Times 26,567: Fairytale Politics

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen, to whom I have a special reason to be thankful because, without having invited Tessa down to Seattle on the “wrong” weekend in 2009 that time, under the pretext of having two tickets to his concert, let’s just say that I might have held off becoming a parent until later than January 2010. What a year! The wrong President and, well, I won’t stir up the hornet’s nest of claiming that the *wrong* croaky-voiced 60s singer-songwriter got the Nobel Prize, but now one of the few other truly qualified candidates never will.

For a while it seemed this puzzle too would fall foul of the dreadful curse of 2016, being a game of two halves wherein I had all but one light solved and filled in in about 8 minutes… and then spent a whole other 8 scratching my head over 5ac. The old verlaine would just have slammed in WASH UP or even LASH UP and hit submit but I’m trying to be better than that now. BASH and UP did of course occur very early on but you can’t have a clue without a definition part! And it took me an awful long time to convince myself that there really was an adequate one, hidden in plain sight. A very ingenious bit of setting, then, but the source of too much and recent pain to be in contention for my COD, methinks.

Leaving 5 aside, this was a superlatively clever puzzle, arguably too clever in a few places. I really liked 12ac, in my capacity as an employee of the music industry, for the seamless “alternative band”, but my tired brain couldn’t work out if the “as” wasn’t a superfluous word. In a similar vein, 25ac had a nice surface, but all the working out which letter goes “on” and which “near” which other letter was as fiddly and fatiguing as one of my own run-on sentences. I quibble only because in general this was brilliant stuff and, no complaints this time around, a proper Friday challenge. I’ll give my actual COD nod to 20ac for being a masterpiece of cluing economy and simplicity that nevertheless manages to conceal its answer a lot longer than you might expect.

And of course I loved that this managed to include what felt like very topical allusions to both Brexit and the US election, as well as grouping AESOP and ANDERSEN, both purveyors of tales which are also more likely on balance to contain dire warnings than happy endings, on the same row. Let’s knock half a point off out of pique for how long 5ac took me and call it 4 and a half stars overall. Bravo, whichever evil fiend was responsible, bravo!


1 Please don’t panic, clumsily engaging gear (4,2,2)
PACK IT IN – (PANIC*) [“clumsily”] engaging KIT [gear]

5 Do over (4,2)
BASH UP – individually, a BASH is a “do”, and UP is “over”; taken as a whole, BASH UP means “do over”

10 Part of Europe where Parisian wears fancy winter clothes (3,3,9)
THE LOW COUNTRIES – OU [where “Parisian”, i.e. the French word for “where”] wears (WINTER CLOTHES*) [“fancy”]

11 Note principal features of European referendum: a good deal for the country (7)
GERMANY – G [note] + E{uropean} R{eferendum} [“principle features of…”] + MANY [a good deal]

12 Making comeback as alternative band recruits singular top musician (7)
MAESTRO – reverse [“making comeback”] the whole of OR TEAM [alternative | band] recruiting S [singular]

13 Producer‘s request: character should omit line (8)
BEGETTER – BEG [request] + {l}ETTER [character “omitting” L for line]

15 Medic at last probes painful scratch (5)
SCORE – {medi}C [“at last”] probes SORE [painful]

18 Fabulous writer circulating main work (5)
AESOP – reverse of SEA [“circulating” main] + OP [work]. Aesop (620-564 BCE) is famous for his fables, hence the “fabulous” here.

20 Author with Irish name (8)
ANDERSEN – AND ERSE N [with | Irish | name]

23 Distilled brandy put in wine (7)
REFINED – FINE [brandy] put in RED [wine]

25 Island on a lake, perched near area in old Gallic region (7)
ALSATIA – I [island], on A L SAT [a | lake | perched], near A [area]

26 Avoided having offer of spacious on-board accommodation? (5,1,4,5)
GIVEN A WIDE BERTH – a literalistic interpretation of the originally nautical, now clichéd phrase.

27 Shoot at wretch knocked over by cop (6)
TARGET – RAT reversed [wretch “knocked over”] + GET [cop]

28 Examiner wanted dunces to have time out of class (8)
ASSESSOR – ASSES [dunces] + SOR{t} [class, having T for time “out”]


1 Soup container: boil without lid (6)
POTAGE – POT [container] + {r}AGE [boil “without lid”]

2 Depressing advice to overenthusiastic supporters? (9)
CHEERLESS – if your supporters are getting out of control, you might advise them to CHEER LESS. But not if you’re Donald Trump of course.

