Times 28,355: Don’t Hold Your Breath While Solving This Puzzle

I thought this was just the ticket for a Friday, full of actually educational moments – I’d never heard of 10ac, and that was far from the only thing with an exotic/international feel in this puzzle. Top marks to the setter: I especially liked the smart parrot, and am always tickled by clues like 16dn where one of the “words” is actually an acronym so really hard to see, but it was all good stuff, really…

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

1 Game spirit shown by one booed on stage endlessly? (7)
KABADDI – KA [spirit] by BADDI{e}. “Ka” is some kind of lifeforce in ancient Egypt, much beloved by Scrabble players. not to be confused with “ba”. But can anyone convincingly explain the difference?
5 Fresh cigars initially taken from breadbasket (7)
GASTRIC – (CIGARS + T{aken}*). Breadbasket here meaning “stomach”. FOI
9 Copper with black coat and cloak placed inside skip (3,1,5)
CUT A CAPER – CU [(periodic table) copper] + TAR [black coat], with CAPE [cloak] placed inside
10 Get away with a summit, regularly cancelled, being put back (5)
IMSHI – every second letter in {w}I{t}H {a} S{u}M{m}I{t}, reversed. Mainly Australian military slang, derived from the Arabic after being trained and stationed in Egypt and environs
11 Current success at cards generating belief (5)
ISLAM – I [(electric) current] + SLAM [12 or 13 tricks taken in Bridge]
12 Research group’s rare function embraced by thousands (5-4)
THINK-TANK – THIN [rare] + TAN(gent) “embraced” by K K [thousand, x2]
13 Fine old stories presented by composer before cabaret (6,7)
FOLIES BERGERE – F(ine) O(ld) LIES [stories] by (Alban) BERG + ERE [before]
17 A museum’s data, strangely, ultimately ignored one’s founder (6,7)
21 One requiring pluck (bravo!), like a dog in space (9)
BALALAIKA– B(ravo) + À  LA LAIKA. Plucked Russian instrument
24 Concerned with split in stage, not for the first time (5)
RERUN – RE [concerned with] + RUN [split]. At first I thought this was a split in e.g. stockings, but now I reckon it’s more like “the cops are on their way! We’d better split!”
25 This military don sounded out transport solution (5)
KHAKI – homophone of CAR KEY. The definition part as in, “this is donned, by military”
26 After success briefly had opening they retire (3,3,3)
HIT THE HAY – after HIT, THEY “opened by” HA{d}
27 One maybe coming across interference in works? (7)
SPANNER – double def. Spanner as in “something that spans”, e.g. a bridge; second definition as in “a spanner in the works”
28 Train transporting article for universal visual aids (7)
1 Start packing up before the end (4,2)
KICK IN – KICKIN{g}. As in “kicking the habit”, maybe?
2 Daring US agent like a baby sometimes? (6-3)
BOTTLE-FED – BOTTLE [daring] + FED [US federal agent]
3 Claimed to be mistreated: one has a point! (7)
4 One’s packed stylish, plain, overnight case (9)
INPATIENT – IN [stylish] + PATENT [plain], “packed” by I
5 River and Asian peak gone over by travel writer (5)
GORKI – R(iver) and K1, with GO [travel] over that
6 Small toy, one that hums? (7)
STINKER – S(mall) + TINKER [toy]
7 One who’s “dreaded” retiring, beats a retreat to downsize (5)
RASTA – hidden reversed in {be}ATS A R{etreat}. One who has dreadlocks
8 Seed quietly snaffled by smart parrot (8)
CHICKPEA – P [quietly] “snaffled” by CHIC KEA
14 Porter, say, coming across well time after time, making splash (9)
BESPATTER – BEER [porter, say] “across” SPA [well] + T T [time, after time]
15 Phoned in, somehow having obtained right number (9)
ENDORPHIN – (PHONED IN*) “obtaining” R(ight). Endorphins kill pain, ergo are numb-ers
16 Mix two books up with film about bird racing machines (3,5)
BMX BIKES – (MIX B B*) + KES [(Ken Loach) film about a kestrel]
18 Press over the moon, meeting with new cardinal (7)
MILLION – MILL [press] over IO [moon] + N(ew). Rather large cardinal number
19 Reveals fresh embarrassment for golfer? (3,4)
AIR SHOT – AIRS [reveals] + HOT [fresh]
20 Agitation after leading pair’s decamped, note, a catalyst (6)
ENZYME – {fr}ENZY + ME [note following do, re]
22 Wool cap for priest needing to be stretched? (5)
LLAMA – take a LAMA and stretch his “cap” to LL
23 One fag end’s left unpleasant discharge (5)
ICHOR – I [one] + CHOR{e} [fag, left by its last letter]

