Times 26,543: A Variety of Registers

After four really quite chewy puzzles in a row, I was living in superstitious dread of what Friday might bring, but I needn’t have worried: this was by some distance the most straightforward of the week. 7 minutes on the timer for me, among a large pack of fast solves, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the 5 minute barrier broken by one of the usual suspects later today.

I have no idea who this setter is but I feel like I’ve blogged them before: although the cluing is straightforward there’s a great commitment to elegance. If you didn’t pay any attention to the quality of the surfaces at the time, being too busy solving, I urge you to go back and read down them: just try to find one that doesn’t feel like a real description in English of some kind of plausible real-world scenario. In my own idle attempts at setting I’ve found this to be so much harder to do than you’d think that I can only applaud the setter furiously here. Bravo!

I think it was one of those crosswords where three of the first four across went in straightaway, so FOI 1ac, but my LOI was 14ac, on the marginally amusing basis that I spent the entire puzzle with my brain convinced that Edam was the Swiss cheese with the holes, finally solving it by subtracting one of said holes (O) from the rodent. Any route that gets you there, I suppose, but there’s a strong argument that I need to get more sleep in my life, especially over the next seven days so I can be appropriately rested for the 22nd! I think my COD was 3dn, nicely terse, raised a little smile with the “speller”, and I have been known to enjoy a game of Scrabble. (A stymied Czech friend handed me the Words With Friends game on her phone the other day and I handed it back a few seconds later having played QUALIA across the top of AGENES. I think her opponent might have suspected something.) Anyway, to the school run with me, and over to all of you…


1 Athletic son — rather fat, needing to lose pounds (6)
SPORTY – S [son] + PORT{l}Y [rather fat, “needing to lose” L (pounds)]

5 Something like gear expert removed from space missile (8)
SPROCKET – SP{ace} [ACE (expert) removed from SPACE] + ROCKET

9 Soldier died in company with second soldier (8)
COMMANDO – MAN D [soldier | died] in CO + MO [company (with) second]

10 Have lofty aims in reforming Persia (6)
ASPIRE – (PERSIA*) [“reforming”]

11 He curbed a working monastery finally in dissolution (10)
DEBAUCHERY – (HE CURBED A*) [“working”] + {monaster}Y [“finally”]

13 Register even now not opened (4)
TILL – {s}TILL [even now, “not opened”]

14 Think rodent’s wanting what looks like Edam cheese? (4)
MUSE – M{o}USE [rodent, “wanting” an O… a letter which resembles the roundest of cheeses]

15 Versatile cricketer in every short game (3-7)
ALL-ROUNDER – ALL ROUNDER{s} [every | “short” game]

18 Concerned with unruly teenager being morally reformed (10)
REGENERATE – RE [concerned with] + (TEENAGER*) [“unruly”]

20 Dog shows no sign of hesitation in lair (4)
SETT – SETT{er} [dog, minus ER (sign of hesitation)]

21 What’s regularly written in quatrain about Arab land (4)
IRAQ – Q{u}A{t}R{a}I{n}, taken “regularly” and then turned “about”

23 Polish scholar manages to get across runic in translation (10)
COPERNICUS – COPES [manages] “to get across” (RUNIC*) [“in translation”]

25 Standard some citizens ignore (6)
ENSIGN – hidden in {citiz}ENS IGN{ore}

26 Optical effect as normal: a line without focus? (8)
PARALLAX – PAR A L LAX [normal | a | line | without focus]

28 See very English stately home has rare furniture item (4,4)
LOVE SEAT – LO V E SEAT [see | very | English | stately home]

29 Show anxiety where Jack has to go on losing weight (6)
JITTER – J [Jack] + {w}ITTER [to go on, losing its W (weight)]


2 Try for decrease in bishop’s area of responsibility (9)
PROSECUTE – PRO [for] + CUT [decrease] in SEE [bishop’s area of responsibility]

3 Scrabble with odd speller? (7)
RUMMAGE – RUM MAGE [odd | speller (as in one who casts spells)]

4 The old note in a foreign currency (3)
YEN – YE N [the “old” | note]

5 Upset about clubs making purchase of illegal drugs (5)
SCORE – SORE [upset] about C [clubs]

6 What could be tailored for wearer today? (5-2-4)
READY-TO-WEAR – (WEARER TODAY*) [“tailored”], &lit

7 Rope winder needs big characters to turn under the sun (7)
CAPSTAN – CAPS [big (as in upper case) characters] + TAN [to turn (brown) under the sun]

8 Register new part, the last to be taken up (5)
ENROL – N ROL{<—-E} [new | part, with the last letter rising to the top]

