Times 28129 – League of Nations?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
With some relatively obscure vocab and some tricky wordplay – on one occasion coinciding in the same clue – this was definitely on the tricky side for a Monday. I was already struggling when I threw in the towel on the aforementioned 27a, that in spite of having all the crossing letters.

But I’m not complaining. This represented a nice change from standard Monday fare, giving me a decent workout in both the solving and the blogging stakes. Unless I am mistaken (not unlikely), there are no fewer than three all-in-one (&lit) constructions.


1 Tolerate what could be churchwarden’s source of drink? (9)
STANDPIPE – STAND PIPE (churchwarden – which we had the other day; think Gandalf)
6 Object when family avoids thinking (5)
9 Charles found with sister’s skeleton in car (7)
10 Cover needed for vehicle to carry round orchestra (7)
CARPORT – RPO (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) in CART
11 Small city company’s artistic technique (5)
SECCO – S EC CO; ‘wall painting done on dried plaster with tempera or pigments ground in limewater’ (Collins); I thought it meant dry – of wine – but that is ‘seco’ (except when it is misspelt on menus)
12 Repressive measure of drug bust? (9)
CRACKDOWN – CRACK (drug) DOWN (bust – the best I can manage is inoperative, as in the lines are down, but that doesn’t exactly mean bust/broken)
13 At the start West Ham is really revelling in noise made by fans? (5)
WHIRR – initial letters of the 4th to 8th words
14 Performance of empty melisma during fiddle part (9)
RIGMAROLE – M[elism]A in RIG (fiddle) ROLE (part)
17 Shot photo sent immediately (2,3,4)
ON THE SPOT – anagram* of PHOTO SENT; as in ‘He got the job on the spot’
18 One in cottage room has good living (5)
BEING – I in BEN (Scots word for room in cottage) G
19 Irregular mostly struggling to capture land’s leader? (9)
GUERRILLA – L (initial letter of LAND) in IRREGULA[r]* to give a quirky all-in-one
22 Wet fish keeping cool? (5)
24 Inspect sack returned where coal comes from (7)
EXAMINE – AXE (sack) reversed MINE
25 Right of pasture at this point is including land (7)
HERBAGE – BAG (bag a prize, or land it) in HERE
26 What’s among vegetableS WE’D Eat? (5)
SWEDE – an all-in-one using a hidden element
27 Knotty construction in clues, this shows what tons will also do (5-4)
TURKS-HEAD – well a Turk’s head is a type of knot (or more accurately a group of knots – as well as being a pub), and, so far as I can tell, the rest of the clue tells us that, if you are doing a crossword (‘in clues’), the head of Turks – its initial letter T – may be represented by the abbreviation of tons (t.). Suggestions welcome…


1 A group of kneelers has to be withdrawn — they get worn by feet (5)
2 Chain tsar in revolution? One might do it (9)
ANARCHIST – another all-in-one with an anagrammatical element
3 Club with loud music sure ruined conversation (9)
DISCOURSE – DISCO + SURE*; my PhD thesis (‘Linguistics Imperialism and the Abolition of Thinking’) was a critique of leftist critical discourse analysis
4 What could remove cricket in school is above disgusting (6,9)
5 Foreign coach about to be suspended, with pain later, in Devon city (8,7)
EXCHANGE TEACHER – C (about) HANG (to be suspended) and – separately, or ‘later’ – ACHE (pain) in EXETER (Devon city); I’m not sure I’ve come across this device before
6 Fish kilometres south of high rocks (5)
TORSK – K after (south of) TORS; a cod-like fish called cusk in N America
7 What’s permissible in the middle of Tirol wood (5)
IROKO – OK in [t]IRO[l]; African hardwood tree
8 Beg urgent works for old printer (9)
13 What’s not just immoral monster’s home (9)
15 Something floating at sea put in a mister is a source of perfume (9)
16 Inaugurate girl in old ceremony (9)
20 Wipe out periods of history? End of statue (5)
ERASE – ERAS [statu]E
21 Lift? Lug up is embraced by that (5)
RAISE – IS in EAR reversed
23 Unknown part of farm turning out fine produce (5)

80 comments on “Times 28129 – League of Nations?”

