Times 28,073: Strictly For The Local Birds

I found this medium-tricky, but perhaps for the wrong reasons: the parsings are almost universally simple (by and large, “put X in Y”), but the grid is quite ungenerously laid out, with numerous double unches, combining with some esoteric vocab (17dn!) to create a good few speedbumps. My LOIs were 13ac crossing 4dn; it didn’t help that I really wanted 4dn to be ANECDATA, and I rolled my eyes when I realised what the groanworthy definition was really leading to. And 13ac is also barely a synonym for “baby” – just a rather unlikely term of endearment, yes? Hmph and hmph again, I say.

I always quite like -ish clues so I appreciated 5dn. Thanks for Fridaying us up, setter!

Definitions underlined, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Farm labourer holding hearts in game (8)
9 Lusty creature in a Roman street for local birds (8)
10 State secrets held in British workshop? (4)
BLAB – B LAB. “State” as in “utter”, here
11 Moaning endlessly in Cabinet about the Opposition? (12)
13 Simplified language broadcast for baby (6)
PIGEON – homophone of PIDGIN
14 Quick way round two problems with electricity (8)
SHORTCUT – electrical SHORT + power CUT
15 Gin neat when skipping tonic (7)
16 Slander girl in drinking establishment (7)
20 U-boat damaged, initially holed in a north German route (8)
AUTOBAHN – (U-BOAT*) + H{oled} in A N
22 It’s free to be immersed in river in Knock (6)
DERIDE – RID [free] immersed in DEE
23 Applaud those running across street in Derbyshire town (12)
CHESTERFIELD – CHEER FIELD [applaud | those running], across ST
25 Foot, intact to start with, seen by a doctor (4)
IAMB – I{ntact} by A M.B.
26 Scottish island returned to king whose role is telling (8)
NARRATOR – reversed ARRAN + TO R
27 Memorial has significance probed by character abroad (8)
2 Problems filling hole up where land slopes (8)
HILLSIDE – ILLS filling HIDE [hole up]
3 Versatile stadium boxer whipped (12)
4 Gossip and argument against lawyer one gets crush on (8)
ANACONDA – ANA [gossip] + CON [argument against] + D.A.
5 Lose brightness like small mountain lake? (7)
TARNISH – a TARN is a small mountain lake, so something like that is TARN-ISH
6 The writer is appearing in knockout garment with sash (6)
KIMONO – I’M ON [the writer is appearing], in K.O.
7 Muzzle small bear that’s devoured rook (4)
CURB – CUB devouring R
8 Voracious female in staff restaurant closing early (3-5)
MAN-EATER – MAN [staff] + EATER{y}
12 PM’s counterpart entered Miami given order (4,8)
15 Are such blows seen in good jousting practice? (8)
17 Member states made no changes in old Arabian port (8)
18 Tree feller an elected council member (8)
ALDERMAN – ALDER MAN [tree | fellow]
19 Costume seen immediately following tango? (7)
UNIFORM – Uniform follows Tango in the NATO phonetic alphabet
21 A match in Zoroastrian writings collection (6)
AVESTA – A VESTA [a | match]
24 Bible book shows last character in generation (4)
EZRA – Z [last character] in ERA

93 comments on “Times 28,073: Strictly For The Local Birds”

  1. There are two ways into AVESTA, neither of which was available to me.

    I’ll be sure to get it next time.

    Thanks V and setter.

    1. Great minds and all that.

      But I also failed on AVIFAUNA, where I wanted to put ‘avistuda’, before looking it up on the assumption it might just be wrong.

