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Times 27483 - crosswordy swimming practice

I thought this was an elegant puzzle, the best on Wednesday for a while, not difficult but with some clever, smooth surfaces and no MERs for me. I went astray at first with 15a and took a while to sort out 21a, no issues with the rest in a total time of around 24 leisurely minutes. For a clue of the day I'd pick either 10a or 21a.

1 Bank charge discount partially returned (4)
SIDE - bank = side e.g. of a river. Reversed hidden in CHARG(E DIS)COUNT.
3 American embraces endlessly resilient old scientist (10)
ASTRONOMER - There was discussion recently when we had AMER for American, and here it is again. Into AMER you insert STRON(G) (endlessly resilient) and O for old.
10 Describing open-air activities that could be yours to do (9)
11 Tycoon is second victim of hoax, though losing just one pound (5)
MOGUL - MO (second) GUL(L) victim of hoax loses an L.
12 Make fun of a politician in guise of a fool? (7)
LAMPOON - A MP inside LOON = fool.
13 Guy at St Andrews? Liberal guy at St Andrews, not Conservative (6)
LADDIE - A Scottish chap. The guy at St Andrews (R & A Golf Club of) is a CADDIE, carrying my bag, not C, add L.
15 Preparation the public can’t see for exclusion of NHS work? (7,8)
PRIVATE PRACTICE - Cryptic double definition, where 'practice in private' wouldn't be seen in public. I went wrong for a while with PRIVATE MEDICINE, thinking the 'preparation' was a drug not an activity, but 6d ending in I woudln't work.
18 Landlord blocking theatre presented by cultivated political group (10,5)
REPUBLICAN PARTY - PUBLICAN is our landlord, he goes into REP our theatre, then ARTY = cultivated.
21 Necklace queen’s wearing removed by force (6)
TORQUE - I put in the correct answer to this quite a while before seeing how it worked; was the definition force or necklace? I think it is necklace, as TORE = removed by force, leaving you with QU for queen to insert. A torque (or torc) is a rigid metal necklace, as well as a force causing rotation.
23 Rewarding golf? Agonising missing first of putts (7)
GAINFUL - G for golf, PAINFUL = agonising, loses its P.
26 Supple, seeing reduction of ailment in time (5)
AGILE - AGE (time) has IL(L) inserted.
27 Area a lot choppy? Channel swimmer weak (2,1,3,3)
AT A LOW EBB - (A A LOT)* then WEBB = Captain Matthew Webb, first to swim the channel in 1875. What a nice, topical surface, given the recent amazing feat by Sarah Thomas. A pity she didn't get sponsored to raise money for breast cancer research.
28 Lack of skill recording songbird? One gets exposed about that (10)
INEPTITUDE - I NUDE = one gets exposed; into that insert EP (recording) TIT (songbird).
29 Times item in centre: several bits (4)
BYTE - BY = times, multiplied by, TE = central letters of iTEm, a byte has 8 bits in it.
1 Plunder harbour town, getting damper (10)
SPOILSPORT - SPOILS = plunder, as a noun; PORT.
2 Information corporation supplied to American lawyer (5)
DATUM - DA (American lawyer) TUM (corporation). Singular of DATA, which latter is all too often treated as singular not plural. A moment of pedantry.
4 Determined to include wild green island in African ecosystem (9)
SERENGETI - My FOI. SET = determined, insert (GREEN)* and add I for island.
5 Though no son, optimistic over a line of monarchs (5)
ROYAL - ROSY could be optimistic, delete the S for son, add A L(ine).
6 Mostly I refuse to accept degree of person who’s travelled (7)
NOMADIC - I refuse could be "NO DICE", mostly = NODIC, insert MA degree.
7 Source of detailed view that is needed in review of farming (9)
MAGNIFIER - Insert I.E. into (FARMING)*.
8 No opening for comic turn (4)
ROLL - DROLL loses its opening letter.
9 Study leading to answer about golden solar gases (6)
CORONA - CON (study) has OR (golden) inserted, then A for answer.
14 Playground: yard left cordoned off by rope, fit for repeated use (10)
RECYCLABLE - REC = playground, Y = yard, CABLE = rope, insert L for left.
16 Pull together one million, supporting Society in contest (9)
IMPROVISE - I, M(illion), PRO (supporting), then S for society inside VIE = contest.
17 Defending month being taken up in Bishop engaging in study (9)
REARGUARD - READ = study; insert AUG reversed into RR (bishop) then insert that RGUAR into READ.
19 Happen to search for a legacy (7)
BEQUEST - BE = happen, QUEST = search.
20 River being shown? It’s not what you’d want to drink (6)
POISON - The River PO (in Italy) IS ON = being shown.
22 Praise X-ray as investment in unlimited health (5)
EXALT - HEALTH "unlimited" = EALT, insert X for x-ray.
24 Passionate on-line exclamation of disapproval (5)
FIERY - FIE! = exclamation of disapproval, is '"on line" i.e. on RY railway line.
25 Artist I’d upset about almost everything (4)
DALI - AL(L) inside I'D reversed.


( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Oct. 16th, 2019 05:48 am (UTC)
I agree with your assessment, Pip. A nice set of clues with a good level of challenge for a steady solve. I did wonder about ARTY = cultivated, then realised it could be "presented by cultivated" and would work just as well.

I liked the simplicity of POISON and EXALT, even though it took me a couple of readings to see them. An it's good to see astronomy getting another outing.

Thanks to you and the setter.
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:48 am (UTC)
Re: 39:23
Dear Mr. Starstruck

I found your 'Neutrino' most absorbing, which leads me to this:

I would assume that an Intelligence Quota of over 100 is required to complete the Times Crossword.

So, for example, is Mr. Magoo's IQ higher than mine?
With a 38 minute effort today, I would suggest it was. And everyday!

If you knew 100 person's IQ ratings and compared them to their MEDIAN 'nitch' rating over a year, might this make discernable that it is simply a matter of IQ (nature perhaps) or does crossword cunning (nurture) help?

Obviously the longer one has been doing 'The Times' helps. But there are also times when one forgets a particular 'convention' and suffers.

I note today our times are roughly similar but I would also guess that having seen your great work, you have a certain edge over Meldrew. However, I have been a this caper since about 1965!

Might you be able to further enlighten?

RE: Re: 39:23 - robrolfe - Oct. 16th, 2019 10:56 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: 39:23 - starstruck_au - Oct. 16th, 2019 01:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oliviarhinebeck - Oct. 16th, 2019 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Fluid intelligence - sawbill - Oct. 16th, 2019 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
RE: Fluid intelligence - 84801442 - Oct. 16th, 2019 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 39:23 - jerrywh - Oct. 16th, 2019 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
RE: 39:23 - 84801442 - Oct. 16th, 2019 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 39:23 - starstruck_au - Oct. 17th, 2019 11:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 16th, 2019 06:02 am (UTC)
32 minutes with TORQUE biffed from 'force', only to discover after the event that it's a necklace and 'force' is part of the wordplay.

I must have missed the discussion about AMER / American as I hesitated over it today and that probably accounted for just missing my half-hour target.

If I ever heard the word OUTDOORSY said, I hadn't realised it is actually a word.

Edited at 2019-10-16 06:38 am (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2019 06:05 am (UTC)
21:54 - with one typo.
Typo was in my LOI and COD- SPOILSPORT (Spoolsport).

Oct. 16th, 2019 06:21 am (UTC)
Finished but took ages to get torque, gainful, ineptitude, magnifier, rearguard, bequest, and loi fiery. Phew.

Cod laddie.
Oct. 16th, 2019 06:26 am (UTC)
Got ‘em all, though I NHO Mr. Webb nor the “necklace” sense of “torque” (and took the definition to be “force”).

Edited at 2019-10-16 06:29 am (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2019 07:30 am (UTC)
Celtic necklace

Oct. 16th, 2019 07:40 am (UTC)
18:53 … I stalled a bit mid-solve, but it wasn’t too hard to find another foothold in this. Nice stuff.

The name Webb as a Channel swimmer rang the faintest of bells, though Sarah Thomas, mentioned in the blog, didn’t. Now I’ve looked her up, I’m in awe.

COD to LADDIE for having me completely baffled at first, then slowly making sense.
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:10 pm (UTC)
Do you remember Captain Webb safety matches? Not as common as England’s Glory or Swan Vestas, but they were certainly around in the days when I smoked (which must be over 30 years ago, come to think of it). Anyway, they kept the good captain’s name as part of general knowledge.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Oct. 16th, 2019 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sotira - Oct. 16th, 2019 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 16th, 2019 07:42 am (UTC)
35m 53s
I don't see how IMPROVISE = PULL TOGETHER. Sorry.
Thanks for explaining NOMADIC, Pip.
I had to look up Sarah Thomas. What an amazing feat!
Many years ago a Scottish Duty Officer I worked under at Gatwick was fond of referring to young whippersnappers like me as 'LADDIE'!

