Times 26,813: And A Fried Egg On Top And Spam

I found this puzzle a bit of a curate’s crustacean – I very much enjoyed its quirkiness during the solve, but I don’t think it was the hardest of the week, taking me a midrange 8m15 on paper, and unless I’ve missed an extra layer of ingenuity about it then 21ac is a very odd cryptic definition, bordering on the disappointing. Combined with a few answers that felt a bit overfamiliar to anyone who does the Times every day (7dn, 24dn, 20ac, maybe 11ac) I’d probably run with a 7/10 or so for this one. But focussing on the good, I always enjoy the drunkard/Sean Connery device seen today at 20dn, and my COD goes to 5dn as it reminds me of the prickly yellow-and-purple meadows of the Lleyn Peninsula I used to roam (and come home grievously injured by) as a boy, plus the “bloodied, evidently” part of the wordplay seemed unusual and witty. I also enjoyed the unusual number of apostrophes to feature in this puzzle, four out of seven of the first clues relying on these unsung heroes of punctuation in one way or another.

LOIs were 13dn when I finally remembered what the word was for the procedure that Windows kept requiring me to do to my disks, followed by 20dn, the sort of fairly colourless clue that doesn’t give the brain much to latch on to as your eyes skate over it, but is easy once you have all the crossers. No lack of colour in the required vocabulary today though, with the yellow Cambodian pigment at 3dn and the heraldic tincture at 28ac. Many thanks to the setter, and I wonder if lobster 10ac has experienced any resurgence in popularity now that it’s been revealed as Batman’s favourite food in the best Batman movie of all time? Must check…

1 Shall we start fires? (4,2)
4 Say good woman is going to sort of finish (8)
EGGSHELL – E.G. G SHE’LL [say | good | woman is going to]
10 How seafood may be cooked for a month (9)
THERMIDOR – double def
11 Deposit nothing, there being not so much around (5)
LOESS – O [nothing], there being LESS [not so much] around
12 Slacken off: after store collapses, nobody gets a big rise (4,2,4,4)
REST ON ONES OARS – after (STORE*) [“collapses”], NONE SOARS
14 Wrong end of apple cake (5)
TORTE – TORT [wrong] + {appl}E
16 I can be silenced, that’s fixed (9)
18 Legal fee is concerning new student (9)
REFRESHER – RE FRESHER [concerning | new student]
20 Promise singular sport (5)
SWEAR – S WEAR [singular | sport]
21 Perhaps an unhealthy intake, as one is among gaspers (7,7)
PASSIVE SMOKING – cryptic def
25 Fabric in wide opening drawer (6)
TWILL – W [wide] “opening” TILL [drawer]
26 Verify surprisingly tame end of game (9)
CHECKMATE – CHECK [verify] + (TAME*) [“surprisingly”]
27 African insect that flies around squares (8)
BENINESE – BEE [insect that flies] “around” NINES [squares]
28 Tincture cannot be good taken internally
ARGENT – AREN’T [cannot be], G [good] “taken internally”
1 Temptation to keep repeat short in marketing materials (10)
LITERATURE – LURE [temptation] to keep ITERAT{e} [repeat “short”]
2 Suffering girl’s lost hair (5)
TRESS – {dis}TRESS [suffering, DI’S [= girl’s] “lost”]
3 During match, muddy ground becomes yellow (7)
GAMBOGE – during GAME [match], BOG [muddy ground]
5 Son bloodied, evidently, falling into this? (5)
GORSE – S [son], covered in GORE [= “bloodied, evidently”]
6 Only question heard: ‘No seats left?’ (4,3)
SOLD OUT – homophone of SOLE DOUBT [only question “heard”]
7 River crustacean extremely loathsome and horrible (9)
EXECRABLE – EXE CRAB [river | crustacean] + L{oathsom}E
8 Survive at the end (4)
LAST – double def
9 Warn a beauty to keep a date (8)
ADMONISH – A DISH [a | beauty] to keep MON [a date]
15 Itinerant dealers coming in handy to repair files? (10)
DEFRAGMENT – RAGMEN [itinerant dealers] “coming in” DEFT [handy]
16 Story about fine economic policy (9)
REFLATION – RELATION [story] “about” F [fine]
18 Swamps extra-short creatures (8)
MORASSES – MOR{e} [extra “short”] + ASSES [creatures]
19 Noel failing to receive one Greek letter or another (7)
EPSILON – (NOEL*) [“failing”] “to receive” PSI [one Greek letter]
21 Terrible performance in football, as drunk might be heard to say (7)
SHOCKER – shlurred pronunciation of SOCCER [football]
22 Struggles to cover constant weaknesses (5)
VICES – VIES [struggles] “to cover” C [constant]
23 I count as mad (5)
IRATE – I RATE [I | count]
24 Wound loony up (4)
STAB – BATS reversed [loony “up”]

