Times 28,325: A Blog Told By An Idiot, Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing

Not tremendously difficult wordplay-wise, but with a lot of interesting GK in it: with Ray Charles, Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Jason Robard and A.J. Cronin all making an appearance, we’d have quite an interesting dinner party on our hands.

WOD to the fabulous XENOPUS, which, I kid you not, is a frog that can be used as a pregnancy test by injecting urine into the frog. I don’t like to ask scientists how they stumbled across that discovery. For COD I quite liked the cryptic def at 2dn.

My LOI, taking a significant chunk of the total time, was 22ac. Never heard of this abbreviation for binoculars, which made _I_S an onerous alphabet trawl. Everything did swim into focus finally though – thanks setter!

Definitions underlined in italics, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Put wood back? Relax after taking in warning (8)
REFOREST – REST, after taking in FORE!
5 Port and crispy pancake given to mother (6)
TACOMA – TACO given to MA
8 Describing every detail, expose illegitimate child (4-2-4)
BLOW-BY-BLOW – BLOW [expose, as in “one’s cover”] BY-BLOW [illegitimate child]
9 In Germany I must cross northern island (4)
INCH – ICH [German for “I”] must cross N
10 Survey’s argument against getting into cultural revival (14)
11 For audition, take out instrument one found in school (3,4)
SEA BASS – homophone of SEE [take out, as in on dates] + BASS (not a homophone of the fish)
13 Lusty Charles for one eating meal left out (7)
RAUNCHY – RAY [the blind musician] eating {l}UNCH
15 African frog: there’s ten in French work (7)
XENOPUS – X [ten] EN [in, in French] OPUS
18 Forecaster interrupted by second news boss loses cool (4,3)
SEES RED – SEER interrupted by S + ED
21 Urban myths held to be exploded in musical style (6,3,5)
22 Has no further use for field glasses? (4)
BINS – double def with BIN(ocular)S
23 Men occupied with prediction as overheard, speaking persuasively (10)
ORATORICAL – O.R. AT homophone of ORACLE
24 Limits on another ghastly line in fabric design (6)
ARGYLE – A{nothe}R G{hastl}Y L{in}E
25 Porter say by railway accepting Cronin’s blandishments? (8)
CAJOLERY – COLE [the songwriter] by RY, accepting A.J. [the novelist]
1 Old US actor raised as alternative to poets (7)
ROBARDS – reversed OR + BARDS. Actor Jason
2 In which one link tucks into the next? (4,5)
FOOD CHAIN – cryptic def. “Tucks into” as in “eats”
3 Bird first-rate seen climbing locust tree, perhaps (7)
ROBINIA – ROBIN + reversed A1
4 Was busy developing systems underground (7)
5 Hideous aspect now seen from penthouse window? (9)
TOWNSCAPE – (ASPECT NOW*), semi-&lit
6 A representative leaving mushroom and bun (7)
7 Stake stuck into companion by unnamed man in drama (7)
MACBETH – BET stuck into C.H. by MA{n} [un-named = subtracting an N]
12 Banned brown sauce, used in fish, to make extreme point (5,4)
14 Couple almost knocked over relative in troublesome spot (9)
CARBUNCLE – reversed BRAC{e} + UNCLE
16 Organ that is grasped in both hands, further back? (7)
EARLIER – EAR + I.E., grasped in L(eft) and R(ight)
17 Poem about navy’s last ship needing year for journey (7)
ODYSSEY – ODE about {nav}Y S.S., needing Y(ear)
18 Crooner posed to accommodate cool artist (7)
SINATRA – SAT accommodating IN, plus R.A.
19 Stop doctor boarding E-boat? (7)
EMBARGO – M.B. boarding E-ARGO
20 Papers taken up and spread out for show (7)
DISPLAY – I.D. reversed, + SPLAY

74 comments on “Times 28,325: A Blog Told By An Idiot, Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing”

  1. After four failures in a row this week (all of ‘em one or two short of a full solve) I realised that an emergency Somali breakfast was the only sure guarantee of turning this crisis around. My fave eaterie served up a very generous portion of beer and anjero – so I set about the task fully nutritionally optimised.

