Times 27,233: Botany Bay

Greetings from Berkeley, California, to where I am moving, should I be able to find a job here anyway: anyone got any good contacts in the Bay Area? Do they even do (real) crossword puzzles out here, this far to the west? I guess I’ll find out.

I took about 10 minutes over this fine puzzle, whose excellence lies not in obscure vocab or arcane general knowledge (pace the tough botanical clue at 9ac), but in really fine cryptic crafting, with many super surfaces tightly married to cleverly misleading wordplay. Loads and loads of really admirable clues, more than I want to enumerate, so I’ll just give my Clue of the Day award to the commendably concise cryptic definition at 1dn – shades of the great Rufus’s cluing, perhaps? But honestly there were at least a dozen clues in contention for this award. Thanks setter, very nicely done!

Gosh it’s funny putting the finishing touches to this blog at 7pm instead of 1 in the morning… what am I going to do with the rest of the hours before bedtime? More crosswords, I expect!

1 To fit into line‘s quite dodgy, with only one following (7)
JUSTIFY – JUST IF{f}Y [quite | dodgy, “with only one (F for) following”]

5 Defender of faith originally to withdraw (4,3)
BACK OFF – BACK OF F [defender | of | F{aith}]

9 Grouse shot circling bush, ornamental shrub (7,4)
GUELDER ROSE – (GROUSE*) [“shot”] circling ELDER [bush]

10 Are demanding courses for auditors (3)
TAX – homophone of TACKS [courses]

11 Secure batting that bags a century (6)
ATTACH – (THAT*) [“batting”] “bags” A C [a | century]

12 Suppose overthrow of French king is badly done? (8)
INFERIOR – INFER [suppose] + reversed ROI [French king]

14 Caught gamebird leaving quiet region where slugs collected? (9,4)
CARTRIDGE BELT – C {p}ARTRIDGE BELT [caught | gamebird “leaving (P for) quiet” | region]

17 Drawing water from close current, eluding guards (13)
DEHUMIDIFYING – HUMID I [close | current], DEFYING [eluding] “guards”

21 Association gone from SW, presumably (8)
OVERTONE – if something has “gone from SW”, it is presumably now OVER TO NE.

23 Publication that listeners may turn down (6)
VOLUME – double def

25 Greek character from western half of island (3)
RHO – RHO{des}

26 Maybe two or three more dead following charge (5,6)
PRIME NUMBER – NUMBER [more dead] following PRIME [charge]

27 Some among relatives of mixed blood (7)
MONGREL – hidden in {a}MONG REL{atives}

28 Traditional industry the queen’s invested in arousing suspicion (7)
FISHERY – ER [the queen] is “invested” in FISHY [arousing suspicion]

1 Picture breaking up (6)
JIGSAW – quality cryptic def

2 Doubting Thomas infected, having caught cold (7)
SCEPTIC – SEPTIC [infected], having “caught” C [cold]

3 Unseemly behaviour towards end of year over drink? (9)
INDECORUM – IN_DEC O RUM [towards end of year | over | rum]

4 See attempt to get out at the Oval (4)
YORK – double def. Nice to, er, see a see that isn’t Ely.

5 Annoyed, as toast is unavailable (7,3)
BROWNED OFF – BROWNED [as toast is] + OFF [unavailable]

6 Slightly raise bottom of fawn fabric(5)
CREPE – take CREEP [fawn], and raise its bottom (letter) one place higher

7 Unlikely faction blossoming at first (7)
OUTSIDE – SIDE [faction], OUT [blossoming] at first

8 Pays for introducing unlimited extra measures (8)
FOXTROTS – FOOTS [pays for] “introducing” {e}XTR{a}

13 Official introductory letter client read out (10)

15 One record after another oddly omitted ruler’s conclusions (9)
EPILOGUES – I LOG [one | record] after EP [another (record)] + {r}U{l}E{r}

16 500 in complex image or Chinese character (8)
IDEOGRAM – D [500] in (IMAGE OR*) [“complex”]

18 Who led row on failing to start dance? (7)
HOEDOWN – {w}HO {l}ED {r}OW {o}N

19 Dog’s last to find out about bitch (7)
GRUMBLE – {do}G + RUMBLE [to find out about]

20 Tight times just round the corner (6)
NEARBY – NEAR BY [tight | times]

22 Lighter touch leads to easier relationships (5)
TAPER – TAP [touch] + E{asier} R{elationships}

24 Audibly challenged foreign agent casing area to north
DEAF – FED [foreign agent] “casing” A [area], reversed (south to north)

