Times 28297 – This old man thinks he’s Saint Joan!

This will be my last blog for a few months, as my wife and I finally celebrate our retirements by embarking on our European tour taking in such gems as Serifos, La Roche-sur-Yon, Polperro…and Weston-super-Mare.

To mark the occasion, the server responded with a status of 502, which means that this will have to be a blog of the old-fashioned variety, where the solver will have to refer to his puzzle for the clues, as I will be able only to supply the solutions.

So, all it remains for me to do is to welcome the worthy folk who will step off the subs’ bench in my absence and to hope they don’t do too good a job. And of course to sort this fellow out, which was not your average Monday fare and took me 31:24.


1 POLO – double definition (DD)

3 VULNERABLE – anagram* of A BULL NEVER; definition ‘at risk’

10 SUNFLOWER – SUN (newspaper) reversal (from the east) of RE (about) WOLF (ladykiller); ‘bloomer’

11 IVIED – I (one) VIED (competed); ‘with climbers in prominent positions’

12 MISTRAL – MISTR[i]AL (one letter I taken from ‘faulty legal process’); ‘a big blow’

13 SUBWAY – U (posh) B (bishop) W (wife) in SAY (eg); ‘New York underground’

15 SPREAD ONES WINGS – N (knight) ASSIGNED POWERS*; ‘to use one’s full potential’

18 ENTENTE CORDIALE – TENT (wine) in ENE (points of the compass) CORDIAL (fruit drink) E (initial letter of encouraging); ‘friendly relations’

21 RIGGER – sounds like ‘rigour’; ‘one working on sailing ship’

23 CHICAGO – CHIC (stylishness) AGO (in the past); ‘city’

26 ELVER – L (lake) in EVER (constantly); ‘young fish’

27 OYSTER BED – OYSTER (in Henry IV Part 2, Pistol says, ‘Why, then the world’s mine oyster’) BED (B.Ed. > ‘teacher’); ‘breeding ground’

28 THREADBARE – AD BAR (‘poster, say, at pub’) in THREE (trio); ‘shabby’

29 URAL – [r]URAL (‘rural’ minus R – the last letter of rower); ‘river’


1 POSTMASTER – MAST (staff) in POSTER (notice); ‘mail manager’

2 LINKS – sounds like ‘lynx’; ‘playing area’

4 UNWELCOME – UNWEL[l] COME (appear); ‘rejected’

5 NARKS – N (new) ARKS (vessels); ‘they persistently criticise’

6 RAINBOW –  A (a) IN (trendy) B (first letter of Bohemian) in ROW (dispute); ‘colourful display’

7 BRITANNIA – IT (Italian) ANN (woman) in BRIA[n] (short fellow); ‘a national symbol’

8 EDDY – [n]EDDY; ‘current disturbance’

9 GLORIA – LOR (my) in GI (US soldier) A (area); ‘part of service’

14 ASTEROIDAL – A SORT IDEAL*; ‘like a heavenly body’

16 RETRIEVER – cryptic definition; a gundog doing its stuff after a pheasant etc is bagged

17 EXORCISER – SEX CORRIE*; ‘one removing spirit’ (with a nod to Coronation Street perhaps)

19 NIGERIA – reversal of AIRE (river in Yorkshire) GIN (spirit); ‘West African state’

20 DRIVEL – DRIVE (energy) L (learner); ‘nonsense’

22 RHOMB – RHO (Greek character) MB (one practising medicine); ‘figure’

24 AMBER – hidden in [thatch]AM BER[ks]; ‘fossilised resin’

25 KENT – past tense of Scots KEN (know); ‘part of SE England’

66 comments on “Times 28297 – This old man thinks he’s Saint Joan!”

  1. Uns eave a Rainbow, as it erewhile made
    The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade

    15 mins pre-brekker.
    No ticks, no crosses, not my cup of tea.
    Thanks setter and U.

  2. Presently we cannot leave China, as we might not get back in! Good luck with the Grand Tour.

    FOI 1ac POLO
    LOI 28ac URAL
    WOD 11ac IVIED – poetic

    My time was a decent 24 minutes but did not parse 15ac.

