28234 Thursday, 10 March 2022 The chocolates with the less fattening centre

My usual blog night slightly slower pace saw nearly 26 minutes pass working out the wrinkles in this one. Some of the wordplay does indeed require more than the seasoned solvers’ knowing glance, and I enjoyed picking the bones out of, for example, 24 and 25 amongst the down (oops): across clues. I’m still not convinced I have the foodie 7d properly dispatched, and I rather expect the majority will pass over the actual wordplay with a blur filter cheerfully applied. All the letters are there…
My only unknown was the cloth at 9 – just lucky, I guess, but the clue left no room for any other order of the available letters. I shall now proceed to pasting my efforts into LJ in the hope it’s still available.
My clues are in italics, definitions underlined, and SOLUTIONS in bold capitals.
! Kinky games are not restricting one in relationship (6,1,5)
MÉNAGE À TROIS (Accents optional)  An anagram suggested by kinky of GAMES ARE NOT to include I (one). The surface of the clue, especially “kinky games” suggests the unconventional nature of the arrangement.
8 Happy to return ring on greeting nobleman (7)
HIDALGO The lowest class of Spanish nobility, equivalent to a British baronet, though baronets of my acquaintance would tend not to have the level pointed out to the rest of us plebs. Happy gives you GLAD, reversed (to return) with O for ring at one end and HI for greeting at the other.
9 Fabric close to crease in sail is coming apart (7)
SILESIA The only arrangement of SAIL IS plus the last letter of creasE (coming apart indicates anagram) that I could come up with. Silesia is a region now mostly in Poland, and for our purpose gives its name to “a thin twilled cotton or linen for lining clothes”.
11 Volume in electronic speech, not constant (7)
EDITION Electronic speech is whimsically E-DICTION. Remove the C(onstant)
12 Scots one flourishing at last in ram tethering (5,2)
TYING UP Scots one is (at least sometimes) YIN – Billy Connolly is “The Big Yin” for example. FlourishinG at last is G, the two to be in TUP for ram.
13  Sombre song for one gaining entry to cathedral city (5)
ELEGY ELY is the preferred cathedral city in crosswords. EG “for one” gains entry.
14 Get hollow pasta? This is different? (9)
SPAGHETTI There’s an &litness about this. GET plus hollowed P(ast)A plus THIS is different, so anagrammed. There is a form of spaghetti which is hollow, which I rather like, called bucatini, but spaghetti is normally solid, so different from hollow pasta.
16 Countries together resolve southern troubles (9)
UNSETTLES Countries together are (is?) of course the UN, resolve is SETTLE, S(outhern) gives you the concluding S
19 Scarcity will have 500 leaving planet (5)
EARTH First decide which end is the definition. Then take the D (500 in Roman) off the front of DEARTH, scarcity.
21 Maybe neon light moving left across city (7)
GLASGOW Rather cutely, a neon light translates to a GAS GLOW. Move the L(eft) across a bit.
23 Leaves drink after wasted meal (4,3)
HIGH TEA A drink made with leaves is TEA, and HIGH is wasted in the sense of intoxicated. Sequence correctly.
24 What might suggest our US causing destruction? (7)
RUINOUS The way this works that if you put RU in OUS your get OUR US, so we have a form of reverse cryptic where you are invited to make up the wordplay.
25 Speaker pretty terse before start of session (7)
TWEETER Pretty is TWEE, and TERSE before the start of SEssion is just TER.
26 Crusader emblem in sweet old ship rounding cape (7,5)
MALTESE CROSS A giveaway from the definition, but for what it’s worth the wordplay is MALTESER (a sweet now sold across most of the planet) plus O(ld) S(team) S(hip), the whole (sur)rounding C(ape)


