28210 Thursday, 10 February 2022 Lovely Riita?

Land’s sakes, we have ourselves the entire alphabet, in a puzzle which achieves the impressive feat of not looking as if it’s trying too hard. I was hampered by a rash of typos throughout, pushing my time to a steady 23.54 including a very necessary post solve check. The only slightly forced word I spotted was at 28, a comparative form of a word that I don’t think really has one, no better as an agent noun. There are a few words which might challenge the vocab of some, but by and large they’re all kindly enough clued and reasonably guessable.
All is explained below with instances and diversions. The clues are in italics, the definitions underlined, and the SOLUTIONS in big, bold letters.


1 In a way, stole on to a train, perhaps (6)
ABOARD Your stole is a (feather?) BOA, to be placed in A R(oa)D for a way. The definition is slightly marred by “to”, as “on a train” is correct, but then the surface would suffer.
5 The high road is my comfort zone (8)
CORNICHE I’ve driven along the one in Monaco, it’s a good way up and the views are spectacular: a coast road built into a cliff-face. My is here an exclamation: pick COR! as an equivalent, add NICHE for comfort zone
9 Holding fire at first, annoy NCOs in fighting force (5,5)
RIFLE CORPS The first letter of Fire held in RILE for annoy. CORPS is slightly cheeky for the plural of the abbreviated corp.(oral)
10 Passion of Cook to secure uniform (4)
FURY Pick FRY as your method of cooking, insert a NATO Uniform.
11 Silver edge on unknown herb (8)
AGRIMONY Silver is AG (Ag for purists), edge is RIM, ON in plain sight and Y for your unknown. Clever of the setter to anticipate the NHO reaction of some of out solvers.
12 Fugitive avoids a long stretch of tarmac (6)
RUNWAY Simply RUNAWAY without one of its A’s.
13 One whose brother cheated him out of cheese sauce (4)
ESAU Kindly setter gives us a “hidden” for those who blench at Bible stories. In cheesE SAUce. Jacob was the cheating brother, stealing Esau’s birth right (a big deal) as the elder twin in exchange for a helping of lentil stew.
15 Cockney house landlord not finishing simple meal (8)
OMELETTE We all know Cockneys drop their aitches, so ‘is ‘ouse ‘ere is an ‘OME. Landlord is LETTER, add it “not finishing”.
18 Old Irish prison officer round with very good wishes (5,3)
MAZEL TOV Hebrew/Yiddish for “good fortune/luck”.  The old (Northern) Irish prison is/was the MAZE formerly Long Kesh, also known as the notorious H-blocks during the NI troubles, and used for political and terrorist prisoners. Now redeveloped as a peace centre. Add LT for officer (Lieutenant) O for round and V(ery).
19 Court giving prison (4)
QUAD a simple double definition, one short for quadrangle, the other one of many slang terms for prison. This may actually be a homophone (“giving”?) as I can only find this second meaning spelt as QUOD in Chambers, though Collins is more lenient.
21 One poor black moth (6)
BEGGAR B for black, and then assume EGGAR is a moth, not Samantha. It is.
23 Charlie moving about, working for firm (4,4)
