Times 28507 – The aviary, and what to do about it!

Time: 27 minutes

Music: Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Easter Overture, Temirkanov/NYP

I was definitely a bit off-wavelength with this one, and I expect that most solvers will have done better than I did.   There was one bird I did not know, but at least that one could be constructed from the cryptic, and seemed likely enough.    I was a bit unsure about Andre Messager, but what else could it be?   Not my type of music, to be sure; he was still composing light operas when Stravinsky and Ravel were well under way.

Since I’m a bit late, I can check the early results in the SNITCH, and it seems like this puzzle was pretty average.   We’ll see how everyone does.

1 African starling’s quick bite concealed by high fence (8)
5 Prepare to engage private music group (6)
SEPTET – SE(PTE)T.  I had to biff this, hoping that PTE was a valid abbreviation for Private – it is.
10 Further thought about payment for service (15)
11 Shot some birds around noon? This is macabre! (10)
MORBIDNESS – Anagram of SOME BIRDS around N.
13 Past caring ultimately, or eagerly expectant? (4)
AGOG – AGO + [carin]G.
15 Regularly enter an exam: that’s most clever (7)
NEATEST – [e]N[t]E[r] + TEST.
17 More ghastly ingrained dirt by river across motorway (7)
18 Panic about start of real Brussels outburst (5-2)
FLARE-UP – FLA(R[eal], EU)P, a bit tricky as the clue switches gears.
19 Estimable person painting piece of furniture (7)
RATABLE – R.A. + TABLE, where estimable switches roots from the clue to the answer.
21 Quite a problem for listeners! (4)
SOME – Sounds like SUM.
22 Responsible news broadcast received in farming land (10)
25 Irishman visiting close relative, heretical legislator (15)
PARLIAMENTARIAN – PAR(LIAM)ENT + ARIAN, one I biffed and left for the blog.
27 Farmer that may be used to steer? (6)
TILLER – Double definition.
28 Bomb fragments ruined her plans (8)
1 Possibly stroke male pigs bishop released on island (7)
OARSMAN – [b]OARS + MAN, i.e. the famous Isle.
2 Choice reportedly taken by photographer? (3)
PIC –  Sounds like PICK.
3 Beam, having ability to restrain opponent (10)
CANTILEVER –  C(ANTI)LEVER, another part of the phono cartridge.
4 Welshman protecting current source of bottled water (5)
EVIAN – EV(I)AN, an easy clue.
6 European crazy about cheese (4)
EDAM – E + MAD backwards.
7 What’s-his-name’s light adhesive: twelve pence once (11)
8 One leaves Moroccan port carrying a bird (7)
TANAGER – TAN(A)G[i]ER.   The scarlet tanager, the one we have around here, has evidently been kicked out of the tanager family.
9 French composer’s communication on opening of rondeau (8)
MESSAGER – MESSAGE + R[ondeau].   I was taken aback, because it is highly unlikely that there is a composer I never heard of, but the cryptic is very clear.
12 Bring up lover without hesitation, a large naval officer (4,7)
14 Champion initially inventing stories, tokens of a bygone age (10)
VICTORIANA – VICTOR + I[nventing] + ANA.
16 Head round city with this writer’s place name study (8)
18 Particular person originally from American location (7)
20 Endless report of revolution in east Alabama (7)
ETERNAL – E (sounds like TURN) AL.
23 Crank heading for Western Isle (5)
WINCH – W[estern] + INCH.
24 Function popular when visiting the Kent area (4)
26 One charged over breaking in (3)
ION – I(O)N.

63 comments on “Times 28507 – The aviary, and what to do about it!”

  1. All correct in half an hour or so. Since I’d never heard of either OXER or OXPECKER, that one was submitted with fingers crossed but it was all green.

    You’ve got an R missing at 22A, you need RABLE after the closing parenthesis.

