Times 28791 – chewy but not indigestible.

The second of the TCC semi-final puzzles, and I didn’t find it as hard as I’d expected, although there were two rather clumsy unknown words I had to construct and guess were correct. Nevertheless it took me longer than the prescribed 20 minutes.

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

1 Dance held by retired secretary-general (6)
GYRATE – reversed hidden. I can dance without gyrating, but I suppose most dancing involves that.
4 Sphere of influence restricted by very large sweetener (8)
SORBITOL – ORBIT (sphere of influence) inside SO (=very), L.
10 Youngsters oddly shunned nudist clubs? (5,4)
MINOR SUIT – MINORS are youngsters, U I T alternate letter of NUDIST, clubs are a minor suit as in bridge (along with diamonds).
11 Staff behind alpha male in capital (5)
AMMAN – A(alpha) M(male) MAN (staff). Capital of Jordan.
12 Misgivings of backer should start to subside after Thursday (6,8)
SECOND THOUGHTS – SECOND (=backer), TH[ursday], OUGHT (should), S[ubside].
14 Squiffy setter’s besetting sin (5)
MERRY – MY (the setter’s) around ERR = sin.
16 Cocktail of beer (without head), gin and mixer (9)
18 Stole hat to hide wig (9)
LIBERATED – LID (hat) with BERATE (wig, tell off) inside. Someone can explain how stole means liberated.
20 Recalled case of patchy crop growth (5)
POLYP – All reversed (recalled); P[atch]Y, LOP = crop.
21 A US scientist of shockingly sham quality (14)
FACTITIOUSNESS – (A US SCIENTIST OF)*. Not a word I knew, but deduced from the fodder and the remaining spaces.
25 Notice sailors on front of orlop deck (5)
ADORN – AD (notice) O (front of orlop) RN (sailors).
26 Dinky car, a true original (9)
27 Swapping leaders, get criminal boss (3,5)
BIG DADDY – DIG BADDY would mean “get criminal”.
28 Cactus in grave you could pick up? (6)
CEREUS – sounds like serious, grave. Fortunately I knew about these cacti because I’d seen them in Arizona and had found out what they were called .
1 My male ego’s challenged in a playful way (10)
GAMESOMELY – (MY MALE EGOS)*. I thought it must be an anagram, but it took me ages to make this rather clumsy word I didn’t know but it sounded like something to do with “in a playful way”.
2 King of Carthage ignoring power of mysterious symbols (5)
RUNIC – R for king, [P]UNIC, as the Punic people were “of Carthage”.
3 They heartlessly oversaw state repression (7)
TYRANNY – T[he])Y, RAN, NY (state).
5 Unfashionable coiffure and cap (5)
OUTDO – OUT (unfashionable), DO (hairdo). A chestnut, methinks.
6 Asian pop artist overcome by narcotic (7)
BHANGRA – I am not conversant with Asian pop music, but guessed it was a combination of BHANG (cannabis you chew) and RA for artist.
7 Note in verse dismissing Conservative sporting event (4,5)
TIME TRIAL – TI (musical note), METRI[C]AL  in verse less C.
8 Last of several tattoos for couple (4)
LINK – [severa]L, INK = tattoos.
9 Coach ticket leads to unexpected trouble and strain (4,1,3)
BUST A GUT – BUS (coach), TAG (ticket) U T (initial letters of unexpected trouble).
13 Go to welcome new court officials and clerks (10)
PENPUSHERS – PEP (“go”) with N for new inserted, then USHERS are court officials.
15 Manages toupee-clad bachelor hairdresser? (4,5)
RUBS ALONG – RUG (toupée) has B (bachelor) SALON inserted. Than being a hairdresser establishment.
17 Inept don messed up conclusion (8)
19 Go off on sabbath leaving clothes round building (7)
ROTUNDA – ROT (go off) [S]UNDA[Y] = sunday without clothes.
20 Old man’s wise way (7)
PASSAGE – PA’S (old man’s) SAGE = wise.
22 Swollen belly regularly expelled wind (5)
TUMID – TUM (belly), [w]I [n] D.
23 English lord in court, close to fire escape (5)
ELUDE – E[nglish], LUD as in M’Lud in court, E the end of fire.
24 Wedge book upright (4)
JAMB – JAM = wedge, B for book. The upright part of a door frame, as opposed to the lintel.


