Times Cryptic 26662 – March 2, 2017 Fascinating Rhythm

By my reckoning, the fourth crossword in a row on the easy side, though my relatively speedy 12.29 was nullified by a key-next-door Blurbird. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-D’oh. At least by the time most of you get on the leaderboard, my embarrassment will have almost disappeared from view. It will be interesting to see what bits emerge as obscurities today: nothing that  I registered, but while I have quibble-queries on 25 and 26, they’re not rendered difficult.
Here’s my working, with some unnecessary but I hope entertaining notes.

The usual clue definition SOLUTION


1. One that flies down river, covered by British papers (8)
BLUEBIRD  Meant to signify happiness, of course, unless you’re Donald Campbell or me. Here, down gives you BLUE, and your R(iver) is covered by B(ritish) I.D. papers
5. Security device has got placed around old instrument (6)
SPINET. The security device is the ubiquitously tautological PIN number, surrounded by got placed, SET
10. Weapon Missouri crowd originally obtained via Manhattan, say? (7,8)
MOLOTOV COCKTAIL  Missouri is MO, crowd: LOT, then the first letters of Obtained and Via, and Manhattan is an example (say) of a COCKTAIL
11. Unacceptable view reported away from scene of activity (3-4)
OFF-SITE  OFF for unacceptable (I say, chaps, that’s a bit off) and a homophone (reported) of sight (view).
12. Society leader, symbolically, that’s employed in matchmaking? (7)
SULPHUR  represented symbolically by S, which by no coincidence is the leading letter of Society
13. One attending to radio set at sea in passenger vessel (8)
LISTENER  Passenger vessel is LINER, place SET “at sea” therein
15. Hawk swallowing head of rare fish (5)
TROUT Hawk as in attempt to sell probably illicit tickets outside White Hart Lane, so TOUT, with an ingested head of Rare
18. The torment of endless rap music! (5)
ANGST  Mrs Z attempted to block out the noise of supporting act Duke at her beloved Brother Strut’s concert on Sunday as they beatboxed their way though some rap stuff, some of which, for all I know might have been GANGSTA. You just need to knock off the first and last letters
20. Make attractive type fit somehow, introducing runs (8)
PRETTIFY  An anagram (somehow) of TYPE FIT and R(uns)
23. Very little creature abandoning area by motorway (7)
MINIMAL Creature being ANIMAL, drop the (first) A(rea) and set beside the quintessential motorway, the M1
25. Wager involving a churchgoer and a small mammal (7)
BEARCAT  Small? The Binturong (for such it is) is “the largest living species of the Viverridae”. Wager is BET, a church goer is A RC, and a is unsurprisingly A. Assemble. Other notable Bearcats are a fine Stutz 1914 Roadster (which also gave its name to a rather fine 1980s close harmony group), and a too-late-for-WW2 Grumman fighter still much in demand for racing and such.
26. Suffer avoidable fate — settle on own-brand? (4,2,4,5)
FALL ON ONE’S SWORD  Not sure about that primary definition. I mean, yes, it’s avoidable if you choose not to accept responsibility for some disaster or to commit suicide rather than fall into enemy hands: Romans like Brutus were pretty good at that. However the second crack at definition is an ok, if more whimsical one, where brand is taken as a (slightly antique?) synonym for sword.
27. Block outside Kentucky used once for space research? (6)
SKYLAB  Essentially, NASA hollowed out a Saturn 5 stage three, fitted it with solar panels and an improvised sunshade, and created their first long stay space station. Block is SLAB, Kentucky KY. Assemble.
28. Soldier’s first turn guarding gateway, detailed for this? (6-2)
SENTRY GO  Might be a bit obscure for some. The clue is &lit, with S(oldier’s) turn: GO “guarding” gateway: ENTRY. A duty he might be detailed to do.


