Times 26,549: Even Stevens

A puzzle on the EVE of the Times Crossword Championship wherein a suspiciously vast majority of the enumerations are EVEN? A lesser blogger might not discern a Nina in that, but I’ve been at this game for a few years now, and my sanity really is starting to crumble.

I actually did this one a couple of days ago on paper, thanks to another sneak preview copy from E2R2 (Esteemed Editor Richard Rogan). I hadn’t slept well the night before and it took me what looks to me, returning to it with fresh eyes, like a pretty miserable time of 12 minutes EVEN. Examining the mess I made of the grid I see I made a bit of a hash of the SE, pencilling in PEPPERMINT for 25ac and FLY-ON-THE-WALL for 11dn before thinking them properly through. The clever 16dn was my LOI and I can see that I spent a long time wanting it to be GUSTIEST before the petrel finally dropped.

13dn raised a smile and I always appreciate a shout-out to 1acs, but I think my COD goes to 18dn as there’s just something very neat about “sextet, half of them”. Many thanks setter, whoever you may be! And that’s it from me. See you all tomorrow? I don’t have my invitation to hand – is it in the same place as last year, and what time does registration for the first prelim begin? (Obviously false answers to either of those questions in an attempt to gain competitive advantage will be frowned upon, I warn you now…)


1 Academic from Derby, maybe, in the lead (10)
CLASSICIST – CLASSIC [Derby, maybe] + 1ST [in the lead]

6 Famous model, tiny and rather too cute (4)
TWEE – T [famous model] + WEE [tiny]

9 Island fair, matchless, but one not united (10)
MARTINIQUE – MART [fair] + {u->I}NIQUE [matchless, but I (one) not U (united)]

10 Shred waste in safe place to start with (4)
WISP – W{aste} I{n} S{afe} P{lace} [“to start with”]

12 Troops on best behaviour? One shows no resistance (14)
SUPERCONDUCTOR – O.R. [troops] on SUPER CONDUCT [best | behaviour]

14 Lady taking a minute to cut cheese turnover (6)
MADAME – A M [a | minute] “to cut” EDAM reversed [cheese “turnover”]

15 Edited lines not causing offence? (8)
INSOLENT – (LINES NOT*) [“edited”]

17 Desperate for food in Paris, we put on a party (8)
RAVENOUS – NOUS [in Paris, we] put on RAVE [a party]

19 Chops sent over with firm protective cover (6)
STUCCO – CUTS reversed [chops “sent over”] + CO [firm]

22 Clumsy goat suspected of mischief? (14)
BUTTERFINGERED – BUTTER [goat, as in one that butts] + FINGERED [suspected of mischief, as in “fingered as the thief”]

24 Batsman’s first edge not what one suspected (4)
BLIP – B{atsman}’s first letter + LIP [edge]

25 I’m held up in badly managed plant (10)
DELPHINIUM – (I’M HELD UP IN*) [“badly managed”]

26 Bird food in city changing hands (4)
YOLK – YO{r->L}K [city “changing hands”, i.e R (right) becoming L (left)]

27 i.e. less dirt if fluid is this? (10)
STERILISED – (I.E. LESS DIRT IS*) [“fluid”], semi-&lit


1 Party member behind bill is upstanding (4)
CAMP – MP [member] behind reverse of AC [bill “is upstanding”]

2 Dragon roaming about for all to see, stranded? (7)
AGROUND – (DRAGON*) [“roaming”] about U [for all to see, at the cinema]

3 Rest when playing, feasible after Mass, vital for primate (6, 6)
SPIDER MONKEY – SPIDER [rest when playing (snooker)] + ON [feasible] after M [mass] + KEY [vital]

4 Seize piece of cake with a spot of lemon filling (6)
CLINCH – CINCH [piece of cake] filled by L [“a spot of” L{emon}]

5 Sensational job in a shambles (8)
STUNNING – double def; a shambles is a slaughterhouse, where beasts are stunned with a metal bolt to the brain or via electricity before having their throats roughly slit – anyone for veganism?

7 Shave, although keeping dry (7)
WHITTLE – WHILE [although] keeping TT [dry (teetotal)]

8 With Queen’s intervention, compensation’s coming to an end (10)
EXPIRATION – EXPIATION [compensation], intervened in by R [Queen]

11 Common licence factory owner has? (4-2-3-4)
RUN-OF-THE-MILL – one would after all hope that the mill owner has the run of his own mill

13 “I’d like a little one” learner admitted, to my surprise (10)
IMPROBABLY – “I’M PRO BABY” [“I’d like a little one”], having admitted L [learner]

16 Bird changing direction over street that’s most windy (8)
PUFFIEST – PUFFI{n->E} [bird “changing direction”, i.e. with N (north) becoming E (east)], over ST [street]

18 Words of rancour from sextet, half of them Liberal (7)
VITRIOL – VI [sextet, or at least six, which I guess is close enough] + TRIO [half of a sextet] + L [Liberal]

20 Believes the last thing shown at cinema (7)
CREDITS – double def; the credits being the things that roll once your movie has finished

