28702 A special operation or two.


Another fine puzzle which occupied me for 25.44, which looks to be a pretty good time. I found the right hand side of the grid much easier than the left, fading generally into the easiest stuff towards the bottom. I’d strongly recommend lingering over the surfaces of these clues if only to give credit to the setter for taking the time to work in some elegance. By all means biff stuff as you go, but have a second look through after submission.

My geography rather let me down in this one: I didn’t know the capital nor the city in Ukraine, though I should have known the latter as a symbol of both Ukrainian resiliance and Russion incompetence.


Definitions underlined in italics, the rest made up as I go along.

1 Invite advance stream over (6)
BECKON –  Stream is BECK, and I think I can justify over for ON as in the duvet was over the bed. There may be alternatives
4 Succeeds in getting piping for random attack (7)
POTSHOT – Piping gives you hot, and I take it that succeds in getting is POTS, as in what a competent snooker player does. Put off by the more common use of succeeds to give the S
9 Keen softly, having time in place of burial (5)
CRYPT – Keen is CRY, softly P(iano) and T(ime)
10 Wonderful sex I quite spoiled (9)
EXQUISITE – A pretty anagram (spoiled) of SEX I QUITE. I believe I may have managed the surface meaning a couple of times, congratulations if you haven’t.
11 What could be Margaret Thatcher’s order? (9)
CONFIGURE – My last – the definition has many options – but it’s given by a basic definition of Maggie as a CON(servative) FIGURE
12 Failure of circuits announced (5)
LAPSE – An uncontroversial homonym. Laps: circuits
13 Bulls, say, in ring almost immediately going west (4)
OXEN – A Death in the Afternoon surface. Ring is O, then add NEXt (almost) reversed (going west).
14 Run with gasps after vehicle — in these? (5,5)
CARGO PANTS – Chambers may be a bit behind the times with “large, baggy pants with pockets on the side of the thighs” because I gather there are now slim-fitting versions, but I believe the point of the reference back of “in these” is that cargo pants are harder to run in. So run is GO (not R!) and gasps PANTS and the vehicle before both is just a CAR.
18 Shark pelt napper (10)
HAMMERHEAD – Pelt gives HAMMER and napper the HEAD. Those who remember Sellers’ Any Old Iron will recall “you look dapper from your napper to your feet”. I can’t immediately remember another evample.
20 A last word before English recess (4)
APSE – A P(ost) S(cript) and E(nglish)
23 Author who has been limping back to show himself (5)
MILNE – A. A. of that family who embarrassed his son with his Pooh stories. Reverse hidden in beEN LIMping.
24 Feel bitter at being led by officer to front together (9)
COPRESENT – feel bitter: RESENT, officer ahead of that a COP, not just the more usual CO.
25 Ancient Palestinian port given new operation (9)
CAESAREAN – Wiki lists 15 CAESAREAs, includng the Channel Island Jersey, and a derived early name of New Jersey. CAESAREA Maritima is the port version, now a modern Israeli city. Tack on N(ew) for MacDuff’s untimely ripping.
26 College introducing ace tutor (5)
TEACH – Read tutor as a verb. College is TECH; introduce therein an A(ce)
27 At which point? At this point in temple (7)
WHEREAT – Ar this point HERE inside WAT for the (Thai) temple.
28 Maintenance of standing defensive tower (6)
UPKEEP – Standing: UP, defensive tower KEEP. Simples
1 Defender has constant luck with hard drop behind players (9)
BACKCLOTH – Slow to grasp this one. BACK is from defender, plus C(onstant) plus LOT from luck and H(ard)
2 Staff harbouring desire for South American capital (7)
CAYENNE – Did I know the capital of French Guiana? No, but I did rewatch Papillon the other day which at least put me in the same region. Staff: CANE with YEN for desire “harboured”
3 Group openly gay and good-looking (6)
OUTFIT – Openly gay: OUT (and proud!) good-looking FIT
4 Annoyance with irrational Quebec (5)
PIQUE – PI is the irrational (number), QUE an accepted abbreviation for QUEBEC. The Empire was never more annoyed than when De Gaulle declared (obviouly irrationally!) “vive the Quebec libre!” Merde, alors! Nous l’avons gagné blonde et place.
5 Part of frieze rightly needing restoration around top of Parthenon (8)
TRIGLYPH – A very cute encapsulation of the Elgin case! An anagram (needing restoration) of RIGHTLY with the P of Parthenon included
6 What secures heavy artillery initially north of city near Kyiv (7)
HAIRPIN – To my shame I had forgotten that IRPIN was the city north of Kyiv where the “special operation” adveance on the capital was stopped at some considerable cost. Put H(eavy) A(rtillery in front. Again a truly resonant surface, slightly at the expenxe of the rather vague definition.
7 Topic of article on Middle English (5)
THEME – Another simple. Back in the day, we left the explanation off this kind of clue, a custom which I’ll cheerfully revive.
8 Leave the beau dancing with queen (8)
BEQUEATH – An anagram (dancing) of THE BEAU and Q(ueen)
15 Greedy husky going after grub to polish off? (8)
GRASPING – Husky is RASPING. Get the G from Grub with to  polish: RUB removed.
16 Difficult place for Labour humbug’s source with answer for English (9)
SWEATSHOP – More superficial politics? So, you get (proper) humbugs from a proper SWEETSHOP. Swap out the E(nglish) for an A(nswer)
17 Bad defeat right round European league (8)
FEDERATE – Yet more superficial politics? League has to be in its verbal form to work. An anagram (bad) of DEFEAT R(ight) round E(uropean)
19 Playwright again penning fairy story (7)
MOLIERE – Again is MORE, with LIE for fairy story “penned” therein.
21 Come before red tape gets out of hand (7)
PREDATE – Another anagram (out of hand), of RED TAPE
22 Corral ram not able to be released (4-2)
PENT-UP – Corral is PEN, and ram TUP.
23 Parrot with a key found in crop (5)
MACAW – A (random) key of C, in MAW for crop.
24 Split in Conservative radical wing (5)
CLEFT – Simple again: C(onservative) LEFT for radical wing.

