Times 26703 – 1st Championship Qualifier (Wednesday 19 April)

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I managed this on paper in 16 minutes, with one Russian poet half-guessed as the more likely arrangement of the anagram letters; the rest was straightforward although required the usual crossword knowledge of CRS and obscure birds and fish to be fully parsed. I especially liked 16a and 26a.

1 Lookout on Ecstasy tablets needs support to be alert to attack (5,4,4)
WATCH ONES BACK – WATCH = lookout, ON E’s, BACK = support.
8 Stage favourites brought back (4)
STEP – PETS, favourites, reversed.
9 Established position of one at the top of their game? (10)
BRIDGEHEAD – Head person at the game of bridge.
10 Standing tires Peg terribly (8)
11 Barnet — specifically the church there (6)
THATCH – THAT CH(urch). Barnet fair CRS.
13 Stealth tax in Scotland includes obvious vague number (10)
COVERTNESS – Insert OVERT (obvious), N into CESS = a Scottish property tax.
16 Good god, a vegetable (4)
OKRA – OK = good, RA Egyptian God; a neat clue. I really like okra, if it’s fresh, chopped and stir fried in a Bindi Bhaji.
17 Language read externally in more than one university (4)
URDU – ReaD inside U, U.
18 Mount associated with Wellington, a capital (10
COPENHAGEN – Double definition, his horse, and capital of Denmark.
20 Exercise is to be taken around 55 for strong skeletal structure (6)
PELVIS – PE = exercise, IS, insert LV = 55.
22 Finished shed in grey (8)
OVERCAST – OVER = finished, CAST = shed.
24 Excessively sweet tea popular in Salvation Army church (10)
SACCHARINE – SA for the Sally Army, CE = church, insert CHAR, IN.
26 Bath water has Virginia withdrawing leg (4)
AVON – VA reversed, ON = leg (cricket).
27 People pry only, sadly, to find artificial material (13)

1 Flower, perhaps part of extreme dieter’s meal? (11)
WATERCOURSE – A water course would certainly help my diet.
2 One involved in petty quarrel over hanging (5)
TAPIS – Insert I into SPAT reversed.
3 A way of saying arrogant — but “rich” is another way (9)
4 Simplicity one found in part of church, note (7)
NAIVETE – I inside NAVE, TE = note.
5 See racing boat changing direction (5)
SIGHT – EIGHT for racing boat, change the E(ast) to S(outh).
6 Russian poet at Oakham, excited about verse (9)
AKHMATOVA – Insert V into (AT OAKHAM)*. Anna Akhmatova, 1889 – 1966, born in Odessa so maybe not so Russian.
7 Bird with gold colour exterminated in country round Seoul (3)
KEA – KOREA has the OR deleted. A kind of large parrot found in New Zealand.
12 Traps tenor in outermost part of building (11)
CORNERSTONE – CORNERS = traps, TONE = tenor.
14 Ambiguous viola cue disturbed, without question (9)
EQUIVOCAL – Insert Q into (VIOLA CUE)*.
15 After bank with genuine style? (9)
SINCERELY – SINCE = after, RELY = bank, as in rely on.
19 Professional endorsement, over for a rider (7)
PROVISO – PRO, VIS means force or power, hence endorsement? O(ver). I fancied an alternative spelling with a Z, to make VIZ more explainable than VIS, but it doesn’t seem to be allowed.
21 Rogue’s deception to gain power (5)
SCAMP – SCAM = deception, P(ower).
23 Gangster twins reportedly supplying crack all over? (5)
CRAZE – Sounds like the Krays, notorious London gangsters.
25 Predatory fish, key species (3)
ASP – A = key, SP = species. A large European freshwater fish.

43 comments on “Times 26703 – 1st Championship Qualifier (Wednesday 19 April)”

  1. For 18A I think you mean Denmark. Wellington is indeed the capital of NZ but that’s the one in the clue not the answer.

