Times 26563 – My EST biff-fest

Solving time: About 20 minutes, but one error

Music: None, back in Connecticut

Well, we are back on schedule over here. This puzzle started off very easy indeed, but because more difficult as I got closer to finishing. My LOI was a wrong ‘un, although it could be technically defended as fitting the clue. I now see what the answer should have been, and I probably would have gotten it had I gone through the alphabet from Z to A.

I had one other error, an early biffed ‘Nepali’ instead of ‘Manchu’. That was erased rather quickly after ‘unwonted’ went in. Since there was quite a bit of biffing, I’ll have to work out some of the cryptics as I write the blog, which is easy most of the time – until you get stuck!

1 FAST, double definition, an allusion to the ‘fast buck’. The slang word ‘buck’ actually originated from the use of buckskins in barter.
3 SABBATICAL, BAT in anagram of CAB, SAIL. I thought this was a straight anagram while solving, but didn’t bother to work it out.
9 RELAPSE, RE + sounds like LAPS.
12 CONGOLESE, CON + GO (LES) E. I took ‘east’ for a reversal indicator at first, but it is just an ‘E’.
13 UNCLE, UN + C[a]L[l]E[d], an obvious biff.
14 SELLING PLATE, SELL + IN G.P. + LATE. I never heard of it: “Low-class race in which the winner is offered at auction afterwards; other horses in the race may be claimed for a fixed sum.”
21 ANITA, sounds like A NEATER. My submitted answer of AGILA does fit the cryptic, and is the 815th most popular girl’s name, but doesn’t seem to be what the setter had in mind.
24 CANTINA, CAN(TIN)A, referring to the location of a specific wedding.
25 BARGAIN, BA[h]R(G)AIN. A weak clue, because although ‘good’ is part of the cryptic, it will cause many solvers to think of words for a ‘good deal’, and ‘bargain’ will spring to mind.
27 TELL, double definition.
1 FORECAST, FOR + E[nglish] CAST, a quickie clue.
4 ABELE, ABEL + [corps]E, a staple in US puzzles because of all the vowels.
6 TONGUE-TWISTER, anagram of GUEST WROTE around N[oon], another likely biff for many solvers.
8 LADDER, L + ADDER. I don’t quite follow the literal, but the cryptic is clear enough.
10 PROLIFERATION, PRO-LIFE RATION. If this is not a chestnut, it should be!
15 GIN PALACE, [si}G[ns] + IN P(A)LACE. They peaked in 19th century London, and I believe both the expression and the thing are pretty much obsolete.
16 STEERAGE, S + TEE + RAGE, where ‘driver’ refers to the golfer.
19 MANCHU, MAN(CH)U, i.e. Manchester United and Companion of Honour.
22 BABEL, BABE + [ezekie]L. This clue has proper misdirection, since ‘Ezekiel’ makes you want to think as of ‘Ruth’ as as book in the Bible rather than the Sultan of Swat.

87 comments on “Times 26563 – My EST biff-fest”

  1. FOR (favouring), E (English), Cast (players). The reference in 8dn is to the board game Snakes and Ladders. 14ac is SELLING PLATE

    29 minutes for this one but fully parsed as I solved. I also didn’t know SELLING PLATE, and although I think I have met “unwonted” with an O before I’m not sure that I knew it meant something different from “unwanted” i.e. unusual. I lost time deciphering the answer at 22ac as I was missing the last couple of checkers at that stage, but the wordplay got me there safely eventually.

    Edited at 2016-11-07 01:51 am (UTC)

    1. To add to the confusion, wont, as in ‘not my wont’, is, standardly, pronounced ‘want’.
      1. Count me as as non standard. And John major, of course, who always pronounced want wunt.
          1. As do I. I pronounce want (see above) as if it were spelled with a short O, and wont as you do.
        1. Maybe RP would be more accurate than standard. I’ve always pronounced wont as want, but unwonted as it is written.

          The Free Dictionary goes into enormous detail about this (rather speculative stuff, methinks), including this: ‘the most common form of wont in contemporary American speech is probably [the one that sounds like] want’.