60 comments on “Times 27,233: Botany Bay”

  1. 21:43. I found this pretty darned tricky, but completely agree with your assessment, v. Hard because of cunning wordplay rather than obscurity, and an all-round excellent puzzle.
  2. Too hard for me under current conditions (i.e. tired after all the festivities etc) so that I eventually gave up the battle as an hour approached with only about 2/3 completed and used aids liberally to finish it off. Should have done better as only GUELDER ROSE was unknown to me.
  3. I felt proud to get the unknown GUELDER ROSE (bifwp?) but went for CARTRIDGE VEST, which didn’t seem quite right but I couldn’t think of anything else. Lots to like, as everyone else has said, since the difficulty doesn’t come from the slightest obscurity (apart from the aforementioned rose).

    At least one person (me) does crosswords in California, although about 40 miles south of Berkeley. Most people just do the New York Times puzzles, it seems.

    1. I flew into San Jose airport, so possibly passed quite close by you!

      Maybe we can bring the UK-style cryptic crossword scene into vogue in Northern California…

      1. Indeed, I live about 10 minutes south of San Jose airport and drive past it every day on my way to work (well, not this week, I’m off). I guess you came on the direct BA flight, but whenever I look, at least starting from the US, they charge a premium for going in and out of San Jose compared to San Francisco, which is much more competitive.
  4. A great puzzle with lots of lovely chewy bits. Held up mostly by the NE corner, not helped by having INTACT initially for 11a. I could see the IFY at 1a but took ages to find the JUST. I was pleased to remember GUELDER ROSE. My COD…. gosh it’s hard to choose, but as I’m staying with my mathematician sister (and daughter), I go for PRIME NUMBER. The ‘more dead’ made me laugh. Thanks V and setter. 35:47
  5. I can see how clever JIGSAW is but didn’t solve it correctly. JUSTIFY and ATTACH beat me too. I don’t think I would ever have got them. I put INTACT iso ATTACH as ‘batting’ means IN in my language and not an anagram indicator. It’s been a long while since I had 3 errors.
  6. 1dn JIGSAW was quite horrid.

    And how does one justify 1ac JUSTIFY!? The IKEAN path is in need of re-surfacing! Pah!

    DNF with 8ac GUELDER ROSE partially missing. Is that Bush the elder? George H.W.?

    FOI 5dn BROWNED OFF (correct!)

    COD 17ac DEHUMIDIFYING by a country mile.


    Mr. Snitch at 126, with only 20 takers, is artificially low IMHO.

    1. Yes, there were a few bits of wordplay that took me a while to get to pass the substitution test. I think we finally went with “quite so” == “just so” here.

      DEHUMIDIFYING was another definite candidate for COD; again I think DEFYING for eluding is another one that might take a minute to “see”.

  7. I gave up after an hour and a quarter. I wish I could claim tiredness and/or a hangover, but I’m quite perky. I trusted the wordplay for the GUELDER ROSE and was surprised to find that was right, but oddly couldn’t see either 11a ATTACH or 18d HOEDOWN. I was also beaten by 14a, where I assumed CARTRIDGE BEAT was a thing. Knowing about these things only from The Archers, I assumed the beaters might wander around picking up spent cartridges afterwards, and a “beat” is a region, after all…

    Ho hum.

    Edited at 2018-12-28 09:43 am (UTC)

  8. JUSTIFY /bring into line, seems okay to me. There’s an alignment button in word-processing apps labelled ‘justify’ which does just that to the RH margin.

    Edited at 2018-12-28 09:54 am (UTC)

  9. Just over the hour, also having INTACT for ATTACH until I found the final piece of the JIGSAW on the floor. YORK nearly got under the bat too. I tried CARTRIDGE with most four letter words before deciding it had to be OUTSIDE and FOXTROTS to give BELT, both put in without conviction. I only know FOXTROTS as dances. I’m just glad I didn’t think of VEST or my indecision could have been final. Fortunately I knew GUELDER ROSE. I always used to pronounce SCEPTIC as septic when I was younger. COD to NEARBY. Thank you V and setter.
    1. I think the setter intended “measures” (as in trip a measure) to mean dances BW. I went chasing “furlongs” for a while…..
      1. We’re just back from a day with Mrs BW’s elderly parents. You’re right, of course. I’ve had chance now to turn up that measures are structured or stately dances. In my life, I’ve never managed either of those!
  10. Took an age to do this, went astray as did others with an INTACT which made 1d impossible and BACK OUT carelessly instead of BACK OFF. Struggled home with an aid to find the ROSE in about 40 minutes. Should have had more coffee first.
    I agree this is a tough one should be more than 120 SNITCH wise, but very fair. 10 minutes V is good, you can’t be too jet lagged.
    1. I note Mr. Snitch is now at 130 – like the NY Stock Exchange the number usually falls – but today it is on the up.

