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This one was a straightforward stroll up the nursery slopes, I thought; without rushing I had it all done and dusted in 19 minutes, ending with the NE corner. No doubt the gradients will get steeper in the 8 weeks to come. I'm surprised 31 of 82 competitors failed to solve it correctly, but no doubt the added pressure situation and the thought of at least two more puzzles ahead caused the problems.
There was one word I'd never seen before (16a) but the wordplay was very specific and the meaning obvious.

1 BARRIE - BARRIER = block, shorten it; D writer, J M Barrie of Peter Pan fame.
4 BAGPIPER - BAG = secure, catch; PIER = jetty, insert P for piano; D musician.
10 AUCTIONED - (EDUCATION)*, D offered lots.
11 DRILL - being ILL so at the DR's; D practice.
12 TWO-DIMENSIONAL - (ALSO DOWN IN TIME)*; D like a plane.
14 FLAIL - Insert L for learner into FAIL for bad exam result; D thrash.
16 SONNETEER - SON = issue, NET = clear, E'ER = always poetically; D Shakespeare, say.
18 ESTAMINET - EST = 'in Paris, is', A MINT = a money-maker, insert E for English; D café.
20 GIRTH - H(ard) TRIG (area of maths, trigonometry), all reversed; D measurement of circumference.
21 PRE-RAPHAELITES - (ATELIER PERHAPS)*, D group of artists.
25 ATOLL - A(rea), TOLL = sound as a bell, D island.
26 EXCELSIOR - EX = former, CELSIUS = scale, replace US by OR, D higher still.
27 OUTLYING - Double definition, one cryptic.
28 GOOGOL - GOGOL the author, insert another O. A googol is a very large number, with a lot of zeros, being ten to the power of 100.

1 BEAUTIFIED - BEATIFIED would be in a blissful state, insert U; D looking much better.
2 RECTO - RECTOR shortened, D page 3 for example, word meaning a right-hand page, as opposed to verso.
3 INITIAL - Double definition.
5 ANDES - Hidden word in INC(AN DES)CENT; D here, &lit.
6 PADRONE - PA = secretary, DRONE = buzzer that doesn't work, kind of bee; D innkeeper.
7 PRIVATEER - PEER = fellow, insert R = river, I VAT = one large vessel; D warship.
8 RELY - RARELY = seldom, delete RA = artist, D bank, as in bank on, rely on.
9 UNPERSON - (SPURN ONE)* D political outcast. Originally from Orwell's 1984, where unpersons just had been evaporated.
13 ORCHESTRAL - R CHEST = right, part of body; insert into ORAL examination; D for a lot of players.
15 AFTERMOST - (FOR MATES)*, T; D behind all on board.
17 NUTHATCH - N(ew) THATCH = new roof, insert (yo)U; D bird.
19 MORALLY - MO = medical officer, RALLY = recovery; D in ethical way.
20 GALILEO - LAG = person with convictions, upset = GAL; I LEO = one Pope; D scientist.
22 PAEAN - PEN = write, alternate with articles A, A, D song of praise.
23 THING - THIN = lacking substance, G = leader in Guardian; D article. On the surface, a sideways pop at the Grauniad!
25 TACO - TAO = Asian way, Japanese religion; insert C = cooked initially; D foreign food.


( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 2nd, 2016 09:04 am (UTC)
I felt quite lucky to have got through this successfully in 57:55. ESTAMINET and SONNETEER unknown and PAEAN, PADRONE, RECTO, EXCELSIOR and author Gogol and Pope Leo at only the vaguest far reaches of my knowledge. Held up for a surprising time by TACO, with my LOI BARRIE.

If this is the beginning of a steep gradient, I'm not sure I fancy my chances. Thanks to setter and blogger, as ever.

Edited at 2016-11-02 09:07 am (UTC)
Nov. 2nd, 2016 09:15 am (UTC)
Fell at the first
LOI was the incorrect BARDIC at 1ac, failed to complete the alphabet search. Rather slow altogether anyway. Oh well, things can only get better.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 09:19 am (UTC)
Re: Fell at the first
Yes; lots of scope for being misled on that one. I toyed with bards, bars, bans and biros before finally seeing BARRIE and working out the wordplay backwards from there.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 09:30 am (UTC)
This looks very straightforward now. I can only say that, sitting on the 17th floor of the News UK building in a Mastermind-type hush, with 81 other solvers sitting at desks around me, it didn't seem that easy at all! In fact, it was the one I struggled with most of the 3.

I think it took me just north of 20 minutes all told, finishing with EXCELSIOR and GOOGOL (which just didn't look right — I wrote out a number of alternate spellings before deciding it must be so).
Nov. 2nd, 2016 09:40 am (UTC)
No problems with this sitting comfortably at home with a coffee and biscuits. GOOGOL known to me so a write in. Very clear word play throughout.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:10 am (UTC)
Yes, v straightforward this .. inspired by the heading I used a stopwatch and took 13m50 secs. Doubt if I would have been as quick in the News UK building, though
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:11 am (UTC)
Strange how eleven days on, the only thing I can remember about this puzzle is that I found it particularly contestant-friendly apart from BARRIE, which was the very last penny to clang loudly to the floor before I held my number up in the air.

