28786 Mr Flibble’s very merry


Not my quickest ever solve at 27 minutes, and all done in rather a patchy fashion as the well-crafted clues gave up their secrets. The plant early on may not be in everyone’s meadow, but it rang a faint but recognisable bell for me, and the rest seemed pretty much within the familiar canon. One clue, at 12, I didn’t parse before submission, and had eyes fixed on it expecting a pink or two, but I couldn’t see what else it could be.

Definitions underlined in italics, the rest described with enthusiasm.

1 About to grasp what listeners go through (8)
REHEARSE – About is RE, into its grasp place EH for what(?) and EARS for listeners.
5 Like newsprint to be profitable, protecting salesperson’s turnover (6)
PAPERY – A bit of Uxbridge English, perhaps. To be profitable will PAY, and a salesperson or REP turns over inside its protection.
8 Plant shop has alarm at the front (5,5)
PANIC GRASS – Shop as a verb is what your copper’s nark does, translated to GRASS. Before that alarm as a noun or verb is PANIC. The whole is any of “a large genus of grasses having the one- or two-flowered spikelets in spikes, racemes or panicles”, but I expect you knew that.
9 Intermediate stage completed after being put back a year (4)
PUPA – Completed is up, which is reversed (put back) and then a year becomes the abbreviation for Per Annum
10 Compile hit clue for cracking sort of quiz! (8-6)
MULTIPLE-CHOICE – First anagram (cracking) of the day using COMPILE HIT CLUE, which Magoo, Mark Goodliffe, is managing particularly well on Countdown at present.
11 Those who catch rabbits, heading off after November (7)
NABBERS – Take you pick from YABBERS or JABBERS  derived from rabbits (think Chas and Dave), knock the front off and replace with NATO November.
13 Expressed frustration as small, hard blocks carelessly handled (7)
PSHAWED – Pshaw is a verb, apparently. S(mall) and H(ard) block PAWED for handled carelessly – perhaps that should be inappropriately in modern jurisprudence.
15 One often powered by stream that’s turned dry in June, finally (7)
TURBINE – Dry is BRUT, which you turn and to which you add IN and the last letter of JunE
18 Our team in the old days, when time, making transmission (7)
WEBCAST – I believe it’s in Bridge that our team goes down as WE. In the (old) old days is BC when is AS, add T(ime)
21 Bigotry perhaps that’s not tasteless? (14)
DISCRIMINATION – Effectively a double definition.
22 Carry off old drunk? (4)
WINO – Carry off gives WIN, add O(ld)
23 Sort of cake you quietly consume after eleven? (6-4)
UPSIDE-DOWN – U from textspeak for you (ugh!) P is quietly, a typical eleven constitutes a SIDE, and to consume is to DOWN.
24 As one at first approaches, fancy going over the top? (6)
AGREED – The first letter of Approaches, then the rest is a rather whimsical definition of GREED
25 A large scythe has been mislaid, so live without it (8)
CHASTELY – An anagram of A L(arge) SCYTHE for the manner of living with out “it” (know what I mean, he said, knowingly)
1 Am prone to abuse: I take it all back! (7)
REPOMAN – Which I would have said was U.S. but Chambers doesn’t. An anagram (to abuse) of AM PRONE.
2 Some pressure to pursue title that’s held by cyclist (9)
HANDLEBAR – Title is HANDLE, followed by BAR as a unit of pressure.
3 Leading one has to get the record (7)
ARCHIVE – Leading is ARCH (as in -bishop) then one has gives you I’VE
4 Habit of minister when talking something over (7)
SURPLUS – A homophone (when talking) of the SURPLICE a minister wears. Some of us think a surplice is a perfect collective noun.
5 After experiences, twelve on vacation with expedition (9)
POSTHASTE – After is POST, experiences the simple HAS and a vacated T(welv)E completes.
6 Old man consuming wine drink recalled something spicy (7)
PAPRIKA – Old man this time is PAPA KIR, made with wine and blackcurrant,  gets reversed (recalled) and inserted.
7 Theatre permitted audience finally full (7)
REPLETE – REP for theatre, LET for permitted and the last letter of audiencE
12 Small set of wheels carried on a cycle (9)
RUNAROUND – As in a basic car, carried gives RUN if your think of a newspaper carrying/publishing/running a story. Place it on A ROUND from a cycle.
14 Sport, one a few find boring (9)
WEARISOME – Sport gives WEAR (I’m currently sporting a fetching Christmas jumper with a penguin, hence my title). One is I, a few is SOME.
16 Endless Burgundy in green bottles (7)
UNDYING – Today’s hidden. Took me a while to spot.
17 Was revealing, like the costume one ordered? (7)
BESPOKE – Two meanings, the first perhaps a bit whiskery.
18 Little one quiet and rather pale (7)
WHITISH – Little  is a WHIT, one is I, and SH comes from quiet!
19 Old railway porter’s maybe succeeded in freeing chest? (7)
BRALESS – The UK railways used to be known as BR, porter is a kind of ALE, include the ‘S and S(ucceeded)
20 Drew, possibly accompanying note, something taken from letter (7)
TENANCY – Some of us will remember the NANCY Drew mysteries, with the note TE accompanying her at the front.

