Times 28197 – is this a museum piece?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
Solving this was a demanding task; parsing some of the answers fully was even more so, a wee dram of finest malt was required to soften my headache. I think I have unravelled all but 27a, although 14d is not entirely convincing. Some clever stuff, but also some relying on obscure knowledge 17a, 15d for example. That’ll teach me to comment about Wednesdays getting easier.

A reminder, as someone didn’t clock last week how my definitions were marked; definitions are underlined, DD means double definition, anagram indicators in italics, anagram fodder (IN BRACKETS)*.

1 Do reduce your litter! (4,1,3)
SELL A PUP – well if you sold one pup you’d have a smaller litter remaining. “Do” as in con, swindle.
9 Machine chopped fruit that a human regularly bags (8)
AUTOMATA – TOMAT(O) = fruit chopped, goes inside A, U A where U and A are alternate letters of hUmAn. Either this is an error or I am missing something, because ‘machine’ is singular and automata is the plural of automaton. It’s Greek not Latin. It should be ‘machines’.
10 Standard, one consistently falling short (6)
COMMON – standard as in practice, common practice. Why? You ask, as I did, then came the PDM. We have a comma (after standard) and ONE, both of which are ‘short’ i.e. COMM ON.
11 Jack, with tyrant’s role, taking time out — making it permanent? (10)
ABDICATING – AB (Jack, sailor) DICTATING (what a tyrant does) lose the T for time = AB DICATING. I guess if you abdicate, you are gone for good, permanently.
12 Go free from Baltic? (4)
ZING – I looked at this, baffled for a while, then thought: Baltic is Scottish slang for rather cold. Freezing your bits off. Then I thought, freezing, with free removed; ZING meaning go, energy.
13 Tips on weapons hardware, so varied (10)
16 1000, say; slightly more ones and zeroes (7)
MEGABIT – M (a thousand in Roman) EG (say) A BIT (slightly).
17 A quiet moment with the French chap behind the museum? (7)
ASHMOLE – A, SH (quiet) MO (moment) LE (the in French). Easier, if like some of us, you spent a few dissolute years allagedly studying in Oxford. Elias Ashmole was a wealthy collector of stuff and the instigator of the famous Ashmolean Museum, England’s first, founded in 1667.
20 Elders quietly replaced by trees next to railway (10)
PRESBYTERY – P (quietly) then (BY TREES)* then RY for railway. I did always wonder exactly what a presbytery was, it’s a group or meeting of the elders of a church.
22 Where cricketers practise catches (4)
23 Bloomer, with Latin stars receiving letter from Greek detectives (10)
ASPIDISTRA – Latin for stars is ASTRA, insert PI (Greek letter) and DIs (detective inspectors). Time for a reprise of Gracie Fields?
25 Evidently need oil pipe (6)
26 Link with Brussels bureaucrat so ruefully if partially recalled (8)
EUROSTAR – well hidden, reversed as above in a relevant surface.
27 Poet’s light, mostly obscene book (3-5)
DAY-LEWIS – DAY = light. LEW(D) = mostly obscene. Why does IS = book?

2 Drive away reformed killer, perhaps, wiser after case dismissed (8)
EXORCISE – an ORC is a horrible Tolkein creature that kills things, so an EX ORC could be a reformed one, then add (W)ISE(R).
3 What shoppers do after failure to find cooking ingredient (5,5)
LEMON GRASS – a LEMON is a failure, and shoppers shop you or grass on you.
4 Capital made of gossip — PC covered in shame (6,4)
PANAMA CITY – biffed then eventually decoded. PITY = shame. insert ANA (literary gossip) MAC (an Apple PC).
5 Day trip in need of whacking great deposit (3,4)
6 Jerk wanting nothing at first to do with loan request from Antony? (4)
OTIC – O (nothing) TIC (jerk). Mark Antony wanted his friends, Romans and countrymen to lend him their ears, and OTIC means to do with ears.
7 Graduate getting zero on a stiff paper (6)
MANILA – MA (graduate) NIL (zero) A.
8 Gifts the first thing Santa has for picking up? (8)
LARGESSE – Sounds like ‘LARGE S’ which Santa has at the start.
14 Vague desire maybe to get husband for Yankee lady at last (5-5)
WISHY-WASHY – WISH (desire) Y (yankee) WAS H(usband), then Y the end of LadY.
15 Animated cow in garden to barge in after hesitation (10)
ERMINTRUDE – INTRUDE (barge in) after ERM… = hesitation. I used to be a big fan of THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT where she was a friendly cow in the garden, but this must be a mystery for some?
16 Force king to accept a top politician’s charter (3-5)
MAP-MAKER – MAKE R = force king, insert A PM = a top politician.
18 Low calorie helping reduced by a third, people learned (8)
LITERATI – LITE (low calorie) RATI(ON) = helping reduced by a third.
19 Old sailor wearing light, tight garment (7)
LEOTARD – O TAR = old sailor, insert him into LED = light (emitting diode).
21 Come to a halt by front of pub in Ireland (6)
EXPIRE – EIRE = Ireland, poetically, insert X (by) P (front of pub).
24 Hint — minor — that’s dropped every so often (4)
IOTA – alternate letters of m I n O r T h A t.

