Times 28401 – Hope for the best

A terrific puzzle, I thought, a few easy clues but a few more which really made me think and then be chuffed when the light dawned. I particularly liked the “huge wet blanket”, the Japanese island and the fictional land of Hope. I’m not sure I fully understand how 17a works but the answer has to be. A gold star from me to the setter today.

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

1 Vehicle that may confound or trap Al C? (6,3)
PATROL CAR – (OR TRAP AL C)*. As Al C could be old Al Capone, and a patrol car would be relevant, I think this might be a semi-&lit, but I’ve never been sure exactly what one is.
6 Time I had to accept I’m retiring (5)
TIMID – T I’D (I had) has I’M inserted.
9 Ancient Greek bridge crossing a rivulet’s banks (7)
SPARTAN – SPAN (bridge) has A RT inserted, R T being the “banks” of rivulet.
10 This forgot it — an iceberg amidships! (7)
TITANIC – hidden ship!
11 Theme from middle of Vertigo, a Hitchcock film (5)
TROPE – T (middle of verTigo) ROPE (a Hitchcock movie). Not exactly sure what a trope is but it’s something to do with recurring literary devices so presumably themes.
12 One posted to Yemeni port, briefly possessing fantastic des res (9)
ADDRESSEE – ADE(N) = a Yemeni port briefly, insert (DES RES)*. Aden sprang to mind immediately  (how many others can you name?) and I quickly ruled out ‘des res’ as a definition, but needed some checking letters to spot the answer.
14 Run for so long (3)
BYE – double definition, a run in cricket, and goodbye.
15 Voice resistance, puncturing reputation as huge wet blanket? (11)
ALTOSTRATUS – I needed all the checkers to get this, my LOI, but thought it was brilliant when I understood the definition. ALTO = voice, STATUS = reputation, punctured by R for resistance.
17 It’s perhaps key for investment in bank? (5,6)
LEGAL TENDER – I’m not sure, but I think this is E.G. ALT (perhaps, key (on a keyboard) inside (“for investment in”) bank = LENDER.
19 Step fathers (3)
PAS – double definition, pas as in ballet.
20 Move pages back after a sneak preview (9)
APPETISER – A, then, all reversed, RESITE (move) PP (pages).
22 Nearly discard British pound (5)
THROB – THRO(W) = nearly discard, B for British.
24 The island of Awoka (7)
OKINAWA – if you put OK IN AWA you get AWOKA.  Okinawa is the fifth largest of Japanese islands and still today hosts some 26,000 US military personnel, which must be expensive. Awoka isn’t an island, it’s an aptly named alarm app from Google Play.
26 What’s brother’s haircut? Not flipping certain! (7)
TONSURE – TON (not flipping) SURE (certain). A monk’s haircut.
27 Blustering fellow crossing street (5)
GUSTY – GUY with ST inserted.
28 Roasted meat sampled without starter (9)
LAMBASTED – LAMB (meat) (T)ASTED = sampled without the T. Roasted as in criticised. Or criticized. A nice clue, but I think I’ve seen it before.
1 State of half optimism (5)
POSIT – the front half of POSIT IVITY = optimism. To posit means to propose or put forward.
2 Flower, note, stemmed? (3,4)
TEA ROSE – TE (a note) AROSE = stemmed, e.g “it all arose / stemmed from…”
3 Where tennis players should be focused and alert (2,3,4)
ON THE BALL – cryptic double definition, one prosaic one a cliché.
4 Transparent film’s temperature in turbulent Lake Constance (7,4)
CONTACT LENS – (L CONSTANCE)* with T inserted.
5 Predictable pattern in regular letters from Proust (3)
RUT – alternate letters as above.
6 Tenth time he’s following it up (5)
TITHE – IT reversed, T (time) HE.  A tenth of one’s income given to the Church, or a similar form of tax.
7 IT end working with MS Outlook (7)
8 Aristocrats expected by society to embrace the mating game (9)
DUCHESSES – DUES (things expected by society) has CHESS (the mating game!). EDIT or, as posited below, DUE = expected, S for society.
13 Turning a little subdued, drinking a wine is what’s wanted (11)
DESIDERATUM – MUTED (a little subdued), insert A RED IS (a wine is) = MUT A RED IS ED, reverse all that.
14 Political parties go head to head on golf channel? (9)
BILLABONG – LIB reversed, LAB (political parties head to head) then ON G.
16 Land of Hope … It’s inspired by Elgar’s last muse (9)
RURITANIA – a TLS style clue, if you’re not just guessing; Ruritania is a fictional land invented in books by Anthony HOPE. R (Elgar’s last), URANIA (the muse of astronomy), insert IT.
18 Rearing dog on pastries and fish (7)
GUPPIES – PUG (dog) reversed then PIES. Small fish I used to catch in rock pools.
19 Having acquired Queen’s Head, tear up loose flooring (7)
21 Play about a duke’s spaniel (5)
TOADY – TOY = play (with), insert A D for duke. One of the meanings of spaniel is a docile or servile person, which seems unfair to the four-legged spaniels I’ve met.
23 Money raised during radio broadcast (5)
BREAD – sounds like BRED = raised.
25 What can make a piercing cry with no head? (3)
AWL – BAWL (cry) loses its B.