  2. 16:54
    Like Paul, NHO the bird or the fence. All I had to do, since I had PECK in O_ER, was get the second letter, but instead of thinking for a moment I did an alphabet trawl, starting of course at the wrong end in this case. I was sure that 12 pence never equalled a JIG, but had trouble remembering BOB.

    1. ‘1/6 me a kipper’ = ‘Bob Tanner sent me a kipper’.

      Where’s the ‘sent’? In the kipper.

      OK: because it relies on a homophone, it doesn’t work in print. But, thanks to my old physics master, Mr Loveman, I’ll never forget that a bob was one shilling and a tanner was sixpence. (And, as an aside, in Kenya, where the modern day unit of currency is the shilling, they still call it a bob. It’s notionally divided into 100 cents, although those sub-units may now be so small as to have disappeared in practice, and the written form of prices, presumably referring back to colonial days of £sd, still uses an oblique rather than a decimal point, thus: 6/50 rather than £6.50 which we would be more used to in the UK nowadays.)

  3. 1a was LOI, with both Oxer and OXPACKER unknowns I was pleased to have guessed it from the many combinations that fitted. Pretty tough clue for a 1 across on a Monday. NHO MESSAGER or TANAGER: already forgotten which is the bird and which is the French composer,

    But one pink square for TOPONOMY, thinking of the -nomy suffix for laws (as in astronomy). Surprisingly, a few online dictionaries have it as an alternative.

    I favour Thingumajig over THINGAMABOB, and my kids use “dinglehopper” (Little Mermaid reference, there.

    Where does the ANA come from in VICTORIANA?

  4. I was feeling chuffed to have parsed TOPONYMY on my scribble pad, but entered it in the grid as TOPONOMY, dammit. Handed another pink slip after 17mins of pleasurable solving.

  5. I worked through this fairly quickly, considering that I was also listening to John Cale’s new album (Mercy) for only the third or fourth time. Had to check OXPECKER at the end, as NHO—nor OXER either!

    We (or I, at least) had the composer Messager in Sunday Times Cryptic 5003, by David McLean, April 23, 2022, which I blogged under the headline “Reçu cinq sur cinq !” Funnily enough, I started my entry by saying, “Wow, I was really on the wavelength for this one!”

  6. 35 minute DNF. Another not to know either the bird or the ‘high fence’ at 1a and guessed wrongly. No consolation but missed the “toponomy” potential trap at 16d and spelled 7d with an A rather than an I; it has so many allowable spellings I thought either would have done.

    1. Although Collins simply has it as a ‘high fence’, in the equestrian world most oxers are average height. It’s the spread and the accompanying ditch which is the test

  7. 23 minutes for all but the unknown 1ac and even though I had O?PECKE? in place I was unable to come up with anything, so convinced was I that I didn’t know a word meaning ‘high fence’ to fit O?E?. Having used aids to find OXPECKER I was annoyed with myself because I immediately remembered OXER which has come up a couple of times before, most recently in a puzzle I blogged myself in August 2018. I’m pretty sure I have also met it in one of the other puzzles I do regularly. As for OXPECKER, this is its first appearance in the TfTT era outside the specialist areas of Mephisto and Club Monthly.

    I was going to join in the chorus of ‘NHO the composer MESSAGER’ despite studying music for 20+ years and having a degree in it, and also being an avid listener with a wide taste of types and styles, but then I saw Guy’s comment about it having appeared before and not that long ago. I checked my comment for that day and found that as with today’s clue I had bunged in the answer trusting solely to wordplay.

    My other unknown or forgotten was TANAGER so once again I trusted to wordplay and the result rang the faintest of bells as a word I didn’t know the meaning of.

  8. 38 minutes but with a THINGUMIBOB. Well, that’s how I say it. I guessed OXPECKER from crossers and vague memories of a wildlife programme with birds feeding on cattle fleas. LIKE others, I’ve never heard of the bird or the high fence. I also postulated MESSAGER, who looked right. I had heard of TANAGER. COD to PARLIAMENTARIAN while insisting that ARIUS was no heretic.Too much abstruse knowledge was needed for this to be enjoyable.

