28078 Thursday, 9 September 2021 Stuck in reverse

The first word in this crossword grid gives a hint of what is to come, a veritable cornucopia of reverses, backing, turning, upward motion and the like almost persuading me it would be advantageous to do the thing upside down and back to front. I don’t think I’m mistaken in seeing rather more of the technique than we usually see.
Otherwise, not a terribly tricky offering with some kind if rather verbose cluing, especially in the across clues. I’m hard pushed to spot the word or words that anyone will complain about, though Morcombe is known better in the UK than elsewhere. But hey, you’ve seen it before in this parish.
I ticked over in 18.20, and especially appreciated the marital drama at 24.
My results are presented below, with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS
1 Character‘s upset about what’s in magazine, taking it the wrong way (8,5)
INVERTED COMMA Upset is INVERTED, the about gives just the C this time (Circa) and AMMO is what’s in a magazine (not the paper sort). AMMO is reversed (the rather verbose “taking it the wrong way”).
8 Epicure avoids stuffing, surrounded by paper plates (4)
FEET The definition is CRS, plates of meat. Epicure has all its stuffing removed, leaving just the two Es, and the paper Is the F(inancial) T(imes).
9 Dealer’s opening boat business — we’re told it could occupy a lot of space (4,6)
DARK MATTER Thought to account for most of the mass of the universe, but no-one to know what it is. Difficult to observe directly (it’s dark) it hasn’t been yet, but it must be there to account for the way the rest of the universe works. I’m willing to bet it’ll turn out to be a boojum. Here it’s Dealer’s opening D, plus ARK for boat, plus business giving MATTER. Chambers gives business: a matter requiring attention.
10 Loaded from forklift initially, pipe secured by worker (8)
AFFLUENT So the worker is an ANT, enclosing the front of Forklift (initially) and FLUE for pipe.
11 Concerned with ousting bad smell from fish tank component (6)
TURRET Start with TURBOT for fish, replace the BO (bad smell) with RE for concerned with.
13 One sudden movement leads to accidental cloudiness in decidedly pungent chemical (6,4)
ACETIC ACID One gives ACE and sudden movement TIC. Then add the leads (first letters) of Accidental Cloudiness In Decidedly. You know it as vinegar.
16 Cockney tramp overheard, one found among the reeds? (4)
OBOE Sounds like (overheard) the Cockney version of HOBO, for tramp. Would a Cockney ever use the term hobo, with or without the H?
17 Street which has inspired poet before an audience? (4)
MEWS My last in, a soundalike (before an audience) for MUSE, a poet’s inspiration.
18 US workers visiting old railway workshop (10)
LABORATORY With the US perfectly sensible habit of spelling -our words without the U, LABOR for workers, who are visiting, therefor AT and O(ld) R(ailwa)Y
20 Close jam factory in the end (6)
STUFFY You need to read close as in a cul-de-sac. Then STUFF for jam and the last letter (in the end) of factory gives your answer.
22 One gets depressed when entering capital (5,3)
SHIFT KEY Even as I write! An acceptable cryptic definition.
24 Consequence of Denise and Eric’s break-up? (6,4)
DECREE NISI I like this, as it’s pretty much an &lit. An anagram (break-up) of DENISE and ERIC, a critical point in divorce proceedings
26 First-class journalist backed assistant (4)
AIDE A1 for first class plus a backwards ED for journalist.
27 Cash allowance to be decided by beginning of week, ok to go back outside (8,5)
SPENDING MONEY Is there another kind? To be decided is PENDING, the beginning of week -um – W, the two bits enclosed in a reversed YES  for ok.
1 Fifteen new changes involving old chemical company that’s wasteful (11)
INEFFICIENT Those of us of a certain age will always think ICI for chemical company, and today it’s enclosed (involving) in an anagram (changes) of FIFTEEN N(ew)
2 Securing it, John turned key (5)
VITAL Yet another reversal (turned) this time of LAV, one of the many words for bog or loo of which John is an example. Secure IT (in plain sight) within.
3 Communist writer is correct (3-6)
RED PENCIL Not in my Chambers as such (others have it), but easily remembered from Skule Dayz, the usually illegible teacher’s marks on your lovingly prepared script pointing out your deficiencies. RED for Communist and PENCIL for writer.
4 Uneven grass in Morecambe (7)
ERRATIC ERIC Morecambe, beloved British comedy partner of Ernie Wise, arrives here presumably fresh from his divorce in 24. Grass is not reedy stuff but betraying RAT. Insert.
5 County constabulary tailed streaker (5)
COMET The MET are the Metropolitan Police, following a standard CO abbreviation for County.
6 Books, or book dropped into surrounding water — from this? (9)
MOTORBOAT You’re meant to envisage a library dumping scenario. Books are/is O(ld) T(estament), OR in plain sight, another B(ook) all inserted into MOAT for surrounding water.
7 Car part, left out for scrap (3)
AXE Scrap in its verbal form. The car part is an AXLE with L(eft) left out.
12 Green cornfield after ploughing you turned up to take in (3-8)
ECO-FRIENDLY I left this for final sorting until now, since everything was more or less there. It’s an anagram (after ploughing) of CORNFIELD contained in a reversed(!) turned up YE for you.
14 Military group occupying battlement ask for ceasefire (4,5)
TASK FORCE Likewise this one, only to realise it’s a simple hidden (occupying) in battlemenT ASK FOR CEasefire.
15 Daughter is in warm pants — that’s the theory (9)
DARWINISM Pants is the anagram indicator, D(aughter) IS IN WARM the fodder. Rather more observable that dark matter, methinks.
19 Good French wine is kept in stronghold (7)
BASTION Lift and separate carefully, or you end up trying to fit VIN rather than ASTI in for wine. It’s set in French for good, BON.
21 Regularly leaving by five, glad to make return (5)
YIELD Regular letters in bY fIvE gLaD leave.
23 Creativity in Belfast, potentially on the rise in school (5)
TRAIN N(othern) I(reland) ART might well be produced in Belfast. Here its on the rise , yes, really, reversed.
25 Birds initially ignored nuts (3)
ENS Nuts in printing are blocks of type creating space called ENS. The birds are HENS from which the initial is ignored.

