Times 27133 – A Tribute to Dame Frances Margaret

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
This was the antithesis to Saturday’s magnificent beast. That’s not to say that it didn’t have merits of its own, but that they were not of the order of mind-bending intricacy displayed by that puzzle. A bit of a movie theme in this one – all referencing well known works of considerable merit in their own genres. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were not one or two PBs today. I snuck under 15 minutes – a feat almost as rare as the English top order scoring runs.


1 Cycle on the side of a drop and court disaster (4,3,1,4)
RIDE FOR A FALL – RIDE FOR (on the side of) A FALL; I’d never heard of this – only ‘head for a fall’
9 Very fine short name for a hedgehog? (5)
SONIC – SO NIC[e]; a sonic hedgehog (which I also hadn’t heard of) is a protein that is encoded by the SHH gene. Who said sciency types had no sense of humour?
10 Fully discuss party no longer in the game (6,3)
THRASH OUT – THRASH (party – ‘Roger’s having a thrash at his place’) OUT (no longer in the game – sadly, Manchester United until they, um, change direction)
11 Organ stop in list (8)
REGISTER – double definition; REGISTER is ‘any of the stops on an organ as classified in respect of its tonal quality’
12 Appear in an excited state after parade (4,2)
13 Poisonous liquid in alcohol taken by him at the end (8)
METHANOL – [hi]M ETHANOL; I am told by the fount of all knowledge that ‘consuming ethanol alone can cause coma and death’, so both liquids can be fatal, though METHANOL clearly fataler
15 Watchword of guy painting in retirement (6)
MANTRA – MAN ART reversed
17 In goal blocking shot (6)
18 Female changed, then sat on the fence (8)
20 Standards concerning rector (6)
21 Rank reduced, so resign (4,4)
STEP DOWN – STEP (rank) DOWN (reduced); I think we need to get from RANK to STEP via a three-point turn through LEVEL (‘this is the final step in the career ladder’ – thanks to Collins synonym generator)
24 Musical passage in film (5,4)
ANNIE HALL – ANNIE (musical) HALL (passage) – my favourite Woody Allen: ‘The medium enters in as a condition of the art form itself’. Nice.
25 Fool about to produce gunpowder ingredient (5)
26 Out of harm’s way, insane criminals (4-8)
SAFE-CRACKERS – SAFE (out of harm’s way) CRACKERS (insane)


1 Stage right, Oscar to play guitar (7)
2 Please understand term gent now misused when feeding dog (4,3,2,5)
3 Concentrate following commander, American (5)
FOCUS – F OC (Officer Commanding: ‘the commander of a sub-unit or minor unit (smaller than battalion size), principally used in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth’) US
4 Betrayed the trust of lecturer after treat misinterpreted (6,2)
5 Plant in bogland across river (4)
6 Fail to win compassion, become disillusioned (4,5)
LOSE HEART – LOSE HEART; compassion is one of my least favourite words in the English language owing to its tendency to be used as a purr word signifying in-groups (eg compassionate v Thatcherite)
7 What may be a comfort to one who’s just retired? (3-5,6)
HOT-WATER BOTTLE – nice cryptic definition; tip to novice solvers: see ‘retired’ think ‘bed-e-byes’
8 More work! (6)
UTOPIA – quirky definition, since Sir (for Prots) or Saint (for RCs) Thomas More’s best known (Latin) work was Utopia; his English-language A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, written at the end of his life, is something of a treat
14 Group of stars with capital attorney (9)
16 Leader of revolt having measure of power over revolutionary count (3,5)
WAT TYLER – WATT RELY (count, as in ‘Can I count on you?’)
17 Picture which involves work (3,3)
TOP HAT – OP in THAT; Top Hat is the best known Astaire/Rogers vehicle, with songs by Irving Berlin, some sharp humour and even sharper dance sequences
19 Housekeeper died: ravens flying about (7)
DANVERS – D RAVENS*; referencing the lady played by the Aussie Dame who wasn’t very nice to Olivia de Havilland’s kid sister
22 Fear of god? (5)
PANIC – tongue-in-cheek clue, requiring only a smidgen of Saturday’s antiquarian knowledge; in a different morphological universe, by analogy with Pyrrhic (relating to Pyrrhus), for example, Panic might mean relating to Pan (or ‘of Pan’)
23 Club‘s male champion (4)

91 comments on “Times 27133 – A Tribute to Dame Frances Margaret”

