TImes 26,693: Double Trouble

I first started to suspect that this week had it in to me on Wednesday: biting down onto a pecan in a “butternut squash bocadito” at one of the insufferable hipster cafes that are everywhere in London nowadays I heard a horrible crunch, and it soon became clear that I’d managed to completely destroy one of my top teeth, which has since been removed by a dentist with dollar signs in his eyes. (If anyone asks about it could you perhaps tell them that I lost it in a punch-up with Nazis? Or indeed any other cover story that’s a bit less appallingly middle class.) My new dentally confused state clearly threw me off the game that night, when I blew a 5 minute time by simply not bothering to put in the last answer, and now we come to today’s puzzle, on whose wavelength I simply was not. Perhaps it’s like Samson and his hair?

FOI 10ac, and then a bunch of down clues in the NE quadrant got me properly started, but generally this felt like slow going and I did not finish inside the psychological quarter hour. In general I approve of such chewiness in a Friday puzzle but I *would* point out the really large proportion of double defs, triple defs and other thinking-up-synonyms-for-short-words here. If you like that kind of clue then you’re laughing but it might not suit all tastes? Having said that I think my Clue of the Day this time was the brilliant double def at 24dn, so it’s not that I’m against them on principle or anything. I was slightly concerned that some of the surfaces read a bit too much like the sort of pseudo-English you only find in crosswords or generated by a neural network, but on the other hand there were some really likeable ones too, I’ll grab 15ac and 2dn as examples. So thumbs up overall I expect, thanks setter!

Last-ish call for the meetup in the George on Wednesday: if people are coming early, and I think some are, I’ll try to knock off work early and be there no later than 6. See some of you then!

1 Complimentary series produced in natural conditions (4-5)
FREE-RANGE – FREE [complimentary, as in gratis] + RANGE [series]
6 Slough interchange affording entry to motorway (5)
SWAMP – SWAP [interchange] “affording entry to” M [motorway]
9 Chemical worker, on old side, initially disagreeing (7)
OXIDANT – ANT [worker], on O XI D [old | side (as in team of eleven) | D{isagreeing}]
10 Good man retained by loyal English manager (7)
TRUSTEE – ST [good man, as in saint] “retained by” TRUE E [loyal | English]
11 Lady that’s put on hat touring Irish county (10)
DERBYSHIRE – SHE [lady], that’s put on DERBY [hat], touring IR [Irish]
12 Erudite letters read out (4)
WISE – homophone of Y’S [letters “read out”]
14 Times page covered by feature, beginning to end (5)
TEMPI – P [page] covered by {I->…}TEM [feature, with its first letter moved to the end]
15 Workers close to revolt on government’s account (9)
STATEMENT – MEN [workers] + {revol}T on STATE [government]
16 Build-up of cartel seen regularly in operation (9)
ACCRETION – C{a}R{t}E{l} in ACTION [option]. FOI
18 Abroad, King Edward’s a poor shot (5)
OUTER – OUT [abroad] + E.R. [King Edward]. In archery the outer is the part of a target furthest from the bullseye; it’d still be a good shot by my standards mind you…
20 Carefree child’s play (4)
EASY – double def
21 Bats pass endless migrant birds (10)
25 Where to record members in good form? (2,1,4)
ON A ROLL – double def
26 Boat moved along, accepting fare (7)
GONDOLA – (ALONG*) [“moved”] accepting DO [fare, as in “fare badly”]
27 Retiring barrister, little fellow making little mark (5)
FLECK – reverse of KC ELF [barrister, as in King’s Counsel | little fellow]
28 Affliction blocking blood vessel in arms (9)
ARTILLERY – ILL [affliction] blocking ARTERY [blood vessel]


