Times 28,205: Anyone For Tennis?

I was slowed down a little bit, a little bit in the SE where 20dn followed. by 22ac were the two last to fall, but overall there weren’t many speedbumps in this tractable puzzle. I put in far too many of the answers just from the crossers, but nothing was too tricky to parse afterwards either, except possibly 8dn.

My favourite things were the &lit questions, in particular 12dn with its nice storyline about too-early wake up calls. I’m in a cold sweat just thinking about it – thanks setter!

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

1 Describe coming across the fourth cousin perhaps (8)
RELATIVE – RELATE [describe] “across” IV [the fourth]
5 British PM’s never-ending conflict (6)
10 One interacted awkwardly with the French, agreeing this? (7,8)
11 Peace-keepers object, arresting family regardless (10)
UNTHINKING – U.N. + THING, “arresting” KIN
13 Bowl over during Test, unsuccessfully (4)
STUN – hidden in {te}ST UN{successfully}
15 Dispatch mostly words on passing data unit (7)
17 Islam and he are intricately connected (7)
ISHMAEL – (ISLAM + HE*) &lit
18 Not all red beans, say, are revolting (7)
19 Lines inserted in successful work The Crown (7)
HILLTOP – L L “inserted in” HIT OP
21 Spoils excessively large reels (4)
LOOT – TOO L, reversed
22 Band close to hand look out retro pieces (10)
WATCHSTRAP – WATCH [look out] + reversed PARTS
25 Personal possessions put away at right time in smallest room (7,8)
27 Former nurse to make bigger offer (6)
EXTEND – EX TEND [former | nurse] + double def
28 Avoiding river, lug a spruce cut for roof support (8)
1 Venison supplier, born in Brussels, housed in Gibraltar? (7)
ROEBUCK – B inside E.U., inside ROCK
2 Minor interruption in service permitted (3)
LET – double def, the first tennis-y
3 Clare’s town bishop stops unlikely missile in court (6,4)
4 Jumper possibly plunging? (1-4)
V-NECK – cryptic def
6 A squad lacks top assistant (4)
AIDE – A + {s}IDE
7 One leading tributes to expert quietly leaves (11)
8 Indestructible cross nicked from outside (7)
ETERNAL – E{x}TERNAL [outside, minus X = cross]
9 Fairly new ascetics commandeering a foreign hospital (8)
YOUNGISH – YOGIS “commandeering” UN + H
12 One waking you in inept hotels in error? (11)
14 Nothing separating boy and girl’s principles (10)
PHILOSOPHY – O separating PHIL and SOPHY
16 Youth keen to grasp German finally after half term (8)
TEENAGER – EAGER “grasping” {germa}N, after TE{rm}
18 Trained tree to climb, ignoring one setback (7)
RELAPSE – reversed ESPAL{i}ER
20 Studied minor report first, gawping (7)
POPEYED – EYED [studied] following POP [minor report]
23 Top-class police once heading up church court (5)
CURIA – reversed A1 R.U.C.
24 First light note pad turns up (4)
DAWN – reversed N WAD
26 Go off regularly on time, always at the start (3)
ROT – R{egularly} O{n} T{ime}

70 comments on “Times 28,205: Anyone For Tennis?”

  1. There is a fine row of 28ac CARYATIDs on/in a building on the Euston Road, opposite where I worked in the seventies. So l too am familiar these statuesque women. My WOD.

    FOI 2dn LET

    LOI 9dn YOUNGISH right at the end of the alphabet!

    COD 18dn RELAPSE


    I chugged home in 43 minutes

    Edited at 2022-02-04 02:51 am (UTC)

    1. A V-NECK, two “HILLTOPs” beside
      What that Greek carver did
      With their CARYATID
      Is a subject of ETERNAL pride!

      Edited at 2022-02-04 08:43 am (UTC)

  2. I’d have spelled the girl’s name as Sophie, i.e. not with a Y.
    This didn’t cause any problem other than a raised eyebrow.

    19:58. I skipped my usual careful review for possible typos in order to break the twenty minute barrier. Could have come a cropper, as I often do when not performing due diligence.

    1. It seems to have been an alternative spelling of the shortened form of Sophia in 18th and 19th Century literature. There’s Sophy Primrose in The Vicar of Wakefield and I believe it’s what Austen’s Admiral Croft called his wife in Persuasion and (who else) Georgette Heyer used it in The Grand Sophy.
      1. I still haven’t found the time to read Georgette Heyer, though it may be required in order to improve my parsing 🙂
  3. The blogger and first several commentators said it all. Except the part where I personally couldn’t write in Caryatid and (I’m embarrassed to say) Entente Cordiale because I needed the cryptic to spell them correctly. I liked Watchstrap.