  3. 31 minutes. NHO NARK as complain, only to inform on or spy. DNK the Pistol / OYSTER connection.

    By the way, for those who don’t know the reference in Ulaca’s heading it’s to the very last line of a Flanders & Swann song called All Gall

  4. Have a pleasant Grand Tour, U! Wave as you pass Bristol.

    25 minutes here, with most time spent on LOI THREADBARE, where the possibility that I was looking to wrap something with an anagram of “trio” led me right up the garden path.

    Apart from that, my level of Shakespeare knowledge has now gained the dizzy heights where I at least know from “Pistol” that it’s a Shakespeare reference I’m not getting, but I still don’t know it…

  5. 14 minutes with LOI RHOMB. I hadn’t remembered that it was Pistol who made the Oyster quote, but it was the only conceivable explanation. COD to RETRIEVER. Thank you setter and U. Enjoy your grand tour. It doesn’t get much grander than Polperro. I have been to Weston super Mare but it was closed.

  6. 7:37. A fast time by my standards, most of which was spent in the lower half, which I found less biffable than the top.

    Bon voyage ulaca!

  7. Straightforward but lacking finesse, I thought.

    ulaca, if you are passing down the M4/M5 in June/July and fancy a glass of wine, please call in. Enjoy your break.

    1. Sounds very tempting – Thursday 2 June we will be travelling from Weston to Macclesfield.

      1. I will generally do anything in my power to avoid Macclesfield ! Hope your Grand Tour is trouble-free, safe, and, above all, enjoyable !

      2. June 2 is good for me (apart from village beacon lighting in the evening). You are welcome to come and sit by the river in Brokenborough or meet in a pub off the M5. John Moody has my email address if you are interested?

  8. 11:15
    An orgy of biffing: SPREAD ONE’S WINGS, THREADBARE, ENTENTE CORDIALE, POSTMASTER, NARKS, BRITANNIA, ASTEROIDAL, NIGERIA, all parsed after submission. DNK NEDDY. Embarrassed to think of the oyster quote but not associate it with Pistol. Much the same opinion as Myrtilus, although I was impressed by the anagram of 15ac. Have a great time, U.

  9. Pretty straightforward with lots of biffing
    Embarrassed not to know the Shakespeare Pistol connection as I live near Stratford
    FOI 1a LOI 7d
    17min which is my best effort this year

  10. 13:20
    Didn’t rush; pretty much typed the answers in as I read the clues.

  11. 18:51 PB (previously 20:45).

    Zipped through this one until finding myself unable to get either of the biggies on the first pass – then had a meander around the bottom half before clearing up those two and the other stragglers.

    Usual progressive slowdown for the last few, ending with:
    – RETRIEVER – for a while I was looking for wordplay where there wasn’t any
    – Finally a good 2 minutes on THREADBARE, where “shabby trio” looked like a partial anagram

    Obviously a new PB is always welcome – but it doesn’t really feel like much of an achievement, when the puzzle was effectively indistinguishable from a moderate QC

  12. 30 mins so quite easy. Last two in BRITANNIA and IVIED. I don’t really like those clues where you have to get the answer first then work out the short man is BRIA(N) for instance. I live with the MISTRAL so no probs there. I liked ENTENTE CORDIALE.

    Thanks U (esp for Pistol) and setter. If you find yourself in Provence, please drop in. Happy Touring.

  13. 07:38. Like a slightly bigger QC… I felt vaguely unsated after whizzing through this. Thanks U and setter. Enjoy your travels, U!

  14. 4:48. Some of these – especially the longer ones – felt like they were going to be tricky but then the answers just sort of popped into my mind.
    Happy travels, u. Will you manage the pilgrimage to the George?

    1. Late August would be George time, as we will be staying in Peckham before heading home (quarantine allowing).

        1. We are fated never to meet!

          Well, until we move back to England, at any rate.

          1. Move where? Did your application to be an Aussie get rejected again? I can have a word to Albo if you like.

            Enjoy the trip mate.

