for the workout. If the ‘5. Families’ (per Sotira) was intended as part of the clue, that also is astoundingly awesome as a cryptic indicator. Hats off, and thanks to Verlaine as usual, and even more so for fighting through the bleary puzzle in the indicated condition. I’ve probably tried to solve in similar circumstances, but I’ve never had to blog too. Regards to all.
  18. Not only was this a real toughie but I was finishing it off VERY slowly while on Gran duties with 3 under sixes. Actually that helped as I kept mentally running over one clue at a time as I did tea and baths. Have just finished with a well earned glass ( very small) of red. No idea of time but slow after a pretty quick start. Actually it was DNF as I could not decipher ironic and gave up and came here. LOI gotcha which made me laugh as it had indeed got me. Great crossword and miraculous blog by the sound of it.
  19. 16:18 for me, still feeling rather tired (but at least not drunk ;-).

    A superb puzzle, in which the time I took going over the clues (as usual) after I’d finished was well spent indeed. It’s hard to choose a COD, but I’ll go for the delightful 20ac (BLOOD-GROUP).

    No unknowns; indeed I initially assumed that there was an extra piece of “slightly heightened” vocab by imagining that TASH in 1dn must be a slang version of “sabretache” (but also wondering whether sabretaches were really buttoned). Once again The Darkies’ Sunday School (probably now renamed, and the chorus rewritten – sorry!) provided a necessary piece of the jigsaw:

    Ruth was a maiden of the ultramodern type:
    She smoked a lot of cigarettes and even tried a pipe;
    She hung around the Union and would often give the glad,
    But the Band of Hope has saved her from going to the bad.

    I raise my hat to the setter. But, once again, what a pity this one wasn’t kept for the Championship.

  20. My dad, Communist councillor and well-known local atheist, used to encourage me to amuse myself on a Sunday. This being South Wales it was difficult to find anything interesting to do. So I wandered into the local Baptist chapel and discovered the Band of Hope. I didn’t actually “sign the pledge” but I learned some new hymns. I still remember a ditty called “My drink is water bright from the crystal spring”. Btw, am writing this after a nice bottle of Rioja in a local Spanish place and a follow-up pint in the pub over the road. The influence of the Band of Hope was very short-lived!
  21. Oh dear, oh dear. Gave up with a very sparsely-populated eastern half of the grid.
    1. It’s controversial perhaps but see (no pun intended) this definition of a “city” from Wikipedia:

      “The status does not apply automatically on the basis of any particular criteria, although in England and Wales it was traditionally given to towns with diocesan cathedrals. This association between having a cathedral and being called a city was established in the early 1540s when King Henry VIII founded dioceses (each having a cathedral in the see city) in six English towns and also granted them city status by issuing letters patent.”

      Edited at 2016-07-30 09:20 am (UTC)

  22. I wonder if there is any mathematical correlation between the length of Verlaine’s introductory blogs and the time he takes to solve the puzzles in question?
    In my case, there was a direct connection between the screaming fit i directed at my Macbook and the “very sparsely populated eastern half the grid” (thanks, thud_n_blunder) which resulted in having to cheat to solve 6 or 7 clues. Over-alcoholisation (you heard it here first, folks) doesn’t affect V’s solving or blogging ability but I should never have started this puzzle after numerous attempts to advertise our house for sale online disappeared into the ether for no reason at all.
    I liked 17ac while 11ac put me in mind of the excellent pop group, the Baron Knights!
    Time irrelevant.

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