Times 26557 – The goodbye-to-BST biff-fest

Solving time: 20 minutes

Music: Rachmaninov, Symphony #1, Previn/LSO

I completed this in 20 minutes on paper, mostly biffing the answers as the literals were quite obvious in this one. But in order to resolve a possibly ambiguous answer, I had to type in my completed solution to make sure I was totally correct. For 22 might have been either ‘Nedia’ or ‘Nadia’, since the Irish lad is most commonly spelt ‘Aiden’, but ‘Nadia’ is a more likely girl’s name. I went for ‘Nadia’, and that was correct.

I did have a sudden shock when I logged onto the site at the usual time, and saw Sunday’s puzzles were still up. I then realized that the UK had gone from BST to GMT, but over here we are still stuck on EDT until next Sunday. I was all set to start solving and blogging, too, and had to find something else to do for the hour.

The puzzle had a number of potentially tricky clues, but I was on the wavelength and sailed past them. I am getting better at trusting the cryptics and saying it can’t be anything else, so that’s what it must be. This method is certainly faster, but you may just end up with an error or two!

1 ONLY, [p]ON(L)Y. If you don’t know that a ‘pony’ is £25, you should! Betting shop slang, I believe.
3 JAM SESSION, JAM + SESSION in different senses, one we’ve seen before.
9 THYRSIS, TH(YR, S)IS, a famous poem by Matthew Arnold, read by all English Lit grad students and few others.
11 ANOTHER, A + NOT HER, which I seem to recall has been used before.
12 FORTUNE TELLER, FORTUNE + TELLER in various senses.
17 PORTRAYAL, PORT(RAY)AL, a definite chestnut.
19 BELOW, BE + LOW in different senses.
21 SECOND CHAMBER, double definition, one contrived.
24 PORTEND, PORT END, rather obvious after PORTRAYAL.
25 IRELAND, I + RE + LAND, again, suggested by 22 down.
26 NAMES NAMES, anagram of AS MEN + NAMES.
27 TYPE, double definition.
1 OUT OF SHAPE, double definition.
2 LAYERED, anagram of EARLY + ED.
4 AUSTERITY, anagram of ESTUARY around IT. One of the older senses of ‘austerity’ is meant here.
5 STAGE, STAG + E[quity].
6 SHOULDER BLADE, SHOULDER (as a verb) + anagram of BLED containing A. Probably biffed by nearly everyone.
7 INHERIT, anagram of RHINE + IT.
8 NORM, N OR M? An obscure Christie title I did not know, but ‘norm’ is the only English word that fits the crossers and means anything like ‘pattern’.
10 SQUASH RACKETS, SQUASH + RACKETS in different senses. A chestnut, for sure.
13 DRAWBRIDGE, DRAW + BRIDGE from a different set of contexts.
16 SELECTIVE, S[equence] + ELECTIVE.
18 ROSTRUM, R + O +STRUM, with a cross-reference literal.
20 LIBRARY, cryptic definition, referring to the Jane Austen novel.
22 NADIA, AIDAN upside-down. This is a faddish boy’s name in the US, but it is often spelt Aiden. However, I thought Nadia was the more likely girl, and I was right.
23 SPAN, S(PA)N, a compendium of cryptic cliches.

70 comments on “Times 26557 – The goodbye-to-BST biff-fest”

  1. That’s a PB for me, by some distance. A bit of a biff-fest towards the end when I realised I was on track for a good time.

    Never heard of THYRSIS, so that was my LOI I think. COD to NAMES NAMES.

    Nice way to start a busy Monday. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  2. So good to me!

    Galspray hearty congrats! 8:36 is as the Americans say ‘awesome’.

    My PB is 8:19 (a few years back) so just eighteen more seconds to get rid of horryd!

    FOI1dn OUT OF SHAPE although OURT OF SORTS crossed my twisted mind.

    Today 22 minutes with LOI 8dn NORM. I initially saw NINA hidden in the foliage but NORM it was.




  3. I was sure my LOI (NORM) was the error, but as vinyl says, it sort of had to be. The error was Iceland instead of IRELAND; I think I thought I ‘one’ C ‘about’, and somehow overlooked the E. Oh, well. Nice job, Galspray!
      1. I thought this was a very easy one, done in 5m 48s… but I’d made exactly the same mistake with ICELAND. Careless!

        As an Agatha Christie devotee growing up, I put NORM straight in – the kind of clue I’d be delighted to see in competition.

    1. I also had “Iceland” rather than IRELAND, sadly. About fifty minutes to get all but that one, held up by the unknown poem and the unknown Agatha Christie reference, my LOI.

      At least I managed to remember SQUASH RACKETS and did finally get the right wordplay for the poem, unlikely as it looked.

  4. I was under 15 minutes when I got to the last clue. I’d never heard of “N or M” but I wasted a minute or two trying to find something that fitted better than “NORM” which wasn’t the most obvious answer for a literal of pattern.

    So ended up at 17 minutes.

