Times 28785 – not as the crow flies.

As promised, this was the first semi-final puzzle from the TCC on 21st October this year. I wasn’t there, and I found this pretty hard, it took me nearer 40 minutes than my self-allotted 20. This wasn’t helped by my inability to spell WEIRDEST (“I before E…”) so 8 across was my LOI when I saw the error. 20d POMFRET was also a struggle until I had all the checkers and remembered the fish. If you put in 1d early on, as I did, it opened things up for you.

Definitions underlined in bold, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, anagrinds in italics, [deleted letters in square brackets].

1 Envisaged either part of iron tool (7)
FORESAW – iron being Fe, or F E, either part is F OR E, SAW a tool. I expected the definition to be a tool, of course.
5 Capital: something that constricts gains acquired (6)
BOGOTA – a BOA constricts; insert GOT for acquired.
8 A mixture with one left out — bad luck (9)
ADVERSITY – A, D[I]VERSITY. As mentioned above, I had it ending in E*Y for too long.
9 Band in performance that’s barely finished (5)
STRIP – double definition, the second one sort of witty.
11 Festive decoration, quite neglected by wife (5)
HOLLY – WHOLLY loses the W.
12 Democrat’s relating to nonvoters in state needing attention (9)
DISREPAIR – D  IS (democrat’s), RE (relating to) PAIR = non-voters as in MPs paired in a House of Commons vote.
13 Republican’s opponent in solitary, mistreated (8)
15 Look for a second good weapon (6)
GLANCE – G[ood] LANCE = weapon.
17 Call to stop unit returning — disgusting! (6)
ENOUGH – ENO = one returning, UGH = disgusting!
19 Change I printed in bold (8)
22 What’s irregular or oddly regular about one line? (9)
GUERRILLA – I L inserted into (REGULAR)*.
23 Company with help for speaker, often upstanding performer (5)
COMIC – CO (company) MIC[rophone].
24 Salutation appropriate for John, Paul, or George, but not Ringo (5)
TOAST – I presume this is about the existence of St. John, St. Paul and St. George, but there is as yet no Saint Ringo. TO A S[ain]T.
25 Record hard precious stone cut, in brief (9)
EPHEMERAL – EP (old record) H[ard], EMERAL[D].
26 Recluse found in woman’s college in Cambridge (6)
HERMIT – HER = woman’s, MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Not our Cambridge in the fens.
27 What produces growth in pupil, slow but incomplete (7)
DILATOR – DILATOR[Y] = slow, incomplete.
1 Priest carrying English carol-singer, we hear, who’s very light (13)
FEATHERWEIGHT – FATHER (priest) with E inserted, WEIGHT sounds like WAIT an old word for a carol singer or minstrel.
2 Celebration of one side, each grabbing the other (7)
REVELRY – R for right (one side), then EVERY (each) with L (the other side) inserted. Sorted out after the answer went in.
3 Add water to   bouquet (5)
SPRAY – double definition.
4 Most bizarre couple holding hands that is separated by monarch (8)
WEIRDEST – W E (partners at bridge, “holding hands”), ID EST = “that is” in Latin, insert R for monarch.
5 Heard why I rested in bunk like some children (6)
BOYISH – Y I (sounds like why I) inside BOSH = rubbish.
6 Evangelist takes turn with person delivering letters (9)
GOSPELLER – GO (turn) SPELLER = person delivering letters.
7 Prepare for match maybe, running around on rising ground (7)
TERRAIN – TRAIN = prepare for match maybe, insert ER = RE (on) reversed.
10 Like rook moves, perhaps, what’s odd about king and pawn finish after I moved? (13)
PERPENDICULAR –  PECULIAR = odd, insert R (king) P (pawn) END (finish), remove the I.
14 Old-fashioned computing aid to record sound of a cadence (9)
16 Got ready for dance she rearranged (8)
ENCASHED – (DANCE SHE). Ready as in money.
18 Reason for insurance being cancelled initially: too old (7)
OVERAGE – insurance is to get COVERAGE; remove the initial letter.
20 Fish stew appearing inferior to Brit (7)
POMFRET – FRET (stew, worry) below POM a Brit to Australians.
21 Even if competent, having change of heart over appeal (6)
ALBEIT – ABLE (competent) has its “heart” changed to give ALBE, add IT for appeal.
23 Desert ship? Left having arrived earlier (5)
CAMEL – CAME (arrived) L[eft].


