Times 26,651: Dive Bombers and Empire Down

I’m at the third day of PHP UK Conference 2017 tomorrow morning, hanging with my fellow nerds, so I won’t have time to wax lyrical about the puzzle tomorrow morning, boo! But as luck would have it it’s one of the more straightforward puzzles we’ve had in a while, and I don’t think I’d have had an awful lot to say anyway, so hurrah! Not a bad puzzle I hasten to add, just pretty direct and to the point.

In and out in a little under 7 minutes here, Clue of the Day to 21ac for services to smut. I qualmed momentarily over 3dn as I hit the submit button but what other character could it be? And the penny didn’t take long to drop thereafter. Many thanks to the setter, and if I’m not free for too much chatter tomorrow, see the rest of you for a more typically verbose blog next week!


1 Father cheeky before bar providing documentary evidence (5,5)
PAPER TRAIL – PA PERT [father | cheeky] before RAIL [bar]
7 Polish expert and enthusiast (4)
BUFF – Double def
9 Convened everyone in charge of copper, perhaps (8)
METALLIC – MET ALL IC [convened | everyone | in charge]
10 Farm animal ails after chewing wood-sorrel (6)
OXALIS – OX [farm animal] + (AILS*) [“after chewing”]
11 Gets prosecuted and released (6)
ISSUED – or IS SUED [gets prosecuted]
13 Sailor’s in the drink (8)
ABSINTHE – AB’S IN THE [sailor’s in the]
14 Flatter front to boat can spread badly (3,3,6)
BOW AND SCRAPE – BOW [front to boat] + (CAN SPREAD*) [“badly”]
17 Club certainly involving old politician’s agitation (12)
DISCOMPOSURE – DISCO SURE [club | certainly] involving O MP [old | politician]
20 Cart crashing behind car, one with lots of power (8)
AUTOCRAT – (CART*) [“crashing”] behind AUTO [car]
21 Just like some pyjamas to tear in a very dirty place (6)
STRIPY – RIP [to tear] in STY [a very dirty place]
22 A lot of sudden anxiety about home baker’s product (6)
PANINI – PANI{c} [“A lot of” sudden anxiety] about IN [home]
23 Tree one’s put in beside a motorway to the west (8)
MAGNOLIA – I [one] is put in ALONG A M [beside | a | motorway], the whole reversed [“to the west”]
25 Instrument running without current (4)
GONG – GO{i}NG [running] without its I [current]
26 Comfortable about having to hang around for fighter (10)
GUNSLINGER – SNUG reversed [comfortable “about”] + LINGER [to hang around]


2 Dislike a particular form (8)
AVERSION – or A VERSION [a particular form]
3 Character that merits a place on railway board? (3)
ETA – or an E.T.A. on a railway display
4 Bound to grab fifty as the word game board ends up? (5)
TILED – TIED [bound] to grab L [fifty], and referring to the play of Scrabble
5 Old-fashioned tea served in a racing club (7)
ARCHAIC – CHA [tea] served in A RIC [the Racing Investors Club – I think]
6 Speed up appearances to play an instrument (4,5)
LOOK SHARP – LOOKS HARP [appearances | to play an instrument]
7 Puzzle sane arbiter’s sorted out (5-6)
BRAIN-TEASER – (SANE ARBITER’S*) [“sorted out”]
8 Queen in combat scare (6)
FRIGHT – R [queen] in FIGHT [combat]
12 Likely to be successful at university with arrival (2-3-6)
UP-AND-COMING – UP AND COMING [at university | with | arrival]
15 Meritorious second pair of cadets in the forces (9)
DESERVING – [“second pair of” (letters in the word)] ca{DE}ts + SERVING [in the forces]
16 Lead shot included in ammunition that scatters (8)
GRAPHITE – HIT [shot] included in GRAPE [ammunition that scatters]
18 Seat of empire? (7)
OTTOMAN – double def
19 Difficulty, a Tardis initially with zero time variation (6)
RUBATO – RUB A T{ardis} + 0
21 Sign is put up half covered in gold (5)
SIGIL – reverse of IS [is “put up”] + GIL{ded}
24 What’s now horribly personal (3)
OWN – (NOW*) [“horribly”]