    FOI a tentative INCH followed by RECONNASSANCE, then it seemed like hard work for the next 20 mins before I finally started to develop some momentum. ROBINIA and XENOPUS were NHOs but both entered with good confidence, in contrast BLOW-BY-BLOW was completely opaque to me. By 32m, I was staring down the barrel of yet another two-clue miss, but I doggedly persisted, fuelled by the that perfect brekkie, until SINATRA popped in. LOI CAJOLERY followed immediately despite not knowing the Cronin initials, at 43:10.

    Phew! A week saved from the brink of disaster – thanks V and setter.

  2. I forgot to note my starting time but I was not on this for too long (maybe 40 minutes) considering there were a few gettable unknowns along the way in TACOMA, ROBINIA and CHIGNON. Unfortunately I fell at the last hurdle and was unable to construct the fourth unknown, XENOPUS, from wordplay even though it turned out not to be complicated. It’s rarely I know something that V didn’t so I must mention that I had no problem at all with BINS as an abbreviation of ‘binoculars’ – it’s something I seem to have known nearly all my life

  3. Forgot to log time, but around an hour.
    Tough Friday challenge.
    Thanks, v.

  4. 48 minutes and delighted that all my construction efforts paid off, including ROBARDS and XENOPUS. I’m glad the beautiful Julia Roberts wasn’t being described as old. And any puzzle that has Cole Porter, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra along with A J Cronin gets my vote as a good one without any CAJOLERY. Thank you V and setter.

    1. Julia Roberts is pushing 55, so certainly not young. Although, frighteningly, you and I are old enough to be her father 😂

  5. 18:17. My confidence was up when REFOREST went straight in, but after that answers often proved harder to come by. My penultimate entry was TOWNSCAPE, which I thought an excellent clue given I only saw the anagram after solving. This enabled me to finish with the vaguely familiar TACOMA.
    Like Jack I knew the meaning of BINS used here, though I’ve more often heard it used in reference to spectacles.

  6. 39m 55s For a Friday puzzle, a time under 40mins counts as a red letter day.
    But how come I’m second** on the table? Was Mr V a tad late on parade?
    XENOPUS and ROBINIA were unknowns but gettable. There used to be a Czech footballer by the name of Masopust. I presume he didn’t resemble a frog.
    Re ORATORICAL: I have to assume AT is a known and accepted synonym of ‘occupied with’ but I’m not familiar with it.
    Thanks for CHIGNON.
    My parents had “The Stars Look Down” in their bookcase so the AJ in Cronin’s name was no problem.
    2d nearly caused me to stumble. I thought of FLOW CHART then FLOW CHAIN before inspiration struck.
    COD: The ‘unnamed man’ in MACBETH was good but my vote goes to FOOD CHAIN.
    ** I was second when I started my comment but I’ve now slipped to at least 6th.

      1. If I could type properly, I would have been finished in a quarter of the time.

    1. ‘What are you at?’

      I only knew it because it came up here very recently. It caught me out on that occasion.

    2. It could be “At” = “Occupied With” as in “At Work” but I took it to be “Atorical” = “At Oracle” (as overheard) and therefore “Occupied With Prediction”. I think it works either way.

    3. I remember watching “The Stars Look Down” on ITV in 1975 (adapted by the excellent Alan Plater). Eight years later, I watched another Cronin adaptation, “The Citadel”, starring Ben Cross who had recently starred in the film “Chariots of Fire”. Both were excellent.

  7. Well, I really enjoyed this one, definitely on the WL. 30 mins with LOI CAJOLERY, which was unparsed (didn’t know the AJ) but was the only word I could fit in.