21 Gunman runs through again from South (6)
SNIPER – REPINS from bottom to top [runs through again “from South”]

23 During month, support’s around (4)
AMID – M [month], surrounded by AID [support]

38 comments on “Times 26,549: Even Stevens”

  1. A somewhat chewy set of clues that I was quite surprised to find I had worked through in only 41 minutes as it had seemed much longer in the process. I thought YOLK clued as “bird food” was novel but on reflection I may have previously seen “egg” clued in this way.
  2. Some great clues here I thought but had to resort to aids for some as the brain is somewhat sluggish of late. Just as well I can’t make the championship. With -M—B—- at 13D I was expecting the improbable AMAZEBALLS, a neologism I haven’t seen yet in a crossword (or have I?) having dismissed the right answer early on as I couldn’t parse it. Oh well never going to up my speed but can still enjoy.
    1. I’m pretty sure AMAZEBALLS turned up in a Guardian crossword earlier this year. After a bit of Googling it was number 26876 by Paul on 5th May.

      Edited at 2016-10-21 09:09 am (UTC)

      1. A Paul clue by any chance? ETA: You beat me to it!

        Edited at 2016-10-21 09:11 am (UTC)

    2. I met this word first in an account of a day out by a 15-yr.-old girl pupil and gently informed her it wasn’t a real word and could be seen as … er … a little rude. She was astonished, saying her family used it all the time. I slunk away.
  3. 25 minutes and no problems. A gentle preparation for those grid-locked tomorrow. Very best of luck to you all. I shall be on my way to Heathrow, probably also grid-locked.
  4. Good luck everyone. Sorry that I will miss you all. Off to Disneyworld and going to Mickey’s Halloween party. My daughter has me an outfit of Olaf, the snowman from Frozen. Oh yes! What fun! Arggg!

    Edited at 2016-10-21 08:09 am (UTC)

  5. Were I competing tomorrow I might be worried about having peaked too early but I’ll be attending a wedding near Maidstone, so best of luck to all those from these parts in the champs. I hope to hear of a good number of free entries for 2017 at the very least. Nice puzzle – loved VI TRIO.
  6. 18:50. Nothing too taxing today, though the NW corner held me up for a short while, with LOI MARTINIQUE. My COD to IMPROBABLY. Very witty!

    Good luck to tomorrow’s contestants. Have you thought of any good underhand ways to handicap Magoo?

  7. After 45 minutes I stuck in PERFIDIOUS for 9ac when MARTINIQUE would have been a touch better. I was thinking about Blighty. I didn’t half struggle to get 1 down but as its a press day for me today I abandoned ship before reaching CAMP.

    So DNF. Initially had IMPROBABLE for 13dn but finally got the YOLK at 26ac!



  8. DNF, with a couple of crossword-only (for me) things not remembered from previous encounters, like “shambles” being an abattoir, or “Derby” being CLASSIC, mixed with a few things at the edge of my general knowledge like MARTINIQUE. Oddly, I raced through the SE corner that troubled our esteemed blogger only to run AGROUND on the NW.

    Still, at least nobody’s going to be giving me a grilling against the clock over the weekend—good luck to everyone who’s off to the Championship!

    Edited at 2016-10-21 08:37 am (UTC)

  9. Apart from (as Horryd) an IMPROBABLE which forced an extended struggle for YOLK, I can’t really say why this stretched to 31 minutes. I think I slipped too early into tricky solve mode, and the NE proved more recalcitrant than it was.
    That YOLK was nearly in desperation EELS, because presumably some birds eat them and a city is usually Ely in short clues, but it felt (very) wrong.
    Good set of clues though: tip of the hat to the well behaved troops, and IMPROBABLY in particular
  10. 9:20 here, so hopefully that means I’ve peaked at just the right time. Should have been about a minute quicker too, as I went blank for a while at the end staring at 16D.
  11. Struggled today and took just under the hour. SW corner the biggest problem with BUTTERFINGERED not seen until the penny finally dropped with IMPROBABLY. I was watching England in the field at the time too. COD CLASSICIST. Dodgy word of the day PUFFIEST, the most like the magic dragon of 2d? Good luck to all the contenders in the Championship. I couldn’t have been one.

    Edited at 2016-10-21 09:40 am (UTC)

  12. An enjoyable 30 minutes, delayed slightly by the IMPROBABLE / ABLY error before the excellent YOLK was twigged and the 6, 7, 8 half-sextet were my LOI.
    Good luck to all masochists tomorrow, no doubt I’ll be blogging them in due course and be faced instead with a non-Xim classic tormentor from ca. 1956 or so next Wednesday. RR go easy please!
  13. 25m. I felt I was making extremely heavy weather of this, taking ages over what really aren’t very hard clues. The definitions for 12ac and 22ac for instance are pretty kind but it took me forever to see them. On the other hand there are some tricky things in the NW corner, which is where I ran seriously 2dn: fair=MART, CLASSIC, ‘rest when playing’, shambles. So it at least possible that I haven’t just developed a case of the stupids on the eve of the championships.
    See you tomorrow!

