Times 28715 – of what setters do, we will 2dn


A clever and enjoyable puzzle – and chewy enough. DNK the battle, nor the farm worker, biffed 27ac, and it seems I didn’t understand 1ac until I came to blog (I thought the definition was at the other end). On another day, I think 9ac or 8dn would have won first prize, but 6dn – what a clue!

Definitions underlined.

1 What can calm taken by mouth mostly? Sleeping draught perhaps (9)
SOPORIFIC – SOP (what can calm, a propitiatory gift from Aeneid) + ORIFICe (mouth, mostly?). “Draught” meaning a potion.
6 Lie about strength of character (5)
FIBRE – FIB (lie) + RE (about).
9 What makes round brown circle in sampler (7)
TOASTER – O (circle) in TASTER (sampler).
10 Horse and knight advance in battle (7)
MARENGO – MARE (horse) + N (knight) + GO (advance).
11 Copy Martin, perhaps, as a name from an earlier generation (10)
PATRONYMIC – anagram of (perhaps) COPY MARTIN.
12 Reported murderer for punishment (4)
CANE – sounds like “Cain” (murderer).
14 Type of work aspiration for Cockney artist (5)
OPERA – “hOPE” (aspiration, for cockney) + RA (artist).
15 Shade regularly keeps spinning endlessly in grave (9)
SATURNINE – ShAdE (shade, regularly) containing TURNINg (spinning, endlessly).
16 Series of shots initially are downed easily after a lot of pasta (9)
FUSILLADE – first letters of Are Drowned Easily after most of FUSILLi (pasta).
18 Special constable not allowed to reconnoitre (5)
SCOUT – SC (special constable) + OUT (not allowed).
20 Shut up about old farm worker (4)
PEON – PEN (shut up) containing O (old).
21 Bird, one very loud, at first calling hidden in cut hay (10)
CHIFFCHAFF – I (one) + FF (very loudly) + the first letters of Calling Hidden, all contained by CHAFF (cut hay).
25 Occupy hotel, soon to go outside (7)
INHABIT – H (hotel) contained by IN A BIT (soon).
26 Still to be evaluated back on Manchester United ground (7)
UNTRIED – last of manchesteR + UNITED, all anagrammed.
27 Druidic council axing hollow dead shrub (5)
GORSE – GORSEdd (Druidic council) minus the D’s (outer letters from ‘dead’).
28 Bug within pelt one put away (9)
INFURIATE – IN (within) + FUR (pelt) + I (one) + ATE (put away).
1 Places erected including European institute (3,2)
SET UP -PUTS (places) reversed, containing E (European).
2 What child may do with penny toy (7)
PRATTLE – P (penny) + RATTLE (toy).
3 Judiciously restrict the consumption of supporter (10)
RATIONALLY – RATION (restrict the consumption of) + ALLY (supporter).
4 Raid gold in possession of fairy (5)
FORAY – OR (gold) contained by (in the possession of) FAY (fairy).
5 Entrust to support group making decisions (9)
COMMITTEE – COMMIT (entrust) + TEE (support).
6 First-rate tarts turned out light (4)
FIRE – FIRst ratE, with anagram reversal of (turned) ‘tarts’ omitted (out).
7 “British” and “English” align badly in a foreign tongue (7)
BENGALI – B (British) + E (English) + an anagram of ALIGN.
8 Work in copper, perhaps making a bolt? (9)
ELOPEMENT – OP (work) contained by ELEMENT (copper, perhaps).
13 Lawyer’s dull discourse upset court (10)
PROSECUTOR – PROSE (dull discourse) + an anagram of COURT.
14 Children start well (9)
OFFSPRING – OFF (start) + SPRING (well).
15 Sight pâté being prepared for this dish (9)
17 Surround with small dam (7)
SMOTHER – S (small) + DAM (mother).
19 Local drink has never to be tipped in flute (7)
OCARINA – remove all the ‘tips’ from lOCAl dRINk hAs.
22 Down with viral infection following start of freeze (5)
FLUFF – FLU (viral infection) + F (following) + first of Freeze.
23 Sweet — for instance doughy pudding — not finished up (5)
FUDGE – EG (for instance) + DUFf (doughy pudding, not finished), all reversed.
24 Priest born in Lincoln? (4)
ABBE – B (born) contained by ABE (Lincoln?).

