Times 28293 – pear trees, nut trees and New Hebrides

I found this crossword to be moderately difficult, but for me it had too many “I suppose it works” clues to be as satisfying as our usual Wednesday offerings. It took me about 40 minutes and a bit longer to parse them all, not least because I had gone astray at 8d and had to re-think. 15a needs a little more explanation, I could see the answer but am not sure I saw what the setter is up to. I liked 18a, and 12a for reminding me of happy times past.


Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, italics for anagram indicator, deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Public transport in need of assistance after cutting capacity (6)
4 A Sierra left running: fuel is provided (2,4,2)
AS LONG AS – A, S (sierra), L (long) ON (running) GAS (fuel).
10 Police operation in region hard to understand on reflection (5,4)
SPEED TRAP – All reversed: DEEP (hard to understand) inside PARTS (region). Slight MER over region being singular and parts being plural, but I can think of situations where they could be equivalent.
11 Not the case notes lawyers on vacation should open (5)
FALSE -L S (lawyers on vacation) inside FA, E (notes in music).
12 Via Angus, Arthur oddly gets you there! (7)
VANUATU – Alternate letters of V i A a N g U s A r T h U r. I visited some of the islands in Vanuatu in 1994, on a Pacific diving trip, it was hot and humid, but I didn’t have time to see the volcanoes.
13 Wine by sink left mark (3,4)
RED FLAG – RED is wine, to FLAG is to sink. I assume here our setter means the red flag is a mark / symbol of the left politically.
14 Best blooming party … (5)
OUTDO – OUT (blooming) DO (party). We seem to have had OUTDO regularly recently.
15 … with people and … (8)
DONATION – I’m not sure how to explain this, although I see the wordplay; DO = party, from the previous clue, and NATION = people. Too clever for words.
18 the present holder’s fabulous repartee! (4,4)
PEAR TREE – (REPARTEE)*. Present holder, as in the tree holding the partridge my true love gave to me.
20 Flyer to take from home (5)
ROBIN – ROB (take from) IN (home).
23 Model’s comeback cut short by arts institute (7)
REPLICA -REPL(Y) = comeback cut short; ICA = Institute of Contemporary Arts, just down the street from the National Gallery if you are interested. MER. Is a replica a model? Sometimes, I suppose.
25 Was sluggish old man going outside with light? (7)
DAWDLED – W for with inside DAD then LED for light emitting diode.
26 Sentimental old you, reflecting on game! (5)
GOOEY – GO (game) O (old) EY (YE reflecting).
27 Here’s an idea for training hawk to win (1,4,4)
28 Teaching union introducing delay in support for course (8)
TUTELAGE – TU (trade union) TEE (golf tee, support for course), insert LAG = delay.
29 Stacks milk products metres to the left (6)
MYRIAD – All reversed; DAIRY, M.
1 One taking a bow when first in some vivas in biology (4,4)
BASS VIOL – BIOL for biology, insert AS (when) and S V (first in some visas). Apparently a viol is like a cello but not; if you are curious see https://www.vdgsa.org/about-the-viol-cello-vs-viol
2 Butter producer EU hasn’t replaced (4,3)
SHEA NUT – (EU HASNT). As you’d expect, the nuts of the shea tree can be used to make shea nut butter, used in the food industry.
3 Shot bound at any time to be heard (9)
ENDEAVOUR – END = bound, limit; EAVOUR sounds like EVER = at any time. Shot as in go, try.
5 Policeman is wicked, mean and crooked (not the first) (14)
SUPERINTENDENT – SUPER = wicked, cool; INTEND = mean; (B)ENT = crooked, not the first letter.
6 FBI agent’s murdered (5)
OFFED – of the FBI agent = of the Fed.
7 Boxer stars alongside grand old scientist (7)
GALILEO – G (grand) ALI (boxer) LEO (star constellation).
8 Something to heave across glacial expanse, ultimately? (6)
SLEIGH – L E the last letters of glacial expanse, go inside SIGH which is something you ‘heave’. I got in a tizzy here because I had the checkers and put in SLEDGE thinking it was more of a heaving across glaciers thing, then couldn’t parse it and had to revisit my answer.
9 Innovative engineers into clay-firing (14)
GROUNDBREAKING – well, clay firing could be described as ‘ground baking’, insert RE for the Royal Engineers.
16 Cast with a manner that’s casual (9)
THROWAWAY – THROW = cast, A WAY = a manner. As in a throwaway or casual remark perhaps.
17 I end duet rarely as originally composed? (8)
19 Turn to account, one associated with action hero? (7)
EXPLOIT – double definition. Exploit meaning to turn for a profit, turn to account, and exploit as a noun being something adventurers and heroes pursue.
21 For dancers, mostly awkward maintaining circle (7)
BOLSHOI -BOLSHI(E)  = mostly awkward, insert O a circle.
22 Alarm, just after five, yours truly’s switched off (6)
FRIGHT – RIGHT (just) after F(IVE), where I’VE = your truly’s.
24 Spruce overlooking lakes, timeless, charming scene (5)
IDYLL -spruce = TIDY, delete the T (timeless) add two lakes LL.

