Times 28666 More of a beauty than a Beast


I managed this in 21.09, just maintaining the record of getting quicker every day this week. By 5 seconds. This one is distinguished by a collection of immaculate surfaces and, to my eye, no vocab to frighten the nervous. There’s a nod in the direction of the stereotypical incompetent male who can’t even make a decent pot of tea, and a very timely bit of political commentary at 6d. It’s balanced by the Liberals in trouble at 21a, though if memory serves they’re currently the party with fewer such issues. No cricket, no birds, no shrubs and only one antelope. Can’t complain, but if you must…

Definitions in underlined italics.

1 Get rid of tea bag, going to pot filled by men the wrong way (8)
ABROGATE – Anagram (going to pot) of TEA BAG with a filling of OR (Other Ranks defined by men) reversed, the wrong way. Not perhaps the first word you’d think of for get rid of, but it does mean rescind, or withdraw a law or contract.
9 Not still working around pine frame of espalier (2,6)
NO LONGER – So working is ON, which is reversed (around), then LONG for pine and the outside (frame) of EspalieR. For once, you don’t need to know what an espalier is, but since it’s a latticework on which to train trees, the clue’s surface is pretty smooth.
10 Funky reggae covers popular for displaying harmony (8)
AGREEING – An anagram (funky) of REGGAE covering IN for popular.
11 Rank or rating in this way given to instrument (8)
ABSOLUTE – Rank as in rank outsider. Rating is AB, in this way SO, and the required instrument a LUTE.
12 Talks about daughter and son’s rapid search for mates (5,5)
SPEED CHESS – Whimsical definition, met by talks: SPEECHES around D(aughter) and S(on)
14 Radio’s means of marketing woodcutter’s tool (4)
ADZE – Means of marketing are AD(vert)S, as heard on the radio. Adzes are still used where modern tools are not available, and as an easy score in Scrabble™
15 Foolish like figure saving face in imbroglio (7)
ASININE – AS from like, the random figure is NINE, and the face in I(mbroglio) is saved therein.
17 Want this person to block unfortunate cut in income (7)
PAUCITY – This person is I “blocking” an “unfortunate” anagram of CUT, the assembly placed in PAY for income
21 Charge directed at liberals (4)
TOLL – Directed is TO, then you have multiple (well, two) L(iberals).
22 Brief note on account book showing addition to staff (6,4)
LEDGER LINE – A ledger line in music is the little line above or below the five stave lines to hang notes on. Tenors tend to get a bit nervous if there are more than two above in the tenor clef. In an account book, LEDGER, you’d assume a brief note would be a single LINE.
23 Sweet treats one fed to black dog with no tail (8)
BISCOTTI – Those funny little hard baked bready biscuits you get served with coffee in Costa. B(lack) SCOTTIe dog (with no tail) eats I (one).
25 Maybe roll cook tries after something on a plate (8)
REGISTER – My oath these surfaces are good! So something on a plate is a REG (number) followed by an anagram (cook, verb) of TRIES. That sort of roll.
26 American’s dropped ecstasy round bed where fliers might sleep (8) 
DOVECOTE – In America, if you dropped off a diving board you DOVE. Add E(cstasy) and surround COT for bed.
27 Take another look at queen with spinning jenny? (8)
REASSESS – Careful to split properly: that’s queen, with spinning, which turns ER into RE, then the Uxbridge English ASSESS, a female donkey, or jenny. The apposition of spinning and jenny is very cute.
2 Grab pastries, soft in the middle — a Scottish speciality (8)
BAGPIPES – Grab is BAG, pastries PIES, stick a P for soft in the middle.
3 Managed love sonnets, perhaps, in French (8)
OVERSEEN – Love gives you the O, sonnets, though plural, are represented by the singular VERSE (that’s fine) and EN for in in French follows.
4 Detective attending houses in part of mine (4)
ADIT – A passage into a mine. A bit of Yoda speak: AT for attending houses D(etective) I(nspector). AT is not an abbreviation: if I’m attending whatever White Hart Lane is called these days, I am AT the Spurs match. Or possibly AT the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.
5 Joke in Seinfeld occasionally being used by someone else (7)
ENGAGED – What you don’t want to see when desperate. Don’t have to remember anything about Seinfeld per se,  just remove his odd letters to leave ENED and throw in a GAG for a joke.
6 Conservative suffers defeat with experience near disaster (5,5)
CLOSE SHAVE – C(onservative) LOSES plus HAVE for experience.
7 Antelope’s caught by assistant putting down one lamb (5,3)
AGNUS DEI – Methinks that lamb should have a capital! GNU’S for antelope’s (ignore the ‘) “caught” by AIDE for assistant with the I (one) lowered to the bottom.
8 Leaves novelist on track (8)
GREENERY – Graham GREENE is such a useful novelist for the setter. Put him on the R(ailwa)Y track (twirls evil moustache).
13 Business price increases, dropping current merger (10)
CONFLATION – Business is CO, price increases INFLATION, lose the I for (electric) current.
15 One that may fight complaint from a person wearing tiny pants (8)
ANTIBODY – A, the BOD for person contained in an anagram (pants) of TINY.
16 Fake mistreatment’s covered I see (8)
ILLUSIVE – Mistreatment is ILL USE, which has covered I and V for see, as in qv.
18 Heavyweight caught old American’s boxing defeat (8)
COLOSSUS – C(aught) O(ld) US American, which assembly is (that ‘s again) boxing (in) LOSS for defeat.
19 A French female saving time, at first, is unpleasant to listen to (8)
TUNELESS – French in the feminine gender for a is UNE, saving is LESS in the sense of except, with T(ime) at the start.
20 Fan jacket of denim, drier on the outside (7)
ADMIRER – Jacket of DeniM gives just DM, put AIRER for drier on the outside.
24 Asian city’s market lacking nothing (4)
AGRA – Helps if you know that Greek for market is AGORA (it is in Chambers, and hence agoraphobia). Remove the O (zero) for the home of the Taj Mahal. I recently saw a picture of the Taj from a different angle – not the prettiest sight.