65 comments on “Times 28715 – of what setters do, we will 2dn”

  1. Agreed that 6d is a wonderful clue. I think that ‘turned’ refers to the fact that ‘tarts’ is reversed inside ‘first rate’. And thanks for the blog!

    1. So it is – thanks, Nigel! I think I was so surprised to find a had a reason to enter FIRE (even if a mistaken one), that I didn’t question myself. Blog updated.

  2. 29:19 – under half an hour for me, so I was clearly on the wavelength. I agree with 9ac, 8d, and 6d all being excellent, with 6d the standout once you work out what’s going on.

    Thanks, William, for the excellent blog, and to the setter.

  3. Loved it, so many good clues and PDMs. But Gorsedd??? For me ELOPEMENT and PROSECUTOR and even OPERA were excellent, but FIRE for COD. Thanks for the parsing of SOPORIFIC, I was looking for a containment.

  4. That a SOPORIFIC is also something that acts to “calm” somehow made that one impossible for me to parse. Thanks. Seems so simple now!
    Never heard of the Druidic council… of course (but looked it up before coming here).
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of CHIFFCHAFF either (where’s Astro_nowt lately?).
    I finished with the SE, but can’t say whether that sector was really any harder or I was just losing steam. My last one parsed was FLUFF, which now seems plain enough!
    The clue for FIRE is really original and my COD (a consensus seems to be building).

    1. So begins another spring,
      Green leaves and of berries,
      Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
      Mother bird eating cherries.

  5. I’m on board with FIRE as COD now that William has helpfully explained it, as he did SOPORIFIC and GORSE. 24.10 for me. Some excellent stuff here, particularly liked TOASTER and OCARINA (that’s quite a clue as well). NHO PEON, CHIFFCHAFF or GORSEdd, but knew the MARENGO battle from the chicken dish allegedly served to Napoleon to commemorate his victory. Is that Ninja turtling? It combines chicken, tomato and prawns. Might let Napoleon and the 19th century keep it.

        1. It was Napoleon’s. He’s (sort of) French. Au Boucherie Chevaline!
          I know, I know, Marengo was taken to England after Waterloo and his skeleton is even now on display in Chelsea. But it would have been funny!

  6. 48 minutes for a very meaty puzzle that was nearly a pleasure to work through apart from one clue (20ac) that remained unsolved until the bitter end. Its absence ate away at me and I returned to it many times so that it must have accounted for 10-15 minutes before eventually being resolved by an extensive alphabet trawl. But there was no PDM because I didn’t recognise PEON as a word and I was still doubtful until I looked it up in a dictionary. It now transpires that it has come up once before in a 15×15 as recently as 24 September 2021 so this was a slightly early anniversary appearance. I didn’t know it then either; nor did several others. The clue was along similar lines to today’s: Farm worker with nothing in sty.

    1. PEON is probably more familiar to US solvers, as we are closer to Mexico and migrant labor from south of our border. It is sometimes used pejoratively, if self-referentially. It’s what you refuse to be when you demand a living wage.

  7. 45:04. Well pleased with that. Happy to sign up to FIRE for COD. DNK the Druid council, and did not see how OCARINA worked. LOI ELOPEMENT. I liked TOASTER, INHABIT, OCARINA (now that it’s been explained) and FLUFF. Many thanks to setter and blogger

  8. FIRE went in without any understanding, so that was a nice surprise (OCARINA too by the way). Good clue, now that I understand it

    1. I agree that OCARINA is remarkable; I got it from the definition first too. Maybe I prefer FIRE because the surface, with the tarts turning out the light, paints a clearer picture (at least if one is reading Céline’s Londres).

