Times 28,079: He Who Controls The Spice

No complaints about insufficient Fridayness today – lots of chewy stuff to think one’s way through here. “Mela” seemed a bit hard but then again “Kumbh Mela” does ring a bell, now I think about it. COD to 21ac – a plea I’d like to receive more often. I’m on holiday in Spokane (of all places) as of today, so I’m not going to go too in-depth but suffice it to say, thanks to the setter for a great puzzle!

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

1 Send up Times campaign? (5)
LOBBY – LOB [send up] + BY [times]
4 Spot if the criminal makes call after crime (4,5)
9 Champions were upset, sloping off to the rear (9)
BACKSWEPT – BACKS [champions] + WEPT [were upset]
10 Very short saying: time to go for length (5)
MOLTO – MOTTO, with T [time] replaced by L [length]
11 To be exhausted after race not acceptable (3,3)
RUN OUT – after RUN [race], OUT [not acceptable]
12 Wellington Arch is in front of small fox (8)
SLYBOOTS – BOOT [wellington] that SLY [arch] is in front of, + S
14 Unruly players’ union blocks invitation from minister (3,2,4)
LET US PRAY – (PLAYERS*) “blocked” by T.U.
16 Girl welcoming yours truly in at four o’clock? (5)
ESMEE – ESE [east south east = somewhere around 4 o’clock] “welcoming” ME
17 Classic venue where doctor’s exercising back (5)
EPSOM – MO’S P.E. reversed
19 Vital during day teachers should get a little food (6,3)
MONKEY NUT – KEY [vital] “during” MON N.U.T.
21 Plea to sleep in? So easily achieved! (2,1,5)
22 The Dutch avoid the UK? (6)
25 Close to harbour, sailor in coat bows (5)
ROSIN – {harbou}R O.S. IN. To rosin is “to coat (violin) bows”
26 Take risks to manage punishment (3,2,4)
CUT IT FINE – CUT IT [to manage] + FINE [punishment]
27 Coming across short story about party-goers (9)
28 The writer Thomas Hardy languishes, greatly diminished (5)
DYLAN – hidden in{har}DY LAN{guishes}
1 Politician, unusually calm deliberator (7,8)
2 Flyers to rip off? Someone’s might be saved (5)
BACON – B.A. [as in British Airways] + CON [to rip off]
3 Buy sets for modelling: they come with reservations? (3-4)
4 State of regularly neglected wreaths revolting (4)
STEW – reversed W{r}E{a}T{h}S – in a STEW = in a state
5 Jolly entertaining drama, overwhelming in arena? (10)
OUTPLAYING – OUTING [jolly] “entertaining” PLAY
6 Like Katherine’s mother to have food served all round (7)
TAMABLE – MA with TABLE all around. Katherine from Taming of the Shrew
7 Lion following, being after one’s territory (4,2,3)
8 New storefronts met with mockery at first throughout (4,4,2,5)
13 Food items for battering in the kitchen? (10)
DRUMSTICKS – double def, culinary/musical meanings
15 Distant waves and cheers when minister’s house opens (6,3)
TASMAN SEA – TA [cheers] “opened” by AS MANSE [when | minister’s house]
18 Confusion, with religious festival returning as new (7)
MELANGE – MELA [religious festival] + reversed E.G. N
20 Was previously top, top journalist (7)
EXISTED – EX 1ST ED [previously | top | top journalist]
23 What launches spacemen do in craft (5)
SKILL – S{pacement} + KILL [do in]. LOI
24 Left after expected time with others (2,2)
ET AL – L after E.T.A.

