Times 26521 – A crocodile in the grass – hear it?

Solving time: 53 minutes

Music: Mahler, Symphony #7, Kubelik/BRSO

I solved most of this in 20 minutes, but there were a couple of obscure words that had me guessing for a while. In the end, there is no choice but to go with the cryptic, and hope you’ve got it right. Unlike a Mephisto, you can’t get your answers confirmed by the crossing letters, and you may very well have put in a momble.

The cryptics were actually quite simple if you had the faith to believe them. Can ‘pot’ be clued by ‘pot’? Does ‘two ducks’ really mean ‘oo’? Does ‘may bend back’ indicate a palindrome? Yes to all! If Mark Thakkar was still around, this would be just his sort of puzzle – “If that must be the answer, then that’s what it is!” The only trouble is, that sometimes it isn’t, but after all, this is Monday.

And away we go….

1 ENIGMA, A M(G)INE backwards, my FOI.
5 PRACTISE, PR(ACT)ISE, where the literal is a little indirect. Think of running some sort of small business, or something along those lines.
9 CROTCHET, CROTCHET[y], a note I am always forgetting.
11 MARRAM, a grass that is a palindrome, for which most solvers will need all the crossers.
12 RUSTLING, RUST + LING, our favorite fish.
14 CANNON FODDER, sounds like CANON + F + ODDER.
17 FRUIT MACHINE, anagram of MANIC THIEF around R.U., the most common two-letter game.
20 FLAGELLA, F(LAG)ELLA, often found in biology class.
22 KIPPER, double definition.
23 SPONGE, another double definition.
25 PORTLAND, PORT + LAND, as in landing a fish.
27 DUNDEE, DUN + DEE. I thought the river came first, and was the Don – not so.
2 NORWAY, NO(R) WAY. It certainly doesn’t.
3 GET CRACKING, GET + CRACKING in different senses, a very fine clue.
4 AD HOMINEM, anagram of HIM + DAEMON.
5 POTOROO, POT + OR + O + O – so simple it’s hard!
6 AMISS, ‘A MISS’ is as good as a mile, proverbially.
7 TUP, PUT upside-down.
8 SALINGER, S.A. + LINGER, a simple but brilliant clue.
13 LED ZEPPELIN, LED + ZEPPELIN in different senses. I nearly put in ‘airplane’ as the second element, thinking it might be ‘the Airplane’, but thought better of it.
16 PROLAPSE, PRO(LAP)SE, more non-quotidian vocabulary
18 COALPIT, anagram of TOPICAL.
19 SEANCE, cryptic definition, a pretty easy one.
21 LEECH, C EEL upside down + H. I never remember to try ‘eel’ when looking for three-letter fish.
24 NOD, DON upside-down.

42 comments on “Times 26521 – A crocodile in the grass – hear it?”

  1. Slightly over the half hour (which means PB must have got it solved in ten)- not a bad way to start the week. As I filled in 15Down, I remembered writing to the Times On-Line complaining about flickering screens when one hits ‘back-page’ after reading an article. Today, it flickered at least four times before settling, most disconcerting and really disrupts my daily reading. Anyone else having the same problem?

    Thank you vinyl1 and setter for the entertainment

  2. All done and dusted in 12 minutes except for the bent-back grass. Never heard of it, and took ages to spot that it might be a palindrome. Even then I entered it with little confidence, but thought it was better to take the triple bogey than to spend another half an hour staring at it.

    Got lucky, so that’s two under par to start the week.

    Thanks setter and Vinyl. BTW Vinyl, I don’t get the comment at 5ac? The definition is “train”.

  3. Like Vinyl fastish start at the bottom and almost over in about 45 mins. But I had thoughtlessly put PRACTICE for 5ac rather than PRACTISE rendering 8dn as what I deigned to be CHANDLER (unparse-able in the event). So I quit – DNF. JD SALINGER it was.

    SA I know is Sex Appeal but I rarely spot ‘it’!

    FOI 19dn SEANCE COD 13dn not 8dn but 13dn LED ZEPPELIN as I was eschewing 60-70s rock bands and thinking gelogically, obviously not logically.

    No way to start the week. Mood Meldrew.

    horryd shanghai

  4. It took me about 25 minutes to get everything but the grass, and 5 more to decide that 5 minutes was enough; never heard of the stuff, and palindromacy never occurred to me. Tired as I am of SA and IT (in crosswords), I did like 8d. And 3d.
  5. Just over 30 minutes for this, so 4 under after what is likely to prove the easiest of the links this week.

