28918 Not the sharpest Tool in the box.


27.24 I freely acknowledge that I was slow through this one, missing the artfully disguised definitions wherever possible and, of course, diligently working out the ways and means of reaching the answers rather than hitting and hoping. Even so, I was relieved not to see pinks after submission as some of my interpretations felt a bit shaky. Unlike yesterday, I couldn’t see anything that was wilfully obscure, and despite the mind freezes, I quite enjoyed it.

Definitions underlined in italics, [] to show omitted letters the whatever takes my fancy.

1 Fable perhaps in English, quite bloodthirsty all round (8)
ALLEGORY – I believe the parsing goes quite: ALL bloodthirsty: GORY together round E[nglish]. The “all” in the clue looks as if it should give the ALL in the answer, but I think it’s just there to pad out the clue.
5 Not budging from saint-like lives (6)
STASIS – S[ain]T, like: AS, lives: IS.
10 Good blocks hammered into cross (5)
TIGON – G[ood] takes a blocking role within an anagram (hammered) of INTO. The product of a he tiger and a she lion. There’s about 100 in the world, all born in captivity. (A tiger?! In Africa?!)
11 Spread disease briefly after month, and end of quarantine (9)
MARMALADE – Most of MALAD[y] after MAR[ch] and the last letter of [quarantine]E. “The Alderney/Said sleepily:/”You’d better tell
His Majesty/ That many people nowadays/Like marmalade/Instead.”
12 To sponsor youngsters in care maybe not progressive? (9)
BACKWARDS – Sponsor gives you BACK, and youngsters in care might be WARDS, of court, for example.
13 Meant to shower after son (5)
SPELT – As in “local election results spelt trouble for the Tories”. PELT for shower (aggressively, perhaps) after S[on]
14 River boat enters to bring conscript across pond (7)
DRAFTEE – The river is (as often the case) the DEE, into which you float a RAFT as a rather makeshift boat.
16 Got Google always to unearth golf player from Ireland (6)
OTOOLE – Peter, of course, who I saw in a production of Macbeth in Bristol, memorable for all the wrong reasons. Take G[olf] out of GOT GOOGLE wherever it appears.
18 PC’s associate recoiling before chief (6)
LAPTOP – Associate is PAL, which you reverse before tagging on TOP for chief.
20 Disregard for commentator’s dexterity (7)
SLEIGHT – A commentator might say SLIGHT for disregard, but you could be forgiven for hearing our answer.
22 Maybe miss seeing red and green snake finally (5)
IRENE – I don’t think this quite works: seeing red would give you IRATE but not just IRE, and red on its own also doesn’t give IRE. Squint, and add the final letters of greeN and snakE.
23 Weakened through heat? (9)
QUALIFIED – If you get through the heat you are qualified for the next round, but if it’s a qualified success your chances are weakened.
25 Ability to trigger alarm and any amount of locks? (9)
HAIRINESS – I’ve called this a double definition, though both are a bit whimsical. If something is on a hair trigger, it’s primed to raise the alarm, possibly. Or it’s an unspecified quantity of hair (curly locks)
26 Having delicate appeal that’s shown to conclude Spanish film? (5)
ELFIN – A bit of the Uxbridge Spanish/English Dictionary. I don’t know if Buñuel put  EL FIN at the end of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but he could have done.
27 Make space for retreat at a temple (6)
PAGODA – Make gives DO, space gives GAP combined and reversed ahead of A.
28 Fancy, but so devoid of reason (8)
WANTONLY – WANT as in I fancy/want a better synonym, but (so) gives you the ONLY.
1 Whoever keeps it up for first year one can protect (8)
ANTIBODY – Whoever: ANYBODY, insert a reversed IT in place of the first Y[ear].
2 Reason watch is kept on private clubs (5)
LOGIC – LO gives watch , private (American) gives GI, and C[lubs]
3 Do the done thing with WWI novel (4,4,3,4)
GONE WITH THE WIND – An anagram (do) of THE DONE THING and WWI
4 Regret theorem — or sentiment framing it (7)
REMORSE – Hidden (framing it) in theoREM OR SEntiment.
6 Approving remark, ie missing one bearing greater resemblance to the other? (5,4,4,2)
THATS MORE LIKE IT – IE is THAT IS, remove the I. Bearing greater resemblance: MORE LIKE, plus IT in plain sight but probably indication hanky panky to make sense of the clue.
7 Has moved parrot on in hurry (5,1,3)
SHAKE A LEG – An anagram (moved) of HAS, KEA for parrot and LEG for on, on a cricket field.
8 Like sauna was — yet different? (6)
SWEATY – An anagram (different) of WAS YET.
9 Key on ring beneath father’s painting (6)
FRESCO – Key is the top left ESC, ring gives O, place them under F[ather].
15 Coming to an understanding within a faction (9)
AWAKENING – An understanding gives A KEN, place inside A WING for a faction.
17 Typical of gown with fastener: opening but not right! (8)
STUDENTY – from the phrase Town and Gown where Gown was the academic community and town hoi polloi. STUD for fastener plus ENTRY without its r[ight]
19 The Speaker’s looked briefly annoyed (6)
PIQUED – Another homophone where looked briefly gives peeked.
20 Old paramilitaries, each drinking pale port (7)
SWANSEA – The infamous SS plus ea[ch] with WAN for pale included.
21 Accident has old lady keeping rather quiet (6)
MISHAP – Old lady MA with (-)ISH for rather followed by P for quiet.
24 One loudly interrupting sister for a joke (2,3)
IN FUN – One: I then F for loudly inside NUN for sister