      1. Actually I just realised I got that wrong as well. I went with AVIROUEA, which you have to admit deserves marks for effort.
  2. Yet another DNF – guessed EUDAEMON correctly so thought I was on a winner, but failed on AM. Wrote ANTE MERIDIAN without checking the anagrist, so had a mispelled ANTE MERIDIAM when final letter was corrected by monument.
    Didn’t know faun or pigeon or what gentian was besides a plant, but no real problems with them.
    Liked BLAB and AUTOBAHN, but COD to ANACONDA.
  3. The last 5 minutes taken up with EUDAEMON, which I confess I looked up once I had it; I did find ‘eudaemonism’ in ODE, nothing to do with old Arabian ports. I couldn’t get past ‘satyr’ for some time for the lusty creature, but with AVI A the light finally dawned. I had a similar memory problem with AVESTA; couldn’t recall it until I had the checkers. DNK GENTIAN was a tonic. I took ‘baby’=pigeon as does Ulaca. I liked the misleading ‘state secrets’.
    1. Yes, I meant to mention “state secrets”. Had to be BLAB which caused a double-take before the “ooh, nice one setter” moment.
  4. Exactly the same error as isla3 above, not checking the anagram fodder carefully enough for ANTE-MERIDIEM. Still, some justice I suppose as I didn’t understand PIGEON or GENTIAN and getting EUDAEMON was just pot luck. A 39 minute DNF.

    Good to see ‘foot’ returned to its customary poetic sense after Wednesday’s TOOTSIE aberration.

  5. Felt very smug in knowing that it was MERIDIEN and not MERIDIAN, until it turned out it wasn’t. Luckily MONUMENT was straightforward enough to prompt a rethink.
  6. 50 minutes with three uses of aids to finish up with, so technically a DNF.

    I got as far as A,VI(??U?)A at 9ac but couldn’t think of a lusty creature to fill in the gaps. AVIFAUNA is not a word I know but it should have been guessable from the definition given the checkers I had in place.

    I so nearly worked out EU,DAEMON but again I didn’t know the word and given its obscurity and that DAEMON is a word in its own right, the setter might have been a little more generous with the wordplay!

    I also failed on the PIGEON. I would never have associated it with ‘baby’ and would be interested to know in what context it means that as I can’t find it defined as such in the usual sources.

    Edited at 2021-09-03 05:29 am (UTC)

    1. They each have the sense ‘concern/responsibility’, as in ‘That’s not my pigeon/baby.’
      1. Thanks. Would you believe it came to me just a second or two before I saw your response! It’s one of those three-point definitions that’s unlikely to appear directly in a dictionary but may well be in a thesaurus. Two seemingly unconnected words that share a third as a common definition.
      2. This is a much better explanation of the clue than my shoulder-shruggy one and I’m confident it’s right, but I must ask — has anyone ever heard this expression used in the wild?
  7. …It tried to be a rose

    After 20 mins pre-brekker I had three left. I had managed to construct Eudaemon but this had made me think the last three might be ungettable so I stopped. Hoorah! Good decision. I wasn’t going to get Avifauna or Avesta, and I had thought about Pigeon and dismissed it.
    Thanks setter and V. A gentian of a puzzle trying to be a rose.

    Edited at 2021-09-03 09:29 am (UTC)

  8. I’ve finally made it to zero errors on the leaderboard! I was never sure if I’d be able to sustain clean solves over a month at any point particularly when I was up to 17 errors at one time earlier this year. What Denise said yesterday chimed with me — I’ve had the technical solving ability for a while but to consistently finish correctly takes something more, in my case largely judging when and when not to biff an answer and having the patience to persevere with an unknown when I’ve come up with an answer that fits the cryptic but looks wrong.

    I thought my triumph might be short lived with this crossword, particularly because of AVIFAUNA and EUDAEMON. The former caused me particular problems, when I was trying to think of an animal for “lusty creature”. It was only when I turned my mind to mythical creatures and thought of satyr that I made the leap to faun and I was able to cross the line.

    1. Congratulations! I was there briefly until a couple of disasters earlier this week.

      As with others NHO AVESTA, EUDAEMON, AVIFAUNA (although at least the latter made sense). LOI PIGEON hoping it had something to do with baby.

  9. First of all – thanks for the comments and likes in response to my “philosophical crisis” post yesterday. All those heart emojis bring to mind a term which hasn’t hit reference dictionaries yet (but surely will) – KARMA WHORE – someone who posts on Internet sites purely to get the approval of others.

