Times 27229 – Felicem nativitatem!

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
What a pleasant way to ease into Christmas week! We have Santa thinly(?) disguised as the villainous Geoffrey Howe, a bit of Welsh crumpet, who would surely have indulged in a spot of extravehicular activity with the ne’er-do-well son of a ne’er-do-well monarch – if given the chance – several sciency clues to keep the white-coated brigade from clattering their test-tubes too loudly from the cheap seats, and of course a beautiful benediction from the setter adjuring us to steer well clear of false gods offering us the tantalising prospect of watching them disport themselves in 6-star hotels in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg while teaching us that it is more blessed to give than to receive by landing us with the bills.

I managed to sneak in a little under the 30-minute mark when the spacey clue finally fell, though I was about as bemused by the parsing as I am by the whole idea that it is somehow edifying or vaguely useful to send metal tubes into the heavens!


1 Conclusion after day teaching? Sack third of team (9)
DEDUCTION – D EDUC[a]TION (A is the third letter of teAm)
6 Unbuttoned daughter in college departs (5)
9 Following Mrs Thatcher is a flabby man with gifts (6,9)
FATHER CHRISTMAS – F + anagram* (‘flabby’) of MRS THATCHER IS A. Super clue!
10 Zulu comes after this Union soldier (6)
YANKEE – In the NATO phonetic alphabet, ZULU comes after YANKEE
11 Backward old man with right hand covered in glass fragments (8)
SHRAPNEL – PA RH in LENS all reversed
13 Wife longed to stop boy with it (8,2)
14 Group of backsliding yobs arrested — breaking this? (4)
ASBO – hidden in the middle there somewhere…
16 Spots hole in one stuffed with note (4)
ACNE – N in ACE (a golfing hole-in-one)
17 Study the author’s diary hidden in beam (10)
MINERALOGY – MINE (the author’s) LOG in RAY
19 Exciting item in one’s current account? (8)
ELECTRIC – I think I may require the aid of the sciency types here, as, unless the final five words of the clue are merely gesticulating Magnus Pyke-like in the vague direction of an electrical context via CURRENT, I am well and truly flummoxed
20 Willing to mix upper-crust elements to obtain firm backing (6)
SOCIAL – this sciency clue completely passed me by, as I didn’t bother to parse it, having spotted the reversed company (I think like a speed-solver, you know; yes, I do, stop tittering!); for the record, it is CO reversed in SIAL (‘the silicon-rich and aluminium-rich rocks of the earth’s continental upper crust, the most abundant individual rock being granite’ – thanks, Collins)
23 In China, The Tempest or Much Ado About Nothing? (1,5,2,1,6)
A STORM IN A TEACUP – I think this works as follows, if I am right in thinking that one needs to underthink this rather overthink it: if you have a tempest in a piece of china, you might call it a storm in a teacup. I also think that you can account for the change from THE tempest to A storm by invoking the use of indefinite A (as well as definite article THE) to operate generically in phrases of the type, ‘Tigers are mammals’ /’The tiger is a mammal’ / ‘A tiger is a mammal’. Did I really underthink that?
24 Solemnly proclaim death of king and his mistress (5)
KNELL – K NELL [Gwyn – actress and Welshish mistress of CRII]
25 This, wasting time, spider mite frantically chewed? (9)


1 Film duck at full volume in 24 hours (5)
DAFFY – FF (musical notation) in DAY
2 Jug suggests name for top medical specialism (9,6)
DETENTION CENTRE – a JUG is slang for a prison but I’m not sure how to get there (besides robbing a train). Is TOP an oblique reference to one’s head and does DETENTION represent ‘de-tension’, and is a centre synonymous with a specialism? So many questions…And the answer is: the centre of detENTion is a common medical specialism. A somewhat involuted clue
3 Trust 100 Anglicans to conserve river garden (8)
4 This isn’t Long Island! (4)
INCH – double definition
5 Old PM right to change direction regarding a state (5,5)
NORTH KOREA – NORTH (British PM of yore) OK reversed RE (regarding) A
6 Throw drink during pursuit of Cockney? (6)
UNSEAT – SEA (drink) in ‘UNT (as in ‘unt the thimble, awight?!)
7 Perform less very old British music played in salutation (7,8)
8 Casual young leader excited about enlisting officer (9)
DESULTORY – reversal of Y (the leading letter in Y[oung]) ROUSED around (‘enlisting’) LT (officer)
12 Conclusive final absorbs four (10)
13 Love letters sent round with due respect to — EVA! (9)
SPACEWALK – PACE (‘with due respect to’) in SWALK (acronym of Sealed With A Loving Kiss – something I am proud to say I’ve never used or heard of). Anyone who can call a spacewalk ‘extravehicular activity’ needs to read Out of the Silent Planet. Or any poem…
15 Colouring‘s routine in type of sugar (8)
18 Many standing up to drink monarch’s alcohol (6)
STEROL – ER in LOTS reversed
21 Possibly, first Roman wet nurse‘s disease? (5)
LUPUS – A wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, and LUPUS is a chronic disease of the immune system
22 Slalom round a Munro (4)
SAKI – A in SKI; Hector Hugh Munro published his stories as SAKI

