Times 26,771: At The Court Of The King Of Skyros

An easy puzzle by Friday standards, I thought: I was drunk enough from prior festivities to have typed BETTLE instead of BEETLE in the Concise, but even taking a little extra care over the main event accordingly, it was all done and dusted in a little over 6 minutes. FOI 1ac, clearly, LOI the brilliant and appropriate 4dn.

Sometimes having an easier puzzle at the end of the week proves a source of disgruntlement for me, but this one gets a pass because of the high quality of the construction: there are some really good surfaces in here, and I mean really good. Loved the great surface of 9dn, the simplicity of 12ac, the smoothness of “cream crackers” at 3dn and “marshalling yard” at 5dn and “German city state” at 15dn, the clever double duty of “cast off” in 17ac, “stand” in 20ac, “account” in 24ac, “free press” in 25ac and “TV” in 1dn… it takes a lot of art to make writing clues this elegant and deceptive look so easy, hats off to the setter.

I think I’ll stick with 4dn as my COD though as I just can’t get enough of crossword clues about crossword clues, as you probably know by now, self-reflexive meta-cluing as it were. Plenty of candidates to choose from though: which did you all like?

1 Charles Martel’s heading for great breach (5)
CHASM – CHAS [Charles] + M{artel}
4 You no longer must wear breeches in sweaty place (8)
HOTHOUSE – THOU [you no longer] “must wear” HOSE [breeches]
8 Fancy Dublin manor’s home to Queen Elizabeth the First and Second? (7,7)
ORDINAL NUMBERS – (DUBLIN MANOR’S*) [“fancy”] “home to” ER [Queen Elizabeth]
10 Takes in food covered in spots, an unsavoury quality (9)
SEEDINESS – DINES [takes in food] “covered in” SEES [spots]
11 Characters in flamboyant unicyclist’s garment (5)
TUNIC – hidden in {flamboyan}T UNIC{yclist}
12 One in shop is helping (6)
RATION – I [one] in RAT ON [shop]
14 No more butter? Starter from Italy is meat (8)
PASTRAMI – PAST RAM [no more | butter] + I{taly}
17 Maybe Lady Macbeth‘s wrong to follow cast off (3-5)
SHE-DEVIL – EVIL [wrong] to follow SHED [cast off]
18 Queen wanting Arsenal’s sides to toughen up (6)
ANNEAL – ANNE [Queen] wanting A{rsena}L
20 Stand in line, with no trouble going to the front (5)
EASEL – L [line], with EASE [no trouble] going to the front
22 Count welcomes old partners bidding for agreement (9)
CONSENSUS – CENSUS [count] welcomes O N+S [old | partners bidding]
24 Tell alert saver to change dubious account (10,4)
25 Pitch from US government’s leader to get free press (8)
GRIDIRON – G{overnment} “to get” RID IRON [free | press]
26 Professional leaving right and left boot out (5)
EXPEL – EXPE{rt} [professional “leaving right”] and L [left]
1 Piqued person who helps actor for TV (5-7)
CROSS-DRESSER – CROSS [piqued] + DRESSER [person who helps actor]
2 Go off with clumsy gait, putting away whiskey (5)
ADDLE – {w}ADDLE [clumsy gait, “putting away W{hiskey}”]
3 Monstrous creature into cream crackers (9)
MANTICORE – (INTO CREAM*) [“crackers”]
4 Solver needing minutes to fill in gaps (6)
HOLMES – M [minutes] “to fill in” HOLES [gaps]
5 Marshalling yard shut for a time (8)
THURSDAY – (YARD SHUT*) [“marshalling…”]
6 Go round river, with notice about passing around (5)
ORBIT – R [river], with OBIT [notice about passing] around
7 Weight loss, say, from period of psychiatry? (9)
SHRINKAGE – a “period of psychiatry” could be a SHRINK AGE
9 A cold fish accepting woman’s weakness (8,4)
ACHILLES HEEL – A CHILL EEL [a | cold | fish] “accepting” SHE [woman]
13 Time firm’s restrained by stern money handler (9)
TREASURER – T [time] + SURE [firm] “restrained by” REAR [stern]
15 Figure backing East German city state (9)
TENNESSEE – TEN [figure] + reverse of E ESSEN [“backing” East | German city]
16 O is this kind of letter (8)
CIRCULAR – double def
19 Rent out cracking home for novice worker (6)
INTERN – (RENT*) [“out”] “cracking” IN [home]
21 Wild clip uncovered, short film (5)
LIVID – {c}LI{p} + VID [“short” film]
23 Quiet way to speak about a cheat (5)
SHARP – SH RP [quiet | way to speak] about A

46 comments on “Times 26,771: At The Court Of The King Of Skyros”

  1. Less than 30 mins for a Friday – with overnight oats. Great crossword. What Verlaine said, plus I like the psychiatric weight loss and the ‘no more butter’. Thanks setter and V.
    GKQ – what creature is ‘not the same lion’.
    1. Me too! 10ac SWEETNESS. 3dn I nailed as the reclusive and atrocious MINATROCE! (Nasty!)
      So, Lord Galspray, you are in good company! And all in 36 minutes!