CAST IRON Charlie gives C via cocaine, moving about is ASTIR, working is ON. Respace.
25 Very cold, losing free energy (4)
ZING So very cold is FREEZING, lose the free. Last seen on 26th January, slightly more bafflingly clued as “go, free from Baltic”
26 Suffering insomnia at the pictures (10)
ANIMATIONS Ah, our first anagram (suffering) of INSOMNIA AT
27 Drop a stone? One’s required to cut weight (8)
JETTISON Decent surface. Stone is JET, a form of lignite best found in the gift shops of Whitby. One’s gives IS which is “cut” into TON for weight.
28 Opening measuring device, finally place extra fitting (once) (6)
MEETER The last letter of placE is inserted (opening) into METER for measuring device. Meet means fitting, as in the Book of Common Prayer: “It is meet and right so to do”. I’m not sure Cranmer would have recognised the comparative.
2 Given heart transplant, start living (5)
BEING Start with (as) BEGIN, transplant the G at its heart to the end.
3 In idle moment, raise lute to play (2,7)
AT LEISURE Our second anagram (to play) of RAISE LUTE.
4 Make up rubbish chapter as academic (6)
DOCTOR I think this is make: DO then the reverse (up) of rubbish: ROT and C(hapter). I’m open to alternative suggestions.
5 Seem truthful, but have police record? (5,10)
CARRY CONVICTION  Two definitions, the second mildly whimsical.
6 Repaired, and as good as new, time having moved on (8)
RESORTED A somewhat quaint meaning of repaired, here derived from good as new RESTORED with the T(ime) moving a little along the word.
7 Solvent, cut off daughter and son for a laugh (2,3)
IN FUN An expression for solvent (as in not bankrupt) is IN FUNDS. Remove the D(aughter) and S(on)
8 In lab reheat revolting brew (6,3)
HERBAL TEA Anagram (revolting) 3, of LAB REHEAT. Mrs Z is prepared to try anything but your actual tea in a brew, I am more inclined to include the word revolting in the definition.
14 Cocktail with twist, and something to eat? (9)
SNAKEBITE Took a while to see this, but only because I had a mistyped A as the first letter. Twist gives SNAKE, something to eat BITE. Lager and cider in (probably roughly) equal measure. See my comment above on herbal tea
16 One’s opening book of Bible, absolutely excellent (9)
EXQUISITE The book of the Bible is EX(odus) absolutely is QUITE, insert IS for one’s (see 27ac)
17 Top actors touring African country and missing a series of films (4,4)
STAR WARS Top actors are STARS, here surrounding RWANDA, the African country “missing” AND.
Apropos nothing in particular, this from Twitter: ‘Fun little trick in the Sunday New York Times crossword yesterday: the central theme clue was “The better of two sci-fi franchises”, and regardless of whether you put Star Wars or Star Trek, the crossing clues worked.’ We are not so teased here!
20 Flying insects perhaps so equally affected by heat (6)
ASWARM Descriptive of flying insects, and (just) AS  WARM for equally affected by heat.
22 Cut to performance reversed (5)
GIGOT A leg of mutton, and a reverse of TO and GIG for performance.
24 Powerless to attack cat (5)
OUNCE To attack is POUNCE, take away the P(ower). Any of several large cats.