Festive music: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio

63 comments on “Times 27229 – Felicem nativitatem!”

  1. 19:44. I probably shouldn’t have attempted this after spending the day flying to Canada, driving for two and a half hours, wrestling kids to bed, unpacking, drinking a couple of glasses of wine and then finishing off Dean’s monster from what to me is still today. But I did.
    I found it a bit ungainly, but in the circumstances that may not be surprising. I’m mostly impressed with myself for getting SPACEWALK, because I had no idea what an EVA might be, and I would never have got PACE from ‘with due respect to’, so I had to construct it from ‘love letters’.
      1. Whereas I have somehow managed to get this far in life without ever really knowing what PACE means. I have always understood it as meaning something akin to ‘notwithstanding’ but had completely missed the ‘respect’ element. You live and learn.
  2. Thank you for a lovely intro, ulaca!
    Re A STORM IN A TEACUP, I can see MATE in the solution (China) but can’t take that any further.
    Thank you for SIAL. It had to be SOCIAL but I had no idea what a SIAL was till I came here.
    Thank you also for the Spitting Image-like vision of Geoffrey Howe as Santa giving out presents to the cabinet with Mrs T on his knee!
    In SAKI, I was looking to go Munro bagging!
    PS: don’t agree with Vinyl1’s opening statement. I thought that was fun.

    Edited at 2018-12-24 03:45 am (UTC)

  3. I just figured SIAL was Silicon and Aluminum, and thought it was a bit of an odd way to clue it. I messed up the Latin though, and forgot to do what I planned, go back and check the anagrist. Indeed I had left out a letter.

    I must be the right generation that when I saw EVA I thought SPACEWALK. But I didn’t even try and put it in since it seemed obscure…and later I realized that was it.

    Is there a crossword tomorrow? Happy Christmas anyway.

  4. A technical DNF as I gave up on a couple of the clues, dispirited by being unable to parse some of the answers I had already battled to arrive at, such as LUPUS and SOCIAL.

    One of the clues I abandoned in favour of aids was to the Latin expression at 7dn. The others were SPACEWALK and ELECTRIC, and the latter was then added to my list of unparsed answers. With DAFFY duck and FATHER CHRISTMAS going in early it had seemed that a fun puzzle was in prospect but the feeling soon turned sour and a long uphill grind ensued. I’m very much in vinyl1’s camp on this one.

    Edited at 2018-12-24 04:54 am (UTC)

    1. Perhaps it wasn’t just my tiredness then. DOMINUS whatsit struck me as rather silly, and I still don’t understand ELECTRIC.
      While I’m here, I see that overt political commentary in the blog hasn’t bothered you on this occasion. I will draw my own conclusions 😉
      1. In my defence, it was intended as much as religious commentary as political/social.

        Anything I left out?

          1. The Donald is above parody. He scares the Bejesus out of the Chinese, though, which is blessed collateral.
            1. ‘Look son, a nuclear holocaust is never ideal but he scared the Chinese and owned the Libs, so eat your rat and count your blessings.’
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  6. I quite enjoyed this, although I failed to parse DETENTION CENTRE and ELECTRIC, so thanks for explaining those ulaca and vinyl. I liked LUPUS, SWITCHED ON. SPACEWALK and the dramas in the orient, but COD, of course, to FATHER CHRISTMAS. 23:46.
  7. 45 mins of fun with toast and home-made marmalade.
    DNK Sial.
    Mostly I liked Spacewalk – highly original.
    Thanks setter and U.
  8. 26 minute, all but, with SPACEWALK going in on the basis of EVA (the capitals a bit of a giveaway), but otherwise unparsed. DESULTORY described my attitude to the parsing of that one too.
    A STORM IN A TEACUP I had no problems with, given the setter’s need to get two of the First Folio in: whatever else, The Tempest is a storm (without thinking much at all!)
    The greeting at 7 is familiar to anyone who is old enough to remember when the Mass was in Latin. In case you ever need it, the correct response is above. Here it is as set by Bernstein.

