Times 26,519: Walpole Position

I won’t beat around the bush: I pretty much adored this crossword, to the point where my good mood wasn’t even dented by somehow typing the “R” and “Y” of 6dn in the wrong order, overwriting the correct answer at 11ac with YARER, for off. I couldn’t happen in competition circumstances, so I’m not worried about it, and my would-have-been time of 14 minutes stands in my head.

A lot of clues requiring more than the usual quota of brow-furrowing brainpower: 5ac and 16dn stood out for being above-averagely devious, but the construction here was absolutely top-notch everywhere I thought. Consider how well suited to the surfaces each of the anagram indicators is; how exemplary both the cryptic definition and the &lit are; and perhaps above all how brilliant the containment indicators at 24ac and 8dn (the latter my LOI) are. Ostensibly simple stuff like the “evening out” in 3dn and 18 dn’s “ignoring odds” are beautifully and misleadingly integrated into the surfaces. I don’t know how some setters can knock these out (of the park) again and again, but I definitely raise my glass to this particular anonymous genius! Such a good puzzle.


1 Melancholy MP I advised to hold sporting event (8)
OLYMPIAD – held by {melanch}OLY MP I AD{vised}

5 Cordial, if not exactly sororal? (6)
CASSIS – C [circa, i.e. “not exactly”] + AS SIS [as a sister, i.e. “sororal?”]

9 At sea, lands more fish (3,6)

11 Painter behind spilling first rate thinner on the ground (5)
RARER – R.A. [painter] + RE{a}R [behind, “spilling” A (= first rate)]

12 Old vessel’s brass neck: something inordinately long (7)
GALLEON – GALL [brass neck] + EON [an inordinately long time]

13 Float round person? (7)
MILKMAN – Cryptic def: a person who does their round in a float

14 Successfully combat fraudster’s game? (6,7)
SQUASH RACKETS – You could successfully combat a fraudster by squashing his rackets

16 Six — with the exception of one — could be such stars? (8,5)
SOUTHERN CROSS – “Six with the exception of one” is S{i}X, suggesting S [southern] + X [cross]

20 Present from an old flame, with greeting, pinched (7)
EXHIBIT – EX HI BIT [old flame | greeting | pinched]

21 Before hearing story, tip for narrator (7)
EARLIER – EAR LIE [hearing | story] + the tip (last letter) of {narrato}R

23 Loyal guards call initially for ceasefire (5)
TRUCE – TRUE “guards” C{all}

24 Subject twin studies with time including PE (9)
DEPENDENT – DEN DEN [“twin” studies] with T, including PE

25 Smart of the French girl’s husband! (6)
DUDISH – DU DI’S H [of the “French” | girl’s | husband]

26 After work, had Simon dress down (8)


1 Movement of maybe eight gallons out of petrol station, with nothing as replacement (6)
OARAGE – GARAGE [petrol station], losing its G [gallons], gaining O [nothing] as replacement; oarage being the movement generated by a rowing crew of eight

2 Perform in meadow after climbing? (5)
YODEL – DO [perform] in LEY [meadow], the whole then reversed [“after climbing”], &lit.

3 Recently in French city for an evening out (7)
PLATEAU – LATE in PAU. The internet tells me that “what Pau lacks in personality it makes up for with [its Pyrenean] location”, which as praise goes sounds a bit faint

4 Publicity film about Northern Ireland deserved run (13)
ADMINISTRATED – AD MIST [publicity | film] about N.I. + RATED [deserved]

6 Paint: answer call with small amount of it mostly (7)
ACRYLIC – A CRY [answer | call] + LIC{k} (a “lick” being a small amount of paint)

7 Old pros are playing the favourites (9)
STRUMPETS – STRUM PETS [are playing | the favourites]. Pros as in prostitutes

8 Frenchman’s charges save us some discomfort (8)
SORENESS – RENE’S [Frenchman’s] “charges” S.O.S. [save us]

10 Miners’ flat perhaps outside Morecambe? Important Home can be here (7,6)
NUMERIC KEYPAD – N.U.M. PAD [miner’s flat perhaps] outside ERIC KEY [(comedian) Morecambe | important]

14 Reserve ready for bribery? Sentimentality associated with sport died (5,4)
SLUSH FUND – SLUSH [sentimentality] + FUN D [sport | died]

15 Agreed article with bouquet to be picked up (8)
ASSENTED – homophone [“to be picked up”] of A SCENTED [article | with bouquet]

17 Book where Bishop’s abused (7)

18 Boat, ignoring odds, quickly made for port (7)
OTRANTO – {b}O{a}T [“ignoring odds”] + RAN TO [quickly made for]; Otranto is a port in Italy, beloved of Goths for being the location of Horace Walpole’s genre-inventing novel.

