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With New Year falling between the puzzle and this, its blog, I wish everyone all the best for 2019.

One of my plans for the coming year is to do the Times Crossword on paper rather than online, to get rid of that malicious timer and those random typos, but good luck to those of you who do it the other way!

I tackled this one on paper and found it slow going, but I thought I was going to be able to get there until I came to a halt at the intersection of 9ac and 8dn. Bah! Still, there was much to enjoy before then. Thanks to the setter. My clue of the day was 27ac.

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 Stop driving in top gear? (8)
PULLOVER: to stop driving, you PULL OVER (4,4).

9 Is in French folk tale collector’s brief to find fabled wolf (8)
ISENGRIM: IS, EN (French for “in”), GRIM[m] (dropping the final letter of the brothers Grimm). I’ve never heard of this creature, but Isengrim did appear in the Club Monthly in March 2013 and in Mephisto in 2009, so some few souls who do those challenging puzzles may remember!

10 Legendary ruler getting racket on ball (4)
ODIN: O is the ball, DIN is the racket. Odin is a Norse god.

11 No English composer's works will be fine (12)
SATISFACTORY: SATI[e]’S the composer, FACTORY is the works.

13 A mat? It could be this (6)
TATAMI: it’s a Japanese mat. It “could be” an anagram of (A MAT IT*), too. For me it was a pure guess where the “M” went, but I got lucky. One chance in three. This word has come up nine times before in TftT, but has generally been clued in a way that helped with the spelling!

14 Old policeman's way to block dodgy dealer (8)
LESTRADE: ST is the “way”. Put it inside a “dodgy” anagram of (DEALER*). For me the fact that Lestrade is fictional is more significant than his age! He’s probably the most common Scotland Yard Detective Inspector in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

15 Little beast returning from dissolute revels (7)
LEVERET: reverse (“returning”) hidden answer “from” [dissolu]TE REVEL[s].

16 Problem for athlete with running spikes (7)
CRAMPON: CRAMP would be a problem. ON could be running. I’ve never seen one, but a crampon could I assume have several spikes.

20 Hit big tree (3,5)
BOX ELDER: BOX as in “box one’s ears”, then ELDER as in “elder brother”.

22 Face of girl guide, a sentimental sort? (6)
GUSHER: G is the face of the G[irl], USHER is the guide.

23 Repetitive sound by model of Ford car (12)
TAUTOLOGICAL: the Ford Motor Company established itself by making  the model T AUTO. Sound arguments should be LOGICAL. Join where indicated, please.

25 Victim of murderer clever in hearing (4)
ABEL: sounds like ABLE.

26 Where to find crude artwork competition (8)
OILFIELD: an artwork might be an OIL. The competition would be the rest of the FIELD.

27 Stare at both sides of chewy dish? (3,5)
EYE CANDY: EYE (to stare at) “C” AND “Y” (the “sides” of C[hew]Y).

2 Inappropriate European's left behind to make waves (8)
UNDULATE: UNDU[e}] minus the “E” for European that’s “left”; then LATE (behind).

3 Leeds playing with ball, not getting trophy (8,4)
LONSDALE BELT: anagram (“playing”) if (LEEDS BALL NOT*). The helpers suggested the first word, and then the second word drops out. I’d never heard of this trophy, but could get the answer from the wordplay.

4 Measure of potential fury about a polemical writer (8)
VOLTAIRE: VOLT (measure of electrical potential), IRE (fury), all “about” the letter “A”. He was given to polemics against Christianity, it seems.

5 Endless danger with only fried food (7)

6 Old-fashioned sweetheart's somewhere in France (2,4)
LE MANS: LEMAN is an archaic word for sweetheart. It’s come up in TftT a number of times before, but rang no bells with me.

7 Shipment out of top vessel (4)
ARGO: the shipment could be [c]ARGO. The vessel would have been Jason’s.

8 Celestial fire’s fuel in rising star (8)
EMPYREAN: a theatrical star might be a NAME. A funeral PYRE is a fire which in this case "fuels" the reversed ("rising") NAME. The answer was another unknown. (Thanks to isla3 for clearing up my total confusion about how this one should be parsed!)

12 I'm leaving Indian dish — I’m grateful for fishy one (12)
TARAMASALATA: TARA (British for “I’m leaving”), MASALA (Indian dish), TA (I’m grateful). A dish made of fish roe.