69 comments on “Times 26,651: Dive Bombers and Empire Down”

  1. Yes, not too tough for me, but still solving time = that of our esteemed blogger squared. I had BUFF as a triple def, but I suppose works either way. Never heard of SIGIL and had to do a bit of dipping in to the dusty archives to get RUBATO and OXALIS. Liked ETA.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  2. A very quick solve today unlike yesterday (surely one of the most enjoyable puzzles). Learned a new word for 21D but wondering when I will ever use it. Thank you setter and verlaine.
    1. well if you watch Game of Thrones, there are lots of sigils on everyones flags. And they use the word a lot.
  3. raced through this and then came to a halt on RUBATO since I didn’t know the word, so I went for FUGATO (something to do with fugues and a FUG seemed like it could be a sort of difficulty). So DNF
  4. including the time taken to fill in the grid after it disappeared; my Mac has a hair-trigger mouse that does that if you touch it the wrong way. I ‘knew’ OXALIS and RUBATO–that is, they were in my memory banks somewhere, although I couldn’t have told you their meanings to save my life–so once I stopped thinking of ‘ram’, these two fell into place.
  5. All but four in the SE corner solved in 20 minutes but I needed another 15 to crack them, with the unknown SIGIL and GUNSLINGER as my last ones in. Musicians know all about RUBATO. RIC in 5dn remained a mystery until I came here. I expect we’ll get a “graphite isn’t lead” argument before the day is out but the dictionaries have it in the context of pencils and it’s usage that counts as far as they are concerned.
      1. Yes, this is how I read it. I don’t remember seeing ‘racing club’ before, and it puzzled me because I couldn’t find it in any of the dictionaries. It turns out ODO was defaulting to American English on me for some reason.
  6. Got all but 10a, 2d, 16, 19d.
    Then my hangover kicked in and I gave up.

    COD/LOL! 21a.

    I have ordered the Tim Moorey book to try and improve.

    Edited at 2017-02-17 05:29 am (UTC)

  7. The scoreboard might have lied about my finishing time (it was 29 minutes not 32 minutes, the train went through a tunnel, I lost my connection and had to start again), but it was brutally honest about my two errors.

    DNK RUBATO, so as a typical programmer I opted for BUGATO. And never saw GRAPHITE, essaying TRIPLINE, a triple being a lead shot (where I don’t know), including “in”, the whole thing being some sort of ammunition. Geez I thought it was bad at the time, but it looks even worse when I try to explain it.

    So as usual Friday messes up an otherwise good solving week for me. Oh well, I’ll just enjoy the view out the window. Next stop Nagoya.

    Thanks setter and V. More words next week please.

    1. As a fellow programmer I’m now disappointed I didn’t even consider BUGATO. Having considered RUBATO along with horryd’s FUGATO, I opted for RUTATO.
  8. You say RUBATO I said FUGATO!

    Is not a fug (hot bother)a difficulty? I thought so at the time and I knew fugato was music played v. slowly thus the time variation. DNK RUBATO.

    Anyway according to The Laws of Crosswordland mine was a Friday DNF after 33 minutes just as yesterday – consistent if nowt else.

    Otherwise tghis was fine I started at the top and worked my way down.


    COD 16dn GRAPHITE excellent deception from the setter.


    1. There’s no particular speed associated with fugato as far as I’m aware. It’s just a passage in the style of a fugue that interrupts a piece that’s predominantly in another style.
  9. The end of a septimana horribilis* for me with 3 mistakes. Today’s what-were-you-thinking? moment was OXALIC, for which I’m going to blame an echo of METALLIC and some sort of obsessive poetic disorder.

    9 minutes for everything except GRAPHITE, which took me another 10 before I finally twigged that grapeshot could just be grape.

