Times 27,149: Dog Soldiers

A not *too* challenging Friday puzzle to round off what has felt like a fairly gentle week, but the sort of gridfill that I very much appreciate: a whirlwind tour of general knowledge taking in ancient Greek, ancient Rome, the Bible, Shakespeare, Asian and African geography, the periodic table, dog breeds and a good dose of weird and wonderful vocabulary too. Maybe it’s just because 2018 has been the year that I’ve become obsessed with competitive quizzing, but this is definitely the kind of thing I like.

The wordplay also has a playful quality with a few standouts: I very much liked our canine chum’s RINGER SPAN becoming a “double-cross”, and “Gershwin against himself” in 7dn. My least favourite clue was the one I had to spend some extra time puzzling out after I stopped my timer just before 8 minutes: 8dn, where “ancient arrow” for REED is the kind of definition that I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at in a barred puzzle, but seemed a bit obscure for the 15×15. I’m sure most will have just shrugged and bunged it in, but I found myself unable to shake the feeling that it might somehow be RAED (as in Raedwald, old king of the East Angles?) and if I’d had to make that call in a championship prelim at speed and fallen the wrong way, it’d have been the Devonport Debacle all over again. I’m probably overly touchy about such things as November draws ever closer, though.

Over all a very jolly puzzle though. Thanks setter (and spaniel)!

1 Fashion to drink whiskey where more people are around (4)
TOWN – TON [fashion] to “drink” W [whiskey]

3 Island commander packing angry wound (10)
MADAGASCAR – AGA [commander] “packing” MAD SCAR [angry | wound]

10 Made bishop stop, surprised to be overheard within (9)
ENTHRONED – END [stop], homophone of THROWN [surprised] “within”

11 Man having day to find employment (5)
USAGE – US [man, as in “the human race”] to find AGE [day, as in “this day and age”]

12 Seraphim forced to abandon second tribe (7)
EPHRAIM – ({s}ERAPHIM*) [“forced”, abandoning S]. Ephraim is one of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from Ephraim son of Joseph.

13 Bring out drug in accordance with law (6)
ELICIT – E LICIT [drug | in accordance with law]

15 Special troops when relaxed are radiant group (10,5)
PRAETORIAN GUARD – (ARE RADIANT GROUP*) [“when relaxed”]. The personal bodyguard of the Emperor in Roman times.

18 Barker having prepared speech about double-cross (8,7)
SPRINGER SPANIEL – SPIEL [prepared speech] “about” RINGER SPAN [double | cross]

21 Beard model put to work (6)
OPPOSE – POSE [model] put to OP [work]. Beard as in “to beard the lion in his den”.

23 Check on heartbeat (7)
REPULSE – RE PULSE [on | heartbeat]

26 Asian city and Greek one without parking (5)
DELHI – DEL{p}HI [Greek city, minus P]

27 Getting louder? Time to exit street party! (9)
CRESCENDO – CRESCEN{t] [street, minus T] + DO [party]

28 Understand when it’s e-mail that’s encrypted (10)
ASSIMILATE – AS [when] + (IT’S EMAIL*) [“encrypted”]

29 Person managing excellent American stud (4)
BOSS – triple definition

1 Article on English politician in tax drama (3,7)
THE TEMPEST – THE [article] on E MP [English | politician] in TEST [tax]

2 Keep an eye on hunter? (5)
WATCH – double definition

4 Armenian toyed with European girl (4-5)
ANNE-MARIE – (ARMENIAN*) [“toyed”] with E [European]

5 Two daughters introduced to beer become confused (5)
ADDLE – D D [two daughters] “introduced” to ALE [beer]

6 Answer in contemplation for comic (7)
AMUSING – A MUSING [answer | in contemplation]

7 Row in church turning one Gershwin against himself (9)
CHARIVARI – CH [church] + reversed IRA V IRA [one Gershwin against himself!]

8 Ancient arrow‘s point, bloodied all around? (4)
REED – E [point], RED [bloodied] “all around”

9 Monster devouring rook and chicken part (6)
BREAST – BEAST [monster] “devouring” R [rook]

14 Notice lust with roué contrived such relationship? (10)
ADULTEROUS – AD [notice] + (LUST + ROUE*) [“contrive”], semi-&lit.

