Times 28799 – not sickness should detain me


I’m glad for another on the gentler side for Friday, as I’m fighting a cold and not in the mood for thinking too hard. Lots of witty clues, but I really liked 17ac.

Definitions underlined.

1 One may put on coat and bra, thus fixed with pin (10)
PAINTBRUSH – anagram of BRA THUS and PIN.
7 Deal stimulant behind officer’s back (4)
COPE – E (ecstasy, stimulant) after COP (officer). I thought there was more to this.
9 Annoying nitwit coming between Henry and Heather (8)
HASSLING – ASS (nitwit) between H (Henry) and LING (heather).
10 Give one’s assent to tour India with Mr Hunter (6)
NIMROD – NOD (give one’s assent), around I (India) + MR. A biblical hunter, known only to me from Elgar.
11 Call on virtuous person, making a bit of a bow (6)
STRING – ST (saint, virtuous person) + RING (call).
13 Fascinatingly alien embraces old monarch in public (8)
EXOTERIC – EXOTIC (fascinatingly alien) containing ER (old monarch). I had the definition at the wrong end and tried to fit ‘esoteric’ in for too long.
14 Cook some rhubarb or tripe (12)
FIDDLESTICKS – FIDDLE (cook) + STICKS (some rhubarb).
17 Spread bet a punter organised, accepting punt with odds slashed (6,6)
PEANUT BUTTER – anagram of BET A PUNTER, containing even letters (odds slashed) of pUnT.
20 Individuals doing a Sean Connery impression making complaint (8)
SHINGLES – sounds like “singles” (individuals) said in a Sean Connery accent.
21 Jogged in the altogether inspiring start of glorious day (6)
NUDGED – NUDE (in the altogether), containing the first of Glorious + D (day).
22 Shoot up, perhaps flying around speed of light (6)
INJECT – IN JET (perhaps flying) containing C (speed of light).
23 This man’s admitted to an attempt to con the ref that’s very tacky (8)
ADHESIVE – HE’S (this man’s) contained by A DIVE (an attempt to con the ref).
25 What a disdainful person did in argument (4)
SPAT – double definition.
26 Fan strangely hesitant with us (10)
ENTHUSIAST – anagram of HESITANT and US.
2 A club with disorder on the rise, in shambles (8)
ABATTOIR – A + BAT (club) + RIOT (disorder) reversed.
3 Finally down one’s nice spirit (3)
NIS – last of dowN + I’S (one’s). A complete guess for me.
4 Noise of bouncing plane after European disembarks (5)
BOING – BOeING (plane) after the ‘e’ (European) is deleted.
5 A Spanish chap covering you, we hear, in ointment (7)
UNGUENT – UN (‘a’ in Spanish) + GENT (chap) containing U (“you”).
6 Crooked mob with cash bagging a new vehicle (6,3)
HANSOM CAB – anagram of MOB + CASH, containing A + N (new).
7 Made good, funny anecdotes about Westminster type (11)
COMPENSATED – anagram of ANECDOTES containing MP (Westminster type).
8 Inclined to go on run round lake seen in pictures (6)
PROLIX – R (run) + O (round) + L (lake), all in PIX (pictures).
12 During depression, entertaining journo turning up to write for paper (11)
INDEPENDENT – IN (during) + DENT (depression), containing ED (journo) reversed and PEN (write).
15 Copy flipping posh character’s short clothing adornment (9)
EPAULETTE – APE (copy) reversed + U (posh) + LETTEr (character) missing its last.
16 Army corps is in the army, say, or part of the army (8)
RESERVES – RE (Royal Engineers, army corps) + SERVES (is in the army, say).
18 Leading way with e.g. drama in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme? (7)
UPSTART – UP (leading) + ST (street, way) + ART (e.g. drama). I DNK the ballet, but easily guessable.
19 Don’t get downhearted in exercise! (4,2)
CHIN UP – double definition.
21 Ex-PM‘s personnel caught in knees-up periodically (5)
NEHRU – HR (human resources, personnel) contained by alternate letters from kNeEs-Up.
24 Parking away from bypass, go downhill (3)
SKI – ‘p’ (parking) deleted from SKIp (bypass).

