Times 28699 – Singing of Mount Abora

Time: 22 minutes

Music: Stephane Guillaume, Soul Role

I found this a typical Monday, and while I had trouble getting started, I was able to find a foothold in the bottom half and make rapid progress.  I was also helped by a certain Quickie from last week, and broke out into the top half.     This part was a little slower, but a few crossers are the biffer’s friend.

Having made such short work of the puzzle, I will have to figure out some of the cryptics as I blog- they shouldn’t be too hard.


1 Knight errant’s boy suffering physical discomfort? (7)
5 Old orator’s initial itch for China tea (6)
OOLONG – O + O[rator] + LONG.
8 Level-headed about boxer’s spasmodic twitching (9)
REALISTIC – RE ALI’S TIC, no need to lift and separate.
9 Article on sacred river getting top grade (5)
11 Quiet man finally consuming uncooked seafood (5)
PRAWN – P(RAW)[ma]N.
12 The writer’s attitude, assuming false identity (9)
13 Native American’s revolutionary directions inspiring strong desire (8)
15 Device for recording time on river (6)
CAMERA – CAM + ERA, a chestnut that had me fooled for a minute due to the very general literal.
17 Copper given superb muscle relaxant once (6)
19 Avoid little daughter’s aquatic plant (8)
22 Ex-pupil’s ruse mostly involving note to do with childbirth (9)
23 Customer’s extra fiver ultimately securing uniform (5)
BUYER – B(U)YE + [five]R – cricket, of course, for the bye.
24 Divided up the port (5)
SPLIT – Double definition, the second referring to the port in Croatia.
25 Congenial girl mostly backed by counsel at first in court (9)
SIMPATICO – MIS[s] backwards + PATI(C[ounsel])O.    One many solvers will biff, I predict.
26 Gannet regularly circling a chap’s seaside defence (6)
GROYNE – G[a](ROY)N[n]E[t].    Defending against the ocean, not invading marines.
27 Train soldiers, initially excluding detachment from the east (7)
RETINUE – RE + E[xcluding] UNIT backwards, which is correctly described as from the East.
1 Shrewd Irish leader caught in a roomy environment (13)
PERSPICACIOUS –  PER + SP(I[rish],C)ACIOUS.   I biffed this one, a typical college entrance exam word.   If you know the difference between perspicacious and perspicuous, you will do well.
2 Greenery is a bore, invading shelter (7)
3 Condescend to take up part of song I edited (5)
DEIGN – Backwards hidden in [so]NG I ED[ited].   Sdeign has been very popular in Mephisto lately.
4 Nourishing substance Greek character originally identified in river (8)
NUTRIENT – NU + TR(I[dentified])ENT.
5 Live in, surprisingly coy about sports award (6)
OCCUPY – Anagram of COY around CUP.
6 Report of only hotel in island, one demanding a lot of interest (4,5)
LOAN SHARK – Sounds like LONE + S(H)ARK, a Channel Island.
7 Record plugging new melody, part of The Planets (7)
10 Poet and pontiff upholding a Roman law with hesitation (9,4)
14 New style English composer adopted with sincerity (9)
EARNESTLY – Anagram of STYLE around ARNE, the most popular English composer among setters, with Holst second – see above.
16 Girl on river carrying minute percussion instrument (8)
DULCIMER – DULCI(M)E + R.   If you know anyone named Dulcie, raise your hand.
18 He may steal two-fifths of stock kept by monarch, perhaps (7)
RUSTLER – RU(ST[ock])LER, a bit of an &lit.   Why he wouldn’t steal the rest is not explained!
20 Delightful Welsh girl supporting diocese (7)
ELYSIAN – ELY + SIAN, a chestnut in the clear.
21 Castaway gloated in this way, we’re told (6)
CRUSOE – Sounds like CREW SO.
23 Show excessive pride in second-rate kiln (5)

104 comments on “Times 28699 – Singing of Mount Abora”

    1. If you have an Auntie Dulcie
      You know one more Dulcie than me
      I was heard to exclaim
      “Is that even a name?”
      As I entered without certainty

  1. Done in 55, but with one pink square at SYMPATICO, which I failed to completely parse.

    The recent POPE in the QC made 10d a write-in, just as well, NHO LEX for law.