83 comments on “Times 28293 – pear trees, nut trees and New Hebrides”

  1. At 15A, perhaps the idea is to pick up PARTY from the clue before (as you said) and PRESENT from the clue after?

    I found the whole puzzle a bit unsettling, I must say.

  2. I was so used to disregarding the ‘s that I found myself unable to account for the OF in OFFED. I had the same problem as Pip with DONATION. DNK SHEA NUT. DNK ICA, but assumed it was some sort of arts institute. Didn’t much care for this one.

  3. Finally got home in 82 minutes-seemed even longer.Had lead viol and palm nut for awhile and that threw things off. Thought the old went with you to give ye and so didn’t see it as a separate o in gooey. Also put FALSE in without understanding the “on vacation” idea so couldn’t parse it. Many to enjoy-OFFED, ROBIN, DAWDLED, I KNOW WHAT among them. Thanks for filling in many gaps in my parsing. I think RED FLAG just refers to pointing out that something needs to be dealt with. I don’t know if the political meaning is intended.

    1. I don’t think your interpretation would account for the ‘left’ in the clue. And if you want to take ‘left’ as a kind of link word, then ‘mark’ isn’t quite right for RED FLAG, I think.

      1. Yes, I see the importance of “left” now. Have to learn to slow down and consider carefully each single word in a clue-it’s probably there for a reason!

  4. Yes, a bit of a weird one, and thanks to Pip for sorting some of this out.

    DONATION is positively psychedelic.

    34 mins.

  5. Re 14, 15 & 18ac: that’s how you’re supposed to use ellipses in clues – they’re usually just used to cover up a lazy surface.

    16m, but I also put in SLEDGE, and never corrected it

    1. Don’t think I can remember them ever being used in a Times puzzle like this – to import words from previous/next clue. I would have said clues are always stand-alone, and ellipses are only inserted if 2 entirely independent clues in succession can make a meaningful sentence. I could well be wrong, but that’s my memory.
      Interesting fact: couldn’t find a crossword with a … at the end of a clue on google: google failed when searching for the exact phrase “… (“, also failed searching for “… (” and “… (“. Anyone know how to coerce a recalcitrant google into searching for exactly what you want it to search for?

      edit: the second “… (” includes the html code & #2830 ; which has been rendered as an ellipsis in my browser. The third one hasn’t – have I got it wrong : hellip?

      1. No idea if it’s been used in a Times puzzle before; not sure why that would be important?

        It’s always better when an element of a clue contributes to both the surface and the wordplay, no? That’s why I like &lits; that’s why it raises a smile when the definition is just !,?,: etc.

        Edit: use alt+0133 for ellipsis (or just google & copy+paste): …

        1. Convention. Certain unwritten rules. E.g. don’t think I’ve seen an indirect anagram in a Times puzzle before, and I would be up in arms if one appeared – unwritten rules forbid (?) it.
          Interestingly, Kevin’s link suggests today’s usage – importing words from other clues – is not unusual in The Listener or the FT, neither of which I do. Do you do the Listener? Thus finding this usage unremarkable?
          I think I can remember both … defining ellipsis and : defining Colon (in Panama) in Times puzzles, which is pleasingly tricky but an entirely different thing.