1 Leaf initially forming centre removed from circular (5)
FROND – F{orming} + RO{u}ND
2 Heartless imp tucking into spread served up for gnome (7)
EPIGRAM – I{m}P “tucking into” MARGE [spread], the whole reversed
3 Cash circulated, requiring minimal preparation (5-5)
READY-MIXED – READY [cash] + MIXED [circulated]
4 Society excluded from small detached part of course (5)
NATCH – {s}NATCH [small detached part, with the S for society excluded]. LOI
5 What hostess should do to enlist volunteers at home? (9)
ENTERTAIN – ENTER [enlist] + TA [volunteers, as in Territorial Army] + IN [at home]
6 Upside down cakes put down (4)
SNUB – “upside down” BUNS [cakes]
7 Tirades knocked the way cyclists proceed (7)
ASTRIDE (TIRADES*) [“knocked”]
8 Prior disposing of RI for modern cleric (9)
PRECENTOR – P{ri}OR with its RI being replaced by RECENT [modern]
13 Sacred ruin violated, holding small number back (10)
DEVOTIONAL – (VIOLATED*) [“ruin”] holding NO reversed [small number “back”]
14 European in Stafford stupidly engages in compromising exchange (6,3)
TRADES OFF – E [European] in (STAFFORD*) [“stupidly”]
15 Trace stray ploughman by ear (9)
SCINTILLA – sounds like SIN TILLER [stray | ploughman]
17 Patient describing rotter’s dramatic fall (7)
CASCADE – CASE [patient] “describing” CAD [rotter]
19 Peace possibly increased after meal (3,4)
TEA ROSE – ROSE [increased] after TEA [meal]. “The Peace rose, correctly Rosa ‘Madame A. Meilland’, is a well-known and successful garden rose.”
22 Tory authority, ethical (5)
RIGHT – triple def
23 Flattering description of Eastenders? (5)
SOAPY – SOAPY as in, like a soap (opera)
24 White pawn (4)
HOCK – double def of: HOCK [as in German wine] ; pawn [as in at a pawnshop]

67 comments on “TImes 26,693: Double Trouble”

  1. Possibly my fourth DNF for the week, too afraid to go back and check.

    Today it was NATCH and PTARMIGANS that brought me undone. Both difficult but gettable, so no excuses.

    Wish I could make it on Wednesday, sounds like fun. One day I will.

    Thanks setter and Verlaine, and as the ad used to say, avagoodweegend.

  2. … so not a bad time for me for a Friday. Thought I was going to be quicker, but was held up in the NW, ending with EPIGRAM, TEMPI and alphabet running for the MIXED bit of 3dn. Nearly had ‘stared’ OFF at 14dn, but then saw the tense and revisited. Only one not fully understood was the def for OUTER, but that was guessable.

    Have fun at the meet-up, and good luck with the teeth, V!

  3. I thought there were some great surfaces today, like those for SWAMP and PRECENTOR, and my LOI and COD, NATCH. I’d thought of NATCH several times before finally catching on and typing it in.

    Verlaine – if anyone asks tell them you got into a fist fight watching the hardcore jazz punk band Butternut Squash Bocadito.

    At some point I might overcome my unsociable instincts and attend one of these TftT get togethers, particularly as The George is a mere stroll from my workplace but I have the ready made excuse that I will be at Center Parcs next week. Hope those going have a good time.

  4. My first finish of the week, I think, albeit in two minutes over my usual hour limit. Good fun.

    FOI FREE-RANGE, but only after pencilling in EPIGRAM and the first half of READY-MIXED. LOI HOCK, taking a bit of a chance, given that I didn’t know for sure that the wine was white. What caused me most problems, though, was the unknown PRECENTOR. Trying to crowbar “new” into it for five minutes didn’t help.

    Thank you to our erudite setter and brave Nazi-punching blogger.

    1. It took me every ounce of willpower I had to not biff in the vaguely plausible-sounding PRECEPTOR for that prior clue – if I hadn’t screwed up yesterday I might have done! But fully parsing every clue is good for you, kids.
  5. 22.59, a respectable time for what felt like a stiff challenge. A fair bit of that was spent mopping up the stragglers with SOAPY the last to fall. TEMPI appeared elsewhere this week and caused problems, but not today, so perhaps we do live and learn after all.
    ACCRETION was also at the front of my mind as Boris Johnson recently described EU red tape as ‘having accreted over 44 years’ and I remember thinking what a typically Boris word it was.
        1. Blimey! I always thought diskoseismology was something generated by Nile Rodgers of Chic.
  6. Forty mins of fun over porridge and heated frozen cherries. Several of the mins alphabet running for the READY Somethinged. Just couldn’t see it, so went for Piped on the basis that central heating is circulated and piped. Can you buy ready-piped things?
    Thanks to setter and blogger.
  7. 25 minutes, with a long, long delay at the end trying to make sense of NATCH (as opposed to NOTCH). Actually, I never did make sense of it so thanks for doing it for me, V.

