28714 Dam’ and blast. So fair and foul…


I confess to being in two minds about this thing. I want to say there are some very clever clues and some fine and amusing, even risqué, surfaces. Perhaps because I never really got going, and stumbled over the line with a jamais couché avec painter at 4d in 32.29, it also felt midly irritating. The non-standard (or at least unfamiliar) spellings in places added to the h’mm factor. But I’ve persevered and I think produced a proper working out of the mysteries.

Definitions underlined in italics, the rest to plans of my own devising.

1 Bond accepting kiss over death (4)
EXIT – The kiss is helpful, indicating an X, inviting you to think of TIE for bond reversed (over) around it. “Players… have their exits and entrances”
3 Hack journalist wearing jacket pondered (6,4)
CHEWED OVER – Hack and journalist need to be separated to HEW and ED respectively, put both onto a COVER for jacket, more bookish than sartorial.
9 Sing softly outside yard in London borough (7)
CROYDON -Sing softly: CROON outside an abbreviated Y(ar)D
11 Asian queen visiting Paisley? (7)
IRANIAN – Asian does a bit of double duty indicating RANI for queen, “visiting” IAN Paisley the famously beligerent Ulster preacher/politician.
12 In US, however, contract covers most of unforeseen development (9)
LEASTWISE – I was put of by “in US” as I’m familiar with the word on this side. Chambers says “rare or US”. This kind of contract is a LEASE, covering TWIST , most of an unforseen development.
13 Church with oddly naïve leading girl (5)
NIECE – The alternate letters of NaIvE come before CE for Church
14 Monstrous female in jail having delayed second series (12)
PROGRESSIONS – Oddly tricky to spot series as a plural. The monstrous female is an OGRESS, put into PRISON for jail with the S(econd) pushed to the end
18 Table an expletive in strong denunciation (12)
COUNTERBLAST – The most famous one being written by James VI/I against tobacco in 1604, rehearsing virtually all the arguments that gained acceptance some 400 years layer. Table: COUNTER, (mild) expletive: BLAST
21 Old fashion designer back from trip given by London academy (5)
PRADA – As worn by His Satanic Majesty – I thought they were still going and the old was superfluous. Back end of triP and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in Gower Street.
22 Extended watch captures cuckoos in tree (4,5)
STAR ANISE – I guessed there had to be a tree that the aromatic seed comes from. An extended watch is a STARE, and ANIS are American cuckoos, to be captured.
24 Fancy earl bringing in king that is more likely to let things through? (7)
LEAKIER – Put off a bit by the King appearing to be LEAR, but actually LEAR is provided by an anagram (fancy) of earl. Insert K(ing) (that one) and IE for that is.
25 Terrible error consuming gutted dance instructor (7)
ORDERER – Terrible word, too. An anagram of ERROR taking in DancE with the guts removed.
26 Self-contained residence in New York and Florida covered by conveyance (6,4)
GRANNY FLAT – Abbreviations NY and FLA covered by GRANT derived from a legal, not motorised, conveyance. I got mine for my new place three and a bit weeks ago.
27 Employed head of Washington Post, for example (4)
USED – The head of the Washington Post is an example of a US EDitor.
1 Stray cat yelled, on and off, up tree (8)
EUCALYPT – Rather c(a)lypt, I thought. You have to work really hard at the anagram (stray). The grist is CAT, the on and off letters of YeLlEd and UP.
2 It blocks connection to sailor at sea (8)
ISOLATOR – Coo, an easy one: an anagram (at sea) of TO SAILOR.
4 US artist coming from hotel, half-improved (5)
HENRI – Robert, apparently. Nope, me neither. Thiery, the other Hand of God merchant, a few French kings, but…  Never mind, it’s H(otel) plus (I presumed) ENRIched, probaly better than ENRIdged.
5 Booze on account of which wind audibly delivered (5,4)
WHITE WINE – This is an appallingly wonderful homophone (audibly delivered) of WHY: on account of, TWINE: wind as in go round in circles. Could it be that our setter is hinting at lager f*rts?
6 Pig after spitting into big cup — clean ones may be found here (8,5)
DRAINING BOARD – Biffed and sorted out subsequently. The “ones” refers back to the cup. So its pig: BOAR after RAINING for spitting in DD, which, my innocent gentleman friends, I can tell you is a large size in bras. A first appearance as a bit of wordplay?
7 When blotto, even I’d streaked (6)
VEINED – An anagram (blotto) of EVEN I’D and a surface image of Erica Roe without her Triumph DD.
8 Double Gloucester in germ-free packs (6)
RINGER – A clever lift and separate, and today’s hidden (packs) in GloucesteR IN GERm-free
10 Decline to reorient aid after redistribution (13)
DETERIORATION – Decline as a noun. An anagram (after redistribution) of TO REORIENT AID
15 Hospital’s cashiers, stuck up type (4,5)
SANS SERIF – Hospital’s gives you SANS via sanatorium’s. To cashier is to dismiss, or for our purpose, FIRE, with an S on the end, reversed (up)
16 Artist at home turned up wearing boy’s cords (8)
LANIARDS – Wth an I? Really? RA is artist, IN is at home, reverse both and place in LADS for boys.
17 King Lear’s half confused with three daughters, primarily (8)
ETHELRED – Another clever lift and separate, and another hard work anagram. The fodder is half of LEar (for real this time), plus THREE plus D(aughters) with the setter generously including “primarily”. “The Unready”reigned from 978 to 1013 and again from 1014 until his death in 1016.
19 One in two records makes conclusion in Boston (6)
EPILOG – One is I, placed between EP and LOG as two (diferent kinds of) records. Over here we expect an entirely unnecessary UE on the end.
20 Cover you might put on slate area above dam? (6)
PANAMA – I’ve only just twigged this, being confused by the proximity of slate to the slang tile. In this case, its the verbal form of slate, to PAN or heavily criticise, plus A plus MA for DAM.
23 Try stopping horse being docked in old marketplace (5)
AGORA – Try gives you GO, and the horse ARAb, which you chop the end of (docked). The Greek market place giving rise to a familiar phobia.

