Times 27261 – a curate’s egg time.

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
This took me 33 minutes and a few more while blogging to decipher some of the more obscure parsing. I finished feeling slightly irritated rather than elated. If you read the below, you’ll get my drift. Apologies in advance to the esteemed setter, if my gripes are not in order and I’ve missed the point here and there; it wouldn’t be the first time.
19a gets my CoD award, although I have a sneaky feeling I’ve seen that UED entry before.

1 Feeble old man, by Thursday at home (5-4)
PAPER-THIN – PA = old man, PER = by, TH(ursday), IN = at home. I think, as in a feeble excuse.
6 Indian title of book one’s holding back (5)
SAHIB – B(ook), I HAS = one’s holding; all reversed.
9 Football team with mass appeal deliver (7)
MANUMIT – The resurgent Man United, = MAN U, M(ass), IT = appeal. An archaic word meaning to set free from slavery; I got it from the word play then it rang a faint bell.
10 Dog, as it happens, getting back on couch (7)
BEDEVIL – BED = couch, LIVE = as it happens, reverse that.
11 American hosts cool, reclining in mess as usual (5)
SNAFU – FAN reversed inside US. Well known military acronym from ‘situation normal all fucked up’, or ‘all fouled up’ when it needed censoring.
12 Alternative cure handy for major complaint (3,3,3)
13 … but if south-facing, becoming much brighter (5)
UNLIT – &lit. If it had S facing i.e. on the front, it would be sunlit.
14 Hard toenails troubled one in the shower (9)
17 Displaying craft gift not enough? (9)
UNDERHAND – I suppose, crafty as in sly, underhand. I’m not sure this works very well for the second definition ‘gift not enough’ which I think is the idea of under-handing something being to give less than was expected?
18 Suffering: force for good later in composer (5)
GRIEF – Edvard GREIG has his last G turned into an F.
19 A number of volunteers, note, commanded army? (9)
TENTACLED – TEN (a number) TA (volunteers) C (note) LED (commanded) leaves you with ‘army’ as a definition, (from the Uxbridge English dictionary of course, hence the ? mark), ‘having (lots of) arms’.
22 Mature person, hiding the grey, to be honest (3,2)
OWN UP – GROWN UP loses the GR.
24 Agent who gets back from sultanate with traveller (4,3)
REPO MAN – REP for traveller, OMAN the sultanate. A REPO MAN reposseses things.
25 Demanding one stops person having sex change? (7)
EXIGENT – A person having a sex change could be an EX GENT (groan). Insert I = one stops.
26 Member greatly respected long after the event? (5)
DOYEN – DO = event, YEN (for) = long (for).
27 Freshness augmented by a brother’s flavouring (9)
SASSAFRAS – SASS = cheek, freshness; A, FRA’S; FRA being an Italian term for a friar or monk. Obscure answer with obscure word play. If you knew sassafras was a kind of tree bark based infusion, you were home dry, otherwise you had to guess.
1 Big felines getting in step I am thinking (5)
PUMAS – Another slightly dodgy bit of word play methinks. UM = I am thinking, goes into PAS = step. I hear people being interviewed every day saying UM far too often, but I don’t think there is much thinking going on while they say it.
2 Was bothered by volume having increasingly narrow endpiece (9)
PINTAILED – PINT = a volume, AILED = ws bothered by. A pintail is a kind of duck with a pointed tail, so the word presumably means having such a shaped endpiece. I am underwhelmed by this clue.
3 A sweet accompaniment with dance, almost complete (3,6)
RUM BUTTER – RUMB(A) = dance almost, UTTER = complete. We always have brandy butter with our Christmas Pud, but I see no reason why rum butter wouldn’t be as good.
4 Popular verse about teacher got top press billing (3,3,9)
HIT THE HEADLINES – HIT = popular, HEAD teacher inserted, LINES = verses.
5 Count on supervised girl being of high intellect? (5-10)
NOBLE-MINDEDNESS – Another clue I am tepid about. NOBLE for count, fine. MINDED for supervised, fine. NESS is apparently a rare or old forename, male or female, north of the border, but IMO too obscure for use in this way. Or am I once again losing the plot?
6 State prosecutor getting tabloid coverage (5)
SUDAN – DA the prosecutor gets covered by the SUN our leading tabloid organ.
7 Shrink with a vocation causing mayhem (5)
HAVOC – Hidden word, (WIT(H A VOC)ATION.
8 Tinned meat from cow — and grouse (5,4)
BULLY BEEF – BULLY = cow, BEEF = grouse.
13 Superior fruitcake boy’s kept to himself? (9)
UNUTTERED – U = superior, upper class; NUTTER = fruitcake; ED is our boy.
15 Miss warning put out on air (9)
SIGNORINA – SIGN = warning (well, perhaps), (ON AIR).
16 Runner who must find way round rotten tree in race, gutted (9)
ORIENTEER – O = round, (TREE IN RE)*, where RE = race gutted.
20 Garment frequently dropping off, could one say? (5)
NAPPY – More UED thinking, nappy invented to mean sleepy. Is a nappy really a garment?
21 A note in which a managing director’s put up someone for promotion (5)
ADMAN – A, N(ote), insert A, MD reversed. Admen aren’t ‘for promotion’, they create promotion materials. I was an Adman, but I didn’t feel that was what ‘I was for’. I was an adman to make money and to meet (and often hire) interesting people. Sorry, pedant’s corner has arrived.
23 Goes on green after driving off? (5)
PUTTS – Is there any more to this than a slightly cryptic definition, the number of putts being the number of ‘goes’ when you reach the green? If so, it’s not the best clue ever.