Pip - about 40 minutes into the 'exam', we were interrupted by a very loud message informing us that they were investigating an alarm and we didn't need to do anything (which raised the question as to why they were informing us at all) and this was repeated at regular intervals. This may have had an effect on the number of correct finishers, even though contestants were allowed an extra five minutes at the end to allow for the disruption, but fortunately all the finalists had finished before the beeping and loud announcements started.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:12 am (UTC)
Raced through this in 14 min, with 25dn LOI - what a relief after yesterday !
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:14 am (UTC)
Another example of why it would be pointless for me to aspire to taking part in the proceedings. Leaving aside that a 20 minute solve is a very rare occurrence, the chances of my achieving 3 consecutively to complete all the puzzles in an hour are precisely nil.

In addition to that I don't respond well to pressures of exam conditions, time constraints and the like, so the first worry would be, will I ever get started or will I sit and look at a blank grid forever?

Now that didn't apply today because in the comfort of my own home I raced away and finished all but one answer in 24 minutes, but that then shifted my anxieties and inhibitions to the other end of the process, namely, having made a rather good fist of it so far, and with only 3 letters missing from the grid, will I be able to solve the final clue? Here it was 1ac that did for me, and having spent another 15 minutes on it I gave up and resorted to aids. BARRIE is pretty well-known but I simply couldn't think of him or decipher his name from the wordplay.

Edited at 2016-11-02 10:18 am (UTC)
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:59 am (UTC)
> will I ever get started or will I sit and look at a blank grid forever?

That's a dreadful feeling when you're told you can start the puzzles. Whether it lasts ten seconds or five minutes, that initial period where you've got nothing in, and think you never will, is hell.
(no subject) - crypticsue - Nov. 2nd, 2016 01:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:18 am (UTC)
Congratulations to the 51 souls who got it right, and commiserations to the 31 who didn't make it. How long did you get? I got there eventually, having FLAILED around in more than two dimensions but it took 40 minutes. And that was while staring at a print of Waterhouse's La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a relic of student days in more ways than one, on the wall. COD GIRTH. FOI BAGPIPER. LOI BARRIE after BEAUTIFIED. I don't think of being BEATIFIED as being made BLISSFUL, more as getting a gold star for being teacher's pet.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:27 am (UTC)
Re: Excelsior
You get an hour to do 3 puzzles, although, as crypticsue mentions, they extended it by 5 minutes in the first heat because of the constant hectoring by the automated security announcement, which was helpful only to regular rail commuting solvers who apparently felt right at home!

jackkt's concerns about staring blankly at the grid are often borne out by competitors, especially at the first attempt. They tell you to start, you open your booklet, and you freeze. When I first entered a couple of years ago, I think it took about 10 minutes to solve my first clue. I know I'm not the only one. But I did find it rather less stressful at the second attempt.
RE: Re: Excelsior - boltonwanderer - Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excelsior - sotira - Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:21 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: Excelsior - boltonwanderer - Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excelsior - john_dun - Nov. 2nd, 2016 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excelsior - (Anonymous) - Nov. 19th, 2016 11:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:28 am (UTC)
Jack, I think your main concern in the competition would be not to succumb to the temptation of sneaking into your time-machine and reversing the clock for your solve.

I finished this one in the same place as nearly everyone else after 30 minutes, my main worry being whether a plane had more than just the one dimension. In the end, I reckoned it wouldn't be much of a plane with only one...

Give me paeans and even Galileo any day.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 10:57 am (UTC)
Second post!l
Posted anonymously yesterday for first time...hence subtle headline! Thought I had finished today (I do it in the paper rather than on line) and came on here to read comments, only to realise I hadn't got an entry for "taco"...which I am not sure I would have got.
Once again thought it was a nice puzzle with some good clues. I liked 6d, 20a and when i finally got it (my loi) 1a.
Must confess I had pencilled in "cautioned" at 10a and foolishly on finally "solving" the anagram at 12a wrote in "one dimensional".
I learn and move on.
Guess it took me about an hour while also looking at the killer sudoku, which I've yet to finish.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Second post!l
It's lovely to hear from you again but by the time you get to third or fourth post we shall have lost count! Please put a name or nickname to your postings so that we will know it's you.

Edited at 2016-11-02 02:08 pm (UTC)
Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:01 am (UTC)
They do seem a lot easier with the benefit of hindsight, don't they? Mind you I had the three puzzles of this prelim done in 27 minutes or something, so it's not like I made enormously heavy weather of this one. I too remember BARRIE as being a big PDM towards the end of play.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:02 am (UTC)
I think I had most of this knocked off in about ten minutes, and moved on to puzzle two with a few gaps in the NW corner. When I came back to it I saw Barrie straight away which meant I could make short work of the remaining clues.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:08 am (UTC)
Time: 40 minutes...
....so I am clearly not qualified to compete. Unfortunately, I biffed 'one-dimensional' and so got thoroughly stuck in the NW until I realized my mistake. Even then, I could make nothing of 1 across and I down, so I started going through the alphabet for the first letter - luckily, it was a 'B' and not a 'Z'. I saw 'beautified', and then 'Barrie' was obvious, but I had spent about 15 minutes on the last two in.

The vocabulary was at the educated-but-not-totally-obscure level. We've had 'estaminet' before, I believe.
Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:29 am (UTC)
I agree with many previous posters that the lull before writing in an answer - whether it's five seconds or five minutes - is excruciating. Luckily, I rolled down the slipway with 5D and found the rest of this fairly straightforward, finishing in about 15 minutes with 1A the LOI.
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