Times 28387 – Hey, Mr Jagger, this was a bit difficult!

Time: 42 minutes

Music: Sibelius, Symphony #2, Berglund/Bournemouth

I had intended to attribute the problems I had with the puzzle to the Bank Holiday, but upon checking the calendar I find that was last week.    I didn’t help myself by biffing estaminet with two checkers, even though that is an old cafe and not an old hotel.    Luckily, I saw ordinary seaman fairly soon, so erased it.

The biggest problems I had was with the words I didn’t know very well: pinyin, shagreen, and endomorph.   Of course, I’ve heard of them all, but I couldn’t tell you if an endomorph was fat or thin, or whether shagreen was a color or a fabric.   At least pinyin was generously clued, allowing me to recall how it is spelt.



1 Police arrest leading lad shooting darts (5)
CUPID – C(UP)ID.   The obvious cryptic involves cops, which will lead to all sorts of difficulties.
4 Club next to apartment that’s used to press (8)
FLATIRON – FLAT + IRON, a fashionable area of Manhattan, so watch out for that.
8 Raphael’s first avoids glazing detail, creating illusion (9,5)
10 Insensitive state drivers commandeering a single convertible (9)
ANALGESIA – A(anagram of A SINGLE)A, the Automobile Association.
11 Yankee cabs ignoring sort of junction feature in chart (1-4)
Y-AXIS – Y + [t]AXIS.
12 Guard for pupil that’s batted sometimes (6)
EYELID – Cryptic definition.
14 Grand boy, taking violin out of case, blossoms (8)
GLADIOLI – G + LAD + [v]IOLI[n].
17 Go round twisty ridge, making descent (8)
PEDIGREE – PE(anagram of RIDGE)E.
18 A source of unwellness in northern ocean? (6)
NAUSEA – N(A,U[nwellness])SEA, an &lit.
20 Old queen in charge of resistance unit (5)
OHMIC – O + HM + IC.
22 Home Office head stops just over a hundred masses (3,6)
HOI POLLOI – H.O. 1 (POLL) 01.   I was expecting CI, but that didn’t work out – it’s Greek, not Latin!
24 Is it always plain sailing for him? (8,6)
ORDINARY SEAMAN –  Cryptic definition.
25 Diver with navy enlists Europeans supplying sharkskin (8)
SHAGREEN – SHAG + R(E,E)N.   A shag is a cormorant.
26 Lower front of sister’s hood (5)
SCOWL – S[ister] + COWL, where lower is a verb and not a cow this time.
1 Advice to buyer: try timeless ring owned by speleologist (6,6)
CAVEAT EMPTOR – CAVE(AT[t]EMPT,O)R.    Owned in the sense of enclosed by.
2 Slate lawyer, bamboo fancier (5)
PANDA – PAN D.A, a bit of a chest nut with a semi-cryptic literal.
3 Stooping to secure second creative work (9)
4 One piece of writing in career is unconvincing (6)
5 Arabian film star engages university in dispute (8)
ARGUABLE – AR + G(U)ABLE,  Clark Gable, that is.
6 Whitish yellow plant that climbs walls (5)
IVORY – IV(OR)Y, where walls is an enclosure indicator.
7 Victor replaced by Number 10 in patent offensive (9)
OBNOXIOUS – OB(-v,+NO X)IOUS, a brilliant letter-replacement clue.
9 Like buccaneer briefly left below island hoping to make it (12)
13 Stocky type to finish concert up in old hotel (9)
ENDOMORPH – END + H(PROM)O upside-down.
15 Minister’s aide tormented a co-ed head (9)
DEACONESS – Anagram of A CO-ED  + NESS. a geographical head.
16 Put differently, traveller has English about right (8)
19 Holy city with current version of Chinese script (6)
PINYIN – PI + NY + IN, an immensely helpful cryptic.
21 Cold fish behave like limpets (5)
CLING – C + LING, a starter clue.
23 Dance round under branch (5)

64 comments on “Times 28387 – Hey, Mr Jagger, this was a bit difficult!”

  1. 10:57
    I biffed HOI POLLOI, CAVEAT EMPTOR, IVORY, & OBNOXIOUS, never did work out the first two. ‘Sharkskin’ gave me SHAGREEN, and I assumed that SHAG was a diver of some sort. ‘Version of Chinese script’ gave me PINYIN, which I then parsed. COD to OBNOXIOUS. The name of the setter appears here; was this a slip?

  2. 32 minutes. Interesting to see the setter identified. Monday is usually his day over at The Guardian, but that’s Matilda instead today. I don’t know if this marks a change in policy at The Times or was just a boo-boo – probably the latter.

