Times 26,777: Per me si va nella cruciverba dolente

Less hard than yesterday’s puzzle by the looks of things (has everyone else become as obsessed with Starstruck’s Crossword SNITCH app as I have?) but this definitely contained a few speed bumps to stymie a blazing fast solve. I had most of the clues done and dusted in a little over 5 minutes but just a handful took me from there to 8; rather embarrassingly, given that I’d just come from writing up a TLS blog, it was two literary clues that gave me the most trouble…

My time would have been much more impressive if I’d been able to look at H_E_I at the end of 9dn and immediately ALIGHIERI… as it was my brain was wrestling with the anagram fodder for quite some time and not coming up with much better than the likes of GARTH MARENGHI. Similarly the girl at 3dn, where I wasn’t looking for a surname so kept trying the likes of DOROTHEA in vain. 18ac was also a big holdout as clearly metonyms are a little above my solving pay grade. Honourable mentions to 12ac where the “Asian native in no hurry” took thematically appropriate ages to arrive, and 21dn whose gleaming penny only dropped a while after submitting.

So thanks to the setter for a very strong crossword indeed. COD-wise we could go for the very politically topical 1ac or indeed 2d, and I’ve already said how much I enjoyed the definition in 21dn, but really it has to be the splendid and difficult-to-untangle anagram at 9dn. The Iliad is even about rage, and indeed has “rage” or a close Greek equivalent for its first word… I had to Google to check such a perfect anagram wasn’t decades old, and discovered that it has appeared in a certain setter’s Independent and FT puzzles of the past, but of course it’s quite possible that this is the same person again! The classicist in me would be happy to see this clue in every puzzle (probably) so it’s all good…

1 Conservative forte at end of day unclear (6)
CLOUDY – C LOUD [Conservative | forte] + {da}Y
4 Yankee eccentric in burning American plane (8)
SYCAMORE – Y CAM [Yankee | eccentric] in SORE [burning]
10 Reptile displays pride in Tarsus recklessly (9)
STEGOSAUR – EGO [pride] in (TARSUS*) [“recklessly”]
11 Small portion without starter’s more than enough (5)
AMPLE – {s}AMPLE [small portion “without starter”]
12 Trader, Asian native in no hurry to plug financial publication (7)
FLORIST – LORIS [Asian native in no hurry] “to plug” FT [financial publication]
13 Cork spokesman’s initial remark surpassing others (7)
STOPPER – S{pokesman} + TOPPER [remark surpassing others]
14 Working class making start (5)
ONSET – ON SET [working | class]
15 Daughter leaving waterside in distress, so to speak (2,2,4)
AS IT WERE – (WATERSI{d}E*) [“in distress”]
18 Force one to have home and family life (8)
FIRESIDE – F I RESIDE [force | one | to have home]
20 Copy material crook regularly supplied (5)
REPRO – REP [material] + {c}R{o}O{k}
23 Bear cat in bag hunter’s opening (7)
STOMACH – TOM [cat] in SAC [bag] + H{unter}
25 Judas for one bitter, perhaps, about situation (7)
APOSTLE – ALE [bitter, perhaps] about POST [situation]
26 Withdraw permission (5)
LEAVE – double def
27 Laurel for instance always an environmentalist (9)
EVERGREEN – EVER GREEN [always | an environmentalist]
28 Chosen people, endlessly wealthy, driven by power (8)
ELECTRIC – ELECT [chosen people] + RIC{h} [“endlessly” wealthy]
29 Breadwinner finally comes in to provide food bowl (6)
CRATER – {breadwinner}R “comes in to” CATER [provide food]
1 Movement of money remains fluid in firm given direction (4,4)
CASH FLOW – ASH FL [remains | fluid] in CO W [firm (given) direction]
2 Emperor in love with America becomes demanding (7)
ONEROUS – NERO [emperor] in O US [love (with) America]
3 Girl made grand in swindle over small amount (9)
DOOLITTLE – DO O LITTLE [swindle | over | small amount]
5 Dray horses like running free in upland location (9,5)
6 Mission accomplished — like another mission — on all fronts! (5)
ALAMO – A{ccomplished} L{ike} A{nother} M{ission} O{n}
7 In theory, paid for by The Times? (2,5)
ON PAPER – double def with cryptic def, playing on “on” as in “on the house”, “on me”, etc
8 Erstwhile editor with artist making room for discussion (6)
EXEDRA – EX ED RA [erstwhile | editor (with) artist]
9 Rage in The Iliad troubled influential writer (5,9)
16 Militarist marines ahead in punt (9)
WARMONGER – RM ON [marines | ahead] in WAGER [punt]
17 Ruler agonising over northern part (8)
GOVERNOR – hidden in {agonising}G OVER NOR{thern}
19 Irish cardinal collecting silver for a time (4,3)
IRON AGE – IR ONE [Irish | cardinal] “collecting” AG [silver]
21 Job description has worker keeping allegiance, under pressure (7)
PATIENT – ANT [worker] “keeping” TIE [allegiance], under P [pressure].
“Job description” as in “a description of Job in the Bible”.
22 Princess is no spring chicken, last in line (6)
ISOLDE – IS OLD [is | no spring chicken] + {lin}E
24 A set of books taking in extremely gullible representative (5)
AGENT – A NT [a | set of books] “taking in” G{ullibl}E

