Times 28499 – how apt it is to learn


A good test, with plenty to learn. Probably a red SNITCH day. I really like this level of puzzle because I think it’s on the edge of my solving ability without becoming a trudge. In several places I had to rely on wordplay/checkers/instinct, but all green in under an hour – I’ll take that!

Definitions underlined.

1 Game personnel in industrial area (4)
RUHR – RU (rugby union, game) + HR (human resources, personnel). An industrial area in Germany.
3 Get engrossed in homework with book pinched from female head? (10)
PREPOSSESS – PREP (homework) + bOSSESS (female head?) minus the ‘b’ (book). I only knew the ‘biased’ meaning of this, but Chambers has ‘to fill (e.g. the mind) with…’.
10 I lead in Polish part of leg (7)
HIPBONE – I + PB (lead), all contained by (in) HONE (polish).
11 European wearing tie at revolving restaurant (7)
TEAROOM – E (european) contained by (wearing) MOOR (tie) + AT, all reversed (revolving).
12 Hardly anything mostly coin-operated worked with hand (1,4,2,3,5)
A DROP IN THE OCEAN – anagram of (worked) mostly COIN-OPERATEd + HAND
13 Mountains seen beyond delta in Highlands (6)
SIERRA – the letter after ‘d’ (delta) in the word ‘highlands’ is ‘s’ (sierra).
14 Not perhaps digging someone’s grave (8)
CRITICAL – cryptic hint. Not digging, i.e. not having a positive opinion of.
17 With a degree, what Bob can be: a superhero! (8)
BATWOMAN – BA (degree) + TWO MAN (what bob can be). I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I think this refers to a two-person bobsleigh team.
18 Education graduate’s appeal for student accommodation? (6)
BEDSIT – BEDS (Bachelor of Education’s) + IT ((sex) appeal). Not very common these days.
21 One in a tie put up with female wearing tails, bizarrely (7-8)
QUARTER-FINALIST – QUARTER (give accommodation to, put up) + F (female) + IN (wearing) + an anagram of (bizarrely) TAILS.
23 Old scholar’s letters on display at Times (7)
ERASMUS – MUS (multiple letter ‘mu’) on ERAS (times).
24 Lake’s gold reflection portrayed by Turner (7)
ROTORUA – reversal (reflection) of AU (gold) by ROTOR (turner). New Zealand Lake – NHO.
25 Brother in dispute went and steered into driving place (10)
TWEEDLEDEE – WEED (went (for a wee)) + LED (steered), all in TEE (driving place). Brother to Tweedledum, from ‘Through the Looking Glass’, who apparently quarrelled over a rattle.
26 Means to cut deal: joins in talks (4)
ADZE – sounds like (in talks) “adds” (joins). The ‘deal’, in this case, is the pine wood.
1 Tries again to go over brief (7)
REHEARS – REHEARSe (go over), minus the last (brief).
2 Hex pretty much transformed web software (9)
HYPERTEXT – anagram of (much transformed) HEX PRETTY.
4 Crying over? That is the wrong way to keep in step! (6)
RUEING – I.E. (that is) reversed (the wrong way) in RUNG (step).
5 Mary Jane and son drove a bit of an old crock (8)
POTSHERD – POT (cannabis, mary jane) + S (son) + HERD (drove). A shard of crockery found when excavating an archaeological site.
6 Instinctive, small worry: chap’s out of breath a lot? (4-2-3-5)
SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS – S (small) + EAT (worry) + OFT HE PANTS (chap’s out of breath a lot).
7 Ham, perhaps the ultimate in Tyrolese speck (5)
EMOTE – last letter of tyrolesE + MOTE (speck). The verb form of this well-known crossword-ese.
8 Key from student class finally changing hands (7)
SEMINAL – SEMINAr (student class) replacing ‘r’ for ‘L’ (changing hands).
9 Sound of policeman thundered around walls of tenement (6-8)
COPPER-BOTTOMED – COPPER (policeman) + BOOMED (thundered) containing the outermost letters (walls) of TenemenT. A phrase I did not know, meaning reliable, from the practice of using copper to reinforce the hulls of wooden ships.
15 Money and possibly passport to hold on to before getting dismissed (9)
CASHIERED – CASH (money) + I.D. (possibly passport) to contain ERE (before).
16 Just over an inch needed for top design (4,4)
FAIR ISLE – FAIR (just) + ISLE (an inch).
17 Something you will grab finally with online search? (7)
BEQUEST – last letter of graB + E-QUEST (online search?). A sneaky L&S.
19 Test concentration of class descended on by singer (7)
TITRATE – RATE (class) under TIT (singer).
20 Frenchman’s gym slip one’s put on splits (6)
PIERRE – I + ERR (slip one’s put on) splitting P.E. (gym).
22 Saw time for promotion? (5)
ADAGE – AD AGE (era of the advert, time for promotion).