            1. They keep asking me to raise the tone of the place a bit, but I am not ready to make that sacrifice.

      1. I’m up for The George, and also do stop by if you are in mid Kent at any time .. I’m south of maidstone and about 50 mins from the channel tunnel ..

  15. 29m 17s
    My two LOIs took me a few minutes: RHOMB/OYSTER BED.
    Knew that Pistol was a character in Shakespeare but didn’t know the OYSTER quote. I started with ‘mussel bed’.
    A couple of other distractions involved thinking of EYORE in 8d and wondering if NURNS was a word for 5d.
    Thanks for pointing out the anagram in 15ac, Ulaca. Have a splendid trip!

  16. It says something when you complete in 12.22 and feel it should have been quicker.
    My knowledge of Pistol doesn’t include much before Henry V, Kenneth Branagh obviously not thinking much of the other history plays. So OYSTER BED emerged not from the clue but the checkers: it even took a while to work out where the teacher was.
    Bon voyage U.

  17. Fastest ever, I think, at 6.07. Achieved mainly by biffing all the way – which is against my rules – with barely a pause for thought. Now I know how it feels to be Verlaine – who I beat by nearly two minutes. (Don’t worry, V: it won’t happen again.)

  18. Pretty straightforward. Had no idea with Pistol’s world.
    And put nurns before seeing narks…
    COD retriever. My parents just got another one.

  19. A fast time for me at 7.07 but unfortunately came with the standard fast-typing typo in UUWELCOME!

    Oh well, still an encouraging start to the week.

    Thanks U and setter and also to those involved in setting up this new site – looks great.

  20. 25 minutes. Zero idea about what was going on with OYSTER BED, but otherwise not too difficult. Favourite was the RETRIEVER cryptic def.

    Hope the Grand Tour is suitably mind-broadening.

  21. 8.27 which is as fast as I can go. Only a couple of minor hold-ups. I was trying for “exorcist”, as in the book and movie which I have neither read nor seen, and then needed to make sure I had the Es and Os in the right places. And then dredging up the Pistol reference in 27a. The Tenniel illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter and their unfortunate victims always comes to mind with OYSTER BED. P.S. And Bon Voyage from me Ulaca!

  22. It must be easy if I can do it in 19 minutes, and when I looked at the SNITCH there was the confirmation. I thought the setter was a bit weak in the long across having ‘one’s’ in both the clue and the answer. Wasn’t all that comfortable with Pistol and oyster, but vaguely knew the reference. Very vaguely.

  23. “RAINBOW, look me up, look me down” (Marmalade). Having used some VERY colourful language when getting one answer wrong in the QC, I was delighted to find a puzzle where I was on the setter’s wavelength from the first keystroke, and returned my fastest time in quite a while.

    TIME 5:55

  24. Definitely on the easy side, with answers dropping in as I read the clues all around the top half. The bottom half required a bit more thought, and I didn’t know the Pistol reference, so relied on the definition and crossers. Biffed 15a and didn’t stop to look for an anagram. FOI, POLO, LOI, OYSTER BED. 9:43, which included 34 seconds of proof reading. Thanks setter and U. Enjoy your Grand Tour!

  25. 13.26 which is very quick for me and only two minutes more than it took me to complete the QC today.

  26. 34:25. Not straightforward – eg RIGOUR (where I think discipline rather than hardship) NARKS (like jackkt, police informers) (and yes NURNS was tempting) and EXORCISER (the word is EXORCIST for heaven’s sake). Gobsmacked by the SNITCH. Very impressed by all the fast times

  27. 13 mins, was hoping for a PB, but my mind went blank at the end with BRITANNIA. Agree, most of these clues didn’t need the cryptic bit.

  28. Thank you for the blog, particularly the Pistol connection which I didn’t know… now that I do, it makes me think of the Arthur Daley version.
    All best wishes for the Grand Tour – good to know that you are including Peckham!

  29. 17:30

    I quite enjoyed this reasonably gentle introduction to the week, though there were a few bunged in unparsed:

    OYSTER BED (not a clue what was going on here)
    UNWELCOME (from checkers only)

    Guessed there was a river AIRE somewhere.