    Second Monday in a row which I found harder than usual. Yes, I was fooled by 1a, thinking of “cops” as intended and although the wordplay helped in retrospect, for a start I couldn’t get “Sion” out of my head for the just known PINYIN. VANISHING POINT took longer than it should have and I spent a while fruitlessly wondering if Omar Sharif was still alive for 5d.

    OBNOXIOUS and NAUSEA – a good introduction to the week ahead.

    1. BR, Do you know what’s happened to the Guardian Prize Puzzle for last Saturday (3 September)? I’m still linking online to the one from the previous week (27 Aug). I looked for mention of this at Fifteensquared but couldn’t find anything so I wondered if it’s available somewhere by other means?

      1. [I noticed the same thing myself on Saturday. There’s still no puzzle posted on the site, but I’ve just looked now in the comments section of today’s Guardian puzzle and there’s a link to a pdf of Saturday’s prize puzzle in a post from an Ivan Reid, with no explanation as to how he obtained this. My HTML skills aren’t up to including the link here, but please let me know if you’re having trouble getting the file and I can email it to the TfTT admin address.]

  3. Thought I was flying towards a sub 25 minute finish but failed on VANISHING POINT and ANALGESIA.
    Oh well, I glimpsed the promised land although I couldn’t set foot on it. Thought FLIMSY was just ” one piece of writing”( from spy novels) and “unconvincing” so missed the actual parsing. Also unsure of “source of unwellness ” in NAUSEA clue, as I think of nausea as the unwellness itself or maybe a symptom of unwellness. Really needed blog to understand everything- thanks!

  4. Thanks, vinyl. Another example showing that a puzzle doesn’t have to be challenging to be amusing and entertaining.

  5. 29m 14s
    I found that straightforward with some clever touches. I should have guessed that in 17ac ‘go’ would mean ‘pee’.
    A few Quick Cryptic clues (PANDA, CLING, LIMB) were balanced by SHAGREEN and ENDOMORPH (Shades of Tony Hart on the telly with Morph) and words only encountered normally in crosswordland such as OHMIC and DEACONESS.
    I used to think I was an ectomorph but now I know I’m more of an ENDOMORPH.
    I like Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony too. There’s a very pleasant YouTube video of it played by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Susanna Mälkki

  6. 39 minutes but a technical DNF because I gave up on 16dn as I could tell it was a word I didn’t know and was unable to decipher the wordplay. Towards the end of my time spent on the clue I had considered PI for ‘holy’ which would have given me PI?Y?N but that only served to confirm that I wouldn’t recognise the word. I checked that it has not appeared as an answer before.

    Elsewhere CUPID and DESIGNING resisted my attentions until the last possible moment.

  7. A nice speedy 25m for me, with, bizarrely, the innocuous DESIGNING causing me most problems. No NHOs today, though SHAGREEN only known from a single time I’ve seen it before here, I think. It helps that there are birds that are either cormorants or shags living in the harbour near me—I’ve never known the difference, or even whether there is a difference. Are there any birders about to give an opinion? Here’s a snap I took of one earlier this year…

      1. You did, but then I looked them up in the RSPB Handbook of British Birds, and they have separate entries on adjacent pages with different Latin names and I got confused all over again!

    1. The common cormorant, or shag
      Lays eggs inside a paper bag.
      The reason you will see no doubt,
      It is to keep the lightning out.
      But what these unobservant birds
      Have never noticed is that herds
      Of wandering bears may come with buns
      And steal the bags to hold the crumbs

      (Christopher Isherwood, who clearly thinks they are the same)

  8. I had to do Latin at school
    Turns out that it’s sometimes a tool
    For clues in the grid
    So it’s useful I did
    But you’ll never persuade me it’s cool

  9. And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house…

    After 30 mins I gave up on the NHOs, Pinyin and Shagreen.
    Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  10. 13:40, but with 1 wrong. Defeated by the unknown PINYIN for which I tried PICYIN, with CY for City. I should have known better. At least I managed the unknown SHAGREEN and ENDOMORPH. DNK “Head” for “poll” either. I got stuck for a few minutes at the end on DESIGNING and CUPID. Annoying to finish with 1 letter wrong. By the way, I think we previously had an attribution to Richard and the editor stopped by to say it was a mistake and the puzzle wasn’t by him. Maybe the same publishing error?

    1. Yes, that happened in October 2020. Richard Rogan confirmed it here at the time and David Parfitt posted this in the Club forum:

      “That was a slip, I’m afraid, harking back to the days of Richard Browne’s editorship. Occasionally, a file from the “new” Richard includes a mysterious ghost reference to the “old” Richard, and we failed to spot it on this occasion. For the record, this puzzle was not one of RB’s. Apologies for the confusion.”

