Times 28747 – Actually, mine is a bit of a square…..

Music: Kabelvsky, The Comedians, Tjeknavorian/Armenian Phil

Time: 19 minutes.

I thought this was going to be difficult, as I only got four or five across answers on my first run-through, but the downs proved much easier, and I found a lot of gimmes.   Then the across clues started to make sense, and I cleaned up fairly quickly.   My solve was mostly a biff-fest, and even after finishing I found some of the parsings a bit obscure.

There should be no difficulty with vocabulary today, although I did need two tries to spell Phrygian correctly.   There may be some solvers who don’t know grimalkin, but the cryptic hands it to you.

PS. I’ve added a few corrections to the parsing.    This puzzle is definite proof that you don’t need to know what you’re doing to get the correct answers, at least in the easier puzzles.

1 Brightly-coloured bird with a flower from the east (5)
MACAW – W A CAM backwards, i.e. the river that flows through Cambridge.
4 Formidable family keeping a large old female cat (9)
9 Inclination to study Italian at first with head (9)
READINESS – READ + I[talian] + NESS.
10 Asian country’s temperature, the writer hazards (5)
11 Wally returning container with end broken off (6)
NITWIT –  TIN backwards + WIT[h].
12 Soldiers (male) bitten by sort of bear’s tooth (8)
14 Clash involving Times grandee (12)
17 Speed regulator’s joint position of authority in US state (12)
20 Ancient countryman praying desperately outside hospital (8)
PHRYGIAN – Anagram of PRAYING around H.   I was thinking that if this ended in -ian, there wouldn’t be enough vowels left, but there were.
21 Follow-up drink for one making an impression (6)
CHASER – Double definition – chasing is engraving.
23 Minor divinity reported near a pond at last (5)
NAIAD – Sounds like NIGH + A + [pon]D.  Yes, a naiad is a water nymph, so the clue is far from misleading.
24 Blamelessness of civil engineer visiting pub in the past (9)
25 Tipsy English chap screwed up, perhaps? (9)
26 More recent part of school at Erith (5)
LATER – Hidden in [schoo]L AT ER[ith].
1 Serviceman digesting puff and spiced liquid (8)
2 Church painter, a nineteenth century reformer (8)
3 Working in cafe, failed to remember about party and play (7,3,5)
4 Eg Scottish Celt in strong wind, we hear (4)
GAEL – Sounds like GALE.
5 On which to play casually, visiting home and part of hospital? (10)
INSTRUMENT – IN (STRUM) E.N.T, a semi-&lit.
6 An Athenian man briefly heading state, holding republican views (15)
ANTIMONARCHICAL -AN + TIMON + ARCHI[e]- + CAL,   I’ve never seen a prefix used as part of the wordplay, but I think that is the correct parsing    where Archie is today’s random man.
7 Pellets livestock ultimately pick at? Not the first (6)
KIBBLE – [livestoc]K + [n]IBBLE.   Often used to describe dry dog food here in the US.
8 Legal official’s polite refusal on track (6)
NOTARY – I think this might be N.O.T.A. = None Of The Above, + RY.   Or maybe it’s NO, TA + RY.   But that involves lifting and separating something that cannot really be lifted and separated, since it’s in the answer, not the wordplay.   Nobody says no, ta.
13 Group of states in defeat or in disarray (10)
15 Revolutionary stunt ruined old joke (8)
CHESTNUT – CHE + anagram of STUNT.
16 Impulse to place in box part of transmission (4,4)
SPUR GEAR –  SP(URGE)AR.   Never heard of it, but the cryptic hands it to you.
18 Peg installed in standard type of harpsichord (6)
SPINET – S(PIN)ET, as in set book.
19 Cower endlessly round back of bothy, showing distress (6)
CRYING – CR([both]Y)ING[e].   No need to know what a bothy is, although I do.
22 Woman from north involved in Muslim festival (4)

80 comments on “Times 28747 – Actually, mine is a bit of a square…..”