51 comments on “28702 A special operation or two.”

  1. Failed to get the ancient Palestinian. With the checkers in place I went for CRETACEAN , taking ‘ancient’ as the possible definition, but unable to parse it. I came to the blog for enlightenment. My alpha trawl failed to yield CAESAREAN. Very clever!

  2. Lots of tricky stuff here for me. I struggled to finish within the hour but made it with 8 minutes to spare.

    TRIGLYPH was unknown so I was pleased to work it out eventually having gambled on it being an anagram, although I wasn’t quite sure it would be. I remembered CARGO PANTS eventually from a previous puzzle. Didn’t know IRPIN or that CAESAREA was a port although the name was familiar from the bible. CAYENNE went in because it fitted. CONFIGURE was my LOI by some way and I have to say I thought it a rather weak and disappointing clue when compared with the general standard to be found elsewhere in this puzzle.

  3. Cayenne a write-in, remembered from last time 😉 Brief hold-up on CAESAREAN deciding if I was looking for an ancient, an operation, or an ancient port. Guessed right. Last two in CONFIGURE then OUTFIT, fit being on the tip of my brain but couldn’t make it appear. Remembered Irpin after I’d written it in, not before. Triglyph’s cleverness right over my head.
    Nice puzzle. No real standout COD, but I liked Moliere.

  4. Defeated by CAESAREAN and I also went for CRETACEAN on the basis it might be a word to do with the geological era. The rest went in steadily (although FEDERATE took some time to see with a missing checker).

  5. Didn’t know IRPIN, but got there. Left side, especially the top, definitely harder. But this was a fairly smooth solve, after a very nice meeting for dinner & and drinks with Paul.in.London in Manhattan (my weekly office day… at a pub in the same building). I don’t think “advance” is necessary for the definition of BECKON, but maybe that’s just because it threw me for a while. COPRESENT is an odd word that seemed forced by the grid.