87 comments on “Times 28401 – Hope for the best”

  1. 14:18
    I did a lot of biffing, not always parsing post-hoc: embarrassingly, I failed to spot the hidden TITANIC, and didn’t get APPETISER or the EGALT in LENDER. DNK Awoka. I was surprised to see 16d, which struck me as a gimme; ‘land of Hope’ is an example used in the introduction to several of the collections of Times cryptics, and I’m sure RURITANIA has appeared here before.. For what it’s worth, I parsed DUCHESSES as DUE (expected) + S (society) around CHESS.

  2. 13m and I agree a pretty great puzzle but I was held up by reading “AI” not “Al” in 1ac – if only there was some way of distinguishing the two, some font they could use that would be appropriate to The Times…

      1. Same here. It’s quite obvious on the online version that it’s an L, but in ye olde fashioned newspaper print, it looks very like an I.

        1. How are you viewing the online version? When I look at it online it’s the same as in the printout, decidedly an I. Perhaps you are using an app on a device. I’m using a web browser.

        2. I haven’t the online version. On my phone reading the blog it’s an obvious lowercase L, and I assumed it would look the same on the online version. I clearly assumed incorrectly.

    1. Yup, same here, and I’d have been a lot faster without that problem. At this point the font chosen for the clues is in itself a form of cryptic misdirection, but I’m not sure it should be.

  3. Wow, this was really great! I thought I would never get OKINAWA, but that was my POI, and what a delight. I was in the clouds with my LOI, ALTOSTRATUS.

    I parsed DUCHESSES as Kevin does. Parsed LEGAL TENDER (after biffing) the same as Pip, and it really seems the only way and quite all right.

    1. Please explain it to me. I’m just not seeing it from the blog😕 no matter hard I squint I can’t understand the parsing

          1. I may be missing what it is you’re missing / the point you’re making. The island is OKINAWA. That the answer. The reason the answer is clued by AWOKA is that AWOKA is OK IN AWA.

                1. Maybe, the point is there isn’t really any parsing to do: AWOKA is self-contained and just is OK in AWA. The “of” just indicates that it’s the clue.

                  1. 👍 👍👍👍 Thanks for the illumination. I think the fact that I’ve NHO OKINAWA and ‘awoka’ is not a word conspired to elevate my sense of thickness.

    1. Please explain it to me. I’m just not seeing it from the blog😕 no matter hard I squint I can’t understand the parsing

      1. It’s the first time I’m seeing something like this I think… Like a reverse cryptic.


        here the definition is ‘the island’, so we’re looking for name of an island

        And what is the island? The island is..awoka, which if you break ‘awoka’ down is’OK’ in ‘AWA’ = okinawa (which is a Japanese island)

        It’s like… Backwards to the way clues are usually written! Normally we would get a wordplay to build a word but this time we got the word already and had to reverse engineer the wordplay

        And the wordplay WAS THE ANSWER

        I guess the clue here is awoka isn’t a word, and that most people would have had checkers that would have led them to Okinawa anyway

        1. 👍👍👍 I think the fact that I’ve NHO OKINAWA and ‘awoka’ is not a word conspired to elevate my sense of thickness…

  4. 35m 38s
    I enjoyed the puzzle but I didn’t think it was as brilliant as some here think. I did enjoy “huge wet blanket” though, and “mating game” in 8d DUCHESSES.Thank you, Pip, for LEGAL TENDER and APPETISER.
    I think that is very unfair on spaniels to equate them with being toadies. I have the same feeling about a person being someone’s poodle. Both are great dogs.
    The airline I used to work for operated in and out of Kadena AFB on OKINAWA. Yes, there are a great many US bases on the island and thousands of military personnel; and it’s also true that the Japanese have been trying to reduce the American presence for a long time now. On the other hand, from time to time military personnel from Kadena would ‘misbehave’ and there would be a fuss. The Base Commander would respond by keeping everyone on base ‘for a period of reflection’. Within a couple of days, the Japanese would be complaining to the Commander that their trade was suffering from there being no Americans out spending money ! So back to square 1.