      I presume TV was Tranny at 1dn CROSS-DRESSER. I was wondering about film!? But then what do I know of these things!? I’m sure Jack spotted it.

      COD 4dn HOLMES but the crossers helped enormously.


      Edited at 2017-07-07 08:11 am (UTC)

  2. A seriously good puzzle. Hardly a clue without lots of quality. A good laugh at CROSS-DRESSER cheered up an otherwise wretched (and retching) morning.

    OK Galspray … fess up!

    1. An unparsed SWEETNESS (unsavoury quality?) led to a monstrous MINATROCE, all in the interest of a faster solve.

      Please don’t tell the others.

      1. I admire your honesty. When I’ve made a howler I tend not to post (which is quite often).
      2. I had SWEETNESS for a while, but had a rethink as it wouldn’t parse. I also considered EATS rather than DINES for the “takes in food” which made me consider SWEATINESS, except it didn’t fit!
      3. Surely a “minatroce” is barely even monstrous? Unlike the “maxatroce” at the other end of the scale.

        A youth wasted on D&D and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks classical education from Oxford left me very well equipped to write this clue straight in.

  3. I could have shaved a few minutes off that time if I’d immediately given up on ‘clumsy gait’ being (gait)* at 2d, and given up on ‘sin’ at 17ac (as it was, I ‘saw’ SHE-DEVIL before seing ‘evil’). This is a caucus race for COD–they all won, and all must have prizes–but I marked RATION on my printed copy, so I’ll stick with that.
    1. (gait)* and SIN held me up too. Getting the Tranny gave me the SheDevil.
  4. Very enjoyable, even with a hangover. At 53 minutes, I’m going to say that the setter is a master of misdirection, rather than that I’m a porridge-brain.

    I didn’t get started until the hidden at 11a, and then it was a bit of a piecemeal affair, rather than an easy flow, where I was looking for (GAIT)* with a W inside at 2d, trying to remember an odd word for a marshalling yard at 5d, and so forth, until I finally realised how the clues worked and penned them in while kicking myself, which is a difficult trick, I can tell you.

    Finally finished off with the crossers at GRIDIRON and LIVID—must try to get “vid” for “short film” into my brain; it’s come up a few times—and was happy to find I’d done so within an hour, because the time felt like it was racing by. I’m with V on COD 4d: great surface and great misdirection.

    Great thanks to setter and V. Now I’m off to find some painkillers.

    Edited at 2017-07-07 07:57 am (UTC)

  5. Whilst not agreeing with verlaine on the difficulty of this offering – I rate it a medium – I’m in firm agreement on the quality of the surfaces. CROSS DRESSER was my favourite but I thought GRIDIRON was top class as well. I also liked HOLMES for the fact that it threw me when I’d assumed the solver was me or I, as is the norm.
    1. I think I meant that it seemed easy *by Friday standards*, not easy per se. But given that we have been categorically assured that Friday standards don’t exist, it was a silly thing to say anyway!
  6. Great crossword. After the excellent TV, I got into the swing of things and put in SCAMP for SHARP. Well, CAMP is a way to speak?
    Thanks setter and V.
  7. Which actually means composed of elements, rather than easy. Agree 4d COD. Had vaguely heard of MANTICORE. 20′ Thanks v and setter.
  8. Not so easy for me as for our esteemed blogger, taking 40 minutes. I wanted sweetness before finally spotting SEEDINESS. Only then did MANTICORE come to mind. LOI HOLMES, solved inevitably when all other possibilities had been excluded. COD SHRINKAGE by a short head from HOT HOUSE. Thank you V and setter.
  9. I agree with Matt on the quality of the misdirection, and with Pootle on the level of difficulty of this puzzle. Some great clues and loads of penny drop moments as the answers came in from unexpected directions. Loved SHRINKAGE and CROSS DRESSER. HOLMES too, and too many others to mention. Got nothing in the NW on first pass, not getting a clue until TUNIC. Then got bits of the SE and began to get on the setters wavelength about 25 minutes in. LOI SHARP after EXPEL. 42:13 of great entertainment. Thanks setter and V.
  10. 29 minutes wih unknown MANTICORE from wordplay and ANNEAL dredged up from somewhere. The beast came up once before (2012) and I let it pass without comment then so I suppose, just like today, it was easy enough to work out.

    I was helped at 1dn by a reference that came up in a puzzle that’s under wraps until tomorrow as it immediately put me on the right track.

