Times 28756 – spring break?

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Time taken: 10:28, though distracted by a conversation while I was trying to solve.

Fun puzzle, not too difficult, but most clues require a fair bit of thought, I doubt there will be a lot of biffing here.

How did you get along?

1 Talent with performing hip hop a job for the present day? (4,8)
GIFT WRAPPING – GIFT(talent), W(with), RAPPING(performing hip hop), and a slightly cryptic definition
9 Interest rate operating that might have strings attached (5)
APRON – APR(Annual Percentage Rate), ON(operating)
10 Getting old, too thin to be fitted with an expensive implant (4,5)
GOLD TOOTH -hidden inside gettinG OLD TOO THin
11 Report on News Round up to the minute (8)
BULLETIN – BULLET(round), IN(up to the minute)
12 Fly from area through outskirts of Trieste (6)
AVIATE – A(area), VIA(through) and the external letters of TriestE
13 Wobbly tum bared for a tattoo (8)
15 Whence the Akond taps a sample of fabric? (6)
SWATCH – I tip this to be the polarising clue of the day… the first part refers to the Edward Lear poem, The Akond of SWAT, then C and H are taps
17 Reluctant states agree finally (6)
AVERSE – AVERS(states), then the last letter of agreE
18 Beaks stumped by drinks bottles (8)
JUSTICES – ST(stumped) inside JUICES(drinks)
20 Ordinarily caged bird I would have to move outside (6)
BUDGIE – I inside BUDGE(to move)
21 Bad ulcer husband contracted out at sea (8)
OFFSHORE – OFF(bad), SORE(ulcer) containing H(husband)
24 Split personality, one spotted in picture (9)
DALMATIAN – double definition, Split referring to the Croatian port
25 British holiday here in Brittany (5)
BREST – B(British), REST(holiday)
26 Somehow deadly for me to ingest hospital chemical solution (12)
FORMALDEHYDE – anagram of DEADLY,FOR,ME containing H(hospital)
1 Snatched Greek cleric in France ransomed at last (7)
GRABBED – GR(Greek), ABBE(cleric in France) and the last letter of ransomeD
2 Realtor dude Alf redesigned coastal development abroad (4,10)
FORT LAUDERDALE – anagram of REALTOR,DUDE,ALF. It’s in Florida, and if you haven’t been there, you’re not missing much
3 Bored by picnics occasionally, you and I flinch (5)
WINCE – alternating letters in pIcNiCs inside WE(you and I)
4 No tips for gangly, rich Yank, a member of the church (8)
ANGLICAN – interior letters of gANGLy rICh yANk
5 Tear skin (4)
PELT – double definition
6 A new ITV broadcast on technology intelligence (6,3)
NATIVE WIT – anagram of A,NEW,ITV then IT(technology)
7 My Moroccan diet conjured something light, sweet and amusing (8,6)
8 Triplets mostly quiet toss and turn (6)
THRESH – THREE(triplets) minus the last letter, then SH(quiet)
14 Italian wine not available during bachelor party as a punishment (9)
BASTINADO – ASTI(Italian wine), NA(not available) inside B(bachelor), DO(party). Another fear of Falstaff
16 Copper friend arresting female wearing huge tie? (3,5)
CUP FINAL – CU(copper), PAL(friend) containing F(female), IN(wearing)
17 A university ordered work for earlier (6)
AUBADE – A, U(university), BADE(ordered) – a musical work in this case
19 Those coming after Bond Street note muscle on board (7)
SPECTRE – ST(street) and RE(musical note) containing PEC(muscle). Bond referring to the secret agent.
22 Fur clearance nets billions (5)
SABLE – SALE(clearance) containing B(billions)
23 Skin flick? (4)
FILM – double definition

79 comments on “Times 28756 – spring break?”

  1. LOI SPECTRE, which I saw a long time before I remembered the nefarious organization in the secret agent flicks.
    I did biff BULLETIN, though.

