Times 28611 – remember all those Greek variants?

Another somewhat quirky Wednesday puzzle, with some easy clues and some that were a bit harder to parse, even if biff-able. It kept me busy for between 15 and 20 minutes.

Definitions underlined in bold, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, anagrinds in italics, [deleted letters in square brackets].

1 Peak adding singular note to hat (8)
CAPSTONE – So, apart from being the top stone on a wall, CAPSTONE I deduce must mean ‘peak’ in a more general sense. CAP (hat) S[ingular] TONE (note).
5 Client is against a girl returning (6)
VASSAL – V (versus, against) A, LASS reversed.
10 Baseball fielder and items he wears when running? (9)
SHORTSTOP – he wears SHORTS and a TOP. Seen this recently I think. More cricket, less baseball, please.
11 Sharpness about tungsten guitar string’s sound (5)
TWANG – TANG (sharpness) with W (chemical symbol for tungsten) inserted.
12 Almost convinced about old tart (4)
SOUR – SUR[E] has O for old inserted.
13 Put up with song ultimately written like Bartók (9)
HUNGARIAN – HUNG (put up), ARIA (song) N (end of written). I like Bartók’s music, but you have to be in the mood, in a dark room, not driving down the A1 in traffic.
15 Run-up to the weekend finishes in intimacy (10)
FRIENDSHIP – FRI (day before weekend) ENDS (finishes) HIP (in, trendy).
17 Card box for footwear (4)
SHOE – double definition, the first referring to the ‘shoe’ used by a croupier for dealing cards.
19 See you master lingo finally ready for Italy? (4)
EURO – last letters of seE yoU masteR lingO.
20 Concertgoer taking in good artist, one who shapes concert (10)
PROGRAMMER – a PROMMER is an attendee at the summer BBC Prom concerts in the Albert Hall, insert G and RA.
22 Anticyclone arrives in Scots region (9)
HIGHLANDS – HIGH (pressure area) LANDS (arrives).
24 Something valuable chap extracted from beet (4)
GOLD – MAN is extracted from MANGOLD, another name for mangel-wurzel.
26 Prudent to pursue universal employment (5)
USAGE – U followed by SAGE = prudent.
27 Drug check protecting friendly community and its environment (9)
ECOSYSTEM – E (drug), STEM (check, halt a flow), insert COSY (friendly).
28 Namely this, metamorphic? (6)
SCHIST – SC (scilicet, ‘namely’ in Latin) (THIS)* metamorphosed into HIST. An &lit. clue, I’m thinking, but never quite sure what one is. Schist is any flaky metamorphic rock.
29 Claim during trial about English Republican (8)
INTEREST – IN TEST (during trial) has E R inserted; as in “I have a claim to / an interest in…”
1 Point about unique selling point (4)
CUSP – C (about) USP. My FOI.
2 Plot after papa gets fresh Covid variant sans name in lab exposure? (15)
PHOTOMICROGRAPH – P for papa, HOT (fresh), OMICRO[N] a covid variant losing its N, GRAPH = plot. Obviously, a photomicrograph is a photograph taken through a microscope. I don’t see why Covid is capitalised in the clue, I’d have thought it should be informally covid or more correctly COVID-19.
3 Mathematician coming round to teaching (8)
TUTORING – TO inserted into Alan TURING.
4 Church follows New Testament about Old Nick (5)
NOTCH – NT, insert O, add CH.
6 Tsar shot certainly in error (6)
ASTRAY – (TSAR)*, AY = certainly.
7 Iberia’s fare is covered by plane width, place of origin and hirer out mostly (7,8)
SPANISH OMELETTE – SPAN (plane width) HOME (place of origin) insert IS, add LETTE[R}.
8 Fruit began going off in truck (10)
9 Front runners in shock photo finish paying out (8)
SPENDING -S P (first letters of Shock Photo) ENDING (finish).
14 Our father’s around when work’s finished (5,5)
16 Dog bound to be supported by queen (8)
SPRINGER – SPRING (bound) ER (queen). Short for springer spaniel.
18 Carved figure from galley regularly about years after long-dead ship (8)
GARGOYLE – ARGO (old mythical ship) Y (years) go inside G L E (alternate letters of galley).
21 What can grip bridge supports both sides of line (6)
PLIERS – PIERS goes either side of L for line.
23 Broadcast now so faint (5)
25 Leave out Bard’s title role when mounted in reduced form? (4)
OMIT – TIMON (of Athens) is reversed and reduced by losing its N.


