Times 26,555: Hey You, You In The Jesus Sandals

I cannot tell you exactly how long I took over this puzzle as I did it while on the move around London, in a minorly Kafkaesque ordeal of trying to get a replacement for my no-longer-functioning Oyster card (was everyone else aware that there are no longer any staffed ticket windows at London tube stations? So actually you can’t get a replacement for a no-longer-functioning Oyster card? London Underground staff are apparently not aware, and will keep advising you to go to bigger and bigger stations until you work this out for yourself). But I don’t think I was on the wavelength as most of the bottom half of the grid remained undone after my Wandsworth Town to Victoria leg, at which point I met up with my friend Jacqui, whose accountancy background was invaluable in helping me crack the unfamiliar (to me) 23ac, and who totally beat me to the punch with 22dn.

No idea about the identity of the setter, but I’ve definitely remarked before about puzzles with an unusual preponderance of quirky question marks, and with no fewer than TEN of them in this puzzle, plus two exclamation points, perhaps the one that I may henceforwards refer to as “the Riddler” has struck again. With the benefit of hindsight I don’t think anything here was too tricky, but some unaccustomed slanginess, combined with the aforementioned out-of-the-box cluing and a slightly unusual grid may have acted as speed bumps and, gosh, I just checked and even the mighty Magoo has posted a surely vanishingly rare >10m time on this one. I take it all back, must have been a super-tough and totally Friday-worthy puzzle!

I have two COD candidates to nominate: I really loved the cryptic definition at 2dn, but I also loved the economical construction of 16dn so that comes as a close runner up for me. Lush and abundant thanks to the setter! Before I open up the floor, would anyone be interested in (a) doing a more regular Sloggers & Betters style meetup in London going forwards, perhaps about once a month? (I enjoy the social meetups so much when they happen) and/or (b) a NaCroSetMo in November? For those who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s the “National Novel Writing Month”, where every November the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month, freeing yourself from the psychological shackles of excessive perfectionism and quality control. Trying to set a whole 15×15 crossword every day for a month would be totally in the spirit of the thing but perhaps a bit silly, but I don’t know, 3 clues a day, 3 grids in the month, something like that? Or is this a really terrible idea?


1 Winding pass runs across a sacred mountain (9)
PARNASSUS – (PASS RUNS*) [“winding”] “across” A.
The mountain overlooking Delphi, sacred to Dionysus and Apollo and home of the Muses, as any classicist kno.

9 Volunteers piebald horse: hack? (3,4)
TAP INTO – T.A. [Territorial Army = volunteers] + PINTO [piebald horse]

10 British philosopher with crook and bad actor (7)
BENTHAM – BENT [with crook] + HAM [bad actor]. Jeremy Bentham the utilitarian and ongoing resident of a cupboard in UCL.
Though “crook” is only really an adjective in benighted Antipodean parts I think? So perhaps the “crook and bad actor” is one and the same individual, a BENT HAM… Thanks jackkt for pointing out what was in plain sight…

11 Peak number that is receding (5)
EIGER – REG I.E. [number (plate) | that is], all reversed [“receding”]

12 Hotly pursuing credit — nullify moves to claim that (2,4,3)
IN FULL CRY – CR [credit] “claimed” by (NULLIFY*) [“moves”]

13 Red flower’s transfixed me, that’s what it’s done! (7)
BLOOMED – BLOOD [red flower (as in thing that flows)] “transfixing” ME; whereas a flower as in flora may have BLOOMED.

