Times 28099 – Hmmm….do I see a dragonfly?

Time: 81 minutes
Music: Beethoven, Symphony 3, Jochum/LSO.

As soon as I started this puzzle, I knew I was in trouble.     Yes, I could answer some of them, but only because I am an experienced solver who has seen comparable clues before….but that doesn’t mean I can solve them all.   I got into trouble with a wrong answer, which fit the literal and nearly fit the cryptic, delaying me at least 20 minutes in the one of the two most stubborn areas.   It didn’t help that I had stick, but could only think of lacrosse stick, so wasted a lot of time trying to find an opener that is a kind of stick.   Well, eventually, I managed to finish, but it wasn’t easy.

After I finished, I did check to see if there were any Monday bank holidays in October – not so.   There goes the theory of the easy Monday!   The SNITCH isn’t up yet, but can’t imagine anyone but one of the top solvers will be whipping through this.   And away we go!

1 Best in fish for cooker (7)
COSTARD – CO(STAR)D, as in a cooking apple.
5 Glue, for example, in black (7)
SOLVENT – Double definition.  Why is glue a solvent?    I checked a number of dictionaries, and can’t really explain it.
9 Company, they say, that takes anything back (3)
TWO – OWT backwards, up North.
10 Opener’s uncontrolled movement, breaking white sports club (6,5)
HOCKEY STICK – HOC(KEY’S TIC)K, where the white is a wine.   A hockey stick is not really a club, although it is often used as one.    Into the penalty box!
11 Imply close (8)
INTIMATE – Double defintiion, a relatively straightforward one.
12 After first of blunders, game’s completely gone (6)
BLOTTO – B[lunders] + LOTTO.
15 Finally fading, dim light (4)
GLOW – [fadin]G + LOW.
16 Crime ignored in conflict, unhappy at old African leader (5,5)
ANWAR SADAT –  AN + WAR + SAD + AT.  You must remove something from a crime to get AT, but I leave that up to the commenters.   The answer is obvious enough, if you remember the fellow.   It’s [crime]AN WAR – thanks to Neil Robinson.
18 Nip on part of face by a rodent (10)
CHINCHILLA – CHIN + CHILL + A, a bit of a chestnut.
19 League leaders in battle lost, of course (4)
BLOC – B[attle] L[ost], O[f] C[ourse].
22 Farm building in Epping, converted (6)
PIGPEN – Anagram of Epping.
23 Passion gone, start talking! (4,4)
FIRE AWAY –  FIRE + AWAY, in entirely different senses, as is customary in clues like this.
25 Endorse token gesture (11)
COUNTERSIGN – COUNTER + SIGN, delayed because of wrong answer.
27 Buff head (3)
NUT – Double definition, with both usages fairly obsolescent.
28 A girl who grew to accept university’s stiff examination (7)
AUTOPSY –  A (U) TOPSY.    Very clever literal.
29 Female swiping a very precious stone (7)
1 Article from newspaper, possibly, sharp (7)
CUTTING –  Double definition.
2 Weakness arrivin’? (11)
SHORTCOMING – Arrivin’ would be a short coming, of course.
3 In hot pants topless lady dresses (2,4)
AT HOME – I biffed this one – don’t have a clue.   Jeremy supplied the parsing in his Twitch stream, it is [d]AM(anagram of HOT)E.   Very clever!
4 Knock down all skittles, wrong when set up for game (4,6)
DECK TENNIS – DECK TEN + SIN upside down.   I got tennis early on, but needed the crossers to get the rest.
5 Ask for worshipper in speech? (4)
SEEK – Sounds like SIKH, a cleverly disguised chestnut.
6 Apathetic, as unplanned shopping trip, perhaps? (8)
LISTLESS –  Double definition, the second jocular.
7 Priest, upstanding resident of council estate? (3)
ELI – backwards hidden in [counc]IL E[state].
8 Erase date (4,3)
TAKE OUT – Double definition.
13 Moments after tight game (11)
14 Thrilling to catch cold (4-6)
NAIL-BITING – NAIL + BITING,  both in an entirely different sense, of course. The crossers were rather unpromising.
17 Refrain from keeping staff closer? (5,3)
SCREW TOP – S(CREW) TOP, fortunately, I’d seen this one before.
18 Page in contract on a security system (7)
CAPTCHA – CA(P)TCH + A, as in catch a cold, conveniently provided in a nearby clue.
20 Call on salt to be shifted that’s found in wine glass (7)
CRYSTAL – CRY + anagram of SALT.
21 Note meaning expressed verbally? (6)
TENNER – Sounds like TENOR – in the chestnut, a singer is normally used.
24 Large group equipped with members, might you say? (4)
ARMY – ARM-Y, one from the Uxbridge.
26 Sect missing the first of last month in brief (3)
ULT – [c]ULT.   If you think the sect is missing the first letter of last, then you will put CUT and conclude the literal must be in brief.   But what is month doing here then?   This was my undoing….for a while.