    Edited at 2022-02-04 03:11 am (UTC)

  4. Very easy, or on the wavelength. Knew caryatid as a word but had forgotten its meaning, so a minor hold-up there and also on LOI the first half of WATCHSTRAP. But everything else went straight in, even the MERish Sophy.
    Liked the telephonist and the crickety surface of STUN.
  5. Though I am embarrassed to admit that ENTENTE CORDIALE was my LOI! Moi ?! I had to get YOUNGISH before that. OK, worked with distractions, and, as always, as an escape from time pressures.

    Loved PHILOSOPHY. Was happy to remember the R.U.C. A very enjoyable excursion. Been a while since I snapped a photo of CARYATIDS…

    The surface for WATCHSTRAP, though, snaps right in the middle. I can’t make any grammatical sense out of it. At first, I read that the band took out retro pieces, i.e., revised its set list.

    Edited at 2022-02-04 04:57 am (UTC)

    1. The nearby band looks for retro pieces. (ODE sv look, look sthg out=(Brit) search for and produce something
      1. It says look out, and I thought “band” would take a singular verb.
        But all right. Thanks!

        Edited at 2022-02-04 05:57 am (UTC)

  6. Biffed 6, 7, and 8d, never figured out ETERNAL, and wasn’t confident about A(S)IDE. Is ‘always’ needed in 26d? I wasted a lot of time on CARYATID thinking that ‘avoiding river, lug’ was EA.
  7. Pretty straightforward, ending with unparsed RELAPSE.

    Took ‘look out’ in 22a as nominal, as in ‘be on the watch/look out.’

  8. But in Britspeak, collective nouns take the plural: Arsenal are likely to win, the committee have decided, etc.
    1. Not unheard of in the US as well. But I didn’t know the idiom.
      Another thing that might have played into my misprision is that the New York Times puzzle for Thursday (gimmick day) required turning lower-case (and one upper-case) “L”s in some clues into Ts (revealer being CROSS YOUR TS).

      Edited at 2022-02-04 06:45 am (UTC)

    2. Seems logical – but is it not the same in the US? “The 49ers is likely to win” sounds rather peculiar to me.
      1. But ‘the 49ers’ is a normal plural; we Murcans wouldn’t say, e.g. ‘Arsenal are likely…’
    3. Not always. Committee would a particularly complicated example too. Eg ‘the committee in their deliberations have decided. . .’ is ok, but a straight ‘the committee’ without previous reference to its members would take the singular.
  9. Everything LH went in easily but I struggled on the right and used aids once to get things moving again (the elusive WATCHSTRAP) and once to put me out of my misery on my LOI having done several alphabet trawls without success.

    That turned out to be YOUNGISH, which I really should have got because I had the O UN and ISH in place, but I guess I was running out of steam as I approached Y in my trawl and had abandoned hope by then. It ought to have been biffable, FGS!

    I was pleased to work out the unknown or forgotten CURIA and the NHO CARYATID.

    Edited at 2022-02-04 06:30 am (UTC)

  10. Enjoyed WATCHSTRAP. I knew CARYATID (watch out for TELAMON AND ATLANTES which are the male equivalents).
    1. Golly .. long forgotten, so thanks Martin. Was that in Rowan & Martin’s laugh-in? A fine programme, for Goldie Hawn not the least..
      1. Yes it was Laugh-In Jerry. She had some marvelous riffs on J. Edgar Hoover among others. One ringy dingy.
        1. Not to mention “Is this the party to whom I am speaking?” I think it was “Saturday Night Live” where she did a commercial for Bell Telephone–a monopoly at the time–where she acknowledged that occasionally they made a mistake: “We don’t care; we don’t have to.”
      2. I see Olivia and Kevin have already answered you, Jerry, but I only came across “Ernestine” much later.
  11. I managed to type in TOOL in place of LOOT which gave me great trouble trying to finish with RELAPSE. My error was compounded by this giving me R_T_ at the start of 18D which could well have been “Trained tree”. I thus spent far too long trying to think of something which fitted RETEP_E. I must learn to recheck my answers better when left with something so unlikely.
  12. Among the mountains by the winter sea;

    25 mins pre-brekker.
    It is not easy to define Telephonist, so nice one.
    Thanks setter and V.

  13. 23 minutes with LOI a constructed CARYATID, as the SE fell in a rush. FOI was BATTLE. COD to PRIVATE PROPERTY and TOASTMASTER jointly. I too have never spelt SOPH (ie) with a Y, but then my maternal grandmother was always Grannie. Pleasant puzzle.Thank you V and setter.
  14. 11:18. No great dramas today. I knew CARYATID was a thing but I had forgotten what it was. I might have guessed an artery or a grasshopper.
  15. No issues, TOASTMASTER LOI as I was fixated on TrO… I never parsed TENNIS BALL.

    22′ 23″ thanks verlaine and setter.