15 Given a choice, some would go for hot snack (5)
NACHO – {give}N A CHO{ice}, once some of it has gone

17 Given numbers to call by day (5)
PAGED – PAGE [call] by D [day]. To PAGE a book you give it numbers.

18 Yank almost to the end in possession of fine wit (5)
JOKER – JER{k} [yank “almost to the end”] “in possession of” OK [fine]

19 Genuine broadcasting contract (5)
PUKKA – homophone of PUCKER [“broadcasting” contract]

20 Old craft returned carrying a letter from Greek port (7)
KARACHI – ARK reversed [old craft “returned”] carrying A; + CHI [letter from Greek]

23 Insurance arrangement that could be making of Lord? (3,3,3)
NEW FOR OLD – reverse cryptic clue – (FOR OLD*) [“new”] = OF LORD

25 Twelve people — only the last remaining — then this? (2,3)
NO ONE – NOON [twelve] + {peopl}E [“only the last remaining”].
I don’t know about you but this put me in mind of an Agatha Christie plotline – And Then There Were None

27 Grand poser producing plate in kitchen? (7)
GRIDDLE – G RIDDLE [grand | poser]

28 Wrong to cover skin, on reflection, or fail to show a leg? (5,2)
SLEEP IN – SIN [wrong] to cover PEEL reversed [skin, “on reflection”]

29 Departs, determined to track secret service (6,3)
DINNER SET – D [departs] + SET [determined] “to track” (as in follow) INNER [secret]


1 Host forgetting a name gets exposed (6)
PUBLIC – PUBLIC{an} [host, “forgetting” a name = A N]

2 One used to play keyboard with the band? (4,6)
RING FINGER – a cryptic definition that works if you pronounce “used” a different way than your brain wants to. You use your fingers to play keyboard, and the RING FINGER is the one with the (wedding) band on it.

3 Having a fresh look, holds ban to be fair (3,5)
ASH BLOND – (HOLDS BAN*) [“having a fresh look”]

4 Problem with air conditioning one can get to the root of? (5)
SUMAC – SUM [problem] + A/C [air conditioning]. A sumac is a tree and thus you could in theory “get to its roots”.

5 Fabulous, being blessed with unknown amount in gold reserve (9)
STORYBOOK – ST [= saint, = (a) being (who is) blessed] with Y [unknown amount] in OR BOOK [gold | reserve]

6 Supreme idiot’s regularly forgotten clock (6)
SPEEDO – every other letter of S{u}P{r}E{m}E {i}D{i}O{t} [“regularly forgotten”]

7 Pet snake nibbled our goldfishes’ heads! (4)
SNOG – S{nake} N{ibbled} O{ur} G{oldfishes}’ “heads”.
That’s some pretty heavy petting…

8 One taking car in addition, needing transport first (8)
JOYRIDER – RIDER [addition], needing JOY [transport] first

14 Change nothing or do nothing for the better? (4,2,4)
MAKE NO ODDS – a bookmaker makes odds for a betting customer; or in this case doesn’t.

16 Roughly restrain labourer begging (3,2,4)
CAP IN HAND – CA [= circa = roughly] + PIN HAND [restrain | labourer]

17 Lack of space in one’s skip for wreckage (8)
POKINESS – (ONE’S SKIP*) [“for wreckage”, i.e. to be wrecked]

18 Old rebel sailor in speech having zero effect (8)
JACOBITE – homophone of JACK [sailor “in speech”] + 0 BITE [zero | effect]

21 Stack that’s firm about to get knocked down? (6)
CHEAPO – HEAP [stack] that has CO [= company = firm] about it. CHEAPO items may come at a knockdown price…

22 Large filling that is most unlikely to work? (6)
IDLEST – L [large] “filling” ID EST [that is]

24 Other half of sportsman’s leg that’s pulled over line (5)
WAGON – WAG [= (singular of) wives and girlfriends = other half of sportsman] + ON [(cricketing) leg]. A train wagon may be pulled by an engine over a (railway) line.