  1. Another puzzle of two halves for me with the LH side very much standard Monday fare (especially with ‘churchwarden’ coming up again so soon at 1ac), but LH I struggled with all but four or five clues.

    Unlike ulaca I managed TURK’S HEAD, but only because it fitted the checkers. I couldn’t account for the wordplay at first but having looked up the definition and found it fitted ‘knotty construction’ (sort of), I concluded the same as he did about how the rest of the clue was supposed to work, and didn’t really think much of it.

    TORSK was unknown and BEN as a cottage room, but the one I gave up on and resorted to aids was IROKO.

    50 minutes for a technical DNF.

  2. I biffed SOCKS and TURKS-HEAD, never figured either one out. I also biffed EXCHANGE TEACHER, never spotted EXETER (and I can’t think of another example of this kind of clue). NHO TORSK (or ‘cusk’), DNK RPO or BEN, barely recalled IROKO from a cryptic.
  3. I liked Turkshead for the vocabulary and Guerrilla for the clue; elsewhere I duplicated jack in NHOs and required aids.
  4. After a very slow start (just four done in the first ten minutes),I picked up speed and was over the line in 45 minutes. Phew! Fortunately I knew all the words, including the fish at 5dn TORSK my FOI.

    LOI & COD 1dn SOCKS!

    WOD 27ac TURK’S HEAD — the indigenous cactus is to be found in the Turks & Caicos Islands. A
    poor clue in my not so humble opinion.

    8dn GUTENBERG was a gimme! But the two ‘ longuns’ down were tough, or am I being a bit of a wet fish?

    Edited at 2021-11-08 02:22 am (UTC)

    1. You know, I usually try to go for those first. Since I had the PIPE part of 1 across, from only the I there I got INSECT REPELLENT as my second full one in. EXCHANGE TEACHER, though, came much later.

      Edited at 2021-11-08 03:49 am (UTC)

  5. I am as one with the blogger on this. Same challenges, same failures, same enjoyment….except that I think 27ac is an awful clue. There, I said it.

    Thanks U and setter.

      1. I think you’ll both find that I mentioned it first! Only I referenced it by the answer rather than the clue number which I understand is the preferred practice by some around here.

        Edited at 2021-11-08 07:35 am (UTC)

        1. I much prefer clue numbers .. saves hunting around. Speaking as a jumbo blogger, that can get annoying sometimes 🙂
          1. Can’t please everyone! I have no particular view on the matter as trying to get everybody to do things the same way is as unrewarding herding cats.
        2. Master. As first ones in, were you and Lord Ulaca not hedging your bets? Perfectly understandable, perfectly fine!
          Both Lord Galspray and I were not casting ‘nasturtiums’. Grasshopper.
  6. A few biffed entries on my part, relying on checkers as there were indeed some obscure-ish vocab elements (BEN et al). Avid readers of Paul Gallen’s Scrabble column on Saturday may recall that he mentioned TORSK this week, so nobody can have any excuse.

    For 5d, the split of wordplay elements within a longer word is relatively unusual but certainly not a first.

    1. I’d have read it, but Paul’s column is still not available on my iPad app. Annoying.
  7. Also meant to add that SECO is Spanish for dry, while SECCO is Italian. I had no idea it was a wall painting technique.
  8. DNF in 52 minutes. Managed to get the unknown TORSK and IROKO from wordplay, but failed on CARPORT (is there such a thing as a ‘carcoat’?) and TURKS HEAD, on which I spent a fruitless 10 minutes at the end. Still, some good clues, with my favourite BEING the &littish (sitting on the fence as usual) AMBERGRIS.

