Times Cryptic 26516

I found some of this quite hard and needed more than one session on it so I was not altogether displeased with my total solving time of  48 minutes. I didn’t much care for 18dn and  although it raised half a smile I wouldn’t want this type of clue to become commonplace.  Here’s my blog…

 As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions are in curly brackets} and [anagrinds, containment, reversal and other indicators in square ones]

1 Dealing with awful dread, prisoners finally render hymn maybe (10)
ADDRESSING – Anagram [awful] of DREAD, {prisoner}S [finally], SING (render hymn, maybe).
7 Having little wriggle room, as they say, for a settlement (4)
PACT – Sounds like [as they say] “packed” (having little wriggle room)
9 Some friend about to roll over in bunk (8)
CLAPTRAP – PART (some) + PAL (friend) + C (about) all reversed [roll over]
10 An American woman far from home (6)
ABROAD – A (an), BROAD (American woman). I think a question mark might have been in order here.
11 Land once having little rain, hard to penetrate (6)
THRACE – H (hard) in [to penetrate] TRACE (little rain). The largest part of THRACE is in present-day Bulgaria whilst the remainder is in Greece and Turkey. I vaguely knew that, and also this: In meteorology, the word “trace” is used to describe a very small amount of precipitation that results in no measurable accumulation.
13 Very hard worker, revolutionary type, drooled (8)
SLAVERED – SLAVE (very hard worker), RED (revolutionary type)
14 Nice man Peter, out to show overindulgence (12)
INTEMPERANCE – Anagram [out] of NICE MAN PETER. Biffers need to know their spelling here as one of the unches could be a bear-trap for the unwary.
17 Retrograde hair dye and a funny hat — style for a famous wife (4,8)
ANNE HATHAWAY – HENNA (hair dye) reversed [retrograde}, A, anagram [funny] of HAT, WAY (style). Played on TV by Liza Tarbuck in the recent superb “Upstart Crow”.
20 Raving dean’s foremost priest, one into drink (8)
DELIRIUM – D{ean’s} [foremost], ELI (priest), then I (one) in RUM (drink)
21 Kills female animal — wicked act (4,2)
DOES IN – DOE (female animal), SIN (wicked act). Altogether now:  “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
22 Number one hit going around country (6)
NATION – NO (number) + I (one) + TAN (hit) all reversed [going around]
23 Hint of something has Heather getting into a twist (8)
TANGLING – TANG (hint of something), LING (heather). Yet more LING to please Dr Thud!
25 Light railway next to main road (4)
AIRY – A1 (main road), RY (railway). There are lots of A1 roads around the world but since this is the Times we’re probably meant to think of the one that goes from London to Edinburgh.
26 Evil affair — stuff we can’t see (4,6)
DARK MATTER – DARK (evil),  MATTER (affair – as in “that’s another matter / affair”). Science that’s beyond my ken so I took the answer on trust from wordplay.
2 Sea creatures disturbing gutless lad on ship (8)
DOLPHINS – Anagram [disturbing] of L{a}D [gutless] ON SHIP
3 A final message is cut (3)
RIP – Two meanings,  the first standing for Rest In Peace (final message)
4 Observe pair immersed in that European river (5)
SPREE – PR (pair) contained by [immersed in] SEE (observe). The River Spree covers a lot of ground in more than one country but is perhaps best known as the one that flows through Berlin.
5 Enforcer’s confession of exhibitionism? (7)
IMPOSER – A straight definition and a cryptic hint to be read as I’M POSER (confession of exhibitionism)
6 Be opposed to having game once more on street (2,7)
GO AGAINST – GO (game), AGAIN (once more), ST (street). I lost time here initially thinking the first word might be “up”.
7 Individual not getting on always munched to keep going (11)
PERSEVERATE – PERS{on} (individual) [not getting on], EVER (always), ATE (munched). I wanted to biff  “persevere” or “perseverance” but since neither fitted I had to regroup and follow the wordplay closely to arrive at this previously unknown (or forgotten) word.
8 Yellow bird hiding under roof of cottage (6)
CRAVEN – C{ottage} [roof of…], RAVEN (bird)

As Tex Ritter sang on the soundtrack of High Noon :

I do not know what fate awaits me
I only know I must be brave
And I must face a man who hates me
Or lie a coward, a craven coward
Or lie a coward in my grave.