84 comments on “Times 28666 More of a beauty than a Beast”

  1. I found this one kind of tricky – 13:22, not helped by putting in SPEED DATES initially and wondering why. I liked the clue for AGNUS DEI and several others in here. I don’t think lamb can be capitalised unless it is moved to the front of the clue.

    1. I think Z is suggesting the Lamb (of God) is usually capitalised, so capitalisation would normally be mandatory.

  2. Really enjoyed that. Right in the sweet spot for me, tricky but not obscure, great surfaces, interesting vocabulary for the answers. Found it significantly harder and slower than yesterday’s. Thanks all.

  3. 36 minutes. A checker already supplied by 5dn prevented me writing in SPEED DATES at 12ac and the second word remained missing until much later in the process. The parsing of TUNELESS and REASSESS eluded me until long after I had stopped the timer.

  4. Tempted by SPEED DATES and BAKLAVA until crossers put me right (plus I don’t think you can put an extra letter in BAKLAVA, like BACKLAVA, to make it the right length). Is DOVE really US only? I’ve not lived in the UK for so long I’ve forgotten, but I think that’s what I would have said when I did.

      1. ODE has “(US) also dove”, which suggests ‘dove’ is not UK. The ‘also dove’ suggests, what I would have said (hesitantly), that ‘dived’ is more common than ‘dove’ in the US. There is a tendency to regularize irregulars, at least if they’re not common (‘ate’ is not about to become ‘eated’ any time soon); holp->helped, clomb-> climbed,etc. (But strive->? and ‘snuck’!)

        1. My favorite English irregular verb (actually regular by declension) is “rendezvous” which is obviously French until we decline it in English style to get “rendezvoused”. Of course, French has lots of fun English stuff like “le shampooing” or “le pressing” (dry-cleaning).

          1. My favourite one of these is ‘le relooking’, which is when you revamp the brand identity in a shop.

            1. One might add the new Olympic sport le breaking. It means breakdance. After the riots it conjures up certain other images.

    1. As a sometime lawyer I love the way Americans say that someone ‘pled’ or ‘plead’ (not sure how they spell it) ‘Not Guilty’ for example where we would say they pleaded.

  5. Biffed TONELESS initially for 19d, very much like playing the wrong move in speed chess when under time pressure (‘blundered in from feel’ being the chess equivalent ). Realised there was a better TUNELESS alternative just before submitting.
    We say ‘dived’ here in Oz. I’m happy to see there isn’t much evidence of it in the Women’s World Cup so far

  6. 42 minutes. Fell for the SPEED “dates” misdirection and held up by a few others such as BISCOTTI. New to me were AGNUS meaning ‘lamb’ in Latin and LEDGER LINE as a term in musical notation. I liked the mental picture of the ANTIBODY doing its stuff.

  7. Definitely with it today, 29 mins. Probably because I had to get up early to do an adrenalin filled chore which set the pulse and the cells racing!