76 comments on “Times 27261 – a curate’s egg time.”

  1. I was so irritated with myself for once again missing a typo (HEAELINES) that I forgot about questioning the clues, but in retrospect I think I share some of Pip’s demurrals. I read UNDERHAND the same as Pip, and don’t care for ‘gift not enough’. PUTTS seemed QC level (although I don’t see the need to take ‘goes’ as a noun). I was willing to accept NESS as a woman’s name–not that I’ve ever come across one, but–but NOBLE-MINDED to me has nothing to do with intellect. PINTAILED is a rather ugly clue: what kind of volume has an endpiece? No problem with SASSAFRAS; no problem with PUMAS–‘thinking’ of what to say next is all. I got MANUMIT from the def, then remembered Man U. I would have said the word is historical not archaic; I’d still use it if writing about a slave-owning society. Totally missed ‘army’, making probably the third one of these I’ve failed to spot (I did get ‘nappy’, anyway); so I’ll make it my COD.

    Edited at 2019-01-30 10:31 am (UTC)

  2. Also mildly irritated along the same lines as mentioned by Pip and Kevin. Needed aids for SASSAFRAS and put UPLIT instead of UNLIT at 13, having missed out on the wordplay element. I’ve heard NESS as short for Vanessa.
  3. and much like yesterday. Poor cluing all round!

    Failed at LOI 2dn as I slung in PINNACLED by which time I was bored silly!

    FOI 23dn PUTTS – I was dubious

    COD 13dn UNUTTERED – thank-you Nancy


    Time – wasted!

  4. One of those days when you know there are 1 or 2 off ken, today was Sassafras and Sahib for me. Putts wouldn’t normally follow driving off in normal golf parlance for me, teeing off maybe but then wordplay suffers, accepting some use driving clubs on par 3s of course, just not typical imho. Regardless, thanks Blogger and Setter.
  5. Some of this I enjoyed, and I think I’d probably have enjoyed it even more if I’d got it all right! I was more worried about 17a UNDERHAND—I’d wavered between that and UNDERPAID for a while; saw at least the definition in the end—but as it turned out, it was the SE that got me.

