Times 26,855: And If One Beer Bottle, Should Accidentally Fall…

I thought this was proper hard, a *real* Friday puzzle, comfortably the hardest of the week: the Snitch is broadly agreeing at this stage, though it’s still claiming that it’s close between today’s and Tuesday’s, as they battle for the right to be called the New Friday. I solved on paper and let’s just say, as that big days approaches, that I could solve three of these in an hour, but there wouldn’t be time for a fourth unless it was a QC.

I think the thing about this puzzle is that there’s almost no clue you don’t have to think your way through just to check it’s right. On the easier end you have the &lit at 15ac, my FOI, and the more obvious anagrams at 28ac and 17dn, but beyond those few a lot of mental sifting and sorting is required to get through almost every clue. I don’t think a lot of people would be able to biff e.g. 6ac, 18ac or 7dn from “Scottish council”, “court poet” or “king once” – you need to do the cryptic work and then be happy that the answer that you’ve come to *probably* fits the bill. And then there are some really tough “three point turns in a thesaurus” that you have to do at e.g. 11ac, 4dn, 5dn, 15dn… look, it was hard, okay?

Some brilliant stuff in here though, dependent on your tolerance for elaborate cluing. I found 26ac (if I even parsed it correctly) a step too far in the direction of barred-crossword-ville, but 21ac’s ingenious service of its surface delighted me whether or not it a little over-egged. I love stuff like “break promises to pay”, “check privy” and “female on the game”, but perhaps my COD will fall to 1ac just because the surface is so smooth (11ac also good on this score). Not a word or syllable cryptically wasted by this setter, to whom I say very good indeed, sir. But without further cryptic ado… to the school run with me!

1 Sweetener and tea bag in cups (9)
SACCHARIN – CHAR [tea] (that) SAC IN [bag | in] “cups”
6 Scottish council keep us in suspense, dismissing leader (5)
ANGUS – {h}ANG US [keep us in suspense, “dismissing” the first letter]
9 Set down outside hotel, briefly went wandering (7)
WRITTEN – outside RIT{z} [hotel, “briefly”], (WENT*) [“wandering”]
10 Routine trip organised, following exploit (4,3)
MILK RUN – RUN [organised], following MILK [exploit]
11 Congestion likely here: take train? (5)
PINCH POINT – PINCH [take, as in steal] + POINT [train, as in train a gun on someone]
12 Group of females don’t speak for long (4
WISH – WI [Women’s Institute = group of females] + SH [don’t speak!]
14 Punished after withdrawing shelter provided (5)
FINED – after reversing, DEN IF [shelter | provided]
15 A winsome, inconstant Romeo? (9)
WOMANISER – (A WINSOME*) [“inconstant”] + R [Romeo], &lit
16 Break promises to pay after girl becomes animated (9)
VIVACIOUS – VAC IOUS [break | promises to pay] after VI [girl]
18 Court poet, somewhat showy at times (10)
WYATT – hidden in {sho}WY AT T{imes}. Thomas Wyatt is the poet and the court in question is that of Henry VIII.
20 Sore about hotel charging indeed! (4)
ACHY – C H [about | hotel] “charging” AY [indeed!]
21 Grand players evidently having won by say more than a whisker (3,7)
EGG BEATERS – G [grand] + BEATERS [players evidently having won… because they’ve “beaten” (someone)] by E.G. [say]. One egg beater is “a whisker”, egg beaters plural are more than that.
25 The writer’s quiet on the subject of artistic technique (7)
IMPASTO – I’M [the writer’s] + P [quiet] + AS TO [on the subject of]. Impasto is painting with oils in very thick layers, you’d certainly know it if you saw it.
26 As birds of prey wheeling round, we must hide (3-4)
OWL-LIKE – O’ [of] + KILL reversed [prey “wheeling round”] (that) WE “must hide”. Whew!
27 Fellow quickly went about banishing the third duke (5)
EDDIE – EDDIE{d} [quickly went about, “banishing” its third D (for duke)]
28 Work with skin X-ray timed badly (9)
TAXIDERMY – (X-RAY TIMED*) [“badly”]. Taxidermy being quite literally “skin-arrangement” in Greek.

