Times 28312 – and his English kniggets

Time taken: 10:10 – with a fair chunk of that mulling over a few entries to see if there was a better option.

Strange crossword, this one.  I entered quite a few thinking “I should come back and look at that”, since the wordplay didn’t always seem to match up perfectly, or it was a definition I was not completely familiar with. In the end I have everything correct, so hopefully can unravel it  here.

1 King perhaps was concerned with English loss (4)
CARD – CARED(was concerned) minus E(English)
3 Elevation of point in orbit around article between rings (10)
APOTHEOSIS – the point in orbit is APSIS, insert THE(article) inside O, and O (rings)
9 Firmly establish new cereal crop on island (7)
INGRAIN – N(new), GRAIN(cereal crop) on after I(island)
11 Support for transport workers led by one in energy unit (7)
BITUMEN – MEN(workers) after I(one) inside BTU(British Thermal Unit). This was one that took me a while, since I was sure TU was the workers and did not spot the extended definition
12 Plain American code reader needs PIN, say (7-6)
CRACKER-BARREL – CRACKER(code reader) and BARREL(a pin  is a small cask)
14 Starting passage with paint roller after stripping down (5)
INTRO – inside paINT ROller
15 Shoot a lot of stoat in the northern way (9)
GERMINATE – ERMINE(stoat) missing the last letter inside GATE(Scottish street or way)
17 Relax, mostly understanding the reverse of a long down entry? (7,2)
LIGHTEN UP – LIGHT(understanding, as in “see the light”) missing the last letter, then since TEN DOWN is a long entry, the reverse would be TEN UP.  Had to work the wordplay for this one out for the blog, this was another that went in with a shrug and fingers crossed
19 Informed in a note about conflict (5)
AWARE – A, E(musical note) surrounding WAR(conflict)
21 Arrest action badly after beginning of project? (13)
PROCRASTINATE – anagram of ARREST,ACTION after the first letter of Project
24 Mountaineer clubs get ready for action (7)
CLIMBER – C(clubs), LIMBER(ready for action)
25 Found attractive dace swimming with fin (7)
FANCIED – anagram of DACE and FIN
26 Flower favoured by churches retails freely in cathedral (6,4)
EASTER LILY – anagram of RETAILS inside ELY(cathedral)
27 Fish out of river from which scales hang (4)
BEAM – BREAM(fish) missing R(river)
1 Move slowly in cold, finding a fur (10)
CHINCHILLA – INCH(move slowly) inside CHILL(cold) and A
2 What ruler is expecting to lose power? (7)
REGNANT – PREGNANT(expecting) minus P(power)
4 Dicky, Ron, Peg and Arthur’s family (9)
PENDRAGON – anagram of RON,PEG,AND for King Arthur’s family
5 Label left on a musical instrument (5)
TABLA -TAB(label), L(left) and A
6 End of The Times. End and destruction (13)
EXTERMINATION – last letter of thE, then X(times, multiplied by), TERMINATION(end)
7 Old African country in South Africa or one elsewhere (7)
SOMALIA – O, MALI(African country) in SA(South Africa)
8 Put in post — collection around noon (4)
SENT – SET(collection) surrounding N(noon)
10 Run risks with time slippage in job requiring Russian cash (3,3,7)
ASK FOR TROUBLE – move the T(time) down in TASK(job) FOR(requiring) ROUBLE(Russian cash)
13 Mere refund that’s terrible reason for Brexit? (9)
16 Concerning attitude, nearly completely calm (9)
REPOSEFUL – RE(concerning), POSE(attitude), then FULL(completely) minus the last letter
18 Finished tarts after good fish (7)
GUPPIES – UP(finished), PIES(tarts) after G(good)
20 A sin involving hoards, centrally? (7)
AVARICE – A, VICE(sin) containing the middle letters of hoARds
22 Are our large estates all in the middle of the countryside? (5)
RURAL – middle letters of aRe oUr laRge estAtes aLl
23 One such as Escoffier, say, cut short hunger (4)
ACHE – Auguste Escoffier was A CHEF, remove the last letter. I got this from definition but guessed the wrong wordplay, thinking that Escoffier might have referred to facial hair (though it could not be capitalised in that case)

72 comments on “Times 28312 – and his English kniggets”

  1. A solid hour and three minutes to nail this

    FOI 8dn SENT
    LOI 1ac CARD!
    COD 12ac CRACKER-BARREL plain – derived from the American Cheese – their cheddar. PIN is a small barrel.
    WOD GUPPIES Girardinus guppii by Albert Günther in honor of Robert John Lechmere Guppy, who sent specimens of the species from Trinidad to the Natural History Museum in London, c. 1860.