71 comments on “Times 28799 – not sickness should detain me”

  1. Whee! This was fun! Let me say that BOING is a fantastic word—it sounds just like what it means. And I’m the world’s biggest fan of PEANUT BUTTER. Really liked PROLIX, and the reference to the Molière comédie-ballet—I got that one late, though, and also feel I should have seen FIDDLESTICKS before all the checkers were in. LOI was EXOTERIC, which I nearly picked up by the wrong end (“Fascinatingly alien,” ESOTERIC), but parsing turned it around. NIS was, indeed, “fascinatingly alien.”

  2. 33 minutes. Easy for a Friday, missing my target because of two intersecting answers, PROLIX and EXOTERIC, both of which I knew but they needed to be excavated from the recesses of my brain. NIS was new to me, I think, but it’s not the easiest of words to research in the archive so I can’t be sure.

  3. A fail. Fell into the ESOTERIC trap; NHO EXOTERIC but should have been able to work it out from wordplay. Didn’t quite make up for it, but yes, the onomatopoeic BOING was very good.

  4. Couldn’t believe NIS was a word, even though I am a Scrabble player and ought to know my three-letter words. Last in INJECT, since I always forget what the speed of light is.

    Wasted some time trying to shoehorn Greta Thunberg into 11 across.

    37 minutes.

  5. I’m posting here to let people know that, after discussion with a few people, I’ve decided with effect from next Monday to alternate the posting times of my blogs. So, I will be posting at around 10am UK time on the 1st, then at around 1.30am UK time on the 15th, and so on.

    The reason, of course, is to let a different group of people comment first, which, I have been persuaded, will provide a bit of variety and freshen the conversation up. I can’t imagine anyone being particularly bothered by this, but I wanted to let regulars know, so they don’t think I’ve forgotten.

    I could post a stickie, but reckon this should do the trick.

    1. Bit radical for you, U. Will the other daily bloggers be taking a similar approach?

      Are you on weekly duty now rather than fortnightly? I’m an irregular visitor here these days so may have missed this development.

    2. Instinctively, if you post later, I imagine there will be fewer comments.

      Not sure I really buy the logic either – this is just a comments section after all and would have thought the key was that people are able to comment on a crossword at a time that suits them rather than to try to create some sort of curated feed

      1. As a west-coast Australian poster who generally sees and comments on the blog at a civilised 7 or 8 or 9AM local time – just after midnight UK – I’d be strongly in favour of delaying the blog to say 6AM UK time *every* day. Except Saturday of course: it must be straight after midnight, as it’s not time critical like the daily puzzles.
        It’s a UK puzzle, with more UK respondents than others. Let us Aussies and the Yanks wait until a decent time before being able to comment. Many posters comment “same queries as others”. Delaying the blog gives more of the UK posters time to say their bit, without being reduced to not posting because all they could say was “same as all the other comments”.

        1. When it’s 6 a.m. in the UK, it is only 11 over here, and I will have only been up an hour and will probably have written my opening salvo, at least, beforehand. I’d certainly prefer that to its going live at 3 p.m. NYC time!

          1. As Guy now knows, his time difference calculations are incorrect. I’m with Isla – publish breakfast time in UK for daily puzzles, less important for weekend puzzles.

            1. It seems to me that most of the fun of the site is the back and forth chit chat, and it also seems to me as if most of that happens in the mid-UK morning — maybe 7.30am to 11am.

              I’d hate to see the meat of the discussion dwindle away because a late morning opening leads to all the usual UK morning contributors being busy elsewhere by 10.30 or 11, and so just skipping it.

              Couldn’t you write your blog and set a timer to post automatically at, say, 7am London time?

            1. If you are puzzled by my getting the time difference backward, that has been mentioned already. Otherwise, I’ll just say…

    3. Couldn’t make it a bit earlier could you, U? say 9am? I suspect there is quite a big breakfast brigade that may have moved on to other stuff by 10.
      If I were going to fiddle with the blog starting times, I would have all of them put up at 8am Maidstone time 🙂

      1. After I crafted my reply (above) I see that you said just what I was trying to get to more succintly and more on point.

