Times 28,259: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Crossword Forum

This didn’t take me particularly long but I had a whale of a time nonetheless, enjoying the high grade GK-ish vocab and coherent surfaces. The two reverse cryptics at 13dn and 20dn stole the show for me, but there were lots of other pyrotechnics, including an excellent exemplar of the rare “in prime locations” device. Well set, setter, well set indeed.

After enjoying seeing TITULAR – a word that comes up nine times a day in quizzing but nowhere else – in the Concise a day or two back, how lovely to see WHEELHOUSES and also SCATTER (BRAINED*) in the Concise today: Scatterbrains is the team myself and Topical Tim co-pilot in OQL UK. A good omen!

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

1 Ancient lines read back, exit play without hindrance (5)
OGHAM – GO [exit] reversed, + HAM{let} [play, minus LET = hindrance]
4 Observe judge with personality (9)
9 Syrian barrage set to defend area (9)
DAMASCENE – DAM [barrage] + SCENE [set], “defending” A(rea). FOI
10 Minister without portfolio at first gives serious offence (5)
ARSON – {p}ARSON [minister, minus P{ortfolio}]
11 Frankie maybe losing capital in urgent look for business (5,8)
POWER DRESSING – (Frankie) {h}OWERD, in PRESSING [urgent]
14 Slaughtered considerable number (4)
SLEW – double def
15 Rather crude show about torture avoiding extremes (10)
INDELICATE – INDICATE [show] about {h}EL{l}
18 Actress given to sin welcomed to cathedral city (5,5)
ELLEN TERRY – LENT to ERR, “welcomed” by ELY
19 Suicide in Aeneid accomplished nothing (4)
21 Cue and hit a second cracking long shot (7,6)
24 Leader should abandon modest expedition (5)
25 Italian back among Somalis playing very high (9)
ALTISSIMO – reversed IT in (SOMALIS*)
27 Gap admitting one to underworld knees-up? (9)
DISPARITY – DIS PARTY, “admitting” I
28 Coarse speech succeeded with Metropolis director (5)
SLANG – S(ucceeded) with (Fritz) LANG
1 Tragedy where frenzied exposure consumes princess (7,3)
OEDIPUS REX – (EXPOSURE*) “consuming” DI
2 Edge one may observe in the Mendips (3)
HEM – hidden in {t}HE M{endips}
3 Suffering, as Scrooge might be described, having lost pounds? (6)
MISERY – MISER{l}Y, minus L = pounds (as in LSD, pounds shillings pence)
4 Charlie to become informed about a church blessing (9)
CLEARANCE – C(harlie) to LEARN about A, plus CE.
5 Fine deposit: smaller amount covers nothing (5)
LOESS – LESS “covers” 0
6 Live with a marvellous, sin-free divine? (8)
BEATIFIC – BE with A T{err}IFIC, minus ERR = sin
7 Scandalous date when soldiers upset tribe? (11)
8 Petunia picked in prime locations for Sicilian eminence (4)
ETNA – {p}ET{u}N{i}A in positions 2, 3, 5, 7… the first four prime numbers
12 Shelters at sea protecting scoundrel, who benefits (11)
13 Where you’d see old boy in shape — and soon? (6,4)
BEFORE LONG – reverse cryptic. If the shape is an OBLONG, you’d see O(ld) B(oy)… before LONG
16 Seriously old walls in home (9)
EARNESTLY – EARLY [old] “walls in” NEST [home]
17 Three different articles on scholar one detested (8)
20 Which letter is used twice in this academic submission? (6)
THESIS – lovely meta clue. Which letter is used twice in THESIS? THE S IS!
22 Irish with a question, one for Arab (5)
IRAQI – IR with A Q, I
23 Old Bob made a meal of fish (4)
SHAD – S [as in LSD again] HAD [ate]
26 Sound made by duck for princess in opera? (3)
IDA – homophone of EIDER

68 comments on “Times 28,259: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Crossword Forum”

  1. THESIS was superb, BEFORE LONG nearly as good, also liked POWER DRESSING. Missed the “prime” significance and had to guess Etna, and I’m a mathematician (of sorts). Indelicate LOI, catching a bout of vocalophobia. After putting in the obvious answer it took a while to get hell for torture, as in Paris-Roubaix: The Hell of the North.
    Ogham unknown, except as one of the regular contributor’s errors in competition? Ellen Terry also NHO, but no problem. Damascene a quick re-appearance, as a Syrian instead of steel.
    Great puzzle, reasonably quick, COD THESIS.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 12:39 am (UTC)