    Not bad, this one, continuing the new practice of tricky Mondays (it’ll be a tradition if next week’s fails to be easy).
    I liked the answer-as-wordplay ENT clue once I twigged it, and the elegance of Ulaca’s intro and commentary.

    Edited at 2018-12-24 09:39 am (UTC)

  9. …and with thy spirit. DOMINUS came quickly to this Anglican but I needed all the crossers before I put my faith in VOBISCUM. And this former scientist and electricity executive doesn’t get ELECTRIC either, although I did know what EVA stood for, at least once Little Eva had stopped doing the Locomotion and I was ready to SPACEWALK. I knew STEROL, and that Silicon and Aluminium were elements. They aren’t rare earths, but I hadn’t thought of them as upper crust. Members of the landed gentry, I expect. COD to LUPUS I think, with KNELL and A STORM IN A TEACUP good too. I found this hard, at over 50 minutes, interrupted by the dustbin men wanting their Christmas box and my returned-for-Christmas adult children wanting to know what’s for breakfast. How would I know? I daren’t open the fridge door in case it all falls out. And we’re off to Waitrose to get the turkey once Mrs BW is back from Pilates. Is that upper crust enough? Thank you U for several explanations and setter for the challenge.
  10. 55 minutes, with almost the opposite problems from our distinguished blogger, by the sounds of things, with 13a SPACEWALK a write-in from “EVA”, for example, but being at something of a loss to explain things like KNELL and SAKI, though I did have enough of a vague awareness there to put them in, at least. I’ll admit the science-y side of me had NHO “sial”, though.

    Enjoyed the LUPUS image, the imagery of 6d’s UNSEAT, and the DETENTION CENTRE. Pleased that my crossword revision is paying off to the extent that Frederick NORTH sprang to mind while I was solving 5d rather than after the fact!

  11. For once I’m with the Vinyl One – forced and unappealing.’

    I simply lost interest in the SW corner…….zz

    ELECTRIC! SPACEWALK! STEROL! with CARATENE! all too ‘physics lab’ for Meldrew.

    I wouldn’t know what an ASBO was if I fell over one.

    FOI 10ac YANKEE


    COD 6dn UNSEAT

    WOD 1dn DAFFY

    The only EVA’s I had in mind were Little Eva (Do the Locomotion); Eva Peron and that nice Mrs. Hitler.

    Extra Vehicular Activity – mon arse!

    Happy Christmas one and all!

  12. Does “This”, in 25 ac, mean the surface, i.e. “skin”, of the clue?

    Cos that’s how I parsed that part of it.

    1. Welcome Malcolm

      25A is what is sometimes called a “train crash clue”. The words appear in semi-random form not unlike the railway trucks after a train crash. You can see a sort of format but not quite make sense of the surface reading. Don’t over think it – the answer is an obvious anagram so just run with that

    2. I assumed the link is that a Spider Mite will chew “this” (the Epidermis).

      Edited at 2018-12-24 04:43 pm (UTC)

  13. I had a DAFFY start to this puzzle, but it was much later in the solve before my deductive powers came up with 1a. This left footer had no problems with the Latin salutation. The KOREA bit of 5d took me ages to see and would have been my LOI if I hadn’t revisited DETENTION KETTLE, and while not spotting ENT in DETENTION, thought CENTRE fitted the definition better. I never did see the parsing of ELECTRIC though. EVA gave me 13d immediately although the parsing took a little longer. More Latin! We had a long discussion on pronunciation last time it cropped up. Parchay or Parsay anyone? Revisiting 2d took me from just over 28 minutes to 32:56 at submission. I enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks setter and U.
  14. Well I enjoyed this although like others my knowledge of MINERALOGY didn’t extend to sial so I did the same as Paulmcl. The EVA I remember (other than that other crossword Eva, Peron) is the one from 2001 where HAL snips off the astronaut’s lifeline. Now I’ve just got time to finish off Deano’s beano from yesterday. I decided to take the time to enjoy that one because (a)the neutrinos will be out in force anyway and (b) I have a feeling it’s scored as a 15×15 rather than a jumbo so it will be a 600 at best no matter what. 26.03
  15. Strange puzzle