      I’m wondering if Charles Dickens had considered Mr. Snitch for a minor part in Edwin Drood? And what was his forename?

      Edited at 2018-12-28 04:59 pm (UTC)

  11. Agreed with verlaine that this a finely crafted puzzle, with lots to like. I was stuck in the NW for a long time until I finally saw JUSTIFY and the rest fell into place soon after.

    HOEDOWN put me in mind of one of my rare bits of classical music knowledge, being a piece by Copland (though I originally heard of it via Emerson Lake and Palmer during my prog phase).

    Good luck with the job hunting verlaine. Would this spell the end of your championship crosswording or would you return specially?

    Edited at 2018-12-28 11:01 am (UTC)

  12. Whew, got it all without aids. JUSTIFY came quite late, for a veteran print professional (clearly, I’ve really taken the week off). I guessed at YORK and then imagined there was such a thing as a GUELDER ROSE, and, magically, there is! I still don’t know exactly how the clue for JIGSAW is supposed to work, grammatically; the answer seemed obvious anyway, but I didn’t put it in for a while. Regarding 24, “audibly” means “capable of being heard”; I think the word here should be “auditorily.” Seems to me a CARTRIDGE BELT is “where slugs ARE collected,” hard to imagine them collecting themselves. But most of this was quite good.
  13. I struggled with this and had to call on help from the wife. What a wonderful puzzle. Consistently challenging but nothing too obscure. I took ages to see JUSTIFY even though I had the IFY at once. Thanks Setter!
  14. Very chewy indeed. Seeing nothing at first glance at the top, I got a foothold in the SE and clawed my way up from there, only to hit the buffers at the 1s. At least the rose was easy; my horticultural knowledge does occasionally compensate for ignorance of obscure composers ( yes Jean-Baptiste Lully I am thinking of you).
  15. I figured this was going to be a tad more than tricky when my first entry was NEARBY. Having established that foothold, I managed to increase my entries in the SE and then get a couple in the SW. Then the real slog began. NUMBER came quickly enough, but PRIME took much longer. INTACT also held me up and it was only when I could make no progress with J_G_I_ that I revisited it. Taking out the I allowed me to spot the JIGSAW, and I then saw how ATTACH worked. I’d had the ROSE for a while and guessed that it started GU rather than UG, but the bush took longer to appear. That left me with H_E_O_N, and eventually I had a Yee Hah moment. 49:23. Great puzzle. Thanks setter and V, and good luck with the job hunting!
    1. NEARBY was my LOI! I spent a long time trying to fit a 4-letter word into BY.

      Edited at 2018-12-28 04:43 pm (UTC)

  16. I thought I was just being post-holiday sluggish so I’m glad to find this really was difficult. I saw the XTR in FOXTROTS quite early but couldn’t fathom what sort of measure it might inhabit. Some first-rate clues – I particularly liked CARTRIDGE BELT which made me think that a grouse moor might be the equivalent of a stockbroker belt. 25.24
  17. ….a PRIME NUMBER, but it’s 113 x 241 – so they therefore both are. Unless anybody knows differently.

    This was quite chewy enough without me joining the “intact” club and slowing myself down even more.

    Is the clue for 20D the setter’s pre-Brexit warning ?

    TIME 20:42

  18. I was another INTACT, so was trying to get MOSAIC into 1d. I don’t think JUSTIFY is quite there, to be honest – I thought of it but was unable to, well, justify it.
    1. As jackkt says above, it works if you consider justify as aligning text, which was how I saw it too.
      1. I confess it does work, but I couldn’t get it to in my mind while solving – in fact, I had more difficulty persuading myself that JUST and QUITE meant the same thing.
        1. I wrestled with that thought too, but in the end justified it with the expression “just/quite so”
  19. Trickier in some places than others. You won’t believe how long it took me to get 1d, even after asking Mr CS to go and do something other than the Christmas 1d on the kitchen table so that I could have peace to solve the crossword

    Seasons Greetings to all – just wondering how much it is going to cost young Verlaine to take part in the Championships in November?