  9. Very good crossword. I enjoyed the surfaces of clues such as OFFSPRING, SMOTHER, OCARINA and FLUFF, for example.

    1. Yup, me too! I say “too slow Chicken Marengo” so often I’ve almost forgotten where it came from.

  10. My LOI was the excellent FIRE. I assumed that GORSE was correct and somehow there was a druidy word I didn’t know that included some extra letters, probably DD. I’d heard of MARENGO although I don’t think I knew it was a battle, but the wordplay was clear. I’d never heard of CHIFFCHAFF but again the wordplay took you to it (but you had to be careful). I knew an OCARINA was a musical instrument, but I thought it was type of organ, not a type of flute, but I saw how the wordplay worked. ELOPEMENT was neat.

  11. 16:02. Another tricky one, but more enjoyable than yesterday’s. A lot of biffing and working out wordplay afterwards, and on a couple of occasions (like vinyl) removing the (correct) answer when my initial attempt to unravel the wordplay failed. That unravelling was particularly worth the effort in the case of FIRE and OCARINA.

  12. 23:06. Looking at the SNITCH I see I was over par on every puzzle this week. However I think that’s a reflection of me solving with more haste and less speed – I’ve certainly not been biffing so many recently. I had to resort to it today though – both GORSE and OCARINA went in by definition alone. I did at least manage to parse the excellent FIRE. I admired it at the time and looking at the surface again now I think it’s even better than I first thought (I often don’t notice the surfaces whilst solving as I’m trying to parse as I read rather than read the words as a sentence).

  13. 13:27. Nice one. I enjoyed FIRE and the surface for PROSECUTOR. I failed to parse ocarina and I’d NHO of the druidic council, but I don’t think there are any other shrubs that fir G_R_E. Thanks William and setter.

  14. CA 40′, 21 online and about 20 over lunch.
    No idea what was going on with the Druids, but it pretty much had to be GORSE. NHO the bird. My last two in were the 6’s, first FIBRE–took me forever to think of FIB–then the brilliant FIRE–I persisted in thinking ‘first-rate’ was AI until I got FIBRE. I finally saw strat/tarts and suddenly satori. (The setter also had ‘hollow dead’ and ‘never to be tipped’.) Surprised that PEON was an unknown to some; but as Guy says. COD of course to 6d.

  15. As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
    As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
    Stones ring;
    (GM Hopkins)

    45 mins enjoyably chewing my way to leave Peon ungot. Some nice tricky wordplay – but ‘perhaps’ as an anagram indicator is a trifle limp.
    Ta setter and WJS.

  16. 41 minutes with LOI. SATURNINE. I found the bottom easier than than the top, being somewhat hindered that BENGALI and BELGIAN are anagrams, even though one isn’t a language. Having said that, I did invent GORSEDD and PEON in the bottom half and got lucky. FIRE would have been COD if I hadn’t biffed that too. Birds get a bad press here, so I’m going for CHIFFCHAFF, solved fair and square. A hardish puzzle, but the unknowns were both guessable and good fun. Thank you William and setter.

    1. One of my favourite signs of spring is hearing the first chiffchaff song. It’s an onomatopoeic name, but I’m sure you knew that already.

  17. 22’, with INFURIATE LOI, and hesitation over OCARINA, parsed after the event.

    Thanks william and setter.

  18. 40:54
    Great puzzle. Peon straight in cos of my Spanish background. Fire clue excellent, as noted elsewhere. NHO Gorsedd, but still an easy clue.
    Thanks, w.

  19. 18:56

    Tricky. I caused myself a few problems in the NE by putting BELGIAN at 7d, overtyping one previously correct crossing answer and making two unsolved crossers harder than they should have been. Even as I was typing it out I said to myself “that’s not a language”. Idiot.

    GORSE was a hit and hope, so thanks for the explanation.

