Times 28245 – answer the riddle, or die.

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic
I romped through 90% of this in good time, then spent another ten minutes sorting out 20d, 28a and my LOI 13d, and trying to understand 23d before I wrote up the blog. I liked the clever use of the tools in the surface of 28a.

1 Get gruyere to start, before grating (5)
GRASP – G for gruyere, RASP for grating. Not rasping?
4 Rebel leader mostly harsh about our lot (9)
SPARTACUS – SPARTA(N) = mostly harsh, C= about, US = our lot.
9 Engine that’s labouring to purr when hit in the centre (9)
TURBOPROP – (TO PURR)* with BOP = hit inserted in the centre.
10 Result of police no longer getting firm backing (5)
OCCUR – RUC (old NI police) CO (firm) all reversed. Result as a verb here.
11 Game in which the present holders are eliminated (4,3,6)
PASS THE PARCEL – cryptic definition.
14 From the right forensics reveals suspected arsonist (4)
NERO – hidden reversed.
15 Finds out length, perhaps, and cuts it? (8,2)
MEASURES UP – double definition, ‘cuts it’ as in cuts the mustard perhaps.
18 Biscuit that’s Greek eclipsing Scandinavian one? They’re the same! (10)
GINGERSNAP – GR (Greek) around INGE (Danish forename) SNAP ! (same as in card game).
19 Home cup tie? (4)
SEMI – double definition, semi as in semi-detached and semi-final.
21 Totally chilled, at home before ten, taking in beer and a film (3,4,2,4)
ICE COLD IN ALEX – ICE COLD = totally chilled, IN = at home, ALE = beer, X = ten. A 1958 film I’d vaguely heard of but have not seen.
24 What you wouldn’t expect for a quid? (5)
TWIST – I’m not 100%, but I think this is a double definition, TWIST as in an unexpected twist in a plot, or a twist / quid of tobacco or something to chew.
25 Method of saving old dictator one’s topping (9)
PEPPERONI – PEP (Personal Equity Plan) PERON (dictator as he was in Argentina) I (one). I assume here this is a topping for a pizza, although it is a perfectly good sausage when not topping anything.
27 He’s poetry in motion: that’s magic! (3,6)
28 Hammers would be present, but not always saw (5)
TENSE – a grammatical &lit: the verb ‘hammers’ is always present tense, whereas ‘saw’ could be present (saw wood) or past tense (of see).

1 Clothing with split zip (3-2-3-2)
GET-UP-AND-GO – GET-UP = clothing, AND = with, GO = split, leave..
2 One who’ll succeed in audition for show (3)
AIR – sounds like HEIR which has a fully silent H.
3 Immediately aware of dubious practice of succeeding voting system (6)
PRONTO – PR (voting system, but not in UK) ON TO (aware of…).
4 Witch appearing with small goblin, before descending on ship (9)
SORCERESS – S (small) ORC (goblin) ERE (before) SS (ship).
5 A triumphant cry on clinching record (5)
ALPHA – AHA ! = triumphant cry, insert LP for long playing record.
6 Forty co-wrote singular novel (3-5)
TWO-SCORE – (CO-WROTE S)*, the S from singular.
7 Valve to raise, lest endless suffering should follow (11)
COCKLESHELL – COCK (raise, in a jaunty manner), LES(T), HELL = suffering. Collins says “any of the valves of the shells of certain other bivalve molluscs, such as the scallop “.
8 Ride on and on at Longchamp, then start to flag (4)
SURF – SUR = French for ‘on’, F = start to flag.
12 Note popped in post, one with sympathy: a nice surprise? (11)
SERENDIPITY – put RE (note) into SEND, I (one) PITY sympathy). I was pleasantly surprised by the origin of this nice word, Collins says “C18: coined by Horace Walpole, from the Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes possess this gift.”
13 Mysterious lace skirts handmade originally, in extra large (10)
SPHINXLIKE – This was my LOI and took a little time to see why. SPIKE = lace, as in spike a drink. Into that put H, IN and XL (handmade originally, IN, extra large).
16 Form of comedy duo’s broadcast challenge (5,2,2)
STAND UP TO – STAND UP a form of comedy, TO sounds like TWO, a duo.
17 Sees term outa long one (8)
20 Coin in slot? (6)
INVENT – IN, VENT = slot. Coin as in coin a new word.
22 Oscar and parish priest: big rivals (5)
OPPOS – O (oscar) PP (parish priest) OS (outsize, big).
23 Yank in London’s Burning (4)
ITCH – Collins gives ITCH as a synonym for burning, okay. I guess this one of those supposed Cockney things where yank = hitch and in London-speak the H is dropped? But yank means tug, jerk, not really hitch. What am I missing here?
26 I felt that discussion ultimately could get personal (3)
OWN – OW! = I felt that, N = end of discussion. Own = personal, as in all my own work.