    The most resonant piece of advice came from Mr Grumpy – “don’t beat yourself up” -and with that in mind, I set about the Friday challenge. Started off really well including FOI PHEASANT in a few seconds, but slowed to almost zero progress by 25m and 8 or 9 clues to solve. At 35m, I realised I *was* beating myself up, and went for Somali breakfast.

    Subsequently got AUTOBAHN straight away, with ANACONDA biffed seconds before the hour mark, but nothing else, DNF with six clues remaining. Seemed tougher that the (currently) 101 SNITCH rating, and other comments here seem to corroborate that.

    Decodes that have caught me out before – onto the learning list
    “Free” = RID
    “Member states” = EU

    1. I think the near 30% of solvers excluded from the SNITCH with errors shows the difficulty of today’s puzzle.

      Edited at 2021-09-03 08:10 am (UTC)

      1. Thanks Pootle – that’s really interesting – in fact it seems to be a clear flaw in the methodology of the SNITCH rating.

        Note that I think the SNITCH page and its underlying logic are super-ingenious and resourceful, and I’m not trying to run it down – just commenting on how it might possibly be made even better.

        1. It’s been discussed before but never with any conclusion about how the number of solvers with errors might be incorporated so starstruck has kept it as is for simplicity. Thinking about it again now, I wonder if one point extra on the SNITCH rating for each percentage point of solvers with errors could work, making today’s around 130. That feels about right to me.
          1. Thanks, poodle, for remembering my explanation. At least I now list the number of errors for reference solvers so you can make your own rules. Today it looks like we got quite a few errors from those who can’t spell ANTE MERIDIEM. Does that necessarily make it a lot harder? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure.

            (BTW, that error would have been mine too, except I had no idea about the two bits of VESTA/AVESTA and had to look it up, so I submitted off leaderboard)

            1. On reflection I agree with your approach. The separate SNITCH value and number of solvers with errors give two different views on the puzzle. Trying to combine them in some way would result in a loss of information.

              Edited at 2021-09-03 04:26 pm (UTC)

              1. For what it’s worth and respectfully, I think that a successful outcome involves solving the puzzle in full and error-free – that should be the achievement that’s assessed for difficulty by SNITCH. Measuring some arbitrarliy-defined subset of success dilutes its usefulness.

                I fully acknowledge that I’m the new kid on the block here, and that my opinion consequently and rightly carries little weight – so just sayin’
                Regards Denise

                1. Thanks, Denise, for all your recent blog comments and for your interest in the SNITCH. It’s great to have some fresh insights to keep us from getting stale 🙂

                  To be clear, the SNITCH result is always based on times for solving the full crossword error-free. Even so, there’s always a bit of “arbitrariness” that’s unavoidable – the major one is that I only use the results from those who are in the top 100 on the leaderboard, even if I’ve recorded some errorfree times early in the day that drop out of the calculation later. That has frustrated some people over the years, but it does mean I can always reproduce the result from the final leaderboard that’s accessible.

                  Pootle’s argument is that if there are lots of reference solvers who are making an error, it implies that getting to an error free solution is harder than it would be if very few people were making errors. I don’t allow for this in the SNITCH calculation. As you can see from the discussion above, that’s a debatable position.

                  I take comfort from the fact that, despite questions that arise from time to time, people seem to find the SNITCH helpful.

                  And I’m always interested in people’s views – so thanks for the comments and the questions.

                  1. Thanks for taking the time to respond in such a measured and thoughtful way, I appreciate it…

                    …and of course thank you for the wondrous creation that is SNITCH. I have a background in web infrastructure stuff, and consequently a resonable appreciation of just how awesome it is.

                    A+++ use of web tech (but you knew that already)

            2. While you’re here, O wondrous SNITCH master, there’s a reference solver who appears to have morphed into a neutrino with several times of 3 minutes odd but an average around 13. S_pugh I think.
              1. Nothing more infuriating than the part-time neutrino who occasionally solves normally but occasionally just copies their paper answers in. There is an option not to submit to the leaderboard, people!
                1. Excellent advice – thanks, V.

                  In this case virtually all recent entries have been neutrino-like, so it looks like a recent conversion to neutrino-ism rather than an odd lapse.