    PTARMIGANS eventually went in from staring at the checking letters and forgetting about wordplay. Sometimes it’s the only way.

  8. Accretion reminded me of an “agglomeration of crustaceans and molluscs” which was a menu item at The Hungry Monk in Rye many years ago..it came with a tool kit that an AA man would be proud of.Today managed all the ‘more difficult’ ones with ease but as often happens to me wasted much time at 9,4
    where side could only be L/R. About 35. Thanks to V and setter

    Edited at 2017-04-07 09:25 am (UTC)

  9. An interesting perspective on the double-defs. With its limit on anagrams The Times forces its writers to be more creative with the remaining clue-types, but I see what you mean. And yes, THAT dd at the end makes doing all the others worthwhile.

    Thanks both very much, but what’s this meet?

    Edited at 2017-04-07 09:07 am (UTC)

    1. So we’re trying to be more sociable beyond the obvious big event that is the Championships in October; a few of us are therefore meeting in the customary George Tavern by London Bridge after work on Wednesday 12th April for that purpose. I’m hopeful that some of the Telegraph crew from Big Dave’s site might show up too – alas, I don’t spend enough time on Fifteen Squared to brazenly tout the event there.

      After we set our date we discovered that there will be a bigger meetup in the very same location with probably considerably more illustrious attendees a month later, after the annual Times Setters dinner. But consider this a practice run for the main event.

      Please feel free to come if you are in/near London and at a loose end! I think it will be fun. If conversation flags I might try to get people to play a brilliant word/card game called Paperback that I’ve recently acquired. Or else there will be crosswords, beer, chitchat…

      Edited at 2017-04-07 10:01 am (UTC)

    1. I thought READY WIRED was in with a decent shout. It has the advantage of being a thing, and it is in the “French Dictionary of Information Technology: French/English, English/French”. Not one of the usual sources, perhaps, but if I had decided to put it in, I would at least have mentioned it to the Editor.
      On edit: it even satisfies the word play, arguably.
      On second edit: The more I think about it, let’s hear it for READY-WIRED!! Ed?

      Edited at 2017-04-07 09:31 am (UTC)

  10. 29 minutes on the clock, but knock 6 or 7 off for my regular Porlockian. I left N?T?H to last, so I could figure out what notch had to do with any part of a golf course and whether nitch or nutch was a thing. Or perhaps Nutah (or any other combination of fill-ins) is part of the PPE course known only to the clever men at Oxford. Got there in the end.
    There’s something about the breaking of a tooth that has a primal, fin de siecle quality: life will never be the same again, whatever modern, aggressively acquisitive dentistry might do. One irrevocable step on the way to sans everything. Still, never mind, eh?
  11. After an initial scan yielded only one across clue, I thought it was going to be one of those days. But the down clues gave me a good toehold and, miracle of miracles, I finished it in just over 30 minutes.
    Alas my elation was soon dashed as I’d put PRECEPTOR for 8d. Cue for gnashing of teeth.
  12. Broke my ‘no more than an hour’ rule today at 65 minutes. Had LOI OUTER as TATER ( “You’re not telling me they’re Lord Nelson’s.” “No, they’re King Edwards.”) until seeing the obvious DEVOTIONAL saved me from telling an old joke. Well nearly. I’d have thought an OUTER a decent shot, but I’ve never had the ability to go for it in Darts nor done any Archery where a really bad shot would kill a member of the watching public. COD SCINTILLA. Dodgiest SOAPY, though I would ‘soft soap’ somebody. Enjoyable if hardish. Thank you V and setter.