69 comments on “Times 28245 – answer the riddle, or die.”

  1. I couldn’t see the hidden NERO; not seeing hiddens is one of my specialties. DNK ‘cup tie’–well, I knew it was a match of some sort, but. And I never thought of ‘lace’=spike, and was simply clueless with SPHINXLIKE. NHO the movie, but at least worked out the wordplay, although not knowing the movie made the answer look unlikely. No problem with ‘hitch’; as in hitch up one’s trousers. But I thought ‘London’ was rather too broad.
      1. Indeed. Henry Higgins would always hitch in Hammersmith or Highgate, but Eliza might ‘itch in ‘arlow
    1. For sure, only a small section of Londoners actually drop their aitches!
      1. Um…. being one of that ilk, plenty of East and Saah Lahndaners have a licence to drop their aitches — that’s not just a small section!
        1. OK, perhaps I should have just said many Londoners do not drop their aitches!
          1. But in the setter’s defence there is such a thing as a ‘London accent’ isn’t there?
            1. Hmm. I think you could argue that most of the South East of England speaks with a “London accent.” Still doesn’t mean that they drop their aitches though which is the intention of the clue.

              I for one, born in North London, would definitely say Hitch, not ‘itch.

  2. Well got there slowly, with a few mental question-marks along the way. Rasp/ing, hitch(?) in Cockney(?), and cockleshell, which was my ignorance – thought cockleshell must be interchangeable with cockle, didn’t know it was half of various other bivalves. Apart from that some easy ones and som very tricky stuff in places, pushing the envelope. Only unknowns were acronyms PP and PEP, had heard of the film. Happy to finish.
    Last 2 in were INVENT and TENSE, taking about 10 minutes by themselves.
    COD Hey presto, for the great anagram.

    Edited at 2022-03-23 02:05 am (UTC)

  3. Hard going and time off the scale. Still, I made it in the end with a few I wasn’t sure of or hadn’t come across before such as TWIST for ‘quid?’ and like isla3, PP for ‘parish priest’ and the E bit of the PEP acronym at 25a. Chambers has “A grating sound or feeling” as one of the senses of RASP.

    After eventually getting SPHINXLIKE, my LOI by a long way was TENSE; very clever and it was therefore my COD.

  4. I agree with you, Pip, about 23d, 24ac and 28ac. Along with 20d they were my LOIs.
    I also share your puzzlement about TWIST and ITCH.
    I had the G at the beginning of 18ac and thought of Garibaldi but not enough letters, alas.
    “Thanks for the PEPPERONI” was a track on “All Things Must Pass”.
    COD, now that you’ve explained it, Pip, to TENSE.
  5. Similar experience here. I ended up defeated by 23D (all Londoners drop their aitches now?) and 28A. I wasn’t certain about TWIST so I wasn’t sure I had the right checkers for 23D. For 28A I could see TONNE, TENSE, and TINGE but couldn’t see what any of them had to do with the clue.
  6. 30 minutes for all but TENSE, ITCH and TWIST. I had thought of TENSE as the most likely answer at 28ac because of ‘present’ being in the clue but it took me a while to work out how to account for ‘hammers’ and ‘saw’.

    On the other side of the grid I suspected that ‘quid’ would be tobacco-related but was unable to think of the associated word I knew was lurking somewhere at the back of my mind.

    I was stuck for ideas on ‘Yank in London’s Burning’ but since we’d had ‘Pike’ from Dad’s Army yesterday I wondered if the answer might be a character in the TV series London’s Burning which was very popular but I never watched. I came up with the possibility there might have been an American character nicknamed ‘Utah’, which even if there had been wouldn’t really have worked as a cryptic crossword clue, but whilst toying with the idea I noticed it would have given me a T as the first letter of 24ac and that was enough to jog my memory and think of TWIST as the tobacco answer which I was in no doubt had to be correct.

    After that I still had UTAH, ITCH and ETCH as possibilities for 23dn but couldn’t see anything to recommend any of them. Eventually I plumped for ETCH and hoped for the best – after all etching can involve burning with acid. I’m not impressed at all with that clue.

    I don’t recall seeing PP for Parish Priest before.

