Times 28573 – Double Obscurity

This is rather harder than your average Monday, my time of 31:50, however, being inflated by some careless biffing at 1 down.

We have a bit of a weird clue at 20 down, but the biggest talking point is likely to be a couple of even odder clues at 13 across and 4 down, where an obscure term is seeking an even obscurer companion.

1 Problems exist over European exchange programme (7)
ERASMUS -reversal of SUMS (problems) ARE (exist); the Erasmus Programme (‘EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students’) is an EU student exchange programme established in 1987
5 One holding a person’s hat by peak (6)
CAPTOR – CAP (hat) TOR (peak)
8 Is girl able to take out competitor? (9)
CANDIDATE – CAN DI DATE (a fellow?); DATE = take out
9 Complain doctor’s consuming alcohol (5)
GRUMP – RUM in GP; GRUMP can be a verb as well as a noun
11 Fraud succeeded with one pair of unknowns (5)
SWIZZ – S (succeeded) W (with) 1 (one) ZZ (two mathematical unknowns)
12 A large youth taking pint round for singer (9)
13 Your associate has perhaps initially put back bract (8)
PHYLLARY – reversal (put back) of YR (your) ALLY H[as] P[erhaps]; a bract (and thus a phyllary too) is ‘a specialized leaf, usually smaller than the foliage leaves, with a single flower or inflorescence growing in its axil’; all clear then…
15 What to get after nine assembly toys for young one? (6)
KITTEN – I think the idea is that if you’ve already worked on nine, let’s say, Meccano kits, AKA ‘assembly toys’, then the next one will be ‘kit ten’; like all jokes, it loses a bit when you have to explain it. Unless, I suppose, it wasn’t very funny in the first place…
17 Dilapidated horse-drawn carriage carrying two bishops (6)
19 Crustacean caught with light line by angler, perhaps (8)
CRAYFISH – C (caught) RAY (light line) FISH (angler, perhaps); the angler, or anglerfish, or angler fish, lives at the bottom of the sea pondering issues such as why it has been given not only one confusing and rather dull name, but three of them
22 Feature of Berg’s music composed almost in A (9)
ATONALISM – anagram* of ALMOST IN A; there are those who prefer Berg to, say, Rossini. I am not numbered among them
23 Be anxious having wife in residence (5)
SWEAT – W in SEAT; ‘she was sweating over her exam results’
24 Mushroom used in kitchen Okinawa-style (5)
ENOKI – hidden; definitely sounds Japanesey enough for one of their mushrooms. I’m in a bit of a 50s/60s Japanese film mode at the moment: the 9-hour epic Human Condition trilogy is rather extraordinary in terms of the scalpel it takes to Japanese barbarism before, during and after WWII.
25 Picture accepting a temperature disturbance for the country? (9)
26 Day in NY? Yes, fantastic city (6)
27 Painter of heavenly figure (7)
RAPHAEL – double definition referencing the sublime Italian painter (1483-1520) and the archangel (sharing duties with Michael and Gabriel)
1 Extra for packet? More than enough soup without seconds (6,7)
EXCESS POSTAGE – EXCESS (more than enough) S (seconds) in POTAGE (soup); excess postage is essentially the payment due from the addressee when insufficient stamps have been put on a letter or packet. I put first ‘excess luggage’, then ‘excess baggage’, each of which, unlike ‘excess postage’, has its own entry in Collins.
2 Man in suit failing to start Yankee’s guaranteed payment (7)
ANNUITY – []AN [i]N [s]UIT Y (Yankee)
3 Principal Zulu city (5)
MAINZ – MAIN Z; a place nearly always preceded by ‘Frankfurt und’; edit: or not! Actually, I was thinking of Frankfurt am Main, referencing the river on which the city is situated. I will continue not to Google everything (because I think it’s more fun) and occasionally I must pay the price!
4 Dingy loos set up in Spitzbergen (8)
SVALBARD – reversal of DRAB (dingy) LAVS (loos); two names of a little known Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
5 Look up in native American language (6)
CREOLE -reversal of LO in CREE (native American)
6 Fighting spirit of dog can upset it over years (9)
PUGNACITY -PUG (dog) reversal of CAN IT (from the clue) Y (years)
7 Wealthy work fast after university (7)
OPULENT – OP U LENT (a period of fasting)
10 Mum or dad morally correct raising Henry with qualifications (13)
PARENTHETICAL -PARENT (mum or dad) ET[h]ICAL (‘raising Henry’ indicates that the H has to go – just about); of course, the other, more prosaic, parsing, would be that the H in ETHICAL is moved up the target word a couple of spaces… 
14 One keeping books in balance fled having concealed one (9)
LIBRARIAN – LIBRA (balance) I in RAN (fled)
16 Key runs under professional test champion (8)
PROMOTER – PRO (professional) MOT (test) TE (key) R (runs); ‘I wondered when you were going to notice that, Wilson!’: my third deliberate mistake of the blog is in making TE a key, when it is in fact something we have with with jam and bread. The key is obviously E, in which Mendelssohn famously wrote his Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Okay, okay – I Googled that.)
18 Excuse a page on science (7)
APOLOGY – A P (page) OLOGY (a slang expression for a scientific or pseudo-scientific pursuit)
20 Sloth in tree mostly climbing with another likewise (7)
INERTIA -I think this is how this works: IN reversal of TRE[e] (tree mostly climbing) reversal of AI, AKA the pale-throated sloth (‘another’ needs to refer to sloth and ‘likewise’ to climbing); if I’ve got this right, I can’t say I’m this clue’s biggest fan
21 Small hint? Absolutely (6)
SIMPLY – S (small) IMPLY (hint)
23 Be mean with male interrupting dance (5)