    A number of clues I find, having read V’s blog that I hadn’t really understood, but had the right answer anyway. RAUNCHY and CARBUNCLE to name but two.

    I loved the AMP-less CHAMPIGNON and RHYTHM AND BLUES, a style of music I play. Loved the unheard of XENOPUS too.

    Thanks V and setter.

  8. As per Mr. Adler, right on the hour before breakfast.

    FOI 17dn ODYSSEY
    LOI 5ac TACOMA or XENOPUS – it was so long ago I cannot remember!
    COD 12dn SOUTH POLE – outrageous!

    AJ Cronin wrote ‘A Country Doctor’ The basis for ‘Dr. Finlay’s Casebook’ JANET!!

    Nicholl’s dismissal at Headingley was incredible. Should both batsmen have been given out!? The rules are clear. Shame!

    On edit I missed Jason ROBARDS!

    1. Nice idea, as we need all the help we can get to dispose of Mitchell! But by definition, he was at the non-strikers end, so couldn’t be given out as a striker. Perhaps we should borrow from footy and grant him an assist. Or perhaps an Own Dismissal.

  9. I really enjoyed this. At first pass it seemed difficult, but then, as so often happens in crosswords as in real life, adversity dissolved into humour.

    Loved your blog, especially the wittily self-deprecating headline. I was surprised though that one such as you in all his wandering in the fields of crossword grids and general knowledge had never yet come across BINS! There is hope for us all yet.

    The Xenopus frog leapt back to life for me as I dredged it up from the river bed of A-Level Biology that dried up for me over 40 years ago.

    Great entertainment all round. Many thanks to setter and Mr V!


  10. 13:19. A tricky one, largely because there was quite a lot of stuff I didn’t know: TACOMA, BY-BLOW, XENOPUS, A. J. Cronin, ROBINIA. I remembered Jason ROBARDS from a previous puzzle (never come across him irl) and did know BINS for binoculars (also large bass speakers).
    All fair though, and an enjoyable challenge.

    1. Did you not see All The President’s Men Keriothe? He played Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post. Anything Watergate is in the news in these parts at the moment.

      1. I have seen it, years ago, and a few other movies he was in. So I guess I have come across him, but he’s one of those (many) actors I would vaguely recognise without having a clue what they’re called.

        1. Think I’ve only seen one film with Jason Robards in it – something with Paul Newman – I recall more that he was Lauren Bacall’s second husband.

          1. Lauren Bacall is sort of the opposite of Jason Robards for me: I know the name but wouldn’t be able to pick her out in a line-up.

              1. Of course I have seen her, O! And she is very beautiful. But all the actors and actresses of that era sort of merge for me, I can never remember which is which. This is probably slightly more true of the women than the men, to be honest, which is a sign either of my sexism or hollywood’s – perhaps a bit of both.

                1. Not a fan of Bogart’s Philip Marlowe then?

                  Incidentally, I’ve name-checked you in the jumbo blog that should pop up tomorrow.

  11. PS like Martin I started as about the second poster and then slipped down many places. Not entirely for lack of brevity though, more because I kept trying to find and reattach my avatar after the migration to the new site and losing what I had already written. I should know by now to save it on the clipboard. And I still haven’t found my avatar.

  12. Right on the wavelength, very speedy. Xenopus known – I like doing alphabetical jigsaws and X is often xenopus or xerosis. Robinia and A.*.Cronin unknown but easy guesses. LOI NHO bins, but wrote in the first thing that fit as a wild guess, too lazy to go further.
    Definitely food chain for COD, loved it.

    1. Regarding Jason Robards, with a couple of crossers (R_B____) in place it was : robards. Even said “Jason” to myself immediately as the first name as I filled it in. But if asked I would have said his name was Robard, no S on the end.

  13. I think the AT in ORATORICAL is fine. Men occupied with prediction may well be AT the oracle.

  14. DNF. Defeated by the unknown binoculars meaning of BINS – after spending ages staring at _I_S, the best I could come up with was ‘digs’, as in ‘has no further use for field, so digs it up’, hoping desperately that digs might be a colloquial term for glasses. No such luck.

