Times 28257 – what larks!

I think our setter was in a good mood when he put this together; I certainly enjoyed the wit and unusual nature of a few of the clues. A little GK was needed to fully understand 4d, 13a, 16d, 19d and 27a, but not essential as the wordplay was straightforward. Washing babies is not something I’ve done, or indeed would wish to do, but I can visualise the need for concentrating on certain parts when in a hurry. And I do prepare vegetables sometimes.

1 Given no option about a meal in the police canteen? (5-3)
FORCE-FED – cryptic definition, très droll.
9 Witch wearing make up perhaps important element of diet (8)
ROUGHAGE – HAG (witch) is wearing ROUGE.
10 Way I must feed small dog (6)
WESTIE – WEE = small, insert ST I for way I. West Highland Terrier yap yap.
11 Quickly wash baby and prepare vegetables (3,3,4)
TOP AND TAIL – double definition. Mrs K assures me this is a thing you do to babies, presumably the face and the rear end are involved.
12 Unusual, having day off to see dam (4)
WEIR – WEIRD loses D.
13 Coach under way past square (4-2-4)
FOUR-IN-HAND – IN HAND (under way) comes after FOUR two squared.
16 Regular signal to stop reversing through airport (7)
ORDERLY – RED (stop signal) is reversed inside ORLY airport south of Paris.
17 Argue over number in diplomatic body (7)
CONTEND – ON (over) TEN (number) inside CD, corps diplomatique, as seen on number plates on cars often illegally parked in London.
20 Look curiously around storage unit at residence, one for clergy (10)
PRESBYTERY – PRY (look curiously) around RES(idence) BYTE (storage unit of data).
22 Would be important person with his writers (4)
NIBS – “HIS NIBS” means someone important.
23 Two members of family, one failing to finish crossword? Nonsense (5,5)
MUMBO JUMBO – MUM, BO(Y), = two members of family; JUMBO crossword.
25 The reason that keeps one writing fantasy (6)
WHIMSY – WHY (the reason that…) insert I and MS for writing.
26 One short of a score regularly unfit, even after practice (8)
NINETEEN – NI (regular letters of unfit) NET (practice, as in cricket net) E’EN poetic for even.
27 Blind prophet wearies one, equally (8)
TIRESIAS – TIRES (wearies) I, AS (equally). “In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and for being transformed into a woman for seven years.” Presumably seven years was long enough and he wanted to be one of the lads again. The Greeks knew how to define a woman.

2 Take in too much conversation, perhaps, as eavesdropper may (8)
OVERHEAR – double defitition, one whimsical.
3 Help with harvest? Not all Irish do slapdash work (3,7)
CUT CORNERS – CUT CORN = help with harvest, ERS(E) = not all (poetic language) Irish.
4 Supports for “floater” and “stinger|” showing unexpected weakness (4,2,4)
FEET OF CLAY – FEET (supports) for Mohammad Ali otherwise Cassius Clay, who said he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
5 Proud to put out and leave course (4,3)
6 Poet’s endless stream (4)
BURN – Rabbie BURNS is endless.
7 Chap with stories for some other time (6)
MANANA – MAN (chap) ANA (stories, legends). MANANA meaning tomorrow in Spanish therefore ‘not today’. It was the same experience in Greece (àvrio) and France (demain) tomorrow meant ‘one day perhaps’.
8 Private Society avoided admitting Conservative (8)
SECLUDED – S (society) ELUDED (avoided) insert C.
14 In retreat, keep following banned subject for trade (5,5)
IVORY TOWER – IVORY = banned import, TOWER = keep.
15 Admit NHS is struggling and inconsistent (3-3-4)
HIT-AND-MISS – (ADMIT NHS IS)*. Even in Rutland, it is. No doctors appointments available last week.
16 Golden pepper shortly providing yellow pigment (8)
ORPIMENT – OR (golden, in heraldry) PIMENT(O). A yellow arsenic sulfide mineral found near volcanoes.
18 Lincoln’s state banker failing: only a shilling in it (8)
NEBRASKA – insert A S into (BANKER)* to get the state of which Lincoln is the capital.
19 Zone round edge of Mestre available as refuge from Venice (7)
BELMONT – BELT = zone, around M (edge of Mestre) ON (available). You needed to have “done” The Merchant of Venice, as I did for O Level many years ago, to understand this; Venice was the lively place and Belmont was the tranquil countryside round about.
21 Trimming on robe I claim uncertainly? (6)
ERMINE – if you said “ER… MINE?” you’d be claiming uncertainly.
24 Line added to US soldier’s very short book (4)
JOEL – JOE as in G.I. JOE, L for line; one of the 12 minor prophets with a short book in the Bible.