65 comments on “28714 Dam’ and blast. So fair and foul…”

  1. ‘Mildly irritating’ sums this up for me too. I nearly got through it but as the hour approached I used aids to look up alternative names for cuckoos as I was getting nowhere with the unchecked letters of 22ac.

    Then I gave up with the unknown painter unsolved at 4dn. I could see how the clue was going to work but even after a lengthy alphabet trawl I was unable to find a word meaning ‘improved’ to fit ?N?I???? and give me a US painter H?N?I. More helpful wordplay for an obscurity might have been in order.

    Back at 22ac, having found ANIS = cuckoos I spotted STAR ANISE immediately although I know it only as the name of a spice, not a tree, but I suppose logically the spice has to come from some plant or other.

      1. I’ve a vague idea it has come up here before as I remembered meeting an alternative word for a cuckoo I just couldn’t bring to mind. I wanted to check the archive but searching on ANI brings up too many mis-hits.

        1. Using google instead of this page’s search box: ANI comes up in the Times once, 24346 in 2009. I must have done that puzzle but didn’t remember it.
          Also a Jumbo in 2007, 2 Mephistos in 2008 and 2010, and 2 Sunday Times in 2016, none of which I do.

              1. Thanks. I clearly hadn’t remembered ANI(S) from 2009 but I put it as my LOI in the first of the ST examples because it was hidden and fitted the checkers. When it turned up again only 4 weeks later it was still in my memory bank and I recognised the definition, but I’d never have got it from wordplay. In fact although Nick_the_Novice offered an explanation in his blog and nobody disagreed or offered a better one, I still can’t see it myself: stamp = NI, where NI is short for National Insurance?

