Times 27,185: Anatomy of a Crossword

A fine-fettled Friday the puzzle, the intricacies of whose right-hand side pushed my final time well over the 10 minute mark, in a manner disappointing on the eve of the Times Championships. I hope to see all or at least most of you there!

Excellent marriages of smooth and apropos surfaces to devious wordplay, and I’m ashamed to say many went in from checkers incompletely parsed and appreciated until after submission: 1ac, 10ac, 11ac, 26ac, 1dn, 5dn, 7dn, 8dn, 15dn. That’s an unusually high number for me and speaks to the fact that there were some excellently complex cryptic twists and turns in this puzzle. Thanks setter! Less perplexing but still brilliant clues include 19ac, 25ac, 2dn, 22dn… too many absolute gems to choose just one COD today really.

How are we all feeling about tomorrow then? I’ve had much less time to do crosswords of late than in recent years, for one reason or another, so I’m just hoping not to make any silly mistakes in the morning prelim this year round and get my face back into the final. Anything else will be gravy!

1 Utter speech hoping to sell skill with notes (8,5)
ABSOLUTE PITCH – ABSOLUTE [utter] + PITCH [speech hoping to sell]

9 Dishonest part of family in Genoa (5)
LYING – hiddine in {fami}LY IN G{enoa}

10 Fruit containing date’s pith, covered with colour regulator? (9)
MELATONIN – MELON [fruit] “containing” {d}AT{e}, + IN [covered with]

11 Busy with letters about 500 serving staff (10)
ATTENDANTS – AT [busy with] + TENANTS [letters] about D [500]

12 Plug hole’s rims accept variable pressure (4)
HYPE – H{ol}E accepts Y P [variable | pressure]

14 Coercion getting church to replace queen and noblewoman (7)
DUCHESS – DURESS [coercion], getting CH [church] to replace R [queen]

16 One with ocular singularity has operations on endless rotation (7)
CYCLOPS – OPS [operations] on CYCL{e} [“endless” rotation]

17 Maybe harvest more than in rocky spot (7)
OUTCROP – to CROP is to harvest, so to OUT-CROP could be to harvest more than another

19 Knocking out West Bromwich, playing in diamond formation (7)
RHOMBIC – (BROM{w}ICH*) “playing”

20 Italian official returned for one binge with ill effects (4)
DOGE – reverse E.G. O.D. [for one | binge with ill effects]

21 Help as Brie deteriorates, being this? (10)
PERISHABLE – (HELP AS BRIE*) [“deteriorates”], semi-&lit

24 Pink people addicted to driving? (9)
CARNATION – and presumably a CAR NATION would be all about the driving

25 What offers support for female opera star’s first half? (5)
BRAVA – the female opera star is a DIVA, replace her first half with BRA [what offers support], brilliant &lit.

26 Radical in uncontrolled movement keeping apart two Conservatives at odds (13)
CONTRADICTORY – RAD [radical] in TIC [uncontrolled movement], keeping apart CON and TORY [two Conservatives]

1 Rallying cry as mate almost lets next person deal? (3,5,2,4)
ALL HANDS ON DECK – ALL{y} [mate “almost”] HANDS ON the DECK of cards, possibly for the next player to deal.

2 Go around clubs banned from turning tricks (5)
SKIRT – TRI{c}KS reversed

3 Fruit began going bad in truck (10)
LOGANBERRY – (BEGAN*) [“going bad”] in LORRY [truck]

4 Perhaps queen’s consorts and host in drinking tribute lowering glasses finally (7)
TOMCATS – MC [host] in TOAST, with {glasse}S getting lowered to the bottom. Queen here meaning a female cat.

5 Statesman-like, still keeping Oscar fired up (7)
POLITIC – PIC [still] “keeping” O LIT [Oscar | fired up]

6 2 sounding like twice that (4)
TUTU – a skirt [2 across] that is a homophone of “two two”.