69 comments on “Times 28099 – Hmmm….do I see a dragonfly?”

  1. That was hard. Managed it in one long sitting, though never saw the Crimean bit – I was trying to take IN away from a crime to get AN. Surprised to see captcha, though it’s in Chambers. There seemed to be lots of very cleverly disguised definitions, and a few general definitions which could be anything e.g. rodent, worshipper.
    Never heard of girasol as a stone, but no problem with solvent cement as “glue, for example”. From childhood Airfix to more recent DIY plumbing.
    Thanks setter and blogger.
  2. Like Vinyl, I had TENNIS early on, but I could think of nothing but LAWN; and I had STICK early on, but I could think of nothing. No idea about AN, so thanks to Neil for enlightening me. POI CAPTCHA (could have been my LOI, but I gave up on NAIL-BITING to have another look); looking at the checkers, it seemed clear that I didn’t know whatever word it was, but finally it came to me. NAIL-BITING from an alpha-trawl. I liked the elegance of ‘erase date’, but COD to AUTOPSY.
  3. 32 minutes with a couple not fully parsed until after the event. I afraid I’m not clear which was the clue referred to in the intro that caused our blogger so much difficulty.

    I didn’t think twice about glue/SOLVENT as I am used to hearing about ‘solvent abuse’ which often means ‘glue-sniffing’ but on reflection I think solvent is just a component of some glues. Not that I know the first thing about chemistry, only looking at dictionary definitions.

    SOED has club as a stick or bat used in various ball games, esp. golf, so I don’t have a problem with the definition at 10ac. The parsing was more tricky as at first I was thinking HOCK— rather than HOC—K.

    28ac alone was worth the price of admission.

    Edited at 2021-10-04 04:51 am (UTC)

  4. Certainly harder than a “typical” Monday, currently coming in at 118 on the SNITCH. I very much enjoyed this, feeling frequently challenged without ever feeling frustrated. Having said that I struggled a bit with my last two, SOLVENT and SEEK, both of which required alphabets trawls. Indeed SOLVENT required two alphabet trawls, when the first letter gave me nothing so I took to trawling the middle letter.

    I wondered if CAPTCHA referred to something other than the web page security check as I didn’t think that would be in the dictionary, but Chambers confirms that is what is being referred to here. Now I’ve learned it’s an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. A little convoluted, maybe.

    1. Don’tcha just hate Captcha!? Is it a a truck? Is it an aeroplane! Are you human!? No I’m a smart robot! Ridicerous!
      1. When I see one I still think “ooh, a game to play!”. I think I might need to get out more.
  5. Suddenly realised (perhaps) where the blog title came from… With just the S and L in place and female in the clue for 29ac my first thought was damsel plus an A.
  6. My sort of crossword. I guessed it was Oink (given the wit, deviousness and PIGPEN). AUTOPSY, AT HOME and ANWAR SADAT were great.
  7. Time: just under 40 minutes of real enjoyment. Held up by POI 5dn SEEK and LOl 5ac SOLVENT
    I was truly surprised by our esteemed blogger’s time. As Jack asked, where did it all go wrong?

    Was this an Oink? Or was 22ac PIGPEN, the musing of a ‘Dead Head’!? Perhaps both?

    FOI 7dn ELI GIMME!

    COD 28ac AUTOPSY


    At 3dn l started with REAL TENNIS, then LAWN TENNIS and finally DECK TENNIS even though I had jolly HOCKEY STICK(s) all along! Bah!

  8. 39 minutes with LOI CAPTCHA. We should really have been asked to solve another clue if we couldn’t see this one. I shrugged at SOLVENT, delighted at least that it revealed Sikh and SEEK. COD is shared between TWO, AUTOPSY and ANWAR SADAT. Another year over, another year older, but still no wiser. Thank you V and setter for this toughish birthday treat.