    Vinyl, at 5d Pot is clued by ‘pan’, not ‘pot’.

  6. Like Kevin above I gave up on 11ac, though probably after 10 minutes rather than 5. If I’d considered the possibility of a palindrome I’d have been okay as the checkers would have given me the unches and I have actually heard of MARRAM grass. But all would still not have been well because I had written ZEPPALIN for ZEPPELIN at 13dn whilst knowing full well how it should be spelt.

    POTOROO was entered from wordplay as was the unknown FLAGELLA.

    The other very common two-letter game is GO.

  7. What word do teachers always have to check before writing? Those across the Atlantic may be a bit confused, but ‘practise’ is the verb, and ‘practice’ the noun in English. The parsing of 5ac is, I believe, ACT (operation) in PRISE (force) = PRACTISE (train, oneself or together).
    I am almost sorry to say that MARRAM was a definite after two letters (it’s all that stands between many coastal dwellings and erosion). 14′. Thanks vinyl and setter.
  8. I gave up on 11ac too: it didn’t occur to me that it might be a palindrome, and I didn’t know (or had forgotten, I suspect) the grass. Perfectly fair clue though: as long as you spot the trick the letters are all there.

    Edited at 2016-09-19 06:43 am (UTC)

  9. Excellent crossword. I don’t remember that much white space beneath both the across and down clues: great economy.
  10. At the time I thought this was a fairly ordinary offering but only afterwards did I come to appreciate the skill of much of the clueing (e.g. 12a, 3d, 6d) which as Sawbill points out, was delightfully concise.
    Around the 30 minute mark, so par for me.
  11. I was undone by my Latin spelling this morning and ended up with AD HOMENIM. Otherwise all done in about 20 minutes. Good to see some proper music referenced here for a change, with LED ZEPPELIN.

    The NORWAY clue reminded me of a university friend from Blackburn who went to the Glastonbury Festival and saw a protest about seal clubbing or something which had the slogan ‘No Way Norway’. In his accent No Way and Norway were homonyms, so the slogan sounded like ‘Norway Norway’, much to our amusement.

  12. DNF. Another victim of the grass, which was unknown or forgotten. I was feeling much too dopey to spot the palindrome indicator.

    Certainly agree with robrolfe’s parsing of PRACTISE.

    Like the blog title, vinyl.