7 Love curry? This food store also has eggs (9)
HONEYCOMB – HONEY [love] + CURRY [comb]

8 High official confidence in time to stop UN hardliner (14)
UNDERSECRETARY – SECRET [confidence] in ERA [time], to stop UN DRY [UN | hardliner]. A dry is the opposite of a political wet: thanks to those who clarified this in the comments!

13 Yield malevolent creature nabbed by agents over suffering at high levels (10)
ACROPHOBIC – CROP HOB [yield | malevolent creature] “nabbed by” reversed CIA [agents]

15 Unconditional truce’s ending between kitty and corgi, in disarray (9)
CATEGORIC – {truc}E between CAT [kitty] and (CORGI*) [“in disarray”]

18 Film director with no good cut is top in Rank (7)
PREMIER – PREMI{ng}ER. Film director Otto.

19 Prevailed, though apparently snubbed again, or overlooked (7)
REIGNED – RE-IGN{or}ED [apparently snubbed again]

22 Evidently vote against party (5)
BEANO – if you choose to BE A NO, you vote against

23 Wife wears cool light brown (4)
FAWN – W [wife] “wears” FAN [cool]

78 comments on “Times 27,185: Anatomy of a Crossword”

  1. 45 mins to give up with 4dn/10ac left – while enjoying toast with the delicious G&L marmalade (Lewis & Cooper).
    I could see the Toats, by couldn’t put MC inside it. Now kicking self.
    I stiffer test today than earlier in the week. Mostly I liked: Out-crop, W Bromwich, Skirt, Honeycomb and COD to the bizarre Car-Nation.
    Thanks setter and V (and very good luck tomorrow).
  2. For the most part, this didn’t feel any harder than the rest of the week, so I was a bit surprised to clock up 25 minutes. I spent time trying to justify DOGE (which I did) and BRAVA (which I didn’t, beyond the support bra). UNDERSECRETARY also took time, as despite the UN prompt, UNDER anything doesn’t sound particularly high. At 12 I had DYNE for a while (it fits, it’s pressure, very sort of) but the rest didn’t contribute.
    The West Brom clue was clever in a clever bunch.
    Not at the Champs this year; I think my entry must have arrived late, but I’m still not very mobile and getting there would be tricky. Best of solving times to all who make it.
    1. Here’s to next year, Zed, when I hope to join the festivities, if only – and, barring miracles, almost certainly – as a cheerleader.
  3. I blew a very good time on a very good puzzle by sheer stupidity: I flung in TAWN at 23d (W in TAN, I thought hurriedly), thinking maybe it’s a variant of ‘tawny’ and anyway I’ll have to come back to it. Which of course I forgot to.
  4. Failed to start my timer, but about 30 minutes for this, taking an age to get my last few – UNDERSECRETARY, TOMCATS and MELATONIN. DNK the film director, I must remember queen for cat, and I failed to understand some wordplay – e.g. POLITIC and the high official. So thanks setter for the good workout and thanks, as always, for the explanations V… See you tomorrow!
  5. Aren’t we missing a D in the explanation of UNDERSECRETARY? I think that gives us DRY for the hardliner as opposed to the political softie or ‘wet’.

    Edited at 2018-11-02 08:29 am (UTC)

        1. Great minds, etc.; except that I only thought of it when I saw your original comment. I should have waited for a few more seconds!
    1. Thank you! I have been hurried and slapdash recently it seems… (Cries of “Sack ‘im!” from the gallery.)
  6. That today was just a wobble, what with 10 minutes on the quickie (no, me neither) and nearly half an hour on this one.

    If this form is going to continue in the 2nd prelim tomorrow I may as well save myself the train fare and have a lie in.

    1. Ah. But then you would miss out on the the beer and mutual commiserations with the likes of me in The George. See you there!
  7. This felt a bit harder than yesterday’s, but also easier than I fleetingly feared more than once while busily working through it. Just realized, though, that I neglected to fully parse ATTENDANTS. “Letters,” indeed. And to OUTCROP some farmer, ho ho. A pleasurable excursion.

    Good luck tomorrow, y’all.