19 Stick boring routine in cold custom house (6)
CRUTCH – RUT [boring routing] in C C.H. [cold | custom house]

22 Old people’s home, one civil engineer visits (5)
ICENI – IN I [home | one], (which) C.E. “visits”

62 comments on “Times 26,519: Walpole Position”

  1. Wow this was tricky, but a refreshing start to the day nevertheless.
    I must admit having to visit here to disentangle some of the cryptics, so thanks V.
    Undoubted COD to 13a.
    One quibble: Do numeric keypads actually have a Home key?
    1. Yup; on a standard PC keyboard, when “NUM LOCK” is off, the number 7 will work as a Home key. Just tried this on my most recent laptop, and it’s still the case. I imagine it’ll fall out of favour eventually, but not yet.
  2. Agree with V all the way, a superb puzzle. 44′, may have been less if I had spotted 1ac a bit 21ac. OLYMPIAD was originally a period of four years, but has now come to mean not just the modern games, but competitions in e.g. bridge, chess, mathematics at intervals other than four years. COD undoubtedly goes to 5ac, NE was last done and not surprisingly, with the crossers at 5ac/8d just giving a hint of blackcurrant, our three 13acs having disappeared some years ago, and the non-PC 7d only retained in my brain for crossword reasons. Thanks V and setter, a great sense of achievement.
  3. I loved this one too, especially the last few to go in which took some nutting out. Missed HEBREWS and couldn’t properly parse GALLEON. To pick a few of many, I liked ACRYLIC, the ‘Home can be here…’ def for 10, the wordplay for 16 and my favourite and last in CASSIS.

    As celebration for such an excellent puzzle, I think a Kir Royale is in order.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  4. The world conspired to stop me doing this straight through, though I’m sure I would have been a good many strokes over par. Much delayed by confidently putting in Atranto, despite knowing Otranto.

    I’m still not entirely convinced by the parsing of CASSIS, but otherwise this is indeed a splendid puzzle. There can’t be many areas left where someone can do work this good and not get a name-check for it (but that’s kind of wonderful). Tip of the hat to the anonymous setter.

      1. ‘As’ is merely ‘as’, roughly as a sister, a fine simplicity I’d say and as with several others today almost delightfully ingenious. 48.54 here after 1.ac. as the last in and even then not seeing it was in front of my eyes! A lift of the eyebrow at dudish.
        1. Unspammed. It’s a full-stop with no space following that sends LJ messages to the sin bin, unless the contributor has “maintainer” rights.
  5. Just about to turn on the Nespresso and do the crossword, but I wanted to get this in early: nobody yet has taken up my offer / request to blog next Wednesday for me, as I am away Mon-Wed next week. Can swap or owe you one. Pip
      1. If it falls through for any reason (though I’m sure it won’t) I’d be happy to swap next week – I have a TLS to do next Friday so it would not be inconvenient.
  6. Excellent crossword but took about 35 mins and still don’t understand the definition leading to ‘numeric keypad’. Help?
    1. I’ve only got a squitty little micro keypad to look at but my recall of the normal keyboard suggests he numeric end of it is where he home key is located.
    1. 30 minutes and one coffee, much pleasure in this as V has observed. Ended with the 5a and 8d crossers, remembering RENE is your usual French chap at last.
      I can assure all, PAU is a pleasant little city not only for its views of the Pyrenees, a university town with a fine castle, good restaurants and Europe’s oldest (1856) Golf Club, highly recommended and welcoming.
        1. Regardless of Brexit etc, everyone in the UK instinctively knows that ‘Europe’ is the place on the other side of the Channel.
  7. Despite my geekiness leading me to NUMERIC KEYPAD as my third one in, a good third of this was beyond my reach this morning. Lovely puzzle, and all fair enough, though I think CASSIS is stretching it—possibly only because I didn’t think of it, even though I figured I’d be looking for SIS somewhere…

    I wonder if I’ll ever remember that SQUASH RACKETS is the archaic name for the game itself? It only comes up in crosswords, and apparently not often enough to bed into my brain.