81 comments on “28786 Mr Flibble’s very merry”

  1. Went for ‘panic cross’ as the unknown plant, so avoided another hit on my SNITCH.

    Surprised to see 19d in a Times crossword. Stuck out rather, I thought…

  2. Wow, I’m first again! This seemed the hardest of the week so far, but I was tired after a day in Manhattan and am just about to eat, finally…
    My last few in were AGREED, RUNAROUND, UPSIDE DOWN and PAPRIKA.

    Ulaca posted while I was writing!
    My FOI was CHASTELY… after all we’ve heard said about “it” this past week or so. I recently found that I had unwittingly given two of my blog entries the same title, “What it’s all about.” At least we didn’t also have It for vermouth in (what turned out to be) PAPRIKA.

  3. Enjoyed this very much, though DNF as I failed to think of SURPLUS. I was held up in the NW for awhile, having originally entered the inventively hopeful PANIC BOOTS for the plant at 8A. On second thoughts I decided we were looking for a different meaning of ‘shop’…

  4. I thought the cycle in 12d would be Wagner’s , given the checkers, leading to my mombled ‘RINGROUND’, for want of anything better. I had thought of and eliminated RUNAROUND, as I didn’t see how it would parse ( thanks Zabadak!).
    37:58 with decorative pink squares.

      1. Not sure who you mean by we, but here in Kent, England I would call it a runabout too. The runaround is what you try to give the car salesman.

        1. Initially I meant we to be antipodeans, thinking ‘runaround’ might be the English equivalent. I see from your response this isn’t the case. Therefore ‘we’ can denote the English-speaking world.

  5. I don’t really have a time because I did this while simultaneously watching the first session of Aus v Pakistan, listening to the live feed of a high-profile libel case and fielding a couple of calls, but when the magic ‘congrats!’ came up I was still under the hour. A terrific puzzle, I thought, really tough in places and with some first-rate clues (REHEARSE, PUPA, UPSIDE-DOWN and more) which required Zabadak’s help to properly appreciate. LOsI BRALESS and BESPOKE. Oz going along nicely, 51-0 after 11…

    1. #metoo, glad there’s more than one of us😊for some reason repoman which I have heard of did not come to mind in the anagram

  6. 48 minutes. Not easy, with PANIC GRASS an unlikely sounding and NHO ‘Plant’ and lots of answers entered without being able to parse fully. Lucky to get through, with BESPOKE a hemi-parsed LOI.

    I thought REPOMAN was a US term too and Collins agrees, either as one or two words. The first quotation in the OED (as two words) is in an ad from the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1964. It’s not even in the online Merriam-Webster, which does have “repo” though. I remember the two word version from the title of the 80’s film.