1 Secure and consequently, it’s reported, cheerful (3,2)
SEW UP – homophone of SO [consequently, “it’s reported”] + UP [cheerful]
2 Check privy to put outside good arrangement of locks (7)
CHIGNON – CH [check] + IN ON [privy to], “put outside” G [good]. Locks as in locks of hair.
3 Success is on the cards, then fall (3,3,4)
HIT THE DECK – HIT [success] is on THE DECK [the cards]
4 Do for weakling with salvo, finally (3,2)
RUN TO – RUNT [weakling] with {salv}O. I think this is as in “a crossword setter’s salary won’t run to champagne”.
5 Celebrity couple’s split (4,5)
NAME NAMES – NAME NAME [celebrity “couple”, i.e. x2] + ‘S. “Split” meaning to “betray secrets” or “inform on someone”, not a definition I’d run across before now.
6 Bar ten beer bottles (4)
AXLE – X [ten] (that) ALE [beer] “bottles”
7 Our digs fit for a king once (7)
GORDIUS – (OUR DIGS*) [“fit”]. King Gordius or Gordias of Phrygia was mostly known for his intricate knots, at least until he became a setter for the Guardian.
8 Hospital dared to cross the heart of the military establishment (9)
SANDHURST – SAN DURST [hospital | dared] “to cross” {t}H{e}
13 Went ballooning and did winter sport? (10)
SNOWBALLED – to “snowball” is to balloon, and throwing snowballs in winter may be deemed fine sport.
14 I have quiet words with female on the game (4-1-4)
FIVE-A-SIDE – I’VE ASIDE [I have | quiet words], with F [female] on.
15 Disadvantage involving lover, ultimately, got girlfriend upset also (5-4)
WRONG-FOOT – “involving” {love}R, WON GF [got | girlfriend] + reversed TOO [“upset” also]
17 Eva’s PhD dispatched in the form of a letter (1-6)
V-SHAPED – (EVA’S PHD*) [“dispatched”]. Presumably the first letter of this could be anything and still match the definition? Fortunately the anagrist is unambiguous.
19 Devoured fiction, reading maybe in studio (7)
ATELIER – ATE LIE [devoured | fiction] + R [reading maybe, as in one of “the three R’s”]
22 Sailors regularly intervening in fight in city borough (5)
BRONX – B{R}O{N}X – RN [sailors] interleaved in BOX [fight]
23 Unhealthy-looking girl, type to avoid exercise classes (5)
SUETY – SUE [girl] + TY{pe} (“avoiding exercise classes” = losing its P.E.)
24 Man maybe upset woman refused tip
ISLE – reverse of ELSI{e} [woman “refused tip”]

49 comments on “Times 26,855: And If One Beer Bottle, Should Accidentally Fall…”

  1. Must admit, I didn’t find this as tough as the rest of this week, and finished in 30mins, about par for my course. Yes, ANGUS, WYATT and GORDIUS (Gordian knot?) were worked out from wp as they were unfamiliar, as was SUETY, but there were other times where a biff worked, and then the wp came next (‘sweetener’ must be either aspartame or SACCHARIN, no? ‘work with skin’ a gimme for TAXIDERMY, ‘military establishment’ leads straight to SANDHURST). Eventually worked out the wp for OWL-LIKE (as per V, with o’ for ‘of’ as we have had it recently), but couldn’t for the life of me see how EDDIE worked. Was convinced this devious setter had used ‘about’ to indicate a reverse, and assumed ‘eidded’ was an unfamiliar word for ‘quickly went’. Oops.

  2. 53m but at least 10 wasted because I had confidently biffed SOUTH BOUND for 11a which seemed to fit on every level other than it was wrong! I also had to check SUETY as it seemed an unlikely word but, what do you know – it was right for once. I enjoyed this very much and always felt I would get there in the end despite a slow start: a sign of a good puzzle I think. 21a gets my nod for COD as it paid careful lifting and separating. Thank you setter and blogger today.
  3. 8:49. Well I biffed my way happily through this, finding it all pretty straightforward. It’s a funny old game.
    Three like this on 4 November please.

    Edited at 2017-10-13 07:40 am (UTC)

    1. That seems like a good time for this, congrats! I was sick, tired and hungover for it (American friend who likes drinking staying with us this week) but only within normal parameters of such I thought…
      1. Thanks! The Snitch is indicating a pretty tough one at the moment, so it does seem I was on the wavelength.
        I had a similarly-inclined Australian friend to stay for a few days a few months back, and it took me a while to recover, so I sympathise. It’s a holiday for them.
    2. Stonking good time, k. I thought I was doing pretty well with 20:01. Definitely not the hardest of the week for me, either.

      Last in SUETY – what an odd word.

      Most puzzled by: NAME’S NAMES

      Clever puzzle.

      1. Yes, NAME NAMES was pretty confusing, a really obscure definition combined with eccentric wordplay… fortunately it was one of those “but what else could it possibly be?” shaped clues. Mind you you’ve got to be careful, I managed to put STARSKY in instead of SPASSKY in the i puzzle today via similar reasoning.
      2. Thanks. Tuesday’s took me nearly three times as long!

