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Solving time 8:44

POLYMATH at 15 is a good word to have in the Times crossword, but the definition, "one high in intelligence" isn't quite accurate, and illustrates a common misconception about the puzzle. High intelligence certainly helps, especially with quick solutions, but it's not a requirement. Neither is "great learning". A reasonable level of intelligence and varied learning are what you need (oh, and bags of practice...). Classic quote (A P Herbert?) "there are some very stupid people who can do it very easily, and many fellows of the Royal Society who cannot do it at all". Samples from yesterday: Erastus=theologian, Oates=conspirator, Telford=engineer - the details of their doctrine/plot/constructions are not required. Today's words for beginners to remember: IDE and MIG.

1A(C,CO(M)P)LICE - the arrested male is held by a COP
12WEATHER STATION - very apposite anag.
14MAT,RIX="ricks" as in hay ricks. Nice deception about the type of mould.
15P(O)LY,M,AT,H - slightly off def'n (really "person of great and wide learning") compensated for by surface meaning...
17RED,GIANT - Giant was the last of Dean's films.

1A(R)GO - Jason's boat when looking for that fleece
2CON,SENT=archaism for 'elated'
3MERETRICIOUS - anag. - today's lesson for me was the precise meaning and spelling of this word - an interesting etymology. Look it up - go on, you know you want to ...
7COR(SIC)A(l) - had minor trouble with this island a month or two ago but xwd section of brain screamed it out today
8BEHIND HAND is how you (sorry, "one") might yawn.
11LAB,YR(IN)THINE "your double" = yr., thine
13EMERY CLOTH - rev. of H,to,L,C(lums)Y,REME - the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who you have to remember along with RE=Royal Engineers (who appeared on Saturday). Very irritating as I'd guessed EMERY PAPER and had to scrap it
16(c)AN'T ELOPE - a bit of time wasted with a crass guess at UNGULATE with a vague hope about a reversed GNU at the beginning.

Indie 6250 (Phi) - 5:24
No theme here, just consistently good clue-writing. If Phi looks here from NZ, he may be fed up with seeing his carefully crafted puzzles wolfed down in 5-6 minutes. He and I share much in common - born about a year apart, and both into classical music - though older stuff for me than he. That and the fact that I've been solving Phi puzzles in the Listener and other places for years makes them (usually) easy for me. His puzzles are far better than these times might suggest to you. "Cretan Bull" in his Labours of Hercules series has a guaranteed place in my "Desert Island crosswords" list, and I was suprised not to see this as his sample puzzle in the recent Azed book.

Azed 1,795
Tackled late last night. Soon gave up any hope of a non-dictionary solution. Just over 40 minutes in the end, with several kick-self clues that I should have got with less agonising.

Church Times 875 - Roy Dean
Roy sent me this in the post - sadly too late for me to point you to it on the paper's web-site where the current puzzle is visible for free (under "Humour and Crossword"). This series edited by Don Manley is one of the best puzzles you can get for nothing, if you don't mind some religious references. Although it's a C of E paper, these are fairly catholic as you can see from "Missile landing on Messina wrecked church service" (10,4). (I suspect you could work Medina into a similar clue, but that might be too controversial!)

23,426 - fairly easy for a Saturday

Solving time 9:21
(Well, easy for me - I'm pretty sure this was the single puzzle during my holiday for which I managed to beat Mr Magoo by the odd minute - he beat me on all the others, though not quite by as much as the 6 mins to 16 the other day.)

1BUCK,O - not sure when 'bucko' was up-to-date slang...
4REP,UBLICS=anag. of club is
9CON,SC,I.O.U.'s - with "is on to him" indicating that SC = special constable is next to CON = criminal
10TAHOE - anag. of a hot, E = English. Lake T is a resort in the US, which I vaguely remembered for an ultra-marathon race held there (no I don't do that kind of thing - 26m 385y was enough for me even when young and fit)
20R.E.(the good old Royal Engineers),ACTION
23PUPIL = rev. of (s)lip-up
25PORT,S(AL)LUT - probably my least favourite French cheese, at least in the plastic-wrapped orange-skinned version sold in supermarkets.
26ER(A)SE - Erse = old name for Irish (and maybe Scots) Gaelic

2C,INN(A)BAR - an ore of (Google pause...) mercury
4ROOK - hidden word, &lit.
8SP(EED)Y - the river Dee rising in look=spy
13NEER-DO-WELL - put NEED = requirement next to ORWELL=Blair, and 'promote', i.e. move up, the R=royal. (Eric Blair was George Orwell's real name. Various other literary pseudonyms are Times xwd fare, notably Acton/Currer/Ellis BELL for the Bronte sisters.)
15M(ANT)ILL,A - that black lacy thing that Spanish ladies wear, originally to go to church.
16DEM(ocrat),ARCH,E - a Démarche is a political manoeuvre - the linked Wiki article is recommended even if only to tell you how to say the word.

