Times 26,627: Inauguration Day

It’s possible that not every word in a Times puzzle is carefully chosen in advance to be enormously topical on the date of publication, but I couldn’t help but see this one as a sly dig against a man about to usher in a new era of 6dn. Surely the seventh column refers to the amount of spin that was required to make this candidate look viable, and the ninth to the likely result of investigation into Russian involvement in the election, while the eleventh constitutes a sad valediction to the former incumbent of the role. Meanwhile the ninth row pretty clearly references the new C-in-C’s qualities; on the bright side the seventh row is a pretty unambiguous prophecy of how long we will have to put up with him…

Beyond that I thought this was a very good crossword in which nothing was *too* abstruse but which was littered by speedbumps that forced one to slow down and commit proper thought to the problem. I very much liked the two meta-clues at 30ac and 19dn, and was even more taken by what I thought were some really clever instances of logodaedal misdirection: for instance I was sure that 28ac was going to be a word for “dealer” inside a word for “cross” (something in ROOD?); in 2dn there could not be a clearer anagrind (or so I thought) than “jiggling around”; and my LOI, 10ac, held me back from hitting the submit button until a whisker before the 10 minute mark just because I had been so convinced for the entire puzzle that it was going to be a homophone. Congratulations to the setter then on his achievement. Making Crosswords Great Again!


1 Return of loud and corpulent little man is concerning women (7)
DISTAFF – F FAT SID reversed [“return of” loud | corpulent | little man]
5 Act as judge when there’s problem at a higher level (3,2)
SUM UP – SUM [problem] + UP [at a higher level]
9 Feature of mountain visible in fair weather off and on (5)
ARETE – {f}A{i}R {w}E{a}T{h}E{r} [“off and on”]
10 Philosophers said to be in the clouds (9)
MORALISTS – ORAL [said] in MISTS [clouds]
11 Sultan‘s wickedness, imprisoning a boy (7)
SALADIN – SIN [wickedness] imprisoning A LAD [a boy]
12 Certain to follow fashion that’s very different from dreadlocks! (7)
TONSURE – SURE [certain] to follow TON [fashion]
13 Crocodile becoming this would double in length (6,4)
SINGLE FILE – cryptic def – we are not talking about the reptile, but the pairs of schoolchildren holding hands
15 Measure of heat needed in the absence of hot period (4)
TERM – T{h}ERM [measure of heat], absent H [hot]
18 Nerve in narrow part of body (4)
NECK – double def
20 Play informally a feature in this seminar (4,6)
MESS AROUND – {thi}S SEM{inar} has MESS “around” in it
23 Bird featured in decorations (7)
BUNTING – double def
24 Area’s cultivated to accommodate very good shrub (7)
SPIRAEA – (AREA’S*) [“cultivated”] accommodating PI [very good]
25 Customer expecting protection bellowed endlessly in Herts town (9)
WARRANTEE – RANTE{d} [bellowed “endlessly”] in WARE [Herts town]
26 Old boy about to get Palace’s recognition? That’s sweet (5)
BOMBE – O.B. reversed [old boy “about”] + MBE [Palace’s recognition]
27 Right person to give support in meeting (5)
RALLY – R ALLY [right | person to give support]
28 Cross, taken in by dealer? The reverse — not bothered (7)
RELAXED – X [cross] taken in by DEALER, reversed


1 Keep talking about sport — crushing bore? (5,2)
DWELL ON – DON [sport (as in “wear”)] crushing WELL [bore]
2 Unexpected delay — sit without jiggling around (8)
STEADILY – (DELAY SIT*) [“unexpected”]
3 Persuasive chaps maybe getting maiden to enter a place of vice? (5)
ADMEN – M [maiden] to enter A DEN [a place of vice]
4 Swiss hero entering wood mostly sees ahead (9)
FORETELLS – TELL [Swiss hero William] entering FORES{t} [wood “mostly”]
5 Athenian statesman with good parting words (2,4)
SO LONG – SOLON [Athenian statesman] with G [good]
6 One’s right to get cross about bad governance (7)
MISRULE – I’S R [one’s | right] to get MULE [cross] about
7 Former drug mixture (5)
PASTE – PAST E [former | drug]
8 Old-fashioned member of the family dies (6,2)
PASSES ON – PASSE SON [old-fashioned | member of the family]
14 Soldier, about to get aboard that ship (9)
FREIGHTER – FIGHTER [soldier], RE [about] “to get on board that”
16 Broadcasters and the press, group that’s upset referees (8)
MEDIATES – MEDIA [broadcasters and the press] + SET [group], er, upset
17 Intellectual support given to receiver of emails (8)
BRAINBOX – BRA [support] given to INBOX [receiver of emails]
19 Important as he is to them (7)
CENTRAL – “he” is CENTRAL to {t}HE{m}
21 Peacekeepers dream about what they want combatants to become? (7)
UNARMED – UN [peacekeepers] + (DREAM*) [“about”]
22 Series of prayers fired up some (6)
LITANY – LIT ANY [fired up | some]
23 Hat that’s not got left in country cottage (5)
BOWER – BOW{l}ER, that’s not got L [left] in
24 About time, authorise bargain (5)
STEAL – about T [time], SEAL [authorise]

