Times 28359 – literally rather literary

I’m wondering if today’s setter was also last Wednesday’s, and maybe also on the TLS crossword team; we have at least three more references to matters literary here, although the wordplay is enough to lead you to the answers. It took me half an hour to solve and parse ready to write up the blog.

Definitions underlined in bold, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, anagrinds in italics.

1 Popular book seized by detectives returning (7)
DEMOTIC – book = TOME, inside CID, all reversed.
5 Revolutionary Cuba hides one very old camp (7)
BIVOUAC -I, V, O, (one, very, old) inside (CUBA)*.
9 What’s finally making a Parisian shoot criminal (9)
GUNRUNNER – G (end of making) UN (a in French) RUNNER (underground shoot of a plant which pops up).
10 A little woman, Irish, knocked back the drink (5)
RIOJA – A, JO (little woman) IR(ish) all reversed.
11 Smart fellow in Zurich maybe sounding drunk (5)
SWISH -sounds like SWISS might if you slurred the word.
12 Using words endlessly, politicians in places of worship (9)
ORATORIES – ORA(L) = using words endlessly, TORIES.
14 Drugs confused the man — is it a sin? (14)
17 Aids in RE course? Wrongthey are used in maths classes (10,4)
CUISENAIRE RODS – (AIDS IN RE COURSE)*. sets of coloured rods of differing lengths used for teaching children, of which I had vaguely heard. If you haven’t, see
21 One way to offer mate something edible (9)
MINCEMEAT – You can “offer” the word MATE by mincing the letters of MEAT.
23 Two characters said to be very good (5)
EXCEL – sounds like X L.
24 Sample latest of exhibits in gallery (5)
TASTE – S (end of exhibits) inside the TATE gallery.
25 Hurried departure of heartless idiot going by land (9)
MOONLIGHT – MORON is the idiot, heartless = MOON, then LIGHT for land, touch down. I’d have thought moonlight needed flit after it, but our setter must know otherwise; to me moonlight means to do secret work outside of your main job.
26 Poor, upset, frequently confined, in a situation for shouting? (7)
ROOFTOP – POOR reversed with OFT inserted.
27 More severe old author reading perhaps? (7)
STERNER – STERNE – Laurence Sterne, Irish writer of Tristram Shandy fame, with R for reading, one of the three R’s, added.
1 Summary of archaeological event on northern half of property (6)
DIGEST – DIG plus EST(ate).
2 Name fellows with money, having nothing to hide (7)
MENTION -MEN (fellows) TIN (money) insert O.
3 One of the sides at Old Trafford? (9)
TOUCHLINE -slightly cryptic definition.
4 Improve control over prisoner, substantial troublemaker (11)
CONSOLIDATE – CON = prisoner, SOLID = substantial, ATE the Greek goddess of mischief.
5 Prohibitionwhere can you get a drink? (3)
BAR – double definition, two meanings of bar.
6 Group of stars runs into Spanish port (5)
VIRGO – VIGO in Spain has R inserted.
7 More offered such an ideal situation? (7)
UTOPIAN – cryptic definition, Thomas More wrote UTOPIA.
8 Right idiots in court, most devoid of sense (8)
CRASSEST – R ASSES (right idiots) inside CT for court.
13 Changes had to limit liquid measure — controlled quantities (11)
ALTERATIONS – ATE (had) with L for litre inserted, then RATIONS.
15 Port badly affects the female there — one getting drunk (9)
MARSEILLE – MARS (badly affects) ELLE (a French female) with I inserted (‘drunk’).
16 Weapon has Mark stifle expression of self-importance (8)
SCIMITAR – SCAR (mark) with “I’M IT” inserted.
18 I love embracing individual that is exponent of the absurd (7)
IONESCO – I O (I love) has ONE SC (scilicet) inserted, to make Eugène Ionesco, playwright who wrote The Rhinoceros, for example, in the genre ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, of which Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is the only play I have actually seen.
19 Figure about to move into criminal haunt (7)
DECAGON – criminals might haunt a DEN, insert CA (about) GO (move).
20 Musician in state of nervousness, losing heart (6)
FLUTER – FLUTTER loses a central L. I thought a flute player was a flautist, but apparently fluter is equally correct.
22 Three score and ten sides out for a sporting occasion (5)
EVENT – 20 + 20 + 20 + 10 = 70. (S)EVENT(Y) with the sides removed.
25 Gloomy person cut hair (3)
MOP – MOPE is cut short.


