Times 26859 – more than a couple of gems

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I haven’t done yesterday’s (26858) yet, but this one seemed to me to be an order of magnitude easier than Monday’s, where the SE corner had me flummoxed. No longer are we able to know what day of the week it is, it seems, by the difficulty of the crossword. Even my refuse and recycling operatives are coming on the wrong days, due to innumerable strikes and reorganisations. Call me confused dot com.
Some neat stuff in this one, nothing I’d take issue with except perhaps 13a where either the definition is a little vague or I’ve missed the point. Speed solvers and ace biffers will be in single figures no doubt, it took me the usual twenty-something.

Definitions underlined as usual.

1 Small flower seen in middle of grating (4)
RILL – As usual ‘flower’ is water-based no botanical. RILL is in the middle of GRILLE.
3 Watch part of getaway with chaps getting caught finally (10)
ESCAPEMENT – ESCAPE (getaway), MEN (chaps), (caugh)T.
10 Inability to get on with jaded partner (9)
STALEMATE – STALE = jaded, MATE = partner.
11 Turner’s rubbish with yellow (5)
ROTOR – ROT = rubbish, OR = yellow, in heraldry, or gold.
12 Archers’ item producing disagreement (7)
QUARREL – Double definition. Nothing to do with the program Mrs K is glued to every evening.
13 Bath is not far from a source of this mineral (6)
TALCUM – Talc or talcum is a white mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate. I suppose this refers to the use of same in talcum powder, which my mother used to spread liberally over herself and the entire bathroom, so ‘not far from the bath’? As far as I know there’s not a particular talc mine near Bath itself..
15 Anti corn, perhaps, as contrary to one’s normal humour (7,3,5)
AGAINST THE GRAIN – One definition and one not very subtle cryptic definition.
18 Here quiet fan can run classic film (3,7,5)
21 Sharp turns in quiet Scottish river valley (6)
STRATH – TART = sharp, reversed inside SH = quiet. Strath as in e.g. Strathclyde.
23 Son has to drink to make some points (7)
STIPPLE – S(on), TIPPLE = drink.
26 Line included by Shakespearean character shows courage (5)
PLUCK – Insert L(ine) into PUCK as in AMND.
27 Keep a distance — there can be many cattle here (9)
STOCKYARD – STOCK = keep, YARD = a distance.
28 Watch end of play with a vital rousing cry (5-5)
WAKEY-WAKEY – WAKE = watch, Y = end of play, W = with, A, KEY = vital.Time for remembering the Billy Cotton Band Show perhaps. How awful was that?
29 Short girl, happy with grand, young man (4)
GLAD – I have this as a triple deffer; GLAD(YS), HAPPY, and G + LAD.

1 Queen invested in resetting our ersatz gem stone (4,6)
2 Pound keeps key high-level capital (5)
LHASA – L (pound) HAS, A (a key). Capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China so I suppose it qualifies as a capital, and it’s definitely high at 3,700 metres.
4 Italian composer places learner among struggling castrati (9)
SCARLATTI – Anagram of L with CASTRATI that sounds painful. Domenico Scarlatti was an Italian composer (1685-1757) who defected to work most of his time in Madrid.
5 Turn aside right after avenue (5
AVERT – RT after AVE.
6 Frontier lawman has to carry something to muffle gunshot? (7)
EARPLUG – Wyatt EARP was the lawman, LUG is to carry.
7 Staff give support to getting tango for the clubs (9)
ENTOURAGE – We had this word last week? ENCOURAGE = give support to, substitute the C for a T.
8 Hobson’s choice for a little time is wrong? (4)
TORT – Well, if it’s Hobson’s choice then ‘litte time’ can be T, OR T.
9 New currency note which passes on touch and feeling? (6>
NEURON – N = new, EURO = currency, N = note.
14 Wild about home that’s not planned (10
UNINTENDED – Insert IN = home, into UNTENDED = wild.
16 A direction over scrum astonished (9)
AWESTRUCK – A, WEST (direction), RUCK (scrum).
17 Memorial is at the top end of quality (9)
HEADSTONE – HEADS = is at the top end of, TONE = quality.
19 Openly fixing position in race (7)
FRANKLY – Insert RANK = position, into FLY = race.
20 Anger after question on unknown eccentric (6)
QUIRKY – QU = question, IRK = anger, Y = unknown.
22 Pack a garden plant (5)
HOSTA – HOST = pack, horde; A. A plant even I knew.
24 Gem that’s right set in ring (5)
PEARL – Set R into PEAL = ring. I could re-open last week’s discussion about when is a gem a gem, is a pearl a gem? But I won’t.
25 Bring up second seat (4)
SPEW – S = second, PEW = seat. Yuk. Why are words that mean that, often onomatopoeic?