53 comments on “Times 26,777: Per me si va nella cruciverba dolente”

  1. An hour and a minute, most of that extra minute spent trying to figure out where the letters went to fill in the remaining lights of 9d—once I’d got the DANTE bit I knew what I was looking for, but I don’t think I’ve seen his surname written down more than a couple of times…

    FOI 2d; COD 21d: as with our esteemed blogger I enjoyed “Job description”. I liked “girl made grand” a lot, too. One of those crosswords where things seemed a little beyond my grasp and then I got them and wondered what the problem had been. Great stuff. WOD SYCAMORE.

  2. I had to count my I’s and E’s with 9d, or I might have had ALEGHIERI. Biffed SYCAMORE, and a good thing, too, since I’d never have got CAM. DNK EXEDRA, but felt untypically confident not to check on it. LOI cum COD: PATIENT, although the anagram in 9d is no slouch either.
  3. Let’s focus on the brilliant “Girl made grand” and “Job description” rather than get bogged down on who may or may not have fat-thumbed IVERGREEN, thus ruining an otherwise solid week.

    I rarely resort to pen and paper for anagram solving, but 9dn was an exception. I mean, who knew that Dante had another name? So he doesn’t belong on the same list as Pele, Bono and Lulu?

    Have a good weekend everyone. Thanks setter and V.

  4. 19:54 … tricky again, for me. The last couple in were DOOLITTLE (big penny-drop on the def.) and FIRESIDE, which had the consonant-free checkers from hell and gave me intimations of doom.

    Some very weird but entertaining surfaces. 2d …. Monsieur Macron, n’est pas?

    I wish you hadn’t mentioned that Crossword Snitch app, verlaine. Now I have to obsess over that as well (average solving time half a minute higher than I’d hoped so I have to IMPROVE!)

    1. 2dn reminded me more of Putin, although I guess that should read ‘with dirt on’ rather than ‘in love with’.
        1. I don’t know if I’d call myself a romantic but use of the word in the context of Trump and Putin makes me a bit ill.
      1. Sorry to add to your burden, sotira. Bear in mind that the overall average (on the Trends page) shows that solving times overall are getting longer, which would suggest that the crosswords are getting harder. This doesn’t seem to be affecting Magoo very much, however.

        I’m looking at a way to make individual solver’s trends more evident, based on verlaine’s feedback. But it will take me a little while to work out.

        BTW, I think that an average time of around 16:30 is amazing, so don’t forget that you’re way ahead of many of us.

        1. You seem to have posted this as a reply to me by mistake. But let me take this opportunity to say that I think the SNITCH is awesome!
        2. Incidentally on the subject of whether Fridays are easier than Mondays, my personal geeky spreadsheet (summarised in the graph that is my userpic on this post) shows exactly the same pattern. In fact it shows that the puzzles get steadily ‘harder’ as the week progresses, and this pattern is remarkably consistent over a five-year period. As I’ve said before I doubt that a trend this consistent could be produced by the editor even if he tried very hard indeed, and as you know he (like the previous editor) says that there is no such attempt. So it seems more likely to me that the trend is in fact attributable to something else. For my own part I am undoubtedly on average more knackered on a Friday than on a Monday.