  2. I enjoyed it (but not enthusiastic about SWAT).
    Aubade is a short, beautiful piece by Soft Machine.

  3. I had 69 minutes on the clock when I finished but I had fallen asleep at some stage and lost time. Not through boredom or because I was stuck, just overtired.

    I had no idea what was going on re Akond but I knew SWATCH as a fabric sample so 15ac went straight in regardless. The Akond of Swat appeared in Jumbos in May 2007 and May 2020 when I also didn’t know it.

    I knew AUBADE as a morning serenade. There are loads of semi-famous ones, mostly by French composers such as Ravel, Poulenc, Satie and Chabrier.

    I was pleased to get the budgerigar reference today as it’s usually one of my blind spots, but then its last appearance was barely more than 2 weeks ago in a puzzle I blogged in which it was also defined with reference to its restricted lifestyle, at least when kept as a pet. Last time ‘probably not flying’, this time ‘caged’. So sad, but the connection was not hard to make.

  4. 17:15 but
    I biffed BASTILADO from B_S, I don’t know why, even though I know BASTINADO. I was luckier with biffs of ANGLICAN & BULLETIN. And SWATCH, where Akond was a giveaway (“Who, or why, or which, or what, Is the Akond of Swat?”); ignored the C,H. Are BUDGIEs ordinarily caged? More so than hawks or spaniels, no doubt, but ordinarily a budgie is free.

    1. Bearing in mind this is a British puzzle ‘caged’ is the standard environment for budgies. They are not native to these islands and I understand that if they are ever released into the wild here they cannot survive long before being set upon by other birds.

      1. Unlike parakeets, which are ubiquitous round here. Sometimes see flocks of them, squawking away. A bright spot of colour, though some are not fond of them; coming over here, eating all our suet and nuts, displacing native species from their avian jobs.

        1. We get tons of them round us. They are on the game list, which means it’s legal to shoot them, although it’s not advisable to attempt this in Richmond Park.

  5. 11:14. When AER sprang to mind as an interest rate I was tempted by AERON in place of APRON. The fact it “might have strings attached” suggested it could be a type of kite. Anyhow thankfully APR came to mind. I couldn’t parse DRUMBEAT as each time I looked at it I saw “Wobbly turn bared”. I think the time for varifocals is drawing near.

    1. I have just (as of yesterday) switched to varifocals and the experience is a combination of the very disconcerting (narrow field of vision surrounded by a blur, need to turn your head to look to the left or right, can’t really see your feet properly) with the rather delightfully transformational: I can look at my phone without taking my glasses off!

    2. Worse here is that I clearly saw M, thought M, but changed immediately becasue I have trained myself to always read it as R N when I see it the Times’ puzzle-clue font.

  6. 29 fun minutes with LOI SPECTRE.I had all the knowledge but SWAT, but I knew SWATCH. COD to FORMALDEHYDE, not that I want to give Damien Hirst any new ideas. Thank you George and setter.

  7. Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
    Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies
    (I know the feeling. Ode to a Nightingale, Keats)

    25 mins pre-brekker. It was clearly Swatch, but I couldn’t remember the Akond. Now it seems to ring a far off bell.
    Really good clueing throughout, I thought.
    Ta setter and G.

  8. 18′, quite a bit of time spent on JUSTICES and AUBADE.

    The long anagrams made me resolve to have pen and paper to hand in the future.

    Thanks gl and setter.

    1. I had to use a whiteboard app on my phone this morning for the ROMANTIC COMEDY anagram. Much slower than pen and paper, but convenient at least.

      1. Here’s a hopefully useful tip: the Guardian’s crosswords have a nice little “anagram helper” tool. You enter the fodder and press the “Shuffle” button, whereupon it displays the letters in a randomised circle, just like many solvers do with pen and paper.