64 comments on “Times 26,627: Inauguration Day”

  1. 25 minutes so quick for me. VEIN at 18a was great misdirection for the biffer. COD to MORALISTS. Much enjoyed.

    On edit V. if 2d had been “Unexpected delay – sit or not jiggling around”, I would still be trying to find the anagram now.

    Edited at 2017-01-20 08:33 am (UTC)

  2. If this was meant to be a clarion call for D. Trump it failed miserably. Sorry to rain on the parade but 23ac the BUNTING was about as far as it got. This was not the usual Friday fare as I was there in three Velaines at 32 mins.



    Edited at 2017-01-20 08:39 am (UTC)

  3. A very welcome error-free week. 18 under par at the end of it all. Please don’t tell Ulaca.

    My solving times and completion rates degenerated over the holiday period, and have now started to improve since I’ve returned to healthier lifestyle habits. I’d be devastated to think there’s any causation there. Just tougher puzzles over the holidays, right?

    A nice challenge today. SPIRAEA looked more likely than SPIEARA, but I was still relieved to have its existence confirmed.

    LOI WARRANTEE after the usual panic about whether I would know the town. Thanks setter and V.

      1. Methinks not. True, this is my second sub-par week in a row. On the other hand, for the four weeks before that I had a combined total of 141 over par.

        Let’s just leave it at 22 for now.

    1. As a humble Dan Evans to your Bernie Tomic, I will merely observe that things are getting Kyrgioser and Kyrgioser.
  4. Another easy one, somewhat unusually for a Friday. Some very nice clues though and agree about the clever misdirection. Totally failed to parse 14dn so thanks for that, V
  5. 28 minutes for this pretty non-taxing number, which I suspect is what most Americans really care about, whatever they call themselves.

    I must say I was almost convinced by V’s hermeneutics until I got to his interpretation of 11 down, where fancy clearly took flight.

    1. 11 down is a beautiful clue, the best actually. Some people are saying that there is no 11 down in this puzzle, but that is FAKE NEWS, they are just sore losers. Sad!
      1. My fancy joined V’s, I fear: it was the 11th column to which I was referring, of course.

        Edited at 2017-01-20 10:11 am (UTC)

        1. Some of my detractors have said that my hermeneutical deficiencies mean that I may be underendowed in other departments, such as capacity to put away alcohol and luxuriance of moustache. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.
  6. A good end to the week, which has been pretty good overall. 19′, unusual for a Friday. Spent some time parsing DWELL ON and loved BRAINBOX. Did not parse MORALISTS, thanks V. Thanks to setter also.
  7. 14m. Enjoyable stuff. I worried a little about 24ac but that does seem to be the only place to put the letters.
    1. 24ac was indeed worrying, one of those clues where I was immediately 100% sure how all the pieces of wordplay worked but just couldn’t put it in until I had all the checkers. All’s well that ends well though!
      1. Indeed. The uncertainty compounded by the possibilty of AI for ‘very good’. It seemed fair to me, but I would be persuaded otherwise if significant numbers of our fellow solvers failed to find the right combination.
        1. Sadly, after 52 minutes, the thorn in my side was indeed plumping for “sairaea” rather than SPIRAEA for the unknown shrub, so a one-letter DNF for me today.
  8. 15.37, and with MESS AROUND the one that slowed the endgame. Having had the rather lovely CENTRAL, I wasn’t looking for a similar type of clue and eventually went with something that looked as if it might be related to part of the clue, fortunately the right answer. It’s another delightful clue, elevating this Friday easy to Friday still easy but with some good stuff in it. Thanks, V for revealing its qualities.
    The dreaded shrub was almost my undoing, because AI is very good, isn’t it? Even for shrubs, SAIRAEA or SAIEARA looked unlikely, though, not to say unpronounceable, forcing a rethink.
    If we’re really going all OVERLORD about this puzzle, it surely can’t be a coincidence that the middle line is (very nearly) an anagram of YOB RULE. My own position is clearly stated withing my TLS blog today: no-one’s better than TRUMP.
  9. Another easy one – a real stroll in the park for a Friday puzzle

