Times 27123 – a serious workout, but not unfair

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I had two stabs at this, at the first in around 35 minutes I had completed and understood all except most of the top left hand quadrant, a.k.a the north west. That took me another twenty minutes or so to decipher and parse, not least because my knowledge of famous Assyrians need some refreshment. In retrospect, there’s nothing (apart from 1d) too daunting about it, There are a couple of clues I could take issue with, just to be awkward, like 19d and 25a, but I won’t because this is just the kind of puzzle I hope to see on a Wednesday becaue it stretched the little grey cells just far enough.

1 One supporting cuts met with knight (8)
SAWHORSE – SAW = met, HORSE = knight, in chess; hard to see the right wavelength here, but once you do the wordplay is fair.
5 Ready to assimilate City formula (6)
RECIPE – The old standard EC for London City area goes into RIPE for ready.
8 Wreck in sea on moon finally eclipsed (3)
MAR – Seas on the moon have Latin names like MARE something, so that MARE loses an E. I thought MAR just meant damage rather than wreck, but it’s passable.
9 Crook to entertain sister’s subordinate (5,5)
STAFF NURSE – I spent an age trying to fit NUN into this. A crook is a STAFF, and you NURSE or entertain the idea of something.
10 Right-hand man keeping to hyperbole (8)
RHETORIC – RH = right hand, ERIC is our random man, insert TO. I think not all rhetoric is hyperbole, but once again Collins in its third definition of rhetoric decides it’s passable.
11 Tradesman, powerless to deliver cut wood (6)
LUMBER – A PLUMBER, if you can find one, they’re all on the beach now in France, he loses his P.
12 Current in which HM ships lost way (4)
MODE – MODERN = current, loses the Royal Navy or RN.
14 Pressure in tie — United beaten for lack of fitness? (10)
17 Tough Berber reflective in secure place (10)
STRONGROOM – A MOOR could be a Berber, a North African Arab; Reverse him and add to STRONG = tough.
20 Stylish welcome received in clubs twice (4)
CHIC – HI = welcome, inside C C for clubs twice. The French have a much used expression “BCBG” which stands for “bon chic bon genre” but those referred to seem to me to have anything but good taste and good attitude, they just have “old money” and arrogance. The Sloanes of Paris.
23 Small deposit to finish in bank (6)
DEPEND – DEP for small deposit, END for finish; DEPEND on as in rely on, bank on.
24 Fundamental article about the Italian church (8)
BASILICA – Insert IL = Italian for ‘the’, into BASIC A.
25 Feline woman binding husband in chains (10)
CHATELAINE – I was well misled by this one, wondering why chains had anything to do with the Lady of a château. but of course, that would be a châtelaine, not a chatelaine, which is an ornamental chain or chains hanging from a belt. CAT has H inserted then ELAINE is our random woman. No wonder the French won’t abandon their beloved circonflex.
26 Alcoholic in the end put back to bed (3)
COT – C = end of AlcoholiC, TO reversed = put back TO.
27 About to introduce tax break (6)
RECESS – RE = about, CESS = tax. We’ve seen CESS recently.
28 Forebear requires an exotic escort (8)