        It only appears when a clue is selected and it limits the letter count to the selected clue’s length, so you have to select a clue with as many letters or more than what you need to enter. It’s helped me out occasionally when doing Times crosswords on my phone. 🙂

          1. Isn’t using such ‘aids’ considered to be cheating? (Not that I don’t use aids, but I don’t kid myself that I’m not cheating …).
            Anyway, I’ve never found arraying the letters out in ‘Polygon’ format helps, especially with long ones. When I can’t solve visually, my preferred method (I always use the paper version) is to just write the component letters out in turn, adding alternately to front and then back. (If that doesn’t work I try again!back and front.) It generally works for me.
            What methods do others use, I wonder (if indeed this can be called a ‘method’)?

            1. I do exactly the same. Write out the angrist, occasionally moving a letter or two, cross out any checked letters, if there are any, and work it out from there. Usually works.

            2. The only difference between manually writing a letter circle and using a computer aid like the Guardian’s, is that the letters can be re-scrambled more easily – it also scrambles them in a line if you don’t like the circle, by the way.

              If you want to see that as cheating that’s up to you, but for me it’s just an automated way of doing what many of us do manually anyway. Not that different to your preferred method really.

              It’s not like the solving tools that use dictionaries to search for solutions. Now those I would consider cheating!

              1. One sir punner thyme I used to tick off the numbers of the clues I’d solved, and would write anagram letters in circles too. Now that I’m old I don’t do either any more.

  9. Once I got through a few easyish ones it was slow going. Many of my entries were guesses as I didn’t have time to sort out the convoluted wordplay.
    A full hour.

  10. It’s been so long since I read a Bond book that SPECTRE simply refused to come to mind (though I did remember SMERSH) so a DNF after about 35 with the cryptic remaining impenetrable. TBH it was the last of several that really slowed things up, including AUBADE, BUDGIE and the spotty dog. I thought this was a really good puzzle with a lot of excellent, challenging clues, and many thanks to George for explaining the intricacies of quite a few, APRON, SWATCH and OFFSHORE being three.

    1. I’d have thought most people would remember SPECTRE from the name of the movie before last.

    2. I’ve read all the Bond novels (procrastination once when a job became over-boring) I always think of SMERSH first – SPECTRE doesn’t appear until quite well along in the series. Lucky for us SMERSH they have different letter-count.

  11. 12:20. Held up for a couple of minutes at the end by my last two – JUSTICES and BUDGIE. COD to FORMALDEHYDE for the surface. Thanks George and setter.

  12. My compliments to the chef on this one. Just about every surface is elegant and many are witty, while the wordplay is clever, precise and equally prone to raise a smile. A beautiful example of the setter’s art, which I completed in half an hour and regretted finishing, so enjoyable was the ride. The SW corner held out longest with the unknown AUBADE and BASTINADO, but the wordplay and some deep, dormant neurons combined to arrive at the correct destinations. Thanks classy setter for this jewel and George for the blog.

  13. Threw in DALMATIAN without really considering or parsing the clever ‘Split personality’.
    Very nice puzzle, thanks to all.

  14. Oh dear. Beaten by SPECTRE which I entered as SCEPTRE. I even stopped to ask myself if it was right, if CEP was a muscle. Yes of course it is, I replied, bicep and tricep. Otherwise 37 minutes for a fine puzzle. LOI JUSTICES, needing a long look. Favourites CUP FINAL (the huge tie) and GIFT WRAPPING

    1. A muscle that is highly developed in international weight-lifting champignons?
      I’ll get my coat…

  15. Just over half an hour.

    Didn’t see how BULLETIN or SWATCH worked at all; only got FORT LAUDERDALE from a vague memory of Gordon Banks having played for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at the end of his career; couldn’t have told you what an AUBADE is; constructed the unknown BASTINADO from wordplay; thought the first word of GOLD TOOTH would be ‘grey’ for a while until I saw the hidden; and took a long time to see JUSTICES (with all the checkers in place, I was on the verge of bunging in ‘buttocks’ in desperation).

