Times 28576 – you are a fluke of the universe

Time taken: 9:27.

This one was right up my alley, with a lot of crafty wordplay, some of which might be visiting us from Mephistoland. There were several answers where I had to trust the wordplay, so I was relieved when it came up with no errors.

How did you get along?

1 Pair winning almost immediately? (6)
PRONTO – PR(pair) and ON TOP(winning) minus the last letter
4 Married woman or country boy featured in curse (7)
MALISON – two wordplays: M(married), ALISON(woman) and MALI(country), SON(boy). A curse that hasn’t appeared in the daily puzzle for nearly 10 years
9 Old piano delivered before time for stage performance (5)
OPERA – O(old), P(piano) then ERA(time)
10 Forswearing group full of English hypocrisy (9)
RECANTING – RING(group) containing E(English), CANT(hypocrisy)
11 A boy given time becomes VIP (9)
PERSONAGE –  PER(a), SON(boy) and AGE(time)
12 Instrument costing nothing no good? Return it! (5)
SITAR – GRATIS(costing nothing) minus G(good) reversed
13 Payment slashed? (4)
RENT – double definition
14 Remarkable chum hugging female and old blokes (10)
PHENOMENAL – PAL(chum) containing HEN(female) and O(old), MEN(blokes)
18 Trade ad is out to catch people ultimately, offering essential items? (10)
DESIDERATA – anagram of TRADE,AD,IS containing the last letter in peoplE.
20 One church had to be decorated (4)
ICED – I(one), CE(church), ‘D(had)
23 Projection of sentimental stuff suiting the nobs? (5)
CORNU – CORN(sentimental stuff), U(suiting the nobs). Got this from wordplay.  Since there’s a bunch of comments about this answer, I’ll add my two cents.  Cornu is Latin for horn, and in English means either a horn or a hornlike pattern in nature, so a projection. More commonly found as the first part of CORNUCOPIA, horn of plenty. It might be more common in the USA, but CORN or CORNY meaning sentimental or trite came quickly to me.
24 What makes Oxford look bright? (9)
SHOESHINE – cryptic definition
25 Officer studies information schematically presented (9)
CONSTABLE – CONS(studies), TABLE(information schematically presented)
26 Piece of cloth I found behind organ (5)
LUNGI – I after LUNG(organ). Another from wordplay – last appeared in a Times puzzle in 2015
27 Duck is some swimmer, seriously! (7)
IMMERSE – hidden in swIMMER SEriously
28 Hearing that is very irritating (6)
TRYING – double definition
1 Publicity bod hurried round about and was successful (9)
PROSPERED –  PRO(Public Relations Officer, publicity bod) then SPED(ran) surrounding RE(about)
2 Series of deliveries managed but took too long (7)
OVERRAN – OVER(series of deliveries in cricket), RAN(managed)
3 Table with a flower still to be put up outside (6)
TEAPOY – A, PO(flower) with YET(still) reversed surrounding. Another from wordplay, and a search of the site shows it popped up in two Jumbos in 2016 and 2012, but has not been seen before in a daily.
4 Fellow consuming cold mineral (5)
MACLE –  MALE(fellow) containing C(cold).  Last appeared in a Mephisto in 2021
5 Solitary advance amount of cash reported (8)
LONESOME – sounds like LOAN(advance), SUM(amount of cash)
6 Bird with leg in something mouldy (7)
STILTON – STILT(bird) and ON(leg side in cricket)
7 Country boy with change of direction finally (5)
NIGER – NIGEL(boy we’re only making plans for) with L changing to R
8 Bishop back, having embraced the brief time out? (8)
BREATHER – B(bishop) and REAR(back) containing THE
15 Ignore heartless nut spouting gas (8)
NITROGEN – anagram of IGNORE and NuT minus the central letter
16 Heather coming across snake and running (9)
LADDERING – LING(heather) containing ADDER(snake)
17 A revolutionary socialist restricts fair person who’d make small changes (8)
ADJUSTER – A then RED(socialist) reversed containing JUST(fair)
19 Problem gripping Rex in a state (7)
SURINAM – SUM(problem) containing R(Rex), IN, A
21 Drink? Church worker imbibes one — and another one (7)
CHIANTI – CH(church), ANT(worker) containing I(one) and then another I
22 Bird losing tail, pinned down by wood and stone (6)
ASHLAR – LARK(bird) minus the last letter underneath ASH(wood)
23 A court beset by a hundred and one plants (5)
CACTI – A, CT(court) inside CI(a hundred and one)
24 Black farm building time’s forgotten (5)
SABLE – STABLE(farm building) minus T(time)

