Times Cryptic 26686 – March 30, 2017 Now we’re Tolkien!

Just as some people don’t like Dickens, Shakespeare or the Bible, so is it with me and the Lord of the Rings, both the book and the interminable films. I tried to read the Hobbit once, and gave up when Bilbo left his house.  I tried to watch the first episode thereof (oh come on, it’s only a short book – three episodes??!  Really?)  and fell asleep when they were about three centuries into discussing the lunch menu. So I approached my last in at 7d, and quickly became convinced that I had little hope of knowing the names of Hobbit lovers or why  they might get twisted (though I could think of many possibilities of my own). Blinded to the real shape of the clue by sheer prejudice and fear, and thus transfixed, adding no less than 10 minutes to my 17 for all the rest.
The rest was not that difficult, though two words belong to that category of never before encountered, dodgy looking but still in the dictionary, apparently.
My workings, clue, definition, SOLUTION


1 Just being next to fiendish leader is hideous  (9)
FRIGHTFUL  Not FAIR…, but RIGHTFUL for just placed next to (not in front of) F(iendish) “leader”
6 Round edge of rock, swimmer sunbathes  (5)
BASKS  The swimmer always had to be BASS, but it took me an unfeasible time to recognise there are two edges to rock, and K was the one we needed.
9 Wobbly, like a piece of furniture  (7)
ASTABLE  Well, it is a word as it turns out, and “not stable” is the definition we need though it has a more technical meaning as  “capable of oscillating between two states” from the world of electronics, which is not really wobbly. I’ll give it a “just about OK” based on wordplay like: AS, piece of furniture TABLE.
10 Cash regularly received by lightweight English author  (7)
GRAHAME  cAsH (regularly) into lightweight GRAM plus E(nglish). Wind in the Willows, as if you needed to be told.
11 Fighter in Burma wanting tips for Asian language  (5)
HINDI   The visionary/gloriously insane Orde Wingate’s fighters in Burma (WWII) were known as CHINDITS after a mythical Burmese beast. Take off the front and rear (something which happened alarmingly often to Wingate’s columns) and you have the language you seek.
12 To succeed with modern technology, show some sense!  (4,3,2)
COME OFF IT  Succeed COME OFF, modern technology IT. Modern therefore means around (for me) 1968, when I had my first encounter with computers. Jim can, I believe push that date back.
14 Artillery sent back to Western Front in this?  (3)
WAR  Ah yes, my regiment (CCF). And Spike’s (and the late PC Keith Palmer) the Royal Artillery Take their initials, reverse them, attach them to the front of Western.
15 House seller, say, mostly keen, along with National Trust, to secure that  (6,5)
ESTATE AGENT  Mostly keen gives EAGE(r)  which together with National Trust NT is intended to secure STATE for say.
17 Injured medallist’s back entering race, being keen  (11)
LAMENTATION  Injured gives LAME. Race gives NATION, shove in the T from the back end of medallist
19 Silky coat not quite all the rage  (3)
FUR  Fury without the last letter.
20 Old farm vehicle fan, sort of  (9)
EXTRACTOR. This tractor is dead, it has ceased to be, it is an….
22 Made phone call after parking accident  (5)
PRANG  Usually wizard. RANG for made phone call after P(arking), which is the order you must do things in or risk £200 and 6 points.
24 3, maybe, is joining car race but failing to finish  (7)
ISLEMAN Like 9, you can see what it is but faintly resent its existence. 3 (spoiler alert) is HEBRIDEAN, and the wordplay goes IS plus LE MAN(s), our unfinished car race.
26 Putting brakes on endless all night revelling  (7)
HALTING  An anagram (revelling) of AL(l) and NIGHT
27 Consumed portion of meat enthusiastically (5)
EATEN  Hidden in mEAT ENthusiastically
28 Used properly, time moved on for Spooner  (4-5)
WELL SPENT. For queue numbers, Rev Spooner swapped initial letters round either for humorous effect or as an eccentric speech impediment. His version of our answer would be SPELL WENT, which might mean “time moved”


