Times 26,789: The Wizard of Menlo Park

It is a sick and chastened verlaine that blogs for you this morning: having most uncharacteristically severely overdone it at a party in Nottingham last weekend, I’ve been off colour all week, and with it also being the mother-in-law’s annual stay, I’ve been having to do the crossword at the wrong times and on the wrong computers, contributing to all sorts of mediocre time and really stupid errors (*cough cough* KIEV CANAL *cough*). Still, tomorrow is another week and I’m really looking forward to spending some of it in the company of the crosswording luminaries of New York on Sunday.

Today’s puzzle is somewhat exemplary, quite hard (to judge by the Club board, at least – I did it on paper but am pretty sure it took closer to 15 minutes than 10) but never less than completely fair to the solver. I think this would be a very good crossword to teach the rudiments of setting to a beginner with: everything is there, “hidden in plain sight”, but with enough sleight involved that it’s often not obvious exactly how a clue needs to be tackled; the surfaces are all convincing and few of them use more words than they absolutely need to. My sincerest compliments to the setter! FOI was 17ac or 21ac, LOI 22ac (curse that “Asian nation” that kept me wondering what on earth the definition part was for way too long). Honourable mention of the day to 26ac for raising a smile, but COD from me to 14ac, which may prove Marmitey as some people probably enjoy these $10 words less than I do, but I did think the surface was very good.

Next stop New York – see some of you there!

1 Relax in country that’s warmer? (10)
CHINCHILLA – CHILL [relax] in CHINA [country]
7 Again hiding a prejudice (4)
BIAS – BIS [again] “hiding” A
9 Reportedly returned, more upset, to find micro-organisms (8)
BACTERIA – homophone [“reportedly”] of BACK TEARIER [returned | more upset]
10 Meeting captive, I’m impressed! (6)
POWWOW – P.O.W. WOW [captive | I’m impressed!]
11 Sturdy racehorses (6)
STABLE – double def
13 Sport covering minimum of distance, track event perhaps? (8)
HURDLING – HURLING [sport] “covering” D{istance}
14 Hedge in a street that’s untidy, one offering to cut it (12)
TERGIVERSATE – (A STREET*) [“untidy”], GIVER [one offering] “to cut it”
17 Inventor some hit, and so disturbed (6,6)
THOMAS EDISON – (SOME HIT AND SO*) [“disturbed”]
20 European channels screening a programme initially rejected (8)
SPANIARD – DRAINS [channels] “screening” A P{rogramme}, reversed
21 Doctor seeing someone under contract (6)
SIGNEE – (SEEING*) [“Doctor…”]
22 Asian nation welcoming territorials from the East (6)
QATARI – IRAQ [nation] “welcoming” TA [territorials], right-to-left [“from the East”]
23 Currently exciting? (8)
ELECTRIC – cryptic definition. “Exciting in the manner of current.”
25 Simple building left behind (4)
SHED – double def
26 Damp squib, you might say, encapsulating the ultimate in dreary gossip (4,6)
NOSY PARKER – NO SPARKER [damp squib, you might say] “encapsulating” {drear}Y
2 Sailors pick up relationships (8)
HEARTIES – HEAR TIES [pick up | relationships]
3 Head for Brazil, perhaps (3)
NUT – double def
4 Pack put away, we hear (5)
HORDE – homophone and notorious spelling gotcha of HOARD [put away]
5 Entering state, hurricane finally hit hard (7)
LEATHER – “entering” LATHER [state], {hurrican}E
6 Sweetener — because some in the morning needing energy (9)
ASPARTAME – AS PART AM E [because | some | in the morning (needing) energy]
7 Incomprehensible existence, more uncivilised in confinement (11)
BEWILDERING – BEING [existence], WILDER [more uncivilised] “in confinement”
8 Measure a horse (6)
AMOUNT – A MOUNT [a | horse]
12 Poet penning nothing good, attitude nothing special (3-8)
BOG-STANDARD – BARD [poet] “penning” O G STAND [nothing | good | attitude]
15 Law infringement, Shakespearean heroine bent on it (9)
VIOLATION – VIOLA [Shakespearean heroine] + (ON IT*) [“bent…”]
16 Former leaders of European triumvirate inevitably going into battle (8)
SOMETIME – E{uropean} T{riumvirate} I{nevitably} “going into” SOMME [battle]
18 Look at somewhere to live (7)
ADDRESS – double def
19 Sensational story cut, chief of police implicated (6)
SPLASH – SLASH [cut], P{olice} “implicated”
21 Raised strips drop off (5)
SLEEP – upside-down PEELS [strips]
24 Peak in Puerto Rico (3)
TOR – hidden in {puer}TO R{ico}

54 comments on “Times 26,789: The Wizard of Menlo Park”

  1. Up early to greet the plumber who hasn’t turned up yet. I was pleased to do this in 42 minutes as it was pretty tough.. WOD TERGIVERSATE, constructed before remembered. LOI SPANIARD, reminding me of John Winston Lennon’s slim second volume. Great puzzle. Thank you V and setter.
  2. With hindsight TERGIVERSATE does sound more plausible even if the spellchecker is highlighting it as I type.

