Times 28273 – Lake it or lump it

I managed to return to my island paradise a little earlier than expected, so this is going live somewhat earlier than I indicated in my holding post.

This was a very stolid Monday offering with a minor sting in the tail with the generously clued Neapolitan lake, and a few lesser known definitions, which sent me scurrying to Collins (your trusty friend, let me tell you) in an effort to defuse situations which might develop into Angry-from-Tunbridge-Wells scenarios.



1 Singer reportedly used to engage in casual talk (8)
WOODCHAT – WOOD (sounds like ‘would’ > used to) CHAT
5 Eg kitchen utensils wife kept in safe (6)
PEWTER – W in PETER; Collins has ‘plate or kitchen utensils made from pewter’
9 Writing-fluid half-hearted leftist has abandoned quietly (3)
INK – remove P from PINK; Collins again ‘a person whose political or economic views are somewhat leftist’. Not something I’ve ever been called…
10 Travelling in Turin a lot, providing food and nourishment (11)
12 Language left university visitor briefly embarrassed at first (10)
PORTUGUESE – PORT (left) U (university) GUES[t] E[mbarrassed]
13 Like light mist unknown in market town on Wye (4)
HAZY – Z in HAY [on Wye]; the book festival town gets another outing
15 Water heater, nasty grey, seen around Home Counties (6)
GEYSER – SE in GREY*; Collins once more ‘a domestic gas water heater’
16 Bishop presses son to become freeman of borough (7)
18 Asian heretic inspiring a book (7)
ARABIAN – A B in ARIAN; Arius, ,one of Christendom’s best known heretics, is Crosswordland’s most popular, though Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer may all pop up
20 Equestrian pursuit in part of Yorkshire once (6)
RIDING – double definition; in old money, Yorkshire had three ridings (south missing out) before 1974, since when it’s been reorganised (with east missing out)
23 Way you and I knocked back olla podrida, say? (4)
STEW – ST (way) WE reversed; referencing a Spanish dish, variously translated as powerful or rotten pot (depending on the cook, I suppose) made with chickpeas, so likely to be avoided by me along with the arroz negro
24 Like some trees in course of being cultivated (10)
26 Displaying solicitude, study team standard (11)
CONSIDERATE – CON SIDE RATE; Oxford Online (AKA Lexico) has standard as a synonym for rate in expressions such as ‘a fixed rate of interest’
27 Fury when leader of Republic is removed (3)
IRE – [e]IRE
28 Call during play originally mounted by French department (6)
MISERE – M[ounted] ISERE (Grenoble is the prefecture of Isère); MISERE is ‘a call in solo whist and other card games declaring a hand that will win no tricks’ (Collins)
29 Gardener’s supplier visits island accommodating daughter (8)
SEEDSMAN – D (daughter) in SEES (visits) MAN (island)


1 Fast woman initially one of the flower people (6)
2 Passable actor going round a one-time king’s hiding-place (3,4)
OAK TREE – A in OK TREE (ancient actor, who pops up in crosswords from time to time); a reference to the legend that the future Charles II hid in an oak tree while fleeing Cromwell’s men
3 Baddie’s extremely useful vessel given position in Rome once (10)
CONSULSHIP – CONS (baddie’s) U[sefu]L SHIP; Pompey, Caesar, Mark Antony, Agrippa (who popped up recently) and Augustus all held this highest elected position in the Roman Republic
4 Children’s author’s legendary king, free at last after pay-off (6,7)
ARTHUR RANSOME – ARTHUR RANSOM [fre]E; author of Swallows and Amazons
6 Lamb a priest served as starter? (4)
ELIA – ELI A; along with Montagne and CS Lewis, one of my favourite masters of the short piece
7 Time a girl put away salt (7)
8 Motor sport competitor’s sidekick lives in outskirts of Rabat (8)
RALLYIST – ALLY (sidekick) IS (lives) in R[aba]T
11 Rebellious press employee in extreme situation (13)
INSUBORDINATE – SUB (press employee) in INORDINATE (extreme); ‘situation’ is a kind of padding
14 Society leaving Waugh’s country house without good fortification (10)
BRIDGEHEAD – G (good) in BRIDE[s]HEAD, referring Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited
17 Tropical plant better thus? Let me think (8)
CAPSICUM – CAP SIC UM (let me think)
19 A goddess protecting river and lake near Naples (7)
AVERNUS – A R in VENUS; a volcanic lake which doubled as the gateway to hell for Pompey, Caesar et al
21 Element of Northern Ireland I instilled in old tramp (7)
NIOBIUM – NI I in O BUM (tramp)
22 First of nurserymen supporting plant at the rear (6)
ASTERN -ASTER (plant) N[urseryman]
25 Row about appeal being set up (4)
TIER – reversal of RE (about) IT (appeal)