69 comments on “28078 Thursday, 9 September 2021 Stuck in reverse”

  1. Easier, or at least faster, than it felt, although POI TURRET & LOI MEWS took a worrying amount of time. I finally just biffed TURRET, and alpha-trawled the 3d letter of MEWS; should have started at Z. COD to TURRET, but I liked the surfaces of COMET & DECREE NISI.

    Edited at 2021-09-09 02:54 am (UTC)

  2. A bit under 30 mins for me. Some nice clues with TURRET and MEWS holding out until the end for me too. I biffed INVERTED COMMA without trying to decode the wordplay (although I did spot the AMMO back at the end). Same for MOTORBOAT, ECO-FRIENDLY, which couldn’t really be anything else.
  3. 12:35 but at least I didn’t have any annoying typos today. I nearly did, I caught INEFFECIENT just before hitting submit. I found I had to piece a lot of these together before the penny dropped. I liked the clue for SPENDING MONEY.
  4. All done after 13 minutes or so, just one more square to fill in. One ^#&*$*& square!!! How hard could it be?

    Four minutes later it became obvious that the birds were keas, and EAS were an as-yet-undiscovered species of Amazonian nut and well, to be honest, I wasn’t even convincing myself at that stage.

    I’ll get it next time though, just you watch. Thanks Z and setter.

      1. Indeed! Keas are vandals! They strip things like the rubber from windscreen wipers and other areas of your car!
  5. I needed 43 minutes for this one including a full 5 on MEWS as my LOI. I was please to remember ‘nut’ = EN from the world of printing, but am now trying to recall what the other associated jargon word is.

    Z, I think we need ‘tailed’ underlined in the definition of COMET.

    Edited at 2021-09-09 02:55 am (UTC)