    Our Latin master used to address us with D-V to which we had to chant a reply. Never forgotten it. In contrast to some I live in today’s world and so knew EVA, ASBO and SIAL. That doesn’t mean I understand clue to ELECTRIC

    Seasons greetings to all associated with this excellent blog

    1. I don’t remember hearing dominus vobiscum (I’m the opposite of religious) but I thought pax vobiscum well enough known to make the clue gettable, even so.
      I think 19ac is just a rather poor pun on current = electricity.
      Seasons greetings to you too, Jim..
  16. ….DEDUCTION to see this off. A mixture of brilliance and barminess.

    My Latin, albeit rusty, got me to DOMINUS VOBISCUM easily enough, but the sciency stuff was quite another matter. DNK EVA or SIAL. Also biffed SHRAPNEL, DETENTION CENTRE, and DESULTORY.

    TIME 17:23

    Best wishes for Christmas to all bloggers, setters, and regular contributors. Off for some extra vehicular activity now, as I await the AA with a replacement battery.

  17. Go into one of those coffee places where they write your name on the cup, tell them your name is “the Lord be with you”. When they call out, you can sort the modern Anglicans from the others…

    I really liked SPACEWALK, which went straight in. I think ‘top’ does refer to the head, but it’s a weak clue. 26’50”, thanks ulaca and setter.

    1. Even now, I get it wrong most weeks, Rob, But we still do the 1662 Communion from time to time.
  18. It amuses me how people get all worked up about clues like those for ELECTRIC and STORM IN A TEA CUP.

    I thought the latter in particular very simple and easy really to fathom. Most clever and no need for complicated wordplay.


  19. Great stuff. Particularly liked LUPUS, SAKI, DETENTION CENTRE and my LOI, SPACEWALK. I know they didn’t go a-walking, but it reminded me of Apollo 8, 50 years ago to the day, anyway. Happy memories.

    Managed to shatter the 100 minute barrier by a minute.

    A Merry Christmas to everyone and a big thanks to setter and blogger.

  20. Personally, I enjoyed this one, though I was part of the “don’t quite understand everything, but in it goes” club today. There again, I was doing it with a glass of fizz at hand, and the Nine Lessons etc. on the radio, so I may just be unusually festive and mellow at the moment. Thank you to today’s, and indeed every day’s blogger, and seasonal greetings to everyone else.
  21. An unbelievably, excruciatingly poor crossword with zero entertainment value. Despite your fine efforts esteemed blogger, I’m still none the wiser about ‘electric’, ‘epidermis’ (is there a definition, or is it just a random anagram?), ‘lupus’ and ‘detention centre’. And the ‘dominus’ thing was just plain obscure. On a minor point, I wouldn’t say ‘rote’=routine either. I’m also beginning to resent the regular patronising-and inaccurate-allusion to cockneys. My father was a true ‘Bow Bells’ cockney, and I never ever heard him drop his ‘aitches’. I’m a Londoner too, and neither do I. For setters it seems, their sum experience of cockneys might only have been gained by watching the execrable ‘My Fair Lady’ a few times. (A very fed up) Mr Grumpy
    1. A bit harsh – quirky, loose in places, perhaps, but not dull, surely. Anyway, season’s greetings to you and all readers! (Your New Year’s resolution should be to get an account and join the fun. Dissenting voices always welcome.)

      Rote/routine is supported by Collins.