  30. Judging by the times posted, this seems to be easier than average. My time of 26.48 is pretty quick for me, with a target time of 45.00.
    Like previous posters I knew Pistol was a Shakespearean character, but no knowledge of how it figured in the clue.
    Clue of the day goes to 15ac for me which I biffed before realising it was an anagram

  31. Monday fare, 14 minutes, liked the Pistol reference, thanks ulaca safe travels.

  32. 14:11 so my speed was in line with the general verdict on difficulty. No quibbles – though I probably didn’t spend enough time parsing the answers to expect any. The oyster-Pistol link was unknown, but it mattered not.

  33. Nothing complicated here, but I just could not see SPREAD ONE’S WINGS for looking, so a DNF to start the week. Like others, the usage of NARKS was new to me.

  34. Flummoxed by THREADBARE for the same reason as others, looking for partial anagram (and in particular the “say” was steering my mind towards something a bit less on the nose than “ad” for “poster”). NHO Neddy but with two checkers what else could it be?

  35. Well, that was a turn up. 06.31 for my speediest ever solve. Haven’t looked at previous entries but suspect I will not have been the only fast gun today.

    Still, I’ll enjoy my sense of triumph for a few seconds more.

    Thx setter for boosting my fragile ego. Best of luck blogger and enjoy your retirement trip.

  36. A very good crossword for the ego – didn’t time myself but it felt effortless, a unique occurrence . COD retriever, like a lot of other people; also Kent my home county.
    Love the new site , a big thanks to all concerned.

  37. 20 minutes which is as fast as I get, so happy with this one.
    I’m another who didn’t know the Pistol/Oyster thingy and I had also forgotten that “tent” can mean wine – but these failings did not hold me up today.
    I thought the clue for 11ac could simply have read “One competed with climbers” without the need for the …”in prominent positions”.

  38. Couldn’t crack the junction of OYSTER BED and RHOMB. Enjoyed THREADBARE and IVIED most. Put “seen” in for KENT for a while as the letters were hidden in clue and I thought maybe the Jamaican patois use of “seen” for “understood” had originated in Scotland. Oh well, saw reason finally.Appreciated all the explanations-thanks!

  39. Almost a pb with only GLORIA giving me pause.

    Thanks to the setter. Thanks and bon voyage to ulaca.

  40. 9:18.

    COD: Spread Ones Wings. Nicely disguised anagram.

    Have a great trip Ulaca.

  41. Indeed straightforward and with no finesse at all, despite the odd unknown here or there. Pistol, for example, but no problem with the quote and what worlds might have to do with oysters. 24 minutes, probably my best time ever. Enjoy your retirement, Ulaca. When mine started I decided I finally had time to do the cryptic crossword every day, and of course, it’s an addiction.

  42. PB on 8’59”! But a shameless biff-fest. Thank you Ulaca for providing the explanations and get in touch if you pass through Paris. I like to tease the French about how pathetic their crosswords are compared to the real thing!

    1. Well, the one in Le Canard enchaîné doesn’t seem easy at all. Each clue is a pun, and the definition is usually replaced by a mere hint.

  43. 14.32. Not often I solve in less than 15 minutes and yet feel that I was off the pace.

  44. No UNWELCOME avians – phew
    To the setter, my thanks to you
    Because birds have those things
    ASTEROIDAL my favourite clue

  45. 06:08, nothing wrong with this sort of thing on an occasional Monday. Enjoy the Grand Tour, U.

  46. 14.18 but..

    Good time for me but a couple of big buts

    First I spelled EXORCISER incorrectly. Nuff said. Then after resisting NURNS as my LOI the light dawned and in went NARCS. Been watching too much Narcos Mexico obvs…

    Thanks Setter and Ulaca. Enjoy Weston. My daughter loves it

  47. Enjoy your holiday, ulaca. We expect you to log in and provide an update on your progress whenever you’re near an internet connection, regardless of whether you’ve done or even seen the puzzle on a particular day.

    For today, the combination of extremely simple definitions and the occasional specialised reference which only a grad student might know (that would be you, Pistol) grated a little.

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