Times 28168 – how good are you at your licks?

. Solvers of a less Sorry about the late post – I put up a placeholder here earlier.  A friend surprised me with tickets to see a TV show taped and the taping ran hours later than I expected. On the other hand, I did the puzzle on my phone during breaks in the taping, and it has been a long time since I used the phone version and it was much better than the last time I tried it a few years ago.  I did not mean to submit with leaderboard, but I fat fingered it, so sorry if I have thrown the snitch way off, it didn’t really take me 55 minutes, I expect more like 16-20 minutes.

There’s some tricky stuff here!

Postscript: I completely missed that the unches in the left and right column are the beginning and the end of the alphabet.

Away we go…

1 No tips for easy life? Pull the other one (2,2)
AS IF – middle letters in eASy and lIFe
4 Battle soldiers following security into hospital department (10)
ENGAGEMENT – MEN(soldiers) after GAGE(bind by security), both inside ENT(hospital department)
9 Boys’ Brigade penning song of praise, including most of lad’s slogan (3,3,4)
BAN THE BOMB – a double container!  BB(Boy’s Brigade) containing ANTHEM(kind of song) containing BOY(lad) missing the last letter
10 Cardinal in all sections of Voluntary Service Overseas (4)
FIVE – Voluntary, serVice and oVerseas all contain V(5)
11 English father caught turning red (6)
CERISE – E(English), SIRE(father), C(caught) all reversed
12 Permanently go back into splits (3,5)
FOR KEEPS – PEE(go to the toilet) reversed inside FORKS(splits)
14 Trace bones, say (4)
DREG – bones is a DR(doctor), then EG(say)
15 Old leader fooling sucker three hours before 10 (10)
KHRUSHCHEV – an anagram of SUCKER and three H’s(hours) and then V(since the answer to 10 across was FIVE)
17 Making uniform for date, perhaps (7,3)
EVENING OUT – double definition
20 Nibble cheek once taken aback (4)
GNAW – WANG(cheek) reversed
21 Weird church official lacking energy later, and desire (8)
ELDRITCH – ELDER(church official) missing E(energy) then ITCH(desire)
23 Using many words and images, keeping part mostly concealed (6)
PROLIX – PIX(images) containing ROLE(part) missing the last letter
24 Bring up small seat (4)
SPEW – S(small), PEW(seat)
25 Time when battery production may be up in the air? (7,3)
PANCAKE DAY – cryptic definition referring to battery hens making the eggs for the pancakes. Solvers with les twisted minds should read this as the batter for the pancake being tossed (thanks, multiple commenters).
26 More than one Protestant poet cutting alcohol (10)
METHODISTS – ODIST(poet) inside METHS(alcohol)
27 Middle Eastern city’s god coming west (4)
SUEZ – ZEUS(god) reversed
2 Pioneer at least did this in past — a clever eccentric (5,6)
SPACE TRAVEL – anagram of PAST,A,CLEVER. I presume Pioneer is still doing it, we’re just not getting signals anymore
3 Being compatible with drink, supply can in advance (7,2)
FITTING IN – GIN(drink) after FIT(supply), TIN(can)
4 Partners beginning to enjoy kiss in part of bay, say? (3-4)
EWE-NECK – E and W(partners in bridge), then the first letter of Enjoy, and NECK(kiss)
5 Suitable time to stop horns in fog being blasted — they’re useless (4-3-8)
GOOD-FOR-NOTHINGS – GOOD(suitable) then T(time) inside an anagram of HORNS,IN,FOG
6 Prattling 80s boy band rocks (7)
GABBROS – GAB(prattling), and BROS(80’s boy band). Now there’s a deep dive for a band in the Times. When will they, will they be famous?
7 Banish material, two tons of it ditched (5)
EXILE – TEXTILE(material) missing two T’s(tons)
8 Castle not wanting for lock (5)
TRESS – FORTRESS(castle) missing FOR
13 Blab about English vicar after contriving to deceive (11)
PREVARICATE – PRATE(blab) surrounding E(english) and an anagram of VICAR
16 Cheats hiding name sign nicknames (9)
COGNOMENS – COGS(cheats) containing N(name) and OMEN(sigh)
18 Small computer secretary has observed outside (7)
NOTEPAD – PA(secretary) inside NOTED(observed)
19 Tortuous paths to high-level cover-ups? (3,4)
TOP HATS – anagram of PATHS,TO
21 Keep, somehow, to sandwich course (5)
EPSOM – hidden inside keEP SOMehow
22 Remained daily in Berlin — that is to be censored (5)
DWELT – the German newspaper is DIE WELT, remove IE(that is)

52 comments on “Times 28168 – how good are you at your licks?”

