Times 26,699: Alternative Facts

I’d had a solid tip-off about the identity of today’s setter, and was delighted as they’re one of my very favourites, but I also knew what I was in for: incredibly careful, devious cluing that would keep me on my mental toes throughout and not permit a moment’s inattention. And so it proved, for most of a quarter hour this morning.

First one in was 9ac, followed by 23ac: and that was all for my first pass through the Acrosses I think. I ran into some trouble with a couple of the Downs: 15dn so clearly had to be C + a word for flat + A + NE, and likewise, in what world could 18dn (my LOI) not be (SERIAL*) around C? And of course these were all traps carefully laid by the setter, so well played. The latter is particularly clever as it requires you to separate the “of” off to a place your brain really doesn’t want to put it… but perhaps as a lover of fine (*cough*) cinema I’ll give my COD to 8dn for the reminder of the late great Sid James. Surely the two Sids in 8dn are the “pair of perverts” mentioned in 5ac?

A top-drawer Friday puzzle then, as expected, though perhaps unfortunate to have some of its thunder stolen by yesterday’s dooZy. Have a marvellous and crosswordtacular Easter weekend everybody!

1 In retreat, king studies one British or German statesman (8)
BISMARCK – reverse K CRAMS I B [“in retreat”, king | studies | one | British]
5 A pair of dukes but not of perverts (6)
TWISTS – TW{o f}ISTS [a pair of fists, “but not OF”]
9 Some returning Huguenots’ll import a heavy burden (9)
MILLSTONE – hidden reversed in {hugu}ENOTS’LL IM{port}
11 Article shaped like egg, not the first for duck (5)
AVOID – A [article] + {o}VOID [shaped like egg, “not the first”]
12 Get a grip with this online nuisance having name for each medium (7)
SPANNER – SPAMMER [online nuisance] having N [name] for each M [medium]
13 Knife cut back across the male’s brain (7)
EGGHEAD – DAGGE{r} [knife “cut”], reversed across HE [male]
14 With rings around, is after that integrated circuit training (13)
CALLISTHENICS – with CALLS [ring] around, IS THEN IC [is | after that | integrated circuit]
16 Helper in turn enlisted by aristocratic young doctor (13)
PAEDIATRICIAN – AIDE reversed [helper “in turn”] enlisted by PATRICIAN [aristocratic].
A young doctor as in a doctor for young patients, not a recent graduate.
20 Dock made hard to protect parking building’s tower (7)
STEEPLE – STEELE{d} [“dock” made hard] to protect P [parking]
21 “Truth” I attached to internal discord (7)
FACTION – FACT I ON [truth | I | attached to]
23 Someone protected retiring Liberal, in a manner of speaking (5)
DRAWL – reverse of WARD [someone protected “retiring”] + L [Liberal]
24 City ends a loose alliance (9)
SYNDICATE – (CITY ENDS A*) [“loose”]
25 Fake European man’s left dotty old one (6)
CODGER – COD GER{man} [fake | European “MAN’s left”]
26 Act to keep carbon-bearing coal down (8)
DEJECTED – DEED [act] to keep JE{C}T [“carbon-bearing” coal]


1 Puzzle to inspire poet? (6)
BEMUSE – double def, if the second def is (2, 4)
2 Latin moves a hack to come up short (5)
SALSA – A SLAS{h} reversed [a hack, “to come up” + “short”]
3 Magazine containing toxic stuff has one chapter deleted (7)
ARSENAL – ARSEN{ic}AL [containing toxic stuff “has I C deleted”]
4 Leaving university, music’s played with her trios: she’ll lead singers (13)
6 Row from wide river bend (7)
WRANGLE – W R ANGLE [wide | river | bend]
7 No smart person, a Scotsman or southern European (9)
SLOVENIAN – SLOVEN IAN [no smart person | a Scotsman]
8 Actor James? What about him lifting extra food? (4,4)
SIDE DISH SID [actor James, of Carry On fame] + EH [what] about SID reversed
10 Border control giving shocking power? (8,5)
ELECTRIC FENCE – cryptic def
14 Cold, flat area added to north-eastern hilly region (9)
CLEVELAND – C LEVEL AND [cold | flat area | added to]
15 Island turf acquired by grand in instalments (8)
EPISODIC – I SOD [island | turf] acquired by EPIC [grand]
17 Urge Left to block terror application (7)
IMPULSE – L [left] to block IMP USE [terror | application]
18 Dispose of serial production, retaining 100 (7)
INCLINE – IN LINE [of serial production] retaining C [100]
19 New note in rectangular space, initially unseen, ignored by addressee? (6)
UNREAD – N RE [new | note] in {q}UAD [rectangular space, “initially unseen”]
22 Sloshed paint is out of place (5)
INAPT – (PAINT*) [“sloshed”]