75 comments on “Times 28,355: Don’t Hold Your Breath While Solving This Puzzle”

  1. Still remembered that Russian dog that went to space; so first answer in. Two new words at 1 & 10 Across. Quite a pleasant solve so thank you, setter and Verlaine for your excellent blog

  2. DNF
    and now I can see why. NHO KABADDI; probably came across KA here, once, but it certainly didn’t occur to me here. NHO BMX, and thus was at a total loss for the first word of 16d. (Is ‘up’ the anagrind?) DNK ICHOR as an unpleasant discharge (ODE marks it as ‘archaic’), only as the blood of the gods. And I don’t see how ‘This military don’ is a definition, ‘don’ not being a noun. I liked INPATIENT and GORKI.

    1. I’m very surprised by nho BMX, Kevin!
      They’ve been around since 1970 and it’s been an Olympic event for the past four Olympics.
      Every kid I knew owned one through my generation and my kids.

      Were they not popular where you are?

      I’m constantly surprised at the things I think are GK aren’t always. I should never set a puzzle.

      1. Since I don’t know what a BMX is, I have no idea if they’re popular here or not, but all the bikes I see look the same. I have next to no interest in the Olympics, less in races of any sort, and even less in bicycle races. But as I’ve said before, one person’s GK is another’s esoterica.

    2. I think I got ICHOR quite quickly because it comes up a lot in HP Lovecraft; the ichor of the Lovecraftian gods is really quite icky!

      One thing I learned this morning: Lovecraft apparently popularised the term so much among low-grade horror/fantasy writers that Ursula Le Guin called the word “the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate” in an essay on style…

      1. In that seminal film Jason and the Argonauts, Jason opens a tap in the Titan’s heel, and all its ichor gushes out …

      2. I am fairly ,sure kabaddi has come up here before as it is in my cribbing database.

  3. After an hour with just a couple to go I slung in the towel.

    (LOI) 5dn GORKI
    WOD 13ac FOLLIES BERGERE where I once shot a Hertz commercial avec les deux Ronnies.

    1ac KABBADI was a write-in as it was televised on Channel 4. Great Game!

    Fell short on BMX! Although I saw the film ‘BMX Bikers’ with my kids! 10ac IMSHI .Gimshi? 🗯

    So many Ks in today’s puzzle. Is this a Nina of sorts 5,000 something or other?

  4. A KICK IN the gut here. After slogging through this in 59 mins ( a new record?), and finally feeling I’d successfully completed it , IT was disappointing to see KICK IT wasn’t correct. I thought the definition might be ‘ the end’ as in ” kick the bucket” , which can be shortened to “kick it” here in Oz.
    A lifetime here in Australia, but I’d never heard of IMSHI. Nevertheless it went in on parsing and a wing and a prayer.

    1. Agree. I’d like to think I know my way around the Australian vernacular, including military jargon, and IMSHI is a non-starter for mine.

      But at least it was solvable, unlike a few others. Too tired and cranky for this one today, might have enjoyed the challenge on another day.

  5. Failed at the end with the BMX BIKES not in (I even saw “film about bird” and immediately thought KES). Was a bit unsure about GORKI (I thought it was GORKY) and IMSHI seemed unlikely although the wordplay seemed clear. Never heard of KABADDI either, although once I spotted the “baddie” and had the K it had to be.

    1. I too worried about GORKI, Wikipedia refused that option of spelling, but Mr Google gave me
      “Maxim Gorki Theater – Frontpagehttps://www.gorki.de › …
      The Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin: Our program today, all premieres and opening nights, our company, Get your tickets here or contact our box office ….”
      among the early hits. I guess there is no 1:1 rule on transliterating cyrillic vowels.

  6. 23m
    BMX BIKES bifd because Kes not known, but by all accounts it’s a great film so I’ve just added it to my list of films that I’ll never actually watch.