1 Second half’s disastrous (5)
FLASH  Ah, ah. An anagram (disastrous) of HALF’S
2 I recite principal pieces from Threepenny Opera in private  (7)
INTONER  Take the principal T and O from Brecht/Weill’s opera and place them quietly into INNER for private
3 Fellow outlaw accepting lift from Scottish location  (9)
HEBRIDEAN  fellow HE, BAN outlaw (verb) and RIDE lift. To be assembled.
4 Part of breakfast perhaps spilt on chef’s tart (6,5)
FRENCH TOAST  An anagram (spilt) of ON CHEF’S TART.
5 Drag bird up out of a lake  (3)
LUG  GULL, undoubtedly a bird, “up” without one of its L(ake)s
6 Great British PM in Australia promoting queen  (5)
BRAVO  Once you realise that British just provides the B, PM is afternoon (not Prime Minister) ARVO is Australian for afternoon, and that if you promote the Queen you push the R a little way up in the word, the answer’s easy. The trick is to do all those things in short order
7 Bit of a twist for Tolkien lovers?  (7)
SNAFFLE  At least some Tolkien lovers would be ELF FANS, and if you give them a twist you might end up with them upside down and giving you what counts as a particularly insistent horse’s bit. That added 10 minutes to my time, but I’ll only complain about the “of a” (surface reading only) and perhaps “twist” as an inversion indicator.
8 Tripe and mushrooms, after a time, served up weekly  (9)
SPECTATOR Lay out ROT for tripe, CEPS for mushrooms, with A T(ime) before the latter, then invert the lot for Boris’s Organ.
13 Male expert in a case involving powerful women  (11)
MATRIARCHAL  M(ale), the expert: ARCH, buried in A TRIAL for a case.
14 Wine lover, terrible glutton  (9)
WOLVERINE  (L Gulo gulo) is a beast also known as the glutton. It’s also and anagram (terrible) of WINE LOVER
16 Bit of money for Indian and European, going short in US city  (9)
ANNAPOLIS  the ANNA was the 16th part of a rupee, and a short European is POLIS(h). Conflate
18 Sailor one’s left washing up with mum  (7)
MATELOT  Washing might be TOILET, leave I (one) out and invert, attach to an upright MA for mother.
19 Father nimble, but physically weak  (7)
FRAGILE   FR an abbreviation for Father, and AGILE stands in for nimble.
21 Bill has little time for paperwork (5)
ADMIN  AD can mean BILL (as in, for example, handbill) and MIN is, in more ways than one, little time.
23 Soldier suffered a cut  (5)
GIGOT  A leg of mutton, created by GI soldier and GOT suffered, as in he got an attack of the flu.
25 Fresh set of directions (3)
NEW. Pick and arrange three of four.

64 comments on “Times Cryptic 26686 – March 30, 2017 Now we’re Tolkien!”

  1. I see on further research (actually looking it up) that an Isleman is particularly an islander from the Hebrides, so in that way the clue is remarkably precise. It’s still my first encounter, and I still feel a bit uneasy about it.
  2. I did my share of biffing, pre-eminently with SNAFFLE. (I actually enjoyed the Ring books; ‘The Hobbit’ is a children’s story, and I’ll let children judge. And I found the LOTR movies perfectly terminable; I stopped watching almost immediately. But I digress.) DNK ‘arvo’, but it seemed unavoidable. I actually got ASTABLE early on–no doubt lots of us did–but rejected it, as I could think of no verb AST.
  3. I enjoyed this, coming in in my now customary 40-odd minutes (42 today), and finishing as many others will in the NE with the two 6s and the clever Tollers clue. My take on the fellow’s work and its adaptations is that Stephen King’s “Stand” is a better read than LOTR, that the film version of The Hobbit – I only managed part I – is self-indulgence gone mad (though the book is tractable and a pretty good read), that Tom Bombadil is the tweest character in literature – until you meet his wife – and that his children’s book “Father Giles of Ham” is rather good.

    Matelot forgotten, since it must have turned up before, and a debt of thanks to our Reuelophobe blogger for the parsing of 15, where I couldn’t figure out the keen bit.

  4. I’d have completed within my half-hour target if I’d been brave enough to put in my first thought at 7dn, SNAFFLE, without wasting 10 minutes trying to justify it. We’d need a new acronym for that process BIFC (bunged in from checkers) which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Eventually I thought of FANS for “lovers” then spotted ELF to account for the Tolkien connection, and finally “bit” as the definition of a word I knew all along,and its meaning.

