28930 THE [squiggly bit] TIMES


I found this rather fun, and thought I was quicker than my 18.08. I definitely slowed towards the SE, with the specialist field and the steel proving elusive despite some pretty kind cluing, and the police inclusion in the CD at 27 prompting musings about the Met, the CID and such. I nearly wore out my [ and ] keys, so frequently were they in use for first, last and middle letters. Not that it necessarily breaks any rules, but we had two and a half homophone clues in the mix. This was cheerful throughout, and pleasantly amusing, with some rather good “story in miniature” surfaces.

Definitions underlined in italics, letter exclusions indicated by [], everything else according to my wont (or possibly will).

1 Reinvests regularly in very old part of Italy (6)
VENETO – As you might surmise, the area around Venice, formed here by the regular even letters of rEiNvEsTs set in V[ery] O[ld]
5 Premium, as the adverts showcasing The Times for one (8)
MASTHEAD – Hidden (showcasing) in premiuM AS THE ADverts. The masthead is the header for our beloved organ.
9 Small firm working to absorb a measure of inflation which can be lethal (8)
SCORPION – S[mall] CO[mpany] for firm, ON for working with R[etail] P[rice] I[ndex] taken in. RPI is used to fix cost increases for some bills and services cynically because it’s usually higher than other measures of inflation.
10 Deny wife’s escaped from prison once (6)
NEGATE – NEWGATE was a formidable prison in London until 1902, much featured in Dickens. Remove its W[ife}
11 Tease upper-class Head of Accounts who’s up before Judges (6)
JOSHUA – Indeed in Holy Writ the book before Judges. Tease: JOSH, U the Mitford upper class, plus head of A[ccounts]
12 Bloody large swig knocked back — one might get hammered! (8)
RAWLPLUG® – One of those plastic or fibrous tubes you whack into a hole in the wall to secure a screw, now like Hoover a generic term. Bloody: RAW, L[arge] and GULP for swig reversed, knocked back. Cheerful surface.
14 Loudly panned top celebs framing poor bum, a vagrant sleeper? (12)
NOCTAMBULIST – Vagrant just in the sense of wandering. Loudly signifying sounds like knocked for panned giving NOCT, then top celebs giving A-LIST with an anagram (poor) of BUM framed therein. A great gossip story in miniature.
17 Motor on, in gear: tyre needs changing (6,6)
ROTARY ENGINE – An anagram (needs changing) of ON IN GEAR TYRE
20 Briefly endanger, with little hesitation, supreme power (8)
IMPERIUM – A short version of IMPERI[L] with UM as the hesitation.
22 Take broadcast with good humour (6)
INGEST – A homophone (broadcast) of IN JEST meaning with good humour.
23 Plain action of speaker (6)
STEPPE – And another homophone, this time of STEP for action.
25 Steel instrument with built-in retro microphone (8)
SCIMITAR – SITAR is your instrument, insert CIM for a retro MIC[rophone]
26 Famous Greek Conservative fell in the flipping Med! (8)
ACHILLES – C[onservative] plus HILL, that sort of fell, set in the Med SEA flipped backwards. An unheralded definition by example
27 Space formed by police where things are at boiling point? (6)
KETTLE – Chambers “an enclosed area created by cordons of police officers to control public protesters”; some who have been kettled might argue with space as a definition, but ho hum. It’s either two definitions or a single CD. Or both.
2 Third party deed not so good on reflection, Charlie admitted (6)
ESCROW – Chambers (again) “A deed in the hands of a third party, to take effect when a condition is fulfilled” as a legal term, there is also a techie version involving encryption keys. Not so good gives you WORSE, which is reversed, and C[harlie] is inserted where it does most good.
3 Bad weather near The Potteries might produce this (11)
EARTHENWARE – An anagram (bad) of WEATHER NEAR.
4 Ruling class roll cigars after tossing wrappings on Cape hotel lobby, finally (9)
OLIGARCHY – A deluge of first/last letters shenanigans. Tossing the “wrappings”, [R]OL[l] [C]IGAR[S] plus C[ape] H[otel] plus [lobb]Y
5 Vermin bothered Athene at first, being a goddess (7)
MINERVA – An anagram (bothered) of VERMIN plus A[thene]
6 Muscle function beginning to weaken (5)
SINEW – SINE is your function, plus the beginning of W[eaken]
7 Embrace university in Wells? (3)
HUG – U[niversity] within the initials HG of Wells a favourite writer.
8 Selflessness is founded in key spirit (8)
ALTRUISM – IS within ALT (the key next to your spacebar) and RUM, in this version a spirit.
13 GI teleports wicked ghost (11)
POLTERGEIST – An anagram (wicked) of GI TELEPORTS
15 Specialist field being security, one’s descending on N Scottish town (9)
BAILIWICK – Used to be the jurisdiction of a bailiff, extended to any expert’s field. Security gives BAIL, add I for one(‘s ) and WICK, almost as far north as you can go in Scotland.
16 Overbearing tail coat lined with titanium (8)
DOGMATIC – Helps if you know Titanium is Ti. Tail: DOG, coat: MAC. Assemble to fit.
18 Justice after English blokes upset relative (7)
NEMESIS – E[nglish] MEN upset/side down, SIS[ter] for relative.
19 Blast drunken revelry where whiskey is confiscated (6)
ASSAIL – Drunken revelry, usually at Yuletide, is WASSAIL. Remove NATO Whiskey.
21 Perfectly formed proposal put forward Liberal (5)
IDEAL – Proposal: IDEA plus L[iberal]
24 Highly acidic character (3)
PHI – The Ph scale goes from 1 to14, with 1 being most acidic and 14 being most alkaline. So PH1 in our example becomes the Greek character.