    1. That’s how I say it too, and it’s an unchecked letter, equally valid from the wordplay.

        1. I’d probably spell it Thingummybob, but that would be too long and wouldn’t sit with the cryptic.

  9. 29m 53s
    I started off slowly but eventually picked up speed. The high fence -OXER- took me back to the days when I used to watch any and all sport on TV, including showjumping with commentary by Dorian Williams and Raymond Brooks-Ward.
    DNK TANAGER but there’s a lovely illustration of one in Collins.
    I share Vinyl’s initial reservations about 5ac but decided PTE had to be acceptable as an abbreviation.
    No real COD.
    LOI was VICTORIANA which started off life as a neologism – HISTORIANA

  10. Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
    Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
    And watching, with Eternal lids apart …

    25 mins pre-brekker with the last few trying to invent a word for high fence. I vaguely remember Oxpecker, but that clued by Oxer is a bit much.
    Thanks setter and V.

  11. TOPONYMY’s a hard word to spell
    An obscure French composer as well
    And two clucking birds
    (Careful choice of words!!)
    It’s my vision of ETERNAL hell

    1. I was going to protest at the description of the TANAGER as a clucker but see from Wikipedia that “pit-i-tuck” is one possible transcription of its song and that is pretty close to “cluck”. I also learned that the scarlet TANAGER has now been reassigned to the cardinal family. In my pre-woke schooldays friends and I occasionally referred to especially good-looking and outgoing female classmates as ‘scarlet teenagers’.

      1. For the record, (and lest anyone should erroneously suspect that I possess some previously undisclosed ornithological knowledge), I would just like to emphasise that my use of the word “clucking” was merely the attempted exercise of “poetic licence” to avoid a word that was significantly ruder.

        To anyone who would wish to argue that my lamentable limericks do not entitle me to claim poetic licence, clearly I have no answer.

        1. No, no, I feel that you as a poet certainly have more right than anyone to employ poetic licence. (And relieved for my sensibilities that you avoided the ruder word!).

    2. Personally, I don’t mind birds so much – even obscure ones – apologies to Astro Nowt – but I’m not so keen on composers – especially obscure ones.

  12. Little chance for me today, to guess the nho OXPECKER.

    THINGUMABOB, as noted above, is pronounced THINGUMIBOB by me – the disputed letter is unchecked.

    Did not parse CANTILEVER, being convinced that ‘having ability’ must lead to CAN….

    Thanks vinyl and setter.

  13. DNF as I had bunged in SEXTET without really looking at the clue! Damn.
    Like others, DNK the birds or the fence. Quite tough for a Monday I thought.

    Thanks v and setter.

  14. 9:09. I initially followed what I thought was the wordplay to write in TOPONIMY. Fortunately it didn’t look quite right so I went back and checked.
    OXER was familiar to me after many years of Mephisto solving but that shouldn’t be a requirement for solving the daily puzzles so in my book the setter and editor get a yellow card for this obvious and entirely avoidable double obscurity.
    Chambers gives four spellings for THINGUMABOB but not THINGAMIBOB, weirdly.
    MESSAGER rang a vague bell, presumably from his last appearance.

  15. Another ‘thingumibob’ here, based on how I say it.

    Like one or two others, I didn’t know the OXPECKER bird or the fence in the wordplay, so I had to hope that the vague knowledge of a kind of bird that sits on big animals and feeds off them was pointing me in the right direction. I was on the verge of bunging in ‘sextet’ for 5a before realising that there was no way either ‘ext’ or ‘xte’ could mean private and getting SEPTET.