62 comments on “Times 26859 – more than a couple of gems”

  1. Autonomous Region of China? Occupied Colony of China might be a bit nearer the mark, but. I wasted time trying to fit ‘ire’ into 20d, until the Q, or was it the K? led me to the light. Could have done without 25d. DNK ROSE QUARTZ, but no problem, especially with QUARTZ out of the way. I think I knew HOSTA, but it took ages, and an alphabet run, to remember it. I put in AWESTRUCK without yet getting the RUCK, then took it out, because the K looked so unlikely; as it was, I think WAKEY-WAKEY was my LOI. I rather liked EARPLUG.
    1. Whoa there! The people of LHASA are learning to be Chinese and speak our useful language. Much like Umbongoland and Hong Kong 150 years ago with them pesky Brits!

      Edited at 2017-10-18 10:13 am (UTC)

  2. Liked wakey-wakey, spew, and earplug

    Had some unknowns, like the composer and the Scottish stuff, but they were all quite doable

    Didn’t get talcum till the very end, when it couldn’t be anything else. it’s not a bad clue though

  3. Unlike Pip’s, my binmen are currently crashing about outside at their usual time, and much else seems to be smoothly flowing for me today, with this polished off in half an hour. A very different experience from the last couple of days, certainly…

    FOI 1a RILL, LOI 21a STRATH, those, oddly, being about the only two words I wouldn’t have been able to define before starting the crossword. COD TORT, WOD STIPPLE.

    Thanks to Pip and to the setter for giving me something to get my confidence back a bit.

  4. 30 mins with a pain au raisin (hoorah) – and a very enjoyable crossword too.
    5 mins spent on LOI 7dn – realising a T/C switch was needed even though the clue clearly says so – doh! But a pleasing PDM.
    I hope this will encourage the entourage after yesterday.
    Mostly I liked: ‘Watch part’, Stale Mate, Strath, Earplug (COD) and Hobson’s choice.
    Thanks encouraging setter and Pip.

    PS I would score Talcum 1 for hardness

    Edited at 2017-10-18 07:15 am (UTC)

  5. A pleasant solve with a good mix of knowledge required and some interesting clues. Only 13A a bit off the mark. I liked 9D – good clue and topical certainly in the UK as the new bank notes come more and more into circulation

    Billy Cotton was a trip down memory lane. He came after Two Way Family Favourites and before Life with the Lyons and was accompanied by the smell of Sunday dinner roasting in the oven

    1. My memories of Sunday afternoons too, Jim, although Life With The Lyons was something of a moveable feast, often going out later on a Sunday afternoon or evening and sometimes on weekday evenings. But it’s true it did occupy a slot at 14:30 on Sundays for a while which included 1956.

      Following on from Two-Way Family Favourites, the BCBS began at 13:15 or in later years at 13:30, followed immediately at 13:45 or 14:00 by a comedy show, most usually Educating Archie in my time, but also including Meet the Huggets, The Arthur Haynes Show and eventually Beyond Our Ken. Happy simpler days!

      Edited at 2017-10-18 08:08 am (UTC)

      1. The Navy Lark. The killer at 6.30pm was Sing Something Simple (as time goes by!). It drove many of us to suicide. Gloomy Sunday!

        Edited at 2017-10-18 10:20 am (UTC)

    2. Complete in about 40 mins without ever feeling on my op of all this. Do I recall a show something like Whistle While You Work (or worker’s playtime? – I’m sure a search would do but life’s too short). If so we should replay it to all the happy teachers and nurses while they cope with idiots. Thanks blogger
      1. ‘Music While You Work’ was originally a BBC radio programme broadcast during WWII to entertain workers in factories in support of the war effort and continued until 1967. Its theme music ‘Calling All Workers’ was one of many stirring pieces by the great Eric Coates https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMEpjDFHN50

        ‘Workers’ PLaytime’ was a variety show that ran for a similar span and again was designed to boost morale and raise productivity.

        ‘Whistle While You Work’ was a song from the 1937 Disney film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

        Edited at 2017-10-18 05:52 pm (UTC)

  6. Taken a few minutes over my target 30 minutes by STRATH and STIPPLE.

    I agree TALCUM is badly clued unless we are all missing something.

    There were 4 or 5 Scarlattis, all related, the other most famous one being Alessandro who was Domenico’s father.

    I had 29 as two definitions and G, LAD as wordplay.