    1. Think with the definition being ‘Burning’, the ‘London’s’ bit being so familiar to many in both song and TV programme is better for the clue’s surface, rather than say Hackney’s Burning.
  7. I struggled to finish this with SPHINXLIKE, SEMI, TENSE and TWIST all proving elusive for some time. For TWIST I note that the meaning used here is the 19th definition in Chambers. I’ll make sure I learn all 25 for future reference.
  8. I started with GET UP AND GO
    And could GRASP easy clues like PRONTO
    But our SPHINXLIKE setter
    Did INVENT some much better
    Then I saw the last TWIST. HEY PRESTO!
  9. Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;

    After 30 mins I gave up on Itch/Twist and Tense. Too clever for me.
    I do occasionally have to ‘Itch up my trousers.
    Thanks setter and Pip.

  10. Started off at a reasonable clip, then found the going increasingly sticky and decelerated to an eventual standstill. In the SW corner I eventually double-biffed TWIST / ITCH (solved the latter but didn’t feel like it) however I was unable to clear up the SE. I was 100% sure “method of saving” must be PIP (because I have one) and felt my head was about to explode trying to decipher SPHINXLIKE. 3 other little ‘uns also missing. Must remember PERON – that’s snagged me previously I’m sure.

    Didn’t really enjoy this much – thanks anyway Pip and setter

  11. I really liked this, despite its high degree of difficulty. A worldy clue (I’m looking at you TENSE) and some lovely surfaces (HEY PRESTO, SPHINXLIKE) made this a joy to wrestle with for me. 48m and no pink today. Thank you brilliant setter and intrepid blogger.
  12. I thought this was a terrific puzzle, requiring much twisted thinking.
    I was a bit dubious of OPPOS as rivals: every time I’ve seen it before it’s your mate, your co-worker and such, despite being the start of opposite.
    TENSE, as observed above, was either clever or tortuous, depending on your fancy. I’ll settle for clever.
    COCKLESHELL was, for me, a reminder of another 50’s movie, the Heroes, and I shrugged at the valve connection.
    Carlsburg used to run the (almost) last scene in ICE COLD… uncut as an advert.
  13. 38 minutes, after the paper turned up late, COD to GET-UP-AND-GO. LOI ITCH. I had no trouble with HITCHing up my trousers, and my wife has always insisted that Cockneys are the only Londoners, so I suppose so. I’m more likely to drop an aitch than she is though. SPHINXLIKE was inscrutable for several minutes also. I usually use OPPOS to mean colleagues. What with SPARTACUS, ICE COLD IN ALEX and The COCKLESHELL heroes, what I need now is Pathe News. A harder puzzle to finish than start. Thank you Pip and setter.
  14. Beaten by ‘semi’ and ‘tense’. Should have got the former, and could have biffed the latter but it would not have been satisfying as I had no idea a out the parsing. Some. lovely clue but, overall, the puzzle left me with a feeling of grumpiness. I thought that the clue for ‘itch’ was a real stinker.
  15. Enjoyed this – am I missing something about pass the parcel. when the music stops the one eventually holding it is the winner ???
    1. The general idea with pass the parcel as I’ve always practised the art (admittedly it’s been a while) is that the music never stops twice at the same child, to ensure equitable distribution of the goodies. So the holders are indeed eliminated one by one, even if they don’t realise it.

      Edited at 2022-03-23 10:34 am (UTC)

      1. I think you and the setter possibly may be in the minority- Never seen that applied – the nearest I’ve seen to a fix is making sure the birthday child gets lucky
        1. I’ve never seen it not applied, whether at my own (numerous) children’s parties or those of their friends. Of course you have to ensure that the birthday boy or girl gets the last present, but if you want any hope of maintaining peace it’s at least as important to ensure that Child A doesn’t get left out while Child B gets three bites of the cherry.
          1. Interesting – I expect its a local thing. I’m nearly 70 and went to numerous parties with siblings in Bedford. Now in Nottingham I’ve taken sons and grandchildren to parties and never encountered that practice but that’s sometimes the way things are!
            1. It’s mentioned in the Wiki article about the game as an unofficial practice. But having said that I still don’t think it saves the clue from a basic error. The setter seems to have confused PtP with another party game such as Musical Chairs.
              1. I agree – I checked with SWMBO and she confirmed that all children stay in her observation – in fact the growing practice, it seems, is that there is a treat at every unwrapping before the main prize
                1. You mean pass the parcel can be played without a treat at every unwrapping?! I have never seen such a thing. If there’s no treat then obviously you wouldn’t have to worry about the distribution, but on the other hand you might (based on the norms I am accustomed to) have a riot on your hands.