    A nice puzzle – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Apron
    LOI Justices
    COD Gold tooth

  16. 25 minutes, with rapid progress made in the top half, before being slowed down by the unknown AUBADE, along with BUDGIE, DALMATION, and SPECTRE. I saw the Croatia reference quite early but it took a while for the Dalmatia region to come to mind.

    I don’t really do Mr Bond but that nefarious organisation was lodged somewhere in my grey filing cabinet.

    The only other possible unknown was SWAT but as per Bolton Wanderer I knew SWATCH so no time lost there.

    On the easier side today but a lovely mix of clues so thank you to the setter, and to George for the excellent blog.

  17. 12:11. Quite a tricky one, very enjoyable. I had forgotten the Akond of Swat (who now definitely rings a bell) but had no problem biffing SWATCH.
    AUBADE is of course a great poem by Philip Larkin. If you’re after something to cheer you up on a rainy November day, I can heartily not recommend it.

  18. Got SWATCH pretty quickly, but only from the definition – had no clue what Akond was, not being a fan of Lear. My LOI was DALMATIANS which I never parsed, though I should have guessed Split personality was misleading. Loved 1A, 17D and amused by SPECTRE, though I originally tried for Smersh. It took around the hour to get through this, but a thoroughly enjoyable one, with lovely surfaces and delightful PDMs.

  19. I struggled with this, ultimately writing out the anagrist for FORT LAUDERDALE of where I knew nothing. I biffed SWATCH, and took far too long to see BUDGIE and JUSTICES (I entered ROSTRUMS briefly, but realized there was no U in the anagrist for ROMANTIC COMEDY – another I should have been quicker to spot).

    Alas my thin knowledge of 007 failed me, and “sceptre” threw two pinks at me.

    TIME 15:41 but failed. At least my SNITCH average won’t be compromised 😂

  20. Who or why or which or what,
    Is the Akond of Swat?

    Though apparently Lear didn’t make up the title, there was a real ruler in a bit of what is now Pakistan by that name. Gone with the Raj.

    Scratched my head over JUSTICES. Looking for bottles inside something that you can drink, not drinks bottling stumped by. Grammar a bit Yoda-ish it was.

    Next time you need a threat, you could borrow from Touchstone in As You Like It:
    I will deal in poison with thee,
    or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction;
    will o’er-run thee with policy; I will kill thee a hundred and
    fifty ways; therefore tremble and depart.

    Thanks blogger and setter.

  21. 25:16, some clever clues I thought, LOI FILM a bit analogous to ROOT yesterday.
    I’d heard of Fort Lauderdale without actually knowing what it is.
    The Starlight Barking, sequel to 101 Dalmations, was a favourite book when I was a child.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  22. I also thought this an absolutely cracking puzzle, properly deceptive, even down to the almost invisible hidden. No idea how George did it in 10: it took me 25, though with only SWATCH not understood, panicking as I pressed submit that it could be SWITCH (don’t think now it could).
    Sometimes you just get the feeling: GIFT WRAPPING made me laugh while appreciating the cleverness of the cluing, and from then on it was mostly bewilderment followed by that delicious moment when the scales drop from the eyes. Congratulations to the setter, and to George for both time and remembering what the h… Akond was.

  23. 18:28
    I loved this, SWATCH and all. Very witty cluing throughout. Almost a Bond theme with SPECTRE, FILM and BASTINADO – an extreme form of which he had to undergo in Casino Royale. Shame it was GOLD TOOTH rather than FINGER.
    Not musical but Philip Larkin’s AUBADE is well worth a look.
    Thanks to George and the setter.

  24. 28:16 – easy until suddenly it wasn’t, mainly in the SE. Thought of magistrates for beaks but for some reason stared at the gaps in JUSTICES until the penny clunked.

  25. Curses: I pretty much breezed through this one, until I was left only with 15ac – more of which later.

    It helped that AUBADE was in today’s word-watch. I did know what it meant, but I don’t think I would have solved the clue so quickly if it hadn’t been fresh in my mind. DALMATIAN was a semi-biff based solely on the ‘one spotted in picture’ part of the clue; obviously correct, but I couldn’t see the relevance of the ‘Split personality’ part – so thanks to George for the explanation.