    1. That does give a more complete definition of COMET, doesn’t it? I had assumed tailed indicated the position of MET in the answer, which also works, but with less satisfaction. I’ll amend.
    2. Mutton and Nut (took me a long time to recall that pair from many previous mentions in blogs past, but got there eventually…)
      1. Yes, that’s the word. These two terms just will not stick in my brain so that they come naturally to mind the next time I want them.
  6. I was glad to remember the nut from previous outings and finish with ENS. Coming back to this clue, I thought I was going to end up as galspray did, looking to remove the first letter from a potential choice of birds. COD to TASK FORCE for being very well hidden to my eyes.
  7. Not just one spacey word — we have two!
    The COMET and DARK MATTER too
    Let’s AXE all the birds
    And use cosmic words
    Then my times will get better — woo-hoo!
  8. 19 minutes with LOI MEWS. I was slightly held up by biffing STINGY for STUFFY before the TASK FORCE landed. COD to TURRET. I really enjoyed this, but then you tend to when the answers come regularly but not too swiftly. 9a was not for SuperWIMPS. Thank you Z and setter.
  9. Major Highbrow-Reiss writes, ‘A mews, where falcons and kestrels perform their moulting, is not a street!
    It is decidedly not a thoroughfare. A mews is a mews! We are not amewsed!’ My LOI which ruined my time of 28 minutes by some five minutes! Mood most Meldrewvian!


    COD 20ac STUFFY. I would encourage anyone who has a moment, to visit a large jam factory. Hartley’s, Robertson’s, Tiptree, Bon Maman, Den Gamel, Hero etc for a jam session. Fascinating, very seasonal (closed in the winter) and fattening. I would imagine that Mr. Myrtilus has got all the tee-shirts!

    WOD 14ac DECREE NISI I have a couple stashed away somewhere.

    I note Lord Humblebrag is off the radar.

    Edited at 2021-09-09 07:12 am (UTC)

    1. I have never been to a jam factory. I’d like to.
      Unfortunately, you have reminded me of the Paul Weller fan who asked for a tattoo of “the bloke that fronts The Jam” — later to find that his tattoo was of the bloke off the Robertson’s jam. You know the one.
    2. Funnily enough, Mews Street is very close to where we used to do the Competition, running alongside St Catherine’s Dock.
      I did think of raising much the same objection, basing mine on the stables connection which most mews tend to have. But of the “10 prettiest streets in London” (obviously a definitive authority), no less than 3 are Mews: Kynance, St Luke’s and Warren.
      1. When is a lorry not a lorry? When it turns into a side-street!
        I’ll fetch me coat! Taxi for one!

        Edited at 2021-09-09 09:47 am (UTC)

      2. Thanks for the reminder of Kynance Mews Z. It runs behind the church in Eldon Road where I was christened centuries ago.
    3. Collins: “a yard or street lined by buildings originally used as stables but now often converted into dwellings”
  10. ….that it was National Pink Square Day. I’d have stayed in bed.

    Having already fouled up the QC with a typo, I again submitted with an answer missing (25D which I’d not even looked at) to make it a very poor effort.

  11. With fronts of brass, and Feet of clay.

    25 mins pre-brekker. I liked it. Some fun clueing.
    Luckily Nut is a chestnut. Mews needed an alphatrawl.
    I know red-pencil, but has anyone ever seen a red pencil? Isn’t that a crayon?
    Thanks setter and Z.

      1. Many years ago we (CDP) made a stop-frame ad, for Vymura, in a small studio in Marylbone.
        The address was Jacob’s Well Mews. We were there for a ten day shoot.
        Of all ten cabs I took that fortnight, only one taxi driver knew the location of — Jacob’s Well Mews.
  12. Thanks for TURRET and ENS, Z. Otherwise, straightforward for me.
    Re 18ac, I only found out a few months ago, having previously lived in Australia for a total of 15 years, that the Aussies spell the name of their left-of-centre political party as LABOR and not like the Brits and the Kiwis.
  13. My sort of crossword with wonderful surfaces. Thanks setter. Z in 20a STUFFY means ‘close’ (as in airless) and ‘shut’ in the surface. One of my many CODs.
    1. Indeed it does: I thought having stipulated the pronunciation of close required I had done enough, but given the comments I should have made the connection to airless and such more apparent.
  14. Taken out to over an hour by my last three in, ENS (I know exactly what you mean by that one measly letter, galspray!), MEWS and finally TURRET (unparsed), not helped by initially putting in “sticky” for ‘Close’ at 20a. Before that, BASTION was another roadblock until ASTI, that (not ‘Good French’) crossword standby for ‘wine’, rode to the rescue.

