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Times 25708: Pulling a few punches

Solving time: 38:44

About as hard a Wednesday puzzle as I’ve seen in a while. Trying to get the parsings for the blog slowed things down even more. There seem to be a fair few letter substitutions and homophone plays in this one. And I suspected a pangram at one point … but not to be.


1. MILK STOUT. That is: MILKS TOUT (in French, “everything”, the works). Is it strictly a porter?

6. DUBAI. Possible (dubai-ous?) homophone for “due” (fitting) and “bye”. (The Oxfords show the yod to be optional.)

9. TV MOVIE. What’s needed here is MO (doctor) inside V & V (W, for “wife”, chopped in half!) and all that inside TIE (bond).

10. NEOZOIC. Anagram of “I once” around OZ.

11. ERA. Hidden in “thEatRicAls”. The def is “stage”.

12. NOW AND AGAIN. That is NO WAND (!) and A GAIN (an advantage).

14. FRAMED. F{inalist} + ARMED with its A moved along a bit.

15. MAGRITTE. MATE including GRIT.

17. COGENTLY. This is GO GENTLY (don’t rush) with a C (cold) as the replacement starting letter. The literal is “with great weight”.

19. AVOCET. Reverse OVA, add an anagram of “etc”.

22. ST JOHN’S WOOD. STOOD (paid for, say, drinks) including JOHNS (US toilets) and W (with).

23. POW. Can be read as P.O.W.

25. VERTIGO. {a}VERT, 1, GO. Literal: “attack at altitude”.

27. MARATHA. Substitute A (ace) for ON (cricket side) in “marathon”. Didn’t know this one. The various Oxfords have: “a member of the princely and military castes of the former Hindu kingdom of Maharashtra in central India. The Marathas rebelled against the Moguls and in 1674 established their own kingdom. They came to dominate southern and central India but were later subdued by the British”.

28. RAT ON. RA is our artist; plus TON (2,240 lbs).

29. FASHIONED. Anagram: “find a shoe”. Today’s easiest answer perhaps, giving me some hope in the SE corner.


1. MITRE. It’s hidden reversed in “over time”. The elliptical def is “See boss gear” where the “See” is a bishopric.

2. LAMBADA. LAM (leather, whack), BAD (pants, rubbish), A.

3. SEVENTEENTH. SEVE (Ballesteros, our golfer), N (one “new”) & another N inside TEETH (“champers”). Prematurely, we assume, because it’s the penultimate hole.

4. ONE-TWO. Sounds like “won” (landed) and “too” (also).

5. TENON SAW. ONE inside WASN’T (failed), all reversed.

6. DUO. U (united) inside DO (act) with an &lit flavour.

7. BUOYANT. Anagram of “by O aunt”. Think “bed” as in “sea bed”.

8. IN CONCERT. Two meanings.

13. ARRIVED,ER,CI. ER for the doubts and CI for the Channel Islands.

14. FACE-SAVER. F (female), ACES (serves, tennis), AVER (state).

16. BLAST-OFF. Anagram: soft flab.

18. GUJARAT. Reverse of JUG (cooler, prison), A (area), RAT (desert).

20. CAPSTAN. CAPS (eclipses), TAN (effect of sun).

21. COSMOS. That is “everything”. Substitute MO (doctor … again) for the T (time) in COSTS.

24. WEALD. Sounds like “wield”.

26. INN. Turn “ZZ!” 45˚counter-clockwise and it sort-of looks like INN. Of course I wanted the answer to be TOP.
On edit: as Jack points out it's “—ZZ” that's turned, and 90˚ in the other direction! A bad case of VD (Vertical-letter Dyslexia). Doh!


( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 12th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
It's turning —ZZ rather than ZZ! I think.

Edited at 2014-02-12 01:48 am (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:50 am (UTC)
Re: 26
Yeh, I wondered about that, but couldn't account for the I. Now I see it's the dash that does that. Ta!

Edited at 2014-02-12 01:52 am (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:55 am (UTC)
Goodness me, I struggled to complete this one. It was certainly an inventive puzzle, perhaps just a bit too convoluted in places where I doubt it was possible to understand the workings of some clues other than by reverse engineering. Still it was what was needed after a couple of really easy ones. 1dn was my last in and it's always a sign of a good puzzle when the hidden answer is the last to fall! I shall only admit to an hour plus.
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:07 am (UTC)
80 minutes for me, ending with the cunning MITRE, although my COD in a superb bunch goes to TV MOVIE for the spousal separation. (On The family theme, I also enjoyed the abusive aunt, and 'the works of Proust' is a touch of genius.) Unusual to have three letter substitution clues. Top stuff, setter! A delight from start to finish.

At 3d, I had the relevance of the 17th as being that the minimum age for the purchase of alcohol in the UK is 18, but both interpretations seem to work.