70 comments on “Times 28197 – is this a museum piece?”

  1. Never got AUTOMATA, and I can see why not now. DNK ‘baltic’, and though my alphabet-trawl was thorough, I didn’t think of ZING=go. I had EARS for a while, but of course could make nothing of it and dropped it; if I’d got ABDICATING, I might have come up with OTIC, but given the ‘definition’–‘making it permanent?’– I wasn’t about to get it. ERMINTRUDE from the cryptic, but NHO. And I have no idea about IS. [On edit]: I got the ON of COMMON, but not the COMM-. And thanks, bletchley, for IS]

    Edited at 2022-01-26 01:44 am (UTC)

  2. Too good for me. A 69 minute DNF, with an incorrect NORMAN for COMMON at 10a and lots of others unparsed. I had the same query about ‘Machine’ being singular at 9a and I still don’t get WISHY-WASHY which went in from the def. Last in was LARGESSE. Oh dear.

    I’ve just looked it up and for 27a apparently “Is.” is an abbreviation for the Book of Isaiah. So now I know.

    Thanks to Pip and setter

  3. They don’t appear in Harry Potter. It’s probably supposed to be the non-fantastical, marine variety of orcs, i.e killer whales.

    LOIs were DAY-LEWIS (bifd), LARGESSE (once I’d corrected ABDICATION), COMMON, and ZING.

    1. They’re not in Harry Potter (I gather), but they are in Tolkien and elsewhere (cf Isla). The killers in the ocean are orcas.
  4. Felt way off the wavelength, but maybe it was just difficult. Guessed Ermintrude – never watched tthe Magic Roundabout. Guessed Isaiah was a book shortened to Is. Remembered Ashmolean from previous puzzles so Ashmole as a person seemed likely. Didn’t notice automata/on; don’t speak Latin – first guess was stella for stars, not astra. Couldn’t parse COMMON, but it’s very good; or WISHY WASHY. Got the rest. Now time for a third cup of coffee.
    For me ORCs were monsters down in the dungeons in the first ever computer game I played back in about 1985 on the university mainframe.
    A stern test, much enjoyed. COD map-maker

    Edit: finally worked out WISHY WASHY – hadn’t understood Pip’s parsing – so it’s not bad at all.

    Edited at 2022-01-26 02:13 am (UTC)

      1. Kind of a reverse-cryptic replacement, almost:
        Imagine someone saying “I wish my Yankee was a husband”. In crossword-clue-ese it becomes WISH Y WAS H, which the clue expands to “desire maybe to get husband for Yankee”.
          1. Depends how pedantic you are about grammar. I’d say ‘were’ – because my mother did when I was little. Age 35 I learnt Italian and learnt ‘were’ was the conditional subjunctive case. However if you listen around the streets to language as she is spoke, everyone nowadays says ‘was’.
        1. Thanks for taking the trouble to try to explain.

          I think the problem is I’m not clever enough for this clue…..

  5. Mr. Snitch presently resides at number 153 — highest since September.



    (LOI) 10ac COMMON unparsed


    WOD 23ac ASPIDISTRA I had forgotten they occasionally bloom.