86 comments on “Times 28785 – not as the crow flies.”

  1. Started at the top, for once, and fairly flew thru this (although for my second one in, 2D, the homophone of “wait” was a guess—I’ve found the reference since). My POI and LOI were both at the top, though, and the hardest to parse (the only words that fit!): WEIRDEST and DISREPAIR (decided “nonvoters” must refer to the practice of parliamentarians “pairing” opposing votes, which nullifies their effect). ENCASHED sure seemed odd, but it had to be.
    Now I’ll read the blog!

    The blog alerted me that I neglected to parse PERPENDICULAR—had enough crossers!

    1. Guy – wildly off-topic, but… I just wanted to thank you for the pointer to the Uni-Ball Ultra pen. I’ve sworn for a long time now on the Pilot H-Tec C4, which I suspect will remain my stick of choice, but the UB is a wonderful thing – a very consistent narrow line, very reliable, and most remarkable of all – it will write upside-down (which no other ballpoint I know (apart from the Fisher Space Pen of course)) will do!

      ‘So what?’ some may say, but for insomniac on-paper crossword solvers like me, it’s a real godsend. Neither a life- nor a sleep-saver but certainly a life-enhancer. Thanks :¬)

  2. For me this was an entertaining puzzle and in quite a few of the clues, particularly DISREPAIR and PERPENDICULAR, there were a lot of working parts that required some careful untangling. I made it around in 25.47 which I thought was pretty good. NHO wait for singers, was sucked into looking for an ED ending at INTREPID, was dubious about ENCASHED and am even more dubious about my LOI TOAST. To a st, really? The fact that the church has not seen fit to give us a St Ringo suggests that it really is out of touch…

    1. Ringo can claim a sainthood as Richard, if he wants. The Bishop of Chichester is best remembered for his prayer:
      Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
      For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
      For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
      O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
      May I know Thee more clearly,
      Love Thee more dearly,
      Follow Thee more nearly.
      Which has made it into the pop/rock canon via Godspell as “Day by Day”.
      And so it goes round

      1. Come to think of it, he was knighted as Richard Starkey. I found that extremely disappointing!

  3. I appreciate the accuracy of the setter, using ‘Brit’ for POM rather than Englishman, since it’s a matter of accent and bearing for the average Ocker, who’s not likely to enquire into lineage before applying the epithet.

    1. When working in Aberdeen and getting “banter” (abuse) from the locals, I’d call them Poms with funny accents. That generally riled them, they thought I was calling them English. Scots and (any, including) Northern Irish aren’t Poms. Welsh aren’t so easy to pick for yobbo Ockers, just another regional accent, so might or might not be Poms depending on the state of the weather and the time of day.

      1. That’s my point exactly. The inverted snob in the Ocker wants to pick out the coloniser, what have you, the ‘English’, but so many people from Scotland (especially) but also parts of Wales (particularly the north) speak with no discernible (to the untrained ear) accent and will be addressed and/or referred to as poms. The average Bruce in the bar in Penrith or Fitzroy isn’t going to be interested in listening to such blokes explaining they are different. Cue more ‘banter’…

        1. so many people from Scotland speak with no discernible accent
          You must be speaking of a different Scotland than the one I visited?

            1. I’ve heard Scots of this ilk referred to (by other Scottish people) as ‘plastic Jocks’.

  4. 42 minutes. I could have sworn WEIRDEST was spelt .IE… too so ADVERSITY also proved difficult. I was spooked by this having been a semi-final puzzle but in the end it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. The only unknown was POMFRET which I just remembered as some sort of confectionery and not as a ‘Fish’. I gave up trying to parse PERPENDICULAR once I saw PECULIAR for ‘what’s odd’. Incidentally looking at it now, I had ‘Like rook moves, perhaps,’ as the def and the wordplay as PECULIAR (what’s odd) containing R (king) and P (pawn) END (finish) with the I of PECULIAR moved to earlier in the word (after I moved?) – not deleted.