1 Famed Assyrian house is home to sheep (9)
SEMIRAMIS – a SEMI is a kind of house, and IS is is. Insert RAM for sheep, to get the name of a famous (if barely recalled) Assyrian queen. I’d only heard of it in an operatic context where I knew she was probably a queen but not especially of the Assyrian persuasion.
2 Charge bundle to keep bird on ground (7)
WARHEAD – This is a naughty clue. You’re supposed to think of WAD for a synonym of bundle, then think of one particular flightless bird, a RHEA, and bung one into the other to make a word vaguely related to CHARGE. The little grey cells were stretched. My LOI.
3 Cricket side’s method hardly secret? (2,4)
ON SHOW – ON’S – cricket side’s, HOW = method. Biffable, but not obvious to parse.
4 Pen pusher, perhaps, bursting into tears (9)
STATIONER – Back to regulation clues. (INTO TEARS)*.
5 Lock phone on rental contract (7)
RINGLET – RING = phone, LET = rental. See lock, think hair.
6 Using colour, 20 to dress person travelling on time (9)
CHROMATIC – 20a was CHIC (we’re into Grauniad territory here, cross referencing); insert ROMA for a person travelling, and T for time.
7 Fake groom died, having introduced tango (7)
PRETEND – PREEN – groom, insert T for tango, add D for died.
13 Clear river containing single rodent (9)
EXONERATE – Devon’s River EXE has ONE RAT inserted.
15 Testing time for one at crease, one performing (9)
PROBATION – PRO = for, BAT = one at crease in cricket, I = one, ON = performing.
16 One charming Chinese detective in lodge (9)
ENCHANTER – Mr CHAN goes into ENTER = lodge, in the sense of ‘enter a protest / lodge a protest’.
18 Cereal stirred below temperature becoming syrup (7)
19 Unprincipled little man enters gallery (7)
GODLESS – GODS in a theatre  = gallery; insert our random bloke LES. I rail at this; I am godless, an atheist by conviction, but I am not not unprincipled. I have principles.
21 Process of reduction in capital growth (7)
HAIRCUT – Cryptic definition.
22 Brie munched by me in galley (6)
BIREME – (BRIE)*, ME. Old rowing ship with two banks of oars.

59 comments on “Times 27123 – a serious workout, but not unfair”

  1. Gosh! First up! (Well I WAS going to be first up then someone knocked at the door!)
    I thought I was going to be done and dusted – or home & hosed as the Aussies say- in well under the hour but the NW corner that Pip refers to worked its spell on me.
    Nevertheless I enjoyed it. Thank you, Pip, for RECESS. I didn’t know CESS was a tax and if we’ve seen it recently, I missed it.
    Thank you also, Pip, for reminding me of the circumflex in chatelaine. ODO, though, don’t draw a distinction between the meaning based on the presence or absence of the accent.
    As for GODLESS, Collins gives the meaning of ‘unprincipled’ as meaning #1 in British usage.
    RECESS was LOI but COD was MODE. Very clever.

    Edited at 2018-08-22 05:36 am (UTC)

  2. 20 minutes to solve but the second in a row where I’ve checked something rather than submit. Today’s huh? moment being SEMIRAMIS. The wordplay got me to a tentative answer but I had no idea what a semiramis might be. I see there are two operas by that name, both by people I’ve also never heard of.

    CHATELAINE also not understood or known, but somehow far easier to feel confident about.

    The rest much enjoyed

    1. I think SEMIRAMIDE (same name tweaked) is by Rossini who I’m sure you’ve heard of. At least he wrote an overture to it – not sure about the whole opera.
  3. I found the RH easy enough but took for ever on some of the LH clues, not least 1dn where I had considered all the correct elements of wordplay but didn’t see anything vaguely recognisable as a word when I put them together so ended up resorting to aids. Took CHATELAINE on trust and was rewarded by its being right.

    I don’t recall ever seeing horse/knight in a puzzle before and didn’t even realise it actually exists (but only in Collins of the usual sources). I thought it was childspeak for the chess piece if anything. Considering the rage induced whenever we had castle/rook the old Colonel would burst a blood-vessel at this one!

    Edited at 2018-08-22 05:26 am (UTC)

