Times 28549 – No silly beard and tweets here

There were certainly some tricky pieces of vocab here, but that apart it was pretty much a glorified quickie. Maybe I was just on the wavelength. 13:50.


1 Badger editor to go in for basic principles (7)
BEDROCK – ED in BROCK (British dialectal word for badger)
5 Tool provided by supporter of Burmese, perhaps? (4-3)
CATS-PAW – a Burmese cat would stand on its paws, when it wasn’t sleeping, which it probably does most of the time; I think I’ve come across this here before – anyway, a cat’s-paw is a person used by another as a tool, or a dupe. Seems a bit strained to me…
9 Old coach’s assiduity (9)
DILIGENCE – double definition (DD) – a diligence was a stagecoach; a bit strained once more…
10 Unhealthy entering the French industrial city (5)
LILLE – ILL in LE; not hard…
11 Dined in steakhouse at Enfield (5)
EATEN – super easy hidden
12 Antelope we track but briefly, running wild (9)
WATERBUCK – anagram* of WE TRACK BU[t]
13 Compliant, as one’s landlord will be (13)
ACCOMMODATING – double definition, one whimsical; we’ve now had compliance and diligence, too incredibly important parts of modern governance. What  next? St Gary of Lineker, perhaps…
17 Way Essex town’s character is an aid to progress (8,5)
STEPPING STONE – ST (way) EPPING’S (posh Essex town – they do exist) TONE (character)
21 Run a bar, pushing back high-class storyteller (9)
RACONTEUR – R (run) A (a) COUNTER with the U pushed towards the end
24 Question a graduate at a Middle Eastern port (5)
AQABA -Q (question) A (a) BA (graduate) next to/after A; famous for being taken by Lawrence of Arabia / Peter O’Toole in 1917
25 Caravan mostly reputed to carry eastern king (5)
SERAI -E (eastern) R (king) in SAI[d] (reputed); more an inn than a caravan, I think; anyway, a bit more Turkish /TE Lawrence stuff
26 Woman with skill and practicality (9)
VIABILITY -VI (random old-fashioned woman) ABILITY (skill)
27 Merry southern youth leader concealing tuft of hair (7)
SQUIFFY – QUIFF (tuft of hair – think Tintin) in S (southern) Y (initial letter of Youth); my Dad liked this word; merry as in tipsy, or worse
28 Part payment a German offered after dash from east (5-2)
TRADE-IN -DART reversed EIN (‘one’ or ‘a’ in German)


1 Move on time to produce financial statement (6)
BUDGET – BUDGE (move) T (time)
2 US state using pink paper for a type of glazed pottery (9)
DELFTWARE – DELAWARE with FT (Financial Times -printed on pink paper; never read it) for A
3 Natural, as no cigar can be (7)
ORGANIC – NO CIGAR*; had a superb Havanan for my 64th last week
4 Blood relation ma is known to reform (9)
5 Ambassador and son involved in court case (5)
CHEST -HE (His or Her Excellency) A (son) in CT (court)
6 Winged sandals in unfinished story and song (7)
TALARIA -TAL[e] ARIA; as worn by Mercury. Natty, indeed…
7 One found in place a universal spicy dish (5)
PILAU -I (one) in PL (place) A U; I am liking this very, very much…
8 Pay park keeper initially accepted, bringing ruin (8)
WRECKAGE – REC (park) K (initial letter of keeper) in WAGE
14 Perceptive old boy, one below stairs, perhaps (9)
15 Repetitious new rite, with musical backing (9)
16 Old Russians in tutus regularly adopting Indian garments (8)
18 Work up new argument for bishop of Rome (7)
19 Instrument in old vehicle in African capital (7)
OCARINA -O (old) CAR IN (from the clue) A (capital letter of Africa)
20 Prohibition covering some tropical tree (6)
BANYAN -ANY (some) in BAN (prohibition)
22 Greek island my favourite uncle originally used (5)
CORFU – COR (my) F U (initial letter of Favourite Uncle); going there in June. Join us if you’re in the area
23 Diplomat’s covetousness involving ring (5)
ENVOY -O (ring) in ENVY