Edited at 2019-10-16 07:44 am (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:11 am (UTC)
Pull together
I took this to be the way one sometimes has to pull things together at short notice, e.g. a fancy dress outfit, or customs arrangements, that sort of thing.
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:09 am (UTC)
I Amer: yet what I Amer none cares or knows...
40 mins
No dramas.
Mostly I liked: Gainful
Thanks setter and Pip.
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:28 am (UTC)
Harry Tate
38 minutes, so the roll I’ve been on is slowing down. I too went for PRIVATE MEDICINE until NOMADIC put me right. I biffed TORQUE as a force and didn’t return to see why it was right for all the wrong reasons. I did manage to parse INEPTITUDE. I liked AT A LOW EBB, SPOILSPORT and LADDIE. I too couldn’t really see IMPROVISED as pulled together, but I guess a cobbled-together arrangement is improvised. My Dad would refer to one such as a proper Harry Tate arrangement, after a music hall entertainer I’ve not heard of, but apparently still cockney rhyming slang for ‘state’. Thank you Pip and setter.

Edited at 2019-10-16 08:29 am (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2019 09:03 am (UTC)
Re: Harry Tate
My dad also used to refer to a Heath Robinson improvised mess as a Harry Tate job -- but he also used CRS "getting into a right two-and-eight" for "state". As a kid I loved the Heath Robinson drawings, and, like you, had no idea who Harry Tate was, until now.
RE: Re: Harry Tate - boltonwanderer - Oct. 16th, 2019 09:33 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: Harry Tate - robrolfe - Oct. 16th, 2019 11:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 16th, 2019 08:54 am (UTC)
26 minutes
No problems but not easy to make progress without solving something else first. I realise that I biffed AT A LOW EBB and ROYAL. COD to POISON.
Oct. 16th, 2019 09:01 am (UTC)
On the Webb
Captain Webb for many years had his very own box of matches (Bryant & May and Collards). (How did he keep them dry!?)
So us ex-smokers know all about him and thus 27ac did not put me AT A LOW EBB.



COD and WOD 10ac OUTDOORSY with music from the Tommy Dorsey Orchetra perhaps?

Edited at 2019-10-16 09:03 am (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2019 09:15 am (UTC)
31 mins and mostly good entertainment, though marred a little for me by a few MERs. I missed the 'Amer' discussion and so found that a little unsettling early on. Then my eyebrow moved ever so slightly at ILL=ailment in 26a: 'ill' would have to work as a noun? I bunged in TORQUE recognising that it is both a force and a necklace but I simply couldn't see the wordplay. Now that you've explained, Pip, I'm MER-ing madly at tore='removed by force' -- that would require an adverbial particle (tore + off/down/away). And what's happened to the verb 'vie' in Crosswordland? How can its grammar have drifted so far that it's possible to use it as a synonym for 'contest' (vb)?
I liked the misdirection of 'on-line' in FIERY (my LOI).
Thanks for your blog, Pip.
Oct. 16th, 2019 09:52 am (UTC)
ILL is in the usual sources as a noun meaning 'disease' and Chambers actually specifies the word 'ailment'.
Oct. 16th, 2019 09:30 am (UTC)
Stalled briefly a few times during this solve, but got there eventually. Once again off to a flying start with SIDE, DATUM and OUTDOORSY, although the Y only went in when I looked at 5d and realised I was a letter short. Another TORQUE biffer with the wrong end of the definition here. Liked LADDIE. MER at IMPROVISED until I thought of it in the sense of cobble together. FIERY(good misdirection) and REARGUARD were my last 2 in. 32:27. Thanks setter and Pip.
Oct. 16th, 2019 10:15 am (UTC)
Nice one except that it's left me with the Bluebells Of Scotland (oh where and oh where has my highland laddie gone etc) on the brain. DNK Capt Webb I'm sorry to say. Anglo-Saxon TORQUEs or torcs seem to be ploughed up by farmers now and then in East Anglia. 17.18
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