          The similarity of American English to RP (or at least the English spoken in the 17th century, say) has often been noted, as the earlier British pronunciation was fossilised on foreign shores.

  2. I’d always thought, for some reason, that GIN PALACE was a pretentious word for a pub, rather than a word for a pretentious pub, but wotthehell. I did my share of biffing, as with Vanya, where I never bothered to look at the wordplay. Dithered over 14ac, never having heard of the race; SELLING seemed unlikely, but SELL seemed to be the only choice. Agila? What’s no. 814?
  3. The opening lines of the Edward the Thomas WWI poem ‘Adelstrop’ feature perhaps the most famous use of the word UNWONTED(LY)

    Yes. I remember Adlestrop —
    The name, because one afternoon
    Of heat the express-train drew up there
    Unwontedly. It was late June.

    UNWONTED – unaccustomed – unusual – Chambers.

    28 minutes for a typical Monday offering.

    Here here Kevin re-15dn GIN PALACE

    SELLING PLATEs are common enough on the turf.


    Where’s Galspray this morning? Busy watching the cricket no doubt – yet more Aussie misery!

  4. … Much Biffing in the Marsh (the latter having just been dismissed LBW to Rabada).
    Only real problem was with SELLING PLATE. I had a vague idea about “selling race”, but assumed this was a well-known event, cf “Cox Plate” and possibly others?? By contrast, our Shanghai correspondent seems to know everything!
  5. I’d never heard of “selling plate” like most of us in the non-China contingent, but the wordplay was clear. The guidance as to what went where seemed a bit off for STEERAGE.
  6. I obviously dithered slightly less long on 22 than Jack did, as I finished in 28 minutes.

    I think Gallers may have fallen down one of those cracks at the WACA.

  7. 13:52, making it a traditional Monday from my perspective. Not so traditional is losing the first Test of a home series (hasn’t happened since the ’80s). Still, I’m greatly buoyed by the good wishes emanating from Shanghai and Hong Kong.

    Never heard of a selling plate. We’re about to offload a very low-class mare after she runs in a 1400m Maiden at Gunnedah. Sounds like a selling plate is exactly what we need.

    All good otherwise. Glad I stopped to parse 13ac instead of bunging in CONGONESE.

    Thanks setter and Vinyl.

          1. It gets a mention in The Dalesman’s Litany, as one of the places he requests the Good Lord to deliver him from, along with Hull and Halifax and Hell.
            1. I know the song (though not the title) having heard it performed memorably at a PHAB week in 1977.
  8. 9m. A mixture of immediate biffing (‘Vanya, for example’) and working out unknowns (SELLING PLATE, ABELE) and some familiar terms from wordplay. But none of it difficult.
    The only time I’ve ever heard the term GIN PALACE it’s been used in a dismissive way by sailors referring to boats (usually motor yachts) where those on board are more concerned with the social aspects of the activity than the serious business of tying knots and speaking in a language no-one else understands.
  9. Gentle 25 minutes re-introduction after 2 weeks without crosswords and out of all communication on the Quirimbas Archipelago.
    1. Wondered where you had been. Then I thought “Ah, he’s probably on the Quirimbas Archipelago”.
  10. 6 and a half minutes, much of it on SELLING PLATE. Stayed up till midnight to do the crosswords (after a whole day spent watching Abel Gance’s silent anti-Brexit epic Napoleon at the Royal Festival Hall – started at 2pm, wasn’t finished till gone 10pm!!) but was in bed by 12.10am. Efficiency is good.
  11. 15.49, held up in the bottom right by biffing ARBITRATE and then trying to justify the word play.
    Using a sound alike clue for a girls name is just asking for trouble, and while ANITA works and looks like the setter’s intention, I chucked A?I?A into “crossword solver” post-solve and came up with a huge list of answers, many of which are girls’ names at least somewhere and quite a few of which could be shoehorned into sounding like some vague definition of “more adroit”: AKINA, perhaps? No need to turn the Times into a guessing game, eh?
  12. 39 minutes for me, so I guess at the easier end of things. LOI was ANITA which I could only get by going through the alphabet, a rather tedious exercise. DNK ABELE. Amused by GIN PALACE – I always think of The Campden Head in Islington, all Victorian mirrors and an island bar, in this context, though I haven’t been there for years. So it was gratifying to look up their website just now and see that they describe themselves as “a fine example of an original gin palace” – will have to go and check it out next time I am on my way to The Emirates. See where The Times crossword takes you?