    Edited at 2017-04-07 09:38 am (UTC)

    1. I thought of Soapy Sid from one of the Jeeves and Wooster stories and was surprised to find that the real con artist Soapy Smith was not, in fact, named for his use of flattery…
  13. A great gap in my education is I’ve never read much Wodehouse. No doubt I’d have enjoyed it too.
    1. I’ve been trying to convince myself that it’s never too late. I’m a third of the way through Jane Eyre at the moment; bought it when Mr Rochester came up in a puzzle a while back.
      1. I’m really getting bogged down in my David Bowie reading list right now – the Iliad is proving harder to read big chunks of in one sitting than I’d hoped, and Berlin Alexanderplatz looks like it might take me the rest of the year to get through, based on length alone! I think I need to keep one nice light read and one massive literary doorstop on the go at any given time…
  14. Another puzzle that took me ages to find my first answer but after that it flowed quite smoothly and steadily so I felt a real sense of achievement. But this was spoiled a bit as I hit a brick wall with 8dn, 13dn and 21 outstanding and they were responsible for taking me well past my target 30 minutes.

    Eventually I worked out the unknown PRECENTOR from wordplay and 13dn similarly, but then I wrote it incorrectly in the grid and gave myself a wrong checker for 21ac. I sorted it all out in the end and was still quite pleased to finish without aids.

    Edited at 2017-04-07 08:59 am (UTC)

  15. Big struggle today after a dawn run to deposit younger generations at the airport, so felt dim; nt ideal for this chewy puzzle. All done except 4d and the ROSE part of 19d in about 35 minutes, but didn’t see NATCH which while known as slang I didn’t expect as a dictionary word. So my DNF for the week.
  16. I’ve always enjoyed following the blog but my evening solve usually leaves it too late for posting to be worthwhile. I’m able to look at the crossword a bit earlier than normal at the moment however, so I thought I’d start.

    As it happens, it appears I picked the wrong day to start as this was my first DNF in a while – all thanks to 4d (I mentally tossed a coin and ended up with NOTCH even though I now see the clue was entirely gettable) and 19d (due in large part to an almost complete lack of rose knowledge).

    That said, I enjoyed the journey even if I didn’t manage to reach the destination, so thanks to the setter and of course to verlaine for the blog.

    Edited at 2017-04-07 10:33 am (UTC)

  17. (21ac) flew in early and my COD.
    LOI 4dn NATCH.There were some damned fine clues -enjoyed 11ac DERBYSHIRE and 15dn SCINTILLA – my WOD. Fine Friday fare.

    1ac FREE RANGE FOI but I had FLIER (circular) for 1dn – then FROND was found to fit a bit better.

    Nice to see Verlaine’s bewhiskered avatar back in his rightful place – sorry I shall miss the bash as that is the I arrive in London on Wednesday for three weeks! Then on to Heidelberg.

    My time was horrybly over 60 minutes! But at least I avoided the ‘DNF’.

  18. 40+ min: technically DNF, as resorted to aid for 3dn, after deciding not to submit READY-DICED, the best I could think of in five minutes mentally going through alphabet.
    I have a query about 19dn – I wouldn’t class Peace as a variety with the scent of tea, though my sense of smell is poor.
    1. It is officially a Hybrid Tea Rose, but I don’t have one to have a whiff of.
  19. A technical DNF in that I did not finish it. Two DNFs in a week after years of getting them right in the end. Anno Domini?
  20. Slight tangent, but has anyone ever tried to create a javascript oneliner that could convert a completed Crossword Club grid into HTML suitable for pasting into a blog? Just been messing around for a bit (having defined some useful chunk and transpose functions in advance) have got:

    $(‘.crossword-CrosswordGridCell’).map((i, el) => $(el).text()).get().map(char => char.replace(/[0-9]/g, ”)).chunk(15).map(row => row.join(”))




    transpose($(‘.crossword-CrosswordGridCell’).map((i, el) => $(el).text()).get().map(char => char.replace(/[0-9]/g, ”)).chunk(15)).map(row => row.join(”))

    resulting in


    Seems like if I can extract the clues/numbers/enums too and match them to ac/dn words with the right number in the first cell these blogs could just format themselves…