    Missing in action 12ac ZING and not WING; 8dn LARGESSE as I had 11ac as ABDICATIONand not ABDICATING and 1ac HAVE A PUP rather than SELL. I also considered KILL A PUP, which I did later. So 2dn EXORC was also absent but I did have the ISE for consolation.

    Mood Meldrewian

    Edited at 2022-01-26 05:04 am (UTC)

  6. This was tough. The only one I was really unsure of was 12a ZING, which I couldn’t parse at all, so thank you Pip for the Scottish slang reference.
    Nearly got done again by ‘do’ definition in 1a! Considered LESS A PUP as reducing the litter until the pdm.
    Failed anyway as I confidently put SQUEAL in 25a, without considering SQUEAK. Even on review I think there may be a case to be made for it. Anyone wish to pipe up in support?
    48:42 with one error.
      1. I sympathise, but I don’t think it quite works. Brakes, tyres and babies SQUEAL, but oil is definitely not a solution for any of them. Wheels and hinges (and mice, I suppose) SQUEAK and the first two can be fixed with oil. Consider “the squealy wheel gets the grease” Hmm.
    1. So did I! Though academic, as I only managed 2/3 of the grid before giving up in despair! I also had EARS, which I understandably failed to parse.
      Gill D
  7. …I had to use aids to get ABDICATING and LARGESSE. never did get COMMON. That was a bit beyond my ken. I put NORMAN.
    All that after having felt pleased with myself for getting OTIC, ERMINTRUDE (of blessed memory) and ASHMOLE. What a splendid institution that museum is!
    Never did understand the IS in DAY-LEWIS, so thanks, Bletchley.
    I managed to solve ZING but had no idea where Baltic fitted in.
    Horryd says the SNITCH is at 153. I’m not surprised!
    1. has bottomed out at 145 – so it was a tad easier for the lay-abeds.

      Edited at 2022-01-26 10:12 am (UTC)

      1. Mathematically, that’s not the way it works. The SNITCH takes the top (can’t remember? 100?) solvers and averages their times.
        In the morning, fewer than 100 solvers, it’s all the solvers’ average time. Which is close to a difficulty indicator.
        Later on, more than 100 solvers, the SNITCH is the top 100 solvers’ average time. The slowest 20/50/100/whatever solvers are excised from the calculation, so their very slow average time is no longer taken into account. The top 100 solvers’ average time – the SNITCH – is much lower than all the solvers’ average time.
        Which is why it always drops off in the afternoon.
        Old age: why I always drop off in the afternoon.

        Edited at 2022-01-26 01:40 pm (UTC)

    2. I had him in there too Martin but saw the comma thing just before submit. I see quite a few with one error so that may have been the one.
      1. Thanks, Olivia. Just when I think I’ve got the subtleties of the cryptic covered….along comes a comma!
  8. Not COMMON, and therfore I should
    Be laudating, only I could
    Not SQUEAK, but praises sing
    Of a crossword with ZING
    It was just a MEGA BIT good
  9. ….if I hadn’t cocked up on two fronts. I remembered ERMINTRUDE, but spelled her with a Y not an I. However, the IMO ridiculous COMMON totally undid me, and I biffed NORMAN. Agree with others regarding AUTOMATA. This puzzle was a tad too clever for its own good.
  10. After the first few clues I looked at I thought I was in for a long slog but once I hit my stride I didn’t find this as tough as first expected. I finished with the same difficulties as others in the shape of COMMON and ZING where I also considered Norman and wing before eventually seeing the cryptic. I really liked ZING — COY for me thus far.
  11. DNF. I considered COMMON (I can see a loose definition) and NORMAL (fits the wordplay) but couldn’t fully justify either. I even considered that the comma might be part of the wordplay for COMMON but didn’t get beyond that.
    Before that I breezed through this, biffing all the way.
    FWIW I thought the ORCs were killer whales but as usual it doesn’t matter.
  12. And love is proved in the letting go.

    Well I ‘let go’ after 30 mins pre-brekker with the Common/Orc/Zing combo unfilled.
    Very tricksy stuff. I liked the Largesse and Map-maker.
    Thanks setter and Pip.

  13. I loved ERMINTRUDE.

    ZING never even occurred to me, thanks for the enlightenment.

