Times 28,409: No, Your Father Was Not A Nun, Baldrick

I liked this and did find it quite tricky, mostly due to the definition parts often being quite inconspicuous within the clue. I enjoyed the fact that there was no talking down to the solver, you are asked to know some things about middle Eastern politics and subcontinental festivals and Roman military arrangements and Biblical figures and religious iconography, and that’s just the way it is if you want to take on the Times puzzle.

My favourite clue was 14ac, very limpid surface, quite hard anagram to see even if the cryptic requirements were clear. My FOI was 12ac and my LOI 1ac with its terrifically well camouflaged “in” being a crucial component for cracking the clue.

Thank you setter, much enjoyed.

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

1 Food in Cockney character, largely (8)
OMELETTE – ‘OME [in (Cockney)] + LETTE{r}. I’m never quite sure where this device sprang from, but if “the French” can clue LA, then “in Cockney” can surely indicate ‘OME
5 Split or part after hugging a moment (6)
BISECT – BIT [part] “hugging” SEC [a moment]
8 Old fencing American’s taken out for scrap (3)
JOT – JO{us}T [old fencing, minus the US] Can one really fence with a lance?
9 Sweet beauty accompanies bishop in Asian festival (5,5)
PEACH MELBA – PEACH [beauty] + B(ishop) in MELA [an Indian festivity, qv the Kumbh Mela]
10 Politician first on right to chase the money (8)
CENTRIST – 1ST on R(ight), chasing CENT [money]
11 Pistol perhaps mine used in very unpleasant place (6)
ARMPIT – ARM [pistol perhaps] + PIT [mine]
12 Sadrists in power here regularly misread question (4)
IRAQ – {m}I{s}R{e}A{d} + Q(uestion). Sadrism is an Iraqi Islamic national movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, not that you really needed to know that to solve the clue
14 Ambassador flees northeastern ground for Turkey? (10)
NONSTARTER – (NORTH{he}ASTERN*) – we remove H.E. (his excellency) from the anagrist before grinding
17 Course in medicine brings understanding (10)
EMPATHETIC – PATH [course] in EMETIC [medicine]
20 Shakespearean prince with love for glory (4)
HALO – HAL [Henry V] + O. A glory is “a combination of the nimbus and aureola in religious symbolism”, natch
23 Social worker given drink in chamber (6)
ANTRUM – ANT [social worker] given RUM [drink]
24 Excited having bet put on ace (8)
AFLUTTER – FLUTTER [bet] put on A(ce)
25 Obsessive union man mostly a pig when sloshed (10)
POLYGAMIST – (MOSTLY A PIG*) Do you have to be an obsessive to have multiple wives? I guess it couldn’t hurt
26 Joshua’s dad and sister / fancy pigeon (3)
NUN – triple def referring to the Biblical parent, the kind of person who would get themselves to a nunnery, and a pigeon with truly excellent head-feathers that I recommend you Google Image Search
27 Park close to the shops, just outside, and leave? (6)
RECESS – REC [park] + {th}E + S{hop}S. Quite a beggar to parse
28 Very many backing call for industrial action (8)
STOPPAGE – reversed POTS [very many] + PAGE [call]
1 Goal / for neither side? (9)
OBJECTIVE -double def, nounal and adjectival meanings
2 Toes in a terrible state (7)
3 Die without funeral arrangement spoken of? (6)
EXPIRE – EX [without] + homophone of PYRE [funeral arrangement]
4 One leaving prepares model to make switch (9)
TRANSPOSE – TRA{i}NS [prepares, minus I] + POSE [model]
5 Fail when beginning to talk nonsense (7)
BOMBAST – BOMB [fail] + AS [when] + T{alk}
6 Tar ruins hotel in coastal area? (4,5)
SALT MARSH – SALT [tar] + MARS [ruins] + H(otel)
7 Poison in conspiracy an idea (7)
CYANIDE – hidden in {conspira}CY AN IDE{a}
13 Dance a routine that Parisian should cover (9)
QUADRILLE – A DRILL [a | routine] “covered” by QUE [that (Parisian)]. It’s that device crosswordy again
15 Mean sort broke banks in Florida (9)
SKINFLINT – SKINT [broke] “banks” IN FL(orida)
16 Ring road constructed over East River (3,6)
RIO GRANDE – (RING ROAD*) over E(ast)
18 Maybe laddish guards shot some soldiers once (7)
MANIPLE – MALE [maybe laddish] “guards” NIP [shot]. The pre-Marian sub-unit of the Roman Legions, consisting of 120 men; 60 maniples to a legion.
19 Tributes to be getting on entering Syrian city (7)
HOMAGES – AGE [to be getting on] “entering” the recently besieged HOMS
21 Touchy-feely part before news article? (7)
ANTENNA – ANTE [before] + N N [(two) news] + A [article]
22 Places unsuited for vacation erected in row (4-2)
DUST-UP – PUTS [places] + U{nsuite}D, all reversed