  6. I’m sorry – I jinxed it for sure
    How else to explain the MACAW?
    It’s no use blaming God
    ‘Tis the Rule of the Sod
    (More politely it’s called Murphy’s Law)

  7. A bear, however hard he tries,
    Grows tubby without exercise
    (AA Milne)

    30 mins pre-brekker left me stuck on the NHO port. Some quirky stuff which I tried to like, but failed.
    Ta setter and Z.

  8. 21:16. When CONFIGURE appeared in June I wrote “I was interested to see that others had found this answer difficult [as had I] given that it seemed straightforward in hindsight”. What’s more, looking back to that crossword I finished in 21:16 – exactly the same time as today!

    Like others I also struggled greatly with CAESAREAN today, where CAE was never given a second thought during my alpha trawl. I was close to throwing in CRETACEAN which I now know means an animal from the cretaceous period. I guess if you take ancient to be a noun that almost fits the definition, except Chambers only has ancient in noun form referring to a person. Anyhow, it would be a struggle to justify the rest of the clue!

  9. 43 minutes with LOI FEDERATE. TRIGLYPH sounded like it could be right. Insider knowledge -we’ll be at the Parthenon next month and I do have a picture of me standing by the aqueduct at Caesarea in younger days. HAMMERHEAD was a biff from shark with neither the hammer nor the head occurring to me. COD to SWEATSHOP. Good stuff. Thank you Z and setter.

  10. Brilliant but in the end too hard for me, threw in the towel on the hour with every second letter of CAESAREAN blank. Rather amazed I got some of the others, like CONFIGURE, TRIGLYPH and COPRESENT. Thanks Z for several clarifications. How does league work as a verb? Some high-end obscurities here like napper, beck, triglyph and pots = succeeds, but all told a terrific workout.

      1. Thanks John. I looked it up as well, have never heard it used in that sense. Awkward word but so is federate. Next hols I might head off to the Leagued States of Micronesia. Actually I probably won’t…

  11. 20:55
    Peter Sellers’ version of ‘Any Old Iron’ (with Fred Spoons on EPNS) has the LAPSE “You look NAPPER from your dapper to your feet”, which producer George Martin must not have noticed. Other comedic occurrences of the term include Mr Mackay’s temporary replacement ‘Napper’ Wainwright in ‘Porridge’, and any number of swattings, coppings and sockings on the napper in Wodehouse.

    1. On a different note there’s the Irish patriotic song “The Wearing of the Green” which begins “I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand..”

  12. 19:23. Stuck at the end on CONFIGURE and FEDERATE, both of which were slow in coming. DNK HEAD for napper, that CAYENNE was a capital or CAESAREA a port. COD to CARGO PANTS for the surface. Thanks Z and setter.

  13. CRYPT was FOI and CAESAREAN LOI. I rejected CRETACEAN as I couldn’t parse it, and eventually reacalled Caesarea as a place mentioned in the bible. I spent about 3 minutes trying and failing to parse OXEN before submitting fully expecting pink squares, but the gods smiled on me! Didn’t recall Irpin, but managed to get HAIRPIN from crossers and definition. CAYENNE was vaguely known and easily assembled from wordplay. I also found the RHS easier than the LHS. Would’ve been just under 30 minutes but for OXEN! 32:33. Thanks setter and Z.

  14. DNF
    Beaten by Caesarean. A tough clue, but a fair one, as the obscurity of the port was counterbalanced by the non-obscurity of the definition. There was a route through, but, like some other contributors, I didn’t see it and went for Cretacean. It’s the elusive AE combo wot done us, slipping unseen through the net of the alphabet trawl.
    Thanks, z.

  15. Gave up on the hour with BACKCLOTH, CONFIGURE and OXEN eluding me. I would prob have seen them eventually, but by then I was so irritated by this puzzle I couldn’t be arsed. Can’t even fully explain why.

    So there.