65 comments on “28210 Thursday, 10 February 2022 Lovely Riita?”

  1. Didn’t notice it was a pangram until the last word went in, so no use again. Yes, the herb was unknown, but parsed well. The cocktail in 14d had to be ‘screwball’ as the screw fitted the twist, but what kind of ball would be edible? Meatball perhaps? Until it wasn’t. And it took a while to see how lovely Rita MEETER made sense.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 03:15 am (UTC)

  2. Progressed fairly steadily, although POI ZING took some time, as did LOI SNAKEBITE (DNK). I hesitated over QUAD because of the spelling, but decided that QUOD could be spelled with an A. I imagine Z’s parsing of DOCTOR is correct, but couldn’t the setter have written ‘Make rubbish chapter up’? And does 20d work? Flying insects could be A SWARM, but not ASWARM.
    1. I took the definition to include “so” (thus). It isn’t necessary for the wordplay.

      Edited at 2022-02-10 06:15 am (UTC)

      1. I don’t see that that helps: the garden could be aswarm with bees, but the bees couldn’t be aswarm. (I was wondering what ‘so’ was doing, and still am.)
        1. Ah, yes, thanks… The confusion no doubt comes from ASWARM’s being synonymous with “swarming,” and the fact that “swarm” can also mean to move or assemble in a crowd, “to hover about in the manner of a bee in a swarm.”
        2. Lexico and Collins online agree with you, aswarm an adjective meaning full, crowded. Chambers might let the setter off – they have the word as an adverb in my paper copy. They allow: “The bees were flying aswarm” or even just “The bees were aswarm”.
  3. Very tricky, many clues harder to parse than to guess. Steady progress to the end with only a question on REPAIR/RESORT. POst-solve I see Chambers has Repair: to resort; and Resort: To repair both with the inferred meaning of “to go”. NHO/forgotten eggar or meeter, but they had to be. Remembered gigot and agrimony from past puzzles.
    Liked IN FUN and JETTISON,
    COD to ASWARM.
    I vaguely remember the NY Times crossword pre-revealing the presidential election results one year; BUSH and GORE perhaps? No, 1996 Google tells me: a Nina across one row could read CLINTON ELECTED or BOB DOLE ELECTED, depending on which synonyms you chose for 7 down answers.
  4. A slow 72 minutes but happy to have made it home in one piece. AGRIMONY was one of my first in, thanks to having appeared elsewhere recently. I couldn’t parse IN FUN (stuck on chemicals) and the ‘moth’ at 21a and my LOI QUAD for ‘prison’ were new. Favourite was the ‘extra fitting (once)’ def for MEETER.

    I (or rather my taste buds) had the same idea that the def for 8d could be ‘revolting brew’. Maybe ‘In’ is some sort of weird anagram indicator? No, not likely.

    Good to have the pangram. Here’s hoping for a double one day.

  5. FOI 8dn HERBAL TEA always in the afternoon — still on the M&S cinammon and gingembre Christmas Special.

    LOI 25ac ZING! Used to drink Morning Zingers in NY.


    WOD 11ac AGRIMONY another infusion


    Edited at 2022-02-10 05:59 am (UTC)

  6. …with QUAD not being written (though guessed) nor the Irish prison in MAZEL TOV parsed for QUITE a spell. I did thoroughly enjoy this, and only found my admittedly leisurely pace to be frustratingly slowed in the SE, with MEETER (yeah, would it have been said that way, then?), EXQUISITE and (“Oh, so I guess it has to be…”) QUAD, finally. (Though it’s probably been seen here before, of course.)

    To mimic Cockney speech, we substitute apostrophes. But the O in “home,” aitch or no aitch, isn’t the same as the O in “omelet”—not anywhere I know of, that is…

  7. I ran out of steam on this one as the hour approached.

    I knew MEET = ‘fitting’ from the Book of Common Prayer but never considered MEETER = ‘extra fitting’. As far as I can see MEETER with this meaning isn’t actually sanctioned anywhere in the usual sources but it’s there as ‘a person who meets’ in common usage these days in ‘meeters and greeters’ so it’s odd the setter didn’t go for that meaning instead. Especially as the clue stands out for its clumsiness in an otherwise excellent puzzle.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 06:30 am (UTC)

    1. It’s archaic, but I would expect that it would have taken -er and -est like most monosyllabic adjectives. Still didn’t care at all for the clue, mind you.
      1. From Henry V:
        You cannot revel into dukedoms there.
        He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,
        This tun of treasure, and, in lieu of this,
        Desires you let the dukedoms that you claim
        Hear no more of you.
          1. Yes I did it at school and university but I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I remembered this. I googled it, of course!
        1. That must be the bit with the tennis balls, in which case you might remember it – just.
  8. I thought this was a very good puzzle and not far outside my average time. Didn’t notice the pangram.
    I did think MEETER was pushing it a bit, though.
    I lived in Jeddah for a couple of years and, there, the CORNICHE is right by the Red Sea so I wasn’t used to the idea of it being a high road..
    I liked CAST IRON and MAZEL TOV but STAR WARS gets my COD because of the clever way the setter disguised the need to delete ‘and’.
  9. Good stuff here, ending with ASWARM and MEETER.

    As for the sci-fi pop culture debate, no contest as far as I and concerned: Star Wars (at least, the first two episodes made) wins hands down.