74 comments on “Times 28573 – Double Obscurity”

  1. 52:29

    Tough start to the week. Certainly SVALBARD and PHYLLARY took ages to come, but the SE corner was also particularly troublesome for me, not helped by a dodgy PARENTHESISED.

    Early NITCH scores suggest I found it tougher than most though…

  2. Not my bowl of potage. A funny mix of very straightforward definitions and constructions, but then enough tricky ones or, I’ll say it, impossible answers to keep me from trusting the easier ones to in fact be easy. I cheated for Phyllary, and got Svalbard with some sweat.

  3. I didn’t mind it, even if it wasn’t one of my favourites. Managed to create the unknown ERASMUS and PHYLLARY, and knew Spitzbergen/SVARLBAD (sic) so that went straight in with incorrect spelling, causing numerous later problems. Must be confusing my German BADs with Norwegian.
    Quite liked the slothful inertia clue, and the librarian, and Mainz. COD to the simple CAPTOR.

  4. I enjoyed it apart from the sad crossing of 13ac and 4dn, where I went to reference materials. Humbug.

    SYDNEY and INERTIA were highlights.

    1. I was disappointed that the clue didn’t read “…. fantastic fantastic city” with the second being part of the definition.

  5. I cheated for LOI (and NHO) PHYLARY too, but wouldn’t have believed it anyway without checking. It’s the only word that fits the cr0ssers. I wonder if it’s ever been in Mephisto, even.

    I parsed INERTIA the same way you do, and it also took me some time to untangle it, but I find it a fine clue.

    Also NHO SWIZZ.

    1. PHYLLARY (note the spelling) has not appeared in any puzzles blogged at TfTT until today.

  6. 27 minutes. I knew SVALBARD, but had to enter ERASMUS (seemed plausible) and the NHO PHYLLARY (seemed less plausible) from wordplay. Eventually managed to remember AI, the three-toed sloth, to make sense of the difficult INERTIA.

    I understand Collins is the primary dictionary (probably not the correct term) for The Times crosswords, but FWIW, EXCESS POSTAGE is in Chambers (sorry!).

    Thanks to ulaca – forget about Google, Frankfurt und Mainz sounds good to me – and to setter

    1. EXCESS POSTAGE is in SOED too but not in the ODE which I believe along with Collins is considered one of the primary sources for the weekday cryptics. I’m surprised it’s not in Collins as EXCESS POSTAGE is the official term used by Royal Mail and has been for as long as I can remember, back to childhood in the 1950s.