    Interesting to see Ringo Starr (and indirectly Paul McCartney) being referred to in 24a.

    1. Lennon and Harrison too… though the latter may be more fondly known as the founder of the Traveling Wilburys. 😉 But finally realized you mean that those two are still among us and this is a daily Times. Guess that the reference is “indirect” might be supposed to keep this “legit.” But do you know any other Ringos?

      The definition is just “Salutation,” the rest being wordplay. Not an &lit.

      1. Thanks. Yes, even if there are other Ringos about, as there are likely to be, I doubt any of them have been deified so the setter and editor can argue they’re not specifically referring to any living person. I did find however that there is a band called Saint Ringo: “… a mysterious, unknown group rumoured to have been originated (sic) somewhere in Wyoming. Little is known about the band and they correspond through traditional mail only.” I think the setter and editor are still in the clear.

      2. Yes, I think ‘Ringo’ is in breach of the convention because it can only be referring to one person who’s still living, whereas Paul is indirect in the clue, and in the answer it’s referring to the saint. Interestingly the convention doesn’t apply to names of pop groups (e.g. ABBA).

        1. Actually… Any gringo with jewelry on their fingers might’ve been called Ringo, in the American Old West.
          “Ringo” is a popular song written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair. It was a hit single for Canadian-born actor Lorne Greene in late 1964.
          The song ends like this (with a ⭐️ in the last line!):

           The story spread throughout the land
           That I had beaten Ringo’s hand
           And it was just the years, they say
           That made me put my guns away
            But on his grave they can’t explain
           The tarnished star above the name of Ringo

          1. Point taken, but I did say still living, and Ringo is uncommon enough in UK usage (remembering this is The Times) for only one possible Ringo to come to most minds. Of course we could also try to justify it by referring to fictional characters, perhaps ‘The Ringo Kid’ as portrayed by John Wayne in Stagecoach the major role that brought him world-wide acclaim.

      3. I disagree, re definition, TO A ST ,means nothing unless you are told it’s a salutation / toast.

            1. There’s overlap of wordplay with definition, but not all the wordplay is part of the definition.

  5. I needed 43 minutes for this one but when I finished I had several unparsed answers and as things tuned out, two errors. 20dn was one of them where I instinctively wrote POMFRIT, perhaps distracted by thoughts of fried potato! The other error was BOGATA, not that I was able to parse ‘gains = GAT’. Having said that, I don’t see how ‘gains = GOT’ either.

    1. It’s “acquired” that means GOT. The rest of the clue “gains” acquired (GOT)—not the other way round! Tricky indeed!

  6. I feel fairly happy with finishing this one in 25 minutes. Not quite a championship time, but not too bad. Held up mostly by the bottom half, including the nice “got ready” and the unknown fish (which I also got by thinking of pomfrIt first, but then chips are rarely far from my mind…) 12a DISREPAIR unparsed, “wait” not known but plain sailing otherwise.

  7. … I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
    And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’

    30 mins mid-brekker, just, with LOI the delightful Toast.
    MER at the unknown carol-singer, but otherwise neat and tidy.
    Ta setter and Pip.

    1. There are a number of groups of singers of early (medieval) music that refer to themselves as Waites, such as The City Waites, who are quite well known to regular music listeners.

  8. 43m 37s
    I toyed with COBRA for 23ac for some time. “Upstanding performer” made me think of a cobra emerging from a snake charmer’s basket, something I never ever want to be near!
    NHO the carol singer.
    Thanks, Pip!

  9. Was there on the day but that was nearly two months ago now, so while one or two of the clues/answers may have burrowed into the subconscious, I can’t say that they jumped into my mind on revisiting them today. To clarify, I didn’t make it into the semi-final but grabbed a copy of the puzzles to complete at the back of the room/on the train home.

  10. 44 minutes with LOI BOYISH. I didn’t know the carol singer but it had to be FEATHERWEIGHT. I remembered that some king had died from a surfeit of pomfrets in 1066 And All That, the source of most of my History knowledge. COD to TOAST, also late in. Northern grammar schoolboy that I am, I couldn’t get my mind away from Ringo not being one of those for too long, See, grammar schools did make us snobs. Thank you setter for a human-scale semi-final puzzle, and to Pip.

