Times 28,361: Less Is More

I liked this although it’s a really odd puzzle: incredibly spare, with the number of clues comprising 5 or fewer words numbering in the double figures; more double definitions than I think I’ve ever seen in a puzzle; oddball anagrinds (“faked”, “alien”); and a lot of &littery. I find short clues harder because there’s less for the little grey cells to latch onto, I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed the challenge and the fact that the harder words were of a classico-literary bent didn’t do this puzzle any damage in my estimation at least.

Lots of neat surfaces but my COD has to go to 9ac, because, well, yes . Thank you setter, we were most entertained!

(BTW: bonus MCS blog available here, ’tis another doozy.)

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

1 Cold about right? (9)
HEARTLESS – HEATLESS [cold] “about” R(ight), &lit
6 Guardian fights to have European expelled (5)
ARGUS – ARGU{e}S. In Greek mythology, Hera tasked this hundred-eyed giant to guard the white heifer Io from the lustful Zeus. Glad I didn’t biff AEGIS
9 Great place mind, it’s broken (7)
BRITAIN – BRAIN, broken by IT, semi-&lit
10 Revolutionary given guidance provided by popular unbeliever (7)
INFIDEL – FIDEL [revolutionary given guidance, though I’m not sure why F. Castro was particularly “given guidance”, any ideas? Oh wait! Given guidance by popular unbeliever = Karl Marx, or even more unbelieverishly Lenin = another semi-&lit? ETA: scratch all that – reversed (“revolutionary”) LED IF [given guidance | provided], thanks Kevin!] by IN [popular]
11 Produce buckle (5)
YIELD – double def
12 Cream in milk mopped up by sponge (3,6)
TOP DRAWER – DRAW [milk, extract] “mopped up by” TOPER [sponge, lush]
13 Broad-minded cardinal, say? (8)
CATHOLIC – double def
14 Bird, edible native of China (4)
KIWI – double def with the Chinese gooseberry / kiwi fruit
17 Infrequent choice (4)
RARE – double def
18 Bit of fish I dropped over (8)
21 Commie thus ahead of those marked for surveillance in America? (9)
SOCIALIST – SO [thus] ahead of the C.I.A. LIST
22 Some failure, so likely to get turned over? (5)
LOSER – hidden reversed {failu}RE SO L{ikely}, &lit
24 Girl heading off African people in ring (7)
25 Giant timber cross etched with name of king, half erased (7)
REDWOOD – ROOD “etched with” EDW{ard}
26 Fly: artifice required to squash one (5)
PILOT – PLOT “squashing” I
27 Requirement after flat tummy somewhat expanded (5,4)
SPARE TYRE – double def
1 Avian interest (5)
HOBBY – double def (a hobby is a bird of prey)
2 Without word of hesitation, a camera internally manoeuvred in passage (10,5)
3 Sign of emotion predator faked (8)
TEARDROP – (PREDATOR*), also &littish due to “crocodile tears”
4 Genius, blessed person accommodated by German couple? (8)
EINSTEIN – S{ain}T accommodated by EIN + EIN (= zwei)
5 Brief novel penned by fifth columnist (6)
SKIMPY – (Kipling’s) KIM penned by SPY
6 Female crushed by a cross bear (6)
AFFORD – F “crushed by” A FORD [cross, e.g. a river]
7 Remain significant, as might relegated student of the past? (2,4,2,7)
GO DOWN IN HISTORY – double def with (humorously) a student relegated to a lower stream in the subject that studies the past
8 Alien world, as in cosmic phenomenon (5,4)
13 Original, stylish hustler (4,5)
CARD SHARP – CARD [original (as a noun)] + SHARP [stylish]
15 Climber I swear needs it when slipping (8)
16 Free current still emptying into device (8)
DISLODGE – I [electric current] + S{til}L in DODGE [device (as a noun)]
19 Play with little porker, whimsically? (6)
HAMLET – if a HAM is a pig then a HAMLET is a piglet
20 Other half grieve for Land of the Free (6)
MISSUS – MISS [grieve for] U.S. [the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, allegedly]
23 Leader quitting cooler band (5)

58 comments on “Times 28,361: Less Is More”

  1. Yes, the BRITAIN clue was chuckleworthy. Perhaps the next PM will sort things out.

    1. Between 1868 and 1902 Britain had exactly 4 Prime Ministers, and one of those was only in for a year or two near the end. Now it’s like 4 per year.

