Times 28531 – Nearly the Pines of Rome

Time: 30 minutes

Music:  Spanish Opera Preludes and Intermezzos – National Orchestra of Spain, Frubeck de Burgos

This was mostly a Monday puzzle, but towards the end I ran into a little difficulty in the SW area.    As it turned out, there was some  UK-specific knowledge that I either had to recall, or did not know at all.   However, the setter did not clue pear-shaped with the UK meaning, which I know very well.

I do recommend Frubeck de Burgos recordings of bits and pieces from obscure 19th-century Spanish operas – for some reason, Decca did not release the two LPs in the UK, but they were available in the US.


1 Return of American poet mostly creates excitement (8)
SUSPENSE – US backwards + SPENSE[r].
5 Having come out, feel ultimately enthralled by a period of growth (6)
ABLOOM – A B([fee]L)OOM.
8 Source of e.g. iron and gold close to Kalgoorlie (3)
ORE -OR + [Kalgoorli]E.
9 Hooligan put up a fight (10)
10 Sad way to refer to retiring (8)
PATHETIC – PATH + CITE backwards.
11 Diagnostic test introduced by group of workers from Italy (6)
TUSCAN – TU + SCAN, trade union, that is.
12 Former City CEO, perhaps (4)
14 Surrounded by low-pitched backing, a harp’s played like a lute? (4-6)
PEAR-SHAPED –  PE(anagram of HARP’S)ED, that is DEEP backwards.
17 Jam in second drawer on counter (10)
20 Occasional bits of false info in your dreams (2,2)
AS IF – [f]A[l]S[e] I[n]F[o].
23 High-ranking head of Inquisition appearing in Man of La Mancha? (6)
SENIOR – SEN(I[nquisition])OR.
24 Oregano sprinkled over the middle of meals? It’s best avoided! (2-2,4)
NO-GO AREA – Anagram of OREGANO around [me]A[ls].
25 Bins accept less rubbish (10)
SPECTACLES – Anagram of ACCEPT LESS.   The literal is UK-specific, but I had never encountered it.   The answer was clear enough.
26 Old fighter somewhat exhilaratingly knocked back (3)
ALI – Backwards hidden in [exh]ILA[raingly].
27 In the end, lovers naturally part (6)
SNATCH – [lover]S NATCH, as in a snatch of song.
28 Bit of power seized by joint US paramilitary force (4,4)
1 Some tabloids principally have control over breaking news (4,5)
STOP PRESS – S[ome] T[abloids] + OPPRESS.
2 Cover in outbuilding not quite retaining warmth (7)
3 Apprentice missing first money-making initiative (6)
4 Small sheep that is dozier than all the others? (9)
STUPIDEST – S + TUP + ID EST.    It’s ram, ewe, tup, teg.
5 Loyal friend starts to act tearful, consumed by feelings of tenderness (7)
ACHATES – ACH(A[ct] T[earful])ES.
6 Plant secures agreements from French state (9)
7 Give a speech about training for work (7)
13 Showing restraint in blocking pictures on a website, say (9)
15 Legal guideline in sport failing to protect group of stars (4,2,3)
16 Negative mindset fades out with time (9)
DEFEATISM – Anagram of FADES and TIME.
18 Yorkshire person’s specific justification for being disloyal? (7)
19 Mark is caught with grass in school (7)
21 Top expert on board? (7)
SURFACE – A SURF ACE = expert on board – don’t lift and don’t separate.
22 Crew has time for a drink (6)

48 comments on “Times 28531 – Nearly the Pines of Rome”

  1. I felt clever knowing Aeneas’s pal, so was mostly held up making sure I could justify Treason and Snatch. I liked NoGoArea for the word itself, and Surface for the possibly chestnutty but still worth a grin cluing.

  2. 16 minutes. I wasn’t familiar with SURF-ACE and it made me chuckle! This felt harder than the average Monday, and I felt like I was lucky to finish with a good time. I misunderstood much of the wordplay on first pass, and only figured it all out post-solve.

  3. 18:08
    I wondered about SPECTACLES, and also SNATCH. I wasn’t sure what ‘dozy’ meant, but TUP settled the matter. ‘on board’ had me thinking about chess before I twigged.

  4. 36 minutes. I’d done the harder ones like ACHATES but then became stuck at the end on TREASON, knowing it had to be the right answer but not seeing how it worked until the Yorkshire T’ emerged through the brain fog; mustn’t have watched enough “All Creatures Great And Small” and “The Yorkshire Vet”.

    I liked ‘French’ in the wordplay for LOUISIANA.

  5. Well, I was thinking maybe the setter was a fan of Guy Debord and “rubbish” was what clued SPECTACLES—“binned” as a verb possibly performing the same anagramming function… right?

    Still… got ’em all right! (And after karaoke too—where my Burt Bacharach tribute was “Baby, It’s You,” made famous by the Shirelles and then the Beatles.)