  16. That just took me 46 minutes. LOI was CAESAREAN which annoyed me as it was really obvious when I saw it. Like one of the other comments above I got hung up on the cretaceous period! (Also kept thinking about Tyre and Sidon and forgot the New Testament)
    I thought there were some smart clues there but also one or two, con-figure springs to mind, that seemed really vague. Still, got there in the end 🙂
    Thanks setter and blogger

  17. No time as done on a TGV to Paris to see the rugby. Tee hee.

    Beaten, like some others, by CAESAREAN, looked up. Bah. CAYENNE whacked in as, by chance, Mrs RdeP is studying South American countries and their capitals.

    Otherwise an excellent workout. I like BACKCLOTH, CAYENNE and HAMMERHEAD.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  18. Like many others I found CAESAREAN difficult, so difficult indeed that I gave up and used electronic aid on it, so my 54 minutes is otherwise. FEDERATE was my last in: even with all the checkers there are many possibilities — delegate, defecate, relegate, … and the clever anagram defeated me for a while. It seemed to me that the ‘pots’ in POTSHOT’ came more from shooting than from snooker. Liked the SWEATSHOP.

  19. 12:28 Lovely puzzle, with some amazing surfaces (CRYPT, EXQUISITE, TRIGLYPH, HAIRPIN), all clues quite straightforward, yet not immediately biffable. TRIGLYPH is an astonishingly good clue, particularly if you agree with the sentiment, as any right-thinking person must surely do(!). Strangely, and unlike others, I biffed CAESAREAN from the Palestinian port rather than the op, which I hadn’t actually noticed! My only minor gripes are the feeble THEME (at least it wasn’t “Middle East”), and the double use of “pen” in 22dn – clearly if a ram is penned (pent) in a corral (pen) it won’t be able to get out. Maybe I’m missing something. Overall a really good puzzle. Thanks, setter.

  20. 34 mins. Like everyone else, CRETACEAN shouted out but it was clearly wrong. Delayed me several minutes, as did my mental trawl of South American capitals. I know them all, but CAYENNE, being the smallest country, was last on my list.

  21. 20.10 with LOI grasping. Didn’t get the rub reference, so relieved I was right. Nice to see a classical reference, remember triglyphs and metopes plus peristyle ( just about) from ancient history A level.

    Cargo pants took a while till I realised run was not just yer average r. Sweatshop was a nice clue even if not a place you’d want to work in.

  22. 41:21 but…

    …cheated with CAESAREAN and its mysterious port that nobody seems to have heard of. Took about 30 minutes to reach the last four – managed to get COPRESENT and then GRASPING before finally spotting the anagram fodder for 17d. Then sat staring at 25a for five or six mins before throwing in the towel.

    Thanks Z

  23. 25:42 – CAESAREAN held me up too, and I had cretacean for a while until GRASPING supplied the “new” of the clue and it was obvious the definition was operation. Obvious, but still not easy to stumble across in an alphabet recital. Lots of other loveliness to enjoy too, though I did wonder to what extent the left could be considered radical without some attached modifier like hard or extreme.

  24. I don’t remember hearing any “the” in Charles De Gaulle’s incendiary rallying cry from 1967-“Vive Montreal! Vive le Quebec libre!”

    1. You’re right, of course. I do remember the outrage it caused, but I believe we mostly maintained a dignified silence: “the English man with his usual bloody cold”. Nothing came of it, after all, and the lofty Heights of Abraham were never back in French hands.

  25. Too hard for me, DNF.
    Cayenne is not in any list of country capitals as it is a department of France. Cayenne is the capital of a dept but French Guiana isn’t on the UN list of countries. One of several in which my attempt to cheat didn’t work!
    Cargo pants weren’t on my cheat list either. I’m sure I’ve NHO, so must have somehow missed its previous appearance. Capri Pants seemed to be the only option; I do remember the Ford crappy as I’m sure many of us do. In the absence of the relevant crosser I would argue Capri was as good as Cargo, but I then can’t justify the “run” part of the clue. Oh well. Humph.