1 One delivers in French south going about with iron (7)
MIDWIFE The MIDI is (honestly) the South of France contrary to appearances. For us, it goes about W(ith) and adds FE for iron.
2 Veto taking over year to satisfy one abroad (7)
NULLIFY Everything is reversed (taking over) here: Y(ear) plus FILL for satisfy plus UN for one in “abroad” which is France for most of us.
3 Weed reduced to powder smells occasionally (9)
GROUNDSEL A favourite of guinea pigs. Reduced to powder GROUND, and the odd letters (occasionally) of SmElL
4 Valuable sort perhaps Texan behind film (5)
ASSET In Texas (and in other States) ones behind is one’s ASS. The fill is the ever useful E.T. Mildly naughty.
5 Explorer, fairly short, drinking beer (7)
RALEIGH Sir Walter. Take fairly to mean RIGHT, and shorten it. Take ALE for beer and let the one “drink” the other.
6 Sound from egg on penetration (7)
INSIGHT Perhaps not the first meaning of penetration that springs to mind, but it’s OK. It’s the sound of egg on, INCITE, and nothing to do with noisy ova.
7 See wriggly insect served up in comfort food (12)
CHEESEBURGER MacD’s would have you believe that a 99p cheeseburger is a fine example of comfort food, but here you need comfort for the wordplay. The wriggly insect (larva) is a GRUB, reversed (served up), as is SEE. CHEER is comfort, and the only way I can make this work is if the two reversed words are place separately therein. CH-EES-E-BURG-ER. Open to offers. [Which of course duly arrived: “wrigglty” turns.SEE into ESE, and all is well!]
10 A member ran into criticism about arena (12)
AMPHITHEATRE A in plain sight. MP member. HIT ran into. HEAT criticism. RE about.
15 Bible book detailed in a movement that’s tasteful (9)
AESTHETIC Your Bible book is ESTHER, the only one which never mentions God. De-tail it, and insert into A TIC for a (n involuntary) movement.
17 Resilience enlivens European taken out in recession (7)
STAMINA It’s ANIMATES for enlivens without E(uropean), backwards (in recession).
18 Craft perfectly capturing upper-class country (7)
TUGBOAT Fun to work out. Perfectly is TO A T. Insert U for upper class and GB for country while it still is one.
19 Having lost identity Coleridge violated painter (2,5)
EL GRECO The numeration gives you a broad hint. Take ID(entity) out of COLERIDGE and then violate (anagram) what’s left.
20 Comes round to upping prices externally (7)
ROTATES TO “upping is OT, and prices are RATES, to surround the same
22 Rugby team is no more, I should add (5)
WASPS I initially thought this might be Wales, but no. Wasps play out of Coventry, wearing kit with variations on black and yellow. Is no more WAS, plus PS I should add.

56 comments on “28234 Thursday, 10 March 2022 The chocolates with the less fattening centre”

  1. The ‘wriggly’ goes with ‘see’ not ‘insect’ to give you ‘ese’ before the reverse of ‘grub’. Great blog — many thanks!
    1. Thanks: I was somewhat preoccupied with the question of whether a GRUB is an insect, which it is if the insect is in the wriggly stage of its life as a maggot or such.
  2. 39 minutes. For CHEESEBURGER, as per the comment above, I think ‘See wriggly’ = anagram of ‘See’ = ESE, + ‘insect served up’ = reversal of GRUB, ‘in comfort’ = contained in CHE[]ER. To be honest though, this was only parsed post-submission. When solving, near enough looked good enough for ‘comfort food’ as the def and I just bunged it in.

    I didn’t know SILESIA either, but it seemed the most probable option. I was close to a nervy before I finally saw AESTHETIC. Otherwise not too difficult and I enjoyed working out some of the parsing. Favourites were the RU IN OUS device and the ‘terse before start of session’ at 25a.

    Thanks to Z and setter

  3. I also liked RUINOUS best, once our blogger explained it for me. Thanks Z.
    1. I believe there is a connection with the Knights Hospitaller, an organisation that existed around the time of the first Crusade, which then became the Knights of Malta.

      Edited at 2022-03-10 07:21 am (UTC)

      1. But they didn’t use a Maltese cross at the time of the Crusades. I think the crusaders’ cross was the Jerusalem cross. At least that’s what I think Wikipedia says; I don’t know from crosses.
        1. What I’ve read in Wikipedia makes it more complex but this is what it says under “Maltese Cross”:
          “The Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades used a plain Latin cross. “
          If I’ve got this right the K.H. then went on to adopt the Maltese Cross.
          But as you say, I don’t know from crosses either.
  4. 55 minutes. Very few of these clues gave up their secrets readily and I really struggled with some of them. I had gaps in every quarter right up to the last few minutes of solving time.