    Perhaps I’d just seen enough I’d not parsed by that point, but I managed to mangle Spanish and Italian together and put in SIGNORITA at 15d—in my defence, I know neither language; French and Greek are my small smatterings—and also went for SASSABROS at 27a, not knowing the “fra” to even try to come up with SASSAFRAS. It does ring the vaguest of bells now I’ve seen it, though. At 55 minutes with many shakily put in, I rather gave up.

    I liked some along the way, though, including “army” for TENTACLED and the (S)UNLIT 13a.

    Edited at 2019-01-30 08:30 am (UTC)

    1. I was another SASSABROS. Unless you know the obscure flavouring it’s pretty much 50/50.
  6. 55 mins with yoghurt, banana, granola, etc.
    LOI was tentacled once I eventually got the gag.
    Like others, a bit irritating in parts: Ness? under-hand.
    But the Hard toenails in the shower was worth the entry fee.
    Thanks setter and Pip.

    Edited at 2019-01-30 08:32 am (UTC)

  7. 20:29, with ages at the end puzzling over 19ac, where I couldn’t quite figure out the wordplay (I wanted it to start with TA) and failed to spot the definition.
    SASSAFRAS is traditionally the flavouring ingredient in root beer, but was banned in the US some time ago. I’m not sure where I know it from but it was familiar.
    MANUMIT and manumission are familiar to me from the club events that used to take place in Ibiza, which I suspect is a very age-specific association. Not that I ever went.
    I agree with Kevin that NOBLE-MINDEDNESS has nothing to do with intellect but I didn’t hesitate to put it in.
    1. I thought my bit of knowledge of SASSAFRAS was related to Sarsaparilla. Wiki tells me that British Sarsaparilla was traditionally made from the sarsaparilla plant but the US version from the related SASSAFRAS. So I’ve no idea where I first came across the word. In my Lancashire youth, pre Coca Cola being available here, Dandelion and Burdock was the favoured pop, with Sarsaparilla only occasionally encountered, but cousins in Welwyn Garden City had matters the other way round.
      1. I associate Sarsaparilla with the Sam Elliott cowboy character in The Big Lebowski. I think it’s actually the last word in the movie: I will have to watch it again (for perhaps the 25th time) to be sure.
        I didn’t realise it was a type of root beer.

        Edited at 2019-01-30 11:17 am (UTC)

      2. You surprise me ! In my 50’s childhood the deliveryman from Bolton Direct Supplies came round our way once a week with his stone flagons of Ginger Beer, Dandelion and Burdock….and Sarsaparilla. Never got to try it as we had the Corona man.
        1. We didn’t really have pop at home before the Corona Man. By then we were living in Southport and my sister, five years older than me, was married. She was appalled that such extravagance was being lavished on me when she’d never known it. How did you prononce sarsaparilla? We’d say sassparella.
            1. I didn’t have you down as a Doris Day fan, Phil. Did you know her before she was a virgin?
  8. Liked this one little bit (Unuttered) but disliked it lots, for all the above reasons. Irritation set in early (on being asked to accept that one’s = I has) and steadily grew. And it took forever, which will make me late for work. And it’s cold outside..
    1. You aren’t really being asked to accept that one’s = I has. You’re being asked to accept – separately – that one = I and s = has. Admittedly this doesn’t help with the weather!

      Edited at 2019-01-30 08:44 am (UTC)

      1. Ah, I see. Thanks very much. Now irritated with myself for not seeing it before. What a day one’s had so far.
  9. 58 minutes on this. I needed to see UNUTTERED for COD UNLIT to reveal itself, and to drum up the courage to enter UNDERHAND, still uncertain it wasn’t UNDERPAID. LOI DOYEN, unsure about the need for one to be a member of anything. Fra Lippo Lippi, by leave yet again of my old English master Peg-Leg, allowed me to parse the SASSAFRAS I thought I remembered from somewhere. I made hard work of this, and that’s what it felt like. Thank you Pip and setter.
  10. Gaaargh! for the second day running. I was quite smug about getting through this in an acceptable (by my low standards) 36 minutes, but had “signorita” at 15d. I knew I should have parsed it properly.