    Where does the PER come from in for 1d? This is a word I didn’t really know.
    Old ARNE again, he really is a regular here, along with the sea eagle ERNE, of course.

    LOI CHEYENNE after trying hard to make Cree work somehow.

    Just been watching the repeats of I Claudius on iPlayer, so SIAN (Philips), who steals the first six episodes as Livia was in my mind for Welsh Girl.

    1. Compare current photos of Sian Phillips and her appearance when portraying aged Livia …the makeup is prescient. Remarkable.

  2. The actress DULCIE Gray (d. 2011) was very popular here for many a decade, often seen playing opposite her husband Michael Denison on stage and TV.

    I completed the puzzle in 27 minutes within 3 of my target half-hour. I lost a little time along the way trying to justify SYMPATICO at 25ac since I always seem to associate the word (not unreasonably) with ‘sympathy’. I was also distracted by thinking PAT was the girl in question.

    I had muddled thoughts too at 1ac although I knew ‘Knight errant’ = PALADIN right away. My addled brain associated both with a TV programme from the 1950s called Knight Errant featuring a lead character called Paladin, but a little research revealed that I had confused two different programmes both of which I watched at the time. Knight Errant was a British adventure series with a lead character called John Knight , a sort of precursor to The Avengers, whilst Paladin played by Richard Boone was the star of an American Western series called Have Gun Will Travel. It still got me to the correct answer though!

    1. Have Gun—Will Travel was a great show, all seasons of which I and my friend Laura (re)watched in their entirety some years ago. Paladin was a cultured, multilingual, erudite hero who eschewed violence whenever possible. Yes, there were actually episodes that did not end with a gunfight! (That was the kind of thing the great McGoohan found tedious about Danger Man.)

      1. Only going from memory now, although as discussed here recently I re-watched every episode of Danger Man about 10 years ago, but I thought there was very little use of firearms in the programme at McGoohan’s insistence. Similarly romantic involvement, although there’s the occasional exception in each case. Both were factors that led him to turn down James Bond when offered the role.

        Just realised that with CHEYENNE we have another reminder of a 1950s TV Western series.

        1. Yes, not so much gunplay in Danger Man, but there was a climactic fight scene more often than not. McGoohan was given rather a free hand with The Prisoner, but still had to assure the network that there would be at least a modicum of “action/adventure” in the ostensibly more cerebral series.

    2. The theme from “Have Gun, Will Travel” was “The Ballad of PALADIN”, a hit back in the day for Duane Eddy.

  3. Trying the biggie this week while on holiday. All done in 65 mins, but with aids for PERSPICACIOUS and CHEYENNE, where I too was convinced that the CREE were part of the answer.

    1. I had the C and 2 E crossers, so it was “obviously” CHEROKEE. I wasted a bit of time trying to make that fit the rest of the clue. CHE worked. EE were directions. But ROK?

  4. I know a PR agent in my industry called Dulcie, they do exist. I was brought down by buffing SIMPATICO but spelling it with a Y, and never looking at the wordplay. I also carelessly put in MILKWEED for a time, although MILK doesn’t really mean avoid. That made DULCIMER impossible (and I assumed it was going to be one of those instruments in Brazilian Samba bands that I’d barely heard of) before I reassessed MILK and realized it was DUCK, and got DULCIMER immediately.

  5. Never heard of anyone named Dulcie (it must mean “sweetie,” right?) and didn’t even think about it once I saw the instrument. I got PERSPICACIOUS when I had only two crossers and didn’t parse that one either, come to think of it. GROYNE was a NHO. A gentle start to the week, while nearly falling asleep after drinks at karaoke (was making coffee).

    1. The only Dulcie I had vaguely heard of was Dulcie Gray, although I wasn’t sure why/where I had heard of her – so I looked her up. She was an English stage/film and TV actress who had a seven decade career stretching from the 1940s until 2000.

      Can’t imagine too many parents these days call their little girl “Dulcie”.