  13. As biffy round these parts as everywhere else, and not even detained by SELLING PLATE (must have come from reading the works of Dick Francis, as otherwise my only interest in the Turf consists of the pub in Oxford).
  14. Have given up biffing, apart from TONGUE TWISTER. This was useful on 22ac, LOI, careful parsing was pleasing. Thanks vinyl and setter.

    Edited at 2016-11-07 09:14 am (UTC)

  15. Yep…biff-city here, too (UNCLE, TONGUE-TWISTER), with the last few parsed and entered with shrugs (ABELE, SELLING PLATE). ANITA required an alphabet-trawl, and for me, like for keri, GIN PALACES have always been associated with fancy yachts.

    18mins. Def on the easy side

  16. …was said in Victorian times to be a GIN PALACE. Maybe Jose could escape the Lowry Hotel that way. Found this the easiest since I started posting here, done in just over 10 minutes. I see the theologian has been hanged today, even if BABEL was allowed in. I wasn’t convinced of ANITA but knew no-one called CUTER. I ‘m making SELLING PLATE COD because I knew it.

    Edited at 2016-11-07 09:24 am (UTC)

  17. Thanks for the blog, some bits where I am still stuck:

    14a, gain acceptance = similar to sell yourself?
    24a, cana = wine shop (is that a water into wine ref)

    1. Yep, that’s where it’s reported to have happened. Hope he did some Diet Coke for the nominated drivers.
    2. Hi Flashman.
      The wine shop is a CANTINA. In the clue CANA is the ‘marriage feast venue’, although it’s also where water was turned into wine.
      In 14ac SELL is indicated by ‘gain acceptance for‘.

      Edited at 2016-11-07 09:59 am (UTC)

        1. Indeed: I felt it went without saying, just like with Elsie, Lacie and Tillie the other day.
  18. I count myself lucky to have finished successfully in 56 minutes today, with a few unknowns. I’d only vaguely heard of Uncle Vanya, only knew the “bar” definition of CANTINA, DNK Cana or “abele”, and hovered over the Submit button with crossed fingers after uncertainly tapping in SELLING PLATE. The guessing gods were with me today, though!

    Thanks for the explanations.

    Edited at 2016-11-07 10:21 am (UTC)

    1. I visited something calling itself a CANTINA last week. It was a wine producer that didn’t sell any wine at the cellar door, which was a bit confusing, but it meant the word was top of my mind.
  19. An unhurried 17 min, so no holdups. 14 ac known from my years in Cheltenham- not that such a low class race took place there, but inferior horses (like galspray’s nag) were called ‘platers’ as only fit for such.
    1. But confusingly, as referenced by McText, the most prestigious horse race in Australia is the Cox Plate.
      1. Good to have this confirmed by a local. I always thought that the Melbourne Cup was a rubbish race ;-))
  20. 15.57. Funny about words. I didn’t know I “knew” abele but it clicked at once as a tree, given the clue; later, looking over the completed grid, I couldn’t remember what it was (though I still knew I “knew” it). Reading over the last sentence – perhaps I should take a sabbatical.
  21. Despite having spent a day at Wetherby Races last weekend, I didn’t know what a SELLING PLATE was, so I had to assemble it from wordplay. Knew CANTINA from Ralph McTell’s encounter with a Dark Eyed Senorita, with a Rose between her Teeth. Biffed UNCLE VANYA, but did check the wp. FOI FORECAST, LOI ANITA from an alphabet trawl. Like Z I dabbled with ARBITRATE but couldn’t make it fit the wp. 26 minutes. Thanks setter and Vinyl.
    1. We used similar but different sources, John. Marty Robbins first took me to Rosa’s cantina in El Paso. on Luxembourg, as early as 1959. Then Dylan reminded me on ‘Desire’ with a romance in a cantina in Durango. Dangerous places, both got shot and killed.
        1. Not his own song, but have you heard Spanish is the Loving Tongue on Bootleg Vol 10? It was a demo with him playing the piano as well. Brilliant, better than the 1973 recorded version. He had the good sense to escape back over the border line on this one, so he didn’t end up dead. No need to beat the drum slowly, play the fife lowly.