89 comments on “Times 28611 – remember all those Greek variants?”

  1. 19:55
    SHORTSTOP (FOI) was a gimme; surprised to find it here, although I believe it’s appeared once before. It took me rather a while to see how AFTER HOURS worked; I wasted time thinking it might be PATER something. LOI was GOLD, simply because I couldn’t see how it worked, not knowing ‘mangold’. Pip, you’ve got GLE reversed for some reason in GARGOYLE.

  2. 13:16 – took far too long to see SCHIST, but liked it when I got it. Also fun to piece together PHOTOMICROGRAPH after wondering if there was an anagram with multiple Vs.

      1. Yes, because that clue might have been sh*t (metamorphically speaking).

  3. 15m

    Failed on 1dn, USP in particular – never heard that piece of marketing wankese before – so went with CASE

  4. Bartok always puts me in mind of linguist Michael Halliday, who tape recorded his infant son’s every utterance from 10 months to 4 years.

    The transcription for X at 3 years and 2 months read: ‘me wan da an ba’

    Halliday’s gloss read, ‘I want the Dvorak and the Bartok!’

    23 mins for the puzzle, which inches my SNITCH a little closer to my targets…

  5. Enjoyably quirky. GOLD in with a shrug, neither mangold nor mangelwurzel known – or more likely forgotten, think they might have come up before… yes: 28209 about a year ago. LOI was CAPSTONE, not really knowing it as peak.
    COD Hungarian.

  6. A lot of synonyms and definitions which weren’t the first or even the second thing I thought of, along with some nice grid-fill. Excepting – even with my liking baseball – that I grimmaced at Shortstop.

    Out of curiosity, I had always thought that NATO alphabet characters were properly capitalised – Whiskey, Papa, etc. That would make them harder to use in clues, so we find them not. Am I wrong about that?

    1. Chambers has “Papa or papa”. I presume the capitalised form being given first implies that is more usual.

      1. The dictionaries I looked at all specify upper case (e.g. Papa, Foxtrot) against the definitions referring to the Nato alphabet. However, without addressing the matter of capitalisation directly, Tim Moorey’s book How to Master The Times Crossword includes a section on alphabets that may come in handy, and lists their components. All the words in the Nato alphabet are in lower case apart from those that are proper nouns (Charlie, India, Mike etc plus X-ray).

        1. On further investigation Chambers Crossword Dictionary gives the whole lot in lower case, including the proper nouns.

          1. Ah, but that’s a crossword dictionary! That suggests that lower-casing them all might be done just to make them more cryptic, which would seem a violation of the usual rule.

  7. 34 minutes for all but two answers, the long Down at 2 and the metamorphic thing at 28. I managed to construct the unknown PHOTOMICROGRAPH eventually having deduced PHOTO and GRAPH and after a lot of thought remembering Omicron as a Covid variant (how quickly we forget!), but I had little idea of what was required by way of definition at 28 so I bunged in the only word I could see that fitted the checkers, SCHISM, hoping for the best. I simply didn’t know SCHIST and note that it has never before appeared in a 15×15 puzzle except in wordplay. The rest of the puzzle I found reasonably straightforward.

  8. 20 minutes for me, so a lot easier than yesterday (mainly because nothing held me up at the end). LOI was ASTRAY. I biffed PHOTOMICROGRAPH once I had a lot of checkers, and forgot to go back and parse it. I think SHORTSTOP is the only position in baseball that you need to know if you don’t know any baseball-ese. The other positions are either too obvious (like “catcher”) or unlikely to work in a crossword (like “first baseman”).