49 comments on “Times 28257 – what larks!”

  1. Didn’t know about washing babies, but I did know about vegetables somehow. I put in CONTEND, but not knowing why; DNK CD. Ditto with NINETEEN; DNK NET. And although I’ve read ‘Merchant’ several times, I couldn’t have told you the name of the estate, nor did I ever think of the play; totally at a loss. A very unsatisfactory performance all in all.

    Edited at 2022-04-06 12:34 am (UTC)

  2. I’m with jack in the intersecting unknowns being a bit annoying in an otherwise excellent puzzle. Luckily I guessed them both: trying to remember where Portia came from – Belvedere, I wrongly remembered – led me to belt and the guessed Belmont. Beautiful mountain instead of beautiful view. Only other unknowns were Joel and orpiment, though crossers made the latter obvious. Took a few minutes as well to remember floats/stings and justify Clay.
    Force fed my favourite.
  3. I resorted to aids as the hour approached on this one as I suspected there were things I simply didn’t know, and two of them intersected so I didn’t stand a chance. And I was right. BELMONT as ‘refuge in Venice’ and TIRESIAS as ‘blind prophet’ were both beyond me. The other unknown was ORPIMENT. Elsewhere, although it didn’t hinder me, I wasn’t too keen on ‘boy’ as member of family alongside ‘mum’ as the clue suggests relationships rather than gender.
  4. 57 minutes with more than half of that spent on 27a and 19d. I had zero idea about either, but put in my interpretation of the wordplay for both and… whaddya know. I couldn’t parse CONTEND either, but should have been able to.

    Maybe bunged in first and parsed later, but FEET OF CLAY was my favourite.

  5. NHO TIRESIAS, but got there via the cryptic.

    Completely befuddled by BELMONT. I got as far as considering VERMONT, which seemed too much of a stretch on a number of levels, including parsing and definition. Probably should have seen “belt” for “zone”, but didn’t.

    And it all would have been to no avail as I had ORPAMENT at 16dn. Throw in the fact that I failed to parse FEET OF CLAY (nice one, btw) and it wasn’t really my finest hour.

    On the plus side, I ninja-turtled FOUR-IN-HAND via a cosy little pub in Paddington (the Sydney version).

    Well played setter, just too good on the day. And thanks Pip for the elucidation.

  6. I was defeated by BELMONT and went for VERMONT on the basis that there might be a Venice there, although VERT didn’t really fit zone. Otherwise, a fun crossword that I solved steadily if slowly.
  7. Given how much I didn’t know here—TOP AND TAILing a baby, TIRESIAS, BELMONT, JOEL, the capital of NEBRASKA, ORPIMENT—I think I did reasonably well to finish in 50m.

    I did have some random luck—my nearest poetry as I was solving was a volume of Algernon Swinburne, and while he was the wrong poet he made me think of BURN and then the correct poet in short order…

    I did think of “Vermont” first for LOI 19d but carried on to the right zone after not being able to parse it.

  8. 36 minutes with LOI BELMONT, vaguely remembered when I happened on ‘belt’ for ‘zone’. We never did Merchant of Venice at school but I have watched a production or two. ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum, Cassius Clay, here I come”. Once I thought of FEET OF CLAY for a weakness, I was there getting up in the middle of the night for the first Liston fight. That gave COD FORCE-FED. I liked ERMINE too. I spent a bit of time on TIRESIAS looking for an Old Testament prophet, before working on the cryptic, but at least I was in the right frame of mind for JOEL. I was relieved the constructed unknown ORPIMENT was right. A toughie, but highly enjoyable. Thank you Pip and setter.