12 Blending fuel needs energy and location keeping cold (11)
COALESCENCE – COAL [fuel] + E [energy] + SCENE [location] “keeping” C [cold]

16 Land growing grass in spring, mostly (3)
LEA – LEA{p} [spring, “mostly”] – ETA: probably not actually LEA{k} as I at first and over-hastily assumed

17 Company needs boost — time to replace head of commerce (9)
ENTOURAGE – EN{c->T}OURAGE [boost, with T (time) replacing C{ommerce}]

19 Knight’s man leaves after last couple of games (7)
ESQUIRE – QUIRE [leaves (of paper)] after {gam}ES [“the last couple” of letters thereof]

20 Group eats shot pheasant, perhaps in cooking pot (7)
SKILLET – SET [group] “eats” KILL [shot pheasant, perhaps]

22 Uncovered wrong note in musical piece (5)
RONDO – {w}RON{g} [“uncovered”] + DO [note (as in do-re-mi)]

24 Seed attracts Italian songbird (5)
PIPIT – PIP [seed] “attracts” IT [Italian]

27 Clash over Indian government (3)
RAJ – JAR [clash] turned “over”

68 comments on “Times 26,543: A Variety of Registers”

  1. Thanks, V, for the encouragement to revisit the surfaces… I barely take note at the time, but you’re right, they do seem particularly elegant here…

    Anyway, yes, the easiest of the week, but it still took about 35mins for me, then I spent several minutes alphabet-running before throwing the towel in with PARALLAX left empty. Ho hum.

    Oh, and thanks for parsing MUSE, very sneaky.

  2. After this week’s four brats Verlaine is right this was straightforward indeed. My 34 minutes is nothing to write home about but I am writing.

    You will probably notice that I am no longer anonymous after encouragement from Messrs Galspray and Jack.

    My LOI 14ac MUSE too – FOI 4dn YEN


  3. I echo V’s comments about the surfaces. Quite a few of the answers were write-ins (how many Polish scholars do you know?), but I readily excused them on the basis of the neatness of the clues.
    19 minutes – under half the time of any other this week.
  4. Like Janie, I didn’t note the surfaces at the time, at least consciously, but they were lovely, although I did think that the wearer/wear of 6d was infelicitous. Unlike deezzaa, I was sure that ‘Polish’ was really ‘polish’ fiendishly placed at the beginning to trick me into believing it meant ‘Polish’. (You tell me you’re going to Minsk, but…) Thanks to Verlaine for enlightening me on ESQUIRE, which (unlike COPERNICUS) I biffed from ‘Knight’s man’. LOI JITTER, as I wasn’t really sure I knew ‘witter’. COD 3d.
  5. 35 minutes – enjoyed DEBAUCHERY. Didn’t realise RAJ was a generic word for ‘government’ in India, so was preparing a rant, which was ruined when I consulted the dictionary.
  6. Easiest one this week, but everything is relative. Still thought it was a good challenge.

    LOI was COALESCENCE, COD was RUMMAGE. I also enjoyed DEBAUCHERY, just not as much as Ulaca (obviously).

    Thanks setter and Verlaine, have a good weekend everyone.

    And welcome to the land of the living Horryd!

    1. I would like an explanation of that red face, which Horryd – for reasons best known to himself – would like to see in close-up.
      1. If I am to join this merry band I think our images should at least be up to date.

        Your furry thing is adorable. I never saw one in Israel.

        1. Largely because they imported them from South America to farm for fur, but the fur was useless and they ended up eating the fish in the lake, much to the chagrin of the kingfishers.
            1. Very possibly, but stuff that isn’t Brahms and Schubert is more Verlaine’s dept than mine.
              1. I prefer Brahms & Liszt myself…

                I was going to say that The Chagrin of the Kingfishers was a lesser known Hannibal Lecter novel.

          1. If that’s a coypu, here called a ragondin, the blighters are in and near every lake and river in SW France and have nasty yellow teeth. I was told by our greenskeeper they’re vegetarian?
  7. I agree with V, easiest of the week, a level par 20 minutes for me, with admiration for the elegant clueing. 6d the only one I thought a little weak with the repeat of ‘wear(er)’.
    Horryd welcome to avatar-land, I trust the bolt through your head is removable for sleeping comfortably?
    1. Nick the Novice put it there and only he has the power of removing it.

      MORAL: Never cross NtN.

      1. If you look carefully you’ll see that the arrow/bolt is behind me – but does give the illusion of penetration – it not nightwear. It wasn’t put there by Nick the Novice as it is in fact an anagram indicator I had on the wall of my old office in People’s Square, Shanghai.
        I will be preparing a second image for use when the NtN becomes too much of a grind, in a generous shade of meldrew.