    I saw CROSS at 26ac quite early on but took forever to come up with MALTESE. STAMINA at 17dn was my LOI.

    At 25ac I parsed ‘start of session’ as TER{m} which would have been a new departure in wordplay and I realised it wasn’t satisfactory. If I hadn’t been in so much difficulty elsewhere I might have spent more time thinking about it, but I knew that TWEETER was correct and that was enough for me.

  5. About 38 minutes for me, with most of the last 5 or 10 on the crossing UNSETTLES and TUGBOAT. But lots of fun misleading other stuff. I was sure TUGBOAT was going to be a country for way too long. I think it was Mark Goodliffe who said he was good at abandoning wrong ideas fast, but I hang on to them for way too long.

    In your intro, I think you mean “24 and 25 among the *across* clues”. If only because there are no 24d and 25d.

    1. I’m like the London policeman in Max Beerbohm’s parody of Kipling: “Not as ‘ow we ain’t fallible. Sometimes we makes mistakes. And when we makes ’em, we sticks to ’em.”
  6. Oops, you’re right, Z, I didn’t actually see the GRUB in the CHEESEBURGER. It was my LOI, or nearly…
    I really like MALTESERS. Anything malted…
    Smooth solve (basically clockwise from the NW), while not too easy.
  7. Fairly straightforward for me until the SW corner.
    Thanks, Z, for RUINOUS, which I wouldn’t have been able to understand without your blog, SPAGHETTI, MALTESE CROSS and GLASGOW.
    COD: TUGBOAT. When I saw ‘country’, and had a T at the beginning I just thought: TUNISIA.
  8. 45 mins
    Pretty good puzzle – it needed wrestling into submission; not many gimmes. Thanks, z.
  9. I think I was quite lucky to get through this in 34 minutes. I was oddly sure of SILESIA, and I think I’ve come across it here before as the region, so I didn’t cross my fingers too much when I bunged that one in. Enjoyed the “moving left across” in 21 and the device for 24 RUINOUS.
  10. 26 minutes, all correct but with RUINOUS and CHEESEBURGER unparsed. A pork pie or sausage roll is my idea of comfort food. The clatter and all-pervading smell of tomato ketchup makes McDonald’s anything but a comfortable experience, although after a week in Tokyo at a conference, I was delighted to find one on the free evening. I did get HIDALGO, a chap I knew best as a French footballer. COD to GLASGOW. Decent puzzle. Thank you Z and setter..
  11. I found it really hard to get going on this one – FOI ELEGY then a few near the bottom with MALTESE CROSS coming early. Almost gave up at around 20m with little progress, pausing to make some breakfast (fish balls with noodles in soup).

    Upon resuming, MENAGE A TROIS was immediately solved and made this look a lot more achievable, though I still found it heavy going and resorted to a fair amount of biffing (CHEESEBURGER and others) and finger-crossing (HIDALGO, SILESIA). Wasn’t convinced I was heading for completion until around 40m when COD GLASGOW led to fixing the SW corner, and left me with LOI TWEETER, entered half-parsed after alpha-trawling char 2.

    Phew! Feeling inordinately pleased to have arrived unscathed in 45:36 – off for a walk to help me digest the brekkie. Thanks z and setter.

    1. I’ve only just got used to fish having fingers; now you tell me they have balls as well? I need a lie-down in a darkened room!
  12. When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
    And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run…

    30 mins pre-brekker and what a joy.
    I had to guess the fabric and had a mini MER at pretty=twee.
    But lots of great clueing to enjoy.
    We have friends who told us their son was getting a Maltese Cross. This turned out to be a Maltipoo (a pyjama case/dog). I now answer the old riddle, “How do you make a Maltese Cross?” with … “Two dogs ….ing.” I think this is also the punchline to another joke.

    Thanks setter and Z.