I just noticed I have inadvertently written the name of a London football stadium in my explanation!

12 A talent for engaging chaps, bringing responsiveness to suggestions (11)
AMENABILITY – A + ABILITY (talent) containing [engaging] MEN (chaps)
15 Writer is upset — one departs having money but no work? (9)
PENSIONED – PEN (writer), IS reversed [upset], ONE, D (departs). A blissful state which I enjoy after years of hard slog.
16 King and queen may get together in this / operetta (8)
PATIENCE – Two definitions, the first with reference to card games of the solitaire variety. The second is a work by Gilbert and Sullivan. Possibly we can expect the “comic opera vs operetta” discussion later.
18 Meat back in short supply — only a comedian would eat it?! (7)
HAMSTER – HAM (meat), STER{n} (back) [in short supply]. I foresee problems here for our overseas chums or anyone who was not around in the UK in 1986 when The Sun newspaper carried the headline “FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER” on its front page. If you feel the need to read about it you can do so here. This is effectively a reference to a living person (though his career is dead), someone who is long-forgotten or unknown to the vast majority and was of somewhat dubious talent and repute anyway. A bit uncalled for in my view.
19 Alpine ground for one in mountainous territory (6)
NEPALI – Anagram [ground] of ALPINE
21 Study this writer’s material (5)
DENIM – DEN (study), I’M (this writer’s)
24 Fate of man married to backward-looking woman (3)
LOT – Two definitions, the second with reference to the Biblical tale of Lot’s wife who when escaping the doomed city of Sodom disobeyed the visiting angel’s instructions not to look backwards and was promptly turned into a pillar of salt. Fire and brimstone stuff!

70 comments on “Times Cryptic 26516”

  1. … on the 16/21 pair at the end. Otherwise a bit of a doddle.

    No idea about the meaning for 18dn. But what else can you do with H?M?T?R.

  2. The football ground you refer to is Craven Cottage home to Fulham Football Club.

    Talking of HAM – 18dn HAMSTER was a write-in, however I was unable to parse it fully. Freddie Starr (Fowell), ex lead singer of The Midniters, is no longer des rigeurs. He once inspected the goal posts at a Wembley Cup Final, dressed as Adolph Hitler in full uniform with short pants and wellies; it was hysterical! His impression of Elvis was pure comic opera! The hamster did for him!

    31 minutes – so 4 over for the week.

    FOI 1ac ADDRESSING the anagram indicator ‘awful’ made this so easy.

    LOI AMENANILITY only ‘cos I had spelt DELIRIUM incorrectly.


    Enjoyable puzzle.

    horryd Shanghai

  3. I needlessly placed various hurdles in my way toward solving, like trying to get ‘cons’ or ‘lags’ into 1ac, K or R into 16d–which was my LOI largely for that reason; I actually finally thought of PATIENCE and THEN thought of cards. No idea about Freddie and the HAMSTER, and judging from horryd’s comment, ignorance is bliss.
  4. 61 minutes, so definitely not on the wavelength here. AMENABILITY is pretty good. Never a Freddie Starr fan, but certainly remember the story, even though my knowledge goes no farther than the headline.

    When we had them, my party trick was to put (dwarf) hamsters in my mouth. My record was around five, as I recall.

  5. Found that very hard. PACT took way too long, partly because I wasn’t 100% sure that PERSEVERATE is a word. Was also slow to get DOLPHINS and THRACE.

    Got HAMSTER with a shrug, and now that it’s been explained it still looks like a pretty poor clue to me.

    But the big problem was PATIENCE. Missed the cards reference completely, and wasn’t able to bring to mind the G&S production. Opted for a highly doubtful MARIANNE in the end.

    So that’s 12 over today, 7 over for the week. Thanks setter and Jack.