          1. Conventions are made to be broken; otherwise we’d still be completing Shakespeare quotes and dealing with clueing far looser than what we’ve seen today.

            It’s been a while since I’ve seen this device – so long that it took me a while to spot what was going on. But I definitely prefer this use of the ellipses to the usual skin-deep deployment

            I just started doing the Listener late last year – so much more enjoyable than the Mephisto, highly recommend it

          2. The Listener certainly does all kinds of weird stuff, so interconnected clues might be a thing, though I’m not sure I can come up with a recent example.
            If you’re thinking of trying the Listener, it might be as well to give the last two a miss: 4710 had a blank grid which was impossible until you spotted the unheralded twist, and 4711 involved cycling clue entries which was a bit daunting. That said it had a beauteous extra in the end game, not essential for solving but wow-inducing.

        1. Tried advanced search, didn’t work. Finds the ellipsis but not the space, bracket after it.
          You got the hyperlink right, try some html tags for bold, italic, underline and strikethrough.

          edit: Underline <u> tag doesn’t work.

    2. I too entered SLEDGE, even though I had thought of SIGH as something heaved. Doh!

  6. 65 minutes. Taken out over the hour by the SW corner where I took a long time to see EXPLOIT and then finally REPLICA, never having heard of the ICA. I thought PARTS for ‘region’ was OK, as in “parts unknown”.

    I put in DONATION without thinking about it too much, though it is odd as a clue by itself, relying on the previous clue for part of the wordplay and the following clue for the def. Yes, I suppose that’s what ellipses are supposed to do, but…

  7. Same.
    Donation with an extra-large MER only once all the checkers were in. And groundbreaking was what I was wanting, but one of the last ones in due to dyslexically typing VANUATA.
    Didn’t see the first meaning of LOI exploit, so a desperate guess. Turn to a profit, maybe; turn to account? Not so much. Or is it a known saying? Only got it after replica, ICA a NHO.
    So slightly unsettling and not quite satisfying. Very slow, in the top left, ages in the bottom left.

  8. Most unsatisfactory puzzle. So many iffy clues.

    I dragged myself over the line in 60 minutes.
    LOI 19dn EXPLOIT
    COD none
    WOD 12ac VANUATU

    Mood Meldrewvian

  9. All felt a bit sticky today. You know you’re in trouble when the first clue answered is the last down one. Eventually finished around 46 mins but without enjoying it much.

    1. My FOI was IDYLL too. Then sped up, then slowed down, finishing in the SW.

      Agree with others that I haven’t seen … used in this way that but what else could 15A be. Only a problem because it is new but I wouldn’t want to see it used too much.

  10. I agree completely with Meldrew’s first sentence. I gave up on the puzzle overnight after an hour by which time I had completed the whole of the SE segment plus a few other answers scattered around the grid amounting in total to barely half of it. These included BASS VIOL and I was quite pleased about that one.

    I didn’t fare much better when I returned to it this morning and having revisited all the clues with missing answers solving only a couple more I resigned myself to needing aids if I was ever going to get through it.

    The only answers unknown to me were VANUATU and SHEA NUT but there were so many dodgy bits of definition or loose wordplay that there was little, even perhaps no pleasure to be had here. A thoroughly dispiriting experience.

    There’s quite a range of choice but I’m going to nominate 9dn as the worst clue of the day.

  11. Bit weird, yes. Glad others found it the same. 46 minutes, but it would have been a fair bit less if I’d any idea what was going on with DONATION or had heard of the ICA. LOI EXPLOIT. At least I liked OFFED and FRIGHT…

    1. I quite liked this crossword; I’m OK with unusual or slightly woolly clues. But I did find 15ac hard to fathom, and don’t really think it works, even now..
      Oh, and sledge ..

  12. DNF. I was with Lou in biffing SLEDGE instead of SLEIGH. The SNITCH is showing several solvers with errors so I think we might be in good company.

  13. Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
    And Fright him as the morning frightens night!