    Whenever I hear BOG STANDARD it puts me in mind of a pub near my home where I asked the landlord what one of his beers was and he said it was ‘bog standard bitter’. His beer is actually very good, but his sales pitch leaves something to be desired.

  3. 50 mins with one left (over croissant with lime marmalade). The one left was an anagram of street around Giver. Guessed Sergivertate (like Pootle) – but had never heard of it or its real counterpart. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Chinchilla, Qatari, Nosy Parker, and the Back-Tearier. Thanks setter and V.

    Edited at 2017-07-28 08:26 am (UTC)

  4. Somewhere in the region of 2 Verlaines so happy with that. It is sometimes forgotten that Edison was a pretty awful inventor, although in his defence he said ” I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully discovered 10,000 ways that will not work”. 14ac unknown but assembled from crossers and cryptic. Thanks setter and V. Enjoy NYC.
    1. I think Edison is also credited with the ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’ quotation.

      Edited at 2017-07-28 10:15 am (UTC)

    2. He just took the old adage of “trial and error elimination” more seriously than most, I guess.
      1. Who needs to get any of their own inventions to work? You’ve got Nikola Tesla’s inventions for that.
  5. I bunged in MALATI convinced that it was TA reversed in MALI. It is an Indian name. Annoyed I didn’t think of IRAQ.
    Very concise and fair crossword.
  6. As anticipated the wheels on my bus are no longer going round and round…I hit the 5/14 wall and made a hash of the Asian by bunging in a plausible but wrong answer until VIOLATION highlighted the error. After about 40 minutes I gave in and turned to the dictionary to see if TERGIVERSATE could really be a word. Apparently it is.
    Snitchy is at least confirming that most people struggled, so I take some comfort from that.
  7. This was a typical Friday for me – enjoyable but took me exactly one hour. Beleagured at times (thus two Sessions!)

    Lord Verlaine’s passage makes for grim reading – he needs a lie down – KIEV CANAL mon arse! Presently my mother-in-law is banned from chez-horryd and has been for a month. Tee hee!

    Will LV survive NY, or even be allowed in? Not if the wounded POTUS keeps an eye on his Friday blog. Do you know SARAMUCCI? Can you do the Fandango!?

    And then the inevitable trip to Shanghai where Oktoberfest and mau-tai are taken very seriously.

    I was further BEWILDERED by 7dn which made 7ac BIAS my LOI.

    COD 10ac POWWOW but shouldn’t it be (3-3?)with 22ac QATARI in silver medal position.

    14ac TERGIVERSATE belongs firmly in the Club Monthly!


    Edited at 2017-07-28 09:17 am (UTC)

    1. But there is a Kiev Canal, sort of! The Rusanivs’kyi Kanal…

      I guess it’s hard to justify KIEV as a homophone for “boat” but in my defence I’ve been doing so many Listeners and Inquisitors recently where all the words for boats are “SAIC” or whatever that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going any way.

  8. 45mins ending with a lucky guess at TERGIVERSATE, which sort of spoiled it all for me… I found the rest of it really challenging, but ultimately very satisfying, as the answers went in slowly, but, once I’d worked them out, very surely. Many thanks, setter, and V. And all the bloggers who make this site so entertaining and educational…

    1. I enjoy that you’ve clearly separated the TftT bloggers into two distinct categories there. Entirely fair 🙂
  9. Enjoyable enough but backed a wrong horse called SERGIVERTATE at 14ac. Also went for MATALI at 22ac.

    So near, yet so far.

  10. Surely TERGIVERSATE is one of those lexical items found only in crossword land? And I think it appeared only a couple of months ago in the weekday cryptic, didn’t it?
    1. Since you mention it, I looked up it’s last appearance and it seems to be October 2015: times-xwd-times.livejournal.com/1399950.html. Interesting to read how it fared last time!
    2. Oct 2015? Well, I misremembered it, then. Or maybe it was some other puzzle… Anyway, thanks for following that up.
    3. I knew TERGIVERSATE, and am sure I knew it from before moving in crossword circles, but I’m a bit of a connoisseur of ridiculous words.