68 comments on “28918 Not the sharpest Tool in the box.”

  1. Oh dear, after yesterday’s disaster I failed to complete again, but at least I enjoyed this one.

    I sailed through all but 3 answers in 30 minutes but had already resigned myself to a DNF without aids because I had no idea what was going on at 13ac. Perhaps this affected me in some way because try as I might I had a complete brain-freeze over 20dn and 28ac. After a further 15 minutes I felt I was getting nowhere so I looked up SWANSEA hoping that would at least allow me to enter the last answer unaided, but it didn’t, so I looked that up too. I was right in my assessment that I had been nowhere close to either answer.

    Whilst I accept that rain is rain , I did feel that ‘shower / PELT’ at 13ac was a bit of a stretch, but the answer was clear so it didn’t put me off.

    My other failure O’TOOLE is interesting because although undeniably of Irish (and Scottish) descent PO’T was born and raised in England and remained officially British throughout his long life. He mentioned in a book that he was in possession of two birth certificates, one English and one Irish, but hospital records confirm that he was born in St James Hospital, Leeds on 2nd August 1932 so I don’t know how the Irish one came about, assuming it wasn’t just wishful thinking on his part. Leeds was where his parents lived at the time and where he spent his early years. Defining him as ‘player from Ireland’ therefore seems somewhat dubious.

    1. It was showering down/ it was pelting down; they showered her with accolades/they pelted her with accolades. No?

      1. As I mentioned I can see it sort of works but to me ‘pelt’ implies a degree of severity that ‘shower’ on its own doesn’t. If there was a really heavy shower you’d surely add an adjective to say so.

  2. I enjoyed this. SPELT, SWANSEA and OTOOLE were good but COD to QUALIFIED. Thanks setter and Z.

  3. She took me to her Elfin grot,
    And there she wept and sighed full sore,
    And there I shut her wild wild eyes
    With kisses four.
    (La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Keats)
    When he was asked why ‘kisses four’? Keats said it needed to be an even number, six was too many and two seemed a bit mean.

    35 mins pre-brekker (not marmalade today).
    I liked it, but not keen on Do as an anagram indicator.
    Ta setter and Z

  4. DNF. I was all but done in an average time. STUDENTY took quite a while, but it was WANTONLY that defeated me even after about 6 minutes of alphabet trawling. I didn’t much like HAIRINESS and I thought SPELT a little odd as a synonym for ‘meant’, so thanks for the example in the blog. COD to IN FUN. Thanks Z and setter.

    1. DNF for the same reason. I didn’t care much for HAIRINESS either, or STUDENTY. Liked QUALIFIED.

  5. 16:49, a few eyebrows raised in retrospect as blogger/commenters have noted, but enjoyed this.

    For a while O’TOOLE was looking very unpromising indeed, until I remembered the apostrophe in O’ doesn’t get accounted for in enumeration.

    Thanks both.

  6. I think HAIRINESS describes the degree of risk on, for example, a particularly scary rock climb.

    1. That certainly gives us a third way to arrive at the answer, but I was put off by “ability”: is a hairy rock climb able to cause alarm, or does it tend to? There’s a certain fuzziness about the clue which is odd.

      1. I interpreted it the same way as you when I solved it but I think I prefer Bob’s version. Neither is really perfect, but they both work! ‘Amount of locks’ seems like a perfectly adequate definition for HAIRINESS, the word ‘any’ seems to have been shoe-horned in to make the surface work and is a bit awkward.

        1. I don’t think the “hair trigger” explanation works at all. I did consider it, but nah…

  7. DNF with IRENE, WANTONLY and STUDENTY missing and with daughter’s dog having just arrived for doggy daycare. I need to write this while Penny (the dog) eats her breakfast. I got HAIRINESS, but wasn’t keen. COD to O’TOOLE. I sat alongside Peter and his then school-age son at Lord’s once. They made a model father and son, with Peter explaining the finer points of the game. Not much hellraising that day. Penny’s ready to investigate the garden. Thank you Z and setter.

    1. I take it you were in the posh seats where beer snakes and droning on about not wanting to be taken home are frowned upon!

      1. You’ve opened the door for some great name-dropping. When I was CFO of the Grid, Willis were our Insurance brokers. Their box at Lord’s was next to John Paul Getty’s. Peter May, lovely man and an England great, ran the Willis box. Because he knew I liked cricket, he’d invite me each year to a day at the Lord’s Test and to the Gillette/ Nat West final if Lanky were in it, which we usually were. The good and the great of the World were in one box and of cricket in the other. Conversation was shared between the two. The best name dropping I managed is in the sentence, “As I said to John Paul Getty, Mick Jagger and Imran Khan….” And Jerry Hall was listening.

        1. I now can’t get this picture out of my head, of Paul Getty and Mick Jagger saying “As I was saying to Boltonwanderer ” .. with Jerry Hall listening in …

  8. DNF, just couldn’t see the trick with O’TOOLE. SLEIGHT, the odd STUDENTY & WANTONLY L3I, for what it’s worth.

    I liked ANTIBODY & PIQUED.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  9. DNF, chucking in that old towel at 40 with WANTONLY and STUDENTY ungot. I share the misgivings of others regarding several here today, and don’t rate either of the ones I missed very highly. I mean, studenty? Really? The top half went in quite quickly but things fell away south of the border. Thank you Z, nice blog.

    From Song to Woody:
    Here’s to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too
    And all the good people who travelled with you
    Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
    That come with the dust and are gone with the wind…

  10. Hmm, not as many problems today as some it seems, but WANTONLY seemed to take forever to work out; and is not in a good place for an alphabet trawl to find…
    Hairiness I just took as a straightforward DD, the risky angle and the hirsute one.

  11. Day off work today (I’m practicing for my second retirement) so I had time to take this stiff challenge. Slogged my way through it, feeling like it was too much work, not enough satisfaction, until LOI OTOOLE which I couldn’t parse properly, and…

    …FAIL! My error, 25 minutes previously, was to carelessly solve the 8d anagram as STEAMY, leaving the only possibility for 13a as STEEM. Forgot the basic rule – if your crossers demand the insertion of an idiotic made-up word, *check the crossers*. And if you make brain-dead mistakes, *’fess up here*. 39:30

  12. Stopped after 29′ without SPELT or WANTONLY.

    Liked O’TOOLE and QUALIFIED. A shrug at HAIRINESS.