1. Express disapproval about a medic supplying grass! (6)
BAMBOO  Just BOO around A MB one of the many, many substitutes for “medic”. Nice surface
2. Morale-boosting tip in Gulf manoeuvres (9)
UPLIFTING  A simple anagram (manoeuvres) of TIP IN GULF
3. Act the fool, keeping Times in intermediate space (7)
BETWIXT  Act the fool: BE TWIT with X (times) intervening.
4. Show priest over University College at last (5)
REVUE  the REVerend priest plus U(niversity) and the last of collegE
6. Quiet president allowed to make crumpet (7)
PIKELET Our president is IKE Eisenhower (happy days). P is quiet and LET from allowed. Definitely a North of Watford term for the holey yeast cake.
7. Irishwoman’s chief upset husband (5)
NIAMH  Chief gives you MAIN which is dutifully reversed and added to H(usband). NIAMH Cusack springs to my mind.
8. Put up with real jockeying in betting system (8)
TOLERATE An anagram (jockeying) of REAL in TOTE, the originally British Government owned betting programme. The fun stopped for HMG when they sold out to Betfred in 2011.
9. Study English and French ways to interpret (8)
CONSTRUE  Study: CON plus the ST(reet) and RUE as indicated.
14. Emperor not French, consuming a perch? (8)
NAPOLEON A perch converts to A POLE, and NON for the French negative settles, mildly misleadingly, around it.
16. Look up works relating to sense of smell (9)
OLFACTORY  LO for look “up” plus works: FACTORY
17. Organ very loud in 60% of music? These may be of use (8)
EARMUFFS  As needed by Mrs Z even for Brother Strut; organ is EAR, 3 fifths of music is MUS, FF for loud (double forte) intervenes.
19. Lottery grave old man set up (7)
TOMBOLA  Grave is TOMB, old and man need not to be Pa, Dad and so forth, but O and then AL “set up”
21. Poles appearing in characteristic carriage (7)
TRANSIT  Poles here are N and S set into TRAIT, characteristic.
22. Where one may paint boss on current round (6)
STUDIO   Boss: STUD, current: I, round: O
24. Girl old marshal’s taken round Lakes (5)
NELLY  NEY’s been here before, one of Napoleon’s (qv) mostly faithful Marshals. You need two L(akes)
25. Long note from bishop about vicar’s first point (5)
BREVE Worth eight of anyone’s crotchets any day. B(ishop) RE (about) V(icar’s) (first) E(ast) point.

66 comments on “Times Cryptic 26662 – March 2, 2017 Fascinating Rhythm”

  1. of which the last 9′ was devoted to looking hopelessly at 19d and 18ac. Somehow TOMBOLA finally came to mind–why TOMB never did, I don’t know–and that instantly led to ANGST. I also took an inordinately long time coming up with BLUEBIRD, and then justifying it. DNK NIAMH (who the hell is responsible for Irish spelling? he asked in vain).
  2. … I didn’t find this very easy, but a well-constructed puzzle. As I don’t like to leave any biffs unparsed, had to wrangle with BLUEBIRD and ANGST after the fact. And had a good laff at the SWORD clue.
  3. 28ac SENTRY-GO was my LOI with some trepidation. But it was good and I was bang on par at 30 minutes after yesterday’s debacle.

    FOI 1dn BAMBOO.

    COD 10ac MOLOTOV COCKTAIL WOD and PIKELET stuff you don’t get in China!

    Edited at 2017-03-02 05:02 am (UTC)

  4. 17 minutes, so once again I’d be in PB territory if I knew exactly what that was. Didn’t know SENTRY-GO but relied on wordplay with “turn” for GO. Collins has BEARCAT as an alternative name for the “lesser panda” although elsewhere that drills down to being the “red bearcat” which is a raccoon-like creature only marginally larger than the average domestic cat. Not being on blogging duty meant I didn’t have to bother working out the wordplay for ANGST, I just biffed it with aid from checkers.

    15×15 + QC completed in 23 minutes today, knocking 5 minutes off my combined time on Monday which I had been rather pleased with.

    1. I thought I knew this from G&S, and sure enough, it’s in the Sentry’s Song from ‘Iolanthe’; Private Willis, who winds up marrying the Queen of the Fairies, sings
      When all night long a chap remains
      On sentry-go, to chase monotony
      He exercises of his brains,
      That is, assuming that he’s got any.
      1. Thanks. I hardly know Iolanthe and if I ever heard the song I don’t remember it.
        1. Not one of their most memorable songs, although it does include the lines
          … Nature always does contrive
          that every boy and every gal
          that’s born into the world alive
          is either a little Liberal
          or else a little Conservative.