                1. stamp: (Chambers) “National insurance contributions, orig recorded by sticking a stamp onto an official card (informal)”

                  1. I remember buying them myself back in the 1970s but even so I thought it was a bit of a stretch. Thanks for finding the straight dictionary reference, and apologies to Nick for doubting him. I discovered today that stamps were finally abolished in 2019 so they were still around when this ST puzzle was published in 2016.

  2. Also half-way between impressed and mildly irritated. L2I Henri and star anise both took alpha trawls to get enriched and NHO anis. I would have guessed star anise came from a bush. MER at lanIards. A few others where the answer was obvious but the reverse-engineering took a while. And a few diversions: did remember Ian Paisley, but couldn’t remember if he was the one from the IRA they always voiced over? Was it IRA Ian with a Q for queen in it? No, they’re Iraqis.
    COD sans serif.

    Edit: also would have liked to have seen a “kiss of death” in 1ac, I like a good lift and separate of a cliche: Bond about to receive kiss of death, say.

    1. Oh dear no, Ian Paisley was the leader of the DUP, hence a loyalist, and a dyed-in-the-wool old bigot he was too. Although he did eventually earn redemption by coming together with Gerry Adams (the Sinn Fein leader) to make the Good Friday accord work. There hasn’t been any significant sectarian violence since, despite Boris Johnson’s best efforts to get it restarted by completely ignoring the province’s delicate situation with his Brexit deal.

  3. Just snuck in under 20 minutes, the last half of which was devoted to HENRI and STAR ANISE. The tortured EUCALYPT took a while as well. Happy to emerge unscathed after all of that.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  4. Ouch, DNF with quite a few way over my head. Came to the blog expecting to be disappointed about not completing, but no chance with some of these…. Looking fwd to Friday!!

  5. What everyone else has said, not my favourite if only for LANIARD, never mind some others. Took a fair while, about 48, with LOI HENRI a total guess. ETHELRED presented himself almost immediately but EUCALYPT with its complicated anagrist took ages, despite several lovely examples (lemon-scented gums) being in my field of vision. With no justification I parsed the Asian as (Ian) Paisley twice with an R stuck into him. Thanks to Z for sorting it all out.

  6. DNF, not getting the artist, the tree, the cuckoos or the strangely spelt LANIARDS. I eventually managed LEASTWISE having enjoyed the WHITE WINE but I’d say LEASTWAYS. No, I wouldn’t, I’d say AT LEAST. Star Anise was never likely to occur to me as I only know it as a spice and I didn’t know the cuckoos. COD to IRANIAN, requiring some UK knowledge. Thank you Z and setter.

  7. That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
    So in my veins red life might stream again
    (The Living Hand, Keats)

    40 mins I won’t get back squandered on this, leaving unfilled unknown US artist and tree full of Anis.
    So far, people seem to be being very kind to this. Z’s blog as always is especially gracious. But come on, let’s face it – this was rubbish.
    No ticks, twelve crosses – which is a record by a long way.
    Ta setter (were you having a laugh) and Z

  8. I DNF beaten by STAR ANISE. I had the STARE aspect so only needed two letters but NHO either anis or star anise, so had to give up after 34 minutes. Normally I never give up but I would only have been guessing. Brought down to Earth after my record time yesterday!!
    NHO the artist HENRI either but the alphabet trawl got me to ENRICHED quite fast.
    Agree the spelling of laniards was odd but the clue was clear.
    Thanks setter and blogger, Steve

  9. First DNF this year, with the intersecting EUCALYPT, LEASTWISE, PROGRESSIONS and NHO HENRI failing to reveal their secrets after 30 minutes. I could probably have spent another 30 without getting any further.
    Tomorrow is another day.

    1. First DNF this year; that’s a mighty effort. I’m happy to go a week with a clean sheet. I’d like to aspire to your achievement but I think the plaques and tangles might now be starting to wreak their havoc 😊.

