Times 28801 – Happy New Year!

A slight tweak for the new year, with the blog being posted at 8am UK-time, following a recent e-conclave of bloggers. A few reasons for this – actually  a reversion to the days when I started blogging 11 years ago, when I did the job at the end of the working day in Hong Kong.

18:13 for the puzzle. My biggest problem was trying to remember how 25a was spelt, not having lived in the UK for 35 years and not, when I was a denizen thereof, having patronised this street on a regular basis – if ever. No cryptic to trust, since it was a cryptic defintion, so had to trust to my memory. Never a banker, but it came up trumps on this occasion.

1 Obsequious? No city chaps can be so! (11)
7 Caligula’s so cruel, almost to the end (3)
SIC – SIC[k] think of sick humour; ‘sic’ is Latin for thus or so. Sometimes the Classical background comes in handy.
9 Timetable for Mass (9)
PROGRAMME – if you are ‘for a metric mass’, a crossword setter might say you are ‘pro gramme’
10 Run off with reactionary East European (5)
ELOPE – E POLE reversed
11 Tree from Mediterranean island, I hear (7)
CYPRESS – sounds like Cyprus – to some, to some…
12 Best fashion show on TV? (3,4)
TOP GEAR – TOP (best) GEAR (fashion, or up-to-date clothes)
13 Soldier beginning to goad weakest in group (5)
GRUNT – G RUNT; specifically, originally at any rate, a soldier who endured the horrors of Vietnam
15 Wearing expensive coat I dined, provoking anger (9)
INFURIATE – IN FUR (wearing expensive clothes) I ATE
17 Order unit to intercept arms (9)
19 Road round Corsica perhaps making one annoyed (5)
RILED – ILE (French island when circumflexed) in RD
20 About to join expert in boat (7)
CORACLE – C (about) ORACLE (expert – ‘Ask the oracle,’ as I always say to the wife)
22 Boy’s inspired idea — to visit Santa here? (7)
LAPLAND – PLAN in (inspired by) LAD
24 Biblical mother-in-law I complain about (5)
NAOMI – I MOAN reversed; Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth, the great-grandmother of David (shepherd-cum-king)
25 Way in which great strides are made? (6,3)
SAVILE ROW – strides here are trousers; street in London off Regent Street, known for its upmarket purveyors of clobber
27 Type to cheat, billions going missing (3)
ILK – [b]ILK
28 Support scruffy modern teens (11)
1 Concession made by idiot after change of heart (3)
SOP – sap changes to SOP
2 Arrested in putsch, king has cause to breathe with difficulty (5)
3 Polish administrator putting down resistance (7)
PERFECT – prefect sees its R lowered
4 You might have to pay for this  confession (9)
ADMISSION – double definition
5 Little covered in Times post (5)
6 Increasingly tawdry stunt involving ambassador (7)
7 Delay, putting nothing unusual in stable (9)
STONEWALL –  O NEW in STALL (not delay here – that’s the drefinition – but the place where animals reside)
8 Being sensible, reached deal after arrangement (5-6)
CLEAR-HEADED – REACHED DEAL*; you can include ‘being’ as part of the literal, if you wish
11 Constant congestion unsettled the authorities (11)
14 Drove dangerously, as funeral director did? (9)
UNDERTOOK – I parse this as a literal followed by wordplay, since ‘undertook’ cannot be literally what an undertaker does
16 Kindly butcher providing this for glutton? (4-5)
FREE-LIVER – not familiar with this expression, but then again I am such an abstemious type…
18 Possible Belfast firm that is preserving singular cooking method (7)
NICOISE – NI CO followed by S in IE (‘that is preserving singular’) ; I’d never say no to a good Niçoise salad (or salade Niçoise, if you like it a bit Frencher)
19 University, particular one associated with Republican defeat (7)
REPULSE -U LSE (London School of Economics) after REP
21 Relaxed, being pressed to dismiss His Majesty (5)
EASED – [cr]EASED; one meaning of ‘press’ is ‘to squeeze or compress so as to alter in shape or form’, so I reckon that it was is being referred to
23 Get on with some scallywag, re-employed (5)
AGREE – hidden
26 Feeble cook keeling over, losing face (3)
WET – [s]TEW reversed (keeling over)

45 comments on “Times 28801 – Happy New Year!”

  1. 31 minutes for this with FREE LIVER as my LOI being responsible for taking me over my target half-hour as it required an alphabet trawl lasting a good 5 minutes. I’ve heard the expression before but hadn’t realised that it could relate specifically to gluttony. Collins has it exclusively as an Americanism, but SOED doesn’t qualify it as such.

    RILED was clever and was the cause of my other major delay as I pondered the significance of Corsica whilst trying come up with the answer.

    Not sure I understand the quandary over the spelling at 25ac described by our blogger in his intro. I also considered whether it was SAVILE ROW or or SAVILLE ROW, but only one of them fitted the spaces available.

  2. NHO the TV show, LOI.
    FREE LIVER was new to me too.
    Last one parsed, though, was CORACLE.

        1. I watch very little TV. I don’t have cable. The only streaming service I have is Netflix, but that show could be available there and I still wouldn’t know unless someone told me.

  3. 7:34. A gentle introduction to the year. Delayed only by my LOI ORDINANCE taking a while to spot I’d spelt COGNOSCENTI wrong. Thanks U and setter.

    1. Ha, same here! I had 17A beginning with an E! I can’t imagine ever writing the word like that, but I feel it’s harder to be aware of spelling when filling in the grid, particularly with down clues.