    LOUISIANA was my COD, because of the French, oui…

  6. 35 minutes. Had to dig deep for ACHATES but eventually remembered him from schooldays when we had a teacher who pronounced him ‘aCHAYtees’ with the ‘ch’ as in ‘chess’. He also said ‘aCHILLees’ as if it was a sneeze. These days a POSSET is more likely to appear on menus or in food shops as a sweet course rather than a drink.

  7. 8:20 Definitely helped by the Classics here – would have struggled with ACHATES otherwise.

  8. 12:08

    We must have had ACHATES in these puzzles before as I wouldn’t have known him/her/it from anywhere else.

    TREASON was straight out of the Uxbridge.

    1. Yay, I’m not wrong. Achates appeared in a daily cryptic in May 2019 and in a Jumbo I blogged in 2018.

    2. Certainly for Achates: never heard of him (her?) except Times crosswords. Classics isn’t a “thing” down here.

  9. About 30 minutes. Relied on wordplay for ACHATES (my poor knowledge of Greek mythology frequently causes me problems with these crosswords) and for POSSET. Also took a while to figure out CONTINENT, and was hesitant over SPECTACLES as I’m not familiar with that meaning of bins.

    FOI Ore
    LOI Posset
    COD Pear-shaped

  10. Found this quite reasonable and enjoyable for a Monday, only for the edge to be taken off by a silly typo – an ‘M’ for the ‘N’ in SPENSE(r).
    COD to the Yorkshire justification!

  11. Quite quick today but like our blogger, a bit in the SW corner held out for a while. Liked LOUISIANA, SURF ACE, and POSSET, straight from Heyer.
    Knew Achates as a faithful friend, but would struggle to say exactly whose faithful friend..

  12. 9:26. No unknowns, no real problems. I also got held up a bit in the SW, specifically with CONTINENT which took me a while to see. ‘Showing restraint’ and ‘pictures on a website, say’ are both a little oblique, in a good way.

  13. 26′, having to piece together ACHATES.

    Liked TREASON.

    STOP PRESS LOI as spent time looking for an anagram of ‘news’.

    Thanks vinyl and setter.

  14. 8m 32s, slowes in the NE by not knowing ACHATES, who I pieced together from the cryptic, and that got me ABLOOM as my LOI.

    Lovely stuff, COD for the nice definition in AS IF.

  15. 40 minutes with no major problems, although I couldn’t justify STANDSTILL for a while, being uncomfortable with stand = counter. ACHATES appears from time to time, must be a forced set of letters, have only ever heard of him in places like here and know he is a sort of faithful friend to someone. For a while wanted the Yorkshire person to be a tyke and the bin to be a receptacle.

    1. Like you, I was uneasy with ‘stand’ as a synonym for ‘counter’, though I note that the two do appear together in Roget’s Thesaurus!

  16. Off the ball today , with 25’51”. LOI STUPIDEST, which could have applied to me as I sought out a rare breed of sheep. ACHATES, often accompanied by FIDUS, was lodged in my brain somewhere, and I don’t think because of Latin lessons. Does P.G. Wodehouse use it every now and again? Nearly went for TEAR-SHAPED, but luckily couldn’t understand the cryptic. Many thanks as ever.

  17. 40:05. A bit harder than than an easy Monday. DNK ACHATES but managed to construct him/her. I think of bins as binoculars, rather than SPECTACLES, but there you go. I liked T’REASON

  18. Unusually, I didn’t check the snitch before having a go. I was a bit surprised to see it >100 at the time of writing.

    Most of my head scratching was over the relatively simple ABLOOM and CONTINENT – just could not see them. NHO ACHATES, but wordplay was clear enough.


  19. 26:18. Had SP[L]URT for too long at 5ac. Couldn’t make the tense work but it seemed close enough, particularly with the confirmatory L of LOUISIANA, but inevitably it wasn’t.

  20. DNF beaten by too many to mention in NE and SW corners but including ACHATES CONTINENT LOUISIANA PEAR-SHAPED and STANDSTILL.

    Tail between legs.

  21. All correct despite a bad nights sleep. LOI was ABLOOM. Liked 18d.
    A pleasant tussle to start the week.
    Thanks for the explanation of RULE OF LAW and STANDSTILL which I struggled to parse while solving.

  22. 32:02. Fairly steady but I was buckled in for a struggle with TUSCAN and SURFACE; fortunately I managed to pop my brain into parsing them correctly without too much time wasted. A bit like staring at a 2-dimensional representation of a cube – sometimes you get stuck seeing a clue one way.

    I liked STUPIDEST despite not knowing TUP for the misleading flavour of a cryptic definition, and the challenge of parsing STANDSTILL and RULE OF LAW. Thanks s&v.