  8. A not-too-slow 22 fully parsed, so must have been almost on the wavelength. Preminger unknown, and dry as hardliner. COD Brava.
    Live 20,000 km from London so won’t be at the Championship tomorrow, good luck to all the contestants: Break a legad!

    Edit: that’s a g struck-through, hard to make out.

    Edited at 2018-11-02 08:58 am (UTC)

  9. fairly straightforward, I thought, though the Snitch currently has it just in the “harder” bracket. Some neat clues and good surfaces – I did like 19ac

    Good luck to all competitors tomorrow!Please someone keep a copy of the heat and final results for us to admire

  10. Harder than the rest this week, but not hard enough to prevent this being the easiest week ever recorded on the SNITCH!

    I liked LOGANBERRY for the misdirection of looking for an anagram of ‘Fruit began’. I often wonder if such misdirection is intended or just good fortune on the setter’s part. RHOMBIC my COD though, for the excellent consistent theme – West Bromwich being a football team (arguably) and the diamond formation a common team formation.

    I’m in the second prelim tomorrow, and looking forward to it. Good luck to fellow competitors!

  11. I thought this was going to be a breeze but I got tripped up by carelessly putting an A on the end of ACROPHOBIC which made gibberish of CONTRADICTORY for several minutes. Couldn’t parse UNDERSECRETARY and I think Jack must be right about the “dry” part so no wonder I couldn’t see it. We’ve had BEANO more than once before, in one of Dean’s I think anyway, so it’s now registered. 21.38 so clearly not championship material me.

    Very sorry not to be there tomorrow and my best to all. I hope Vinyl gets the full tally by very fast rickshaw now that Tony Sever has bowed out.

  12. Very best of luck to all of our contributors taking part. I shall be overseas.
    Remember to take a pencil sharpener and to wear your lucky underwear.
    1. “…wear your lucky underwear”

      I’m pretty sure the rest of the field would prefer I didn’t.


  13. 48 minutes with LOI BRAVA, the distinction with BRAVO not realised before, probably because by the end of an opera I’m thinking ‘thank God that’s over’. COD to CYCLOPS which tickled my fancy, with RHOMBIC enjoyed too. Didn’t parse Doge. Wasn’t aware of CURRY meaning COMB but it had to be. Like others, I started out quickly only to get bogged down. Thank you V and setter. Good luck to all contestants for tomorrow. I’m coming down to The George for a drink and to help bayonet the wounded.
  14. I was surprised that all mine were correct as I just couldn’t see BRAVA. I had BRA and DIVA but not BRA replacing DI.


    I will be there tomorrow. My aim is to do better than last year where I came 70th= of 88 in the first preliminary. My lifetime aim is to solve all three puzzles correctly in the hour, which 24/88 achieved last year in preliminary 1 and 27/85 achieved in preliminary 2.

    Good luck to everyone competing and I hope to meet plenty of you there – and in The George afterwards.

    1. I was 82= in 1st premium last year – and have similar ambitions.

      Maybe see you tomorrow – are you morning or afternoon this year?

      Edited at 2018-11-02 11:22 am (UTC)

        1. I’m afternoon this year – it finishes at 2.00 so by my reckoning I should be in the George by, say, 2.03?
  15. Great puzzle. Somewhat testing in the solve and even more so in the parsing at times. I never quite got to grips with how BRAVA worked despite considering all its elements, BRA and DIVA. 4dn was my favourite, but then I’m a sucker for anything cat-related.
  16. A horrible 37 minutes to complete and I have no excuse why. See you all tomorrow. I will be the one downing my sorrows at the pub!
    1. I thInk you may find a queue at the bar. Formed mostly of me.

      Edited at 2018-11-02 11:22 am (UTC)

      1. Ah. But I’ll be there already as I’m in the 1st prelim. Aiming to do better than my 46th= last year, but today’s showing wasn’t encouraging.
  17. 31 mins, so basically just going for the goody bag tomorrow (and the nice view from the 17th floor) :))
  18. 58 minutes, so the champs must remain a distant dream (for this year). I’m an incurable irrationalist.