54 comments on “Times 28791 – chewy but not indigestible.”

  1. 30:51

    I didn’t make it to the semi-final so completed this on the train home. Having said that, I didn’t remember too much about it other than the cactus which I’d never heard of before October but certainly caused some debate at the event. Given my time today, this puzzle alone would have prevented me from troubling the timekeepers looking for potential finalists.

  2. Got there in medium time.

    “Liberated” can be a euphemism for “stole”, playfully suggesting it wasn’t such a misdeed.

  3. DNF after nearly an hour
    Never got CEREUS, and was about to say NHO when I just recalled the night-blooming cereus, which I didn’t know was a cactus. Definitely NHO BHANGRA, and DNK SORBITOL (took me a long time to drop V for ‘very’ and remember ‘so’). DNK wig=BERATE. Biffed 2D THOUGHTS & PENPUSHERS, parsed post-submission.

  4. Nice one! Nothing was biffed (but I wasn’t in a hurry). Unlike Pip, I hadn’t heard of the cactus. Also new to me were RUBS ALONG and (of course) BHANGRA. My LOI was FACTITIOUSNESS, a word that I’ve actually used before.

  5. Cereus and Bhangra did for me.
    I wondered if 7d should have read “on” in place of “in”.
    As expected in the Championships, some very smooth surfaces.

  6. Failed in 40-something minutes. Couldn’t get the forgotten BHANGRA, made more difficult by not knowing BHANG. I couldn’t parse TIME TRIAL and had to take a punt on CEREUS as the most likely “serious” homophone.

    GAMESOMELY sounds like a word with more than a little FACTITIOUSNESS to it, but of course it’s found in all the right places, or at least in 2/3 of them.

  7. Surprised to find I was all correct with a couple of guesses, AKA ‘following the wordplay’, but had to look up FACTITIOUSNESS, where I had failed to spot the anagrammaticalness of the clue.

    All of which meant I submitted offline and cunningly protected my NITCH.

  8. 45 minutes. Quite a lot of tricky bits here but I enjoyed solving it at my leisure. Unknowns were SORBITOL, FACTITIOUSNESS , (you cannot be) CEREUS, GAMESOMELY. Possibly add to that BHANGRA as I have difficulty remembering some of these specialist music genres so I don’t know if I have met it before, but it was fortunate I came across BHANG as slang for cannabis in a puzzle elsewhere very recently so I knew that bit of the answer. I’d heard of the drug before that, but didn’t know it was spelt with an H. It was also a piece of luck that JAMB came up here on Monday.

  9. Gave up just under the hour with the blanks in BHANGRA unfilled. Was pleased and surprised to see CEREUS, SORBITOL and TUMID come up green. Biffed GYRATE while missing the hidden and entered GAMESOMELY and FACTITIOUSNESS with a shrug. Thanks to piquet.

  10. Not sure whether this was too hard or I was too soft, but I had to seek help for BHANGRA and CEREUS.

    Good challenge, thanks setter and Pip.

  11. 11:30. I didn’t recognise this crossword until I got to the final clue, the cactus, then thought to myself that I’d heard that somewhere else recently. As at the championship I didn’t know how to spell it so looked it up (I wasn’t actually competing in the semi-final).
    Someone has pointed out on the club site that GRENADINE is not a cocktail, but rather a syrup that goes in a cocktail. Indeed, I recently heard it excellently clued thus: “Pineapple rings in syrup”.