      Actually I just checked and it appeared in a Doctor Who comic strip in the mid-1980s: ‘The Doctor bursts through the doors, shouting, “Knave! Varlet! Vagabond! Caitiff. Wretch. Rascal! Rapcallion! Blackguard. Shyster. Skunk. Cur. Tyrant. Fiend. Cad. 603n. Tergiversator!”‘ Marvellous stuff…

    4. It’s not infallible but the latest outing found by a google search of TftT was in October 2015. I didn’t know it then either. The clue then was ‘Change sides, giving order to revise target (12)’, with the same checkers as today.

      Edited at 2017-07-28 10:34 am (UTC)

  11. Oh! and while looking at the only checkers I had in 15d — O and A — it struck me how many Sh. heroines have those two letters in their names! Something deeply significant there, I think.
  12. 43 minutes and lots of fun. Especially liked 1, 2, 9 and 15, while the Johnsonian answer merited inclusion in a Blackadder episode – ever so slightly garbled, naturellement.
    1. Not sure why 14ac (if that is the one you mean) is Johnsonian. Yes, it is in his dictionary which I have before me, although as TERGIVERSATION but he quotes from an earlier source, Bishop Bramball who apparently said ” Writing is to be preferred before verbal conferences as being freer from paffions and tergiversation”. Unlike some words, Johnson did not make this one up. Main meaning ‘ Shift ; fubterfuge ; evafion ‘ Time for bed!
  13. An enjoyable trip down the left side, across the bottom, and up the right side – but I quit and went to bed with only NUT and BACTERIA in the top left. Good thing, as I had the complete wrong end of 1d, and would have been at it almost forever. The crafty and deceitful surfaces in the other clues should have warned me.
    New York is looking forward to Verlaine’s appearance. Anyone in the neighbourhood Sunday afternoon is welcome to join us – The Ginger Man, on 36th St just off 5th, about 1.30.
  14. Tergiversate? Must include it in my next game of scrabble… Apart from that I found this a combination of Quickie clues and Club Monthly clues, all of which left me stranded in the NW for an age. About 70 mins all told….
    1. It would be a very interesting game of Scrabble with five letters already in place and in line, that gave you opportunity to make TERGIVERSATE!
      1. It’s obviously the first thing I check my rack for when someone plays GIVER anywhere near the centre of the board.
  15. but I managed to finish in the end. I’ve known TERGIVERSATE for a long time, as during an interlude as a freelance lexicographer pack in the eighties, I had to use Roget’s Thesaurus, and that word, as one that headed a category, was printed in bold. It cemented itself in my mind. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  16. The NW corner of this puzzle kept me tergiversating until the end by leaving it blank apart from NUT BACTERIA and ASPARTAME. After 53 and a bit minutes, having battered all but 14a into submission I gave up trying to assemble (ASTREET)* around GIVER and looked it up. Bah humbug! Apart from that, a most enjoyable battle. I failed to see the parsing for SPANIARD. Liked BOG STANDARD. Thanks setter and V.
  17. An interesting puzzle. Not helped by my first one in being 10ac where instead of POW and Wow!, I had con and Fab!
  18. 26 mins. It was my first weekday Times puzzle for a week and a half and during the solve I wasn’t sure if it was a tricky puzzle or I was just a little Times format rusty, and I was glad to see nobody found it a stroll. Like plenty of others the NW proved the most troublesome, and my LOI was the vaguely remembered TERGIVERSATE after I got the last checker from HEARTIES, which was one of a few clues I struggled to interpret correctly as I was thinking for ages it was a homophone clue. Another was 19dn where I’d been thinking that “sensational” was the definition and I’d been trying to think of a synonmym of story with its last letter removed with P inside. The pennies eventually dropped and I tipped my hat to the setter for some excellent misdirection. A top quality puzzle IMHO. Finally, I hope all those meeting up in NY have an excellent time.
      1. You said you were rusty!
        I have lost many people over the years!