    All the best to everyone competing, and a special injection of Hong Kong Ga Yau to those seeking a place at the last supper.

    Anyone who can work that out should be up for the toughest cryptic. Or maybe not – the setters are pros.

  19. Yes, a jolly good puzzle. Took 37 mins and most enjoyable. Special mention for RHOMBIC, BRAVA, TUTU (though I know some solvers dislike the Grauniad-style cross-referencing of clues), CAR-NATION (ho-ho!), HONEYCOMB. I didn’t parse UNDERSECRETARY, so thanks V — or thanks Jack! — for the elucidation. I never knew acro- as the Greek for ‘on high’: so enjoyed that ‘aha!’ feeling at understanding the Acropolis.

    Brava, setter! Or bravo, setter! And best wishes to all TftT contestants tomorrow: may your biffs be beneficial, your hiddens patent, your anagrams agreeable and your DDs a doddle.

  20. 25:14 for this quite tricky number. I always have to make a conscious effort to slow down on wordy clues and this had a fair few of them to untangle. I agree with COD to RHOMBIC which, whilst not hard, is a great spot by the setter and a terrific surface.
  21. I’m not all that against the cross referencing – at least every now and then, and sometimes it can actually be helpful; but there seems to be a current trend in the Grauniad for splitting a single word, based on the fact that each half could be a word in its own right.

    Just doesn’t feel right to me.

      1. I’ve deliberately steered clear of the Groan this week, trying to keep it as “pure” as possible for tomorrow.

        Fat load of good it did me today mind.

    1. I’ve noticed that with Graun puzzles recently and have just sort of shrugged and thought ‘if that’s considered OK, then OK’.
      Nice to see you earlier!
  22. I was surprised to come in at 48 minutes on this one; I was sure I was within seconds of my hour bell going off when I finally put in 8d UNDERSECRETARY.

    Slowed down by several more along the way, with and without good reason (e.g. I thought of CONTRADICTORY for 26a almost immediately, but thought “in uncontrolled movement” was an anagram indicator for “radical”, which confused me…)

    Also slowed down by a brief pause about halfway through to think to myself, “Gosh. This is a lovely puzzle, isn’t it?” COD to 4d TOMCATS, which was a fine reveal when I finally pieced it together.

    Thanks to setter, V, and Colin Dexter for introducing me to “BRAVA”, which is the only way I got to 25a.

    I hope everyone has a great time at the championships. I rather think I need a few more years’ practice before I come along myself!

  23. Excellent puzzle, for which kudos to the setter, and thanks to the editor for sparing us a Friday Beast on the eve of the championships. West Bromwich the pick of some very good wordplay. I shall be on my way to That London in a few hours and looking forward to beating my personal best tomorrow (if only for the earliest time at which I have reached the George). See (some of) you there.
  24. 25 minutes – didn’t attempt to parse 8dn, so thanks for that, also 25ac, where I could only think of (no)VA=star, which doesn’t work. (First thought was DIVAN, with no idea for the N, but that forgotten as soon as I got on to the downs.) MER at letters=TENANTS in 11ac, rather than landlords.
  25. Well, good luck tomorrow those of you etc etc, I hope you have a clear hyperspace motorway twixt brain and pen. I understand there is drinking after this event, bibamus moriendum est etc etc, so all the best there too.

    I enjoyed this well-written puzzle, and I’m another who coasted along without realising what the time was, so to speak, and so maybe it was tougher than it seemed. Still, good work out.

  26. I needed 39:28 to work my way through this one, but did so with only ATTENDANTS, PREMIER and the DRY bit of UNDERSECRETARY unparsed. Lots to like, CYCLOPS, ACROPHOBIC, POLITIC to name but a few. LOGANBERRY was sneaky; I also tried to use FRUIT BEGAN as anagrist. A very enjoyable puzzle. Thanks setter and V, and good luck to all those entering the fray tomorrow.
  27. Fun puzzle, very much liked BRAVA and didn’t work out the wordplay for ACROPHOBIC or UNDERSECRETARY. 13:15. Best of luck to everyone on Saturday, hope it will be a blast.
  28. 10m 14s for me, but now I’m wondering if I’ve peaked too soon. Last year I was in poor form leading up to the championships and then made the final for the first time… so who knows?