3 A long time redeveloping a region (4,3)
IRON AGE – (A REGION*) [“redeveloping…”]

4 Very minor leader deposed, causing sensation (5)
ITCHY – {t}ITCHY [very minor, “leader deposed”]

6 She performs on front of stage, among characters from cast (7)
ACTRESS – RE S{tage} [on | “front of” stage], among (CAST*) [“characters from…”]

7 Jack is outwardly very sexy (5)
HOIST – IS, outwardly HOT [very sexy]

8 Drink up and hang around for a piece of cake (8)
PUSHOVER – SUP reversed [drink “up”] + HOVER [hang around]

9 Spent season meandering at first on lake in south of France (8)
SUMMERED – M{eandering} [“at first”] on MERE [lake], in SUD [south “of France”]

14 Bulldoze each road in urban area (4,4)
TEAR DOWN – EA RD [each | road] in TOWN [urban area]

16 Upsets Open University, with grants being regularly cut (9)
OVERTURNS – OVERT U [Open | University] + {g}R{a}N{t}S [“being regularly cut”]

17 Political extremists fear a Republican will get in (3,5)
FAR RIGHT – FRIGHT [fear], A R [a | Republican] will get in

19 Final character expelled from Cornwall town getting punishment (7)
PENANCE – PEN{z}ANCE [Cornwall town, losing the “final character”, i.e. Z]

21 Twice jumping up when bitten by bug? That’s ludicrous (7)
RISIBLE – BIS reversed [twice “jumping up”] when bitten by RILE [bug]

22 Club attracts female swimmer (6)
BATHER – BAT [club] attracts HER [female]

24 Financier’s case containing this writer’s money (5)
FIVER – F{inancie}R [“case”] containing I’VE [this writer’s]

25 Inventive fellow in total disarray (5)
ALDIS – hidden in {tot}AL DIS{array}. Arthur Aldis invented the Aldis lamp for Morse code signalling. I read and solved this clue as “incentive fellow”, and who’s to say he wasn’t quite generous with his lamps in return for favours?

54 comments on “Times 26,567: Fairytale Politics”

  1. I thought, “What would the old Verlaine do?”, and after playing with the alphabet with SH, TH, and CH, and of course having cast a cold eye on BASH UP, I went for ‘wash up’. In my defense I have never come across the term BASH UP before. I wasted time with 10ac thinking there must be the _O_ Mountains somewhere in Europe (my guess is, there aren’t). Biffed a couple, like RISIBLE.
  2. Had no idea about Aldis but the answer was clear enough. Also no idea about 5ac, the first letter seemed a bit of a lottery to me. I chose wash up .. as in do the dishes ..
  3. The second excellent crossword in a row. My usual 30 minutes. For me, 5a was a write-in; BASH being a very common word for “do” around here.
    CODs to 11a and 17d just for political timing.
  4. 12:54 … Really nice puzzle. I saw BASH UP quickly for some reason but was held up for quite a while at the end by SUMMERED. Toss-up between that one and ANDERSEN as COD for me.

    I now feel terrible for making light of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m ready to die” line recently. I didn’t think he meant it. RIP, indeed. I’ll second Verlaine’s praise for his literary merits. He was good.

    1. Happy to relate that according to his Rolling Stone obituary, he didn’t mean it (or at least was enjoying a wickedly dark joke); I quote the last paragraph…

      The singer-songwriter later clarified that he was “exaggerating.” “I’ve always been into self-dramatization,” Cohen said last month. “I intend to live forever.”

      1. Thanks, Tim. Funny, my Canadian other half’s first comment this morning was “I thought he would live forever.” He had that air about him.
        1. It’s Keith Richards whose passing will really shake people, if/when he ever actually goes.

          Edited at 2016-11-11 12:01 pm (UTC)

          1. Word is he already has, several times, but with cunning use of embalming fluid and robotics he keeps on going…. (see also Surtees, John).
  5. 30 minutes for this excellent puzzle, no hold-up with BASH UP but took a while to end with 1d, 2d and 1a last to see.
    Agree with V about the Nobel prize; LC seemed to me to be a better candidate and poet, but was so dreary and depressing to listen to.
  6. any time over Leonard Cohen. However, may he be at rest with his Sisters of Mercy – so not departed or gone?

    I actually thought that this offering was ‘a bit vanilla’ for a Friday and made it in 35 mins. 5ac had to be BASH-UP and 20ac ANDERSEN was my COD too.

    FOI 10ac THE LOW COUNTRIES LOI 21dn RISIBLE a somwhat tortured clue IMHO.

    WOD ALDIS and his magic lamp

  7. I was pleased to complete this some way under an hour after running out of steam for a while quite early in the proceedings. BASH UP was very common in my childhood but can’t say I’d thought of it for ages until today.

    I wasn’t sure about FINE for “brandy” but vaguely remembered perhaps meeting it before. As a non-scientific person (apart from having gained a pass in O-level physics much to the surprise of my science teacher)I was pleased to remember Aldis and that he’d a lamp named after him.