    * if that’s wrong, blame Google. It’s been a long time since Latin A’Level

    Edited at 2017-02-17 07:43 am (UTC)

  10. Not a musician, but for once my knowledge of Italian (rubato = stolen) and my lack of knowledge of French (had no idea that CE = THIS in the VIVACE clue yesterday) helped. Hooray. Otherwise held up by graphite, thinking too literally, and by AUTOCRAT where I just couldn’t see the car for a long time, but a quick 17:37
    What’s the significance of the blog title? Guessed the band but wrong song – plumped for Corrosion. Haven’t listened to them in 20 years.
  11. I don’t watch Game of Thrones (missed the start, won’t watch the box set to catch up in case it’s a complete waste of tme) but I do read Pratchett:
    “In fact, very few people on the face of the planet know that the very shape of the M25 forms the sigil *odegra* in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means ‘Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds’.”
    — Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens
    I think that explains a lot.
    1. I ws force-fed Games of Thrones when Mrs BT got the first x series (x an unknown number) and watched them back-to-back. I have absolutely no idea what was going on, who was against who, who was with who etc. Sitting on the side are another two series waiting to be watched but I might be otherwise occupied.
  12. Zipped through until the SE, perchance biffing RUBATO on the way.Saw GUNSLINGER but STRIPY eluded me, easy as it was once seen.Only thought of GRAPHITE then. Finally got SIGIL from cryptic but hadn’t heard of it. Black Magic is a disappointing box of chocolates to me. Finished in 25 minutes that could have been 15 if I’d still been wearing pyjamas, but the old dog had me up and dressed at 5 am this morning.

    Edited at 2017-02-17 09:20 am (UTC)

  13. And so to the crossword. In at 1 under par for me at 16.46. Part of the joy of yesterday’s, according to many subscribers, is that it didn’t trawl the dustier corners of the dictionary to add pseudo-difficulty, but this one is back to form with OXALIS, RUBATO and perhaps SIGIL, words I know but might not be able to exemplify. No complaint from me, I like expanding my vocab, and they were pretty well clued, and I got them right.
    ETA gave me the same tremors as our esteemed if time constrained blogger. I think E.T.A. is right as an explanation, (what else?) but it’s not in use on any railway info panel I’ve seen: expected, due, on time, delayed, cancelled (principally on Southern Region) and a few others, but ETA? I kind of associate it with flying rather than trains.
  14. I can’t give a time, as I foolishly started and quickly gave up on the puzzle at gone midnight, rather the worse for wear. This morning I picked it back up again, and everything that was so tough last night was suddenly rather more transparent.

    Like others, GRAPHITE was my LOI—I’m lucky that I was recently reminded of my visit to the estimable Cumberland Pencil Museum. RUBATO I either knew already or remembered from when it came up last June and OXALIS just sounded so right it couldn’t really be anything else. I enjoyed the STRIPY pyjamas.

    If anyone’s interested, by the way, Popular Mechanics has a fascinating article on the history of the pencil.

    Edited at 2017-02-17 09:47 am (UTC)

    1. The Telegraph have it as number 3 in their crappest days out listing. I’ve not been but the next time we’re in Keswick it sounds like a must do. Their list has Stonehenge at number 1, Madame Tussaud’s at 4 and Haworth at 8. I liked them all, so bugger what the kids thought. Sandwiched (?) in at 6 is the Bournemouth Sewage Works. Anybody going to own up? I guess that was a guaranteed load of crap.

      Edited at 2017-02-17 05:08 pm (UTC)

      1. I don’t know about Bournemouth, but I do remember a rather fun but pongy tour of the local sewage works as a geography field trip in Barnard Castle. The highlight was our guide filling a glass from the effluent that went into the River Tees and drinking it to show how clean the final result is. We were impressed!
  15. 11:33, one error. Oh dear. I raced through most of this, but added a good five minutes to my time scratching my head over 16dn. I had put GUNSLINGRE at 26ac, which didn’t help, but once I noticed that I failed for ages to see that grapeshot might just be GRAPE or that GRAPHITE is lead in the context of a pencil.
    It was all to no avail anyway, because I had put SIGEL, despite knowing perfectly well what ‘gelded’ means. It’s not every day GOT knowledge is going to be an advantage here so this is an annoying wasted opportunity.