  6. If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
    Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
    While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
    And the minutes, the hours, the days.
    (Bloody Men, Wendy COPE)

    25 mins pre-brekker. After guessing it was Nis and entering Boing, I thought, ‘O dear, one of those,” but no, it was nice: clever and fun.
    Ta setter and W

  7. 14:09. Had to trust the wordplay for the NHO-but-seems-like-it-should-exist EXOTERIC and the NHO-but-what-else-could-it-be NIS.

    Good puzzle, thanks William and setter.

  8. 30:17. 14ac was my last one in too! I knew the answer at 29 minutes and something but the time to type it in took me over my 30 minute target. I still had a loooong way to go at 25 minutes but a late burst of speed almost got me back on track. Two stupid mistakes slowed me down earlier, putting COUP for 7ac and ASCENT for 22ac.
    Nice puzzle and just at my level 🙂
    Thanks a lot setter and William.
    PS Aristotle composed esoteric works, for use in his school, and exoteric works, for public consumption. His exoteric works are almost entirely lost.

  9. That NE corner almost did for me. I was thrown by “fascinatingly” in 13, which looked as if it might be the definition, or even an anagram indicator, and which I don’t now think adds much if anything to alien to produce exotic. PROLIX was just clever, the wordplay again looking as if it was going somewhere else. There are too many words in 7a: I accept that the surface sort of makes sense but that “back” and the ‘s on officer suggests, as william says, rather more work to be done in solving.
    Otherwise engaging enough for a Friday: NIS does indeed turn up in Mephisto, though more usually as an archaism for ain’t.

  10. 25mins
    I am on Christmas-festivities-time so have no idea what day of the week it is and this didn’t help by being decidedly unFridayish with my fastest time since (feels like) Advent started. I saw NIS straight away but couldn’t enter it until a crosser convinced me it was a thing, so FOI SKI and last one in STRING after giving up on pi being part of the answer. Gentle but fun.

    Not sure the change in blogging schedule will work. I am one of those mentioned who do the crossword at breakfast, scroll through the blog with pleasure and then move on with my day. I’m unlikely to go back and see what’s happening later. I agree the same people blog early but they tend to be some of the more experienced solvers and their insights are often wise and witty and set the tone for us stragglers who don’t always feel the need to chip in.

    Thanks William.

  11. Am quite surprised that more people didn’t fall into the Heffalump trap at 13ac. I did.
    17ac was a beaut, with such admirable surface reading, surpassing imho the neat 8dn.
    And also good to see some effort being made to avoid the more obvious crosswordese, with uses of “stimulant”, “A Spanish”, “Westminster type” etc….
    Many thanks to setter and early HNY to one and all

  12. Quite pleased with my 31 mins, being on the recovery side of Covid or similar. As above I got stuck with COPE and PROLIX, and had to get help

    1. Ditto – just tested negative after 10 days of COVID and had to resort to aids to get Prolix which then enabled me to get Cope.

  13. 25:36
    Good puzzle. NIS was biffed. I Just about managed to avoid ESOTERIC having failed to parse it (which doesn’t always stop me). The NE was a big hold up. I took “Officer’s back” to be CO and I then struggled a long time before PROLIX (COD) finally came to mind. I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to use it as my swearword of choice.

    Thanks to William and the setter.

  14. All was going fine and I was on for a sub-30 finish, then PROLIX, COPE, and EXOTERIC held me up for half an hour and eventually I gave up on them and revealed the answers. PROLIX is indeed good, but I never knew that E was a stimulant and can’t really see how deal = cope. In a list containing EXOTERIC I couldn’t pick it out as the answer, since ‘in public’ doesn’t seem to really equate to any of the Chambers or Collins definitions. In the blog I think nice needs to be part of the definition in the NIS clue, otherwise it’s unaccounted for.

    1. It was ‘officer’s back’ (surely an R?!) that slowed me for COPE, along with the niggling feeling that COKE is a stimulant. The definition seems fine though – “I can’t deal with this”/”I can’t cope with this”

      1. The key word is ‘with’, which doesn’t appear in the clue, nor is there any reason why it shouldn’t. The clue would still make sense, or even better sense with it included. Without it it’s just another poor clue.