    Thanks z and setter.

  13. A few interruptions so no proper time but this took me quite a while, mainly due to my last two SWANSEA and finally WANTONLY. Not helped by getting stuck on GOODBYE TO ALL THAT for the ‘WWI novel’ (well, at least it has a four-word title) and MARGARINE for ‘Spread’ at 11a. I could also have been a victim of S_E_T at 13a but eventually saw SPELT when engaged elsewhere in the grid.

    A good puzzle, but I thought STUDENTY was a bit iffy.

  14. Like Lindsay, above, DNF due to WANTONLY (fair enough I guess) and STUDENTY (seriously?). You only see students wearing gowns once in three years, unless you went Hogwarts. This is 2024!

    1. I believe St Andrews uniquely perpetuates the tradition, even when they turn up on University Challenge, but the phrase Town and Gown is not dependent on actual apparel!

    2. ‘Gown’ can be used for the resident members of a university, the bulk of whom would be students. You see it in the expression ‘town and gown’ as the non-members and members of a university in a particular town or city.

  15. About 20 minutes.

    Tried to justify ‘margarine’ for 11a before thinking of MARMALADE; wondered if an ingot can be a cross before getting TIGON; biffed GONE WITH THE WIND and THATS MORE LIKE IT once I had enough checkers; and didn’t parse WANTONLY.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Allegory
    LOI Wantonly
    COD Qualified

  16. Defeated by OTOOLE and couldn’t think how SPELT could mean “meant” but both perfectly reasonable and a tidy puzzle all round I think. Thanks for the blog!

  17. On 21 across, SEEING RED taken as a gerund, i.e. a verbal noun, can correspond to IRE. Got through in 25’00”, with STUDENTY, WANTONLY and AWAKENED slowing me way down at he end. When I saw the O at the start of 16 across, I first thought the answer must be some obscure word for an Irish poet-musician which I thought I vaguely remembered. Happily realised that I just needed to elimate the Gs. Many thanks.

    1. It still looks clumsy to me, but I suppose “his seeing red made him curse the setter” just about works.

  18. Beaten by WANTONLY and O’TOOLE. Can’t complain about either clue, was just being dim. Might have seen both given more time than I had. This was tough, but enjoyable.

  19. 30:51
    I thought this was very entertaining . Struggled over WANTONLY STUDENTY and O’TOOLE. I made things unnecessarily difficult by at first going for MARGARINE as my spread, without taking the time to parse it properly.

    I too saw Peter O’Toole at Lords once. On his own at the end of a days play, he was elegantly dressed in a cream-coloured linen suit and clearly, as they say, feeling no pain.

    Thanks to Zabadak and the setter .

  20. DNF. Couldn’t get wantonly. I think ‘so’ is part of the definition in that clue, as the answer is an adverb, and ‘so’ means ‘in this way’.
    Thanks, Z.

  21. 13:23. I found this moderately tricky and then got very stuck at the end on WANTONLY. After a couple of minutes of rising panic I stuck the L in at the end which somehow helped me to see the answer. This is a tricky clue: ‘devoid of reason’ suggests an adjective (as harmonic_row says I think you need the ‘so’ to make it an adverb) and the wordplay (‘fancy, but’) is very subtle. A good example of a clue that is difficult to solve without the slightest resort to obscure words.