    If the setters are interested, IMDB has a list of films with short titles – many of which I have actually heard of: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls064446756/

  7. Fantastic puzzle, but another disappointing DNF. So many unknown or barely known words that my unknown writer was GORAI, though I see now I had writer doing double-duty as I (the setter) and as the definition. Never heard of K1; though K2 was in the news yesterday due to 2 dead climbers. Like Paul I’d spell GORKY with a Y. Enjoyed immensely nevertheless, and found it actually a smidgeon easier than yesterday’s, though still very hard. Kabaddi came up on Verlaine’s watch a few months ago, I remember saying I thought it was Afghan goat-polo. IMSHI NHO or forgotten, ICHOR only remembered as gods’ blood, everything else known but the unusual vocabulary was a challenge.
    Two fantastic and fantastically difficult puzzles in a row. B! (bravo!).

  8. 75 minutes for a technical DNF.

    I also found this very hard but I was enjoying working my way through it, however slowly, until as the hour was passed I finally ground to a halt with four or five answers missing. I just knew I would not know two of them , so I resorted to aids for those to give me checkers that helped me to unscramble remainder. It was KABADDI and IMSHI that did for me.

    Prior to all that I had been very pleased to work out GORKI from wordplay, although I wasn’t sure there was a writer with that spelling. I was also pleased to resist RETINUE at 28.

    Enjoyed being reminded of Mitchell & Webb’s crime-fighting duo Angel Summoner & BMX Bandit

  9. I thought I wasn’t going to get through this after moving to the bottom half with the top only half-filled and then struggling for a long time down there. Perhaps the coffee kicked in at some point, though, as once I’d finally finished the bottom half off with BMX BIKES and KHAKI I came back upstairs for the unknowns CUT A CAPER, GORKI, IMSHI, that meaning of “breadbasket”, and the others I was missing, with the I of INPATIENT finally steering me towards remembering KABADDI and letting me finish with KICK IN.

    Quite the workout, and it took me 58 minutes all told.

  10. 75 minutes. A proper Friday challenge. Tough going but with all the squares green, I wasn’t too bothered it took so long. NHO CUT A CAPER for ‘skip’ and KABADDI took a while to dredge up.

    I’ve just spoken to my 96 yo Dad whose father took part in the first landing at Gallipoli and who was stationed in Egypt beforehand. Dad recognised IMSHI straight away, but it’s a word I’ve only met before in crosswords (?here) and I’ve never heard it used in general conversation.

    My favorites were the ‘One requiring pluck’ for BALALAIKA and the reference to the mischievous KEA in CHICKPEA.

  11. 45 minutes and still missing KABBADI and KICK IN. I’ve other things that have to be done today. I’ve always spelt him as GORKY. COD to IN PATIENT. A good but tough puzzle. Thank you V and setter.

    1. So far as I know, everyone spells it Gorky (in English, that is; it’s Gorki in French); -i endings (Paderewski, Gorecki, etc.) are Polish (but Stanislavski was Russian; go figure). I managed to overlook the spelling ‘error’ when solving.

  12. Gave up after well over the hour. Hit a brick wall with MILLION and KHAKI.
    Just couldn’t see it. Had to check KABADDI, NHO IMSHI or ICHOR. Like Corymbia, I had KICK IT too as in « END ». Oh well. Or should that be oh spa.

    I have ticks by GASTRIC, CHICKPEA, RASTA and FOLIES BERGÈRE. Great show.

    Thanks V and setter.

  13. 55 mins and a struggle all the way
    Similar comments to most people but I did know imshi from my early days in Saudi Probably my most used Arabic word to get the labourers moving!!!
    Liked 4d and 25a

  14. 50m fail, a long way short of completion. Never felt I was on-course for a result with this one – suspected I was just having a gormless day until going through the reveals and checking the SNITCH. Now I think I was having a gormless day AND it was really difficult.

    Ashamed to admit that KES never occurred to me – one of my fave films ever (but I can easily understand working-class Yorkshire accents). All hail Ken Loach – we are not worthy! Ditto blogger and setter.

  15. 27:33. What fun. I was pleased to finish without resorting to aids, although I did look up IMSHI post-solve to find out what it meant. I see it is borrowed from Arabic. I was pleased to remember KABADDI from the previous puzzle already mentioned. I needed all the checkers to see BMX BIKES, my 2LOI and COD, although I liked INPATIENT and BESPATTER a lot too. What a lot of Ks! Thanks V and setter.