    I think Donald Trump may be a better president than you think V. Washington has needed a good shake up for years and he may just be the guy to deliver it – we shall see. I’ll reserve judgement rather than view him through prejudiced eyes.

    1. Oh, it’ll be alright, a change is as good as a rest they do say. He’s a bit of a philistine is all, you can’t really imagine him relaxing over a Times Jumbo, can you?
      1. I also can’t really imagine him launching a nuclear strike in a fit of pique after a particularly nasty Twitter exchange. I hope this isn’t just a failure of imagination on my part.

        Edited at 2017-01-20 04:09 pm (UTC)

  10. 12:17 … easy-ish but fun. I liked the two ‘meta-clues’.

    I’m starting to see Trump in every puzzle now … sad!

  11. I think a small typo in 26a, V, it ‘s OB reversed plus MBE. Started like a bat out of hell, got stuck at the three quarter point but then dashed home in 20 minutes. We’ve got a SPIRAEA which my wife for some unfathomable reason calls a spirogyra. I’ve walked STRIDING EDGE a few times and it sure seems to be an ARETE, which I didn’t know before. Where’s WARE? Hertfordshire, it always is. The definition of a cultured person used to be someone who could listen to the William Tell overture without doing the voice over of the Lone Ranger. I always like it when the bunting goes up for our summer fete. Loved the simplicity of COD BRAINBOX.

    Edited at 2017-01-20 10:01 am (UTC)

      1. Thank you S. Good stuff. You mean I’ve spent the last thirty years thinking her taste in music was lousy (she’s 14 years younger than me and I couldn’t believe anyone would have Phil Collins or Whitney Houston in their record collection), when she knew where it was all at better than me?
  12. 31 minutes with time lost at the end sorting out the wretched plant, yet another partial anagram of an obscure word which has alternative spellings neither of which is even listed in one of the usual sources.

    I keep out of politics on here usually but I’d only say that I’m not celebrating today, nor would I be if the other candidate were being inaugurated. The retiring one looked hopeful at the time but turned out to be a flop. Trump is his legacy.

    Edited at 2017-01-20 10:03 am (UTC)

  13. Great puzzle today, enjoyed the need for a bit of old fashioned lateral thinking, 29 minutes all told. Didn’t parse MESS AROUND though. A plant I knew, for once, but it was my LOI as was trying to plant AREAS VG anagrammed.
    So we come to he Costa Brava for winter sun and get the first real snow in 35 years. That’s global warming for you. No wonder DT is sceptical.
  14. Did this in 15.05 and now I’m going back to my great bed of Ware and pulling the covers over my head.
  15. 20m today with nothing to scare the horses until V revealed all of the coded messages. I too liked 17d for its neat simplicity. Enjoyable puzzle and blog – thanks for both.
  16. Conspiracy theories are great fun, but this puzzle was set a while back and without any conscious desire to make reference to current affairs.
    1. My tongue was firmly in my cheek, I promise. Though given that there is a Guardian setter called “Vlad” can we REALLY discount the possibility that Moscow is manipulating even these quiet corners of the media…
  17. 40 minutes with the top half flying in, but I then became becalmed mainly in the SW, where I also managed to miss the obvious and invent a flying BINLING. I did manage to correctly spell the unknown plant, so a disappointing 1 wrong. Enjoyed the puzzle apart from that. Thanks setter and V.
  18. 32 mins, caused by a confident 2d SEDATELY which played merry hell with the two middle crossers. After about 10 mins of staring I made the sensible decision to look again at that corner generally and saw the anagram. The wrong sort of doh! Moment. Like BRAINBOX but I do think that bras have had their day, if you see what I mean. Thanks setter and V
  19. And pretty much the same experience as our highly esteemed and equally highly verbose blogger (and long may he continue to be so might I add), except for every thought taking around twice as long obviously.