  7. I finished in 40 minutes but with 4dn and 13ac as the only answers remaining outstanding I decided to look up two words in the clues just for clarification. The first was ‘bract’ as I’d never heard of it and thought it might have been a misprint, but on finding it as a leaf I thought that 13ac might end in -LEAF and that only led me down a blind alley. The second look-up was SPITZBERGEN which I thought was a mountain (it turned out that I was thinking of Spitzberg which is the name of several mountains in Europe) but unfortunately the entry in Collins gave me more than I had been expecting by returning Spitsbergen (sic) as the alternative name for SVALBARD. Anyway I couldn’t unsee what I had seen so in the answer had to go and the extra checker it provided allowed me to deduce the unlikely-looking final answer, PHYLLARY, from wordplay. A technical DNF then, down to two obscurities. Either on its own might have been acceptable but to have them intersecting was not, in my opinion, and the editor should have made an adjustment – SCABBARD instead of SVALBARD would have been my suggestion.

    Elsewhere I eventually deduced ERASMUS without knowing it as an exchange programme. I had been trying to justify ‘enigmas’ there based only on ‘problems’, but was unable to do so.

    At 19ac I was puzzled by ‘angler / FISH’, another unknown or forgotten.

    I was going to claim I never heard of SHAY as a carriage (17ac) but later found that I met it in a puzzle in 2011 when I asked how many more wretched carriages were still to come.

    1. I nearly ended up with SCABBARD as LOI, but fortunately, was not convinced by ‘bacs’ as loos, and then remembered the SVALBARD Philip Pullman refers to frequently in his Northern Lights. ‘Lavs’ made much more sense!

    2. The 1909 popular song “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet”, a big favourite of my parents, contains the chorus:
      “Put on your old grey bonnet with the blue ribbons on it
      While I hitch old Dobbin to the shay,
      And through the fields of clover
      We’ll ride out to Dover
      On our golden wedding day.”
      As for Svalbard, a 1998 international scientific expedition exhumed bodies, buried there in the permafrost, of miners who died of the Spanish flu in 1918. They hoped to glean insight into the makeup of the virus but with mixed results. A book, “Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist’s Search for a Killer Virus” by Kirsty Duncan is an interesting read.

  8. 29 minutes. with LOI PHYLLARY on a wing and a prayer. I knew ERASMUS, constructed EXCESS POSTAGE eventually having first made a mess of potage, biffed ENOKI and then played around with ally for associate to get PHYLLARY. I’d no idea if it was right. Thank you U and setter.

  9. Battled through this, but felt it was difficult for the sake of it. NHO PHYLLARY, or the use of ERASMUS here, but the wordplay was helpful. SVALBARD was lurking somewhere in my grey matter, though I’m not sure where from.

    Jurgen Klopp started his managerial career as player coach of MAINZ , who are currently 8th in the Bundesliga.

    FOI GRUMP (yours truly)
    LOI KITTEN (awful clue)
    TIME 11:24

  10. … Sparkling with splendor, wearing crowns of gold,
    Should know the deadly Sweat endured of old,
    That of Jehoshaphat, …
    (Eviradnus, Victor Hugo)

    30 mins pre-brekker. Hmmm.. I started off not liking this, having to construct Phyllary and Enoki – but then Cap,Tor and Kit Ten won me round. Overall I liked. Some neat clueing, clever ideas – too clever for me in the case of parsing the extra sloth in Inertia. So well done Ulaca.
    Thanks setter and U.

  11. Didn’t parse inertia though an obvious answer after crossers. Worked out svalbard (lavs reversal came quickly and had heard of it from somewhere) but then felt compelled to check phyllara. Agree with others that crossing phyllara and svalbard made a messy ending to an otherwise straightforwardish Monday puzzle. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  12. I thought a “Spitzbergen” might be a “scabbard” so put that in despite it being half parsed. I had worked out PHYLLARY from the wordplay, but all in vain

  13. 35:08. I made heavy weather of some more straightforward clues – a lot of fruitless rearranging of SYDNEY for instance – and my LOI PHYLLARY took a lot of staring to find ALLY in the middle.