    2. Reply to Guy:
      Well I’m happy to say that I got PERSPICACIOUS from only one crosser, and my first one in!

  6. 12:46
    Did this on my laptop in my office rather than the desktop at home, where the Times refused to log me in–I’m still waiting for word from Customer Service both at the Times and at the crossword club. Anyway, for whatever reason I logged in successfully here, and rushed through the puzzle, biffing madly: IMPOSTURE, CHEYENNE, BUYER, SIMPATICO, RETINUE, PERSPICACIOUS, RUSTLER. Tried for too long to make CREE fit; glad to see another tribe for once.

    1. Kevin, if you can log in on the laptop use it to change the password. Then on the desktop clear cache, and try signing in again ..

  7. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.
    (Essay on Criticism, Pope)

    After 20 mins mid-brekker, I slowed at the Dulcimer/Retinue crossers. These took a a few more. I know not why. Earlier shallow draughts may have intoxicated my brain.
    Ta setter and V.

  8. Yes thank you vinyl1 I did indeed biff SIMPATICO and am grateful for the parsing. Also grateful to Izetti’s QC last week that gave some of us the poet POPE as a write-in. Was held up here by misreading some of the simpler ones, ELYSIAN and BUYER, and also went for Cree first time around. Glad I didn’t think of Cherokee, it would have gone straight in. Despite thinking a DULCIMER was some kind of lute, and not knowing FAG = bore, I still managed 20.21 which is at the quicker end of the spectrum for me.

    1. I think of ‘fag’ as a boring chore rather than a bore more generally. I used it here in that sense only yesterday in the discussion about links to the Glossary.

      1. Thank you Jack, it’s an unknown usage to me but I have a vague memory I had the same difficulty a few months ago! Maybe next time it will sink in…

    2. The lute – and the guitar and piano – are strictly speaking percussion instruments. You hit them in one way or another.

      1. Well, that sent me skedaddling to google! Apparently there are two types of dulcimer, mountain and hammered, the latter being the percussion branch of the family. No argument about piano but there appears to be a consensus that the guitar is a stringed instrument because it resonates when the strings are plucked. Mind you I have seen Pete Townshend and others turn it into a percussion instrument. Amazing what you learn here…

        1. Historically and conventionally the guitar and both types of dulcimer – and I have an Appalachian one – are viewed as percussion instruments. The strings are struck rather than bowed, in order to resonate, just like the piano. I speak as a guitar teacher.

            1. Yes, I remember Page doing this. And you can do the same thing with a piano. It doesn’t stop it being a percussion instrument.

            2. You can also bow a gong. As La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Black Record, for example, demonstrates to transcendent effect.

              1. So (he said, waking up to discover this lengthy, highly informed and rather intimidating correspondence) it appears there are not ANY stringed instruments. Fair enough, I think I’ll go and give my ol’ Gibson a hammering…

  9. Are these crosswords edited? This was by our first/last letter enthusiast. I counted eight. Do we really need ‘initial, initially, mostly and mostly’ in the same crossword?

  10. 16 minutes with LOI CURARE, remembered as a poison for arrows. I first encountered GROYNEs at Cleveleys Beach, when I was very young. My older sister trod on a jellyfish, leaving me with a lifelong phobia of them. WOD to PERSPICACIOUS, but where does the PER come from? I’ve never known a Dulcie, but I did spend a couple of minutes trying to remember who Dulcie Gray was. A pleasant Monday puzzle. Thank you V and setter.
    PS Of course, it’s just the ‘a’ and PERSPICACIOUS is now promoted to COD.

    1. Your sister stepped on a jellyfish, and you got the phobia? What about your poor sister?

      1. I had a simpatico relationship with my sister, and shared in her pain, as I did when her boil burst at the top of Blackpool Tower on my fifth birthday treat. That was after I’d stopped laughing. Sadly she’s gone now and there’s no more joshing each other to be done. It’s a bugger getting old.

  11. 7:25. This was the quickest I’ve finished for some time, though not quite quick enough to make my top 10 times on the SNITCH. I might have snuck in there if I hadn’t left SIMPATICO to the end to come back and decide on I or Y. As it was, when I returned to it I saw MIS(S) quite quickly which enabled me to semi-biff the answer with the correct choice of second letter.

  12. Wonderful puzzle. Great to see both ALPHa and DULCIMER, and today’s blog title. I suppose I could invent a person from Porlock to explain why I was delayed in the SE.