      1. Sorry, you’re quite right. I was about to change “online Merriam-Webster” to “app version of …” but you beat me to it.

    1. Strangely ‘repo man’ is marked as ‘US informal’ in Collins but ‘repoman’ isn’t. In British English surely we would call these people ‘bailiffs’.

  7. 52 minutes. Whilst I enjoyed a lot of this I’m not quite so enamoured of it as some who have commented so far. A puzzle that needs to resort to such words as NABBERS, PSHAWED and the dreadful REPOMAN is getting a bit desperate in my view.

    I spent time trying justify NICKERS at 11ac before the B-checker arrived, but I was unable to find a word meaning ‘rabbits’ to fit ?ICKERS so it didn’t go in.

    The Oxford dictionaries are in no doubt that 1dn is an Americanism although they have it as two words, REPO MAN. I never believed for a moment that it was originally English English, but US or Australian, if not both.

    I’m familiar with PSHAW! as an interjection of protest or contempt used a lot in Restoration comedies and the like (along with Pish!) but having it as a verb in the past tense rather takes the sting out of it.

    Although I took a while to arrive at it because I was short of checkers to help me with the first word, I was familiar with PANIC GRASS as it has come up before – at least twice as an answer and more frequently with PANIC being clued as grass.

    1. At least one Trollope character, Lady Laura Kennedy, uses PSHAW, although without the W; but as Jack says, as an interjection of protest or contempt. I’ve never seen it used to express frustration, and of course have never seen it used as a verb.
      My mother once went on a date with a REPO MAN (2 words, never seen it as one); to her surprise, repo-ing turned out to be part of the date. Their last, as you might imagine.

    2. I always thought PSHAW showed disbelief or disagreement but different dictionaries give a wide variety of connotations. In Jamaica tcho or cho is a common expression derived from PSHAW.

      1. Yes, I wasn’t really querying the definition of PSHAW!, more its appearance as the past tense of a verb, although I accept in theory that usage can exist and may be listed in the usual sources.

  8. 26:40. When my first pass through the across clues only yielded CHASTELY, I thought this was going to be off the scale difficult. Whilst it didn’t prove quite that tough I certainly struggled a lot, particularly on the LHS.
    For WEBCAST I just took “our team” to be “we” as in “us”, rather than a bridge team.

    1. Funnily enough, I’d not noticed that WE was the team that wasn’t NS. It just happens that whoever is keeping the score in bridge marks theirs as WE, and the other team as THEY, rather than the more usual Us and Them.
      “I’m for us. You know how you spell us, right? U.S. I just picked that up. Has anyone ever thought of that before? I’m reading and said us. You know, when you think about it, us, equals U.S. If we think of something genius, they will never say it.” The Stable Genius

    2. Yes I thought that too as football fans for example always talk about us and we. In my case we crashed out of Europe last night having looked with 30 minutes to go certain to be in one or other competition next year🥲

  9. Started out okay but then ground to a halt before finally crawling into the station after 70 minutes with two missing, AGREED and BESPOKE. I’m no movie buff and if I have heard of REPOMAN I’ve forgotten but the crossers there were kind. I’ve definitely never heard of PANIC GRASS. I would see the print and the paper as two separate items. And I still don’t really get AGREED or BESPOKE having read the explanations. Either I’m getting too old or I’ve always been this thick. Thank you Z and setter.

    1. I also failed on BESPOKE and AGREED. Got the rest done in 20 minutes, then gave up after 20 more minutes staring at those two.

    2. Two days late, but I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to struggle with agreed and bespoke. I sort of get bespoke but agreed for fancy and or over the top? I’m still bemused.

  10. 51:21 but the hoodoo has been broken as it is my first success of the week…

    I spent an age at the end on 4D as SURPLICE was an unknown and there were a couple of others (PANIC GRASS and PSHAWED) but the challenge was a good one and I was relieved to finish with no pink squares.

