Times 28871 – *that* distill’d by magic sleights

48:32 WOE

Pretty hard. I worked from outside in, and had most of it done in just over 30 minutes. But then I got stuck in the SE, and submitted forgetting to go back to an answer I promised myself to revisit.

The town at 1ac took me far too long (how did I not know this place?), and only faint bells rang at the sneaky 12ac. At the time of solving 2dn and the first half of 21dn were hit and hopes, and I could’ve spent another 10 minutes thinking about 23ac (and probably have got nowhere!).

Definitions underlined.

1 Band bringing fuel meeting down town (7)
WICKLOW – WICK (band bringing fuel) + LOW (down).
5 Way to get batter out of some fish? (5)
CATCH – double definition.
9 Beckettian state? (5)
ASSAM – AS SAM (Beckettian).
10 Hospital doctor after a driver to bring food (9)
HAMBURGER – H (hospital), then MB (doctor) after A, then URGER (driver).
11 Bank, maybe, on second rate kitchen appliance (7)
BLENDER – LENDER (bank, maybe), on B (second rate).
12 Rests, hugging little child: or no little one, perhaps (7)
LITOTES – LIES (rests) containing TOT (little child). Ironic understatement expressed as the negative of its contrary (“no little one”, perhaps).
13 Quaint translation of Orwell: odd English (4-6)
OLDE-WORLDE – anagram of ORWELL ODD + E (English).
15 Answer, understood, read out again (4)
ANEW – A (answer) + NEW (homophone of “knew”).
18 Intelligence exercise (4)
DOPE – DO PE (exercise).
20 Without planning, due for shake-up, games company caught short (10)
UNINTENDED – anagram of DUE, with NINTENDo (games company) caught inside.
23 Still bitter maybe, writer, after months (7)
ALEMBIC – ALE (bitter, maybe), then BIC (writer) after M (months). Equipment for distilling, a still. I had seen the BIC part, and entered ‘acerbic’ on the vague connection with ‘bitter’. Can two pink squares count as one error, please?
24 Boundless glee inside following gag (7)
SILENCE – gLEe inside SINCE (following).
25 Superior keen to welcome sailor round five (1,3,5)
A CUT ABOVE – ACUTE (keen), containing AB (sailor) + O (round) + V (five).
26 “Couple” has it in reverse (5)
UNTIE – &lit. UNitE (couple), with ‘it’ reversed.
27 Demanding somewhat faster news (5)
STERN – hidden in faSTER News.
28 Special fabric apparently so tight-fitting (5-2)
SPRAY-ON – SP (special) + RAYON (fabric).
1 Part of London Bridge couple are inclined to traverse slowly at first (4,3)
WEST END – W + E (West and East, bridge couple) and TEND (are inclined), to contain first of Slowly.
2 Leave college in disappointment (8)
COMEDOWN – to ‘come down’ is the opposite of ‘go up’ to college, I assume.
3 Composer or storyteller with what to replace one? (5)
LEHAR – LiAR (storyteller), replacing I (one) with EH (what).
4 Wife one’s enticed to follow British sports tournament (9)
WIMBLEDON – W (wife) + I’M (one’s), then LED ON (enticed) following B (British).
5 Our Rex, up for this show primarily? (6)
CRUFTS – &lit. CR (Charles, our Rex), then the first letters of Up For This Show.
6 Tense gent hit out (7)
TIGHTEN – anagram of GENT HIT.
7 Bucks? A different county, we understand (5)
HARTS – sounds like “Herts” (a different county).
8 Bishop to carry on with book — John — in anger (3,5)
BAD BLOOD – B (Bishop) and ADD (to carry on), with B (book) + LOO (john) inside.
14 Encounter urgent demand: a sign of the times? (3,6)
RUN ACROSS – RUN (urgent demand, run!) + A + CROSS (sign of the times).
16 Credulous on hearing excuse for being late? (4-4)
WIDE-EYED – sounds like “why died” (excuse for being late).
17 For Louis I, a bad, bad feeling! (8)
JEALOUSY – JE (for Louis, a Frenchman, I) + A + LOUSY (bad).
19 First movement outside of prisoner, leading to escape (7)
PRELUDE – first and last of PrisoneR, then ELUDE (escape).
21 Old archbishop’s demands for payment, with thank you note (7)
DUNSTAN – DUNS (demands for payment, NHO) + TA (thank you) + N (note).
22 Get on a bit with work (6)
OBTAIN – anagram of ON A BIT.
23 One’s being very slow to accumulate (5)
AMASS – I certainly AM ASS today (being very slow).
24 Ultimately, this display shows promise (5)
SWEAR – last of thiS + WEAR (display).