    1. Although chessplayers would never call a rook a castle, they do upon occasion jokily refer to their knights as horses.
  4. I also found the right side easier and was hung up at the end by a big blank NW. Then I remembered SEMIRAMIS. You might say someone was engaging in mere RHETORIC when they were exaggerating for effect, but you wouldn’t want to use the word “hyperbole” for any other kind of RHETORIC. CHATELAINE went in from wordplay, as I’d never seen the word used for any kind of chain. I biffed the first part of STAFF NURSE, as I didn’t know the UK term “sister” for a nurse of a higher rank (I tried for the longest time to find a place for “nun” there). I suspect the cryptic definition for HAIRCUT would remain quite opaque for most until there was a crossing letter or two; I had H and C. I, too, resent the equation of GODLESS with “unprincipled.” The grammar of the clue for MODE started bothering me after I’d thought about it too long, so I’ve stopped thinking about it.
    1. Looks like past tense but isn’t, so I guess it’s okay Guy. Past participle yes, past tense no. God I wish I’d paid more attention at school.
      1. I wish you hadn’t made me think of it again, but my issue wasn’t with the tense.
        “Current in which HM ships lost” is supposed to mean the ships are, or the RN is lost, but the verb can’t be added or you couldn’t end with “way,” so we wind up with this overly elliptical construction. If the Royal Navy could be symbolized by just one ship, you could have “”Current in which HM ship’s lost (way),” which would be grammatical in both surface and cryptic reading.
  5. 60 mins with yoghurt, granola, etc. to leave just… S-M-RAMIS.
    And I couldn’t think of a S-M- house. Doh!
    Note to self: swot up on famed Assyrians.
    It was a good test.
    Mostly I liked: Ineptitude, Probation and COD to the ‘Pen pusher’.
    Thanks setter and Pip.
  6. Very quickly getting the hang of solving on line. Had to google the Assyrian queen and misspelled 14A (ugh). Is there a way of stopping the clock? I normally start on the puzzle after reading the news and my incoming email but that Times clock kept ticking away …
    Thank you setter and blogger
    1. Click on the cog icon in the upper right, and ‘pause’ will be one of the options offered you.
    2. That clock keeps ticking even when you hit the pause button, I suppose to prevent us sneaking off the look up SEMIRAMIS online, coming back and still posting a time to rival Magoo.
      I think I still have puzzles started and abandoned where the clock is still ticking and has made it up into the years.
      1. Not under the new dispensation; the clock really stops, so you can look something up. I actually wrote to the club forum to object; I preferred the old way, where you were given the time it took you to solve online, but the official clock never stopped. If you just abandon the puzzle, as I often do, the clock never stops, as you noted.
      2. I know I have clocks (plural) ticking away

        Edited at 2018-08-22 09:33 pm (UTC)

  7. I chanced SEMIRAMIS on wordplay and crossers alone, and looked her (!) up afterwards. She may well be the most famed person I’ve never, ever, heard of, a hole in my knowledge of middle eastern affairs I had no idea existed. As if some benevolent time traveller has inserted a chunk of history overnight, or some deity has been busy planting dinosaur bones just to confuse evolutionists. “With a wild surmise, silent, on a peak in Darian”
    Apart from that, tricky enough, especially in the NW corner, where the word associations were especially elastic. My time stretched to 35 minutes.
    Also didn’t know that meaning of CHATELAINE, with or without the funny little roofy thing.
    A proper workout, and well batted, Pip.

    Edited at 2018-08-22 07:36 am (UTC)

  8. Yesterday it was the NE, today the NW; but yesterday I managed to solve everything finally. Didn’t know that SEMIRAMIS was Assyrian, and would never have thought of SEMI, so that was one I gave up on at last, along with MODE; all I could think of was ‘tide’, given the checkers, and that didn’t make much sense. It’s not so much that I take exception to GODLESS, which I do, but that the definition is so wrong as to make solving gratuitously difficult. (Not to mention yet another random name.) If Collins–a dictionary published in a largely godless country, yet– has ‘unprincipled’ as its first definition, that’s yet another reason to use a different dictionary as the authority for these puzzles. COD to STATIONER.
    1. It could be (is) worse: Chambers has “immoral” as one of its definitions, and its Thesaurus rocks in with “bad, evil, sinful, wicked”. Sometimes it’s hard to be “atheistic, heathen, pagan, irreligious, agnostic, faithless, unholy” without risking a proper smiting.
  9. Same as above: RH side few problems, top left hard, ultimately beaten by 1D as 1. never heard of her or her operas, and 2. they don’t have semis here in Oz. Was Yossarian in Catch-22 Assyrian? Couldn’t name you a single one otherwise. Gave up after 30 mins.
    Also didn’t know chatelaine. At first thought it might be something like catenaccio – Helenio Herrera’s Inter. Maybe the Times style guide re-spells it with an H?
    1. I know about an Assyrian who came down like a wolf on the fold, with gleaming cohorts etc but not his/her name. This particular poem was always quoted at prep school as an example of dactylic (or iambic or indeed something else)