    Edited at 2021-10-04 07:36 am (UTC)

  9. Quite a way short of completion – don’t wish to go into excruciating detail about the 8 or so I failed to solve completely.

    My old mum (Oldham born and bred) was a frequent user of the expression “neither ‘owt n’ nowt”

    1. On the other side of Manchester, we refer to a scrounger as somebody who “will have owt for nowt”.
    2. My wife very much still uses owt and nowt.

      Sounds like you did better than me today — I barely reached halfway before throwing in the towel.

    3. When chairing Board meetings, I preferred to call the last agenda item ‘Owt Else rather than Any other Business.

      Edited at 2021-10-04 02:43 pm (UTC)

  10. There were some very clever clues there. I particularly liked: ANWAR SADAT, AUTOPSY, SCREW TOP and SOLVENT.
    I’m deflated to think that CAPTCHA has made the leap from onscreen identifier to the dictionary.
  11. A nightmare on a mobile phone. Becoming woke for a moment or so (and no longer !) CAPTCHA should be banned on the grounds that it discriminates against those who are colour blind.
    1. It’s not being woke. Red-green colour blindness is very common in males, and yet the colours are used for traffic lights.

  12. ….and very enjoyable. I biffed ANWAR SADAT (but that’s no crime !) and lost a minute at the end in alpha-trawling my LOI.

    TIME 9:15

  13. Not a bad effort considering the hangover. The main delight was in (eventually) parsing ANWAR SADAT and SOLVENT.

    Excellent puzzle, thanks setter and Vinyl.

  14. I was woken early this morning by a text wishing me happy birthday which was lovely except my birthday in in August!

    Flummoxed by CAPTCHA, A NHO which I stared at for ages without coming to any conclusions. Only knew GIRASOL from the Spanish for sunflower. Very tough for a Monday, I thought. I did like AUTOPSY. Thanks v and clever setter.


    The expectation of a Monday puzzle being relatively straightforward was shattered after 15 minutes, but I pushed on to the end. I struggled with DECK (TENNIS) and SEEK and only managed to fully parse AT HOME, SOLVENT and HOCKEY STICK afterwards.

    Thank you to vinyl1 and the setter.

  16. I thought, with Mephisto, the Club Monthly, the Listener and a TLS still to tackle after a busy weekend, I’d kick of with the Easy Monday this morning to get acclimatised. The best laid…
    28 minutes plus. On another day (and a bit on reflection) I’d have enjoyed this, clever cluing, much humour (stiff examination!) a proper challenge and all sorts of other good stuff but not what you expect on a Monday when you’re just trying to warm up.
    Never did get the Crimean bit, though thankfully remembered that Egypt (and its politicians) is also African, which I don’t always.
    Like others, slow to get the STICK and the TENNIS versions, never remembering that HOCK is a sort of white. For SOLVENT I likewise didn’t get why it was (in) black, and when the penny dropped I was a bit miffed that there wasn’t a “the” to make it clearer.
    Let’s hope the SNITCH doesn’t rise too far this week.
  17. For me, this puzzle certainly had more of a Fridayish than a Mondayish feel to it. Even Verlaine might have found parts of it challenging.

    Some very clever clues, most of them already mentioned by previous commenters. AUTOPSY was particularly good, I thought. I entered ANWAR SADAT for 11a but was quite unable to account for the AN bit. Thanks to Neil Robinson for his explanation. I was among those who questioned SOLVENT at 5a. None of my dictionaries offers “glue” as a definition. I had to resort to aids to get CAPTCHA, a term I’d never heard of.

    However, a great puzzle. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  18. Wow, initially surprised to see the times, although I had to have faith in nho GIRASOL.

    TOPSY and CAPTCHA tend to be pub quiz questions.

    Didn’t parse SOLVENT, LOI.

    One of my oft-used sites has a box to tick which says ” I’m not a robot”, which leads to all sorts of interesting speculations about the future of AI.

    16’42”, thanks vinyl and setter.

  19. Normally I get close to a Finish on Monday, but miles away today. Even with the solutions, many remain unparsed.

    COD AUTOPSY, although I was working on “Alice” as the girl who grew.