    Anyway, a great puzzle today. UNDERSECRETARY went in entirely unparsed, I was also unclear on BRAVA, and didn’t know Preminger. Happily the checkers were kind in all cases.

    19a is my COD. As a Wolves fan, I’m on board for any clue about West Brom getting knocked out.

    1. I’m hoping to be home from the championship in time to see Spurs beat Wolves tomorrow 😉
          1. Congrats! Disappointed to come away with nothing, but if you score 3 away you deserve to win. I’m looking forward to Wembley!
  29. Afraid I won’t be able to be there tomorrow due to some problematic life stuff getting in the way, but good luck to all taking part. Remember to enjoy it! Cheers, all
  30. Lots of unparsed and partially unparsed clues today but fortune favours the BRAVe. Initally had RHOMBUS until I revisited the clue and saw the light. Thought BRAVA was a great clue. Glad to come in at under 50 mins.
  31. Like vinyl I cannot understand the parsing of Doge in 20 across EGOD = for one binge with ill effects. Please could someone explain.
    A very good puzzle though.
    Barry J
  32. I had a big struggle with the QC today but managed to finish this in reasonable time for me. This is becoming a habit.
    FOI was Fawn and LOI Tomcats. I liked a lot of the clues but 1d has set off my Salty Dog (Procol Harum) ear-worm:
    “All hands on deck, we’ve run afloat” I heard the captain cry.
    I hope there are about 500 serving staff at The George tomorrow or I will be busy with letters.
    1. You are right. You will be busy enough with letters in the day that, at the George, you want only to worry about “getting 1 down”?
  33. Thought I’d done rather well on this only to find (as above) that TAWN was just wrong. Also forgot to finish BRAVA only to find coming that I’d no idea what one is anyway. Good luck tomorrow just had to pull out due to the fact that a I hadn’t confirmed my place anyway and b I have a grandchild invasion tomorrow.
  34. Great crossword.

    I was also going to point out that MELATONIN is a hormone that regulates sleep, and MELANIN is the pigment in skin that could maybe be described as regulating color.

    1. I’m no biochemist, but Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries seem to imply that the hormone melatonin regulates formation of the pigment melanin, so that might let the setter off the hook…
  35. About 30 minutes, ending with BRAVA, which I didn’t appreciate fully at the time. Now it’s explained, it’s a very good clue, well done setter.
    Best of luck to those entering the event tomorrow, and best of luck for what sounds like the more fun portion of the day afterwards. regards.
  36. Too tired to get to grips with this properly; even then mightn’t have finished. Tenants are letters?
      1. I’d have said owners let property and tenants rent. However, the popular misemployment of opposites may by now have led to acceptable usage. Next up perhaps, under- and over-estimate.
  37. A sluggish 25:42 certainly not helped by mis-remembering the director as Otto Previnger and wondering what a previer was.

    I’ll see many of you tomorrow all being well. I’m in the second prelim so will probably stick around after to “watch” the final and then join the sorrow-drowning queue at the George.

  38. Late on parade, and just solved in my hotel room in Watford.


    Thanks V, I’d no idea what was going on with DOGE, UNDERSECRETARY, or BRAVA (which I was afraid might be wrong).

    Time 14:31

  39. Commenting late after an evening spent in the pub. This one took me 25:55. I found it a fairly smooth solve but thought it nicely put together, plenty of clever bits and pieces to work out.
  40. Well, once again I find myself on the wrong continent, which perhaps is partly responsible for my being two days behind on crosswords.

    All fine and dandy until I ran up against 25ac, which I fluffed completely. Even I cannot explain why I eventually plumped for “braga” which, on reflection, doesn’t even look like a word.

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