110 comments on “Times 28576 – you are a fluke of the universe”

  1. 25:15
    Slowed down a bunch by the DNKs CORNU, MACLE (tried MICKE, LUCKE first). TEAPOY, when I finally came up with it, did ring the faintest of bells; I certainly haven’t seen it since those ancient Jumbos. Similarly for LUNGI. I didn’t understand the ‘bod’ in PROSPERED. A couple of QC-level clues (LONESOME, SHOESHINE), but overall a tough, satisfying puzzle.

    1. ‘bod’ is just a person associated with some activity -it’s needed for the ‘O’.

        1. The role of the PRO is perfectly illustrated in Betjeman’s poem The Village Inn. The Inn has recently been modernised with some less tasteful features. “So spake the Brewer’s PRO, A man who really ought to know, For he is paid for saying so.”

  2. 31 minutes. I happened to vaguely remember the less common words (to which I’d also add ASHLAR) except MACLE, for which I was itching to put in “micke” instead; I’m glad I stuck to my guns. If you had ever wondered about the difference between a dhoti and a LUNGI, here’s everything you need to know.

    I wasn’t aware of the real meaning of DESIDERATA; I just thought it referred to “Go placidly…”. I think George’s version is as good as or even better than the original.

    Thanks to George and setter

        1. I confess I didn’t find it even the least bit funny.. takes all sorts!
          And … only Americans rotate tyres. (tires?) ..

          1. It’s a lampoon of someone’s (I forget who) recording of ‘Desiderata’, which if you haven’t heard, this would certainly fall rather flat.

      1. Thanks for posting the link to Deteriorata, Kevin. I have not heard it before. Most enjoyable.

    1. There was a hit single back in the 70s called Desiderata, from where I know this meaning of the word!!
      I’ve got a feeling the bloggers headline quote is taken from it

  3. Nearly took the MICKE instead of the nho MACLE at 4d. Similarly, SWIFTON parsed at 6d and I wondered if it could be an old English word for something rotten. Surely there couldn’t be many birds fitting the S-I-T checkers? And then another flew into view.
    Last in IRKING was biffed from the 28a definition and checkers, but stubbornly refused to parse, so I resisted the temptation to press ‘submit’ , and eventually TRYING was found. Most trying!

  4. Boys abounding, twice referring to a son and once to Nigel. CORNU was a tough find – I was trying to think of homophones involving GOO (another type of sentimental stuff)

  5. Another unsettling puzzle, not knowing or remembering LUNGI, MACLE, ASHLAR, TEAPOY or CORNU, so relieved to guess all correctly. Liked STILTON most, and spouting as an anagram indicator. Always thought DESIDERATA was what you wanted, not needed, though I see the dictionaries have both.

  6. 9:50 I’ve seen teapoy somewhere, though would have struggled to define it; macle seemed slightly the likelier answer; and cornu sounded slightly classical, something to do with horns?

    1. Indeed, cornu, meaning horn, is one of the nouns you use when you’re learning whichever declension of Latin nouns it represents, along with mensa and the like (or at least you did when I learned it, that was quite a long time ago now…)

      1. As far back as the 70s for me, when I was a Classics undergrad at KCL; mind you, just got back from watching Medea at the new Soho Place theatre, so something remains from those days!