16 What might be rice and grain store up in citadel (9)
ACROPOLIS – A CROP [what might be rice] + reversed SILO [grain store “up”]

17 Taking it all in having gone around planet? (9)
ABSORBENT – ABSENT [gone] around ORB [planet]

19 Principal in Number 10 wrong about one element (7)
NIOBIUM – N{umber} 10 + BUM [wrong] about I [one]

20 Poisonous sort given shocking treatment shows face (6)
ASPECT – ASP [poisonous sort] given E.C.T. [shocking treatment]

22 Central characters in Huxley said to stand out? (5)
EXCEL – say the central characters in {hu}XL{ey}, X and L, out loud.

24 Shortening piece of verse, try peculiar vocabulary (5)
LINGO – LIN{e} [“shortened” piece of verse] + GO [try]

25 Certain characters within decide against proposal (4)
IDEA – hidden in {dec}IDE A{gainst}

52 comments on “Times 27,149: Dog Soldiers”

  1. “Make bishop” is a DBE and I think this should have been indicated. Not sure I’d heard of a hunter WATCH before, but with all the crossers, it couldn’t have been anything else. The Gershwin mirror effect was nice indeed. REED was my LOI!
  2. Easy except like others, struggled rather with the defs for 8dn abd 11ac, my last two in.
    I observe that our setter has correctly included the e in the NATO Alphabet word for W
  3. I biffed SPRINGER SPANIEL fairly early on, but never could parse it until after submitting. Ditto for CRESCENDO & ACROPOLIS. Liked CHARIVARI, although getting -ARI made things fairly easy.
  4. I found this far from easy, with the two long ones not yielding until near the end. LOI the unknown NIOBIUM which I was far from confident about. I liked EXCEL, which although an easier clue was quite an original device to my mind.
  5. 35 mins with a pain aux raisins.
    Mostly I liked charivari and double-cross.
    ‘Delhi crescendo’: will that replace the Ozzie upswing?
    Thanks setter and V.
  6. … a great verse for a sermon by the Rev J C Flannel. Let us all ensure in life that we are evenly grilled. 38 minutes with LOI an unparsed USAGE after I’d plucked up the courage to enter a constructed REED for an arrow. Was puzzled about the use of principal in the NIOBIUM clue, which I got once the SPRINGER SPANIEL leapt into my mind. I would have given COD to CHARIVARI but I thought that the use of ‘one’ Gershwin could be read to have implied the other wasn’t reversed. So COD to the PRAETORIAN GUARD who did a great job hiding the anagram fodder. Didn’t know the WATCH but crossers gave it away. Thank you V and setter.

    Edited at 2018-09-21 08:25 am (UTC)

    1. I guess “one Gershwin” is there to mollify those for whom the canonical Gershwin will always be George!
      1. I wondered if the ‘one’ might be an editorial intervention. It seems unnecessary and the clue better without it.
        1. Probably put in as DBE lurks in there somewhere. However, I do see the ludicrousness of EGROEGVEGROEG.
          1. Actually I wonder if it wasn’t originally ‘turns one Gershwin against another’, which makes more sense of the surface reading.
            1. That’s interesting. I don’t suppose there’s any cryptic reason why ‘another’ Gershwin shouldn’t also be IRA.
              1. Indeed. There’s only one person but this is just a word so you can have as many IRAs as you want.
  7. Rather surprised to find only 35 minutes on the clock for this one on completion considering I didn’t know REED. USAGE was only biffed and I was unable to fully parse it after the event. I wasn’t entirely sure about ‘excellent American / BOSS, but it rang a faint bell.

    Edited at 2018-09-21 07:30 am (UTC)

  8. Much enjoyed the two long across clues. COD to the Guard as “relaxed” could have referred to ‘Special troops as’ or ‘are radiant group’. I didn’t like USAGE as I cannot equate day with age.
    1. I wasn’t entirely convince by it either. If they mean the same then the expression above is tautological, but then a lot of everyday expressions are just that.
  9. 23:07 but didn’t understand USAGE and REED, my last two in. Thanks for explaining the former V, and I’ve learnt something about ancient weaponry with the latter. Some neat wordplay – I liked ENTHRONED and the nicely hidden IDEA, but CHARIVARI is my COD. Thanks V and setter.
  10. No golf today following last night’s storm so did the puzzle instead. Agree, not too taxing.