58 comments on “Times 26,813: And A Fried Egg On Top And Spam”

        1. I had an advantage on this one as I spent most of the first half of the week wrestling with the latest Listener – it’s one of the numerical puzzles they occasionally do, so I’ve been drowning in squares, cubes and primes recently. Excellent puzzle if you do like that sort of thing!
          1. Lord Verlaine is a new word not required for a numerical puzzle – ‘masquerading’ as a Crossword?
  1. 24.43 puts me in a decent position on the list, but with several famous names not posted yet. For some reason, the new format has (so far) kept me error-free: maybe typos are easier to spot while floating in a stark white background.
    I thought this easier than I made it: most clues needed a second visit rather than yielding at first sight. PASSIVE SMOKING threw me because it was “just” a cryptic definition: I was searching for cleverer wordplay.
    ARGENT my last in, mostly because I didn’t think colours when confronted with “tincture”.
  2. Found this easy but enjoyable, though I agree with V that the quality of the clues was quite variable. Some clues seemed very simple
  3. This must have been one for the professionals as I did find it the hardest of the week. It took me 55 minutes in the end with the only two unknowns biffed correctly, GAMBOGE and LOESS. REST ON ONES OARS rather than LAURELS took a long time to crack. I vaguely remembered that my eldest defragged an early PC. LITERATURE for marketing materials makes me want to kill all the salesmen, and save Arthur Miller the bother with just one. Seeing Gory a few days ago made GORSE a write-in.COD EGGSHELL. Thank you V and setter

    Edited at 2017-08-25 08:23 am (UTC)

  4. 45 mins with a croissant and damson conserve (delicious). Started with 5 mins of zilch until FOI TORTE, then went south, Passive Smoking opened up the SW, and built back north. Very enjoyable today with lots of neat clues. Lots of yellow (even Gorse).
    For some reason I put STUN for 24dn which made 27ac impossible until I backtracked. DNK the pigment or deposit but the wordplay made them gettable and I have learnt two new useful words, so thanks for that.
    I had no idea how to parse THERMIDOR – unless there is an oven called a THE RIDOR and the seafood spent a M(onth) in it. So I looked it up – how interesting.
    Thanks educational setter and V.
  5. Really nice puzzle. Couldn’t for the life of me crack 13d – two weeks motorcycling in US must have defragged my brain.
  6. Stopped after 40′, unable to get 13d/28ac. How is ‘cannot be’ AREN’T? Karl Marx once wrote a book called The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. Thanks V and setter.
    1. I thought it fair enough when I twigged it. They’re interchangeable in a simple phrase like dogs aren’t cats. I suppose for a purer match it should have been can’t be.
      1. I balked a bit at this one too. Veering dangerously close to “deriving an ought from an is” territory, and no philosopher would let you get away with that. Naturalistic fallacy ahoy!
        1. Hear, hear!
          DEFRAGMENT was my very last one in. At the time I worked this my personal computer (comme on dit) was a little fragmented.
  7. Gave up on this after about an hour and three quarters with three left to do. Or, as it turned out, four, as one of my problems was putting in STUN (“nuts” backwards; seemed reasonable…) for 24d, rendering 27a impossible. I also hadn’t got the crossers of 28a and 13d.

    I’d considered DEFRAGMENT for 13d but couldn’t put together the wordplay, and as “defragment” doesn’t mean “repair files” I couldn’t really justify it. I suppose this is one of the problems with having an area of expertise when doing a crossword; you have to look for much looser definitions than you’re expecting in that area…

    Still, at least I came up with plenty of answers that were on the fringes or completely beyond my ken, like LOESS, THERMIDOR, GAMBOGE, REFRESHER and a couple more.

    Edited at 2017-08-25 08:56 am (UTC)

    1. SOED has: Computing. Of software: reduce the fragmentation of (a file) by concatenating parts stored in separate locations on a disk.

      I suppose one can argue about what ‘repair’ means but to a not particularly technical person it seems close enough to me. I think sometimes knowing too much about a subject can hinder matters; I’ve certainly found that when subjects come up where I like to think I have expert knowledge.

      1. Maybe it, hugely cleverly, actually meant RE-PAIR files, re-pair as in concatenating separate parts? Aha!
  8. My 31-minute solve was marred by an error at 10ac where I wrote THERMADOR. If I’d thought I’d have known it but I think I was distracted by the name of a double-glazing company I once used, called Thermastore, and I’d probably have added an E if I hadn’t run out of squares.

    Edited at 2017-08-25 08:13 am (UTC)

  9. Same mistake as jackkt, misspelling the month as THERMADOR, which is closer to how I would pronounce it. According to Collins, this makes me an American.

    I wasn’t exactly convinced by the ARGENT/DEFRAGMENT pair, so a pretty disgruntling experience here.