                  Edited at 2022-03-23 03:19 pm (UTC)

              2. I think you might be right. I didn’t think twice about it because of the practice I’m used to but players aren’t really eliminated: they keep passing the parcel and usually retain an optimistic belief that the music might stop with them again.
            2. Perhaps. It’s always struck me as just basic self-preservation, rather like timing the ingestion of sugar in such a way that the subsequent crash occurs when your little guests are safely home and in the charge of their parents.
  16. 45 mins but…. Could not see how TWIST would work (DNK twist=quid) so went for TAINT instead.

    Should have finished in 30 odd mins but I was held up by OPPOS, PEPPERONI, TENSE, INVENT and of course TAINT/TWIST.

    I liked the “A” trick, like “He” the other day, and SPHINXLIKE once I’d done my IKEA homework, which made me think of Horryd. I miss him!

    Thanks Pip and setter.

      1. Apologies for late reply. Horryd has decide to no longer comment on LJ as it is run by Russians and, understandably he objects to what is going on.
        1. Thank you. I feared the worst and am much relieved. I too can’t wait until the new, non-Russian website is created by Jack and his amazing team.
  17. The going was pretty good until the final few hurdles, which were the same as several others here, TWIST and ITCH solved in that order and then a good several minutes on the tougher TENSE.
  18. 18:21. I started reasonably briskly on this but then slowed down, mostly in the south-east. Not knowing the movie didn’t help, nor did having COCKLES???? And little idea what might go in the gaps — so obvious once the penny dropped!
    The clue for TENSE is clever but it’s not an &Lit: there’s no wordplay so it’s just a cryptic definition.
  19. This did not warm the cockles of my ‘eart. DNF, defeated by TENSE. DNK the movie.
  20. 51 minutes with a typo (PPONTO) that I couldn’t see. Thought there was something wrong with the app — it’s certainly changed recently since I get the 403 error when I try to get into The Times Crossword Club (despite paying them a large sum of money every month: they let me in for quite a while) and it tells me I shouldn’t be here, so I have to do the one that’s directly available, doesn’t much matter I suppose, but it would be nice to get the other goodies. I assumed that somehow rasp = grating but didn’t bother to look it up.

    Edited at 2022-03-23 11:08 am (UTC)

  21. Failed on this one, having to use aids to get SPHINXLIKE – what a lovely word. I wasn’t helped by being unsure of MEASURES UP (height would have been better than length?) and ICE COLD IN ALEX, which was unknown to me.

    I also couldn’t get TENSE, which I didn’t love.

  22. Gave up after 40 mins .Had guessed twist, itch and tense but not convinced enough to insert them and still don’t see them as brilliant clues.

    On reflection, twist is pretty good.

    Alas, I also failed to get invent which is much less forgivable.

    Still, finished yesterday in 21 mins but too late in the day to be bothered to report it. Hoping for a good end to the week.

  23. Got there eventually after a shaky start. 26d, OWN, was my FOI, after I adopted my reserve strategy when the top half yielded zilch. Like many of us, I got bogged down in the SE, with INVENT prompting me to biff TENON at 28a until I finally saw how SPHINXLIKE worked. That allowed me to get SEMI, leaving TENSE as LOI, from an alphabet trawl when I spotted the grammar connection. 47:04. Thanks setter and Pip.
  24. Some unusual clueing in there. Challenging but not totally satisfying. 28 ac in particular. Somehow it’s not quite right. Hammers is not present tense. It’s IN the present tense. But maybe I’m being too finnickety.
  25. ….SPARTACUS, and I scratched my head repeatedly while battling with this toughie. NHO PP for parish priest, and didn’t really understand PASS THE PARCEL (biff, shrug, move on). I finally threw in TENSE on the basis that ‘tinge’ looked less likely — I had no idea what was going on.

    TIME 14:46 (I wasn’t happy with it, but I feel happier now I’ve seen how others fared).

    1. PP for Parish Priest is very common in the sinister-footed community! OPPOS was my second one in after OWN.

      Edited at 2022-03-23 02:16 pm (UTC)

        1. Roman Catholics are often called left-footers as they usually have the left foot forward when genuflecting before entering the pew. I gave up genuflecting when I couldn’t get up again because of the arthritis in my knees:-)
          1. Is that right? I first heard it at university, the catholic college were the left-footers, and someone told me it was rhyming slang: left-foot kick = Mick. That was in an Aussie Rules city, where a “left-foot kick” is a thing.
            1. It’s what I’ve always understood. I’ve not heard of the kick/mick explanation before.
  26. Never really got on the setter’s wavelength today. Was not too impressed with ITCH or OPPO, but I did like GINGERSNAP and SERENDIPITY.