    COD Agog

  16. No problems today, bar one.
    Oxpecker OK, having blogged two of its previous appearances, but I was determined to spell 7dn THINGUMMYBOB, and when I began to run short of space, settled for THINGUMYBOB, with a note to go back and have another look later, which sadly got lost …

    1. If you believe Chambers you can have THINGAMYBOB or THINGUMABOB. THINGAMABOB is out, as is THINGUMYBOB, but in that particularly case it’s OK if you add an extra M (THINGUMMYBOB). THINGAMIBOB and THINGUMIBOB are both out of the question.
      Makes perfect sense really when you think about it.

      1. Yes .. I knew thingummybob was OK, but didn’t fit .. and I was pretty sure thingumybob wasn’t; but forgot to follow it up. According to the OED it IS allowable, along with virtually every other possible letter combination. It is surely a remarkable word:
        α. 1700s thinkembob, 1700s 1900s– thingambob, 1700s– thingabob, 1700s– thingembob, 1700s– thingumbob. β. 1700s 1900s– thingamybob, 1800s– thingamabob, 1800s– thingamobob, 1800s– thingumabob, 1800s– thingumebob, 1800s– thingummybob, 1900s– thingamebob, 1900s– thingamibob, 1900s– thingammabob, 1900s– thingammibob, 1900s– thingammybob, 1900s– thingemmybob, 1900s– thingumibob, 1900s– thingummabob, 1900s– thingummebob, 1900s– thingummibob, 1900s– thingumybob, 1900s– thingymibob.
        γ. English regional (Yorkshire) 1800s– thingemtibob, 1800s– thingumtibob.

        1. Similar to Merlin above, I’ve always said “Thingymajig” – not sure whether that’s a Lancashire variant or just our family.

  17. 6m 02s with some tough vocab today – I’m another who’d NHO OXER or OXPECKER. CANTILEVER took me a lot of convincing, because I was sure that the ‘can’ part of it must be something to do with the ‘having ability’ in the clue.

  18. All pretty straightforward apart from OXPECKER. I agree with keriothe that an obscure word with wordplay involving another obscurity is not ideal for a daily puzzle. I sometimes wonder if a daily puzzle has been gate-crashed by a Listener clue.
    ANA is possibly a bit obscure to some, but it has cropped up several times recently.
    22 minutes

  19. Agree with the several who don’t approve of the OXPECKER clue with its double obscurites: the bird I’d never heard of, the fence only very vaguely heard of, not enough to guess it. As usual my alphabet trawl was too hurried at the end and I ended up with aids. For no good reason I found MORBIDNESS difficult, and I reckoned for a while that a jig was probably old slang for a shilling, until the unlikelihood of a word ending R_J_ _ made me think again. J is not common within words, it seems. 39 minutes.

  20. 20:45 but with THINGUMIBOB. I also had to look up the second letter of OXPECKER, knowing neither the bird or the fence. Thanks Vinyl.

  21. 17 mins. Fortunately I knew OXER so the PECKER OF OXEN it had to be. TANAGER seems to be one of those Countdown words that come up a lot, so watching it regularly has its uses.

  22. 28:08. Had never heard of or couldn’t recall either of the OX words but a speed-annihilating alphabet trawl delivered the only likely option. Not the easiest Monday of recent weeks.

  23. 36:29 but with one pink square for spelling TOPONYMY like astronomy. Like others, DNK the bird or the fence but I thought it eminently guessable from the crossers and wrote it in confidently when my alphabet trawl reached X. LOI VICTORIANA after abandoning my search for Roman coins (tokens of a bygone age)

  24. A fairly gentle start to the week.
    Biffed CANTILEVER unparsed.
    Thanks to setter and blogger!

  25. Yes, “toponOmy” was all too tempting but on RECONSIDERATION I thought that NY was a more likely city for a UK puzzle than NO (New Orleans). If Jennings had kept an old shilling in his pocket with his toffee it would have been a thin gummy bob but there was no room for it here so on further reconsideration I came out ok. A reference to REAR ADMIRALs in Mansfield Park gives rise to one of the most surprising passages in Jane Austen – when Mary Crawford makes a comment that would seem ribald even in these more liberated days. 12.54