  10. Unimpressed. Spent over 13 minutes, did a lot of biffing, then got the dreaded pink square for having used the wrong king and entering “learier”. I think I disliked this puzzle more than any other I’ve tackled this year.

  11. 52 minutes. Slow going, with the difficult anagrams, STAR ANISE and at the end the NHO ‘US artist’ holding me up. At least the wordplay made the unusual spelling of LANIARDS clear but I had to think whether I’m more used to seeing SIPHON or SYPHON; probably the I version. I agree that ORDERER is a pretty ordinary word

    There’s also something going on in the grid here. Hint: it’s anagrammatic.

    1. You swine, just when I was relaxing after producing something close to an error free blog, you land me with a Listener style grid stare to see what I’ve missed. I’ll allow it’s quite impressive, and probably accounts for some of the odder entries. It certainly accounts for HENRI instead of the HANOI we’d usually expect with those crossers..
      Thanks for making me aware of the whole three sided business.

    2. Thanks because I didn’t bother to finish this one and would have missed it. Clever but I still cannot forgive some of the clueing.

  12. Count me amongst the did-not-likes today. Is this our US setter again?
    DNF because of star anise, Henri a pure guess.
    I note BletchleyReject’s comment above but I’m not going to bother even looking. There, that will show them..

  13. Did most of the hard work, 24′, then failed with the nho HENRI.

    Same comments as everyone else, except that I didn’t / don’t feel bad.

    Thanks z and setter.

  14. Gave up after twenty minutes, with 22a unsolved. I’d checked the checkers, but didn’t think to check the clue itself. Stupidly, I’d split the answer 5,4, in my print-out, and though I did know ANI for cuckoo, an answer that would fit S-A-A/NISE was obviously nonsense. If I’d looked again at the clue itself, then S-A-/ANISE would have been a write-in. Only myself to blame for this one.

  15. Tough and in parts unfair, especially the obscure artist. Too heavy on the Americana and wilfully unconventional spellings (eucalypt and laniard). I see the Nina now in rows 4, 8 and 12 but it rather adds to the feeling of tricksiness for its own sake.

  16. 21:43. LOI… you’ve guessed it… the unknown HENRI, after doing an alphabet trawl of words ?n?i????. I eventually remembered ANI as the cuckoo, otherwise I suspect STAR ANISE would have beaten me. Lots of clever clues. It looks like I’m in a minority at liking this puzzle. Never spotted the Nina – thanks BR for the tip. Thank-you also to Z and setter for the entertainment.

  17. And there ends my greatest ever run of crosswords. A DNF today thanks to trying to overcomplicate PROGRESSIONS. I did my best to dredge up the names of mythical beasts and was thus well and truly lead up the garden path. I really enjoyed this one though and said pesky clue aside I made steady progress throughout. Thanks to the setter, and to the blogger for clearing up WHITE WINE and STAR ANISE.

  18. Gave up with only half complete on the hour. As usual, glad I did: if I’d ever seen LANIARDS, I’d have been infuriated by it (am now, actually). As for ANIS as cuckoos and HENRI…. well, pull the other one.

  19. Same as many above, done except the unknown HENRI and biffed STAR ANISE without knowing why and didn’t believe LANIARDS was an optional spelling. Not impressed. Well blogged, Z.

  20. It’s amazing to me that (at the time of writing, anyway) the SNITCH is only 136. I thought this was very difficult: HENRI has a ludicrous clue — an obscurity clued by difficult wordplay. Defeated by HENRI, EUCALYPT and STAR ANISE, the last two of which (the first was obviously a name, not to be found) I had to use aids for, even after knowing that anis were cuckoos. Just over an hour. LEASTWISE didn’t strike me as a US word — it seemed to me that it had occurred in Lewis Carroll, but that was contrariwise I think. A NIECE isn’t necessarily a girl: one of my nieces is over 60. Raining isn’t necessarily spitting: yesterday as I came home it certainly wasn’t.