          Edited at 2017-03-02 07:09 am (UTC)

    2. 15:40, so well under par for me again. Like others, I think we’ve had a run of good but not too taxing puzzles. I’d never thought of combining my times for both, Jack. A new KPI to track, methinks. I was surprised to see I was under 20 minutes combined today, and for the 4th time in the last 2 weeks. OInly hold up today was a careless biff of MUFFLERS for 17d, which I knew was wrong as soon as I put it in. The V in REVUE gave away 10a which gave lots of useful crossers for the downs. I enjoyed the blog z. To add to the musical theme I’d have to say a LISTENER is unlikely to wear EARMUFFS listening to a SPINET – not the noisiest of instruments.
  5. … I’d never heard of a PIKELET, and SENTRY-GO was new to me too. Spent the last 20 minutes with just 1ac and 3dn to fill…. my brain just wouldn’t parse “Times” into “X” today for some reason.

    That’s a full week of completions for me now, which is (a) unprecedented, and (b) largely down to finding and learning from this blog. So a big thank you to all of you.


  6. Had no idea about how to parse 10a M Cocktail, 12a sulphur and 18a angst.
    Got 5a spinet and 6d pikelet from word play, dnk the words.

    Everything done in an hour and a quarter, with some fine biffing.
    With sentry _o left, I guessed sentry to then sentry go so technically a dnf.

    COD 1d, another drug reference.

    Edited at 2017-03-02 07:30 am (UTC)

  7. Why go for the simple when the complicated is staring you in the face? I took 7 to be AMIN* (as in Chief Idi) + H. Not quite right. A few others I wasn’t certain about such as 26 and 28, but everything fell in to place in about 35 minutes. Very pleased with myself for having heard of GANGSTA, even though I’ve never heard his (? her ? their) music. As an unsophisticated soul, the ‘mildly misleading’ ‘Emperor not French’ was my favourite.

    Remember SKYLAB Stan?

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  8. Two errors, the unforgivable misspelling of MOLOTOV, and the slightly more forgivable guess at SENTRY-HO.

    I had SENTRY-GO from the wordplay, but couldn’t account for the “detailed” until post-solve, when it was too late. Thought SHO might be SHOT (turn) “detailed”, although that still wouldn’t have parsed. So make that two unforgivable errors.

    Otherwise completed in 15.50, continuing a pretty easy week. Wonder what awaits us tomorrow?

    Thanks setter and Z.

    1. Yes, I thought “detailed” was a bit below the belt for a less familiar entry. There were a lot of first and last letter clues, and I’m sure almost all of us saw detailed and mentally looked for something to take the end off of.
  9. Still under 10 minutes per day this week but apparently it’s not spelled SULPHER! So a DNF.

    You’re surely right about the binturong, Z. If something 6′ long started chewing holes in the skirting board, you wouldn’t be thinking “small mammal”.

    Edited at 2017-03-02 08:00 am (UTC)

      1. The official spelling in US and UK became -FUR says Wiki:
        The IUPAC adopted the spelling sulfur in 1990, as did the Nomenclature Committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1992, restoring the spelling sulfur to Britain.
        1. At least sulfur and sulphur sound the same; the IUPAC correct name for element 13 is alu-MIN-ium and it grates with me that the Americans and Canadians mis-spell and mis-pronounce it al-U-minum.
          1. Especially annoying as most (I’ve not checked that, actually) metals have the same -ium word ending.
  10. 21m today but ought to have been a rare sub-20. That was stymied by my misbiffing earplugs and blocking the left side for two or three minutes. Numpty! Otherwise I found this straightforward, parsing as I went along. Thanks for the blog, Z.
  11. The ones I like best are the ones I find easy and everyone else struggles with .. I thought this might be one, but evidently it isn’t!
    Off to check the skirting boards now ..
  12. A confidence-boosting week for a relative newcomer. 33 minutes here. As with others, fingers crossed a bit for SENTRY-GO. FOI BLUEBIRD, LOI ANGST, COD to the EARMUFFS. I got the “pin” of SPINET just by thinking of a safety pin; the modern security device never occurred… Also, I’ve apparently started to remember Marshal Ney, which must be a sign of progress!

    Edited at 2017-03-02 08:47 am (UTC)

    1. I was going to say that too but forgot when I came to write it. The tautological “PIN number” is an annoying expression of the modern age.