  1. ARCHI(-e), “man briefly,” is how I took it (last one parsed, though entered early).
    Of course, then “heading” is a gratuitous connecting word, but that happens. And you don’t need “man” to qualify “Athenian” for TIMON of Athens either.
    And if “ARCHI-” is a prefix, then it’s a whole prefix, nothing “briefly.”

    Thoroughly enjoyed this; fairly colorful vocab here, though I find the pseudo-&lit a bit annoying. “Semi-” indeed! “Play” has to do double duty as part of both definition and the charade, though the definition strictly ends with “play,” and the rest of the (word)play here has nothing to do with the definition. These always leave me somehow dissatisfied…
    Cute to have CHE as “revolutionary” in CHESTNUT. Indeed.
    I hadn’t known that there is a generic (not brandname) sense to KIBBLE, so I hesitated there.

      1. I’m hoping , Guy, you can work carabistouille or saperlipopette into a comment here one day.

        1. I’m sure you will enjoy, or already will have enjoyed, “La Rond des jurons,” par Georges Brassens.
          Lyrics in the comments.
          …Tous les morbleus, tous les ventrebleus
          Les sacrebleus et les cornegidouilles
          Ainsi, parbleu, que les jarnibleus
          Et les palsambleus…
          [Et ainsi de suite]

          1. Thanks, love the few Georges Brassens songs I’ve heard, must seek out more, this one is great!

        2. Le Canard enchaîné, 01 Novembre 2023:
          QUELQUES JOURS avant qu’Emmanuel Macron inaugure, le 30 octobre, la Cité internationale de la langue française, à Villiers-Cotterêts, l’académicien Jean-Marie Rouart a raillé dans une tribune au « Figaro » (23/10) les anglicismes chers au chef de l’État, dont il rappelle qu’il a reçu le « prix de la Carpette anglaise, donné par une académie parodique à ceux qui se soumettent éperdument au franglais ». Et l’Immortel de citer en exemple les « One Planet Summit », « Make our planet great again ».
           Peut-être, mais Macron a quand même remis au goût de jour la poudre de perlimpinpin et les carabistouilles, saperlipopette!

          1. Merci beaucoup, Guy, you did indeed honour my request to include those delicious terms in a post-pas seulement formidable mais aussi bien chouette!

          2. I’m afraid my French is nowhere near your standard, Guy, but thank you for that. I’m afraid I have to resort to Google Translate much of the time. It’s been 6 years since I lived in France but I never came across perlimpinpin, carabistouilles or saperlipopette, not even in our favourite grocery store, ‘Grand Frais’, which always had exotic fruit and veg. from all over the Francophonie!

        1. I agree. It IS rather rude!
          I admire the French attempt to defend their language against the onslaught of ‘Anglo-Saxonism’, especially in the world of computers with words such as ‘logiciel’ and ‘imprimante’.
          Another curious little fact is that Albania and Bulgaria are both members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie!

  2. Thanks, Guy. I was flummoxed by that parsing.
    I mostly liked the vocabulary in the grid.

  3. 11:04
    I was wondering about ARCHI, but I think Guy got it right. I took the polite refusal to be “No, ta” (thanks awfully); ‘none of the above’ is hardly a refusal. NHO SPUR GEAR, but as Vinyl says.
    The definition of GRIMALKIN is evidently ‘old female cat’, so ‘old’ should be underlined, although I don’t know of any justification for ‘old’. (‘Malkin’ is a diminutive of Maud or Matilda, which gives us the ‘female’). Graymalkin [sic] is the familiar of First Witch in Macbeth, which is how I knew the name.