  20. Not sure of the time as I didn’t do it in one sitting but probably around 45 minutes.

    Why is a Sikh a worshipper? Just a member of a religion, like lots of people who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves worshippers.

    I thought this was quite tricky and I put my eventual use of aids down to the fact that I was in a bit of a hurry. But I’d probably have needed them anyway.

    The Crimean War was very clever; I had to come here to see how the AN arrived.

    For a long time, reading the blog, I couldn’t see why nobody was questioning solvent = black. Had no idea, until it was pointed out that the setter was being a bit devious (or naughty, perhaps) by not saying ‘in the black’.

    And yes Olivia, I also flunk the traffic lights questions.

    Edited at 2021-10-04 10:26 am (UTC)

    1. Sikh = worshipper — had me wondering, but they do use temples, from my Singapore days, so I resisted comment.

      Edited at 2021-10-04 12:39 pm (UTC)

      1. WORSHIP in Collins:
        1. (transitive)
        to show profound religious devotion and respect to; adore or venerate ( God or any person or thing considered divine)
        2. (transitive)
        to be devoted to and full of admiration for
        3. (intransitive)
        to have or express feelings of profound adoration
        4. (intransitive)
        to attend services for worship

  21. 9:45. I didn’t find this particularly hard.
    I have been gradually losing access to the crossword club recently: starting with my phone the various devices I use have succumbed one by one to the ‘403 Error’ problem. Clearing website data has had no effect until suddenly this morning my iPad started working again.
    Without ever having really thought about it I’ve always assumed topsy was a plant, so I’ve learned something interesting today.
  22. Yes, I always flunk the ones that ask you to identify which of the pix have traffic lights in them – I miss one every time.
    1. Different countries have different setups for traffic lights, I often miss the American examples.
  23. The trouble I encountered I made for myself by slinging “screw cap” in at 17d without stopping to parse. That’ll larn me, except it probably won’t. Anyway it made gibberish out of 25a which took several minutes to sort out. I did like CAPTCHA even though I have all kinds of trouble proving I’m not a robot and I agree with Boltonwanderer that it would be nice to get another go sometimes with these puzzles without the clock ticking. Good puzzle. 24.52
  24. Having started off with CUTTING in the NW, at a fast pace, I became badly becalmed before breaking the blockage with CHINCHILLA. That got me moving, but the pace was sluggish from then on. FIRE AWAY gave me TIDDLYWINKS which opened up a few more. CRYSTAL and NAILBITING allowed me to construct the unknown GIRASOL. SOLVENT held out until I had all the checkers and I finally saw which meaning of black was required. I’d resisted it as it seemed to be the opposite of a glue until I remembered solvent abuse. AUTOPSY was my COD. LOI was CAPTCHA after a lot of neuron bashing. 41:03. Thanks setter and Vinyl.
  25. Back in the office this week and so solving on the Central Line. Failed in my target of solving by Oxford Circus (I get off at Holborn and was not finished then either).

    Not an easy Monday, my last few were AT HOME (unparsed), INTIMATE (should have seen earlier), CAPTCHA (excellent word), GIRASOL (not sure I’ve heard of it before). No idea where the “AN” came from.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    1. It is meant to be light-hearted. Think ‘army’ as in ‘leggy’. Equipped with (having) legs or arms, in this case.

      Edited at 2021-10-04 10:37 am (UTC)

  26. So much for easy Mondays. A lot of duh moments here, the worst being that I didn’t see the black SOLVENT connection. When I see rodent, I think rat, which held me up a while. I also took ages to get the DECK bit. In the end I needed COSTARD to see it.
    Not sure who TOPSY was, but def COD.
    1. Topsy is a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

      “How old are you, Topsy?” she asked, kindly.

      “Dunno, missis,” said Topsy, showing all her white teeth.

      “Didn’t anybody ever tell you? Who was your mother?”

      “Nevah had none!” answered the child with another grin.

      “Never had a mother? Why, Topsy, what do you mean? Where were you born?”

      “Nevah was born!” replied the little imp, still grinning, and all the questions Miss Ophelia could bring to bear failed to make the child own that she ever had a mother or had ever been born.

      “Have you ever heard about God, Topsy?” asked Miss Ophelia, but the child had no answer. She didn’t know what the good lady meant.

      “Do you know who made you?”

      “Nobody as I know on,” replied the child, “I ‘spect I jest growed.”