56 comments on “Times 28273 – Lake it or lump it”

  1. That’s 21:30 my time. I’ll be in bed by then and probably reading my latest library book: “All Out War” by Tim Shipman, on the Brexit saga. I guess I could come back to the blog tomorrow morning but as someone once said: “Tomorrow is another day”!
    As such I’ll leave my two penn’rth here:
    After being lulled into a false sense of security by INK, IRE, STEW and TIER, our setter gave us obscurities like TANNATE and AVERNUS!
    Is PEWTER really a synonym for ‘kitchen utensils’? Sounds a bit of a stretch to me.
    ELIA/Lamb used to fox me but it’s become so much of a chestnut these days, it’s a write-in.
    Time taken: 43m 28s

    Edited at 2022-04-25 03:36 am (UTC)

  2. Started off gently and then got tough in the southwest with AVERNUS, MISERE, and the fact that I’d misremembered ARTHUR RANSOME’s name and had the wrong crossers. Eventually worked it all out, but not in anything like a fast time.
  3. 39 minutes and quite surprised to have got 28a right, given that I only vaguely knew the French department. I mostly got it from Val d’Isére, which as it turns out is actually in Savoie, though presumably the Isére crosses both? Geography isn’t my strong suit, French or otherwise.

    And speaking of strong suits, I’m not sure why MISERE was familiar at all; it’s not on my list of crosswordy words and if I’ve ever played whist I don’t remember doing it.

    Still, turned out okay despite my worries, with TANNAGE, WHIPPY and PEWTER causing me fewer problems than more simple fare like WOODCHAT and ARABIAN, oddly.

    Edited at 2022-04-25 06:43 am (UTC)

  4. I came back feeling bird-free, but drat
    The very first clue was WOODCHAT
    So my brain’s had a rest
    And this seemed no great test
    Tommy Cooper style solving — Just like that!
  5. A ? at WHIPPY, but Collins includes ‘fast’ as an attribute of whips. NHO MISERE, but knew ISERE. DNK TANNATE, but no problem. Parsed INSUBORDINATE post-submission. Not only TREE again, but IT=appeal.
  6. I finished all but two clues in 27 minutes and was then stuck because, wouldn’t you just know it, the missing answers intersected. Eventually I looked up the NHO Italian lake and then I spotted MISERE, only because I’m a dab hand at solo whist; I’d never have got it from wordplay because I NHO the French department. TBH I’m a bit tired of seeing them clued as such in puzzles because unless they share a name with something famous I’m very unlikely to know of them.

    Like Martin, I was a bit dubious about PEWTER as cooking utensils as I think of it only in terms of jugs and tankards etc, but a little research suggests it’s fine. And it can be used as a general term like ‘silver’ can mean knives and forks etc.

    WHIPPY for ‘fast’ seems odd and TANNATE was another to add to my list of unknowns today.

    Less than two weeks ago Jerry and I were having a discussion behind the scenes in which I mentioned that Sir Beerbohm Tree (always clued as ‘actor’) seemed finally to have disappeared from Times crosswords, however I must have tempted providence with my remark as today is his second appearance since I made it. FGS he’s been dead for 105 years!

