Times Saturday 23647 (July 7) – brilliant!

Posted on Categories Weekend Cryptic
Solving time – about 40 mins over two sessions.

This was a quite brilliant puzzle which even had a thread dedicated to it at the Crossword Centre, so I feel obliged to put up a blog entry as soon as possible (although as I’m out tonight and away for the weekend it’s probably the only chance I’ll get anyway!). The surface readings are excellent throughout and disguise wonderful and innovative wordplay. And, as Niall noted in the comments, it’s also a pangram.


1 GEORGE BEST – is this the weak link or am I missing some piece of brilliant subtlety? “Are Wolves retaining European champion footballer?” Only breakdown I can see is G(E)ORGE,BEST, which make GORGE=Wolves. I hope for someone to come up with a better explanation. [As indeed they have! “Are Wolves” = “gorge” as in “They gorge their food; they are wolves.” Thanks to Pete and Chris.]
8 A,BO(V(ets),EP)AR – one of the last ones I put in, this had me completely baffled for ages.
10 PRO,F – very ingenious. If you’re against piano maybe you’re pro forte.
11 OPHTHALMIC – P=coin inside (him a cloth)*
14 K(n)EEL – a keel can be a whole boat as well as just the bit at the bottom.
17 SAXON – “sack son”
19 A(THELSTA)N (stealth*) – I knew about this chap as where I grew up in Southampton I lived not far from Athelstan Road.
22 JUST AS WELL (Just a swell!)
23 OR,CA – although I was thinking more of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill!
24 Z,A,PAT,A – great idea to tie in Postman Pat with the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata!
26 PERM – double def, hairdo and short for permutation in football pools. It took me ages to get this – does anyone still do the pools these days?


1 GOAL(POST)S – “to” is superfluous here in the wordplay, but is vital to the surface reading. “The sticks” is a perfectly good definition for goalposts, and it’s in Collins although surprisingly not in Chambers.
2 O(L)O(R)O(S)O – i.e. alternate letters of fLiRtS interspersed with O’s. Another very simple definition – “this is sweet”.
3 EUPHOR,IA – “you four” + A1 rev.
4 EARTH-SHATTERING – I always try to get the big 15-letter answer first, but had no chance with this one. Easy enough when you realise that the wordplay’s in the answer, and you get “the RA” by shattering EARTH. Slight quibble – the golfing surface should really have R&A, but that would have spoilt the clue.
5 T(OOT=”too” rev)HY
6 QUI,SLINGS – another great clue, “supports” doing double duty as noun in the wordplay and verb in the surface reading.
7 ALE,WIFE – it’s necessary to know that an alewife is a type of fish.
13 TROUT FARM (raft rum to)* – another fishy clue.
16 WELL-HEAD (We’ll head)
18 ADUL(A)T,E – assuming tablet = E for Ecstasy.
20 T(ER)RAIN – a very similar clue appeared elsewhere this week.
21 O(SWAL)D – LAWS rev in OD – “too many tablets”.

16 comments on “Times Saturday 23647 (July 7) – brilliant!”

  1. 1A: I think gorge = “are wolves” (both meaning “eat ravenously”, as in “they gorge”, “they are wolves”).
  2. I made it “are wolves” = gorge, as in “look at those kids eat. They are wolves”
    1. Oops. Sorry for not checking. Of course Peter was going to be writing the same thing at the same time!
  3. I don’t think there is any double duty in 6 down.

    Roman who (QUI) supports holding arms (SLINGS) for collaborators.

    The words are in order so no special directive from the setter is needed.

    Alan O’Brien

    1. I agree – I was referring to the surface reading, which is about a Roman who supports the holding of arms…
  4. “Killer in deep yellow approaching (4)”

    The answer is ORCA, as you say. But at first I thought it referred to the central-ish letters of approaching – but our setter is not to be impugned:

    Yellow is OR and appoaching is CA. Simple!

  5. One of the best puzzles I’ve ever done, with almost every clue having something clever and new. And no one’s mentioned the pangram!
  6. What a shame that 23646 (July 6) remains unblogged. I still have a query over the reference to Miranda in 27A. And there was another clue that made me smile when I got the answer, though perhaps I was seeing a double-entendre where none was intended.
    1. Look again – it was blogged a day or two late, so it’s out of order but it is there. Here’s the link.
  7. I agree this was an exceptional puzzle and no, I never even noticed the pangram which makes it doubly impressive.

    Are we ever allowed to know the identity of the setter? I probably would’ve guessed Monk if he hadn’t started the above-mentioned thread on Derek’s mb.

    1. Times setters are almost never identified. The main exception is big milestones like someone’s 1000th Times puzzle, or the last puzzle by a retiring setter.

      Although I’d prefer setters to be identified, anonymity has some advantages. One is that bloggers can make unbiased comments about puzzles they think are particularly good or (much less often, thankfully) not so good.

  8. I agree: a very fine puzzle, but tough, in fact my slowest of the year so far at 28:23 (just avoiding the 30 minute limit – phew!)

    I didn’t properly understand 22A (Simply too desirable!), and still don’t from your explanation. It looked to me as if JUST = “simply” and AS WELL = “too”, which I thought might be meant to leave JUST AS WELL = “desirable” – and I could go some way towards justifying that, but not at all convincingly. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying SWELL = “desirable”, but I don’t see the rest of the clue. (I’m probably just being dim – I sometimes get blind spots over clues – but perhaps you could indulge me with an explanation just in case there’s some other benighted soul out there.)

  9. I was mulling 22ac over in bed last night, trying to come up with a decent sentence where JUST AS WELL = “desirable”, with its implication of some future event that could satisfy the desire.

    I think I can come up with a sentence where JUST AS WELL = “good”:

    It’s just as well that she came otherwise I’d have had no-one to dance with.

    (recording a past event), and I think it just about converts into the future:

    It’s just as well that she comes otherwise I’ll have no-one to dance with.

    However, it seems to be stretching things a little, and I can’t off-hand find any dictionary justification for it – which probably means that I’m missing something obvious!

    1. I think your explanation’s better than mine – “just as well” is in the dictionary, but under “well”, meaning “fortunate, lucky” in Chambers or “preferable, advisable” in Collins. Chambers seems well wide of the mark in my opinion. The Collins version is closer, but neither of them really mean “desirable”.
  10. I echo the plaudits above – certainly not a 27a!

    Just the 4 “easies” omitted from the blog – perhaps a sign of the excellence:

    6a Platform where solution is read out (4)
    QUAY. Sounds like KEY? I didn’t find this so easy as Quay = Platform is not an easy equation to make?

    9a Hardy hero’s last survivor (6)
    O LIVER. Well, neither Tess nor Jude fitted anyway. That’s another fine mess you’ve got me into Stanley.

    27a Mess setter has to put away? (4,6)

    15d Mark, doing half of what he’s asked? (4,2,3)
    Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears! You can only have one of mine back.

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