    Thanks for the answers I was missing. Rather wish this one had come up on a weekend, where I allow myself a bit more time.

  8. No time, very little internet reliability, multiple interruptions, but this was a cracker. CASSIS last in, but many others put up cheerful resistance, not least 1d where I spent far too long trying to remember whether eight gallons was a hin, a hogshead, a bath or an omer (none of the above!)
  9. Got there in the end, after 55 minutes. Could see NUMERIC KEYPAD without quite being sure about the Home Key being there. I tend to press at random until I get lucky. Got OARAGE early without being totally confident. Nobody’s ever called me DUDISH, but then I’ve never called them that either. Good puzzle, and blog worthy of it.
  10. 36m. I found this very hard, but all the difficulty was of the sort that evaporates once you’ve worked out how to look at the clue, and time and again I found myself mentally tipping my hat to the setter’s ingenuity as the penny dropped. Magnificent stuff.
  11. Like Sotira, not convinced by CASSIS, but lots of good stuff, the pick for me being the &slit and the Benny Hillesque CD. 58 minutes, 30 over par for the week.

    The handicap cttee have met and I will be 35 minutes next week and Gallers 22.

      1. I do accept that you can parse the clue. It’s more about the feeling you get having done so, which for me was mostly irritation. I think that one should have been thrown back to the setter for another go.
        1. Can you explain why? I’m not trying to be argumentative (for a change, some might say), I honestly can’t see a thing wrong with it.

          Edited at 2016-09-16 09:51 am (UTC)

            1. To get from AS SIS to ‘like a sister’, you mean? I agree, but it doesn’t strike me as out of the ordinary.
      2. My problem with this clue is actually a form of your Don’t clue an obscurity with an obscurity principle. (One must remember that cassis is an obscurity for many.)

        Once I had solved the clue, rather than having a ‘Wow!’ response, my reaction was ‘So that’s it’.

        There is also what I consider to be an unfelicitous disjuncture between the highly academic/esoteric nature of ‘sororal’ (98% of solvers will get it via sorority) and the highly informal nature of ‘as sis’ (98% of solvers would blanch before these words crossed their lips).

        So the response segues from the above to ‘So that’s it – I’d rather not have known’.

        Well, you did ask!

        1. I can see that AS SIS is whimsical, so needs a question mark, but what surprises me about your reaction (and sotira’s) is that this sort of device is quite commonplace. Earlier this week for instance we had ‘I’M POSER’, which is also a bit whimsical and something that no-one would actually say. I guess there’s just no accounting for what will and won’t grate.

          I’m completely baffled by your comment about cassis being ‘obscure’ to some. What on earth do these people think is in their Kir Royal?

          Edited at 2016-09-17 04:03 pm (UTC)

  12. 46 min, so way over par, probably beating barracuda who hasn’t posted a time.
    Bottom half complete in reasonable time, then NW after belatedly spotting 1ac. After getting nowhere much in NE for over 5 min, resorted to Bradford, giving me MILK for M* under ‘Float’, giving PDM and breakthrough. (I did have 5ac provisionally, but agree with above comments on the clue.)
  13. 4h18m04s, which would seem to be elapsed time rather than solving time, though solving time must have taken the best part of an hour.

    LOI CASSIS, which was particularly challenging without knowing what sororal meant. I figured it might relate to sorority, but then I couldn’t remember what that meant either.

    I’m not normally a fan of crpytic definitions but I did like the simplicity of MILKMAN, particularly the way I found the clue didn’t look like a cryptic definition so had me looking for synonyms for float or round person.

    Out of a fine bunch, my COD is YODEL on the basis that I thought it was just a cryptic definition but then on reading verlaine’s blog I found it was much more clever than I’d realised.