56 comments on “Times 28871 – *that* distill’d by magic sleights”

  1. One hour exactly. A puzzle of two distinctive halves for me. The top half went in steadily but I really struggled down below.

    ALEMBIC seems to have come up a couple of times before but hadn’t stuck and I doubt it will this time. AMASS went in unparsed only after all the checkers were in place. UNTIE ditto. NHO DUNSTAN as an archbishop but might have got him quicker if he’d been defined as a saint.

    On reflection now, none of it seems particularly difficult so perhaps it was a wavelength thing.

  2. Helluva puzzle! A proper Friday entry, I thought! Enjoyed it so much I am not even upset about not getting CRUFTS (whazzat?), which I still had to Google after reading the blog to understand, having never heard of the event. I had COURTS: “our” inside CT and first of Show!—where a king, or “Rex,” would be, in an (abbreviated) “court.” Sure, why not… ha.

    ALEMBIC was also an answer in a puzzle I worked just after (test-solving for friends), defined there as an alchemist’s apparatus.

  3. Apparently on the wavelength for this one, though my 33 minutes felt longer as I struggled to get started and just dotted around the grid filling in whatever I could quickly see and hoping for the best. As a strategy it seemed to work, though I was also lucky to remember LEHAR and ALEMBIC along the way. Finished off with the unknown town once COMEDOWN had put paid to thoughts of WINSLOW.

  4. 19:50 as the penny dropped for the fun ASSAM. Clung on by my fingertips a bit here – didn’t know DUNSTAN but have just about come across DUNS, originally entered HERTS before checking myself, good job I knew of the town from somewhere as WICK might have taken me ages, etc.

    Nice challenge to end the week – thanks setter, and William.

  5. I still dont get UNTIE, what’s the def?

    Some stellar clues here, JEALOUSY and DOPE totally fooled me

    1. I wasn’t clear myself, but I think Willliam is right that it’s &lit, with UNTIE defined as the reverse of ‘couple’.

  6. 48 minutes with LOI JEALOUSY, today’s ear worm as sung by Billy Fury. This was solved after I put in UNTIE with a shrug. I can’t see the definition either. In general, I found the SE tricky and it was last to fall. COD to CRUFTS as our Rex was my boyhood dog from 1949 to 1965. He’d have won Best of Breed every year if they’d had a mongrel category. A really testing puzzle but I liked it. Thank you William and setter.

  7. 17:03

    A proper Friday challenge this. After reading the first few acrosses and not seeing what was happening with any of them I reset my brain, solved BAD BLOOD and worked my way around the grid from there.

    I fully expected to discover that an error had crept in at 5d, thinking it should have been Cur Rex, up for this show primarily and had got messed up in the edit, so thanks for explaining the CR.

    I might see an alembic tomorrow as I’m going on a rum distillery tour (don’t get too jealous, it’s in Leeds).

    Lots of errors on the leaderboard, I wonder what the main issue was.

    1. The betting has to be on HERTS, as if you’re already thinking county from Bucks it’s easy to think the clue backwards.

      1. HERTS would never have occurred to this Yank, who just assumed there was a HARTS County (there’s a Hart County in Georgia, USA—and also in Kentucky…).

  8. 55′ but happy to not DNF. Like Jackkt the top half a bit easier than the bottom. Almost put HeRTS in but stopped in time. Similarly with AcErBIC, but stuck at it knowing the parsing didn’t work. Enjoyed the NINITENDo reference. Thanks William and setter.

  9. Finished in 51:13
    I’m sure that when it’s a hard puzzle, one’s brain gets blocked, and even easier clues become hard. My LOI just now was JEALOUSY and when I finally saw it, I just thought, what an idiot I am.
    I was held up a lot at the end by two pairs of clues, 6d and 9a, and 17d and 26a. In both cases I got the across clues first, then cottoned on to the down clues, even though imo with hindsight it was the across clues that were hard and the down clues should have been easy.
    Several very clever clues but I think COD was CATCH.
    Many thanks setter for the challenge! And william for the blog

  10. 37:49. This all went in surprisingly well. Nearly tripped up by putting in ACERBIC – like 0ur Blogger, and with the same logic – until the final run-through when I forced myself to work through the wordplay. And I do dimly remember ALEMBIC from previous appearances. Wasn’t sure I’d quite understood UNTIE and RUN ACROSS but they had to be. I liked ASSAM, ANEW and DO PE. A nice tough Friday, and a good challenge

  11. 30.13. Some reassurance after a few DNFs recently, but I found some of the clues rather strange and definitions somewhat loose. I look forward to seeing what other solvers made of the puzzle.