      Edited at 2017-03-02 10:57 am (UTC)

          1. I say, I say, I say! Did you hear that the inventor of the PIN number and the ATM machine has died? May he RIP in peace.
    2. Not that it matters, but while I fully accept that safety PIN is a safety device (duh!), a pin on its own can be anything but, unless you’re Amish and have mastered the art of pin as replacement button.
  13. Can’t quarrel with the previous opinions that this is another relatively easy stroll without any real distinguishing features. A lot of warlike references with NEY, NAPOLEON, MOLOTOV C, FALL ON….etc. Enjoyed the blog z8
  14. 19’46 (I’ll stop posting my times when they get longer…!), so another fast/easy one here today, but for my One Error…. I didn’t parse MOLOTOV COCKTAIL, so had an A where should’ve been an O. dnk SENTRY GO, and hesitated between SPINET and ‘spinot’, but all others went in fine.

  15. BEARCAT unknown, thanks for the elucidation. We don’t have BLUEBIRDs in the UK, apart from the allusion to the Campbell machines. Unable to parse ANGST, thanks again. Not happy with the definition at 26 ac, liked the wordplay. <29 today, thanks z and setter.
  16. A shade under 10 minutes, again. This wasn’t hard but there were a few unknown or unfamiliar words where I needed the wordplay: SPINET, BEARCAT, SENTRY-GO, PIKELET.
    FALL ON ONES SWORD is often used in a context where voluntary action is just a more dignified route to an unavoidable destination, but it didn’t really bother me. It looks like the Trump administration might run out of swords at the rate they’re going.
    No problem with 18ac, as TfTT’s resident non-hater of hip-hop in general and Gangsta rap in particular.
  17. Did no one else bung in ‘off-line’ without thinking too much about the clue?

    John Mac

  18. Just over 18 mins but would have been less if not struggling with a new iPad keyboard. A lot of unparsed guesses (BLUEBIRD, ANGST etc) but a pleasant enough latest in a run of relatively easy ones. Perhaps it all goes wrong tomorrow. Marshal Ney (‘The bravest of the Brave’) seems to have become a regular attender. Thanks setter and Z
  19. So they must either be getting easier or I am improving rapidly. Hopefully the latter, at least in part. I panicked when nothing went in from reading the first eight clues but REVUE came to my rescue and gave me the V for the cocktail. Plain sailing from then on.
  20. A steady solve in 22 minutes with LOI SPINET. You can buy PIKELETS in Waitrose too, so excuses about not being from the North are not acceptable unless you’re also working class. You’ll be telling me about BLUEBIRDS over the white cliffs of Dover next, just you wait and see. (I played football for Ditchling up on the South Downs for a couple of years and the splendid Vera Lynn was our President.) COD MOLOTOV COCKTAIL. Knew NIAMH from Cusack. I’ll never spell SULPHUR with an f although that is now the official, scientific spelling as agreed by Richard Osman on Pointless. Looking forward to that each evening is the sign that you’re in God’s Waiting Room. Enjoyable later start to the day after the old dog was unhappy much of the night, but then insisted on a long walk this morning.

    Edited at 2017-03-02 10:27 am (UTC)

  21. Piece of cake, easiest of the week for me, 13 minutes. No idea about RAP parsing but biffed ANGST. Size of a bearcat not known but assumed to be small. I know a few Niamhs, from my time in Dublin, also a Niaomh who says her Mum just wanted her to be different. Thanks z8.

    Edited at 2017-03-02 10:54 am (UTC)

  22. Somewhere over the rainbow bearcats fly. I had trouble with the Irish name – and no idea it rhymes with BREVE. I agree with Z about the definition in 26a – bit of a head-scratcher. Someone from the local nature conservancy put bluebird boxes on our property which was fine until it was nesting time. They were placed too near our veg garden and I hadn’t realized how fiercely they would guard their chicks until I tried to do some weeding and was subjected to kamikaze treatment. A sluggish 14.02

    Edited at 2017-03-02 12:29 pm (UTC)

    1. I’m sure you had “Trout might fly” a few minutes ago. I laughed. Why the change? I’ve never seen bearcat meunière on any menu.
      1. I’d meant to put bearcats but got distracted when I went to make sure my bath wasn’t overflowing so I stuck in trout as a place-holder but posted by mistake. So came back and corrected afterwards. Fascinating stuff right? Well-spotted.
  23. Like a bluebird flew thro this in 14 including minor dog issue.DNK gangsta or niamh and have entered Keriothe’s additional nominas in my pre comp swot book.Don’t watch pointless but glad Bolton does as sulfur not on my radar.TY z8
  24. A rare foray into sub-10-minute territory today – 28 not known but easy enough from cryptic and checkers, PIKELET dredged up from somewhere in the murky depths of memory, and BEARCAT also unknown but generous cryptic.