    1. ‘Marianne’, a little-known because never written operetta, was what kept me from getting PATIENCE. I think PERSEVERATE is one of those words that only shrinks use, like ‘cathexis’.
      1. It’s plainly MARIANNE — ie the 1954 ‘opera comique’ by Henri Sauguet, also known as Les Caprices de Marianne.

        That’s MARI (ancient seat of kings on the Euphrates) + ANNE (famously dead queen).

        Thanks Google!

    2. After dismissing HAL I, MAL I and RA VI I also plumped for a doubtful MARIANNE. No doubt my daughter, who is rehearsing The Sorceror this week, will slap me around the head with a wet LING. Solitaire as a definition of king and queen getting together would never have occurred to me without mention of the rest of the deck!
  6. 19:04 .. I found this very satisfying. The River Spree and the operetta both unknown but eventually deduced. THRACE / DOLPHINS and DELIRIUM / HAMSTER also required a lot of thinking and re-thinking.

    I’m fine with the HAMSTER clue but also fine with the criticism of it. How’s that for fence sitting?

    1. Impressive. But not as impressive as Jimbo’s display (below) of whatever the opposite of fence sitting is.
  7. 12.29 which is some relief after yesterday’s disaster. A nicely varied selection of clues incorporating old favourites, like the heather and a bit of G&S, alongside a meteorological reference that I initially thought was an outrageous DBE (once I managed to get a ‘spot’ of rain out of my mind) and a bit of popular culture that raised a big smile. I’ll join Sotira on the fence if I may.
  8. About half a dozen left at the end of my hour, spread all across the board. I doubt I’d have finished, as I knew neither THRACE nor “trace” for rain, even if I had finally figured out the HAMSTER. Just trying to get back into the swing of things after a few days off, and this wasn’t an easy way back in…

  9. I’m sorry to say that “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” came immediately to mind, a story that upset my sensitivities at the time. Never found him funny, though other guys in our football team thought he was hilarious. Probably says more about me than him or them. DARK MATTER is modern-day space-time cartography for HERE BE DRAGONS, along with DARK ENERGY. Found this tricky, taking 45 minutes. COD PATIENCE, once it hit me. Good puzzle, great blog. Thank you for the memory of Tex Ritter. My fantastic first dog was Rex, sometimes called the obvious Spoonerism.

    Edited at 2016-09-13 12:45 pm (UTC)

  10. DNF otherwise usual 30 minutes but couldn’t get PATIENCE.

    Wondered what the “that” in 4d was for? Couldn’t think of a river with “das” in it and “oder” means “or”.

    I liked the addition of (dwarf) in Ulaca’s post as if this helps to answer the question on everyone’s lips.

    1. I think ‘that’ is there as the object of ‘immersed in’ (in other words that=SEE), leaving ‘European river’ as the definition.
    2. Well the Syrians are big buggers and I’m not sure I could have stomached even one of those.


      1. I found myself reading your reply in a Michael Palin voice as I descended into a conflation of the “Crunchy Frog” and “Guaranteed to break the ice at parties” sketches.
      2. I read your reply before I read sawbill’s note, and couldn’t think what on earth he could have been writing.
  11. Seemed slow today. Dnk PERSEVERATE. Had heard of THRACE, mentioned in Xena the Warrior Princess. Had to do an alphabet check (..when we read we begin with A,B,C..) for PATIENCE, nearly doing the same as kevin and inventing MARIANNE. COD 15d. As for DARK MATTER, it’s a theoretical construct to fit the latest model – the paradigm shift seems to occur with increasing frequency. Theoretical physics long ago surpassed the ability of humans to test it. 27′, thanks jack and setter.
  12. Also my first after a short break. I felt I would have been a bit quicker if I had been really tuned up. Decent enough puzzle except for 18D which was completely lost on me – just trusted the cryptic. Now that I’ve read the background I’m staggered that the editor has allowed such unmitigated rubbish into a clue.

  13. I found this tough, taking about 45 minutes and strangely coming up short with NATION, despite this being one of the easier ones. I spent about 10 minutes looking at _A_ION and came up blank.