63 comments on “Times 28,409: No, Your Father Was Not A Nun, Baldrick”

  1. Tricky. One of those vaguely unsatisfying ones as I lacked most of the requisite GK, had to make too many guesses. Though I did know Sadrists – in the news again just last week. Last few in RECESS, MANIPLE and POLYGAMIST, my COD. Liked the touchy-feely part, too; but not so much the “in Cockney”.

  2. 40 minutes. There were no target words unknown to me here, not that I knew the exact meanings of all of them, nor did I ‘get’ all the references in the clues and wordplay, but that didn’t matter. A good cryptic puzzle such as this doesn’t require the solver to know about all these things. It’s constructed so that experienced solvers can find the answers one way or another and then be sure they are correct. The unknown bits and pieces can be researched afterwards if needs be.

  3. 47 minutes. Hard enough but not as difficult as yesterday. Didn’t know the ‘Sadrists’ (though should have), ‘Joshua’s dad’ (no hope) or the ‘Syrian city’ (again should have) but def or wordplay helped for each. I liked the ‘Touchy-feely part’ def and parsing and the ‘in Cockney’ trick once I’d finally seen what was going on.

    Interesting to see a few QUADRILLE videos on YouTube; it looks like an eightsome reel sans steroids.

  4. I had similarly-missing GK to BletchleyReject, plus it was one of those days where you start off with a vague idea for an answer, dismiss it, then go all the way around the houses to find out you were quite close in the first place… This felt tougher than yesterday’s toughie, but as it turned out I was two minutes quicker, at 49 minutes.

    FOI 12a IRAQ—despite not knowing what a Sadrist was—LOI 8a JOT though really I’d mentally pencilled it in before and just wanted OBJECTIVE (which I thought for a while could be INJUSTICE) to confirm.

  5. HOMAGES due, right from the start
    To a setter displaying their art
    Despite one bird AFLUTTER
    That might else make me mutter
    I just loved the touchy-feely part!

  6. It had grown sweet-tongued by dreaming
    Of A flutter of flower-like hair …

    30 mins mid-brekker. Mostly I liked ‘in Cockney’ and the ‘mostly a pig’ polygamist.
    Thanks setter and V.

  7. 48minutes. I knew two definitions of NUN but not the pigeon. MANIPLE was at best half-known but it fitted. COD to POLYGAMIST. Thank you V and setter.

  8. Another struggle over 45 mins and cheating on 18d and 8a
    I like 14a and 25a but clues like 5a with an unused “a” in the clue really irritate

  9. 48m 58s
    I agree with verlaine’s intro. Just the sort of thing one expects from The Times cryptic.
    NHO ANTRUM nor MANIPLE but both were gettable.
    Nor did I know of the festival of MELA.
    The two clues I couldn’t adequately parse were RECESS and DUST UP, so thanks, Verlaine.
    COD: SKINFLINT and, particularly, OMELETTE. I did like “in Cockney” once I realised OMELETTE had to be the solution.

  10. Crosswords, eh? You wait 15 months to get a full Mon => Friday sequence – then two come along in quick succession! That’s 10 weekdays on the trot for me – and in this case I had to make a big extra effort to get over the line in 85:38, with final pair RECESS and LOI the NHO MANIPLE. Didn’t really expect to get a green tick, because NIP = “shot” struck me as an unconvincing least-worst choice.