  26. So a DNF because I had THINGUMYBOB which seems a little harsh given some comments above.

  27. I had no problem with OXPECKER, having been an avid watcher of wildlife documentaries since I was little (it was the fence I hadn’t heard of). I failed to carefully check THINGUMABOB ( I had entered THINGYMEBOB) and felt very uneasy about it. Quite correctly it turned out. I had spent 10 minutes at the end looking at TOPONYMY and making sure that was correct. The rest of the puzzle took 45 minutes or so.
    Haven’t we had that or TOPONYM recently?
    I liked the clues for ION and CANTILEVER.
    Thank you for the blog.

  28. Seemed okay today, had heard of OXPECKER. The entry for NEATEST is missing its A- could be regularly “eNtEr An” or regularly eNtEr” + A TEST for “AN EXAM”.

  29. 1 hour + with a couple of aids led to a DNF with 2 pinks: thingumybob and toponamy and I don’t feel too daft with either of them as at first pass I had only PIC, EDAM & SOME in and it took a long time to get going.

    PARLIAMENTARIAN needed all the checkers for a big biff.

    NHO OXPECKER, TOPONYMY and TANAGER. This felt tough, but can’t have been because I nearly finished it!

    Thanks setter and Vinyl1

  30. Rattled thru in 14 minutes close to a on with fingers crossed for septet oxpecker and tanager – only to find that I fell down on thingummybob (certainly the way I say it) which of course does not parse. Thems the breaks I suppose

  31. DNF in 25 minutes due to the unknown TOPONYMY, which I really should have got by following the cryptic, and ‘historiana’, which I dreamt up from somewhere, failed to parse and then failed to rethink and replace with the much better VICTORIANA. Not a good start to the week with an enjoyable crossword which ought to have been completely straightforward. Thanks to setter and blogger, as usual.

  32. DNF with two mistakes in nearly an hour, OSPECKER instead of OXPECKER (somehow knowing the word OSIER made OSER seem more likely than OXER for the high fence), and SEXTET because my hope was that EXT might mean private, somehow, rather than PT with SEET somehow meaning prepare. That all of PTE might be someone’s preferred version of an abbreviation for “private” never occurred to me and it is certainly not something I would expect to be general knowledge.

    I do not think these clues are unfortunate, as so many of you do. I think they are simply grossly unfair. Not much more to say about this puzzle or its setter.

  33. DNF – seduced by a champion maybe being Histor- to give historiana! Sounded so plausible I didn’t bother to alpha-trawl past T!! On discovering the answer didn’t start with H, I retrawled the alphabet and the answer was obvious!
    I am kicking myself quite hard!

  34. Was quite annoyed to find THINGUMABOB being the given spelling in an unchecked position. I put THINGUMIBOB, which parsed perfectly well, and is how it is said, as far as I’ve heard, when it’s not JIG. Since OED gives it as a possible spelling, I think I’ll call that a win for me, as the rest were correct. I had heard of TANAGER and OXPECKER, though the latter took some time to go in, as I hadn’t heard of OXER. I also knew of Andre MESSAGER, though I couldn’t name anything he wrote. LOI VICTORIANA, where it took a ridiculous amount of time to come up with the answer.

  35. 16:03. Did this after being out for the day. All but too done before I got stuck for a couple of minutes at the end on OXPECKER, and VICTORIANA my LOI. Like others I pondered the possible variations of THINGUMABOB until I realised the A went with the BOB to make 12d. Thanks Vinyl and setter.

  36. A lot of this I too considered a bit unfair: OXPECKER, MESSAGER , TANAGER and THINGUMABOB in particular ( considering the various ways it is pronounced! – as although the answer came to mind immediately, spelling it was something else). Started off ok with this, then ground to a halt with the unknowns, of course. Don’t actually know what you guys refer to as an ‘alphabet trawl’ – how is that done? It sounds far too time-consuming to account for the speedy times…

Comments are closed.