  21. 55:48. Oh. I enjoyed working away at this one. Confident with most at the end despite the oddities and DNKs. But submitted with fingers crossed for HENRI. COD to WHITE WINE

  22. 24:47. Extremely difficult, and like most others it seems I didn’t much like this one. Bit of a grind.
    My last in was of course the painter, and I solved it by speculating that HENRI is a name so might well be that of a painter. It still took me several minutes to come up with the relevant synonym for ‘improved’.

  23. 23:08, and I’m afraid I also found this a bit of a trudge after a while, persisting mostly out of bloody-mindedness with my alphabet trawls and shrugs at things that apparently had to be right, even though I’d never knowingly encountered them before.

  24. Didn’t get the cuckoo-clued Henri or star anise; didn’t care for an American nasal twang to the general background noise; unimpressed by the tweak on lanyards; unprepared to hunt down the anagrammatic excuse of a grid; enjoying the grump however.

    Incidentally, since the grid-mantra’s been pointed to, what is an alerting triangle integral when it’s at home?

  25. 38:15 and every clue a struggle. HENRI, ANIS and that handy spelling of lanyard all unknown, but I enjoyed it more than most seem to have done.

  26. DNF, and slightly relieved to come here and find others struggled with and/or disliked this one.

    I couldn’t get EUCALYPT (I bunged in ‘escalope’ from the checkers, in the vain hope that ‘stray’ might indicate escape and that somehow the rest would work), HENRI (never hear of him, and didn’t think of ‘enriched’ for improved), or STAR ANISE (didn’t know it was a tree, and didn’t know the anis cuckoos).

    I think we’ve had DD clued by ‘big cup’ or ‘large cup’ before, but don’t ask me when.

    Figured out the unknown LEASTWISE from wordplay; hesitated for a long time over LANIARDS as I would expect to see it with a Y; wasn’t sure about GRANNY FLAT because I forgot Florida can give FLA as well as simply FL and was wondering where the other A came from; didn’t like NIECE as a girl; and like others, hate ORDERER as a word.

    COD Ringer

  27. DNF
    Same experience as many others. Stumbled around for 40 minutes, pathetically pleased to pick up something here and there, before giving up in exasperation. That said, I thought SANS SERIF, ETHELRED and DRAINING BOARD were excellent
    Thanks to ZABADAK and the setter.
    Y’all have a nice day now.

  28. DNF
    After my first 15×15 solve yesterday (in 34:24!) I was quite dismayed with this one, giving up after 36mins having not made any progress for a while.
    So, really pleased to see the posts above and learn that for way more experienced solvers, this was a toughie.
    Thanks Zabadak for explaining the 11 clues I never got, and thanks to all the posters for making me feel better. 😊

  29. 38:11 but…

    …cheated with LOI HENRI by looking up extremely long list of US artists (43 pages of 100 artists on each page) – there were two HENRIs on page 19. Missed a lot of stuff in this grid, though pleased to see my much-derided home borough of CROYDON.

    LEASTWISE – guess UK peeps would say LEASTWAYS?
    COUNTERBLAST – not sure I’ve heard of this
    STAR ANISE – with all checkers – NHO ANI as cuckoo
    ORDERER – really?
    PANAMA – nice PDM once I saw how it worked – oh that sort of dam…
    WHITE WINE – biffed from definition and enumeration – didn’t see the trick
    LANIARDS – never seen them spelt this way but the parsing was fine
    RINGER – bunged in from the first R – didn’t see the hidden

    Thanks setter and Z for the elucidations

  30. I completed all bar STAR ANISE in under 30 minutes, but after struggling for another 10, I looked up synonyms for cuckoos. That gave me ANISE, but I still couldn’t make the leap to the unknown tree and looked up ANISE to find that STAR went with it. Submitted off leaderboard with the rest all correct in 40:04. Thanks Z.