  21. Defeated by the cleric. Didn’t know the word and failed to assemble the wordplay, fiddling about with NEW rather than RECENT. Apart from that it was still a bit of a challenge, taking just over 50:18. NATCH and SOAPY held me up too, but I did manage to parse them eventually. An interesting puzzle. Thanks setter and Verlaine, and commiserations on the shattered chewing apparatus. Exactly a year ago I had an unpleasant interlude with a locum dentist who managed to snap off an aching wisdom tooth flush with my gum, before shrugging off responsibility and referring me to my own dentist who was due back from his jollies the following week. I won’t go into the details except to say that a visit to A&E was required in the middle of the night, after the eventual removal process, to stem the haemorrhaging.

    Edited at 2017-04-07 12:16 pm (UTC)

    1. Blimey! I’ll count myself lucky for a relatively pain-free and bloodless experience. I don’t even know why I’m bothering to expensively fix this breakage when a chipped front tooth has always been part of the signature Verlaine “look”… (one of the many things I have in common with the Henry character in Donna Tartt’s book “The Secret History”…)
  22. DNF – undone by 3 and 4 down when already over 45 mins. COD definitely to 24 dn.
  23. DNF A steady solve, which finished with 4 holes with all the available letters in place but would not resolve themselves. An alphabet search revealed WISE (it would be at the end of the alphabet wouldn’t it), and SOAPY and TEA ROSE came out eventually, which left NOTCH, which turned out to be NATCH, of course…..
  24. I wonder what it is about ready-mixed that is so I tractable? Over an hour for me too – though as i don’t have any limits or targets I just tend to plod on to the ruddy end.

    Both the teeth that have collapsed on me in recent years have been back ones, so no big bucks for the dentists, I just enjoy the extra fresh air and places for my tongue to play in. The wife’s not impressed though, saying it’s pretty ugly when I laugh. So I’ve stopped laughing. Seems to work, as she’s talking to me again.

  25. Quite a steady solve, coming in just under the hour. Several I could parse only after bunging in the answer from the definition and crossers. Fortunately there was no unknown vocabulary today though NATCH was my last one in and I was not sure it was correct until coming here. Thanks to blogger.
  26. I believe a dental implant can cost around £2K (probably more in London). But I’ve just bought a new drill so I can offer a quick fix for above price if you want. Tooth would be heavily compressed Times paper and anaesthetic a glass of my favourite Hopus Belgian beer. I’ve been off the booze all week and have succesfully done five cycle rides on consecutive days. But I digress. It took a LOT of grinding effort to nearly complete today’s puzzle. I couldn’t admit to the time taken. But HOCK beat me – because I’m not in wine mode. But I certainly will be tonight!
    1. I had a couple of dental implants done recently, and I can confirm that they cost toothousand each.


  27. I certainly sympathise on the front tooth front. I was stripping wires the other day, as I’ve done a hundred times, but instead of pulling off the sheath I pulled out my front tooth. Already damaged in a playground accident 55 years ago. Hey ho. I found this a somewhat spiteful little puzzle. I solved it but not joyously.
  28. This took a while, maybe 40 minutes, not really timed. It took a bit of blundering about failing to understand how to solve PTARMIGANS before I finally saw that. LOI the very nicely clued HOCK. Regards.
  29. 21 mins all parsed so I guess I was on the setter’s wavelength. I didn’t have the same problems some of you did because I saw NATCH once all the checkers were in place and HOCK with just the O checker. FLECK was my LOI after CASCADE. I was expecting someone in Dorset to be distinctly unimpressed with a word like NATCH appearing in a Times puzzle.

    If I was still living in the SE I’d have been very tempted by the get-together, but it’s definitely too much of a schlep from Merseyside.