    I get the negative comments above but I have to say I enjoyed it – the obscure words had clearly structured clues, even if “drab lavs” was pretty hard to come up with. Thanks ulaca & setter.

  14. 17:17. Finished the bottom and then NE first before being held up for quite a while by the Mephisto-like vocabulary in the NW corner. DNK “bract” although I suspected it was something botanical, and NHO PHYLLARY, constructed from the wordplay, as was SVALBARD. Enjoyed it, though, especially APOLOGY and INERTIA. Thanks U and setter.

    1. I did know ‘bract’ since I have a bougainvillea by my front door. I did not know ‘phyllary’, however, and thought it was unfair, though I got it from construction without trusting the answer.

  15. Gave up on the hour and looked up the NHO PHYLLARY. Also stumped myself by bunging in CHAGALL. TOO obvious of course. I always thought do, re, mi, etc were notes rather than keys? Keys being A, B, C, etc. No doubt Jack will correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also ulaca, the H in 10d is actually « raised » from ETHICAL to HETICAL.

    I liked SWIZZ.

    Thanks u and setter.

    1. You’re right about TE but the key in the clue is E. There’s an error in the blog not noticed previously.

      1. Ah yes. Thank you Jack. With my CHAGALL in place, I didn’t get the answer anyway. Bah!

  16. 30 minutes.

    ulaca, I think with PARENTHETICAL you aren’t removing the H for Henry – you’re moving it up, i.e, it’s PARENT + HETICAL (ethical with the H moved up to the start).

    I was pleased that I managed to figure out PHYLLARY, as I knew neither that word nor what a bract is. I didn’t know ENOKI either, but it was generously clued.

    Nice stuff for a Monday – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Erasmus
    LOI Phyllary
    COD Balladeer

  17. I really liked this. As I have said before, I love it when the crossword does a bit of education. Despite minimal knowledge of practical horticulture, BRACT and PHYLLARY floated on the periphery of my knowledge from A-Level Biology back in the (long ago) day. I was not confident enough of PHYLLARY to just write it in but the wordplay left no doubt. Definitely heard of SVALBARD and now I know its relation to SPITZBERGEN. ENOKI were obscure a few years ago but can now be found on supermarket shelves everywhere and the hidden was very obvious anyway. From doing these crosswords for so many years whenever I see the word SLOTH I think ‘AI’ straight away so INERTIA wasn’t a problem (apart from describing my state this morning – see below). And as I write that I think there must be a good cryptic possibility somewhere involving an artificially intelligent sloth. (Come to think of it that might well be an accurate description of me on the morning after hosting an Easter dinner party for my wife’s family). Had heard of the ERASMUS programme somewhere and we are also recently back from a trip to Rotterdam among other places where the man himself is celebrated so his name was somewhere near the top of my mind. GRUMPs are fair game in our house as Mrs Astarte and I are always accusing each other of being one. SWIZZ was a common word in our house when I was a child although I don’t think I’ve heard it used in adult life. In fact I think I only ever heard my parents use it so maybe it originally comes from Scotland. Anyway, all good fun and thank you ulaca and setter.

  18. By the way, can someone remind me how you tag a member’s name (such as ulaca in my last post)? Do you type @ulaca?

  19. 42m 53s
    No problem with SVALBARD. It often features in wildlife docos and was in Attenborough’s “Frozen Planet II” recently. It’s also home to the Global Seed Bank.
    I started with EXCESS BAGGAGE as well.
    Thanks for KITTEN and INERTIA.
    Where are Prestwick Airport and Royal Troon Golf Club? INERTIA.
    Well, I think it’s funny.

  20. Oh and EXCESS POSTAGE is quite a (minor) big thing with me. I once had a card through my door saying I owed £1.30 EXCESS POSTAGE on an item and I needed to go to the sorting office to pay and pick it up (I imagine nowadays you can pay online and have it delivered again). When I went to collect it I became the proud owner of an estate agents’ circular in exchange for £1.30 plus a wasted 30 minutes. I now ignore all EXCESS POSTAGE notifications on the basis that if someone thinks what they are sending is important enough they will make sure they put the right postage on it.