    I get a bit tired of clues like 11ac where the answer is obvious but the wordplay is impenetrable unless one happens to know some obscure foreign reference. I don’t see the point of them. I don’t think much of ASTABLE either although the wordplay was clear if one trusted to it.

    Edited at 2017-03-30 05:09 am (UTC)

    1. I’d be interested to know if anyone else is having (or has had) problems with Live Journal putting up this banner every time they come to the site:

      “Your email address has been marked as unvalidated because we have been receiving errors messages from your mail server for at least one week. This indicates the address may no longer be functional. You can re-validate this email address or switch to a new email address to begin receiving notifications again.”

      The first time this happened I clicked on the button to re-validate, received an email and responded by clicking the link and was immediately back in business, but the following day the same message came up and I clicked the button again but never received the email with the link, so I remain “unvalidated”. Since then I have tried it a dozen times without being able to get back in.

      I thought this only affected email notifications of replies, which frankly I could live without, but now I find that I am also locked out of communicating with other posters via the LJ messaging service, and that is more important. I have reported the problem to LJ but they appear to have farmed out support to other forum members rather than dealing with queries themselves and I have not had any sort of response as yet. I would add that my email service-provider has confirmed there are no problems on their server and all my other dealings on that account appear to be unaffected. It’s the same account I registered with LJ 10 years ago.

      Can anyone offer advice please?

      Edited at 2017-03-30 05:24 am (UTC)

      1. The only time it’s happened to me it was because my email service provider had mistakenly put the LiveJournal servers on a blacklist, but that was a few years back.
      2. I’ve had this message twice within the last 3 months. MY ISP is btinternet, serviced by Yahoo. Both times I entered the revalidation link but the email didn’t appear. I tried to revalidate daily and it took about a week both times before it worked. I think that LJ systems sometimes conflict with your ISP security.

        Edited at 2017-03-30 10:52 am (UTC)

      3. i haven’t had this Jack but I have had a couple of times recently when the site got slower and slower until I had to give up. Something was trying to load and taking forever about it. In the end Firefox offered to get rid of it for me and it’s been ok since. I hope this gets fixed for you asap. Keep us posted.
        1. Thanks for your input. I have since tried changing my email address to another completely separate account but without success there either. The validation email they say they sent simply doesn’t get through now. I think the LJ system is bust and it’ll probably sort itself out eventually. As long as I can still post blogs and comments I’m prepared to be patient.
      4. That avatar always makes me laugh! Is it from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
        1. The Shining – famous (?) movie I have seen, 20 or 30 years after it was made. 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. Most famous film I’ve never seen (yesterday’s theme) might be Star Wars; any of the dozen or so parts of the trilogy.
          Agree on disliking unknown words for obvious answers, very unsatisfying. Otherwise pleasantly standard fare, except SNAFFLE took a while. Are there elves in the Hobbit? Read the book at school and hated it.
          1. Ah. I never watched that one. I remember watching Carrie with my daughter and son-in-law and actually screaming when her hand came out of the grave!
  5. I too first used a computer in 1968, at the age of 14, which was old by modern standards when 8 year olds seem to be programming their iphones, but was pretty young in the mainframe era.

    Had no idea about the Chindits but it had to be HINDI. I got SNAFFLE without understanding either the Tolkien or even thinking it was a bit, since I mistakenly remembered that thing they can twist onto a horse’s nose, but that’s not called a snaffle at all, it’s a twitch. Of course having decided “bit of a twist” was the literal, the Tolkien stuff was even more inpenetrable. But I have seen his room at Oxford, it was next to a friend of mine’s the one time I visited that city in student days (I was at the other place).

    1. I did program my first computer at the age of 8, but then that was in 1981 and therefore the start of the home computer revolution. They’re probably doing it in kindergarten these days…
    2. Our Chemistry teacher decided we should get some programming experience when I was in 3rd year(circa 1965) and took us to Sunderland Poly where we fed hand punched paper tape in to a computer(can’t remember the make and model) which fed us paper tape out for the results. We used Algol 60. Happy days!

      Edited at 2017-03-30 12:50 pm (UTC)

  6. I wonder if Mr. Flashman managed 1dn? My COD

    This was another b. but far more enjoyable than yesterday’s – I staggered over the line after 48 gruelling minutes.