    I had no Idea ASP was a fish so that was a hail mary LOI

    1. Indeed, a senior moment fuelled by wine being taken. Just back from a freezing and wet golfing jolly in Catalan Spain so am late in the day to field the comment. But I can see what I meant…
  2. Tenor = tone (not T!) is certainly one worth remembering. A good time for me, although I too was held up by AKHMATOVA, and BRIDGEHEAD for that matter (annoyingly, since I’ve just started dipping my toe in the bridge universe). COD: WATERCOURSE. Thanks Pip and setter.
  3. I didn’t submit this one because of the Russian poet. I vaguely knew of her, but the more I thought about it the more uncertain I became of the name. In test conditions I would probably have guessed right. Sitting at home, with the answer just a few keystrokes away, I second-guessed myself into paralysis.

    Like Paul I was unaware of ASP as a fish.

    I hope the May 17th one leaves me less unsure of myself.

  4. Took damn near the hour on this, with AKHMATOVA unknown and biffed before checking with K and T the wrong way round. I’d no idea an ASP was a fish either. I’ll leave Championships to the intelligentsia. But I did know Wellington’s horse, and I enjoyed THATCH. Thank you Pip for the blog and setter for keeping me grounded.
  5. Not sure how long it took—the garage took somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to MOT my car, and I finished the puzzle while I was waiting. I remember being very glad to have put the unknown poet together in the right order, helped only by thinking that -OVA seemed likeliest.

    I was pleased to have finished a qualifier puzzle at all. FOI 1a, LOI 6d, loved 16a.

    Enjoyed being reminded of Wellington’s horse’s name; I’m sure it’s come up before as it seemed vaguely familiar. Surprised it wasn’t known to me from watching Sharpe on the telly; that seems to be where I get most of my knowledge of that period!

  6. Sorry but I think the Russian poet is an unfair clue. Doing anagrams of unfamiliar words is really out for me, as you can’t necessarily deduce the answer even given all the crossers. OTOH, I coudn’t begin to say how the compiler would clue that word!

    Still liked the puzzle, but it was tough for me for the above reason (hence gripe).

    1. The Times cryptic demands some general knowledge and always has done. I think maybe you just need to accept that your knowledge on this occasion was not as general as the setters was. He/she will never tailor it precisely to your personal knowledge base .. and to be fair to the setter, Akhmatova is described as “one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon” so I think the best you can do is to make sure you remember her next time round 😉

      1. I think I am on a hiding to nothing here, as this will always occur!

        However, and especially as it comes up so often, as a general principle I think the ‘anagramming of obscure words’ complaint will last.

        Thanks for your message.

        1. It comes up so often, because nobody seems able to accept that a word they don’t know is their own responsibility, and not that of the setter.. we all are working with the same language, but some read a lot, and some do not, some remember and some complain regularly about the same “obscure” word turning up again .. I know it is a fault in me, and not in you, to complain about it but I do wish people would approach a Times Cryptic in a learning and not in a whining mode
          1. I don’t mind that actually, that it is one’s responsibility to expand vocab, but (here we go again) one has no chance to do that if the clue cannot be solved, even where the mechanism for solving has been fairly got. I can’t expand my vocab without finding that new word.

            I do whine about it though! I’ve had another go today about SCHIPPERKE, which is a word I know, but some others didn’t, so they were dumped into the mire without a paddle.

            Anyway cheers Jerry, my (first) name is Barrie.