70 comments on “Times 28499 – how apt it is to learn”

  1. 25:48
    Biffs abounding: PREPOSSESS, TEAROOM, A DROP… (biffed from enumeration), BATWOMAN, QUARTER-FINALIST, SEAT-OF-THE PANTS. Never did figure out ‘Bob’ or ‘oft he’. Tough but enjoyable; or rather, tough and enjoyable.

  2. 45 minutes. I second the opening comments relating to the level of difficulty of this puzzle which made it all the more enjoyable. Instinct aka inspiration aka luck was my principal solving aid. Finished up not being able to parse ‘what Bob can be’ for TWOMAN at 17a (v. good spot) and ‘drove’ as a noun for HERD at 5d.

    Good way to finish the Mon-Fri week.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  3. Well- beaten. It’ll be a long time before this level of puzzle is in my grasp. No matter, lots to learn. Many clever ones such as SIERRA, TWO-MAN, “something you will” etc.

    I went to Lake ROTORUA last November, but still struggled to see its parsing on pressing Reveal. It has OR (= gold) twice, with one backwards. I even thought it might be that ship painted by Turner. So thanks William for the blog where many mysteries were revealed.

    Now back to the QC.

    1. On seeing the Turner reference in the ROTORUA clue my immediate thought was (The Fighting) Temeraire but clearly there are too many letters so I moved on.

    2. As often, agree with you Merlin: this one still well out of my grasp, but, hopefully, getting there… should have seen RUHR earlier (already had R?H?) but was looking for a generalised “industrial area”; would never have gotten PREPOSSESS as “get engrossed in” nor TEAROOM as a restaurant; the Bob in 17a threw me off the gender-scent (as was intended) with BATWOMAN; and I marvel that anyone can get QUARTER-FINALIST out of that clue! Probably more completed than the last Friday offering, so not there yet, but there’s always hope.

  4. An excellent workout that really required attention to detail to come up with answers and understand wordplay. I finished in 50 minutes of uneven solving because the whole of the LH side was complete within 15 but I slowed right down after that. The NE corner presented most difficulty although it had been opened up early on by the long Across A DROP IN THE OCEAN and the long Down, SEAT OF THE PANTS. My LOI was PREPOSSESSES. Further down the grid I struggled with ROTORUA which looked unlikely but I trusted to wordplay. On checking later and finding the lake is in New Zealand I remembered meeting it before – it was an answer in the QC on Christmas Eve 2021.

    Special congrats are due to Will for unravelling this lot. Fridays are often a very tough gig as I found to my cost in my earliest days of blogging here.

  5. I loved this one, such stunning clueing.
    To finish it did take some doing.
    My last one in: the brilliant RUEING.

  6. Never heard of ROTORUA and, before I had more checkers, ONTARIO was tempting (well, it’s a lake, but that’s about all that works). Some clever stuff here. PIERRE my LOI once I finally worked out what the clue was telling me to do.

  7. Completely beyond my capability. I am a mere spectator here at this level of cryptic clueing.

    BEDSIT my FOI and my LOI – yep, my OOI!

    I stand and applaud the setter and the solvers. Much respect.

  8. Knew ROTORUA from primary school, where we learned (1963) a Maori song which I can just about sing some of phonetically. Did not parse BATWOMAN, tried to fit ‘uncle’ in. Excellent puzzle.

    22’13”, thanks william and setter.


    This is a version by Hayley Westenra. According to Wikipedia: “The Māori words have remained virtually unaltered over the decades, with only the waters in the first line being localized. For example, some versions refer to Lake Rotorua in the North Island.”

    1. It was sung by the on-field choirs, conducted by Haydn James, at the Wales NZ rugby international in Cardiff last November. Full marks to them for learning the words and harmonies.

  9. Let me not see the patriot’s high Bequest,
    Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!

    After 40 mins pre-brekker I finished with the Prepossess/Rueing crossers.
    Having seen the Q and Z, I was looking out for a J which didn’t help. I really enjoyed it, especially … what Bob can be: a superhero!
    Thanks setter and WJS.