    1. Definitely “no, ta”!

      I did a Google Advanced Search for just those words in English in the UK, and found a few results. Admittedly, the first relevant one is not near the top of the page. But the Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament…
      … assumed that the phrase would be immediately understandable when it sold, for two quid each,
      « Badges that reads [sic] “NATO? NO TA!”
      As part of our office clear-out, volunteers found a huge cache of campaigning postcards and badges mainly from the 1980s and some even earlier. »
      Out of stock now, though…

    2. I assumed the reference was to Macbeth: “I come, Greymalkin!” the cat being kept by the formidable Weird Sisters. But it’s spelt differently, of course.

  4. Didn’t know GOVERNOR as speed limiter, didn’t know KIBBLE, didn’t know SPUR GEAR, but sometimes ignorance is next to godliness, no?

    Another 19 minutes. Liked the NAIAD, but yearned for something a bit more esoteric.

  5. 30 minutes with GRIMALKIN as a cat vaguely remembered once I had constructed the answer from wordplay and checkers. I looked twice at the placement of unchecked letters I and Y in PHRYGIAN, took a bit of a gamble and got it right.

    Absolutely no problem with NO TA, and it’s still very much in common usage here.

  6. 27.49, mostly enjoyable once I got going which took a while. Had a nice aha! moment with WAITING FOR GODOT and after that things flowed more easily except in the NE. Didn’t know the cat and was side-tracked at first by thinking of the formidable Grimaldi family, then by wondering if it was maybe one of Old Possum’s. NHO KIBBLE either. I’m still not quite convinced by either INSTRUMENT or ANTIMONARCHICAL but will reread the comments above and see if I can make either make sense. Thank you vinyl1, useful blog.

  7. 34m 42s of smooth sailing.
    Near where I live I see birds called ‘spur-winged plovers’ but I’ve NHO spur gear.
    Also, never ever seen ‘Waiting for Godot’ or, indeed, any other Beckett play

  8. 19 minutes with LOI NAIAD. COD to TIGHTENED. I’ve only ever used KIBBLE in the plural so I hesitated for a while with that. I’ve never heard of a SPUR GEAR but it fitted and parsed. I’d only vaguely heard of GRIMALKIN too. Otherwise, a pleasant start to the week. Thank you V and setter.

  9. They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.
    (What an image. W for G, Beckett)

    25 mins mid-brekker, bemused by some of the vocab.
    Ta setter and V.

    1. I wanted to cite Betjeman’s finding comfort in the “fur of (ancient?) uncomplaining ARCHI-bald…”, but my copy of ‘Summoned by Bells’ is a thousand miles away.
      Can anyone help?

  10. 12:24. Held up in the NE with a couple of unknowns – GRIMALKIN and KIBBLE. NHO SPUR GEAR either. DISAGREEMENT made me smile. Thanks Vinyl and setter.

  11. 17:50. NHO SPUR GEAR but was guessable. I was also a bit unsure about the parsing of ANTIMONARCHIST because I was seeing AN TIMON ARCH I CAL and the I in the answer and briefly in the clue were unaccounted for. Now I think the Archi-e idea is the only way to properly account for the clue.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  12. Definitely agree with Guy re Archi(e). NHO SPUR GEAR, but the surface was helpful.

    LOI ENID (I went to submit but was only 98% complete – I thought my last was actually GOVERNORSHIP!)
    TIME 6:14

  13. Fell asleep once at a performance of Waiting for Godot at the Tabacco Factory Theatre in Bristol. I’m sure I won’t be the last …

    Held up at the end by the cat.

    Quicker than normal for me.

    Nice puzzle. Thanks Setter and Vinyl

    Time: 23:24

  14. 39 mins and very glad for the cryptic “hands” on several clues. GRIMALKIN, KIBBLE and SPUR GEAR all unheard of. Held myself up unnecessarily in the SW having bunged in a careless GODDO. Made TIGHTENED difficult!

    Otherwise an enjoyable romp. I liked the long clues.

    Thanks v and setter.