          Edited at 2017-07-15 03:18 pm (UTC)

          1. Sorry for my incompetence in replying, but thanks for your feedback.

            I’m very interested in your spreadsheet. How did you measure the difficulty? I was expecting that the crosswords might get steadily harder during the week, as you found, but my results show Tue-Thu pretty flat over the year and a half I’ve been tracking it.

            And thanks also for your posts in the blog. I’m encouraged by your campaign against the “double obscurity”. As a solver from Australia, I occasionally get caught with not enough local UK knowledge. But usually I will know either the cryptic or straight definition and this confidence has helped me to persevere. On the odd occasions when both depend on something obscure, you’re usually fighting our corner. So many thanks from down under!

            1. You’re welcome. Thank you for the SNITCH!
              My spreadsheet is just my own times. It’s more complete than the club site because I don’t always solve online. Part of the reason I always post here is that this is where I note my times, and from time to time when I’m really bored at work I go back through TfTT posts to fill in my spreadsheet. Interesting that you don’t see the same pattern.
              Glad to hear you agree with me on the double obscurities. There are many who disagree (including notably verlaine, who will see this post – hi v!) but I think this sort of friendly disagreement is part of what makes this site interesting. I will keep fighting the good fight – I sort of feel it’s expected of me now.
        3. Thanks, starstruck. And I don’t mind, really. It’s fascinating stuff, and your trends stat confirms my feeling about Times puzzles — that they’re getting harder again.

          p.s. I knew keriothe would love the app … he can now do a spreadsheet of his spreadsheet merged with the Snitch. Or something 😉

    2. MY apologies – I think I accidently posted to keiothe’s comment rather than your original, sotira, so here it is in the right place…

      Sorry to add to your burden. Bear in mind that the overall average (on the Trends page) shows that solving times overall are getting longer, which would suggest that the crosswords are getting harder. This doesn’t seem to be affecting Magoo very much, however.

      I’m looking at a way to make individual solver’s trends more evident, based on verlaine’s feedback. But it will take me a little while to work out.

      BTW, I think that an average time of around 16:30 is amazing, so don’t forget that you’re way ahead of many of us.

  5. as I thought it was Thursday! All sorted in 35 minutes.

    Re 9dn if I were DANTE I’d have adopted the surname SINFERNO! A tad more enduring.

    FOI 1ac CLOUDY LOI 9dn the ALIGIERI bit!

    COD 12ac FLORIST


    CAM = eccentric? It’s a river innit!?

    Edited at 2017-07-14 08:26 am (UTC)

    1. Everything within 100 miles of Cambridge is heterodox just as everything within 100 miles of Oxford is orthodox. I feel CAM for eccentric has come up before now? But as I Google it, you’re right, it doesn’t look that obvious…
    2. Found this by Googling “cam fifteensquared”:

      CAM = “eccentric” + US = “American”. The CAM part might take some explanation – one of the nounal senses of “eccentric” according to Chambers is “A device for taking an alternating rectilinear motion from an revolving shaft”. That might be easier to understand from the animation on the Wikipedia page showing the motion of one type of an eccentric. A “cam” on the other hand, is defined by Chambers as “an irregular projection on a revolving shaft or rotating cylinder, shaped so as to transmit regular movement to another part, e.g. to open the cylinder valves of a car engine”. Similarly, Wikipedia has a nice animation showing such motion. It seems pretty clear to me from the definition in Chambers that a cam could be considered a type of eccentric, so I think that’s all fair and correct, although mechanics is far from my speciality!

      Thanks mhl@15^2!

      1. Interesting re Oxford and Cambridge as they are 66 miles apart. I thought that Eccentric = CAM was standard fare in Crosswordland, when it is not CARD.
        1. Urggh! Keep forgetting that I have to log on each time now via iPad.