  10. Despite getting 1a right from the off, and 3a shortly thereafter, I never believed I was getting to grips with this, and gave up at about 40% and 35m. One of those (and I hate it when this happens) where I had multiple correct guesses (TEAROOM, SIERRA) that I couldn’t come close to squaring up with the cryptic.

    Special mention to POTSHERD – reminded me of my dope-smoking days – I miss ’em.

  11. 15:16. Excellent puzzle: it felt satisfyingly chewy all the way through but I never got really stuck. ROTORUA did take a while at the end because I thought the ‘gold reflection’ was going to be RO at the beginning and I have never come across this lake before.
    I worried a bit about ADZE being the American spelling (which would make the English spelling ADSE) but that’s ADZ.

  12. This took the hour. LOI was RUEING. I only knew POTSHERD as a vessel in the bible, but that was near enough. I’d biffed CATWOMAN (who can forget Michelle Pfeiffer?) until I received the BEQUEST. SIERRA did seem a long way from DELTA in the alphabet, so thanks for that explanation. I did eventually parse PREPOSSESS and then flinched. My BEDSIT years followed my student days, the time when I was in my first jobs. COD to QUARTER-FINALIST, bringing a smile with my team making it to the semis of the Mickey Mouse cup this week. Hard, hard, hard. Thank you William and setter.

    1. I know your parenthetical question was rhetorical BW, but the answer surely is “nobody”. Certainly not me at least.

    2. Yes BW there was some rather King James bible stuff in the NE corner. The story about Job among the POTSHERDs is so weird it could be true and then there’s the bit about being CRITICAL of the MOTE in your brother’s eye when you’ve got a beam in your own – which might also have some topical reference.

  13. This took me the whole of an hour
    My little grey cells on low power
    I’ve not met Mary Jane
    So a test for my brain
    And “bossess” did cause a glower

    1. In Mexico lived a lass Maria Juana –
      Did she lend her name to “marijuana”?
      I think it’s quite plain
      In English she’s Mary Jane –
      But call her whatever you wanna.

  14. 21:43. Like our blogger I do enjoy a puzzle which stretches you without bogging you down. I was certainly stretched here with the NE corner proving particularly tricky. As is often the case, one answer quickly unlocks others and so it was today with POTSHERD. I’d immediately thought marijuana was being referred to but couldn’t come up with the synonym despite it being common.
    ROTORUA was unknown or unremembered, and like Merlin the fact that RO could be gold reversed gave me pause for thought. In the end I trusted to wordplay and was relieved to finish without error.

  15. As others have said, a great work-out. Was pleased to work it all out in 20.27 although yet another stupid typo with TEAROMM.

    Some great clueing throughout.

    Definitely a puzzle I would have got nowhere near completing a year ago so some progress!

    Thanks William and setter

  16. 16:47

    A proper Friday challenge, very enjoyable and rewarding of persistence. The NW corner went in pretty quickly but I then shuddered to a halt and had to do a complete brain reset to get on wavelength. There was a lot of complex but clever wordplay going on.

    Thanks all round.

  17. 23:38. Great stuff. I spent 5 minutes on my last two – PIERRE and RUEING, which needed an alphabet trawl. DNK Mary Jane for POT and failed to see TWO MAN. I liked “something you will”, (b)OSSESS and TWEEDLEDEE best. Thanks Wiliiam and setter.

    1. After much pondering and very late in the proceedings when I realised the answer at 5dn had to be POTSHERD and ‘Mary Jane’ had to be POT I assumed in my innocence that it was a Victorian euphemism for chamber pot like ‘gazunder’. But when the dictionary put me right on this and advised it means cannabis I remembered meeting it before. It appeared in a clue in ST puzzle 5028 blogged here on 16th October last year.

      1. Wiktionary has
        potshard (plural potshards)
        Alternative form of potsherd

        Only drawback being that hard doesn’t relate to droving.

        1. I biffed POTSHARD and was disappointed to get a pink square on 29’ 35”.
          Felt hard done by till I saw the parsing.
          ROTORUA not a problem since I lived near there in the 80’s.
          Thank you setter, very enjoyable.

        2. The drawback didn’t prevent me bunging in POTSHARD too. Saw the MJ= pot, knew what a potshard was, and thought no further. If I waited to fully parse every answer I might never finish.