      2. My experience with Latin and CORNU goes back to the 1960’s and I vaguely recall it was one of the few 4th declension nouns- it went
        something along the lines of
        cornu cornus cornu cornu cornu(singular)
        cornua cornuum cornibus cornua cornibus (plural)
        Which form belongs to which case is available free of charge on request!

  7. Very similar experience to Kevin, but a few minutes longer and a bit less successful.

    I also tried MICKE, but sadly stuck with it. If I’d thought of “male” (not sure why I didn’t) I think I’d have gone with MACLE as slightly less unlikely-sounding.

    No complaints though, was actually quite satisfied with conquering TEAPOY, MALISON, ASHLAR, LUNGI and CORNU.

    Thanks setter and George.

  8. Isla’s ‘unsettling’ is a good description of this puzzle. Whilst I am happy to learn new words there were too many unknowns or forgottens in this one for me to enjoy it. Although I had all but 7 answers by the time my target half-hour passed, after another 10 minutes with no progress made I gave up and resorted to aids. I don’t do Mephistos because the enjoyment some take in solving puzzles full of words one doesn’t know and checking them in a book is alien to me – but each to their own.

    CORNU was never going to happen for me and the intersection of two unknowns (MACLE and MALISON) at 4 put paid to any hopes of progress there. I had worked out TEAPOY but written it in with no confidence, its previous appearances being long ago before I did Jumbo puzzles. I remembered LUNGI but was unable to construct ASHLAR even though on finding it in the dictionary I vaguely recalled seeing it before.

    Incidentally I have seen very similar if not identical clues to PRONTO and SITAR within the past week or two although they may not have been in The Times.

    1. Yes, PRONTO was in QC on Tuesday, and SITAR in the main puzzle which you blogged last week (28568): Finally giving instrument back for nothing (6)

      1. Excerpt from a Goon Show:
        “Waiter, a brandy and PRONTO!”
        Waiter: “One brandy and pronto coming up!

    2. “I don’t do Mephistos because the enjoyment some take in solving puzzles full of words one doesn’t know and checking them in a book is alien to me – but each to their own.”
      I fully agree, Jack!

      1. Alien to me also, but I did have a rare crack at last Sunday’s and it was surprisingly doable!

  9. Pleased to have thrown in the towel with just NHOs left: MACLE, ASHLAR, TEAPOY, MALISON and CORNU. Did guess LUNGI, after trying desperately to make DHOTI work.


  10. So pleased to have successfully worked out the unknowns mentioned by many: LUNGI, ASHLAR (vaguely ho), MACLE (LOI), MALISON, TEAPOY – all trusting the wordplay.

    I parsed MALISON as M.ALI or MALI + SON.

    CORNU has appeared at least once in the past few years. I remarked then, and now repeat, that in school Latin we young boys were amused by Caesar’s use of the phrase ‘in cornu’, translated as ‘on the horn’.

    23’16”, thanks george and setter.

  11. DNF with the ASHLAR/LUNGI crosser beyond me despite suspecting ASH. Pity because I’d constructed MALISON, MACLE and CORNU and I knew TEAPOY. The rest fell quite quickly into place in about 20 minutes. But this is why I don’t do the Mephisto. I like to have that feeling that an answer is right on a Cryptic and I don’t want to use aids whereas I’m happy to on the TLS crossword as an educational exercise. But thank you George for the excellent blog and setter for the challenge.

  12. So sang a wither’d Beldam energetical,
    And bann’d the ungiving door with lips prophetical.
    (The Gipsy’s Malison, Charles Lamb)

    30 mins pre-brekker with LOI Cornu.
    Too much concocting of unknowns for me. But nicely clued.
    Ta setter and G.

  13. 35m 13s
    Gosh, what a lot of new words for me! MALISON, CORNU, MACLE and TEAPOY.
    I wondered if TEAPOY might be related to SEPOY somehow, but it appears not.
    Thank you, George.