89 comments on “Times 28549 – No silly beard and tweets here”

  1. 11:34
    NHO TALARIA (LOI), but the wordplay was easy, especially with all the checkers in. Biffed DELFTWARE from the FT, only noticed after submitting that it replaced A. I also biffed RACONTEUR, never did parse it. I think I knew EPPING, although as always didn’t know what shire it’s in, and as always that didn’t matter. Mazel tov on your 64th, U (I’m assuming that it’s the number of birthdays not cigars).

      1. In DELFTWARE, “a” is part of the wordplay, not the definition.

        And happy birthday!!

    1. It also happens to be my daughter’s 47th and my mother’s 110th [RIP]. (I just thought I’d join in…)

      1. It is in Wiktionary:
        “6 (US carpentry) A small crowbar with a handle at a right angle to a blade with a V-shaped notch, principally used by carpenters to remove nails.”
        I had one and called it a cats paw and I’m very British.

  2. Yeah, a lot was very easy, so was surprised to come across the NHO TALARIA and WATERBUCK.
    Took a minute to realize how the initial A was clued in AQABA.
    May have seen “brock” before… LOI was SQUIFFY, involving the very Brit QUIFF.

    I don’t detect anything “strained” about the clue for DILIGENCE. My only problem there was writing in DIGILENCE and not seeing the “typo” (in pen) until I’d tried a few times to figure out the crossing words. (My first acquaintance—decades ago—with this word in this sense was in Rimbaud’s Illuminations, “Villes”: “quelques nababs, aussi rares que les promeneurs d’un matin de dimanche à Londres, se dirigent vers une diligence de diamants.”)

    1. I re-read Richard III last week (his coat of arms had a badger), so BROCK was fresh in my memory.

  3. 21 minutes. Same comments as others re TALARIA. I’d only ever seen ‘caravan’SERAI as a single word and didn’t know the two words separately could refer to the same thing, though looking it up now I can’t find a SERAI (inn) sense for ‘caravan’ in any of the usual places. Maybe I’ve parsed it wrongly. I liked the ‘natural’ surface for ORGANIC.

    Thanks to ulaca and setter

    1. Right. “Caravan” doesn’t mean “serai”—or else “caravanserai” would mean “inn inn,” not an inn where caravans stop (a desert motel). The setter got the wrong end of the stick. There’s no more to the definition here than “Caravan,” which is wrong.

      SERAI’s etymology, from Merriam-Webster: “Turkish & Persian; Turkish saray mansion, palace, from Persian sarāī mansion, inn.”

      1. ODE sv ‘serai’ has ‘another term for caravanserai’ but, NB ‘sense 1’; sense 1 being the inn, sense 2 being the caravan.

        1. Collins says ‘a caravanserai or inn’ but then only defines ‘caravanserai’ as an inn.

  4. 8:00 Aqaba went straight in, having watched Peter O’Toole capture it in Lawrence of Arabia, and Talaria was easy enough to work out. Happy Birthday to young Ulaca!

    1. Just read that Aqaba was recreated in Almeria, which make sense, as it is Spain’s desert.

  5. 20 minutes with one incorrect letter at 24 where I thought of the right word but wrote in ACABA. I was going for a fast time by then as it had all been so easy, and I should have paid more attention to wordplay.

    TALARIA was unknown but easy to deduce. It has not appeared before in the TfTT era other than once in a Mephisto.

  6. 19 minutes with LOI AQABA. Didn’t know DILIGENCE, SERAI or TALRIA but the cryptics and crossers were kind. COD to DELFTWARE. A gentle start to the week.Thank you U and setter.

  7. 27 mins with 1 typo.

    Struggling to see dined and eaten?

    COD Aqaba. Jordan is well worth a visit.

