Times 28372 – Fi Vi Al Fum

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Time taken: 9:43.

It seems a few weeks in a row I have hit a good puzzle for wordplay, as several answers I had to piece together from wordplay turned out to be correct!  I did have to look up one piece of wordplay after submitting, but the answer seemed like the only one possible.

Away we go…

1 Gorge? Ravine? Defile? I don’t know the answer (4)
PASS – several definitions
3 Violent criminal’s secure telephone (4-6)
SAFE-BLOWER – SAFE(secure), BLOWER(telephone)
9 Again call on girl during fresh exam (7)
REVISIT – VI(girl) inside RESIT(fresh exam)
11 Starchy tubers up north — the ropiest, almost (7)
TATTIES – TATTIEST(ropiest) missing the last letter
12 Reporter’s right to obstruct suspected adulterer (13)
CORRESPONDENT – R(right) inside CORESPONDENT(suspected adulterer in divorce cases)
14 Material in US state teacher removed from capital (5)
NYLON – NY(US state), then remove DON(teacher) from LONDON(capital)
15 Vanish from area, protected by female military engineer (9)
DISAPPEAR – A(area) inside DI(female), SAPPER(military engineer)
17 Bogey we hear eatin’ disgustingly by top of cooker (9)
HOBGOBLIN – sounds like GOBBLIN’ (eatin’ disgustingly) after HOB(top of cooker)
19 Frill displayed by honoured companion in Continental street (5)
RUCHE – CH(Companion of Honour) inside RUE(Continental street)
21 Exaggeration about gallery employees in centre of Boston (13)
OVERSTATEMENT – OVER(about) then TATE(gallery) MEN(employees) inside the middle letters of boSTon
24 Sicilian criminal’s girl in old Chinese leader’s circle (7)
MAFIOSO – FI(girl) inside MAO’S(Chinese leader’s) O(circle)
25 Oration cracking up a large area of Canada (7)
ONTARIO – anagram of ORATION
26 English college servant has to enter unknown antiquary’s study (10)
EGYPTOLOGY – E(English), GYP(college servant), TO, LOG(enter), Y(unknown). GYP was new to me
27 Courted sweetheart leaving for club? (4)
WOOD – WOOED(courted) missing E(the middle letter of swEet)
1 Extremely patchy artist can ultimately paint such a shrub (10)
PYRACANTHA – exterior letters of PatchY, then RA(artist), CAN and the last letters of painT, sucH, A. Got this from wordplay.
2 A few always involved in the Spanish uprising (7)
SEVERAL – EVER(always) inside LAS(“the” in Spanish) reversed
4 Eg Australian worker, chap with digital audio player (9)
ANTIPODAL – worker ANT, then AL(chap) after IPOD(digital audio player)
5 Dined in brassiere at Enfield (5)
EATEN – hidden inside brasseriE AT ENfield
6 Character complete, ready to act on Broadway? (6-7)
LETTER-PERFECT – LETTER(character), PERFECT(complete)
7 Make carefree sound when crossing street (7)
WHISTLE – WHILE(when) surrounding ST(street)
8 Biscuity food from first of restaurants overlooking Welsh river (4)
RUSK – first letter of Restaurants on top of USK(Welsh river). Got this from wordplay
10 Severe medic in wooded area, going backwards (13)
STERNFOREMOST – STERN(severe) then MO(medic) inside FOREST(wooded area)
13 Ministry identified by wiggly stripe on headgear (10)
PRIESTHOOD – anagram of STRIPE then HOOD(headgear)
16 Lied about trendy lass’s informal music-making? (9)
SINGALONG – SONG(lied – German song) surrounding IN(trendy) GAL(lass)
18 Insect initially biting female in humble surroundings (7)
BLOWFLY – first letter of Biting, then F(female) inside LOWLY(humble)
20 Farewell from guerrilla leader going over European port (7)
CHEERIO – CHE (Guevara, guerrilla leader) over E(European), RIO(port)
22 Glower when farm animal gets into small lake (5)
SCOWL – COW(farm animal) inside S(small), L(lake)
23 Literary pirate ultimately hails from the East (4)
SMEE – last letters in hailS froM thE then E(east). A pirate from Peter Pan

98 comments on “Times 28372 – Fi Vi Al Fum”

  1. My grumpy comment on the Times website drew attention to FI, VI, DI and AL…a bit much I think.

  2. LOI the NHO PYRACANTHA… strictly from wordplay, yes!
    TATTIES for… taters? was also a guess.
    GYP was new to me too… whew! I see I got EGYPTOLOGY right (but what else could it be?).
    STERNFOREMOST took a long time!