  1. ….because I used aids to get KHRUSHCHEV, GABBROS, EWE NECK and DWELT
    With DWELT I was working on Die Zeit but DZEIT didn’t seem to work!
    FOI: AS IF
    LOI: GABBROS (another NHO)
  2. Close but no cigar as I had EWE PECK instead of EWE NECK, with peck coming to mind for kiss more readily than neck. If I’d thought for longer maybe it would have occurred to me that a horse is more likely to have a neck than a peck, but I was already bemused as to why a horse would have sheep parts. Sounds like some nightmarish Frankenstein animal. Anyhow, good crossword. Hard but fun.
    1. and me. EWE-PECK was last one in after 50 mins plus. Dammit!

      Edited at 2021-12-26 09:50 am (UTC)

  3. Cheeky Nina running down the grid on both sides. Only spotting that allowed me to get KHRUSHCHEV and GNAW (didn’t know wang), and helped a lot with CERISE. EWE-NECK was brutal – had to use an aid for that.

  4. DNF in 40 minutes, not knowing GABBROS, nor sure whether it would be EWE-NECK or EWE-PECK. I’m afraid Bros, who I did know of, didn’t spring to mind. No music references later than Sergeant Pepper’s please, setters. I always remember KHRUSHCHEV more for his shoe and fist banging at the UN than for the number of aitches in his name, and finding where to fit three in took time. Harold Macmillan’s response that day was super-cool. COD to DWELT and EVENING OUT jointly. PANCAKE DAY seemed a contrivance too far. A good-in-parts puzzle, but I wasn’t best pleased at failing two days running. Thank you George for the illumination.
  5. Got there – EWE NECK sounded more likely than EWE-PECK, NHO wang or cogs or gage, had no idea what was going on the in the FIVE clue and used KHRUSHCHEV to solve it – woulda spelt Kruschev with two fewer Hs. Didn’t know there are eggs in pancakes. Eldritch we’ve had before but couldn’t remember what it meant. English LH batsman? Gabbro I had heard of, Bros vaguely remembered, Die Welt known.
    Continues a tough week.
    COD to SPACE TRAVEL when the penny dropped on Pioneer after I worked out the anagram.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 08:52 am (UTC)

  6. DNF. Like Pootle I had EWE PECK which didn’t seem any less likely than the unknown GPBBROS of COGNOMENS. The nina helped me see KHRUSCHEV – I just needed to work our where to put the 3 H’s in the spelling. Tricky stuff. Completed with the one letter wrong in 32:13. Setter 1 Johninterred 0.
  7. I may have misread the comment in the blog but ‘battery production’ surely refers to the pancake batter rather than the hen house? Battery eggs are very much out of fashion these days.

    As for the puzzle, I needed 70 minutes which is very unusual for me other than the frequent Friday stinker. Rather like Monday’s puzzle there seemed to be rather a lot of obscure stuff here. WANG for instance and COG = cheat. EWE-NECK was another one. I really must stop getting caught out by SUEZ/ZEUS though.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 09:12 am (UTC)

    1. Batter-y. Well spotted Jack. I saw it George’s way, but I think you’ve nailed it. Certainly makes it a better clue.
  8. Indeed! So good they conjured a LIKE button out of the aether, so we could show our appreciation.
  9. Managed to log in by doing so at top of page rather than in comment box. Not sure why it has changed but have found a solution so all good. Thanks again to BR for advice on this.
    This was above my pay grade. Never going to get gabbros, and had ewe peck for ewe neck.
    Thanks, g.
  10. Just to report that reviewing yesterday blogs late evening the 15×15 was completely lacking the ‘Like’ option although it had been present earlier in the day and had been used. ‘Expand’ was still behaving in the new way which we don’t like.

    The QC was more interesting. It was on two pages, the first of which had the ‘Like’ option but the second page didn’t! On both pages ‘Expand’ worked as it always has in the past, opening the collapsed comments without jumping to a separate screen. At least this gives me some hope that this may once again be the norm when LJ have finished whatever they are trying to do.

    This is all as viewed on a PC. Other devices may differ.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 02:03 pm (UTC)

  11. Another DNF after a hard slog, failing on GABBROS which I never would have solved and an incorrect “nine” for the ‘cardinal’ at 10a. A few others unparsed, so too hard for me. Nice to see the Nina.

    Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Gulp.