    Thanks to both.

  11. 27:06. I wasn’t sure of DISCRIMINATION so held off putting it in until I had nearly all the checkers. LOI UPSIDE-DOWN which was rather clever after AGREED which I didn’t like – “fancy going over the top?”. Eh? I liked TURBINE though. PSHAWED took a while to see, but at least I’d heard of PANIC GRASS. A bit of a curates egg, I thought. Thank-you Z and setter.

    1. Any time you fancy something overmuch it might be recognised as greed, though I think depending on the circumstances it might equally be recognised as any of the other six Deadlies.

  12. 18:45
    Typical Thursday toughie! Excellent anagram for MULTIPLE CHOICE. Currently consuming cake, but not after eleven. I may have some After Eight later.
    LOI AGREED, LOL TENANCY – glad I came back to parse it after completion.

  13. A good challenge, finished in 24’28”.

    BRALESS, though witty, belongs in another broadsheet.

    Thanks z and setter.

  14. I really can’t see the problem with 19D.

    It’s not prurient really, is it?

    Presumably the greatest cryptic clue ever: ‘Bust down reason? (9)’ should also be banned.

        1. I remembered differently, so looked it up online on the off chance. There’s actually an article in The Times about John Grimshaw (who has set the Concise for years), and he cites it as his favourite clue – with the 5,4 enumeration: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/when-your-life-is-always-puzzling-john-grimshaw-times2-crossword-compiler-marks-a-milestone-rntgj3tpl#:~:text=Grimshaw's%20favourite%20cryptic%20clue%20is,reason%20your%20bust%20is%20down.

          1. Very strange. It is quite clear that ‘brainwash’ (along with ‘brainbox’, ‘brainwave’, ‘brainchild’, ‘brainteaser’) is one word.

  15. That was a proper stinker at the start but over time it gave up its secrets. Very enjoyable 75′

    The hidden UNDYING was very well concealed, so my COD.

  16. 9:21. I liked this. I’m always slightly bemused by the vitriol American terms seem to elicit around these parts. The ubiquity of American culture means that they are at least as much a part of our everyday language as obscure books of the bible, garden plants, Latin phrases and what have you. All part of the language’s rich tapestry.
    PANIC GRASS has come up once or twice before, or I wouldn’t know it.

    1. Because for some of us, The Times Cryptic crossword is a treasured part of old England. We think it should be listed, or put in a conservation area. We don’t like it going transatlantic. Not defending that point of view, just explaining it. If The Times crossword goes, the next thing to go will be the constitution (AP Herbert).
      NB: that quote was from a judge, asked to rule on a case in which Albert Haddock had dived off Westminster Bridge on Mafeking night, and swum to the shore where he was arrested. When asked why he had done it, he said he had done it “for fun.” The judge said that was not permitted: “If people are allowed to start doing random things for fun, the next thing to go will be the constitution.”
      They had some trouble however deciding what actual crime he had committed. In the end I think it was navigating a waterway without lights, or some such. Fine book(s).

      1. I understand the point of view, but on that basis there ought to be as much objection to WEBCAST or textspeak U for ‘you’. The latter does get its fair share of opprobrium to be fair but there seems to be a special sort of animus reserved for Americanisms.

        1. Webcast is not a word I use but as a neologism there is not a good English word to replace it. Repoman on the other hand has a better English alternative, bailiff. So has no place here ..

          1. Fair enough. On reflection REPOMAN is not actually a good example of what I’m talking about, for the reasons you mention, and also because (as is clear from the comments) a lot of people here have never even heard it. So it doesn’t qualify as one of the American terms that are ‘part of our everyday language’. I stand by my point but I picked a particularly bad example with which to make it!!