    Thanks to ulaca and setter

    1. There is indeed such a thing. In one of the very few pictures I have of my mother as a young woman, she is (posing beside an automobile) wearing one!
      1. Thanks. Yes, I should have looked it up myself of course, but I now see there was and still is such an item of clothing. I came across one advertised for the trifling sum of US $2,000. Unfortunately for me though, there isn’t a single word version, and even being inventive, the parsing doesn’t quite work.
  9. Had to guess at the BEN in the cottage and work out both TORSK and IROKO strictly from wordplay, the latter of which was my POI, LOI being CARPORT.

    I could only come up with the same idea as Ulaca about TURKS HEAD.

    GUERRILLA was brilliant. Lots to enjoy here. I took my time!

    Edited at 2021-11-08 03:44 am (UTC)

  10. A strange puzzle for me. On the one hand, some very straightforward clues that went flying in, or were thankfully biffable like EXCHANGE TEACHER. But on the other, a collection of obscure vocabulary that reminded me at times of last night’s solve of the Monthly Club Special: I could guess the answer from the wordplay, but had to look it up to confirm. (I’m looking at you, TORSK.)

    I probably spent a good 10 minutes on CARPORT (shame on me for not knowing the orchestra) and TURK’S HEAD, which I’ve never heard of but happened to guess correctly.

    Somehow I managed to finish this puzzle but I don’t feel like I deserved to.

          1. Seven over par – with plenty of obscurity. Turks Head was a mystery but the knot was clear – COD Exchange Teacher also liked Insect Repellent.

            Penguin Cafe Orchestra?

            Edited at 2021-11-08 02:54 pm (UTC)

  11. Guess it’s not stretching things much to mention that Collins has the literally identical French phrase “tête de Turc,” defined in English as “whipping boy”; in French, it means that (souffre-douleur) as well as or alternatively “scapegoat” (bouc emissaire).
  12. I was soooo excited when I started off this puzzle, getting 1 & 2a + 1 thru 5d, in record time – even I thought it was kinda too easy. PB seemed on the cards…

    …LHS came pretty easily apart from SECCO, but the slow-down came with a vengeance – RHS proved far harder to crack. By the closing stages I was left with:
    – TURKS-HEAD biffed from the vaguest recollection
    – NHOs TORSK, IROKO and SECCO worked out from the cryptic, all with reasonable confidence
    – HERBAGE was impossible to solve because of an error committed 15 minutes earlier on 5d. I’d entered TRAINER using the “coach” part of the clue, leaving me with N-R-A-E, eventually settling for NORBAGE as the least-worst choice.

    Ugh – oh well, it was fun until the last 10 minutes – thanks Ulaca and setter

    Edited at 2021-11-08 07:05 am (UTC)

  13. For some reason this went in relatively easily even though there was some tricky vocab and wordplay as ulaca has said. I also agree with those who say 27ac is a poor clue.
    We had HASSOCKS recently so 1d should have been easy but wasn’t.
    TORSK next to IROKO sounds more like a new centreback pairing for Liverpool.
  14. DNF after 45 minutes with the CARPORT/IROKO crosser and the unknown knot eluding me. I had put THORSK in but with insufficient confidence to assume it was right. COD to EXCHANGE TEACHER. There was a bit too much I didn’t know for me to enjoy this, or maybe it’s Monday morning blues. Thank you U and setter.

    Edited at 2021-11-08 08:00 am (UTC)

  15. Some unusual vocab today, not least in IROKO and TORSK. TURKS HEAD was my big problem though, and eventually went in on a wing and a prayer. Until now it was just a pub name to me, the only one I can think of being on St Agnes in the Scilly Isles though I’m sure there are many more.

    The West Ham clue was timely after their defeat of Liverpool yesterday.

    1. There used to be a well-known Turk’s Head in Trinity St, Cambridge … I think it is a bookshop now!
  16. 13:16 trusting to the wordplay for the unknown TORSK and vaguely remembered IROKO and biffing TURKS HEAD. A duff clue, I think… surely the reverse cryptic should be HEADS TURK?
  17. 48 mins but at least all finished despite the several unknowns all mentioned above. I always thought a TURKS HEAD was a lavatory. One of those standy-uppy things with two plates for your feet? My LOI. 23 d took a while to yield itself too. I loved the two long clues.