    Edited at 2017-07-07 08:06 am (UTC)

  11. Did nobody else get as much enjoyment from the clueing of 16d as I did? I absolutely loved that one! Generally the clues were beautifully crafted all through this one — as everyone seems to agree.
  12. Oh, and spent an inordinate amount of time early on trying to squeeze a W = whiskey into a four-letter word meaning “clumsy gait”. I really wanted “putting away” to be an inclusion not an exclusion!
    1. ‘I was helped at 1dn by a reference that came up in a puzzle that’s under wraps until tomorrow as it immediately put me on the right track’
  13. Great crossword, but I was right off the wavelength – just couldn’t see Lady M without all crossers, had CONSE… pencilled in but couldn’t get the agreement, it was like the brain was wading through treacle. But an excellent crossword. Holmes last in – in a slow 27:30. Lots to like, but RATION my favourite; MANTICORE unknown, forgotten since last time it appeared.
  14. 25 min – I concur with V on skill of cluing with so many misdirections, so not easy to get started (11ac FOI) and many traps to avoid, so similar experience to several of others above.
    Finished in SW, as had been trying to make MOVIE the short film at 21ac, which seemed to give something to do with a stand at EPSOM racecourse at 20ac – so needed to remember VID, making 23ac LOI.

    Edited at 2017-07-07 10:57 am (UTC)

  15. 12m. I thought at first this was going to be a beast, because I got very few of the acrosses on my first pass through. However the downs proved quite a lot easier and then it was a steady solve.
    Very nice puzzle, as others have noted. Nothing outrageously difficult or obscure but it required attention to wordplay (not least to avoid the SWEETNESS trap at 10ac!).
  16. A painful 67 minutes here with a guess at MANTICORE as opposed to mancitore or even mancirote- not a clue I liked as it was an anagram of a very obscure word (that is one I’ve probably come across here before but completely forgotten). Otherwise some good clues – I enjoyed the psychiatric clue. Thanks for the elucidation, V and the challenge, setter.
    1. I’m often one to complain about anagrams to clue obscure words but I mind less when there’s only one permutation which ‘sounds right’ (and I get it correct!).
  17. Another who dabbled with sweetness, was in awe of Holmes and only got the unknown beast after writing the various alternatives on my scrap paper. Great stuff. 36 minutes.
  18. I completed this in 29 mins 44 secs so probably on the easier side for the (non-existent) Friday standard. I found it a real pleasure to solve, artisanal cluing, each construction to be savoured and not much biffing but not overly difficult and never really getting bogged down anywhere. FOI 1ac. LOI 7dn. Too many good clues to nominate a single COD. Thank you setter.
  19. Liked it, 29 minutes steady solving, with Manticore dredged up from some dusty corner of Harry Potter-land. Lots of clues which brought a nod of respect for the setter.
  20. 30 mins… but with mantiroce. Hate it when I don’t have the requisite gk. Must get out more. Or maybe just take up reading D&D and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Whatever they are…

  21. Keith is wowing the folks in Heaven (or Hell) no doubt with his catchy 3 minute singles. ELP helped me get Manticore but I entered Mardiness (which works and is also a great northern expression). Took me ages to get 1d as I also entered Ice Devil. Eventually got there. Funniest puzzle for ages, so thanks to setter and V. IT’s definitely wine-oclock so off to open a Pinot Gris…
  22. I’ll fess up MATICORE was a write-in from an adolescence of dungeons and dragons and cheaper fantasy novels. Very much on the setter’s wavelength here at 6:57, and did enjoy the puzzle!
  23. An hour 10, with slow but steady progress until the crossing seediness / manticore required some thought. I admired this one, but can’t say I really enjoyed it – it took too much effort for me to stay on the setter’s wavelength.
  24. Presumably, Galspray’s “minatroce” would have had the head of a minotaur (which, come to think of it, would be the head of a bull) and the body of an ocelot. Fortunately, MANTICORE came to me from my teenage years, since I am sure it featured in some way on an album by Tangerine Dream. I am shocked to discover that Tangerine Dream still exists – albeit with less than one of the original band members. It’s a bit like discovering that the pet hamster you had as a child and then lost behind the skirting boards is actually still alive forty years later. But I digress.

    I am happy to report that, after yesterday’s personal best, I am now back on form and took forty minutes to beat this one into submission. TENNESSEE and ANNEAL were my LOsI, as I was trying to parse 15d at a 90-degree angle to the setter’s intention. I agree with those who have praised this puzzle’s uniformly high quality; my personal favourite was 8ac.

  25. Another rather depressing solve where I kept missing easy wins – starting with 8ac (ORDINAL NUMBERS) – and eventually took 10:10 for a puzzle I ought to have rattled through.

    All good stuff though.

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