Times 26,639: Bridge Over Troubled Waters

I’ve not been at the top of my cryptic game recently – stressed and tired from having piled too many other things onto my plate over the last fortnight, but at least I’m being paid for it! So I feel like my 12-and-a-half minute time could have been better, but then again it does appear to have been a hard and Friday-worthy puzzle, lots of very densely packed clues to unpick.

Some of the resulting surfaces have ended up sounding too much like crosswordese garble, but conversely I really appreciated the whimsical side of this puzzle. The usual smattering of question marks are doing genuinely interesting work at 18dn, 20ac, 2dn, etc. My favourite clue though I think was was 6dn, requiring lateral thinking from more than one direction but with every element contributing nicely to a smooth and handsome surface. Thanks very much to the setter – definitely an intriguing 10ac-type puzzle rather than a 26ac one overall!


1 Approval follows to be on wrong computer (8)
NOTEBOOK – OK [approval] follows (TO BE ON*) [“wrong”]
5 Cocktail from small island in the endless sea? (3,3)
MAI TAI – AIT [small island] in MAI{n} [the “endless” sea]
10 Picks tenth hotel on tour: it gets complicated (3,4,8)
11 One smoked in bed: it takes a brave man to intervene (7)
CHEROOT – COT [bed] with HERO [a brave man] intervening
12 Fancy our cousin is out of power a long time (7)
CHIMERA – CHIM{p} [our cousin “is out of” P for power] + ERA [a long time]
13 Writer in Belgian port, not O Henry (8)
STENDHAL – {o}STEND [Belgian port, “not O”] + HAL [Henry]
15 Northern river covered in top-quality shellfish (5)
NACRE – N [northern] + R [river] covered in ACE [top-quality]
18 Prophet’s house on the shore? (5)
HOSEA – HO [house] by the SEA
20 Act enthusiastically, but not be in Hamlet? (2,2,4)
GO TO TOWN – a hamlet being a very small community, if you go to a “town” you won’t be in one.
23 Space to turn around in ship’s cabin? (3,4)
SEA ROOM – a cabin is a room at sea, ergo another type of sea room.
25 In bent condition, force chapter out of reference book (7)
FLEXION – F [force] + LEXI{c}ON [C for chapter “out of” reference book]
26 Absolutely no refreshment with son coming in? That’s distasteful (3,4,3,2,3)
NOT ONE’S CUP OF TEA – NOT ONE CUP OF TEA [absolutely no refreshment] with S [son] coming in
27 From top seat heard this cast (6)
THROWN – homophone of THRONE [top seat “heard”]
28 During delay not important to return books stored here perhaps (4,4)
WALL UNIT – during WAIT [delay], NULL reversed [not important “to return”]


1 Work it out before you leave (6)
NOTICE – cryptic def: one works out one’s notice before leaving a job.
2 Inflammation of a certain spot? It can’t be helped (5,2,2)
THERE IT IS – THERE is “a certain spot”, a whimsical disease of which could be “there-itis”!
3 Almost naked diver: trouble when one goes up (7)
BALLOON – BAL{d} LOON [“almost” naked | diver]
4 Small group of commandos taking enemy territory at the front (5)
OCTET – O{f} C{ommandos} T{aking} E{nemy} T{erritory} [“at the front”]
6 Sort of bridge needing care: lower maximum speed a bit (7)
AUCTION – CAUTION [care], with its C [the speed of light, the fastest speed there is] lowered a bit. Bridge the card game, of course.
7 Subject of article staff found inadequate (5)
THEME – THE ME{n} [article | staff “found inadequate”]
8 Extremely popular tools (2,6)
IN SPADES – IN [popular] + SPADES [tools]
9 Elegant clothes worn by student for light reading (5,3)
CHICK LIT – CHIC KIT [elegant | clothes] “worn by” L [student]
14 Service chief set over the main body (4,4)
HIGH MASS – HIGH [chief] set over MASS [the main body]
16 Female composer failing to start composed with help (9)
COWRITTEN – COW {b}RITTEN [female | composer “failing to start”]
17 Horse in box, one going to bolt (8)
CHESTNUT – CHEST [box] + NUT [one going to bolt, as in nuts and bolts]
19 With immediate effect, a low temperature brings round precipitation (2,2,3)
AS OF NOW – A + 0F [low temperature] brings round SNOW [precipitation]
21 Plant finally sent soldiers sword (7)
TREFOIL – {sen}T R.E. FOIL [“finally” sent | soldiers | sword]
22 Complete one set of books? One of them incomplete (6)
INTACT – I [one] + NT [set of books, the New Testament] + ACT{s} [one of those NT books, “incomplete”]
24 Player’s agent clearing fine (5)
ACTOR – {f}ACTOR [agent “clearing” F for fine]
25 Female relative almost has a wild life (5)
FAUNA – F AUN{t} [female | relative “almost”] has A

35 comments on “Times 26,639: Bridge Over Troubled Waters”

  1. My first success of the week, though I had to push my time to an hour and ten minutes to do it. COD 2d. LOI FLEXION—can’t quite believe I thought of “dictionary” and “thesaurus” so often without “lexicon” springing to mind…

    It was the eastern half in general that slowed me down, especially the crossers of CHIMERA, AUCTION, and the unknown NACRE. At some point I’ll have the types of bridge memorised—I knew how 6d worked and what we were looking for (given that the answer wasn’t “bascule”!) but it took a long time to get there.