    Didn’t know the ‘by-blow’ bit in BLOW-BY-BLOW, but that was a fairly straightforward biff. Also didn’t know Cronin was an AJ or who ROBARDS was, or that a CHIGNON is a bun and a XENOPUS is a frog, but all were figured out from wordplay.

  15. A monstrous carbuncle on the face of much loved and elegant friend
    Well, perhaps not that bad, even with its TLS-y, MCS wilful obscurities. Almost the quickest of the week for me at 18.38.
    I missed the parsing of MACBETH, even though I was expecting to see CH in there. The funny footed frog (if I’ve got my Greek right) seemed almost likely, and while the “locust” helpfully added to the tree definition wasn’t helpful to me, ROBINIA likewise looked probable.
    The product placement of Wilson’s Gravy in SOUTH POLE was fine for me: does it translate to the colonies?
    By way of compensation, perhaps, “crispy pancake” evoked a quite different foodstuff from the frozen aisle for this Brit. But I did manage to translate to Tex-Mex.

    1. HP is sold in the antipodes, but not wildly popular like it is (?) in UK. Regarding crispy pancakes, I’ve also spent a lot of time in Houston with its 30 or 40% Latino population where all of the tacos cooked by Mexicans are soft tortillas, only the huge “Mexican” restaurant chains sell crispy ones.

  16. Ths was a great crossword done and dusted after 21.15. Some excellent clues. Ta V for the ‘by-blow’
    part as for me a NHO. Great job setter and blogger!
    Hard to use some of the words to comment but there are 2 letters on my laptop that do not respond!
    Can you guess?

  17. Hello, I’m XENOPUS the frog
    I’m a much better pet than a dog
    Don’t need walks in the park
    I don’t slobber or bark
    And I’ll tell you if you have a sprog

  18. I think I’ll draw a veil over my efforts on this one. Suffice to say that I failed to spell correctly two words I know perfectly well, and was prevented from getting the port by biffing AVIGNON(ignoring the fact that removing the CHAMP didn’t account for the V), until I looked up taco (must be brain dead this morning) and realised the bun was a CHIGNON. That’s 32:58 I won’t get back! Thanks setter and V.
    PS: Got XENOPUS though!

  19. 25:26.
    A very enjoyable puzzle that lasted just long enough for me. I usually struggle with flora and fauna, but XENOPUS and ROBINIA were both well-clued. Tried to convince myself for a while that there was an actor called ROBURNS. LOI and COD was the sly little BINS.

    Thanks to Verlaine and the setter

  20. 33’16” Phew that was a corker. Surprised at Snitch of only 102. Long delay at the end by having flow chart for food chain (for no good reason other than it fitted!) which hindered the painstaking task of piecing together xenopus. NHO by-blow for illegitimate child. Some lovely stuff in there, many thanks.

  21. The trouble I had with this was all my own doing. I was another with the all-too-tempting “flow chart” and I had “rhetorical” at 23a and between them those two errors made a complete mess of the SW corner which took me a good 5 minutes to unravel. Jason ROBARDS was most famous here as a stage actor, particularly in the plays of Eugene O’Neill. He was married to Lauren Bacall after Bogart died, until his drinking drove her to the exits. 22.40

    1. There’s a movie of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Jason Robards, Ralph Richardson and Katherine Hepburn which has to be one of Robards’ greatest roles. I think the movie was part of a series of films of classic American dramas.

      1. Yes! I think the series was “The American Theatre ( or Theater?) and many great works, such as LONG DAY’S were shown. I especially remember another being Pinter’s “THE HOMECOMING”. For me, was the point where I realised TV could be more than just idle entertainment.

    2. Perhaps weirdly, almost the only thing I know about Jason Robards was that he was the original lead of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, before amoebic dysentery sent him (and Mick Jagger) home from the jungle and they had to make a basically completely different film with Klaus Kinski instead.