  8. Chosen for ornament,—stone matched with stone
    In studied symmetry, with interspace
    For the clear waters to pursue their race
    Without restraint.

    12 mins while chewing brekker. Nowt chewy about the puzzle though.
    Ta setter and U.

  9. Quick, as befits a Monday, but some neat clues and some nice surfaces.
    Serai is not the same as caravan. It is an inn.
    Talaria are the sandals that Hermes, messenger of the (Greek) gods wears.

    I was sorry to learn recently that Tony Sever has died. He was a regular Championship contestant, and won the competition in 1981. Some here will remember him, occasionally incisive but always polite; and complaining about how his declining powers had meant he had taken over six minutes to solve the crossword … RIP Tony.

    1. I definitely remember Tony, and missed him when he left us after the Times’s price hike. As someone not too much younger than he was, I was always impressed, and encouraged, by his (barely declining) powers. RIP indeed.

      1. Whenever we met (usually at the Championship) Tony would remind me that he was a fellow Scarborian (born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire – 3 months after me – in 1943 when his father was stationed here with the RAF). He lived here for only 6 months but although he lived in the London area for the rest of his life, he always insisted that he was a proud Yorkshireman. RIP Tony

        1. I first met Tony when I was a teenager, and Dad was in one of the Finals in London. Both my parents were fond of him, and I met him again during many of the new style Finals of the last 20 or so years. It was always a great pleasure meeting him and his wife – and he was always very encouraging to me. I shall miss him greatly. RIP Tony.

    2. I agree, Tony is much missed around here. I remember that he was so often the final contributor of the day but always had interesting observations to make though I tried to ignore his solving times or I’d have felt like giving up . He regularly blogged the TLS puzzle for us, but sadly that’s a puzzle that I never had the necessary knowledge to tackle with any confidence of finishing. RIP, Tony.

  10. 7:57. Done just after today’s QC and this was a similar level of difficulty, it seems, to a typical QC – but no less entertaining for that. TALARIA seemed familiar but I’m not sure from where – I assumed a previous crossword, but I don’t think I’d started doing the Mephisto in 2012, when it last appeared here. DNK the ‘coach’ meaning of DILIGENCE so that was a biff. LOI AQABA. Thank-you, and Happy Birthday, Ulaca for the blog and setter for the puzzle.

  11. About 20 minutes. TALARIA, SERAI, CATS-PAW and BANYAN were unknowns worked out from wordplay, I didn’t know that a DILIGENCE was an old coach, and I wasn’t sure whether the port was AQABA or ‘Aqama’ – fortunately I plumped for the right one. ‘Brock’ for badger only rang the vaguest of bells, but again the wordplay helped me get BEDROCK.

    FOI Lille
    LOI Aqaba
    COD Corfu

    1. “Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories” so famous that I cannot remember the author.

  12. Flying this morning, am on steroids. Nho TALARIA like others, agree re the accuracy of SERAI.

    8’17”, 3rd in all-time PB list.

    Thanks ulaca and setter (I left Twitter some time ago as it’s impossible to be nuanced).

  13. 22 minutes so reading other people’s comments I’m the slowest so far today (not that I’m competitive 😉 )
    NHO WATERBUCK or TALARIA, LOI AQABA. Like most people it seems.

  14. All but AQABA done in just over 10 mins. But dnf as I couldn’t work out AQABA.


  15. 12.27. Possibly a P.B. but I really can’t remember. I’ve just read JerryW’s comment reporting the passing of Tony Sever: sad news indeed.

  16. Encouraged to try this by comments on the QC TfTT, and recorded a very pleasing 22 minutes, may even be my fastest 15×15. Several clues would not have been out of place in QC-land, but the occasional word was more unusual – NHO Talaria, like several others, and Serai was a guess without really knowing its meaning (something I perhaps share with the setter it seems?).

    Aqaba one for the connoisseurs – a Q without its faithful U in tow. Not sure I’ve seen too many of those in Times crosswords.