86 comments on “Times 28,079: He Who Controls The Spice”

  1. This was really hard and I wondered if I’d be able to finish. SKILL was my last one in, preceded by ROSIN, both of which required a non-obvious interpretation of the words in the clue. 75 minutes for me. I didn’t know MELA but I assumed it was a thing. I think that was the only unknown. I messsed up for a time at 20D where I had COVERED (was previously top, and top:journalist). But MONKEY NUT put paid to that idea.
  2. Started off looking easy with many anagrams falling fast, but got bogged down with some very clever cluing. I got the 4WD ute bogged in mud last night too, and will have to go and dig it out today.
    Liked MISSUS, MOLTO and ON A PLATE. Last one in was MELANGE, guessing that nho Mela would be the required festival.
    35:30. I’ll be happy if retrieving the vehicle takes as long. At least it’s not raining today.
    1. You can always get Gallers to help you out. His handyman expertise surely runs to more than cracked bottoms.
  3. Jolly entertaining, indeed! Never bothered to parse MELANGE, and too many excellent clues to single any out. Well, maybe 22a for its delightful left-fieldness.

    Once we’re able to travel again without ludicrous restrictions upon return to Hong Kong, I have it in mind to take the MISSUS to the States. Far from Spokane, though, as I have a yearning to visit the lone-star state and find out what makes them so wacky.

  4. Nice puzzle, which I will now damn as I am of the opinion that the apostrophised PLAYERS’ in 14 ac makes the cryptic grammar a bit tricksy. Either we must ignore the punctuation (no thanks), or have ‘blocking’ instead of ‘blocks’ to make it work, must we not? Then players* HAS union blocking.

    Anyway, it is a nice puzzle. I don’t care what anyone says.

      1. If it has to be ignored then it begs the question what it’s doing in the clue in the first place? A bit like Shankly and the offside rule/not interfering with play when he then posed the question of what the player was doing on the pitch if he wasn’t interfering with play? How I yearn for those forthright times. . .

        If the apostrophe had been omitted, I’m sure there would have been a few on here questioning where it was. If the setter must indulge themselves in this cavalier approach, surely it’s far better to omit punctuation altogether and let the solver insert it themselves? (Mr Grumpy)

    1. I’m with you – in a good cryptic the punctuation should work, and while we all start off being told to ignore the punctuation, I don’t think it’s true – or, at least, it shouldn’t be in the Times.
  5. A slow 77 minutes, but at least I made in the end. I had to guess the ‘religious festival’ at 18d and was fooled by the surface of 21a, thinking I’d learnt that ‘olate’ was an new word for ‘plea’. I’d forgotten about the colloquial sense of ‘kitchen’ for the percussion section of the orchestra, so mis-parsed DRUMSTICKS as a (not very) cryptic def and didn’t know the OUTING sense of ‘jolly’.

    The expected Friday standard (ie pretty hard) but worth persisting with. Thanks to Verlaine and setter

  6. Went through this at predictably SCC speed, making steady progress rather than the usual pattern of initial flurry, followed by bog-down around 25m. After giving it the full hour I was about 8 clues away from completion, and I see that as a decent outcome for a solver of my experience and ability on this puzzle. I’m still missing stuff like “champions” = BACKS even after thinking of the correct decode.

    Very pleased to get SLYBOOTS (which appeared a few weeks ago and was a NHO for me at the time).
    NHO ROSIN – onto the crossword-only word list
    NHO MOLTO except as an Italian word IIRC – so that’s two music-related
    A couple of answers went in partially unparsed (evidently I need to Brush Up My Shakespeare).

    Black marks for:
    Taking an age to get the 1d anagram
    My *second day in a row* of missing the hidden words clue!

    Fun and instructive start to Friday – thanks to Verlaine and setter

  7. Before scanning the clues for easy pickings I usually look at the first Across and Down clues and I was rewarded today with the 15-letter anagram at 1dn jumping straight out at me, so I was off to a very confident start.

    I wouldn’t say this was an easy puzzle but I maintained steady progress throughout and was pleased to finish it in 43 minutes. It was hugely enjoyable and my only unknown was the religious festival although that didn’t prevent me solving the clue once the checkers were in place.