  9. Pfft, blew it. Thought 1ac was seeking a name for a hat, so followed the cryptic and got CAP (peak), I (singular), TONE (note). CAPITONE, obviously an Italian hat. Somehow jagged CUSP, SCHIST and even GOLD despite having a momentary blank about the existence of both mangold and mangel-wurzel…

  10. I liked this! VASSAL and CAPSTONE were at the top of my list. Also glad to learn a new word, PHOTOMICROGRAPH (at The Nation, we cap the first letter of Covid only, but to my eye all-caps makes more sense than no caps, which, however, is the house style of, e.g., The Washington Post).

    1. Collins has Covid, which it gives as a variant of COVID-19. Isn’t there a UK convention of capitalizing only the initial letter of acronyms? Aids for instance, not AIDS. (Though why the 19 should affect that I have no idea.)

      1. Your take on British style seems accurate to me.
        For his pieces in our pages, Yale epidemiologist (and veteran AIDS activist) Greg Gonsalves likes the more technical name, SARS-CoV-2, and that’s fine too.

        1. On the other hand, Collins gives only AIDS and NATO. While ODE has ‘Aids (also AIDS)’, but ‘NATO (also Nato)’; go figure.

          1. By chance I found myself reading about this earlier when I was trying to research the query raised above by Paul in London.

            According to several sources it seems there is no hard and fast rule for capitalisation of acronyms so one can capitalise the lot, or just the first letter, or in some cases none at all. So it’s up to individuals unless they are writing on behalf of an organisation with its own designated house style.

            1. And, without thinking, in my earlier question I spelt another acronym Nato, not NATO. Meantime, thanks for the legwork on uNCAPTIALISING the letter-signifiers. Now we’ve only got to figure out if both whiskey and whisky are acceptable for W

              1. I think Jackkt was talking only of acronyms, which Whisk(e)y etc. are not. I’m still wondering about your question.

                  1. I thought no one had commented on your original poser about capping the NATO letter-names, but somehow I missed the comments above.

  11. 2D was a bridge too far for me and I used aids. CAPSTONE held me up because I also didn’t have CUSP (NHO USP). Not my favourite puzzle of the month – thanks for much enlightenment Pip !

    LOI 2D
    TIME 12:23 (with aids)

  12. 21:23. I was well off the wavelength today but ultimately just pleased to finish, having felt completely stuck at times.
    I thought there was some top notch clueing. The anagram for AFTER HOURS was good and very well hidden from my eyes. However the pinnacle for me was the clue for TUTORING for such a lovely surface.

  13. I was pleased to finish in 25 minutes, only to see here that I am on the slow side!
    Nothing special to note today really…
    Thanks setter and blogger

  14. 24 minutes. I was most disappointed to realise it was HUNGARIAN having wracked my brains to remember Bela. The TWANG’s the thang as Duane Eddy had it. Shazam! POI was SCHIST, which was unknown to me but the clue and crossers were kind. LOI was PHOTOMICROGRAPH. I liked this puzzle apart from these last two. Thank you Pip and setter.

        1. Indeed! I’m originally from East Sussex and have followed Brighton’s fortunes all my life and been a supporter for over 40 years now. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, mostly downs. After selling the Goldstone Ground we played home games at Gillingham for a couple of years before taking up residence in an athletics stadium, The Withdean Stadium. We were one game away from going out of the EFL in 1997 but got a draw away at Hereford United on the last day of the season, which kept us up and sent them down. After a lot of time and effort we got our new stadium, the Amex. I’ve yet to visit it but it looks terrific . And now, here we are about to play in a European competition and playing very attractive football under di Zerbi.
          What has happened over the years at Bolton? You were riding high under Big Sam.

          1. My Dad first took me to Burnden Park on January 3 1953. We beat Blackpool 4-0 and I was hooked, despite my avatar not playing that day. That’s over 70 years, just under 30 in the top division, as a supporter, with good times and bad times. We’re averaging nearly 20,000 gates now in the third tier but the competition is intense with United, City, Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn, Burnley, Preston all within a half hour drive. Big Sam did wonders and it was a great shame he went.