  10. DNF in 45 minutes, the maximum time allotted today. PIGEON and EUDAEMON were still missing and would have remained so. I’m giving COD to TARNISH for the happy walks I’ve had round Malham with the two main dogs in my life, fifty years apart. I did manage to construct AVIFAUNA without knowing of the lusty creature, which both dogs were too! Good puzzle apart from the obscurities. Thank you V and setter.
  11. My least favourite type of crossword: half the clues ridiculously easy (how V’s heart must have sunk when he saw 1ac!) and a few ridiculously hard.
    Managed orl correct, but felt fortunate as nho the Arabian port or today’s obscure religious waffle. Was all set to complain about pigeon, but put right by Ulaca..

    Edited at 2021-09-03 07:53 am (UTC)

      1. Ah, is it? Didn’t bother looking it up. Not sure I can even be bothered to remember it for next time ..
        1. Next time? There had damn well better not be another time when EUDAEMON is the solution.
  12. 15:53, WOE. I ought to know how to spell ANTE MERIDIEM by now, but clearly I don’t.
    I really enjoyed this, but some of it is a bit borderline. As always the difference between enjoyment and irritation is having just enough knowledge and/or being lucky enough to see the right connections to get through unscathed. I didn’t, but that’s entirely my own fault.
    I wonder if the setter intended the term of endearment or the ‘responsibility’ meaning for PIGEON. Either works, but I definitely prefer the latter.

    Edited at 2021-09-03 07:34 am (UTC)

  13. ….after a slow start (how did I miss the obvious PHEASANT ? !) and despite not knowing the port, or that GENTIAN was a tonic — I had “antigen” in for a while and that cost me a couple of minutes until AMBIDEXTROUS showed up the error.

    Did we not have PIGEON PAIR for two babies not long ago ? That was my basis for solving 13A.

    TIME 13:58

  14. Like isla3 (and probably others) my semi-biffed ante meridian “corrected” itself when I put in MONUMENT and I failed to spot the now rogue vowel.

    We must have had AVESTA here before otherwise I’d never have got it. I assumed that the pigeon was one half of a pigeon pair, something else I only knew of from these puzzles.

  15. DNF
    Couldn’t get avesta.
    Got the rest, though. I’ve seen red 150+ snitch ratings for easier puzzles than this.
    Thanks, v.
  16. Well really. The only GENTIAN I know is the violet version, EUDAEMON is a beastie from Mephisto, and two separate penny drops were needed for PIGEON, though I agree it’s that three point turn that makes it work. Funnily enough, I got the FAUN easily enough, though it throws a whole new light on Mr Tumnus. Lucy should be warned afresh of the dangers of taking to strangers, especially if their legs are a bit funny.
    With the top left (even the relatively simple PHEASANT — that sort of game) resisting most, 19 and a bit minutes, including guesswork.

    Edited at 2021-09-03 10:04 am (UTC)

    1. I’m not positive, but I think Gentian is broadly where Plantagenet comes from. I didn’t think that until I looked the tonic up post solve and learnt about the flower; I was aware that the House name came from the plant which Henry wore.
  17. I eventually got AVESTA, but failed on AVIFAUNA – are fauns lusty? I don’t remember the one in Narnia being anything other than mild-mannered.

    Glad I’m in good company in misspelling ANTE-MERIDIEM – with the original -AN and then failing to correct it. Oh dear.

      1. I got it from Debusssy’s Prelude d’un faun in the post meridiem.

        Edited at 2021-09-03 08:26 pm (UTC)