    My house matron was called Dulcie.

    11’52” thanks vinyl and setter.

  13. 9:39 but with an erroneous SYMPATICO, forgetting to go back and parse it. Thanks Vinyl and setter.

  14. Typical Monday: 19 mins. Very nice clues mostly straightforward. MER at ELYSIAN – delightful is not quite as positive an emotion as heavenly!

      1. Capt. Corcoran, HMS Pinafore: My only daughter is to be the bride of a Cabinet Minister. The prospect is Elysian.

  15. Like Jack, I immediately thought of Dulcie Gray, but curiosity drove me to the list of Dulcies on Wikipedia. Most of those listed are dead (in the case of Dulcie Markham that’s perhaps fortunate!) but I’ve now learned about the British born Canadian landscape painter Dulcie Foo Fat who is still with us in her 77th year. As I recall, Brian Jones played a DULCIMER on the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane”.

    Overall I found this a tad trickier than most Mondays. I biffed PERSPICACIOUS.

    TIME 8:21

  16. 5:54. No real hold-ups although I only managed about half the acrosses at first pass.
    Add me to the I/Y uncertainty club.
    A clue with that enumeration that starts ‘poet and pontiff’ isn’t going to hold anyone up!

  17. 23 minutes. Hesitated over whether there was an I or Y in SIMPATICO, only then taking the trouble to parse the wordplay properly. RETINUE also needed some thought, with the other senses of both ‘train’ and ‘detachment’. Not the most difficult clue, but OCCUPY has caught me out before and was my last in. I liked CHEYENNE, for which I also started out trying to make CREE fit, and PERSPICACIOUS for which I would have failed the college entrance exam, as I think it looks better with an I between the S and the P.

    Thanks to setter and to Vinyl for such a perspicuous (you’ve expanded my vocab by one word) blog

  18. 9:20; nice Mondayish one.
    CHEYENNE (Clint Walker) and PALADIN (Richard Boone) often had trouble with RUSTLERs, as I recall.
    The theme to ‘Have Gun – Will Travel’ was sung by the appropriately-named Johnny Western, and began:
    “Have Gun – Will Travel reads the card of a man
    A knight without armour in a savage land”.
    ‘Cheyenne’ was introduced with the perhaps less manly:
    “Cheyenne, Cheyenne,
    where will you be campin’ tonight?”

  19. About 20 minutes. Don’t know any Dulcies, but with all the checkers DULCIMER couldn’t have been anything else. Wasn’t sure about CURARE either, not helped by superb=rare not being the most obvious equivalence to me. ALPHA went in without knowing the river Alph, and I didn’t know that a PALADIN is a knight errant (or, to be honest, what a knight errant is), though the wordplay was helpful and I always like the ‘in pain’ device.

    A nice start to the week – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Deign
    LOI Curare
    COD Perspicacious

  20. Quick today, a steady top to bottom solve since 1dn, 1 and 5ac went straight in.
    Sadly another to add to the Y not I brigade, though. It is an allowed spelling, the one that I would use, but fails to parse of course.

  21. I found this a more difficult Monday than usual, just over 50′. A bit of biffing on DULCIMER (thought of “Dulcie”but it seemed a stretch) and LOI SIMPATICO only after crossers were all avaliable. NHO “Alph” as a river (Kubla Khan I now see) but an easy biff.

    Thanks Vinyl1 for the explanations and setter.

  22. CURARE a ‘muscle relaxant once’. Maybe they don’t use the crude stuff, but anaesthetists still use curare alkaloids in general anaesthesia, as far as I’m aware. Pancuronium still makes a nod to curare in its name.

    I liked the Coleridge allusions. With winter coming on, time to look out my fast thick pants.

  23. In dulci(e) jubilo anyone? No time as too many interruptions. Why does everyone seem to wake up on a Monday full of beans?

    Nice puzzle with a few bunged in on a prayer, CURARE, and GROYNE NHO’S.

    I liked LOAN SHARK and CRUSOE.