  2. Another sluggish performance, even though I biffed a lot. Didn’t get the LET in OGHAM or the HELL in INDELICATE or the ‘prime’ in ETNA; parsed them post-submission. Also OEDIPUS REX & BEFORE LONG. I thought of ELLEN TERRY early on for some reason, but didn’t see how it worked until much later. Couldn’t remember LANG’s name, so finally looked it up. I liked ETNA (once I figured it out), although ‘Sicilian eminence’ was rather a giveaway. COD to THESIS.
  3. Some truly remarkable clues here. I checked
    8, ETNA, for “prime locations” √
    13 BEFORE LONG (just convoluted enough) √
    20 THESIS (ha ha) √
    Really enjoyed this.
    I gave up too soon on parsing IDA, and I would never have figured out who “Frankie” was in 11.
    But Old Bob Shilling couldn’t fool me!

    Edited at 2022-04-08 02:23 am (UTC)

  4. Pleased that this one met with V-Dog’s approval, as I thought it was an absolute cracker.

    Really enjoyed the two reverse cryptics, but the prime number reference in 8dn? Be still my beating heart!

    Unknowns OGHAM, ELLEN TERRY, DIDO, ALTISSIMO, SHAD, LOESS and IDA all constructible from the excellent surfaces. Well done setter, five stars.

    1. Ha, you will be telling me you haven’t heard of Beerbohm Tree next. Long departed, like Miss Terry, but they live on often enough, in crosswordland
  5. Reckoned something mathsy was going on with PETUNIA and moved rapidly on; hadn’t a clue what was going on with BEFORE LONG and moved on; loved POWER DRESSING for its deception and reminder of the Up Pompeii! star. Yes, no, please, yes, no…aah!
    1. Yes, nice to be reminded how far comedy has progressed since those days.

      Edited at 2022-04-08 04:39 am (UTC)

        1. I agree. Frankie at his best is far funnier than a lot of what passes for comedy these days. I was watching his performance at The Oxford Union recently and was laughing out loud at some of it – something that rarely happens to me now.
  6. I had END first too, but it says the answer is in “the Mendips,” which should mean that it includes part of the first word.
  7. I admired all the jewels already listed. Have we ever seen the prime number ploy before?

    A small flaw at 2D, I thought, since END was also hidden in mENDips.

    1. …a neat piece of misdirection? Certainly sent me the wrong way to begin with.
      1. I think that a good clue is one where, when you finally see the answer, you can say, confidently, that’s it! So, to me, this was a flaw.
        1. Fair enough when taken in isolation. But that’s what the crossers are for isn’t it?
          1. I’m perfectly happy to use the checkers to help find the answer. I do that a lot – even using hypotheticals from possible crossing answers.

            But for me, once I’ve found the answer, it should stand on its merits.

            1. Your last statement is controversial.
              On rare occasions a clue can clue two equally valid answers, and you need a crosser to be certain.
              Aside from two homophones of the same length on the end of a clue with the indicator in the middle, a few examples are:
              Spy novelist (7)
              Gospel not the first book of the bible (4)
              Quiet place for hallucinogen (6)
              Pretty sure the first two are from the Times; the third one isn’t.

              Edit: Spy novelist? (7) is from 26236
              Book that isn’t fiction, lacking introduction (4) is from 24846 – I completely misremembered how it was phrased.

              Edited at 2022-04-08 07:06 am (UTC)

              1. And, having looked at 26236 and 24846, I’d class those two clues as flawed too.
            2. This seems quite a common (and perfectly legitimate of course) view, but it’s one I personally disagree with quite strongly. The grid, and hence the crossing letters, are an intrinsic part of the puzzle (we don’t just solve lists of clues, after all) so the setter is entitled to – and indeed should IMO – use them.
              1. The perfect clue doesn’t need any crossers.
                There is no problem, in any case, with this clue. It is just wrong to ignore “the” there.
  8. 46 minutes with the last 6 spent on 1ac which I didn’t know but when I was alphabet trawling it rang some sort of bell simply as a word I had seen somewhere. So I bunged it in as a best guess which turned out to be correct. I saw the wordplay only after that.