  16. 3 wrong after 38 mins.

    Impatient, Gordi and Liana were the errors.


  17. 78m 36s and quite proud of myself for completing it.
    Thank you, verlaine for your blog and for explaining RERUN, KHAKI and LLAMA.
    My father served in North Africa in WWII and returned post war with a small vocabulary of terms such as IMSHI.
    As did verlaine, I enjoyed the reference to a ‘smart parrot’ in 8d. KEA’s are not only smart, they are hooligans. They will strip your car of wiper blades and rubber window surrounds. Fortunately, they seem to like the South Island and are not near me in the Bay of Plenty.
    In 12ac, my first thought for ‘function was ‘sin’ which gave me SINK as a second word and that didn’t seem right.
    As with others, I thought the writer was GORKY, as in the novel, GORKY Park.
    I wonder if any people were fooled by the near-double helix in 28ac and put RETINUE.
    Many good clues but I liked INPATIENT. (‘overnight case’)
    PS…..Ford used to sell a model called the Ka. I thought it was a play on the word ‘car’ but maybe it was a reference to the spirit as mentioned in KABADDI.

    1. Yep, to add to my woes, I also had RETINUE. Didn’t even notice it despite reading thoroughly (I thought) V’s blog. Grrr

  18. 19:35 WOE. After battling my way through this beast I found that I had managed to write in RETINUE, in spite of taking care to understand the wordplay. Very frustrating, because I had a real sense of achievement after managing to untangle all these intricately tricky clues.

  19. Technically a DNF for me – I only managed to answer one clue: Stinker. 🤣

    The word “fresh” in 5a appears to be superfluous. What role does it play in the clue?

  20. Alas, FOLIES BERNERE for me. I was also slowed a bit my biffing IMPERFECT from I?P??????, which then seemed to be strongly backed up by the E?T appearing at the end – only when getting THINK TANK did I realise my error. I would never have had INPATIENT as a single, non-hyphenated word, but there you go.

    COD split between AIR SHOT and DECIMAL.

  21. This wasn’t a Chamber of Horrors but as Vinyl (who blogs it) says, it was more like a Mephisto. If I want to do one of those I know where to go, but this was too much like hard work for a daily for me. I’d heard of IMSHI (just) but thought it was Pig Latin like “amscray” or “ixnay”. The FOLIES and TUSSAUD were fun and well worth the effort, but the rest was a bit of a slog. KHAKI in that context reminded me of a famous New Yorker cover from the difficult weeks after 9/11 which depicted the tribal divisions of NYC as if it were Afghanistan. https://www.rickmeyerowitz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/The-Cover.jpg 34.47

    1. I like the New Yorker cover, Olivia, but I seem to remember you once mentioning a very similar cover which had a Jewish theme (‘kvechnia’?). I didn’t save it at the time but would love to have the opportunity once more.

  22. 21:46, a proper Friday puzzle, which I rather despaired of actually completing during the process, not least when I was left with a load of unlikely looking words ending in I. The fact that I got there from the wordplay is a tribute to the setter, so thank you.

  23. IMSHI was my foi, goodness knows why, but I think I came across the word as a boy in someone like Rider Haggard. But KABBADI a complete unknown, and it wasn’t in the lists I looked at; something I did more and more as time went on and I kept grinding to a halt. Eventually I said to hell with it and used unlimited electronic help (which failed on Madame Tussaud), even then managing only ten minutes short of 2 hours. Very difficult I thought.

  24. I can never read that expression without seeing Christopher Lee: “What’s the matter with you McGregor, do you call that dancing? Cut some capers man! Use your bladder! Play the fool”.

  25. Spoilt my 13:58 finish by biffing “retinue”. I also biffed IMSHI. COD FOLIES BERGERE.

  26. 19:23 here – I was off to a slow start as for some reason I thought I’d clicked on the QC and was wondering why the clues seemed so tough! Then I realized my mistake and that I was in the middle of a Friday stinker without my usual warm-up.

    No problems with the vocab – I remember many years ago they used to show Kabaddi on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings. I assume there are actual rules but it appeared to be a raucous game of tag with everyone shouting “KABADDI”.

      1. Sorry, missed that one. I did skim through most of the previous comments but worked up from the bottom and yours was quite early.