    Edited at 2016-10-21 09:11 am (UTC)

  14. 35 min, but with a typo. About 10 minutes spent on SE corner, as I couldn’t see the anagram at 23ac till after I had resorted to an aid, having failed to think of anything to fit the checkers. (Probably including IM in something like mismanagement)
    Hence 21dn was LOI, as the D I had got me thinking of the month of December.
  15. 13m 05s for me today, with the last 2 minutes spent on the 5d / 12a intersection. In fact, most of the northeast section felt like a struggle.

    I don’t remember coming across that meaning of shambles before – I would say that it could now stand me in good stead for tomorrow, but I’m sure they wouldn’t be kind enough to slip in pointers like that so close to the competition.

  16. I made a total shambles of the NW as I failed with 1a and 9a. Having used aids for those two, I was able to get 4d(couldn’t get past SPLICE until I had the C from 1a) and 3d. As a snooker player I really should’ve got SPIDER earlier (I had the MONKEY bit, but HOWLER wouldn’t parse). I had STUNNING but couldn’t parse it as I only knew Shambles as a street in York. Well over the hour for a dispiriting experience. Funnily enough the rest of the puzzle went in quite easily. I particularly liked 13d and saw YOLK quickly. Good luck to tomorrow’s contestants. Thanks setter and V.

    Edited at 2016-10-21 12:07 pm (UTC)

  17. For all of you off to ‘out-Magoo’ Magoo on Saturday here is a cautionary tale.

    Back in c.1991 I went to the Championship alone – I had always been with my wife but we had now split-up.
    The event was held at the Picadilly Hotel and I registered and then tried to finish off The Saturday 15×15 with a swift beer: I was a couple of answers short.
    An old chap came over and asked how I was doing. I showed him the gaps and he asked if he might venture the answers. I grateflly accepted and soon had both in place and The Saturday finished – ready for the fray.
    I noticed his crossword was still virgin – when I asked him if he had started, he charmingly stated he had – but as per usual he never filled it in!

    I was staggered and deflated in equal quantities!

    Someone may know who he was?

    Good Luck to all!

  18. Anyone who can finish a SatT 15×15 crossword without filling it in at least won’t win any prizes!
    1. horryd – the tardis effect of your successive icons is a touch unnerving – hyperspatial or something.

      Edited at 2016-10-21 04:36 pm (UTC)

  19. 9:19 – found this one pretty breezy, only MARTINIQUE gave me any hang-up. Best of luck everyone tomorrow!
  20. I fell into the IMPROBABLE trap and spent way too long before I realized that I couldn’t justify EELS and that IMPROBABLY also fitted (better, even).

    No problem with the shambles for me. I spent a few years as a kid living in Bradford on Avon just up from a street called The Shambles. So I knew that meaning from about the age of 10.

  21. 19 mins. I’m pleased I didn’t take my usual Friday knock because I found the top half quite chewy. For quite a while the only checkers I had for 1ac were C?A…… and I couldn’t get away from the idea that the Derby was a hat and the answer would start CHAT……. It was only after I finally realised that “rest when playing” was SPIDER in 3dn (the MONKEY had been written in confidently some time earlier) that the additional checker led to the penny drop moment for CLASSICIST. Once that was in I was able to get 4dn and 5dn, and EXPIRATION became my LOI after SUPERCONDUCTOR. As I said yesterday, good luck to tomorrow’s contestants.
  22. 50m DNF with NW pretty empty apart from CHAIRWOMAN at 1a as to my senile mind CHAIR equalled academic and WOMAN equalled Derby (probably from Derby and Joan) and a chairwoman would be in the lead! Ingeniously stupid and the NW was well and truly blocked. I doubt I’d have got SUPERCONDUCTOR – unconvinced that super equals best but it’s a lot nearer than Derby and woman. Oh and bird food for yolk puzzled me too – I had an unlikely EELS. Still as I’m not competing tomorrow I can be sanguine about it all at least. Most enjoyable and useful blog, V. Good luck and pleasant grids to one and all tomorrow.
    1. I’ve gone down that road before now, but it’s worth remembering it’s spelt Darby and Joan.
  23. Tricky puzzle – nice one to have tucked away, if a little longer than usual. Good luck to all the superconductors tomorrow.
  24. About 35 minutes, crawling through the NW area where I too was stuck on Derby=hat for quite a while. Fair=mart took a very long time to appear also. Good luck to our contestants tomorrow. I’m shielded by an ocean from being tempted to humiliate myself by attending, thank heavens. Regards to all.
  25. Not great from me but then you don’t run 26 miles the day before a marathon. I ballsed up the timing but probably close to 20 minutes.

    Didn’t know the required meaning of shambles despite there being a street of that name in my nearest town.

    Good luck tomorrow folks, hope to meet some new faces and get sloshed with some familiar ones.

  26. As you can tell from the fact that we’re well into Sunday by now, this one almost had me beat. Total time just over an hour, but with several givings-up and comings-back.

    It all went smoothly apart from the north-left corner, where I was thinking of the wrong type of member (arm or leg) for 1d, the wrong type of monkey (howler rather than spider – though I couldn’t see why) for 3d, and the wrong type of Derby (hat rather than race) for 1ac. All this, and no sun-tan.

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