37 comments on “Times 26,699: Alternative Facts”

  1. Biff City, although I did manage to figure out most of the clues before submitting. Never heard of Sid, however, and so hadn’t an inkling as to why SIDE DISH. Nor did I ever come up with the dukes. An impressive puzzle, which would have been more enjoyable if I had had the time to spare to appreciate it while solving, but I had to clear out early today.
    1. I’ve moved onto the Elgar Toughie now, if anyone is in the market for another puzzle that will take more time to complete and fully appreciate the subtleties of than most normal humans have…
    2. To appreciate the finer points of Sid James movie career, Kevin, I think you should sit down with a box set of “Carry On” movies. As Verlaine says they make for “fine (*cough*) cinema”!!
    3. I think I’d rather call Sid James a comedian, not an actor. Every movie I ever saw him in, he was playing Sid James!
      1. Well, there are plenty of actual actors who do that. Sean Connery springs to mind…
  2. Who’s saying I’m dotty? An excellent Good Friday puzzle, a Via Dolorosa which took 40 minutes to walk. The NW was easy for me but the south much less so. Took a while on SIDE DISH too, expecting the actor to be James Dean, not Sid James, and not twice. I can hear his laugh now. LOI EPISODIC. COD PAEDIATRICIAN. Thank you V and setter.
  3. Super fare not to be eaten with a hangover.Scraped home in 3V. LOI 26 where Jet had mysteriously left the building. 14 unparsed thanks for that. Well done V and setter now onto Elgar…Captain Oates last words come to mind.
  4. A pleasant hour (accompanied by pancakes). Sid is not the first James you think of. Today the one that took a disproportionate amount of time was Dejected. I was sure there must be some especially carbony coal called Feat. I guess coal is jet ‘cos they’re both blackish. Nice to think of Egghead Codgers doing Callisthenics.

    On googling, I see jet is a form of lignite which is a form of coal. Well I never.

    Edited at 2017-04-14 09:22 am (UTC)

  5. Took me half an hour to manage this one, very enjoyable as noted above. The SW corner fell last as I invented a hilly region called CLEVELANE and then struggled until the old codger saw the answer. CoD the Sid James job.
  6. Goodness, that took me a long time. An hour and fifty, and I think it was definitely the lovely cluing rather than the hangover that slowed me down.

    That being said, I’d have been twenty minutes faster if I hadn’t stupidly biffed “implore” in 17d and then trusted it for far too long even though I couldn’t parse the “application” bit. Left me with D_A_O for the manner of speaking until the two pennies finally, finally dropped. If I’d ever been to CLEVELAND I’d have been faster, too, I think.

    FOI 1a, COD 5a—excellent work. Thank you to setter and blogger.

    Edited at 2017-04-14 09:38 am (UTC)

  7. Great holiday crossword, a real challenge. Some devilish clues, my favourites being TWISTS and SIDE DISH I think.

    Held up for ages by misreading coal as load in 26ac. Cleaned my glasses and was able to move on.

    So a mixed week for me, ending up at 24 over par for the second week in a row. Need to speak to the handicapper.

    Thanks setter and V.

  8. Steady solve today held up by the ‘of’ in 18d and a confusion about who is sending to whom with UNSENT in 19d. After all that I was left with an unparsed CODGER to discover a gap in my knowledge of the word COD. Tx for the entertaining blog Verlaine. Always look forward to Fridays.
  9. One my brain finally clicked on the above clue (biffed not parsed) the rest fell into place quite, erm, quickishly. A tough puzzle for an improver but a wonderful one at that. I am worrying now – how long can I call myself an improver (as a poor excuse for rather too frequent failures)? Is about 1 year of trying these things allowable?
    Thanks Slogger as always and Happy Easter everyone- don’t buy Cadbury EASTER eggs!
  10. 25:22. Was this the one you were talking about on Wednesday, not yesterday’s? So my brain was beer-addled after all. I was hungover again this morning, which is not the way to approach a puzzle like this. Great stuff.
    1. No no, you currently interpreted my loose lips on Wednesday. Two of my favourite setters in a row (but really they’re all my favourites)! Anyway I should probably dial back on talking about such things – at some point people are going to start feeding me misinformation…
  11. I thought this was another cracking puzzle which I thoroughly enjoyed. Took me 58 mins. FOI 1ac. LOI 18dn needed to squint hard to see “dispose” in isolation from “of” to get the definition. Caused problems by writing spaneer at 12ac making the relatively straightforward 3dn my LBOI because of the incorrect checker. Carefully parsed 16ac because of the dietician error the other day. Really liked the device at 5ac and the “latin moves” def at 2dn but COD to 8dn where once the first D had gone in I was another confident that the actor had to be James Dean. Great to see the carry on legend make an appearance.
  12. Failed on two, having to look up TWISTS despite having both TWO and FISTS sloshing around in what counts for a brain. Also got FICTION instead of FACTION. Not only that, but despite living in the Cleveland area, I failed to get my brain to discount CHEVIOTS for ages. Took just over the hour for my miserable effort. Still there are a lot of distractions here. Thanks setter and V.
    1. If it makes you feel any better I tried Cotswolds, Chilterns, Cleveland – all sorts, before I saw it.
  13. Goodness, this was hard work and I can’t say I enjoyed it much especially after the delights of Thursday’s witty and imaginative offering.