    1. Up here in Orkney (and in much of Scotland) the schools have a tattie holiday in October, still called that even though the children don’t go out to dig potatoes these days.

      1. Nice to hear from someone in Orkney. Just planning a visit in September. One of my very favourite places.

        1. Enjoy! And if they’re still open, don’t miss the scallops at Skerries Bistro. Best in the world.

      2. I believe seasonal potato pickers were called Tattiehowkers in Scotland. What a great word!

        1. Are neeps not swedes? I only know them from them accompanying haggis, and then they are not turnips, whatever else they might be.

  3. 37 minutes. STERNFOREMOST as my LOI took some working out and its absence all through the solve slowed my progress considerably with other clues on the LH side of the grid.

    I thought I knew PYRACANTHUS (as misspelt in a comment above) so the unknown PYRACANTHA needed careful construction from wordplay. It turned out the word I had remembered was PYRACANTHAS which is simply the plural of the required answer.

    NHO GYP as a college servant, which Collins advises is what scouts are called at Cambridge and Durham Universities. Then it says ‘scouts’ are Oxford, so what do the rest of the universities call them, I wonder?

    1. Oxford, Cambridge and Durham are collegiate universities. Not sure that other universities employ scouts.

  4. A record-shattering-for-me 14’24” with almost every answer going in first time and almost entirely parsed bar the GYP. I suspect this will be seen as a very easy puzzle.

    We have about 20 PYRACANTHA shrubs c.5ft high across the back of our garden that my better-half has grown from small cuttings off another single plant 100 miles away. The definition of green fingers. Vicious thorns on the plants provide good protection.

    Was pleased with STERNFOREMOST as I’d never heard of it but it made sense.

    First go for a while after a break (jet lag = early start) and it has obviously done me good. I expect it to be a blip.

    Thanks Glh and setter

  5. 28m 16s
    6d: LETTER PERFECT. ‘scuse my ignorance but how is that “ready to act on Broadway”? If you know your lines you are word perfect but not letter perfect.
    Another whinge: A SAFE BLOWER is not, I would say, a violent criminal. The only violence is to the safe and not, necessarily to a person.
    And again, GYP is not GK. It’s rather esoteric and, here, somewhat unfair I feel.
    But apart from that Mrs Lincoln, I enjoyed the puzzle. COD to BLOWFLY.

    1. Collins gives LETTER-PERFECT as primarily American and with the second definition:
      knowing one’s lesson, theatrical role, etc. perfectly.

      1. Thanks. I wondered if it might be more of an American usage, something I guess we may have to get used to when Lexico becomes dictionary.com next week!

        1. I think that is why the clue says ‘ready to act on Broadway?’ rather than in the West End or elsewhere.

    2. I wrote LETTER PERFECT in thinking “word perfect sounds better, I wonder if this is primarily American, given the clue?” No grumbles from me when the hunch played out.

      Agree GYP to be a long way from GK but it was all that fit with the rest of the clue and I learned something so hunch played out with a bonus.

      I had a MER too at the violent element of the clue for SAFE BLOWER but I think you’ve just answered my (and your own?) query: even if the violence is ‘only’ against the safe then it’s still perpetrated by the criminal, who must be violent, and distinct from a safe-CRACKER who may not be.

      1. In your first posting you raised two points that occurred to me but I neglected to mention when I commented. I also thought, surely ‘word-perfect’ rather than ‘letter-perfect’ but Collins soon put me right on that one. ‘Violent criminal’ for SAFE BLOWER I still don’t really get although I take Martin’s point.