    1. Watch out for the modern day ‘pay the excess postage/import VAT/duty online’ messages. There are hundreds of scams under way with e-Mails and SMSs offering this ‘convenience’, sadly many more since Brexit than beforehand. Every political change is a money-making opportunity for the unscrupulous, sadly.

  21. 15:31. I rather enjoyed all the unusual vocabulary today, but that view was likely influenced by successful completion. I agree with ulaca that some clues were a bit out of the ordinary, but they all seemed fairly clued to me.

    For those that missed it, one of our own got a mention from the puzzles editor in Saturday’s Times: “Not all Times solvers on the Crossword Club forum were happy. Our accompanying text explaining that Wednesday’s puzzle had been used at the ACPT led some to think they were being fobbed off with American puzzles. Over at Times for The Times, Sawbill remarked: “Perhaps the editor could focus on sorting out the technology rather than getting involved in foreign competitions?” Ouch!”

    1. I was saddened by Mick’s response.

      In full, I had posted: “Nothing to say about the crossword but five clues missing is unacceptable. Perhaps the editor could focus on sorting out the technology rather than getting involved in foreign competitions?”
      As is clear, I did not think that I was ‘being fobbed off with American puzzles’, I was concerned that the crossword was incomplete and my solving experience was ruined.

      Perhaps a better response to us all would have been that, after he had recovered from his jetlag, he had convened a meeting with his crossword editor and the IT department?

      1. I also made a harsh comment on the day that met with some disapproval. I think both of us would have been in a more tolerant frame of mind re the American aspect but for the missing clues that spoiled the whole experience.

          1. Yes, plus it turned out that the addition of the by-line mentioning the American aspect had been the cause of the clues dropping off the screen!

  22. Very much like some others I had never heard of bract or phyllary. I was originally going for snacbard but not convinced and then thought of svalbard which seemed more Norwegian. LOI was PHYLLARY which must have taken 5-10 minutes alone. I think there’s a point where not knowing what a bract is, plus a clue that’s hard to deconstruct, just makes you mentally beaten. Anyway got there in the end at 39 minutes.
    I’m getting myself a coffee now should have done that first 🙂

  23. I really liked this one, untypical for a Monday but well, it is a bank holiday ..
    No problems with Svalbard, thanks to St David Attenborough. I had heard of bracts, but not phyllary, but was able to construct it. (Mrs W, a keen gardener, knew both words and was able to explain that they are the small leaves that surround a flower bud). My other nho was SHAY but what else could it be? I assumed it was a corruption of chaise, which it turns out it is.
    Thank you U and also our setter, for stirring the pot 🙂

  24. 30:10

    Found this hard to do and hard to like once finished. Bract, PHYLLARY,ENOKI, and SVALBARD were a bit much to digest in one sitting. I enjoyed PARENTHETICAL and EXCESS POSTAGE.

    Thanks to Ulaca and the setter.

  25. I liked this, 16 minutes, all known except ERASMUS from wordplay, never heard of the exchange programme. Surprised by the negative / tough comments above.

  26. I tried this as a rare excursion from my usual habitat in QC-land, and predictably ran into a DNF on Phyllary, with a few others not parsed as well (the Artificially Intelligent Sloth was beyond me too). It was going rather well until then too …

    Svalbard/Spitzbergen was on the other hand not a problem, as Mrs S and I enjoyed a fabulous holiday there a few years ago. The two names show the place’s history: the islands were discovered by the Vikings, who named it Svalbarður (Old Norse for “Cold Coast”), forgotten, then rediscovered in the 17th century by Dutch whalers, who named it Spitzbergen (Dutch for sharp spiky mountain peaks). These days the Norwegian authorities who run the place use Spitzbergen as the name of the main island and Svalbard for the whole archipelago.

    Many thanks to Ulaca for the blog

  27. Very pleasant solve- one where you keep picking away at it as each answer reveals itself. LOI CREOLE when I remembered Cree. Had forgotten ai as the sloth so fingers a little crossed there. Thanks to the blogger (especially with the dads army reference) and setter.