    It’s some consolation that having been tempted by MARIANNE I did manage to resist this and get PATIENCE. THRACE and SPREE also held me up considerably.

  14. 11:28, but having misread the definition at 15dn as ‘one having money but no work’, I had R_R_ for the first word at 26ac and went with RARE as, well, the only thing I could think of. It looks kind of plausible, if you don’t engage your brain too much. And I was so pleased with myself for checking the anagrist and avoiding INTEMPERENCE (although it actually looks very wrong even to me).
    Not sure what that does to my score.
    I didn’t know the river. It feels like the sort of thing one really ought to know, so I’m glad to have learned it.
    I’m very firmly with Jack on the HAMSTER controversy, but I wouldn’t mind it at all on a Sunday. I try to avoid sitting on the fence, but I’m not averse to moving it. This allows me to moan about obscurities in these puzzles and solve Mephistos without experiencing cognitive dissonance.

    Edited at 2016-09-13 08:14 am (UTC)

    1. Cognitive dissonance. Please, please never use that phrase again or I’ll turn passive aggressive on you.


          1. I’m not really in a position to criticise. I had some dwarf hamsters as pets when I was a kid and my mum was adamant that I had to look after them myself, learn to accept responsibility etc. I think she probably intended to check that I was feeding them, but life was busy.
              1. They were a bit on the high side by the time we realised what had happened. Mind you I suppose if you covered them in that muck you wouldn’t notice.
  15. When the editor gets together with his setters each year, the last item on the agenda is ‘Clues to elicit most thunderous comment from Dorsetjimbo’.

    At the next annual meeting, the envelope from Deloitte is opened and the winner announced, the winning setter getting an all-expenses paid trip to watch a Freddie Starr impersonator at the Winter Gardens and a year’s supply of vanilla ice-cream.

  16. “When the editor gets together with his setters each year, the last item on the agenda is ‘Clues to elicit most thunderous comment from Dorsetjimbo’.

    Almost right: it’s actually the first item, or will be next year.
    Suitable suggestions for how to name the trophy, please 🙂


    1. Well if someone can answer my earlier question about what the opposite of fence-sitting is, we may be halfway towards naming the trophy!
  17. 50 minutes with one wrong, as 16d tested my Patience and found me wanting! I found this quite a challenge but managed to drag THRACE and SPREE from the lower tier memory banks. FOI CRAVEN, LOI So Long “incorrect answer”. PERSEVERATE was unknown but shrugged into place, after careful analysis of the wordplay. HAMSTER went in with raised eyebrows and a tut. I found Mr Starr extremely funny and quite revolting at the same time. Does that make me a fence sitter or schizophrenic!
  18. Found this very difficult and also frustrating as I knew after an hour that the missing 6 were never going to reveal themselves to me. Thank goodness yet again for this wonderful blog to stop the mental anguish. I was pleased to find that the Spree is indeed a river and that perseverate is a word although not one I have ever heard or used. I note that the spell checker underlines it in red. Found it very hard to shut my mind to Bath being the famous wife but did get there eventually. Also had mild for ages at 25 across – M1 + LD for Light Docklands railway which added to the difficulty of working out 12 down.
  19. Goodness. I’m looking forward to the Ozzy Osbourne related clue for “bat” (any suggestions?). This could be the start of a glorious series of celeb-based atrocity clues. Felt this was all a bit forced and it tested my, ahem, patience.
  20. 16 min, but with an error, having carelessly entered TINGLING unparsed at 23ac. Surprised that the Spree was so unfamiliar, as it was the first thing I knew about Berlin, from the Christmas-cracker joke that it’s the best place to have fun as it’s always on the Spree.
  21. 10 minutes. Like my confrere keriothe I had PENSIONER for a long time but RARE METALS looked like a non-starter so eventually the penny dropped. And like many others, I couldn’t parse 18dn, though Freddie Starr sprang to mind quite quickly fortunately.
  22. Well, that’s done the Freddie Starr meme to death. There were some pleasant surface readings, I thought, particularly 1ac. Favourite clues today were 16d and 22ac. True Solving Time: 55m 16s
  23. 17:52 so a tricky one but I was also a bit dim and slow on some of the easier clues.