    3. Apologies for sounding like the instant expert, but I wondered the same thing about LETTER-PERFECT. Here’s the Chambers definition: “(of an actor etc) having the words of the part committed accurately to memory, word-perfect”. So you’re right, as is the setter and editor! No mention of it being an Americanism.

      Maybe LETTER-PERFECT is the lexical equivalent of MS Word and will make “word-perfect” redundant.

      1. The Collins entry under ‘British English’ for LETTER-PERFECT is: another term (esp in the US) for word-perfect

      2. Ah, WordPerfect. Another Betamax/VHS moment – in the early 1990s it was IMO a better word processor than MS Word, but it never developed and the Microsoft juggernaut rolled over it.

        1. The company I once worked for was, at the time, one of the UK’s biggest users of Wordperfect. When we eventually moved over to Word, it took me a long time to get used to not being able to see the control characters !

  6. 11m but I zoned out doing my typo check and ended up with a HOBGOGLIN, which is far worse than a hobgoblin. Little bastard left a pink patch on my solve

  7. 34 minutes. Same NHO’s as others. Took too long to see PASS which meant I was slow to get going. I also thought there had been a slip-up with 4d, which I was expecting to end in “-ean” as I hadn’t come across the -AL form before.

    STERNFOREMOST sounds like a euphemism which might come in handy some time as a way of saying things aren’t going so well.

  8. DNF in 25 mins

    NHO GYP and couldn’t see the necessary two letters and the definition so came here after a couple of alpha trawls.

    Needed all the checkers for LETTER PERFECT

    Liked STERNFOREMOST when finally put together

    Thanks George and setter

  9. A 21 minute finish. PDG for a Thursday!

    LOI 6dn LETTER – PERFECT was already in.

    I have no problem with 5ac SAFE BLOWER being a violent criminal.
    They usually started out as ‘pavement artists’, with the ability to use a crow bar if required.

  10. In my on-line edition, 5d is ‘Dined in brassiere at Enfield’. Made my day but a bit early here in the UK to make a restaurant reservation. I will post a review.

  11. A fairly speedy 25 minutes here, finishing with STERNFOREMOST. A few unknowns along the way, but nothing too difficult to piece together.

    I didn’t know GYP, but EGYPTOLOGY went in quite quickly, possibly helped by the book on a table adjacent to my solving sofa which features a big picture of Osiris, replete with atef, crook and scourge, on the front cover. (Though this was unconscious help, as the book was at the bottom of the pile…)

    RUCHE was already on my Big List O’ Crosswordy Words, and apparently that’s because I saw it here in December 2019.

    1. RUCHE used to come up a lot (along with sequins) in the days of Come Dancing before it became Strictly, also in discussions about dresses at Royal Weddings etc.

        1. So have I since I acquired a say in the matter! I was referring to events back in the 50s and 60s.

  12. Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.

    16 mins pre-brekker. Easy, but I don’t see why ‘violent’, I don’t like the ‘with’ order for iPodAl and NHO Letter-perfect.
    Thanks setter and G.

  13. 24:05
    I thought it was scouts in Oxford and bedders in Cambridge. NHO gyp, but looked it up, and there it was.
    Thanks, g.

  14. At 20 mins one of my fastest for a while
    Most of the clues went straight in so I’m always amazed at solvers under 10 mins!!!
    Never heard of gyp and had to check
    Didn’t bother parsing smee
    LOI was 10d but guessed it must start with stern

  15. The world plays out curiously
    Michael’s surname appears here, you see
    I ask “What are the odds?”
    Is this the work of strange gods
    Who know my friend intimately?

    1. 🤣👍 (9A yesterday 27A today for those who think the birds have finally got to Astro-nowt)

  16. A breezy 7:24 here, helped by a lot of biffing – I only noticed one of the 2-letter names when solving and had to go back to it to see what aphis99 was grumbling about! Dredged up GYP from some previous crossword probably.

    Funny typo at 5D – I see you’ve left it in the clue but corrected it in the explanation. Another one I didn’t notice till I came here, as I already had E_T_N so barely glanced at the clue.