  15. 21.47 – would and should have been much quicker but for the NE, where COPE, PROLIX, and EXOTERIC all detained me. I’d never heard of the last one, but my stubborn insistence on parsing prevented me from going for the alluring ESOTERIC (which could also, just about, be ‘fascinatingly alien’).

    I can’t abide PEANUT BUTTER, although liked the clue, and having been in York over Christmas, the abattoir/shambles connection was in my mind. BOING was a delight.

    Thanks both.

    PS. I like the blogging shcedule idea. I quite often only get to the Times in my lunch break, so it’d be nice not to be *quite* so far down the list on occasion.

  16. 35′, some quite straightforward stuff for a Friday the only NHO being the gettable NIS. However did spend a long time on the NE and, like others, found EXOTERIC a toughie, almost biffing esoteric. FIDDLESTICKS needed all the crossers. I’m sure I’ve seen NIMROD and NEHRU in quite recent puzzles (maybe QC). Thanks William and setter

  17. 19:58. I found that really hard! I got particularly stuck in the NE on COPE, EXOTERIC and PROLIX.
    Wasted some time trying to shoehorn Elon Musk into 11 across.

              1. As you (and ulaca) know, my political views are more aligned with her project than Musk’s, to say the least. She is however pretty annoying.
                The important difference is that being annoying is one of her only weapons (in the tradition of protest movements) whereas Musk has a million squillion dollars and a massive social media platform at hand to advance his own agenda.

  18. 28:56

    Towards the end, I was left with a single answer to get in three of the quadrants plus most of the tougher NE sector. Managed to conjure up INJECT, ABATTOIR (luckily/unluckily live within a mile of one so it’s never too far from my mind) and RESERVES before coming up with COPE, COMPENSATED, NIMROD, PROLIX (my COD) and finally EXOTERIC after some thought over whether it might be ESOTERIC. Much enjoyed, but for the record, I loathe PEANUT BUTTER – surely an emanation from the Devil’s bottom…

    1. Seldom have I ever read a more accurate statement than your last sentence. I will adopt it for personal use, many thanks 🙂

  19. 22:40 but couldn’t parse 13ac and plumped for the ESO prefix instead of EXO (which, as far as I am aware, I have never come across). I also didn’t know that SHAMBLES was originally an abattoir even though I know York fairly well.

  20. Flew through most of this but then got held up by Prolix, Exoteric and Abattoir.

    Eventually all 3 went in with fingers crossed. Having been to York many times over the years I had no idea of the origin of the street name shambles.

    Great puzzle, thanks blogger and setter and a happy new year to you all

    1. And a happy new year to you grumpyoldmag.
      “Slothed” thru this and finally gave up after 5 days with 4 unsolved ;-). Still enjoyed it though.

  21. 30:48
    As others, similarly held up by COPE-PROLIX-EXOTERIC.

    A few unknowns (NIS, PROLIX, UNGUENT) but the cluing and crossers were helpful.

    A very enjoyable puzzle so thanks to the setter, and to william for the blog.

  22. I agree with Mike Harper that peanut butter is disgusting.
    I struggled with this one as I was usually unsure that the answers I got were fully justified, for instance 16d RESERVES seemed a bit loose, 7a COPE looked as though there might be other answers, but the clever PROLIX put me straight. I didn’t really like it and almost threw in the towel.

  23. DNF, back in OWL club with ‘esoteric’ – I knew it didn’t parse, but I’ve never heard of EXOTERIC and didn’t manage to see fascinatingly alien=exotic.

    Tried to justify the (I assume) non-existent ‘prolic’ for 8d before remember ‘pix’ as a plural; never heard of NIS but the wordplay was kind; didn’t know that NIMROD is a hunter; had no idea about the ballet for UPSTART; and thought of ‘unction’ for 5d before getting UNGUENT.

    A slight pity that the clue for PAINTBRUSH requires the coat and bra to be put on in that order, which I imagine is rather tricky.

    Is NEHRU the only non-UK Prime Minister who comes up in these crosswords?