15 Drink in freedom, without hesitation (8)
LIBATION: LIB[er]ATION without the “ER”.

17 Rocky ridge with ice is a killer (8)
REGICIDE: anagram (“rocky”) of (RIDGE ICE*).

18 Eve hard to move with “Love is in the air” (8)
OVERHEAD: anagram (“to move”) (EVE HARD O*), where the “O” is “zero” or “love”.

19 Group ordered to pack kit (7)
BRIGADE: BADE “packing” RIG.

21 Most of toy soldiers in ancient monument (6)
DOLMEN: DOL[l], MEN. It’s a megalithic tomb.

24 Picked up unappealing fruit (4)
UGLI: sounds like “ugly”.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2019 12:11 am (UTC)
There were too many unknown words or meanings here for me to complete without some resort to aids but it was an enjoyable challenge nonetheless.

Re 10ac are gods rulers?
Jan. 5th, 2019 12:57 am (UTC)
Gods aren't, but Odin is the ruler of the gods.
Jan. 5th, 2019 01:02 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how I know ISENGRIM--definitely not from cryptics--and indeed I don't know it, but assumed it's from Norse mythology. DNK 3d, but worked out the anagrist. TATAMI, of course, a gimme. Fortunately, we had TARAMASALATA here once, and it more or less remained in memory, although the checkers were necessary. 19d misled me into taking 'group' as anagrist. UGLI seems to have wandered in from a QC. COD to EYE CANDY.
Jan. 5th, 2019 01:03 am (UTC)
Empyrean and Isengrim did for me. They were just too far out there, and fuel = pyre was never going to fly. Great blog, cheers.
Jan. 5th, 2019 01:12 am (UTC)
I managed to work out the unknown ISENGRIM, EMPYREAN and TATAMI, but checked them before submitting. MER over the fictional detective, but the wordplay was unambiguous. LE MANS went in from crossers and enumeration. Was pleased to get through this in 40:44. Thanks setter and Bruce.
Jan. 5th, 2019 01:39 am (UTC)
Also beaten by 8/9. Had ISEN but could only think of Aesop for the rest.
Post looking-up-answer I parsed 8 dn a little differently: Celestial as definition, and pyre the fire "fuelling" the upturned name.
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:01 am (UTC)
Re: Pyre
That's how I parsed it, too; 'empyrean' is both a noun and an adjective.
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:42 am (UTC)
Re: Pyre
Aha! I see it now. Thanks.
Jan. 5th, 2019 12:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Pyre
I read 'fire's fuel' as the indication for PYRE. A pile of wood doesn't have to be alight to be called a PYRE.

Edited at 2019-01-05 12:28 pm (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:04 am (UTC)
He would end letters with "Écrasez l'infâme!", l'infâme being the Catholic Church.
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:28 am (UTC)
Surprisingly, I did not find this that difficult....
....somehow having heard of 'isengrim', 'tatami', 'dolmen', 'leveret', and 'empyrean' - the latter is a fictitious insurance company in a golden age murder mystery. I had to work out 'Lonsdale Belt' and 'taramasalata', but the latter rung a vague bell.

I was a bit surprised that I was able to solve it successfully, and my time was 50 minutes.
Jan. 5th, 2019 06:00 am (UTC)
This is probably as useless a piece of information as you're likely to get, Bruce, even from me, but TI is not a possible syllable in Japanese, at least in the Romanization used in English; it would be CHI. So given T, T, & M in _A_A_I, there's no choice. Don't bother to thank me.
Jan. 5th, 2019 06:38 am (UTC)
Ah so!! Domo!
Jan. 5th, 2019 07:21 am (UTC)
Who's the father?
48 minutes with LOI the unparsed LE MANS. I had no idea which way round to put the consonants in TATAMI but hit on the right option as the other two possibilities sounded like characters from The Lion King. COD to TAUTOLOGICAL. All those years listening to Just a Minute hoping for a decent joke weren't in vain. I liked LESTRADE, but wasn't sure about 'old' for 'fictional'. I needed crossers before remembering the way round of the father : son relationship of ODIN : Thor. My Norse mythology chiefly comes from riding Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. When does, or is it did, a RISSOLE become a burger? Thank you B and setter.
Jan. 5th, 2019 07:32 am (UTC)
Just a minute...
I associate 'tautology' more with MANY A SLIP, a predecessor of JAM, but also devised by Ian Messiter. It was hosted by Roy Plomley and regular panellists included Lady Isobel Barnett, Eleanor Summerfield, Richard Murdoch and Lance Percival. Steve Race hosted the weekly music round. Of course repetition was against the rules in both panel games but SLIP was the show that mentioned the word 'tautology' over and again, week in and week out.
Jan. 5th, 2019 09:12 am (UTC)
What's my line?
I do remember Many A Slip vaguely, but it was on in the years between leaving home and becoming domesticated. Of course, Lady Isobel Barnett will always mean What's My Line, along with Gilbert Harding, Barbara Kelly, and another panellist, perhaps Bob Monkhouse or David Nixon, introduced by Eamonn Andrews.
Jan. 5th, 2019 07:37 am (UTC)
QC report
Too many DNKs for me, so even when I was on the right lines (LeSTrade or using RD for way),I could not find an answer. I did get Tatami , but the rest were ugli and grim.
FOI was Taramasalata which gave me hope and some fun en route. David
Jan. 5th, 2019 09:06 am (UTC)
Stopped after 20 minutes....
....with the ISENGRIM/EMPYREAN crossing still blank, and 20A still outstanding.