  2. I took ‘revolutionary’ to indicate reversal, ‘given guidance’=LED–> DEL, ‘provided’ =IF–>FI

    1. You are of course correct! Quite a brilliant clue.

      When it’s “obvious” that “revolutionary” equals FIDEL, I guess sometimes you don’t see the wood for the trees.

  3. 36:57
    I toyed with AEGIS but couldn’t make it fit the definition. I’d totally forgotten that the KIWI fruit is the Chinese gooseberry, and had no idea what China was doing in the clue.

    1. The Kiwi Fruit was the Chinese Gooseberry, but is now distinguished in that the Kiwi (marketed under the name ‘Zespri’) is a far darker shade of green. The Chinese original is a yellowish green and lacks the tartness of its Kiwi relative.
      Both are available in Shanghai with the ‘Zespri’ a little more expensive, as they come in from Cloudy Bay, Auckland. Near where Martin resides, I believe.
      Auckland is New Zealand’s most Chinese conurbation.

      1. That would explain the ‘zespri’/ゼスプリ I’ve seen lately on boxes of the fruit in my local supermarket.

      2. Not far, David. I’m in the Eastern Bay of Plenty where there are ‘plenty’ of Kiwi fruit growers!

  4. Might’ve seen “alien” as anagrind before, as I immediately recognized it as such, and SOLAR WIND was my FOI. LOI was ARGUS, after realizing there was no way to make AEGIS work. But POI BRITAIN, very droll. I guess I had thought KIWIs were from New Zealand, but realized this had to be another DD. MER at “band” for RIDGE (I was so relieved when my 30-plus-year-old fridge recovered from its fainting spell in the last heat wave…).

    I’m still not sure how to account for all the words in the clue for INFIDEL (seemingly an exception to the otherwise insistent minimalism here). Maybe IN’s coming first can represent “guidance”…?

    The CIA is actually supposed to confine its surveillance to overseas targets. It’s only our FBI, NSA, and about another dozen agencies who spy domestically!

    1. Kevin has sorted out INFIDEL – “revolutionary” LED IF [given guidance | provided]!

      In Doctor Who in the 70s Tom Baker went to Gallifrey and ran afoul of the CIA (the Celestial Intervention Agency). There might have been a satirical intention…

      1. Yes, I see. When I worked it, “popular” and “revolutionary” (for Castro) seemed enough right there.

        The CIA clue could have read “…surveillance by America.” People all over the world could relate. (And ask John Bolton about coups d’état!)

        1. Not crossword related but if Viktor Bout is ‘exchanged’ for Brittney Griner, I wonder where he might surface next?!

      2. Your Lordship, if Kevin ‘has sorted out the infidel’ should he not be St. Kevin!?

  5. Decidedly tricky, and decidedly odd. Very enjoyable throughout. Too many good clues to pick a favourite.

  6. Not too bad for a Friday. 42 minutes.

    FOI 1ac HEARTLESS as was Alex Jones. Did his lawyer send that file deliberately!?
    LOI 18ac FINISHED which as apt!
    COD 1dn HOBBY – falco subbuteo
    WOD 15dn WISTERIA which is ‘er indoor’s favourite, which she mispronounces as ‘mysteria’ – quote lovely!

    I stuck in BLACK HOLE @8dn until the SOLAR WIND blew in. I must been thinking of Kolkata!

  7. At 45 minutes I had one answer missing at 20dn and was getting nowhere so I used aids to check whether my intersecting answer at 24ac was correct and found that it wasn’t. I had written ANNULAR, defined as ‘in ring’, but I had been unable to parse the beheaded African tribe. Having corrected that to ANN, {z}ULUS it altered one of the checkers in the missing word and MISS,US jumped out at me.

    Apart from that glitch, I very much enjoyed this.

  8. I put AEGIS in tentatively, since I couldn’t (obviously) see how to add an E (or perhaps a POLE) and make it work. Then I forgot to go back and check. I also had CHARMLESS for a time at 1A, but was suspicious the cold>charmless was a stretch, and right>harmless was another stretch, and why the ? at the end of the clue. Eventually I saw the light.

  9. And another person who enjoyed BRITAIN the most! Had some problems getting started, but ARGUS kicked things off and saw me fill in everything but 14a on the right hand side. Then I reversed into the left-hand side, did that, and came back to pick the KIWI, which I either never knew or had forgotten was Chinese. 34 minutes all told, so pretty good for a Friday.