    I also constructed the fictional DRY-DEVIL as a book (I only know Isaiah as Isa.) This is plausible — DRYDE (N) (poet’s light) VIL (E) (mostly obscene), oh well.

    Just as well I didn’t board-submit as I had a typo on ASPIDISTRA (the Orwell book being an anxious read for a schoolboy.)

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  14. …even with the ASPIDISTRA flying. DNF after45 minutes with AUTOMATA, ZING and LARGESSE missing. I’d biffed COMMON without parsing it. SELL A PUP went in straightaway, giving me no inkling of what was to come. My main triumphs were remembering ERMINTRUDE and knowing of the abbreviation for ISAIAH. Cecil DAY-LEWIS was a gimme as a hyphened poet who died in Kingsley Amis’s house just across Hadley Common from where we live. As an Oxford man, ASHMOLE was reasonably straightforward too. COD to OTIC for the pun. But the rest was like pulling teeth, and some just wouldn’t come out. Thank you setter. and Pip for managing it.
  15. Quit on this one after 33 minutes, not being able to come up with ZING but also because I had so many question marks elsewhere that I was fairly sure something else was wrong, too. Turned out that wasn’t AUTOMATA or DAY-LEWIS, but my wordplay-following NORMAN for COMMON. Oh well.
  16. Another 1 hour struggle, but I somehow did manage to finish. Judging by the above, more by luck than judgement. Last two in COMMON and ZING bunged in without a clue as to what was going on. AUTOMATA, WISHY-WASHY, DAY-LEWIS, not parsed either. Very tough week so far.

    Just like yesterday, I don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. Certainly no great sense of satisfaction to have finished.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  17. 29:20 Tricky stuff! Held up by ABDICATION for 9A in finishing in NE corner. Failed to understand COMMON, OTIC, WISHY-WASHY and ZING; thanks Pip for unravelling those. I share your concern on “machine” in the singular for 9A.
  18. This was tough but I had great success after a deadly slow start beginning bottom right, working my way up that side and then moving into LH territory. However the effort exhausted my brain and eventually as the hour approached I gave up with three clues unsolved and several unparsed.

    I never did get ZING, and having revealed the answer I didn’t understand it although I knew Baltic meant very cold.

    COMMON was the other major problem where I found it hard to get past ‘Norm’ for standard. I was so desperate that I even considered NORMAN, thinking of Norman Wisdom who was short and always falling over! At least when I revealed the answer I saw the wordplay this time.

    The final reveal was ASPIDISTRA which I really should have got, but I gave up having decided that the answer was going to be a plant I never heard of. Pip, I prefer to think of George Orwell who kept his aspidistra flying rather than dear Gracie who had the biggest one in the world.

    Edited at 2022-01-26 09:11 am (UTC)

  19. A much better effort than yesterday, when I gave up early and didn’t comment. In order to avoid repeat feebleness, I took the precaution of having a beer and anjero brekkie at a place I’ve not tried before. The owner, eager to win my approval, gave me free halwa, and a coffee liberally laced with ginger…

    …and the combination worked pretty well on the whole, as I waded through this quagmire with added determination. FOI ABDICATION, which turned out to be wrong and subsequently came back to bite me – but enjoyed the chewiness of the puzzle for the most part. Major hold-ups around PANAMA CITY – I was initially convinced that 1a had to end “A TIP”, and also carelessly misspelt PRESBeTERY – but eventually managed to untangle that mess.

    Eventually as 60m approached I decided to call it quits:
    – entered LING for 12a, knowing it was very unlikely to0 be correct
    – Didn’t get LARGESSE. The “picking up” = homophone device and variants have fooled me so many times in the last 9 months or so or regular solving – my bête noir of the daily 15×15. And also I had it as -A-N-S-E from ABDICATION

    Didn’t expect the SNITCH to be much above 100, so the actual number + other comments made me feel this was a decent stab – thanks Pip and setter

  20. Hmm, tricky one this. Got them all eventually bar zing, which eluded me completely.

    I am always impressed by our overseas contingent’s ability to tackle this crossword – my infrequent attempts at the NYT equivalent usually ending in dismal failure – but I thought as I wrote Ermintrude straight in, that they might find that one hard to guess!