        Edited at 2017-10-13 12:08 pm (UTC)

  4. Excellent Friday challenge. Unable to parse WRITTEN, convinced that ‘briefly went’ meant WEN. COD EGG BEATERS. Thanks verlaine and setter.
    1. Yes, I must confess I didn’t understand where the “hotel” was in WRITTEN until I had to understand it, to do the write-up…
  5. Excellent. Too many great clues to pick out. For OWL_LIKE I had KILL (prey) wheeling in the O from “round” and WE.
    1. Ooh yes, that’s probably more plausible. I may have spent too much time in Listener-land recently…
    2. Yep.
      One tricky thing about this one is that “of prey” could be seen as doing double duty.
  6. I seem to remember a character in the Goons being described as a man with a military bearing, which he kept in his top pocket, but maybe I’ve made that up. 38 minutes, so perhaps easier than it felt, but with one error, a biffed SEEDY for SUETY. What’s unhealthy about SUET? OWL-LIKE unparsed, as was PINCH POINT. I assumed the knot must have been named after GORDIUS. CHIGNON not known either, although I saw straightaway it would be a hair fashion. It’s a roll of hair at the nape of the neck apparently. My barber would have to take the pudding bowl that he cuts round off my head before attempting that. I’d always assumed TAXIDERMY was about stuffing things until now. Still, I was well and truly skinned and stuffed today. COD WOMANISER. Thank you V and setter.

    Edited at 2017-10-13 08:44 am (UTC)

    1. I think the bloodknock quote was, “he entered the room with a military bearing, which he tossed in the air and caught”. But there may have been another one too.
      1. I think that quote is from Seagoon but as Klinger said when, on sentry duty, he challenged Hawkeye to give the password and Hawkeye said “Get out of my way or I’ll beat your brains out”: “That’s close enough”!
  7. Around 35 minutes with rather more tentative parsing than I am comfortable with. I confess I ‘invented’ SUETY and then did a dictionary check to see if it really existed. Properly Fridayish I thought.
  8. 40 minutes of rather intense effort nearly got me there, but I fell at the last hurdle with unparsed SEEDY at 23dn because I couldn’t think of anything else that fitted and I’d run out of puff. I didn’t know SUETY in that sense anyway so I could only have deduced it from wordplay and then worked backwards.

    Edited at 2017-10-13 08:26 am (UTC)

    1. I too put SEEDY @23dn my LOI SUETY!?

      A real toughie for me far worse than Tuesday – it is Friday after all!


      COD 5dn NAME NAMES

      WOD WOMANISER – very current!

  9. But eventually finished in 1:16:28, so arguably easier than Tuesday’s DNF.

    I can’t say I care much for 21a or 26a even having read the explanations. In particular “As birds of prey” seems a better definition but that would obviously require more wordplay.

    Anyway, COD 15a as I like &lits and phonetic alphabet clues.

    Thanks as always for the blog.

  10. Not as hard as Tuesday or Wednesday, I thought, 24 minutes, with some biffing. I liked owl like, of course. V in your intro should read 18ac not 18dn?
    1. The SNITCH is saying this and Tuesday’s are level-pegging right now. Fight, fight!

      Edited at 2017-10-13 09:38 am (UTC)

        1. The evidence is mounting that this puzzle was somehow specially designed for my solving brain: 1.3 Magoos and 0.9 Jasons. I can only repeat my request for three of these next month!
  11. 33 min, finishing in the SE: at 26ac I expected an S ending, which seemed to make 23dn SISTY – eventually (after rejecting SALTY) saw that the girl had to be Sue, and so could finish, but without completely parsing 26. Several others also not fully parsed, so thanks as ever for blog.
  12. A very long solve interspersed with a lot of customers. LOI ACHY as I couldn’t decide between that and ACHE. Prior to that, what took me an age were the EGG-BEATERS and WRONG-FOOT crossers. Tortuous crossword, well worth it’s Friday billing.
  13. A most enjoyable struggle, spoiled by a careless entry at 10a where I inexplicably put MILL RUN(Run of the Mill being my thought process). Doh! I’ll put it down to the interruption when the postman dragged me to the door to sign for a special delivery which turned out to be a letter from The Times enclosing £20 of WH Smith vouchers as a prize for being one of the winners of Saturday Crossword 26850. As V says, nearly every clue had to be carefully teased out. Very satisfying when the pennies dropped. I started with AXLE and ANGUS, and eventually unknotted the king. LOI was SUETY which I had thought of as being like PASTY, which I couldn’t justify as there isn’t a girl called Pas. Loved EGG BEATERS and FIVE A SIDE and VIVACIOUS. In fact there are so many good clues that it’s impossible to select a single COD. Many thanks setter and V for the usual entertaining blog.
    On edit: forgot to say, one wrong in 37:28.