    Thanks to pip and the setter.

  27. Gave up after 45 mins or so after surrendering to the [should have been] very guessable SEMI. I though this was a good puzzle: lots of effective and fair misdirection and some excellent clues — though clearly a little too effective and excellent for me.
  28. Did NOT like this one. 24ac and 23dn were terrible clues; and 28ac almost as bad. Sorry.

    Pip, Ice Cold in Alex is a great film, do watch it. It is on fairly regularly ..

    1. I’m sure it is a ‘good’ film, but I don’t like war films or books, whether WWI or WWII. Sadly, my Bookbub daily email is overloaded with them though.
      1. Maybe try the first 10 minutes and then decide? And not get too hung up on labels? Does it still count as a war film, if it is five people surrounded by sand dunes? Casablanca is a war film, if you look at it that way
        . But neither of these is A Bridge Too Far …
  29. I did enjoy this one — even if the last two clues took me ages (Itch & Twist).
    I used to work in the tobacco business, so I should have been a bit quicker with “Twist”.
    I totally missed error of logic in “Pass the Parcel” — long, long time since I’ve had to host a children’s party.
    Just writing in “Ice Cold in Alex” makes me thirsty!
  30. Whoa, Nelly! I’d never heard of the movie, and had to cheat for that, but I was really slowed down in the bottom half. Same MER at ITCH (saw very early, took quite a while to accept), didn’t know from PEP, sports clue SEMI was a total guess…

    Quite enjoyed, though.

    Edited at 2022-03-23 03:19 pm (UTC)

  31. 27:08 LOI TENSE after a few minutes pondering what might fit – luckily right but totally without understanding. Lots to enjoy in this with plenty of PDMs. COD to HEY PRESTO. Thanks Pip and setter.
  32. Six clues unsolved brought my successful week to a screeching halt. Unlike some other commenters, I saw itch and twist fairly readily. Could not see gingersnap despite having all the crossers. Nor could I work out sphinxlike but with hindsight it was fairly clued. My only beef is with PEP as a method of saving. As they were discontinued in 1999, it reconfirms the outdated approach of some of our setters.

    28 ac ‘tense’ would have been my COD if I could have solved it!

    Thanks setter and Pip for your patient explanations.

  33. I agree about 23dn but I think 24ac is fair enough. I haven’t seen it for a while, but ‘quid’ meaning a piece of tobacco for chewing used to be regular crossword standby. A ‘twist’ of tobacco means the same. They’re both in Collins.
  34. Only 38 minutes to finish this one (for me, that’s good), and actually many of the tricky clues (TENSE, SPHINXLIKE) didn’t bother me at all. Never heard of the film, but the wordplay was crystal clear. And ITCH and TWIST did raise, perhaps some eyebrows, but they didn’t seem entirely unreasonable when I put them in as my LOI (with SEMI). COD to SPHINXLIKE, OPPOS and SERENDIPITY (perhaps because I do like that word).
  35. Second DNF of the week and still no idea why 23D is ITCH or 24A is TWIST, though our blogger’s suggestions are both plausible, so thanks to Pip for getting as far as he did with those. GINGERSNAP also eluded me, firstly because I don’t recall ever having come across the word but also because the ‘Scandinavian one’ said nothing to me. I’m not quite sure that clueing a random foreign name so loosely is really playing the game. The rest of the puzzle was good, occupying several short breaks in my day’s work the sum of which would be around 45-50 minutes or so (the breaks, that is, not the work). I particularly liked TENSE.

    Edited at 2022-03-23 06:01 pm (UTC)

  36. 31.46. I found this a mixed bag, some it it felt very fresh and needed a refreshing shift in perspective away from the standard Times puzzle fare to tune into the wavelength. Other parts didn’t quite add up – using the whole of London to indicate aitch droppers and the pass the parcel elimination round for example. LOI twist was a struggle as I could only see the first part and couldn’t square it with quid. I really liked ‘clothing with split zip’.
  37. Is how I felt when attempting this. Finished in around 40 mins but the attention had been wandering for some time

    Didn’t mind TWIST and ITCH but I thought TENSE was a shocker. Smooth surfaces are what I like to see and, well, does the clue even make sense? It’s nonsense to my mind. Got it right but the shoulders were seriously twitching upwards. The idea was good but not sure about the execution. Interestingly better solvers than me gave it their COD so what do I know?

    I did like SEMI and SPHINXLIKE and a number of other clues

    Thanks for the toughie, Setter, and the excellent blog Pip

  38. The left-foot kick is probably urban myth, not least because outside of Aussie rules left-foot kick probably isn’t a thing.

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