    You don’t need to be a fan of anything spacey to enjoy Galaxy Quest, though, and watch the great Rickman and Sigourney Weaver hamming it up. Even Tim Allen is bearable in this.

    1. I think (hope) you mean fourth and fifth. Mind you I wind up my youngest (an avowed Star Wars nerd who uses the word ‘canon’ in connection with it) by calling them the first and second and pretending not to know what he’s talking about when he mentions the prequels.
      Galaxy Quest is brilliant.

      Edited at 2022-02-10 09:20 am (UTC)

    2. Galaxy Quest, one of the GREAT films. Even in such illustrious company I thought Tim Allen did well, though you have to remember he is supposed to be a William Shatner clone … not a high bar.
      Never give up, never surrender!
    3. Have I mentioned before that I have never seen any incarnation of Star Wars? And I never even heard of Galaxy Quest before today.
  10. I found the SW corner hard, since I wasn’t sure about the moth, and I don’t thing “one poor” and “beggar” are really the same thing. And I was looking for a real cocktail, which SNAKEBITE is not. I gave up and went for SPACETIME the only thing I could see that fitted. It’s certainly a cocktail (of space and time).

    I lived near Nice for years. And there are three corniches between there and Italy. Only one is the high road. There is one that is the middle road. And, like in Jeddah apparently, the low corniche (basse is right at sea level.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 07:53 am (UTC)

  11. 38 minutes with LOI GIGOT only vaguely known. COD to CARRY CONVICTION by a short head from CORNICHE. MEETER took some parsing after biffing it. I’d no idea about the moth, but ventured B for Black and with the E and the R saw the poor beggar. I surprised myself by thinking of AGRIMONY before constructing it. I parsed the RIFLE but not the CORPS. Toughish puzzle and I think I got a bit lucky.Thank you Z and setter.
  12. Or poorest of the beggar-clan

    After 30 mins, I had -A-E-/T-V left and had no clue. Good grief.
    Several crosses against this one: ‘ome, quad, meeter, doctor, resorted, aswarm. All a bit dodgy, I thought.
    Thanks setter and Z.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 08:10 am (UTC)

    1. I agree about all those, and in addition a MER that RIFLE CORPS is not really a “thing” unless you are a student of USSR WW2 history.
      Although Wiktionary has MEETER as comparative, but also admits it is based on 1913 Miriam Webster.
  13. As I’d accidentally entered the wrong one (also my LOI) but noticed in my post-solve check pre-submit.

    NHO AGRIMONY and knew CORNICHE was a word but not what it was (I thought a type of car). Also NHO QUAD as a prison and did not parse STAR WARS (just assumed there would be some African country that worked).

    Surely SNAKEBITE is not a cocktail – looking at the definition it should have a spirit. I remember drinking red witches (cider, pernod, blackcurrant juice) a long time ago.

    1. I think COCKTAIL is being used in its sense ‘combination of diverse elements, esp one considered potent’ (Collins 3).
  14. This was a crossword of two halves for me, the top half going in quickly before I ground to a halt in the bottom half. ANIMATIONS, which I thought an excellent clue, particularly held me up as did my LOI SNAKEBITE. I had thought of “side” for something to eat and came close to convincing myself there was a cocktail called a Stateside (sounds plausible) but I held back when I couldn’t justify the “state” part of the answer.
    I’ve often liked the idea of HERBAL TEA but any I’ve tried have invariably been revolting. I’ll stick with the English Breakfast.
  15. 9:48. A steady solve. I had most of the required knowledge — even EGGAR and AGRIMONY rang bells — but not QUAD as a prison so that was my last in. MAZEL TOV came up a few months ago and I remember being surprised at the number of people who didn’t know it. I wonder how many who learned it there will have remembered it today?
    When the Z went in — I already had the Q — I thought this might be a pangram but I didn’t make any use of the possibility.
    Nothing wrong with 1ac, z. I stepped ABOARD a bus this morning and all the dictionaries include ‘onto’ or ‘into’ in their definitions.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 10:34 am (UTC)

  16. Didn’t get close to finishing this …except that when I started to use the Reveal button, I found that really I wasn’t that far away, tripped up by the obscurities and unknowns. I won’t go through the agonising details.