    Unusually, favourite was my first in, the ‘tailed streaker’ for COMET.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  15. Did anyone else put Sticky in instead of Stuffy? Kind of works, if you think of a close atmosphere as being one where you feel sticky. Luckily I saw the error of my ways. OED says the original mews were the royal stables in Charing Cross, so called because built on the spot where the royal hawks were formerly mewed (ie caged during moulting). Ultimately the root is the Latin mutare – change.
    1. Yup, STICKY stuffed me up good and proper too, especially as I then put TANK CORPS for 14d (don’t ask). It was getting MEWS that brought me back to the right path.
    2. I had sticky at first and was quite happy with it until the TASK KORCE arrived to put me straight.
  16. 12:41. A bit of a strange experience, with close to half my solving time taken up by a single clue. I was very slow to think of BO for ‘bad smell’ but embarrassingly even slower to think of lifting and separating ‘fish tank’, at which point the answer became blindingly obvious and I kicked myself hard. It’s not an easy clue but not that hard. I had been very close to giving up.
    Otherwise a nice puzzle, and my mood is bolstered by the unusual experience of actually spotting a typo when checking my answers.
  17. After 10 mins of staring at 17ac in bewilderment, I gave up. Unlike Jack, I just couldn’t see it. Now realise I had TUREEN Instead of TURRET too as I didn’t understand the parsing at all. Bah. Some very clever clues today like SHIFT KEY, INVERTED COMMA and INEFFICIENT, all of which took me a while to work out.

    Up until recently, didn’t MORCAMBE normally have a qualifier such as, say, or for instance,? I am sure there are other Morcambes out there who are not called Eric!

    Anyway, thank you Z an well done setter.

    1. I can’t think of another famous one though. Not that he was one either. His real surname was Bartholomew.

      Edited at 2021-09-09 10:28 am (UTC)

  18. Nice puzzle; as our blogger says, you had to do lots of holding the clues up to the light to get the bits the right way round and in the correct order, but a satisfying process. Spent quite a lot of my time remembering that meaning of “nut” from whenever the last time was, and almost certainly from several times before when I didn’t remember it.
    1. I remembered this meaning of ‘nut’ quite quickly, but then couldn’t remember if it was an en or an em so spent a bit of time worrying there might be a bird spelled ?EM.
  19. Another sticky here, which made the task force rather difficult, especially as I was working on the wrong literal. 24 mins in all
  20. I struggled to get started on this one, but eventually my plates of meat got me moving. I failed to get past can and loo whilst looking at 2d, and had to wait for AFFLUENT to make me think further until the LAV hove into view. INVERTED COMMA was eventually biffed once a few checkers were in. I managed to assemble the vinegar from its component parts and then shove the theory into place. TURRET arrived without too much angst, as I, unusually, manged to lift and separate correctly. Liked DECREE NISI and SPENDING MONEY, which left me doing an alpha trawl for ENS which I didn’t spot until I did a 4 letter trawl looking for birds. Fortunately HENS weren’t too far down the alphabet and I remembered the space. That left me with 17a, where I was suddenly inspired! 27:03. Thanks setter and Z.
  21. Started OK with FOI DARK MATTER – but never got to grips with the SE corner.
    – EN(S) (nor in fact NUTS in the sense here) were not chestnuts to me – onto the list of crossword-only words they go
    – spent ages on the DECREE NISI anagram to no avail
    – and I almost didn’t post due to the shame and humiliation – I failed to spot TASK FORCE as a hidden word clue. Is it true to say that every Times 15×15 has a single HW clue – is that a hard and fast rule? Maybe I need to put a HW check-box on my scrap paper.

    There were others – definitely not my day. Should have known what was coming after the so-called quickie took me over 20m…

    1. If you haven’t already seen this, this is a helpful blog post from Peter Biddlecombe on Times Crossword House Style:


      when in 2008 he stated:

      “Hidden words
      No more than one ‘pure’ hidden word clue per puzzle. (Reversed hidden words aren’t ‘pure’ in this context.) (Limits like this are for 15×15 puzzles – if there are limits for jumbos, I don’t know what the numbers are.)”

      But it appears to be (or at least it was in 2008) a maximum of one pure hidden clue for the 15×15, but not a minimum.

      Others might be able to correct me if the rule has changed.

      Certainly, it is worth testing a stubborn clue for a Hidden Word possibility – particularly if you have not, up to that point, found a Hidden Word clue during your solve.

      1. Thanks a lot – that’s certainly an information-packed page – so dense, in fact, that it deserves several read-throughs.