57 comments on “Times 28359 – literally rather literary”

  1. 38 mins for me, with several of the last minutes trying to work out what sort of RODS the math class needed. If I’ve heard of them, they are long forgotten. My only other problems (which intersected those rods) was that I’d forgotten that Ate is the goddess of mischief and since IMP didn’t start with A I wasn’t completely sure ATE was correct. Otherwise I don’t remember any big issues.

  2. 12:18, with a significant proportion of that time spent at the end trying to disentangle the anagrist to construct the very unlikely-looking CUISENAIRE RODS. Once I had done so I felt pretty confident it was the only feasible combination of the available letters, which is what distinguishes a fair clue from an outrage in these cases.

  3. 31:47
    A sluggish performance today, with FOI 14ac ANTIHISTAMINES, then TASTE, STERNER, and BAR (a QC clue). At 12ac, I got TORIES, but then could think of nothing but REC- for a long time. At 23ac, I thought of PI- and got no further, and at 19d I persisted in taking ‘criminal haunt’ as (haunt)*. I also wondered about MOONLIGHT. I remembered CUISENAIRE RODS, rather to my surprise, from a silly foreign language teaching methodology of the 70s. I’ve never come across FLUTER, which looks quite odd; I would say ‘flutist’, which ODE says is US for ‘flautist’, although I’ve heard ‘flautist’ often enough in the US.

      1. I’m guessing you hadn’t got to my link to it posted earlier, but further down the page. It’s attributed to Percy French (1854-1920) the Irish songwriter and poet, but I have my suspicions that the tune at least is older than that.

  4. The top went pretty smoothly (except for hesitating over the sports thing), but I hit molasses in the bottom. NHO CUISENAIRE RODS. Collins says MOONLIGHT can be short for “moonlight flit,” but I”d never heard of that either. A lot of this I liked, though “offer” still seems odd in the clue for MINCEMEAT, and I never succeeded in parsing ALTERATIONS, with “Changes” also appearing in ALTERS spanning the rest—put it in with a shrug. I didn’t see “ate” there, though I did in CONSOLIDATE!

    FLUTER just seemed wrong, but I know, I know…

    That’s also not the first meaning that comes to mind for SWISH…

  5. 40 minutes. Nothing too hard, but I had the same query about MOONLIGHT and hadn’t heard of MOPE as a noun. FLUTER was also new and plays second fiddle to “flautist” for me. I think the parsing of IONESCO is ‘I love’ (=I and O) ’embracing’ (=containment indicator) ‘individual’ (=ONE) ‘that is’ (=SC (for scilicet)).

    I liked the MINCEMEAT reverse anagram (I thought ‘offer’ was there for the surface and to convey the sense of “presenting the letters of”) and especially the reminder of CUISENAIRE RODS from learning “sums” (none of this “maths” or even “arithmetic”) long, long ago.

  6. I was also looking for an anagram of ‘offer mate’ as a food. Could MOAFEREFT be a nho cheese to satisfy 21a? IONESCO was unknown to me, but parsed into submission and made MINCEMEAT of the last one in. 34:21

  7. CUISENAIRE RODS – aka the terrible building blocks that are too slippery to actually build anything with. I have no recollection of them being used in maths, but at least I know what they’re called now

  8. As well as More, Ionesco and Sterne, the reference to JO in 10a may denote one of the four sisters in Alcott’s Little Women (so, not just a little version of Josephine or whatever).

    1. Of course! I missed that the blog doesn’t point that out. Anyway, that’s how I took it (never read the book).

    2. Ah I’ve never read Little Women (didn’t sound like a man book) so apologies for not fully parsing. Yet another literary clue then!