  15. DNF, beaten by GAEL… it has never occurred to me that if you can have Gaelic, then you can have Gael. It wasn’t helped by not being entirely sure about the unknown GRIMALKIN, but seeing as no one else seems to have had any trouble with it, I’m disappointed not to have got it.

    I’ve heard of the PHRYGIAn mode in music, otherwise I would have struggled there. KIBBLE, SPINET and SPUR GEAR went in from wordplay, and I didn’t know governor as a speed regulator. Doing these crosswords has made clear that there are plenty of mythical beings ending in -ad, so constructing the unknown NAIAD was a little easier.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Waiting for Godot

  16. 12.37. Quite a few unknowns for me – GRIMALKIN, the GOVERNOR, SPUR GEAR, SPINET and PHRYGIAN, although all were politely clued. NO TA is certainly a polite refusal where I’m from.

    Thanks both.

  17. 14.05 (I’m extra careful with checking these days). Thanks to Guy and all for the lead on ANTIMONARCHICAL – I forgot about parsing after the (unshortened, after all!) TIMON and realising the -IST ending didn’t reach. If you’d asked, I’d have said GRIMALKIN was in TSP, pleased to be wrong/right. Didn’t know KIBBLE, and wouldn’t have done even if it had been clued as a bucket. Is it regional? Chambers doesn’t say. PHRYGIAN both from the mode and the cap. Vive la liberté!
    Round here, of course, SPUR GEAR is known as top. Until next weekend, at least.

  18. I was expecting to come here to be told how straightforward this was. I seemed to breeze through it with a PB of just under 14′, almost 5′ better than my previous. I had a good few write-ins in a row which gave me an almost “Verlainian” feeling!

    I was lucky with Kibble, as I was given a dressing down by my vet only a few weeks ago about my old retriever’s increasing weight. He recommended some low calorie (NHO) KIBBLE.

    I biffed GRIMALKIN, ANTIMONARCHICAL was semi-parsed and I had NA”Y”AD until crossers put me right. Otherwise I’m a happy boy. thanks Vinyl1 and setter

  19. 27:11. A good time (for me) after struggling at first to find a way in. I thought some of the vocab/GK a bit of a stretch, but all reachable in the end. NOTARY was one I liked, with NO TA as the polite refusal. COD to WAITING FOR GODOT, not hard but nicely done

  20. 31:11
    I’d heard of the word grimalkin but had no idea what it meant. Spur gear was new to me as was kibble.
    Thanks, v.

  21. Very relieved to have completed correctly and without any spellin errors! NAIAD and GAEL didn’t allow me to misplace the vowels thankfully. Guessed correctly with PHYRGIAN and my LOI GRIMALKIN (NHO).
    I found this quite chewy in places. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  22. 8:51 That was interesting. 6 mins solving the puzzle except for the tooth, which for some reason I just couldn’t see for ages. As others have said, a bit of a biff-fest and I didn’t bother parsing ANTIMONARCHICAL et al. until it was submitted. NHO the SPUR GEAR, but it’s not my area of expertise. I suspect KIBBLE may be a recent(ish) American import but it’s now commonly used in the UK by those of us with pets and a very useful addition to the lexicon. I don’t think I’ve ever used the expression “no, ta” but that’s probably for reasons of snobbishness! Nice puzzle, thanks setter. COD to CHESTNUT.

  23. It always struck me as odd that you could feed a large and strapping dog on unappetising-looking biscuits without starving it, but KIBBLE evidently contains more than one would think. It must be better-known than I thought, because I only ever heard of it about 40 years ago. I’m sure I’ve heard people saying “No, ta”. 38 minutes without any major hold-ups, although I was slow with a couple of the long anagrams despite having the checkers.

  24. 10:24. The Crossword Club was playing up this morning – was that just me?
    I got through this fairly quickly but then got completely stuck at the end on 4dn. I nearly gave up and then kicked myself very hard when I finally thought of the right word for ‘wind’.
    This was a bit of a mixed bag. I wasn’t very keen on the semi-&Lit for INSTRUMENT for the reasons outlined by GdS, but I enjoyed the funny words (SPINET, SPUR GEAR, GRIMALKIN) indicated with clear wordplay.