  14. 29 mins. A much earlier solve than most because of a day off, and I’m very glad I didn’t have to attempt it after a day’s works. I knew it wasn’t going to be a stroll after ICENI was the only answer I had after my first read through of the clues. I steadily chipped away at it and like a few others CASSIS was my LOI, in my case biffed so thanks for parsing it V. I’ll add my own tip of the hat to the setter because it was indeed a cracking puzzle.
  15. Brilliant. Under an hour I think, in a bar, with a couple of explanations to Americans who had never seen a cryptic crossword. Having explained how it worked, I think I was assumed to be somewhere between a wizard and a lunatic. I loved the numeric keypad one once I got it. I have a Mac and my keyboard has no numeric keypad, and it wouldn’t have Home on it even if it did. Like yesterday’s exclamation mark I needed most of the checkers before the penny dropped.
  16. Phew! Hats off to the setter. The cunningly disguised clues took me an hour an 14 minutes to disentangle, but I did finish all correct with only PLATEAU not parsed as I still didn’t see the definition until V pointed it out. Doh! Loads of light bulb above the head moments. After 35 minutes I had about 3 answers and was getting restless, but I stuck at it. FOI TRUCE. LOI PLATEAU. Thanks to V for the usual excellent critique.
  17. A wonderful puzzle that took me probably close to an hour, though distracted by watching a game at the same time. And surprised that I came all correct, because the NE corner had me baffled. My LOI’s, more as guesses than anything else, were the crossing SORENESS and MILKMAN, after I finally parsed the very fine STRUMPETS and CASSIS. SORENESS thus biffed, while MILKMAN from the checking letters only, and I still don’t understand it at all. Your UK MILKMEN must do something ours don’t (or didn’t, since they hardly exist any more.) Hats off to the setter and thanking V. for the parsing of 8D, as devilish as many others. Regards.
    1. These electric vehicles, a common sight on UK streets when I was young, but far less common now, are called “milk floats”. Very popular and widespread back then, perhaps because their electric power made them quiet enough to do the early morning milk rounds without waking the customers up.

      Edited at 2016-09-16 03:54 pm (UTC)

      1. Why thank you Matt. Quite interesting! And it seems also a very good idea… our milkmen used only standard trucks and didn’t care who they woke up.
        1. We still have them around our way, though for how much longer I don’t know. The drivers’ carelessness with the bottles rather cancels out the quietness of the motor.

          Great film btw, they don’t make ’em like that any more… the Tarantino version would not be the same

  18. I rather enjoyed this, and my last in was the CD (my dislike for CD clues has been vented here many many times). I thought NUMERIC KEYPAD and CASSIS were clever, though the latter went in from definition well before seeing the wordplay on a later reading.
    1. I’m not familiar with the ‘CD’ reference. Could someone enlighten me please. Great puzzle, COD Strumpets. LOI Cassis (which Itook me ages to see but nonetheless perfectly fair.
      55′ over three sessions.
  19. Spent the first 10 minutes trying to get started. I didn’t think I was on the wavelength at all. But it slowly came together with plenty of eureka moments. Very enjoyable. 47 minutes. Ann
  20. I don’t normally post much on this site, but just though this crossword was the best we have had for a long time – all seemed very fair clues to me, but equally took enough thought to make them interesting. Took me probably 5 minutes over my usual par of 15 or so, and I am one who thought 5ac the peach for a penny-drop moment


  21. I liked PLATEAU. I twigged that “evening out” might not relate to an evening out but thought it might have something to do with doing the ironing. Another misapprehension was with OLYMPIAD. I had the O and thought that might mean OWL on the basis that an MP is a member of parliament, the collective noun for owls. Well, it made sense to me.
    My favourite was MILKMAN. 1hr 34m 34s
  22. In my grid the answer to 4dn is ‘administrated’ not ‘administrate’ i.e.’ran’ not ‘run’. Have i got a different grid?
    1. It is ADMINISTRATED, so there’s a typo in the blog, although not in the full explanation of the clue. I also looked twice at the clue, wondering if it should have said “ran” rather than “run” but it depends on context and “run” would be correct if one said, for example, “the company was run /administrated by its board of directors”.

