Times 28809 – on this day alea iacta est.

Another pleasant but not very demanding puzzle; even if you didn’t have the GK required, the wordplay was clear. I finished with NEWLYWED, in 15 minutes. Argentine contango, anyone?
2,072 years ago today, the die was cast, and there was no looking back.
161 years ago today, the first London Underground train ran. I hope they’re still running today.
Definitions underlined in bold, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, anagrinds in italics, [deleted letters in square brackets].

1 Time to abandon HGV and dismiss carrier (8)
RUCKSACK – [T]RUCK, SACK = dismiss.
5 Writer crossing key expanse of water (6)
BALTIC – BIC a pen, a writer, insert ALT a key on keyboard.
9 Long tapering rod with copper point (3)
CUE – CU = Cu, copper, E a point of the compass.
10 Chap, European, with ginger group, doing good (11)
BENEFACTION – BEN a chap, E[uropean], FACTION a ginger group, an active faction inside a political party, such as the ERG.
12 Left to hosts the last word in singing technique (10)
PORTAMENTO – PORT (left) AMEN (last word) TO.
13 Fellow attorney’s notes at conclusion of work (4)
CODA – your CO-DA would be your fellow attorney.
15 Set of signs originally observed in parts of Cadiz (6)
ZODIAC – (CADIZ)* with O]bserved] inserted.
16 Exciting accommodation for Cockneys by river (7)
ROUSING – R[iver], ‘OUSING where Cockneys live, innit?
18 In French art, a seabird from Asia, perhaps (7)
EASTERN – ES (as in tu es, thou art, in French), insert A, add TERN.
20 Clear case first of investigators dropped (6)
PATENT – case = PATIENT, drop the I.
23 End of novel this writer’s not previously recorded (4)
LIVE – [nove]L, I’VE = this writer’s.
24 Aromatic oil from metropolis endlessly attracting Reagan and Fitzgerald? (10)
CITRONELLA – CIT[Y], RON (as in Reagan), ELLA (as in Ella Fitzgerald, best jazz singer of all time IMO).
26 Laying out tenner, I grew a woodland plant (11)
27 Chinese philosophy Hogarth regularly encountered, going back (3)
TAO – hidden, reversed, alternate letters, as above.
28 Terrible-sounding US politician’s jewelled headband (6)
DIADEM – DIA sounds like DIRE, DEM[ocrat]. A royal headband, directly from the Greek διάδημα  meaning band, as you’d expect.
29 Able to extend sentence served by youth leader (8)
STRETCHY – STRETCH = prison sentence, Y[outh].
1 Directions for making dish ready to eat around City (6)
RECIPE – RIPE = ready to eat, insert EC the City of London postal district.
2 Guerrilla leader overwhelming European port for so long (7)
CHEERIO – CHE (Guevera, as usual), E (European), RIO (de Janeiro).
3 Underwater crewman’s regular payment, one grabbed by literary miser (10)
SUBMARINER – SUB a regular payment, MARNER (Silas Marner, miser in eponymous George Eliot novel), insert I for one.
4 Supercilious criminal going down (13)
CONDESCENDING – CoN[vict], DESCENDING = going down.
6 Mischievous Mike pulling out of parade (4)
ARCH – MARCH loses M for Mike.
7 Capital journey round Long Island (7)
TRIPOLI – TRIP (journey) O (round thing) LI (Long Island). I nearly biffed Nairobi but couldn’t explain why so re-thought.
8 Study dance, a former Stock Exchange procedure (8)
CONTANGO – CON = study, TANGO a dance. To do with futures and commodity prices, see Wikipedia if you’re dying to know more. I didn’t know it had stopped being a thing that happened.
11 Best possible prediction, but it makes us tense! (6,7)
FUTURE PERFECT – If the future was predicted as perfect, that’s the best possible; the future perfect tense in English would be e.g. “I shall have done tomorrow’s crossword by nine o’clock”.
14 Support woman torn apart by decade attached to church (10)
SUSTENANCE – SUSAN (as in Mrs piquet) is our woman, insert TEN and add CE for Church of England.
17 Possible bride’s day at Cornish resort? Not quite (8)
NEWLYWED – NEWLY[N], almost a Cornish fishing port, WED[nesday].
19 A vehicle principally noted in South Africa’s grasslands (7)
SAVANNA – A VAN N[oted] inside SA for South Africa.
21 Like a river: nothing to do with the ears (7)
NILOTIC – NIL = nothing, OTIC = to do with ears. Like the Nile, presumably.
22 Lad carrying American tool unknown in German state (6)
SAXONY – AX (American spelling of axe) inside SON, add Y an unknown number.
25 Old monk’s sleeping-place at end of compline (4)
BEDE – BED + E the end of compline. I don’t know much about said Bede except that he was Venerable.