    Edited at 2022-04-06 07:11 am (UTC)

  9. Slogged my way grimly through this one at a very slow pace throughout, didn’t find it fun but I’ve been short of completions recently, so I soldiered on…
    …but ran out of skill and /or patience with the last two
    – Another VERMONT – feel a bit peeved to have missed BELT in my alpha-trawl of -E-T.
    – Entered TIRESIAN as my best guess for something name-like

    Back to the practice puzzles I guess – I sure miss that feeling of an orderly completion in a reasonable time.

  10. Worked out the unknowns, ORPIMENT and TIRESIAS, but failed miserably on BELMONT, where all I could come up with was SEGMENT. 31:09. Thanks setter and Pip.

    Edited at 2022-04-06 08:08 am (UTC)

  11. I was annoyed when I paused the puzzle to go off and do something like prepare the salad for dinner (no top and tailing involved) and forgot to pause it. Harrumph. My mood was not improved at scratching my head for ever such a long time over TIRESIAS and ORPIMENT. NHO either. I also didn’t like that one had to infer the poetic version of ‘even’. Add on BELMONT* which I never did get and this was not a satisfactory solve for me; but thanks, Pip!
    *I toyed with Vermont before settling on segment.
    Bah humbug!
  12. Slightly surprised not to see a green cell as was not at all certain of all my biffs, notably Belmont, even if wdp gave me some comfort. Some cracking bits of wit in this puzzle so many thanks to setter and, of course, blogger for unravelling it all.
  13. I have the luxury of a long train journey today, so plodded through this eventually with just a few not parsed.

    I spotted the pipe between stinger and the closing quote mark and wondered what cunninng cryptic device this represented. Turns out it was a misplaced character after all.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  14. Another segment here. I took ‘edge of Mestre’ to give ME rather than just M. Segment was the only word I could think of and it could, just, mean ‘zone’. No idea how the rest of the wordplay could work. Oh well.

    Otherwise a really enjoyable puzzle with lots of quirky clues. NHO orpimento. Not heard ‘top and tail’ re babies since my mother used to say it. Got ‘feet of clay’ but didn’t see the brilliant reference to Ali. I guess a non-sporting person under the age of, say, fifty would struggle with that clue. Mind you, unless you’d read Classics or Eliot, blind Tiresias might be considered obscure. Part of the joy of the Times crossword is that I learn something new here almost every day.
    Thanks to the setter for an excellent puzzle and to Pip for the explanations.

  15. I’d say if you don’t know of TIRESIAS (which I didn’t) nor remember your third form Merchant Of Venice (which I didn’t), you are somewhat screwed (as I was — pity) — it would probably help if one had BELMONT to get the other, but perhaps not so much the other way around.

    Worked out ORPIMENT (another unknown) quite early on, and it was a pretty enjoyable and comfortable solve until those last two — I like FEET OF CLAY and FORCE-FED.

    PRESBYTERY took a while to come — tried PREFECTORY (think I was just conflating PREFECTURE and REFECTORY here), then PREBENDARY before securing the S from CUT CORNERS which prompted the correct answer.

  16. Fairly chewy today, with BELMONT & TIRESIAS both unknown but figured out / guessed from the wrodplay. I was convinced ‘edge of’ would have to mean both first and last characters, but I suppose there’s no reason it can’t be just the start.

    CD & ORPIMENT were also unknown, and PRESBYTERY took a bit of parsing, especially as I wasn’t 100% sure of the spelling.

    Thanks for explaining FEET OF CLAY, which I hadn’t parsed at all.

    9m 19s.