  17. 14 minutes, detained by EGYPTOLOGY and LETTER-PERFECT. Word-perfect, yes but not to the letter. As an Oxford man. I persevered with SCOUT for a while. I don’t think I’ve had a garden without a PYRACANTHA, or indeed a whole hedge in the present, sadly soon to be past, property. I knew SMEE from watching the Disney Peter Pan far too good many thirty years ago times when the children were little. Easyish but enjoyable. Thank you George and setter.

  18. 9:37. My FOI had to be aborted partway through as I thought the plant was a “pyracanthus”. It was only towards the end that I fully parsed it and came up with the correct name. Other than that I felt mostly on the wavelength today, typified by seeing “Lied” at 16D and instantly thinking “song”. I finished up with EGYPTOLOGY, not fully parsing it and not knowing “gyp” as anything other than what my body parts increasingly give me as time goes on.

  19. Finally I discover that what I have always thought was a pyrocanthus is in fact some pyrocanthas …
    Agreed with mers at the violent peterman, though have to accept that if the safe is blown, violence has indeed been done to it.

  20. 32:05. A nice one. At 6dn I took “on Broadway” as indicating an (assumed) American version of word-perfect.

    At 27ac we have to remove an E from wooed. The E is clued as “sweetheart”. Is that OK? Does it not break some “rule”. Sweet heart (two words) would be OK, but as one word? without indicating the required separation? Should I now be watching out for upstart to clue U and Middlesex to clue E?

    1. Re: Sweetheart

      I’m used to this now after 2+ years of the Guardian puzzle every day, but you’re right it doesn’t usually happen in The Times. I’m not sure it’s specifically outlawed though.

    2. Why search so assiduously, for things that are “outlawed?” It’s a crossword and that’s it. Give the setter some slack.
      “Unwritten rules aren’t worth the paper they are printed on”

      1. I don’t think anyone’s searching assiduously, but when a device comes up that’s not commonly used in a Times crossword it’s natural for it to be pointed out and discussed here. No doubt it has happened before but I don’t recall it, and certainly not recently.

      2. It’s all good fun

        Thank you Jackkt. Yes. I am not on an assiduous crusade. It was much more an “oh, look at that” thing. But there are people who like rules. And there are rules for setters. Their existence was revealed in an interesting recent discussion (sparked by you I think Jackkt ) about the rules relating to multi-word non-lexical items. It’s all good fun. If anyone wanted to see the rules, are they available?

        1. Peter B has referred to notes for Times setters (or something similar) and quoted from them so they must exist, or have existed at some time, but I very much doubt they’d be readily available to the public.

          On the subject of lexical terms/items I’m not sure the recent discussion established anything except that Kevin and I agreed on what we understand these to be and that the principle was important, whilst some others didn’t see why it should matter. I thought the ‘green paint’ example was rather good.

  21. Finished in super time with interesting study of TRYSTOLOGY! I had carelessly bunged in SMET (just another pirate I hadn’t heard of) being the last letters of hails from the East. Oh well. I really must concentrate more.

    I also have 5d Dined in brassière AT Enfield. Perhaps they have a lot of cups….

    Thank G and setter.

      1. The nearest pub to my childhood family home was called The Seven Balls, an endless source of amusement for some!

  22. Finished this while having breakfast. FOI 1ac. Reminded me of the 2 Ronnies sketch where the answer to each questions was”pass”. Since the contestant pleaded ignorance on each question he scored full marks.

      1. Though there was a Two Ronnies sketch where the contestant answered the current question with the answer to the previous question, one of which was to do with the Khyber Pass.

  23. Quick to solve, 13 minutes, relying on wordplay, but NHO GYP (we had scouts) and NHO LETTER-PERFECT meaning word-perfect (I see it’s American usage). A good puzzle spoilt by such. Liked HOBGOBLIN, Thanks George for blog and looking up GYP, saved me the trouble.

  24. Long words, and this was full of them, can be real helpers or real brain-benders. Sternforemost, Pyracantha and Correspondent had form today; luckily for me Etymology had, in addition to a lot of correct crossers in about the right places, the wrong number of letters, or I’d never have finished the SW.