67 comments on “Times 28809 – on this day alea iacta est.”

  1. As the blogger said, a nice easy puzzle which I finished in 17:10.
    i know for sure the trains here in Frankfurt are not running and it‘s -6 outside.
    Thanks setter and blogger.

  2. After my disaster yesterday I was pleased to finish this in 28 minutes.

    I was slowed down a little towards the end by CONTANGO which I thought was unknown to me, but a quick trawl through the archive reveals that it last appeared in the 15×15 on 12th September 2021 when I wrote this which apples almost exactly to my situation today:

    NHO CONTANGO and it seemed unlikely, so having thought of it early from wordplay I delayed writing it in until all the checkers arrived and fitted the idea. I was quite surprised after the event to find that it was correct. It has come up once before today in a 2019 Jumbo but that was before lockdown when I started doing the Jumbos every week.

  3. 13:17
    I didn’t have the GK, and it wasn’t too demanding. DNK HGV for starters, so biffed (once I had a checker or two). DNK ginger group [on edit: I think it showed up here once, come to think of it; which I didn’t], and biffed BENEFITTING, but tossed it soon enough. DNK PORTAMENTO or CONTANGO. DNK NEWLYN. Never read Silas Marner, so it was some time before I let go of Scrooge and recalled that Marner was also a tightwad. The FUTURE PERFECT is actually an aspect; English doesn’t have a future tense, just past and non-past.

      1. Well two actually, “simple” future – I will do it, and future perfect – I will have done it. Plus 3 past tenses and a present one.

        1. English has two tenses, past and non-past (or ‘present’); ‘will’ is the non-past form of ‘would’, do, have, done have no tense.

          1. Kevin: I was never formally taught English grammar, but many of my Czech friends were. They cite three tenses (present, past, future) with four aspects for each (simple, perfect, continuous, perfect continuous) and, unlike me, they can rattle off a series of twelve examples. I can’t claim any specialist knowledge here, but please can you help me out? What’s the basis of your assertion, and, specifically, how do you categorise a current concern of mine, namely ‘This evening, I shall go to a concert’? I accept that that’s a plan for the non-past, but it rather feels to me that the statement is in a future tense.

          2. That may be true from a strictly linguistic perspective (although there is far from universal agreement on that) but from a purely practical point of view it is rather more helpful to consider English to have three tenses (past, present, and future) and four aspects (simple, continuous, perfect. and perfect continuous). To many of us that makes 12 distinct tenses.

            And I find that is especially useful when trying to learn another language (I am currently working in five different European languages) or helping other nationalities to improve their English.

            Edited to add that it looks like Normo and I were typing at the same time!

  4. Smooth sailing all week so far. NILOTIC was a bit of a surprise here, but it didn’t slow me down, and I’m not sure I’d ever heard of CONTANGO either, but no sweat.

    Meant to look up “ginger” before now (and that was hours ago!)…

  5. 38m 02s
    The second late Mrs P was a Susan, too, Pip! ‘Twas her who started us off with Poodles!
    I stared at 17d: _E_L_W_ _ for ages before the Pfennig dropped.
    I also had BENEFACTORS in 10ac for quite a while, too.

    1. I happened to notice the time with only 17d to go. I stared at it for 7 minutes before being put out of my misery by my wife.

      1. Seems a bit severe for merely failing to answer a clue. Nice to see you’re still able to blog from beyond the grave!

  6. 18:05

    Fairly comfortable though was missing a few bits of GK – guessed CONTANGO, feel I’ve heard of PORTAMENTO, DNK ginger to be a particular sort of FACTION, DNK the plant, but saw GREEN in the grist and conjured WINTER from the rest – the pencilled-in checkers certainly helped. Liked SAXONY but like several others so far, NEWLYWED was my LOI.