    I’d watch Billy Cotton’s Band Show in preference to any of the stuff that goes out in the same slot on BBC1 Saturday nights these days in the name of entertainment.

    Edited at 2017-10-18 07:41 am (UTC)

    1. The Billy Cotton Band Show was on radio since WW0.
      Sorry Jack it was for people like my dad – who loved it! When The Dave Clark Five and The Beatles arrived Billy was never seen again!
  7. Yes, average-difficulty puzzle today, with a time for me of 30mins. As others have said, a relief after the last two (both dnfs, alas…). Only real hold up here was caused by putting in ‘quiverr’ at 12ac. Now, how did that happen?

  8. 32 minutes. Not mad keen on TALCUM ( but I suppose it’s all white); we’re getting a lot of earplugs in puzzles recently.
  9. As with Pip and Jimbo, Wakey-Wakey brings back memories of the Light Programme and Sunday Dinner as we would call it back then, on after Family Favourites and before Educating Archie, with Peter Brough, the radio ventriloquist. (Amongst many others Tony Hancock started there.) I think it alternated with Jimbo’s Life with the Lyons. Who can forget how Alan Breeze on The Billy Cotton Band Show could take on any song of any genre? Usually to lose, admittedly, but always heroically. Only 24 minutes today, with only ROSE QUARTZ not known but clear from anagram and cryptic. HOSTAs should be relaunched as slug food in my experience. Quite easily done today, but no less enjoyable for that. Thank you Pip and setter
    1. How remiss of you to remind me! He died in Norwich in January 1980. He started with Billy in 1932!! I can forget him! Please!

      Do you remember Rolf Harris’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’!?

      1. Rolf Harris singing that is one of those things you can’t forget, however hard you try or however much therapy you go through. Billy Cotton also had a singer called Doreen Stephens, who I remember breaking down in tears in the middle of a song. Reputedly, she and Bill were billing and cooing to each other round then. Kathie Kay and Rita Williams also sang regularly and there was a guy called Barney who did the novelty numbers. I’ve just read that Fearne Cotton is Bill’s great niece.
        1. I can’t let these disparaging remarks about Alan Breeze pass without commment. He was a good enough singer of his type and far better than many from the British dance band era. He was treated very badly in the end by Bill Cotton Jr who took over the running of his father’s affairs, after 37 years faithful service to the band and the show.

          Edited at 2017-10-18 06:00 pm (UTC)

          1. Sorry to upset you, Jack. My remarks were meant more in affection than disparagingly. I hope the fact that I remember him so well shows that.
            1. No upset, boltonwanderer, and I agree what you said was not disparaging. On reflection I tacked my response onto the wrong comment.

              Edited at 2017-10-18 07:17 pm (UTC)

      2. Late reply as finally time to check yesterday’s puzzle.
        Trivia: Rolf Harris didn’t sing that off his own bat. An Australian comedian Andrew Denton had a weekly show “The Money or the Gun.” Its signature tune was Stairway to Heaven, sung by a different singer/band in a different style each week (e.g. country/thrash, gospel, reggae, Wagnerian opera, punk, techno etc). One time he invited Rolf Harris on to sing it with the wobble-board.
        As for the puzzle, took a few minutes to get going in the top, but then flowed smoothly. Untimed but average – much easier than past few days.
  10. 23.20 and should probably have been quicker but I allowed myself to get becalmed mid-solve. Once moving again it fell into place nicely. The Billy Cotton signature tune is going to be stuck in my brain all day now.
  11. STALEMATE until it went in and, then, NEURON finally fell. Never one to over-analyse, I live near Bath which was until 1979 a major source of Fuller’s earth which is a phyllosilicate (which include talc). Of course, the setter could have been recalling childhood bathtime memories …..
    1. I also lived in Bath several times (my Dad was in RN and their R&D labs were (are?) in Bath). As you say, there were several Fuller’s Earth mines around, but I never heard of talc. I never really figured out why Fuller’s Earth was so valuable, or what anyone used it for by 1970s.
      1. I don’t know either.

        When I mentioned Fuller’s earth I was applying talcum powder to my cheek ( the one into which my tongue was firmly pressed).