    1. I don’t think it’s disparaging to any dog breed to attribute to it the quality of unquestioning loyalty, as that is the main thing people want from dogs—it’s just a very questionable attribute in humans. (The slogan of the Waffen SS was “Meine Ehre Heisst Treue,” or “My Honor Is Called Loyalty.”) But, on reflection, you’re right: Insulting people by reference to certain animals (who, after all, can’t help it) is disparaging to the entire animal kingdom.

      1. I have two spaniels and they are extremely devoted to me: as a breed they tend to attach their loyalty to a single person where others are a bit more balanced in their affections. I certainly wouldn’t ever call them toadies but my wife might.

          1. At times when my younger one wags her tail the movement seems to start somewhere around the neck area.

    1. I had the same until eventually I got OKINAWA which enabled me to see my mistake. I’d had no doubt about OWL until that point but in hindsight “cry” would have to be doing double duty for it to work.

        1. To those owl people: how can owl be a thing that can make a piercing? CRY is not part of the definition. Even if screech owls do screech!
          I had OKINAWA in before AWL anyway so never thought of owl.

          1. I think a lit of folk were trying to think of a piercing cry, and remove the first letter to find something that can MAKE a piercing cry. Hence (H)OWL.

      1. A shrink I may need, that is true
        But it seems that some others do too
        We see birds everywhere
        Even when they’re not there
        To the setters: I blame this on you

  5. 36 minutes with wordplay in LEGAL TENDER missed. It was my LOI so when the answer came to mind eventually I bunged it in and didn’t think further. I also missed the ‘society’ = S in DUCHESSES. URANIA was not among the muses that I know, so may not have come up before*, but I got the Hope reference immediately and was in no doubt about the answer, RURITANIA.

    *On edit: Urania has appeared as an answer in a 15×15 once before, in October 2019.

  6. 41 minutes. Enjoyable for me too, though I was disappointed to miss the wordplay for both OKINAWA and LEGAL TENDER. The latter would do as a semi-&lit for me, being a cryptic def and with only ‘It’s’ not contributing to the wordplay. I think I’ve seen ‘Land of Hope’ before, but didn’t pick it and had to do a “muse trawl” to come up with the correct answer.

    Favourites were the ‘mating game’ part of the wordplay for 8d and the ‘huge wet blanket?’ def for 15a.

  7. A wound more fierce than his, with tears and sighs.
    And all the Dreams that watch’d Urania’s eyes, …

    30 mins mid-brekker. Some very clever stuff, occasionally too clever perhaps?
    The AI issue held me up too ’til I thought, what is a Patoir Car?
    COD to the pie-fed Guppies.
    Thanks setter and Pip.

  8. 21:45
    Fun puzzle with fair clueing and a good level of challenge. I too read AI instead of Al, owing to the online font being sans serif. I’m always having problems with this, as my surname features a capital I followed by a lower-case L. As sans-serif fonts are used all over the internet and on lots of apps, people often struggle to retrieve my details, thinking they’re looking for a double L. These days, if I’m dealing with a font like that, I just type in the letter I in lower case to avoid confusion.
    Thanks, pip.

  9. Fun puzzle – thought I was getting through it quickly, but around 70% I looked up and saw that 24 minutes had flown by. After that, the SE and NW corners gave me pause for thought, with the unknown TONSURE needing the cryptic, and a solving blind spot around “stemmed” = AROSE. Add me to the list of AI experts, only getting LOI 1ac after exhausting all the dud anagram possibilities (several times) and taking a step back.

    34:04 either side of brekkie – thanks P and setter

  10. 30mins for an enjoyable puzzle
    I thought the parsing was harder than the solving on several clues
    Like many others the COD was 15a closely followed by 4d
    Didn’t parse Okinawa and didn’t know spaniel meant toady A bit harsh on that breed

  11. DNF. Another who had (H)OWL , which meant OKINAWA was never going in. Perhaps if I’d seen the trick, and, yes, a question mark would have helped as plusjeremy has mentioned, I might have got it. PATROL CAR FOI as, luckily, I didn’t fall into the A1 trap.

    Oh well, roll on tomorrow….

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  12. 12:36. This felt like wading through treacle: I was conscious of making extremely heavy weather of it. It took me ages to think of the extremely obvious ‘ball’ in 3dn, for instance.
    I really enjoyed it for all that: an excellent puzzle, and my foggy brain probably enabled me to admire the scenery more than usual.