    Thanks P and setter

  7. 24 minute with LOI NEWLYWED. I brought forth the royal DIADEM just before that. Hymns are always a rich source of info for me. I knew CONTANGO, but I’d be hard pushed to tell you what it was, so I’m pleased it’s gone. PORTAMENTO was unknown but the instructions were clear. COD to CITRONELLA. for all the Ella ear worms today. This was at my level, and thus very enjoyable.Thank you Pip and setter. Cue Every Time We Say Goodbye.

    1. It hasn’t gone, as Wikipedia confirms. As long as futures contracts exist, the possibility of a contango exists. Just be grateful it wasn’t backwardation!

      1. Many years ago derivative contracts were part of my everyday life, and I never heard the term CONTANGO. As Wiki says it just reflects normal conditions so I’m not even sure why it needs a word.

        1. My old Dictionary of Banking defines contango as the charge made by a stockbroker to a speculator for “carrying over” a stock transaction until the next settlement day. It also says a “contango day” is the first of the three days of the stock exchange settlement, when a speculator must decide whether to settle on day 3 “Pay Day” or have it carried over.
          I don’t know what current practice is although short selling (and buying) appears rife still.

          1. Chambers has something similar. I suspect it’s a very old and obsolete meaning, stock trading has all been electronic for years.

    2. Almost ( not quite!) exactly what you said, BW, but NEWLYWED was almost my first in (visited friends in Newlyn a few years ago, where he taught Art to a town renowned for its artist community!).

  8. About 15 minutes.

    Had to hope that the unknown CONTANGO was right; hadn’t heard of Newlyn but with the checkers NEWLYWED was clear; was unfamiliar with the term ginger group as a faction in BENEFACTION; both WINTERGREEN and CITRONELLA were unknowns but were easy enough to construct; hadn’t realised that SAVANNA can be spelled without an H at the end; and had heard of PORTAMENTO as a musical term without knowing what it was.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Cue
    LOI Contango
    COD Coda

    1. SAVANNA is standard, “savannah” the variant. Not that setters need bother about that.

  9. Is anybody else getting a bug on the Crossword Club version of the app? Every letter I enter goes into the top left hand corner today!

    1. Hi Chris, have you tried deleting and reinstalling the app? That or clearing web cache is usually the fix for that kind of issue.

  10. 50 mins. Struggled a bit and not helped by a) banging in BENEDICTION making 11d impossible and b) convinced this was a pangram, looking at QU- – -N-N-E. No chance!
    Once the p dropped re PATENT, I relooked and saw SUSTENANCE and the PERFECT part of 11, I then saw the FUTURE so to speak. All of which added ages to the clock.

    NILOTIC is a very weird word. I liked CITRONELLA best.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  11. 10:59. Held up for a couple of minutes at the end by my LOI, NEWLYWED, struggling to think of the Cornish resort, which I though most likely to start PEN. Wrong! Thanks Pip and setter.

  12. Everything in after 33 minutes with no dramas. Unfortunately I didn’t have a wife to point out the ‘obvious’ in 17d so it was left blank.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  13. 28′ no slip-ups today. NILOTIC was the rotter that had me going, then I remembered OTIC from another crossword a while ago. LOI was PATENT, though. Rather ungenerous wordplay I thought, there.

    COD – DIADEM as it paid off Harry Potter knowledge (Ravenclaw’s lost diadem!) as well as having a nice soundalike.

  14. 24:53
    I mostly raced around the grid (well for me) but I spent the last 5 minutes or so on CODA/CONTANGO/ROUSING/SUSTENANCE.

    On those, CODA should have been a write-in but for the remainder I was distracted by our friends from East London. I know you just remove the H from the start of a word but “for Cockeys” always strikes fear into my heart, as by the way does a certain Mr Spooner. Not my favourite clues.

    A few unknowns (PORTAMENTO, WINTERGREEN, NILOTIC, CONTANGO) but all well-signposted and the checkers were helpful.

    Thanks to both.

  15. Has anyone noticed that NEWLYWED looks Welsh rather than Cornish? Anyway, that accounted for around 4 of my 17 minutes: I’d have been less bamboozled had our editor and setter graced it with the hyphen Chambers gives it. Otherwise a Quickie-ish solve, with the slightly weirder words in my compass:
    PORT AMENTO on the west coast of Italy
    CONTANGO danced by the impressively lithe Angela Rippon in Strictly
    CITRONELLA in panto in Bognor Regis
    WINTERGREEN cabbage
    BEDE creator of the rosary

  16. 22′ which is a good time for me. For a change a couple of my pet-hates (musical terminology and random plants) fell quite easily from wordplay. NHO NILOTIC but clueing was generous. CONTANGO rang a bell from somewhere and anyway couldn’t be much else from crossers. LOI NEWLYWED, where I was lucky in trying to work NEWQUAY into the equation (never having heard of NEWLYN) before answer popped up. Also didn’t parse DIADEM, until I find here that dia=dire; well, maybe in your world! Thanks Piquet and setter.