          Edited at 2017-07-14 11:30 am (UTC)

  6. Having been to Florence, seen the alleged grave, and been forcefed the poetry by street performers, still spent ages trying to spell the second name. Other than that, a gentle Friday, with FIRESIDE LOI eventually. 25′, thanks V and setter.
  7. A very pleasant 45 mins with toasted fruit bread from the unbeatable Archipelago bakery in Edinburgh. I wouldn’t have been able to look my Fat Rascal in the face after taking time over Doryshire Lakes.
    As others have said, some great stuff today (esp. the Loris and Job description) LOI Sycamore. COD must be Dante. Thanks setter and V.
    1. I’m going to be in Scotland and sometimes Edinburgh at the end of August and the beginning of September if anyone lives in those parts for a meetup by the way. Though maybe I should organise my New York tour before getting distracted by next month….
      1. I live in Edinburgh. Let me know. Are you coming for the Fringe? I have thought that a crossword masterclass by a big name solver would go down well.
  8. I found this harder than yesterday, whatever SNITCH says. Maybe the weaker solvers like me are just finishing. Never heard of an EXEDRA but the clue was clear. Have to treat what we in the UK call a SYCAMORE as a weed in my garden as they grow for fun. I think I vaguely knew that it was a different tree in the US. Spelling DANTE ALIGHIERI required two attempts. COD PATIENT for the pleasant glow when the penny dropped. Other enjoyable clues included DOOLITTLE, and FLORIST. I guess there’s a link there. I’ll leave you to decide whether JUDAS Iscariot had God on his side. 49 minutes. Thank you setter and V.

    Edited at 2017-07-14 08:43 am (UTC)

    1. Yes, I’m with you on the hardness of this. I was expecting to see a higher SNITCH score after I battled through it, even with with some help from Mrs S. It didn’t help me that 5d took far too long. So I was definitely not on the wavelength.

      I’m also with you on Judas as an apostle. There is a mention of “Judas son of James” as another of the disciples (who presumably did end up as an apostle) but that seems a bit obscure.

  9. 30 minutes and really enjoyed the surfaces and techniques. Is no spring chicken, plane, Asian native in no hurry, Job description, dray horses like running free ….. e cosi via. Thanks setter.
  10. I put in my last two answers today ready to find out what they should have been but to my surprise they were both correct. ALIGHIERI was the most promising sounding arrangement of random letters but I wasn’t confident. And until now I thought erstwhile meant currently so EXEDRA seemed unlikely.

    Solving DANTE ALIGHIERI was made much harder by being on the ipad and having to switch to the notes app and type out all the letters and spaces. Mental note to self to start carrying paper and pen in my bag (to be forgotten until the next such anagram).

  11. 9:51, but with an irritating typo. Grr. What’s the point in checking your answers (as I nearly always do) if you’re not even going to see a glaring error?
    Other than that, a very enjoyable solve with some great definitions all mentioned already. The anagram at 9dn had me stumped for a while too, and like Kevin I counted the vowels carefully.

    Edited at 2017-07-14 08:12 am (UTC)

  12. of a puzzle and a very entertaining blog. Thanks to both. After an infernal struggle I came up with the right answer to the DANTE anagram. I’ve got used now to eccentric meaning CAM in crosswords. Has almost a chestnutty flavour.
  13. 22:20 – with my experience matching our esteemed blogger’s in everything but timescale. Still any day I get within sniffing distance of two Verlaines is a good one.
    Put me down as another SNITCH obsessive, a brilliant piece of work.
  14. An unpredictably fast time of around 30mins with a predictable dnf – Dante whatsisname and fireside my undoings. Got great enjoyment from managing to work out Doolittle, florist, exedra, stegosaur and sycamore. Thanks for the blog.
  15. 25 minutes for all but three, and after 30 further minutes without progress I resorted to aids to complete the grid. Never heard of DANTE’s other name and was completely baffled by DOOLITTLE and FIRESIDE – the last requiring knoweldge of a meaning I simply didn’t know. Having only vowels as checkers rendered it impossible for me to work it out.

    [On edit: I now find that FIRESIDE defined as ‘home’ came up in the Quick Cryptic #53 in May 2014, clued as F (female), I, RESIDE (live in). I didn’t blog that one, but I completed the whole grid in 8 minutes and didn’t refer to the clue in my comment, so evidently I must have found it easy enough that day. But maybe it had more helpful checkers.]