    An interesting mix of some almost QC standard clues (6ac, 17ac) and very tricky stuff (6d, 7d and 8d). NHO GUTENBERG, but once the crossers were in I just had to work out the anag.

    As Jeremy says, I feel lucky to have finished at all. Thanks U and setter.

    Edited at 2021-11-08 08:59 am (UTC)

  18. 10:28, with a few minutes at the end pondering TURKS HEAD before bunging it in on the basis of very vague familiarity. I knew it was a thing, and that thing might well be a knot. I think we must all be missing something though: as johninterred points out it doesn’t work as a reverse cryptic. It surely can’t be that awful?
    We’ve had IROKO a couple of times before. I remember because it’s what our kitchen surfaces are made of.

    Edited at 2021-11-08 09:05 am (UTC)

  19. DNF
    Well I put irono, on the basis that on = what’s permissible (cf. ‘that’s not on’).
    Turk’s head went in with a shrug.
  20. Certainly an odd puzzle, the relatively easy CARPORT being the hardest clue for me to crack and pushing my time to just over 19 minutes. I had to correct my fishy TORKS before having any chance.
    I thought (for a while) that the knot was a TURKS BEND which made even less sense of the wordplay. It also doesn’t help that Chambers doesn’t give TURK’S HEAD a hyphen and though Collins online does it only applies it to the cactus. Apparently the scout’s woggle is a TURK’S HEAD knot, but that doesn’t help the car crash appearance of the clue either. It seems what tons do in this parish is emit a collective urrgh.
    I’m plagued on Words With Friends at the moment by people offering their services as (Foreign) EXCHANGE TEACHERS: how I’ve missed out so long on this sure-fire wealth creation practice I’ll never know.
  21. Having slogged my way through the puzzle, with the unknown cottage room and the fish constructed from wordplay, I was left with IRO_O and eventually gave up and looked it up. TURKS HEAD went in with the vague suspicion that it was a knot and the the head of Turks was a T. Left feeling deflated by this one. 40:44 but. Thanks U.
  22. Knew ben from The Broons, also knew Turks Head as a knot (but bemused by the rest of the clue). However NHO IROKO or TURSK and wasn’t sure about RPO being an orchestra so very pleased to see all were correct.

    On wavelength for everything else and finished in about 12 minutes.

  23. Knew Turk’s Head from Hornblower books, and given a crosser or two it was a write-in, so never really worried about the rest of the clue. Looking at it now the last bit seems plain wrong to me, should say “..where tons is” or similar (but making more sense, ideally..)
    nho torsk. A rare visitor to TfTT, but has appeared in a jumbo and a Mephisto.
  24. After completing half of this in 4 minutes, I was somewhat bemused by seizing up. After another 5 minutes RIGMAROLE got me going again. The rest fell into place steadily until the dreadful TURKS HEAD, which I’d NHO.
  25. About 40 minutes. Much of it good I thought, except for 27ac, which I parsed as did ulaca, agreeing with everyone who thought it was dreadful. But keriothe may be right in thinking that there’s possibly more to it. As he says, it can’t be that awful.

    But if it is, have some sympathy for the poor setter. Sometimes one has a word that is so intractable that one ends up with a duff clue that one lets through with a shrug and then regrets afterwards. Still, this is The Times I suppose, and perhaps this shouldn’t happen.

    1. Other possibilities are a typo, or perhaps more likely in this case an editorial intervention that misfired.
      1. Just to give a bit of balance to the setter I’ve been mildly astonished by the non-awareness of TURKS-HEAD. That’s what everyone (?) calls those cufflinks that appear in trays when you buy things from Charles Tyrwhitt (other brands available). I’ve dozens of the things gladly now consigned to the back of the cupboard as a result of WFH.

        To be fair to others, I didn’t understand the cryptic but that wouldn’t be the first time!