  17. Another quick but enjoyable one, no unknowns though would not want to explain the meanings of some, eg contango or portamento.
    Oil of Wintergreen a component of surgical spirit, never knew it was a woodland plant.

  18. 30 minutes. Most done in 22 minutes, but I stumbled over 17, 28 and 13 (CODA) which took me ages.
    CONTANGO was unfamiliar but the wordplay was straightforward, and PORTAMENTO was only vaguely familiar. Tentatively entering L for the first letter rather delayed getting RECIPE, which I should have got immediately from the definition.

  19. No particular problems. CONTANGO was known, although goodness knows what it means — I just knew it was some Stock Exchange thing. NILOTIC I’ve come across before in crosswords. PORTAMENTO known: singers talk about it. Something to do with their technique, but don’t ask me to elucidate. WINTERGREEN took a long time to come and needed lots of checkers: not really all that well-known I should have thought, and clued, as it shouldn’t have been, by an anagram. 25 minutes.

    1. I don’t like unusual words clued as anagrams – unless they’re unambiguous after crossers, which I thought this was. A simple compound of two plausible words, seems fine to me!

  20. Today is obviously ‘national clue unfamiliar words with easy wordplay day’. Probably the exact opposite of what I like in a crossword. Eight sub-80 puzzles in a row on SNITCH – there has to be a stinker coming?

  21. Plenty of NHOs, or barely HOs. All mentioned above. However, very fairly clued, so no real hold ups. There must be some stinkers due – that’s 8 completions on the bounce and all under 20 mins. Uncharted territory.

    PATENT was LOI.


  22. 24:49 with about 10 mins on LOI NEWLYWED.

    I tried to find a synonym for blushing but there wasn’t one and YELLOWED didn’t cut the mustard. In desperation I was about to enter BELLOWED when actually thinking of BILLOWED, somehow imagining how a meringue wedding dress on a windy day might be caught by the wind and …. I will stop there.

    Finally the answer revealed itself.


  23. In agreeance with Rinteff and hopkinb above, it must be ‘clue unfamiliar words with easy wordplay day’. Same unknowns: contango, portamento, Newlyn, and ginger as a faction; and had forgotten what HGV was. Knew wintergreen as a melon, LOI with a shrug newlywed.
    Did like stretchy, though.

  24. 19 mins, mostly done in 10, but DIADEM and NEWLYWED held me up for ages. A lot of NHO’s but mostly fairly clued.

  25. 6:26. I started slowly on this (CODA was my FOI) but accelerated considerably on the downs.
    I don’t remember seeing PORTAMENTO before. I do remember ‘ginger group’ and CONTANGO from past puzzles, never encountered IRL.

    1. Certainly a rare appearance of PORTAMENTO, but it has turned up a couple of times before in ST puzzles, most recently in August 2022 when it was defined as ‘playing with a slide’. I tend to think of it more as a trombone direction than a singing technique so I’d say today’s clue was quite tough.

      1. Not that it matters but that’s a Saturday puzzle: I didn’t comment on it but I must have solved it, so it’s obviously just something I’ve forgotten. The only other instances seem to be a club monthly and an ST puzzle from 2010.

      2. Pretty sure you can portamento with almost any instrument, including the voice – and timpani! It’s just a direction to slide continuously between one note and the next. Bit of a struggle on a keyboard instrument therefore…

  26. Also 22 minutes, and as others skating here and there on thin ice but only contango was a real unknown and it was more than likely. Don’t care much for the ginger group definition.

  27. 26 minutes. I didn’t know what the ‘ginger group’ was all about and thought PORTAMENTO and CONTANGO were both new, but it turns out they were forgotten instead. I did remember NILOTIC though which was reassuring. I liked the surface for CONDESCENDING; serves him or her right.

  28. I’d have expected ‘newly-wed’ to be treated as hyphenated and clued as (5-3). Would certainly have been a lot easier to solve! Both versions seem to be in use but I suppose unhyphenated is the more modern style.