  25. It was a joint effort with Mr Ego this morning, which resulted in a quicker finish than usual, since he likes the long clues and I still have an instinctive dread of anything over 9 letters, regardless of difficulty! Liked SAFE-BLOWER when I eventually saw it – nothing wrong with the definition IMO – good misdirection, no? I too tried to write in PYRACANTHUS (my FOI, ironically) until the wordplay directed otherwise and was looking for ‘scout’ to go into 26A, never having heard of ‘gyp’. LOI WHISTLE, after correcting a careless TATTERS… Good fun, thanks setter and George.

  26. Oh dear! It could have been a PB but for a careless RUFFE instead of RUCHE which took ages to sort out and delayed me to 39 minutes. I somehow convinced myself that FF was similar to DD or something as an honoured companion, and that a RUFFE was the frilly collar worn by ER1. Looking at FxExRxO for farewell proved impossible, and rethinking it all took forever. Otherwise, all ok, although never heard of GYP. As an OU graduate, we didn’t have gyps, scouts, beagles or anything like that.

  27. 32 mins, with all easy apart from STERNFOREMOST, which took me an absurdly long time. Even with all checkers I stared it at, baffled. Silly word, let’s face it.

    Loved the co-respondent ref, but rather wished it had been better hidden in the clue. Am a fan of so-called ‘co-respondent shoes’, ie two-tone.

  28. 23 minutes for a puzzle that seemed fairly easy at the time. A few, mentioned above, written in on the assumption that they were OK and they turned out to be. Re 27ac, I do hope The Times doesn’t go down the ‘Gateshead = G’ path. It’s already gone down the ‘with’ path.

    I noticed that we had ‘digital audio player’ for iPod. It seems to be OK to enter such names, although they will soon be forgotten about, probably far sooner than the names of the living people who are outlawed by The Times. To me this seems a bit illogical. For how long should we see ‘Walkman’ similarly? or ‘Cambridge’ with Sinclair connotations?

  29. NHO of GYP, we had bedders at my Durham college, but EGYPTOLOGY was deciphered from the rest of the clue and was my LOI. PYRACANTHA was purely from wordplay. I couldn’t disagree with the setter about the violent peterman, as blowing a safe certainly involves a violent chemical reaction! PASS was FOI. A gentle puzzle. 13:41. Thanks setter and George.

  30. I wondered it it was PYRACANTHA hedging that starts bitter disputes among neighbours but I see it’s macrocarpa that causes the ill-feeling. This one went in smoothly after I realized it had to be ANTIPODAL rather than -ean and I see I wasn’t the only one hesitating over that. 12.47

  31. There were gyps in my time at Cambridge (many moons ago), mainly working in the kitchen. Bedders were the equivalent of chambermaids. I don’t remember any male bedders.

  32. 18.00 with last one in Egyptology. NHO of a gyp so needed a flash of inspiration via an alphabet trawl to get the right answer.
    Letter perfect is a puzzle to me. What’s Broadway specifically got to do with the answer?
    Liked Smee, safe blower and sternforemost, my COD.
    Thx setter and blogger.

    1. All issues relating to LETTER-PERFECT have been addressed in the Comments, above.

  33. 11:30. Much lucky biffing with no particular hold-ups. I didn’t spot the north London dine-in brassiere, which conjures up quite an interesting mental image and would no doubt have slowed me down if I had.

  34. Rare Thursday effort, enticed by the relatively low snitch and a spare 30 mins.

    Mostly straightforward. We had “cleaners” in my year in halls at university, who were under instruction to pull the toes of slumbering students to check they were alive, after a no doubt apocryphal cadaver undiscovered for a week or more.

    TATTIES was my last after LETTER PERFECT.


  35. 16:44

    Pretty smooth solve – same thoughts as others though

    NHO GYP – however my son is at Durham and he had heard of this; PYRACANTHA – I’m useless with plants but the instructions were easy to follow….

    SHRUGS – LETTER-PERFECT – didn’t get the Broadway bit; Is a SAFE BLOWER a violent criminal?