        1. Well there were certainly Fuller’s earth mines around Bath. The one near where I lived in the 70s was very small scale. There was a sloping tunnel going underground and a single truck on rails and a winch to lower it and bring it up. It was near a public footpath or I’d have had no idea it existed. I forget how deep the guys on the winch told me it was, not very. It looked a bit like many gold mines here in California, very small scale (and probably not making much money).
          1. The old Fuller’s earth quarry is now the Odd Down Park and Ride site for Bath. I wonder if shoppers visiting Bath realise the history?
  12. 19.15, finally clicking strath with a memory of a spell at Strathclyde Univ.’65-6. Far-off memories also with the band show and (magically) the film. A robust stroll, except for the limping 13. – joekobi
  13. 16:27 … with only a vague idea of what LHASA was about, or whether that was really a place, come to that. I enjoyed this, even — especially — the slightly weird TALCUM. Some nice surfaces around. I somehow convinced myself that 25d was a triple def. and confidently wrote in REAR, though why I thought second might equal rear I have no idea.

    On present form I’m not going to be pulling up any trees at the champs, especially as I’m flying into London from India the night before. I’m thinking of retreating into the ashram next door and doing a couple of weeks’ intensive mindfulness. Or something.

  14. I found 29a a bit odd as it is 2 clues in one. GLAD could be clued as “Short girl, happy” OR Happy with grand young man” I reckon.

    TALCUM at 13a has to be the bathside reference as the mineral name is TALC – the UM is only added when it is Talcum Powder as far as I know. Furthermore, the Fullers Earths near Bath are hydrous aluminium silicates that are chemically distinct from Talc which is a hydrated magnesium silicate. The nearest Talc mines to Bath are probably in the Pyrenees in the south of France.

  15. J1287
    Sorry to bother you and I don’t know if this is the right place to post this. I’m way behind with my crosswords and, having just completed J1287, wanted to check the parsing of some of the clues (too many to write up here!).
    It’s not in the archives although October 14 does show two blogs; unfortunately only one blog (the Saturday crossword) actually appears.
    Thanks in advance for any help.
    Adrian Cobb
    1. There’s certainly something odd going on. I tried searching by the puzzle number but when I clicked on the result I got an “access denied” message. Going to the Saturday and Sunday blogs and trying next/previous puzzle doesn’t find it either.
  16. Unlike apparently everyone else, I found this harder than Mon/Tue and staggered in at 30:06. A long time staring at THE AFRICAN QUEEN and my heart sinks when I see flowers. WAKEY WAYYYKEEEE is a television thing for me with Kathy Kirby, Russ Conway etc. Billy Cotton’s son Bill went on to be a big cheese at the BBC. Thanks for the explanations pip.

    Edited at 2017-10-18 11:17 am (UTC)

  17. 13 mins, and definitely a lot more straightforward than the previous two puzzles. TALCUM was my LOI with a shrug.
  18. No idea of my time (An hour I guess) but done in two sittings as I had interruptions!

    FOI 1ac RILL LOI

    Are 24dn PEARLs gems, as such? I do not think so!

    12ac TALCUM was hardly a gem!

    LOI 23ac STIPPLE

    COD 4dn SCARLETTI – I nearly opted for TILLERSON!


    FOD ‘The African Queen’ with the Bogey-man.

    To the ‘Notlob Wanderer’ Kathy Kaye!! Blimey what a memory!

    ‘Much Binding in the Marsh’?

    Edited at 2017-10-18 11:58 am (UTC)

    1. Stinker Murdoch was still very much about in my youth. At the end of term, the prefects were trusted at our school to do a play on their final morning. We did Ferris Caesar, the head’s middle name being Ferris. The final knife was plunged by the guy playing Fruity Hankinson, the chemistry master I’ve remembered with much praise for his teaching of Avogadro’s hypothesis on posts here recently. “Et tu, Frute.” I still laugh at it. After that we had the traditional singing of “At King George’s Grammar School” to the tune of Much Binding in the Marsh, relating all the staff’s personal foibles. They had no choice but to laugh too, watched by 700 boys. I don’t think we abused the trust shown in us. If they’d let the lads who hadn’t made prefect do it, it might have been a different story.
    2. For 24dn, I think it is possible to connect pearl and gem when they are both defined as “a brilliant or much-loved person who is highly valued”
  19. No idea of my time as the little cog wheel is still going round, but I have apparently got 771 points. Little to comment on as it was mainly a write-in, but held up a bit by ENTOURAGE, and the very strange TALCUM. Wasn’t going to be La Paz, so it had to be LHASA well it used to be a capital?
  20. Creeping back towards 30 minutes with 34:03 today. FOI was RILL. I was puzzled by 13a but went with the “it’s found near the bath” school of thought. The African Queen was one of my favourite films. LHASA was my LOI. Didn’t know the Quartz but it was easy to derive. STIPPLE, QUIRKY and PEARL kept me guessing for a while. Knew the composer family. Toyed with EARFLAP at the OK 27a. An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks setter and Pip.
  21. 16:22. NEURON held me up a bit at the end with its rather long definition but I’m not sure what else slowed me down. My only query was TALCUM and I’m still none the wiser really.
  22. Thought this was going to be one of my very rare under 10s but the name of the watch part escaped me and a lot of dithering ensued. And with all the Ks Qs and the Z I wasted time looking for a pangram. I had to keep my Balmain TALCUM powder (given to me by a generous godmother to my mother’s intense disapproval) in a drawer well away from the bath so as to prevent my younger sisters from helping themselves. Say it isn’t so – it seems some in the US believe Johnson’s baby powder causes cancer… 17.44
  23. I cannot wait for our resident medical man, Mr Thud, to appear today after his post yesterday; he said that he was using his last NEURON. I wonder if he got it?
  24. 11:30, with a couple of minutes at the end agonising over HOSTA. I didn’t remember the plant (although no doubt it has come up before) and HOST for pack struck me as more than a little oblique. In the end I couldn’t think of anything better.
  25. About 25 minutes, ending with the pretty well forgotten (by me) LJASA, as I vaguely recalled it being connected with Tibet or Nepal. Didn’t know which. And WAKEY-WAKEY must be a UK-ism, and I threw it in from the checking letters and wordplay. By the way Pip, it’s not very important but your parsing of the film classic includes one too many “R’s”. Regards.