  12. I wish I’d spotted the NINA: it would have helped with my blankly puzzling over GNAW, which seems to me to be a lot more vigorous than nibble, and I was never going to get it via WANG, which I think turns up in those annoying erectile dysfunction ads in a more modern take possibly not acceptable in the Times. That said, we did have a PEE please Bob and the rather unlovely pre-breakfast SPEW.
    So this was a bit of a struggle, sometimes enjoyed, as in the (for once) excellent CD for Shrove Tuesday (I nearly laughed out loud at the URD batter-y bit).
    And sometimes not: I mean, EWE-NECK? ELDRICTCH? GABBROS? This is not the Mephisto! If my daughter hadn’t appreciated Luke and Matt back in the day the rocks would have been left where they lay. Bros’ next line after my title is “I can’t answer that”. Seems appropriate.

    Congratulations on solving this George, while much distraction was going on, and on a phone! Do they really still tape things in the States?

    Edited at 2021-12-23 10:17 am (UTC)

  13. 35 minutes apart from GABBROS, for which I had to resort to an aid. At least I didn’t miss something I should have got. I didn’t know the rocks or the boy band, but at least it brought to mind the wonderful Chambers entry for the latter: “a pop group, targeting mainly the teenage market, composed of young males chosen because they look good and can dance and sometimes even sing.”

    There’s some pretty rare stuff that I normally encounter in tough puzzles like the Listener, such as ELDRITCH and WANG.

    I agree with jackkt that ‘battery production’ refers to batter, not battery hens, though my initial reading was the same as the blogger’s.

  14. There were things I really enjoyed here but I lost confidence slightly with words like EWE-NECK and WANG, and trying to get to the bottom of KHRUSHCHEV, initially assuming as other people clearly did, that the 10 should have been a 5. It was only when I realised that it meant 10ac rather than a literal 10 that I knew for certain that the latter was FIVE, and not NINE or something else entirely, so I got there in the way one often does with a Mephisto, solving the puzzle and parsing it, but not necessarily in that order.
  15. DNF thanks to NHO GABBROS – I “constructed” GABORES. A shame as I had all the rest (without spotting the Nina) although it was slow going. I don’t really approve of Ninas providing help with otherwise tricky clues.

    Thanks setter and blogger

  16. DNF. I guess I might have finished this without aids if forced to in competition conditions, but I was just too unsure about the various absurd obscurities to put them all in without checking. COG and WANG in crossing answers is particularly egregious if you ask me. We have Mephisto for that sort of thing.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 11:44 am (UTC)

  17. As a fan of HP Lovecraft’s work there was no ELDRITCH horror for me, though I didn’t know the COG or WANG bits of other clues’ wordplay. It was a long old romp, though, and finally finished with me guessing correctly between GABBROS and GOBBROS, which seemed about equally likely. 54 minutes, I think.

    COD to 25a as I saw the batter-y bit at the time.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 11:58 am (UTC)

    1. It’s been one of those genuinely hard weeks that occur from time to time. Don’t be disenheartened, you’re not alone in finding these tough!
  18. I could manage the 50s references – SUEZ, Mr. K and BAN THE BOMB – but the 80s boy band was beyond me. I only know of the followers of Senator Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election who came to be known as Bernie Bros, and of course Moss Bros where you rent the correct gear for Derby Day at EPSOM. I did know the rocks however – just. Also knew EWE-NECK which is a horse with a thick neck – regarded as a defect. ELDRITCH is often paired with shriek. COGNOMENS I read as “cons” with a “gnome” in the middle and WANGed it in anyway. George clearly has that correctly. Soooo what is in store for tomorrow? 28.37
  19. I had to use aids for GABBROS and KHRUSHCHEV, so submitted off leaderboard to find I’d still failed miserably with PROLIC and VICE. I thought of FIVE and NINE but went with Cardinal sin as it was hidden in there. If I’d revisited it after looking up Khrushchev, I might have seen it. Never saw the nina. A bit of a chore with no coconut. Thanks George.
    On edit: Forgot to mention 45:42.

    Edited at 2021-12-23 02:20 pm (UTC)

  20. …did check EWE-NECK and the even more unlikely GABBROS before submitting. But then, I’d never heard of wang = cheek.

    COGNOMENS from four of the five checkers but failed to parse.

    My only reference to ELDRITCH is Andrew Eldritch (born Andrew Taylor) of The Sisters Of Mercy — can see now why he chose that surname…

  21. Gabbro would be familiar to anyone who has walked or climbed on Skye; I have never heard of it in the plural though.
    Some of these clues were even harder than gabbro.
  22. Ouch. GABBROS, KHRUSHCHEV and SUEZ did for me. Couldn’t have explained FIVE either, though I spotted the commonality of V if not the reasoning. Didn’t know COGS as “cheats” either. All in all a fairly comprehensive DNF.
  23. DNF too hard for me and a bit frustrating if I’m honest. I gave up on ewe-neck and Khruschev after about 50 mins. I found some of the required elements – wang for cheek once, dreg singular, gage for security, cogs for cheats, gabbros – all increasingly obscure leaving me in a state of too much uncertainty and not worth the effort to finish.
    1. Your comments reflect almost exactly my own feelings about this puzzle — and the one last Monday. I went to ‘Like’ your comment but the button has gone (again!).