    30 mins pre-brekker with Exploit unparsed and Donation bunged in.
    4 big crosses, no ticks. Is the editor away this week?
    Thanks setter and Pip

  14. 30:41
    I just sort of drifted through it; it didn’t seem all that tricky, although of course the sequence od linked clues with shared elements was a bit unusual.
    Thanks, pip.

  15. “There’s quite a range of choice but I’m going to nominate 9dn as the worst clue of the day.”

    RE in GROUND (Clay) + BAKING (firing)

    I think it works 🙂

  16. 33 minutes with LOI EXPLOIT. I didn’t know the SHEA NUT but once my light was no longer hidden under a bushel, I saw it. I had SLEDGE first too, but eventually heaved a sigh of relief. BASS VIOL was at best half-constructed from the crossers and the likelihood there was such an instrument. COD to GROUNDBREAKING which I took too long to parse. A toughish puzzle. Thank you Pip and setter.

  17. First pass wasn’t showing much promise until I hit the SE corner and completed it almost immediately (but couldn’t parse DAWDLED due to the dreaded “with” = W device, which gets me every time). After that, the solutions came at a drip-drip pace, and without much in the way of fun or satisfaction. Honourable mention to VANUATU, for the magical way it materialised as I wrote down alternating letters on two lines of my scratch pad.

    Finally ran out of ideas and patience with four to go in the SW, having considered “response” and “retort” but not for some reason “reply”, and forgotten ICA. Kinda relieved this is out of the way, and I can do other stuff…
    …oh, and another SLEDGE.

  18. Total disaster. Not only a hastily biffed SLEDGE but a SUPERINTENDANT to boot.
    Tomorrow is another day.

  19. Some tricky ones here
    Like a lot of people I didn’t like 15a
    Quite liked 22d and 9d
    37 mins which is around my normal time especially after a storming 18 min yesterday

  20. Well this one flummoxed me. Another SLEDGE here. Spent ages in the SW with LOIs EXPLOIT. (never parsed) And REPLICA, both of which went in with a shrug.

    As others have said, not really enjoyable. I did like the clue at four ac. For some odd reason my numbers aren’t working!

    Thanks P for the explanations.

  21. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
    Thunderbolts and lightning; very, very frightening me
    GALILEO magnifico
    Spare him his life from this monstrosity

  22. 69m 09s but the last 20 mins was taken up with 6 clues in the SW corner.
    As others have said, I didn’t really enjoy this. Like Pip, I started with SLEDGE.
    Thank you, Pip!

  23. HELP please tell me how to turn off notifications to me by email every time someone comments on my post; my inbox is getting swamped by unnecessary emails.

    1. Pip, depending how you access your email it will differ, but in my case I use a mail client on my PC (Windows Live Mail) and have set a message rule (under folders) that anything with ‘Times for the Times’ in the subject line is diverted into a separate folder (also added by me). That way they don’t interfere with other incoming mail and I can read them or not, by choice. You may be able to set up something at your remote webmail site as an alternative.

      Unfortunately none of the above extends to my phone or tablet so I just have to work round them there, but as I know they’ll also be on my PC I just delete as a matter of course.

      I’m sure johninterred will advise if there’s a setting here that can control it. The thing I’m missing is notification when somebody replies to a comment I’ve made, especially if it’s on a blog posted a few days ago.

      1. Yes, that would be so useful! I’m hoping it will go in eventually, along with the possibility to like someone’s post with an emoticon (how did I ever come to this?!) It seems so churlish not to read a reply (helpful or otherwise) to a comment you have made, but the chances of you noticing it are next to nil unless you plough through it all again subsequently.

    2. In gmail Pip, just click on any one email and set up a filter that deletes them straight off, if that is what you want. You can also tell it to delete previous similar ones. I haven’t seen a setting here that stops them going out in the first place..

  24. Reverted to almost anonymity after previous entry! 24.40 but undone by sleigh. Still think it’s a bit of a clunky clue as the reference to sigh is also the overall solution. But I’m not bitter.
    Checked shea before putting the nut in. Enjoyed the puzzle. COD bushel.