26 Fence: lightweight, for one’s removed top (4)
OXER – {b}OXER. “Lightweight” is a boxing category; take the top off a BOXER to reveal a type of fence in horse jumping.
This is all getting a bit sporty for me, I think I might need to go have a lie down…

74 comments on “Times 26,555: Hey You, You In The Jesus Sandals”

  1. I don’t know who the setter of this was, but I recognized the style. It’s someone I’ve had lots of problems with before – far too clever for my poor wits. Nevertheless I gritted my teeth and got stuck into it but after an hour finally gave up with 26d determinedly resisting my efforts. I’d never heard of OXER, which didn’t help of course.
    Some beautifully crafted clues and very rewarding, but I do feel like I’ve been through the wringer.
  2. Thank you for giving me the chance to peek at it. I’m still sad about the inaccuracy of my definition of oxer as someone who deals in stolen goods. It would make a good word.
  3. I wouldn’t have thought a man of your calibre would stoop to use that awful expression ” going forward”! Thought you were quite progressive anyway !

    Edited at 2016-10-28 08:40 am (UTC)

    1. I have no reverse gear (the rumours that I turn my underwear inside out for a second day of wearing were entirely unsubstantiated).
  4. I had all but one in under 20 minutes but then came very unstuck on the completely unknown 26d. I thought of, and dismissed as preposterous, OXER. Then came up with the parsing of OZ,(p)ER for that old Cockney term for a dealer in stolen goods: “There’s an ozer down the Fox & ‘Ounds’ll take it orf yer ‘ands for a shilling”, which seemed marginally less preposterous. I then second-guessed myself into a corner and decided neither was right so I looked it up. OXER, damnit.

    I did enjoy this, though, especially the very neat POKINESS and CAP IN HAND.

    I do like the idea of more regular meet-ups, Verlaine, though I feel they should do a circuit of other major cities, such as Truro.

    1. Truro S&B sounds like a brilliant idea Sarah! How many people can you put up round your gaff, again?
      1. I checked with my other half who said one crossword enthusiast in the house is quite enough, thanks, though there’s many an inn and low boarding house in that there Truro.
  5. Found this rather easier than late and romped home in 2 magoos which is almost certainly a first and a last.Question marks a plenty as you say, possibly 14 should have had 2.Change nothing?Or….Thanks for the blog, glad that I don’t have to suffer bivalve issues.
  6. If the greatest happiness of the greatest number was the aim as per 10ac, then I could have done with this being a bit easier. Had to look up OXER and struggled FOR NO ONE from day break until my mind ached. Did finish with the one look-up after about 50 minutes so it wasn’t quite a crossword that should have lasted years. A good puzzle.
  7. (A) WAG ON is a ‘leg’ belonging to a sportsman’s other half, hence the clue parses. A WAG is one person, either a wife or girlfriend or, maybe, both. Dnk OXER, but it fitted. BENTHAM FOI, the gross circumstances stick in the mind. Hadn’t parsed STORYBOOK, so thanks. Spent time on 14d, attempting tonuse letters from O OR DO O. COD to 25 ac, hadn’t made the Christie connection. 44′, so chunky today. Thanks Verlaine and setter.
    1. I think it works just as well if it’s “other half of sportsman’s” as in, “other half of sportsman has”.
  8. A pukka joker of a puzzle. I had a sinking feeling when I got to 28a before I could find an answer. Like deezzaa, I’m getting to recognise the setter’s style and know to expect the unexpected. After 10 minutes I still only had a handful of answers, but I then got going. It was quite a joyride to complete this. Thanks to Verlaine for explaining those I couldn’t parse. 34:41

    Edited at 2016-10-28 08:58 am (UTC)

  9. This was a beast and it very nearly beat me, but in the end I only failed in the parsing of WAGON. I don’t see how there can be a singular of WAGS as if a player has a wife and girlfriend they’d not be the same person. The suitable acronym for the singular case would be unacceptable for obvious reasons.

    I didn’t know BENTHAM.

    I took forever to work out 26dn. OXER has come up twice before in wordplay but not as an answer in its own right. The first occasion was in 2007 leading to the answer OXTER (an armpit) which resulted in a host of reasonable complaints that both wordplay and answer were obscure. The second occasion was in 2012 when Jimbo was on blogging duty and it was wordplay leading to BOBBY-SOXER, and nobody even commented on it.