  2. Some pretty obscure wordplay elements – APSIS, BTU…so I trusted to luck in a few instances

  3. Like our blogger, I thought an Escoffier must be a type of moustache, which needed trimming for the answer. I hadn’t heard of the chef, but I see from googling him that he did sport an impressive mo. 19:54

    1. Escoffier wasn’t just any old chef, he was the father of modern French cooking.

      1. He produced some 5,000 new recipes; the ‘brigade’ system of kitchen management and a la carte dining.

          1. Nice idea but Chambers has: “Appar scaff, reinforced by Afrik, from Du schoft a meal”

            1. Oh. Pity.

              But I like it, so won’t let something trivial like “the truth” get in the way of a good story :-))

              1. As the one they call Leskoffer, I should know the answer to this … but I don’t!

  4. I did this while waiting to see my doctor, so I have no time, but it took a while. Couldn’t figure out LIGHTEN UP, fortunately didn’t need to. I got TROUBLE immediately, but ASK FOR took time. It also took me time to give up on (RON, PEG, ART).

  5. This seemed like hard work , so I was surprised to complete it with only 31 minutes on the clock.

    Some answers went unparsed though, and I’m still not convinced of some of it, for example at 17ac does ‘light/understanding’ pass the substitution test? Plus the whole ‘long down/ten up thing’ which seems to me the most unsatisfactory use of a cross reference I can recall so that you need to know the answer in order to be able to find the cross reference in the grid. By that stage most solvers would have biffed the answer and moved on.

    I’m familiar with the brand of cheese called CRACKER-BARREL and a Wiki search reveals that there’s an American restaurant chain of that name, but what’s the definition ‘Plain American’ about?

    1. Over here, “cracker-barrel” as an adjective means down-home, commonsense.
      In Merriam-Webster, “suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store.” Example: “a cracker-barrel philosopher.”

      1. Thanks for the definition, Guy. It puts me in mind of the Elton John album “Tumbleweed Connection” and, in particular, the track “Country Comfort”.

    2. Whenever I hear the word CRACKER-BARREL I can’t help but think of Will Rogers-” a cowboy-philosopher ,cracker-barrel humorist, actor and news commentator, Rogers was one of the best-loved Americans of his time.”

  6. All caught up…

    I’ve been working them all this week, but this evening I finally finished one (after the last three QCs) in time to comment in a timely fashion. The device in 22 is rare and pretty neat. But I see only now that I didn’t finish parsing LIGHTEN UP or APOTHEOSIS (“apthis,” ah…).

  7. 52 minutes. I only semi-parsed LIGHTEN UP and APOTHEOSIS too and had never heard of my LOI CRACKER-BARREL as an American term for ‘plain’. The cheese website explains that a cracker barrel was a barrel in 19th century general stores filled with soda crackers around which customers used to gather for a chat. All very friendly and homespun, as Guy says.

    I like the words GUPPIES (thanks for the info, horryd) and PROCRASTINATE.

  8. Strange one – started poorly with just three on the first pass of across clues, but the momentum picked up with the downs, and I soon had the bottom third complete. As I made my way through the top half, I started feeling that I was really in the zone, enjoying it tremendously, and at 30m I had just 15a left.

    No idea whatsoever how to parse “stoat”, and “Northern way” = GATE occurred to me but I dismissed it as something I’d invented. In a peevish fit of pique at a few mins later, I hit the Reveal button.. Truth is that GERMINATE should have suggested itself from the crossers – just needed a step-back-and-guess manoeuvre. 35m DNF, thanks blogger and setter

  9. In the right frame of mind for this one, and had seen Escoffier referenced somewhere fairly recently, too, I think in relation to his time at the Savoy. CRACKER-BARREL also seemed to be in my brain somehow; I’m listening to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid as an audiobook at the moment and it seems like Bill Bryson’s kind of vocab, so it could have come from there. I kept guppies for a while, too…

    Twenty four minutes all told, with a few bits put in with a shrug, like the “apsis” bit of APOTHEOSIS (I knew “apogee” and “aphelion”, so “apsomethingorotherelse” seemed plausible) or really the entire parsing of 17d. Happy enough with that kind of time for this kind of puzzle.