      For those who don’t know, Richard Browne was the Crossword editor prior to Richard Rogan. I don’t know whether he still sets 15×15 puzzles but he sets QCs for us regularly as Teazel.

  11. 26 minutes, the last five spent on PINYIN. The LHS of my brain gives COD to Y AXIS, the RHS to PEDIGREE. Terrific puzzle. Thank you Richard Browne and Vinyl.

  12. 18 minutes, with the only unknown answer being SHAGREEN. I didn’t know the ‘lower’ meaning of SCOWL, hesitated over HOI POLLOI – I had the ‘ho’ and the ‘poll’ but for some reason couldn’t figure out how ‘just over a hundred’ gave the rest of it – and had no idea how CAVEAT EMPTOR worked, so thanks for the explanations. Avoided any problems with CUPID as fortunately I thought of ‘CID’ before I thought of cops.

    FOI Cupid
    LOI Shagreen
    COD Obnoxious

  13. Guessing CAVEAT EMPTOR from enumeration (since I didn’t know “speleologist”) set me off at breakneck speed, 60% complete in 10m, five clues remaining at 21 …then the real effort started. Completion sequence was (NHO) SHAGREEN, ORDINARY, and LOI PINYIN (which I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered before, but it must have been decades ago). Finally able to submit with good confidence at 31:11 – thanks V and Richard Browne.

  14. Fairly straightforward, even got the NHO SHAGREEN but fell at the last with the unknown PINYIN which, like Jack, I had to look up. Bah.


    Thanks v and setter, whoever you may be!

  15. Good one which I managed to fly through clocking in just behind Kevin. Until now I though PINYIN was the origin of the term “Pidgin English” but it’s not. Forgot to parse CAVEAT EMPTOR – thanks Vinyl. 11.04

  16. Good start to the week, 13′ 55″. PINYIN LOI, dimly remembered, and only parsed after stopping the clock.

    Since my pause in this forum, I now do the puzzle online but not in the Club – I find this immensely less stressful – a typo is a typo and not an error.

    Thanks vinyl and setter.

  17. After about 30 minutes I had all except 19d, which turned out to be totally unknown. After struggling for another 10 minutes I gave up and used a word finder, then submitted off leaderboard to find I had the rest of the puzzle correct including the unknown SHAGREEN and ENDOMORPH. REPHRASE and HOI POLLOI held me up for ages too. I spent too long with CI as just over 100. 39:41 with one look up. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  18. A great Monday puzzle – not too easy nor too taxing, but with all the vocabulary either within or at the edges of my GK (OHMIC was easily deduced, if never come across before). More of these, please! I was also looking for CI to denote ‘just over a hundred’, but HO put me on the right track for the answer. Admittedly I bifd a few, but in each case the clueing was in place to get the correct answer.

  19. 18.32 not helped by putting in analgesic at 10 across which made arguable somewhat difficult till I realised my mistake.
    Before that, I thought I could be on for a fast time. Never mind, got there in the end.
    FOI Cupid. Don’t think I knew pinyin but crossers helped. COD vanishing point ahead of flimsy.

  20. 13’51” Great fun for a Monday morning. Like Brenk1, I bunged in ANALGESIC and lost time. It’s not the first time I haven’t taken the time to check the ending of a word. By coincidence, Saturday was old films night chez moi, and we watched “It happened one night” with Clark Gable. Great stuff it was too. The cow-lower thing in 26 across was an interesting diversion.

  21. PB of 12’56”, and only half way down the first mid-morning cup of tea. Not much to say other than thanks to setter and blogger as usual.

  22. 26 mins but I had to give up and look up PINYIN as I had failed to lift and separate HOLY CITY. Could our Richard Browne not have used LIBYAN instead? It is a Monday after all.

  23. Holy city of WINYAN anyone? No I didn’t think so! I was quite speedy (for me) on this one finishing in 25.02, but with 19dn incorrect. Assumed it was the name of an obscure holy city and that nyan might be a version of Chinese script. Frustrating but enjoyable nevertheless.

  24. DNF. A weird one this: I had all but one done in just over 6 minutes, but then came to a grinding halt. I’ve never heard of PINYIN in my puff and couldn’t make any sense of the wordplay.

  25. 20:20. A nice challenge, if a fairly gentle one. Knew SHAG but not SHAGREEN and PINYIN obligingly assembled itself from the cryptic.

  26. 21 minutes. No particular problems, unusually. A bit vague about the shag, but thought it might be a bird and then realised about the common cormorant etc. Thought OHMIC was rather an odd word, but it’s there.

    A peculiar thing has started to happen: when anyone replies to something I’ve written, I get an alert in my email Inbox. Perfectly happy with that, but it never happened before. Is it a streamline of the new site?

