Times Cryptic No 27246 – Saturday, 12 January 2019. The agony and the ecstasy.

There were some delights here. I loved 10ac and 24dn, but the standout for me was 15dn – the clue of the year so far for me! (That’s a small sample, it’s true.) I spent ages gazing at the helpers before I saw the answer with utter delight.

Sadly, I couldn’t finish unaided. The holdout and only disappointment was 22ac – I love obscure prophets even less than biological names and even if I’d seen the wordplay I wouldn’t feel confident of the answer. If you knew this chap, good luck to you!

Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle. It might be worth repeating in response to a comment last week that we don’t discuss prize puzzles in this blog until the competition has closed. It may be frustrating sometimes, but we do it this way out of respect to the Times, who provide these delightful puzzles for us.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets].

1 Nose cone briefly splitting and breaking in next to no time! (10)
NANOSECOND: this is a two part anagram, signalled by “splitting” and “breaking”. Take NOSE and CON[e] “briefly”, and put (NOSE CON*) inside (AND*).

7 Hit for army band? (4)
CUFF: double definition. Either a hit (cuff over the ear) or a band, for example on a shirt sleeve.Does anyone know what the army has to do with it? On edit, why a shirt sleeve is “army” innit! (Thanks to isla2.)

9 Crust and bacon rasher together in foil cover? (8)
SCABBARD: a SCAB is a crust. A BARD is a piece of bacon or pork fat used to cover meat or game during cooking to prevent drying-out. (Thanks, Chambers.)

10 What was injurious to ’Ancock? (6)
ARMFUL: if you didn’t drop the “h”, it would be [h]ARMFUL or “injurious”. It presumably is also a reference to the line from the Hancock episode “The Blood Donor”, in which he goes to a clinic to give blood:  “A pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful!” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

11 Dutch American expats may (6)
MISSUS: the expats may miss the U.S., of course. CRS: Duchess of Fife, wife.

13 Extensive supporting cast (8)
PROFOUND: PRO (supporting), FOUND (cast, as in a foundry).

14 Some gathered plane tickets for out-of-this-world destination (3,3,6)
THE RED PLANET: a nice hidden answer.

17 Carries out hit-and-run attack: the main details (4,3,5)
NUTS AND BOLTS: to NUT is to hit, to BOLT is to run.

20 Gym miles to the west of ruined Welsh castle (8)

21 Method of cooking cabbage that’s caught on (6)
CREOLE: RE (on) in COLE (cabbage, as in cole slaw). I thought of kohl and kale long before I got to cole.

22 Prophet’s book, as prepared for a Mass (6)
BALAAM: B (book) / À LA (as prepared) / A / M (mass). All much too obscure for me!

23 Public’s tune did best (8)
OUTSHONE: OUT’S (public’s) / HONE (tune). I’m not sure I can think of any sentence in which you could replace “out’s” by “public’s”, so we’ll categorise this one as setter’s licence, I think.

25 Backed party, of course? (4)
FOOD: DO (party) / OF; all “backed”.

26 Knocking shop people ultimately thought to stop visiting repeatedly (3-1-3-3)
RAT-A-TAT-TAT: RAT (to shop people), then AT, AT, AT (visiting, repeatedly) “stopped by” the T at the end of [though]T.

2 Mysterious girl with hat, cape and lamp (3,5)
ARC LIGHT: anagram (“mysterious”) of (GIRL HAT C*), with C for cape.

3 Sub for Palermo finally delivered up ball with cross (3)
ORB: last letters (“finally”) of the first three words, reversed (“up”). Apparently a reference to the Sovereign’s Orb.

4 Sometime earlier in the day, first of semi finals? (5)
EXAMS: I’m not clear on how to get from “sometime earlier in the day” to EX AM. Certainly AM is earlier than PM, but why the EX? Any ideas? At least the final S is clearly “the first of S[emi]”. On edit: aha – “sometime” is “ex” as in the phrase “my sometime friend”. (Thanks, Bolton Wanderer.)

5 Dictionary one lacking interest, not quite as complex? (7)
OEDIPAL: OED is the Oxford English Dictionary. Given that, the rest leaps out: I is “one”, PAL[e] is not quite “lacking interest”.

6 Road turned north past a delta — and so did railroad (9)
DRAGOONED: DR is RD “turned” / AGO is past / ONE is “a” / D is delta.

7 A natural habitat, maybe, different from new zoo, etc (7,4)
COMFORT ZONE: anagram (“different”) of (FROM N[ew] ZOO ETC*).

8 Expert in tongue disease joining hospital department (6)
FLUENT: FLU (disease) / ENT.

12 One can serve starters: seasonal food? (11)
SPRINGBOARD: SPRING (season) / BOARD (food). In the management jargon, you might want a springboard to start something new.

15 Online dealer; as announced (9)
DOTCOMMER: it’s a “sounds like” clue (“as announced”); the colon in the middle is a DOT above a COMMA.