    TENTACLED went in with a shrug – thanks to Pip for the explanation. I’m still not convinced by UNDERHAND.

  11. Hmm, I rather enjoyed this, until I read the comments above .. some of the surfaces are excellent.
    “Gift not enough?” is a fair definition it seems to me, in exactly the same spirit as “army.”
    Knew manumission, and sassafras which is or was in root beer and I think in gumbo – so a nod to our colonial cousins
    Ness I have to concede is a very rare christian name – more common for boys in fact, it seems. It is related to Vanessa. I have only come across it once, there is a princess named Ness in Irish mythology. Wiki says, inter alia “She asks the druid Cathbad what that day is a good day for, and he replies that it is a good day to conceive a king. There are no other men around, so Ness takes Cathbad to bed, and Conchobar is conceived.” Happy times, more relaxed than today..
  12. Favourite clue today is 19Across … wordplay was simple enough but the definition just blew the mind … full of arms !!!
  13. Sometime since we had a dodgy puzzle so perhaps this irritating offering was over due. I share the reservations of others and 23D was the final straw. We tee off or we drive, we don’t drive off!
    1. Commentators do say that x drove 340yds off the tee, don’t they? Not that I know anything about golf. How’s that nice Mr Player doing these days?
      1. I don’t think so Jerry. All they have to say is “x has driven y yards” the “driven” makes the “off the tee” redundant.

        Gary Player is retired from the main pro circuit but continues his business and charitable interests.

        1. And precious few of us putt immediately after driving – or even after driving off. Even for the pros there is usually a fairway or iron shot; for the non-pros it’s several iron shots, plus an opportunity to pitch then chip before the putter comes out.
  14. Toiled for ages only to have one letter wrong.
    This felt like a setter trying just a little too hard and if I had to plump for a single word description it would be ‘laboured’.
  15. Completely defeated by this, stopped after 30 minutes with many undone- all the ones mentioned. Still struggling with UNDERHAND, ..NESS, and the quite unknown and unworkable flavouring. Oh well.

    Did like TENTACLED.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  16. Totally stuck in the west generally, and having come here for the answers, was really very little the wiser. UNUTTERED didn’t get as I thought the fruitcake was a NUT and kicked myself over PINTAILED, otherwise some rather weak clueing. Now going to walk the dog in the snow, which I think will be far more enjoyable.
  17. Root beer tastes like mouthwash to me whatever the purported flavour but my husband likes it. I vaguely remembered that in Westerns if the new cowpoke in town went into the saloon and ordered a sarsaparilla he was pegged as a wimp, only to save the locals from the bad guys in the last reel.

    This was another one where I ummed and ahed about having “utter” twice in the same puzzle, albeit with different meanings. Same as others re “ness” and I did some more umming about “hand”, as opposed to “paid” or something in 17a. I note that SNAFU is now fit to print so we may get “fubar” from the same glossary one of these days. 19.18

    1. It’s been decades since I’ve had root beer or any other soft drink, but I certainly was once of your husband’s opinion; I didn’t realize it was still available. I had to look ‘fubar’ up; which is to say that it’s not from the same glossary as SNAFU, as far as I’m concerned. SNAFU has actually entered the language.
    2. In grade school we were taught that e e cummings favourite poem was:

      Root beer
      Sold here

    3. I recall Bob Hope asking for lemonade when trying to act tough, and to recover it when nudged by Bing then said, “In a dirty glass.” I’ve googled it and that was in Road to Utopia. He liked the gag so much that he used it again with Jane Russell in Son of Paleface, only this time with a glass of milk. Many others have used the gag since, including me when asking for a diet coke.
    4. I think root beer is like marmite. If you don’t get it when you are very little, you will think it disgusting. I hate root beer, but my kids, brought up in the US (mostly) like it.
  18. An 87 minute slog all for nothing, just because I can’t tell my N’s from my T’s, or my Spanish from my Italian misses.