    1. Wil, If you go to ‘Account Settings’ at the top of the page there’s ‘Comment Notification’ and an Opt Out preference. This has been avalable for months. Choose it if you don’t want to follow conversations you have been part of, but it might be a shame as they’re usually interesting ones.

      1. Thanks Jack, most interesting. I won’t opt out. As usual the writers of this program have everything covered. I was more interested in why I started to get these messages when I hadn’t before. Something must have tripped the switch, but goodness knows what.

        Btw the person who wrote that bit has forgotten ‘i before e except after c’.

        1. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events regarding auto-response to postings but it was settled to its current status some months ago. All I can think of in your case is that you were logged out without realising and now you are logged in. That would account for your user-pic being missing for a while but now returned. I have passed on the comment about the typo.

  27. I thought this was fairly easy. At one point I thought I was headed for around 15 minutes but a few needed some thought, especially PINYIN and SHAGREEN, both only vaguely familiar, though the former featured in a tough cryptic last year.
    22 minutes in the end.

  28. I thought this might be a chance for a record time, but there were a few too many that required some head-scratching, finishing on ARGUABLE in 5m 5s.

  29. 44 minutes, which I was happy enough with. No problem with SHAGREEN, it provides the non-slip surface on the handle of a naval officer’s sword, and items regularly turn up on the Antiques Roadshow in shagreen covered boxes. PINYIN was another matter though, and was a bit of a punt having never heard of it. Thanks all.

  30. 37:19

    I found bits of this hard – PINYIN, SHAGREEN, HOI POLLOI (NHO POLL = head though I don’t doubt it does) – didn’t bother parsing the obvious CAVEAT EMPTOR and couldn’t see the parsing for VANISHING POINT (though quite simple as it turned out).

    Not a Happy Monday.

    1. A happy Monday hereabouts. 29 minutes with a gentle wind behind me.

      FOI 2dn PANDA
      LOI 1ac CUPID! Doh!
      WOD 19dn PIN-YIN – Chinese innit!? A write-in for an Old China Hand.

      I knew 25ac SHAGREEN from ‘Bargain Hunt’, which is available on BBC World here in Shanghai. GLADIOLI were firm favourites of my old man and Dame Edna.

  31. I tackled this after a long night of karaoke (and drink) and found the going pretty smooth, but Morpheus took me away before I could finish. Did the last few this morning (after correcting a hasty biff!). OHMIC garners lots of Google results, so people do say it. SHAGREEN was last for me, uncertain about the “diver,” but which I guessed must be a bird.

  32. Alas, I knew neither SHAG nor SHAGREEN, so I wasn’t able to get further than _ H _ GREEN. Otherwise not such a toughie but a decent challenge.

  33. Better than the QC for me in that I completed this. A touch over Mondayish for me, a mix of simple and sterner stuff.

    NHO SHAGREEN, had heard of PINYIN but no idea why, ARGUABLE was my LOI.


  34. Gave up after an hour with around 5 unsolved (including SHAGREEN and PINYIN). Happy enough. Biffed HOI POLLOI and CAVEAT EMPTOR. Really needed the blog – many thanks. As a relative newcomer could someone please explain why PI = holy? Is it to do with Pius I? Also, why is MS = piece of writing? Many thanks all

    1. pi (slang) = pious, sanctimonious – very religious and moral.
      ms (abbreviation) = manuscript

  35. One off- would never have got PINYIN – I was toying with it starting win-. Several answers made me smile. The search for the complete week continues

  36. 15 minutes, late in the day with a Pink Lady apero (white wine with a dash of Campari), lots of biffing and no problems. Interesting to see the setter named.

  37. 17.46. I didn’t find this too difficult, seemed to have all the vocab including pinyin which seems to have been unknown for quite a few. Delayed at the end over LOI arguable for a time not quite able to see which way to look at it.

  38. Delayed at the end by DESIGNING for some reason. No problem with the rest. I’m surprised how many people don’t know that “ni hao” is pinyin, a write-in for me. I’d never heard of SHAGREEN but I do know SHAG since a friend of mine is a sculptress and she likes to say “I gave your brother a shag for his birthday”.

  39. DNF

    Started quickly but slowed and finally gave up after 25 mins on PINYIN or rather I realised I didn’t know the word and was just trying to guess between various mombles having been foxed by the w/p. Fair dos.

    Worked out the other NHOs. A good one I’d say

    Thanks all

  40. Thought I was ‘on a roll’ but hastily bunged in ARGUMENT (=dispute) which led me astray somewhat (eg with 10 and 14 a) and NHO PINYIN ( as many others). But not too unhappy, as I worked out OHMIC and Y-AXIS ok. SHAGREEN remembered from my mother’s collection of antiques. CUPID led me astray, as I was sure I’d be looking for COP?? Enjoyable crossword.

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