    1. I imagine the hyphenated version is quite common as an adjective placed before the noun, and the non-hyphenated version more usual for the noun.

  29. A steady solve finishing in 39.35, although held up at the end by foolishly putting in SAVANAS for 19dn, making my LOI DIADEM unsolvable before seeing my error. Never heard of CONTANGO but fairly clued so no problem.

  30. 23:02
    Another pleasant stroll. Getting ready for the stinger tomorrow or Friday.
    Thanks, p.

  31. Several NHO’s but all clued in a way that the answers weren’t in doubt.
    LOI DIADEM after getting NEWLYWED

  32. A speedy sub 20 for me and I live in hope I might beat brother Dvynys today …

    Slight hold up with NEWLYWED but otherwise plain sailing.

    Thanks Setter and Pip.

  33. Trains definitely running between La Rochelle and Paris. I’m on one. Finished in 15’15”. Found it pretty straightforward, with a couple of successful guesses. CONTANGO I think I’ve seen here before; not PORTAMENTO. SNITCH remarkably consistent over last few days. Many thanks.

  34. 17.51, with a few bits where my brain clearly wasn’t quite awake (tried to justify NAIROBI instead of TRIPOLI, took me much too long to twig PATENT, and so on). The ‘ginger group’ stalled me for a while, and I was wavering between the equally-unknown CONTANGO and DENTANGO until I thought of a BIC as the writer.

    Thanks setter & Pip.

  35. Very easy (27 minutes), of course with NEWLYWED as my LOI after a bit of an alphabet trawl improved by a bit of thought. CONTANGO never heard of, but it couldn’t be anything else. For 21dn I started off with NILETIC, then remembered what OTIC means and decided NILOTIC seemed more likely anyway. The ginger group was as much a mystery to me as it was to just about everyone else, but it didn’t hold me up.

  36. Having not started the puzzle until after 4pm, and finding that I’d completed most of the top half in under 4 minutes, I was expecting to be way down the leaderboard and out of the SNITCH again, but to my surprise, even though I slowed in the bottom half, I finished at 69 Dudes! RUCKSACK was my first write in, then everything just flowed. I remembered PORTAMENTO from a recent puzzle. CONTANGO seemed likely from the crossers, WINTERGREEN fell out of the anagrist and crossers and CITRONELLA jumped out of the wordplay. SAXONY took a bit of thought, and LOI, NEWLYWED took a bit more cogitation. 12:38. Thanks setter and Pip.

  37. 20:16 Very fast for me,; I can’t remember the last time I finished in a time corresponding to a date in the past.
    NHO PORTAMENTO or CONTANGO, but both generously clued.
    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen WINTERGREEN in a woodland, but am familiar with the oil as the flavour of Euthymol toothpaste.

    Thanks Piquet and setter

  38. Trains are running from Charing Cross (he typed from the train). To my astonishment I finished this, and did so in only 17:19 despite not knowing all the things which most other people seem not to have known. Ergo, this was indeed an easy puzzle.

    Many thanks Picquet.


  39. Like Templar also typing from the train from Charing Cross and finished in a barely believable 29m35s. Also like Templar didn’t know most of things other people didn’t know. Going for a lie down in a darkened room as even finishing is usually an achievement. Wish Southeastern was this benevolent more consistently.

  40. Dnk but worked out contango and the ginger group thing. A challenge to me but all ended well.

  41. Too tired and too late to spend forever on the last clue, 17D, so used aids. Was looking for a day first and a resort second, so thought of Wed, but not Newlyn. Otherwise, an enjoyable solve of some very abstruse words – NILOTIC, CONTANGO and ginger group all NHOs. Also never thought of a DIADEM as a headband. Oh well, onward and upward… Thanks, Pip and setter.

  42. 15.35. A proper game of two halves. After a first run through the across clues I had three answers.
    Turned to the down and they dutifully fell into place which opened up the across very nicely.

    Struggled with rousing and sustenance both of which I liked as clues.
    Thx setter and blogger.

  43. Same NHOs as others, namely CONTANGO, and NILOTIC, (but the latter generously clued), vaguely heard of PORTAMENTO (no idea what it means), and NHO the HGV or the ginger group. But all round, this was my best effort for a few days now, and only failed on three, with PATENT the one really holding me up.

Comments are closed.