82 comments on “28930 THE [squiggly bit] TIMES”

  1. Pretty fast in the top half and hit a few speed bumps in the bottom. Got there but a mistake with staple for steppe and a fail on Bailiwick, couldn’t get Brigadoon out of my head. Liked scimitar which reminded me of the 70s car made by Reliant, the same people who made the three-wheel Robin. 120mph with a V8 engine, a beautiful car. COD to noctambulist.

      1. Yes. Like the Robin, it was a fibreglass body. Probably what allowed it to do 120mph. My stepfather had one in the early seventies which is how I knew about them. His was red and looked great. Thanks for your reply. Norman

      2. My father had one of those .. was a fine car. His had a fault in the automatic gearbox, it would start and go even in neutral or park. He took it into the garage to get it fixed and said to them, be careful when you start the car, it will go straight forwards.. you can guess what happened. Through a workbench and straight out of the back of the garage into the field behind.

    1. you may not read this but we had a reliant scimitar…a stunning car which we somehow got us two smallish children large dog and tent in! it was however a nightmare to drive in icy conditions.

      1. I will and have read this Clare. Surprising how many people commented on these cars when I posted. I thought they were very rare.
        Aren’t all cars a nightmare on ice?

  2. My favorite so far this week. NOCTAMBULIST crossing POLTERGEIST (things that go bump in the night)! Working out RAWLPLUG from the wordplay, and only after having all the crossers, brought a whiff of Mephisto. But that wasn’t my LOI, which was ESCROW, of all things (financial terms not being in my BAILIWICK).

  3. My first reaction was ‘Not another tough one!’ as my initial scan of the clues produced only a couple of answers, but I settled to my task and it all started to fall into place quite tidily. 27 minutes, which was welcome after the trials of the past few days.

    I knew ESCROW as it came up a lot when I was working in the legal department of bank many moons ago.

  4. 35 minutes having started off like a house of fire. LOIs SCORPION followed by ESCROW. I wanted to use BAR or PSI for the measure of inflation. Stupid! I’m an occasional SOMNAMBULIST myself and have never heard NOCTAMBULIST. Probably because I was asleep at the time. COD to RAWLPLUG. Wasn’t keen on BLAST for ASSAIL but enjoyed the WASSAIL. Decent puzzle at the easier end that I made hard. Thank you Z and setter.

      1. It was no doubt my COD because I’d not heard of it. And it’s a bit like virginity. You forget and become one again.Particularly at this age.

        1. Memory is a funny thing. There are numerous words I have learned and forgotten several times over the years but for some reason I remembered the last appearance of this particular word two and a half years ago. I’ve no idea why: I didn’t even comment on it at the time!

  5. 10:00
    Not as demanding as yesterday’s, but equally fair. Some nice helpful anagrams to get things started, then quite a lot of homophony.
    26ac may be mentioned temporarily later.

  6. 21:55
    I was foolish enough to think that ‘flipping Med’ meant DEM. NHO RAWLPLUG, which cost me a lot of time. MER at 16d: DOGMATIC does not mean ‘overbearing’, nor ‘overbearing’ DOGMATIC.