    Not helped by a very early “DREAM ON” (I was listening Aerosmith this morning) at 1d which made a complete standstill of the NW corner until the light finally dawned on 11a.

    10a went in unparsed, and not really sure what purpose “that” was serving in (LOI) 14d

    all in all though, an encouraging week, hopefully it won’t take too long to get back into the swing of things after a break Down Under.

    Edited at 2017-01-20 12:16 pm (UTC)

    1. Well, “that” is the soldier. It’s a series of instructions: take a thing, and then put something else on board that (thing). Twisty-turny to be sure, but nothing offensively extraneous as far as I’m concerned.

      One of my dearest university friends ranks, or did rank, “Dream On” as his favourite song. I expect it’s my favourite Aerosmith song at least…

  20. I do this sometimes – I stared and stared at 13a thinking it was 4,6 instead of 6,4. Not sure how long this took because of customers and other distractions, but def an easy Friday. SPIRAEA came out of some vague memory. COD BRAINBOX

  21. Nothing in Crosswordland makes the old Davest heart sink more than botanical clues. Even if I had managed to select the correct version of ” very good ” from the myriad available, I could easily have spent the next fortnight trying to arrange the anagrist into SPIRAEA even with all the checkers in.

    Ah well……

    Time: DNF in about an hour.

    Thank you to setter and blogger.

  22. Fun Friday fare and the comments have made me smile again, which I think may be rare today as I live in the land about to obtain an orange overlord. 11:14, no major hold-ups but I was uneasy about WARRANTEE
    1. If GUARANTOR/GUARANTEE look right to me, and they do, that’s how I’d justify WARRANTOR/WARRANTEE to myself I expect…
      1. I’m always amused that here in San Francisco the buses tell you how many STANDEES are allowed, which seems they would be the people being stood on.

        I did the puzzle the next day. Pretty easy with some nice clues. I agree with the many people who don’t go for obscure plants (or anything else) clued as anagrams. It’s not sour grapes, either, I got it right (as long as you didn’t try and get AI in there instead of PI, it had to be).

        1. I wouldn’t normally engage with someone I’m not familiar with who hides behind an avatar, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

          Regular visitors to this site will know that contributors frequently “burp out their “thoughts””, as you so insultingly put it, on any number of topics only loosely connected with the puzzle or the blog, such as music and sport as well as politics. Would you like to see all such asides stopped so that people stick to the matter in hand? That would make for a much duller site IMHO.

          Or is the problem that the majority of the political views being expressed lately don’t coincide with your own world view?

          On that note I’ll bid you proshchal’nyy privet.

    2. Though hang on, perhaps a GUARANTEE is more analogue to a WARRANTY than a WARRANTEE? A pox upon this labyrinthine language.
  23. Hello QC improver here. Good to see many of you thought this easy. I thought there were many misdiections here which would did give me trouble. Biffed many (plant and customer) but needed help in SW (in hindsight not sure why, just exhausted from not being a brainbox). Looking forward to the day when setters find a place for jockstrap as a change to the VERY BORING USE OF BRA ALL THE TIME (rant over). Hugely enjoyable blog Mr V and Im sure Mr T will go down a 26a in more ways than one. Final note – first week ever that I have completed four puzzles so still looking forward to a Waxed Bat or two tonight
  24. 13 mins, with STEADILY my LOI after the SALADIN/DWELL ON crossers.

    It’s an interesting viewpoint that Obama is to blame for Trump. And there was me thinking it was the stagnation that resulted from a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate not wanting to cooperate in any way with the occupant of the White House.

  25. About 20 minutes, no real holdups today. And no political commentary from me either. LOI was BUNTING, which slipped my mind although I’m usually very good with birds. At least North American ones. Regards.
  26. 11:05 for me, starting quite briskly, but eventually getting bogged down in the SE corner. Like you I spent far too long trying to fit ROOD into 28ac (even though I could see that it didn’t really look very likely) and I was worried that I wasn’t going to know the shrub 24ac, but then found I knew it perfectly well.

    Nice puzzle.

  27. 16:44 for me, so well under par and with plenty to enjoy along the way. Failed to parse 20a – thanks for the explanation, V. For a proper nod to the significant date I direct you to the Times2 crossword.
  28. Oh dear. I ended up with “dream on” for 1d (the “bore” being “ream”) which, of course, didn’t really make sense. It also made a mess of 11ac. All in all, not one of my brain’s finer moments.

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