  12. At the moment, Snitch shows 32 solvers and 26 with errors, which seems like a high proportion. A lot of HERTS rather than HARTS, perhaps?

  13. Not one, but two errors – both understandable, but both unforgivable.
    First I confidently put in HERTS, then I entered KNEW. So both the homophones were round the wrong way. It wasn’t a bad time either. Quietly fuming.

  14. As near as dammit, my easiest of the week at 17.40, at a dizzying height on the leaderboard. My penchant for gallows humour made WHY DIED the CoD, and caused a merry chuckle.
    My earworm for JEALOUSY has no callow crooner involved: par RUMP a dah is indelibly mine.
    Good fun (for me). Sympathy for many comes from the HE/ART

  15. 36:53 but with a double typo.

    Annoying as I was quite pleased with myself having completed the grid in a decent-ish time for me.

    I really enjoyed this one though, with some very neat cluing throughout. So thanks to the setter and to william for the blog.

  16. 36.14

    Enjoyed this very much. FOI BLENDER opened up the top half in quick time but the bottom half I found a challenge.
    Might not have guessed LOI DUNSTAN (NHO duns) but for having played school cricket against St Dunstan’s over 50 years ago.

    Thanks William and setter.

  17. 29:41 but…

    …three errors! HERTS, KNEW and ACERBIC. The last of these I concede is a proper error, the earlier two – well thanks a lot setter for being sneaky with the unch :-). Better to get all three errors in a single grid for one low score rather than a single error in three grids for three low scores…

    Other than that, the SE corner was the tricksiest – UNTIE being quite confusing…

  18. A fail in just under an hour. Another unparsed COURTS for CRUFTS was my downfall with a few others barely parsed and entered unconfidently. As expected for a Friday, a difficult one which the current SNITCH (130) confirms.

  19. Started easier, ended harder. I ended up looking up OBTAIN and WICKLOW with a shrug. Don’t know why OBTAIN was so hard to see, and a good definition of WICK I hadn’t thought of before. Didn’t know the town of course. I guessed HARTS, having understood all of the clue except for what county HARTS abbreviated. Even if I hadn’t looked up the other answers, I never would have submitted a guess like that.

  20. DNF in about 50 over a couple of sessions, never got COMEDOWN or ASSAM. I got the rest, eventually, but it seemed like a slightly weird puzzle.

  21. 23:19 – this seemed tough and apparently it was, with tricky vocab and some novel tricks to pile on the anguish. All meticulously fair in retrospect, though I share some of the doubts about UNTIE, which is either very clever or a bit dodgy – mebbe both.

  22. I’m afraid I thought some of the clues were poor ( especially the one to ASSAM); the repetition of ‘bad’ in 17d did nothing for the clue. So I got little enjoyment from it.
    A good hour to complete it, with lots of biffing from definitions and letters in place. Par for the course now.

  23. “ All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
    Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
    I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
    Of all that’s nothing…”
    (John Donne) (Apologies to Myrtilus)

    Tough, and a proper DNF (failed to spot the hidden in ‘stern’, which prevented ‘obtain’, which in any case I’d missed as an anagram), plus ENOW for ANEW, which I just bunged in unconvinced. Real Friday fare.

  24. 34:35 I thought this was a cracker and, as others have said, a proper Friday puzzle. COD Jealousy but the whole of the SE corner was agony/a delight depending on how you look at it.

    Thanks to William and thw setter

  25. Two goes needed.

    Several things I only know (or vaguely remember) from doing these crosswords got me over the line: ALEMBIC, LEHAR and LITOTES; duns as demands for payment in DUNSTAN; and the SP=special abbreviation for SPRAY-ON.

    I also didn’t fully understand UNITE or parse A CUT ABOVE, I didn’t get the run part of RUN ACROSS, I was very slow to see OBTAIN, and I hesitated over WICKLOW as I’ve never really thought of a wick as a band.

    Tough but fun stuff – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Wide-eyed
    LOI Unite
    COD Catch

  26. Lots of people thought this was very good, and indeed there were some excellent clues, but I didn’t really enjoy it very much (I would say that wouldn’t I having taken 71 minutes over it) because I entered some with a shrug. I still don’t really see how UNTIE works, and can’t see the definition. ASSAM I also thought was very loose. As Sam for Beckettian?