  26. Like jackkt, a game of two halves. LH v. RH. 45 mins but can’t understand 27ac. so a dnf. Had guessed at turks head but couldn’t parse so penned turns head. Why, I dunno. Thanks to all
  27. As others have said, a bit of a mixed bag. Vocab-wise TORSK was unfamiliar, and if pressed I would have said that SECCO was a kind of wine. We’ve had TURK’S-HEAD recently somewhere but it might well have been in a GK puzzle, and I knew it was a knot anyway. I agree that it’s not a great clue but the gist of it seems quite clear, i.e. both “Turk’s-head” and “tons” could represent the letter “T” in a clue. Anyone from north of the border will know that a “but and ben” is a simple cottage, the “but” being the outer room and the “ben” the inner one. Nice to have a bit more of a challenge on a Monday anyway, so thanks to the setter for that. COD to EXCHANGE TEACHER. I loved the unusual clueing technique, and there aren’t that many cities in Devon to choose from!
  28. I’m not sure why the site refuses allow me to log on. I says my password is out of date, but rejects all passwords that comply with the conditions. Nor will it allow me to create a new account. Perhaps somebody could offer some helpful advice.

    Anyway, to the puzzle. I returned to solving the Times cryptic after a long absence a couple of weeks ago, and I found I was struggling to solve any of them in under 35 minutes. Today I managed to finish in 17 minutes. Perhaps I was lucky – I saw many an answer as soon as I read the clue. A minor hold-up at the end with 27a. I agree with someone above that it’s a poor clue.


    1. Password rules for The Times website are not very restrictive. Mine is 24 chars long, and includes all of: upper and lower case alphabetic, numeric, punctuation marks and top-row diacriticals.

      Not sure what minimum length is (but use a long one for good practice anyway).

      I presume if you got an “out of date” message, you are into a forced-password-change dialog – maybe be more explicit and post 100% verbatim error messages.

      Possibly first step is to check your bank account and see when the last standing order payment to Murdoch took place. It might just be your account has been expired due to non-payment.

      Hope this helps

  29. Agree with much of the above, an odd offering for a Monday (or any day). Vague recall of IROKO and the TURKS HEAD knot, but don’t see how 27a parses at all. DNK TORSK but constructed from wordplay. No idea about the Scots cottage dweller, thought BEN was a mountain. 30 minutes.
  30. LOI 27a. I thought the definition would be a knot and doing an alphabet trawl first came up with TORUS-BEND, which certainly sounds as if it could be one. TURKS-HEAD appeared much later in the trawl, but I knew it was a knot and so plumped for it, though I couldn’t parse either of these alternatives.
    TORSK,IROKO & SECCO were constructed from wordplay without knowing them. 21:35
  31. …cheated with TURKS HEAD — I have never heard of this, and even with all of the checkers in place, the clue was too convoluted to successfully parse (and my woggle, as a member of 32nd Streatham troop, was a short, plastic tube).

    One other unparsed: AMBERGRIS (a write-in, confirmed quickly by checkers)

    And several NHOs: TORSK, IROKO, SECCO, BEN as cottage room.

  32. Rapid start on the LHS, held upon the RHS. In the end I went for the TORUS HEAD, which sounded like a knot to me.

    COD the &lit AMBERGRIS. Very clever.