          Edited at 2016-11-07 02:07 pm (UTC)

          1. Funnily enough I’ve just learned to play Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land. Great song. Our local Folkie, Vin Garbutt, did a cover of it on his latest album, Synthetic Hues, which sparked my interest.
            1. I had the great fortune in the late ’70s of being dragged along by my big brother to a pub in The Rocks in Sydney, to watch this unknown Scottish-Australian bloke performing to an audience of maybe 15 or 20 people.

              Very cool.

            2. Just listened to Eric Bogle on You Tube. A fine anti-war song. Have you ever heard The Pogues singing ‘And the band played Waltzing Matilda’? I was actually quoting from Marty Robbins’ Streets of Laredo but that’s folk music for you. You can borrow happily. Probably based originally on an 18th century folk song, according to Wiki.
              1. I love The Pogues, but they take a few liberties in their version that I can’t forgive, the most egregious being pronouncing Quay as ‘Kay’!
                1. I think Shane MacGowan sang “kay” the first time and “key” the second. I guess an Irishman would be more likely to use “kay” given how they pronounce “tea”.
              2. I haven’t heard it by the Pogues, but I did hear a live version by one of the turns at Saltburn Folk Club week before last. I’ve just done some research on Willie McBride, and he actually existed and lived in a farm cottage in Armargh. There’s even a picture of him in a brown leather frame in his nephew, Joe’s, cottage! The only liberty Eric Bogle took with the lyrics was to have him die age 19 when he was actually 21. He did sit by his graveside though!
  22. LOI – and I wrongly guessed it as “ALINA” (“leaner” isn’t adroit – but nor really is “neater”). Not a great clue IMHO …
    1. Under ‘neat’ Collins has ‘smoothly or competently done; efficient ⇒ a neat job’ which seams a pretty good match for ‘adroit’ to me.
    1. Just as well I know nothing about football, then! (Wikipedia says of the Premier League “It is colloquially known as the Premiership”; if that’s wrong, maybe the setter knows as much about football as I do and is just busking it from definitions on the web…)

      Edited at 2016-11-07 01:43 pm (UTC)

  23. 11:38.

    At 1a I thought of Buckfast before a fast buck. I wonder what that says about me?

    Solvers who fell foul of ANITA have my sympathy. Despite K’s post above I don’t think neat is a terribly close synonym for adroit. The first result in Google lists skilful, adept, dexterous, deft, agile, nimble, nimble-fingered and handy as synonyms. I don’t agree with Vinyl that AGILA fits the cryptic however as the a at the start of the clue is unaccounted for.

    UNWONTEDLY definitely has a limited presence in the real world.

    1. too much of the eponymous tonic wine perhaps?

      Mind you that’s what I thought of first too – and I’ve never touched a drop of the stuff

      Edited at 2016-11-07 01:23 pm (UTC)

    2. ODO defines neat as ‘done with or demonstrating skill or efficiency’, which is about as close to ‘skilful’ as you can get without actually using the word ‘skilful’.
      I should add though that I don’t disagree on the sympathy front. I confess I put it in thinking ‘if this is wrong I’m going to be annoyed’ rather than ‘this is definitely right’. A_I_A just seems to offer so many possibilities. However I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

      Edited at 2016-11-07 03:04 pm (UTC)

  24. TOUNGUE TWISTER was my only biff, and I needed the wordplay for SELLING PLATE – 11:30 while kind of tired last night from time lag, so woohoo.
  25. If you managed to biff “toungue twister” at 6d, you’re doing better than I could – I only had room for 13 letters.