  10. 29:40
    Cracker barrel went in with a shrug. Same for gate = way.
    Okay sort of puzzle, I guess.
    Thanks, g.

  11. The obvious answer at 13d took me far too long as the enumeration given (9) meant it couldn’t be a simple anagram of ‘mere refund’ as that’s 10 letters. Helps to look at the grid and not just stare at the clue.

    1. That held me up too. It does help to look at the grid, admittedly, but this was my first one in to that corner of the grid and the correct enumeration would certainly have helped.

  12. 35 minutes, Interrupted by arrival of daughter’s Cavalier King Charles for doggy day care, which I am now neglecting. LOI was CRACKER-BARREL, remembering the Cheddar cheese and just assuming it had the meaning attributed by Guy in the US. COD to BITUMEN. Thanks George and setter. Now where’s that dog?

    1. Friends in Liverpool used to have a pair of CKC’s which they labelled “ever hopeful” for the way in which they used to hover round the dinner table with those big eyes…..

  13. Got the bottom half fairly quickly but struggled on the top especially 3a
    Should have easily got 2d but missed the obvious
    I did like 11a
    At 37 min this wasn’t too far off my target time

  14. 11:42. I nearly came a cropper with my LOI SOMALIA. I had thought that I was looking for an old African country which was comprised of SA plus a country elsewhere, which had to be Malta, hence SAMALTA. It seemed vaguely plausible but I noticed it looked a bit like Somalia, which is when the penny dropped. A close shave!

  15. 8:55. I failed to parse a couple as I went (e.g. LIGHTEN UP) and DNK APSIS or what CRACKER-BARREL meant, but I do now. COD to PROCRASTINATE but I like REFERENUDM too for the surface. Thanks George and setter.

  16. Tabla Motown
    The BARREL bit went in and out several times before it stayed, as PIN (especially capitalised) for the word was not all that familiar. More time used up on SOMALIA: “elsewhere” in the clue suggested other than in Africa, and I was going through my short list of former African countries to produce a European or somesuch one when placed in SA.. Turns out there never was, for example , a LOVENI or IBERI, or ARDINI.
    More time spent working out the anagram of “The Times End and” (one too many letters) for a word for the end times: we once had ESCHATON, for example.
    I didn’t need the anagram, however, to throw in REFERENDUM. Terrible reason for Brexit would have worked for me on its own.
    All in all, a slow an slightly bemused (LIGH TEN UP? Really?) solve in 23.32, impressed by George’s time and post solve analysis.

    1. 13 down has one letter to come
      It’s a crisis according to some
      That sad Brexit poll
      Was a massive own-goal
      And so clearly a referen-dumb

  17. After struggling with the QC this morning I found this one a breeze in 8:04. Beat Verlaine too, which is a very rare occurrence 🙂 Thanks to George for the full parsing of 3 and 10. I meant to go back to them but didn’t bother in the end.

  18. Enjoyed this, but I’m not declaring a time as the error in enumeration of REFERENDUM really did hold me up for quite some time. Everything else went reasonably smoothly, with CARD being my LOI and taking a while to fall even with only two letters missing. I particularly liked PROCRASTINATE and GERMINATE, the latter dropping in easily enough but taking a moment or two longer to parse. Thanks to setter and blogger as ever.

  19. 37 minutes, not helped by the mistake in the enumeration at 13dn, which stopped me from seeing the obvious for a while. I was unsure of this meaning of CRACKER-BARREL, and the ten up/down clue was a bit of a mystery to me.

  20. 26 minutes or so. CRACKER-BARREL was a NHO for me, and I didn’t know that a pin can be a small cask either, so I only put ‘barrel’ in because it was the only option that realistically fitted with the checkers in place. I thought of APOTHEOSIS quite early on, but I hesitated over putting it in as I didn’t know that apsis means a point in an orbit. GERMINATE and LIGHTEN UP went in completely unparsed, and I had to trust that BTU is an energy unit in order to get BITUMEN. But this was an enjoyable, steady solve, so thanks to setter and blogger.

