Times 26865 – to wit, to woo, this was fun. But tricky.

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I came to this straight after finishing another, easier puzzle and feeling ‘warmed up.’ However I soon cooled down as my first pass saw only a few clues in the NW corner filled in and many more which looked intractable, even a bit weird.
Gradually the little grey cells did their job and the Penny Drop Moments came along, revealing a hatful of ingenious wordplay and devious definitions. Forty minutes of fun. I wasn’t familiar with the exact expressions at 5d and 15d but they seemed likely phrases. For the sheer baffling brilliance of its surface – which had me struggling until the checkers were in – I vote for 16a as the CoD.

1 Defender returned to usual position? (4-4)
LEFT BACK – Cryptic definition.
6 Pickle to grate for container (6)
JAMJAR – JAM = pickle, as in in a spot; JAR = grate. I think two words is more usual but the dictionaries allow jamjar as one.
9 Travel report for Japanese game (6)
GOBANG – GO = travel BANG = report. A board game involving trying to place 5 counters in a row, more usually called GOMUKO in Japanese.
10 Leader of Bolshevik women — or crazed reformer? (3,5)
NEW BROOM – (B WOMEN OR)*. Took me an age to see it was an anagram.
11 Office worker of note, one sitting in house (4)
TEMP – TE – musical note, MP sits in the House.
12 Shortage of decent cells with migrants slowly escaping? (5,5)
BRAIN DRAIN – I think &lit. cryptic definitions don’t come any smarter or more topical than this..
14 Bogart film, something that opens slowly (3,5)
KEY LARGO – a key opens, and largo means slowly in musical terms .
16 The Central Line in E London has eleven stops (4)
AXIS – HAS in East London speak could be ‘AS. Insert (‘stops’) XI for eleven. Blimey guv, that’s neat.
18 Vessel that’s empty picked up by mistake? (4)
VEIN – Sounds like VAIN, meaning empty as in ‘empty threat’ perhaps..
19 Some mocking hosts repelled European girl (8)
JENNIFER – Here’s our random girl’s name answer of the day. Insert FINN reversed (repelled European) into JEER = some mocking.
21 In place of repartee, was sitting wrapping present (5,3,2)
WHERE IT’S AT – A bit of an odd definition, I think. I untangled this as HERE inside WIT = repartee, and HERE SAT = was sitting. There’s probably a clearer way to express it. EDIT there is, as elucidated below; the definition is “in place” not “present” and WIT and SAT are around HERE. Doh.
22 Sound shocked when doctor comes round (4)
GASP – AS = when, surrounded by GP = doctor.
24 Nude pictures of an Archer are OTT: I’m rattled (8)
AMORETTI – This didn’t turn out to be as tasty as I’d imagined. An Amoretto is a representation of Cupid in art, not just an almond biscuit as I’d thought. Anagram time, (ARE OTT I’M)*.
26 Sort of home? Not there (2,1,3)
IN A WAY – Home = IN, AWAY = not there.
27 Working uniform, black (6)
USABLE – U = uniform, SABLE = black.
28 Relieved lover no longer exhausted, missing one (8)
EXEMPTED – EX = lover no longer, EMPTIED = exhausted, remove the I. I suppose there is a sense in which relieved can mean exempted, as in ‘relieved from duty’?