  7. I also reverted to paper for this puzzle and my notes tell me it took 37 minutes. I was lucky with the juggling for the poet, and didn’t know an ASP was also a fish. Knew COPENHAGEN as Wellington’s horse. NHO KEA, but the wordplay was helpful. Some tricky stuff, but I was pleased to finish. I’ve just walked 3.6 miles back from the garage where my car is having its annual service and MOT, so the new knee seems to have settled in nicely, 15 months on. If the weather holds, I might jump on the velocipede to go back for it. Now it’s time to tackle today’s 15×15. Thanks setter and Pip.
  8. I had a half-decent time, but didn’t submit on the basis of the Russian poet – where I’d plumped for ATHMAKOVA. Cue my usual grumbles about clueing obscure foreign words with anagrams.
    Two more chances!
  9. I struggled a bit with this but submitted anyway. I didn’t know the snakey fish, had a complete brain freeze on Copenhagen and just had to hit and hope on the correct order of the unchecked letters of the poet.
  10. Nadezhda Mandelstam’s “Hope against Hope” – justly called the best memoir ever written by Clive James – referenced Anna Akhtamova quite a bit, since she was her hubbie’s bit on the side, so that was no problem. About 30 minutes overall, so will not plan a trip to Blighty for this autumn.
      1. Must get Clive down again from the shelves. I can remember continuous chuckles punctuated by belly laughs. Was it in there or a later volume where he described psychology students salivating whenever Pavlov’s name was mentioned.
  11. Ah yes Boatman, a purveyor of Libertarianisms. Can’t get on with him I’m sorry to say. I think I know the clue you mean, but today’s Russian poet defeats even that!
  12. There’s a very similar clue in today’s Guardian by Boatman. I’m not sure how I knew the Russian poet – I think she came up in a NY Review of Books article quite recently. Pip, I think BRIDGEHEAD here means a well dug-in position held by fighting forces. It sort of ties in with COPENHAGEN as the sort of thing Wellington’s forces were always establishing in the Peninsula War. I forgot to time this (I’m not coming to the prom this fall alas) but I’m reasonably sure I came in under the half hour and it seemed just a bit harder than some of the recent qualifiers.
  13. Agree with others who felt that the poet clue was unfair. I zipped through this, but had to call it a day at AKHMATOVA – it’s not even one of those where there are two or more options, but one reads more plausibly than the other(s).
    1. As stated above, The Times cryptic has traditionally demanded some general knowledge. it is not a logic problem like sudoku. And Akhmatova is far from obscure
        1. You would know better than me but I was only referring to knowledge, not intelligence. In fact just a memory would do, since she has appeared in a Times crossword before, albeit a jumbo
          1. How about those of use who know her – I recognised her immediately from the anagram fodder, from the Arkady Renko novel “Polar Star” – but still got it wrong? I had the T and M in the wrong place – lucky I have no chance of being in UK come Championship time.
            See also Ulaca’s comment above where he too spells it Akhtamova – easy to do, easy to miss.
  14. I didn’t time it, but I’m another who didn’t know that an ASP could also be a fish and I trusted the clueing. As far as AKHMATOVA is concerned I plumped for the correct rearrangement of the anagram fodder over “Akhtamova”. I didn’t consider “Athmakova” at all because it doesn’t sound Russian, IMHO.
  15. The point about “obscure” foreign words clued by anagrams has been made ad nauseam.
    There is a wider point in my opinion. The discussions tend to assume that the solver has all the crossers in place (and, then, it’s still difficult).
    The frequent reality is that not all crossers are in place and this clue “blocks” the solving of a quadrant offering many possibilities but no obvious resolution.
    The result is an unfulfilling experience which no one wants?
  16. This took me about 20 minutes when I did it, the last being the Russian poet. I didn’t know of her either, and guessed the letter order as did Andy above. I also hadn’t been aware of the name of Wellington’s horse, so there’s some learning for me on this. Best to all.
  17. … may have been born in Odesa in Ukraine but she was most definitely Russian


  18. I cannot see how the answer has anything to do with the clue.
    There is a thatched barn currently for sale on the Barnet by-pass, but that is all I can find. Elucidation would be appreciated.
    1. “Thatch” and “barnet” both mean “hair”; “Barnet Fair” is the Cockney rhyming slang. I imagine that “thatch” came to mean hair by comparison with thatched barns and cottages, but I’ve not looked it up.

      Edited at 2017-04-28 11:15 am (UTC)

  19. 8:04 for me, dithering for far too long at the end over ASP (unknown to me as a fish). I biffed PROVISO as well, though I eventually twigged the wordplay post-submission.

    Absolutely no problem with AKHMATOVA. I suppose living in London helps (her name must crop up in at least one art exhibition every year – I’m pretty sure she got a mention in “Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932” at the Royal Academy recently, and I expect she’ll appear again in “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths” that’s just opened at the British Library); and it almost certainly helps that I’ve simply lived longer than most of you.

    Anyway I’m with Jerry on this one: if you hadn’t heard of her before, you have now. Look her up. Read some of her poems – in the original if you can, otherwise in translation. That’s what I did with stuff I didn’t know when I was an ignorant youngster.

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