    I took some satisfaction from spotting the four o’clock device at 16ac which beat me on a previous occasion not long ago.

    I liked MISSUS and the ‘Thomas Hardy’ clue best.

    Edited at 2021-09-10 05:22 am (UTC)

  8. Well I found that harder than a cat’s head, but got there eventually.

    Have to quibble with the definition of 15dn, unless you call 60 metres “distant”, but I guess it’s a matter of perspective.

    Spent most of my time in the Whitsundays section of the grid, taking about 5 minutes on each of the last 6 clues.

    Finally decided to surrender to my fate and enter the obviously wrong SLYBOOTS at 12ac. But what do you know? As Syrio Forel almost said…not today, pink squares, not today.

    Thanks V and S.

      1. Good point Jack. Jokes aside, of course I understand the British perspective. Just like to provide my own slant.

        But it’s a lovely quirk of crossword-ese that the letters “US” can be taken to mean either side of the pond.

      1. Cheers Paul, but as much as we all love Tassie, that’s not where the Tasman Sea is.

        I’m in Sydney. The Tasman is that mysterious body of water that separates people who are really good at rugby from those who, um, aren’t.

        1. Ah. My point really was who better to raise any issues or lead disucssion regarding the Sea, the related Island, and possibly NZ and Oz. Even George doesn’t do that very often. I do have to admit that I always — until I look at a map and remind myself, that I always thing that the island is midway between, roughly, Sydney and Wellngton — but that’s a different discussion.
  9. Memory like an elephant you have. Did I ever get around to posting those pictures of my cracked bottom?
  10. I made 20dn EX-ULT-ED making ‘er indoors rather tricky! A few years back my Missus went on a ten day work placement with her architectural company.to Dallas. She loathed it! Nieman Marcus was the only redeeming feature. Worst, the endless Mexican food (which I love). When this is all over we’ll be heading for East Coast Singapore, for the cuisine and the Tiger Balm Gardens! There’s adventure!

    FOI 4dn STEW

    (LOI) 25ac ROSIN awfully perverse clue IMHO!




    1. You have what looks like (but isn’t) a url in your comment with a stray dot between company and to, and LJ doesn’t like those. I have attempted to unspam. Nothing sinister!

      Edited at 2021-09-10 07:59 am (UTC)

  11. 25 mins pre-brekker.
    A nicely chewy offering spoilt by the unparsable Melange (even if you know Mela, as=e.g. Is a stretch) and the random not-quite-ESE girl.
    Thanks setter and V.

    …Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

  12. I struggled to come up with my last three — TAMABLE, ESMEE and MOLTO. Eventually I thought of ESE for for o’clock and the rest followed. I was uncertain whether I was replacing one T or two in motto but went with MOLTO as it sounded more likely, perhaps only because of the doppio malto beer I have in the fridge. I was a bit dim with MISSUS where I wondered how UK = United States. Post solve I took a liking to DRUMSTICKS when I remembered a kitchen was a percussion section. Possibly we’ve seen similar before.
    1. He can’t help. He’s locked down in NSW. We’ve closed the borders to the plague-ridden east. Anyway, I finally got it out, but had to resort to a tractor. Took a lot longer than the crossword!
  13. … and not tangled up in blue. 80 minutes with LOI MOLTO. I would make MISSUS COD but I only ever say it as MISSIS. Then it could be TAMABLE but I’d spell it with an E in. So I’ll go for LET US PRAY. It would certainly have been a good idea to ask for God’s mercy before starting on this beast. Thank you V and setter. This was un mélange de haute qualité.
  14. 27 minute chewing, with the SE corner resisting most.
    I spotted the “kitchen” section early on, but was looking for something to be battered rather than to do the battering. CRABSTICKS was/were nearly an entry: the components of percussionists; kit can be weird enough.
    MONKEY NUTS thrown by trying to put “vital” within “day”
    I (eventually) had EXISTED as “was previously” (definition), top=EX (verifiable as kill in Chambers) plus top=1ST plus journalist ED. Clever, eh?
    Thank goodness there isn’t an Exemplary Seaman or somesuch, or we’d have has another cheerful hoo-hah over resin and rosin.
    Despite Thomas being in the clue, I had the other DYLAN in mind as I entered. I haven’t quite worked out whether a Nobel prize for Literature means that isn’t ninja-turtling after all.
    Thanks V for a concise blog to a tricky one. Some of us are on tenterhooks waiting for the reason for Spokane, should there be one.

