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Times puzzle today

A quick intro:

This blog, if I keep it going, will tell you how long it took me to do the Times crossword, and include brief notes about some of the clues. If you also solve the Times puzzle, you should look at this blog AFTER your daily go at the crossword. The entries will assume that you have access to the puzzle and the answers. Convention in comments about clues and answers - anything in CAPS is part or all of the answer as opposed to the clue. If you want access to the puzzles and can't get the paper itself, you can sign up for the Times Crossword Club - a service run by the Times that gives you access to their various crosswords. You can find it here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,252,00.html (Googling for "Times Crossword Club" should also get you there if the link 'rots'.) Current rates are £10 a year for a basic service, £25 for 'premium'. The club is not perfect but seems to offer better value than other similar sites from other UK daily papers.

As a rough guide to what my solving times mean about the difficulty of a puzzle:
  • My personal record: 3:00
  • Very easy puzzles: up to 6 minutes - under 5 only happens a few times a year
  • Easy: 6-8
  • Average: 8-11
  • Difficult: 11-15
  • Very difficult: 15+
If I have two or more puzzles over 30 minutes or not finished in the same month, I worry whether they're getting harder or old age is catching up with me.

Disclaimer: I don't usually bother to check the answers the next day, so there may be a few times when my solution is wrong. I promise to own up when I know that I've made a mistake, or find out later.

Puzzle no. 23,149 - Dec 2, 2005

Solving time: 10:20

Trickiest clues: 14A, 13D, 20A. Eventually unlocked by finding capital = QUITO in 13D.
5D was also a bit tricky - "former" in a clue with stuff about priests and religion suggested PRIOR rather than the PAST that I needed.

Bits worth remembering for the future:
4A School committee = PTA
15D Isaac's boy = ESAU
4D Whip = CAT (o' nine tails)
17D Moved stealthily = STOLE

Last couple of puzzles:
23148: 19:35 - it took roughly 6 minutes to work out ABEDNEGO as the "fire survivor" after finishing the other clues.
23147: 4:11 - quickest since an absurdly easy puzzle back in April reduced my record time by about half a minute.