    Edited at 2022-04-25 06:27 am (UTC)

    1. Yes, another chuckle .. I thought this whole crossword had a rather antique feel to it. ELIA is as big a chestnut and to get ELI into the same clue is impressive
  7. Found this fun and pretty easy for the first 20m, at which point the NE and SW both had a some work to do …eventually had plump for unknown-but-reasonable-sounding TANNATE. ELIA is now well-known to me from my apprenticeship in crossword-land.

    At 33m I moved down to the bottom, figured out CAPSICUM easily enough, then AVERNUS entirely from the wordplay – leaving 28a, where a ton of alpha-trawling gave me two candidates that seemed somewhat plausible – MISERE and MOSTRE. Picked the wrong ‘un. Seems so obvious now, but that’s 20-20 hindsight.

  8. 32 minutes but using aids for AVERNUS and MISERE. I had heard of the latter one, so that reference was more of a check. Those two crossing obscurities were not sufficiently clued for me. COD to BRIDGEHEAD. I liked WHIPPY, WOODCHAT and BURGESS too. Thank you U and setter.
  9. 12:39. I started quickly on this but slowed down considerably, particularly in the SW where MISERE and AVERNUS were both at the very edge of my GK. TANNATE completely unknown, and it took me a while to get CAPSICUM from ‘tropical plant’. Hard to think of something so familiar as tropical!
    1. AVERNUS is where both Virgil and Dante enter Hell; I was surprised at the number of people who had never heard of it.
      1. That may be where I (vaguely) remembered it from: I was a little surprised that it was the name of an actual lake.
        1. Ditto. I dredged up “facilis descenso Averno” from the Aeneid in Alevel Latin and thought it was just a place in mythology not a real actual lake. Apparently it smelt of sulphur.
  10. This all felt very old-fashioned to me. No wonder the youngsters stick to Nintendo or whatever instead, if they are expected to know Beerbohm, Lamb, Eli, Avernus … though they might get consulships from Gladiator I imagine. Hands up if you have actually got any pewter kitchen utensils. Thought not.

    And almost all of it a write-in, for an old fogey like me… 14 steady minutes

    1. Yes, this felt like something from several decades ago, or possibly aimed at William Rees Mogg and his social circle. Not in my wildest dreams would kitchen utensils be an example of pewter, which as a former rower I associate exclusively with hard-won tankards.

      A curate’s egg of a solve for me with many write-ins but also numerous NHOs or KBFs (known but forgotten) plus a pink square — I entered BURGERS, seeing freemen and carelessly not checking the cryptic.

    2. Youngsters won’t have seen Gladiator — unless like our kids they begrudgingly agree to watch an old-timey movie to humour their parents…
  11. Well, a bad start to the week. Gave up after 50 mins staring at the unknowns, TANNATE and AVERNUS (a volcanic crater apparently) as well as the “just couldn’t see” MISÈRE. I know the department of course and the whist call but there you go…..

    MER at PEWTER but according to above comments it’s OK.

    Thanks U and setter.

  12. 32 minutes, with one or two entered simply via wordplay. I know Elia and Tree irritate many people, but what irritates me more is the use of French departments: there are 95 of them according to my very useful Pears Cyclopedia, only a few of which are at all well-known I think. This was in fact, although I couldn’t have told you it was a department.
  13. 24 minutes, ending as you’d expect with the NHO AVERNUS guessed from the wordplay and checkers. A salt of tannic acid, no problem, likewise NIOBIUM. I wish setters would learn that EIRE is not a name for the Republic of Ireland, it’s a poetic or Irish language word for the whole Island not the country, I was repeatedly told when I lived there. Good puzzle for a Monday, enjoyed it. OAK TREE was clever. Thanks ulaca, especially for explaining the stew.
    1. Article 4 of the Irish constitution adopted in 1937 by the government under Eamon de Valera states, “‘Eire’ is the name of the state, or in the English language, ‘Ireland'”.