    Liked STERNFOREMOST which I worked out early on…

  36. DNF in 12.35 for me on this pretty gentle offering because of a fat-fingered typo in eatnn. Bah!

  37. “Let me bring you songs from the WOOD” (the inimitable Jethro Tull). There were a couple of clues where I couldn’t see the WOOD for the trees at first, and I didn’t get a start for over a minute, but once I’d parsed the unknown shrub I finished off without too much trouble.

    LOI EGYPTOLOGY (we didn’t have servants at Grammar School)
    TIME 9:17

    1. Just lerve that Ian Anderson track.
      We didn’t have servants either, but ‘first years’ had the imposition of cleaning the First XI’s footie boots! And that was when the Death Penalty was still on the books!
      Are you familiar with Middlesbrough’s ‘Parmo’, as mentioned in today’s cricket on the BBC?

  38. After staring blankly at the clues for several minutes, something clicked and things progressed satisfactorily though not quickly – 45 minutes or so. Liked tatties, I’ll be looking out for neeps in future cryptics. Wasn’t at all sure about sternforemost, so glad to find it correct.

  39. Pretty straightforward at 19:58, but nowhere in Australia is antipodal to the UK. The only place that comes close is (surprisingly enough) the Antipodes Island Group, which belongs to New Zealand.

    I think 17a must be what I do while checking the seasoning so COD to that one.

  40. Pretty much the same comments as others with the unknown gyp, and the thought that the flower was a pyracanthus, both clues correctly worked out from wordplay however. Managed to complete in 41.32, inside my 45 minute target.
    The Welsh river in the clue at 8dn presented no problems as I live no more than 3 miles away from the Usk. It is a most unattractive sludgy brown colour as it flows through my home city of Newport before entering the Bristol Channel. It’s source is up in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons, and certainly in its upper sections is crystal clear and a well known salmon fishing destination for anglers.

  41. Over from the QC… managed all bar EGYPTOLOGY and ANTIPODAL so very pleased indeed, even though I’m assuming this was a much gentler puzzle than usual. Many thanks all.

  42. A quick finish for me ( about 35 minutes ) which cheered me up (after listening to the cricket for most of the day).
    My (89 year old ) mother used to talk about ‘corespondent shoes’ – two tone brogues, probably brown and white.
    We have pyracantha bushes which attract birds in the winter.
    26a was LOI , other ologies were in my head. I thought 16d began with ‘singal ‘ but duh, couldn’t spot it until I wrote it horizontally.

    Thank you setter and solver and all the comments.

    1. My father had a pair of co-respondents. Thank goodnesss he never wore them. Brian Johnston used to wear co-respondents in the 70s and 80s when he went to Lord’s to commentate on the cricket for TMS.

  43. Everything solved and understood bar the EGYPTOLOGY clue. GYP is a new word for me. Pleased to get STERNFOREMOST and PYRACANTHA from the wordplay.
    Not a bad week.
    Thanks for the blog

  44. 16.30 which feels like a PB for me. Either the crossword has got easier this week, or my brain has finally made a step up.

    Many thanks.

  45. My delight in a 3rd successful solve on the trot, albeit yesterday’s was only finished off today, has to be tempered by noting that none of them has a Snitch above 90. Still, from little acorns etc. Egyptology and Letter(?) Perfect went in with shrugs, but then I’m at the stage where not being able to parse every answer is still par for the course. I used to help my elderly next door neighbour prune his Pyracanthus, so a write-in 1ac/1d start was very welcome, but it was harder going thereafter. Invariant

  46. I know it’s the next day so nobody will read this I guess but I like to post a comment when I successfully complete the crossword, especially on a Thursday when things are usually getting a bit trickier.
    LOI LETTER PERFECT which took me ages even with all the crossers.
    And I’m not sure if I’m irritated or amused when someone makes a comment oblivious to the fact that that it has already been discussed extensively.

  47. 1a : still don’t understand the ‘defile’ definition- so iffy about that one, and spontaneously writing in HOOK for the pirate at 23d did me no good at all! Liked TATTIES and HOBGOBLIN ( once the penny dropped!). Should have done better on a crossword that others found on the easy side.

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