  14. Much more of this and I’m going to give up altogether ! Today’s unknowns: TEAPOY, MALISON, STILT, CORNU, MACLE, ASHLAR and LUNGI. Some worked out from the cryptic and two looked up. I really don’t find this sort of a test enjoyable.

    Thank you g for the blog. Grumpy in Provence.

    1. Think of it as a learning experience! The more you embrace these unknowns, the fewer there will be next time around.. look them up in wikipedia, get them onboard for your future mental health and enjoyment. After all, they will keep coming, won’t they?

      1. You are absolutely right, of course Jerry. I was just feeling a bit “off” this morning, hence the gripe. Sometimes its a bit galling to realise that there is so much more that you don’t know than what you do!

        I’ll take your advice though.

        1. But you knew everything in this crossword! Bar one or two, which surely will NOT catch you out next time around.. learning is fun!

      2. I’m all for the learning experience. But I’d prefer it if it was an education in the wonders of the English language rather than an acquisition of new words, most of which we’ll never have cause to use ever again. Except in another crossword of course.

        1. For me the wonder of the English (and indeed any other) language is often in the words you don’t know and will never use again. Every new word is an opportunity to learn.
          MACLE, for instance, is a mineral with dark spots in it. The name comes from the Latin ‘macula’, meaning ‘spot’, which is also the root of ‘immaculate’.
          I did not know this yesterday.
          That said I do mostly agree with you (see above).

    2. I agree. We’re on a run of particularly ludicrous puzzles at the moment.

    3. …and Grumpy in Melbourne! Don’t look forward to too many more of these: trying to concoct unknown words is not my bag. This way above my pay grade.

  15. DNF. I went with MACTE for the mineral, with mate for fellow seeming as likely as male to me.

  16. 15:46. The same unknowns as others, although I did remember my LOI, ASHLAR. I toyed with TEABOY for 3D thinking we might have the river OB rising., but decided PO was more likely even if the resulting word didn’t look it. Nice puzzle but rather too many obscurities for a 15×15 to my mind. Thanks George and setter.

    1. I always am surprised that the Ob doesn’t appear more. It is one of the worlds top 10 rivers, greater than 5000 km. The little Po is 1/10 the length.

      1. That is a very good point. Let us hope that our setters are watching, and that we will remember it when it comes. If we don’t, someone is sure to find these comments 🙂

  17. 24.11. Never heard of 4d so ‘macle’ was a lucky guess: flirted with ‘micke’ but, fortunately, made the right choice.

  18. 30 minutes. My experience was very similar to jackkt above – MALISON, TEAPOY, MACLE, ASHLAR, LUNGI and CORNU were all unknown to me, and eventually went in with no confidence whatsoever once I had the wordplay worked out – not particularly satisfying. And having ‘country boy’ in two different clues (4a and 7d) seems like something that should be avoided if possible.

    I also didn’t figure out the ‘pro’ in PROSPERED and took a while to twig that STILTON is ‘something mouldy’.

    FOI Pronto
    LOI Teapoy
    COD Breather

  19. 11:48. I didn’t enjoy this one much. I like working out obscurities from wordplay (I love Mephistos) but as we discussed yesterday, it’s nice to feel certain that the answer is unequivocally right, and there were too many instances here where I had my doubts. STILTON seems a likely answer but the definition is oblique and is a STILT really a bird? Is CORN ‘sentimental stuff’? Might I construct a more likely-looking word with another river and another word for ‘still’? How many other 4-letter words for ‘fellow’ are there? I got through unscathed in the end but it all felt a bit wobbly and I wouldn’t have been remotely surprised to see a pink square.

    1. Yes, I forgot to mention STILT as a bird in my earlier posting. I think it’s the first I ever heard of it.

      Also it appears that CORNU has come up only once before in the TfTT era in a Club Monthly in 2014 blogged by Jerry. All other search hits relate to the answer, CORNUCOPIA. I had my doubts about corn as ‘sentimental stuff’ but SOED likes it. I think of it more as something that’s hackneyed and unoriginal.