    Another unknown was LOESS where I trusted the wordplay.

    I thought of ETNA immediately on reading ‘Sicilian eminence’ and saw that it was hidden irregularly in ‘petunia’ but didn’t make the ‘prime’ connection.

    Great to see that dear Frankie is not forgotten. He’s better remembered for his stand-up comedy rather than Up Pompeii and other TV and film diversions which earned him welcome money through what would have otherwise been lean years for him. It was good that his stand-up act came back into fashion towards the end of his career.

    I note that with ELLEN TERRY we’ve returned to the era of the little missed Sir Beerbohm Tree who has not made an appearance for a very long time and let’s hope that at last he is being allowed to RIP. Their careers overlapped. Terry was one of a whole dynasty of actors, but she is perhaps most usually mentioned these days as being the great-aunt of Sir John Gielgud.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 05:45 am (UTC)

    1. I didn’t know that about Terry. I always think of her as Charles Dickens’s mistress; which she wasn’t, of course, it was Ellen Ternan.
    2. Yup — knowing of her as John Gielgud’s aunt is the only way that I have heard of Ellen Terry
    3. I can remember our English master, whose speciality was drama, telling us that Frankie Howerd used to spend hours on end perfecting his stand-up monologues in front of a mirror.
    4. Ellen Terry was not a neighbour exactly, but her house at Smallhythe ( now a museum, of sorts) is only a few miles from me. I hope you are right about Mr Tree but I fear we have not seen the last of him yet
  9. 38 minutes with LOI DISPARITY once I put in the unknown SHAD. In the newspaper, ELLEN TERRY was enumerated as a ten letter word, which took a bit of sorting. I reached Fritz Lang via SLANG rather than the other way round and constructed LOESS, which I then convinced myself I’d seen before. I liked ETNA and THESIS but COD has to go to POWER DRESSING. I enjoyed this. Thank you V and setter.
  10. Just squeaked in under 40 minutes and agree with all of the praise above — an excellent puzzle throughout with many fine surfaces, misdirections and helpful cluing of the (my) unknowns. With that and the usual excellent blog from V, this was an enjoyable, for me early, start to the day. Thank you setter and blogger!
  11. Rather enjoyed my plod through this Friday offering – not least because 23d recalls the immortal words of Cole Porter – “Why ask if shad do it? / Waiter, bring me shad roe!”. Gave it the full hour, at which point I was feeling a bit irritated at having to deal with odds and ends (SLEW, ETNA, OGHAM) and gave up – pretty sure I would never have figured 1a, even given unlimited time.

    Anyway, I’m chalking this up as a win – given that I feel a bit under the weather, after testing positive for covid shortly before I started. Thanks V and setter.

    1. My experience was that the Quickie went from under 10 minutes to 30 minutes, and I couldn’t put in many clues in the big one. Interesting that compared to the average person I had a quantitative measure of brain fog. I hope your brain doesn’t get too fogged. If it does, you’ll notice it in your solving.
  12. Wonderful crossword. I look forward to “Friday” (Thursday evening for me) crosswords. I know The Times claims that the crosswords don’t get harder through the week like the NYT, which is true. But they do seem to push harder gems to Friday. And Verlaine is the perfect person to blog them (except he solves them in like 3 minutes which makes me feel inadequate).
  13. Following my struggles with the crossword so far this week, I was happy with how this was going until the last when I got as far as OGH_M but couldn’t parse the ending. In the end I put OGHAM in because it sounded right and no other vowel looked right. Anyhow, it doesn’t matter how you score them, they all count. Back of the net. Over the moon.
  14. Well, that stretched me out to 56 minutes. Quite a few unparsed or unknown, like ELLEN TERRY or the director of Metropolis, and a few I should have figured out like the “HAM” of OGHAM, where I just thought of “ham” as “play without hindrance” even though I’d thought of “let” earlier on. D’oh. THESIS great.
  15. Top puzzle, top blog; many thanks to both. THESIS a bona fide classic. OGHAM rather more of a thing up here in Orkney, along with Viking runic graffiti!
  16. Excellent puzzle!
    I must have come across THESIS before because it suggested itself immediately.
    Like Bruce, I saw the END in Mendips and went for that at first.
    NHO OGHAM so thank you, Verlaine for parsing that and ETNA. Never seen the prime number ploy before.
    Some terrific clues but joint CODs to
  17. Enjoyed this but an awful lot went unparsed or unnoticed:

    OGHAM — all of the checkers required, entered only tentatively, vaguely parsed
    CELEBRATE — had RATE for judge but was wondering how ‘observe’ = CELEB. There was no indication that ‘personality’ might be in front of ‘judge’, but it’s a minor quibble.
    DAMASCENE — FOI but didn’t twig that ‘set’ = SCENE (far too early in the morning)
    INDELICATE — needed all of the checkers but still didn’t feel comfortable with it for some reason
    ELLEN TERRY — heard of via Gielgud, but failed to parse bar ELY
    OUTSIDE CHANCE — picked the wrong anagrist, but saw the answer before overthinking
    BEATIFIC — couldn’t work out the TIFIC bit, but it seems so obvious now
    ETNA — from checkers only, completely missed the ‘prime’ device
    BEFORE LONG — too clever for me, just bunged in from definition

    Fortunately had seen SLEW before. LOESS vaguely remembered perhaps from previous grid, though couldn’t have told you what it meant.

    Liked POWER DRESSING and THESIS (candidate for clue of the year so far)

  18. 59 mins. Most has already been said and had the same hold ups as others. I very much liked CLEARANCE, ASSIGNATION BEFORE LONG and THESIS (loved the trick here). All of which really stretched the little grey cells. I didn’t think I’d finish at one point, and nearly gave up. Glad I didn’t as it was a pleasure to complete.

    Thanks V and setter.

  19. No amount of parsing would have got me OGHAM or ELLEN TERRY but BOBO (type of mullet) for SHAD and CONFIRMED for CLEARANCE – neither of which I was prepared to change – meant I was tied in knots in which I was too entangled to extricate myself.

    Very pleased with myself and chapeau to setter for ETNA, THESIS and BEFORE LONG

    I may be a bit new to this but Ms Terry does feel a little obscure regardless of her more famous nephew. It is not a name I shall work hard to keep in my mind even if it costs me another DNF in the future, at which point I reserve the right to be just as miffed as I would have been if she had been the sole reason for this one.

    OGHAM on the other hand is something I am very pleased to learn about.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 09:18 am (UTC)

  20. Much the same time as yesterday, at 23.49, but what an extraordinary contrast! Yesterday, good, highly economical clues, today good, verbose and convoluted ones: only four weighed in a five words or fewer. Yesterday you could get away with a minimum of GK, today it helped if you enjoy the TLS style, arty references all over the grid.
    For what it’s worth, I had the HAM part of OGHAM from “play without hindrance”, to cheerfully overact. Clearly the setter meant the Hamlet version (terribly clever!) but it worked for me.
  21. Didn’t help that in my paper 18A is shown as a 10 letter word, not 5,5
    1. Same here, that held me up a long time as I needed the checkers for 12 and 16d.
  22. 19:45. Great stuff, but I biffed a couple thus missing the cleverness of OGHAM and BEFORE LONG. I liked the “prime locations” device and the surface for OUTSIDE CHANCE. Thanks V and setter.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 08:55 am (UTC)

  23. More than one! It was my downfall, and it also caught out Penfold and I think one or two others.
  24. A lovely puzzle! I fell into the END trap at 2d, but corrected it within seconds as DAMASCENE was next one in. OEDIPUS REX was next as the D from 9a suggested where the princess went. After MISERY, OGHAM was remembered from previous discussions, and correctly parsed. Spotted the device for ETNA, which I’m sure we’ve had at least once before. The only parsing that eluded me was BEFORE LONG. Loved POWER DRESSING and THESIS. ELLEN TERRY was constructed with no idea who or when she was. LOESS was constructed and rang a faint bell. SLEW took an age to see, but allowed me to get my LOI, WHEELHOUSES. 26:24. Thanks setter and V.
  25. 8:21 but with one incredibly stupid error: a hastily-biffed CHAD. Minimal engagement of brain or attention to wordplay would have avoided spoiling a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
    Superb puzzle for all the reasons already mentioned.
  26. 46 minutes for a crossword where several nice clues came fairly quickly, as martinp1 said, probably seen before, although THESIS and BEFORE LONG were excellent. Like several I entered OGHAM OK but thought that to ham was a rather odd way of saying to play without hindrance.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 10:13 am (UTC)