      1. It was. How did I know about pomfrets then? Pontefract cakes maybe. But I think they were Pomfreys, although there are certainly repercussions if you eat too many of them. Lampreys, Pomfrets, Pommes frites, who knows?

  11. 47 mins, definitely on the tougher side though there were a couple of pretty easy write-ins. LOI TOAST once I finally saw the saintly connection. Good old RINGO, you can’t help but like him and, to my mind, an underrated drummer. The Beatles music didn’t require Keith Moon!

    DNK WAIT but once I had FEATHER worked out, it had to be.


    Thanks pip and setter.

    1. No, but I can never forget John Lennon’s comment when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world. “He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.” He was far and away the best Thomas the Tank Engine narrator at least.

      1. A little careful research on the web will provide the true story on this. Lennon never said it, nor did any of the other Beatles. The tale started as a joke on a Jasper Carrot TV show that was picked up by somebody or other and has been misreported (even in a newspaper of record) ever since.

        1. Apologies to Ringo then. I never thought that John was being unpleasant about Ringo, but that it was a witty remark he wouldn’t be able to resist making.

  12. From recollection (vague at best) this is the one I completed on the day (the others weren’t quite so accommodating).

    6.34 today, which I suspect is a bit – but not a lot – quicker than the day, as I didn’t really remember any of the clues (except the Saints stuck in my mind for some reason – didn’t stop it being LOI this time round as well though).

    The next 2 Wednesdays will, I suspect, present more of a challenge (I remember nothing about any of them, other than I ended up 7 answers short across the 2).

  13. “Look ‘ere, Bates, we’re Christmas Waits,” I says to him with scorn.
    He said, with a sneer, “Now wait in here and greet the ‘appy morn.”

    My intimate knowledge of The Carol Singers by TC Sterndale Bennett came in very handy today.

  14. Spent time putting in plausible answers and taking them out, but eventually put WEIGHT and POMFRET in unparsed (both nho). Never did parse the Saints either.

    Pleased to finish in 19′ 16″.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  15. 5ac Did anybody else put in TAIPEI? Something that constricts is a tie and your pay is the gains you acquire during the week. Needless to say that held me up considerably!

  16. 12:06 this time – I guess I subliminally remembered some of the answers, but I had to work them all out again. I failed to get REVELRY the first time and the scoresheet showed I had 2 others wrong, but I have no idea what they were. Bad handwriting, perhaps. DNK POMFRET at the time and couldn’t parse DISREPAIR. LOI TOAST which I thought was clever. Thanks Pip and setter.

  17. Just over half an hour. Didn’t know wait=carol singer but FEATHERWEIGHT had to be right; didn’t understand non-voters=pair in DISREPAIR; hadn’t heard of SPRAY as a bouquet; relied on the wordplay for POMFRET; and I don’t immediately associate bosh with bunk , so I took ages to get BOYISH.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Bogota
    LOI Revelry
    COD Hermit

  18. Annoyingly a third DNF in a row thanks to another typo in PERPENDICULAR. I didn’t bother checking the grid before submission so I’ll take my lack of exam technique on the chin.

    I didn’t pull up any trees anyway as I largely found myself off-message and I even took time over relative gimmes such as GLANCE and ROYALIST. Sometimes the brain just isn’t in the right place.

    Thanks to both.

  19. 13:25, helped (but not much) by having solved it in around 16 minutes at the Championship.
    2d was the clue that led to Mark Goodliffe’s downfall, as he biffed RIVALRY. As some sort of consolation, he’s doing quite well on ‘Countdown’ at the moment.
    “There’s people who can’t spell WEIRD right, driving round with thousands in the bank…”
    (‘Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off’, Half Man Half Biscuit)

  20. Another 60 minuter here

    DNK ‘pair’ meaning ‘non-voter’. That is pretty obscure stuff to me.

    Worked out POMFRET from the wordplay but was none too sure until hitting the button.