  15. I parsed 20 slightly diffrrently. I took the the definition to be “Was previously”. The first “top” i assumed to be a verb meaning to kill, or EX. The second “top” was 1ST, and the journalist was the ED. Arrived at the same result. Not sure which the setter intended, but I’m not clear that previously is quite EX. The ex-president would be the previous president, for example, but not the previously president.
    1. I parsed it as you did, but on reflection think it is insupportable. First, EX sadly cannot mean kill and, second, according to Collins, it means ‘former, previous, previously used in hyphenated compounds: ex-president, ex-convict, ex-wife.’
      1. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies of the gangster kind, but I’ve certainly seen exed out used as a verb indicating killed. But you’re right (and I should haved checked) it ain’t in Chambers. You can find it online, so I think “EX cannot mean kill” is a bit strong!
      2. Yeah, you’re probably right, and in Crosswordland (a place which is not in any dictionaries either) I guess I can see how “formerly top” could be “ex-first” which then gets abbreviated for the purposes of the clue
  16. I found this hard work. Was convinced that MONKEY NUT was something one adjusted with a spanner rather fed oneself on. Took ages for penny to drop on which Katherine was being referred to. Sublime deception in SKILL and MISSUS clues, even if latter a bit parochial. Struggled on, crossing line eventually. Many thanks to devious setter and to Verlaine for explaining the bits I biffed. Happy weekend to all. Come on, England; no rain, please to thwart us (or save us, who knows?). And young Miss R in US…
    1. Unfortunately covid has thwarted us , not the weather. Wonder if a win will be awarded to England?
      1. The speed with which the initial announcement that India had “forfeited” was changed suggests not 🙂
  17. 29:11 Lovely stuff. Not sure how DRUMSTICKS took so long for the penny to drop when I knew I was looking for something in the percussion department. LOI SKILL after the equally amusing MISSUS. DNK MELA, but I see I’m not alone in that. Thanks V and setter.
  18. 11:50. Quite tricky but I was fortunate in having all the required knowledge, including MELA. One of my kids plays the cello which helped the first time ROSIN came up, but it’s a bit of a crossword staple now.
    I was a bit puzzled by the definition of BACKSWEPT, but it matches what the dictionaries say and I guess it makes sense of you think of the quills of a porcupine, for instance.
    1. Same here re. MELA and a cellist and violist in the family. I thought this was a gem of a puzzle. And I’m glad someone else remembered ‘Cette sauce de haute qualite ….’
    2. My own prodigious mane of hair is often backswept (when not crammed into a top hat) so I did not need to resort to any spiny rodentia to make sense of things.
      1. But if you described it as ‘sloping off to the rear’ I would think you were a bit strange.
  19. Excellent. A toughie indeed, with the SW duo of MELANGE and ROSIN almost doing for me. COD – OUTPLAYING.

    TASMAN SEA is an opportunity to resurrect the Scottish newspaper correction: “in our report last week of the Macgregor/Stewart wedding, we said that the young couple would be staying with the bride’s father. They will in fact be living at the Old Manse”.

  20. Really pleased to finish this in under half an hour. Being a relative newbie, I usually struggle to finish the tougher crosswords but the practice may be starting to pay off.

    Particularly happy to remember SLYBOOTS, spot the Taming of the Shrew reference, and I have failed at that EXISTED type clue before too

    To be fair, I didn’t parse a couple of them on the way — ESMEE, MELANGE — but took a punt!