    FOI Beam
    LOI Cracker-barrel
    COD Regnant, for the clever separation

  21. 37m 27s
    LOI was REFERENDUM because of the error in enumeration: (9) iso (10).
    Another one that had me flummoxed for a while was 15ac GERMINATE. I thought ‘the northern way’ was the Ermine Way and I couldn’t figure out where the stoat fitted in. I think we all know that weasels are weaselly recognised while stoats are stoatally different…..
    Do scales really hang from a BEAM?
    Thanks, George, for BITUMEN, LIGHTEN UP and CRACKER BARREL.

    1. scales

      I’m sure the scales in the science lab at school were actually called beam scales

      1. Thanks. I’m sure you’re right but at the fork in the road at the end of Year Three in Grammar School, I took the arts road so never got to use a science lab.

  22. Done in 26 minutes, with no idea why CRACKER BARREL was right (or why the Kraft cheese is so called), so have learnt something new. BITUMEN and REFERENDUM were neat I thought.

  23. 48:22 with a few put in without being totally convinced, but they turned out OK. Like others, dismissed the anagram at first at 13dn REFERENDUM because of the wrong enumeration. I did not like my LOI AVARICE where I struggle to locate/understand the definition. But I did like 6dn EXTERMINATION

  24. 7:39. On the wavelength this morning.
    I’m familiar with the chain of very mediocre eateries but didn’t know this more generic meaning of CRACKER-BARREL.
    I still don’t understand 17ac, in spite of all the explanations. How is TEN DOWN a ‘long down entry’? If we’re talking crosswords, there’s no reason ten down will be any longer than one down. If we’re not talking crosswords, what are we talking? I remain baffled.
    I associate GATE for street with York more than Scotland. It’s cognate with the Swedish gata and similar words in the other Scandinavian languages, and reflects the presence of Vikings in that part of the world.
    COD to 13dn for its very smooth and absolutely accurate surface reading.

      1. Hmm I guess so. Still seems odd to me and I can’t help thinking I’m missing a better explanation.

        1. Well I hope so, or for me it goes down as one of the worst clues I can remember seeing in a Times crossword.

  25. Yes I was held up by the wrong enumeration in REFERENDUM for a while. I thought LIGHTEN=understanding in 17a was something to do with enlightenment but couldn’t see how it worked. George’s parsing is better but it’s rather obscure. BTUs are familiar in the US because they’re how air-conditioning is measured but it took me a while to unravel BITUMEN. Very slow start to it but made it in 18.26 in the end.

  26. The NW slipped neatly into place, with CARD leading the pack. Apart from TABLA and SENT, the NE was a different proposition, so I procrastinated and headed south, where things LIGHTENed UP. I didn’t know what Escoffier did, but checkers and definition made ACHE a reasonable guess. Didn’t quite spot how RURAL worked, but shoved it in regardless. Moving eastwards, I found more easy pickings. Fortunately I didn’t notice the enumeration error for REFERENDUM, so in it went. I now had enough checkers to confidently put in NATION at the end of 6d, and EXTERMI duly arrived, making BARREL a likely fit for 12a. SOMALIA dropped into place and the unknown APSIS was put around OTHEO, leaving the road surface as a sticky ending. Didn’t quite see the BTU as I was fixated on TU as the workers, but no matter. An enjoyable puzzle. 22:04. Thanks setter and George.

  27. Early start as the puppy wakes with the dawn, brain not active so could do nothing on the first pass. FOI Plantagenet and proceeded steadily from there to finish around 25 minutes with no help from the dog…

  28. A lovely puzzle, albeit with some knowledge required that I didn’t have. In the end I put in CRACKER-BARREL more in hope than expectation.

    I was also held up a little by the enumeration of 13d.

    13m 02s, and I was surprised by some of the really quick times here – bravo. Clearly not on the wavelength, then, or I just need to research my thermal units, chefs & orbits a little better.

  29. 19:45. I failed to spot the wrong enumeration in 13d, which helped, or to parse BITUMEN, similarly falling for the TU fallacy but, unlike our blogger, not returning to work it out post-solve.

  30. 23 mins, I left a few holes for the end, answers were correct but I had no idea why, including ACHE and REPOSEFUL, which didn’t look like a real word. Non UK people would perhaps not know the Yorkshire GATES.