      1. Yes I checked in Collins and it has the same meaning. I wouldn’t maintain that any of these clues are really faulty or unfair on their own, but the proliferation of obscurities with what seemed at least potentially ambiguous wordplay accumulated to that wobbly feeling.

        1. And now I’ve just come across STILT (bird) in another crossword puzzle published today!

      2. I remember it as if it were yesterday … not! For me it was a nho today but if the club monthly (or mephisto) teaches you anything, it is how to rely on the wordplay. Corn = sentimental took me a bit to find, but I did think it OK when I got it.

      3. I made a roundabout connection between corn and sentimental by thinking of treacle. Treacle can be a synonym of corn syrup and treacly can mean sickly sweet or cloying.

    2. Several words in this puzzle were new to me, which, sans classical education, is often the case. So I always find it slightly annoying when people suggest that things I’m familiar with (Stilt, in this case) are unfairly obscure. The crossword isn’t just for retired English public school kids you know! I learn a lot working my way through these puzzles – maybe you could learn a bit, too.

  20. I couldn’t have been further off the mark on an apparently averagely SNITCHED puzzle. Slightly over an hour and I went with MICKE and SWIFTON for 2 errors.

    Barred-grid puzzles are absolutely my jam but I’m not super impressed with MACLE in the daily context – there are just too many possibilities for “fellow” (MACLE and MACTE both came to mind along with MICKE). Everything else seemed fairly clued even if obscure. I quite liked the double wordplay in MALISON.

    Thanks glh and setter.

  21. 15:00, having been held up by the obvious words, while thinking along with everyone else that parts of this puzzle appeared to have escaped from a Mephisto. I tend to think there is a reason why we have a separate puzzle where you know you’re likely to encounter very arcane words, which need to be assembled from wordplay without prior experience of them…

  22. 40:22

    Too many unknowns to be completely enjoyable, and I did double-check that a couple of them (CORNU & MALISON) existed before submitting.

    DNK – MALISON, CORNU, TEAPOY (vaguely remembered but didn’t know the meaning), MACLE, STILT (today’s random bird) – luckily most were gettable e.g. something mouldy with all of the checkers.

  23. That was tough, in parts. Annoyed (as a chemistry bod) had never heard of MACLE, which appears to be a crystalline form in some minerals, not a mineral as such. Poor clue IMO. TEAPOY was a guess from the wordplay, and CORNU was the only alternative to CORFU which didn’t seem a likely answer. No time as MACLE and MALISON were not completed. Thanks for explanations, George.

    1. One of the definitions of macle in Chambers is: chīasˈtolite – A variety of andalusite with black cruciform inclusions of carbonaceous matter.

  24. 25 mins. Where’s astronowt when you need him? I nearly put STINTON.
    An easy crossword dotted with complete unknowns. Not my cup of tea.

    1. I was wondering the same thing – not only a Stilt, but a Lark also lurks hidden in the puzzle. Missing Astro Nowt’s barbed bird comments.

        1. Aha! I went back to read your comment from 8th March. Understood.
          For the past couple of years now, I’ve been compiling my own list of Times crossword shorthand – I have over 500 lines now ( on an Excel spreadsheet). Happy to share if anyone wants a copy.

        2. I have been curious about the absence of your limericks and see now I must have missed the March 8 post. Looking forward to the alphabetical-themed limericks!

  25. 43 minutes, having eventually given up on CORNU and MACLE and used aids, although somehow I coped with the other obscurities. I tend to agree with Jack about the lack of pleasure involved in looking up words that one has never heard of, although I do Azed once a month and that’s full of crazy words, both in the answers and in the wordplay. However, I have no qualms about using aids from the start, because I’m only solving it so that I can enter his clue-writing competition. I hardly ever do the Mephisto because there’s no carrot at the end.

  26. Another DNF- I put the vowels in the wrong order in DESIDERATA and plumped for micke.
    There were a lot of unknown to me words here for one puzzle, of course I expect a couple per crossword but for me there were too many today.