  8. 15.42 and for once no typo. Two excellent puzzles in a row. If I remember correctly BASH UP was in common usage in my neck of the woods back in the 50s. As a postscript to yesterday’s comments, my grandson recently started at Z’s old school and I hear that the punishment for eating in the street is now a week’s suspension.
    1. Sounds about right, though in my case it was by the thumbs. And we’d purposely bought Victory V lozenges because that wouldn’t be counted as eating, surely.
  9. I found this crossword less impressive. I agree with horryd that it had a hint of the vanilla. And 5ac was messy. I got it right but so many options deserve a ‘doh’ moment rather than a queasy unsatisfied lucky dip of the submit button.
  10. The old dog had me out early, with the news of Leonard Cohen around my head, laughing, crying, crying, laughing about it all again. I guess that was the way to say goodbye, after releasing one last good album. Bashing someone up was common parlance in my youth, so that was no problem. Never heard of that ALDIS but it had to be him. COD GIVEN A WIDE BERTH. About the half hour for a neat puzzle.
  11. 22:37 with successfully tossing a three-sided coin on BASH UP, LASH UP and WASH UP.

    Sad to hear about Leonard Cohen. I am sure that he produced many fine songs and poems since the Sixties but to me he will ever be associated with the droning Suzanne which seemed to be played endlessly by my studymate in my mid-teens.

  12. Nearly ten minutes less than yesterday’s so it was easier. End of.
    Given the worrying instruction noted by The Toff at 5,10 and 11, what are we to make of the acknowledgement at 23, 25, 26?
    I wonder what the late Leonard makes of his “Hallelujah” being by far his best known work, getting regular outings on X Factor and such. Can’t wait for Holly G’s version: “H to the A to the L to the Y to the L to the OOYAH!” (slum TV’s reference of the day).
  13. I was lucky enough to have misremembered how to spell Brian Aldiss’s name—and a science fiction author is an inventive fellow, after all!
  14. Succeeded just within my hour, at 57 minutes and some already-forgotten change. I really wasn’t sure of the parsing for a few, especially 5a, but I chose BASH UP as the least unlikely of my options and luckily I was right. That was my LOI, immediately preceded by the crossers of ALSATIA and RISIBLE, where I’ve still no idea where this “bis” thing comes from, so I’m off to look it up right now…

    Very sad to hear about Leonard Cohen, a musician who only really came to my attention quite recently, and partly through this very blog, among a few other coincidental mentions that piqued my interest. I shall be blasting out First We Take Manhattan as soon as I’m sure my neighbours have set off for work.

    1. You’ve probably found it by now,Matt, but “bis” is an equivalent of “encore” when shouted by appreciative audiences. It comes from the Latin for “twice” via French and Italian.

      Edited at 2016-11-11 10:37 am (UTC)

  15. Insomnia meant I heard about Leonard Cohen in the middle of the night, which is no way to say goodbye. Good puzzle, I thought, with precision needed. Did not parse MAESTRO. Our Antipodean and American cousins may still not see BASH UP. To ‘do over’ means to beat up, violently assault, as does BASH UP. A beautiful clue.

    “The women tear their blouses off, and the men they dance on the polka dots….”. We loved you, Leonard.

    1. “So we struggle and we stagger, down the snakes and up the ladder.” Often feels we have to go down both! And then it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops. We’re busted in the blinding lights.
  16. All in 30mins, but with an unsatisfactory wash up. Should have taken a few more minutes, as I then thought of it, once I’d put the darn thing away…

  17. 14m. I liked this puzzle a lot, and I thought 5ac was absolutely brilliant, so there.
    We went to see Leonard Cohen at the O2 when he resumed touring because his partner/business manager had nicked all his money. It was clear that, having decided to perform again reluctantly and out of financial necessity, he was astonished and delighted by the reception he was getting, and how much he was enjoying himself. It was an absolute delight, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I have never found his music remotely depressing, but then I find Philip Larkin’s poetry cheers me up so perhaps I’m just a bit odd.
    1. The more “dreary and depressing” music/poetry is the happier it makes me feel, in general, so I’m definitely in your camp, rather than pipkirby‘s!
      1. 1. All poetry is depressing, or boring, apart from possibly Spike Milligan’s.
        2. That Suzanne song was a dreary dirge repeated too often when I was a student, such that I never bothered to decipher its deeper meanings.
        3. Can’t recall anything else by Mr Cohen.
        4. Satie, Gymnopédies, on the other hand, are reflective, introspective, not depressing at all.

        Just saying.