  20. Back to sanity after yesterday’s excitement. Great clues, particularly the very clever FIRE and OCARINA, and the tricky SOPORIFIC, all of which I only parsed after submitting and realising I hadn’t.
    Lucky enough to know Gorsedd, and daft enough to try justifying MAGENTA for the battle which is the normal one beginning with M. Shout out for the amusing Hotel in IN A BIT and the clever use of Man U. 28 minutes of crosswording pleasure.

  21. I found myself on the right wavelength today and I gradually worked my way around in about half an hour. FIRE was my last in as I knew it had to be the answer, but the penny finally dropped and I entered it with confidence. Like Penfold I also lobbed in BELGIAN without thinking, but soon realised my error.
    Thanks to being the correct side of Offa’s Dyke GORSEDD minus the big cup was a write-in.
    Thanks to the setter and blogger.

  22. Many lovely clues here, but I seem to be missing something in 6dn, which has caused such pleasure. OK good surface and nice wordplay, but light = fire? I looked in Collins and it’s under ignite, so yes that’s what I was missing. But 8dn struck me as far better. Not to say, brilliant. Gorsedd somewhere in my memory. Interesting to see Myrtilus casting doubt on ‘perhaps’ as an anagram indicator. That’s what Azed says, too, and I’ve always gone along with that, even though it doesn’t seem to be a very widely-held view. 41 minutes.

  23. Tricky puzzle, with a few bunged in unparsed: ocarina, scout, gorse to name but a few. As a farmer’s son I disagree with chaff being clued as “cut hay”. Chaff in my book is the husks of threshed grain.

      1. SOED:

        ► A noun.
        1 The husks of corn etc. separated from the grain by threshing or winnowing. OE.
        2 Cut hay (and straw) used for feeding cattle. OE.

        It’s in Collins too.

        1. Thank you Jackkt – always good to learn new words and/or meanings.
          Not a usage I have come across (in the north of England at any rate).

          Perhaps I need to get myself a newer / bigger / better dictionary.

  24. I must start by thanking William for enlightening me on both SOPORIFIC and OCARINA. Both were biffed once little else was possible. PEON is one of my “go-to” entries at Words With Friends, so caused no difficulties, while GORSE(DD) was lurking somewhere in the darker recesses of my tortured brain.

    As much as I admired the clue to my LOI, my COD gets the award for making me chuckle.

    TIME 11:09

  25. Two goes needed. Didn’t parse GORSE (never heard of Gorsedd) or OCARINA, which I biffed once the checkers were in place. Pieced together CHIFFCHAFF from wordplay. Briefly thought there might be a kind of pasta called ‘cannone’ or something, which would give ‘cannonade’ for 16a, before getting FUSILLADE.

    A nice puzzle – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Set up
    LOI + COD Elopement

  26. Quite tricky, but I kept up a reasonably steady pace apart from a hold-up caused by entering BELGIAN for 7d, even though I had CANE entered for 12a. I was pretty sure that15 was SATURNINE, so the language error was resolved.
    38 minutes.

  27. SET UP and TOASTER were first 2 in. I’ve previously learned from these puzzles that Napoleon’s horse was named MARENGO after the battle, so having the M from COMMITTEE and the first word in the clue being horse, which summoned up MARE, the NGO was a write in. I spotted the parsing for FIRE once I had FIBRE. Very neat! I had to spend some time working out the parsing for OCARINA. Great PDM. PEON was also familiar somehow. Knew the bird, although very loud brought up CHAFFINCH as first thought. Unhelpfully, it didn’t fit. Most time was spent on solving LOI, INFURIATE. The breakthrough came when I realised FUR was the pelt. 26:18. Thanks setter and William.

  28. 31 mins. As i live with one foot in England and one in Wales I am subjected to the news from Cardiff and other places at the other end of the country, so GORSEDD was obvious. About 5 mins trying to fit AMBLE and AIRY in at 6a and 6d without success.

  29. Yeah, well, neat stuff especially 6 down which I put in at the end on a wing and a prayer; but saturnine is more than grave and smother than surround. Untried is scarcely waiting to be evaluated – properly challenged maybe. And the Druidic council is surely one of GK’s rarer elements.