        Edited at 2017-07-28 10:49 pm (UTC)

  19. I may have known TERGIVERSATE since I was a nipper but apparently I’ve never known how to pronounce it – I’ve always been a hard-G man but I’m finding only soft-G pronunciations online…
  20. 96 minutes for this, but got there in the end. Fortunately I read a few days ago thet “Mr. Profumo’s statement to the house reeked of tergiversation” and checked it in the dictionary. Otherwise I would never have got it. SHED took a ridiculously long time, as I was convinced there had to be an L in there somewhere.
  21. Not for me, I’m afraid. It’s all well and good accomplished solvers quoting 15 mins or whatever but what about the “normal” Times solver?

    If I want to attempt a puzzle as difficult as this, I’ll try the Listener.

    We get these puzzles from time to time and they just seem to be an ego-trip for the setter – unnecessarily obscure definitions etc.

    Not impressed.

    1. If its normality you require avoid the Club Monthly – it puts The Listener in the shade.

      Edited at 2017-07-28 10:52 pm (UTC)

    2. Agreed. Where is the pleasure in completing in x number of minutes? I love the challenge. I love to savour every clue and to take my time.
      Otherwise, if I found it so easy, it would be less enjoyable. Pointless. It’s not a race, there would be nothing to look forward to. The longer it takes, the more rewarding. The more sense of achievement. Especially if completed! And without aids.
      1. Anons,

        If you go to a site called Times for The Times, you might expect solving times to be mentioned. Some people like to solve at speed, especially if you are approaching the annual Championship. Others might like to chew it over all day. Each to their own. I did not think that there was anything extraordinary about todays puzzle. Anyway, welcome here. You might consider giving yourself a handle to sign off with or even getting an avatar. It is always pleasant to know which anon you are conversing with.

      2. As I have said before to anyone who thinks that speed and enjoyment are mutually exclusive in crossword solving, just read Verlaine’s blog every Friday. Every word radiates the joy of cruciverbalism, and always completed at blistering speed.
        Enjoy your solve however you want. Allow others to do the same.
      3. Spare a thought for us poor sods who are anal about speed and about as fast as a Trabant with a flat. Imagine my chagrin yesterday when l lost out to my infernal rival by 7 seconds! At least he failed on today’s…
    3. The Times crossword has always catered for a wide range of abilities. At the more difficult end of the spectrum, there is perhaps an assumption that solvers’ vocabularies are slightly larger than average. But you will also find that if you actually read the paper as well as solving the crossword, your vocabulary will slowly but surely increase, and you will find that crosswords like today’s become correspondingly easier.
  22. After 45 minutes I’d somewhat hit a wall on this one this morning. Coming home this evening, I gave it another fifteen and still had a good third of the grid blank. A couple of longer un-biffables didn’t help—the utterly unknown TERGIVERSATE, and 1a: I’ve at least heard of a CHINCHILLA, in fact I’ve even met one, but I had no idea they were a synonym for “warmer”.

    At least I managed today’s Guardian 15×15 in an hour…

    Edited at 2017-07-28 07:56 pm (UTC)

  23. 37:23. My case of holiday brain continues, but I’ll take being slow over silly mistakes. Also I have the excuse that I got up early and spent five hours on the lake fishing this morning, so I nodded off a couple of times while solving this. I can recommend it.
    No problems with TERGIVERSATE. I remembered it from a past crossword: my sense is that it was more recent than 2015 but I’m always discovering that things I thought happened six months ago actually happened three years ago so I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Edited at 2017-07-28 07:13 pm (UTC)

  24. This took me 23mins this morning, then 44mins at lunchtime and finally another 5mins after work to complete the grid but sadly DNF as I had one stupid error. I just couldn’t see anything apart from “around” at 8dn. I knew it was wrong but wrote it in out of desperation when half the grid was empty and not much else was going in. Tergiversate was a bit of a hold up but actually once I saw the wordplay I felt the word was familiar and had none of the “Ter” v “Ser” doubts. The most trouble for me was in the SW with “splash”, “Spaniard” and “Qatari”. A good challenge with nothing ungettable, so annoyed about the error.
  25. To be honest being new to cryptic crosswords even the answers didn’t make any sense. Chinchilla is a rat right? How did that mean warmer?
    Elitist? Impenetrable?
    1. A chinchilla is also a coat made from the fur of the animal, hence “warmer”. As seeing as you posted anonymously without bothering to give your name and you made a snide comment like “elitist” I feel no qualms about suggesting you invest in a decent dictionary ………
  26. Got this as I recall it from the documentary Spellbound … it was the final word a kid had to spell to win the national spelling bee!
  27. 18:02, still tired and simply not on the ball. I was tempted by MALATI, but eventually managed to parse the clue correctly (and eliminate IRAN).

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