Edited at 2014-02-12 02:11 am (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:25 am (UTC)
Under 18
I hadn't thought of that one, nor the possibility of champers at the 18th which I suppose might happen at the end of a tournament. In my reckoning I'd gone with the more usual idea of drinkies at the 19th hole.
Re: Under 18 - mctext - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:28 am (UTC) - Expand
SEVENTEENTH - mctext - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: SEVENTEENTH - ulaca - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: SEVENTEENTH - mctext - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
I thought this was a very good puzzle with some very inventive clues. I hadn't fully parsed 26dn beyond a vague notion that Z turned through 90deg looks like N - thanks jackkt.

1dn was LOI - very nice.

After vinyl's comment on KNIGHTSBRIDGE on Monday, we have ST JOHN'S WOOD today. Watch out for STEPNEY on Friday?
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC)
Ta muchly Mctext,
can see where I went wrong - not knowing neozonic for starters, going for wield (exercise) sounding like weald (woodland), and .... generally being thick!
But having an early start tomorrow to a long day, having to have an early(ish) night.

Funnily enough VERTIGO came up in a repeat of Stephen Fry's QI tonight, and he stressed that it has nothing to do with altitude, despite its common use.
It is simply a feeling of dizziness brought on by the sense of balance being disrupted - and can happen sat down, stood up, or standing on a stool. And obviously having a fear of heights, if stood somewhere high, can also disrupt your sense of balance.
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:24 am (UTC)
But you try telling Hitchcock that!
(no subject) - keef_lawrence - Feb. 12th, 2014 10:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
25:15 .. well, we did all say we wanted something tougher! And this was definitely ‘gnarly’. There were several twists, a couple of splits and at least one rotation. The setter went huge and put it down (I’m definitely watching too much of the Olympics, but… did you see that half-pipe competition? Incredible theatre).

COD .. For all the big tricks, I really enjoyed the lovely NOW AND AGAIN. Images of a sort of hapless Harry Potter.

Another with MITRE the last in.

Thanks setter, and McT
Feb. 12th, 2014 08:57 am (UTC)
Struggled with this after 2 really easy ones - it takes time to get the old brain into gear. 35 minutes to finish the most inventive puzzle for quite some time. I'm trying to remember if I've seen the "wife chopped in half" device and the INN/-ZZ before.

A lot of reverse engineering of educated guesses with these clues so a really tough puzzle for newish solvers. Thank you setter and well done McT - great job

Hatches fastened here as 80mph winds forcast with another 25mm of rain!
Feb. 12th, 2014 09:37 am (UTC)
. ..of pure pleasure, so thank you setter and mctext. COD 26D for its (to me) complete originality.
Feb. 12th, 2014 09:55 am (UTC)
Possibly off topic
Is LiveJournal directly associated with VKontakte (the "Russian Facebook")? (I note that people can post to LJ directly from there.) If so, we might want to rethink our hosts:
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:02 am (UTC)
Re: Possibly off topic
Definitely off topic. We're a crossword discussion forum. We're not here to change the world. Can we at least have a day without this extraneous stuff please?
Re: Possibly off topic - mctext - Feb. 12th, 2014 11:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Possibly off topic - sotira - Feb. 12th, 2014 01:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Possibly off topic - keriothe - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Possibly off topic - sotira - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2014 10:09 am (UTC)
Be careful what you wish for - at last a chewy one, with two "rebus" clues - splitting the "W" and spinning the "-ZZ". Liked ARRIVEDERCI and ST JOHNS WOOD. Held up deciding between MARATHA and Marathi, but the slow-coming WEALD/POW crosser (my LOI) finally solved that one!

Not having teenage children, that pants=bad thing was not immediately obvious ... So, an eclectic crossword, with current playground slang rubbing shoulders with not one but two nicely old-fashioned references to the Raj!

About an hour of often frustrating enjoyment.
Andy Borrows
Feb. 12th, 2014 10:24 am (UTC)
30 mins for me, and as has been pointed out above it was the most inventive puzzle for quite some time and a real challenge to solve. There were too many top-quality clues to list, and I needed the wordplay to be happy with most of my answers.

MITRE was my next-to-last in, although I might have seen it faster if it hadn't taken me so long to see MILK STOUT (with "Porter" in the clue and ??L? for the first word I was thinking "Cole"). I was also trying to fit "No" into 9ac for a while as the "doctor in Bond film", which was a very good misdirection. COGENTLY was actually my LOI.
Feb. 12th, 2014 10:48 am (UTC)
Such a relief to find that others found this challenging - 19:22 for me. The turning of the ZZ appeared somewhere else recently so I did know what I was supposed to do with that one.
Feb. 12th, 2014 10:54 am (UTC)
45min with a lot of guessing from partial parsing - so thanks for blog.
14ac was LOI, but couldn't think of anything better than FRAYED, as suggested by 'conflict' in the clue: I'm still not clear on the definition.