  9. CUISENAIRE RODS! Last seen on ‘Sesame Street’ with ‘Big Bird’ explaining the exigencies of foreign words and phrases being clued by anagrams. DNF.

    FOI 6dn VIRGO – er no! – 5dn BAR
    (LOI) 20dn FLUTER – is not flautist or even flautiste preferable!
    WOD 5ac BIVOUAC- a French Canadian floor sweeper?

    Time for a cool glass of RIOJA! Cheers, Melldew!

  10. 49 minutes for a technical DNF since I used aids for the first word at 17ac. I had deduced RODS as the only possible second word, correctly as it turned out, but as my LOI I simply couldn’t be bothered with the rest of it.

    I looked twice at MOP because I didn’t know ‘mope’ as a gloomy person.

    I found the top half really quite easy but I struggled further down, particularly in the SW corner.

    I’m a little surprised at all the comments about FLUTER. Has nobody heard of the Irish ballad Phil the Fluter’s Ball?

    1. Not Meldrew!
      I’m into Champagne which makes me a Feuilatte flautist brut. Each to his own.

  11. DNF after about fifty minutes. Threw in the towel after about ten minutes trying to come up with CUISENAIRE RODS.

  12. 36 minutes with LOI FLUTER. Yes, I did remember Phil the Fluter’s Ball. But despite all those years in Maths and Physics, I’ve never heard of POI CUISENAIRE RODS, and I needed all crossers to come up with it. They sound like skewers to see if the cake is sufficiently cooked. Both long anagrams took their time. Let’s give COD to SWISH for bringing a smile to all this earnestness. Thank you Pip and setter.

  13. 23:55. I ground to a halt with 3 left taking a while at the end to decide the only way of filling the blanks at 17A was the unlikely looking CUISENAIRE RODS, which I had never heard of. Named after a Belgian, I see, after looking it up post-solve. MINCEMEAT, my COD, and CONSOLIDATE, my third last one in also took me a while to see. Thanks setter and Pip.

  14. A struggle today at 45 min and had to cheat on 17a Never heard of them and I did maths up to degree level!!!!
    Didn’t know Ionesco either but easy to figure out and then check up
    I’m sure 23a has been in before

  15. 36m 48s
    Not too taxing for this bear of little brain. Thanks, Pip, particularly for the ATE in CONSOLIDATE, the A(L)TE in ALTERATIONS and for pointing out the obvious in MARSEILLE – the meaning of ‘drunk’.
    The only Theatre of the Absurd play I have ever seen is “One Way Pendulum” by NF Simpson a few decades ago at the Old Vic (I think).

  16. 57m fail – didn’t get MINCEMEAT, IONESCO or CUISENAIRE RODS. On reflection, I was pretty close to sorting out the latter as the only reasonable permutation, given the crossers and the anagrist …should have finished off the task as per Keriothe. Thanks P and setter.

  17. Okay. Today’s ‘interesting’ problem: I can print out today’s puzzle, but can’t get it to load in ‘Play’. (Can’t get yesterday’s Concise either, or any other puzzles, apparently.) I’ve tried the usual closing-down-and-rebooting, to no effect. Any ideas?

  18. Failed to parse ORATORIES as I don’t think ORA(L) means using words, it means speaking them as opposed to reading or writing them.

  19. 20 mins
    Seemed fairly easy, but the snitch says otherwise. Makes a change – it’s usually the opposite of that for me.
    Thanks, pip.

  20. No time recorded, NHO the rods, and spent some time failing to disentangle the anagram before deciding life’s too short. Oh well, onwards and (one hopes) upwards.

  21. 27 mins. I thought of CUISINAIRE RODS, seeing too many I’s in the anagram, but that didn’t work for the Old Trafford clue. Another unknown clued as an anagram. They seem to be flavour of the month.

  22. NHO CUISENAIRE RODS, and an unusual answer difficult to get without all crossers. Gave up at 50 mins with that, MINCEMEAT and SCIMITAR unfinished. Quite a tough one, I thought. Unconvinced by MOONLIGHT – it’s a ‘flit’, or it’s a second job.