    Went the extra mile here because I’m sort-of bowing out – I’m away in Italy next week, and the week after that I’ll be starting a new job, ending a career break that lasted much longer than originally planned. Luckily the miracle of cataract surgery means I no longer have failing eyesight as an excuse for idleness, and as the economy plunges towards full-blown stagflation, I think I’d better do the responsible thing and earn some wonga to top up the ol’ pension pot. Not sure how it’ll pan out – I’d like to keep solving, but need to establish a new routine that balances the revised priorities.

    My first post here (I think late May ’21) reported a 40-something minute PB, and now seems a lifetime ago – I’m very happy to have progressed this far. I certainly wish to continue, and I’m not disappearing for ever, but I’ll probably show up irregularly for the foreseeable, and if things go well, back to the routine in a few weeks. Thanks all setters, bloggers, and commenters who’ve guided me on this journey.

    1. I’ve enjoyed reading about your improvements in solving and I am so pleased that your eyes have been sorted out.

    2. Good luck – Ten in the trot?!?!😳 I have watched enviously as you progressed SO much faster than I have on the biggies! My best is two 🤡

    3. Always amusing to read your adventures in solving – I particularly liked those requiring infusion of a foreign breakfast to complete the job!

    4. Good luck with the new job! I’ve not been tempted back to full-time work, though I do enjoy the luxury of picking and choosing my working shifts as an invigilator, which brings in cash with perks but without commitment. I’m sure, having been bitten by the solving bug, and with such rapid advances over the last few months, that you’ll sneak time to do the 15 x 15 several times a week somehow.

  11. Extraordinary on-wavelength experience where I could see many answers almost instantly while simultaneously realising the clues were very tough. Slowed down by the omelette (not a phrase I expect to use again) and LOI RECESS which took ages as I struggked to see where P for parking fitted.

    Nice to have you back V and thank you sympatico setter.

  12. 26:23 and pleased to finish unaided. Lots of unknowns for me, MELA, the fancy pigeon, and my LOI, MANIPLE, but everything gettable despite the ignorance – as Jackkt says above, a sign of a good puzzle. I almost persuaded myself that a Turk could be a TEASNORTER, but TRANSPOSE came to the rescue. I liked ARMPIT, OMELETTE (‘ome = cockney in was fun) and OBJECTIVE but COD to the touchy-feely part. Thanks V and setter.

  13. About an hour
    Tricky. Quite a lot of GK required here as v. rightly points out. Omelette was good.
    Thanks, v.

  14. Joshua the son of Nun, and Cain being sent to the Land of Nod are two (amusing maybe) chestnuts from the OT. Not sure the pigeon reference was even needed for the main one? I’ve been in ‘prison’ with Covid and sometimes found these easier than the quickie but not today. Thanks all

  15. After yesterday’s struggle this seemed quite gentle, and I did it in 34 minutes with an electronic cheat at 9ac since I knew the festival would be beyond me; in the event it wasn’t and I should have persevered. Liked the ‘in’ in 1ac, my LOI having failed to make ‘overeats’ work. Is an armpit a very unpleasant place? Perhaps, but as a definition it seems a bit loose.

  16. Another DNF after an hour as trouble appeared in the SW, like a Cornish traffic jam on a summer’s day.

    FOI 2dn ESTONIA these days a Russian ‘staycation’.
    (LOI) 19dn HOMAGES – Homs! (Doh!)
    COD 24ac AFLUTTER – a 30-1 outsider
    WOD 25ac POLYGAMIST – isn’t one at a time enough?

    Fernando Po is located in ‘The Armpit of Africa’- remember the ‘Contessa d’Aosta’?
    I thought 1ac OMELETTE was cringe-worthily patronising, but there is only one Meldrew

  17. Enjoyed this one. The GK needed some dredging but was within reach and the surfaces were entertaining. My one small quibble, as our blogger suggests, is that jousting and fencing are not the same thing although both require some interesting protective gear. I’ve never owned a suit of armour but I used to have a fencing mask and the other stuff. I liked the male chauvinist POLYGAMIST in the same corner as the laddish guards. 23.11

    1. Can you take it figuratively? A bit of verbal riposte, to and fro, might be called fencing. Jousting too?

      1. You have a point! Although I think of fencing as more defensive and jousting more combative.

    2. I might have thought of joust, and would then surely have raised a sympathetic eyebrow, if I had not been so certain the answer was Ort with rust or possibly ramt being an esoteric kind of fencing.