Edited at 2014-02-12 10:58 am (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:01 am (UTC)
The def is "set up" (past tense verb).
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:07 am (UTC)
21:46 and definitely breaking the run of easy ones. I especially liked 27ac on the day of the IPL auction. As Jim says, it can take time to get your head into the right mode for a puzzle this tricky, so my last one in was 1dn, by which time I was just about on the right wavelength to see the really well-hidden definition; this set up by getting 9ac, where you just know the "Bond film" is almost certainly a lift-and-separate, and the surface intended to distract, but it's impossible not to think of Doctor No. Really good puzzle.
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:22 am (UTC)
Stinker indeed
Tuesday toughie after a Monday doddle. Did all except 1 dn and 9 and 11 ac in 30 minutes, stared at those for ages then resigned, so DNF. Even though I had MOVIE in I couldn't see TV. Was hung up on BOSS GEAR = CAM backwards or some such nonsense.
Loved some of the clues though.
As they say on the banal Pointless, 'well done to all of you at home who got all those pointless answers'.

Edited at 2014-02-12 11:23 am (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:32 am (UTC)
Really meaty puzzle, this. 24:20 here, and I also finished with MITRE! Loved the clue to INN and TV MOVIE for the innovative wordplay - although I did have TOP for 26D for a short while.
Feb. 12th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was me. Not sure how I got logged out.
Feb. 12th, 2014 11:53 am (UTC)
'for doctor'
What a stinker, took me almost 2 hours and even then I did not get 1d.

For 21d I had the first O and the last S and seeing...'for doctor' at the end of the clue, I immediately thought of Cosmos, but in the sense of Saints Cosmos & Damian the biblical twin martyrs, both doctors and who are the patron Saints of physicians.
Well, it might not have been in the setter's mind and it's nothing to do with the rest of the clue, but it got me there!

(One edit) Just looked up the two Saints in question and was greatly surprised to find the Saint is Cosmas not Cosmos. Bang goes a 50+ year old belief!

Edited at 2014-02-12 12:04 pm (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 12:26 pm (UTC)
Brilliant puzzle requiring some extraordinarily intricate (but always just this side of fairness) parsing - e.g. SEVENTEENTH. I was left stumped by 1D (MITRE) and 9A (TV MOVIE). I'd never have worked worked out the "wife chopped in half" trick in a million years, and had to come here for enlightenment.

Great blog, McT. Thanks.
Feb. 12th, 2014 12:29 pm (UTC)
Tough cookie
Well I did wish for exactly this yesterday, didn't I, and this was excessively chewy. But with chewy, apart from Han Solo, comes good cryptic, generally speaking, and there were some nice tricks here.

Thanks to setter and blogger.

Feb. 12th, 2014 12:49 pm (UTC)
18m. Tricksy, tough, very enjoyable crossword. I seem to have been on the right wavelength judging by others' times.
The trickiness must have made me more alert because I hesitated to work out the wordplay before putting in the spelling I thought I knew for ARRIVEDERCI.

Edited at 2014-02-12 12:56 pm (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:04 pm (UTC)
DNF, but the bits I got were highly enjoyable. Sometimes I find the more difficult puzzles relatively easier, because the wordplay tends to be a little more precise while the clues rely a bit less on nuanced connections that a native ear hears and that I don't. That is true of today's puzzle (good), but my GK fell short all over the place (not so good), and mctext's explanations were very much appreciated. Ditto the setter's (and perhaps the new editor's) effort.
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:05 pm (UTC)
Whoops - that was me
Somehow got logged out w/o noticing
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:13 pm (UTC)
26:55 and for a while I thought I'd be permanently stuck. Certainly a few years ago this would have left me utterly defeated.

LTI for me were Maratha (down there in the Rawalpindi slot!) and weald.

Clever stuff for sure. I still haven't got round to tackling Monday's puzzle so I can't yet judge the difficulty gap.

Good time K!
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll take under 2 Magoos any day of the week.
(no subject) - i_am_magoo - Feb. 12th, 2014 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ulaca - Feb. 12th, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:24 pm (UTC)
Oh well, after 24 minutes and rarely being on the wavelength with the wordplay, I shrugged and put in ST JOHN'S ROAD. I did like the wandless mage though. Better luck tomorrow, right?
Feb. 12th, 2014 02:43 pm (UTC)
St John's...
You disappoint me George, St. John's Wood is where Lord's Cricket Ground is.

Tut tut.
Feb. 12th, 2014 01:30 pm (UTC)
DNF after 45m with the ones already mentioned above still unsolved. Challenging but satisfying. I spotted MITRE early on but had no idea how it was defined in the clue so it was my last one in. Would never have got near 27a nor 9a. I must remember the misleading use of capitals. Very grateful for the blog today. Thanks to MCT and the setter.
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