  22. DNF, 18a LAPTOP evaded me AGAIN. Several others I used my cheating machine to speed things up.
    Many of the answers failed to strike me as obviously correct, and I don’t like the uneasy feeling of “is that it?”
    Agreed with jackkt about O’Toole being Irish. I gather that the Irish will give a passport to anyone born on the island of Ireland OR having Irish parents. I am quite unsure of how the Irish parentage thing works. The UK & Ireland have the mutual free passage and residence across the border, like Schengen, and the definition of Irish gets wooly as a result. Place (country) of birth was once sufficient, but is no longer I gather. A neighbour of mine with 2 UK nationals as parents but born in Australia now has to apply for right of residence and citizenship; citizenship will cost her thousands.

  23. Another tricky offering to follow yesterday’s unwelcome battle, but this was far more enjoyable. I slowed myself down by biffing “margarine” and then having to back it out when SHAKE A LEG finally came to me. Then I had to back out when the phone rang, and resume afterwards. Similar raising of the eyebrows to earlier commenters. I was far too slow justifying SPELT (one might say it spelt trouble), and my LOI needed an alpha-trawl.

    TIME 11:41

  24. DNF, like others finding the SE corner beyond me. Still don’t like HAIRINESS despite semi biffing it. Wouldn’t have got WANTONLY and STUDENTY (despite seeing gown as a university reference). Film clues were nice. Thanks Zabadak and setter

  25. 49’05”
    Stayed on gamely in what turned out to be very testing going….

    …. and glad that I did so after two days of completing, but in the manner of an aged plater; I was chuffed that my Nitch matched the Snitchmeister’s assessment.
    With a combination of misdirection and disguised definitions, which needed a fair degree of lateral thinking to tease out, I thought this a fine puzzle. Leskoffer has beaten me to my defence of IRE.
    I must now have a look at the puzzles set by York’s Knavesmire’s testing going.
    Many thanks setter and Z.

  26. At 11ac I was, like others, trying to think of a malady of the form garin… and time was moving on and so I gave up and looked it up, very easy and should have got it. O’TOOLE I really liked, very clever clue. 66 minutes with aids at the end. Nothing went in very quickly and on my first pass of the acrosses I got nothing. By the end one or two (ELFIN, HAIRINESS, THAT’S MORE LIKE IT — where I think ‘it’ = ‘the other’ in a sexual sense, something Z may have been saying, not sure) entered without understanding.

    1. I was being slightly coy with reference to “it”: of course I was referring to thingy, nudge nudge, say no more.

  27. 50:28 with a struggle at the end in the south-east, including PIQUED, STUDENTY, QUALIFIED and WANTONLY. LOI SPELT went in with a shrug as I did not see the spelt/meant connection and the parsing (shower = pelt?) did not seem quite right, as others have said. O’TOOLE was clever, and a great surprise when he appeared from the wordplay. I liked EL FIN. COD QUALIFIED

  28. DNF

    It’s all been said above. I was thoroughly enjoying it until STUDENTY at 30’ and then gave up on WANTONLY.

    Thanks all

  29. No time today as the website isn’t playing ball. For some reason the crossword only loads after several attempts and it then behaves very strangely, deleting random letters and freezing. I don’t know if anyone else is having problems with it?

    After a few attempts I gave up and solved on paper, and I’m pretty glad as my time would have been pretty rubbish . I got stuck in the same areas as others above, with WANTONLY and STUDENTY causing much bother. SPELT was last in after a long letter trawl, and I wasn’t convinced it was right until reading the blog and comments.

    Hopefully the tech works for me tomorrow. Thanks to both.

  30. One of those days were all just clicked into place. Definitely on wavelength, but I didn’t think much of Irene despite some reasonable explanations given earlier.

  31. 44:03

    Plenty here that I didn’t think too deeply about – IRENE, HAIRINESS, QUALIFIED and WANTONLY all somewhat shrugworthy. Otherwise there were several pdms – PIQUED, SLEIGHT and MARMALADE (though did have MARGARINE masquerading as the correct answer until 7d was parsed – think I’ve seen KEA as a parrot before?).