            1. Thanks, B.W. 20,000! That’s very impressive. I remember that under Big Sam, nobody, especially Wenger’s Arsenal aristos, looked forward to playing Bolton and players came from Real Madrid to play for the team.

  15. All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    (Tolkien, Riddle of Strider)

    25 mins mid-brekker got me to the Capstone guess and the Photo-something-graph. Omicron clued as Covid variant. Good grief. Pity.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  16. 30:39 so I did OK but I still felt it somehow wasn’t my cup of tea. LOI PHOTOMICROGRAPH where I had PHOTO and GRAPH long before covid clicked and turned out not to be an anagram. COD ASTRAY and WOD PLIERS

  17. 28′ 40″, with fifteen minutes spent on PHOTOMICROGRAPH / SCHIST.

    Felt uneasy about OMICRO…, everything being too raw.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  18. 25:05, very much enjoyed but slowed by the long, difficult and NHO 2d and SCHIST, which eventually surfaced from O level geology. Had no idea about MANGOLD, so thanks for the elucidation Piquet – and the unfortunate by-product, an earworm for the day of Combine Harvester by the Wurzels. Scrumpy anyone?

  19. 14:52. I found most of this of average difficulty but then got badly stuck with PHOTO-thingy and most of the SW corner missing, and had to grind it out.
    I had heard of SCHIST but had no idea what was going on with the definition.
    I like it when they use new words so I enjoyed this use of OMICRON.

  20. 40mins with last two in VASSAL (DNK that meaning of client) and ASTRAY holding me up. GOLD bunged in after crossers as I DNK mangold either. The long PHOTOwhotsit finally worked out once I’d seen OMICRO(N)

    Got SHORTSTOP with no probs as I think I must have seen it in discussion either here or another blog.

    I liked AFTER HOURS.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  21. Quick again today; Monday’s still the hardest of the week for me.
    Schist is a common usage in France; one of my favourite wine co-ops sells its wine from the “Caveau des Schistes,” in Faugeres.
    Never did properly parse either the photowossname or the Spanish thingy .. Bifd, or possibly BIFD

    1. Schist forms a large part of « La Garrigue » down here in the south where a great number of vineyards are planted. Ideal drainage potential! I notice, Jerry, that there is even a vineyard in Faugères called Schisterelle. Nice name too!

  22. 30 minutes, with a good chunk of that spent constructing PHOTOMICROGRAPH and hoping that the unknown SCHIST was a word. Didn’t know CAPSTONE as peak , the mangold beet in GOLD or the first meaning of SHOE, and biffed OMIT with no idea what was going on.

    FOI Cusp
    LOI Schist
    COD Loganberry

  23. 40 mins but stupidly put CAPITONE (a hat, or so I thought) instead of CAPSTONE. Misread clue. USAGE FOI, ASTRAY LOI.

  24. 57m 12s
    A good test I thought. Struggled with photomicrothingy as did others. Theta was my LOI
    Thanks, Pip. You mention Bartók. He was a friend of and wrote sonatas for the wonderfully named Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi.

      1. 🤣🤣🤣
        PS…I should have added that Jelly d’ was female…
        Wretched autocorrect: my comment should have read “THAT was my LOI”.

  25. 29 minutes. I didn’t know CAPSTONE as a ‘peak’; looking at Chambers, Collins and the ODE, only Collins gives this sense, as “a crowning achievement; a peak”. I’d also never heard of SHOE as a ‘Card box’; apart from ChrisLutton above, everyone else here is obviously well versed in the ways of the gambling world, something I’d never have guessed (only joking).

    I enjoyed working out the parsing of PHOTOMICROGRAPH which I initially thought might be an anagram. My favourite was SCHIST which to me would do as a “proper” &lit.