        Pip, I must ask, does you head swivel the full 360 and Ulaca, I have always thought of your image as being a kangaroos arse, I may be wrong!?
        What pray is it?

        Isn’t it about time Verlaine updated his image? It must date from about 1893!

        As ever

        1. I had Tom Verlaine from the mighty post-punk band Television as my avatar for a while, but there were rumblings of discontent, and rummagings about for torches and pitchforks, so I though I’d better revert.

          Anyway, surely as Times solvers we shouldn’t be allowed any living personages (except Her Majesty the Queen) in our avatars?

        2. I was at Hula Lake in Israel, praying for a miracle, and all of a sudden this furry thing descended. I whipped out my Canon, but by the time I squeezed the shutter-release button it was slipping into the lake. I waited for it to surface, but it never did.
          1. This picture always reminds me of the definition of a horse show. Remind me: what is the animal?
  8. 18 minutes, for no apparent reason getting stuck on PROSECUTE.
    I do hope we’re not going to have a round of Mock the Avatar: that would be perfectly Horryd
  9. How many Polish scholars do I know? In my case the answer was zero—well, I know of Copernicus; I just didn’t know he was Polish. Luckily, like Kevin, I finally realised I wasn’t looking for some obscure type of shellac, and at least I’ve learned something today.

    Greatly enjoyed the rest (with the minor exception of 6d’s anagram; I’m with Pip on that one) and romped home, by my own poor standards, in 50 minutes, five minutes quicker than my only other finish this week, I think.

    I did start idly looking for a pangram once I’d seen the J and the Q, but it seemed unlikely that my songbird LOI would be a PFPZT (presumably onomatopoeic?) so sanity prevailed.

    Edited at 2016-10-14 09:30 am (UTC)

    1. I was going to use the word “nongram” in my write-up, but I think I forgot!

      Perhaps it is possible to remember Copernicus was Polish by imagining how often you’d have to polish copper knickers, to keep them looking their best in the event of the wearer being hit by a bus.

  10. I was on target for a 15-20 minute solve and really enjoying this puzzle but then ground to a halt with 6 intersecting answers missing (12dn 17dn 20dn, 23ac, 26ac, 29ac) and I needed as long again to get the job done. 14ac was thoroughly inventive; we’ve had “egg” for O before but never “Edam cheese”.

    Edited at 2016-10-14 08:36 am (UTC)

  11. No PARALLAX reminds me of the elementary physics lab at school and determining the focal length of a convex lens. I never got it right. Had trouble in the south east today, not seeing SKILLET for far too long. Took ages to get over the JITTER bug too. Didn’t help that I’d put MUTT in as MUTTER without the er before reading the clue properly. Took 40 minutes all in for an easier puzzle than the last three where I’ve been faster. Perhaps it was the wine last night celebrating his Bobship’s triumph.

    Edited at 2016-10-14 09:49 am (UTC)

        1. And I’ll throw one out there to be shot down in flames:

          Twee armies routed after definitely getting Bob’s number (10,5,5)

          1. I guess POSITIVELY 4TH+S TREET isn’t the answer… When will I learn that biffing doesn’t pay.

            Edited at 2016-10-14 11:49 am (UTC)

            1. Aha, ABSOLUTELY not POSITIVELY! He’ss quite a one for the old adverbs, though, isn’t he, Bob?
              1. He is. Too late I’ve refined it to:

                Times were a-changing after definitely getting Bob’s number (10,5,5)

                1. Honest, I hadn’t seen your exchange with Veraine when I cracked it as below. I’m just slower than you two Shooting Stars rolling past me on the last fire truck from hell.
                2. Ooh, that’s a good one Sotira. I mean the first one wasn’t bad, but the refined version is very clever. Wonder if Anax and co have these head-slapping moments with a good clue that could have been a great clue?

                  BTW, I thought your earlier comment about looking forward to Bob appearing in future puzzles was uncharacteristically heartless until I realised you had specified the TLS!

                  1. Heh. I never would. We’ve lost Dario Fo this week, and Leonard Cohen has declared he’s ready to die (mind you, he’s often sounded less cheerful than that). The world can’t lose Bob Dylan, too.

                    Fortunately, as you realised, entry criteria for the TLS are rather less taxing.

                    1. Yes it’s nice that Leonard is back to his usual self. Was worried there for a while ..
          2. Having got lost thinking Positively Fourth Street and trying to lose two letters, I’ve jumped the railroad gate without getting any more blood on the tracks. Absolutely Sweet Marie is from Blonde on Blonde so you’re definitely old enough to have been tangled up in blue.
        1. Whoops. Didn’t see this before I responded to Sotira above.