    As an IT bod, balked slightly at PC being synonymous with LAPTOP – PCs are traditionally more akin to desktops, though a LAPTOP is undoubtedly a device for personal use too.


    Thanks Z and setter

    1. I thought a laptop is one form of PC, a desktop being another, we have both and they’re both Personal Computers.

      1. I normally use ‘PC’ to distinguish a windows-based computer from Apples. So my wife and I both have laptops/computers, but I have a PC and she has a Mac.

  32. A monster struggle for me, but I did eventually get to the end with no pink squares. TIGON was FOI. The SE corner gave me most trouble, mainly because of a self inflicted NO FUN which held up QUALIFIED. PIQUED, STUDENTLY and LOI, WANTONLY took forever! 49:11. Thanks setter and Z.

  33. DNF as I just could not see 28 across having no help from the Y at the end of studenty. Please can we have no more words like Undergraduatey, pupily, learnery

  34. About 13 minutes, several of them spent alpha trawling for wantonly and then trying to parse it. Parsed hairiness as Bob did and, like others, got held up on the unparsable margarine till shake … put me right.

  35. I just couldn’t find a way into this one and with six non-intersecting clues solved after 45 minutes I’m afraid I lost interest. A quick perusal of the blog has done nothing to re-kindle it, sadly, though that, of course, is due to my mood and not the work of our blogger. I had my fun yesterday when many didn’t, so time now to look forward to tomorrow.

  36. I came nowhere close to completing this, but I’m using the excuse of a medical procedure this morning.
    Slightly ashamed of myself for feeling slightly comforted by spotting an infelicity that Z missed. I believe 9d uses F[athe]R, rather than F[ather].

    1. I don’t think it’s F[athe]R; more probably Fr, a standard abbreviation for a religious father I think. There’s nothing in the clue to tell you to hollow out ‘father’.

      1. I had intended to put F[athe]R and I’m not sure where it fell out during the edit. I of course agree that FR is a standard abbreviation for Father, but how you can get to it without using the F at the beginning and the R at the end, I can’t quite see!

  37. Found this a bit of a slog – finished eventually but well over an hour – got held up trying to make MARGARINE fit 11ac but penny eventually dropped for MARMALADE – didn’t quite understand clue for 22 ac as “seeing red” is not quite ire – COD jointly 23 ac and 26 ac – both made me chuckle when I worked them out

  38. Lots of perfectly good words which I didn’t easily see the right (or any) synomym for – want/fancy of gown/studenty – so well done setter. Irked (ired?) that I got the G idea for O’Toole, then tried removing one, then the other, to no avail and not taking the baby step to removing both. Thanks, Z

    PS – someone might have mentioned this, but I think you’re missing the “r” in Fr at 9

    1. It’s my usual practice to leave one evident error in my blog to give everyone the chance to a) feel good about correcting it and b) demonstrate clearly that they’ve actually read the thing!

      1. As I expected. As our Muslim friends say, “for the eye of Allah”.

        PS – does that argument work at the Championship?.

  39. 42.19, with no idea how to parse ‘wantonly’ and a distinct Mer over ‘studenty’.

  40. Smidgeon over 30. Exactly as Keriothe said but twice as slow. I also got WANTONLY by inserting the L and re-trawling

  41. I completed this, but it seemed to take forever and my clock must have stopped. Agree with many of the above comments about the unconvincing nature of some of the clues. Also a MER at WANTONLY, which suggests to me a lack of restraint (physical or moral) rather than a lack of reason. Apart from in crosswords I have only encountered the word recently in the reference to ‘wanton and furious riding’, an offence under the 1861 Act which was wheeled out to prosecute an inconsiderate cyclist who was responsible for the death of a pedestrian. With any luck new offences will be introduced soon to deal with inconsiderate cyclists and wantonness will revert to being a historical curiosity.

  42. DNF, like many others, couldn’t see WANTONLY. I had even spotted the ONLY as a possible ending. bother. thanks Setter and Z!


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