  13. Totally off the wavelength and had to come here with my tail between my legs with only about ten answers in. I gave up early, having stared at the mostly-blank grid for a half hour or so. Not an inspiring start to the week for me. Ah well.
  14. Knew the grass well, having spent much of my youth on the sandhills of Southport. There weren’t any POTOROOS there though, which was biffed as LOI. The economy of the concise style was a bit different, but in my dotage in the winter chilI well beyond October Hill I think I prefer more otiose clues. I can’t get to the point that quickly, borne out by the nearly 40 minutes today.
    1. Not many will get the reference in your title, bw, but I know some of the backwaters of the Sinatra catalogue!
      1. Knew it first as a Rod McKuen song. Well worth a You Tube listen, along with his ‘If you go away.’ Of course Frank’s. version is close to perfection, but you get the wistfulness from Rod.
  15. 12 minutes, with POTOROO bunged in hopefully, the rest no problem, knew my marram grass grows on dunes, thanks vinyl1. Mahler 7 must have been heavier going than this puzzle.
  16. My attempt was also brought to naught by the grass. I’d considered GARRAM but that only has 1 M. Never saw the palindrome. I’d started off a a great pace but was dragged to a crawl by the SW where I was distracted by trying to fit an S at the end of 20a which gave me CESSPIT, which wouldn’t parse, for 18d until I finally saw the anagram. I’m putting it down to a heavy weekend at the Trevelyan College 50th anniversary reunion at Durham leaving me with a few less braincells today! The bar was still open when I abandoned the dance floor(the knee held out well!) and hit the sack at 2.30am. FOI ENIGMA, LOI before the DNS, FLAGELLA. 45 minutes with 10 wasted on the grass.
  17. 25 min, but with a thoughtless error at 2dn, thinking “no, man!” was OK, so can’t take credit for beating barracuda.
    Only problem with grass was realising that clue referred to palindromicity, as it had appeared elsewhere yesterday, so not entered immediately – in fact no acrosses yielded at once, so FOI was 4dn. LOI 8dn, as needed a couple of minutes to convince self that there wasn’t a C but an S at start.
  18. I rather liked this, finishing on the half-hour. Quite a challenge without being a headache. Pleasant level of conciseness and quiet wit.
  19. I didn’t have the great start promised in 3d – it took quite a while to get going. I was all done in a little over 12 minutes, the last of which was spent trying to find a better answer than MARRAM. I entered it reluctantly in the end, but would probably have wasted more time on it in competition.
  20. Knew MARRAM and POTOROO (though spent way too much time fixating on the even more familiar WALLAROO anyway!) so this wasn’t much a challenge to get done inside of 10 minutes. Inside of 10 minutes is looking like a long way from the *real* big time though, with the Champs looming! I was inside 2x Jason at least.
  21. 10:49 – like our esteemed blogger said, a good one to trust in the wordplay, though I was a little nervous over spelling the Latin phrase correctly
  22. Did The Times change POT to PAN somewhere along the line? By the time I got round to this cryptic it said PAN.
    My favourite today was 26ac as I enjoyed “flipping choice”.
    Matters arising
    1/ I wonder if any dominatrix has ever named herself Flagella?
    2/Reading the solution to 16d out loud put me in mind of Frankie Howerd and his prologue!
  23. Nice smooth solve though not particularly quick. We seaside dwellers had an advantage today. There are hardy types here who go round planting the grass to keep our dunes where they are supposed to be. 27 minutes. Ann
    1. Dunes are supposed to move. Coastlines are not permanent, though they don’t move as fast as dunes (on average). You can try to fight nature but, Canute/Knut-like, you will lose.
      Tired and grumpy, never heard of marram and never saw the indicated palindrome, so an annoying wrong guess in an otherwise fast, straightforward crossword.
  24. 17 mins so relatively easy for me. The grass I know only from encountering it in crossword-land.
  25. About 20 minutes, LOI being the unknown grass. I actually realized the wordplay was telling me to palindromize the thing, or thought it did. So it went in as a sort of guess there at the end. I liked the ‘miss is as good as a mile’ trick, and it’s nice (for me) when UK idiom and sayings actually match those I’m familiar with. Regards.
  26. 45m but struggled with 8d for ages as I had written in PRACTICE for 5a! Doh! DNF as never got the grass at 11a which unlike more esteemed bloggers I thought was a poorish clue. Other than that an enjoyable and succinct puzzle. Thanks for the blog.
  27. 14 mins. As others have already commented, a few tricky clues made this an atypical Monday puzzle. However, MARRAM wasn’t one that held me up because I knew the grass and was happy enough with “may bend back” as a palindrome indicator. I had the most trouble in the NE and finished with SALINGER after the POTOROO/PRACTISE crossers.
  28. This kept me happily occupied for just under an hour as I waited in a hospital for my daughter to come round after a minor op – it was the perfect puzzle to stop me fretting about her. For me it was hard enough to fully occupy my brain without frustrating me. I knew the grass, saw the palindrome and used word play correctly for the odd animal and the Latin phrase. Many thanks setter and blogger.
  29. I am hesitant about posting as I’m several leagues below the general level of solving ability on here, but I am an avid reader of the blog and have benefited from your collective wisdom on all things Times cryptic. Anyway, I just wanted to record my time of 31m 47s, a time that wouldn’t have been possible (and definitely unthinkable) without this blog, the bloggers, and all who contribute.

    So, thank you, from one who hides in the shadows.

    Martin Hill

  30. Once again I find myself a day behind but, as I am in Washington, this is understandable. I do have to hand it to these Americans – give them a large strip of land and a president or two to commemorate and they really know how to do something impressive. I could feel the America subset of my chromosomes saluting.

    As to the puzzle, I found it not as easy as some Monday examples, but tractable nonetheless. I tracted it in 33 minutes (which, I am delighted to note, is a mere two Severs), with the last four spent staring at HEADSHOT and failing to get the parsing.

  31. Unlike others I had no problem with marram but I can’t understand how 8dn parses. I’ve seen another comment saying they are tired of SA in crosswords but… could you please explain how S.A.=’requiring it’ – I’m assuming last=linger. Thankyou.
    1. Yup, last=linger, and—bafflingly for everyone new to cryptic crosswords—”it” is “SA”, both meaning “sex appeal”.

      I’m sure you’ve heard “it” for sex appeal, e.g. “she’s really got it”. The obscure bit is the “SA”, which my dictionary says is an “informal, dated” abbreviation for sex appeal.

      No, I’ve never heard anyone say it, either. But you probably want to try to remember it, because “it” = “sa” is used pretty regularly.

      1. Thanks, yes – now you explain, I have seen it before but it slipped off the radar. Gin and Italian vermouth, sex appeal – those Italians know a thing or two – well, according to cryptic setters. Thanks.

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