  28. 9:51. No problems here. I knew SVALBARD but not that it was also called Spitzbergen. It was in the news some years ago because a group of British students on a expedition there were attacked by a polar bear and one of them was tragically killed.
    PHYLLARY I didn’t know, but the assembly instructions were pretty clear. On the other hand I had to go with the definition for SHABBY: I was initially tempted by DRABBY.
    My sister spent a year studying in France on the ERASMUS program, so I knew that too. A wonderful opportunity now denied to my own children.

  29. Hard to see this as a Monday puzzle. I entered RAPHAEL thinking it was a remarkably weak CD referring to the Madonna of the Pinks etc, but expecting it to be far subtler. The bract was beyond me and I’d never heard of PHYLLARY, got from a list. Also nho SVALBARD, which I constructed from wordplay and entered with low confidence. The crossing obscurities made the top L bit very difficult and I even had to use electronic aids for ..C.S. POSTAGE: locust postage? incest postage? jacksy postage (remembering Alex Higgins)? Pretty obvious, really. 55 minutes in all, even with aids.

  30. With a couple of aids I got as far as I could but just couldn’t get/guess PHYLLARY.

  31. Made reasonable progress after FOI, SWIZZ, but got held up by last 3 in, ERASMUS, SVALBARD and PHYLLARY. I eventually managed to construct all 3 from wordplay, but only ERASMUS was familiar. I discarded SNACBARD fortunately. 22:14. Thanks setter and U.

  32. I enjoyed constructing all the unknowns and having the satisfaction of finding they were real words when I googled them.

  33. I enjoyed this a lot, despite it being on the hard side, but still solvable without aids. With a few crossers – the P, Y and L, it became clear how the unknown PHYLLARY should be constructed. The NHO ‘shay’ also was confirmed by crossers – I got the POSTAGE bit long before the EXCESS. I was helped by getting the long 10D surprisingly early on once I’d exhausted the possibilities offered by the straightforward SW corner. Another early entry, however, cost me some wasted time, as I had CADIZ as the city, thinking a ‘cadi’ might be a Arab term for a boss – well, it sounds feasible! However, CANDIDATE sorted that out and quickly led to the rest of that final corner. COD to INERTIA, where I failed to parse the Ai – many thanks for explaining that, Ulaca.

  34. DNF. Well I finished in 17:13 but had two wrong. A careless Promotor and an impressively wrong SLAVBURG. I can’t remember getting every unchecked letter of a word wrong before. A failed attempt to reverse LAVS correctly and then a brilliant rejection of DRAB in favour of GRUB(by) led to the creation of the hitherto unknown duchy of SLAVBURG.


  35. Definitely tougher than the average Monday. After 32 minutes I was left with 4dn and 13ac. After a few more minutes I decided a Spitzbergen wasn’t a scabbard (BACS for loos didn’t make sense anyway) so tentatively settled for SVALBARD, but I checked it on the internet before guessing 13 must PHILLARY.

    This setter must believe in giving us lesson in Geography and Botany.

  36. Phew!
    Much cheating going on here.
    Struggled with Excess Postage as thought Pottage had to have TT but T is OK apparantly.
    Had Excess Baggage in for ages until I cheated for NHO PHYLLARY.
    Didn’t like OLOGY=science.
    INERTIA has now moved from MER to COD, forgot the blasted Ai.

  37. Tough going for a Monday so they gave us a day off to complete it. Same unknowns as most other commenters but put me down as one who enjoyed it.

    My personal bias has “fantastic” doing double duty in 26ac. Come on down some time.

    Thanks setter and U.

  38. Defeated at the last by carelessness. I worked out the parsing of 4dn including DRAB, but for some unaccountable reason then put in SVALBRAD. This made 13 ac unsolvable for me as I didn’t check 4dn for accuracy. Enjoyed the rest of it however but a tad disappointed

  39. 26’10” for all bar the NHO PHYLLARY and the Norwegian SVALBARD, which I’ve only ever known as Spitzbergen. I wonder why the German name should have survived so long. A note on Apple Maps distinguishes these, with ‘Spitzbergen being the largest and only permanently populated island in the Svalbard archipelago’, which educates me and rather throws the clue into question, doesn’t it? I can’t make a big issue of it anyway, having been bowled twice today.