  31. DNF. What Myrtilus said with knobs on.

    Done over three sessions where I thought a break or two might inspire. Sadly not so.

    Too many obscurities for me which have already been mentioned.

    I did like CHEWED OVER, and ETHELRED but that’s about it, oh, and WHITE WINE, I need one right now!

    Thanks Z for unraveling this mystery.

  32. Thanks to the Bletchley Reject; I did not spot the hidden extras without being given the hint. Quite a delight to see them revealed.

    As an (unpublished) setter I can only admire anyone who composes at this level. And the added constraint of matching into Ninas must make a challenging task nigh-on impossible. I found it difficult enough with the normal rules! So I for one am happy to forgive some clues/ words being a bit “stretched”.

    But I suppose we wouldn’t want it every day…

    Thanks to the setter et al.

    1. A budding setter? You can self-publish these days on http://www.mycrossword.co.uk, where loads of people gather and solve and provide feedback.
      Years back Big Dave published a weekly “Not the Saturday Prize Puzzle” written by random amateurs who submitted puzzles, and though he has unfortunately passed away I see the site he built carries on. https://bigdave44.com
      And for a brilliant (in my opinion) example of the setters art, with extras above and beyond the basic puzzle, try last months Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle (solution is available on the site). https://crosswordcentre.blogspot.com/2023/07/crossword-centre-prize-puzzle-august.html

  33. Beaten, like many others, by the NHO HENRI and the STAR ANISE (NHO ANI so that was never going to fall easily). Not the most enjoyable of crosswords.

  34. LOI HENRI! Didn’t remember this fellow either. POI LEASTWISE
    I was operating under a several-day sleep deficit and rather beat after my weekly commute to Manhattan and put this aside with the NW unfinished.
    Everything’s probably been said by now… I’ll look…

  35. 46’50”
    Found the going testing, one-paced throughout, a slow one.
    Looking at H-N-I, I thought Henri might be a goer, and by the time I got back to it enri-ched had dawned on me. ‘Star anise’ just fell out of the sky; I justified it by wrongly assuming it was a typo: Extended watch captures cuckoo s in A tree – s in a cuckoo (anagrind – geddit?).
    Where’s Astro-nowt, by the way? He wasn’t Haranguing the Harrier yesterday or Panning the two lots, as it turns out, of Parrots today.
    I liked this, but then I suppose I would having fallen over the line. Thank you BR for alerting us to Triad of Twisted Triangles; well done setter
    and thank you Z.

  36. Pretty chewy. SANS SERIF….when was the last time anyone referred to a hospital as a san? Billy Bunter stories? Worked out EUCALYPT a long time after biffing it, and share the general feeling about LANIARDS and ANIS. Popped in HENRI on spec as LOI, pleasantly surprised it was right…

  37. At the start Chewed Over and Iranian made this seem promising, then I was brought up short by Niece defined as “girl”. Really? Really?
    I almost chucked it there, but decided to press on. What got me to pull the plug (and what saved me from headache Henri, amongst others) was noticing that there were going to be five Americanisms or American references which, after “girl”, I didn’t want to fuss with.
    Nice blog, Z. I am, as usual, in jealous awe of your GK. James I’s diatribe against tobacco, indeed.
    BTW – I’d not heard of Eucalypt without the “us” at the end. The set up for the knock knock answer: Eucalyptus hair too short.

  38. 62m. DNF back to reality after yesterday’s PB. NHO HENRI. Couldn’t see STAR ANISE though love its flavour. Tried RENNET for 8d albeit cheese related and reversed becomes TENNER which was germ free during corona if one followed the advice to dunk dirty banknotes in Dettol.

  39. V late solve eventually in 37 mins. From the blog, looks like ISOLATOR was the easiest clue, but it was my LOI.
    Knew ANI from Scrabble, but as usual I had no idea what it meant.

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