    LOI and 10 minutes accounted for 7dn SNAFFLE which I finally twigged – not a Tolkein man myself – may he rot.

    FOI 5dn LUG but the subsequent 10ac GRAHAME took far too long. Did like 8dn SPECTATOR and 11ac HINDI – perfectly decent clue IMO.

    Other goodies were 6dn BRAVO (AVO again!) and 6ac BASKS


    No Problem with LJ, Jack

  7. Same as others, with several biffed (LAMENTATION, MATELOT, SPECTATOR, HINDI). ASTABLE from wp. SNAFFLE loi (“it’s something to do with a bridle=bit, isn’t it?”), without getting any Tolkien ref. No, I’m not a fan either, just don’t get it…

  8. 10:44. I enjoyed this one: some interesting clues, and bits of arcane vocabulary and knowledge that you never actually need to solve the clue. As long as you have a reasonable grasp of either Indian money or US cities, you’ll get there. WWII knowledge lacking? What else are you going to put given ‘Asian language’ and H_N_I?
    Like our blogger I am firmly in the ‘no thanks’ camp where Tolkien is concerned.
  9. 12:21 … much enjoyed.

    Got SNAFFLE by completely bogus means, being pretty sure that the twist referred to a piece of pipe tobacco and then convincing myself that a snaffle was likely a piece cut off of a twist (with a fnurgleknife), and no doubt also the name of a house elf in part 26 of LoTR.

    I’m in awe of Tolkien but do tend to lose interest after a while. Thanks for the entertaining rant on same, Z. When watching the movies I often thought that if only they had smartphones they could have gotten the whole thing over in a day or so, including the lunch discussions (Snapchat).

  10. 35 minutes with 7d as my surprising LOI. “Surprising” as I’ve just returned from New Zealand where LOTR is big business – 18% of their tourism is LOTR related. And, OK I admit it, I went on a tour of some of the sites used in the films. It makes me want to rewatch the films if only to appreciate the stunning scenery, only some of which I was able to see on my trip.
    Just to put my tuppenceworth in: give me Middle Earth every time over that egregious Narnia.
    1. Each to his own of course, but at least with Narnia they only make one film per book.
      1. Thank goodness. But, hey, even I’m not going to defend 3 films for the Hobbit: total self-indulgence.
      2. One thing can surely be said about Tolkien — there’s nobody doesn’t have an opinion!
  11. Very close to finishing however:

    Had to cheat on 13d, and then for LOI 18d I had matel_t and tried every vowel until congratulations arrived for matelot!

    Biffed hindi, lamentation and Annapolis
    Dnk astable, intoner or gigot, word play was helpful though.

    dnk cep = mushroom

    COD 4d.

    Horryd, I got flash, but from the definition initially, only seeing the anagram later on.

  12. Great puzzle, 7 down is a masterpiece of a clue imho. Not quite sure about washing = toilet, only quibble.
      1. That’s pretty much what I assumed, though if I had checked in BRB, I might have had the same misgiving, as historically it seems to relate much more to the process of getting ready for the day in which washing barely figures. The many thousands (I haven’t counted) of works of art entitled “The Toilet of Venus” show her in the process of dressing, often with a mirror, but with nary a drop of water in sight. For reasons which I can’t fathom, most artists depict Venus very early on in the process of dressing just after disposing of the winceyette nightie and clearly thinking “I haven’t got a thing to wear”.
        1. Some 18th-century Frenchman, whose name I forget, visited England and wrote a book about the English, in which he commented on the cleanliness of the people: Everyone, he said, from the grandest noble to the lowest scullery maid, washes their hands and face every day.
          1. I think it was M.François-Marie Arouet’s “Letters from England” (better known as Voltaire).
            1. God, I hope not! I’d hate to think I’ve advanced so far into dotage as to forget that name!

              Edited at 2017-03-30 12:52 pm (UTC)

  13. No official time due to a typo. Like our esteemed blogger I was held up at the end by SNAFFLE. I had almost put it in at one point on the basis I couldn’t see anything else that fitted then I thought of Staffie. Having finally twigged it gets my COD.