    Edited at 2017-07-14 09:19 am (UTC)

  16. Very much to my liking – a minor peak of accurate whimsy. Surfaces are an art-form in themselves. 26.46. – joekobi
  17. 46:49 of which 15 or more was spent on FIRESIDE and DANTE’s other name which I’d never heard of and finally resorted to google to get the correct positions for the L and the R. EXEDRA from wordplay. SYCAMORE took a while to deduce, but no problem with cam as eccentric. In my youth I’ve had a few camshafts in my hands as I did my own car maintenance for years. Laughed out loud at Job description. Liked STEGOSAUR and DOOLITTLE too. Good fun. Thanks setter and V.
    On edit: Loved LORIS too.

    Edited at 2017-07-14 10:40 am (UTC)

  18. Nice puzzle, not painfully difficult but with some elegant and out-of-the-ordinary touches, of which “Job description” is also my favourite. At first I thought this would make it difficult to categorise the difficulty, but as a result of coming here, I discovered SNITCH*, and will never have to worry about such things again.

    *also nice to see that my solving forms part of the input, so I am playing a small part in this creative use of Big Data.

  19. Very enjoyable crossword marred by thinking that I knew how to spell ALIGHIERI therefore making FIRESIDE impossible. Had to come here to get the Job clue – made my day!
  20. Great stuff, Job, Loris, all been said. 35 minutes. CAM = eccentric I thought was commonplace here.
    Then did the TLS, all but the silly little 24d in half an hour, which is a big improvement for me. Got a week to wait to find out what I can’t see.
  21. I couldn’t quite remember the poet’s second name, so Googled it 🙂 but a wonderful puzzle, nicely weighted for a Friday, with 4a, 12a, 23a, 3d, 9d & 21d all sensational for me.
  22. Very nice puzzle toady. Like some others, I had to play with the anagram fodder to spell Dante’s surname, and I thought PATIENT was marvelous. Regards.
  23. So looking at the SNITCH page, it appears that the average NITCH for each weekday over the last 93 weeks is:

    Monday 84.8
    Tuesday 103.5
    Wednesday 102.4
    Thursday 104
    Friday 113.9

    which does seem to make the case for Monday’s puzzle being substantially easier on average, and Friday’s puzzle somewhat tougher than the midweek puzzles.


    1. It’s always possible that we could be highly relaxed on Mondays after the weekend, and increasingly beaten down over the course of the working week…
      1. I was thinking that there might be confirmation bias, such that as we expect Mondays to be easy, our confidence is higher, thus improving our solving skills…
        1. Very true as a possibility, as is Verlaine’s suggestion that we are worn down during the week.

          Another possibility is that the selection of crosswords by the editors shows some unconscious bias. Perhaps they don’t realise that they are selecting easier crosswords for Monday and harder ones for Friday. Do they know which day they are selecting the puzzle for, I wonder?

  24. Cracking Friday puzzle, just the right level of difficulty to be a really fun challenge, some great clues. All but 4ac, 6dn & 8dn done this morning in 32mins, those last three tidied up in a further minute at lunchtime. FOI 7dn. LOI 6dn. Hard not to give COD to 9dn but “job description” is so good it has to go to 21dn.
  25. What a cracking puzzle. Took me around 25 mins, and enjoyed evry m-m-moment 🙂
  26. Oh dear! No problem with ALIGHIERI, but I dithered over DOOLITTLE for simply ages, unable to fathom the definition, and finished in a disappointing 11:48 when I thought I’d been quite a bit faster (or at least broken 10 minutes).

    Another interesting and enjoyable puzzle, but I wish I hadn’t lost the knack quite so badly.

  27. Wow – SNITCH is a nice piece of work from Starstruck. I’m glad to be considered one of the roster of regular solvers, but I guess I now have a target average time. I see Starstruck is an Aussie solver like me – anywhere in the region of Melbourne?
    1. Thanks, aphis99. I’m based in Sydney, unfortunately, though I’m occasionally down in Melbourne for work.

      Thanks for your contribution as a reference solver. You post amazing times.

  28. Thanks for your contribution to the SNITCH, topicaltim. We couldn’t get a result without the input from all of you reference solvers.

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