  27. DNF. 23a ACERBIC, unparseable. I now remember looking up alembic before so should have remembered.
    5d CRUFTS biffed Courts. Now see CRUFTS was good. Doh.
    7d biffed HERTS. I was getting cross by this time and didn’t care.
    Overall I found it hard but lacking PDMs as when I got the answers I often thought it was dubious, likely to be wrong, so unsatisfactory. For instance in 8d BAD BLOOD add=carry on? 1a WICKLOW wick=band bringing fuel? It’s only a band if you tie the ends, at which point it won’t bring fuel.
    But I should praise the good ones that I missed, including 28a SPRAY ON, missed the clever rayon, and also the misleading I=je in 17d JEALOUSY.
    POI, 21d DUNSTAN was Bishop of Worcester before being archbish, so we (rather dodgily) claimed him as an early headmaster.

  28. At 14d, I took the urgent demand “Run” to be a run on the bank, rather than just an instruction. I think this works slightly better.

  29. Very happy to finish in 27 minutes today- an absolute biff fest for me that fortunately came out OK. Could not parse bad blood or assam until I came here. Lehar was a fingers crossed.

    Very tough puzzle that I got lucky with. COD to jealousy my LOI.

    Thx William and setter

  30. Well, at least I’m not alone. Three hits at this one over the day and still a DNF.

    Had to look up the unknown DUNSTAN, but in any case, I had HERTS & ACERBIC.

    So a fail then. Yuk.

    On a positive note, I liked WICKLOW & SPRAY ON.

    Thanks and well done William. Setter too, I suppose. Grrrr.

  31. I liked the puzzle, and especially liked Crufts. As SteveB says somewhere above, oncenyou start to think the clues are difficult it’s easy to overthink – to wit, I tried like the devil to make Louis’s “I” be L’Etat. Thanks for Assam, Wm

  32. 48:59. Stuck for ages on 9a, as a result of having put RED BLOOD for 8d ( it almost works, if the bishop is a DD, carrying RE=on). Only on switching it to BAD BLOOD ( which I couldn’t parse) did I finally see ASSAM, for my LOI and COD.

    I recently read Conn Igguldens’s novel based on the life of DUNSTAN – I’m not sure what the opposite of a hagiography is, but this novel made him out to be as un -saintlike as could be.

    Thanks William and setter

  33. Well, as a relative newbie, I was very happy indeed to finish this with no errors 😃 it did take a very long time but I don’t care a jot. There were a couple of NHOs (ALEMBIC, LITOTES) and several that were biffed but not parsed (DUNSTAN, UNTIE, ASSAM). Thanks for the blog W. Liked WICKLOW.

  34. Came to this when I got back from London this afternoon. The top half went in fairly quickly, but some lovely surfaces – CRUFTS was excellent! I can never remember the meaning of LITOTES, but luckily, I could spot that was where we were going with this one. (In future I’ll think of ‘The Secret Diary of John Major, aged 47 3/4’, from Private Eye – typical entry “I was not inconsiderably annoyed to discover…”). The bottom half was another country… I struggled particularly with the SE, though once DUNSTAN came to mind, it opened up the last five – SILENCE, SWEAR, SPRAY-ON, UNTIE and LOI, the excellent JEALOUSY, a great PDM.

  35. One error, Herts for harts.
    Not sure what The issue is with untie. William seems to have explained it perfectly for me, just as I saw it. Maybe I’m missing something.

  36. Not too daunting for a Friday, and some wonderful clues in what’s been a classic week. But I do hope bic = writer isn’t going to become another it/sa = appeal.

  37. Finally finished off the SE this morning. Many unknowns so pleased to unravel the wordplay successfully. It wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t fallen for at least one of the traps. Another HERTS here. Fun puzzle.

    Thanks William

  38. Sunday night solve, so I doubt anyone will read this, but who cares? A toughie. 33’39” with a narrowly-avoided error at HARTS. I decided the shortened form of the county was unlikely to be the answer. But I was misled for a long time by the thought that a HART was a female deer. Who remembers BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN’s by Canterbury scene prog-rockers CARAVAN? I retain a soft spot. Many thanks to all involved.

  39. Thanks for the blog- took an age to be spoilt by a careless acerbic! Despite thinking of all the bits needed to make in unknown correct word!
    Hopefully the upcoming week will be better!

  40. Gratified to come here and find the difficulties I hadwith this one were standard: ACERBIC, etc.. and a fair bit of looking up to get me going an again. Caught out by several:ASSAM, ANEW, SPRAY-ON, but happy to have correctly guessed LEHAR (NHO), BAD BLOOD and OLDE WORLDE, my FOI. Failed on DUNSTAN, HARTS and JEALOUSY (v g). Setter 1, Solver 0.


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