  12. Not with a Bhang but a whimper
    (The Hollow Men, Eliot)

    40 mins pre-brekker left the cactus homophone.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  13. 50 minutes with some heroic assumptions turning out right, but with SEREUS for the unknown cactus. Damn! That’s an obscure piece of knowledge to miss out on in a semi-final. LOI Big Daddy is a wrestler to me. I seem to remember a Brummie joke about what is wrote under ROTUNDA and the answer being New Street, but I never verified. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this in exam conditions. It wasn’t that much fun sat on a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee. Thank you Pip for the explanations.

  14. Gave up on the hour with, like others it would seem, the VERY NHO BHANGRA. It would have helped I’d I’d heard of the drug but I hadn’t. Before that, TUMID, also an unknown, had held me up in the south. I did manage to figure out the homophone though.

    Some enjoyable moments though but generally very tough. To knock these things out in the times that the speedsters do is nothing short of miraculous. Chapeau.

    Thanks pip and setter.

    1. In this last of meeting places
      We grope together
      And avoid speech
      Gathered on this beach of this tumid river
      –from T.S. Eliot, ‘The Hollow Men’

  15. 38:19
    I didn’t exactly feel on-message but I gradually worked my way through and with fingers crossed entered my last CEREUS.

    Otherwise I’d heard of BHANGRA and thanks to the checkers I now know how to spell it, but the drug element was lost on me. FACTITIOUSNESS looked doubtful for a while but had to be, and SORBITOL was unknown but the cluing was generous.

    After yesterday’s stroll around the park this felt much more like a trek up Yr Wyddfa, or Mount Snowdon as you types over the dyke will have it.

    1. Yes.. irritating, that Carnedd Ugain next door (or Garnedd, or Crib-y-Ddysgl) doesn’t have a pronounceable alternative name, despite being the second highest mountain in Wales.

  16. 38 minutes so won’t be troubling the TCC for a while! Knew Cereus immediately as I collected cacti as a child. NHO BHANGRA but knew BHANG so was able to biff that one. There were a couple of pairs that held me up, SORBITOL and TIME TRIAL, and MINOR SUIT (I assume that’s to do with Bridge, which I don’t play) and TYRANNY. Even more annoyingly, I had the SUIT part of minor suit and metri(c)al part of time trial and was trying every note except TI. I might have scraped in under 30 minutes if I’d been a bit more awake on those.
    I agree with Rosé’s comment about the speedsters completely!
    Thanks setter and blogger 🙂

  17. Did nearly all the hard word in 19′ before not getting CEREUS, nho.


    Thanks pip and setter.

  18. Had to choose between SEREUS and CEREUS – the latter looked more plant-like to me, so went with that. Otherwise, plenty of biffs, so thanks piquet for explaining TIME TRIAL, BIG DADDY, BUST A GUT and RUBS ALONG.

    Back to earth with a bump after yesterday’s PB, but pleased to get there in the end, even if it was a fluke – seems a bit off that you had to choose between an S and a C, which both give the homophone, but only one of which is a cactus.


  19. It was easy to anticipate the complaints today, and my (you cannot be) CEREUS comment has already been made. Bhang is, I think, rather old fashioned (if not Sanskrit) for the Weed, but then the pseudonyms multiply almost daily. Fortunately, I’m hep enough to be down with the BHANGRA beat. It’s a guess, but isn’t SORBITOL the reason sugar free gum is called Orbit?
    My 25 minute time might have been improved had I not biffed TYRANTS (there was a “they” at the beginning of the clue) making MERRY impossible, and JUST A TIC at 9 only because strain reminded me of the tic bit.
    Apart from the Shirley the wrestler, I know BIG DADDY as the plantation owner in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: are there other bosses?
    I’d have struggled!

    1. Jess ‘Big Daddy’ Unruh was for years the Speaker of the California State Assembly and a major power in CA politics. He it was who said “Money is the mother’s milk of politics”, and “There are times when one must rise above principle”.

  20. DNF, back in OWL (One Wrong Letter) club with ‘bhangla’ rather than BHANGRA. Should have got the ‘ra’ from ‘artist’, but I’d never heard of bhang.