        1. AP Herbert was a barrister (and MP) and wrote a number of comedic books about the law, in gentle 1950s style, some of them very funny indeed. The negotiable cow… is a golfer a gentleman? … they were humorous but also tended to have a point to them. He reformed the divorce laws, which used to be horrific, almost single-handed.
          He was a great man, forgotten now by most, but not by me. Look him up, do

          1. Thank you for the recommendation.

            In a similar vein I’m sure you would like the writing of Cyril Hare (real name Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark), who wrote Golden Age detective fiction as a sideline to his work as a barrister and judge?

            All of his cases turn on an interesting point of law, and the entertainment is provided in the suspect behaviour of characters who may, or may not have a knowledge of that aspect of the law. Until the end, the reader doesn’t know either, or can only make educated guesses at it. The main protagonist (a lawyer) mulls it over a lot, eventually has an entirely logical pdm (ie playing fair with the reader), and it all fits together beautifully. Absolutely superb reads.

            ‘Tragedy at Law’ is the best and, counter-intuitively, the most humorous of his works, but each and every one of them is brilliant. Tragedy at Law incidentally possesses one of the great hilarious female characters of modern literature, to rival anything served up by Jane Austen. Put it on Santa’s list. You won’t be disappointed.

          2. Try to find the photo of Herbert with cow in a bank, attempting to negotiate…superb.
            It has been foreshadowed that Bills of exchange and cheques will be done away with in Australia. Within a few years, we’ll have to make gifts by soulless eft.

      2. 4 of the episodes from the TV series survive (with Roy Dotrice and Alastair Sim), though sadly not the one where he writes a cheque on a cow.

  17. Well this was well hard. I’d never have got REPOMAN, and guessed ROPEMAN might be someone. Didn’t get WEBCAST, whatever that is, and didn’t know (or Like) PSHAWED, put in ASHAMED as only likely word that fitted. I don’t see how AGREED works, in spite of Z’s blog. A disaster, darling. Didn’t much like NABBERS either. But you never do like a puzzle you can’t finish.

  18. 41 mins but conceded defeat and came to discover BRALESS. Thought AGREED a bit dodgy, but had to be. Not my finest bit of solving!

  19. Failed on repoman, never heard of it and tried ropeman, and braless, no problem with the word as such but put a weak bearers. Didn’t care for the dodgy (?) surplus homophone, the archaic and surely even then rare pshawed, the unsignalled text-speak u for you (what does that let us in for?), the awkward was revealing, runaround for runabout … wearisome’s the word.

  20. Two goes needed.

    Thought of ‘ropeman’ before correcting to REPOMAN; didn’t understand REHEARSE (a very good clue, and too clever for me); had to hope there’s such a thing as PANIC GRASS; eventually dredged up PSHAWED from I-know-not-where; only parsed the first two letters of UPSIDE-DOWN, partly because I never got away from thinking of eleven as time; took unreasonably long to get TURBINE; as joekobi says above, not convinced by SURPLUS as a homophone for surplice; had a Kenneth Williams-style MER at BRALESS.

    A tough but fun workout. Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Multiple choice
    LOI Pshawed
    COD Rehearse

  21. 26:40, but was undone by having mombled WEANISH (Scottish bairn but not accounting for the “one”) which I intended to go back to and forgot, notwithstanding that DISCRIMINATION made it WEINISH. Doh! Quite enjoyed teasing out the rest of the puzzle. Thanks setter and Z.

  22. Gave up, after an age, with the unknown (and will remain unknown) PSHAWED. Too many dodgy clues for me to be able to appreciate the several excellent ones. Shame.

    Thanks Z.

    1. My thoughts exactly. I did wonder if I might have enjoyed it more if I had completed it, but in the end I think not. Another day tomorrow.