      1. The only thing I know about him was that he was in the film Johnny Got His Gun, which inspired the Metallica song One, and the film is featured in the video for the song.

        1. I wish someone would enlighten me as to the name of the movie where Robards plays a plaintive tune on his ukulele- I would love to see it again.

          1. That sounds like The Ballad of Cable Hogue as he spends a lot of time alone in the desert and I think I remember him playing some music!

  22. 12:45, nice puzzle – some thought required without being a Friday beast. XENOPUS brought back memories of O-level biology, which is surprising as I don’t think I took in a huge amount of scientific knowledge as a boy. Jason Robards, though, is extremely familiar to any quizzers who have done their research on Oscar-winners, being one of the rare winners of back-to-back awards.

  23. I was very slow to start and thought that the difficulty would therefore please V, but in the end it wasn’t too bad (46 minutes with a bit of help: a list of ports and an electronic search for _I_S). Plenty of unknowns but they all led to fairly clear answers. NreallyHO Xenopus, bins for binoculars, robinia, vague on taco, and at 7dn for no good reason slowed myself (until I saw the carbuncle) with MACHETE.

  24. 18:53

    Very tough for me. I though I was never going to start, never mind finish, and had to work my way up painstakingly from the bottom. Mind you, I missed a few gimmes like brown sauce and the subways anagram.

    No problem with AT. If someone’s “at work” then depending on their job (e.g. sales rep, plumber, police officer, train guard (sometimes)) that doesn’t necessarily mean they are at a fixed spot, just “occupied with” work.


    1. I have to work my way painstakingly up from the bottom whenever I see Beyoncé.

  25. 46 minutes. Mainly held up by XENOPUS which at least looked familiar once it was safely in. Another to put in a not very persuasive “rhetorical” for 23a which also held me up.

    I remember Jason ROBARDS best from “All The President’s Men”.

  26. Having spent nearly all the time doing this on the NE corner, I then discover that my TENOPUS which I had bunged in without much conviction was wrong. Ah well!

  27. DNF as I’ve never heard of a CHIGNON and without a clue that the mushroom I was looking for was French I just didn’t spot it- wasn’t aware that it could be used in English.

    Biffed MACBETH- wasn’t sure if definition was “Unnamed man in drama” as cryptic reference to luvvies avoiding saying “Macbeth”, so thanks to blogger for explanation.

    1. Me too- when I first looked at the clue I thought Macbeth! That’s the name you can’t say because of the superstition- hence the use of “The Scottish Play” to avoid the curse. It makes me nervous just to type the word in this comment!

      1. They’re the best sort of clue, for me: where the surface reading points you one way, which just happens to be the answer. Sort of like and all-in-one/&lit but actually a normal wordplay/definition clue.
        e.g. “Large beast in river (5)” (def large beast, wordplay in=hip, river = Po) hippo.

  28. After a very slow start when I thought this was a likely DNF, I got my act together and finished in 53.15, which although outside target I was happy with.
    Unfortunately the answer to 14dn CARBUNCLE is always a reminder to anyone of my profession of the infamous speech by Prince Charles at the 150th anniversary dinner of the RIBA at Hampton Court. I, and many of my fellow architects, will never forgive him for choosing this moment to go off on one of his Ill informed rants. It is fair enough to have an opinion on design, but there is a time and place to do it!
    I see the old adulterer even got a mention in 13ac. Not that I’m bitter you understand!

  29. 27:17. Great puzzle with some witty stuff and stretchy general knowledge going on. FOOD CHAIN made me chuckle, but not as much as Astro_nowt’s Xenopus limerick.

  30. Thought I might get a fast time as I saw 1ac and 1dn straight away. Slowed down thereafter to finish in my usual hour. Was pleased that I could work out correctly the various VHOs (vaguely heard of).