    Bit of a hold up at LOI ANGST – largely, I suspect, due to a default blocking out of anybody speaking “GANGSTA-ese”, and my opinion of said musical style being, um, less than complimentary. Let’s just say the 17d would be useful when it’s playing.

    I too had the PIN as the good old-fashioned safety type rather than the number

  25. All done in 7m 32s, with SULPHUR the LOI after a minute or so of staring. Like others I hadn’t come across SENTRY-GO but was confident enough from the wordplay (semi-&lit, I’d call it), and I was in a similar position for PIKELET.
  26. 18:59 but with a careless OFF LINE at 11a. Eejit! A continuation of the rapid completions, thus indicating another relatively easy puzzle. FOI BAMBOO, LOI FALL ON ONES SWORD, as I waited for all the checkers before committing to it. Knew NIAMH as my Great Niece is so named. On a different tack, I’ve decided to forgo the treeware and have ordered an iPad, which is due to arrive any day. Can anyone advise which is the most useful subscription for someone who likes to do all puzzles but is now struggling to find time to read the actual paper from cover to cover as was my wont. Who was it told me that I’d need to find stuff to do to stop me getting bored when I retired? I don’t know how I found time to go to work!! Thanks setter and Z for the usual entertaining blog.
  27. Yet another sub-30-min solve which, for me, is good going. Only NHOs were SENTRY GO, and the marshall in 24d – fortunately, 23ac saved me from having to choose between marshalls Biy, Say and Ney.
  28. 9:24. The only slight problem was deciding if sentry-do might be a thing (with do/turn equating to a funny turn).

    Pikelet came up in the Jumbo I blogged on my debut and my diligent research on behalf of overseas solvers revealed that even in the UK it can mean different things in different places. I noted:

    “…not all Brits, never mind foreigners, will be familiar with pikelets. It seems to be thinner and less round than a standard crumpet. In the antipodes it’s not even a crumpet, it’s a drop scone and in North Staffordshire it appears to be “a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added”.

  29. Got suckered into trying to make an anagram for 10 ac. and lost a few minutes there. Otherwise OK.

    BAMBOO EARMUFFS and PIKELET TRANSIT sound like good band names should any fellow bloggers be thinking of venturing on stage.

    Time: all correct in about 40 mins.

    Thank you to setter and blogger.

  30. I didnt even read the clue for 10a. Had to be Sentry Go although it just doesnt look or sound right. Nice use of down and up in the early clues. Helped that my mother Sarah is known as Nelly – is anyone under 39 called Nelly? My improvers lessons of the past days are to watch out for things like chemical symbols and Nato phonetics. Happy Friday Eve everyone
  31. Pretty standard fare today, except for SENTRY-GO. Guessed at it from wordplay, but had no idea what ‘detailed’ was directing me to do. Nothing, as it apparently happens. The other one that held me up was BETWIXT, which was neatly constructed, so worth the price of admission. Regards.
  32. 12 mins. SENTRY-GO was my LOI with fingers crossed. I confess that I didn’t bother to try and parse MOLOTOV COCKTAIL and ANGST. This was my second straight longer than normal day and I was glad the puzzle wasn’t a beast. I may get home at a more reasonable time tomorrow for what will be my last puzzle for over a fortnight because I’ll be on holiday without access to treeware and I don’t buy the online version.
  33. Close to a P.B. I think, so fairly pleased. Nearly blew it by almost overlooking 5a, but spotted the unfilled spaces in time.
  34. We had an easy QC today so I had some time for this. Managed to finish it correctly I see, having guessed at Sentry Go, Bearcat and Pikelet. Could not have spelt Niamh without the checkers. LOI was 1d after 1a. An hour or so. David
  35. 6:44 after a sluggish start, with all the down answers going in at a first reading.

    I was a bit nervous about a BEARCAT being a “small mammal”, but since there’s a 大熊猫, I suppose it’s logical that there should be a 小熊猫.

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