  23. Solving experience this morning felt like MINCEMEAT pulsed in a Cuisinart because I was repeatedly interrupted by husband frantically searching for his cell phone and in the end I realized I’d have to down tools and find it for him (it was under the driver’s seat of the car). It wouldn’t have been surprising if I’d hit the 30 minute mark but as it was I can’t really guess at a time. I had heard of the RODS but not the CUISENAIRE part so that had to be disentangled. I think they came into use about the time my little brother was learning his sums. Baffled by MOONLIGHT=hurried departure and confused by the definition in CRASSEST which I would have described as most lacking in sensitivity rather than sense. I know I’m not giving the setter a fair shot. Better luck tomorrow.

  24. 26 minutes, so only marginally harder than yesterday’s. I’m surprised that CUISENAIRE RODS causedsome difficulty. Once I had the D in place I got it pretty quickly. I think in my early days of teaching (not Maths) the ‘new maths’ was just coming into primary schools.
    MOP and MOONLIGHT gave me more trouble than the maths entry.

    1. I too found this tricky – apart from CUISINENAIRE RODS, of which I’m surprised more bloggers have not heard! Primary Teacher Training in the early sixties made me familiar with these (not for building!) rods; they were for showing children the different size values of numbers – part of, I believe the “Montessori Method”.

  25. 26:16 with much juggling of the RODS anagram at the end. Agree with Mr Keriothe that this just about makes it over the line as fair since there was no possible ambiguity about the components of the anagram and there appears to be only one viable combination of them.

  26. I’m not surprised that so many people haven’t heard of CUISENAIRE RODS. They certainly wouldn’t be common knowledge to people who have studied maths ‘up to degree level’ since they’re maths equipment used in early learning. Yet another obscurity clued by an anagram.

    The problem I had in my 53 minutes was with the clue for EXCEL: ‘Two characters said to be very good’. It looks to me that ‘be’ is doing double duty, since to excel is to ‘be very good’, not just ‘very good’. The wordplay is presumably ‘Two characters said’ and the definition is surely ‘be very good’, so the link-word is just ‘to’ rather than ‘to be’. Or is there some meaning of ‘excel’ that I’m missing?

    1. Wordplay is ‘Two characters said.’ Definition is ‘to be very good.’

      Also, on a pedantic note, the title of the Ionesco play is simply ‘Rhinoceros.’

      1. Whilst I can’t see that ‘be’ is doing double duty as suggested by Wil, I think he is right about ‘to’ being a link word. If the definition were ‘to be very good’ the answer would have to be ‘to excel’, surely?

  27. I had most of this done in 30 minutes but a few held me up at the end, in particular the RODS which I hadn’t heard of and lost interest in deriving, so finally looked up. Enjoyed most of the rest of it, but also raised an eyebrow at MOONLIGHT on its own for a hasty departure. Took a while to light on MARSEILLE. 41:46. Thanks setter and Pip.

  28. NHO scilicet nor its supposed abbreviation (Chambers gives ‘scil’ or ‘sciz’ as the latter), so biffed IONESCO which it had to be. But my biggest problem was using ‘consolidate’ to mean ‘Improve control’.
    Decidedly iffy. Chambers never uses ‘control’ in any of its 7 possible definitions. But it had to be the answer so bunged it in anyway.

    1. SC comes up every so often. Worth trying to remember (I just about managed to do so today).

    2. Best to use Collins or Oxford rather than Chambers when looking up definitions for the daily cryptic – “to strengthen or improve one’s control over” is one of the definitions in Collins.

      Also worth remembering viz (short for videlicet), which means the same as sc. Both are of course much less common than ie.

  29. I found this hard. I started at the bottom where the understood but iffy Moonlight along with the escapees from TLS-land, Sterne and Ionesco, were accurate indicators that the rest would be tricky. Like Guy and Aphis my little woman was LMA’s Jo, and my anxiety was fluster.