  13. An excellent cruciverbial morning with the witty Concise and then this superb puzzle. 37 minutes for me. Thanks Z for explaining RUINOUS, GLASGOW, STAMINA and CHEESEBURGER, which I can now relish appropriately post-biff. And thank you clever and challenging setter for a hugely enjoyable test full of feints, misdirections and cyphers. COD among many candidates to RUINOUS.
  14. 8:17. I seem to have been on the wavelength for this.
    MER at ‘start of session’ for SE, rather than just S. Grumble grumble, slippery slope, where will it end etc etc.
    I had parsed CHEESEBURGER in the same way as z8 so my MER there turned out to be unwarranted.
    Fun puzzle.
  15. Liked this one, I didn’t find it difficult, but on the other hand there do seem to be several I didn’t actually parse before coming here..
  16. 19:57 I struggled a bit with this one and ended up with a few unparsed, so thanks for the explanations Z. All good stuff though. I loved MENAGE A TROIS and RUINOUS.
  17. Started well as MENAGE A TROIS was an answer in a puzzle from 2013 that I had practised immediately before opening this one!

    Unfortunately things slowed down from there and, in any event, my 18 min par time was all in vain as I had my pretty standard typo in there.

    Enjoyed it though – thanks z and setter

  18. Enjoyable puzzle. I don’t know much about crosses either, and spent a long time looking for a much more generic sort of sweet thing before the (toffee) penny dropped. Could quite fancy a bag of Maltesers now.
  19. Apparently caught the wavelength for this. Like others DNK the fabric but certainly recalled that there were a couple of Silesias that kept changing hands during the endless European wars a few centuries ago. There was also a joke that went – if this is Upper Silesia what on earth can Lower Silesia be like. 16.17
    1. Or the comment by the captain of the Welsh rugby team in an interview after having been beaten by Western Samoa: “Well, I’m just glad we weren’t playing the whole of Samoa!”.
  20. GROUNDSEL got me off the ground and suggested SPAGHETTI for an appetiser. A recent tussle with the Big Yin made 12a a doddle and the bum film followed. SILESIA was a guess as I didn’t know the material. I was fortunate that my posited ISH at the end of 5d was corrected during proof reading when I noticed I had RALEISH. A close call! I had the CROSS early doors, but MALTESE took a while and needed the crossers, so to speak. MENAGE A TROIS arrived and provoked a smile once the crossers for TROIS were in. Liked GLASGOW. UNSETTLES took a while to emerge. TUGBOAT was LOI. 37:07. Thanks setter and Z.
  21. Very tasty, in more ways than one. Fairly steady progress through, but STAMINA and TUGBOAT took a while. Like paulmcl I was sure the latter was going to be a country.

    Being married to a Scot, I have learnt that HIGH TEA in Scotland is dinner immediately followed by what most people would call tea (immediately followed, if one is sensible, by a lie-down).

    Thanks to z and the setter.

  22. ….has ever been my COD as well, but there’s a first time for everything (well perhaps not everything).

    My LOI was delayed by trying vainly to squeeze out an anagram from S.troubles, which fits all the crossers — naughty compiler!

    I parsed CHEESEBURGER and GLASGOW afterwards. Very enjoyable puzzle.

    TIME 11:10

    Edited at 2022-03-10 11:42 am (UTC)

  23. 28:35. Quite a few unparsed by the time I finished but there was plenty of good stuff to enjoy on the way. Couldn’t see past “ter(m)” as the start of session in TWEETER but got there anyway. I have driven through Silesia a few times — very pretty towns — but the fabric was a guess and apparently less familiar than the region to most.
  24. 6m 31s, with a reasonable amount of biffing opportunity and fingers crossed on SILESIA. My COD was – and, indeed, still is – WASPS.
  25. I seem to have made heavy weather of this. I left 2 (RUINOUS, NULLIFY) to parse on coming here, and I was working on the wrong anagram for SPAGHETTI. Then I completely forgot about tweeters and woofers, so all in all, a Texan behind.
  26. Interesting puzzle and an enjoyable blog too, thank you.
    NHO Silesia as a cloth.

    I don’t think Song of Songs mentions God either?

  27. It’s a depressing day when one finds the puzzle to be a stinker with eight clues uncompleted and comes here to find so many commenters saying how straightforward it was. Wavelength? Tired after a long day yesterday? Still not good enough at crosswords? Who knows? But anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow.

    Thanks (through gritted teeth) to the setter and many thanks to z8b… for your excellent explanations.

    1. Take heart, Joe. I count myself as an experienced solver (though no speed merchant) and TfTT blogger, but I really struggled with this one.