  25. Hard work and rather odd but I quite enjoyed it. I wondered which one had tripped so many up but I never thought of “sledge”. I must have had Christmas elevator music in my head by the time I got to 8d because SLEIGH (a la Jingle Bells) went straight in. When I was a kid I thought there was a kind of tree called a partry chinnapear. Continuing the theme, SHEA butter is often an ingredient in the hand cream I find in my Christmas stocking. 25.04

  26. Drat. A decent time (a smidge under 15′) ruined by a careless SLEDGE. Rule 1 of Crossword Club: if you can’t parse it, it’s probably wrong.

    That apart, I enjoyed the quirkiness on show.

  27. 23:21. Narrowly avoided the SLEDGE trap and spent a while on LOI, REPLICA. A minority taste this one apparently, but I enjoyed it.

  28. 14:38, also unsure what to make of things like DONATION. When it comes to what’s “allowed”, I don’t wish to sound like footballers talking about referees, who invariably say “All we want is consistency” when what they usually mean is “I would like every decision to go the way that suits me, please”. Anyway, I always vaguely understood that clues should be written in a way that means they can be solved in isolation, but already I’m telling myself that clues regularly reference other clues, or the fact that they are across or down, so in short, I don’t really know what I think.

    In any case, my biggest delay was in unravelling the SW corner, not helped by trying to make “switched-off” suggest FRIGID, which always seemed a bit of a stretch, even before failing to make the wordplay work.

  29. 26 minutes, a lot of them spent in the “region hard to understand” that was the SW corner. I envy those of you for whom IDYLL was a write in: I got stuck with an improbable VISTA on “charming scene” alone. I’m with curryowen in being thrown by old you, the normal inseparable code for YE, and wondered about the hitherto unknown game of GOO. Very glad I didn’t think of sledge, though the double duty “something to heave” took some sorting out. And GROUND BAKING? Really? Potty.

    I’ve just realised we can’t readily put a title on our comments: saves thinking of the witty bon mot, I suppose!

    1. Insert Witty Bon Mot here

      Leave a space
      It doesn’t really look much different from what we’ve been used to, does it?

      1. Could I make it clear that I am in no sense complaining: I am in awe of the competences that have made the transfer in such an incredibly short time. There are differences, most of which make the ordinary not-terribly-IT-literate creatures such as myself realise just how inferior the LJ site was in some respects. It’s just a matter of adjusting to the clean, bright look of the thing.

  30. I found this tough going. Not sure about my answers to a couple so was quite pleased to finish in 44 minutes.

  31. 51:35 for a puzzle that was a bit quirky but didn’t deserve all the flak. If anything it had an extra frisson from the uncertainty you’re not usually left with when you’ve cracked a cryptic clue.
    I liked lots, including DAWDLED, MYRIAD, FRIGHT…. But I needed to come here for some of the parsing so thank you piquet for EXPLOIT, SUPERINTENDENT and others

  32. Like Olivia, I was assisted with my FOI by having some handcream with shea butter as an ingredient. VANUATU and OUTDO made VIOL easy, but it took a while to see BASS, after which the BUSHEL popped in. Was a bit flummoxed by 14a 15a and 18 across, although I could vaguely see what was going on. DONATION was strange! I considered SLEDGE and SLEIGH at 8d, but spotted the heaved sigh quickly. The SW took longest to sort out. IDYLL was a quick starter, ___EY followed but GOO took longer. TUTELAGE came along next and I then suspected FRIGHT but took ages to see how it worked. EXPLOIT and REPLICA were last 2 in, arriving more or less together. I parsed EXPLOIT first as a double def, but had to assume that ICA was a thing. Was relieved to see no pink squares. 34:26. Thanks setter and Pip.

  33. Quite hard I thought and I stumbled home in 62 minutes. Still don’t know what the definition is in 15ac. Took some time in the SW corner and EXPLOIT was never understood, now I see simply 2 defs, although perhaps the senses are rather similar, and FRIGHT didn’t come easily.

  34. Another sledge here. Gah. Annoying when I had eventually got everything else after two attempts, finishing with the EXPLOIT/REPLICA crossing – ‘model’ is one of the words I hate most in clues, as it feels like there are so many possibilities that it’s impossible to think of all of them. I hesitated over BUSHEL despite the clear wordplay, as I can never remember exactly what a bushel is, and I couldn’t see where the S came from in SPEED TRAP, though I guess region = parts is just about fair enough.