  26. I don’t time myself as for me it takes away the enjoyment but using the browser history I estimate from print to finish roughly 80 minutes from FOI VASSAL seen whilst printing to LOI INTEREST.
    I have two partly parsed clues needing the blog to fully understand FRIENDSHIP and SHOE but was pleased to work out PHOTOMICROGRAPH from the sum of its parts.
    I didn’t know Bartok but guessed he was from Hungary and SCHIST NHO but realised ‘this’ was possibly anagrammed and assumed the SC bit so a lucky guess.
    Claim/INTEREST had me puzzled too but matched the WP.

  27. 09:37, so pretty plain sailing and a pleasant experience. Left 2dn till last, but once I’d spotted it was going to have OMICRO in the middle, it turned out to be reasonably easy to work out the appropriately scientific prefix and suffix from the wordplay and checkers.

  28. Just like the QC I was nicely on target and then came to a grinding halt on 2dn. After a seemingly endless 7 or 8 minutes PHOTOMICROGRAPH finally came to me, and then I rather hopefully put in the only word I could fit into 28ac SCHISM. So a dispiriting DNF for me, and back to my old routine of getting one letter wrong. My final time was a disappointing 53.45.

  29. 27:21 with a brief interruption. Quite chewy. Some nice clues. Unlike some here, I enjoyed SHORTSTOP.

    COD: After Hours.

  30. 23:55. Had (and have) misgivings about CAPSTONE defined as “peak”, but it doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone else. A meaty MoR Wednesday puzzle.

  31. PHOTOMICROGRAPH I found very difficult — I couldn’t see how it was constructed, having already forgotten about the Omicron variant, and although I was pretty sure it was PHOTO… considered PROTO… and even PHONO… . Eventually I gave up and used aids, as I did for SCHIST, initially not really being very confident about it but now as time goes on thinking the clue is better and better. 52 minutes, most of it easy enough but then a long problem with PHOTO… and SC….

  32. I enjoyed this one, starting with NOTCH and CUSP, and finishing with the unknown SCHIST. I could see that SCHISM would fit, but spotted the wordplay, although I had no idea what SCHIST was. PHOTOMICROGRAPH was laboriously assembled from the instructions. SPANISH OMELETTE was biffed once I saw where SPAN came from. 25:15. Thanks setter and Pip.

  33. Shouldn’t the definition of ECOSYSTEM (27a) be “community and its environment”?

  34. 28:54

    …but left feeling a bit meh. I don’t like unknowns (PHOTOMICROGRAPH and SCHIST and NHO MANGOLD but guessable from the checkers) and loathe Latin (SC) even more. Bunged in SPANISH OMELETTE – the parsing looked somewhat convoluted.

    For 2d and with all but the final checker, I pencilled in PHOTO and GRAPH and considered what might fill the gap – no idea about Covid variants.

  35. For 1ac Monte Capitone is a peak in the Appennines.
    That seems to make more sense?

    1. I am supporting you on this! In fact there is another Monte Capitone in Sicily. But we can’t seem to rally any more enthusiasts.

      1. 57 mins. Only error was putting CAPITANO for 1ac which I think is a vertical cliff face in California

    2. 57 mins. Only error was putting CAPITANO for 1ac which I think is a vertical cliff face in California

      1. El Capitan in Yosemite, rock-climbing Mecca. Has the El at the front and no O on the end.

  36. I had an astonishing 5 ?s against Across clues, starting with 5A – I’d heard of a vassal state, but not ‘client’ state, and it was one of my first, but I didn’t dare enter it until the end. Then FRIENDSHIP, where I missed the HIP bit (sigh!), GOLD my LOI and a pure guess as mangold unknown. Despite getting ECOSYSTEM fairly quickly, I somehow missed the parsing and for a long time I had SCHISM, until a vague bell from O-level Geography began to recall rocks rather than changing shapes. I was massively helped by having recently had both SHORTSTOP and PLIERS (in the past fortnight, surely?) and the central part of 2D finally fell into place when I recalled the unlamented and nameless Omicron.