    So, 15ac; the clue meant absolutely nothing to me, but there were clearly very few possible answers given the checkers I had. I asked my wife whether ‘switch’ could mean a sample of material and she said yes; having read the solution here, I told her the answer was SWATCH, to which she replied “O, yes, that’s right…” So, I’m blaming her for my DNF. On reflection, the ‘Akond of Swat’ rings a very faint bell, probably because I have read Lear’s nonsense verse, but only in my now very distant childhood.

    I liked the Bond themed clue, made me smile once I worked it out.

  26. It was going very well until I had about ten left, whereupon I became hopelessly stuck, as tends to be the way nowadays, and eventually I finished in 54 minutes, with a few aids. Justice = beak seems very P.G. Wodehouse. I was thinking of schoolmasters in Billy Bunter-type establishments. So far as I can remember there was an unsatisfactory programme on Radio 4 called Aubade (or was that the name of the signature tune?) in I think the 70s, where what used (?) to be the Today programme became a mixture of topical items and recordings of comedy songs etc. Didn’t last long, mercifully. Croatians? No. Bosnians? No. Herzegovnians? Something from around there, but I needed aids for the DALMATIANS.

  27. 21:03

    Plenty that was enjoyable here, though I missed plenty too.

    AVIATE – glad to see it the other day (in a QC?)
    SWATCH – NHO The Akond of whatsit – bunged in from W&T checkers
    DALMATIAN – missed the Split reference
    AUBADE – LOI needed all of the checkers to come up with this
    BASTINADO – built from wordplay, NHO the punishment
    SPECTRE – not a big Bond fan, but dredged this up from the dank recesses…

    COD – JUSTICES – nice PDM – also as with Jack, good to see BUDGIE without too much fuss for once!

    1. Bastinado consists of beating the soles of the feet with canes – hurts a lot apparently, but causes no lasting injuries and the marks it leaves are not visible unless somebody is reclining barefoot . Although it sounds very medieval, it was used a lot in Nazi concentration camps and was still in use in in juvenile penal institutions in the US in the 1960s. It remains in use in various countries.

      1. My father who was captured by the Germans in Paris (don’t ask) suffered badly from « bastinado ». He was never really able to walk properly again.

  28. Nearly, nearly. Just couldn’t see BUDGIE at the end, pressing reveal after 40 minutes.

    Pleased to construct the NHO BASTINADO and AUBADE.

    Hat off to “split personality” for DALMATIAN.

  29. 31 mins. Struggled at the end trying not to put in BUTTOCKS (as above). COD DALMATIAN, didn’t get it at the time

  30. Lovely puzzle.

    Biffed SWATCH and GOLD TOOTH (!!), LOI was BUDGIE after AUBADE. Liked the “split personality” and FORMALDEHYDE surface.


  31. 5m 41s with JUSTICES the LOI. Obviously no idea what was going on with SWATCH, and took a bit of persuading that triplets = three, but I guess it probably does.

  32. A great puzzle. “Beaks stumped by drinks bottles (8)” was one of those rare perfect clues I thought: a surface reading which made perfect sense, and every word misleading!

  33. FOI GRABBED, LOI AUBADE. BUDGIE and JUSTICES took a while. Missed the Croation bit of DALMATIAN. NHO Akond of Swat, but knew SWATCH. 26:53. Thanks setter and George.

  34. A clever and enjoyable puzzle, finished over a quickish pint and packet of crisps in 31 minutes. Early unravelling of the two long down anagrams helped, but I felt I was on the wavelength anyway. Never heard of Akond, but was fairly confident that SWATCH was a thing related to material.
    Thanks to george and other contributors.

  35. I have no memory of the Akond of Swat, so that was always a biff. The taps were too clever for me anyway, I don’t think I would have seen them.
    As others was slow to spot the Croatian port of Split, but the PDM was worth it.
    Good puzzle, eg AVIATE.