    Twenty-five minutes for me, putting this one on the fast side of my average, and convincing me that this must be Monday. I like to think that I was slightly slowed down by having to use a new browser to complete this one online. My usual browser has been hijacked by some utterly malicious viral thing, and now insists on redirecting me to various unchosen web pages, and inserting extra ads all over the place. The people who create these viruses should be strung up.

    SELLING PLATE was an NHO for me, as was the “cana” of 24ac – you learn something new every day. In theory, this means that I should know 19,897 things by now, but clearly there must be a leak.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one – a collection of fine clues amongst which none stood out as a COD.

  26. Probably my fastest solve ever at around 20 minutes. Will retire now. Only gripe is the association of ManU and “team”. Surely any oxymoron (a bit like their “manager”).
  27. I agree with Alan, straight in top to bottom, SELLING PLATE a write in, done in 50mins and that includes preparing the veg for the evening meal. I must admit I think a GIN PALACE is a lowdown pub, one notch below a Yates of the 60’s. On the completion of exams a bottle of sweet Australian white used to keep me going between the Union Bar closing at three and reopening at five. DNK ABELE but had to be didn’t it.
  28. Hi all. About 15 minutes for all but SELLING PLATE, and a few more uncounted minutes to unravel the wordplay and enter that one. I’m one of the contingent that isn’t familiar with it. I think the US equivalent, or near equivalent, is a claiming race. Anyone, I think, can buy any horse in such a race for the claiming price, set prior to the race and printed in the program. If anyone knows more of that subject than me, which is likely, feel free to correct me. Regards.
  29. A speedy for me 16m with frustrating pauses over the girl and the judge costing me a PB. Enjoyed the clues and the discussion about Eric Bogle, one of my favourites since I was introduced to his songs by Iain Macintosh some 30 years ago. ‘They’d no use for him’ is a poignant portrait of the effects of redundancy on a family and worth a listen. Thanks to setter and blogger today.
  30. 14 mins, the last 3 of which were spent trying to think of an alternative to the unlikely, to me at least, SELLING PLATE. I’m surprised that ANITA caused some of you a problem because I wrote it in as soon as I read the clue.
  31. Respectable 27 minutes for me. I always thought gin palaces were cheap Victorian boozers or vulgar motor boats. The latter meaning I learnt from my Dad, a keen sailor. He would also call them ‘stink boats’ while licking a finger and sticking it in the air — I THINK to test the wind direction, but who knows?
  32. 7:20 for this pleasant, straightforward start to the week.

    No problem with SELLING PLATE which I’m pretty sure I first came across in a Times crossword many years ago and have met similarly a number of times (Times) since. I may even have come across it in real life.

    I’m with Horryd in that UNWONTEDLY automatically calls to mind Adlestrop – another favourite poem that I’m prepared to recite at the drop of a hat.

    I live in London, and I’m happily married with a lovely wife and three children. I had a very big problem with my wife few

    months ago, to the extent that she left the house with our kids to her parents’ for almost 5 months. All efforts to bring

    them back proved abortive. Friends and Family were all in concern and my very close mate gave me an advice concerning a

    spell caster, and he quote; “There’s someone who can handle your situation, he’s always ready and able to do anything

    related to spiritual matters, I searched for a spell caster on the internet, his advert was everywhere, Although I never

    believed in spell casting, but he convinced me and I had
    no choice than to follow his advice, because I never dream of losing my lovely wife and I was desperate. So I did all what

    he told me to do and i did. He told me that I’ll get my wife back in two days after the spell is completed. I was

    skeptical. He casted the spell for me and i was so anxious waiting to see or hear from her, until
    the second day when my wife called and said she was coming HOME…..It was like a joke to me!!! That’s how I got my family

    back through spiritual means and our relationship is now stronger than ever. One of the price I was asked to pay was to

    tell it to people around me that problems like this, can always be solved by Dr GOSSY. And this is his email

    drgossysolutioncenter@gmail.com concern if you wish to contact him and solve your problem too , my advice to you out

    there is to visit this great DR GOSSY and tell him your problems. He’s capable of handling anything spiritual and spell

    casting. Thanks a lot for saving my marriage.


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