Returned to solve the crosser quickly (both biffed), but was beaten by DNK BOX ELDER where I biffed "bog" instead. Excellent puzzle - defeat gracefully accepted.

Jan. 5th, 2019 09:30 am (UTC)
Saturday amble
A DNF correctly as I lobbed in IDEOGRAM at 9ac, even though I think it was in the Friday 15x15! I should have done better.

LE MANS I remembered from some 30 years (not 24 hours as per IDEOGRAM and the race!) back in a Jumbo, methink.




'Her Indoors', who is Chinese, is over the moon regarding the satellite landing.

I'll fetch me coat!
Jan. 5th, 2019 10:38 am (UTC)
I did this online as I was away from home, so don't have my usual paper copy with annotations. I recall having to check a few words before submitting - ISENGRIM, TATAMI, BOX ELDER and EMPYREAN... I think I had to resort to aids for that last one. COD to LIBATION as I had recently been challenged to include the word in a blog post. 27:41
Jan. 5th, 2019 11:34 am (UTC)
Looking back at it I'm not sure why I struggled with this but I did and so it stuck in the memory. The fictional (rather than peeler or runner) old policeman may have been one reason. As I recall, LESTRADE is the one mostly given short shrift by Sherlock - Gregson and Hopkins fare a bit better. I also paused on TARAMASALATA - delicious stuff but it's often spelled with an O in the middle around here which makes it tricky with an unchecked letter. This kind setter spelled it out for us.

With VOLTAIRE and ISENGRIM et al a slightly TLS flavour to this one. 24.46
P.S. Bruce in 27A I think you mean C and Y for the sides of "chewy".
Jan. 5th, 2019 07:05 pm (UTC)
Yes. Thanks.

Edited at 2019-01-05 07:05 pm (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2019 12:17 pm (UTC)
I got through this in a reasonable time (34:05) and managed to get the tricky and unknown Isengrim but unfortunately I appear to have run into a bat elder at 20ac. Clever stuff.
Jan. 5th, 2019 12:34 pm (UTC)
21:34. Tricky, and I'm slightly surprised that I managed to construct ISENGRIM and EMPYREAN. The former was unknown to me and looks pretty unlikely even if the wordplay was clear. I recognised the word EMPYREAN but wouldn't have been confident giving you a definition, partly because I'd have been worried I was getting it mixed up with ELYSIAN.
Jan. 5th, 2019 02:16 pm (UTC)
Just under an hour for this with a DNF at 6d - which is annoying because my daughter-in-law elect is from Le Mans. I also had BOG ELDER for a while although it didn't make sense. There was some unusual vocabulary here but the only real unknown was ISENGRIM which was, however, easy enough to get from the cryptic. Ann
Jan. 5th, 2019 02:43 pm (UTC)
Bog standard
On review I also had BOG ELDER!
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:09 pm (UTC)
I must have been hungover because having checked my notes I find I was rather rude about this one.
Jan. 5th, 2019 03:36 pm (UTC)
I had the time to stretch this one out, and so I did, adding at least an extra half-hour on the end of my normal hour, with a break in between, and finally and surprisingly managing to come up with both ISENGRIM and EMPYREAN unknowns. Apparently I enjoyed 23 TAUTOLOGICAL, 26 OILFIELD and 16a CRAMPON most along the way.

Particularly nasty having crossing obscurities!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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