    1. The fourth definition for DOGMATIC in Chambers is “Overbearing.” Definitions elsewhere relating to the blustering statement of mere opinion as fact come damn close.

        1. Wouldn’t know about Chambers, but plenty in the OED. EG: “His dogmatic, pig-headed, preachifying, self-sufficient manners and domineering tone.”
          The definition says: “that asserts or imposes dogmas or opinions in an authoritative, imperious, or arrogant manner”

  7. I had EXACTLY the same experience of slowing down a lot in the SE, and finished in 24:44 after a fast-ish start.
    It was cottoning on to KETTLE that unblocked it for me, because then I realised the N Scottish town must be WICK which gave me BAILIWICK, then I realised i had CIM pencilled around the wrong I which gave me SCIMITAR, then i had enough letters for (W)ASSAIL and the LOI was INGEST.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  8. I guess RAWLPLUG must be an exclusively UK term – they’ve been around all my life. Liked NOCTAMBULIST and EARTHENWARE. I was slow with JOSHUA.

    14’44”, thanks z and setter.

  9. 11:38. “Pleasantly amusing”, our blogger says and I agree. I tried in vain to get the SOMN bit for SOMNAMBULIST work… because to was wrong, but EARTHENWARE got me to the synonym I’d never come across. LOI ACHILLES – I’m another looking for something in DEM. Thanks Z and setter.

  10. DNF – shocked and horrified to have done so badly and then realised I’d clicked on the wrong puzzle and this wasn’t the quick cryptic! Now I’m quite pleased that I managed to get through as much of this puzzle as I did.

    1. Well done, indeed! Perhaps you should be encouraged to have a go again. This was quite a tricky one, actually. There are many easier ones from time to time.

  11. 21:29
    I took a while to see the well hidden MASTHEAD, the unknown NOCTAMBULIST had to be constructed, BAILIWICK required all of the checkers and ESCROW was last in.

    As others have said, a fun solve with nothing too difficult therein.

    Thanks to both.

    1. So did my oppo George. Perhaps they’ll reveal the alternative entry with an appeal to VAR. I’m betting the biffable STAPLE.

  12. 16:18. I really enjoyed this, in spite (or perhaps because) of the fact that I was clearly way off the pace, with a WITCH of 166. I found it really chewy but all perfectly fair and I never got really badly stuck. And I knew all the answers, so there was no difficulty by way of obscurity for me at least. So thanks to the setter for tailoring this one so perfectly for me!

  13. Nice puzzle. After 15 minutes, left with 5a and 23a, eventually justified the hidden MASTHEAD (doh!) and gave up trying to justify STAPLE and went for an online trawl on *T*P*E and saw STEPPE was clearly better. Thanks Z for explaining ACHILLES, which I BIFD.

  14. 28:08. FOI 1ac VENETO. I had a short stay in WICK once (on the way to the Orkneys) which led me straight to BAILIWICK and opened up the SE. It was the SW corner that slowed me down: confused by the MED in Archimedes; failing for ages to see the excellent DOG MAC for tail coat; and finishing with IMPERIUM only when I had all the crossers. Nice one

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially the beautifully concealed MASTHEAD, JOSHUA appearing before Judges, and my LOI/COD.

    TIME 8:19

  16. DNF, defeated by the straightforward 5a MASTHEAD, so cheated for that. DOH, another missed hidden.
    As SteveB got stuck again in the SE. Freed by the reliant Scimitar.

  17. Nice puzzle got through it fairly steadily. No time since I’ve been entertaining/intervening with my young granddaughters all morning, both of whom do a bit of noctambulating through the night. Wracking my brain for a scottish town beginning with B before KETTLE provided the solution. Didn’t know SCIMITAR as steel (assume steel =sword in this sense?) so last one in. Thanks Zabadak and setter

  18. 10:15 mins. As brand names are not allowed, I was surprised to see RAWLPLUG. I’m not really sure it has become a generic word for wallplugs along the lines of hoover (particularly as a verb) or biro. Chambers doesn’t give a lower-case option for the word; it is listed simply as a proper noun and – as someone who uses rather a lot of them – it seems to be very much used to designate wallplugs of one particular brand.

    1. The notion that brand names are not allowed in the Times crossword is a really astonishingly persistent myth. It has not been the case for at least 15 years.