    1. Speaking as an American, we welcome you Sotira. Also speaking as an American, I made the “a” mistake, too.
      I want keriothe to rule as to whether knowing the non-crossing, not-defined-in-the-wordplay, vowels of French words falls into the same category as minor saints and arcane books of the bible. I hope it does, as I would very much like to see what avatars Verlaine can dig up to illustrate French vowel fluency.

      Edited at 2017-08-25 08:58 pm (UTC)

      1. But doesn’t ••everyone•• know the name of the month in the revolutionary calendar that saw Robespierre himself fall to the guillotine…?! Incroyable ! (Ha ha)
        1. Crip to thit, I siy! Knowang the nime of the month as one thang, beang ible to spell at as quate inother.

          Edited at 2017-08-25 11:11 pm (UTC)

          1. Quoit.

            Paul, at the risk of imparting too much information, I was in fact, um, Conceived in the USA, missing out on being born there by a few months. Clearly it affected my pronunciation for life.

  10. My IT man Bill says 13dn DEFRAGGING is a thing of the past, much like DEBAGGING. I used to enjoy a good defrag – all those pretty colours aligning themselves over several hours! My WOD.

    FOI 3dn GAMBOGE (Capuchine?)

    I stopped after 47min and came back and settled LOI 28ac ARGENT silver – wasn’t GULES Heraldic for red? Hence goolies!?


  11. I had STUN for a while (naturally) and THERMADOR for all time. I hope this week ends soon.
  12. THERMADOR seems to be the theme of the day – I was left having to come here to fathom out where I had gone wrong.
    However I thought it tough but enjoyable. Now going to do yesterday’s crossword, which according to Snitch is harder…
  13. My experience was also curate’s eggish. I started well by knowing my French revolutionary months, and remembering GAMBOGE as one of those words I have encountered several times, always in a crossword and never in real life. I then ignored the advice I gave myself as recently as yesterday by confidently putting in the obvious SELL-OUT, even though I couldn’t for the life of me see how it worked. As always, the answer to that question is: it doesn’t, doofus.
  14. 22 minutes: 21ac did cost a few minutes, as it looked as if there had to have some wordplay in there – perhaps ‘one is’ leading to I’VE somehow. 20ac was LOI, after eventually getting 13dn – the action is available in my scheduled maintenance, but it never seems to happen. (This time ‘sport’ wasn’t the Times’ favourite of RU !)
  15. 27 minutes for all but the Rob Rolfe pair and another 15 for those two. Pesky computing words! At least ARGENT I know from period reading. Horryd’s ‘gules’ occurred just yesterday, for me, in Scott’s ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’, the work that set him on the road to super-stardom and started the Scottish tourism industry.

    Mighty V-man, your numbering is awry on the downs. Those Listeners should carry a health warning.

  16. Over an hour for me today, with several unknowns including LOESS and GAMBOGE, each gettable from the wordplay. Count me in the NUTS group, but it was clear that N_N_N_S_ wasn’t going to work, which made me look again, when I quickly spotted the correct alternative. I had been looking in 27 for an African insect until then, but on my second look, recognised that the definition part was only the first word of the clue.

    I feel I have had a good workout this morning, how people like Verlaine crack these in less than 10 minutes, I’ll never know (or experience).

  17. 9:08. No problems today: luckily I knew how to spell the revolutionary month. What a terrible thing to do to lobster.
    Like a couple of others I had STUN initially but fortunately ‘wound’ struck me as not quite right so I considered alternatives fairly quickly.
  18. 25:14. Held up by the SE corner where I was convinced 17d should start with MIRES, took ages to see DEFT for handy at 13d and didn’t know 28a. I agree with our blogger that it is a bit of a curate’s egg, but I enjoyed 5d, 6d and 27a.
  19. 15:53 so no great dramas (a bit like ITV).

    Gamboge, loess and thermidor as a month only rang faint bells and I couldn’t parse TRESS so thanks for that V.

    When you say “the best Batman movie of all time” V, I hope you mean the Adam West one.

  20. What, with defragment, paasive smoking and Argent (late 60s rock band) this took me back to several things I hated when I was a lad. Try telling today’s youth to spend a happy hour watching disk clusters move about and they’d look in horror. Found this surprisingly easy (for me, still took an hour watching England batsmen look like freshers). Cheers all and hope you have a fab bank hol
  21. Where are the Australians? Professor McText has disappeared and Lord Galspray appears to be taking Fridays off – shouldn’t we be told!?
    In the Conservatory with the Candlestick, Inspector Foyle?

    Our American cousins are putting on a damn good show recently!