    Edited at 2017-10-18 06:08 pm (UTC)

  26. DNF. Bah! Another failure of which there have been far too many of late. Breezed through most of this without difficulty but couldn’t get stalemate. Got hung up on thinking the word would end in -age for get on and that perhaps I needed a word meaning inability made up of a word that went with jaded ending in age. I think my mind has been too cluttered with nonsense at work the last few weeks to take a step back and see round blockages like that.
  27. Well, I have finally broken my duck, or whatever it is one breaks, with my first F of the week after two DNFs.

    Admittedly, this one took me 31 minutes, which is slow even for me, but I was glad to get there in the end. I did enjoy it, not least because it had no unknown unknowns. It had one known unknown in STRATH, but I salvaged it by mentally dismantling Strathclyde.

    I thought the clueing was generally good (= I could understand it), apart from QUARREL which seemed a bit feeble. And is a crossbowyer an “archer”? Crossbows always seem like cheating to me.

    Regarding the onomatopoeia (and no I am not going to check the spelling of that) of SPEW, mentioned earlier, I recently encountered the word “boke”, which apparently means the same thing and is at least a little more euphonious.

  28. 13ac. Very easy to guess the word, once I had T-L—. But frankly a fourth-rate clue, unless we’re all very dim. Drove me to see if TUB cd have any relevance. Then wondered if some river near Bath was also name of some mineral. Ended accepting reluctantly either of the explanations offered above, wholly unimpressed by both.

    7dn. Please, pipkirby, “substitute T for C”, not the other way about–unless you want to encourage the misuse of English

  29. Wow, lots of comments! I haven’t had time to read them yet. My last two in were STRATH (learned a new word!) and HOSTA (remembered one I would never have known if not for crosswords).
  30. ..and just by the way, does anyone but crossword-setters still use QU rather than plain Q as the abbreviation for ‘question’? Happy to withdraw my doubts, if you have a persuasive A.
  31. Only got round to this one a morning late. No problem completing in a pleasing sub-20 but am I alone in bridling at ‘scrum’ being used as a synonym for ‘ruck’? Anyone with the slightest knowledge of rugby will know that they are totally different concepts! I won’t bore you with the technicalities but just needed to get my indignation off my chest!
    1. They can both mean similar things off the rugby field and at least one dictionary defines a ruck as “a loose scrum…”
  32. 4-Jan-2018 SCMP

    quite easy today, sub 30 which for me is fast.

    Is there a word for the feeling of joy when you biffingly Google a random collection of letters which you hope means a plant or a fish or something, and even before you read the text, you can see a bunch of Google images of a plant, or a fish etc, and know that you were right?

    It suddenly occurs to me that the structure “A or B or C etc” is illogical, because “et” means and. How has civilization survived without the word “autc” short for “aut cetera”, meaning “or others”, pronounced “out cetera”? Please start using “autc” right away, thank you.

    The beginning of 3A echoes 28A: “Watch”
    So might 29A have echoed 1A if prepended with “Small flower for…”, which could have indicated GLADiolus, as a fourth definition.

    Thanks to setter, blogger and posters.

    Edited at 2018-01-04 11:04 am (UTC)

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