  1. 6:49 – I think this was a first for me, it took me longer to complete the quick cryptic today! RIDE FOR A FALL was unfamiliar but the only thing that would fit in. METHANOL the last in.
  2. Continuing the movie theme, (Mrs) DANVERS came easily to mind because I watched Hitchcock’s 1940 film of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ on TV only a couple of weeks ago.
    1. Excellent film – I don’t generally like Olivier much (is that a terrible thing to say?) but he’s great in that.
        1. I find his Shakespeare films a bit mannered, though I expect in all fairness that he invented those manners and everyone else has just copied them ad nauseam…
            1. There’s certainly no denying its how visually influential his Richard has been – through Blackadder and beyond.
      1. May be heretical to say so but I couldn’t agree more. With relish most of the time, à la many of the other theatrical knights of his generation. He was good in ‘Sleuth’, with Michael Caine, though.
        1. I think you’re being a little harsh on Gielgud and Richardson. Pretty impressive filmographies, I’d say.
  3. Another who didn’t know RIDE FOR… I thought for a while it might be RIPE. I thought the only hedgehog I knew by name was Spiny Norman, but once I had the checkers SONIC looked familiar for some reason, although I couldn’t have told you why. I know why DANVERS looked familiar; she was here a few months ago. PANIC does, in fact, relate to Pan; he is the source of the word. DNK THRASH. Like Bruce, I faltered a bit at FALTERED, and actually started off with ‘dithered’, thinking I’d worry about ‘thered’ later; sure enough, 3 seconds later I worried, enough to delete it.
  4. I had a MER (minor eyebrow raise) at using “sat on the fence” to define “faltered”, but it seems the terms overlap enough for the judge to let it through.
  5. I would have thought the hedgehog that appears in 9ac is the video game character that the gene/protein is named after?
    1. That would better explain my knowledge of the name, although I hasten to add that I’ve never ever played a video game.
  6. 25 mins pre breakfast.
    Hmmm… a bit of an odd one I thought.
    Like brnchn, I too had a MER at Faltered.
    Like others, I haven’t heard of ‘Ride’ for a fall.
    Mostly I liked: In goal blocking shot.
    Thanks setter and Ulaca.
  7. PB for me. Two thirds done in record time. Held up a bit until the penny dropped for each of the films. LOI 8d which I DNK as Thomas More’s output but seemed a reasonable guess. Had not heard of 1a either though the last three words were obvious. I thought Sonic The Hedgehog was some sort of computer game.
  8. 27 minutes, so not a personal best, but pretty fast going for moi. Add me to the haven’t-heard-of-RIDE FOR A FALL club. FOI 1d ROSTRUM, LOI 26a SAFE-CRACKERS, which took me far too long to see, given that I actually had a conversation about safe-crackers last week (the local second-hand furniture shop just impulse-bought a fine-looking safe with no key…) COD 22d PANIC, WOD 25a NITRE.

    I’ve switched from the excellent Coedcanlas Sicilian Lemon No. 5 to peach preserve this week. I’m hoping the crosswords get a bit sweeter for me, too…

    Edited at 2018-09-03 07:10 am (UTC)

  9. 14’21” but with a typo, must stop solving online. The excellent DANVERS COD. Why oh why does theTimes continue to have so many pejorative words or phrases meaning mentally ill?

    Thanks ulaca and setter.

    1. I get what you mean about pejorative terms, but then “insane” is not necessarily “mentally ill” (“insane prices on sofas!”) and “crackers” is not necessarily negative or unkind. A little precious, perhaps?
  10. For the second day running, I came in just over 11 minutes, and I can’t usually even type that fast.
    I wondered if you were being disingenuous, U, with that stuff about hedgehog protein, when Sonic the Hedgehog is (perhaps sadly) more familiar to anyone under (say) 40 than Mrs Tiggywingle. I suppose someone has to keep out the riff raff!
    Riding for a fall also seemed familiar enough to go straight in: strange how serendipitous our vocab can be.
    Likewise Mrs DANVERS sprang readily to mind, though I would imagine Mrs Hughes/Carson is culturally more familiar now.
    Rank for STEP seemed quite a – um – step, but it went in easily enough.
    Appreciated the TLS-ish feel of this one, with its wide ranging cultural references. And loved (genuinely) the blog, especially the brilliant creation of “fataler” – straight into the dictionaries, please.
    1. I’d never heard of either the protein or the video game character, and the entry for the former was the first to be reached after Googling.
  11. 11 minutes with LOI SONIC. Annoyed I missed the sub 10, achieved just twice before. Only remembered one of the REGISTER definitions, but did know the organ one when briefed. Mrs DANVERS dredged up from long ago. Whatever became of her? COD to UTOPIA. I was on song, but this could have been the QC, couldn’t it? Thank you U and setter.
    1. What became of her?