  23. DNF, thanks to writing ROUSTABOUT for 9AC. ROUST is “disturb, upset, or hit, or make them move from their place” according to Collins, which seems ok for “put up”, and then we have A BOUT for “a fight”. And a roustabout is a hooligan. Seemed solid.

    1. I also essayed ROUSTABOUT
      But 6 Down then sorted me out
      On more serious matters
      Your street-cred’s in tatters
      Just as bad as that nut Astro-Nowt

  24. Took a while to get the right sheep, and had to construct POSSET and ACHATES. I must have come across the latter once upon a time, as I studied the Aeneid in Latin at school. I got quite bogged down after a quickish start and wondered about THEESEN for a Yorkshire person, until the penny dropped. STANDSTILL was blocked by TILE as the counter for quite some time too. Eventually I got back to the elusive LOI,TUSCAN. 31:32. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  25. 27:32

    Steadyish solve, but held up in the SW and NE. Finished the SW first with SENIOR, TREASON, SNATCH and CONTINENT.

    NE was tougher to crack, ABLOOM allowed me to pencil in the vaguely-known ACHATES which in turn, gave ROUGHHOUSE and LOI TUSCAN.

  26. Didn’t find it so Mondayish, plenty of struggles at the end. Mostly on STANDSTILL – where I was fixated on a different sort of jam – apricot or plum or peach jam, being stonestyle. Style the writing thingy, but couldn’t justify tone as counter so discarded it and went away for half an hour to reset.
    Not a geologist, but do live a mere 500 km from Kalgoorlie. Lots of gold in WA round Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. Lots or iron ore in WA in the Hammersly Ranges – maybe 1000 km away from Kalgoorlie (about the same distance from London to Berlin), so a meh from me.
    COD Louisiana, as it was a first guess and immediate rejection, before it had to be and the parsing finally realised.
    Oh and apart from Boycott, the only guess for Yorkshire was tyke, half remembered from these puzzles. Is that a Yorkshireman?

  27. No time recorded for this as it was completed in two sessions, with granddad duties in between looking after my five year old grandson. I didn’t have any difficulties however and would estimate about 30 minutes to complete it. I had no idea who ACHATES was, but it was generously clued and I was confident it was right. I am sure there were many overseas solvers scratching their heads over the t’Yorkshire reference!

  28. Solved on paper in as and when time allowed. All successful. Learned that spectacles=bins and liked ‘surface’. COD to t’reason – not a bad clue!

  29. 19:57 early evening. I enjoyed the puzzle but 4d seemed all too apposite! Winter blues I reckon.
    I should be long enough in the tooth to avoid looking for a reversal of an American poet for 1 ac “suspense” – but I did for some time. Similarly, at 23 ac “senior” I was racking my brains for characters in Don Quixote until the PDM (Peseta Dropped Moment in this case??)
    More positively, liked 15 d “rule of law” and 18 d “treason”.
    Thanks to Vinyl for the blog and setter.

  30. 17.48

    Rare treeware solve and mebbes helped my time. Does take a bit of getting used to.

    Classics education certainly helped with ACHATES

    Started writing in RECEPTACLES then ran out of squares.

    Quite a few I liked – SWAT TEAM was very nice but guess I have to give COD to the terrible/brilliant TREASON

    Thanks Setter and Vinyl

  31. Off to a flying start with ORE, TUSCAN, and a few more across clues, then a steady deceleration, before final rush to the tape and completion in 30 minutes. Had to think twice about SNATCH, SPECTACLES (for me ‘bins’ are just binoculars), and POSSET (which I would eat rather than drink). But overall an enjoyable solve.
    FOI – ORE
    Thanks to vinyl and other contributors.

  32. LOI POSSET where I had thought I was swapping T for A before posse revealed itself- but I know it as a dessert. POI was CONTINENT.
    Harder than an average Monday but a pleasant workout. Thanks setter and blogger.

  33. I think ‘bins’ is strictly an abbreviation of ‘binoculars’, but I have heard it used for ordinary spectacles. Indeed, I noticed that usage in a recent episode of Antiques Road Trip, where it struck me at the time as being odd.

  34. I found this quite hard (just under an hour), but also very good. CONTINENT was my LOI, with “pictures on a website” a rather loose way to clue CONTENT, but OK. Lots of COD candidates: ‘T REASON, ST OPPRESS and STUP ID EST to be counted among them in any case.

  35. A couple of seconds under 30 mins. Speeding along till I got stuck in the SW. Eventually worked it out with snatch my last in. But I wasn’t totally sure of standstill, seeing a till as a counter. Only later did I get continent.
    Lots of good clues but my COD was treason, an homage to Barry Cryer?
    Thx setter and blogger.

    1. Definition Roughhouse = “fight”.

      Rough = “hooligan”, House = “put up” e.g. I will house/put up my family for the christmas period.

    2. I agree the blogger’s interpretation:
      ROUGHHOUSE=a fight
      ROUGH=hooligan, and HOUSE=put up.

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