  27. Not greatly impressed by the number of Mephisto words here. Ground it out, didn’t get a lot of pleasure from it.

    TIME 9:15

  28. DNF, North-east corner largely blank.
    Should have guessed MALISON,. Failed to parse but guessed SITAR, missing the gRATIS just like I did a few weeks ago when the same clue appeared. DOH!
    Macle isn’t a mineral as such I discover.

  29. The only unfamiliar answer was CORNU, though I must have encountered it before. I agree with keriothe that ‘sentimental stuff’ for CORN is a bit of a stretch. I’ve always thought it as meaning ‘hackneyed’. I knew MACLE was a word, meaning a dark spot, but the definition here was unfamiliar. I couldn’t get LUNGI until I had ASHLAR.
    32 minutes.

    Re keriothe’s comment on STILT, a stilt is most certainly a bird. I recently photographed a collection of Black-winged Stilts.

  30. As mentioned by several solvers already, this was an uncomfortable puzzle. For me there were too many arcane answers, and I found some of the clues confusing, e.g. 1dn (the ‘pro’) and 6dn, where ‘in’ suggests to me something enclosed rather than something tagged on the end. 32 minutes but not really enjoyable. Like isla3 I was unaware of the extended meaning of DESIDERATA until I checked. Perhaps I am just having a grumpy day.
    Thanks to george and other contributors.

  31. Retired hurt in the twelfth minute: I managed to make up a reasonable number of words that turned out to be real, but an uncertain MACLE crossing MALISON (which I was nowhere near), and STILTON not entered (that was gettable, but I had not got it, and stilt is a long way down my list of birds) was too much for me.

    There’s a time and a place…

  32. Beaten by CORNU where I thought the nobs were surrounded(suited) by the sentimental stuff. I bunged in CORFU as it’s possibly a projection of the seabed and the rest of the puzzle was obscure enough to make it a possibility. I spent 5 minutes trying to solve that, my LOI. Total time 27:45, but it feels like wasted time now. An unsatisfactory sort of outcome. Thanks George.

    1. my thinking, too, on Corfu, and a place the nobs go for beach holiday. Still, I knew that had to be wrong.

      1. I’d pencilled in R(oyal) F(amily) for the nobs and wondered what on earth a COU might be 🤣

  33. A reasonable time of 39.50 considering the difficulty with all those unknowns, but unfortunately with two errors. IRKING went in for 28ac, and I find it very trying that I didn’t persevere with it knowing it didn’t parse. The other error was CORDU for 23ac, where I thought maybe with the reference to material that a shortened form of CORDUROY may figure. Again I feel I should have spent a little more time as CORN for sentimental really should have occurred to me. An enjoyable crossword in spite of my lack of thought

  34. I am here quite late because I could not solve three in the NW, malison, stilton and macle. So I put it to one side and came back to it when it was late enough to have a glass in hand, and finished it off.

    Honestly I don’t understand why folk get so aeriated when they come across unfamiliar words. It happens to us all, doesn’t it? You will NEVER acquire a vocabulary sufficient for all cryptic crosswords, with no surprises. Not going to happen. That being the case, why not welcome them as an opportunity to learn? When I come across nhos I look up the word in the OED and/or Wikipedia so as to get a fighting chance of spotting it incoming, the next time.

    And if you haven’t the time (but, you do!) just shrug and come here to find out…

    1. The opportunity to learn is provided by the mephisto or the monthly special, not relentlessly in the daily. There seems to be no end to this current run of silliness.

  35. DNF with at least half a dozen unknowns and a few knowns which refused to appear. Surprised this is only scoring 109 on the SNITCH. It felt much harder. And it’s not even Friday.

    1. I think the SNITCH only takes into account puzzles that are submitted without error. For a puzzle like this one the error-free submissions might be more heavily weighted towards the “better” solvers than would normally be the case?

      (This is 80% speculation on my part. If Starstruck sees this he might provide some clarification).