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Independent

  24. DNF due to ABBATOIR

    This meaning of shambles was a new one to me and smelt rather unfair. Not only a plural standing in for a singular, but an obscure one at that. I was never going to get near it.

    I guess that Christmas spirit only runs so far!

    1. Re shambles/ABBATOIR, those from oop North and the right side of the Pennines would know this with reference to a very famous street in the city of York, but otherwise I’d agree it’s a bit of a toughie.

  25. 31:52 but couldn’t get past ESOTERIC. NHO EXOTERIC unfortunately. COPE and PROLIX took a while. PAINTBRUSH was FOI. PULL UP held up SHINGLES until INJECT put me right. NHO NIS. Thanks setter and William.

    1. (Guest appearance, I stopped doing the 15×15 daily when I decided to prioritise an extra 40 mins in bed before work). After a couple of months off, it I felt like I was a newbie again – but, thankfully, solving “match-fitness” returns a lot faster than learning from scratch). A few days in and it’s beginning to feel do-able.

      Anyway commenting by way of reply here because my report matches yours almost exactly – 31:50, fail due to LOI ESOTERIC, same COPE, PROLIX, PAINTBRUSH.

      PS – I’ve defected from Somali food – my fave local eaterie is now a Libyan place where they serve shakshuka *to die for*.

      1. Nice one Denise! I strolled past the SHAMBLES in York on Tuesday on my way to Bab Tooma, a Syrian restaurant where the family and I had a rather spendid selection of Arabic delicacies. Here’s their menu https://babtooma.co.uk/menu/ 🙂

          1. Wow – looks truly mouthwatering …haven’t been to york for decades, but I now have two reasons (to go there hungry)

      2. Nice to see you back, albeit temporarily. I used to enjoy the ‘breakfast blog’, even though I don’t eat it myself (breakfast, I mean, not Somali…).

        1. I have one eye on retirement from gainful employment, will definitely be a regular again when that happens…
          …or maybe when daylight hours lengthen up a bit, and I feel more inclined to be an early riser .

          Just like Arnie – I’ll be back!

  26. I found most of this fairly straightforward, until the last 6 or so, including COPE and PROLIX. FIDDLESTICKS held me up for the longest time, looking for a word for ‘a cook’, maybe. It’s always trickier when you don’t have the starter letter. LOI was EXOTERIC, where I almost settled for the more familiar word, except that it stubbornly refused to parse the ‘in public’ bit. Anyone familiar with Elgar’s Enigma variations wouldn’t have a problem with NIMROD and novels set in medieval period make references to shambles, so the only complete unknown was NIS, which did sort of parse. A relief after yesterday’s ‘shambles’ from my point of view.

  27. I must be one of the few people who’ve heard of NIS, it was my second one in but I put PULL UP instead of CHIN UP to begin with which slowed me down a bit, I’m surprised no one else seems to have done that. I like peanut butter btw, unlike some strange people here!

  28. 47:19
    NHO NIS, needed Chambers to explain that it was some sort of Scandanavian brownie.
    L2I were INJECT and EPAULETTE, the former not helped by having misspelled INDEPENDENT with an A for the last E.
    I nearly fell in the ESOTERIC trap – on another day I might have biffed it rather than check the parsing.

  29. Like others, I took Nis at the cryptic’s direction, then headed for the dictionary post solve. And I thought PE was some kind of banned horse-race drug, stuck on to Commanding Officer. Lucky for me that got to the right answer.

    I’m never a fan of product placement, but damned if I can think of another way to clue Boing, and Boing is very much worth having in the grid. Thks, wm

  30. Peanut butter is as polarising as marmite/vegemite, it would seem.
    Thank you setter and blogger for a fun puzzle and elucidation of in jet for flying perhaps.

  31. NHO NIS, and didn’t understand why no one else seems to have biffed in NES (as I did – not getting the parsing at all!). Yes, the usuals held me up rather more than most here: trying the wrong words to anagram in PAINTBRUSH and the wrong definition in FIDDLESTICKS – so not a very good showing from me today. Happy to get PROLIX and NIMROD, the delightful PEANUT BUTTER (of which I’m not fond), and NEHRU.

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