      1. I was going on the old Peter Biddlescombe guide which is indeed getting on a bit. I suppose The Times itself makes a frequent appearance (at least in clues) but my sense – perhaps incorrect – is that Rawlplug®️ is in a slightly different category as a brand/manufacturer name. It’s not a position I’d labour to defend but nevertheless I don’t think it has crossed the line into use as a generic term for a wall-plug and Chambers appears to support that view.

        1. Brand names appear all the time, and not just ones that have become generic. Every time it happens someone comments that brand names aren’t allowed!

          1. Yes, as you already said and I acknowledged. The residual point was that it is a word that has not (in my view) become generic. It was a response to the blog.

            1. I’m only a sample of one but I wasn’t aware until fairly recently that it was a brand name, or that they could be called anything else.

        2. Peter may have posted on the subject of brand names on more than one occasion but the one I know of dated Jan 4th 2008 said they were not allowed as far as he was aware. My recollection as a TfTT blogger since 2007 is that they have always appeared occasionally, but certainly they are more frequent in recent years, and as keriothe has said, it’s astonishing the idea they are not persists after all time.

          1. The list of wrong ideas that persist is a long one; discouraging, perhaps, but not astonishing.

      1. If there is one then Chambers, Collins and ODE have all decided for some reason not to use it in their definitions! I have heard them called ‘wall plugs’ but I always thought this was an eggcorn.

        1. I have always called them (and heard them called) wallplugs, but now I am wondering (quite seriously) if everyone has actually been calling them Rawlplugs all this time and I just misheard!

          1. A quick google shows that they are indeed sold as ‘wall plugs’. The other term used is ‘anchor bolts’. Thinking about it this is inevitable since presumably only the owner of the copyright would be allowed to sell them as Rawlplugs.

  19. 16 mins. Raced through this. Always called them SOMNAMBULISTS, but what do I know. LOI MASTHEAD, completely missed the hidden.

  20. Was unaware of NOCTAMBULIST, knowing only Somn…, which like others I tried in vain to make work. What is the ‘up’ doing in 11ac? It just seems to be there to give a nice surface. I can’t see a sense in which to say that ‘A comes before B’ is equivalent to ‘A comes up before B’. ASSAIL = blast seems odd, but it is there in Collins’s initial list of synonyms; likewise wassail = drunken revelry seemed odd, but that was because I was only really aware of the carolling sense. Didn’t like the unindicated DBE at 26ac. 41 minutes, with a hiatus in the SE corner that was resolved by finding take = ingest in a list.

    1. I’ve cheerfully sung in Alexander L’Estrange’s Wassail! which is a collection of Yuletide (mostly) drinking songs. A sample: “Bring us in no brown bread, for that is made of bran,
      Nor bring us in no white bread, there therein is no game;
      Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;
      For our Blessed Lady’s sake, bring us in good ale.”
      The choir is exhorted to sing with bibulous abandon rather than musical correctness, in the true spirit of wassail which is much closer to drunken revelry than pious carolling!

    2. One (at least if one has misbehaved) comes up before a judge, no? I assumed ‘up’ was there to mislead, although the capital J pointed in the right direction.

    3. I didn’t think in it was DBE. Achilles is the example and famous Greek is the category. Defining the answer ‘famous Greek’ with the word ‘Achilles’ (an example thereof) would be a DBE, but defining Achilles as a FG is the other way around. What am I missing?

        1. That’s what I intended to convey. You can use sea to produce MED, but (strictly) not Med to produce SEA.

          1. Of course. Thanks (and you too, keriothe). I knew I must have been missing something in the discussion since the Achilles / Greek thing was so clearly not DBE.
            You can see which part of the clue I was paying attention to and which part I breezed over.

  21. The easiest one this week for me. As a former lawyer, I would not have said that an escrow was a third party deed.

  22. 28:57

    I enjoyed this a lot. Went along fairly smoothily at first, but then got stuck in the SE, with SCIMITAR and BAILIWICK holding out. Hardly surprising when I had DIGEST instead of INGEST for some time.
    Also missed STAPLE for STEPPE by the skin of my teeth. Witty cluing throughout. COD JOSHUA.

    Thanks to Zabadak and the setter.

  23. 24:12

    Enjoyable grid completed whilst on lunchtime walk. Had AESCHYLUS in mind for the Greek but too many letters for shoehorning in. BAILIWICK prompted memories of one of my first IT jobs, rolling out Securicor Parcels first wave of Proof Of Delivery technology, WICK being the northernmost delivery centre. STEPPE’d over the beartrap at 23a. NHO KETTLE in the policing sense.