    Many thanks to Ulaca for the blog, and to John for suggesting I should give the puzzle a try

  17. 6:53. No problems today in spite of a preponderance of somewhat unusual words. It helped that I more or less knew them all except TALARIA, and the wordplay was kind throughout.
    SERAI looks like a boo-boo to me.
    Very sad about Tony S. RIP.

  18. Could not get the easy BUDGET and did not know that DILIGENCE was a type of coach. Apart from that and a long time for my FOI, clues went in at a QC pace.

  19. Didn’t parse raconteur and NHO diligence in the sense of “stagecoach” but biffed both. Enjoyed using serai, though agree with others the definition seems a bit off, but have always liked the word caravanserai ever since coming across it on the Santana album title when (fairly) young! Otherwise straightforward which is saying something for me… thanks setter and blogger.

  20. Saw my FOI BUDGETim ediately on my way to the QC, so did this instead in what woukd have been a slightly above average time for a QC. CODDILIGENCE, LOI TRADE-IN, which I only parsed after biffing, having spent ages trying to fit in Hans or DIeter. Thanks Ulaca and Setter.

  21. 19:41, but I spent so long deriving SERAI, that I didn’t proof read properly and so missed my typo at DELFTEWAE, which also made a mess of WCOMMODATION. Drat! Thanks setter and U.

  22. When I complete a 15×15 in 16 minutes it must be easy, and of course the SNITCH confirmed this. As for some others TALARIA unknown but it seemed likely, and the ignorance of the possible mistake in SERAI was a help.

  23. 24:53. DNK TALARIA. I knew caravanserai from previous crosswords so SERAI looked OK – one advantage of not knowing too much. Nice puzzle. Liked BEDROCK and SQUIFFY

  24. I watched Lawrence of Arabia not too long ago, but AQABA didn’t stick in my memory. Fortunately I guessed correctly in the toss-up between AQABA and AQAMA.

  25. Agree with ulaca and others about the difficulty level. I managed it in 15 minutes which must be a PB. A distant classical education helped with TALARIA, and the rest seemed fairly straightforward. Sad to hear about Tony Sever, whom I remember meeting some years ago.
    Thanks (and mhr) to ulaca and other contributors.

  26. Nice to start the week with a completion. Got Serai as I remembered Carlos Santana’s 70s album of the same name. Shows my age! Maybe we’ll get something derived from Swordfishtrombones tomorrow. Thanks B & S

    1. A Tom Waits reference, though always welcome, was the last thing I was expecting to come across around here!

  27. Fast for me but failed on my LOI ABABA (I think I must have been thinking of Addis Ababa). But also misspelt DILIGANCE.
    COD TRADE-IN ( but only because I’m trying to learn German)

  28. 07:41, so yes, much in common with the Quickie, but a few elements which definitely weren’t. That said, the wordplay was unarguable, even for unknowns, I’d say. Like other people I knew enough to associate SERAI with CARAVAN, without knowing enough to describe it as inaccurate; and pretty sure the Georgette Heyer brigade have previously scoffed politely at the idea of any well-educated person not knowing that meaning of DILIGENCE. That just left TALARIA, which is obviously one for the smug classicists.

    Sorry to hear about Tony S, who was always an amiable presence on Finals Day.

  29. My lawn is full of an unmowable plant that I thought was called cat’s paw but apparently it’s cat’s ear, useful things these cats. I didn’t know TALARIA, WATERBUCK or SERAI but all clued clearly so no problems trundling through this one. Thanks for the blog.

  30. 14:25. Didn’t think too much about the niceties of SERAI and only TALARIA and AQABA demanded more than a quick glance.

  31. After a poor performance in the QC earlier, things could only get better. Encouraged by comments made in the QC blog that the 15×15 was on the easy side, I went into it with a positive attitude. Sure enough I did find it easy and I crossed the line in 14.33, which for me is very quick, although just over two minutes outside my PB. My LOI was SERAI which took me more time than any other clue, until I finally twigged how it was parsed.