    Am I the only one who tried to put ‘fictitiousness’ for 21a before seeing that we needed an A in it? FACTITIOUSNESS was new to me, so it went in with no great confidence.

    Got lucky with my CEREUS guess; only got SORBITOL from wordplay; didn’t parse TIME TRIAL; haven’t come across TUMID before; wig=berate only rang the vaguest of bells for LIBERATED; and stupidly tried to make an anagram of ‘car a true’ for 26a, not noticing it was only 8 letters, before the M from TUMID set me straight.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Rotunda

    1. You are not alone – I also started with “Fictitiousness” which made 15d “Rubs Along” tricky. Eventually realised that I had an “i” too many in the anagram.
      Luckily I opted for “Cereus” rather than “Sereus”

  21. About 55′ and on the cusp of giving up. I spent a long time trying to work facetiousness into 21ac, until I realised I didn’t have the right letters (or the right amount!). A more careful look at the fodder allowed me to invent FACTITIOUSNESS. I similarly invented GAMESOMELY assuming “game” must be in there somewhere. I quite enjoy BHANGRA music but I’d never heard of “bhang’ (which I have to say is a surprise..). But still got held up on the SW corner until BIG DADDY came just in time to save me from a DNF. thanks Piquet and setter.

  22. Another SEREUS here – an ambiguous homophone for a type of cactus? Hard to see that as reasonable GK. 17/18 minutes other than that.

    Sour grapes aside, thanks both.

  23. Difficult, but finally solved. Second last in was the hidden 1a. With the crossers G-R-T-, I thought it might be something to do with Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the UN, and thought of GYRATE but couldn’t parse it along these lines. Eventually I saw the relatively simple reverse hidden! BHANGRA was nho but pieced together successfully, and entered last in with fingers crossed.
    Over 40 minutes.

  24. 6:14, which is certainly a lot quicker than the first time. For some reason I remembered a lot more of this one than last week’s.
    CEREUS – which held me up for absolutely ages on the day – is the kind of clue I would complain about vociferously under normal circumstances but I’m inclined to think this sort of thing is fair enough at this level of the competition. They’ve got to put in something that might catch Magoo out! It stretched my ‘that looks most like a word’ skills to their full extent but I concluded in the end that CEREUS was marginally more likely than SEREUS, or indeed XEREUS. It wouldn’t have made much difference after my stupid errors on the first puzzle.
    ‘In modern Britain BHANGRA is far better qualified as acceptable general knowledge than Beerbohm bloody Tree.’ Discuss.

  25. 60’04

    I found that once GYRATE and (COD) BIG DADDY fell into place, everything went more smoothly.

    LOI SORBITOL which I gnashed my teeth over for a good ten minutes I think.

  26. Several words that were at the limits of my knowledge (indeed CEREUS was beyond them and I agree that it’s bad of them when it might be S or C at the beginning and one just doesn’t know), as they seem to have been for others. I didn’t help myself by carelessly having grenadier (which seemed to me might well be a cocktail) not GRENADINE, and when eventually I realised and the correct letter was there I had to use aids for PENPUSHER and entered it with a shrug and only parsed it later, silly really because it wasn’t that difficult. 46 minutes.

  27. Failed to parse 7d TIME TRIAL, but it had to be. Didn’t recognise 1d GAMESOMELY, but again it was obviously right. Surprised by 13d PENPUSHERS, as I always am by informal words. Had to work hard to get 15d RUBS ALONG. Was’t entirely sure that TUMID meant swollen. I will not be using the word at 21a, FACTITIOUSNESS, any time soon.

  28. 25:46 – with several at the end trying to think of a pop artist to go inside a “b something something a” narcotic. Cereus I knew from somewhere in my childhood, when I went through a phase of being obsessively interested in their ilk.