    Still, all in all very enjoyable, otherwise I wouldn’t have pressed on. Thanks to setter and blogger. Glad I know now how some of my biffs work, especially the “ait” in MAI TAI.

  2. 18:08 … couple of chestnuts, a profusion of CH-words (Swiss setter?) and some distinctly tricky ones thrown into the mix.

    GO TO TOWN my favourite (until someone tells me that’s another chestnut).

  3. Not my favourite crossword of the week, but found it straightforward. LOI flexion just because the word would not surface.. also failed to spot the pun in 2dn.
    I did like 13ac, very neat clue.
  4. This completes a week where I’ve disagreed with the tribe every day on the difficulty of the puzzle.

    I found this one very hard, and was ready to give up with FLEXION and SEA ROOM un-entered. FLEXION came with a satisfying penny drop, SEA ROOM not so much. But after googling it post-solve, it’s not a bad clue.

    COD to COWRITTEN. Is CHESTNUT a chestnut?

    Thanks setter and Verlaine. 24 over par for the week.

  5. If Verlaine & Galspray took an age believe me it was tough but I enjoyed this Friday special.

    I was home in 56 minutes chipping away at such rubbish as 28ac WALL UNIT – doubtless
    sponsored by IKEA. (25ac FLEXION is also the brand name of the aforementioned IKEA shelving.)

    Matt – 15ac NACRE is just another name for mother of pearl.

    14ac- I was on for HIGH SEAS

    Fortunately 9ac CHICK LIT and 5ac MAI TAI were recent visitors.

    FOI 4dn OCTET LOI 24dn ACTOR

    COD 6dn AUCTION WOD TREFOIL (clover)

    Edited at 2017-02-03 10:05 am (UTC)

    1. I think WALL UNIT was probably my LOI? Largely because I got a bit obsessed with “delay” being HALT and was desperately trying to make HALL UNIT work in my head…
  6. This week’s been a smooth run from under 10 easy to glad to get in under 30 hard. Of course, that doesn’t happen. For once, the plethora of multi word answers didn’t help much, but there was a lot to like, especially the fabulous new disease THEREITIS, from which I believe I’ve suffered for years.
  7. Hard work but definitely worth persevering with past the hour mark. Unknowns were SEA ROOM and FLEXION and I had no idea what was going on at 3dn where I biffed on the basis of “one goes up”. I agree with our Shanghai correspondent (for once) that 28 is rubbish as a clue. It certainly lets the side down in an otherwise excellent puzzle.
  8. Got here at last. Over the hour but wasn’t concentrating well after two nocturnal garden walks with the old dog. Didn’t get NOT ONES CUP OF TEA for ages, trying to solve ananagram of ABSOLUTELYNOSON. WALL UNIT last in, unhappy with NULL for ‘not important’. Cocktails are to me what plants are to others, something I don’t do, but eventually MAI TAI looked right. FOI NOTEBOOK, seen with the first sip of coffee. CODs GO TO TOWN and COWRITTEN. Biffed SEA ROOM totally and still don’t really get it. I think this setter needs to read Hosea 6.6! No, it was an excellent puzzle. WOD FLEXION.
    1. The first sentence that appears on Googling for NULL is “having no legal or binding force”, which would surely make “not important” a fair definition? I agonised over SEA ROOM too but apparently that’s “unobstructed space at sea adequate for manoeuvring a ship”, so if that’s what it means, that’s what it means…

      Edited at 2017-02-03 10:46 am (UTC)

      1. I don’t think I hear ‘not important’ and ‘of no importance’ as quite the same, V, and neither phrase carries the ‘non-binding’ aspect, but that’s just me being precious. I think my problem with SEA ROOM also stemmed from wanting to make it LEG ROOM before CHESTNUT gave me the S. I think about 70 % of the earth’s surface is water. As a landlubber with a sailing wife, how much more space does she want? All I ask is my half of the bed.
  9. 35 minutes and enjoyed the “whimsical” side as V describes. I dithered over SEA ROOM as it didn’t seem to fit in with the overall style. Like Horryd I thought of HIGH “C”s as Head of the Secret Service and a part of the Main.
  10. Excellent puzzle today. Knew SEA ROOM from Hornblower etc. Got MAI TAI from wordplay. Have learned that NACRE can be the shellfish as well as the stuff inside. Interesting discussion about NULL. Aleph NULL is the first (countable) infinity for mathematicians, and is very important, and a NULL hypothesis is very important in the scientific method. 35′, thanks V and setter.
  11. Just under 3 Verlaines with the Kentish corner taking over half of the time. Finally saw NACRE after eliminating NARCE and then the COW to get through to the end. MAI TAI has popped up recently. I can confidently say that I have never used the expression WALL UNIT in my life. Despite the comments above, I am still a bit iffy about NULL but have been reminding myself of Cantor’s work on various infinities recently (as you do) . Thanks setter and V
    1. My only experience of this is with reference to fitted kitchens – wall unit, base unit, sink unit etc. I would never associate it with storage of books.
    2. Have a look at some stills from Abigail’s Party. There’s a rather splendid 1970s wall unit wherein lurks the drinks cabinet.