2 Recall some returning from trek overseas (5)
EVOKE – Hidden reversed in TR(EK OVE)RSEAS.
3 Bouncer’s long walk round ship (11)
TRAMPOLINER – TRAMP = long walk, O = round, LINER = ship.
4 Fare’s going up after month in German town (8)
AUGSBURG – AUG = month, GRUB’S = fare’s, reversed.
5 A joker, initially, took care, using awfully rough sentences (8,7)
KANGAROO JUSTICE – Anagram of (A J TOOK CARE USING)*. I got the kangaroo bit and had the letters for justice left over, I’d heard of a kangaroo court which obviously can dispense ‘kangaroo justice’ but I can’t actually find any reference on the net to the two words together being a phrase in use.
6 Maybe doing better than warring faction of German yesmen? (6)
JAWING – Well, they say “jaw, jaw, is better than war, war”, although Mr Trump might disagree where Rocket Man is concerned. And the JA WING could be a bunch of German yes-men.
7 Drinker finally overcome by mother’s ruin (3
MAR – MA = mother, R = drinker finally.
8 Native area suffered without a single soldier (9)
ABORIGINE – A(rea), BORNE (suffered), insert I GI = a single soldier.
13 Trailer in Welsh county possessed by one travelling light (7,4)
READING LAMP – One travelling = REP. Insert AD (trailer), IN, GLAM (short for Glamorgan). Not the best of definitions.
15 Come home, through Slough for example (3,6)
EYE RHYMES – &lit. Those who amuse themselves with poetry will probably like this clue, but I didn’t. I had all the checkers and saw it must be EYE something before the penny dropped. Examples of words which look like they’ll rhyme, because of the similar spelling, but they don’t. How do people from abroad ever master English, when there are so many ways to pronounce -OUGH-?
17 Out — or still facing the bowler? (2,6)
ON STRIKE – Cryptic DD, one cricket related. More my kind of clue.
20 One going to market on foot? (3,3)
BIG TOE – Amusing cryptic definition; as in this little piggy went to market, this little piggy… . I hope I don’t need to provide further explanation.
23 Wind in southern plain, mostly (5)
SNAKE – I think this is S for south and NAKE(D). Does naked equal plain in some way?
25 Rag and bone (3)
RIB – Another double definition, rag in the sense of tease.

75 comments on “Times 26865 – to wit, to woo, this was fun. But tricky.”

  1. 18:52 … brilliant puzzle. I agree with you about AXIS, Pip. It’s not just clever, the surface is fabulous. Love it.

    Felt like a wavelength puzzle and I got on it fairly early courtesy of a few total guesses that I later realised were right.

    Comps to the setter.

  2. Yeah this was great. Deserved to be a Sunday

    Only one-third done after 30m, and then the dominoes started falling. So much more enjoyable than staring vacantly at one or two pesky poorly-clued obscurities after knocking off 95% in no time

    Plain ~ unadorned ~ naked

    Edited at 2017-10-25 06:32 am (UTC)

  3. 73 minutes, spending a fair bit on VAIN and EYE RHYME.

    Any game called GOBANG is worth a try, I’d have thought.

  4. An hour and DNF’d over yoghurt, granola, banana, blueberries, etc.
    Too hard for me – but all done except the Vein/Eye Rhymes crossers. And I now have a nagging feeling that I’ve failed on Eye Rhymes before – feh!
    Several MERs (minor eyebrow raises): is ‘returned to’ really ‘left’? Is ‘some mocking’ really ‘jeer’?
    Guessed Gobang – but wordplay helpful (thanks setter). Struggled with Snake for too long.
    Mostly I loved: Axis, ‘In place’, Reading Lamp – and COD to Big Toe (how cute).
    Thanks brilliant setter and Pip.
  5. After a tentative start with LEFT BACK and GOBANG I settled into a steady pace for a while and then hit major problems that took me to nearly an hour’s solve in all. KANGAROO JUSTICE is in SOED, though like our blogger I have to say I never heard the expression before, not that it’s much of a stretch from ‘kangaroo court’.

    And further to Lou’s example above I’d add ‘plain/naked truth’.

    Edited at 2017-10-25 06:40 am (UTC)

  6. Too hard for me, taking an hour with EYE RHYMES forgotten and so unsolved. Since you’re all picking AXIS, one at least I saw quickly, I ‘ll make my COD ON STRIKE. It was the little clues like IN A WAY that were the hardest. Having said that, I got KANGAROO JUSTICE late on from crossers before I even realised it was an anagram. I just wasn’t WHERE IT’S AT. Thank you Pip and setter.

    Edited at 2017-10-25 08:26 am (UTC)

  7. To me ‘returned’ implies it has moved and gone back. ‘Left’ implies it never moved. But hey ho.
  8. Seems to me, returned to = left back (in position). Agreed JEER is a bit of a stretch.
    I also had a nagging DV feeling about eye rhymes.
  9. I thought left back sort of worked – ‘I took someone else’s umbrella by mistake so I left it back in the dentists next time I was passing’.

    Went over the hour trying to think of a word for 18 that fitted in with EAR RHYME until I accepted that answer didn’t sound right.

  10. Depressing DNF for me – I didn’t leave enough time to do a really chewy puzzle before taking the kids to school, and with 20 minutes already elapsed I’m afraid to say I resorted to aids. It didn’t help that I’d put RIO LARGO in at 14ac (confusing John Huston with Howard Hawks? Time to hand in my cinephile badge methinks) rendering the already baffling 15dn completely impossible.

