Times 28,169: ‘Twas The Solve Before Christmas

A relatively zippy recording of my live solve of this puzzle (and the concise and QC) can be found here, with added heckling by vinyl1.

An enjoyable holiday Friday solve with lots of fun literary/GK-type content which always floats my boat. I think my favourites were the fun reverse cryptic clues at 20ac and my COD 7dn but it was all very congenial.

Hope you’ve all got your stockings hung up and find what you want in them on Christmas morning – it’ll be coal again for me, this year as every year. Merry Xmas to one and all and see you on the other side!

Definitions underlined, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Due to merge bizarrely with Legal & General (2,6)
DE GAULLE – (DUE + LEGAL*) to find a famous general
9 Knock down leader of legion roughly on march (8)
DEMOLISH – L{egion), ISH on DEMO
10 Noise you heard: communications with one rowing (6)
UPROAR – U + P.R. + OAR [one that rows]
11 Rubbish on-line about cruel figure in Labour (6,4)
NEMEAN LION – (ON-LINE*) “about” MEAN. Heracles’ first labour
12 Predator caught fabulous bird (4)
13 Obscure allusion picked up, getting harder to pick up (10)
DIMINUENDO – DIM + homophone of INNUENDO. Quieter and quieter
16 Writer has month to pen a work half-heartedly (7)
NABOKOV – NOV “penning” A BO{o}K
17 Rush to box quietly with learner in bout (7)
SPLURGE – SURGE “boxing” (P + L)
20 Sign of eating too much toast suggested by this? (6,4)
22 Politician dropping round, engaging a cup-bearer, say (4)
TRAY – T{o}RY “engaging” A
23 European skill behind film — it enhances sounds (3,7)
25 River keeping cool for convenience (6)
URINAL – URAL “keeping” IN
26 Free from charge after inconclusive unfair accusation (8)
LIBERATE – RATE [charge] after LIBE{l}
27 Queen’s partner’s stored knowledge is a minimal sham (8)
TOKENISM – TOM [male cat, hence a queen’s partner] “storing” KEN IS. A bit of a strange literal for TOKENISM but I guess it’s a fair description
2 Being high, high up, I hear, without oxygen (8)
EUPHORIA – (UP I HEAR*) “without” O
3 Answer to go down badly after Mike’s explosive threat (6,4)
ATOMIC BOMB – A TO + BOMB [go down badly] after MIC
4 Poet’s wretched trouble with a single romance yarn (5,5)
5 Cheese put on a crossword setter’s Japanese dish (7)
EDAMAME – EDAM on top of A ME
6 Novel English magazine’s contents cut back (4)
EMMA – E + reversed AMM{o}
7 Follower, what lady showing a lot of leg may have? (6)
MINION – a lady showing leg may have a MINI ON
8 Part of pin’s head turned up covered in glitter (8)
SHINBONE – reversed NOB “covered in” SHINE. Pin as in leg
14 Drink accompanying food with nothing in it (3,3,4)
NIP AND TUCK – NIP [drink] AND [accompanying] TUCK [food]
15 Jittery neurotic around a time for gas explosion (10)
16 Grace perhaps follows bad end for outlaw (3,5)
NED KELLY – (Grace) KELLY following (END*)
18 Boy right to crack jokes in finery (4,4)
GLAD RAGS – LAD R “cracking” GAGS
19 Dog‘s way to get in trouble with the RSPCA? (7)
WHIPPET – if you WHIP your PET you will be in trouble with animal lovers
21 Strip and rip off a French female’s clothing (6)
UNROBE – ROB [rip off] “clothed” by UNE [a, French, female]
24 State what usually keeps being reflected (4)
UTAH – hidden reversed in {w}HAT U{sually}

43 comments on “Times 28,169: ‘Twas The Solve Before Christmas”

      1. I did once try to memorise the Labours as a crosswording aid. I was almost disappointed today that I only had to get as far as the first one to biff 11a, but it’s probably best that the rest of my memorisation remains untested.
  1. Another tough solve and two puzzles in a row for 60+ minutes with several clues requiring resort to aids. I was quite pleased however to work out NEMEAN LION correctly; I knew I had seen it before but couldn’t actually remember it.

    Some of the difficulty was self-inflicted as I had EUPHORIC at 2dn through not playing close enough attention to the anagrist.

    Edited at 2021-12-24 10:42 am (UTC)

  2. Hard to get a foothold – CROC and NABOKOV first in, but while tricky after that it still flowed. No problem with NEMEAN even not knowing/remembering it, and the never-seen (?) ERUCTATION. A very entertaining crossword, much more enjoyable than the last few days’ offerings.
    Thanks setter and blogger, Merry Christmas to all.
  3. Another bit of stupidity on my part to follow one on yesterday’s puzzle: wasted 10 minutes on LOI 8d, even with SHIN …E. The NEMEAN LION and the Augean stables are the 2 Labors I know of. Liked ERUCTATION and DIMINUENDO especially.