      Edited at 2018-08-22 11:28 am (UTC)

  10. Same for me as everyone else in the NW. The last five here took me about 45 mins so a feeble 75 mins or so altogether. Not convinced that rhetoric = hyperbole though at 10ac. A hard challenge but a fair one.
  11. 80 minutes. This was a stinker. If I’d got SAWHORSE sooner, then maybe the LHS wouldn’t have taken the age it did, with LOI WARHEAD. Also CHATELAINE was a total biff, taking the place of CATENARIES, the first part of which parsed very well. I vaguely knew SEMIRAMIS, constructed only when other remembered obscure names like Sennacherib were exhausted. BIREME came via Assyria too, and John Masefield, with Quinquireme of Nineveh remembered. Good old Peg-Leg Wakefield, my old English master, to the rescue again. As this site’s resident physicist theist, I too balked at GODLESS for unprincipled. Principles are human constructs! Hard but rewarding. Thank you Pip and setter.
    1. Thanks for the memories of Peg-Leg Wakefield. Still have visions of him pedalling his fixed gear bicycle down Scarisbrick New Rd to KGV, busy preparing some unforgettable school plays.
      Peter Pond
      1. Hi PP. I don’t think I can reply privately without you having an identity here. I was at KGV 1957-1964. If you’d like to get in touch my email is on my my website wheressailorjackdotcom at the bottom of the page About the Author. Replies get disabled here if the normal email/ website address are used.
        He was a great guy, Peg-Leg.
        1. Thanks, John.
          Have added myself to your mailing list.
          We all but missed – I was there from 1952 to 1959, and possibly the last classicist at the old firm.
          Good to hear from you.
  12. After 20 minutes I was left staring at 5 missing answers in the NW. Another 10 minutes passed without progress. In despair, I used an online aid for 1d – I thought maybe it was xxMERINOS for a bit and I even considered SEMI and RAM as part of the answer. That cheat helped me find SAWHORSE (horse for knight? NO!!!), RHETORIC and MODE, but was still stuck on WARHEAD, my LOI, for ages. Good puzzle. Annoyed it beat me! Thanks Pip and setter.
  13. I too am Godless, but not offended, especially not as a solver, as Collins backs this up. And to hell with PC anyway: go right ahead and offend me.

    Contentious offerings SEMIRAMIS and CHATELAINE (a nice point about the circumflex, to which info the editor was clearly privy) were clued well. Had they been anagrams I’d have been hopping around.

    Great workout, great blog, please can I be, as it were, introduced to Cat Elaine.

  14. Beaten by the Assyrian and the carpenter’s bench.
    19a GODLESS is offensive to me.
  15. 27 min, with NW difficult, though did guess 1dn from opera. A 25ac occasionally turns up on antiques programmes, so not unknown, though I did spend some time trying to make something of CATENARIES. LOI was 8ac as the definition isn’t very satisfactory, 2dn being last to fall previously.
  16. Got SEMIRAMIS from the Rossini opera, Semiramide. I only know the overture. But there’s a local landmark, Craig-y-Nos Castle, which used to belong to the 19C opera singer, Adelina Patti. It has a 100 seater private theatre, richly decorated to the Diva’s specifications. The fire curtain has a painting of Madame Patti as Semiramis in a chariot. According to the guide book it was one of her favourite roles. I used to go to the opera at the castle and spent a long time looking at that curtain. I had problems with CHATELAINE but remembered the chain eventually. Still rather a struggle. 49 minutes. Ann
  17. Famous Assyrian? Not in these parts she isn’t. Even when I assembled the required components it made little sense.
    I sneaked a look at SNITCH mid solve to check it wasn’t just me. Thankfully not. Yesterday I refused to be grumpy, today I am making up for it.
  18. ….but you can’t make it drink – so it’s a (that old) SAW HORSE.

    Same progress rates as other posters really. FOI and COD INEPTITUDE so soon after watching United’s thorough display of such at Brighton on Sunday.

    I’d completed the right hand side in just over 10 minutes, the SE corner took about another 6 minutes (DNK CHATELAINE in that context ), and then the trouble really started before I completed in 26:21 with a sigh of relief.