      Edited at 2018-12-24 04:42 pm (UTC)

      1. I have got an account. Or rather I thought I did have, but now it won’t let me sign in. As for dissenting voices, I’m afraid I would be in a minority of one and I would be whinging several times a week! Not always justifiably so, I agree, but that’s just me. The resident whinger. The forum on the ToL page has virtually died a death, and there seems to be no other mechanism to give feedback. So I come on here to ‘test the water’ so to speak. Take today for example. There are at least three solutions which appear to be unparsable-or at least generating some controversy or guesswork. That to me, makes neither a good nor entertaining crossword. I hate to sound like ‘outraged of Tunbridge Wells’-I assure you I’m not- but as a subscriber, I do rather expect more from The Times crossword. However, I acknowledge that this blog may not be the appropriate place to vent my frustration, for which I apologise to all, and perhaps it’s time for me to take my leave. It’s a great blog where the contributors display both humour and erudition, and it doesn’t deserve the intrusion of my excessive negativity. I do think you are rather too charitable to the setters though! (Mr ‘Grumpy’)
        1. Please stay, Mr Grumpy. Perhaps open another account? Your contributions are thoughtful and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of grumpiness in the mix. As long as you don’t mind being challenged!
  22. Presumably Ulaca’s snide comment is intended, in this season of good will, to offend people more useful, better educated and usually richer than himself. As one such I report that I am not offended but puzzled at such childishness. Neither I, nor anyone else I know in the cheap seats has the slightest difficulty with allusions to Nell Gwynne or HH Munro or elementary Latin tags, but if we did we would be contrite about it. Why do people who spent their university years in selfish pursuits like reading old books show delight in their ignorance of the chemical composition of the earth we all live on?

    There is no EVA in Out of the Silent Planet. CS Lewis’s rockets go non-stop to Mars and Venus.

    Pax vobiscum, a merry Christmas and a better mannered New Year.

    1. And to think that was my favourite bit of my intro! My wife would agree that almost everyone is more useful than me, so you got lucky there.

      Merry Christmas!

      1. Late-ish on Christmas Eve, to quote Lewis Carroll – those serpents, there’s no pleasing them. Nice blog Ulaca as always thank you and many more in 2019!
      2. It was my second-favourite bit, after the bit about Brexit. I remember people saying about Bill Clinton that he had a way of making everyone feel like they were the only person in the room. You have a similar gift for winding people up, and I for one would hate to see it wasted.
        Happy Christmas!
        1. To be mentioned in the same breath as Bill is an immense honour. Now, if you had bracketed me with Hillary…….
          1. Look we all love Hillary but you’ve just got to accept that she had some e-mail habits that were not best practice. Who knows where we’d have been with a president like that.
            1. A veritable storm in a teacup. She wouldn’t have got us in the same hot water as her conqueror. Whitewater, maybe…
  23. Finished this one OK – which makes up for yesterday’s football result and cheers me up a bit for Christmas.
    Spent ages over “Shrapnel” (LOI) and assumed/hoped that “Saki” was an unlikely Scottish mountain, but otherwise OK.
    Merry Christmas to all.
  24. No time as I fell asleep in the middle of this. Not that it wasn’t exciting and on waking most of it revealed itself. There were however several alternative answers in there considering the letters I had already uncovered eg EVENTFUL for ELECTRIC which although not parsing was sufficient to be entered thereby messing up DEFINITIVE. LOI CAROTENE which was hard to see due to having 4 vowels, and my conviction that most types of sugar end in -ose. Merry Christmas!
  25. Well, as one of the test-tube rattlers in the cheap seats (none taken, Ulaca), I quite liked this one. No idea of time, as I did it in fits and starts and left the timer running.

    SIAL is no real problem, as it’s a common term in geology, referring to the general composition of the rocks that make up the Earth’s crust. Given that there’s about 200 million square miles of the stuff, and that it’s only a few feet below your, ah, feet, I don’t think it’s any more unreasonable than expecting me to know the nickname of a dead writer. The next layer down*, by the way, is known as ‘sima’, reflecting its main constituents of silicon and magnesium. The material of the Earth’s core is sometimes called ‘nife’, for reasons you can probable work out by now. If Times clues were equally balanced between sport, history, the arts (or is that history?) and science, I think SIAL would count as fairly light Monday fare, along with CAROTENE and EPIDERMIS.

    But enough – I am making a 23ac and didn’t mean to be 22d. A Merry Happy and a Christmas New Year to all!

    [*of the Earth, not of dead writers]

  26. Couldn’t parse SOCIAL (happy to learn something new!), and didn’t know what the L was doing in SWAK (the only way I’ve ever seen this).

    I must say, I don’t share our esteemed blogger’s jaundiced attitude toward the space program. If nothing else (and it’s far from the only thing), the photos from the other planets are awesome.

    Edited at 2018-12-24 07:07 pm (UTC)

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