  17. 24:28. I found that extremely hard, and I very nearly gave up altogether after staring for ages at 19dn before eventually considering that perhaps I didn’t know how to spell PRESBYTARY after all and it might be an idea to look at the wordplay.
    TIRESIAS from Eliot (‘I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs’ isn’t a phrase you forget in a hurry), ORPIMENT and BELMONT unknown.
    I saw ‘Lincoln’s state’ and thought ‘I’ll have to wait for some checkers to see if that’s KENTUCKY or ILLINOIS.’ The answer puzzled me but the wordplay was clear!
    I’m not sure I enjoyed this but it was satisfying to finish.

    Edited at 2022-04-06 10:47 am (UTC)

  18. I was wholly reliant on wordplay for TIRESIAS, ORPIMENT and BELMONT so was pleasantly surprised when they all came back with no pinks.

    My last two were SECLUDED and CONTEND where I had to force myself to lift & separate Private Society and argue over in order to see the light. Speaking of which, Pip, you’ve underlined too much of the clue at 17a.

    I, too, was slightly thrown by the rogue character at the end on stinger.

  19. Very unusual for me, those last 2 crossers were a step too far and I came here. Not being a Shakespeare fan or a Greek mythology buff put paid to my efforts. And AS = equally? Shame about that because I enjoyed the rest of it.
  20. 31:38 but also resorted to VERMONT, having at least got as far as an alphabet trawl for a “blank e blank t, meaning zone”. I might have got BELT on a good day, but would not have understood BELMONT. On the whole, the clues veered between very easy and very tricky with not much in between.
  21. ….I was very slow to spot WESTIE. Fortunately, I managed to parse the three unknowns successfully.

    Back in the days before Motorways, the FOUR-IN-HAND at Newcastle-under-Lyme was a refreshment point in the grounds of the Potteries bus garage. It was used by many coaches heading from the North West to London. The sign outside was not the eponymous coach, but the four aces from a pack of cards.

    TIME 9:10

  22. This went quite smoothly once I realized I had to wake up the TLS-solving side of my brain in a hurry. I associate topping and tailing with gooseberries rather than veg or babies and although I recalled Ali stinging like a bee I’d forgotten the “float like a butterfly” bit – but I really liked both clues. BELMONT is a horse-racing track just outside NYC where one of the three Triple Crown races occurs in the spring. It’s anything but a rural haven. Good puzzle. 20.41
    1. Indeed it’s a racetrack, and the suburb it’s in, in Perth in Australia. Doesn’t host anything as opulent as the Triple Crown, though. I’m a bit surprised I didn’t remember it from Merchant of Venice, it being an incongruous match locally.
  23. An (inexplicable) ORPIMANT at 16 put paid to a clean grid, pity as I otherwise swept through in 16.16, much of the time thinking “there will be letters”.
    FEET OF CLAY was way cleverer than my biff suggested: Cassius never came to mind.
    JOEL, at three chapters, is not that short, and contains more varieties of locusts than translators generally can manage to give names to.
  24. Too tough for me!
    I too did Merchant of Venice for O level (1976) but didn’t remember Belmont.
    NHO orpiment or Tiresias.
    Surely cricket nets are always in the plural?
    Thanks for the explanations Pip
    1. My O level MOV was 1963, perhaps the way it was taught had changed! I remembered the Shylock stuff was all in Venice and the Casket stuff was all done in Belmont, a sort of promised land.
  25. Unsurprisingly, a disproportionate amount of time spent on BELMONT and ORPIMENT. I suppose I can’t have any complaints, given that I solved them in the end, although only if by “solved”, you mean “came up with something from the wordplay which looked like a viable word and banged it in for want of anything better”.

    The other tricky one, TIRESIAS, was familiar from being a smug classicist, though in truth I was mainly thinking of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.

    (Also, as a Public Service Announcement, for anyone with the vaguest interest in such things, the Ken Burns documentary on Muhammad Ali has just landed on BBC iPlayer, and is supposed to be excellent…)

    1. “came up with something from the wordplay which looked like a viable word and banged it in for want of anything better”.

      Can we think of a brief acronym meaning this to be added to the Glossary? I’m sure it would catch on and get a lot of use!