    Edited at 2017-02-17 10:19 am (UTC)

    1. I sympathise, having missed HECATE yesterday despite it coming up fairly regularly in Willow’s invocations in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 🙂
  16. Quick (for me) for all but SE – finally just on 20′. Seems to be a different crossword in that sector. Prefer the more testing to the bland.
  17. Real stroll in the park with obvious definitions and sound wordplay

    No new words here today for me. Lead=GRAPHITE is a chestnut and should only catch you the first time you see it.

  18. I seem to remember that a while back there was a comment that the Magoos of this world solve so quickly by not getting fixated on how a particular clue is to be parsed. Having rattled through this having only to check that RUBATO really was the answer, I got fixated on ‘about’ meaning that it was around another word, and had to come here for the answer. So a very quick DNF.
  19. After a lifetime of omnivorous reading, I rather tend to the Jowett view of GK – “what I don’t know isn’t knowledge”. Thus OXALIS was today’s great unknown, though I had heard of oxalic acid, so it went in with only some trepidation. Tempo RUBATO I remembered from piano lessons (lots of it in Chopin) and SIGIL from reading too much Dennis Wheatley and similar at an impressionable age, so those held no terrors, but they are both at the obscure end of the spectrum. Boo.

    Otherwise a pleasant solve. A nice one to wind down the week.

    FOI Buff, LOI Graphite, Joint-COD to Metallic and Gong

  20. A very similar experience to sotira.Thought I was on for a PB until 16 took its toll.All in vain as from somewhere in the depths segol(a hebrew vowel sign)had sprung into mind.Now finding solace in J.J.Cale’s Magnolia
  21. I’ll add my NUBATO to the growing list of words that aren’t RUBATO. I also had to leave GRAPHITE blank.
  22. 9m 31s, with the last 2.5+ minutes spent on 26a / 16d – part of the difficulty being that I wasn’t 100% sure on SIGIL. Got there in the end, and was right in my guess that OXALIS was more likely than OXASIL.
  23. On behalf of the plodders (redux)…sat down with serious purpose today to try and apply the learning accrued from this blog and pretty much got there over the course of the morning. Have to admit to assistance with ‘oxalis’ and ‘sigil’ but they are stored away for future use along with ‘rubato’. FOI 1ac, applying new-found powers of word-play analysis, LOI ‘gong’ although ‘tong’ (for to-ing) had merit. COD ‘graphite’ which I solved dredging up ‘grapeshot’ from school days. Thanks to all for the learning. T.
  24. I amazed myself today by getting in under three Verlaines, with a PB of 20 minutes. So much for the theory that Fridays are extra hard.
    For reasons too complex to explain, I did once go on a tour of a Portuguese pencil factory, which, among its other products, made pencils whose lead contained no graphite at all for use as joke novelties.
  25. What other blog site could you meet someone who has been on a tour of a Portuguese Pencil factory. Thanks to all for amusing and enlightening me.


  26. I confess to using aids to figure out RUBATO and SIGIL. I was thinking of SUMATO which of course makes little sense, and doesn’t exist, as far as I know. SIGIL: beats me. So I was beaten today. Thanks to the setter and Verlaine too, and regards.
  27. I was desperately hoping for my first ever full week of completions. Foiled by Rubato and Sigil (I had sumato and sigol). So no indian takeaway for me tonight and I will have to make do with a panini washed down with absinthe. Yum. Thanks to all as usual.
      1. Dont worry. We’re not at all pedantic round here.

        I think you should have the Indian takeaway, anyway. And the absinthe. Not necessarily in that order.