  5. … to G’spray. Bit longer here: 3/4 of a slow morning coffee.

    Despite being a Christie fan, NORM was last in. Not big on her Tommy and Tuppence stories; but “N Or M?” was recently repeated on ABC TV as part of the “Partners in Crime” series with the unlikely David Walliams as Tommy. James Warwick (see IMDB) was closer to Agatha’s bloke. (NB: the full title requires a question-mark.)

    “Thyrsis” is a bit obscure, apart from its famous “dreaming spires” mention.
    (I went through Oxford, but all I got was a flat tyre.)

    Not quite as fazed by the end of BST as our good blogger. It’s in the diary and marks the unwelcome fact that the puzzle now appears at 8:00am, just when I’m starting to get up earlier.

    Edited at 2016-10-31 03:50 am (UTC)

    1. How dare you, Sir! I refer to ‘The Eagle Junior Crossword’ for 12 March 1954 – 8×8. My Mum timed me! Only 1dn ‘TROUSERS’ gave me trouble -otherwise I would have been under 8 mins.

      How’s it going with ‘The Wanchai & Wing-Wah Morning Puzzle’? Cantonese is merciless.

      Sai so gan, hai bin do!?

  6. 18 minutes for the second day running, which I thought as pretty good until I saw what the Australian Magoo had clocked.
  7. I managed to nod off during this one and ended with 66 minutes on the clock. I had been writing in the answers steadily so I must have gone out like a light at some point. The only problem I recall was as a result of pencilling in THYRISS at 9ac, trusting to alternative parsing, which delayed the solving of 10dn by leading me to think it started with I.

    N OR M as a Christie title didn’t bother me for a moment but I wonder if it had been defined with reference to its religious origins how many people would have known that these days: The title is taken from a catechism in the Book of Common Prayer which asks, “What is your Christian name? Answer N. or M. The “N. or M.” here stands for the Latin, “nomen vel nomina”, meaning “name or names”. It is an accident of typography that “nomina” came to be represented by “m”. [Wikipedia]

    1. Jack: Have we not had the catechism debate earlier on this site? You’re the pro at finding such matters.
      1. Yes, I thought it had come up before but I was unable to track it down to cross-reference it.*

        I knew the Christie title before the religious significance because from the age of 11 I used to browse frequently through the detective fiction on sale in a bookshop on Harrow Hill, and this included most of AC’s works. At 13 I was conscripted officially into the C of E and it was a requirement of the Confirmation preparations that candidates had to study the Catechism and that was when I connected to two things.

        *I’ve found it now here: http://times-xwd-times.livejournal.com/502094.html. You may need to expand the first few comments.

        Edited at 2016-10-31 06:43 am (UTC)

  8. Ah thanks! Looks like I was wrong (again!) on that occasion. But what would this lapsed Quaker know about such things?
  9. While some have recently turned over a new leaf, putting their biffing days behind them (Verlaine), I’ve been going the other way. And paying for it today, like Kevingregg, with ICELAND.

    Well done, galspray. Have you booked your ticket to London for next year’s speed-fest?

    And thank you, jackkt, for the enlightenment re N or M. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Spotlight where Cardinal Law sends a thoughtful gift of a Catholic catechism to the new, Jewish editor of the Globe, along with a note explaining that it’s a guide to the city of Boston.

  10. 10m for all but 8dn, but I gave up on that one after an alphabet trawl didn’t uncover anything that looked likely. I considered NORM (along with every other possible combination of letters) but it didn’t seem like a good enough match for ‘pattern’.
    Ah well, there’s always tomorrow. Well done galspray.
  11. I think Aidan is the more common in Ireland at least. Aiden Gillen from the Wire etc. serves to confuse. But if in doubt, refer to the Saint’s original spelling. Thanks to blogger and setter.
  12. 5 and a half minutes for this mostly quite easy puzzle, with only THYRSIS giving me anything like real pause, THYRSUS being the more familiar word to this classicist’s eyes.

    I used the “N or M?” device while trying to clue NORMAN BATES a few years ago, so I was well equipped to write that one in immediately given the crossers.

  13. 13 odd minutes (with an interruption), but undone by a simple typo which took ages to spot, and got me into that territory which lets you think the Times computer has made a mistake, though knowing that doesn’t happen really. Apparently my subconscious self couldn’t decide whether the sixth letter in 26ac was N or M. Now there’s a coincidence.
    THYRSIS from wordplay and misty memory.
    It would be wonderful if the row 6 Nina SEAR DID was the answer to the Christie Whodunnit, and if therefore the culprit was caught by the cooperation of a fortune teller and an inspector. Wonderful but sadly not. It was Tommy and Tuppence (Christie in Blyton mode) who solved the spy story.
  14. 15 minutes to do all except 9a, where again my proud ignorance of things poetic let me down and I invented THYSSIS. The Christie novel was one I knew and it brought a grunt of appreciation although like others I tried NINA at first.
    Otherwise a good warm up for the week. Well done galspray. Nice music, Vinyl1.
  15. 20 minutes, well over the par for the course today.Not helped by a ghastly shanked biff at the ninth where I had obverse.DNK N or M but unlike keriothe felt norm for pattern satifactory.Congrats to any Bangladesh supporters on their first win against our boys.
  16. Finished most of the grid which is quite good for me.