    As mentioned, some great surfaces. I really liked « being used by someone else » and « rapid search for mates »

    I love BISCOTTI, especially when served in Italy with Vin Santo. Marvelous.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  8. I thought this was close to a 5-star effort, great surfaces and clever but gettable cryptics throughout. I did it in 32.53, held up at the end by ANTIBODY, ILLUSIVE and DOVECOTE. Helpful of Z to explain the latter, and several more. A query, what does ‘in’ do in the clue for ADIT (4dn)?

    1. Good question. I think it’s possible this setter’s good enough to have intended it as part of the definition, rather than just as a filler. After all, an adit is usually the entrance corridor to a mine, quite literally the “in” part.

          1. I think the feeling is that ‘houses’ already does that job, AT houses DI, so the ‘in’ becomes superfluous unless we buy Z’s crafty explanation…

      1. Does “Detective attending houses part of mine” make any sense to you?

  9. A nearly wonderful (for me) 42min solve, blown – and kicking myself for not checking it (although it would have to have been with aid) – by ADZE instead of the ‘adse’ I entered, having dragged the word up from somewhere deep.

    Biffed AGRA (somehow I’ve heard of Agora, but not with market connotations) once I had the G of REGISTER, and the NHO LEDGER LINE and couldn’t parse ILLUSIVE as ‘see’ being the V of qv seems a real tough stretch – is that a common cryptic device? I am limited to ‘lo’ or ‘aha’ as possible alternatives for ‘I see’!

    Anyway, this feels like a real achievement for me and a positive step in my attempt to master the 15×15. Chuffed despite the pink square.

    Thanks Zabadak for the fine blog.

  10. 15’04” today, delayed by the speed dates possibility. Liked AGNUS DEI, still traumatised by Fauré’s version being used in an advert for Lurpak.
    AGORA is a marvellous film about Hypatia, never released in Italy as too controversial.
    REASSESS COD, loved the spinning jenny.

    Thanks z and setter.

    1. You’re lucky: I’ve never recovered from Catherine Jenkins doing her thing on the “In Paradisum”. …Chorus Solo angelorumi…?

  11. Nearly there but needed help on DOVECOTE/ANTIBODY/TOLL.

    I had the LL for TOLL but dozens of words fit, with SELL and BILL being a good fit for “charge”. I also had ENVELOPE for DOVECOTE ( flier, as in junk mail, which is what I mainly receive). I dislike “pants” as an anagram indicator.

    Only NHO today was ADIT, but guessed, although ACID was tempting.


  12. 34 minutes. I came to this feeling grumpy at the thought of another crossword having fought with the TLS one last night, but then quite enjoyed this, tricky as it was. I think DOVE was used for DIVED in the UK more in the early part of my life, or maybe that was just rural Lancashire. I didn’t know LEDGER LINE but the account book gave it away. COD to AGNUS DEI. Thank you Z and setter.

    1. I’m another Lancastrian who is more accustomed to “Dove” than “Dived”.

  13. 26.17. Got stuck on absolute and too quick to put in colossal instead of “us”. Fortunately, I knew what a jenny was so realised my mistake just in time. NHO ledger line but the rest was clear enough.

    Just right amount of challenge for first thing in the morning so set up nicely for the day.

    Thx setter and blogger.

  14. My Top AGNUS DEIs

    6 Bach (from B Minor Mass)
    5 Durufle (from Requiem)
    4 Faure (from Requiem)
    3 Karl Jenkins (from The Armed Man)
    2 Verdi (from Requiem)
    1 Samuel Barber

    1. I’ve sung in all the others, but I didn’t know Barber had set his adagio with the Agnus Dei. It’s spine-tingling. I suspect most provincial choir masters know that their choirs would find that sustained level of singing a bit of a challenge, and not many have a soprano who can reliably hit that top c flat.

      1. I’ve sung all of them, including the Barber (a cappella), which is indeed a challenge, but a great one. I’m an alto. The sops did us proud.

  15. Ha ha I’m not the only one who put in SPEED DATES and regretted it then!
    I wasted time on ADMIRER too trying to make an anagram of DM and DRIER.
    Finished in 30 minutes in the end.
    Thanks setter and blogger.

  16. About half an hour. Remembered to spell ADZE correctly after getting it wrong in previous crosswords, and didn’t fully parse REASSESS or TUNELESS, but otherwise this was a fairly smooth solve.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Close shave
    LOI Biscotti
    COD Speed chess

  17. 12:40
    Excellent surfaces, especially SPEED CHESS and ENGAGED. Currently rewatching Seinfeld, so I’m using his jokes more than occasionally; last night we saw a Tommy Cooper tribute doing his “Pipe, pipe, bag – BAGPIPES” routine.