    The Freddie Starr headline is about as famous as newspaper headlines get but I can see why it might be a bridge too far in some quarters.

    1. For provoking such egregious displays of irritation surely only the Golden Spleen will suffice 😉
  24. Freddie used to live around my part of the world with a fine house and a hotel/bar apparently purchased in part from the proceeds of his horse Minnehoma winning the Grand National in 1994. He’s moved on now to hamsters new. Do not know the solving time as I forgot to switch off the iPad before walking the dog, but it was pretty quick for me (20 mins?). Enjoyed my FYI, ANNE HATHAWAY. Thanks Jack.
  25. Bit slow today – about an hour? – in two bursts. I was happy to see (even though (or because?) they took me a while to twig) the clever and varied cultural references in 16, 18 and 24 down.

    With regard to the harumphing from some quarters, surely something as famous as Mr Starr’s hamsterburger is a fairer clue than an obscure (and mis-described) G&S piece?

    1. That’s a very good point regarding the hamster clue. But maybe I’m only agreeing because of the lowbrow quality of my general knowledge!
  26. Re Penfold and Light Docklands Railway
    The sad thing is that I know that – shows how much I was struggling today.
  27. 26 mins. It would have been considerably quicker but for complete brain freeze with NATION and it must have taken me almost 10 mins, much like it did with pootle73. I was one of those who knew what the clue for HAMSTER was referring to so it didn’t hold me up. As has been said above it is one of the most famous tabloid headlines of all time, but I was also surprised to see it in a Times crossword.
  28. About 20 minutes, ending with PATIENCE since G&S material doesn’t readily spring to mind, and we don’t call the card games anything but solitaire. I got HAMSTER from the wordplay but as a US person I had no idea what was going on parsing-wise. I just googled it and, well, I suppose it is memorable in some way. Odd, certainly. Everything else was OK and NATION took a surprisingly long time to appear as I was looking for an actual country name, not the simple solution. Regards.
  29. Nearly an hour, after finally convincing myself that 23ac probably wasn’t ?INKLING, after all. No problem with HAMSTER since it was clear from the wordplay, even though as another US person (as the Infernal Revenue Service likes to say) I had also never heard of Freddie. But I could imagine a comedian eating a hamster, especially a British comedian.

    But I had no 16dn at all with 16dn and its very vague definition. MARIANNE is not such an unknown operetta after all, kevingregg, since so many of us have seen it (of course starring the famous singer Mari King, unfortunately now deceased, or was it the Nubian monarch Mar the First?).

    Edited at 2016-09-13 06:27 pm (UTC)

  30. Put me down for a MARIANNE even though I am certainly aware of the operetta Patience. Around 20 mins with no problem with the hamster apart from FS being described as a comedian.
  31. Well I thought 18dn was hilarious. I suppose you need to have been there. It was all a PR stunt by Max Clifford anyway – and look what happened to him!

    Surprisingly there’s not much comment about it on the Times forum.

  32. 9:00 after yet another horribly slow start. Looking back over the clues again, I can’t think how I could possibly have been so slow, but on the up side I was helped by spotting PATIENCE quite quickly (despite only having three not particularly helpful vowels to go on at the time) and knowing about Freddie Starr and the hamster (or at any rate being familiar with the headline, though I knew nothing about the story behind it).

    I’ve absolutely no objection to a reference to the latter appearing in a Times crossword. I suppose this is just an example of my love of the frivolous, the sort of thing that makes life just that little bit more livable.

  33. John slow start but finished in 9 minutes – you have no idea what a slow start is!

    Freddie never actually ate the Hamster – h

  34. John: ‘A slow start but finished in 9 minutes’ – you have no idea what a slow start is! – usually about 9 minutes in my case!

    But hear-hear on Freddie who never actually ate the Hamster – he most certainly was a comedian. I’d rather have him around than that obscure songster Lord Amiens(AYLI)who everyone drooled over recently.

    horryd Shanghai

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