    FOI Vanuatu
    LOI Replica
    COD Superintendent

  35. After ripping through the quick cryptic in one of my best times I was brought down to earth with this one.
    Many of the answers were put in more in hope than expectation, and I was surprised to find they were correct, 8 and 19down being examples of answers I found difficult to parse.
    I finished in 47mins 35secs feeling pleased that I had made it, only to discover that TUTELAGE does not have an I in it! ☹️ So annoying.

  36. 39 mins

    Most of that spent in the SW. Couldn’t work out GOOEY till I came here and realised that the OLD was an O, and not referring to YE being old fashioned. LOI FRIGHT which I never worked out at all.

  37. SLEDGE

    Generally RHS was straightforward though obvs couldn’t see the parsing for SLEDGE – didn’t even think of SLEIGH.

    LHS far trickier – BASS VIOL and GROUNDBREAKING were key but thought EXPLOIT and DONATION not great clues.

  38. DNF, was miles away from the device for 15AC. Enjoyed the ones I got, share misgivings above with the ones I didn’t..

  39. Enjoyed the oddities, a bit Private Eyeish (with none of the concomitant crudery).
    Sadly SLEDGED by the setter

  40. 45m with two errors: SLEDGE of course, compounded by a desperate biff of BUSSES for 1a. By that stage I was so far off wavelength that I lost hope of parsing this setter and was flailing about.

    Is it not a Times convention that every clue must contain a definition, almost always at the beginning or end of the clue? Where is the def in 15a?

    1. the ellipsis tells you to look both at the previous clue and the one ahead for the complete clue.
      An unusual device but not unheard of

  41. “I KNOW WHAT I Like in Your Wardrobe” (Genesis), and I know that I didn’t much like this puzzle.

    Thanks to Pip for parsing BASS VIOL and GROUNDBREAKING, both of which I biffed.

    The ellipse clues were very Grauniadesque, and I consequently had no trouble with them. They reminded me of Altair and Custos of that newspaper back in the 1970’s when I was a regular reader.

    I knew SHEA butter, and worked backwards.

    Altogether a very loosely clued puzzle.

    A small group of us met Mick Hodgkin, the new Times Puzzles Editor, at a social gathering the weekend before last. I asked whether the compiler’s identity could be revealed when the solution was published. He was generally in favour of the suggestion, so watch this space ! I’d certainly like to know who inflicted this one on us….

    LOI SLEIGH (I did indeed heave a sigh)
    COD DAWDLED (I’m a sluggish old man 🙄)
    TIME 12:05

    1. That’s great news Phil! Why not some setter transparency and accountability. And perhaps even a public hanging at year’s end.

    2. I like to come to every puzzle afresh and without any preconceptions of what to expect so I’m against publishing setter names, but publishing them the following day with the solution would be even worse, leading to endless speculation in advance about who the setter might be.

  42. I must second the blogger’s judgment as to the looseness of many clues. Indeed, my FOI was VANUATU, though ruefully noting the absence of a definition; I think “there” would really work only if the clue were an &lit; or a semi.

  43. 38 minutes, with one error. I found the SW corner tricky, and completing it added five or six minutes to my time up to that point. The error was 8d, where I biffed SLEDGE without paying attention to the clue.

  44. Lots of comments here today about ‘unsatisfactory’ clues, but not from me: I’ll take what the setter sets and give it my best shot. Certainly I don’t want to get hung up on ‘conventions’: surely they’re helpful, but the occasional revolt is what moves us forward in crossword land, isn’t it, and revolt is pretty harmless in that field, I’d say. 23’30” today, with LOI EXPLOIT unparsed but dropping in after a pretty lengthy alphabet trawl. Thanks to our blogger for the explanation, and also for confirming my feeling about the left and the RED FLAG.

  45. 21.58. A good time for me on this tricky puzzle. I didn’t fully parse exploit, not knowing the turn to account definition and searched in vain for the definition of donation.

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