      Edited at 2016-09-16 08:36 pm (UTC)

  23. After Wednesday’s dreary puzzle, I wondered (as I do occasionally) why on earth I go on solving crosswords, but today’s provided the answer: I found it a delight from start to finish (apart from one hiccup – see below), even though I made desperately heavy weather of it, finishing in 20:06 (more than 3 x Magoo, after dithering over SORENESS, which took me an age to parse even though I’d thought of SOS earlier).

    My one minor objection would be to the inclusion of one of my least favourite words, ADMINSTRATE(D), which I suspect is invariably used accidentally by someone who’d thought of the word “administration” and forgotten in the heat of the moment that the verb it comes from is “administer”.

    Apart from that, brilliant stuff, and I raise my hat to the setter.

  24. Just glad to finish this before the next one popped up online! Well, almost finished – like others 5 & 8 were the “last” ones in but I’d forgotten about 1dn, which I suppose I could’ve got quickly enough, despite not knowing the word, by going through the alphabet…

    FOI RED SALMON – That was all I had after first two looks through the clues! COD PLATEAU, oh and the S-X

    High quality puzzle and fine blog, ta.

  25. Thanks for this excellent blog. I am still very much learning the way of the Times Cryptics – and clearly Friday is the toughest of the week. After 20 minutes I had 9a and 23a plus the likelihood that 10d included ERIC in some way and that was it. Having looked online at the answers this morning in many cases I was none the wiser, so the blog was a real eye-opener. Several words I had not come across – didnt know PLATEAU could be an evening out for example and OARAGE was a new one. Never heard of OTRANTO. Very clever grid I thought – I especially liked the run of wordplays in 13a, 14a and 16a. Looking forward to something a little easier again on Monday though!
    1. At the risk of enormous condescension, you do get that this is the kind of ‘evening out’ that might be prvided by a steam iron to create a flat surface?
  26. Puzzle 26,519

    Yes, seriously brilliant.

    I don’t come here much though and I have a couple of probably very naïve questions.

    First, as I was completing my LOI (GALLEON, as it happened), I resolved to come here to see if everybody else thought as highly of this puzzle as I did, and found myself wondering if Verlaine might be blogging it. And lo and behold when I logged on there he was! I remember last time a puzzle of this quality turned up I greatly enjoyed his blog on it and I just wondered was it pure coincidence that both of these dazzling ornaments of the setter’s art had fallen into his lap?

    Also I have noticed several comments in the posts about the anonymity of the setter. Well, obviously, I know that all the Times daily cryptics are ‘anonymous’. But are they really? You serious puzzlers must be quite a close-knit group and I’m sure you get to know the setters’ ‘handwriting’ after a time? I mean, even I know that this puzzle is of a different calibre from other recent fare, and I’d be willing to bet that the setter is the same person who composed the earlier puzzle I have referred to above which Verlaine also blogged. There is something about the ‘hiding in plain view’ technique, the way that every clue (I’ve just gone through them again) can be looked at with hindsight as a plain, straightforward and perfectly fair definition, with all the obfuscation being provided by the cunning cryptic camouflage, that puts it in a different class and speaks of a common authorship with the previous example. To put it another way, if this had been a pure definition-type crossword it would have been relatively easy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the anonymity principle is a great one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just think that some of you must know the identity of the setter. Am I wrong?

    As I say, sorry if these are the questions of a novice, but unfortunately that’s what I am!

    1. I think it’s harder to guess the identity of a Times setter than you might think – something to do with the fact that a lot of the thing which might be giveaways in other publications (propensity for smut, contemporary references, etc) are more or less verboten here. Sometimes I think a puzzle “must be a Richard Rogan” but I know for a fact I’ve been wrong about that, probably on multiple occasions! He does own up to me occasionally when I’ve been very nice to one of his, though. But the fact that I have never been able to tell apart any of the other setters, despite having a vague idea of the current roster, is a good sign that identifying them by their cluing style is not an easy task…
  27. Thanks, that is really interesting.

    On another note (NPI), I’ve seen a brilliant band called Vôdûn a couple of times recently. Just wondered if they are on your radar at all? (Ignore the cover art and just listen to the music!)

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