    Thanks vinyl and sette 🙂

  24. What pinkies dire from careless biffing spring:
    I truly thought SYMPATICO a thing!
    I should have paid attention to that voice
    From inner mind insistant ‘gainst that choice.
    Great ALEXANDER! help me vent my spleen
    At bugg’ring time of seventeen sixteen.
    I thought PALADIN, boy in pain,was cute,
    Remember’d DULCIMER was not a lute,
    Recalled where ALPH the sacred river ran,
    Thought not of false Cherokee but CHEYENNE,
    Got PERSPICACIOUS safely from its clue,
    And rightly pars’d my last in RETINUE.
    Speak not to me of “easy Monday grid”
    While wretched spelling scuppers what I did.
    Not A. PHope

    1. Very nice. I remember doing Pope at school and my English teacher getting us to write poetry in the style of Pope. My efforts weren’t that bad, but not so good as this.

      1. ChatGPT is brilliant at rewriting text (e.g. Call transcripts) “In the style of”.

        Here’s your comment so rewritten:

        ‘Tis quite delightful, I remember well,
        Studying Pope at school, my thoughts to quell.
        My English tutor did encourage thus,
        To write in verse, making a quiet fuss.
        My efforts fair, though not of timid strain,
        They were not foul, though they inflicted pain.
        Good, they were not as this here I find,
        But in their own right, not unkindly designed.

            1. Must try harder! Mind you, the ‘bot messed up the scansion in lines 2, 4, 7 and 8. Pope would have found a way of moving the “but” at the end of line 7 to the beginning of 8.
              I confess to forcing a pronunciation of Cherokee with the accent on the O, but hopefully no-one will notice.

        1. And it won’t be long before ChatGPT manages to convey the meaning better. At the moment there are a few random words, but they will disappear and then it will be truly frightening.

      2. Thank you! My admiration for Pope is marred only by his alleged vandalism of the Wookey Hole stalactites to decorate his Twickenham grotto.

      3. Given a similar assignment re imitation of Pope’s verse, a classmate of mine wrote
        “Hope springs eternal in the human chest,
        Man never does, but is always about to,
        touch a breast.”

  25. A slick start to the week for me finishing well inside target at 29.13. PERSPICACIOUS is a great word, and I thought it was used in the lyrics to ‘Lily The Pink’ by The Scaffold many years ago – I’ve since checked it however and find that they sing ‘efficacious in every case’. I was singing along all those years ago using the wrong word.
    I would have misspelt SIMPATICO with Y if I hadn’t been careful with the parsing, and I was similarly grateful that the starting letter of 14dn enabled me to spell CHEYENNE correctly and not with a rogue A as I’ve done before.

  26. I was careless in the parsing of SIMPATICO and was sure that it had a Y, so sure that I biffed it, something I don’t usually do, because it was my LOI. It has to be a Y. Makes sense. But now I know. Otherwise 25 minutes on a fairly Mondayish puzzle. I nearly had Saladin not PALADIN, being rather vague about what a knight errant is. Learnt the word GROYNE on the beaches of Suffolk.

  27. A pretty easy puzzle, taking 20 minutes. I didn’t care for the clue to DULCIMER – an unusual name occupying three-quarters of the answer, one of my last solves.

  28. Didn’t take tOOLONG over this one. FOI DEIGN, LOI SIMPATICO(fortunately MIS(s) backwards was the first bit of the wordplay I solved). 17:50. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  29. 13:53 but with a Y in SYMPATICO, entered without parsing, though there are some 5-letter girl’s names beginning with MYS and Collins – at least – allows the Y spelling as a variant of SIMPATICO. I’m going to claim it as a win anyway.

  30. A damsel with a dulcimer
    in a vision once I saw…
    in the same poem (if not place) as where Alph, the sacred river ran. The original Dulcie? My wife some fifty years back attended a choir run by one Dulcie Nutting, who had been musical secretary to Holst. Various echoes then in this puzzle, a decent light-tester (20 min. for me) that plays within the unspoken rules.

  31. A DNF because I went brain-dead on 13a. I don’t know why – I had half the letters and the word play is hardly difficult. These things happen – annoying when they do though.