    I knew no Assyrians, wasted time trying to justify ON SWAY, guessed the horse (bloody chess again), eventually gave up trying to think of lunar seas when I had the lightbulb/duh moment, and LOI MODE which I didn’t much care for.

  19. Those poor sheep. Dnf over NW here too, somehow glad it wasn’t just me.
    Sumerians nearly fits 1d.
    Had SAWHORSE but couldn’t parse it, despite (or perhaps because of ) having played chess all my life.
    Like pip only knew CHATELAINE from the castle (or should that be rook?).

    Thanks pip and setter.

  20. I banged in 1ac at first look, which obviously gave me a somewhat misleading idea of how tough this one was going to be. Like m’colleague above, my first thought was Sennacherib, after which I ran through the lyrics of The Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants, and then I ran a bit dry on Assyrians, so had to depend on the wordplay. Likewise, some thought required to come up with the likes of CHATELAINE; elsewhere, I also thought STATIONER was good, as it took me an age to realise the solution was a very simple anagram – as with hidden word clues, if you get held up on one of them, the setter has done a great job of disguising it.
  21. Well, the only two ‘famous’ Assyrians I know are Sennecharib of wolf-on-the-fold fame and his fellow despot Tiglath-piledriver. So that was a bit of a no-hoper given my lateral thinking skills at the moment. I had to cheat on a fair few others in the NW before ‘submitting without leaderboard’ like one of the remedial class. Liked BIREME coz I knew it.

    Edited at 2018-08-22 10:47 am (UTC)

  22. DNF in 30 mins. Another defeated in the NW. 4 missing. Sawhorse, Mar, Semiramis and Warhead. I had Wad but not Rhea.

    COD Rhetoric. Very neat.

  23. I was going along nicely until I came up against the forbidding NW. I finally finished with all present and correct in an hour and a half. Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know the very famous SEMIRAMIS. I remembered the ‘wolf on the fold’ bit and I presume the ‘home to sheep’ was meant to confuse ignoramuses like me whose sum total of knowledge of the Assyrians was that line of poetry from a Grade 5 English class long, long ago.

    Thanks for explaining CHATELAINE.

    MAR was my pick of the day. What a doddle! A three letter clue – how hard can that be?

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  24. I don’t know whether it is because I trusted the wordplay for 1d quicker than the two superstars but I’m chuffed to report that, according to the timer on my phone, I was a whole 12 seconds quicker than Magoo and over five minutes quicker than young Verlaine.

    I am also now stuck muttering about Assyrians coming down like the wolf from the fold…..

    1. That certainly is an achievement Sue! I note that of the reputable times Tom Stubbs also pulled off a nice one. The very difficult puzzles do seem to have a curious effect on the regular field – leveling it in some respects (I’m not usually anywhere near Topical Tim) and stretching it out in others.
  25. Yup, the NW corner was a brute. With just the bottom S in 1d for many minutes I was trying to shoehorn Ahasuerus in there. Now I see he was Persian so he wasn’t any good anyway. I wish I’d thought of operas. I didn’t think of chess for the horse but vaguely remembered references to Prince Rupert’s “horse” (meaning cavalry which probably had knights in it) in the Civil War and shoved it in with a shrug. 25.59

    Edited at 2018-08-22 12:18 pm (UTC)

  26. ditto, ditto, ditto. Agree with most of the above! I had the starting and ending Ss in 1d and wondered for a while if Spartacus might have been Assyrian, but couldn’t make any of the wordplay fit, so rejected it. Played with RAMS, never thought of SEMI, never heard of SEMIRAMIS, so a big DNF.

    Other snaggets not mentioned above included thinking LUMBER might have been TIMBER (not a clue about the tradesman though). WARHEAD also a bit obtuse.

    I loved STATIONER. FOIs were CHIC closely followed by CHROMATIC.