  16. 45 mins so average difficulty for me. LOI YOUNGSTER, like Jack, stared at the crossers for ages before the penny dropped.

    Liked ENTENTE CORDIALE (perhaps not so « cordiale » at the moment) PHILOSOPHY and the upside down ESPAL(I)ER. Also pleased to have worked out CURIA, a NHO.

    Good fun.

    Thanks V and setter.

  17. To start with I thought ooh, V is not going to enjoy this much .. but as others have said, it stiffened up a bit in the SE.
    I did think there were some very elegant clues though, 25ac especially I liked.
    Like Gothick Matt I ninja-turtled caryatids from Stranger in a Strange Land.
  18. Didn’t see the parsing for PRIVATE PROPERTY or RELAPSE, couldn’t have told you what a CARYATID is, and had the same MER as others at the name Sophy in PHILOSOPHY, but otherwise this was relatively straightforward.

    FOI Loot
    LOI Watchstrap
    COD Entente cordiale

  19. 12:16 without parsing TENNIS BALL. No dramas. I did try and fit THEOSOPHY to 14D and OFT for 26D at first, though. Thank-you V and setter.
  20. Felt really smug when FOI-ed ENTENTE CORDIALE right away, immediately followed by UNTHINKING AND STUN – the top half was soon approaching completion. But I failed to keep up the pace, slowing down progressively until the last 5 or so took me almost 20 minutes, ending with the NHOs CARYATID and CURIA, then finally WATCHSTRAP.

    Despite the SCC time, happy to get another Friday completion under my belt – my success rate is definitely improving little by little – speed demon status will have to wait (maybe forever). Thanks V and setter

  21. 43m today. As others, I struggled in the SE corner but then I usually do. Thanks, V and setter.
  22. Stuff bunged in without thinking too much about parsing:


    MER at SOPHY — isn’t that a more European spelling?

    Shrug at TELEPHONIST (not sure I’ve ever been woken by one).

    Last few minutes trying to remember CARYATID and then working out CURIA.

  23. Sophy? I suppose anything goes as a name? All went smoothly enough, although I slowed down a bit with WATCHSTRAP, YOUNGISH and HILLTOP. The alphabet trawl for YOUNGISH was saved just in time (when Peter Biddlecombe won The Times solving championship I think for the second time, he had to do an alphabet trawl. Fortunately the word began with a letter early in the alphabet, which so far as I remember made all the difference. No such luck this time). 36 minutes.

    Edited at 2022-02-04 10:57 am (UTC)

    1. Even on Wiki, Sophy redirects to Sophie of which there are several dozen, but not a single Sophy.
      1. If you carry on down the Wiki index, there are a good few Sophy references, such as Sophy of Regensburg. I knew Sophy Ridge of Sky News, so no MER from me !
        1. Thanks for clearing that up, Phil. It was no problem to solving but I did a double-take.
  24. Didn’t help when I put in DETENTE CORDIALE. That must have happened at some time I guess. No I never got PRIVATE PROPERTY parsed either, I was working on put away being privated, then private, in the end I just bunged it in.
    Nice mix of easy ones and ones that got me all twisted up.
  25. Like Jerry, I thought to myself that Verlaine won’t be too pleased, as the NW rattled into place. However things did get trickier elsewhere. Took a while for the penny to drop for RELAPSE, but after PRIVATE… and EXTEND seemed to confirm it I suddenly recalled Espalier. I considered AIDE early in the proceedings, but didn’t put it in until near the end, when I lifted and separated correctly, and saw the parsing. Clement helped too. The SE took some mental gymnastics, but was eventually subjugated as the CARYATID emerged from the wordplay and crossers, the Y from SOPHY being the clincher. That left 9d which needed an alphabet trawl before the YOGIS sealed the deal. 26:32. Thanks setter and V.
  26. 33 minutes. Not the expected hard Friday puzzle, but enough to keep us thinking, eg with the parsing of PRIVATE PROPERTY and WATCHSTRAP. Saved from A-Z run through by seeing YOUNGISH early on, perhaps helped by TEENAGER.

    I liked the ‘awkwardly’ in ENTENTE CORDIALE and the V-NECK cryptic def.

    Thanks to Verlaine and setter.

  27. Finished all-correct even with covid brain fog. Didn’t know CARYATID but not too hard to work out. The bottom right was the hardest. My last one in was WATCHSTRAP. I had the strap bit, and the checkers, but just couldn’t see it. The definition “band close to hand” was clever.
  28. ….then had to battle with the right. Apart from thanking Verlaine for parsing my LOI, I’ve nothing else worthwhile to add.