  32. 17.11, about par for a Monday, and I was glad to insist on parsing LOI SIMPATICO before entering, as I would have assumed it was a Y otherwise. Teasing out PERSPICACIOUS was fairly satisfying as well. Thanks both

  33. 21’40”
    Fairly smartly away, kept on gamely.
    All parsed, bar a semi-biffed, simpatico but, entering the final furlong, with -A-E-A still unsolved, I feared a breezeblock (thanks Jerry) was coming my way, but fortunately the ‘academic stream’ yielded quickly.
    Being based where I am a Y in simpatico didn’t occur to me. My surname is not simpatico here; starting with an aspirated h, having the near non-existent k in the middle and ending in the impossible th. I might adopt ‘Ippodromo’, as racecourse is its meaning.
    But there are two ks in a local dialect word – kaki, meaning persimmon. I posted a fanciful theory about kaki rather late on Monday 14/8/23 (28,681), when this fruit appeared.
    Compliments to Vinyl and all of the versifiers, and to the setter for a very enjoyable solve.

  34. 30.30 Quick for me, even with ten minutes spent on SIMPATICO, RETINUE, DULCIMER and DUCKWEED at the end. I always thought a dulcimer resembled a harpsichord. Huh! Like Paul, I was briefly held up by CHEROKEE and vinyl1 predicted rightly, SIMPATICO was a biff. Thanks for the blog.

  35. 21 mins. Just like hopkinb above, Arne escaped me. Mind you I thought we were looking for any composer, preceded by an E. That and CHEYENNE (looking for CREE as others) delayed me at least 5 mins.

  36. Very quick and problem-free. Only slight holdup was SIMPATICO – I know how to spell it, but I also know English crosswords often misspell non-English words, so I spent some time working out the parsing. Been caught out before by The Times’ dubious transliterations.

  37. 27:19

    Guess if I’d known what PERSPICACIOUS meant, I might have finished sooner. Nothing ungettable though didn’t know what a PALADIN was either.

  38. ‘Dulcie’ is certainly a rare girls name but I worked with one who was younger than me a while ago, she must be around 30 now. Got all fairly quickly except 1D (PERSPICACIOUS) which I somehow couldn’t see even with all the crossing letters!

  39. I thought this was hard for a Monday and was pleased to finish until I discovered that GRAYNE was wrong. I seem to be the only contributor making that mistake.
    I know a Dulcie but she is quite old.

  40. My hand is up. I have a 21 y/o niece called Dulcie.

    I thought this was going to be tricky but with a few crossers things started to become clear. DNK PALADIN or ALPH, CURARE or that IMPOSTURE was a word, though it’s close to many I do know. The careful clueing helped me avoid the non- Y in SIMPATICO, like others. Glad to remember CHEYENNE as YEN was eluding me.

    Thanks you setter and Vinyl and for all the poems and entertaining comments all.

  41. 20.06

    Nothing really to add. I’m not too bothered by the number of initials if the surfaces are nice and smooth but I do get it

    Thanks Vinyl and setter

  42. Near record time of 9’11” but GRAYNE for GROYNE. Idiotic mistake. But you see RAY and you think, there can’t be any other men spelt R-Y. Fool, fool.

    1. Just to rub salt into the wound did you see that GROYNE was an answer on University Challenge tonight (assuming you are in the UK!).
      But at least I got it, so some small compensation.

  43. Defeated by SIMPATICO and weirdly CRUSOE, going round in circles thinking that Robinson Crusoe was the only castaway I could think of but somehow not managing to write it in, even trying to get something out of “crowed”. Barmy. Thanks for the blog.

  44. 41:03, held up at the end by CHEYENNE and EARNESTLY. I could not get CREE out of my head for the American Native, and took a long while to remember that the only revolutionary in crosswordland is Che.
    PALADIN was mainly known as the name of Peregrine Took’s father in the Lord of the Rings.

  45. I’m a day late but I just have to record the momentous day when I finally completed the Times crossword for the very first time. What a feeling!

    1. Those momentous days when I complete the Times are over I feel, as they are getting rarer with old age…but as I can still ‘nearly’ get there, I will plough on. Mostly because the solvers’ witty and incisive comments are worth the time spent.

    2. Well done. The day I felt confident enough to swap pencil for biro on treeware came close, but the first finish was special.

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