Looking at the D and the T, I tried for a long time to think of something starting DET… Once I thought “DOT” sounds like something to do with the internet, I soon saw the answer, but it took a while to uncover the delightful role of the punctuation in the wordplay!

16 Legendary runner outwitted ace in Olympic venue (8)
ATALANTA: A for ace in ATLANTA. She was the huntress who was slowed down in a footrace by golden apples.

18 Large green stone beneath a plant (7)
ALECOST: L (large) / ECO (green) / ST (stone), all below “A”.

19 Legend in game, but not going down a treat in Milan? (6)
GELATO: TALE (legend) going up, not down, all inside GO (game).

21 Have fewer computers to manage (3,2)
CUT IT: to cut I.T. might involve fewer computers, but more likely fewer staff I would have thought.

24 Which you need a head for? (3)
HAT: obviously you need a head to put your hat on. I think the wordplay is THAT (which) without the first letter.

28 comments on “Times Cryptic No 27246 – Saturday, 12 January 2019. The agony and the ecstasy.”

  1. Thanks so much for this blog, which has illuminated my darkness – I well and truly tanked on this!

    Does the “EX” in 4dn relate to “sometime”, as in “my sometime spouse” = “my ex”? Maybe not? And I think you must be right for 19dn or 24dn, but I’m unconvinced that either really works accurately enough as a clue. However, I agree – the good clues were really good, particularly Nosecone, Nanosecond and – especially – Armful.

  2. You got it without seeing it… the sleeve you mentioned holds the army part of your body.
    Didn’t finish it at the time, couldn’t finish it today, too embarrassig to mention the gaps. No complaints, just way off the wavelength.
    Didn’t see the dot-commer; it’s a brilliant clue.
  3. I thought this was a great puzzle, with the Hancock reference the highlight. I even dug up BALAAM’s Ass from somewhere in the recesses. OEDIPAL took a while to see. FOI ORB, LOI ALECOST. Lots of great clues. 43:11. Thanks setter and Bruce.
  4. 4dn Ex AM = from AM = earlier in the day was my read.


    LOI 22ac BALAAM

    COD 15dn DOTCOMMER punctuation can be critical.

    WOD ac ARMFUL – followed by Hancock’s next line to the doctor,’What are you? Some kind of legalised vampire?’

    Time not quite a nanosecond!

    1. It’s a great line but slightly misremembered:

      Dr: Well of course I can’t force you to donate your blood, but it’s a great shame, you’re AB negative

      Tony: Is that bad?

      Dr: No, no you’re Rhesus positive.

      Tony: Rhesus? They’re monkeys aren’t they, how dare you? I didn’t come here to be insulted by a legalised vampire!

      1. At least I got the important bit right. Fondly misremembered! Thanks for the update.


        1. Not to forget “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases…” sung to the tune of “Deutschland über alles”.
  5. Thank you, brnchn, particularly for SCABBARD and ARCLIGHT. I had noted ‘dubious’ against SPRINGBOARD but I can see it works. Like you, I query EXAMS.
    I too had to use some aids but there were some lovely clues and solutions, among them THE RED PLANET, NUTS AND BOLTS and ARMY (Gold Star in the margin for that one!) but definitely COD to DOTCOMMER. I had a ‘eureka’ moment about that whilst walking our dog on the beach later.
  6. Thanks for the explanation for DOTCOMMER, especially. I also didn’t get around to figuring out what BARD was doing in 9, and would never in a million years have guessed that a CUFF is arm-y. Good grief!
  7. Excellent puzzle, very hard work but rewarding – even more so because I was able to complete without reference to aids although I had to check a couple of words and meanings after the event e.g. BARD re bacon.

    Edited at 2019-01-19 07:00 am (UTC)

  8. I was almost spot on the hour over this hard but fair and witty puzzle, which just about stayed in my COMFORT ZONE. I was selling an Irish telecoms company I chaired, at too good a price, at the time the dotcom bubble burst, so DOTCOMMER brought back mixed memories. I suppose my conscience should have preferred the slightly more realistic price we still achieved. It was a great clue, but my COD has to go to the legalised vampire and the lad ‘imself, ‘Ancock’s ARMFUL I took ‘my sometime’ to mean my ‘ex’ in EXAMS. Thank you B and setter for a fine puzzle.
  9. I found this very difficult. I started well and got Nanosecond in next to no time. I also found The Red Planet and Ratatattat, so I had plenty to work with. But there were many clues which were very hard to break down; 9a a good example, particularly when my pencilled answer for 3d was OXO. It does just about parse.
    Naturally DNK the plant. Also could not dredge up the prophet; there is a car dealer near here called Balaam Ford but that was no help.
    I always go as far as I can without aids and then give up. This was my blankest Saturday puzzle for a very long time.
    Congratulations to all who solved it. David
  10. Gave up after about an hour and a half, without the unknowns of ALECOST, ATALANTA (I’m not hot on Olympic venues, let alone Greek mythology) and BALAAM, and also without CREOLE (I didn’t know “cole”) and DOTCOMMER. On the whole, a pretty poor showing. I might’ve got some of them if I’d persisted, but probably not all, so I don’t feel too bad about quitting.