    Edited at 2021-12-24 05:06 am (UTC)

  4. More fun than yesterday but I failed to finish.

    The NEMEAN LION is damnably obscure here in Meldrewvia. And I shinned 8dn missing the connection to the pin-code.

    FOI 12ac CROC

    (LOI) 1dn EUPHORIA — a plant that utilises Boron

    COD 16dn NED KELLY


    I eat far too much but I do not have a DOUBLE CHIN!

    Edited at 2021-12-24 05:16 am (UTC)

  5. No real problems today except for a typo (NEMAEN). I’d forgotten the NEMEAN LION but worked it out from the wordplay, and then mistyped it. I was sure 1a was going to be one of those Latin legal phrases and kicked myself once I saw what was going on. It ended up being my LOI.
  6. At a glance at the SNITCH this appears to have been the hardest week for over 3 years so console yourself if like me you’ve come a cropper a few times. I was glad to finish the week with a clean solve, though I doubted I would when I submitted after entering my LOI NEMEAN LION. It looked a lot like something I would make up then end up with egg on my face when I saw the obvious correct answer. I now look forward to a few days relaxation hopefully with some bonus crossword offerings. Happy Christmas all!
  7. 47 minutes with LOI NEMEAN LION, dredged up from the depths of memory. Was this crossword originally intended for the TLS? Lots of good clues though with Ned Kelly my COD. Thank you V and setter.
  8. 68 minutes. At least I made it in the end with NEMEAN LION my LOI. Where’s the Erymanthian boar when you need him? That was the only Labour of Hercules I could remember but the Augean stables did ring a bell when mentioned by Kevin.

    Favourites were the association of Grace with NED KELLY and working out the def and then the parsing of TOKENISM.

    Merry Christmas to everyone

      1. No, sorry, but ‘fraid not. Apart from the Augean stables, no Quasimodoing at all. I have looked them up since though. and now see old Hercules was an Action Man on steroids, to put it mildly.

        Ignorance is my only excuse.

  9. Sat here with a glass of hot toddy
    This rhymester whose verses are shoddy
    Sends best wishes to those
    Who solve and compose
    Merry Crosswords to everybody
  10. My 23.12 suggests we’ve had an entire week of roughly similar weight puzzles, though I enjoyed this one rather more than (most of) the others.
    Last one was MINION, that whole corner needing me to get the LION before solving. But DE GAULLE was very nearly last, there seeming to be too many words in the clue for the Latin phrase it had to be.
    EDAMAMRE I’ve bought many times (there’s some in my fridge right now) without ever really seeing how it was (they were?) spelt. Good to nail that down, then.
    I appreciated DOUBLE CHIN. It’s also why I keep a beard.

    * De Gaulle keeper. A genuine, very old Christmas cracker. May all your Christmas crackers be – um – better.

    Edited at 2021-12-24 08:57 am (UTC)

  11. What a relief after yesterday’s monster! CROC FOI, but OK thereafter.

    I tried reading LORNA DOONE once, didn’t get far.

    Liked MINION, not much of a contest between SHE and EMMA, did not parse LOI EUPHORIA.

    18’18”, thanks verlaine and setter.

    1. I agree – it works better as a tv drama. Eons ago I heard it on radio with lots of fake Mummerset accents.
  12. 21:41 Pleased to get there without aids and parsed all except EMMA. LOI SHINBONE after finally cracking NEMEAN LION. Great stuff! Some lovely rib-ticklers. I think I liked DOUBLE CHIN best. Thanks V and setter.
  13. A very clever crossie, but at least today I managed to finish it! A little under the hour. A number of clues only went in once the penny had dropped and I had all the checkers. DE GAULLE, NEMEAN LION, ÉRUCTATION and EUPHORIA, for instance.

    Loved the Herculean thing once I saw it. CODs to 1ac, 11ac and 14ac. 7d and 25ac came a close second.

    Thank you V as ever and very cryptic setter. Merry Christmas to everyone. Chin chin.

  14. My one real trouble with the puzzle is that there aren’t any edamame beans in the house to eat now. I think I first encountered them in the long-gone Bristol restaurant Budokan (and luckily went with a friend who told me how to eat them).

    I took 48m all told, so I didn’t find it easy, but I didn’t get properly stuck anywhere, either, just dotted around and continued revisiting the tougher ones as I got more and more crossers until it was done. I think it was when I put NEMEAN LION in that I realised there might be some above-average vocab in play.

    COD 20a, though I was clearly a bit dopey as my first thought was, “Oh! That would be a good clue for CHIN CHIN; what a shame it’s not the answer…”

  15. A slowish start with only CROC and TRAY initially, but I picked up after getting a decent spread of answers in the grid, so all finished in 32 minutes. SPLURGE, NIP AND TUCK and TOKENISM were my last entries.