  18. 32’12” – As everyone has said, this was a wonderfully chewy puzzle. My top-left fell quite quickly, but then it suddenly became a lot harder. PREPOSSESS opened the top-right, but the real breakthrough was getting QUARTER-FINALIST, which — especially with the Q — helped enormously in the bottom half. I saw the WENT as body function reference in 25 across, but annoyingly decided it must be PEED, so SPEED- words were what I was looking for. LOI ROTORUA, which was a fortunate shot in the dark. Really satisfying half hour — thanks so much to setter and blogger.

  19. This seemed quite innocuous at first, but then the googlies arrived! RURH, HIPBONE, A DROP IN THE OCEAN, REHEARS, all grist to the mill. PREPOSSESS, POTSHERD, TEAROOM, SIERRA, PIERRE, however, a different story! Never did make the leap from shilling to sleigh, but BATWOMAN went in confidently nevertheless. Managed to construct the very vaguely remembered ROTORUA. SEMINAL was a seminal moment in completing the NE, with TEAROOM and EMOTE last 2 in. 33:20. Thanks setter and William.

  20. Absolutely agree with everyone else who has already said they enjoyed this puzzle. Lots of nice definitions.
    Like @Keriothe, I’d started seeing the clue to Rotorua as starting with ‘or’ reversed, but I saw it pretty quickly. I once went to Rotorua, nearly 30 years ago. There are volcanic Hot Springs and the whole town smells of hydrogen sulphide.
    COD TWEEDLEDEE (yet another instance of a reference to relieving oneself!)
    Pretty pleased to have finished in 16:09.

    Thanks, Setter, for an entertaining workout, and William for the blog.

    Have a good weekend, everyone.

    1. Another visitor to Rotorua for a couple of days back in the seventies. It took much longer to wash the hydrogen sulphide out of my hair and clothes. New Zealand, what a wonderful country, hot springs, sub tropical in the North and glaciers in the South Island. And the perfect clue for this retired chemistry teacher – can we get aliquot or meniscus clued by one of our esteemed setters?
      Just under an hour to finish without aids. Thanks to William and setter for a thoroughly demanding but enjoyable puzzle.

  21. Gave up on the hour with PIERRE and the NHO ROTORUA missing. Don’t think I’d have got either of them even with another hour’s brain-bashing. Disappointing, but was frankly pleased to do as well as I did. Loved TWEEDLEDEE and EMOTE. Wasn’t convinced by ‘bossess’, but saw what setter was driving at nonetheless.

  22. 14:56, agree with solvers who thought this was a good Friday puzzle, stretching the brain without becoming tiresome (not least there were some where you could biff and retrospectively work out why you’d got the right answer, such as the groan-worthy penny-drop for BOSSESS). Nice work.

  23. What an excellent puzzle, took me 36:20. For the first half of that I felt I was getting nowhere, then there was a “change of gears” moment when I realised I was dealing with a higher form of cluing. Still slow after that, but deeply satisfying.

    I only recall Batgirl among the DC superheroes (or maybe that was just the old TV series), but BATWOMAN wasn’t much of a stretch. Turns out there is such a character anyway.

    Too many great clues to list. Thanks for the blog william_j_s, especially for the parsing of PREPOSSESS.

  24. Hard. I took about 90 minutes and even then couldn’t solve PIERRE, which I now see is excellent (had pierce, with no confidence of course). In my innocence I thought Mary Jane was CRS for cocaine, so struggled with 5dn, thinking it began with a C. It has to be the two man bobsleigh event but I couldn’t see it at the time and entered BATWOMAN with doubts. Like many I started OK and then hit a wall, using plenty of aids by the end.

  25. I think I must have absorbed ROTORUA from one of the Ngaio Marsh books set in NZ. I took a very long time to understand what the delta was doing in the SIERRA clue. Good one. Good puzzle. 19.35

  26. Thoroughly enjoyable workout. All green and all parsed in just under 40 mins. I agree with our blogger – this level of clueing is a great challenge without being impossible. Too many great clues to mention, but I’d probably give COD to 6D for the very clever “oft he pants”!
    Hats off to setter and blogger. Now I need a lie down.

  27. 11m 02s, good Friday puzzle. RUHR went straight in, and I managed to biff a couple of the longer ones, so I thought it might be on the easy side – but no, lots to chew on. TWEEDLEDEE was my LOI after FAIR ISLE, which didn’t really ring any bells.

  28. Too much for me. Gave up on the hour with 12 left on the RHS. Even if I’d filled in SEAT and PANTS which seemed to be key (I was convinced this was an anagram), I’m not sure I’d have completed…

  29. Beaten all ends up by this excellent puzzle. First rate cluing throughout. If I had a weekend to spare I might have cracked it.