  29. With my mind on other things – like clearing up the house – I came back to this throughout the morning at intervals, so have no idea how long it would take if I were concentrating. Safe to say plenty too long for a competition! The SW corner held me up at the end, with ELUDE, PENPUSHERS and CEREUS unsolved. Initially I was looking for a ‘Lord’ to put in C -T, then to put between E and UP. It took ages for the LUD bit to hit me. Finally, I needed a spell check for the cactus, NHO. Otherwise, not a terribly difficult solve. I don’t mind clunky words like GAMESOMELY and FACTITIOUSNESS coming up in crosswords, so long as they are properly clued, and anyone who listens to World music will know BHANGRA, if not bhang. I knew SORBITOL as a sweetener – I often look at produce labels to see what muck they are putting into things when they boast of reduced sugar content! Liked BIG DADDY!

  30. Enjoyable fare but I would have been furious if I’d done the competition and encountered CEREUS- without knowing the cactus the clue doesn’t really help differentiate between CEREUS, CEREAS, SEREUS and SEREAS. I went for one of the wrong options.

    1. Incidentally I misparsed BHANGRA as BANG for pop, around H (narcotic) + RA. Raised an eyebrow but ploughed on.

  31. DNF. I finished this in a little over 14 minutes but alas plumped for sereus instead of the unknown cereus. My ignorance of cacti aside, I found this a very enjoyable, smooth solve, with plenty of satisfying working-out required.

  32. Pleased to have worked out unknowns SORTBITAL, CEREUS and FACTITIOUSNESS – POLYP was a stretch too. Dnf finally on BHANGRA. Knew the artist would be RA but didn’t know the slang for narcotic or the Asian music. Thanks for the blog.

  33. 39:57 but I had to look up CEREUS so submitted off leaderboard. Had heard of Bhang, probably from an old The Saint story in an old paperback still on my bookshelf, but unread for many a decade! I had SECOND THOUGHTS about FICTITIOUSNESS when I double checked the anagrist. Thanks setter and Pip.

  34. About 15 minutes, so plenty of time left for next week’s stinker 😉. Decided that CEREUS looked more like a plant than the alternatives. I seem to recall that LIBERATING in that sense originated with squaddies in WWII as a euphemism for looting.

  35. 1hr 26 but taken away by a phone call for twenty minutes of that. Almost gave up once or twice but the excellent cluing kept me engrossed. MINOR SUIT and LIBERATED in particular.

    Grenadine and sparkling water is a very popular drink here. Its an attractive colour and always puts me in mind of those large pear-shaped vases, full of coloured liquid, that you used to see in chemists’ windows.

    Thaks to Pip and the setter.

  36. Wasn’t even close with CEREUS and (slap forehead) missed the bl….y hidden. Otherwise not too tricky

  37. Enjoyed the challenge, but after approx an hour was defeated by BHANGRA and CEREUS. Maybe I should have got the former after seeing the parsing, but the latter was always going to defeat me.

  38. I managed more of this than I’d expected at first glance. Defeated by NHOs TUMID and also BHANGRA (I’ve lived a sheltered life 🙂 )
    Both GAMESOMELY and FACTITIOUSNESS seemed a bit forced to fit the definitions and couldn’t parse TIME TRIAL. But thought JAMB and SORBITOL were clever! Thanks for the brain workout.

  39. SEREUS and SORBITAL so two pink squares. And it all started so well in the top left. Speaking of BHANGRA, the British embassy QBP in Paris this year featured a Bhangra band, replacing the military outfits that have done the stuff since time immemorial. 20’55”.

  40. Having looked at all the acrosses first, I had TOP CHIEF for the boss at 27 ac. Wondered if it was a thing, or green paint, but COP THIEF is “get criminal” so I was sure it was right! Until it couldn’t be.

  41. Ah well: far too many blanks to say I “completed” this! Thought it was going to be ok when SECOND THOUGHTS went in quickly, but, not to be. Out of my league, with several unknowns BHANGRA, CEREUS, RUBS ALONG, AMMAN etc. and convoluted cluing . Look forward to a friendlier crossword next week.

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