          Say it ain’t so Sawbill!

  12. A splendid blog as always, although I had Lea[p] rather than Lea[k] for my parsing of 16 down.

    Appreciate it has nothing to do with this forum, but just wondered how many people are enjoying the latest Rainbow Charity puzzle (Mixed Doubles). It’s a fine mix of crossword type clues with plenty of penny-dropping moments…

    Gandolf 34

    1. Ooh, think LEA{p} is almost certainly better! Still, the answer was pretty unarguable either way.
  13. 19 min – after seeing Q X K J early, (as bottom half was done before most of top) wasted a little time looking for the Z.
    LOI was 2dn: my first thought was to base something on DIOCESE, and when I had the P, PROVINCE – dunno why I didn’t see SEE at once. I liked SPROCKET too, my FOI.
    Pleased to see you at last, horryd !
  14. Scraped in under the half hour at 29 minutes, so definitely a bit easier than the rest of the week’s offerings. FOI YEN, LOI ENTOURAGE. Liked SPROCKET. Didn’t know Copernicus was Polish, but I do now! An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks setter and V.
  15. I’m sorry to see this one is supposed to be easy as my 18:56 suggests otherwise. I’ll put it down to the lurgy having finally decided to land on me.

    I didn’t know the required meanings of dissolution and regenerate or that copper-knickers was Polish.

    I’m surprised that V didn’t mention Toad the Wet Sprocket, an initially fictitious band that is now a real one.

    1. That connection didn’t even occur to me (though I know of the band): I was mostly thinking of the puppet dog from Fraggle Rock at the time of solving!
  16. My first under 15 mins for some time. So combination of easy and being on wavelength. Annoyed to miss 2 x Verlaine by just a few seconds.
    1. I was just inside of 2 x Magoo (just went to check) so it looks like I was dead right about the possibility of him smashing the 5 minute barrier!

      Edited at 2016-10-14 03:26 pm (UTC)

  17. Thanks V for enjoyable Friday blog as always. My first completion of the week. The optics clue reminded me of a boy in physics class answering a question about eyes “light is brought to focus on the rectum”. Not sure where the light shines from. Have a good weekend everyone.
    Alan QC improved
  18. 12 mins. I worked a couple of hours later than I’d planned to but it obviously didn’t do me any harm as I didn’t drift at all. PARALLAX was my LOI after SKILLET. I’d like to add my own tip of the hat to the setter for the surface readings.
  19. 9m, solving at the end of a long and tiring day, so I’d classify this as pretty straightforward. I never notice the surface readings while solving so thanks for the tip-off, v. I will go back and admire them now.
  20. Just over an hour, with the last bit spent trying to justify JITTER (couldn’t think of another word that would fit, but WITTER was new to me, so I never saw the wordplay). PROSECUTE also took a while to see, after first trying to find some explanation for PROCEDURE. I’m glad everyone else found the week difficult as well.

    Edited at 2016-10-14 09:50 pm (UTC)

  21. 10:51, exactly 10 seconds faster than yesterday, so I rate them about the same. Or on second thoughts, I probably found this one a tad more difficult, since I semi-biffed MUSE, with my ignorance of foodie matters laid bare yet again (like you I thought EDAM must be the one with the holes in). If I hadn’t wanted to beat yesterday’s time and thus preserve my continued improvement through the week, I might have dithered several more seconds over it. I’d wanted the answer to be RATE too before I finally got PROSECUTE (vocalophobia holding me up again), and spent far too long wondering how an Edam cheese could look like an E.

    Incidentally I’m almost certainly missing something obvious but I don’t understand PROSECUTE = “try”, since the former surely falls to the executive and the latter to the judiciary.

    1. I wondered about this at the time then forgot about it. I wonder, having consulted Oxford, whether the inherent slipperiness of much language (not excluding legal-judicial language) allows the two words to come sufficiently close together in some contexts for them to be considered near synonyms.

      Anyway, ODO ‘try 2.1’ has ‘investigate [and decide] a formal legal case’ (going from memory!), which has as one of its example sentences: ‘Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before.’

  22. Well, now that most of you have pointed out that this was the easiest one of the week, I have no option but to confess that I DNFd.

    Failed comprehensively on PROSECUTE, and equally on MUSE. Like Ulaca, I enjoyed DEBAUCHERY, though not recently.

    1. Since we have been discussing avatars, Thud, can I ask about yours? Am I right in assuming it is not a selfie?
  23. Mine is the inimitable Robert Shaw as Quint, from Jaws. However, it’s a reasonable representation of me any time before about 10am.

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