    This seemed willfully obscure as far as wordplay and even definition, were concerned and on too many occasions I found myself guessing a word that fitted the checkers (rather than biffing) and reverse-engineering from there.

    I suppose it’s fair enough to serve up a tricky one for a day when the majority are on holiday but having completed the grid eventually after c100 minutes it wasn’t with any sense of achievement or enjoyment.

  14. Despite not being in work, and therefore having the whole day to choose from in which to do the puzzle, I stupidly decided to do it immediately after lunch. It was no real surprise when I started drifting badly midway through the solve, and in those circumstances my 34 mins wasn’t a bad time for a second straight chewy puzzle. Everything was parsed, although I was held up for a while at the end by the FACTION/INCLINE crossers where it took me way too long to separate their definitions from the WP. I found the LHS side easier than the RHS, although I did myself no favours earlier in the solve by misbiffing “implore” at 17 down, and I didn’t go back and look at it again until I couldn’t make sense of 23ac.

    Edited at 2017-04-14 05:15 pm (UTC)

  15. As Verlaine says, this was a top-drawer puzzle. I crossed the finish line in 1hr 20mins or so but was defeated by dejected…because i put defeated as I couldn’t think of an alternative. Thanks to V for that one and for SIDE DISH. And thanks to Bolton Wanderer for the Via Dolorosa reference. I agree. In case people in Brexitland are not aware, today is not a holiday here in France, nor is it in Italy. Very odd, considering how Catholic both countries are.
  16. I enjoyed most of this but am not quite as enthusiastic as the majority of contributors. I found, for example, some of the surfaces meaningless or clunky. 5a or 20a for example.
  17. 55 minutes and I’m another who enjoyed it. The Sid James clue was very good – perhaps we can have Barbara Windsor next, setter? Quite easy to pop her in twice, I’d have thought…even if she pops back out again.

    Those wanting to see what the fuss is all about should look no further than Carry on Abroad (1972), the film which featured more of the core stars together than any other, I believe.

  18. Yay… all done and understood, and much enjoyed all the pdms. No time, though, as did it in fits and starts through the day, but don’t think it was quick… Happy Easter one and all!

  19. Well, all done and understood at just over 30 (unlike yesterday) but not a pleasant solve. Great long clues hack me off a bit. Roll on tomorrow.

    Edited at 2017-04-14 08:09 pm (UTC)

  20. was my FOI and 18dn INCLINE my LOI – probably nearly two hours had elapsed beteween these events. At least I finished but like Jack did not enjoy some of it, especially the SE corner. I found some of the clues quite tortuous with Sidney Balmoral James (fnaaaar!fnaaaar!) suffering most.


    Edited at 2017-04-14 08:43 pm (UTC)

  21. For the second time this week, I started reasonably briskly but then lost the setter’s wavelength in the lower half, eventually struggling home in 19:27.

    To be honest I didn’t really enjoy the lower half all that much, with three successive clues (to IMPULSE, INCLINE and UNREAD) being too fiddly for my taste.

    At least I knew CLEVELAND, as a 3xgreat-grandfather of mine was archdeacon of it (though that hadn’t stopped me trying to fit EVENA into the middle of it).

  22. Doubt whether anyone’ll read this now, it being the day after; but rather surprised no-one (other than boltonwanderer) has defended the mens sana of codgers. – joekobi
  23. Likwise a Saturday morning solve with my coffee. I’m in the “enjoyed this a lot” camp and was pleased to be able to parse all the answers. NE corner was my last. As others I thought of DEAN for 8d, then had a chuckle when I spotted the two SIDs. 5a and 8d my favourites 35:26.

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