    COD – GLANCE, which had me stumped far longer than it should have.

  21. Happy to finish in 35′ after struggling yesterday. 1ac and 1dn came pretty quickly setting up the left hand side. The remainder being a little more difficult. PERPENDICULAR obvious with checkers but would never have parsed it. ENCASHED was pencilled in from wordplay for a long time before caught on to “ready” as definition. Didn’t get bosh=bunk until the blog though y-i gave me the write-in. Thanks Piquet and setter

  22. I enjoyed this a lot. Got on the wavelength early on. Quite a few nice penny dropping moments. Failed to parse one or two due to laziness.

  23. 21.07, so I would have had to borrow a few seconds from the other 2, which I gather would be difficult.
    I think also on the day, under time and competition pressure, I would have probably got pinks on POMFRET, with an unparsed I, and LOGARITHM, the spelling of which is one of those where you know what’s right but suspect it’s wrong. Oddly enough, it looks even wronger in perpendicular.
    I only found out that “carol singer ” was even in the clue when I read Piquet’s blog.

  24. I’d forgotten about Mark Goodliffe’s rivalry/REVELRY mistake but now remember him talking about it. It was my LOI and although I was correct I only parsed it afterwards. POMFRET only vaguely known but it seemed OK. PERPENDICULAR really needs a ‘to’ following it, so I think the rook moves are perpendicular to each other. But that would include bishops, so, … I looked up Collins and there are two meanings of the word, one of which explains Sir Humphrey’s ‘perpendicular pronoun’. Otherwise no major problems, but my 35 minutes tells me that of course I was wise to stay at home.

    1. Talking of Magoo’s RIVALRY, Mr Goodliffe is currently one of the contestants on C4’s Countdown. (and seeing off all rivals with relish)

      1. As an avid cruciverbalist, I don’t do too well on Countdown. Seems Scrabble players do better, accustomed to making anagrams from groups of letters. I need a definition as well, to get he anagram. Magoo must be an all-round genius… I gather he’s UK Sudoku champion, too?

  25. Didn’t notice it was a competition puzzle so didn’t time it, but it felt average-time until a significant hold up on the last four. Two sets of crossers, NHO POMFRET and DILATOR, where I didn’t know the meaning of dilatory; and TERRAIN and LOI DISREPAIR, which I couldn’t parse – might have heard of pairing MPs but it never would have occurred. So I’m well behind the required time before we get to the hard ones 😉

  26. 23:17 – steamed through this until the RHS bogged me down. Quite a lot biffed and unparsed, including REVELRY which defied post-solve analysis.

  27. DNK wait=minstrel, so couldn’t parse 1d. Didn’t understand 27a DILATeR, so DNF. I see that that spelling is accepted in some dictionaries. Also HF (had forgotten) the fish. Never understood 24a TOASainT, so biffed.

  28. 51.11, held up by the NE quadrant. Clearly a long way to go before outdoing Verlaine by flying in from Sydney for the competition (my only possible improvement on his win)

  29. Enjoyed this, though by implication two living people are referred to by name. 31 minutes (in going for a time I didn’t see the parsing for three – revelry, toast, perpendicular. Toast’s parsing is delightfully simple and elusive – despite the infringement). Maybe Mr Goodliffe’s error, apart from proving he’s human, gives a hint as to his genius, as the clue hints at a rivalry – leaping ahead, trading on hints and guesses, which for once only appeared to inter-confirm and lock in together. The Times final – great minds skimming a mountainside.

  30. 31.49, as I doggedly ensured I had all my parsings, some of which were a bit tricky (WEIRDEST, PERPENDICULAR).

    I was also helped by remembering that Mark G had mistaken REVELRY and RIVALRY, which sped up the NW corner as only one could have been the definition. So my ‘true time’ would’ve been a bit longer I suspect.

    DILATORY was new to me – I would have guessed it meant ‘of something that dilates’!

    Thanks both.