  13. 26 minutes. Didn’t parse LEGAL TENDER or RURITANIA, took a long time to think of TROPE as a theme, not having seen the Hitchcock film, and had heard of a BILLABONG without knowing what it was. Nice to see ‘retiring’ as the definition rather than a reversal indicator in TIMID. I agree that this was an enjoyable challenge.

    FOI Rut
    LOI Tea rose
    COD Altostratus

    1. The definition of BILLABONG is actually rather odd, since it’s an oxbow lake: a pool of water specifically cut off from the main channel of a river. But Collins says channel so that’s that!

  14. 11:28 but one wrong. Like Jeremy, I had {w}AIL for 25D. Grr. Nice puzzle though. I’m another who liked “huge wet blanket”.

  15. “A PATROL CAR passing by halted to a stop….” (Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Save the Life of My Child’).

    I didn’t think this quite so marvellous as others seem to have done – some of the surfaces struck me as a little clunky – but it was enjoyable, and raised a few smiles along the way. I biffed DESIDERATUM.

    TIME 10:42

    1. I agree. It wasn’t that great.

      Not helped by the top half being a virtual write-in, and the bottom half being on another level of difficulty entirely. I wish there was a consistency of difficulty throughout the same puzzle.

  16. TROPE has been having rather a fad in the US press lately (along with “inflexion point”) but I’m not sure how it came to mean “theme” because it comes from the Greek word for “turn”. We have a large standard heliotrope (turns to the sun) on the porch that smells wonderful. Include me in as another “owl” and also as deceived by the trompe l’oeil in 1a (what kind of car is that?). 17.17

    1. I realised that I hear Trope all the time and was vague about its exact definition, so off to dictionary-land. The earliest citing of Trope in the “theme” sense in my OED is 1975, and it doesn’t give an etymology. Almost making me wonder if someone mis-used the term, but the mis-use caught on.

  17. Having looked at the SNITCH as I have for the last few days I noted this was a little harder than of late but I decided to have a go. 74 minutes later I had finished.
    LOI: OKINAWA although I had written it to one side along with BILLABONG neither of which I could parse. APPETISER was another I couldn’t parse.
    TOADY went in from WP as the connection between it and ‘spaniel’ was lost on me.
    As for RURITANIA I had to look up the muses to piece it together.
    I did enjoy building DUCHESSES from WP along with others.

  18. 7:11, enjoyed this, a quick solve with a brief delay, like a lot of other people, when I was held up by the fact that 25dn is impossible to pin down in isolation (I went with the OWL variant to begin with). Luckily I worked through 24ac logically and concluded that as Awoka meant absolutely nothing to me, the clue was probably about some property of the letters of the word rather than its meaning, meaning I had a satisfying penny-drop moment when this turned out to be the case.

  19. 35 minutes, without understanding why LEGAL TENDER was the answer and shrugging and saying ‘oh well, that’s the setter with another weak and messy CD’. Also I missed Al Capone in 1ac, so thought it looked rather contrived; now I see how nice it is. The Hope novel and the TITANIC hidden were not I think original (I can remember a Times clue from years ago: ‘What hit it? An iceberg, submerged’, which is in my opinion a bit better). Haven’t we had TEA ROSE quite often recently? Embarrassing how long I took to find the MINDSET anagram.

  20. DNF. Defeated by Okinawa. All but this one done in a plodding 20 mins. Not helped by initially entering PARTOL CAR.


  21. I was delayed by the i/l uncertainty at 1a, so it didn’t go in until I had most of the crossers, which was quite late in the proceedings, as the rest of the NW resisted my efforts too. I missed the parsing of LEGAL TENDER, but thankfully seeing how OKINAWA worked corrected my howl to a bAWL. A biffed BRITTANIA held up LEGAL TENDER and LOI, ALTOSTRATUS, but sanity prevailed, and I even spotted URANIA in the mix. 35:28. Thanks setter and Pip.

  22. 31:08. Thought this was a clever puzzle but I completely failed to appreciate just how clever before coming here, OKINAWA, RURITANIA and LEGAL TENDER being three of my unparsed entries/guesses which I doubt I would have understood if I had spent twice as long wrestling with them.

  23. A fair bit of biffing for a time of 46 mins. OKINAWA LOI, and I couldn’t see why – but that’s all it could be. Liked the ‘mating game’ for chess. Knew RURITANIA was a fictional state from movies, but didn’t know the Hope connection. Got ALTOSTRATUS very early, but don’t share others’ enthusiasm for it. Thought it was a bit silly.