      2. In English panini is a singular noun, plural paninis. That’s not how they do it in the original Italian of course but that’s irrelevant. See also data, agenda etc.
  28. 23 mins. I had all but GRAPHITE done in 15 mins but then I had complete brain freeze until the penny finally dropped. I found the SE corner trickier than the rest and it took me much longer than it should have done to get MAGNOLIA and GUNSLINGER despite SIGIL having gone in some time earlier.
  29. Never heard of a SIGIL and will never watch Game of T, saw a few trailers which suggested it was fantasy rubbish. Too tired and hungry to go and look it up. Apart from that, a speedy 15m solve late in day after driving 100 km each way to play disappointing golf. If I could read greens like I can solve crosswords I’d be winning the money every week.
    Perhaps a PHP conference would be more fun?
    1. I thought the same about GOT for many years: I normally have no tolerance at all for that sort of thing. Then I watched it, became a complete convert and binge-watched the whole thing in the space of a few months. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste though, I’ll grant you that.

      Edited at 2017-02-17 05:53 pm (UTC)

      1. Glad someone’s sticking up for it. Having read the first couple of books about 15 years ago, I think the TV series is about as good as it gets. And yes, if you’d suggested something from the faux-medieval semi-fantasy genre with a heavy dose of bloodlust, I’d have politely declined, but of course it’s much more than that.

        Seems to be a lot of people that haven’t watched it taking a strange pride in being dismissive of it. Go figure. Imagine if we took that same approach to the works of Georgette Heyer (sorry Olivia!).

              1. Yeah, I think I was half-channeling Kenny. I was a big fan, and you’ve just prompted me to revisit his Barbra Streisand routine on youtube. I know it shouldn’t be funny, but it is.
  30. I got through this in 30 minutes.with no serious problems – although GRAPHITE took 5 minutes to spot. Cleverly hidden definition. I’m enjoying the comments today for the references to Terry Pratchett, Game of Thrones and my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d read Game of Thrones before the TV series started so up to now there have been no surprises But now they’ve departed from the books so anything can happen. It’s fantasy for people who don’t normally like fantasy. Most of it is alternative mediaeval history. Worth a try even if you don’t usually like the genre.
    1. I’ve never read Terry Pratchett but if his work belongs in the same sentence as GOT and Buffy I’m going to have to give him a try one of these days.
      [Incidentally this flatters GOT quite a lot but I’m not going to wig out about it]
      1. I have learned a new phrase today. The opposite of keeping your hair on – naturally enough, I suppose.
        1. It’s an expression associated with Buffy, and may even have been coined by it. Much of the teenage argot invented by Joss Whedon for the show has passed into general usage.
      2. Somebody else who likes Buffy! That show is my not-so-secret passion. Btw, if you do get to read Terry Pratchett I’d advise not starting with the 1st book in the Discworld series. It’s a bit of a gagfest. Long on jokes but short on plot. Go for one of the later books.
        1. Absolutely. We recently introduced our kids to it, and they (especially 13yo daughter) love it, which is most gratifying.
          Thanks for the Pratchett tip, will remember if/when I get round to it.
        2. On the other hand the Colour of Magic is a good entry point for fantasy fans in general, as it’s a series of parodies of other books. Have to say I prefer the early, Rincewindy stuff to later instalments for the most part, though I seem to be in the minority on this one!

          Count me in as another massive Buffy (and Angel) fan though…

          1. I’m so far gone I have a photo of Joss Whedon (with me) on my bathroom wall! Haven’t commented before now because my mail link to livejournal has been down)
  31. 7:27 in a clean sweep for this pleasant, straightforward solve.

    I was held up most by SIGIL (which I came to with just the L in place and couldn’t at first see quite how half of GILT was going to fit in) and GRAPHITE (which fortunately I came to with all crossing letters in place, but which still gave me a relatively hard time).

  32. Not too hard, a forty-five minute solve for me (only six tonies, I see). My LOI was RUBATO and I’m glad I didn’t settle for BUGATO, which was my first intent. But it sounded too much like the name of a car (or the singular version of the name of a car, see “panini”) and I couldn’t remember ever having seen it in music — RUBATO just seemed more likely. SIGIL in from wordplay, but my German nearly enticed me into putting in SIGEL (Siegel being the German word for a seal). Half of GELDED? But that means something else, doesn’t it. COD to GRAPHITE.

    Edited at 2017-02-17 11:39 pm (UTC)

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