    1. Seasons Greetings Sue. I’m hoping enough solvers follow suit and emigrate that I can win the thing 😉
  20. Another INTACT here which meant that I was unable to finish and had to come here for the answers. Annoyed to see that I spotted the ‘only one F’ in the first line but didn’t manage to think it through. Also had to look up the BELT and BROWNED OFF, only being able to think of BRASSED OFF which clearly wasn’t right. However excellent end to a tough week and good luck in USA to you, Verlaine
    1. ‘Jigsaw’ can be used to mean a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ which starts off as a picture that is then broken up offering the solver the challenge of putting it back together again.
        1. Sorry it didn’t help you. In that case you may like to expand on what it is that you don’t understand.
          1. As I said, this eludes me a bit too. A JIGSAW puzzle is a picture, granted, and it’s broken up, until you work it. It’s not “breaking,” it’s already broken. “Breaking” makes for an amusing surface, sure…
            1. I suppose one might argue it’s breaking up whilst it’s being broken up during the manufacturing process.
            2. It (once completed) is a picture that breaks up again, that’s what it is and all it is, say what you see.

              I wonder if people aren’t getting the surface, which to me brought to mind the picture on an old television becoming unwatchable; a very familiar and idiomatically phrased sense-memory, I thought.

              1. Oh, right. “Picture [that is?] breaking up.” Only if you take it apart. “Picture breaks up” might be clearer.
                I remember the old TVs, and got the reference. Nowadays the image just freezes if there is a connection problem.
    The other 28 clues seemed rather difficult so I came here for enlightenment.
    Sorry to hear you are leaving/have left, Verlaine.
    SE London will be diminished without you. Will The Kid come back to Kidbrooke? I will call it Brooke henceforth.
    1. I expect I’ll be back on a not too irregular basis. If I do get a job then flights should not be beyond my budget; developers seem to do quite well for themselves in these parts, if preliminary investigations can be believed.
      1. They do. But housing is ridiculously expensive, because there are a lot of developers around and, as you say, they all do quite well. So, in a sense, you are competing with them. But London isn’t that much different.
        1. Housing does seem expensive here but yes, housing is expensive in the sought-after parts of London too! I found a direct cost-of-living comparison site that seemed to suggest that SF might be about 10% more expensive than London. But the salary potential looked a *lot* better to me.
    1. If you’re British(and this is a British crossword), then the USA is a foreign country, hence to you a FED is a foreign agent.
  22. 35 mins. Very nice puzzle that unfolded in its own time. Great blog, V, thanks. Hope all works out well in California.
  23. Shouldn’t it be ‘aurally challenged?’. Whatever, I agree-I don’t think ‘audibly’ is the correct word. (Mr Grumpy)
  24. Pleased to finish this tricky puzzle, guessing from wordplay and checking letters at the unknown GUELDER ROSE. Also held up a long time by JUSTIFY and JIGSAW, so I spent an inordinate amount of my time lingering up in the NW corner. But a very well put together puzzle overall. Regards.
  25. Really struggled with this tough puzzle. Foolishly I attempted it just after midnight when already too tired to perform well.

    COD: Jigaw.

    Good luck verlaine with your job quest.

    1. Jigaw!? You were tired – please pull over onto the hard shoulder, Sir!

      Edited at 2018-12-29 12:28 am (UTC)

  26. Rather dawdled through this, with the added distraction of some dating programme burbling away in the background. JUSTIFY and JIGSAW held out to the end, though no complaints about either, except that 1a looked like it was trying to use lines as part of the wordplay. I might have got CREDENTIAL sooner if it had turned up in its more familiar plural form.
    Good, testing puzzle this, for which I expended 36+ minutes.
  27. Out for some fresh air for the first time in days, and my walk through the woods included bits where I had to drag myself through some very clingy mud; this felt like the mental equivalent, so I was glad to see I wasn’t alone in finding it hard to get to grips with.
  28. 52 mins. Friday-ish. Trouble came in the NW with the unknown rose, the CD at 1dn, 2dn where I just had a complete blank as to the required word, 11ac where I was slow,to consider batting as anagrind rather than ‘in’, and 1ac where I spent ages convinced that ‘to fit into line’ must mean ‘versify’ – very iffy with one f removed was tantalisingly close but no cigar. Pleased to eventually finish this clever puzzle all correct.
  29. Very enjoyable – particularly the last two “justify” and “jigsaw” when we saw them!
    Do these penny drop moments release endorphins?
    47 minutes.

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