    Gave up too quickly so didn’t get 21a second chamber or 26a names names.

    Used some cheating to word check: selection/selective, Iceland/Ireland.

  17. A dnf today in 17′, defeated by the unknown poem, THYSSIS seeming more likely as a word, wrong and not really parsed, although lots of possibilities. Christie novel heard of, but now pleased to learn the derivation. Thanks vinyl and setter.

    Edited at 2016-10-31 09:33 am (UTC)

  18. Easiest for a while and done in 15 minutes, despite being knackered after Diwali meets Guy Fawkes at Armageddon so badly spooking our old dog last night that he couldn’t stop barking and wouldn’t go out for the needful. I eventually walked him round the garden at 3.30 am. Maybe he’ll enjoy the trick or treaters better tonight, demanding their baksheesh, but I somehow doubt it. It could be a long November. I think I’ve read N or M, but if so it was at about the same time as studying the catechism for confirmation. I read yesterday that ten times more watch Countryfile than go to an Anglican service each Sunday. They don’t know what they’re missing! DNK THYRSIS but felt sure it was right. COD NAMES NAMES.
  19. 12:02, held up only by the unknown Agatha Christie novel and THYRSIS, both put in with a shrug based on the wordplay. COD to 19a and 26a. Vinyl – you put in the name of the book rather than its location as the answer to 20d.
  20. Unlike many here I managed not to find this so easy, with JAM SESSION, STAGE and NORM all serving to hold me up for at least 15 minutes. I still wasn’t confident when NORM went in so was surprised when I had all correct.

    I did at least manage to unbiff ICELAND, though I don’t know what prompted me to go back and change it after it had been in place a good while.

  21. A DNF under competition conditions for exactly the same reason as keriothe. I didn’t know the Agatha Christie novel and I was surprised when I saw that my Chambers has “pattern” as its second meaning of NORM. I’d done the rest in 9 mins.
  22. 22 min – would have been about 15 if not for 8dn & 9ac. For latter had biffed THYRSUS, but a think convinced me the wordplay had to give the (DNK) answer. I did spend a while on 8dn trying to get somewhere from her name (Mallowan) but eventually a trawl through the alphabet brought the relevant title to mind.
  23. Yep, all done in 25mins today (having corrected IRELAND from iceland), so def on the easy side. Finished with two unknowns: NORM, the book, and THYRSIS the poem.
  24. I was exactly one second off my personal best, zipping through this one in 14:34. THYRSIS was unknown, of course. I had heard of “N or M”, but failed to see it in “NORM”, so was a little hesitant.
  25. Completed this in a leisurely 33 minutes. THYRSIS was unknown and constructed from wordplay as was my LOI, NORM. Biffed 6d without going back to work out the parsing. Otherwise a steady enjoyable start to the week. Thanks setter and Vinyl. Well done Galspray!
  26. Very Mondayish, which is always good for my mood 🙂

    I wonder why the setter didn’t go for something like louvred/trusses rather than have such an obscure item as Thyrsis in such an otherwise straightforward puzzle?

    1. I don’t think you can buy louvred trusses any more. They never really caught on (because things caught on them).
  27. 9 minutes on the nose with THYRSIS from wordplay and NORM from def. Fancy that.

    Agree that names names was nicely done.

  28. After an agonising close-finish last week, where I was 2 short, I succeeded in getting my first ever Cryptic finish today. LOI was Norm without a huge level of confidence. After 3 months of trying, and a lot of head-banging, it was great to pass the elusive chequered flag (and in 32 minutes too)
  29. A nice Monday morning canter – but fell at the Iceland fence (“c”=about, couldn’t figure the “e”, grrrrr). THYRSIS only vaguely remembered, waited for all the crossers before writing it in. SHOULDER BLADE wicked clueing – wasted time looking for a (longer) anagram. COD NAMES NAMES.
  30. This took longer than it should have, probably because I solved it in a rather Verlaine-like style. Not eschewing the biff, no, but after a visit to the local brewery. NORM was LOI, though I had doubts about ‘pattern’, and the obscure poem was constructed via the clear wordplay. Well done by galspray and Stefan. Regards to all.
  31. The QC blog tipped me off that this was relatively easy.
    And so it was. I finished it fairly quickly but with Iceland at 25a-which appears to fit the clue exactly as someone has remarked above.
    Anyway, steady progress. David
  32. 6:28 for me, dithering over NORM at the end, only vaguely recalling the Agatha Christie and not entirely sure about NORM = “pattern”.

    No problem with THYRSIS though: it and THYRSUS have been on my list of difficult words for almost as long as it’s been going. I’m pretty sure the first time I came across it was in a Times crossword clue which consisted simply of a cryptic reference to Clough. Those were the days.

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