  26. 15:04. A tough and enjoyable workout. Like others I was stumped for a while by the alphabet-trawl-resistant CAESAREAN, and I struggled to see CONFIGURE. Those two extended my solving time by several minutes. I didn’t know or had forgotten IRPIN and had forgotten (for sure as it’s appeared before) that CAYENNE was a capital city.
    I decided some years ago that I was too old for CARGO PANTS but for some reason I have never felt the need to extend this rule to cargo shorts. They are just so handy for carrying wallet, phone, keys etc. Which is also the main reason I wear a jacket.

  27. Two goes needed. Had to trust that CAYENNE is a capital in South America, didn’t know Irpin as a city in HAIRPIN, was unfamiliar with napper as head in HAMMERHEAD, hadn’t heard of the Palestinian port but managed to get CAESAREAN, and wasn’t sure about maw=crop for MACAW.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Lapse
    LOI Beckon
    COD Copresent

  28. With two left was relieved to get Caesarean and then failed on federate! Some nice stuff here but the idea of a Labour humbug (needed for grammatical form’s sake) is iffy. A pity as it has the makings of a great clue. Pots as succeeds doesn’t seem to add up. The upper half went in fast but struggled with the lower and fell at the last fence with one of the most straightforward of the lot. But it’s almost satisfying, in a way, to acknowledge a clear win to the setter – no excuses.
    On reflection one sees that ‘pot’s hot’ is ‘succeeds in getting piping’!

  29. Knowing the ancient Palestinian port definitely helped, but due to a tendency to only watch and read the local news I’d NHO Irpin, thus that clue was biffed. I might have broken 10 minutes but for having “—-R PANTS” filled in early, the PDM only coming after my SLOI BEQUEATH fell into place (another rogue ‘r’ instead of ‘q’ in the anagrist).

    TIME 10:23

  30. Didn’t think I was going to finish this with half a dozen eluding me. After going for lunch and returning refreshed an hour or so later, they came to me within another five minutes. There’s a lot to be said for taking a breather when all seems lost.
    It took a little while on my return to get GRASPING, but this helped enormously with my LOI which was CARGO PANTS. No time to record because of various breaks, but estimated to be just over the hour perhaps.

  31. 28’22” with LOI CONFIGURE which took a lot of time to figure. Why would the PM be ordering CONFITURE was my thought at one point. Fortunately I could think of no good reason. It’s those dastardly 8 or 9 letter words with lots of vowels which are often my undoing. FEDERATE was nearly another.

  32. 23a might refer either to AA Milne or to his younger brother, AAA Milne

    /bad jokes from twitter

    Finished in 51 minutes but with CRETACEAN. For a while I also had TRAIN for 26a, thinking the college must be ‘Trin’, but luckily the SWEATSHOP put me right. Enjoyable puzzle.

  33. DNF in 63:37 I could not get my LOI , 11a, and entering CONFITURE on the basis that Mrs T may have occasionally got in a jam with the French led to an “unlucky“.

  34. 55’55”
    Started slowly, then got slower. Tested positive for a prohibited substance.
    The substance was very strong beer from Trieste,which I bought for Filippo in the square because he sold no knickers or vests in the scorching heat, having taken more than an hour to construct and dismantle his stall.
    Got there in the end, thanks to Les Femmes Savantes, studied many moons ago.
    I’m very glad I persevered, and I feel I did well to finish the fight against such a worthy opponent.
    Compliments in spades to the setter and to Zabadak for the eloquent analysis.

  35. Yes a great puzzle. Some lovely surfaces, which I appreciated, not being in the biffing league today. Fell at Mrs T’s instruction. As others have said it was just a bit too vague for me. I spent too long wondering if we were looking for a famous Margaret and the instruction was for a man (or woman) repairing a straw roof. I’ve learnt to my cost before to remember to lift and separate, but not this time.

    Thanks Z and setter and Starstruck for all your work on the blog.

  36. Defeated yet again by some obscurities (for me!) as in CAESAREA the port and CONFIGURE ( one of so many!). Started out gamely with LAPSE and EXQUISITE sex (not today, thank you), and got well stuck with the above two plus FEDERATE (as a verb) and GRASPING. Liked the HAMMERHEAD and the
    SWEATSHOP, but overall too clever for me.

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