  27. 33:06. Not your average start to the week, as others have said. SEEK and SOLVENT were the big hold-outs, but I found much of the rest a bit of a tussle too.
  28. Miles off the wavelength today — gave up halfway through.

    Of course, reading the blog, some answers appear so straightforward, one wonders why one couldn’t see it.

    One parsing I didn’t get though was the ‘in black’ bit of the SOLVENT answer? Anyone help with that?

  29. 42.47. I made really hard work of this one. Never felt on top of the puzzle with the RHS taking the majority of the time, especially the top corner. Last ones in were listless, solvent and seek. All aided by eventually understanding why hockey stick was the answer to 10 ac.

    Having got to the end, I thought this was a very good challenge with all the answers making sense once you worked them out- not always the case and done without unknown words as well.

    Before I forget, like the blogger I biffed at home without understanding it.

    Thanks setter and blogger for a very good work out.

  30. 28:12
    Solvent isn’t glue, and I’m not buying the spurious link between solvent abuse and glue sniffing. At best, solvent is one of the components of glue.
    Thanks, v.
    1. When you glue PVC pipes or Airfix models you use solvent cement. The glue is a solvent that dissolves the plastic, press the two parts together, they fuse, and as the solvent (glue) evaporates away you get dry, strong, watertight, pressure-tight joints.
    2. Agreed. If anything they’re opposites: in a previous life I worked in a factory where we used solvent to un-glue rubber components that had become inadvertently stuck together.
  31. 5A: SOLVENT: My first thought : ‘ …for example, in bLACk’. Lac is a resin…(epoxy) resin…glue, perhaps? As noted, ‘glue’ and ‘solvent’ are not obvious synonyms. My second thought: if the clue had read ‘…in the black’, the penny would have dropped sooner!
  32. … to see a snitch of 116, as I breezed through it in 15 minutes in a hurry to be in time for my tee-off time. Just shows maybe I should try and speed up more often. Didn’t parse the CRIMEAN bit but was happy with the rest of it. Liked AUTOPSY and BLOTTO.
  33. I sailed through this in a fraction under ten minutes: like Jeremy the wind was in the right direction. From Costard to Girasol this was 20dn clear. COD 16ac ANWAR SADAT my time in the DC was not wasted. I even managed the CRIMEA crisis.

    Edited at 2021-10-04 04:50 pm (UTC)

  34. I did finish, and all correct, but started on my way to karaoke on the subway, where, engrossed, I got on the wrong train and then lost my pen during the unexpectedly long trip. I wondered if my difficulty in finishing this morning was due to a hangover—and maybe it was. Had SOLVENT in mind for a long time before I reconciled myself to the notion that “Glue” could be one (actually, the adhesive proper is dissolved in a SOLVENT). Forgot to finish parsing ANWAR SADAT, which came to me in a flash early in the underground ride.

    Edited at 2021-10-05 07:40 pm (UTC)

  35. 26 Down Ult is an abbreviation for last month, as prox is an abbreviation for next month
  36. DNK girasol, CAPTCHA or Topsy (grateful for the explanation as Wikipedia offered an elephant). Otherwise, fitted nicely into the ferry crossing this evening.
  37. Agree not an easy ride.

    Still don’t understand the ‘contract’ element of Captcha; why does catch mean ‘contract?? Girasol a bit unfair, because it is not precious in monetary terms, it is a stone ‘of gentle but powerful calming energy’

    1. To catch plague = to contract plague

      An old catch phrase:

      A ring, a ring of roses,
      A pocketful of posies.
      Atishoo! Atishoo!
      We all fall down!

    2. As vinyl says in the blog, you can catch/contract a disease: a cold, for instance.

      Edited at 2021-10-04 08:43 pm (UTC)

  38. 26:40 late this afternoon, with 10 minutes trying to crack the NHO 18 d ” captcha”. After trying simultaneous alphabet trawls among the missing letters I could only come up with the unlikely answer. I asked Mrs P if she had heard of the word and she said ” of course” and went back to her reading!
    I enjoyed this puzzle and didn’t find it easy. Plenty of challenging clues with possible COD 28 ac “autopsy”.
    Thanks to Vinyl for the blog and to setter for an interesting Monday experience.
  39. Some great clues here, shame about 21dn. Surely the setter meant ‘orally’, not ‘verbally’.

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