  31. Absolutely superb puzzle. I had only about ten clues in 20 minutes so would have really struggled on the day had I got that far. Was very grateful to the anagrams to get me started. Solving accelerated once featherweight yielded itself and eventually finished in 33:11 with crossed fingers for pomfret. One of those where when you’ve solved it you wonder why you had problems which I always think is a compliment to the setters art. I did need Piquets help on parsing weirdest and perpendicular though. Some absolutely beautiful surfaces here, too many to single out a COD. Thanks p and chapeau to the setter

  32. 29 mins. Wasn’t sure if it was a POMFRIT or a POMFRET, but the cryptic made it clear.
    LOI TOAST, biffed then had to come here. Duh!

  33. With 1 and 5 across and 1 down falling into place straightaway, I thought this might be relatively straightforward for a competition puzzle, but it still took me my usual half hour, so not particularly straightforward at all. The bottom half went in easily enough, but I was held up in the NE corner by DISORDER and a failure to see that ‘bunk’ might be considered BOSH (not a word I’ve come across, or at least not often enough for it to stick). Elsewhere, I only got ADVERSITY once all the checkers were in place, but I liked the clue once I’d got there.

  34. 45:13 . TOAST was my LOI. I had initially put THEFT (from appropriate, and the Fab Four without Ringo being THE Fab Three) but that did not work with OVERAGE. I finally saw that TOAST was a salutation that fitted, and shortly afterward spotted the saints.

  35. 6m 07s and felt on the wavelength today. Yet more reason to curse the floods that meant my train was cancelled on competition day, meaning I turned up too late to be let in.

    Thanks for explaining TOAST, I had no idea what was going on there.

  36. I was also pleased to finish this in 30 minutes, but had no idea what was going on with “Toast” and “Disrepair” until coming here – and I stupidly put a Y in “Logarithm”, despite having used the darn things incessantly in my student days.

  37. 14:37. I remembered very little of this, to the extent that I even managed to replicate the mistake that undid me the first time round, misspelling 4dn. On this occasion I noticed that 8ac had to be ADVERSITY, so rather than bunging in ADVERSELY as I did on the day, I revisited WIERDEST and managed to complete all correct.
    Having been surprisingly on-wavelength for the first round of puzzles, I was miles off it for all of these.

  38. Hey I did this in 25 minutes so I’m feeling clever 🙂
    Though obviously still far behind the top tier.
    Was a bit of biffing involved though, TOAST and WEIRDEST in particular were guessed from the crossers and definitions without getting the wordplay. OK TOAST is clever now I see it.
    Thanks setter and blogger 🙂
    Cheers Steve

  39. This was done in two sessions with a two hour break forced upon me, so no time recorded, but estimated around the 45 minute mark. It was a puzzle of two halves for me with the bottom half completed fairly quickly, then the ne corner held me up and then the nw corner to finally finish. I was pleased to finish with all correct and amazingly all of them parsed. My LOI was Magoo’s problem clue, and thankfully REVELRY eventually came to me. I am ashamed to say I even feel quite smug about beating the master on this one. I’m sure it will never happen again!

  40. Wasn’t going to comment, as my time was way off the scale. Had two sittings, and needed Mr Ego for the last in ALBEIT, where the word (and definition) wouldn’t come to me. But the strange thing, reading the blog, is that the *only* thing that hit me on first skimming through was the obvious saint connection in 24A. I put in SAINT, which I assumed was a salutation, in that it’s part of how they’re addressed – St George etc. FEATHERWEIGHT forced a rethink, and then TOAST went in, fully parsed. Weird eh? or wierd… 😉

  41. Hurrah! Struggled to get started but once FEATHERWEIGHT was in things got easier. First puzzle fully completed in ages so was very chuffed to notice it was a championship one 🙂
    Some nice clues – liked LOGARITHM, ENOUGH, BOGOTA and POMFRET. However couldn’t parse WEIRDEST, DISREPAIR or PERPENDICULAR so thanks again for the explanations.

  42. 24.33 which is a lot faster than I thought it was going to be when staring at Bogotá as my only answer. Then something clicked and the rest fell into place with the LOI albeit.
    Have to confess I almost made a horlicks of hermit thinking I could somehow get Newman to fit ( and I know the college I was thinking of was Newham) Bizarre thought process.
    Anyway all’s well etc.
    Good and enjoyable puzzle.

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