    Wasn’t feeling great about this, when I noticed some additional comments following my rather gloomy fail report yesterday – so I re-read that thread, and it improved my mood a lot. So thanks for all the kind and wise words – I now feel ready to hit the reset button, and get back to enjoying the challenge.

  17. Got there in the end, EGGAR unknown, MAZEL TOV clever, needed the V. After ‘Is’ recently and ‘Ex’ today, will have to learn all the variant abbreviations for Bible books.

    24′ 40″ thanks z and setter.

  18. I liked this one, not for purists maybe but I enjoyed it. I did see it was a pangram for once, but no help since I was mainly held up by failing to spot the anagrist at 26ac; so animations went in with a bit of a shrug..

    MEETER reasonably common once in certain circles.. “Ld. Tennyson Poems: This is lovelier and sweeter, Men of Ithaca, this is meeter, In the hollow rosy vale to tarry.” Walter Scott a fan, too.

  19. DNF gave up after 40 minutes completely bewildered by mazel tov. Spent what seemed like a lifetime trying to uncover some Gaelic phrase to fit . By the end my frustration was summed up in thinking pogue mahone to Thursday in the hope of a final success on Friday.

    Even though I’d heard of mazel tov, I still wouldn’t have known that was the spelling.

    Enough bitching , good puzzle, tough but- in the main- penetrable. Thx setter and blogger.

  20. Had a small advantage at 18ac, having been deep inside Long Kesh at the height of The Troubles. But that’s a story for another day.

    Found the rest of it challenging and witty. An excellent workout.

  21. That reminds me I saw the first one in a tiny fleapit on Nantucket with a hole in the screen and ASWARM with small children. Much of it failed to register, accordingly.
  22. I was baffled by QUAD but it couldn’t be anything else and I’m glad others were the same. Some of us of a certain age cannot think of ESAU without hearing the voice of Alan Bennett in Beyond The Fringe. I’d forgotten (mercifully perhaps) that SNAKEBITE was a drink and tried to do something with spareribs for a while until dawn broke. There is a delicious lamb recipe called “GIGOT qui pleure” and Edwardian ladies wore blouses with puffy GIGOT sleeves – there are photos of my grandmother in such garb. 21.53
    1. I was about to say that I knew them as … and then I couldn’t remember what I always knew them as. Leg-of-mutton sleeves it was.
      I saw ‘Beyond the Fringe’ about 60 years ago–not the original cast–and the sermon has stayed with me all those years.
  23. 49 minutes, with checker used for MAZEL TOV, which I shouldn’t have needed because the setter had clued a tricky (?) phrase with good sound wordplay, also I won’t have known it when it last came up but had forgotten it by now. For MEETER I went with Suzie Dent, who would have allowed it on Countdown because it’s the comparative of a single-syllable word.
  24. Much more challenging today. Certainly harder than FOI ‘Aboard’ led me to anticipate. LOI ‘Resorted’ took quite a while. Much to enjoy, though. I particularly liked ‘Mazel Tov’, my COD. Although I’m also partial to a ‘Gigot’ d’agneau.

    Thanks Setter, and Z for the entertaining blog.

  25. Tricky one, but no real excuse for taking so long over ZING when we’d had the same idea so recently. GIGOT was new to me (or, more likely, it’s been in dozens of crosswords and I’ve forgotten it every time) so that was my finishing pair.

    I couldn’t figure out what was going on with MAZEL TOV so just had to hope I’d spelled it correctly – phew.

    CORNICHE is lovely and I didn’t parse it at all.

    12m 57s.