  21. I failed miserably with Zing, Largesse, the beastly Ermintrude and Common. A dark day. COD Wishy-Washy! WOD Ashmole.
  22. AUTOMATA apart, I thought this was a brilliant puzzle, even though I was completely stumped by SQUEAK – which I think is a superb clue. Like K, though, I must give the COD nod to ZING.
  23. Crashed and burned after 30 minutes. Started off by stupidly not checking that SWORDHEADS actually worked as an anagram of “hardware so”, and it all went downhill from there.

    I knew ERMINTRUDE but would never have got several others. Always think of SELL A PUP in the passive – being sold a pup. Odd expression, either way. Nice to learn about Mr. Ashmole.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter.

  24. Pure guess after all checkers in, from downunder. Magic Roundabout was on TV when I was a kid but I just couldn’t watch it. Ditto Worzel Gummidge.
    Loved The Goodies, and their 1970s take on Magic Roundabout, the big animated dog running amok.
  25. I eventually entered COMMON without a clue as to how the rather clever wordplay worked. Unfortunately I didn’t get the equally clever ZING, and just had a stab at RING. Sneaky stuff today.

    Also slowed by putting ABDICATION at first, and I think it’s fair to say that tyrants probably don’t quite do dictation.

  26. A big struggle today; let’s hope that’s it for the week. I spent ages on this, getting on for 90 minutes with free use of aids by the end, which didn’t always help because even then I couldn’t see how some of the clues worked. The same misgivings as many others about AUTOMATA. ZING was a mystery to me although I got it. I agree with Ulaca that SQUEAK was a pretty good clue: but a pity that SQUEAL also works, perfectly well so far as I can see.
  27. Too much of a struggle to be a whole lot of fun. Never did fully parse WISHY WASHY but got the general idea. Reminded me of the panto Aladdin. My little brother used to be watching The Magic Roundabout when I got home from school and was having tea. PRESBYTERY comes from the Greek word for old so that was fine but I’ll join the chorus on AUTOMATA needing an S on the end of machines. 32.39
  28. I hit PAY DIRT just before arriving in PANAMA CITY to SELL A PUP. I then spotted the AUTOMATA and wondered, like others, why it wasn’t ON at the end. LOI was DAY-LEWIS, wondering where the IS came from. LEMON GRASS was a late entry. Major hold ups were LARGESSE, ZING and PRESBYTERY. All this took place in 29:35. Sadly I was misled along the Norman Wisdom track, like Jack, so crashed and burned WOE. Thanks setter and Pip.
  29. ZING was a problem because my alphabet trawl never finished. Quite a few eureka moments here (always good), especially including having forgotten the other meaning of shopping. And COMMON, OTIC and ZING all entered in hope rather than expectation.
  30. Got COMMON but erased it again having missed the significance of the comma (sheesh!). Also missed ZING and EXORCISE. Overall quite pleased with self; just don’t ask how long I spent on it…

    My COD was 15dn because I’m very fond of The Magic Roundabout, but I thought it would be v. tricky bordering on unfair for many. ASHMOLE seemed similarly selective, although perhaps at the other end of the intellectual spectrum.



    Edited at 2022-01-26 01:01 pm (UTC)

    1. Ooh! Just ‘got’ the parsing of LARGESSE. I think that’s a better COD… love it.


  31. Finished in two goes; about 20 mins altogether. For some reason, I found this one straightforward, although I did bung in COMMON with a shrug and my fingers crossed.
    THanks, pip.
  32. Not too many problems for me — LARGESSE was held up by initially going down the ABDICATION route.

    Couldn’t see the parsing for LEMON GRASS nor PANAMA CITY at all but seemed like reasonable guesses with the checkers at the time.

    ERMINTRUDE a write-in if you’re British and of a certain age. Didn’t overthink DAY-LEWIS, it fit with my semi-parsing. SQUEAK, my last in the SE corner jumped out after a few minutes thought.

    ZING was last in, giving most food for thought. Very surprised by the high Snitch — didn’t think this was all that bad.