    Biffed USAGE and took some time to work out the parsing and am not convinced it works. Had memories of REED being an arrow but also agree – a bit obscure for the daily. Thought CHARIVARI and the lift and separate “double cross” excellent

    NIOBIUM a write-in. A metal used in strong super-alloys used in jet engines

  11. As is usually the case, my solving experience turns out to be far from unique (see above). An entertaining and quickish solve, brought to an abrupt halt in the NE corner. I was far more confident about REED than I was about USAGE, which I couldn’t parse before coming here. Not best practice, of course, but U_A_E with a likely definition of “employment” led me to bang in USAGE on the grounds that even if I didn’t understand it, it was almost certainly right (and if I’d looked for a great deal longer, I still don’t think I would have seen why).
  12. I found this a hard one, but enjoyable, and I pushed my hour out to an hour and eight to finish it off. Didn’t help that I’d missed the anagram for 15a, mis-remembered CHARIVARI as “chativari” and got very confused, and DNK EPHRAIM or REED.

    FOI 1a TOWN, LOI 8d REED, COD 11a USAGE.

  13. ….in the surface of 8D, and unconvincingly biffed “raed” thinking the “a” was “arrow’s point”. I also biffed USAGE, which I’d suspected all along, but didn’t see “day = age”, and, earlier discussions notwithstanding, I remain unconvinced.

    Though SPRINGER SPANIEL was a successful biff on the “couldn’t be anything else” rule, and now unravelled is my COD, my remaining biff at 9D came badly unstuck. The anatomy of chickens is beyond my ken, but once the R went in, I foolishly decided that “monster = giant” and it’s little wonder “griant” was flagged DNK !

    Also admired ADULTEROUS and NIOBIUM.

    It’s pointless to finish in 11:18 if I’m making silly errors, and I think I’m trying too hard to speed up with a mere 6 weeks to go before I valiantly try to challenge Magoo (I’m starting to feel like the disembodied head in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on that particular front), but I shall have to try to be just a little more considered in my approach, starting from Monday.

    Thanks to V for the excellent blog, and to the compiler, who beat me fair and square (grrr !)

  14. 12m. I wasted ages at the end trying either to figure out how US could be derived from ‘man’ or to find some other answer. I gave up and biffed it in the end and then saw the light while brushing my teeth a couple of minutes later. ‘Day’ for age seems fine to me.
    I found some of the obscurities a little bit annoying in this but I will forgive a lot of a setter who gives us ‘double cross’ and the Gershwin trick.
  15. Did all bar three in less than half an hour, then decided I didn’t want to spend a day(?) on this, realising I was stymied by not being able to recall CHARIVARI, despite coming across it here often enough. The others I failed on were the problem-giving USAGE and REED.

    Talking of which, I look forward to seeing Patrick the Masters champion playing in the Ryder Cup. I have a rather soft spot for the fellow, despite (because of?) all the kerfuffle surrounding him.

  16. 32m and same issues as others with USAGE though ok with REED. A write in for some apparently I struggled most with the element! Good puzzle and entertaining blog, as ever. Thank you, setter and V.
  17. Found this quite tough and I made a total mess of putting in the unknown ‘griant’ for 9d. Another slice, anyone? 34m with one almost as wrong as you can get.
    1. Excellent momble. I’m out with heavy drinking Canadians from the sticks tomorrow. I think I’ll recommend chicken griants to them.
  18. 22’16. ‘Reed’ a little rare I thought for an archaic arrow. ‘Usage’ seems OK in crosswordland. Managed to get away from ‘griant’ (above). I endorse v.’s nod to the GK scope, also the gemlet of ‘gridfill’.
  19. I failed to call CHARIVARI to mind so instead tried CHARICARI with about as much confidence as that warranted. Just shy of 15 minutes with that error – like others, I had my fingers crossed for REED and remain unconvinced by USAGE.
  20. 34:10 a satisfying puzzle. Bit of head scratching at the end to twig man as in mankind giving (all of) us but given the definition I didn’t even bat an eyelid at day for age once I had the us part. Reed also unknown but once I had red for bloodied I decided that it had to be around a compass point and east was the only one that worked. Springer spaniel was biffed, I did see the spiel a bit later but it was a shame to have missed out on the brilliant “double cross” while solving.
  21. I also thought of Raed, possibly because I live less than a mile away from where he’s (supposedly) buried. As it was, 8d failure meant a DNF for this enjoyable puzzle.