  18. Yes the Arabian port was pretty obscure. I see the Romans called that part of the world Felix Arabia which seems a bit of a misnomer these days.
  19. Except for the Arabian port this fell within the range of not-specially-useful stuff I just happen to know so I suppose it could be said to be my PIGEON. I wasn’t sure about GENTIAN as a tonic but it seems to be mentioned along with sal volatile and laudanum as a staple of the Victorian medicine cabinet and now mostly banned. 20.12
      1. I’d just remembered that Maigret (who put away a phenomenal amount of the hard stuff) drinks that in one of the stories but I forget which, they all run together a bit.
        1. I’ve emailed you a link to an article on Maigret’s favourite tipples. Needless to say, they are quite varied. Invariant
  20. And it would have been even quicker had it not been for you meddling braincells (sorry I’ve been watching scooby-doo). I was at 13 minutes with one to go – Pheasant! Possibly the easiest clue on the board! But I’m very pleased with my guessing skills, because Eudaemon, Avesta and Pigeon all came up trumps. Not happy with pigeon = baby. By that reckoning any term of endearment = baby. Squidgy = baby. Did due diligence on AM, so avoided the mistake there. Very much liked Blab. You certainly can still see Gentiane on sale here in France, though I wouldn’t have said it was a tonic. Much fun had, so thanks.
    1. On the subject of pigeon-gate I have now conceded that it is a word for an “object of interest”. But I do dislike clues that require a lot of dictionary-work to understand. Let me mention here “my” cluing the word “the” (as in … the wife) and “one” cluing the word “a drink” (as in … one for the road). Substitutability does not necessarily entail synonymity, in my personal philosophy.
  21. Failed to solve with PIGEON, AVESTA, AVIFAUNA and the Arabian port.

    Thank you, verlaine and the setter.

  22. ….made a mess of the two electrical problems entering SHORTEST rather than SHORTCUT — kickself.

    The rest was OK, but EUDAEMON was a hit and hope — stick the M in, then bung in the remaining vowels…..

  23. One across was easy even for the QC crowd (like me). Was pleased to get AVIFAUNA, and GENTIAN but failed on EUDAEMON, ANACONDA at AVESTA.

    COD SHORTCUT : Two electrical problems, very nice.

  24. 30.23. A stiff test which I largely enjoyed and was pleased to get through unscathed. Was able to remember avesta and barely batted an eyelid at Eudaemon once I’d cracked the word play. Fixated on satyr as the most likely lusty creature but the faun wandered in just in time. LOI Pigeon gave me the most trouble and needed a bit of an alpha-trawl and a bit of a squint to see it.
  25. About 40 min: LOI PIGEON reluctantly, deciding ‘baby’ could be justified by ‘pigeon pair’.
    Before that, spent several minutes worrying about EUDAEMON, which was readily constructed from wordplay (after failing to do anything with Aden)
    However, that seemed to be something about happiness (confirmed by Collins) so was expecting it to be pink, as none of the meanings of ‘port’ are relevant.
  26. Well I liked PIGEON. A real catch-you-out job. And it caught Verlaine!

    Edited at 2021-09-03 01:38 pm (UTC)

    1. Appropriately, one definition of pigeon is “a gullible person, especially someone swindled in gambling or the victim of a confidence trick” — as in, “it was as easy as taking candy from a pigeon”.
  27. I finished this Friday beast off in three minutes after a cup of coffee, grapefruit (the sworn enemy of crossword-puzzlers who use print-outs – all pink squares!) and toast with Marmite.

    FOI 1ac PHEASANT – another favourite of mine, with red-currant jelly and parsnips



    COD 10ac BLAB! along with Isla III, Lord Galspray and Mr. Jordan

    WOD 17dn EUDAEMON – Aden – philately get you nowhere!

    As per Lord Ulaca, we had pigeon pair recently but that’s not my pigeon!

    Edited at 2021-09-03 01:42 pm (UTC)

  28. Some of this was easier than today’s QC; but some of it wasn’t.
    I managed to construct EUDAEMON but I was another MERIDIAM, pure carelessness. I got PIGEON but didn’t get the parsing.
    My effort at 9a was the Private Eye-ish AVITARTA. This led to an inexplicable CRUB at 7d. I had pretty much given up at that point.
    I liked AUTOBAHN and several others.