      The name “Eire” has been used on Irish postage stamps since 1922; on all Irish coinage (including Irish euro coins); and together with “Ireland” on passports and other official state documents issued since 1937. “Eire” is also used on the Seal of the President of Ireland.

  14. TANNATE, AVERNUS & MISERE were all unknown, with the first two gettable from wordplay and the last one not — if (like me) you don’t know your French departments. MESTRE was my guess. A little under 9 minutes with that error, making this a chewier than usual Monday.
  15. ….are also a bugbear of mine, but I knew this one. PEWTER utensils ? Give over ! I must have known AVERNUS from somewhere, but I could have told you nothing about it. I needed the bird before nailing my LOI. A rather strange puzzle IMO.

    TIME 7:48

  16. As others have commented, mostly straightforward but with one or two which took a second look, and then Misere which took a second look and a guess. Can someone help me with a useage example of would = used to?
    1. “I remember when we used to sit, in the government yard in Trenchtown, and then Georgie would make the fire lights….”
        1. In summer we would go to the seashore for picnics every Saturday. In summer we used to go to the seashore for picnics every Saturday.
  17. Not my favourite, too much obscure knowledge required. Though it turns I knew Val d’Isere without knowing it was in Haute Savoie, or that Isere was whatever it is. Annoyed by the Italian lake Averno being “translated” into English Avernus – Italian words end in vowels!
    NHO tannate or woodchat, Hay seen before vaguely remembered, olla podrida vaguely remembered as seen before with no idea what it was.
    Waughs: a few known, Oberon, Evelyn, Steve (perhaps the best most ruthless captain ever) and “Afghanistan”, the forgotten Waugh. Turns out I did know Brideshead. If I want a puzzle full of obscurities where I need google and dictionaries I’ll do the Mephisto.
    I don’t do the Mephisto.
    Normal words, even extended vocabulary, well-clued, is good – we had a great and quite challenging puzzles all last week.
    Not today.
    1. So sorry to hear about your dog. As a cat owner (owned by, rather), I know how devastating it is when you lose your friend of many years, though even worse when they’re young. I totally empathise with your frame of mind after your loss.
  18. Quick and fairly enjoyable apart from the SW corner which required GK way beyond me. Avernus?
  19. I filled all but 19 and 28 in 11 minutes, but I confess to looking at Bradford’s list of seven-letter lakes after a few more minutes of staring. The S was enough to get MISERE. Too many godesses to choose from, and too many French departments (only a few of which I carry in my head).
    I’m not keen on puzzles that are a doddle apart from two intersecting clues with a plethora of posiibilities from the clued components.

    I suppose I could have persevered and come up with VENUS, but I wasn’t sure if ‘a’ clued A, or was part of the goddess. In any case the lake is unfamiliar, so I wouldn’t have been totally sure of the answer.

  20. Managed about half the clues today before looking at the excellent blog, so some improvement! New words/GK for me included MISERE, actor ‘Tree’, and AVERNUS. Incidentally, please could someone explain why con = study, and appeal = IT? Enjoying the challenge and very grateful for the blog and community.
    1. IT means sex appeal, as in ‘Wow! She’s got it!’ Silent star Clara Bow was known as the ‘It girl.’

      CON has the meaning ‘examine carefully’, as in ‘He conned the Racing Post for the dead certs.’

      Words like CON crop up so frequently in English words that setters are always looking for different and easy ways to render them. This and ‘Tory’ are two of the favourites.