    Thanks to setter and to Z for the as-always entertaining commentary

  24. Very slow yet steady progress through this until a happy completion. Lots of synonyms were not at all obvious at first – e.g. took ages to justify bail for security in 15dn but with Wick being obvious it was no problem. Hill for fell was another. Thanks for the blog.

  25. 14.26

    Good one for me helped by thinking WICK; knowing too much about ESCROWS and successfully constructing the NOCTAMBULIST.

    Thanks all

  26. 15’12”. Made up for my disaster yesterday when I put RUMBELOW for FURBELOW, and was too annoyed to leave a comment!

  27. 40:41. very enjoyable solve. think I parsed it all, with most struggles in the SE. I knew that JOSHUA was going to be a book in the bible but had to hope the crossers would help me. I liked INGEST (I haven’t been doing these long enough to know whether this is a chestnut or not, but seems likely). thanks Z and setter.

  28. 24.23. Noctambulist took a while to figure, ditto for the last two- dogmatic and steppe.

    All in all, an enjoyable romp. Thx setter and blogger.

  29. I was making reasonable progress until I got stuck in the SE. Having not noticed that I’d stuck an H after the G in POLTERGEIST, SCIMITAR was off the menu until I noticed the wrong spelling. A mis biffed(and misspelt) BUISINESS gave me a helping hand with INGEST, then I saw KETTLE and ASSAIL and managed to get BAILIWICK. That left 23a and 5a still to do. Totally missed the hidden MASTHEAD but evenually got it from definition and crossers. By that time I’d had enough and gave up trying to find an alternative for STAPLE, submitting at 34:17 to get the inevitable 2 pink squares. WOE is me. Thanks setter and Z.

  30. Unlike many above, I didn’t have any trouble at all with the S.E. corner, but was held up by STEPPE. Once I had the three checkers _T_P_E “STAPLE” sprang to mind, but it was clear that it couldn’t be the answer. I then started to think of synonyms for “plain”; for some reason, “steppe” was a long time coming but, once it did, it was obviously correct. Thought it was a pretty lame clue in a generally enjoyable puzzle.

  31. Had DULCIMER in for a while as an instrument with a reversed MIC in it. Nothing else would fit and it didn’t parse, so removed it, and constructed the NHO steel.

    Unfortunately when writing in ROTARY ENGINE I ended it with an ‘R’, giving me two errors.

    A reasonable 15:29, but…

  32. I was a staple failer and biblical biffer in 55 mins having found these last two hard to get into and thereafter rather easy.
    Enjoyed this one though

  33. Done in two goes either side of a lovely walk along the Wey Navigation.

    Didn’t fully parse ALTRUISM; only vaguely familiar with what ESCROW is but the wordplay was clear; wasn’t aware that RAWLPLUG is a brand name so no problems there.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Veneto
    LOI Assail
    COD Scimitar

  34. I liked this – sometimes the vocabulary in a grid just clicks with my like-it meter, and today’s did. My hold-up was keeping trying to fit (Steel) Guitar around CIM in some way with a notable lack of success but with a good many C&W earworms triggered. Thanks, Z and setter

  35. 25 mins.
    I have to say some of the surface readings left a lot to be desired.
    Thanks, Z.

  36. 34.21. I see that I’m stuck in the slow lane today. I’m not sure why that should be, but I found the puzzle challenging but satisfying anyway.

  37. No time to declare simply because I was snacking on clues in between various work tasks today. But I found this (possibly because I was grazing) very enjoyable and rewarding. FOI was HUG (it was a struggle to find a foothold) but each clue solved slowly helped me to find a way to LOI – ESCROW.

    (Tad concerned that people have sleepwalked into losing their virginity, but I’ve had a small glass of Tokay and have possibly missed the point).

    Thank you, Zabadak and the setter

  38. 35 minutes on the dot, which is not bad for me. VENETO went straight in and then I pootled about until I was back in the NW finishing with JOSHUA and ESCROW. I like that POLTERGEIST is literally “rumble ghost” in German, which sounds more digestive than threatening. Thanks Zabadak.

  39. Nice puzzle. Except I had a typo so a surprise pink square. Several like NOCTAMBULIST that I had to work out since I’d never come across the word before.


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