    My time today was off the chart.

    Edited at 2016-10-28 09:09 am (UTC)

    1. As some sportsmen have found to their cost, the same person can be the wife of one and the girlfriend of another
      1. I am put in mind of the traditional toast at the more louche sort of sporting dinner: “Wives and girlfriends…may they never meet”.
    2. ‘Wag’ is used in the singular, and is in both Collins and ODO. It might be slightly illogical as a back-formation but language is often like that.
  10. About eleventy over par for the week.

    Actually I’d have been happy just to finish this one. Nearly did, but missed the philosopher by one letter. Isn’t there a rule that only philosophers mentioned in the Monty Python song can be clued? Well there should be.

    Brilliant puzzle, CODs everywhere. Well done setter and thanks Verlaine.

      1. “You know, Dostoyevsky, according to my ethical calculator, the world will have more utility with you DEAD!”
  11. 22:44, which it seems counts as quite a good time for this.
    Did anyone else consider WINDHAM for 10ac? No, thought not.
    I remembered OXER fortunately, presumably from the jumbo mentioned by jackkt.
    I absolutely loved this puzzle, right up my street. Thanks setter, and blogger. A more regular S&B schedule would be great: it would at least increase my chances of actually making one, which I haven’t yet managed. Truro might be a stretch though. If we want to venture into the wilds of rural England how about Putney?

    Edited at 2016-10-28 10:02 am (UTC)

    1. There’s one in Fremantle tomorrow morning, but it’s just Mctext and me. Of course if you can get there you’d be very welcome!
        1. Hi Gresty. I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek, as our occasional “gathering” consists of meeting up for a mid-morning coffee and solving the Saturday puzzle together.
          Having said that, we’d be delighted for you to join us when you’re here if that appeals to you at all. Alec’s always good for a story or two, and me, well, I’ll buy the coffees!
          1. That would be a very pleasant experience. I’ll be in touch nearer the time when the itinerary is clearer!
    2. Putney would be veeeeeeeeery convenient for a weeknight, after-work S&B. That’s an objective and completely non-self-interested fact.
      1. And isn’t John Grimshaw of setting fame Putney-based in some shape or form? Perhaps I imagined that though.
        1. That clinches it. Putney is clearly and objectively the ideal location for the next S&B event.
    3. My search didn’t find it in a Jumbo, only as part of wordplay in 23711 (2007), 25195 (2012) and Mephisto 2510 (2008). Today appears to be its first outing as an answer since TftT was founded 10 years ago.
      1. I initially read ‘jimbo’ in your comment as ‘jumbo’. I then reread it and saw what you had actually written but somehow forgot that by the time I wrote my comment. With a brain like this I sometimes seriously wonder how I manage to hold down a job.
        In any event, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen OXER as an answer somewhere, but it must be somewhere else. Azed, perhaps.
      2. I see that BOBBY-SOXER defeated me in that puzzle (25295 incidentally), because I hadn’t heard of either the word for a teenage girl or the fence. So perhaps I do remember it from that: I find new words have a bit more of a tendency to stick in the memory when they prevent me from finishing.

        Edited at 2016-10-28 10:39 am (UTC)

      1. The championship doesn’t count, obviously. Nonetheless the answer to your question is ‘far too much’.
  12. I arrived safely at 45′ (busy day ahead) with 3 to go.I banged all three and made a right Donald Trump of myself.
    23ac 24dn and 16dn – my solutions were NOT TOO OLD; TIGON and OYEZ. I have no defence.

    FOI was 1ac PARNASSUSS quickly followed by 10ac Mr. Bentham.

    The seventeens opened up the southern desert and 21dn CHEAPO naturally followed.