  10. 24 minutes with LOI TOP DRAWER. COD to GO DOWN IN HISTORY. I now try ALIMENTARY CANAL whenever I see ‘passage’ in a long clue, so that went straight in. I’d first biffed ANGEL until my Guardian sent the SOLAR WIND to put things right. This was great fun with lots of PDMs and smiles. Thank you V and setter

  11. Started off thinking I didn’t have the energy or solving horsepower for this one – but my enjoyment and engagement clicked upwards as I progressed through the grid. The RHS, assisted by the easy-to-enumerate 7d, fell first, then the SW, followed by a lengthy period of head-scratching before the NW cracked. ALIMENTARY CANAL was a biff and TEARDROP took an age to disentangle – but by the end of this (LOI HEARTLESS) I was buzzing with excitement and energy – what a great puzzle!

    47:26 isn’t a brilliant time, but my morning malaise was completely upended – thanks V and setter

    1. Followed your trajectory exactly. Thought this was going to be a brute, then cheered up as I completed RHS and SW quite quickly.

      Biffed INFIDEL without parsing, so thanks for the explanation (assumed Castro). Liked SKIMPY and BRITAIN.

  12. 30 minutes. I enjoyed this puzzle, but I didn’t enjoy the 7 minutes it took me to figure out my last two clues: the double definitions HOBBY and YIELD.

    I too am glad I didn’t biff AEGIS!

  13. I enjoyed this and at 39 mins not to bad for a Friday
    Lots of clues where the answers were easier than the parsing

  14. Seiz’d with dumb joy; then falling by his side,
    Own’d his returning lord, look’d up, and died!

    20 mins pre-brekker. Good stuff and very neat.
    Mostly I liked broken Britain and Spare Tyre.
    Thanks setter and V.

  15. 24:58. Nice puzzle. I biffed The Flower for cream which held me up in the long grass for a while.

    COD. Agreed with our esteemed blogger. 9 across.

  16. 40 mins
    Quirky puzzle! Plesed to get through it unscathed.
    Thanks, v – good blog.

  17. 42m 14s but….I was guilty of biffing AEGIS.
    In 21ac wouldn’t it be more likely that the FBI would be doing the surveillance rather than the CIA?
    Thanks, verlaine, for ALIMENTARY CANAL. I, too, thought the ‘revolutionary’ was FIDEL led (‘given guidance’) by IN.
    I enjoyed HAMLET but COD to GO DOWN IN HISTORY.

  18. Lovely puzzle, and I can’t look beyond 1a for COD. Solving on the app today, which is pretty new for me, and felt on the wavelength – 6m 12s, a reasonable amount of biffing going on as well.

  19. An enjoyable puzzle. YIELD was my FOI, the SPY part of 5d was next, the initial S of which quickly led to HEARTLESS. HOBBY, however was POI and needed an alphabet trawl. BRITAIN then brought up the rear. Liked HAMLET. 26:02. Thanks setter and V.

  20. Nice to see Kim rather than She as the novel. There was a time some years ago when caterers put KIWI in or on absolutely everything – to give it a touch of “class”? Very glad I didn’t think of “aegis”. WISTERIA can also be spelled “wistaria” so the setter was generous here. I did wonder if there was some sort of hidden political theme, which would be very un-Timesy, but we had a HEARTLESS SOCIALIST who might be FINISHED and would GO DOWN IN HISTORY as a LOSER because he wasn’t out of the TOP DRAWER. Wavelengthy and very neat one. 17.48

      1. You say “potato” and I say “potato”. Corrected thank you! The caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet.

    1. I like your political theme, Olivia, but in the interest of balance, I would replace SOCIALIST with REDWOOD.

  21. 19:15. I enjoyed this a lot, particularly BRITAIN, FINISHED, HAMLET and SPARE TYRE. LOI ARGUS, taking a while to see the word with the missing E. Thanks V and setter.

  22. Two goes needed, but got this one done. Wasn’t sure about card=original in CARD SHARP, but otherwise everything fell into place eventually.

    FOI Loser
    LOI Hamlet
    COD Spare tyre

  23. 55 minutes. Happy to finish after staring at this dumbly for a while at the start. I put in INFIDEL without parsing as well but wish I’d taken the trouble to try to sort it out.

    I liked the surface for BRITAIN and was glad to recognise HOBBY as an ‘Avian’. HAMLET, avoiding an A-Z trawl, was my LOI.

  24. 18:13, an interesting puzzle, even if I wasn’t on the wavelength and had to be a bit painstaking in unravelling the wordplay. At least this process meant I paused before biffing the obviously very tempting AEGIS, so it was all to the good. HEARTLESS needed nearly all the checkers before the penny dropped, a beautifully concise clue.