  25. 20.39

    Thought this was going to be a comfortable sub-15 but the cat really caused issues as a NHO. INSTRUMENT then followed up the rear, with its parsing eluding me (not helped by a nonsensical PORMOLAR). Also NHO KIBBLE and SPUR GEAR but the w/p was helpful.


    Thanks setter and vinyl

  26. I made heavy weather of this thanks to 4D, with GAEL taking an age to come to mind before failing on the unknown GRIMALKIN.

    At 30 minutes I threw in the towel with G_I_ALKIN taunting me at the top.

    Otherwise this was a fairly steady solve with the only unknown being KIBBLE, which thankfully was generously clued.

    Alas another good run comes to an end. Thanks to the setter for a nice crossword and to vinyl for the blog.

  27. Surprised so many NHO (usually preceded by “involute”) SPUR GEAR. However having definitely heard of it I still think it is green-paintish. I forgot to parse it, so thanks for that.
    Was tempted by Grimaldi but fortunately they are too short. GRIMALKIN wasn’t familiar, but I had heard of it/her.
    Phrygians familiar enough but sufficiently long ago that I now confuse them with the Parthians of the parthian shot (sometimes incorrectly written as Parting Shot.)
    Chestnut was clever, for a chestnut.

      1. OED has its first Parthian usage about 200 years before its first parting usage. But then I like the story (and always thought the true Parthian shot was returning Anthony’s captured Eagles to Augustus) so I’m inclined to believe it that way.

        1. The earlier uses are literal, ie a reference to an actual shot rather than a last word.
          You don’t have to believe it one way or the other: the two expressions have co-existed for a couple of hundred years, there’s no reason to think one was the origin of the other, much less that either is somehow wrong.

          1. I don’t think I thought one was right or wrong, better or worse, just that the military use was older than the allusion.

            1. Even that’s not certain: the earliest examples of ‘Parthian shot’ and ‘parting shot’ mentioned in the article I linked to are 1832 and 1818 respectively.

  28. 24 minutes. Good to see Waiting for Godot come up. I was the first schoolboy Lucky (1961) and still know half that brilliant damned speech. Maybe the best play of the last century, and poem too. A savage humour, in its way cutting as deep as Swift. What doesn’t it say?

  29. I tend to comment only when I complete successfully, or with maybe one error. Last week I failed miserably but today’s suited me even though there were some NHO’s like GRIMALKIN and SPUR GEAR. Tried to make CHILD fit for 23a but SPINET putpaid to that.
    So, much happier now.
    Thanks for parsing ANTIMONARCHICAL. I liked WAITING FOR GODOT.

  30. 22 mins. A bit harder than the usual Monday, but nothing to frighten the ponies.
    As others NHO SPUR GEAR.

  31. 33:01 – FOI: Waiting For Godot. LOI: Governorship – Didn’t know Governor as a speed limiter, or Spur Gear. Only vaguely aware of Grimalkin & Phrygian. The geography pedant in me bristled at the description of Tibet as a country – it hasn’t been so since it was annexed by China 72 years ago!

    1. thought it was just me. One of my memory tests is the countries of the world and Tibet is definitely not in the list.

  32. 11 mins. Pretty straightforward but the unknown kibble and spur gear were – educated – guesses. I think I remember a John Masefield book with a character called Greymalkin which made me opt for the different spelling of the answer ( if that makes sense).

    Enjoyed the puzzle.

  33. Vladimir: There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.
    20.47: today, unusually, no need for excuses. Phrygian caps, I seem to recall, were the ones which folded over at the top, as worn by French revolutionaries and Smurfs. Also, while we’re here, describes a rare radiological appearance of a gall-bladder.
    Thanks setter and blogger.