  26. I realize Ex is short for Exodus but couldn’t the clue give an indication that we’re just looking for the abbreviation? I’m new to this so wonder if it is just accepted that the short form and the thing itself are the same?
    1. From my memory – not the world’s most trustworthy instrument – it is very unusual for books of the Bible to be thus treated. You get your HOSEAs and ESTHERs and ACTS quite commonly – since they are convenient for setters wit their letter patterns – but this does seem to be setting a bit of a dangerous precedent. Ps and Pr and Ma and Jo, anyone?
  27. There was lots which wasn’t at all obvious, but none of it was ungettable, so the wordplay has to be marked as perfectly fair in my book. For instance, my LOI was QUAD, where the prison meaning was totally unknown to me; but when you already have QUA_ and adding the D matches up with one definition, you feel pretty confident of constructing the missing knowledge. Plenty to enjoy, anyway.
  28. Ran out of time but doubt if I would have got MEETER, QUAD or BEGGAR. I liked CARRY CONVICTION and OMELETTE but was not so keen on DOCTOR.

    Odd to think of SNAKEBITE as a cocktail. Wouldn’t think there would be much call for it at the Ritz.

    Thanks to z and the setter.

  29. I found that tough, and struggled over the line with MEETER and ASWARM last 2 in after starting with BEING and ABOARD. I prefer to draw a veil over the struggle in between! 46:46. Thanks setter and Z.
  30. Laughable for anyone to consider SNAKEBITE as a cocktail. Cocktail suggests a fancy drink which doesn’t include drinks served in a pint glass.

    Had to painstakingly piece together the SW to get all of the checkers before disbelievingly typing that in.

  31. ….in the SE quadrant. I was totally static for 3 minutes at least, but then alpha-trawled QUAD, which led to EXQUISITE. I’d considered “meteer” for 28A quite early on, and should probably have nailed it sooner.

    TIME 16:03*

    * My average SNITCH time slid back for the fourth month in succession, and is over a minute and a half slower than it was last August. I need to sharpen up, and performances like this one won’t help.

    Edited at 2022-02-10 04:46 pm (UTC)

  32. Apparently I was quite lucky to get through this in 30 minutes. I slowed down significantly in the bottom half.

    My love for American shows and films, especially those from in and around the general New York area, helped with MAZEL TOV; I think I last heard it during a re-watch of the New Jersey-based House, though it might’ve been Brooklyn 99.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t have put in QUAD/”quod” so confidently without it having come up here in the past, and struggled with ZING even though I think I’ve seen the idea before.

    I also struggled with the idea of anything that normally comes in pint glasses being called a “cocktail”, though I suppose the phrase “a cocktail of drugs” would probably cover the SNAKEBITE and black I used to drink in Coventry pubs back in my student days!

    Edited at 2022-02-10 05:10 pm (UTC)

  33. Very much enjoyed that challenge, and judging from remarks was lucky to finish with a goodish time. Nothing that wouldn’t give after a bit of mental push, but the mental push was definitely needed. Some I failed to parse — like doctor and jettison. Mazel Tov fell after I got the V of conviction. How many three-letter words ending in V are there? Lev as a name. Guv. So it had to be something foreign. Didn’t know snakebite wasn’t a cocktail, so that didn’t worry me. Eggar – never heard but an easy guess. Meeter – well the setter did add (once), so we could guess it was an archaism. What is that bit of C of E liturgy , something about it being meet and right so to do….?
  34. I’m feeling a bit of a shower,
    As I struggled for nearly an hour
    The pangram I knew
    And it helped with the Q
    But my grey cells are losing their power 😟
  35. This was a nice puzzle, although I was very slow in the SE corner.
    Resorted reminds me of the folk song “Spencer the Rover” :
    With the night coming on to the woods he resorted
    With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make
    But he dreamt about crying, lamenting and sighing
    Go home to your family and rambling forsake
  36. 25.07. DNK eggar or the prison meaning of quad. Struggled to parse doctor and resorted. Snakebite not my idea of a cocktail.

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