  21. This was indeed tough, and I fell at the final hurdle after 13 minutes – unable to think of anything for E?M?E and unconvinced by EVMEE, I followed the cryptic and tried ESMIE. Nonsense, of course, and as soon as I saw the pink square I realised what four o’clock was doing there. I only know one Esme and she spells it with a single E, so I hadn’t realised Esmee was a possibility.

    SKILL took me a while to see – a very nice cryptic breakdown but the surface is really awkward.

    1. Apparently ESME(E) is derived from the old French esmer meaning to esteem or love, and was originally a man’s name. On that basis Esmée is more logical for a girl but confusingly it seems to be an exclusively English name!
  22. I started the day with BACON(if only!) and then YES BUTS, before slinging in the LIBERAL DEMOCRAT. BACKS followed, but I WEPT much later. As an amateur fiddler I should have seen ROSIN much sooner than I did, but nonetheless it opened up the blockage in the SW and Galspray’s local waves appeared, as well as a biffed MELANGE. The longest hold up was in the NE where I finally managed to come up with ESMEE, which like Olivia, I usually expect to see as ESME. That left me with 6d where I managed to dig up the shrew. 45:19. Thanks setter and V.
  23. Very good crossword with some great clues. But a pet hate of mine was in 10ac: I’d have had ‘Very short saying: a time to go for length’, where the surface is hardly affected and it’s more accurate: if time (wherever it appears) goes for length then the answer should logically be MOLLO.

    However, I don’t expect to see setters changing their ways. This (to me, sloppy) practice is widespread, even among the most highly-regarded.

    1. To me ‘time to go for length’ necessarily indicates a single replacement. Multiple replacements would have to be indicated somehow (times to go for lengths, each time to go for length or similar) and I would be cross — and think it sloppy! — if they weren’t.
      Having said that there is something a little clumsy about indicating T as just ‘time’ when there are two of them, so your version is more accurate in that sense.
      1. To me it read the opposite. With the clue not indicating that a specific time was to be replaced my first inclination was that all occurrences should be replaced. I guess the fact that it can be read differently and is therefore ambiguous justifies wilransome’s comment.
        1. The way I see it ‘time to go for length’ would be entirely clear as an instruction if there weren’t another T in MOTTO. The fact that there is doesn’t logically make any difference. However the fact that different solvers read the clue in diametrically opposing ways certainly suggests a problem!

          Edited at 2021-09-10 12:51 pm (UTC)

  24. Nope, didn’t parse MELANGE, thanks V. I thought I was doing rather well but stalled completely on ESMEE at the end because I can’t remember ever seeing it with two Es. Mind you the only Esme I could think of was JD Salinger’s with love and squalor, so I toyed with Emmie for a bit but it looked odd too. Relieved my coin flip came out right. Good puzzle. 25.23
  25. Great to see it’s 140 on the snitch – that means super-hard! and my half hour suddenly seems like an achievement. Rosin, always with the rosin – it seems to be in there about once a month! Very much enjoyed this so thanks to setter and Verlaine. By the way I hope you haven’t got the Spokane Motel Blues (great country song by Tom T Hall: “I don’t know what I’m doing here, I could be someplace else, Like in Atlanta drinkin’ wine, wine, wine”)
  26. 29.01. An excellent puzzle and I much enjoyed the tussle. The setter had me bamboozled at nearly every turn. Slyboots, the four o’clock bit of Esmee, coat bows, the hidden Dylan, the distant waves and tamable where I got the right Katherine pretty early but was trying to force in termagant or some such synonym for shrewish before the penny dropped.
  27. Great puzzle but disappointed to find that I seem to be the only person who managed to put rasin (able seaman) instead of rosin. And thanks to the devil goes down to Georgia I knew the word rosin but somehow did not make the connection. Doh!