      We had one when I was a lad, a series of shelves and cupboards mounted against the wall on brackets and providing a home for the trappings of modern living, such as magazines, books, records, gramophone, drinks, vases and lava lamps.

  12. 40 min nearly, with a long holdup in SE, as couldn’t think of a suitable reference book at 25ac – eventually needed Bradford for the suggestion of LEXICON, when rest fell into place with 22dn LOI. An earlier holdup was 6dn/15ac, where I was only thinking of an ARCH bridge, and had forgotten that NACRE needn’t be just the lining.
  13. Had I known NACRE I wouldn’t have needed to use checkers for AUCTION and COWRITTEN. Having cheated it all fell into place, although still way over the hour. Very enjoyable despite feeling like I was pulling teeth.
  14. Got to about 20 minutes with all but 25a solved but couldn’t think of a suitable word meaning “in bent condition” or come up with the necessary reference book so I jacked it in.

    FOI was MAI TAI which says something about mt lifestyle.

    I recalled NACRE as the colour of a Peugeot 604 my dad once had and as a keen French scholar I looked the word up at the time to discover that it was the french for mother-of-pearl. In response to anon above my iPod Chambers defines it as mother-of-pearl or a shellfish yielding it.

    The writer, on the other hand, was completely unknown.

    I had a couple little niggles. In my world you work your notice (no out) and thereitis would probably raise a few eyebrows in the Guardian, never mind the Times. At the time I wasn’t that happy with HIGH/CHIEF but then I recalled The Lord High Executioner

  15. 30m. I found this really difficult, for some reason, and found the bottom half a lot harder than the top.
    I am unconvinced that NULL means ‘not important’, but overall I thought this was very good.
  16. I struggled too and was relieved to find my guesses of WHERE IT IS, SEA ROOM, FLEXION and BALLOON all worked. 15:53

  17. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than with a mai-tai, a cheroot and a bit of Stendhal ( chick-lit and cup of tea spring to mind ) but I just couldn’t see the WALL UNIT for the life of me.

    Time: DNF in about 50 mins.

    Thank you to setter and blogger.

  18. 20 mins, with a 25 min break in the middle of it for a phone call. I thought I’d made a pig’s breakfast of it time-wise, but from the comments above I don’t think I did too badly after all. I should have been 3 mins quicker but I’d misspelt STENDHAL as Stendahl without bothering to parse it properly, that left me with A?G? for the first word of 14dn, and I was trying to work out if there was such a thing as an “alga mass” and how it could parse before the misspelling/HIGH MASS penny finally dropped. Eejit.
  19. Hi all. Not too demanding a puzzle, apart from the unknown FLEXION (isn’t it a noun?) and having to realize that the mother of pearl substance might also be a word for the shellfish itself. In some dictionary, somewhere. My LOI was actually the clever AUCTION, sort of hiding in plain sight. Regards.
  20. A really enjoyable puzzle with lots of delicious eureka moments. I loved the new disease in 2d. 42 minutes. Ann
  21. DNF albeit yet another almost all-complete solution with only one answer missing. Completely thrown by (off?) 6d the bridge clue. I knew about Contract bridge but DNK the Auction variety. Time taken: about an hour with a break for tea (or supper as posher correspondents might call it). Quite amusing to read that the late Sir Ken Morrison, on informing his wife of Morrison’s £3bn bid for Safeway, merely got the response: “Your tea’s ready”.
  22. … and pleased to whizz through this in 16 minutes, late in the day, tired after a much more difficult test at El Saler in a strong wind. Didn’t know NACRE was seafood as well as the shiny stuff on the shells, but hey ho it had to be. The rest seemed reasonable except cowritten which I was surprised wasn’t hyphenated.
  23. Things was going quite well until I was left with a handful of clues unsolved in the SE corner. COWRITTEN (which I too would have expected to be hyphenated), WALL UNIT and FAUNA didn’t take me all that long, but I must have spent nearly half my 18:31 on FLEXION – not helped by having somehow failed to write down FLE as a possible first three letters or to consider putting the C (or CH) between the I and the O for the reference book.

    No complaints about the puzzle though.

  24. Found this quite tricky, but finished, all correct, in 51 minutes. FOI was THEME and LOI FLEXION. WALL UNIT (and the rest of the SE) held me up for ages. I had the wait bit but couldn’t see NULL until I got COWRITTEN and INTACT. “Get Thereitis” is a well known phenomenon in the Aviation world. I watch a lot of the Aircrash Investigation programs, and it has resulted in a number of crashes due to pilots cutting corners to finish a shift or beat the weather, or land regardless of safety to avoid a costly detour. Some enjoyable clues here . Thanks setter and V.

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