  37. DNF. I might have eventually got ECOSYSTEM if I hadn’t mistyped GARGOLYE, but SCHIST would never have come to me.

    I’ve always thought the dreaded lurgy should either be CoViD or CoviD seeing as it’s short for Coronavirus Disease. Covid seems reasonable but I can’t see the rationale for COVID.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog.

  38. 20:07 with apparently the same holdups and challenges as everyone else. Had FRIENDSHIP as my COD.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  39. How quickly we forget what Covid variants were called. Undone by my LOI SCHISM but I had guessed quite a few others so was slightly surprised that it was my only error.

    FOI SHORTSTOP (but only because it came up very recently).

  40. Enjoyed this, but it’s another DNF for me. NHO SCHIST and didn’t get ASTRAY either (never come across AY = certainly, unless it’s an unusually shortened nautical acknowledgement of an order, in which case I’m sure AYE would be the more usual form: maybe it comes from somewhere else?).

    1. I think the poetic ‘ay’ meaning ‘ever; always’ is something separate, but ‘ay’ meaning ‘yes; certainly’ is just an alternative spelling of ‘aye’. It’s in Collins, Chambers and SOED.

      1. Thanks, guys. I’ve seen ‘ay’ as an alternative spelling for ‘aye’, of course, but in the nautical sense almost always in a doubled form (‘Aye, aye, Sir’ or, if you prefer, though I’d still say a lot less often ‘Ay, ay, Sir’). It’s only from there that I can really get the sense of ‘certainly’. Once upon a time the letters editor of The Times used to publish correspondence in an unedited form and with the complimentary closes – of which there was a huge variety – always shown. I particularly disliked ‘Yours etc.’, which always struck me as lazy or arrogant or both, and the flowery and sycophantic ‘I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant’ also jarred, but there was the occasional letter from those who spoke and wrote what Jeeves called ‘the North British dialect’ who would close their letters ‘Yours aye’ (but I can’t recall a ‘Yours ay’). All of which is a digression: my point was not to challenge the validity of the clue yesterday, merely to say that it was sufficiently unusual to bowl me out.

  41. 55 minutes, with help needed with SCHIST. I’d assumed that SC (namely) stood for ‘so-called’ so let’s say … semi-parsed it?

    Funnily enough, ‘Semi Past-it’ used to be my nickname on Match.com …

  42. A 36-minuter for me. I’m with Yaffa on CAPITONE for 1ac, as I was able to parse it and, frankly, CAPSTONE never occurred to me as a possible peak. Several recurrences of recent answers with SHORTSTOP and PLIERS. I found this a pleasant challenge, with several tough demands on GK.
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  43. 16:32. I took a while to see what went between PHOTO and GRAPH at 2D. The result wasn’t a word I associated with microscopy – MICROGRAPH is a good enough description without the extra letters, methinks. I was puzzled by 5A. How can Vassal mean Client? I see “Client – (in ancient Rome) a plebeian under the protection of a patrician. (archaic) a dependant; a hanger-on“, but it still seems a bit tenuous. I liked SCHIST. Thanks Pip and setter.

  44. About 45 mins in two bits, the first of which took 37 mins. Way off the pace today but, a flimsy defence, I tackled it just after returning from golf in the summer heat and a couple of glasses of rose.
    I’ll know better tomorrow whether I’ve lost it or today was a temporary blip. Lots of decent clues I thought , photomicro etc was my LOI and schist my COD.

  45. 40 minutes for a puzzle with a number of strange but interesting clues. Even stranger is the fact that they didn’t throw me as much as they might have. For example, I saw VASSAL and the down clues crossing it right away, although they were not obvious, and also things like GARGOYLE, which I nearly biffed. My LOI was SCHIST, after CUSP and CAPSTONE, which did elude me for a while.

  46. No problem with manGOLD. Biffed SCHIST as didn’t know Latin. Beaten by VASSAL (thought of word but didn’t know client meaning) and ASTRAY.

  47. Breath held on submitting at 45:26 but fortunately all green. A number unparsed but clueing mostly helpful. Familiar with CAPSTONE abut not particularly as a Peak. Thanks for the blog.

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