  18. Again a slow start but answers then came quickly to finish in about 40 mins. NHO LEDGER LINE though the wordplay was straightforward. Happy I didn’t have to know what an espalier was and I’ve always dove rather than dived. Some really nice clues, such as REGISTER and ABROGATE but AGNUS DEI takes the BISCOTTI. Thanks Zabadak and setter.

  19. 25:08
    I thought this was a cracker. Agree completely with Zabadak’s “immaculate surfaces” many of which sent me merrily off in the wrong direction. ANTIBODY REGISTER and ILLUSIVE were the pick of a fine bunch.
    One definition of a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes but doesn’t. I assume this covers ladies too, as it applies to my wife

    Thanks to Zabadak and the setter.

  20. 32:52

    I found this fairly chewy and certainly missed parts of the cryptic such as ASSESS as a female donkey.

    Had forgotten what LEDGER LINEs are, and would not have been able to define ABROGATE. Did like SPEED CHESS and BISCOTTI.

    Thanks Z for the unravellings

  21. Biffed a lot of this, because the words were helpfully unusual enough to be easily guessed. Just as well, because I had no idea what was going on with ILLUSIVE, REASSESS and BISCOTTI. Thanks for explanations.

  22. 33 mins. Bit of a slog for me. My fake ILLUSORY meant that DOVECOTE was harder to get. I think we’ve had the US DOVE quite a few times before.

  23. I enjoyed this one, entering via the ADIT and finishing with a BISCOTTI. I followed the wordplay and got to the answers. 16:30. Thanks setter and Z.

  24. 26:25. High quality clues and very clever cryptics. SPEED CHESS was particularly good though I agree with our blogger that Agnus Dei probably needs a capital L for the very distinct lamb in the definition. Perhaps Lamb could have gone at the beginning of the clue. I’m not clever enough to see how, but I am sure the setter is – if he had wanted to. Ace stuff anyway.

    On edit: I somehow glided over glh’s comment making the same point.

  25. Completely floored by this in the SW corner. I had a wrong answer for 13d – CONFLUENCE ( a wild stab, ignoring the irrelevance of INFLUENCE), making 23a and 26a impossible to get. I didn’t have ANTIBODY either. I’ve never heard of BISCOTTI, so I doubt that a correct answer for 13d would have helped me.

  26. 8:51. Not difficult but a model of elegance, with very smooth surfaces. Lovely puzzle.
    I have been caught out spelling ADZE with an S in the past, not a mistake I will make again.

  27. 41 minutes for the sort of crossword which whatever one’s political views on the newspaper shows why its crossword is still the very best. In several places I was a bit held up, but apart from my looking up a list of dogs so DNF really, every clue gracefully lost eventually. I think it’s just LINE (a brief note) on (following, across clue) LEDGER in 22ac, no connection between the words.

  28. 15.43

    As a bullet afficionado (1 minute chess – c4lvel on chess.com if anyone fancies a game; other speeds available) SPEED CHESS was both a super clue and right up my street, as was the rest of the puzzle.

    Thanks Zabadak and setter

    1. I play chess quite a lot and agree with you about the excellence of the SPEED CHESS clue. As for bullet chess, it’s always struck me as rather silly, since it depends so much on one’s dexterity with the mouse. Yet some of the world’s top players are very keen on it, so perhaps there is something there and maybe I’m just uninterested in it because I wouldn’t be very good at it.

  29. Not too keen about ‘dove’, not the American usage but the pairing with ‘dropped’ which is defined by a lack of added momentum. Otherwise good stuff. Steady throughout but a bit slow for which I blame the fifth Test. Which is compelling.

  30. Enjoyed this, as I always do when I complete everything correctly.
    LOI ILLUSIVE (well it was for me)
    A few NHO’s like LEDGER LINE and AGNUS DEI, for lamb, but all gettable

  31. 41:31 with one typo.

    Held up for a long time by thinking 17a might be FALLGUY.

    COD was Angus Dei.

    I originally tried solving whilst listening to the cricket on the radio, but this did not work, so I paused and waited for the lunch interval.

  32. Well, I eventually wended to journey’s end but REASSESS was unclear – I did know Jenny as a type of donkey but couldn’t see how it worked. LEDGER LINE was a complete mystery so thanks for the explanation.

  33. It took me 51 minutes to solve this quite enjoyable puzzle. No obscurities, but not entirely easy either. The only clue which gave me a bit of trouble was my LOI REGISTER, since I was thinking of everything but number plates and was tempted, fortunately not too much, to have a rug (wig?) on a plate (bald head?), but fortunately common sense prevailed in the end. Other clues just required a bit of thought to find the correct literal definition to make the wordplay work. Of course I though of speed dates for 12ac, but ENGAGED saved me from that pitfall and SPEED CHESS would be my COD.