  30. All done in two sessions (except it wasn’t ) as I had a series of meetings this am. Then I realised, oh, there’s a bird I haven’t filled in. Oops, ten minutes trying to figure it out and gave up. I blame the midday rosé, well, one is forced to drink it down here.

    Didn’t help myself in the NE either by bunging in the other language anagram of BEALIGN as BELGIAN!! DOH.

    Apart from all of that, it was quite enjoyable.

    Thanks W.J.S. And setter.

  31. I knew PEON more in the Indian sense of a low-level functionary or messenger, rather than the Spanish-American sense of a farm worker. Couldn’t see what else it could be, though.

    Enjoyable puzzle. 54 minutes, quite a bit of it devoted to puzzling out FIRE.

  32. 53 minutes. Had no idea about GORSE(DD) but nothing else seemed to fit and CHIFFCHAFF was a new feathered friend. Otherwise everything parsed, though I missed the “not an anagram but a reversal” subtlety for 6d, which was my LOI by some margin.

    I’ll give COD to FUSILLADE; I’m still not sure I understand the difference but it has subsequently made me look up “enfilade” which at least I now know has only one L. Might have saved me some time trying to make “enfilli” fit as a form of pasta.

    Thanks to William and setter

  33. I was another who biffed BELGIAN which threw me for a while on the battle of MARENGO. I also didn’t help myself by spelling FUSILLADE with a double S instead of a double L, and it was only after discovering my mistake that I was able to put in my LOI as RATIONALLY. I seemed much more attuned to this than I was for the QC for some reason, finishing just inside target at 44.36. A really good and enjoyable workout.

  34. 11:52, but a failure, as I succesfully parsed PROSECUTOR and, for reasons known only to my brain, wrote in PROSECUTER. A salutary reminder as we approach Finals Day that it always pays to check your work.

  35. 71:02

    Nightmarish – I don’t really like this setter, I am so not on their wavelength. The first 40 mins or so weren’t so bad – had about 70% by then (assuming that GORSE from the unknown GORSEDD was correct) – though the SNITCH of 119 when I checked, suggested completion within 50 minutes. From then on I really struggled, eventually picking up SATURNINE and then COMMITTEE, followed by MARENGO and BENGALI, but then another mental block for several mins. FIBRE and ELOPEMENT gave SCOUT and OCARINA, before another few minutes for INFURIATE and then a lengthy pause to settle on FIRE. One to forget…

  36. Tough, but got there in the end via a biffed GORSE and FIRE, and a dimly remembered PEON.

    I enjoy these harder puzzles if I have a bit more time to think, like I did today.


  37. Found this a toughie, but not at my sharpest after a tough golf game. I knew PEON and MARENGO but DK GORSEDD (guessed GORSE). I’ve been on a lot of committees but ‘decision making’ they seldom were. OCARINA was good. Not very keen on PRATTLE, why only children?

  38. That comment about committees from our immediately preceding correspondent made me laugh.


    Couple of minutes at the end on PEON which I didn’t know/hadn’t remembered so relieved it was right. Not many anagrams DDs or cryptics so I liked it. Knew the battle and even – shock horror – the bird. No idea about the druids but was able to see the parsing for FIRE and OCARINA. Not a fan of using words like tarts but I’ll relent for this excellent offering

    Thanks setter and William

  39. 51’20”
    Struggled to keep up with the early pace, slowed to a canter…..
    … unlike Marengo’s counterpart, Copenhagen, who won a couple of races before being adopted by the Duke.
    This was a very cleverly constructed crossword, and I’m pleased to see the 🧸flying Teddy Bears of yesterday have been returned to their prams and stayed there.
    Very well done setter, I thoroughly enjoyed this very tricky challenge, and thank you William.

  40. As with others, I biffed a good few without being able to parse them, starting with SOPORIFIC and going down to GORSE . Enjoyed the PDMs of FUSILLADE,
    CHIFFCHAFF, SET UP and FLUFF, and many more.

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