  27. 25 minutes for this pleasant test, not as hard as some Fridays. LOESS was my only NHO but guessable, and was not quite sure how CLEARANCE meant blessing, some Catholic thing perhaps? The rest was jolly good, especially the parsing of 6d and 13d.
    1. Pip I think it just means that if you get clearance from someone giving you permission for something it means you can do it with their blessing
  28. What an excellent week of puzzles – many thanks to setters and editors. And thanks to V for the parse on BEFORE LONG which eluded me completely. I usually have a bit of a job figuring out which is OGHAM and which is Occam (or Ockham, and his razor) but managed to do it this time. I’d completely forgotten about Frankie Howerd so that one got past me as well. 23.14
  29. 33 minutes. Very good. Favourites were as already noted by others. POWER DRESSING was my pick for the ‘look for business’ def and Frankie Howard reminder. The ‘prime locations’ for ETNA and the BEFORE LONG trick weren’t far behind. OGHAM and LOESS looked new, but I see I’d met them both before, though undoubtedly not in real life.

    Apologies if I’ve missed this in the comments above, but I thought the ‘at sea’ at 12d being part of the def and not the more usual anagram indicator was also worth a mention.

    Thanks to Verlaine and setter

  30. 51 mins. An off-the-scale slow plod for me — admittedly with my mind elsewhere — but I doubt I’d have been much faster giving it whatever attention I normally muster. Hugely enjoyable nonetheless.
  31. Quite a few early solves, but slowed down, partly to ponder some of the definitions, such as in 4ac, where I was sure the answer was CELEBRATE, but didn’t see the definition or part of wordplay. The cultural references were all familiar. Finished in 38 minutes, at least this time without having to resort to aids, which was not the case yesterday. Some lovely surfaces that misdirect, eg clue to WHEELHOUSES.
  32. Ellen Terry had a famous “paper courtship” with George Bernard Shaw. At one point he wrote along the lines: “whilst you are young and beautiful, any fool can love you. When you are old I will have you to myself.” To which she replied: “Dear Liar”.

    (I don’t mean to be anonymous – I don’t know how to join!)

  33. 36.50 but a bit of a struggle. Not helped by ellen terry being clued as 10 letters rather than two 5s. SW corner again tricksy until I finally saw earnestly which allowed me to give up on the dance being the knees up and correctly enter disparity.COD to Power dressing. Ooh er missus!
    Thx setter and blogger.
  34. I got that 26 across had eider and Ida as homophones. Likewise I succeeded in seeing pawn and porn too as homophones in a puzzle last week. My question is in those two pairs are they homophones because the”r” in the second word isn’t pronounced ? Or are they homophones because an “r” sound is added to Ida and pawn? Thought I had a handle on rhotic vs non- rhotic but still puzzled( even after trying to wade through Wikipedia article!)
  35. Verlaine, I can second every word of your first paragraph. What a delightful and clever puzzle, solved in 40 minutes (moderately quick for me). Like z……, I too interpreted HAM as a verb, to “play without hindrance”, but otherwise I understood all of the wordplay and knew all of the terms mentioned except for Ellen Terry. THESIS, BEFORE LONG and ETNA were absolutely superb, but there was much more to like as well.

    Edited at 2022-04-08 04:45 pm (UTC)

  36. Very nice, Friday-ish without being ultra-difficult. Our blogger has correctly predicted my reaction to the WHEELHOUSE, which is where every quizzer wants the questions to be. Suitably impressed by the prime letters and the THESIS clue, both very clever.
  37. Loved this – except that I’ve recently gone back to doing the crosswords in the print paper and 18a was clued as a single 10-letter word! I ended up trying to justify a city called something like Ellinderry, hoping Jenny Lind was an actress as well as a singer…

    Ah well!

  38. In my paper edition the Ellen Terry clue was enumerated as (10) not (5,5), so that didn’t help! Some very good clues, though.
  39. Sorry, just saw that it’s already been noted – I looked through the first page of comments but didn’t persevere to the end!

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