      Didn’t she get burned alive when Mandalay was consumed by raging fire in the final frames of the movie?

      1. Not in the book, I believe. I think the movie is more ambiguous but it’s a long time since I saw it.
      2. At least we saw a burning rafter fall onto her (Hitchcock’s own twist on Du Maurier’s less dramatic ending). Agree with others, Rebecca is a fantastic movie.
  12. Glad to hear it wasn’t just me who found Saturday’s tough. Like ulaca I found this a sort of respite from that workout.

    I’ve never thought to question why there is a WAT TYLER country park near Basildon where I lived for some time, but I’ve now read that the Peasants’ Revolt started in nearby Fobbing. Thus concludes today’s history lesson.

    1. I’ve always thought that Wat Tyler and the Peasants Revolt would have bern a great name for a fourteenth century pop band.
    1. I don’t think it’s a real problem, but sitting on the fence doesn’t necessarily involve wavering, faltering, or dithering.
      1. It may well be that “sitting on the fence doesn’t necessarily involve…faltering” but surely it can, which is what matters for our purposes. Anyway, it give an excuse to quote the brilliant Lloyd George “The Right Honourable gentleman has sat so long on the fence that the iron has entered his soul.”
        1. Another quote (can’t remember who but definitely not Confucius) He who sits on the fence get barbed wire in his a***
    2. Sitting on the fence can be a settled position. There isn’t necessarily any implication of wavering.
    3. My original MER was due to a gut feeling that to sit on the fence (and to ‘waver’, which I think is fine for sitting on the fence), you need already to have ceased any forward progress. Whereas to falter, you need initially to be making progress and then to lose power, will or direction.
  13. 07:41. My second fastest time, I think and only 2nd time under 8 minutes. I liked your description of METHANOL being fataler, U, but I suspect it’s liking calling something more unique. UTOPIA my favourite.
  14. While “racing” through this, I confidently biffed TOP GUN seeing “film” and 3,3. Apart from that, all OK. COD to TRENDY.
  15. LOI 19D, the landlady whom I’ve never heard of. Thank you ulaca for the informative blog and I agree with the degree of difficulty. Saturday’s took me three times today’s.
  16. 7:31, slowed down by the dodgy synonyms (‘sat on the fence’ and ‘rank’) and then a lengthy failure to see what was going on with 13ac.
    I’m surprised by the number of people who didn’t know RIDE FOR A FALL.
    1. Hm. “Slowed down” and with a “lengthy” delay and still coming in in 7.31. Can we expect a sub-zero when everything clicks?
      1. Hmm, yes, I see now how that comes across…
        I thought this was extremely easy, and if it hadn’t been for those little hiccups (particularly 13ac) I think I might have managed a (very rare) sub-5.

        Edited at 2018-09-03 08:33 am (UTC)

    2. Yes it’s odd that so many said that, and I claimed to be amongst them, but “(something) for a fall” is very familiar and I can’t find an alternative to “riding” (which is in Brewers), unless it’s perhaps “heading” which is certainly in use but doesn’t fit so well. Crossword solvers all know that if one rides a horse one is said to be “up” which given the laws of gravity provides a suitable place to fall from.

      Edited at 2018-09-03 10:10 am (UTC)

  17. One of those slightly whimsical puzzles that used to be a feature of Mondays in every other paper. Not my taste but I know lots of people like them.
  18. I took 26 mins over this one: a little slow to get started and then I pottered through it without much difficulty. Yes, we’re all justified in MERing at ‘faltered’ and ‘rank’ and I added a MER of my own at ‘party’ for THRASH.
    Didn’t we have exactly the same ANDROMEDA clue only about a week ago? (Jackkt will no doubt remember the precise instance.)
    A hum-drum sort of a puzzle, this.
    Thanks, U, for the thorough and helpful blog.
    1. 24 August: Stellar group along with US lawyer investing capital in Europe
      14 Jan: Stars with European city lawyer
        1. Indeed. Curiously it doesn’t seem to have appeared before 2018. You wait years for one clue indicating ANDROMEDA as AND, ROME and DA…
  19. Yes, Saturday’s tough (and most enjoyable) and about thrice today’s solving-time of 16’04. A bit shaky on the films but got there. A bit sad that ‘to ride for a fall’ is passing not only from usage but collective memory. Had no idea of either of the sonic hedgehogs.
  20. 7.22 so a very rare foray into the sub 10 minute zone, let alone the sub-8s. Sitting in my home office with a proper keyboard makes a big difference. Probably not as much as the relative difficulty of the puzzles though I suppose.