      There’s a theory, maybe even a convention, that Weekday puzzles ought to be do-able by the average experienced solver on the way to work in the days before it was possible to refer instantly to aids. There would occasionally be the odd obscurity that one might make an intelligent guess at or the answer could be found quite easily from wordplay, but three or four or five obscurities in the same puzzle is simply too much in my opinion.

      1. Yes, I like a good challenge and I don’t mind the odd obscurity if there’s a way to get there or at least make an educated guess but here it was just one after another until the point where my solving confidence had ebbed almost entirely away.
      2. I agree with you. But it’s a bit galling that you have repeated more or less what I recently remarked about do-able puzzles in midweek, even down to lifting my comment about being able to do it on the commute to work without aids. My criticism wasn’t well-received of course, but obviously, as one of the ‘brethren’, you are allowed to make these (justified) criticisms for which others get routinely panned.

        I’ve given up as a result really, But I still read the contributions, and your offering did make me smile laconically-and yes, smugly.

        However, it’s only fair to give you the response that I got on here: I suggest you make your views known to the puzzles editor of The Times. (Mr Grumpy)

        1. Perhaps you could direct me to whatever you posted midweek as I should be interested to read it in context?

          If you think your comment about completing the puzzle on a train without aids is original you are very much mistaken as it has been referred to here regularly for as long as I can remember over the past 13 years. That’s why I suggested it might have been a convention, possibly even a policy stated in the past by one of the editors.

          Another misapprehension may be that anyone at TfTT has influence over editorial policy regarding puzzles at The Times. We don’t. That’s why it’s good advice if you feel as strongly as you obviously do on many occasions, you should consider writing to the Crossword or Puzzles editors directly.

          I don’t know quite what being one of the ‘brethren’ entails. Although I have additional duties as blogger and as one of several TfTT moderators and maintainers, there is no privilege as far as comments about the puzzles are concerned. Having said that, complaints about clues are likely to be better received by other contributors if they are occasional, couched in friendly terms, and not always the sole reason for posting.

          Edited at 2021-12-23 11:47 pm (UTC)

  24. Not very keen on this, mainly because I didn’t know the obscurities such as WANG, EWE NECK, GABBROS (or BROS) and had to scramble around for PROLIX not POETIC.

    So not very enjoyable, although very clever in parts e.g. Pancake being battery. Took a while to see why 10a was FIVE not NINE which fitted, saw all those Vs eventually. Thanks for the blog George.

  25. Too many wilful obscurities for my liking, but I got a kick out of PANCAKE DAY. Bravo/a, setter/settress!
  26. I did okay on this – just under 18 minutes – but forgot to submit. (I solve on paper, then take my time carefully typing in online – otherwise, I’d have a couple of dozen mistakes a week.) But agree with several veteran solvers that the GK and vocab required were Listener/Mephisto standard, rather than the daily. It doesn’t matter that I knew COG and GABBRO and various others, and WANG rang a bell from Middle English: that’s beside the point. They’re not the kind of thing you’d expect to crop up in a daily puzzle.
  27. Much too hard for me, 75 minutes. Far too many obscurities in my opinion, and if you’re going to have a difficult word like GABBROS then at least clue it easily. I was largely unaware of Bros. And anyway can you pluralise it? It seems very odd and I can’t think of a sentence that uses it sensibly. Granites? Ambers? Mass nouns?
  28. I found this delightfully difficult. The problem with a puzzle like this is that I always wish I could have another bite at the apple!

    EWE-NECK and GABBROS required look-ups, and would be my only slight complaint with the puzzle. ABCDE & VWXYZ looked beautiful upon completion. (I hadn’t noticed them while solving.)

  29. Loved the clue that contained Pioneer
    T’was ever-so popular here
    I’d say that our setter
    Could not have done better
    It’s my favourite clue of the year
  30. Near total failure on first pass and had to cheat a lot to get anywhere at all. Hard man, too bloody hard, as the grauniad might have said.
  31. Enjoyable but hard, and I failed to finish. GABBROS and EWE-NECK unknown. I’d gone for NINE instead of FIVE at 10a which also made KHRUSHCHEV impossible. I didn’t notice the nina either, which would have helped. Several other unknowns as for many other people, but nothing that held me up.

Comments are closed.