  33. Couldn’t get ZING until thinking about it later — saw the “go” bit but not the cryptic. Some clues are too clever for their own good. No time but at least an hour.
  34. Must admit that it was a bit of a toss-up between NORMAN and COMMON here as well, and I made the right call (also one of those times where I broke my own rules and submitted without full parsing – also a good call, as I suspect I’d still have been there this afternoon if I’d gone down that route). The singular AUTOMATA pulled me up a bit, though I had lots of enjoyable PDMs with the likes of the Large S.
  35. I eventually finished in 23:26, but submitted outwith the leaderboard because I’d resorted to aids to try to justify COMMON. In the end I failed to justify it, but couldn’t do any better and chanced it, so many thanks, Pip, for the enlightenment.
    A failure also properly to understand 27ac – don’t remember having come across IS used as an abbreviation for book in the crossword before, although it’s fair enough when you point it out. Plenty of other bits of head-scratching before the PDM: ZING, PRESBYTERY, ERMINTRUDE, WISHY-WASHY. Phew. Challenging.
    Thanks again, Pip, and Setter, naturally.
  36. 30.02, clever, chewy stuff. I preferred common to norman on the basis of on(e) falling short at the end but otherwise failed to parse it. Abdication held up largesse for a while. (Free)zing was a long alpha-trawl and a PDM. Never quite parsed wishy-washy, can sort of see it now though. Ex orc was far from being my first thought for reformed killer but exorcise arrived at last. Pleased to finish in what was a reasonable time given the SNITCH and the number of DNFs.
  37. DNF. Actually quite liked ABDICATING, which seems to have flummoxed many solvers today. Nice bit of self-reference since “MAKING IT PERMANENT” has to refer back to “TAKING TIME OUT”.

    Thought ORC was a very weak bit of construction. DNK ANA or DAY-LEWIS as a poet, or ZING.

  38. Pleased to finish in 40 minutes, with COMMON, ZING and DAY-LEWIS my last entries. Lots bunged in without fully understanding the wordplay initially. In the end all worked out except for the clever clue to COMMON. I also liked the clues to LEMON GRASS and DAY-LEWIS. I wasn’t keen on the wording of 25a (SQUEAK) or 14d (WISHY-WASHY)and I thought ‘reformed killer, perhaps’ was a bit fanciful for EXORC.
  39. Correctly guessed COMMON and ZING from the checkers but had to come here for the parsing. I feel lucky to have finished. I thought it would be very difficult for non-Brits what with ASHMOLE and ERMINTRUDE. 51 minutes. Ann
  40. 38 mins but missed 27 ac. Completely dumbfounded as to whether it referred to a poetic term for light or a book. Day Lewis is fair enough I suppose but like the blogger the is is a bit of a puzzle to me. Good workout and frustrating to have been beaten in the end. Mind you zing went in without having a clue as to why it was right, thanks blogger for the explanation.
  41. I had a guest last evening so couldn’t start till late, then got too sleepy to finish the NW and SE before morning. Very meaty. I should have seen that damn comma in COMMON! But of course I didn’t know the freaking cartoon bovine—only by the wordplay…

    Edited at 2022-01-26 09:14 pm (UTC)

  42. With the Snitch at 147, I suppose I should be less unhappy than I am with a 60min DNF with four clues absolutely refusing to yield. But overall I was left a bit grumbly by this one, even with some of the clues which did work for me. The plural AUTOMATA clued with a singular definition was the start; it had to be EXORCISE, but I’ve never read any Tolkien and have no desire to do so; and IS as a book, now explained above but previously unknown (I can’t abbreviate any of the other 65 either), feels as lazy a piece of clueing as the oft-complained-about ‘girl’ or ‘woman’ for any one of hundreds of proper names. Some good stuff, no doubt, but it’s always the niggles that stick, and today there were a few. Heigh-ho! Better tomorrow, I hope.
  43. All fine until the end when I guessed Norman and Wing! Very devious – which is how we like ’em! I was up to that point feeling rather proud of myself for being equally at home with Ashmole and Ermintrude. Many thanks. I should have got zing.
  44. Did anyone else spot (as I did after using aids!) that the departure of the Baltic states from the Soviet Union was dubbed the Singing Revolution? So I reckon that SING is just a good an answer as ZING bizarrely.


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