New York Times Sunday 22 Oct - Linkletter art by Harvey Estes
In the interest of making this my most polymathic entry ever, here's one from the plane home, syndicated in the IHT. The grid features an unmissable central H made by black squares, and some grid entries next to it without clue numbers. It turns out that various clues use this H to substitute for an H in the appropriate position in the answer, continuing in the un-numbered bit on the other side - e.g. MAKEST/block/EMOSTOF. Team-solved with Mrs B - an entertaining hour or two spread over coffee bar, gate and plane. Probably a letter or two out at an awkward crossing, but that's not unusual for me with US puzzles. Memorably groan-worthy clue: "Hockey game starter, often (7)". Tried for ages to make FACE-OFF or (something else)-OFF fit, but the right answer is OCANADA - put a space in the right place for this to make sense...

Community update
We now have a team of seven, probably covering one day each including the Sunday Times puzzle, and two people on the subs' bench. Some of the team will not be able to post until the UK evening, due to work commitments or location, so on some days you'll have to be patient. Team members should not regard this epic post as some kind of gauntlet.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:08 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, there were so many bear traps in today's puzzle that it's no wonder I couldn't get past half-way (mainly the top half).

6A: "Something some cuts and bites start?": (S)NIPS
24A: "Wild activity over in playground": YARD (DRAY rev.)
26A: "Husband takes fish skin": H+EEL
1D: "Old boat taking a turn around river": KURA (ARK around U rev.)

I'm not saying they're better or even adequate answers, but they were enough to put me off.
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)
Hoping you don't mind, and that I'm not missing some better justification for these, reasons not to write them in:

(S)NIPS - you need a more explicit reason to ditch an S.
YARD - "wild activity" is way too vague for dray = squirrel's nest
HEEL - can't see how this = skin
The river KURA: like Bridgend yesterday, your geoography is too good! Azerbaijani rivers are not something you need to know.
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:43 pm (UTC)
not something you need to know?
You say with such abandon that we don't need to know Azerbaijani rivers -- yesterday's Herald (oct 26) expects us to know Uralic languages!

'"OK, stay away" from foreign language'(6) for OSTYAK (which to my mind should be a yak from East Germany).
Oct. 27th, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: not something you need to know?
A tricky one! Assuming the checking letters were O?T?A? or ?S?Y?K, it should have been fairly easy to identify the potential anagram. With the possible exception of 'astyok', the right answer looks like the most convincing choice. An alternative clue - maybe an anag. of STAY inside OK - might have made it even easier to be sure of the right answer. With KURA, giving you an obscure answer to find and expecting you to find the right kind of three-letter boat is, I hope, more than the Times xwd ed would expect. An extinct bird flying up and swallowing an R might have done the trick - MOA and AUK seem like the only options.

Although Azed's book shows that there are some good people setting at the Herald, and its puzzle is free at , I'd like it more if the editing was just that bit "tighter". One puzzle I tried a few weeks ago seemed to use a lot of very familiar ideas, so for those without a big "clue memory" it's probably more fun than for me. But I freely admit to judging puzzles very harshly when I know I can rely on papers like the Times and Indie for consistent high-quality puzzles.
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: not something you need to know?
>An extinct bird flying up and swallowing an R might have done the trick - MOA and AUK seem like the only options.

What about the river CO(R)R in Ireland (I didn't know it but it's a likely guess and turns out to be true...)
Oct. 27th, 2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: not something you need to know?
Forgive my delusions of grandeur - I'm imagining myself as a Times xwd ed and you as a champs contestant pleading your case for an alternative answer that makes you all-correct and quick enough for a place in the final (forgetting whether checking letters allow the alternative to fit, never mind my microscopic chance of being xwd ed of anything).

I would check my dictionaries carefully and then say politely but firmly that extinct and legendary are not the same thing, and that I'd expect the Times solver on the bus/train to remember that the roc is a legendary bird. But I'd also have to admit that this clue should not have been printed, as it's only the great auk that's actually extinct - other auks are alive and kicking. Which is why we need xwd editors, and why overhasty quick solvers may not be right for the job ...
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
Fast times
You won't like my time again today I'm afraid; I seem to have hit midseason form with sub-5m (just) both today and yesterday, and also earlier in the week; lucky to know immediately the spelling (though not derivation - thanks) of MERETRICIOUS.

In some ways the two weeks I subbed for you were very strange for me - consistently about the same time rather than the variation that's more normal, with not one sub-five-minuter there. But of course it's all down to the puzzle that comes up...
Oct. 27th, 2006 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Fast times
I claim to mind less than you might think, but you don't have to believe me ...

By the way, although the new contributors are under no obligation to give times for puzzles they're not reporting on, I'll continue to give my times for all the puzzles to get a puzzle-to-puzzle comparison.
Oct. 27th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Fast times
Sub-5 for today is obscene, Mr M. When are you doing the drug test?
What would you be like if you could see properly!!!

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )