Times 28779 – a heavenly spread indeed.

I took far too long to do this one, almost an hour, but now I’m writing it up I wonder if it wasn’t that hard. There was one unknown word (to me) to be guessed – PRUNELLA – and a few devious definitions to be deciphered. I smiled at the sweater and the heavenly cloud. Full marks to the setter for those.

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

1 In writing on death I tremble, making short notes (15)
DEMISEMIQUAVERS – I thought of a possible answer first for “short notes” and then worked out how it parses. DEMISE (death) then I QUAVER (I tremble) inside MS (writing, manuscript). It went in early on, helping a lot with all those down clues.
9 City proposal a man casually trimmed (9)
SALAMANCA – hidden as above, I saw it immediately, it’s in Spain west of Madrid near the Portuguese border.
10 Endlessly sad, relative not quite fitting in sweater (5)
SAUNA – SA[D] has aun[T] inserted. Cute definition.
11 A kitchen only half finished leads to comment (6)
APERCU – I remembered the “kitchen” section of the orchestra is the percussion section, so it’s A PERCU[SSION] being half a kitchen.
12 Silk cut completely the wrong way (8)
PRUNELLA – PRUNE = cut, ALL reversed. I’d never heard of it, so guessed it and looked it up. I gather it’s more of a heavy twill cloth, not silk, although it’s sometimes used for making robes so perhaps the silk refers to those.
13 After start of fire close damaged platform (6)
FOCSLE – F[ire], (CLOSE)*. I’ve seen this in novels, it’s short for FORECASTLE, and outside of no-punctuation crosswords would be FO’C’SLE.
15 Most active local objector finally failing in case (8)
NIMBLEST – a NIMBY being a local objector, (“not in my back yard”), remove the Y and add LEST = in case.
18 African native, singular youth, getting nothing out of paperback (8)
STEENBOK – I may be deficient in many areas of GK, but antelopes is not one of them. S for singular, TEEN for youth, BO[O]K for nothing out of paperback.
19 Squirm and shrivel when right out of place (6)
WRITHE – if you move the R, you can get WITHER = shrivel.
21 One replacing a string? Not on this instrument (8)
RECORDER – well, someone replacing a string could be a RE-CORDER, get it?
23 Passion and fight oddly saved match (6)
WARMTH – WAR = fight, then alternate letters as above.
26 Stomach mostly visible with shortened attractive garment (5)
27 Outlook for love: signs are mixed (9)
28 Misleading items in papers on French author taking in ass (5,3,7)
SMOKE AND MIRRORS – this was almost my LOI. I thought it must be “somethings and somethings”, eventually saw MIRRORS could be papers, and thought of George SAND as the author to give me ****S AND. But having the S at the end of the first word held me up, until I remembered a mini-moke was a sort of open top mini car and a moke was a donkey, and the donkey went inside SAND.
1 Winding stick first to break bulb (7)
DISTAFF – another that took me an age, even with D*S*A**, for which there are many options. The F from 13a then sorted it. IST is first, inside DAFF a bulb, short for daffodil. It’s a stick you use in weaving;  (no, spinning!) I only knew it meant the bride’s side in church at a wedding.
2 Scrum half came over the protected side (5)
MELEE – ME (half of came), LEE the sheltered side.
3 Stop house officer discharging the last two (9)
SEMICOLON – SEMI a house, COLON[EL] = officer losing last two letters.
4 State one’s lost a lot of hair (4)
MANE – the state of MAINE loses I.
5 Some verse as a sequence (8)
QUATRAIN – the beginning Q gave me this; QUA means AS in Latin and TRAIN is a sequence.
6 Rifle at first a boy keeps firing wickedly (5)
ARSON – A SON has R[ifle] inserted.
7 Enthusiastic blue exercising, right on time (9)
EBULLIENT – (BLUE)*, LIEN (legal right) T[ime].
8 Pair of creatures, big and small, that makes a bond (7)
SEALANT – SEAL and ANT are a large and a small creature.
14 Endless street party getting noisier (9)
CRESCENDO – CRESCEN[T] = endless street, DO = party. I think I’ve seen this before.
16 One prepared to compromise who wins a second medal? (9)
BARGAINER – for a second medal, you add a BAR, as in “DSO and bar”, so you’d be a BAR GAINER.
17 Simple house deceptively described (8)
HOMESPUN – HOME (house) SPUN (deceptively described, by a political aide perhaps).
18 Welcoming opening of restaurant, rank heavenly spread (7)
STRATUS – It took me a while to discount ‘welcoming’ as a possible definition and see it meant STATUS (rank) was ‘welcoming’ the R of restaurant. Stratus being a layer cloud, so ‘heavenly spread’ being a fair if devious definition.
20 Sheep wandering over American city, wonderful old place (7)
EPHESUS – (SHEEP)*, US for American.
22 Sport a red frill (5)
RUCHE – RU (Rugby Union), CHE (Guevara, our usual Marxist).
24 Perform improperly with paste, hiding diamonds (5)
MISDO – MISO a soya paste, insert D for diamonds. Seemed a funny word, but it’s in the dictionaries.
25 Back of room, one in school? (4)
FORM – my LOI. I was thinking of fishy things first. FO (back of) RM (abbr. for room).


60 comments on “Times 28779 – a heavenly spread indeed.”

  1. ‘I took far too long to do this one, almost an hour, but now I’m writing it up I wonder if it wasn’t that hard.’

    Pretty much the definition of difficult, no?

    Quite a few crosswordy words (APERCU, RUCHE), arcane vocab (FOCSLE, STEENBOK, QUATRAIN, PRUNELLA) and crosswordy syntax (‘firing wickedly’, etc.) made this one for the Bletchley Parkers.

    I found it an enjoyable challenge, notwithstanding, taking 54 minutes and ending with APERCU. WARMTH I thought was particularly cunning.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  2. In 18ac I’d expect an indication that ‘paperback’ is just an example of a book, eg by ending the clue with a ?

  3. DNF for me since I couldn’t see what to put on the front of LLA to get a type of silk, but had a vague feeling that GRANILLA was a type of silk and eventually gave up and put it in anyway, pretty sure it was wrong since GRANI doesn’t mean anything. I too was misled at FORM trying to put I into a fishy school to get GAIM or POID. I think that DISTAFF is a stick used in spinning (women) not weaving (men). That’s why the DISTAFF side of a family tree or a wedding is the woman’s side.

  4. A 50-odd minute fail. Didn’t think, though should have, of PERCUssion for ‘kitchen’ so in desperation bunged in an unparsed “amerce” as a crosswordy word that I was hoping might work, but of course it didn’t. Semi-guessed a few others like SMOKE AND MIRRORS so the two pink squares were well-earned.

  5. I wrote in the intro to my blog yesterday that I was never in any doubt that I would finish the puzzle, but that was certainly not the case today! I really struggled and as the clock approached 30 minutes I had less than a third completed with my answers scattered sparsely around the grid.

    The breakthrough came on revisiting the unsolved 1ac where I suddenly spotted the definition and as a musician of sorts the answer and parsing jumped out at me. That gave me a lot of first letters of danglers so I gained some momentum, eventually finishing in 57 minutes.

    NHO SALAMANCA or the required meaning of PRUNELLA. I knew vaguely of QUATRAIN as some sort of poem but had no idea about the parsing.

    1. hallo jackket I don’t do crosswords as early as most of you but thought I’d let you know that the wonderful Anne Bradford (RIP) has tarpaulin as a hat. best reference book IMO

  6. 14 letter insertions/deletions. The setter even managed to get two in SAUNA and two in TUNIC.

  7. Salamanca houses not just two cathedrals but also the Archivo General de la Guerra Civil Española (essentially, a Civil War museum), which is surprisingly disparaging of the efforts of those who came to fight from countries outside Spain. Not entirely surprising, when one considers what difficulty people have had coming to terms with what happened.

    1. … and also what is surely the most impressive Plaza Mayor in all of Spain. Not the largest (probably Madrid), but the most elegant.

  8. I got a late start on this, after dinner and drinks with friends in Manhattan, and was staring at it quite a while before I made my first entry (I think that was FO’C’SLE). Was relieved to get DEMISEMIQUAVER pretty early, but the 15-letter answer the bottom was my LOI (after FORM). Like our blogger, I pieced together PRUNELLA from wordplay, not knowing this definition. The wordplay was so clever, when I finally cracked each nugget, that I did not feel that this was a slog at all—though it certainly took long enough! By the end, I had noticed, like sawbill, a plethora of clues where you had to almost telepathically guess which words the setter was cutting up or inserting something into, and these were generally answers I got first from the definition and at least one crosser.

  9. 79m 52s
    An enjoyable arm wrestle. I Particularly liked BARGAINER and APERCU.
    1ac started out as semidemiquavers….as opposed to samidavisjunior….Sorry!
    Thanks, Pip!

    1. Me too on the SEMIDEMI, but I couldn’t parse it (of course). Never thought of Junior, fortunately.

  10. Bottom of the leaderboard with 2 errrors in 54 minutes. Two desperate stabs with STAGANT, where the required SEAL wouldn’t appear once I’d seen STAG, and NIMBYIST, where I just didn’t look hard enough. i still enjoyed the crossword. Lots of good words

  11. Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack’d from side to side;
    ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
    The Lady of Shalott.

    40 mins mid-brekker to work my way through Prunella, Steenbok and the long ones – only to be stitched up like a school of kippers. DORM was the best I could come up with.
    Ta setter and Pip.

    1. Yes, I had dorm too, not that difficult a clue in retrospect but it was my LOI and I was losing the will to live after all those insertions/deletions ☹️

  12. The odd definition for 20D is a reference to Ephesus being the location of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    1. Also said to be where the Blessed Virgin was “assumed bodily into heaven” according to R.C. doctrine. I suspect there must be a connection to Artemis there, as some say the BVM took over some of the role of Artemis from the classical Greek pantheon.

  13. 58 minutes with APERCU missing. I put in DISTAFF as it fitted the crossers and finished with STAFF, a sort of stick. I’ve seen DEMISEMIQUAVERS on the box recently, perhaps Pointless, or I’d have never got that. COD to PROGNOSIS. That would have gone to STRATUS but I constructed it from the other half of the clue. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now and only saw illusions. Tough puzzle. Thank you Pip and setter.

  14. 31:46. If this was from the second heat of the championship that never was, then I’m glad I didn’t have to face it there – I found it harder than any of the semi final puzzles. Like MartinP1 I had SEMIDEMIQUAVERS for some time which didn’t help my cause. I finished with DISTAFF, about which I was quite doubtful given that I hadn’t parsed it, I didn’t know the definition, and I had a feeling it might be a Shakespeare character (I now realise I was thinking of Falstaff).

  15. Enjoyed this a lot, but had to cheat to get the NHO Apercu, stumbling to a finish around 50 mins. Lots of enjoyable PDMs along the way.
    I had an advantage over most solvers, as I regularly stay in Salamanca while driving from the UK to Portugal and I own a Mini Moke so was familiar with the ass!

  16. 25:00
    Such fun!
    I recall* DEMISEMIQUAVER appearing as HEMI-of that ilk in a round on ‘Words that contain the letter E four times’ on Pointless last month.
    LOI APERCU – I’ve always thought of it as an insight rather than a comment, but fair enough.
    LOL NIMBLEST (which I almost entered as NIMBIEST).

    *I don’t recall, I looked it up on Twitter/X and iplayer.

    1. I just put 5 “e”s into my anagrammer and looked in words 16 or more letters long and got:
      So my “tool” has extra uses over simple anagrams. I could be persuaded to give it to anyone who wants. For anagrams it gives the answer in lower case for a good technical/performance reason.

  17. 40.55, so the perception that this was difficult need not be qualified by Piquet’s later wondering. It was a beast, but of the kind where, for the most part, you don’t end up smacking your forehead with “of course” but stolidly satisfied to have guessed the answer/cracked the wordplay. I didn’t even spot the hidden SALAMANCA, let alone the short notes definition or (until right at the end) the diminished drum kit.
    Definitely a thing of SMOKE AND MIRRORS (no way for me to get that from the wordplay!) and our setter bamboozled me at every turn. Well done, you unmitigated sw…!

  18. 18:24

    Struggling to make progress in the top half I had a good stare at 1ac and saw that quaver for tremble would give me a chance to construct the name of some of those little notes, but not being a musician meant I had to painstakingly piece together the other bits to get the right mix of hemi semi demi (and any other of Donald Duck’s nephews) in the right order.

    A good challenge all round, requiring a good deal of crossword experience to tease out the funny words and spot the clever tricks.

  19. 17:08. Very tricky, and I wasn’t a huge fan. Loads of clues where you had to spot the answer from some combination of crossing letters, blind inspiration and (occasionally) the definition, then reverse engineer the convoluted wordplay, if you could be bothered, which I mostly couldn’t. So very clever setting but not the most fun to solve.

  20. 36:35
    Solved online so an accurate time for once.

    A great arm-wrestle of a crossword today, with a few unknowns (STEENBOK, QUATRAIN, PRUNELLA, RUCHE) and a few that were right at the back of my filing cabinet (EPHESUS, APERCU, FOCSLE, DEMISEMIQUAVERS).

    My last-in and the only one I was unsure of was QUATRAIN which I constructed from the wordplay.

    A matter of 6 months ago I wouldn’t have been up to the task of finishing this crossword so thanks to the regular bloggers and contributors for their daily toil.

  21. I took 78 minutes (wow!) but looking back I had exactly the same feeling as the blogger, I made it much harder than it was. NHO STEENBOK but got the BO(O)K by thinking of Springboks and then S TEEN BOK became guessable. Other than that, no hard words just very clever clues, which is absolutely how a xword should be. Obviously I need to keep practising 🙂
    Thanks setter (keep them coming!) and blogger

  22. 35:38 – a jolly romp, and a toughie, with more than the usual number of words retrieved from the cobwebby corners. LOI was APERCU, where I could see the required meaning of kitchen but not the definition and couldn’t for the life of me dredge up the word PERCUSSION. The mental attic is a strange place.

  23. 9m 07s – RECORDER, QUATRAIN and SALAMANCA (which took me far too long to spot) were my favourites. DISTAFF the LOI, not knowing that definition, but with the checkers I didn’t think it could be anything else.

  24. Found this a real beast. DNF. Despite fairly rapid progress on most of the top half (1 ac was virtually a write-in), the bottom half defeated me in several places. I contented myself with commenting on the comments. See above.

  25. DNF. Defeated by FOCSLE, which, judging by the comments above, everyone else seems to have heard of and got without much difficulty – with F_C_L_ in place, I plumped for ‘focels’, hoping there might be a platform shoe of that name. Annoying, after grinding out all the rest in two goes.

    APERCU was a hit-and-hope, as I’ve heard of it without knowing what it is and had forgotten kitchen=percussion. That only came once I’d finally got SEMICOLON after seeing house=semi and realising what kind of stop was involved. Like several others I didn’t know PRUNELLA silk, eventually getting it once I had enough checkers, and STEENBOK went in from wordplay and the similarity to springbok. RUCHE was another unknown, or more likely something I’ve forgotten even though it has come up here before.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Crescendo

  26. I really enjoyed the tussle, finding the top half elusive but comparatively swift with the lower almost agonisingly gettable … and with one left went and slung in dorm without thinking. Why I bother –

  27. This reminded me of taking a Maths exam. Feelings of satisfaction and relief on completion, but no particular enjoyment in the process. It was one of those puzzles where too many clues just provided means of checking the answers rather than offering pointers to the solutions. I stopped looking at the clock after one hour, but refused to be beaten.
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  28. Hell’s bells, that was a beast! I started off by shoving QUAVERS into 1a from the tremble bit, then dragged my grade 5 theory up from 40 years ago, with the DEMISE summoned up by death to get the first bit the right way round. I still got nowhere with the danglers , apart from the U after Q at 5d, which eventually led to QUATRAIN. WRITHE was my next one in and allowed me to extricate EBULLIENT from the treacly mix. Down under I was relieved to remember MOKE for ass which quickly led to SMOKE AND MIRRORS which I didn’t bother to parse further. More tooth extraction like plodding eventually left me with 11a to do. I was on the right track for the kitchen, but percussion took an age to emerge, before APERCU rose from the depths. 38:00. Thanks setter and Pip. Not sure whether to have another coffee or a large single malt now!

  29. 38.30, having reached about 25 minutes with an alarmingly sparse grid and unhelpful crossers (of even less help was my inability to parse 1A, nor to remember which way around the DEMI and SEMI went…). Then HOMESPUN suddenly went in, then FORM, then SMOKE AND MIRRORS, and I crawled my way to a finish from there.

    Quite a few tricky parses and/or defs (moke, percussion, daff, FORM and STRATUS among them), but all fair. STEENBOK and FOCSLE half-new to me, and PRUNELLA entirely so. Really liked the appearance of NIMBY – more contemporary-ish references, please!

    Thanks both.

  30. Wow this completely stumped me. Never heard of a demisiquaver, prunella, percussion as a kitchen, steenbok, heavenly layer as a cloud foxed me totally. Excellent puzzle, subtle cluing and disguising. Thanks for the blog explanations Pip, and thx setter you definitely beat me all hands down today.

  31. 40.20 but did the crossword online and not for the first time fat fingers did the damage with stratus becoming stratss. I think I’ll forgive myself.

    Really tough with my LOI apercu which is not a word that frequently enters my conversation. Too many tricky clues to enumerate but it makes finishing all the sweeter.
    Thx setter and blogger.

  32. With Saturday’s and Sunday’s still requiring a couple of answers, this is becoming a depressing week crossword-wise. I simply couldn’t get into the puzzle at all. My first attempt gave DISTAFF, FOC’SLE, RUCHE, TUNIC, and finally CRESCENDO and RECORDER. And I couldn’t break any further without aids. Looking up 1A gave me a few more down clues, but it was obvious I was never going to get enough to provide the necessary crossers to finish, so I gave up and came here for elucidation. PRUNELLA unheard of, but all the others were gettable if you could adjust your mind to that of the setter, which I patently couldn’t. The long times involved do suggest a particularly chewy one, so I don’t feel too bad.

    1. In the same boat, alto_ego: gave up very early on as I looked up a few to give me both a foothold and a glimpse of the setter’s wavelength, then despaired. The few I got are hardly worth mentioning, but I’m happy that I worked out FO’C’SLE, PRUNELLA, PROGNOSIS and FORM, but most of the rest were far too obscure ( or even esoteric) for me to solve. Better luck tomorrow, hopefully!

  33. Stupidly put DORM instead of FORM. The rest went in correctly after much biro-sucking.

    After the Demisemiquaver comes the Hemidemisemiquaver, the Semihemidemisemiquaver, and the Demisemihemidemisemiquaver. It was probably wise (if unromantic) of the Americans to go with ‘thirty-second note’, ‘sixty-fourth note’, etc instead.

  34. What a wonderful puzzle, even if it took me 79 minutes. It was even more wonderful that I managed to complete it, correctly for once, and with all of the wordplay understood more or less (I didn’t know MOKE as an ass, but assumed that could be the case and only SMOKE AND MIRRORS seemed to fit the literal definition). APERCU was my LOI, when I finally biffed it and then remembered which part of the orchestra the kitchen was. Also, this puzzle contains in 1ac the second most delightful word in the English language (well, the British English language) — I was going to say HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER was the most delightful one, but the previous commenter has added a few more examples. But I couldn’t even think of playing notes that short, so they don’t really count.

  35. At first glance I didn’t think I’d make much of this so was quite pleased to give up with only a handful of clues unanswered. Very clever puzzle – and very satisfying when the penny dropped and the answers appeared once I had some crossers.
    I thought I knew most kinds of fabric but have never heard of PRUNELLA and have a good musical knowledge (DEMISEMIQUAVERS was my FOI) but hadn’t heard of the percussion section being referred to as “kitchen”. Should have guessed MISDO but it didn’t look like a real word! And I didn’t get BARGAINER which makes sense now…
    Many thanks again to the setter and those of you who produce the blog and the helpful discussion on this forum.

  36. Not so much a DNF as a DNStart. 8 clues in after two lengthy sessions. Stared and stared but didn’t know what to do with the word play. Not fun.

  37. DNF and didn’t know some of the words which were the answers. Fun but too tough for me on this occasion.

  38. DNF. Gave up after an hour with five of the across clues and two of the downs unsolved. NHO PRUNELLA or APERCU. Many thanks for the blog, which made sense of the ones I could not get.

  39. 33:00. Done a day late as I was out all day yesterday (and most of today). Phew! That was tricky! All correct eventually finishing with SMOKE AND MIRRORS and an unparsed FORM. Lots to enjoy, though. APERCU, SAUNA and ARSON were my favourites. Thank-you Pip and setter.

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