    A very satisfying puzzle with some good clues. I particuarly liked those to DE GAULLE, NEMEAN LION, DIMINUENDO, MINION and UNROBE

    The quality of the clues makes it the best puzzle of the week in my opinion.

  16. Can’t complain — it was very good I suppose. We are going to get crosswords that are very difficult (I took 78 minutes with plenty of aids by the end), at least for me, but to have two stinkers in a row seems a bit much. One could just stop and say that it’s defeated me (as indeed 1ac did as I was sure it was a Latin legal expression and no electronic help gave the answer although if I’d been at my desktop it would have done). But I always want to finish and would prefer to help myself with aids rather than just giving up.

    Edited at 2021-12-24 11:13 am (UTC)

  17. I see we got our “like” options back just in time for Christmas. Hooray. Yes a very TLS flavour to this and none the worse for that. I had to stop and think about the definition for NIP AND TUCK and then saw how it worked. I may have been distracted by vaguely recalling a tv series (which I didn’t watch) about plastic surgery a few years ago. Merry Christmas to all!
  18. I can complain that all crosswords this way have been beyond me- it’s a shame the crossword editor did not feel able to include just one “easier “ one this week- the snitch reflects this — today I couldn’t even do half with another obscure Russian just one of many problems (natolov was my guess with to(i)l as my work
    Bah humbug
  19. 19:36. I enjoyed this one a lot: difficult because of wit and inventiveness, without obscurity at least according to the traditional ‘stuff I happen to know’ definition.
    The twelve labours of Hercules are an interesting case study in the concept of general knowledge. Almost everybody can probably name one or two of them, but almost nobody will know them all. Where to draw the line? This is of course an impossible question to answer, so we can take comfort in the knowledge that we will never run out of things to argue about.
    Happy Christmas all.
  20. According to the Snitch at 123, this has been the toughest week since the last two weeks of July 2018 (129 and 127).

    This seemed more straightforward than some of the others this week, three quarters going in without too much bother, though I did miss the ‘chin chin’ reference in DOUBLE CHIN.

    Familiar with LORNA DOONE more from mid-70s TV adaptation (my Mum was very into such dramas) than the book.

    NE corner gave the most pause, before the first three checkers of 11a NEMEAN LION gave that lovely pdm before SHINBONE, DIMINUENDO and finally MINION went in.

    Merry Christmas one and all!

  21. A nice way to finish an undeniably tough lead-up to Christmas, definitely thought this was the wittiest of the lot; also the setter followed the sensible policy of only including things I already knew, clearly the hallmark of a well-judged puzzle. Compliments of the season to one and all
  22. DNF. A pretty quick time for me in under 18 mins spoiled by a typo in uurobe. I’m beginning to think I might have to start paying attention when I’m typing in the answers. I thought this puzzle was great fun, all the GK was within my ken and therefore perfectly reasonable. Came here to find out about my only unknown, the obscure poet Lorn, now slapping my palm against my forehead.
  23. I thought this was great fun and I didn’t really want it to end. As oliviarhinebeck says, a very TLS feel to it. I’ve read neither EMMA or LORNA DOONE and probably never will. I’ve devoured plenty of NABOKOV though (PNIN strongly recommended) and I think he would have liked some of the wordplay here; DIMINUENDO, ERUCTATION and MINION for example.

    Thanks to Verlaine and the setter. A merry Christmas to one and all.

  24. ….yesterday at a disgracefully early stage. I just wasn’t in the mood. Today, I obviously was. I thought this was a superb puzzle. My first pass through the clues left me in a state of trepidation, but the second pass broke the back of it.

    I biffed EMMA (not literally of course), but it was enough to finally give me the ‘mean’ part of my LOI, which I’d vaguely heard of. Asked to name the labours, I would probably confidently answer “Augean Stables” and then dry up totally.

    TIME 13:45

    Best wishes for Christmas to all setters, bloggers, and regular solvers

  25. Around 45 mins in two sessions — determined to finish this after yesterdays multiple pile-up. DE GAULLE and the NW corner in general gave some trouble and NEMEAN LION recognised only after painstaking assembly of the components, but it was all quite tricky.
  26. My only complete solve of the week, it took an hour or so. I thought this was a very satisfying solve since there were few write ins for me. COD MINION only got after all the checkers were in. A real “doh”, forehead smacking moment.

    How is Tom a partner for Queen? TOKENISM was my LOI.

  27. Ahhh
    Thanks for that Verlaine. In 60 years I’ve never come across the term before and I’d never have guessed it.

  28. Nowhere near finishing this after spending ages. Loads of forehead slapping when I read solutions. I’ve enjoyed joining this group. Thank you setters and bloggers. Seasonal greetings all. 🎅
  29. No time to solve this on Christmas Eve, but very enjoyable today, although it took nearly an hour. LOI was NEMEAN LION, only from wordplay. And many others were biffed before I could parse them. COD also to MINION, my POI after finally seeing SHINBONE and then DIMINUENDO to get the final N.

Comments are closed.