  30. Not the most enjoyable grid for me, especially the obscure CUISENAIRE RODS, clued incredibly unhelpfully as an anagram. I once had the displeasure to sit through IONESCO’s “Le Roi Se Meurt”, hours of my life I will never get back.

  31. 36.29 of decreasing enjoyment culminating in the most obscure anagram I’ve encountered in years. Very unfair to us arts students! Ionesco was a toughie which I solved on the basis of I O and one in the middle. Have to confess, if I did know I’d forgotten sc for that is.
    But , I did like rioja and Marseille.

  32. I was so excited to get Cuisenaire Rods in the crossword as I’ve never met anyone else who was taught with them. I went briefly to a very modern primary school in the early sixties where we used them to discover number relationships. I then moved house and went to one with dip-in pens and chanting of times tables. As I also take antihistamines I was off to a good start! Very enjoyable and I also liked the French flavour.

  33. Blimey that was tough! No recorded time as I had major interruptions on two occasions. No doubt it was over an hour though.
    My LOI was of course 17ac like so many others, and after filling the vacant spaces with the available letters was amazed to find I had it right!

  34. 27’26”.

    Well, I did predict I’d be down to earth with a bump after yesterday’s walk in the park, and so it proved. Top half a breeze in 8 minutes, despite the initial faux-biffed ‘STING’ at 11 across. Then, like a lot of others, it seems, I was stymied by those damned kitchen rods, which triggered my annoying habit of overthinking a lot of the other clues when i come across one clue that looks forbidding. Hence, despite always thinking of scar when I see ‘Mark’, on this occasion I chose to focus on the ‘self-importance’ bit, leading me to try to shoehorn the word ego into a word for mark.

    Ah well, next mistake was to realise 13down started with alter, only to overlook alterations and go on a wild-goose chase for a synonym of ‘controlled quantity’. I then managed to follow this up by trying to invoke a kind of checkmate in 21across, then whacking in the ‘oft’ part of 26across and discounting the possibility than any anagram of ‘poor’ could fit around it!

    I wonder if any other solvers suffer from this problem I have of extrapolating the difficulty level of a single troublesome clue to the rest of the puzzle. You’d think after all these years that I’d have been cured of it.

    I agree with Olivia about crass, by the way, though I have heard it spoken in the sense used here. And despite my difficulties in completing it, I thought this was a classic Times cryptic, which I enjoyed a lot.

  35. 47.43. Managed to grind this one out eventually but didn’t enjoy it much. I struggled to get a few of the long ones going through the middle which really stalled my progress. I prefer to work out anagrams in my head but didn’t seem able to do this with the maths rods and had to write down the anagrist on paper to try and work out the first word of this unknown, which just added to my irritation.

  36. 3/4 done, a few missing on the bottom half: MINCEMEAT, MOONLIGHT.
    Did you here about the constipated mathematician?

    He worked it out with CUISENAIRE RODS.

  37. It took just over an hour, mostly because of obscurity (and a number of somewhat wishy-washy clues) rather than actual difficulty. NHO CUISINAIRE RODS and TOUCHLINE, FLUTER, the meanings used of SWISH and CRASSEST were also not in the centre of my ken, if not quite beyond it. MARSEILLE is the clue I liked best.

  38. 26:05 early this evening. Maybe my morning walk/climb tired me out a bit because I found this a struggle.
    Seemed to take ages to resolve the anagram for 26 ac ” rooftop” and to parse 19 d “decagon”.
    Despite a Maths degree, like others NHO 17 ac “cuisenaire rods” and only made progress in resolving the anagram when I had sufficient crossers to convince myself the second letter had to be “u” and I cobbled together the answer.
    LOI 13 d “alterations” where I established “rations” and then became fixated on the liquid measure being “lt” as opposed to “l”, thereby failing to see “ate” for “had” which is so common. So finished with a rather grumpy biff. Summed up a rather odd day.
    Thanks to setter and Piquet for the blog.

  39. This was like pulling teeth. So much so, I had to check whether it was actually Sunday.

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