    Edited at 2017-08-25 02:14 pm (UTC)

      1. The Americans, I mean of course. I didn’t “energise” the Australians to the point where they turned around or left TftT in disgust. I hope…
        1. Doubt Galspray left, I notice a few days back he outsprinted both Jason and Verlaine. Magoo didn’t appear that day – must have been spooked by his Aussie namesake?
          McText has threatened to defect to the Graun in disgust at the new site.
      2. “Got them re-fueled” might be a better description of the New York visit, if the bar tabs on this month’s credit card are reading correctly.
    1. Yes … missing in action.
      My Times sub ran out and I’m blowed if I’m coughing up $96+ per annum to Rupert for a renewal. Esp. as the print verion is sub-standard.
      Can’t speak for Gallers but.
  22. 15 mins. It was my first Times weekday puzzle for almost a fortnight but it looks like my time holds up reasonably well. I had all but 13dn done in 12 mins and it took three more minutes before I thought of handy/deft, and the rest of the answer fell quickly into place, although I have to say that they were always called “rag and bone men” when I was a lad rather than the required ragmen.

    As far as the cryptic clue for 21ac is concerned, nobody has pointed out that “gaspers” is a name WW1 soldiers gave to cigarettes. I’m a little surprised that so many misspelt Thermidor, because even if the French Revolutionary Calendar month may be obscure I’d have thought the lobster dish was relatively well known even if it isn’t widely consumed, at least not in my part of the world.

  23. Ah, lobster thermidor! In my days as a loadmaster for an american 747 cargo airline, Fujairah, in the UAE was a favourite spot as lobster thermidor was on the menu for crew catering!
  24. Excuse me, but a Tincture is either a solution in alcohol,or a trace. Definition here seems to be Tint, which it ain’t, not in my dictionary anyway.
    1. Tincture has a specific meaning in heraldry, it would seem, though I haven’t double-checked that…
      1. I checked my Chambers post-solve and it had the required meaning of tincture. Sorry Richard, I suggest you get a better dictionary.
        1. My problem was that illeal (illegal, without the g) is an accepted mis-spelling of ileal, which refers to part of the intestine, and so is definitely internal. It seemed obscure, and it didn’t really account for the tincture bit of the clue, but I certainly wasn’t about to let that stop it from holding things up in the lower right for quite a while. In my defense, illegal is better for ‘can’t be’ than aren’t is, I think.

          Edited at 2017-08-29 04:09 am (UTC)

  25. 25 minutes, with Defragment put in thinking the setter is not a Windows expert, a loose definition. V your numbers in the blog don’t seem to tie up with my down clues, 13, 15 17.
    1. The perils of doing a paper solve, I had to copy everything out manually, and I guess I lost concentration…
    2. we have already established that I’m no IT guru Pip but isn’t defragmentation a form of file repair, in that it reconnects disparate file fragments?

      I also love V’s suggestion that it is re-pairing files

  26. I had all but 13d and 28a done in 16:30, but as the clock reached 31:30, I had to save the puzzle and collect my son-in-law to take him to Croft Circuit for his 40th birthday driving experience, which, by the way, was great fun. On my return it took me another 15 or so minutes to finally crack those two clues. ARGENT as a TINCTURE I did not know, eventually the wordplay became apparent as I equated(approximately) “aren’t” with “cannot be” and then saw DEFRAGMENT , after writing it out and starting a alphabet trawl. At least it didn’t start with Z! I’m in the nerd’s camp that says defragging is not repairing a file, it’s cleaning up a disk drive. I didn’t know LOESS, but did know the lobster’s month, from a previous puzzle. I found it mildly annoying that two clues took me almost 30 minutes after such a promising start. 45:31. Thanks setter and V.

    Edited at 2017-08-25 06:40 pm (UTC)

  27. About 20 minutes, like others ending with DEFRAGMENT and ARGENT. Both from wordplay, ARGENT exclusively so. In fact, they were the only problems, really, other than having to correct STUN, which happened here too. Regards.
  28. Similar experience to others. All but 13dn and 28ac done in about 30mins. Another 15mins staring at the grid was no help. Came back to it at lunchtime and eventually saw the ragmen, though as Andy B says, rag and bone men was the more familiar expression. 28ac then went in purely on word play – the Heraldic connotation being unknown. Liked 27ac which reminds me of the British Museum’s Kingdom of Ife exhibition a few years ago where they exhibited the Benin bronze heads, which I thought were exquisitely crafted works of art. DNK loess but bunged it in from wp. Struggled to find the last word in 12ac for a bit. Gamboge vaguely familiar.
  29. Twenty-five minutes here, with DEFRAGMENT taking the last few of those. I had a very slow start with only a couple in after a first pass, but then it took off. ARGENT (in the sense used here) was only half-known, but everything else was fairly smooth going. I didn’t have a problem with “aren’t” equating to “cannot be”: fish aren’t – and cannot be – mammals, for instance.

    Thanks to my O-level geology teacher for LOESS – I knew it would be worthwhile one day.

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