    Perhaps I would have done better later in the day, post-coffee. I do like puzzles this hard; being soundly thrashed by them, not so much!

  11. Well over the hour today, when I usually call time on my failure. But sitting in the Apple store in Eldon Square waiting for the resurrection of my iPhone gave me the extra few minutes to ….still fail! Guessed END CHIMES for 15d but that was desparation and now I’m kicking myself for not getting it, especially as I am currently reviewing and editing a book on ‘How to analyse poetry’. Also had to look up the Bogart film which in my addled brain seemed to confirm 15d. Hey ho another day tomorrow and my DNF was entirely my own failings today as I really enjoyed the rest of this puzzle. Thanks to the setter and also Pip for putting me out of my misery.
  12. 29:02. I’m afraid I found this a bit of a grind: too many of the clues were hard because of strange usages or expressions, rather than cleverness. I don’t understand how ‘returned to usual position’ gets LEFT BACK, for instance, so although this seemed like the likely answer I didn’t put it in until I had all the checkers. WHERE IT’S AT doesn’t mean ‘present’; KANGAROO JUSTICE was hard to construct from the anagram; S_A_E affords so many possibilities as to be just annoying, and so on.
    Having said that there’s some very clever stuff in here so perhaps I’m just in a bit of a grumpy mood.
    1. I think present=HERE and the definition is ‘In place’ – you know it’s an in place man, it’s where it’s at. If so, I quite like it.
        1. As you will have seen – I am slightly irked by Left Back. It feels like the setter was determined to use this pseudo double definition even though it doesn’t really work.
          1. I’m not much of a fan of LEFT BACK either, I must say. Definitely prompted a “what, really??” response.
    2. I think it’s “in place” equals where it’s at

      repartee = wit was sitting = sat containing here for present

  13. By my calculations there are 10 Central Line stations with EC (St Pauls to Liverpool St) or E (Bethnal Green through South Woodford) postcodes. So close to being the GREATEST CLUE OF ALL TIME…

    ETA: Wait a minute, I was only looking at one branch. There’s still hope!

    Edited at 2017-10-25 10:37 am (UTC)

    1. St Pauls, Bank, Liverpool St, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Stratford, Leyton, Leytonstone, Snaresbrook, South Woodford, Wanstead = 11 stops
      1. And a hats off moment to you sir, for spotting that!

        By the way, where’s the beer at on the 4th? Can’t travel all that way*, fail dismally in the first round (pretty much guaranteed) and not partake of the post-solve refreshments.

        *I understand that “all that way” to me probably pales into insignificance when compared to others. It’s not like Oxfordshire is on another planet or something. But it’s London and it scares me now I’ve got old.

        1. Presumably at the George? Unless the solving community has gotten more adventurous since I last looked. Can’t wait, especially now it seems (based on my performance on this puzzle) I’ll be in the pub ALL afternoon 🙂
          1. After last year’s hangover I’m reducing my TADT (total available drinking time) by participating in the second preliminary.
  14. A carelessly-biffed AMEROTTI made what seemed like a good time worth nothing.

    Even more gutting having now seen that Verlaine dnf’d in a similar time.

  15. I had done so well with this – KANGAROO JUSTICE, AMORETTI, GOBANG all unknowns but had-to-be’s, and then came a cropper with -E-N at the end. After trawling through 41 possibilities, I forgot about the alternative meaning for vessel and had to come here. Duh!
    Got AXIS (had to be with XI in the middle) but didn’t appreciate the subtleties till I read the comments. Well done setter!
  16. Really very hard but eventually finished (won’t say how long it took!) However, my reading of Left Back is that it indicates ‘went to the front’ which might be the more ‘usual position’ for a line of defence in the soldierly meaning?
    1. I had it as setting off to return somewhere – “I left back [for] home”, “I’m leaving back shortly”, etc

      Edited at 2017-10-25 11:16 am (UTC)

      1. It would be great if the compiler could adjudicate on this one! I stick to my guns though. Also, I totally agree that AXIS is the answer to the greatest clue of all time (well, in my time, anyway).
  17. What, the one on Borough high street, under the archway?

