Times 26599 – Not my favorite chewing gum….but chewy!

Solving time: 83 minutes

Music: None, the records and the stereo are packed

I can’t really say I was on the wavelength. This is one of the sort of puzzles where if you happen to see a couple right away, you will make very rapid progress – but if you don’t, you won’t. In my case, it took a long time to get started, but once I had a few crossing letters I would whip through a quardrant, only to come to a complete halt for another fifteen minutes.

As far as I’m concerned, the NW was definitely the toughest part. The cryptics didn’t give you much to go on, and the words that made up the components were not the ususal ‘fashionable = in’, ‘yank = pull’, ‘very = so’ type of cliches that make it easy for experienced solvers to pick up speed. There was a lot of very clever cluing here, and you need to be a little imaginative to work through to the end.

1 CHICK LIT, CHIC K(L)IT, my LOI, easy when you see it, but probably not what you were expecting.
9 AVE MARIA, A + V + E + M + ARIA, the closest thing to a chestnut in this puzzle, my FOI.
10 TRYING, TR([bo]Y)ING. Even though I had thought of Tring fairly early on, I was thinking it might be spelt ‘Thring’, and was in any case using the ‘b’ instead of the ‘y’. Of course, it also might have been synonyms for ‘irksome’ and ‘boy’ backwards, resulting in a town!
11 UNIMPROVED, UNI + MP + ROVED. Again, simple if you see it, but I wasted no end of time trying to put in ‘Ivies’.
12 DOSH, backwards concealed in [fres]H SOD[a].
13 ROUSSILLON, RO([r]USSI[a])LL ON. Never heard of it, but the cryptic is helpful for once..
16 BERLIOZ, BERLI[n] + OZ. Again a ‘berlin’ is not the first thing you think of when you see ‘limousine’.
17 BAGGAGE, BAG(GAG)E[l], may be biffed by some. Both ‘tart’ and ‘baggage’ are old slang terms for a strumpet.
20 CHEAPSKATE, C(HE)APSK + ATE, where the enclosing letters are an anagram of PACKS. A truly brilliant clue.
22 TUBS, S[ailors} + BUT backwards.
23 HITCHHIKER, HITCH + H(I K)E + R, another good one.
25 ABATED, anagram of A DEBT + A[ccountants].
27 GATHERED, anagram of EG THREAD.
2 HARD CORE, double definition.
6 HELP, HE(L)P. I could just not see this, but I imagine it must have been obvious to everyone else.
8 TAP DANCE, cryptic definition. I really had to beat my brains for this one. Fan Dance and War Dance would also fit, but don’t match the clue, while Rain Dance does match the clue but doesn’t fit.
16 BACKHAND, a HACK BAND swapping first letters. ‘Backhand’ probably refers to backward-sloping handwriting, but other interpretations are possible.
18 GABONESE, sounds like GAB ON ES.
21 ENTITY, [m]E[a]N [s]T[r]I[c]T[l]Y, a rather good alternate-letter clue.
24 HAIR, [c]HAIR, where the meaning of ‘rocker’ is nicely disguised.

43 comments on “Times 26599 – Not my favorite chewing gum….but chewy!”

  1. TRYING was my LOI, partly because I postponed dealing with it since I have no idea what’s in Hertfordshire. Even with the checkers it took a while to remember Tring; which I guess is in Hertfordshire. I knew ROUSSILLON and, to use Andy’s was it? coinage, BIFD-FOWL. Did not, on the other hand, know ‘berlin’, and biffed this one from checkers and OZ. COD to CHEAPSKATE.
  2. … the same experience as Vinyl and Kevin G. — trouble in the NW with TRYING second last, leading to HARD CORE as the LOI. But I didn’t know either the Herts town or the French area. Had a look at ODO later for “berlin”, but it wasn’t there and had to go to Collins. Wondered as follows:

    The Beatles didn’t have a song called “Help”. It was called “Help!”. We’ve discussed this before re “Oklahoma!” and, to my mind, the exclamation in a title precludes its use in puzzles.

    Is tap dancing choreographed? Still the pun was familiar from the corny old joke: “Did you hear about the X tap dancer?” (Where X is the nationality of your choice.)

    15dn: “get married” = MATE?

    26ac: isn’t “community” an almost meaningless word these days? You can hear/read it 100 times a day in any medium. It appears to cover any collection of persons you can think of.

    1. Where, then, do you stand on apostrophes? (If you were to refer to the song aloud, would you exclaim it?) I wasn’t bothered by–didn’t even notice–the lack of the !, but I was struck by the use of such an un-trendy word as ‘hep’ as the definiendum of ‘trendy’.
      1. Most likely not. But crosswords are more about writing than speech — except for the odd homophone clue.

        Good point too re apostrophes. Would have to think about it if one were involved in a title. Will probably have to back down on this one now. Ta!

  3. Standard Monday fare, partially distracted by the alarming developments at the Gabba.

    Slightly raised eyebrow at BAGGAGE.

    Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  4. and DNF! FOI AVE MARIA and sped on to the NW frontier. But once I arrived at 10ac TRING, after about 30 mins, my train of thought was shunted in the sidings.

    1ac CHICK LIT I knew but didn’t connect. And 2dn HARD CORE I assumed the first word was RARE (as per steak)….in China blue = yellow in that context.

    Further, I didn’t concur with 8dn TAP DANCE and was entirely happy with LAP DANCE – as water laps – and if you suggest that LAP dancing isn’t choreographed, then you have obviously not been to Vegas or Pat Pong!

    I won’t speak of the cricket at the Gabba, Galle or Madras as it looks like the sub-continent are in the ascendency.

  5. I needed an hour to unravel this one and had a very similar stop/start/stop experience to our blogger.

    ROUSSILLON was unknown and solved from wordplay only. Knew Berlin as a carriage, not as a limousine, BACKHAND as a stroke in sport, not as sloping handwriting – but congrats to the setter for not mentioning the tiresome Reverend in this clue. Wanted 8dn to be (4,4) so the answer could be “Swan Lake”. Tring is local to me.

    McT, if you think tap dancing isn’t choreographed, may I recommend you watch some of the classic Fred Astaire films? No-one could possibly have made that lot up on the hoof.

    Edited at 2016-12-19 06:28 am (UTC)

    1. I know the films well! Perhaps I should have written “always choreographed”?
      Love your “on the hoof” pun!
  6. I made a complete hash of this, misapprehending the cryptic for the unknown bit of France and coming up with Roussollon. And the Herts town clue was a write-in … as TYRING, which was honestly how I thought for a while you spelt ‘tiring’. Duh. Did eventually sort that one out with the help of last in HARD CORE. Not my best effort.


  7. I found this less biffable than average, but was pleased to be able to work out several from the cryptic today. I used to live in St Albans, not far from Tring so got TRYING fairly early. I went there once to visit its National History Museum which was unmemorable except for having a large taxidermy collection.
  8. Am obviously well awake this morning, must be all the Christmas singing that’s happening, including a wonderful AVE MARIA. NW all straight in, in contrast to others’ experience. More than one raised eyebrow at BAGGAGE, and a delay on 23 ac as was convinced it must be —-PACKER, although I did much of that sort of travel in the 1970s. Had not heard of BACKHAND in that sense. 13’17”, thanks vinyl and setter.
  9. My particular hash of 13a was “Roussollan”, but I knew it was risky as I couldn’t see how it really worked. Then again, there were a couple of other answers where I couldn’t see how they worked, and I got those right…

    At least (a) that was my only mistake, and (b) my recent cramming on “countries of the world” let me find GABONESE—a couple of weeks ago I never would have got to that answer so early in the puzzle. (I doubt my cramming will ever go as far as historical counties of Catalonia, though…)

    A 56 minute DNF.

  10. Also on form today, whizzed through this in 18 minutes, loving the cleverness. Helped by the French angles – Roussillon, berlin, (the French car dealers call a saloon a berline), and a once girlfriend who lived near Tring.
    While watching England dropping more catches and India approaching 700 in Chennai, enough to make one lugubrious, but it’s almost hilarious.
  11. 12:48, but with PRYING. I can’t really explain what was going through my mind when I put that in, I’m sure I’ve come across Tring before. Before that I slowed myself down by typing in ROUSILLLON and LETITIMATE, so all in all not my finest effort this morning.
  12. Fimished in 45 minutes, shaking my head at the definition of NOTATION, a term I use in Maths and Physics, and know otherwise from a similar definition in in Music. Struggled with BAGGAGE also, trying obviously to make first barm cake and then bap the roll, before thinking of a bagel. DNK ROUSILLON but deducible from RUSSIA and Roll on John. I’ve been on that island far too long. COD GABONESE.
  13. 24:18. I didn’t help myself by writing CHINCHILLA at 4d instead of 3d. BACKHAND and BAGGAGE were unknown meanings for me. 10a took me ages looking for a boy’s name going backwards even though I knew TRING was a town. Some enjoyable sneaky clues – 15d my COD.
  14. Reasonably quick, except that I forgot that I hadn’t filled in TAP DANCE when I submitted. Was brought up near Tring, which is almost an enclave of Herts in Beds, so I know the museum well. Had to use checkers for RANKING couldn’t be bothered to plough through the alphabet. There are 52 options for -A-KING in my scrabble checklist.
  15. Went to sleep with just a few on the east side to solve: 8dn, 15dn, 17ac, 25ac. Luckily there’s only one word that fits the checkers -A-G-GE otherwise I don’t think I’d’ve ever got it from the clue. However, I’d say generally speaking this puzzle was slightly below average difficulty, which I was happy about! COD: DRIVEL
  16. 45m on a ridiculously overcrowded Edinburgh train from London KX but I have at least found a seat now. I found this hard and had to check the spelling of the French place, even though I think it appears as a character in the bard’s Alls Well That Ends Well. I knew Berlin as a carriage rather than a car but the composer was well known enough. Good puzzle and blog. I’m looking forward to the Turkey when I finally get back oop North! Will I remember my own clue this time?
  17. 47 minutes, as I recall, but the real question is whether Kohli and co. can roll the Antipodeans over as thoroughly as they have done the Kiwis, Saffas and Brits in the England team.
  18. 2o mins with one wrong.I joined horryd in a lap dance. Sounds like a clue in itself. Certainly says something about our mindset though I certainly can’t claim horryd’s extensive knowledge on the subject.
    1. M’dear toff – why one wrong! No one has so far ventured that LAP DANCE is incorrect (they will now!) – so congrats on a fine time.(Where is Biddlecombe when you need him?!)