  22. FOI: FEET

    I very much enjoyed the wordplay in many of the clues today. Same old story though … a quick look at the grid before submission but not careful enough. I had previously considered ENS to be most likely, having half-parsed (H)ENS, for the birds. However, it was left blank for a return visit to try to fully parse, and I never returned! I now recall EN in printing terminology so a full parse would have been possible. As for MEWS, I had again vowed to return but it would have required a mental alphabet trawl and I’ll never know if I would have picked it up (one to remember, particularly as MEWS could also be used with an entirely different meaning in future clues).

    EDIT: Thanks to z8b8d8k and the setter

    Edited at 2021-09-09 10:48 am (UTC)

  23. The cerebral gears were grinding a bit, but this was a reasonably painless re-entry into Cruciverbia, after an over-indulgent and crossword-free week in the UK. (Still getting over the shock of seeing so many maskless people on crowded tube-trains).

    Lots of enjoyable twists and turns. SPENDING MONEY and SHIFT KEY both made me smile

    Thanks to z and the setter.

    1. Interesting: on my commutes I would say that over 90% of people are masked. Yesterday morning there were three unmasked in a reasonably crowded carriage and that’s the most I’ve seen.
      1. I don’t want to overstate it and 10% unmasked seems about right, though on one Victoria Line train at around 17.30 on Friday it was certainly more than that. But even 10% seems high to me. In a crowded metro carriage from Gare Du Nord yesterday there wasn’t one unmasked person. Anyone not wearing one would certainly attract comments from fellow passengers.
  24. Oh for a MEWS of fire – *e*s not being a very inspiring combination. I found this a very amusing puzzle with some nice surface stuff going on. 18.26 with a good chunk of that spent extracting the cobbled street from the alphabet.
  25. Very comfortable stroll and biff-fest, not bothering to parse at least three: INVERTED COMMA, AFFLUENT (partial), TURRET, ACETIC ACID (partial).

    ENS last one in once I’d trawled through likely birds.

  26. 29 mins todaywith last one in ens. An unknown but (h)ens was the only bird I could come up with. Another good puzzle. Thx setter and blogger.
  27. Very please with smashing my Personal Best. No aids or checkups.

    May have even been close to 30 without a very long analysis of LOI: E-S. I actually wrote out all 26 possibilities, and knew of EMS and ENS, and went with ENS on the basis of WRENS and PENS (female swans). Wrong logic, right answer.

    Plenty of Biffing, so now enjoying the blog.

  28. MER at MEWS being a street and the filleting of the TURBOT.
    I even gave ODOT a try at 16ac! But ‘Cockney Sparrers’ don’t drop their Gs, do they Guv’?
    At the masquerades of Versailles, Venice and New Orleans, masks were compulsory! How fashions change. COD DARWINISM Time 15:54 mins
  29. 57.34. Sheesh!

    My jam was a stick not a stuff
    This made 14 down rather tough
    I finally got mews
    Before blowing a fuse
    By that point I had had enough

  30. 15:21 late this afternoon and no pink squares!!
    Rather inconsistent solve on my part but dealing with reversed words and letters isn’t one of my fortes I’m afraid.
    FOI 8 ac “feet” recognising the CRS, then found it hard going until revisiting LOI and COD 1 ac “Inverted Comma”, where I had been totally misled earlier, looking for a sort of comic as in magazine.
    Thanks to Z for an entertaining blog and to setter.
  31. DNF by one letter, the middle letter of 25d. Did not see the ens, even with an alphabet trawl. DNK the printing terminology. This kept me entertained for an hour and a half. FOI oboe. Oh so slow thereafter, but gradually filled the grid, to my surprise. All of these clues exercised my brain cell, so no COD, they all get the award. Lots (seven) not fully parsed, so many thanks, Z, for the blog, and setter for the entertainment. GW.
  32. All good things must come to an end, and for me it was two of the shortest answers on the grid — Mews (should have got that) and Ens (possibly, but only on a very good day) that stopped this week’s run of finishes. Rattled (it’s a relative term) through 2/3rds of this earlier today, and picked up the paper to polish off the final 1/3rd in the SW corner after dinner, only to spend as long again not quite finishing. At least the pressure is now off Friday’s attempt. Invariant
  33. 15:56 Done a day late LOI SHIFT KEY. Some playful wordplay yesterday, I think. COD to DECREE NISI.

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