    Not been there for about 20 years, was a regular lunchtime watering hole before we discovered the Firkin Ale Trail

  18. About half an hour – still having to struggle with tablet ‘keyboard’ as windows still not loading – consequently had a couple of typos.
    In any case was a DNF as had to resort to aid for 3dn having been unable to think of anything better than WELL BACK at 1ac (but I did know 15dn).
  19. So far off the wavelength I might have been using a tin can as a phone. But I did finish – all my own work. 3 clues of the my-eyes-glaze-over kind (German town, Welsh county and girl’s name. I thought NEW BROOM was especially well done. 24.50
  20. Yoiks! that was tough. 56:49 of mental contortions to surprisingly finish all correct, without resorting to aids. After 30 minutes I had a sparse scattering of entries randomly entered, but then things gradually shaped up until I was left with 15d, 18a, 20d, and a question mark over WHERE WAS IT? 20d fell first as I remembered the nursery rhyme, which gave me the correct answer to WHERE ITS AT. I then struggled on for a while longer until it was no longer in vain, leaving me in no doubt that THAMES wasn’t the second word of 15d. The penny finally dropped with an enormous clang, and with a scarcely muted eureka, I hit submit. The German town was solely from wordplay and checkers. AMORETTI was a vague hunch, LEFT BACK puzzled me a bit, EVOKE was my FOI, JENNIFER is my younger daughter’s name. AXIS was indeed a tour de force. Well done V for spotting the 11 stops! Thanks setter and Pip.
  21. I certainly was by some of this. After much head-scratching and several gleeful penny-drop moments, I lurched to an end in 31:10 only to find I had missed 18a and eventually resorted to an aid for that. I should have known it wasn’t a container or ship. Luckily I saw the device at 15d fairly quickly, but I failed to parse JENNIFER or READING LAMP, so thanks for the explanations, Pip, and our setter for the mind-bending exercise. I love it that 16a is literally true – great clue!
    P.S. Yippee. My account has been unsuspended, so I can now comment using it again.
  22. 23 minutes dead for this tricky puzzle, with about 5 minutes of that getting nowhere with VEIN. It was only on about the 5th alphabet trawl, when I thought about possibilities properly, that the p finally dropped.

    AXIS is just brilliant

  23. Given my surname is Hough I am ashamed to have missed Eye Rhymes as people rarely pronounce my name correctly. A third DNF in a row but nearly complete again. I don’t really like Glam for Welsh County. Loved Axis even though this dame easily. Well done (again) you clever correctors. Must go as there’s someone going boing at the door
      1. My standard reply, when people ask how to pronounce it, is “however you like”!
        1. So if I can pronounce it any way I like, hough can I be pronouncing it incorrectly?
          Mrs K says it’s ‘hew’ and she’s from Up North. Here they’d say ‘Monsieur Ooje.’
          But in Norfolk?
    1. I have a neighbour called Houghton which she pronounces Hoeton, but she says she’ll answer to just about anything coming over a public address system. So do I although Americans usually get mine pronounced right (no not Rhinebeck) but the British, oh dear, although it is a Yorkshire name.

      Edited at 2017-10-25 03:10 pm (UTC)

      1. Well (proper, or native if you like) Lancastrians tend to pronounce it as in Cough! The best letter I had was addressed to Mr Huge
        1. “Huge” – don’t start with me! The first part of my name is pronounced as in “Hugh” although British Southerners tend to make it rhyme with “hug” (wince). It was only when the current (alleged) occupant of the White House hove into view that I was able to persuade my husband (after decades of marriage) NOT to pronounce the first syllable “you”, as in “yuge”.
    2. Do you ever get called Mr Hay? I only ask because I believe the name “Featherstonehough” is pronounced “Feestenhay”.
      1. Who thought a name would ge of interest! I’ve had Hew, Hogg, Hoff, Huff, Off (east London of course) and, most oddly, like a Steve Martin film, my Nectar card has Mr Hghj. I suppose it’s better than Mr Smith
  24. Mostly brilliant, really liked this, even though a DNF: eye rhymes/vein. But even so got to say there were a few clues that didn’t really work for me – kangaroo court OK, ‘kangaroo justice’ doesn’t exist, left back WTF!, etc. as listed by others.
    Nearly superb.
    1. As mentioned in my comment above, KANGAROO JUSTICE is in the Shorter Oxford so it does exist. I have since checked further and can confirm it’s also in Chambers.
      1. Apologies for not being clear – I checked & found it in the dictionary pre-comment, but even so I’d say: “Doesn’t exist”. As in, doesn’t exist in my lexicon.
        In passing, I think (Chambers, more than others) dictionary editors are mischievous imps who occasionally get bored and make up words & phrases, just because they can.
  25. Slow and steady. But I got there in the end. There was much to like but I was put off by 1a. I thought of LEFT BACK straight away but, although I recognised the “defender” bit, I just couldn’t see it as “returning to original position”. I’m still not convinced. 45 minutes. Ann
  26. Not easy at all, and took me about an hour before finally seeing EYE RHYMES. Ouch. Quite a workout, BRAIN DRAIN indeed. Regards.
  27. The clue for EYE RHYMES was a pale imitation of one of the great Listener clues of all time:
    Sean Bean could mould enough dough to make my pie high? (3,6)