        1. Satie is a genius, but if you can listen to Vexations all the way through I’ll be impressed!
  18. I wrote 5ac straight in, so clearly my brain was influenced by the Jennings books at an early age – I seem to recall young boys were regularly threatened with being bashed up by their peers (though obviously I preferred Molesworth’s regular threat to Fotherington-Thomas that he would utterly tuogh him up for getting him detention chiz chiz). The whole puzzle seemed on a slightly strange wavelength, but I liked it, which clearly says something about me.
    1. I didn’t have so much of a problem with “bash up” as with “do over”, which I almost exclusively think about these days in the “start again from scratch” sense of the phrase, probably due to pernicious American idiom creep…
      1. I share your pain. Call me old-fashioned, but I have a nightmare which involves working at the sort of place where people ask “What’s the take-away from this meeting?”
  19. About 15 minutes for a very clever and enjoyable puzzle. I thought of bash up straight away but waited until I had all the checkers before writing it in.
  20. Completed this in 34 mins, which must be a record for me for a relatively hard puzzle. We used to ‘bash’ each other up at boarding school.

    I always sang the whole of Suzanne as I went up the chair lifts as a kid – still play his songs at our folk sessions.

  21. I found this tricky. It took me a full hour, with MAESTRO, SUMMERED AND BEGETTER last to fall, in that order. A most enjoyable battle though. My FOI was SCORE, followed by HOIST and BASH UP. I had no trouble with BASH UP as it was in common use when I was growing up in SW Durham. Also knew the discount lamp. As a student I became familiar with Leonard Cohen’s work through Judy Collins, who did versions of Dress Rehearsal Rag and Suzanne on her In My Life album. Good stuff! Sad to see him go.
  22. I got home from work a couple of hours earlier than usual but I was tired and I should have taken a half hour nap on the couch before I started it because I took a bad knock in the middle of it and limped home in 29 mins with THE LOW COUNTRIES my LOI after SUMMERED. BASH UP had gone in fairly confidently some time earlier.

    Sad indeed about Cohen although I confess that I don’t have much of his music and I have a lot more of Dylan’s. I’ve always thought they were both better songwriters than singers, and as evidence of that I’d cite Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album which is made up of all Cohen covers, and individual Dylan songs covered by other artists such as Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds, All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix and I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine by Thea Gilmore.

  23. This took me about 30 minutes ending with BASH UP. I’d no idea what it means, but after shaking my head I thought BASH=’do’, and of course UP is ‘over’, so it had to be the answer. Whatever it means. Odd, that. The rest wasn’t a problem, though MAESTRO was a biff, and I didn’t know of the hidden Mr. Aldis. The long anagram at 10 is actually a very nice clue with a convincing surface, even if it yields a bit too readily with a checking letter or two. Regards.
    1. If I’d just thought about 5ac in that way, I’d have been fine and entered the solution in about 3 seconds; but instead my brain kicked in with “but that can’t be it because then there’s no definition part, abort abort abort”. My brain is SACKED.
  24. One of those few occasions where I had the leisure to do the crossword on the day of publication.

    The south was done in ten minutes, so felt on for a PB but held up by 4d where I pondered s(l)ight and then (s)light for an absolute age. The penny dropped when I got 1ac.

    I was then stymied by 5ac, of which I was convinced Make Up was correct. That made 7d looking distinctly unlikely (edict, exist, evict?)

    Finally saw the light on 7d, which made 5ac a write in for me, but another 30mins had elapsed, so definitely no PB.

    Thanks to jackkt for explaining bis – had vaguely had this as bi twice = bis so, like Matt, another one to add to the list.

    Quality crossword & enjoyed untangling the misdirections!

    Edited at 2016-11-11 10:57 pm (UTC)

  25. 36 minutes for me. ANDERSEN held me up because I forgot the word ERSE again. Luckily I’ve just hit upon the perfect mnemonic — I’m going to imagine Father Jack from ‘Father Ted’ saying it:


    Cunning, eh?

  26. 10:52, including a minute or two squandered by imagining that 16dn was supposed to fit into 17dn’s light. I actually got as far as typing URNS into the last four letters of the eight available, and was so sure that I ought to be able to think of the answer that I plugged away at it for far too long. (And I missed the easy-win nine-letter answer first time through.)

    Despite that, I enjoyed this fine puzzle very much. Fortunately BASH UP didn’t take me too long. And no problem with ALDIS either, known long before Monty Python’s brief excerpt from Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp:

    (Superimposed caption on screen: ‘JULIUS CAESAR ON AN ALDIS LAMP’ Close-up of Caesar walking in Roman street. Soothsayer pushes his way up to him wild eyed and produces Aldis lamp and starts flashing:)


    (Some steps at the foot of a statue. Caesar is stabbed. As he falls he brings out a really big Aldis lamp and flashes to the assassins around him.)


    My compliments to the setter.

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