  34. 17’50”
    Steady early pace, quickened home straight, stayed on well.
    I was lucky to get a clear run, in that there were no unknowns, with the exception of kibble; having recently concocted a Lego clock, with an Arnfield escapement centred on a spur gear, that caused no problems.
    Betjeman’s trimmed teddy component of the republican was parsed in retrospect.
    Thrilled to bits with a clickety-click-66 Witch; thank you Vinyl and setter.

  35. 22.25 One of my quickest. SPUR GEAR was new but, as BUSMAN said, the surface was very helpful. I didn’t attempt to parse ANTIMONARCHICAL and PREMOLAR was LOI. Thanks vinyl1.

  36. Another day, another typo. Idiot. Otherwise would have been a steady 9:49. Was pleased to have teased out the unfamiliar GRIMALKIN and PHRYGIAN. Likewise the NHO SPUR GEAR. Then let myself down with some sloppy typing. Ah well.

  37. GAEL and NOTARY were my first 2 in. GRIMALKIN and KIBBLE were unknown and derived from wordplay. ANTIMONARCHICAL was LOI after LATER provided the ending that turned out not to be IST. 19:59. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  38. 20 minutes, no problems, once had worked out GRIMALKIN from wordplay then remembered it vaguely from Macbeth. Our dog eats kibble so knew that one. Liked WAITING FOR GODOT best, although not keen on the play.

  39. 20:08. fairly straightforward stroll through. is Tibet still considered a nation?Wikipedia has it down as an autonomous region of China. I also liked NAIAD, but thought it could have been more interesting if the setter had used wood rather than pond to get the D, and maybe a ? too. thanks Setter and V

    1. It is a nation in subjugation, thanks to one of the greatest unpunished crimes of the 20th century. China has been bending the published records for seventy years or more.

    2. Surely the use of pond is an indication that we’re looking for a water nymph?
      Using wood would be be more of a misdirection leading towards a Dryad.

  40. I have four cats and on enquiry, all of them objected to the word “grimalkin.” Untidy or slovenly? I don’t think so …
    On the upside, I do have about 15kg of KIBBLE stored in the cupboard 🙂

  41. 9:45
    Wikipedia gives 19 uses of GRIMALKIN in fiction, including in Macbeth, Wuthering Heights and 60s TV Batman (an episode featuring Catwoman, of course).
    Ade Edmondson says in his recently-published autobiography that he and Rik Mayall bonded over a shared love of WAITING FOR GODOT, which they both considered a comedy (as did Tom Stoppard, who used it as one of the bases for ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’).

  42. 36:40

    Terribly slow today – did about 30% in twenty minutes on my lunchtime walk, with mutterings of ‘useless NHS’ filling my head (individual depts ok but they don’t play together very well!). Aghast on checking the Snitch, had a look later in the afternoon and polished off the rest in sixteen mins, with only the SW really holding me up.

  43. A pleasant 19 minute stroll with no major issues. NHO KIBBLE or SPUR GEAR, but the clueing was kind, and I dredged up GRIMALKIN from some distant literary storehouse. NO TA is quite acceptable where I come from. Is CHESTNUT a chestnut?
    FOI – TIBET (not being a geographer)
    Thanks to vinyl and other contributors.

  44. Very easy (25 minutes) and none of the several unknowns, mentioned above, were a real problem. Nonetheless a fun puzzle.

  45. They don’t hang around any more
    Straight in with the bloody MACAW
    I was feeling quite blue
    The whole crossword through
    It’s really no wonder I’m sore

  46. Guessed that Grimalkin might be from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats….but guessed wrong….

  47. A 26 minute fail. Came to grief on the NHO SPUR GEAR. My nonsensical parsing was ‘Impulse to place’ as def with SPAR (‘box’) and GEAR (‘part of transmission’) as wordplay. A few others I was uncertain about like GRIMALKIN, so can’t complain.

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