    Thanks to William and the setter

  30. DNF. Slightly relieved to see that a fair few others have been beaten by this too, though the ones that defeated me – RUEING and TWEEDLEDEE, plus a misspelt ‘adse’ – don’t seem to have caused too many people problems. Didn’t parse the ‘twoman’ bit of BATWOMAN, so thanks for that.

    COD Copper-bottomed

  31. 49 mins. Despite my hippy background NHO MARY JANE, maybe it’s too recent?
    Struggled at the end with ROTORUA and PIERRE. However immensely enjoyable.

    1. Kacey Musgraves’ song ‘Merry Go Round’has the lines “brother’s hooked on Mary Jane, and Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down” …

  32. I saw the Snitch before starting, and decided not to time it as I knew there was no way I’d complete it in a single sitting, and came back to it off-and-on. I was just pleased to get to the end with everything correct, although I hadn’t understood SIERRA or BATWOMAN. So many great clues, but I’ll go for TWEEDLEDEE as my COD. I’m glad they are not like this every day, as I just don’t have the time! Thanks b & s.

  33. A Friday stinker with tortuously ingenious clueing.
    COD: Not an easy choice…!
    Thanks to setter & blogger.

  34. 48 mins over two (widely) separate sessions. A real workout that I was barely up to completing., with the NE corner holding out to the end. Excellent puzzle, so-so performance.

  35. A little beyond me – a fair amount correct but unparsed and I couldn’t quite see CRITICAL despite parsing it right.

    Does anyone have a problem with “inch” uncapitalised? NHO FAIR ISLE and I hesitated on entering it because I thought the convention was you could add capitals but not lose them.

    Thanks wjs for a tough blog.

  36. According to Collins “Speck” can mean: “a type of smoked cured ham produced in Italy”.

    I didn’t know that…

  37. Thought on BATWOMAN: Bob is short for bobsleigh, of which there is a two-man version…

  38. I found this quite tough,despite making a good start with HIPBONE and QUARTER-FINALIST. It took me over an hour, including about 20 minutes struggling with the last half dozen clues. Never heard of Mary Jane as used in 5dn, but I have lived a sheltered life. And 19dn brought back unhappy memories of O-level chemistry practicals. But overall a fair and enjoyable challenge.
    LOI – TWEEDLEDEE ( but liked the clueing)
    Thanks to William and others.

  39. All cluing much too convoluted for my ancient brain. I like a puzzle to be witty and entertaining – and reasonably accessible. This was none of those for me. However, I take my hat off to those who walked this one.

    1. Well now you’ve said it, I can say it too.

      No doubting the quality of most of the clues, but this was tedious for mere mortals such as myself. I’m not sure relief and/or ongoing bemusement should be the overriding emotions at the end of a solve?

      The place for this type of crossword is the monthly special, which I can immediately avoid.

  40. A very satisfying puzzle.
    We’ve had the abbreviation bob for bobsled before, but I’d forgotten it, so thank you Wm. I guess when we get to sleds, sleighs, and sledges I get focussed on which of those variants we’re looking for, and forget about dropping it altoghether.

  41. Though it took an hour and twenty minutes, I’m very pleased to have finished this and to have understood all of the clues and wordplay (except perhaps for SIERRA, although the correct idea did cross my mind). COD to BATWOMAN? PIERRE? … hard to say. Only complaint: I wouldn’t really say the HIPBONE is part of the leg, it’s just what the leg is attached to.

  42. Got there at the third sitting but didn’t enjoy the ride to be honest. Another day, another incorrectly defined computing term (hypertext isn’t software). And another pluralised greek letter. Grumble, grumble, but thanks for the blog.

  43. Failed on two – “Prepossess” and “Potsherd”.

    I have never heard of “Mary Jane” as cannabis and am barely familiar with “Potsherd”.

    Not very keen on “Bossess” and would not have associated “Prepossess” with “get engrossed”.

    Live and learn!

  44. Liked the puzzle but a bit too laborious especially for a Yank. NHO: Copper-bottomed, Bedsit, Rotorua. Hypertext is NOT software, but easy anagram. Bossess??? I seem to always miss PEED for went. Good learning experience. Thanks to setter and blogger for the wonderful explanations!

  45. Above solvers have said it all, and I have too in my reply to Merlin. Just wanted to add that I look forward to the day when I can tackle this level of crossword without time (and brain!) constraints.

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