    Edited at 2017-10-13 12:26 pm (UTC)

  14. Seriously considering writing off the pony investment and heading straight to the George. ‘Warmed’ up with the Toughie and then hit the buffers with this one. Combined time well over the alloted span for 3. Still only 2 wrong,things can only get better. Would have been quicker if I’d held faith in some of the answers entered correctly. LOI written. TY setter and Verlaine
  15. Is a Scots council an Aberdeen Angus? I was mighty pleased with myself to finish this Friday offering only to find my biff of Seedy at 23d was wong. O me miserum. So a pretty good DNF for me in about 50 mins. Really enjoyable puzzle. Thanks all.
  16. Odzooks! Well over the hour and two errors to boot. Could not see the second word at 11ac and after a couple of alphabet trawls bunged in a desperate “towns” in the hope that it could somehow be made to mean train and that the whole might be a phrase to describe a densely populated urban area. The other error an unparsed “ache” rather than “achy” at 20ac. Found this tough, no gimmes apart from maybe my FOI Wyatt.
  17. Naming the council instead of the cattle is just what we expect on a Friday. I (temporarily) gave up about three-quarters of the way through and then did the Quickie to assuage that defeated feeling. After a sorely needed good night’s rest, I immediately saw the sense of answers I had balked at earlier and filled in a few more (GORDIUS: “the ever-popular,” as my back-up test-solver at The Nation sometimes sarcastically remarks—this and WYATT were worthy of the Mephisto), but still had to resort to aids to “finish,” as I did not know PINCH POINT (one word in Chambers). The wordplay was quite ingenious for the bulk of these, but I am still squinting at a few of the definitions: “do for” for RUN TO, “split” for NAME NAMES (I do find the appropriate slang def in Collins, but the idiom is “split on”), “runt” equaling “weakling” (maybe in schoolyard taunts, but the runt of the litter may turn out to be the strongest)…

    Edited at 2017-10-13 04:27 pm (UTC)

    1. I had it as just “do” rather than “do for”: “Could you do me a Full English?” “I think we could run to that…”
      1. In your explanation, seems the definition for “run to” is the one utterly new to me.
  18. Struggled so much to get a foothold first thing this morning that my FOI was 28a TAXIDERMY. I should probably drink my coffee, then start the crossword.

    When my hour was up I still had a few leftovers, so I polished it off this evening in about fifteen more minutes, finishing with 24d ISLE.

    Not sure I’ve seen a puzzle with more question marks scrawled in the margin at completion, as so much was beyond my ken. The spelling of SACCHARIN, the ANGUS, SUETY (glad I’ve been reading PG Wodehouse this week; it’s just his kind of word), GORDIUS, which I worked out from his knot, at least, and more besides…

    Thanks to setter, and V, for providing answers to all my question marks.

  19. This took quite a while, maybe 40 minutes, held up especially by EGG BEATERS, and finally, SUETY. That last didn’t look like a word. But I see I brainlessly entered SOW UP at 1D, so a fail here today. But a very cleverly constructed puzzle overall, so thank you setter, and thank you also M. Verlaine. Regards.
  20. Thanks for the explanations of 26 and 27 – had the correct solutions but was not quite sure why. Can’t make November 4th as our daughter is getting married that day – to someone who attended 8D.
  21. Forty-three minutes but with one studip typo.

    Definitely the toughest of the week. Several times I was about to biff in the answer, then tried parsing it and discovered it couldn’t possibly be wrong, only to then discover that it was right when the parsing was done properly. Excellent puzzle, I thought.

  22. Biffed SEEDY but as my wife is a Sue, I should have done better. Thank you, verlaine, particularly for SACCHARIN and OWL-LIKE. 55m 20s.
  23. I saved this up for a Saturday afternoon and was pleased to be able to finish correctly, unaided in 33 1/2 minutes. Some lovely clues and surfaces and plenty of them took quite some working out. A couple I couldn’t par5se – 16a as I thought the girl was VIV and 20a, and SUETY and CHIGNON were put in based on the wordplay. I particularly enjoyed 1a, 12a, 5d, 6d and 14d, but my favourite was the EGG BEATERS. Great stuff! Thanks Verlaine for the usual excellent blog and our setter for the super puzzle. If Keriothe gets his wish and we get 3 of these on 4th November, though, I will struggle to avoid coming last, I think.

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