  36. Made it!!! In 28 minutes. DNK cornu macle or lungi, though luckily i did know ashlar otherwise I would never have got lungi.
    LOI CORNU, which took the last several minutes of those 28, and could hardly believe my luck that corn was the sentimental stuff I was looking for. So could hardly wait to come here in triumph 😉
    So the blogger today did this in 9 minutes, ok…
    Going to have to google those words now.
    Enjoyed this puzzle in fact, despite the hi falutin vocab!
    Thanks to everyone like always, it really is an enjoyment to do the puzzles and read the comments

  37. Generally stick to the QC but very occasionally have a go at the biggie too. MALISON, MACLE and TEAPOY were all unknown. Knew CORNU from laryngeal anatomy. Very pleased to finish with only 3 unsolved. May try more often. Many thanks for blog and comments.

  38. MACLE seems a bit nasty outside of a mephisto- it was on my radar but I went for MICKE assuming it was etymologically related to MICA

  39. I love it when everything I struggle with is the same for other contributors.
    But I’m conflicted about how obscure a clue should be. I (unusually) got some today, purely because of crossers (it’s alright if the solution from crossers makes sense and parses) . It didn’t feel satisfying today. I thought MACLE, CORNU, MALISON , two , two many . Having said that I do agree with JerryW that we shouldn’t be averse to some adult learning.
    On a lighter note, anyone else launched into 21d with a CAMPARI?
    Thanks to blogger and contributors .

  40. Amazed to have finished all correct. I toyed with all the alternatives at 4d, but MACLE seemed the most plausible.
    Very AZEDish some of these words.

  41. I found this puzzle very difficult with all the unknown vocab – as highlighted by others. It took me longer than usual, but … I finished successfully! So v. chuffed 😀 . Had to rely on my interpretation of the wordplay several times

  42. “spouting” to indicate an anagram is new to me, and I used to send in Ximenes, (old) Listener & Crudpole when I was young, if I remember…

    1. ‘Spouting’ isn’t even in the long list of anagram indicators published by Chambers but seems reasonable, perhaps in the sense of ‘spraying’ as water does.

  43. Beaten by CORNU and only guessed MACLE, MALISON (very generously clued) and TEAPOY from the wordplay but a tidy enough crossword I think. Thanks for the blog.

  44. Several guesses, all of them right (TEAPOY, MALISON, CORNU, MACLE). In at 17’58”. I’m like JerryW. I love learning new words. I’d be disappointed if there weren’t any. Re short-name rivers, there is also the Aa, which you cross on the motorway out of Calais. Sadly only usable in a clue for Aardvark.

  45. My Book of British Birds classifies the stilt as a “rare vagrant” which IMHO says a lot about a number of answers today. I toyed with a much ruder Pepysian answer for “something mouldy”, not knowing the bird. I’m lumbering in as a newcomer here but delighted to have found you; thanks for the blog.

  46. Everything correct in just under an hour and that’s about the only nice thing I can say about this puzzle. Apparently the wordplay and a great deal of luck were enough to solve MALISON, CORNU, LUNGI, TEAPOY, MACLE, ASHLAR (have I left any out?) but that creates just a slight bit of satisfaction and not much enjoyment at all. I could not agree more with Jack’s comment above and his remark on Mephistos.

    When I first started solving cryptic crosswords I did try Ximenes, Azed and Mephisto puzzles without a dictionary!, not getting far at all until I realized you were supposed to be using reference works to solve them. Now I don’t do them because you can let a computer do the looking up (why do it by hand?) and that would actually make them too easy, I suppose.

    I do wish we could have some hard but ordinary cryptic puzzles for a change. The Sunday composers manage precisely that just about every week, so it’s not asking too much.

    1. If you don’t understand an answer, it is a good idea to check the definition in Collins, since that is the reference dictionary for the daily Times and it is free online (collinsdictionary.com).

      Cornu means a horn or a hornlike pattern, so a projection.

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