    1. From Wikipedia: “Altostratus clouds are usually grey or blue featureless sheets”. So a different article of bedding might be closer to what this type of cloud looks like. Or maybe a very thin summer blanket was imagined?

  24. We are having an easy week so far. Another puzzle completed in 23 minutes, albeit without understanding the clues to OKINAWA and LEGAL TENDER. While I don’t doubt the blogger’s parsing, I’m not that keen on ‘perhaps’ to indicate EG. I was also thrown a bit by what I took tob AI in 1a. A rather ropy surface in that clue.

  25. I missed the hidden Titanic, and I never ever under any circumstances see the reverse cryptics like Okinawa, so I had two ??? in my margin. Like others, I thought there were a lot of nice definitions. Thanks, pip

  26. A one letter fail again- AIL instead of AWL. OKINAWA clue has been a frequent device of AZED’s.
    Finished with ALTOSTRATUS. Great clue!
    So that’s two single letter errors this week. Grr!
    I must check the grid carefully at the end.

  27. 2 errors today, one being AIL, and the other, after having the aha moment that it was an L not an I, I went and typed PETROL CAR. Duh!

  28. Really enjoyed the clues I got, especially altostratus, but was defeated by Okinawa and trope – NHO the word and DNK the film. Thought, like a lot of others, that spaniels and toadies don’t go together! Glad to read the strong rebuttals. Thanks for good blog, and to setter for entertaining crossword.

  29. I was ever off the pace and ended up with an inglorious DNF.

    FOI 1ac POLICE CAR!! being a Brit and an early and faithful adherent to ‘Z Cars’ , cue Everton’s theme music. PATROL CAR seemed far more Broderick Crawford – too hasty Mr. Horry! In the eighties we Brits took on the ‘JAM SANDWICH’, from ‘Minder’ and the like.
    COD 26dn TONSURE – for some unknown reason.
    WOD 16dn RURITANIA – however it has come to my attention, via John Quarrington’s unpublished book ‘Ghosts’, that Anthony Hope did not write ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’. It was apparently penned by the prodigious E. Phillips Oppenheim – Hope was his lawyer. ‘Oppy’ had a string of young ghost writers, which included the fledgling Ian Fleming who, according to Oxonian Edward Biddulph, wrote a few pages of ‘The Prodigals of Monte Carlo’, describing the Casino which, some twenty years later, moved to Estoril.

  30. 25:29
    I thought this was wonderful. Some terrific clues, amongst them LAMBASTED, TROPE, RURITANIA and OKINAWA (which should probably have had a question mark)…but COD was ALTOSTRATUS.

    Never knew that meaning of SPANIEL. The world of dogs was largely closed to me when I was younger but my in-laws keeps pugs and I am slowly being won around.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter.

  31. Whenever I hear the word TROPE, I reach for my Walther PPK – except when it’s in a crossword of course. Ghastly academese. There was lots of very clever stuff in here – above all TITANIC — but sometimes the clever ones are actually quite easy, I find. Finished in 16’02” with ALTOSTRATUS and RURITANIA holding out till last.

  32. Fun puzzle. I was briefly held up by the AI C (these days, the third artificial intelligence). Didn’t know that meaning of spaniel. I went for OWL and only when I realized OKINAWA was an island and nothing fitted my crossers did I fix it. So that was my LOI.

  33. 30:43

    Defining LEGAL TENDER as ‘It’ seemed a bit odd.

    Liked OKINAWA, but liked BILLABONG and ALTOSTRATUS more.

    Liked DESIDERATUM less – long presumably non-English word from convoluted clue results in solver sigh.

  34. 29.55

    Late entry. Crept inside 30 mins hut only just. Couldn’t parse a couple but they had to be. No problems with the top but slowed to a crawl at the bottom.

    Also v much liked ALTOSTRATUS but thought OKINAWA surely had to have a question mark? As only one other comment to that effect seems not.

    Thanks all

  35. Failed on Okinawa- which I think is a very strange clue- is awoka a made up word? Feel a little sore from that clue.
    Fingers crossed on the NHO DESIDERATUM.

  36. I read 1a correctly as Al and C but was determined not to be caught out by the abbreviations for Aluminium and Carbon. But it wasn’t an elementary clue!
    OKINAWA was very good.

  37. Same thoughts as many others ( never got OKINAWA, so OWL was my bird of choice) and stupidly stuck to my guns in putting LABour first in 14d -as I have consistently through life – thus scrambling around for a word starting with BAL for ever). Spotted TITHE and TITANIC right off the bat, but the clever ALTOSTRATUS defeated me. Fun, but not my greatest effort.

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