    1. No need to beat yourself up horryd – that’s exactly the kind of thing the REAL PROS do in the finals of the Times Crossword Championship.
  13. No problem with oxer (I’m not a horse person at all but I’m sure they have them in showjumping) but, in common with Galspray, I only know philosophers referenced by Monty P so I went for Bendham. And I was so chuffed to get all the letters in the unknown Parnassus in the right places.

    Great puzzle but tough. It took 28 minutes or so to fill all the squares.

  14. Wow – I haven’t had a legitimate solve longer than a half hour in ages, but it was 31 minutes of one answer going in at a time, then lots of doodling to find words that would fit before coming back to wordplay. Very tricky stuff!
  15. Was enjoying this and all done except 26d in 30 minutes. Then a DNF. even went through a list of O?E? words without a fence popping up. Liked IDLEST.
  16. 52min, after getting completely stuck on right side and resorting to aids – I did think of JOKER, but couldn’t see wordplay, and was trying to make something of CORRIDOR at 8dn. On the other hand, I did know OXER, remembering the show-jumping which was a TV regular.

    Edited at 2016-10-28 02:32 pm (UTC)

    1. Yes.. where have all those others been all their lives, not watching the Horse of the Year Show from the White City …
  17. After 34 minutes I had about 10 answers, then the doorbell went; the barmaid from my local had arrived with the iphone5 she’d persuaded me(in a weak moment, full of beer) to install a new screen and battery into for her. I put the puzzle to one side and did the necessary, followed up with a cup of tea, and began again. It took another 55 minutes to complete the grid, with LOI OXER, trusting in the wordplay, as the only lightweight that came to mind was a boxer. I was amazed to come here and find I had it all correct, and relieved to find it was generally regarded as a tough puzzle. I even managed to parse them all. FOI SNOG. A very challenging test! Thanks setter and V.
  18. Well, I passed the George test (1 ac straight in) and then worked steadily through the across and then the down clues until 22d as the second one in, which indicated to me a toughie. Still, happy to get within touching distance of 3 magoos at 36:36. Agree that a single WAG is iffy (but so much better than the more logical alternative) but nevertheless an enjoyable solve so thanks setter and V.

    Edited at 2016-10-28 04:24 pm (UTC)

    1. 11 across Eiger (definition) Reg (number as in number plate) ie (that is) reversed ( receding)
  19. I’d never heard of PARNASSUS but put it in confidently. In the center of San Francisco is a big hill on top of which is the University of California medical center. It is called Parnassus, the road there is called Parnassus and the buses that run there are too, so you regularly see buses on Market Street with Parnassus as the route name.

    On the other hand, I’d never heard of OXER. I threw in something else, I forget what, the crossword club ate my submission when I tried to submit it.

    I didn’t find this that enjoyable and struggled in the bottom half like so many people. I think it is because so many of the definitions don’t work as definitions unless you already have the answer. For example “that’s pulled over line” is a long way from WAGON (especially if you’ve never heard the phrase wives and girlfriends either).

    I was sure 23a was going to be ACT OF GOD until it didn’t fit the enumeration. it’s one of those things insurance people seem to put in contracts and “could be making of Lord” fitted better than some of the other definitions in the lower half.

  20. Having had a booze free week (as our veritable blogger V recommends), this puzzle tipped me over the edge. A lunchtime session at the wonderful Norwich beer festival soon put me right as I “tapped into” some fine beers and a rather unnervingly strong Belgian beer. Suggestion for meetings is Truro followed by Norwich – that will sort the QCers from the experts. Great blog as always. Back to the QC to regain some confidence.
  21. 26 mins, with some drifting in the middle of it, so not a bad time for a very chewy puzzle. I finished with CHEAPO after the SLEEP IN/OXER crossers. I confess that I biffed ASH BLOND during the solve and only saw the anagram fodder when I re-read the clue post-solve. I hope everyone has a good weekend.
  22. 70 minutes but no clue about the fence. I must have watched show jumping on the box scores of times as a lad, but I never bothered with the names of the obstacles. More interested in seeing who Harvey Smith was going to target with his two-fingered salute.