    Edited at 2017-03-30 08:19 am (UTC)

  14. I was lucky to read lOTR before the backlash probly just as ‘Bored of the Rings’ was being concocted. Must speak in his defence cos it would seem most of you orcs are rooted in the material world where death taxes lies damned statistics and your ‘precious’ admin predominate. I’d give ‘Leaf by Niggle’ a go a slim volume that would make a great film and it’s shame that of the Inklings that Charles Williams is overlooked but then you’d have accept god as a word in the dictionary at least. Ta that’s me pumped up for the day
    1. If Charles Williams once said “Hell is inaccurate”, as he is reputed to have done, he would have made a fine contributor to these pages, one feels.

      Of course, Tolkien couldn’t abide the man.

  15. Not entirely surprised to discover that I wasn’t the only person who took about half as long again to solve 7dn as the rest of the puzzle put together. Always good to have a puzzle with a massive Penny Drop Moment, however infuriating it may be to begin with. I am also in the camp which regards ASTABLE as a horrible word, but we live in an uncaring universe, where (as yet) I don’t get to decide what goes in the dictionary and what doesn’t.
  16. A bit harder today finishing, like several others, with SNAFFLE. Does anybody actually like Tolkien – bores the pants off me – and I took ages to see the ELF FANS.

    Saddened that folk don’t know of the Chindits. My father in law was one and went on to serve in the Malay jungle – very brave guys

    Both Tony Sever and I can predate 1968 for working in IT. We both worked on ICT 1301 in early 1960s. Try Googling ICT 1301 and Flossie. Look at the size and weight of the machine then Google Raspberry Pi!

  17. I thought yesterday that my posts were playing the role of The SPECTATOR Low Life column, with unnamed others fulfilling High Life and Real Life, so 8d sprang to mind quickly. Having biffed LOI SNAFFLE, as I was waiting for this site to load it turned upside-down in my head so it now counts as a full solution. I liked Lord of the Rings when I first read it in the sixties. (His son Christopher had rooms on my staircase at New College. I was 84 stone steps up. Perhaps I should claim the High Life role today.) But when the films came out my children overdosed on them and the books, and it now seems like time from my life I’ll never get back. So I’ve two opinions on Tolkien. DNK WOLVERINE was also known as a glutton but it was the only solution. 35 minutes WELL-SPENT. Thank you setter and Z.
  18. I’m with keriothe on this one: plenty of unknowns—”anna”, “chindit”, etc. for me—but either the wordplay or the crossers let me work backwards fairly surely.

    A long slog, though I give myself a bonus point for only taking 9 minutes to get the unknown SNAFFLE from the wordplay, taking me a single minute over my hour. I’ve read Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, and suffered through the Rings films because someone insisted, but they never really grabbed me. Definitely a Narnia man, myself.

    FOI 1a, LOI 7d, COD 1d.

  19. Massive thanks for 7 down, brilliant! I have read LOTR at least ten times, and watched the three films quite a lot. Not so the Hobbit films, all OTT.

    27′, including unloading the shopping. Thanks z and setter.

    1. Thank goodness someone is a fan! Only book that made me cry at the end (I was quite young tbf). Both books and films were fab but entirely agree that filming The Hobbit in three movies was a big mistake
  20. Really chuffed to get this done in 18.30 because it felt harder and the comments so far seem to back that up. Luckily (or not given how much it all costs) I am surrounded by a mountain of horse tack so the bit/snaffle connection leapt out at me. I was particularly pleased to get BRAVO first look, having been caught by that Australianism before.
  21. 21.31. Must speak up for The Hobbit, which at the age of 10 or so I enjoyed enormously, much as I did The Wind in the Willows: they both turned on a kind of lamp that a couple of years later Lord of TR didn’t do at all. Brings back memories, like the wonderful never-ending series of Swallows and Amazons books… Well, back to less poetic reality. Arvo’s new to me.
  22. I can take or leave JRRT but on the subject of TWDL (things we don’t like), right up there is FRENCH TOAST. I hadn’t realized it had crossed the Atlantic. One of the faster legit solvers on the Club board is someone called Chindit so that went right in. ASTABLE – oh dear. 19.32
    1. Oh, Olivia, “Sai doh” (literally, Western toast) is my go-to food at the local cha chaan teng of a Sunday morning. I’d be lost without it.
        1. Absolutely – can’t get enough of the stuff. I only go to places who don’t water it down.
    2. Chindits came up in a quiz a couple of years ago. I didn’t know it then but made the connection to the solver you mention and that seems to have made it stick.
  23. I had much luck with this puzzle which is well defined by 1a (snaffle, astable etc). By the end I was yawning. Tolkein best read before you reach maturity, but Peter Jacksoon did bring the first films to life (but far too long, male-dominated and The Hobbit films must rank as the bottom three in worst-films-ever). So 28a is definitely NOT a summary of my experience.
  24. I remember that when I read The Hobbit in 1938 at age 12, I was very disappointed that there wasn’t any more – although I did get the sequels when they eventually appeared the appeal has waned. Although I’d heard of the bit, it did take me a while to see the parsing, so that was LOI.