    SONIC straight in from the video game character; Hedgehog? 5 letters? SONIC it is. OK so I misspent my youth (well, teens and twenties. And some of my thirties)

    Sat on the fence for a bit (see what I did there?) with UTOPIA, wondering if there might have been something else going on, but with those checkers it couldn’t be anything else so in it went, last.

    Count me as another RIDE FOR A FALL not-knower.

    Tomorrow, back to the ipad/train/nearer 20 minute experience I’m sure.

  21. 7 min 20 – but with one missed out! In my haste to achieve a first sub 8 mins in years I missed out Sonic. Otherwise it would have been about 7 min 40 I guess.

    No surprise then to see some fast times here and the SNITCHOMETER currently reading a lowly 56.

    COD: Utopia. Simple and neat.

  22. ….DON’T GET ME WRONG (The Pretenders).

    Sailed through this in 6:15, hesitating briefly over LOI METHANOL where I almost disgraced myself by biffing “methadon”.


    Liked HOT-WATER BOTTLE, but COD to the simple but nicely parsed TRENDY.

    For any of you who like an impulse bet, I notice that our regular contributor OLIVIA R is in the 6.20 at Newcastle this evening. It’s a flat race, so “riding for a fall” shouldn’t be a problem !

    ON EDIT 4.50 PM – Horse is now a non-runner.

    Edited at 2018-09-03 03:52 pm (UTC)

    1. Hope you didn’t have any money on me Philip – my riding days are well in the rear-view-mirror and weren’t much cop even in my salad days so a non-starter is about right. This shows it always pays to read the comments before venturing an opinion here – you never know when you might get a name-check. And that means you Mr., Mrs. and Ms. Anonymous.
      1. I’ll be watching for the horse being declared again – it’s only had one race, and that performance appeared decent enough.
  23. Very glad this was an easy one – I’m on holiday, and brain-rot has already taken hold. Actually, the brain-rot may have helped – many answers just seemed to write themselves in without conscious thought getting in the way.

    Regarding METHANOL, it’s poisonous mainly because it gets broken down into formaldehyde (whereas good old ethanol is metabolised into the relatively benign acetaldehyde). People who have drunk methanol can usefully be given large amounts of ethanol – the latter keeps the liver occupied, giving time for the methanol to be excreted before being broken down into formaldehyde.

    1. This could be highly useful information, Thud. I’m practicing keeping my liver busy just in case.
      1. As with all bodily faculties, so with the liver – use it or lose it. A good steady intake will keep it reasonably functional. However, to avoid what we call “hepatic complacency”, you need to surprise your liver now and again with a really good binge.

        I’m not really up to date with the NHS’s recommendations, but I believe “five a day” is widely touted. Can’t recall if that’s glasses or bottles, though.

        1. I have been away walking, so just catching up with the past week or so’s blogs. If ever there were a contender for “Thread of the year,” this is it.. amusing, and educational too!
          If you find out whether it was glasses or bottles let me know Thud, I wouldn’t want to get it wrong…
  24. And I did go there, at least in crossword land, as the du Maurier novels and characters including Mrs. DANVERS, were the theme of an excellent puzzle elsewhere a couple of weeks ago.

    Anyway, she didn’t spook me too much as I managed to finish this in 16 minutes, exactly 1/8 of the time I needed for Saturday.

    ANNIE HALL brought back some pleasant memories.

    Thanks to setter and blogger.