    Despite this, I liked quite a few clues including the crosswordy word MANUMIT, UNLIT, UNUTTERED and RUM BUTTER. TENTACLED was also good – ‘army’ has appeared in this sense (eg for ‘octopus’) a few times over the years in various places, so let’s hope it doesn’t get over-used.

    Thank you to setter and blogger

  19. We often struggle but mainly because we are not the most accomplished crossword solvers. Today the fault lay as much with the setter as with us, we believe. Too many clues weren’t just difficult (e.g. requiring scholarly knowledge) but excruciatingly opaque. Hope we don’t get too many more in this vein.
    1. Oh yeah good point… I didn’t actually check the clue!
      My general point about separating wordplay elements stands… just not in this instance.
      As you were.
  20. 21:36. Unlike some others I quite enjoyed this, but with a minor brow furrows at NESS as a girl. I liked SNAFU, UNLIT and TENTACLED.
  21. Some tough stuff to unravel here, and some nice clues, but as other people seemed to find, not quite everything unravelled satisfactorily (UNDERHAND, in particular, being less of a penny dropping, and more of me saying “well, I suppose that’s what it is, then”).

    My digital library contains the track Hot Smoke and Sassafras by not-especially-popular beat combo Bubble Puppy, which I think was on a compilation CD of psychedelic rock I have somewhere in the record collection. The title is much more memorable than the music, which turned out to be a good thing today.

  22. ….I had a SUDAN urge to jack this in. A crossword should be a source of enjoyment. This wasn’t, and it was a relief to see the back of it. The reasons have all been covered by other posters.

    COD UNUTTERED (I enjoyed HAILSTONE, but not much else)
    TIME 15:23

  23. Started with some excellent clues but was less than content by the end and just gave up.
    SASSAFRAS was a Welsh rock band from the 70s/80s. I saw them on the Old Grey Whistle Test.
  24. As Pip says, a bit of a Curate’s egg. I found a few clues quite laboured and, as others, was left underwhelmed by UNDERHAND. I did like TENTACLED and REPO MAN though. I thought for a while about NESS as a girl, but then remembered the leather clad, lorry driving (Va)NESS(sa) from the TV series Gavin and Stacey, so I’m quite happy with that. I came up with SASSABROS for the flavouring, but was unconvinced and checked it on Google, where the unknown SASSAFRAS popped straight up. So a little cheat there. 37:48. Thanks setter and Pip.
  25. I not only got every answer correctly, I also parsed every one correctly. A rare occurrence. So I thought it was a great puzzle!
  26. Thanks for taking the bully by the horns, pip. I think Sassafras may be better known here in the US, and I think of a Hue and Cry as being a commotion, not a complaint, but overall I was a DNF – today was the ophthalmologist and the dilation drops making the left side unreadable was a good excuse to stop.

  27. Some lovely clues I thought. Especially the ones for Tentacled and Unuttered. Excellently devious. LOI Signorina – though surely it was one of the easier ones. FOI Paper-thin. I too had never heard of Ness for girl. Thought maybe it was an American first name, as there was a bit of a theme going, what with Snafu and Repoman.
  28. The DOYEN answer is another argument against cryptic definitions. If they’re allowed you tend to say oh well, I suppose it’s another rather weak CD and bung it in and move on. As a result you often fail to look for clever wordplay, as here.
    1. Cryptic definitions are the lifeblood of the Times crossword!

      Their success often depends on whether people see the intended surface or not (see below). When they don’t, the clue can seem weak. Seems odd to blame them though for failing to see wordplay elsewhere though. I like to think that if a Times Crossword clue seems weak it may be because the solver has mossed something 🙂


      1. And IMO they jolly well shouldn’t be the lifeblood of The Times crossword. Yes indeed their success does often depend on whether or not the solver sees what’s happening, but my point is that there are so many feeble CDs around that when what looks like yet another of them comes along the temptation is to shrug the shoulders and say oh well it’s just another feeble CD.
  29. PUTTS – Is there any more to this than a slightly cryptic definition, the number of putts being the number of ‘goes’ when you reach the green? If so, it’s not the best clue ever.