  36. 18.59. Very enjoyable puzzle. No idea about the Akond but with taps pointing to C&H I was reasonably confident on that one. Like others thanks to Larkin for his Aubade. Ummed and Aahed over bulletin a bit because I couldn’t quite justify it until properly separating out round for bullet.

    Just on JUSTICES the “by” feels like it’s sort of left hanging. Does ST on a cricket scorecard just indicate “stumped” or is it “stumped by” in which case I think that tidies it up for me.

    1. I’ve just looked up a scorecard to check and the wicketkeeper’s name is given after the st. So it’s ‘stumped by’, which works.

      By the same logic, ‘caught by’ could be C. Not entirely sure the far more common ‘caught’ works for C in that case, but hey ho!

      1. I think I’m just overthinking it. The “by” must be implicit in both cases:

        Bairstow st Carey b Green

        reads as Bairstow stumped Carey but must mean Bairstow stumped by Carey.

  37. Done in two sittings, interrupted by a medical appointment. No real time but I wasn’t quick, with last two in JUSTICES and SPECTRE, once the penny dropped, taking an age.

    Overall very tricky but enjoyable for all that.


    Thanks g and setter.

  38. 20’58”
    Good early pace, fortunate to get a clear run, quickened under pressure.

    Clearly I hit the wavelength, and got some help from Grandad – trips to his tailor for him to flick through swatchbooks – and Gran, the Justice of the Peace most feared by Newmarket race-train card sharps and racecourse pickpockets.
    Blatant Biff: swatch. This I knew, but not the Swattish Akond; must add it to the list of the creatures of Tolkein, Carroll and Lear that exist only in print and the palazzi of Copede.

    This reminded me of the puzzles I struggled with in The Copper Kettle in the early 90s; perhaps it is the work of a setter who was setting then.
    Bravissimo/a to both setter and George for a very clever and elegant puzzle and a cracking time.

    1. Lear’s Akond of Swat was a real person, apparently. Wiki: Akond/Akhoond is a Persian title for an Islamic cleric, common in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan. Swat is the Swat Valley, now in Pakistan I think, appearing in the news occasionally as a Taliban stronghold. The story goes that Lear saw a news headline “The Akond of Swat is dead” and immediately created his poem.

  39. DNF at 30

    Just couldnt see BUDGIE convinced ID was somehow in the answer. Would have got AUBADE with that but it was too vague a bell without.

    DALMATIAN and SPECTRE were very good

    Thanks all

  40. Held up by miscounting the letters in Budgie and consequently discarding the correct answer, and then compensating by (as above) trying to stretch SMERSH into seven letters.

  41. A really nice puzzle even though I have to report a DNF. Just over 40 minutes with one to get, and in spite of having all the checkers could not get DALMATION. This was particularly galling as I have visited Split in Dalmatia, and I didn’t recognise the geographical connection. I also spent too long trying to think of an Italian wine to answer 14dn, and the nearest I got was BARDOLINO, which ironically was another place I’ve visited. If only I had transposed the way I tried to solve these clues I would have been home and dry. At least I eventually got BASTINADO, but …..

  42. DNF 40 mins but completely bamboozled by Dalmatian though I have to admit it’s a great clue.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have had a nice boozy lunch , then again. Didn’t parse swatch but prepared to back my judgment and bunged it in.
    Thx setter and blogger.

  43. There once was an Akond of Swat
    Whose crosswords used birds quite a lot
    To the Times, sayeth he
    “Here’s my clue for BUDGIE.
    I am part of the avian plot”

  44. In Thunderball SPECTRE meets on the third floor of 136 Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. It’s where Blofeld electrocutes a wayward member of the syndicate in front of all the others. I went there once, and now it’s just a boring boardroom. I did very poorly on this. Took far too long to get BUDGIE and AUBADE (which NHO). But got there in the end. 36’50”. Many thanks

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