  33. Having spent some time in Norway years ago, I thought of torsk straight away as it’s the word for cod but could not quite believe it would be a word in English! Thank you for explaining Turk’s Head. I knew it was a kind of knot but could not parse the clue. A good work out for a Monday.
  34. 18 mins but fell foul of iroko. Had never heard of it so thought the equally unlikely irONo could be a fit.
    Disappointing given the other guesses Turks head and torsk came up trumps.
    Liked rainy.
    Good puzzle and as others have noted a refreshing Monday challenge.
  35. TURKS HEAD was my first thought when I saw “knotty construction” but I didn’t like the cryptic clueing so left it until I had all the crossers. A very weak clue imo. 29 minutes. Ann
    1. Snap. Credit Ashley’s Book of Knots given me when I was about 8 years old for the GK.
      1. I once had a lodger who had been in the Navy. He made a string bell-pull which ended in a Turks Head. As far as I know it’s still ringing “Last Orders” in our local.
        1. Too cool for school! (I assume that said local is not one of the many “Turks Heads”)
  36. Flying start but slowed down around the 9 minute mark with a quarter of clues to go. Top right resisted longest, with iroko and torsk biffed. I admire any new clueing technique so hats off to exchange teacher. I spend quite a long time thinking of a phrase that began Ex- and ended -eter.
  37. Toughest Monday in memory, and I retired injured unable to get STANDPIPE – where both it and churchwarden = PIPE were unknown, or at least forgotten – and TURK’S HEAD, which I’d NHO and where the cryptic element was of no help in figuring out the missing spaces from T?R?SHEAD. TART’S HEAD was my unhopeful stab, and I agree with others that this clue wasn’t entirely successful.

    Throw in a lot of obscure vocab, and this was a real tussle – where I came off the worse.

  38. It took me a while to see it, but I really can’t understand all the comments here today about the clueing of TURK’S HEAD. The definition is clear and accurate, and both ‘Turk’s head’ and ‘Tons’ would do the same thing in a clue – i.e. represent a T. To me, the clue is fine, and certainly not deserving of the brickbats being thrown at it. 36 minutes today, disproportionately spent on the RHS.
  39. I knew TURK’S HEAD but if you don’t know it then the rest of the clue is not much help. I didn’t know IROKO nor TORSK nor BEN (in BEING). I didn’t know SECCO but I did know that fresco is painting on fresh plaster so it seemed plausible that SECCO would mean painting on dried plaster. So I got there in the end.
  40. Got very close to finishing this, beaten by rainy, yeild and Turk’s Head. Very pleased to have got thus far. FOI thing, which was straight from a QC as others have said. There were others in its company, I agree, so the grid was a strange mix of the anodyne and the obscure. I constructed Torsk from the wordplay but had NHO it, so that clue was fair, once I realised it was crackdown rather than clampdown. Going nowhere with that. COD insect repellent. Thanks, Ulaca, for parsing the ones I biffed from the definitions, and setter for a puzzle I could nearly do.
  41. Done in under 45 minutes, with many of the same complaints as everyone else. For reasons quite unknown to me, TORSK and after a little thought IROKO and even TURKS-HEAD just came to mind as I read the clues, but for the latter it took me some time to convince myself that there wasn’t going to be a better answer. I finally began envisioning sheets knotted into some sort of turban or whatever might have been a Turk’s head once upon a time, so it did seem to fit somehow. All of that said, EXCHANGE TEACHER would be my COD, and I do believe that I have seen this device (splitting an inclusion) somewhere before, perhaps in one of the classic books on crossword clues.
  42. 19:40 late this afternoon. I didn’t pick up much of a rhythm and limped across the finishing line. For whatever reason I didn’t enjoy the solving experience as much as usual.
    LOI 13 d “wrongness” mainly because I had almost forgotten about it, having been struggling with the NE corner, with its 2 NHOs 6d “torsk” and 7 d ” iroko”. The crosser at 10 ac had to be solved first and “carport” duly appeared once I had dismissed “lso” from my thinking.
    COD 4 d “insect repellent”. 27 ac “turks head” wasn’t my favourite clue as many have already opined.
    Thanks to Ulaca and setter
  43. Not so much a DNF as a total write off in around 30 mins. 3 pink squares. Must be some sort of a record. A typo in torsk and errors in iroko and Turk’s head both of which I failed to properly parse and both of which were unknown to me as wood and knot. Didn’t much enjoy this one.
  44. I’m another who didn’t like 27ac. Just seems to me like someone showing off their obscure knowledge, without any way to get the answer if you didn’t already know it.

    On the other hand, it was fun to solve the cryptics on 6 & 7 dn, and discover those unlikely letter combinations made real words!

  45. I slept overnight on 27ac. Went with “Turk’s Head” this morning and fortunately it was correct. Convoluted clue.

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