    Edited at 2019-01-19 09:05 am (UTC)

  11. 20:47. I enjoyed this a lot – many inventive and entertaining clues. I regret I neglected to come back and parse DOTCOMMER, and I didn’t get how DRAGOONED and RAT-A-TAT-TAT worked, thinking TA stood for Till Assistant in that one. I was pleased to get BALAAM and ALECOST. OUTSHONE my LOI and one the armful of clues to get a tick on my copy. I liked arm-y, ARMFUL, NANOSECOND, ARC LIGHT and HAT too, but COD to GELATO. Thanks for working it all out for us Bruce and thanks to our setter for the fun.
  12. ….COMFORT ZONE, and found myself wondering if this compiler was responsible for Championship Final Puzzle 3, where I had much the same experience.

    I solved around two thirds of it in about 23 minutes, and paused. Two further sessions doubled that time, and then I hoisted the white flag having made minimal further progress – five clues remained unsolved.

    On resorting to aids, I solved EXAMS and DRAGOONED once I’d entered NANOSECOND. “Alewort” was wrong as I’d suspected – annoying as I do know ALECOST. DOTCOMMER was a DNK, and just far too clever for me.

    There was much to like, and I’m simply not on this setter’s wavelength.

    LOI N/A
    COD NUTS AND BOLTS, and loved MISSUS too
    TIME N/A

  13. Yes, this was a good one and took me just under the half hour accordingly. I’d been thinking I was due for a typo and there it finally was but I find it doesn’t annoy me as much as it used to because(a) the Saturdays are pretty much taken over by the neutrinos anyway and (b) on weekdays we have the nice work of Starstruck’s Snitch to keep up on the standings.

    It took me a very long time to see DOTCOMMER but worth waiting for. The alliteration in 22a brought Balaam and his ass to mind quite smoothly although it took me a while to parse. DNK BARD for the bacon bits but it’s not too far from “lardon” which I did know. I’m sorry to have missed the further Hancock reference (to that particular show) which made it a very neat clue indeed. I get the ALECOST and the alewife mixed up and never remember which is the fish and which the plant.

  14. An outstandingly misleading and entertaining puzzle. In the clue @ 19dn, the wordplay is “Legend in game, but not going down”. This is (surely) logically parsed as {[TALE in GO], rev,}, which gives OELATG. That is, the clue-parsing order is [1] insertion, [2] reversal. Put another way, the reversal fodder {TALE} is separated from the reversal indicator {BUT NOT GOING DOWN} by the container {GO}. Put another way, the operator ain’t next to its intended operand. Imagine what chaos would engulf humanity if this happened with anagram operators 😉
    1. I struggled a bit with that but decided it was fine in the end, and not just because GELATO was obviously the answer. I think the grammar can be read either way.
  15. DNF and well beaten to boot. I gave up with Balaam, dotcommer and alecost unsolved. A bit annoying because I think the latter certainly was generously clued even if it was unknown and perseverance might have got me the other two, but sometimes life is just too short to hang around. Dnk the bacon rasher in 9ac. Dnk the ball with cross in 3dn. A few standouts, ‘Ancock’s ‘armful of course but also liked the lift and separate of knocking and shop in 26ac, a great long hidden in 14ac and I did like 11ac though I’m not sure about the surface reading and whether it might have read better with some ellipsis or a question mark at the end.
  16. Top class crossword this one, much enjoyed. A couple of barely-knowns but trusted the wordplay and all worked out well.
    Saw the comment in the blog about a comment last week and checked for fear it might have been me – but could not spot it. To be on the safe side, I will however not mention that today’s has a clue which is virtually identical to a crossword a week ago, that we also can’t discuss yet …
  17. 24:54. I obviously found this hard, but I can’t remember much about why. RAT-A-TAT-TAT and DOT-COMMER took me a while, I think. I seem to be almost alone in being perfectly familiar with the term BARD for a bit of bacon on a game bird, so that was in my favour.
    DUTCH for ‘wife’ is widely thought to be CRS, but in fact isn’t.
    Loved the Tony Hancock clue.
  18. This one’s been printed and hanging around for a while. Just used your blog to help with dragooned and creole. Fortunately, I read your preamble so thought long and hard enough to get 15dn – thanks for the heads up – it was delightful. I also hadn’t quite got why 7dn was ‘army’ but a great smile when I read the explanation. Thank you!
  19. Thanks setter and brnchn
    Am glad that others thought that this was hard as well – took well over the hour even with references. They all didn’t save me from getting ARMFUL wrong though – just had no idea about it not knowing the series (which incidentally included another show called THE RED PLANET) and I think I got mixed up with the scabbard in the clue above and plonked for an unparsable ARMOUR.
    Didn’t parse the clever DOT-COMMER (brilliant use of punctuation which has been used more often across a number of setters these days) and didn’t connect EX with ‘sometime’ correctly.
    Lots of other clues to enjoy in the solve though and finished in the SW corner with GELATO and BALAAM as the last couple in.

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