  18. To all Tony Hancock fans:-

    ‘Delighted to announce that one of our members, Richard Harrison, has found a the legendary “Hancock’s Half Hour” episode, ‘The Marriage Bureau’ from 1955…which guest stars Peter Sellers! The BBC will re-broadcast it on 18th October as part of their centenary celebrations.’

    But the ‘Missing Page’ is still missing! Meldrew

    1. I’m sure I have heard The Marriage Bureau, but not for many a year. The Missing Page if originally written for radio was adapted for TV as I have it in the BBC Tony Hancock Collection DVD boxed set.

    2. Put it into my diary, thanks for the heads up. It must be a one-off for Peter Sellers who was moonlighting from The Goons Show of course.
      Very familiar with the ‘Missing Page’ which I loved. I can almost hear Hancock now trying to deduce who the murderer was, after someone had ripped out the last page from his library book. ‘Harry Zimmerman’ suggests Sid …. Hancock replies ‘Of course Harry Zimmerman, why didn’t I think of that, it’s so obvious now…. pause …. ‘Wait a minute, Harry Zimmerman gets killed in chapter three you idiot!’ …..
      and so it goes on.

  19. 53 minutes – what a puzzle! Loved it. I laughed out loud at POLYGAMIST. Brilliant clue. Fabulous anagram but also well disguised. Xword worth the effort for that clue alone.

  20. Encouraged that after a first run of only two answers, ESTONIA and CYANIDE, I kept banging away and got to within four of completion and even more encouraged that I’m kicking myself for missing ANTENNA which may have given me NUN (although only one of the definitions resonated). Even further encouraged again that some others are seeing this as towards the tricky end of the spectrum.

    I couldn’t get past ‘con’ for politician so would have struggled with CENTRIST and I would be still sat here next year looking for RECESS. I’m not sure whether that makes it a brilliant clue or a poor one.

    Thanks Verlaine and setter of course

    1. Well I wrote “Um” next to RECESS, as it is perfectly legit and I couldn’t think of any reason to raise an eyebrow, but still….

  21. 27 mins but submitted with a hope and prayer because JOT, NUN and RECESS were all a mystery to me. Well, I should have thought of REC…..
    Very enjoyable and tx again to our bloggers

    1. Dear mcchoc, I don’t quite follow your argument. If you mean by “cheap white wine” I assume you mean Blue Nun, which in itself is not “nun”. Also it is not that cheap today retailing at around £10-12. 00. However, it is a major brand (since the twenties) and, although not my cup of tea, it is clearly still popular. As for the rest, I’m baffled.

      1. A nun who is cold would be blue. By warming her, you would get…
        Some wine is cheap irrespective of price!

  22. Persevered today, and worth it – an excellent crossword. Similar experience to verlaine, though probably five times slower, with OMELETTE LOI.


    Am chipper today as got through to the doctor’s surgery at 7.59 a.m. (they must use a different clock), was obviously first (cf 76th last time I rang), only to be told that none of the doctors had any on-the-day appointments available. However, I saw an advanced practitioner nurse within the hour, and came away with steroids and antibiotics for bronchitis and much sage advice, now in fourteenth week of post-COVID. God bless the NHS.

    Just over 40′, thanks verlaine and setter.

  23. 79 minutes – I struggled with this one. FOI ESTONIA then CYANIDE I think. DNK ANTRUM but it looked all right. LOI MANIPLE from crossers and wordplay, not knowing the soldiers. Despite my times, it’s great to have done the double, yesterday and today

  24. 28:11
    Sounds like I dodged a bullet by missing yesterday’s puzzle but found this one more than tough enough.
    Very enjoyable, with POLYGAMIST and NONSTARTER alone worth the price of entry. MANIPLE and two meanings of NUN were new to me. Agatha Christie would have admired the cunningly concealed CYANIDE.

    Thanks to Verlaine and the setter

  25. Took me two goes, but I got there in the end with only a small amount of hit-and-hope (primarily NUN, where ‘sister’ was the only bit I knew). Had to rely on the wordplay for ANTRUM and MANIPLE, and thought 19d would be ‘eulogia’ before remembering Homs and getting HOMAGES.