    37 enjoyable minutes otherwise.

    Thx V and setter.

  28. 41 mins but very pleased to finish. Got completely stuck in the middle and it was only after finally working out outplaying that backswept, drumsticks and monkey nut fell into place. Guessed melange but couldn’t see any other option. Mela now embedded in the memory which no doubt means something else will have been forgotten.
    Thx setter and blogger.
  29. For some reason I didn’t find this hard and polished it off in 20 minutes, although didn’t stop to parse MELANGE or the four o’clock device in ESMEE, so thanks V for those. Getting the long down clues at 1d and 8d quickly made the rest just flow. Liked the TOTS reference at 6d and the late sleeping at 21a.
  30. ….and it was a somewhat frustrating experience as a result.

    LOI ESMEE (without quite seeing it — cheers V)
    TIME 11:03

  31. Was pleased with my time, but not so pleased to discover that I had MOLLO.
    A few revelations: I never knew that Liberal Democrat’s were calm deliberators and I’d never heard of a MELA. Duh of the day was how long it took me to see DRUMSTICKS.
  32. Squeaked in just under 30 mins with a current SNITCH of 134 (target time of 56 minutes).

    Another decent start similar to yesterday’s, with another similar dropping off once about a third of the way in.

    Pleased to get the long anag on the right with just two checkers in (SLYBOOTS and DYLAN), which really opened everything else up.

    Bits missed: no idea who Katharine was, my excuse — I’ve only seen The Taming Of The Shrew once (starring Josie Lawrence) more than twenty years ago; MELANGE guessed with all of the checkers in place.

    DRUMSTICKS and LOI SKILL both took a while to come to mind.

  33. This was a bit of a challenge – but I holed out on the 18th with MELANGE – in 17:50 mins. COD 22ac MISSUS. Also liked Dylan
  34. Tricky today.

    I’m going to take pedantic issue with 16ac “Esmee” since ESE is 3.45 (and I’ve never heard of the name Esmee in all my born years — only Esme). Ah well!

      1. Thanks Myrtilus. I’ve just realised that you made the same point previously and more succinctly!
        I presume that the Setter was left with E_M_E and didn’t have too many options.

        Edited at 2021-09-10 07:59 pm (UTC)

      1. When the hour hand is pointing east it’s 3pm, south-east it’s 4.30, so strictly east-south-east is 3.45. Close enough if you ask me.
        1. “When the hour hand is pointing east it’s 3pm, south-east it’s 4.30, so strictly east-south-east is 3.45. Close enough if you ask me.”

          Doesn’t the clue say: “roughly”?

  35. 20:15 late afternoon. This wasn’t easy (as the SNITCH would suggest) and I was content with my time.
    Solving 1d quickly helped a lot. Interestingly, I seemed to get on the setter’s wavelength quite frequently but then failed to follow through my hunches. For example for 6 d “tamable” I identified the Shakespearean connection and for 23 d “skill” I picked up on “do in” in the sense of murder but didn’t crack either clue until after a subsequent visit.
    However eventually all was resolved, albeit with a Biff for 18 d “melange” where “mela” was unknown to me and I couldn’t parse “nge” and I thought that melange was more of a mixture than a mess, but still went for it.
    COD (plenty of candidates today) 7d “Isle of Man” where with a little patience the elements fell into place.
    Thanks to Verlaine for a succinct blog and to setter for the mental stretch.
  36. Instead of tackling in the morning while I was at what passes for my sharpest these days, I went old school, Pairing the crossword with an eary evening beer, so while the solving time was rather dilatory, I enjoyed the struggle.
  37. V — enjoyed your reference to Dune.

    I believe that there is a new film coming out soon — can’t wait — that will be sufficient to get me back in a cinema.

  38. Well, sitting in New Plymouth and looking out to sea, 15d was obviously an omen of an easy Friday. 45 minutes later, I was still looking at 23d.

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