  25. Straightforward – between 5 and 10m. for me – but I don’t get what ‘revolutionary’ is doing in 16d. What am I missing? fourlegger
  26. 12:35 – near a PB as I now look to be sure I’ve no typos while entering, so can’t be much faster. Remembered 16dn as there was a Rebecca-themed puzzle elsewhere not long ago.
  27. 12m today so a rare fast time by my lowly standards. Nothing tricksy here I thought. No hesitations over FALTERED or RIDE FOR A FALL. Excellent blog – thank you
  28. I started off thinking this one was tricky, but suddenly realised that I was thinking too hard, and the clues were more ‘undevious’ than I had thought. Rattled them in almost as fast as I could write, and finished in 12 minutes. I spent far too long (maybe 3 minutes) on Wat Tyler (never heard of him), convinced that ‘count’ was ‘tally’.
  29. Guessed Utopia but I didn’t lose heart, I didn’t panic nor faltered and thrashed out in just over 15mins (quick for an oldie like me). Right, off to bed with a HWB and some ethanol substitute. Thanks all
  30. I was a bit sluggish with this one, which I put down to my excessive intake of various brands of ethanol over the weekend. I still completed in 24:56, but this put me at position 104 on the leaderboard, so I was obviously well off the pace. UTOPIA was my LOI and I only saw what was going on when MANTRA went in. I think we’ve had a similar clue quite recently. The NW took much longer than it should’ve done, with mental blocks on SPIKE for the hedgehog and I couldn’t see OC for CO. An enjoyable puzzle, nevertheless. Thanks setter and U, especially for the diversion into proteins:-) Time for another coffee methinks once the machine has finished descaling….
  31. I also was not convinced that “faltered” sat with “sat on the fence”. I was working on “dithered” for quite a while until I figured it out.
    Did not know of Mrs Danvers but not to hard to guess.
    More work leading to Utopia was clever.
  32. 20:33. I think I would’ve gone faster had I been more wide awake but I felt a bit vacant today. I couldn’t find anywhere to start until 18ac so a bit of 22dn was starting to set in. A smooth solve in the end nonetheless. Quite a lot of GK: Sonic the hedgehog (I had a 16-bit Sega Mega drive – I believe there are now kettles with more computational power – and played my fair share of Sonic), Annie Hall, Utopia, Watt Tyler, Top Hat and Mrs Danvers, but fortunately all of it known to me. The expression at 1ac didn’t have that familiar ring to it so that was my LOI. Hesitated over thrash for party (if someone said: “Roger’s having a thrash at his place”, I’d suggest we should all jolly well wait until he’s finished before going anywhere near the place). Knew the list but not the organ stop. I’m on the fence as to whether or not faltered is a synonym for sat on the fence. COD 1dn.
  33. Very late to the fair so no one will see this after returning to a furnace-like apartment from a long holiday weekend. Even so I managed an unusual (for me) under 10. Self-congrats were short-lived when I saw Magoo had romped home in a super-SONIC 2.52. Wow. I haven’t opened Saturday’s yet but having read the comments here I will wait until (comparatively) fresh and cool in the morning.
  34. Have only just completed it after a long drive to Kilmartin on the west coast of Scotland I would send a travelogue over the next few days but we are moving back into the twentieth century tomorrow. Suffice it to say that the standard of Eastern European hotel staff is very high.
  35. Very easy (OK, for me that means around 30 minutes) but not very interesting. Too many movie titles with rather trite wordplay to clue them and strangely disappointing clues like the one for METHANOL, which by itself is also an alcohol. Somehow it looked like a puzzle from the early days of cryptic crosswords in the Times, just a bit unpolished.
  36. Thanks to the pointers to this from the Quick Cryptic team. I tried this and managed a pretty good effort – only needing a little help with Andromeda. So my first ever 15×15 solve. Maybe took about 45 minutes. Very pleasing.
    Cheers and regards to all.
    John George.
    1. Congrats, John George! Only sorry to see the heading on your message; why not come back and join in the fun?

      Edited at 2018-09-03 09:11 pm (UTC)

  37. I know I’m two days late so nobody’s ever going to read this in all probability, but as this is the first time I’ve ever managed to complete a 15×15 I couldn’t resist posting a comment. I don’t usually try the main puzzle as even the QC is still a challenge, but as there were some comments on the blog of that, suggesting this was on the easier side of things, I thought I’d give it a go. I had to come back to it a few times, but I finally made it. Didn’t know about Danvers or Top Hat or Ride For A Fall, but everything else was okay. It always surprises me to find that experienced solvers, ones who can polish off something like this in 10 minutes and obviously have amazing general knowledge, can have traversed the last quarter century without coming across a character as enduringly popular as Sonic the Hedgehog. I guess nobody can know everything, although I think some of you do come pretty close.


    1. you might be surprised at how many late readers there are of these things!
      well done, it does get easier with practise (and especially with help from this site)


  38. Originally, in September 2018, I solved this on paper in 33:20. Three years later, I completed it online in a PB for me 9:20 — first time I’ve broken 10 minutes.

    I can’t honestly say that I specifically remembered any of the answers from my first time round, but maybe they were lodged in the brain somewhere.

    I suspect it is simply a mark of improvement having been something of a Times novice back in 2018, to knowing many more of the tricks involved when completing in 2021.

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