  29. Having read the comments, I’m pleased with my performance today. Lost track of time (undoubtedly more than an hour). Pigeon was straightforward from the wordplay with no idea of the definition. It was the final a of the NHO avifauna which enabled me to find a word relating to birds. Another one who put ante meridian before monument insisted that it must be inserted when I went back to the anagrist. Writing kimino for no obvious reason made inconsolable take the longest time, even though I kept coming back to it.
    The one which beat me was avesta. Didn’t know the definition. Another moan here about the age of the cultural references in this community. I can remember Swan Vestas from my childhood but you would have to be over 50, perhaps 60 to have any idea what this was about, surely?
    Thanks to the setter for a good work out and to Verlaine for the explanations.
    1. From Chambers:
      ana plural noun

      A collection of someone’s table talk or of gossip, literary anecdotes or possessions

      Says it’s derived from the suffix -ana as in e.g. Americana: a collection of information relating to whatever precedes the -ana suffix.

  30. another Isla3 error for a pink square in 12d. Inconsolable about this, as I’d made a mental note to check the anagrist before submitting. Unfortunately I lost the note, after wrestling with Avistuda and the Zoroastrians for the best part of my 34:25 time, eventually triumphing over them but not my short-term memory.
  31. Totally off the radar with this one. As above, I put ante meridian without even checking off the anagram which left me with 3 n’s. No idea of EUDAEMON, even after googling it.
  32. PIGEON, EUDAEMON and AVESTA were successful guesses while AVISTUDA wasn’t, even after deciding it would be a word like flora and fauna applied to birds. So close but so DNF.
  33. A stiff test for one out of practice. I did not know much of properties of 15ac so I will have a Gin & Gentian next time out. I know the town Chesterfield, Derbys. for its crazy, twisted church spire. The sofa was from Lord Chesterfield, Phillip Stanhope; and the cigarette from Phillip Morris, named after Chesterfield County, VA – which took its name from Phillip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield and my COD for all its historical links to the seats of power.
  34. So lots of biffing going on here, but lots of enjoyment too, and I got to the end. I had to look up EUDAEMON and I doubt if I’ll remember it. But AVIFAUNA will be an extremely useful word to drop into conversations. I haven’t been able to work out why ANA is gossip — can somebody help the penny to drop, please?
    1. It’s just an obscure word that means gossip, or anecdotes, and is too useful for cluing things not to appear occasionally, unfortunately.

      I’m not 100% convinced it isn’t related to the “-ana” at the end of e.g. Victoriana, but equally I’m not 100% convinced it is.

      Edited at 2021-09-03 06:06 pm (UTC)

  35. DNF, with the Eudaemon. Avesta, Avifauna trio doing for me. I also would have had a pink square — I spelled Meridien with the proper E and improper N, and then my sloppy handwriting let the N serve time without detection as an M when Monument came along.

    I got Gentian from a restaurant I used to like, then looked it up, and realised that the plant is almost surely the one Henry II wore, thereby giving the Plantagenets their name.

  36. Last 10 mins or so on EUDAEMON and BESMEAR because I had mombled ELDERMAN. My O Level Greek helped with former even though it seemed irrelevant to the definition

    Quite liked it

    Thanks all

  37. Messed up the afternoon. Had to use a word finder for PIGEON which still took me 5 minutes to work out after I was presented with a list of a dozen or so words to choose from. I had most of the puzzle solved in 20 minutes, but by the time I’d worked out the remaining 3, EUDAEMON, AVESTA and PIGEON, I was up to 39:46, then my ANTI MERIDIAM bit me. In my defence I put ANTI in as an oppo, and didn’t reconsider it when MERIDIAN(sic) appeared. Thanks setter and V. At least I did manage to work out AVIFAUNA with a bit of assistance from Debussy.

    Edited at 2021-09-03 08:27 pm (UTC)

  38. Very happy to finish, except for misspelling Ante Meridiem, and in only around 30 minutes. I usually labour for an hour or so with a handful left over.

    Do people use aids before completing? Always feels like I’m cheating myself if I do!

    1. No for the aids, using aids is considered a DNF.
      However, sometimes when I can’t finish I give up, and use a word-finder to get the answer, but report it as such: a DNF. Like john_dun directly above you.
      When I was starting out 15-odd years ago and didn’t have all the crossword vocab I used aids all the time, just to finish and learn a bit. That was before I found this blog.
  39. Did this in bits and bobs and finished, not getting PIGEON, BLAB or understanding the Arabian port.
    Pleased to get AVESTA and AViFAUNA

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