  22. I think this must be my first ever Friday finish. I usually end up pondering the Friday xword throughout the entire w/e, so I guess that means it is def. on the easy side today.

    2d went in straight away but still unclear as to the second def. of hunter. Is this hunter as in one who watches for prey or is an actual watch…… or s’thing else entirely?

    I’m especially happy with 7d as it’s a word I learnt here sometime last year and particularly liked – almost onomatopaeic (sp?), so easily remembered. Must be my COD.

    Thanks to setter and Verlaine, esp. for the parsing of 18a which I biffd.

  23. My experience pretty much as others, USAGE not causing me so much bother however, but REED yes. Otherwise excellent, and loved the Dog & Gershwin.

    Perhaps I’ll try a pint there later.

  24. DNK CHARIVARI perhaps through being a relative newcomer to The Times.

    Was fortunate enough to know the element through my son’s infernal and repeated singing of the earwormic The Periodic Table to the tune of Offenbach’s Galop Infernal (think Can Can).

    Edited at 2018-09-21 01:17 pm (UTC)

    1. One of the cast sang Tom Lehrer’s pairing of the periodic table and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General” on a recent Better Call Saul episode. He said it was an absolute pain to learn because the melody and beat meant he couldn’t wing it when he went wrong.
  25. Just under 20 minutes for me, so I found this easy. Same holdups as everyone else at REED and USAGE where they couldn’t be anythng else…or was I missing something.

    1. Thank you for your helpful comment from yesterday which I read at 5.30 this morning and didn’t feel it an appropriate time to reply.

      It helped to remind me of my maxim regarding the cryptics: each word is there for a reason so read each and every one of them carefully. I was so chuffed at having quickly seen the ‘Spoonerism’ that I didn’t pay attention to ‘might have said’ which, as you rightly pointed out, generously indicated a homophone.

      Nevertheless, George’s comment that most Spoonerisms are homophones not literal allows me/any other learner to generalise, which is most helpful too.

      Perhaps, overall, your timely reminder to me helped with today’s which, totally unexpectedly, just seemed to flow.

    2. Couldn’t be anything else perhaps but if understanding wordplay is part of the solve then those clues were not so easy.
  26. Trying to complete this with a migraine and the sun in my eyes, I managed to complete in 45 mins Being a veggie I wasn’t well up on chicken parts so, as above, toyed with GRIANT for a while Last 2 see all posts above, nothing to add!
  27. Completed in 54 minutes although I did look up Gershwin to get a handle on 7d CHARIVARI (DNK). My LOI was 10a ENTHRONED with penultimate solve 19d NIOBIUM which I biffed. I also biffed USAGE, EPHRAIM and SPRINGER SPANIEL. Thank you to verlaine for the explanatory blog.
  28. Had to look up “charivari” as never heard of it (and only remembered George Gershwin!). Also, did not know that meaning of “beard”. Hope they will stick – but doubt it at my age.
  29. Not sure about RAED, but if the setter was being obscure, I thought RWED (W for West) would fit the wordplay!
  30. Tried to fit this in after a busy day and before heading off to a 70th birthday bash, but after 28 minutes was left with 7d still to do, the IRAs bit understood, but unable to reconcile the “one” bit of the clue, so I saved the puzzle for later, as I needed to shoot off. On my return I got as far as CHARI_ARI, but didn’t know the word or see the significance of the “against” bit of the wordplay, so I bunged a “I (for one)” in the middle and Googled to see if it existed. It showed me CHARIVARI so all was revealed and I now know what it is. Hopefully I’ll remember for next time. We’ve had Hunter for WATCH before. I got REED from wordplay and biffed USAGE without understanding it. IDEA was well hidden. 31:29 with one cheat. An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks setter and V.
  31. 1ac TON = fashion is new to me. French not English.
    19dn Why “Principal”? Doesn’t seem to do anything.
    21ac My first solution was GOATEE (Go At = put to work, E-type = Model).
    Good misdirection.

    from Jeepyjay

  32. Second time around, 34 months later, this time online and remembered CHARIVARI — the system works!! (sometimes)

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