  30. I found it easier to get a foothold in this one than with most Friday puzzles, FOI 6ac, but when I got held up, I really got held up! Most of it done in 25 mins on the train and then another 5 mins at lunchtime but then got left with 3 clues which I really struggled to get: 3dn (saw the ready early but couldn’t see the second word), 19 dn (the wp was leading me to tea more but that just couldn’t be right) and 24dn (hock for pawn was quite convincing but couldn’t see the white wine). In the end I had to do three separate alphabet trawls to get the answers, brutal stuff! But pleased to finish without aids even if it took an age. Can’t decide whether to give my COD to 11ac or 2dn, both nice surfaces and nicely put together.
  31. Another DNF in just over the hour, with another bash at READY-PIPED, meaning to come back. An alphabet trawl at 23dn led to SHADY, SCARY, SHAKY, SEAMY & SCALY before providing SOAPY. None of those seemed exactly flattering to our friends from the other side of town, so I gave up at that point.
  32. I rather enjoyed this, in just over an hour, the last several minutes of which were spent making sure that this time the wordplay (for PRECENTOR) was going to deliver a REAL word I have never heard of and not a fake one as usual. But I couldn’t find anything better. Unlike 3dn, where I had been wondering whether READY-AIRED or READY-WIRED might actually be expressions in common use. But by going through the alphabet for the blank in the middle of the second word I did eventually find READY-MIXED. I actually had a quick start with 1ac, 9ac and 10ac but then ground to a slow crawl. Didn’t know the required meaning of “gnome”, but the wordplay for EPIGRAM was clear enough. I rather enjoyed SCINTILLA, DERBYSHIRE and maybe GONDOLA.
  33. 16:36 for me, nicely on the setter’s wavelength for about half the clues, and absolutely nowhere near it for the other half. SOAPY took a trawl through the alphabet to reveal itself, but the real killer was NATCH, which I kicked myself for not spotting much more quickly.

    An interesting an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

    1. The first definition of ‘tempo’ in Chambers is ‘time’. This is surprising to me, but arguably justifies this usage by the setter.
      1. The musician in me cannot accept the Chambers definition, but there you are. Thanks for the comment.
          1. My somewhat elderly Chambers allows ‘rise to a crescendo’. They would claim they are reflecting usage not dictating rules.
            1. Reflecting usage is what a dictionary is for. This meaning of ‘crescendo’ is quite common, and in all the usual dictionaries. I don’t recognise this meaning of ‘tempo’ at all though.
    2. Try looking up “time” in your dictionary. ODO, for example, includes “the tempo at which a piece of music is played or marked to be played” among its definitions.
      1. Even so this is not the ordinary sense of the word, I didn’t say it was wrong, I said it was ‘too loose’. I speak as a professional musician.
        1. Well, I’ve never been a professional musician, apart from being paid a bursary to sing in my college chapel choir (and receiving a free meal for playing the trumpet to summon my fellow students to dinner in hall :-), though I have performed with professional musicians as a former member of the LSO Chorus and the London Philharmonic Choir, and been conducted by a fair number of the great conductors of the period (including Abbado, Bernstein, Boulez, Colin Davis, Dorati, Gibson, Giulini, Groves, Haitink, Kertesz, Leinsdorf, Maazel, Previn, Rozhdestvensky, Solti and Stokowski), and danced in public performances almost as many times as I’ve sung, and played piano accordion for people to dance to at my local country dance club.

          The OED’s earliest citation for “time” meaning “the rate at which a piece of music is performed; the tempo” is from John Playford in 1654:

          The Descant or Composition being of slow time fitted to sacred Hymnes.

          and the most recent from T.M. Kitts in 2008:

          The song begins in a slower time …

          Musicians and dancers also talk of “strict time” meaning the same as “strict tempo”. Given that, I reckon that most experienced crossword solvers (among whom I count myself) would regard the setter’s use of “times” to define TEMPI as entirely legitimate and certainly not unacceptably loose.

  34. No time for this: I only had 15 minutes when I sat down to it in the morning, which wasn’t nearly enough. I needed another 15 minutes or so when I came back to it much later, with a lot of that struggling over 4dn. So obvious in retrospect.
    Much sympathy over the tooth front, V. I smashed both my front teeth 20 years ago and they finally gave up the ghost about a year ago. The repair process is still not completely finished: it turned out I didn’t have enough bone to support the replacements so I needed a bone graft from my hip. The whole thing has been very tedious and ruinously expensive.

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