  32. No problems, but not lightning quick. Cat’s paw a nail-puller, for me; but I do remember the “person used as a tool” def from previous crosswords. Talaria known as a word but not what it was – remember a racehorse Princess Talaria from about 1980. Serai I was lucky enough to be ignorant and not notice the error.
    Happy Birthday, Ulaca. For some reason I pictured you older… a few years ago you mentioned retiring and buying a new house further from the centre.
    RIP Tony Sever. Location: Perth. Mood: Sombre.

  33. Still not getting COR for ‘me’ in 22 D.
    My understanding of COR as in “ cor blimey” is as an alternative to saying God – “ God blind me”.

    1. My, not me. “Cor blimey!” roughly equivalent to “My word!” or as my old mum used to say, “My hat!” All can be shortened to the single exclamation: “Cor!” = “My!”

    2. I think Cor! stands by itself for My! I’m sure it’s just the sort of thing a young Harry Fowler would have said in Hue and Cry.

  34. 13:16

    After only entering one of the acrosses on the first pass, blasted through this with only a few pauses.

    Didn’t know TALARIA or DILIGENCE as a coach (filled in from definition and checkers). Didn’t fully parse RACONTEUR and couldn’t recall from where I’d heard the name AQABA – but then I have watched Lawrence of Arabia in the last few years.

    Happy birthday U

    1. Ditto… (But with an inexcusable mistake in putting SERMI (for a NHO eastern king 🫣!)

  35. Managed to finish (eventually), despite the clutch of nhos – Talaria, Aqaba, Serai and the coach meaning of Diligence. However, I still have 2/3rds of last Friday’s little teaser to keep me occupied . . . Invariant

  36. Quick even for a slowcoach like me. About 25 minutes. LOI SERAI. For me, to be able finish in 7 minutes would be bad value for money with papers the price they are these days.

  37. 15 minutes, no problems, vaguely knew TALARIA although I am not a “smug classicist”. I too thought a cats-paw was a nail remover as well as the person-tool meaning.

  38. Should have timed this as quite quick but I needed a few minutes at the end to get AQABA -either unknown or forgotten.
    I remembered a band or album called Caravanserai; that was all the nudge I needed.
    DNK all the words people above DNK , apart from Diligence, leanrt from reading Lucky Luke cartoon books in French as I recall.
    Enjoyed this.

  39. 24 mins and it’s all been said. I liked CATS PAW and SQUIFFY.

    Thanks U and setter.

  40. 58 mins for a first ever clean solve of the biggie

    NHO the defs for DILIGENCE, CATS-PAW, TALARIA, SERAI, DELFTWARE, AQABA – so rather pleased to be able to get it done. Especially as I couldn’t parse the latter two along with RACONTEUR, TRADE-IN or the STONE part of Stepping.

    1. Rather late to this party, but congratulations! I too was lured here by the QC comments and recorded only my second ever full solve.

  41. I had to look up the Middle Eastern port, but otherwise all correct. I didn’t know the second meaning at 9ac, but had the checkers.
    Thank for the blog, and thanks for some new vocabulary Setter.

    1. Was seduced into thinking the port was going to begin with a q.- QUABA seemed to work. Which meant I couldn’t get OCARINA! I’ll try again tomorrow

  42. A nice Monday puzzle. No birds, no plants, (small cheers erupt) but examples from two of our other favourite lots-of-slightly-unusual-things categories: antelopes and old carriages.
    Well done on the first 64, ulaca, and well done on these 30, setter.

  43. 7:48 this afternoon. Didn’t take much longer than the QC earlier in the day as things turned out. Built up a head of steam fairly early on and avoided the dreaded breeze block.
    Otherwise can’t add much to the comments above but an enjoyable puzzle with odd blip. COD 27 ac “Squiffy”.
    Thanks to setter and Birthday Boy for the blog!

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