  25. I must be getting feeble because after more than an hour I gave up with three clues unsolved. When I discovered them the answers were so obvious that I’m embarrassed to say what they were. Never knew/had forgotten that kiwi fruit come from China and entered it with a shrug, expecting it to be wrong. Had always thought they came from NZ and that that was why they were called kiwi fruit.

  26. 57something

    Well off beam not helped by typing AILMENTARY. Equilibrium over the last few weeks thrown by too much of a shake up on the Costa Brava. Looking forward to getting head straight some time next week….

  27. Ooh, I did like this one .. either Dean, or one of his disciples..
    Lots of hard-but-fair clues like 1dn, 18ac which is my COD (ha ha)

  28. FOI TEARDROP (after a struggle), LOI KIWI. (I’ve never liked them so had no knowledge or interest in its provenance!). COD was HAMLET for me. After juggling the letters of 2 dn was convinced it was something-or-other ALLEY (for ‘passage’) which screwed up progress in NW corner. I’m not one of nature’s sprinters, but i did better than usual for a Friday.

  29. 17.30 a terrific puzzle which I very much enjoyed. A bit alarming not to get anything going on a first pass until rare but after that loser and redwood gave me a bit of a foothold in the SE and I built from there.

    1. Almost exactly the way I tackled it too – SO happy to get a small foothold after a lengthy fast with RARE, then the SE revealed itself reasonably quickly, but ashamed to say 1a defeated me in the end.

  30. Really good puzzle, and so many candidates for COD! 9ac of course, and both 7dn and 27ac caught the eye. My LOI was 13ac CATHOLIC, and even though I have seen that definition before, it just doesn’t stick in my memory.
    Like others I thought of AEGIS for 6ac, but didn’t put it in as it didn’t parse. ARGUS then came to mind although I was grateful for the cryptic lead as I can never make my mind up whether an ‘u’ or ‘o’ is involved. Amazingly I even managed to correctly parse INFIDEL straight away, even with the tricky misdirection.
    My time was 55.45, and even though this was outside my 45 minute target by over ten minutes, the satisfaction level was high.
    Bearing in mind Jack’s suggestion yesterday about judging crosswords by satisfaction levels, I would rate this as an 8SAT on the satisfaction scale (with 1SAT being most unsatisfactory and 9SAT being Utopian).

  31. I really liked this, probably for all the quirkiness that Verlaine mentions. Slightly bowled over on a first pass through, but relieved to find that the puzzle’s bark was far worse than its bite.

    Held up for a while by thinking that “thus” in the SOCIALIST clue meant that it started SIC.


    Thanks to Verlaine and the setter.

  32. Pleased to finish this in the end, at times I thought it was going to be a DNF. But crawled over the line in 45 minutes with DISLODGE and KIWI not fully understood, so thanks V and others for the explanations. I had thought a Chinese gooseberry was different from a Kiwi. Ridge for band gave me a MER.

    1. Chinese Lantern Fruit sounds something like syphillis!? Too tired to check.
      A ridge of high pressure? Meldrew.

  33. 36.43 but I did check 1 ac so a DNF . Mind you after only getting one clue in the first 12 minutes getting this close was a not so minor miracle . Must have been the influence of the cardinal at 13 across.

  34. Very late solve today, done in bits over a busy day. 50 mins in all, with the NW causing the most problems

  35. 11:12. Like yesterday’s this felt harder to me when solving than my time suggests. No particular problems, although I was momentarily bamboozled by Castro the revolutionary in 10ac.

  36. 48 very enjoyable minutes. Indeed a quirky puzzle, but with many superb clues. It took me ages to get started (RARE my FOI), but then all the pennies eventually did drop (although it took me forever to see some of the anagrams, like SOLAR WIND, even though I could see that the answer would be an anagram). For 7 dn I kept wanting to write BE LOST TO HISTORY, but of course that would have been the opposite of the required sense. COD to BRITAIN, but also to HAMLET.

  37. On trying to post the first time, I got the message “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”, until I edited my comment by copying that in at the end. But when I posted THAT, lo and behold two posts appeared, my original one and the one with the postscript. I have now edited the second post to be only this postscript, removing the duplicated bit, but has anyone else had this problem before? Perhaps I jittered over the Post Comment button when submitting.

    Incidentally, I can no longer edit the first post.

  38. First complete finish this week. Got ARGUS from the parsing without knowing the word itself. LOI: CATHOLIC. COD toss up between 9ac and 7 dn.

  39. I’m still puzzled by CARD = ORIGINAL – can someone put me out of my misery please?

      1. Thanks – that was the only thing I could think of, but it feels like a bit of a stretch…

Comments are closed.