    I think you’re meant to think of traffic lights

  30. All I can say is that I completely agree with the Blogger and many of the comments. In my incarnation as Mr Grumpy, I would normally jump head first into panning this nonsense of a crossword. But seeing as most of the dodgy ground has been covered already, I’m quite happy to lease Mr Grumpy (*TM) to our esteemed Blogger. Totally gratis, but on the understanding that it’s just this once. It saves me the job! By the way, Sassafras was the first horse to beat Nijinsky. I biffed it on that basis for no other reason whatsoever. (The erstwhile Mr Grumpy)
  31. I’m going to stand in the doorway and whisper that I actually liked this. Like others, a lot of elements weren’t known to me like ‘ness’, and others already mentioned. I enjoyed the quirky clues like ‘army’, NAPPY. But I also failed by entering UNDERHAND but at the last changing it to UNDERPAID. Missed that quirky wordplay altogether. Regards.

    Edited at 2019-01-30 07:54 pm (UTC)

  32. I struggled on and off for ages with this only to put in uplit rather than unlit for no good reason. Felt like I was reaching a bit in some of these clues so didn’t enjoy it too much. COD to Repo Man for making me think of the Alex Cox film notorious for his TV edit where a particularly offensive profanity was overdubbed with the risibly incongruous “melon farmer” to appease the censors whilst I think making a point about how ridiculous the whole idea was.
    1. I first learned what a repo man was by watching that film! I was rather too young to enjoy it to its fullest when I saw it, and the melon farmers dub would probably have sailed right over my head. (This would have been a year or two before I realised that Bruce Willis only says “Yippee-ki-yay kemosabe” in the tellybox version of Die Hard!)

      Edited at 2019-01-30 10:06 pm (UTC)

      1. Ha! I did not know of the alternative Die Hard version. I’m sure Harry Enfield did a Goodfellas style parody where every time there was a bit of swearing the American accents were overdubbed by a clipped English accent saying the words “muddy funster”.
        1. I saw a Schwarzenegger movie on TV where a little old lady says his character is a ‘mean mound of flesh’.
  33. …but didn’t find too much wrong with this, certainly not the level of abuse it’s received above. Underhand works perfectly for me, if you allow the execrable gift-as-a-verb. CDs are always hard to get right and easy to get wrong, so a dodgy one is par for the course, as it were. Never heard of a Ness but I despise all random name clues. And knew Sassafras from… a small town outside Melbourne traversed by Puffing Billy, a steam train I was delighted to ride every year or two back in my childhood. A google shows it’s still in operation.
  34. Thanks setter and pipkirby
    Interesting to read the general negativity about this puzzle – I wonder if that is related to the primary focus that I pick up with the folk on this site about the time it takes to complete the puzzle. Personally, my goal is to get a completed grid from whatever clues that the setter has put in front of me – whether it takes 20-30 minutes (a quick solve for me) or whether it stretches over a number of days to nut out the last of the difficult / nebulous clues. This one took just under an hour and a half across four separate sittings and then some more time where I double checked the word play. Here that unravelled at least three answers that I had initially written in wrongly – PIGTAILED (originally PINNACLED unparsed), SIGNORINA (where I used the wrong anagram fodder) and EXIGENT (with a wrong crosser from 15d). It was extra satisfying to be able to correct it all before coming here to check it. Sure there were some obscure definitions but I find that another aspect of doing these crosswords and hopefully I get to retain the information for another day.
    SAHIB was my first in and EXIGENT (when I was able to fix up the crosser was my last and one of my favourites).
    [a pity that there is such a gap between when the puzzles are published in the UK and when they are here – enjoy the blogs and the commentary.]

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