  31. Only just started crossword but have already found 2nd mistake of the week. 13d is 10 letters not 9. Earlier in the week a hidden clue showed misspelling Brethren.

    1. Erm! David! The 13dn error has been dealt with several times already! Why not read the other contributions before you wade in?


    Thanks for the parsing George.
    I was convinced that “crossword lights” were somehow involved.

  33. 07:08, no hold-ups, largely thanks to plenty of medium-strength biffing. After you’ve navigated York a few times, you start to remember that the “-gates” are actually streets, some of them leading to the “bars” which are the actual gates (or at least the gaps where they used to be).

  34. Found this tricky. ‘Ten up’ seemed v indeterminate to me, and I was doubtful for ages that LIGHTEN UP could be right… which delayed GUPPIES for me, since only the ‘G’ made it obvious. NHO CRACKER-BARREL, but there wasn’t much else it could be. Was madly convinced for ages that it must be TERMINATE, not GERMINATE (why??), which likewise delayed my PENDRAGON, which was obvious in retrospect. In short, I made hard work of this, for reasons that elude me.

  35. Got there in the end though close to throwing in the towel with cracker-barrel germinate and Somalia unsolved – couldn’t see beyond SA + (or one*) for the latter having assumed for far too long that it was a country I’d just never heard of. I have the greatest admiration for all the setters whose efforts provide us with daily delights but “ten up”? Surely something’s gone wrong somewhere in the setting or editing …

  36. Steady solve in 22:18 today, slightly held up by tabla and bitumen in the north east. Enjoyed the puzzle, particularly liked Somalia but on the day that Iain Martin appears to partially see the light, COD to the beautiful surface for referendum.

    Thx g and setter

  37. DNF after 30

    Can I dare to put my head above the parapet and suggest the second bit of the CRACKER thing was a bit unfair. Pin for barrel? A NHO US expression? Seems like most folks got there by accident rather than design. And the LIGHTEN UP parsing was one of those where I challenge anyone to say it wasn’t bifd

    But apart from those I liked a lot of this particularly PENDRAGON.

    Thought this would be above average difficulty but I was (even with half a word uncompleted) out paced by those I’m normally a bit closer to

    Thanks all

      1. I’ve only heard it in real life in the modern word “polypin”, those plastic-bag-in-a-box style containers you can often buy at breweries. They’re usually 36 pints, which is apparently half a firkin, so I presume the etymology is “polythene pin”…

  38. DNF- couldn’t see past tag for label and since NHO of tabla or tagla meant I couldn’t get bitumen (btu not springing to mind)
    Otherwise I thought this harder than the snitch suggests

  39. The bottom half went in well enough but struggled with the top half, to the point that I nearly gave in. Persevered however and it eventually came together in a time of 52.27.
    Fingers were crossed for BITUMEN and LIGHTEN UP, and I share the view that the parsing of the latter is too obscure.

  40. 36:17 but…

    …as well as being rather underwhelmed by some of the clueing, the pink square for the sausage-fingered ASK FOT TROUBLE felt like a slap in the face.

    CRACKER BARREL, LIGHTEN UP (what was going on there?) and that 9-letter word (!) REFERENDUM left me totally unbothered about parsing LOI GERMINATE.

    A domani

  41. 32 minutes, so not too hard. BITUMEN was my LOI and I was also put off a bit by the wrong enumeration for 13 dn (until I counted the squares). A strange week this is.

  42. Same same. Lots of unknowns – PIN = barrel, the real meainng of cracker barrel (not cheese), apsis, how lighten up worked. But for all that a quick time, no hold-ups (unusually) as the unknowns *had to be*. LOI bitumen, and COD because it was so clever.
    Edit: didn’t notice the wrong enumeration of 13dn – saw the anagrist and wrote it straight in.

  43. 18’36”. Didn’t know the pin=barrel thing, but thanks Gothick for reminding me of the expression polypin. Finally I know why! As for cracker-barrel, I vaguely knew of the expression. Now I see there were actually barrels of crackers, around which plain folk would stand and sup their sodas. A fair bit of biffing, but all ok. Did not like the Lighten Up clue, if the parsing is what it seems to be.

  44. Started last night, fell asleep, finished this morning. Didn’t even notice the 13d error. All correct but several biffed. Mr. Meldrew’s comments always lighten my day. Often informative, always interesting . Thank you sir!

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