    FOI Halo
    LOI Antrum
    COD Rio Grande

  26. FOI was IRAQ, followed by ESTONIA and QUADRILLE. Then slowly ground my way through, with the NW and SW resisting for longest. Finally spotted the OMELETTE although sans parsing, then EXPIREd. I then figured that MANIPLE would fit at 18d, but only knew the vestment definition. However, that allowed me to dismiss P for park, and substitute REC, which gave me LOI, RECESS. 40:06. Thanks setter and V.

  27. 28’22” with a few not entirely understood, so thanks to Verlaine. Just been reading about Flashman doing the mattress quadrille with archduchess Irma. Almost put in Iran, because Bani Sadr was once quite important there, was he not? Rio Grande is also the name of a long-forgotten country-rock group whose 1971 eponymous album I have recently been enjoying.

  28. I was quite slow to get OBJECTIVE, antepenultimate in. Then came JUT, and lastly RECESS. Nothing really unknown (except that a bird can be a NUN), but everything cleverly hidden!

  29. 41:30

    Steady if protracted solve – nothing that really foxed me except for MANIPLE which I had to trust to the gods, and I failed to parse OMELETTE. Otherwise, jolly good, setter and V.

  30. No time recorded for this due to numerous interruptions, but estimated at about 60 minutes. A really good workout, and much enjoyed. The top left hand corner held me up at the end, but after getting JOT 1dn followed on and finally 1ac my LOI in.
    Two unknowns were MANIPLE and the pigeon connection to NUN, but the clueing allowed me to finish with all correct.

  31. Good tricky puzzle, finished eventually in about 45 minutes with an interrupting phone call. Had to guess MANIPLE and wasn’t convinced about RECESS. Put in NUN without knowing two of the three meanings. Took a while to get started but then the RH side all went in and then more slowly the left side. Best for me were HOMAGES and OMELETTE.

  32. After the challenges of yesterday I felt on the wavelength today , very unusual for me on a Friday . I got ahead of myself and put BUST UP (22d) , the usual note to self about reading the question/clue. I can’t add to some of the previous comments but I liked 1ac when I had the PDM . Also 10ac which like others , I was down the CON stem . Never come across Centrist for politician in a cryptic before.
    Salt Marsh lamb from North Gower ( where I grew up ) in South Wales is delicious. The lambs graze on samphire, purslane and sea grasses.
    ‘The Mock Turtle’s song’ is also known as the lobster quadrille ( Alice’s adventures in Wonderland) .
    Thank you setter, and the ever informative blogger and other contributors.

  33. Second day in a row taking a lengthy half-time interval to go and do something else. In the end I had to look up CENTRIST when the inevitable “CON” for politician refused to be as inevitable as it ought to have been. Triple definitions are fine unless you don’t know two of them but even in my post-theological heathenism, I was pretty sure Joshua wouldn’t have called his father Nan.

  34. This took me over the hour mark. I had to scratch away at a lot of them. Was convinced at first that the ‘turkey’ in 14a was a ‘snoreathon’ — ie a dull movie. That’s a word, right?

    Also, is ‘recess’ really a synonym for ‘leave’? I’d say a recess is when everyone takes a break, while leave is granted individually. Perhaps that’s splitting hairs.

  35. 34.20. I was slow to see quadrille and skinflint and nearly had to write out the anagrist for nonstarter. A very good puzzle this one.

  36. Didn’t know MELA in PEACH MELBA, but the whole answer was obvious. Didn’t know Joshua’s dad or pigeon for NUN, but that didn’t stop NUN going in. Nice anagrams for NONSTARTER and POLYGAMIST. All done in 37 minutes.

  37. Very nice puzzle which took me at least 90 minutes. I didn’t parse recess – I was missing an “s” – so entered that one with a prayer. I liked “Skinflint” and “Polygamist” and thought “Cyanide” was a clever inclusion.

  38. Some lovely clues here, especially the great anagram for POLYGAMIST and ANTENNA; but couldn’t see 1a for the life of me,NHO Mela, MANIPLE nor CENTRIST, so had to cheat to get footholds. Liked the clue for NONSTARTER too.
    Setter 1: Solver 0.

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