    2. “Con” is just another word for study as in “to study” at university, say, as is “read”. “it” is sex appeal often used as SA in crosswords as in “he/she’s got it” i.e. attractive, sexy, etc.
  21. Didn’t know AVERNUS or MISERE but just about managed to get them anyway as my LOIs, although I still had no idea what kind of play was being referred to for the latter. CAPSICUM, TANNATE and WOODCHAT were others that went in from wordplay alone, I didn’t parse INK (is the hyphen necessary in ‘writing-fluid’?), I didn’t quite get how rate=standard in CONSIDERATE, and I needed all the checkers to get ATHUR RANSOME.

    FOI Riding
    LOI Misere
    COD Portuguese

  22. Like others, DNK avernus. Dredged up misere from somewhere from which the s which led me to venus. Felt short changed by the redundant ‘a’ in 7dn which led me astray. NHO of tannate.
    Agree that this puzzle was too easy then impossible and terribly old fashioned.

    Thanks for the explanations

  23. CONSULSHIP was last in — for some reason, I look at words ending something like S_I_ and always think it must end STIC — so a good few minutes coming up with that.

    POI ARABIAN and before that AVERNUS and MISERE were each painstakingly puzzled out, having followed a fair amount of biffing and boffing — didn’t see the TREE reference to the old actor, nor bothered with parsing INSUBORDINATE and not understanding RATE = standard.

  24. Missed out on TANNATE, MISERE, and CAPSICUM. For the latter thought hibiscus or acanthus might be possible but never did get aimed in the right direction. Really enjoyed OAK TREE ,SEEDSMAN, and CONSULSHIP.AVERNUS should interest our returned bard astro_nowt as according to Roman myth birds that flew over it dropped dead from the fumes.
  25. The only card game I play is rummy, so I had NHO MISERE. Other than those 2 cross-making crossers, I had this done in very short shrift.
  26. I had turned out the light last night before the bulb went off in my head for the top of CAPSICUM, my LOI. MISERE’s definition was new and not sure I’d ever heard of a BURGESS. The lore about the king in the tree has come up here before, or I wouldn’t have known that.
  27. MISERE was along time coming, but at least I knew the expression, from card games with my cousins, unlike the Department. My heart always sinks when I see French Department. I only know a couple of them by name, even then not as departments. However, that allowed me to get my LOI, another unknown, AVERNUS. At least that was constructible. INK and OAK TREE were first 2 in. Didn’t know the utensil meaning of PEWTER either, but that was easily derived. As has been mentioned, a very old fashioned feel to this one. 26:24. Thanks setter and U.
  28. 38 minutes with a number of (fortunately) intelligent guesses, such as AVERNUS, and with the S, MISERE. At least I knew the department. WOODCHAT and RANSOME were other obscurities, so it didn’t seem Mondayish, but still not too hard.
  29. 17.07 but held up by a few unknowns- misere( but I had heard of Isere), tannate and – the other way round- I had heard of stew😊 but not of olla podrida. I’ll have to get out more.
    Avernus was dredged up from ancient history. Hat tip to capsicum.

    A good puzzle much enjoyed so thanks setter and blogger for the explanations on the unknowns.

  30. Well, I made it to the end, having not heard of WOODCHAT (though Stonechat suggested its existence), MISERE, AVERNUS, BURGESS or TANNATE and only the haziest (see what I did there?) recollection of NIOBIUM, which constitutes for me a far larger number of DNKs than usual. So under the circumstances, I have to congratulate the setter for guiding me through with wordplay, though by 19D and 28A, I nearly gave up, in contemplation of the numerous possibilities that ‘goddess’ offered!
  31. 12.45. A comfortable solve. Misere at the end the only real unknown, Val D’Isere came to me just as my ignorance of French departments had me contemplating mostre, mestre and so on.
  32. A very late solve over 14 minutes, with curiously the only two I wasn’t wholly convinced of the two very short ones. I mean, they practically had to be INK and IRE, but I was skittled by trying to remove the middle letter of pink(o?) because it was half hearted, and then to remove the R , leader of Republic from something unclear.
    In the end, I knew both would be sorted out here ( thanks as ever) and threw them in.

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