    And I would love to claim that I counted the E London stops on the Central Line first: if there really are eleven then I feel most gratified 🙂

    1. Please clarify Left Back. Am I right? (ie ‘went to the front’), a more usual position for a soldier defending the line?

      Edited at 2017-10-25 07:06 pm (UTC)

      1. 1 across isn’t actually a cryptic definition as blogged but two meanings, one of which is a position of a defender in football, the other “left back” as in “I left it back where I found it”
    2. There are 14 stops from end (Epping) to Liverpool St, but 11 from the end to the first intersection at Stratford. IMO Mile End and Bethnal Green are E London so the answer is 13 or 14.

      Edited at 2017-10-25 06:21 pm (UTC)

    1. 1 across isn’t actually a cryptic definition as blogged but two meanings, one of which is a position of a defender in football, the other “left back” as in “I left it back where I found it”
  28. I had trouble coming up with Kangaroo justice as well. To see more references to it use the “this exact word or phrase:” box in Google Advanced Search.
      1. I assumed ‘picked up by mistake’ was the homophone indicator, so somebody hearing the word ‘vein’ (meaning ‘vessel’) might mistake it for ‘vain’ (meaning ’empty’)

        Edited at 2017-10-25 10:32 pm (UTC)

    1. BRAIN DRAIN is the loss of highly trained or qualified people by emigration, so those leaving (or ‘escaping’ as the clue has it) are by definition ‘migrants’.

      I first heard the phrase used in the 1960s when it was reported that many of the best British-born ‘brains’ were leaving the country to live and work abroad, but in the light of recent developments the clue can be taken another way, in that some of the highly qualified migrants who settled in the UK may now be planning to move out and work elsewhere. I think that’s what Pip had in mind when he wrote about the clue being topical.

      Edited at 2017-10-25 10:34 pm (UTC)

        1. Yes but what about Shortage of decent cells? I suppose a drain om something might cause a shortage but why decent?
  29. DNF. Bah! Defeated by eye rhymes and consequently unable to get vein. Not on wavelength for this but hats off to the setter for some super clues, pride of place going as others have said to axis. Glad “gobang” turned out to be a thing. I also liked 14ac for bringing back wonderful memories of a real cinema classic, by which I mean of course the Cocktail soundtrack and “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys:

    “Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take ya
    Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
    KEY LARGO, Montego, baby why don’t we go, Jamaica….”

  30.  …and it’s time for the next one. I had to put it aside, with several unworked, to go to sleep last night, cracked another two or three on the subway ride to work, and just got back to it. My last two in were KANGAROO JUSTICE (I came here without see that it was an anagram, and am sorry I missed that) and LEFT-BACK, proving (a fact of which I am proud) that I know nothing about football; I haven’t studied all the discussion about this clue yet, but it somewhat eludes me still. “Possessed-by-one-traveling light” is certainly a convoluted definition.
  31. Blimey. It’s puzzles like this that make me feel prokaryotic.

    DNF or, more truthfully, DNEGHW.

  32. Failed at the EYE RHYME/VEIN crossing–should have got the former (I always forget Y when doing an alphabet run), but even the E probably wouldn’t have got me VEIN. Anyway, I’m here this late merely to tell Pip that GOBANG is also called ‘gomoku’ (I’ve been here in Japan for almost 40 years and never heard of the game under either name).
  33. Although I got 12a, I still don’t understand the answer or your explanation! Can someone please explain for me?

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