  40. 41 mins including a very deep nap from which I came out not knowing what time of day it was. Finally stuck with SCABBARD which made no sense, and as my time was off the scale anyway, I looked it up. Turns out I knew it perfectly well.

  41. All correct, and a steady solve, although entering CREEOL at first, held me up with BALLADEER. SVALBARD not a problem, as it features in a lot of BBC natural history programs.
    PHYLLARY I’ve probably seen in AZED in the sun and distant past.
    Thanks for the explanation to INERTIA, as I couldn’t parse that.
    Nice bank holiday puzzle.

  42. 21:58. Solved late in the day and, if the general assessment of the difficulty is correct, perhaps I should do so more often. The unknowns – in the clues and the answers – proved unproblematic in the end and the whole didn’t feel too far from a typical Monday offering.

  43. It’s funny, I consider my general knowledge to be poor but SVALBARD and the ERASMUS scheme are so well known to me that I thought those clues were easy and surely SVALBARD is one of the best sounding names in the world? ENOKI was new to me but like our blogger I thought it sounded sufficiently Japanese and mushroomy to be confident with it. I failed to parse the “AI” at the end of INERTIA and could only get PHYLLARY from the wordplay -it doesn’t even feature in the ODE but that volume is sadly so over-stuffed with computing terms and other neologisms that it doesn’t have room for much else. I was once charged excess postage for a packet of seeds because two seeds had become aligned in a way that just exceeded the 5mm maximum width and the sorting office had neither the wit nor the generosity to shake the envelope. The excess payment card was posted through the wrong letterbox of a house in the next street. Thanks for the blog.

  44. I was quite please with working out PSYLLARY. ALLY’S as in a contraction of associate has.

    Oh well.

  45. When I finished this puzzle (correctly, in just under an hour), I thought: the setter cannot really be serious about this! For me the mark of a good cryptic puzzle (not the Mephisto, not the Listener puzzle, just a normal everyday cryptic crossword puzzle) is entries most people are likely to know, clued so deceptively that most people will be led down the wrong track. It is definitely not a spate of extremely obscure terms clued by “others likewise”, to quote the setter. The terms I did not know but fortunately was able to work out with a lot of luck include SWIZZ, PHYLLARY (and the bract in its definition), ENOKI, SVALBARD, and the ai in INERTIA (although I did vaguely remember having seen that somewhere). It is not the setter’s job to impress the reader with the comprehensiveness of the dictionaries at hand, at least not in this kind of puzzle, and I found it vastly unfair and not at all enjoyable.

    On a different note, Frankfurt is often called Frankfurt am Main to distinguish it from another Frankfurt, Frankfurt an der Oder, which is not as well known because it is smaller and was once behind the Iron Curtain. MAINZ is of course also named after the Main river, being located on the opposite shore where the Main flows into the Rhine.

  46. Very rarely get to write on here, so I’m taking the opportunity despite the late hour. Finished this in 98:08, which, despite being nowhere near my best, is actually my 9th best time for the 15×15. We’ll gloss over the fact that it seems to be only the ninth time I’ve ever timed myself and finished it, so it’s a PW in a way. Anyway, I’d never heard of the mushroom or PHYLLARY (despite being a biology teacher) or a shay, but it’s always good to learn something. Thanks all.

    1. It’s a shame that if you make a late contribution to the discussion hardly anybody reads it, and if you do so very infrequently then a little disappointing so just to say that I think you did well with that time. For my part I did so badly with it on Monday that I tossed it aside and only came back to it on Wednesday, when I was amazed to complete it, well almost. Unfortunately I put DYSNEY instead of SYDNEY. I know, very annoying to get all the tricky stuff and then do that. Keep up the good work.

    2. I solve on Australian treeware, so am always weeks behind the times/Times. So I do read late posts. Well done.
      I thought phyllary was a bit of a swizz. The latter raised a fond Molesworth memory.

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