      Edited at 2022-03-10 02:30 pm (UTC)

  28. For some reason EDITION gave me the most trouble, and I needed to go away and come back to it before the penny dropped. I didn’t know that Midi is the south of France, but otherwise MIDWIFE was clear enough, and I had to trust that SILESIA is a cloth. Didn’t fully parse CHEESEBURGER either, but very enjoyable stuff all the same.

    FOI Earth
    LOI Edition
    COD Tugboat

  29. Biff-baff-boff.

    Never fully parsed:


    Slow start but picked up with a huge splurge in SE. Worked my way up and across before biffing 17, 18 & 24 in the SW

  30. Done in two sessions (golf in between) so around 50 mins. Got bogged down in the SW like some others, until CHEESEBURGER showed itself. Then it all fell into place. LOI RUINOUS. Very clever. Only knew the geographical meaning of SILESIA, but it had to be. I didn’t find this particularly easy.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  31. 22:07. I started really slowly, but then sped up to the point that I almost pressed submit at 17mins but couldn’t get comfortable with TWEETER. I knew it had something to do with hifis but didn’t know what, and couldn’t parse the rest. After wasting 5 mins I wasn’t any closer to enlightenment so pressed submit and was pleased to get the green lights.
  32. Rattled through this, merrily biffing and semi-parsing.

    Thanks to Zabadak for enlightenment where required!


  33. I enjoyed this, but, to be pedantic – and, if not here, then where? – GB is not a country. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are and, at least for now, so is the UK. Geographically, Great Britain is the largest of the British Isles; politically it’s slightly illogical, being the sum of England, Wales and Scotland – a rather random collection of islands of which the geographic Great Britain is but one, with sundry others included, my most local being the beautiful Isle of Wight and the rather less beautiful Portsea Island, better known perhaps as Portsmouth. So, it’s all rather a dog’s breakfast really, and the description of my homeland in my passport – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – is all a bit unnecessarily verbose. Still, at least we’ve finally woken up to some degree, with the international designation on car number plates now being UK – thus including our friends in Northern Ireland – rather than GB.
    1. I have learned to be sensitive about these issues, especially when conversing with Scots, but it’s fair to say the confusion is widespread. Just on example, Team GB is currently competing in the Winter Paralympics, and I bet they think they are competing for their country!
      1. Yes: that’s complicated by the fact that Northern Irish athletes are allowed to choose which country they wish to represent – the UK or the Irish Republic. I think ‘Team GB’ was decided upon as a way of recognising that and to avoid giving the world the impression that the status of Northern Ireland remains controversial, even long after the Republic dropped its constitutional claim to the Six Counties. Shall we talk about the nine counties of Ulster now? Or perhaps just leave it there? 🙂
  34. Have never come across these edibles in real life but remember them well from the humorous role they play in the otherwise non-humorous novel (and excellent Nicol Williamson film) The Human Factor by Graham Greene .
  35. Very pleased to work one of these out occasionally. This one proved more amenable than yesterday’s for me. Solved the SE first, then the NE, then the NW, then the SW. Enjoyed the process. Done by trying things on the on-line grid and then correcting mistakes. No reveals – I shy away from them. Thanks, Z, for all the enlightenment, and setter for something doable with help.
  36. 1 hour and 2 minutes. Only completed after returning to it this evening. Lots of good stuff though including the CHEESEBURGER and MALTESERS.
    What else. Oh yes. The NINA spotters must have taken the day off today. Right down the centre of the grid it says E P E E and right across the centre it says B E E T. The significance escapes me
  37. 25.55. Far from being a pushover, this puzzle rewarded the bit of extra effort I needed to solve it. An added word here or there, the odd neat bit of construction there all served to misdirect and bamboozle until finally it was all resolved. Good fun.
  38. Leskoffer here. Live page not letting me send message as me. Hidalgo — I seem to remember — means ‘son of someone’. Here in Paris we have mayor called Anne Hidalgo who is running a forlorn campaign to be the next president. Cod wasps or ruinous.
  39. Lots of nice clues today. For no good reason I had a lot of trouble with NULLIFY. I saw that it had to be the answer but couldn’t explain why, and bunged it in so was 59 minutes. Then it was obvious.
  40. STAMINA is an ASSET alright
    This EDITION sure requiring INSIGHT
    Esoteric HIDALGO
    RUINOUS was my last-in tonight

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