        1. Good suggestion. Jerrywh manages the Glossary so if we use it enough he may add it.
      1. WIFWAC – Went/wrote in from wordplay and checkers
        Because it’s never just the wordplay, you need those checkers too
  26. I managed this without aids in 58 minutes although there were some words that were entered with a bit of a shrug (Belmont no doubt quite a well-known word — it’s a school near me, but the Venice connection was beyond me) the diplomatic thing ‘cond’, which I never saw. I liked the Ali reference, although like others I wondered if the misprint was significant before putting it down to the eye drops the hospital administered this morning when examining my eyes.
  27. DNF in forty minutes, defeated by Belmont – not especially worried by that. Pleased to get most of it, even with the amount of biffing necessary for me to get there. I had to look up orpiment in the dictionary, and Tiresias on Google, which told me all about a game called Blind Prophet before I clarified my search string to “from Greek mythology.” Currently reading Robert Graves’s Greek Myths vol 1, very slowly, and have not come across Tiresias yet. I thought it might be Tiresian from the clueing, but was happy to check it out on the internet. Not that I will be needing it again any time soon, I suspect. Thanks for sorting all the parsing out, Pip, and thanks, setter, for the entertainment.
  28. DNF
    Couldn’t get Belmont – tried Beamont. NHO this.
    Tiresias a write-in: Used to teach Antigone. Also appears in Cinema Show by Genesis – saw them play an except from this at the O2 Friday before last. Still processing the sad fact that it’s over for them, but cheering myself up by going to see Carl Palmer tonight at MK Stables 🙂
  29. Just following on from Mondays print issues o saw in the comments on the club page someone admitted to solving by print then entering online and here he is on the leaderboard again today at 3 minutes plus change. Why would anyone do that? Very odd

    Excellent puzzle today with the unknowns generously clued I felt. Had to check Belmont pre sub though.

    Thanks pip and setter

  30. …I’ve read The Merchant of Venice, but that was a long time ago, so my LOI was an inexplicable SEGMENT. TOP AND TAIL was unknown to me… ORPIMENT, with all the crossers in, I still entered hesitantly because so much of the answer is in the clue, in “pigment.” These were the three I was still stuck on when I woke up this morning. Enjoyable nonetheless.
  31. Well I knew it was going to happen. After yesterday’s glory, bang, crash, wallop into the dreaded abyss of DNF land. Another VERMONT, and couldn’t see WEIR. Somehow managed to get the NHOs,TIRESIAS and ORPIMENT from the wordplay. NEBRASKA guessed.

    Why is it, that just when you think you are getting on top of things (ie your brain is still working) these crafty setters come back at you with a vengeance? Well, I suppose we do like a challenge.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  32. 4d was bifd with checkers, but I had a glorious PDM while making a lunchtime sandwich, when “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” came to mind. Definitely my COD. Sadly, however, my successful run finished today with 19d. Yes, I have read Merchant of Venice, I’ve also seen it, but Belmont rang no bells, and I eventually threw in Vermont… and the towel.
  33. 20.32 but failed with belmont. Put in segment without really being convinced but had no better option. Some tricky cluing I thought. Feet of clay was wonderful but though I got the answer the parsing escaped me. Likes whimsy, joel and um my favou, ermine.
    Thx setter and blogger.
  34. Knew Tiresias well enough to have guessed him from the wordplay, but since I’m reading a new translation of Antigone just I now didn’t even need that. I was irked by the extraneous character in “stinger|” — I guess typos like that are the price we pay for telling the typesetters ‘do not fix it — what the setter wrote may be misspelt and ungrammatical, but it’s just what he or she wants.’
  35. 35.51. The closing stages of this one were pretty hard graft. The unknown orpiment and four-in-hand could be worked out but weren’t entirely convincing. The known contend and presbytery had to be but I never did quite parse them leaving me feeling a little uncertain. Knew Tiresias from Sophocles so that went in pretty quickly. Knew Belmont from The Merchant of Venice but it took an age to dredge it up.

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