  27. I had to pause this after 45 minutes to go to the dentist to have my temporary filling from last week made permanent. At that point I’d just managed to complete the NW(having already completed the NE and SE) and was left with 17a, 23a, 25, 27a and 19d still to solve in the SW. When I returned it took another 4:55 to finish off the puzzle. I too had an MER at GODLESS for unprincipled, and I have no idea why it took me so long to see DEPEND. I admit to confirming that SEMIRAMIS existed after constructing her correctly, having never heard of her, otherwise only CHATELAINE was put in purely from wordplay. Definitely not the easiest of puzzles, but enjoyable. Thanks setter and Pip.
    PS I’m drinking coffee, but have no idea whether it’s going down my throat or down my shirt!
  28. I suppose SEMIRAMIS is famous somewhere, but not here. Had to look it up, because I never made the ‘semi’=’house’ connection. Was looking for some zodiac reference, alas. I thought WARHEAD was very good. Regards.
  29. Tough challenge with some very good clues.

    I’m of the opinion, not shared by all, that Times puzzles can withstand the odd rarity, so long as the cluing is fair. I do get that this can impair solving speeds, but as I’m never going to beat a Magoo I don’t really care. So, CHATELAINE and SEMIRAMIS both fine for me. Not sure if these rarities are allowed in competition puzzles.

    ‘Horse’ for ‘knight’ a colloquialism, but supported in Collins.

    Thanks Pip, nice blog.

  30. My printer screwed up so I started this very late and very tired. 8ac MAR and 12ac MODE defeated me! I know!

    FOI 22dn BIREME



    Bed! Meldrew is back tomorrow from hols. Potus licking his wounds. SAD!

  31. For once I looked at Snitch first and prepared myself for a beast, so I was very surprised to have only 5 clues left after 20 mins. However I could get no further and after a bit of looking up I found an INAPTITUDE had sneaked itself in so a DNF even with help.
  32. DNF in the hour I allow myself. 8 needed, indicates harder than average (for me). Mostly in the NW as others have described. Annoying as I had bits of most of them from the wordplay, but since some definitions unknown I couldn’t make sense of them into an answer!

    Good fair test though.

  33. After an hour of toil I still had blanks in much of the NW and was left thinking: “Crikey! It’s only Wednesday, what on earth are they going to throw at us on Friday?” I needed another 15 mins after work to get the Assyrian (who didn’t have a poem about her destruction written by Byron), the ‘charge’, the one supporting cuts, the wreck, the hyperbole, and the way. No question marks though apart from the sea on the moon, so all fair and gettable. I liked the pen pusher. A PB on Monday; barely scraping home today. Sic transit gloria mundi* as they say.

    *Gloria threw up in the van on Monday.

  34. I did this in the car park at Whipsnade Zoo. My LOI was 8a which was unparsed. But the blunder of the day was 19d where for a long time I had Artless, which in retrospect seems to fit the clue better than the correct answer. Completed without recourse to aids in about 90 minutes. Didn’t get to see many animals – I think they got fed up with waiting for me. Well blogged Pip, congrats to setter
  35. For once I looked at Snitch first and prepared myself for a beast, so I was very surprised to have only 5 clues left after 20 mins. However I could get no further and after a bit of looking up I found an INAPTITUDE had sneaked itself in so a DNF even with help.
  36. Another DNF with two reveals at the end of a two hour session. 1a SAWHORSE and 1d SEMIRAMIS. DNK BIREME but knew it was an anagram so played with the letters.
    RHETORIC was a bit of a doh moment after finally cracking 3d ON SHOW. I think given the lengthy time it takes me to complete a 15×15 my postings on the blog will be sporadic.
  37. 35:36. I actually saw Semiramide at Covent Garden last year but it didn’t help: I only recognised her after I had constructed the answer from wordplay. I got terribly stuck in the NW like everyone else, but I also had problems at the bottom where I had a confidently entered (but nonsensical) RETIRE for ages.
    Count me in the ‘taking umbrage at GODLESS’ brigade.
  38. Beaten. SEMIRAMIS I should have got from wordplay, but didn’t. Nor do I have any excuse whatsoever at all for not getting DEPEND.
  39. Man, that NW corner was like granite. Finally got through it by dint of forgetting about the clock and just staring belligerently at the clues until they cracked under the pressure. Great blog, Pip.
  40. When man is referred to in a clue, are there a classic set of male names that are used, or is it simply free reign for the setter?

Comments are closed.