  34. 30’20”
    Quickly into stride, kept on well.
    I’d echo all the praise above. The smoothness and elegance of this very quickly gave me the message – biff me if you dare!
    The sweets spooked me a bit until I realised I knew them very well.
    Thank you Z et al and a bravissimo for the setter.

  35. 22:48

    I couldn’t parse LOI 16 down so thanks to our blogger for that.


  36. Very enjoyable. Needed to have my wits about me, but no frustratingly obscure words and all the clever directions clear with a bit of care.

    Thanks setter and Z

  37. 46:28. found this quite tricky but brain was definitely not firing on all cylinders first thing this morning. (Wednesday night is the new Thursday night 😮 )

    I biffed Reassess and Illusive as I couldn’t quite parse them, luckily both ok.

  38. Took me around 1 hour, finding the bottom half tricky. Didn’t know the “staff” meaning of LEDGER LINE, didn’t pick up on v = see, struggled with saving = less (still not sure about that), didn’t know jenny = assess (and NHO of assess the animal), didn’t realise Dove was an Americanism – but waded through methodically. Quite tough, I thought.

    1. It’s fair to say ASSESS is not, in truth, an animal. It’s the setter’s whimsical suggestion (the question mark gives it away) that, on the lines of lion/ess, a she donkey should be an ass-ess. English is fun like that: for many more examples, look up the Uxbridge English Dictionary (irony: a bit like iron).
      That said, a Jenny is a female donkey, and the spinning version a machine that helped to kick start the industrial revolution by mechanising the production of yarn

      1. Thanks Z – I knew of the Spinning Jenny but I didn’t know about the female donkey and I didn’t pick up on the Question Mark! The misdirection is quite smart, admittedly.

  39. I realise that 5d surface refers to the show rather than the eponymous star. But isn’t it a technical breach of the “no living people” commandment?

  40. 25 minutes for me. Not much to add except to agree with comments on the quality of the clues and the pleasure of the challenge. Love the UED ASSESS. My favourite UED example from Graeme Garden was: disappear – insult a member of the House of Lords.
    FOI – ADZE
    Thanks to zabadak and other contributors.

  41. I’m well pleased that I didn’t get to this until mid-afternoon, as not being rushed gave me plenty of time to slow down and appreciate the artistry. Well done, setter.
    My capitalisation question was the Queen – since ER is specifically Elizabeth, I expected the upper case.

  42. Nice clueing. Thanks for explaining REASSESS. Sadly another DNF due to LADDER LINE (it sounded reasonable for musical notation).

  43. I don’t think ‘rank outsider’ means absolute. It just means one of an unspecified number of outsiders from the unconsidered ranks of competitors, as opposed to the specific fancied ones.

    1. Interesting: I think the word “rank” in this particular phrase is an adjective. The usual sources give variations on “If one of the people in a competition is described as a rank outsider, they are considered to have very little chance of winning”. Chambers gives one of the meanings of rank as “out-and-out, absolute, utter”, which seems to be the appropriate sense when applied to a no-hoper.
      “Foinavon entered the race as a 100/1 rank outsider. Almost nobody fancied the horse, and we doubt that even the jockey John Buckingham thought it could come home first.” That clearly has the sense of extreme, about as out of the reckoning as it’s possible to get.
      Mind you, I’ve come across a former group called the Rank Outsiders,
      “campaigning for gay men and lesbians to be allowed to serve in the British armed forces”. Which rather neatly combines both the noun and adjective – take your pick.

  44. Here in the US I would say dove vs dived is fairly even. At a pool most would say “I dove off the board”. However, we would always say “nosedived” never nose dove, as in a plane crashing, and never scuba dove. I dislike the use of dropped for the reason joekobi stated. Otherwise very good puzzle, thanks to setter and blogger!

  45. Alas and alack ! I lost confidence after carefully getting the first eight (apart from abrogate – didn’t think of it as “getting rid of “), and ‘twas a downhill slide after that, with mostly a blank grid. May have been a consequence of feeling off-colour this morning, but I searched in vain for the definitions even – which were mostly very cleverly hidden. Pity, as I can see following Z’s excellent blog carefully, that I should have enjoyed it if I were “up to par”. Only NHO was LEDGER LINE, but I should have been able to work that out. Very fair cluing, very poor attempt on my part. 😩

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