  27. I found this very hard and made it even harder for myself with a couple of initial mis-spellings. There are no INPATIENTS at our Day Surgery and so this one held me up a bit and was my last one in.

  28. 44:02, but didn’t read the clue carefully enough at 28a, so had RETINUE. $%£^&*. IMSHI was LOI from wordplay only. Thanks setter and V.

  29. DNF. Gave up after an hour with over a quarter still to do

    An appropriate end to a bad week… I hope August is NOT a wicked month.

    CUT A CAPER sounds like a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe instruction.

    Thanks to Verlaine and the setter.

  30. 22:30 (Even with a silly typo currently good enough for 75th).

    An excellent Friday challenge. Vague memory of IMSHI from a Listener-type puzzle. Loved lots of the other misdirection, particularly the INPATIENT definition. Well played, setter, well played.

  31. I’m having a frustrating week, puzzle-wise. After yesterday’s decent time (relative to the Snitch) was ruined by my ‘mesdalin’ and ‘indendiary’ snafu, I managed today to post a time I was very pleased with (13:59) only to find that I’d managed to spell Balalaika, ‘Balaleika’, which I suppose might be a stringed instrument with a camera attachment.
    Anyway, I’m trying not to let that detract from a really enjoyable puzzle.
    Thanks, Verlaine, and Setter.

  32. Fell at the end with EMU BIKES which are apparently a brand name, but not the solution to this clue. IMSHI befuddled me due to the stray A in the middle of the clue.

  33. I gave up with the bottom left undone. Mainly defeated by the non-homophone at 25. Usual gripe from north of the border.

  34. Enjoyable test, as V says. Finished in 39 minutes, surprised at GORKI not -Y but I suppose that’s Russian letters being transliterated as you wish. Amazed there are people who haven’t come across BMX bikes. Apart from the sport, my kids had them. Liked KHAKI.

  35. Well I managed to finish but with no recorded time as I was diving in and out virtually all day. It must have been about 90 minutes I would guess.
    Even then discovered like many that RETINUE was incorrect, and I couldn’t get the answer for 1ac taking a shot on KABADAI, so I wasn’t a million miles away. I thought an endless DAIS had to be involved so BADDIE never occurred to me.
    Even though a DNF I still enjoyed it.

  36. BMX really isn’t a word
    It’s three letters, and X is the third
    But I was quite relieved
    When at last I perceived
    The answer was no type of bird

  37. 32:21

    Enjoyed this a lot even though I didn’t know several words e.g. IMSHI and the barely-remembered ICHOR and KABADDI.

    Well done setter.

  38. I got to looking up players from the 1966 World Cup after being inspired by the Nina in today’s QC. Anyways because the issue arose in this puzzle about the Russian “i” or ” y” ending I checked and found that that year’s Russian squad had two “i’s-Metreveli and Kavazashvili- and two “iy’s” -Banishevskiy and Ostrovskiy. I think the use of “iy” in transliterating from Cyrillic is out of style nowadays and those last two names in 2022 would just end in “y” .

  39. DNF

    Around 55 minutes and kind of gave up on my last two KHAKI and LLAMA though they weren’t the toughest. Also mombled ANKYTE. (Cr)anky plus te. Problem when there are so many nhos that another one doesn’t seem that unlikely

    But wanted to say that – like most others – this was quite enjoyable. Also liked INPATIENT. Did get the visual aids correct and the light bulb moment of what the first word of the bikes could be opened up the SW

    Thanks V and setter

  40. A DNF in 38 mins. Worked hard at this, enjoying the struggle but sadly got the wrong end of the near double helix at 28ac and went for retinue instead of retinae. Fiddlesticks!

  41. Another emu bike. If ‘mix’ is part of the anagrist where is the anagrind?

      1. Thank you Pootle. I thought for a moment I’d stumbled across another obscure sport, folk pedalling mightily against emus.

  42. One hour and a half (after a poor night’s sleep in between), but perseverance does pay off and I did finish correctly. That said, it was an enjoyable, although almost impossible, puzzle. I liked the KHA KI and the smart parrot as well, among other things. My last three in were KICK IN, then KABADDI and finally ICHOR when I remembered what the missing letters might be. But there are days when I wonder whether the real world around me is truly real, days like this when I learn that there is a game in which you must hold your breath while playing it and repeatedly utter its name to prove you are doing so!

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