  23. 1 hour and 41 minutes on the clock. Really tough. I’d done 69 per cent when I paused after an hour. When I came back to try to pick off the rest I was doing other things, at the same time, with the clock just running. So I didn’t really take quite that long. And then I didn’t think for a moment – after taking so long and submitting so late – I didn’t think I would still be in the top one hundred. An unwelcome hit on my SNITCH average.
    Some words were pushing it a bit, as others have said, but perhaps that made it even more satisfying to tease them out (to groans and Oh for Heavens sakes!). I liked ARCHIVE and UPSIDE-DOWN

  24. 21:56 – I had heard of a REPOMAN from some American show somewhere or other, but regardless of what the dictionaries may say, it is surely American today. Don’t mind it appearing, although would like it to have a US indicator.

    Also no objection to BRALESS – not a titillating word, the mildest of suggestive cryptic parsings in the def.

    I came across PANIC as a type of grass quite recently, although still needed the first crosser.


    Thanks both.

  25. Again done in two sessions so no time recorded, but certainly well over an hour and likely to be nearer 75 minutes. My old friend Percy Verence was required as I nearly gave up the ghost, but after solving my LOI BESPOKE I was feeling rather pleased with myself. However, my joy at finishing with what I thought was an all correct grid was dashed when I discovered that ROPEMAN didnt actually take it all back. Enjoyable even so, and no complaints

  26. Completed in one hour but with Papers for Papery – tarnation.
    Very good, and challenging, puzzle.

  27. What does it matter that SURPLUS and surplice aren’t absolutely exact homophones? They’re quite close enough to each other for anyone. Most of this was steady but slow, but eventually time was ticking on and I used aids for the last few and still finished in just over an hour. I’d never have got UPSIDE-DOWN with its unindicated U, AGREED was too hard for me, and I never knew that a RUNAROUND was a runabout. And DISCRIMINATION was only one of several words that seemed to fit. So would I have ever finished?

    You can always tell the true football fans because they call their own team ‘we’. (I sense that I’ve said that before.)

    1. Online, the Oxford Learners Dictionary and Merriam-Webster have surplice with a schwa, as in surplus. When I was a chorister, we wore surplices over cassocks, and I grew up calling it a ‘surplus’ – presumably because that’s how I heard it first as a seven-year-old.

      Very hazardous for folks to make definitive statements about pronunciation – or any aspect of linguistics.

  28. My four pink squares don’t bother me much, as I have never heard of the terms involved and would never have got them without cheating. Fortunately I am not likely to be bothered by the REPO MAN (and hopefully not by my ROPEMAN either). And I also am not familiar with any plants involving PANIC, so seeing the R and the final S of the second word I couldn’t think of anything better than CROSS (as in double cross or so) for shop as indicating what it was meant to be. All the rest of the puzzle was absolutely delightful, with very subtle clues (I especially liked BESPOKE), but there were many others. The puzzle took me exactly an hour.

  29. Afficianados of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ will remember that a Repoman appeared in several episodes late on in the series.
    Doubt if the scriptwriter was using an American term for a comedy set in Yorkshire in which anything outside the town was regarded as ‘foreign’ and a man from Hull was described as coming from the Far East.

    1. Interesting. Amazing what we might have exported to the States and elsewhere without realising it, so that when we import it again we think it is foreign. (Or do words lay dormant like seeds?)

  30. DNF. Very tough.
    Interesting that there are LOADS of grasses, and indeed loads of PANIC grasses, so all a bit technical for me, so I cheated there. MULTIPLE CHOICE I found was a very easy anagram, prob because I had _H_I_E.
    Pretty sure we have had PSHAWED before.

  31. Never heard of either repoman or panic grass, but they were luckily guessable. Though actually it was the SW corner really held me up, finally finishing 5 seconds inside the half hour.

  32. Well over the hour when I resorted to wild guesses – ROPEMAN, PANIC CRESS, RINGROUND, UPPISH NOON, BRACHUS for 5 errors. Not my finest hour.

  33. 44:44 but…

    Didn’t really get the clue for AGREED though could see the definition with the G and D checkers.

    NHO PANIC GRASS – had to look that one up!

    The rest was OK.

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