    Definitely up for another S&B when I’m next over.

  23. Well, this was tough. I gave up timing because I was interrupted and returned to it more than once, but all told it was over an hour. And in the end I had no idea what was going on with WAGON and left it at W?G?N. So DNF. Much of the rest was also well beyond me, though I eventually got everything else. OXER unknown, NEW FOR OLD from wordplay, CAP IN HAND ditto, since we say ‘hat in hand’, and POKINESS for ‘lack of room’, MAKE NO ODDS, and ‘fail to show a leg’ for SLEEP IN were outside my range of knowledge. Whew. Regards.

    Edited at 2016-10-28 06:21 pm (UTC)

  24. Flicking through the channels on my TV this week I settled on some show jumping for 5 minutes. The commentator describing the course referred to some of the fences as “oxers,” Unfortunately I didn’t catch the word properly, thinking they were saying “oxter” which made me laugh because that is Scottish for an armpit! Now I know the truth which is sadly far more prosaic.
  25. Totally off-wavelength today – barely half-finished.

    Maybe my vocab is unusually large, but it surprises me when so many people say they haven’t heard of obscure words like oxer. I do appreciate that a word can’t be obscure if lots of people have heard of it, but I suppose I associate word puzzles with people with large vocabularies. Maybe this isn’t necessarily correct – many puzzlers have more of a mathematical brain and come into word puzzles without being especially well read.

  26. DNF as I had in desparation BIFD MAKE NO PLAY which seems still to me to fit change nothing far better than the given answer. So SE was pretty empty when I abandoned ship. Lots of other guesses including OXER proved correct but simply too many ? for my taste in this puzzle as V has already pointed out. As ever at least the Friday blog was worth waiting for, just a shame about the puzzle.
  27. Well, that was hard work and a DNF for me. It really didn’t help that I saw “old rebel sailor…” and _A_O____ and confidently went with SABOTEUR, thus shooting myself in the clog. Ah well. At least I didn’t come here to find everyone saying it was a doddle. Thanks as always!
  28. 18:08 for me.

    I came to this late, having spent a tiresome evening with a non-functioning left mouse button. As it went quite suddenly, it took me quite a while to discover that that was the problem as it seemed that my laptop had simply frozen – and then rather longer to get back into the swing (or rather the laborious plod) of using just a keyboard. I’d given up any thought of tackling the crossword, but after being away from my laptop for a while, returned to it and suddenly found the offending button had sprung into life again!

    But by that time I was feeling even more tired than usual, and struggled through, feeling more and more exhausted. But then it seems that almost everyone else did as well. At least I had no problem with OXER (which I must have come across many times in crosswords, and which went straight in today without the need for checked letters) or BENTHAM (a former member of my old college).

  29. Well, this has rounded off my week very nicely indeed. Failed, with “over” at 26d and (for reasons that elude even me) “Wigan” at 24d. It took me some time to get around to fluffing those two, having been generally slow throughout.

    I convinced myself that “Willham” (w/ill/bad actor) was a philosopher, and dithered over MAKE NO ODDS since I completely failed to parse it. I even hesitated over EIGER, not seeing how “reg” was a number (thanks, Verlaine – d’oh!).

    And, to cap it all, it strikes me that today is Saturday, which means I’m still a day behind. I’m thinking of cancelling next week altogether and spending the time working on my comprehensive survey of distilled drinkables.

      1. Yes, but is it an extra hour of this week, or an extra hour of the coming week? If the former, I’ve had quite enough of this one already!
        1. In the same spirit as I define my own weekly alcohol consumption guidelines, and rarely exceed them, I would designate Saturday as the end of the week and, as the clocks don’t officially go back until 2am Sunday, I would class the extra hour as a bonus for the coming week.
          1. I always feel that a guideline isn’t a guideline unless its wildly exceeded from time to time. But point taken.

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