    Perhaps I’m the earliest computer user here, as I learned programming on Pegasus in 1955, though had been sending work to Manchester to run on their Mark I before then.

  25. I was undone by 7d after choosing SWAFFLE from my alternative SNAFFLE, after deciding it was some strange JRRTism. The annoying thing is I actually typed SNAFFLE and then changed it. Never saw the wordplay until I came here. A soul destroying 74:07 with at least 30 minutes of that spent looking at a blank NE corner. Took ages to think of BASS and ARVO only came back from the depths after I’d submitted and then remembered we had it recently in another puzzle. FOI was LUG, but like Horryd it took me a while to see Kenneth. I had COME — IT for ever before BRAVO slapped me across the face with a wet bass. I’ll put it down to a sleepless night! Knew Chindit, but didn’t know the required meaning of keen. ASTABLE vaguely familiar so went with the wordplay. Thanks setter and Z.
  26. And finished in 31 mins, which is good for me on a puzzle that wasn’t entirely easy. Helped on 6d and 7d by being both Australian and a reader of Tolkien. LOI was the “what could it be but” Hindi; figuring there must be some Burmese enclosing word.

    In the interest of speed, I didn’t fully parse each clue. Is there a word for “bung in from definition and partial parsing”?

    Thanks to both setter and Z.

  27. 14 mins, so for the third straight day I was pretty much on the setter’s wavelength. Like others I finished in the NE with SNAFFLE, in my case after the BRAVO/BASKS crossers. I’ve devoured LOTR in much the same way as Robrolfe, although I’m another who agrees that the Hobbit films were poor.
  28. Just after I first used one, Wolstenholme commented “They think it’s all over…”. Like cars, I still don’t know how they work.
  29. 48 minutes with lots of lucky guesses (or biffing, to be kinder to myself). HINDI was clear but CHINDIT unknown, SNAFFLE seemed to be a twist and perhaps, I thought, some delicacy in the Tolkien novels (which I read half a century ago, about the time I was learning about computers). I did see the movies, but with my daughter and in German as she was lazy then. Afterwards she spent a school year in New Zealand, five years in London and is now living in the U.S., so I don’t think she would prefer the German version now.
    Never heard of PRANG either, but the wordplay was clear. And ARVO? No chance. But with the B, the A and the O “great” could only give BRAVO.

    Edited at 2017-03-30 06:30 pm (UTC)

  30. No problems with ASTABLE, having spent much time in my youth building circuits from discrete transistors. If two transistors drive one another, the resulting circuit depends on how they are coupled. DC/DC coupling results in a BISTABLE, DC/AC coupling a MONOSTABLE, and AC/AC coupling an ASTABLE circuit, which acts as a handy oscillator.
  31. I suppose I might have been spooked by 10ac (my 2LOI before LUG at 5dn, which would have given me the G), but fortunately the probability of AH appearing in the author’s name made GRAHAME straightforward enough and I finished in a not-too-disastrous 9:36. A most interesting and enjoyable puzzle.

    A girl I was going out with, who was reading English at LMH, was scandalised that I hadn’t read Tolkien, so I felt obliged to and actually enjoyed both The Hobbit and LotR very much. Hated the films though (never got past the first of the Hobbit ones).

    I’m with dorsetjimbo though in being saddened that the Chindits aren’t as well known as they ought to be. “Fighter in Burma …” would have made HINDI an easy win for my generation.

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