  31. 36:45

    I enjoyed this thought-provoking romp through the setter’s mind. There was nothing outrageously difficult there but realised I missed a few bits and pieces:

    REFOREST – missed the FORE thinking the last four letters were the REST part
    TACOMA – have heard the word before but couldn’t have told you what or where it was/is
    BY-BLOW – illegitimate? NHO
    XENOPUS – pieced together NHO
    ORATORICAL – got as far as OR before biffing with other checkers
    ROBINIA – wild guess from just the B checker
    TOWNSCAPE – failed completely to spot the anag, bunged in from checkers leaving me wondering what was hideous….

    On the other hand, RECONNAISSANCE, RAUNCHY, CAJOLERY (I’ve heard of three Cronins – one lad in my year, actor Michael Cronin (PE teacher in Grange Hill), and AJ remembered from my Dad’s bookshelf) CHIGNON all quite pleasing to solve.

  32. “Ain’t gonna misplay, put on no DISPLAY” (Lou Gramm : ‘Midnight Blue’).

    I biffed TACOMA (knew it was a place, but not its whereabouts, or that it was a port), and ORATORICAL (which didn’t look like a word to me). Whatever the opposite of BIFD is, that’s how I got NHO XENOPUS entirely from the wordplay.

    As a b*****d, I have to say I’ve been called one frequently in my life, even by those ignorant of my back story, but never a BY-BLOW.

    Around these parts, BINS has been expanded to include spectacles.

    COD FOOD CHAIN (a padlock on the fridge perhaps !)
    TIME 8:25 (with which I was delighted)

  33. I was determined to stick at this but folded with MACBETH RAUNCHY & CHIGNON with only the second of those meriting a self administered kick. Still pretty pleased given how few (one, INCH) I got on the first pass. It took an hour or so excluding multiple breaks but significant progress was made today for me.

    Specifically, after recently wondering how anyone ever got complex words they’d never heard of I was joyous to try XENOPUS and find it to be correct.

    Thanks bloggers and all contributors – I’m getting both encouragement and lessons from most posts. It’s also nice to know that others struggle sometimes!

    1. I’m with you MangoMan on the first pass only revealing INCH for a good few minutes, but BLOW-BY-BLOW (even though NHO BY-BLOW) and TOWNSCAPE gave me hope that this would not be as opaque as first look suggested. I also took over the hour – with distractions- but DNF with DIES instead of BINS (!) and for no earthly reasonRECOGNAISSANCE instead of RECONNAISSANCE. TIAD (Tomorrow is another day).

  34. Had to cheat for XENOPUS, and not ashamed to admit it!
    LOI was ROBINIA, NHO, but worked out from wordplay.
    I didn’t know “BY-BLOW” either, and didn’t get around to looking it up. (Idiot Trumpist candidate for US Congress Herschel Walker has at least four of these and another could turn up any day…)
    BINS was my FOI!

  35. DNF after 32.00 nonplussed by xenopus. Sort of got the right components but not necessarily in the right order. Would have been frustrating if I hadn’t seen that my flow chart should have been food chain- very neat clue. Still, four out of five this week so not too downhearted.
    Thx setter and blogger.

  36. 39:44 and lots of fun. I had the strange feeling that I really didn’t know half of the clues but was able to solve the puzzle steadily anyway, of course until spending ages on BINS (and correcting ROBERTS to ROBARDS on proofreading). Julia Roberts would be an actress, not an actor, anyway, and this is one of the very rare instances where an English noun requires you to specify its gender, most of the time. In German you must do this for every noun specifying a person, which makes gender-neutral speech almost impossible. The Germans have now started to use a glottal stop before the female suffix ‘IN to make it clear that the suffix is optional and you mean either sex.

    1. Female thespians are now often referred to as “actors,” especially in professional settings.

  37. Anyone else think 9ac was a triple def with “In,” Ich across N and island all being hidden in there? Not that it matters – a fun Friday…

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