      My ‘mindset’ did not manage HARD CORE.

      However my extensive knowledge of lap dancing is, I must admit, skimply vast. I once danced with Zsa Zsa Gabor who unfortunately left us today – RIP.

  19. 9:59 including an immediate clean sweep of the “toughest” NW corner. The only real hold-up was BAGGAGE at the end so I must have been as close to the wavelength as Vinyl was far from it.

    There clearly aren’t as many dedicated wine drinkers on here as there should be as wine from Languedoc-Roussillon is no stranger to our supermarket shelves.

    Edited at 2016-12-19 01:14 pm (UTC)

  20. I am surprised that so many people were unfamiliar with the old French region. I am not a wine buff by any stretch of the imagination but remember reading it on labels of wine bottles. Perhaps the secret is I (usually) try to drink the stuff in moderation. Wine is not a beverage suitable for a thirsty ex rugby player IMHO.

    Also surprised that so many people found this one on the hard side. I am not usually finished with a daily before 13:00 to leave a comment.

    Back to DM’s Sunday Xmas Monster!

  21. My 12:07 is holding up quite well (about three minutes of that with a piece of paper trying to put together ROUSSILLLON). Raised an eyebrow at the presence of CHICK LIT – I know derogatory terms are frowned on in another well-known puzzle.
  22. I was really motoring ( for me, that is ) until I hit the wall in the south-west. Some mention of the good Dr. Spooner might have helped me for once with 16 down and it took me ages to work it out.

    It occurs to me that there is currently no male-orientated equivalent of chick lit – perhaps a nice little earner for some of our more creative colleagues?

    Time: 45 mins. or thereabouts.

    Thank you setter and blogger.

    1. ‘Lad Lit’ was a thing in the 90s — Nick Hornby et al — but it doesn’t seem to have lasted.
  23. Reassured I was not the only one who thought lap dance.Less so thar joined in that by Horryd!
  24. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, I was very tired when I started this after I got home from work, and I drifted a bit mid-solve, so I’m reasonably happy with my 19 mins. The NOTATION/BACKHAND crossers were my last ones in. I found the RHS easier than the LHS, and it was only once I had LUGUBRIOUS that TRYING and BERLIOZ fell into place, followed by HARD CORE which should have been much easier to see. I considered “lap dance” for a while but it didn’t feel right and I was glad when the TAP penny dropped.
  25. About 30 minutes, but not a continuous solve. I agree the NW was the most trying part of this puzzle, I ended with HARD CORE. I found out here that I didn’t really know what LUGUBRIOUS means. Now I know. I also found the BACKHAND definition a bit out of the ordinary. But got there eventually. Regards.
  26. I was really proud of myself for finishing it, in just under an hour, but then how horryd! it was a DNF and for the same reason: LAP DANCE instead of TAP DANCE (but at least the other lappers made me feel better). I had visions more of our late cat lapping up his water than of where it came from. Found it not too easy. CHICK LIT was my LOI, LEGITIMATE came shortly before that and might be my COD.
  27. Well, I join horrid in a LAP DANCE. Not I pretty sight, I’m sure, but it made sense to me.
  28. Fifty-five minutes on the clock, but that included time while I left the clock running and had dinner. I’m guessing, therefore, about 30 minutes and, yes, I’m a fast eater.

    I managed to avoid a lap-dance, and I am shocked and dismayed that it should pop so readily into the heads of so many of my companions here. Perhaps 2d flipped a switch in some brains.

    NHO a Berlin as a conveyance of any sort, but fortunately I know enough composers to know that I didn’t know of any alternative that fit the checkers. LOI was BACKHAND – I’d never heard of it as a style of handwriting, but just shrugged and put it in. ROUSSILLON was equally unknown, but was gettable from the clue and sounded plausible.

  29. 16:36 for me, never really finding the setter’s wavelength.

    The definitions used for NOTATION and BACKHAND were new to me. And like others I was torn between LAP DANCE (my first thought, I’m rather ashamed to say) and TAP DANCE, but eventually decided that a TAP DANCE was more likely to be choreographed.

    1. No shame – we just live in a different world!
      horryd Shanghai – Bangkok – Las Vegas – Hong Kong – Mile End

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