    TIME 13:13

  29. Perhaps I should have saved my learned disquisition on 18th and 19th Century literature for further down the thread but in the unlikely case that anyone is interested it’s up near the beginning in reply to Corymbia. I enjoyed this although I did a lot of post-solve parsing. Enigmatist has a puzzle in the Guardian today which should keep me out of mischief for a while. 18.23
  30. A pleasant genial solve over 17 minutes, with the kind of clues that make you feel a bit clever: spotting the espalier and knowing who ISHMAEL was with the link to Islam.
    I thought we might be getting a bit mucky at 25, and essayed PRIVATE FUNCTION as something you may be doing to put away stuff in the loo, but was relieved to uncover the PRIVY.
    On the other hand, I’m nowhere near enough educated to question the spelling of SOPHY.
  31. 29:49. My printer packed up half way through printing so I had to supply the missing bottom few clues from my phone. Despite that (or because of it) got through without too much hesitation, bar the same doubt about the plural verb for the [watchstrap] band as others have noted, also my LOI.
  32. Failed on this one, unable to see WATCHSTRAP as I was convinced that ‘close to hand’ was going to be D. Also didn’t know CURIA.

    I thought UNTHINKING was excellent.

  33. As others, I made an excited start, thinking that I could break my PB on a Friday, then slowed down in the SE. Took far too long to get the first part of watchstrap. Enjoyed the pdm of recognising what the definition was. Same with the ‘proper’ part of 28ac. Knew I was looking for ‘at right time’ but failed to split it up.
    I was another who started with oft for 26dn (fits the wordplay but not the definition – O and F from ‘Go off’ and T for time). Also trying to start 28ac with ea (ear without the r).
    Solution finally arrived because I went back to my ‘new regime’ of giving myself a fixed time and determinedly sticking at it. It also helps to have the question running internally: “How will I solve this?” rather than “Can I solve this?”
    Thanks to the setter and to Verlaine, especially for the parsing of 3dn. I clearly don’t know my Irish towns well enough.
  34. Like Keriothe CARYATID went in w/o too many difficulties but I realise now I had no idea what it meant.

    RELAPSE was rather good and was my poi before LOOT

    Thanks V and setter

  35. There’s an accessible Enigmatist in the Guardian today, for those who like John Henderson’s stuff, or those, like me, who have a masochistic streak.

    Edited at 2022-02-04 01:20 pm (UTC)

  36. 44:02. FOI 5ac BATTLE. A good start, like others, and a struggle to finish. LOI CARYATID thinking I wouldn’t spell it like that. But I don’t know how I would
  37. TOASTMASTER, ETERNAL, TENNIS BALL particularly. Got WATCHSTRAP even though it was LOI.


  38. 20.24. Decent puzzle not too much of a stretch. It helped that I was able to bung in entente cordiale from the last three words of the clue. That then provided plenty of crossers to work with.
  39. Pleasant and not too taxing for a Friday. Nice to see a mention of Ennis, where I have numerous family members, and the CARYATID for the smug classicist in me.
  40. I’ve had a good week — all cryptic crosswords completed successfully. I feel as though I can now say that I can do the Times Cryptic Crossword — one of my ambitions on retirement. Only took me 8 years, with help on the way from the Quick Cryptic and studying this blog. Thanks!
  41. My time suggests I found this easier than I thought I did while I was doing it. Perhaps that means it was the kind of puzzle that made you think, but not too hard.

    Enjoyed that, so thanks, Setter! And V for the blog, naturally.

    Have a great weekend, everyone.


  42. I was home in just over 13 minutes.COD Watchstrap. WOD Espalier! TOD (Town of the the day) Ennis.
  43. I found this surprisingly easy with a 32-minute solve (including proofreading). In fact, RELATIVE was my FOI and then I just filled the grid at a steady rate, with a few hitches along the way. “Born in Brussels” suggested NEE (at least in half of Brussels), but RONEECK didn’t sound very likely. I was sure 25ac would be LOO around some other letters, or after getting the I perhaps TOILET around some other letters, but RELAPSE, which I biffed at first, gave me the P and then the rest was clear, also that the smallest room would be the PRIVY. I had a little trouble with BATTLE since I couldn’t think of a PM that would fit, until I saw that British gave the B. And my first try at TOASTMASTER was HEADTOASTER, which seemed a bit strange. My LOI was YOUNGISH, also with an alphabet trawl preceded by searching my brain for names for new ascetics (I couldn’t think of any, and of course I didn’t have to).

    Edited at 2022-02-04 05:50 pm (UTC)

    1. YOGI for ascetic is a bit of a stretch for me, but then I suppose I’ve never been a fan of that stuff since the Beatles were seduced.
  44. Solved the LHS. Forays into the RHS = property, cordiale and stun. Thanks for the blog, Verlaine; for the puzzle, setter.
  45. 24.57. Thought I was on for a good time but got becalmed in the SE quadrant. LOI watchstrap. Pleased to eventually recall curia . Liked popeyed and philosophy.

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