  4. DNF, defeated by STONEWALL – I got the stall bit, but didn’t equate ‘unusual’ with ‘new’. Instead I invented ‘stowerall’, hoping that ‘wer’ might mean unusual.

    Didn’t know bilk as cheat for ILK, and hadn’t heard of the soldier meaning of GRUNT, but fairly straightforward otherwise. FREE-LIVER also new to me, but the checkers were a big help.

    COD Cognoscenti

    Thanks setter and blogger, and Happy New Year everyone!

  5. My New Year’s Resolution : ” I shall carefully check all puzzles for typos before pressing submit”. In December practically a third of my submissions had pink squares and it’s become ridiculous.

    My SNITCH rating will undoubtedly be diminished…..

    A new category in my summary, hopefully most days, will be EOD where E = Earworm. The relevant piece of lyric will be quoted.

    TIME 8:51

    EOD “End of the Season” by the Kinks (“I get no kicks walking down SAVILE ROW, now Labour’s in I’ve got no place to go”)

  6. 16.41, but I wasn’t rushing. I wanted to be sure of CORACLE because I had assumed expert was ace, and my first shot was PINNACE. I couldn’t think of any other filler for the crossers (turns out there is CAROCHE, but it’s no boat, I doubt it even floats) and submitted with crossed fingers, which makes handling the mouse tricky.
    I essayed ROTTEN ROW first, though why great strides was odd. Strides are Australian aren’t they? Are they allowed in proper tailors?
    Hopeful New Year everyone! I’m off to think about how I’m going to fit in an MCS and a Jumbo in a Monday timeframe. Might have to leave out the Quickie.

  7. Did this with the worst hangover I’ve had for over a year (as a former problem drinker who now indulges rarely) with the feeling it was a dead easy puzzle, and I was making rather heavy weather of it. So I was rushing by the end when I entered POI SAVILLE ROW then deleted the trailing E when I found I had too many letters. Skipped the typo-check where I’m pretty sure I would have picked it up – I do know the spelling. 20:42 fail – looks like the time was actually OK for a somewhat rusty part-timer, just a shortfall of due diligence.

    [Edit to remove off-colour gag, it was lowering the tone too much]

  8. I just took 32 minutes but that includes boarding time for the plane I just got on, so in fairness to myself I’m counting it as inside my 30 minute target 😉
    LOI was prefect / perfect which for some reason I was slow with. As already said, a nice steady solve.
    Thanks setter and blogger, and welcome to 2024 🙂

  9. 17 minutes. Didn’t know BILK for ‘cheat’ and wasn’t 100% confident about the spelling of SAVILE but otherwise not too difficult a start to the New Year. Like SteveB, I was also slow to get PERFECT, not thinking of a PREFECT as an ‘administrator’.

    Happy New Year to everyone.

  10. 15:08 .
    Very gentle. Might have been close to a PB but I got stuck on FREE LIVER which I’d neve hear of and REPULSE whch baffled me for some time; I’ve only ever heard the ULSE referred to as the LSE.

    COD SAVILE ROW for bringing to mind the Piglets hit Johnny Reggae – “in his two-tone tonic strides”

    Thanks to Ulaca and the setter and a happy new year to everyone.

  11. 21 minutes on this pleasant puzzle, LOI and COD FREE LIVER. The cognoscenti know plenty and Naomi wasn’t ruthless. Thank you U and setter.

  12. DNF as had not noticed I hadn’t completed 19d R_P_L_E which I only realised as I read the answer in the blog. It was a bit tricky as REP not usual for Republican and my wife certainly only ever called it LSE, not U-LSE where she went in the early 70s. And repulse not exactly = defeat. So BOTHER! I don’t know if I would have got it. However my cheating machine has only 1 solution so I would have finished but perhaps with aids.

  13. 9:02

    Like our blogger I was slowed down by doubts about a spelling, in my case COGNOSCENTI, although it really isn’t that difficult.

    CORACLE came easily to mind as I recently saw a YouTube clip of the guy who used to use one to fish footballs out of the River Severn when a wayward clearance went over one of the stands. It might even have been linked from here.

  14. 35 minutes, with REPULSE entered without understanding as I did so. It told me that I was correct so all I had to do was parse it, which I took a while to do, having thought for a while it was R for Republican then U for university. REPULSE has always struck me as an odd word, looking like a back-formation from repulsion; repel was no doubt at some point perfectly adequate but they may have become slightly different in meaning now. The anagram in 1ac is very easy but I’m ashamed to say that it took me a while.

  15. About 25′ after a lie-in then picking up my car from outside the pub… A couple of biffs; NHO FREE-LIVER (after an initial biff of free-lunch in first pass), didn’t see the “so” for SIC, but it was Latin so in it went. LOI CROUP, which I glazed at for a while. A guid new year, thanks Ulaca and setter.

  16. 23:13 – with much pondering of 16d at the end, trying to make free/feed lover work. I hadn’t heard of FREE LIVER, but it was eminently guessable from the generous crossers and kind cryptic so I should have got there faster.

  17. 7:47. No major problems today in spite of being very far from 8dn, but the NHO FREE-LIVER took a little while. Many people would not consider a gift of liver particularly kind.

  18. 23 mins. A few hiccups including forgetting that Caligula spoke Latin. NHO BILK either.

  19. Done in two sessions so no time to report, but estimated at about 40 minutes. Only held up to any extent by ne corner where STONEWALL and finally SIC took a longish time to solve. I really should have done better with 7ac where I failed for a long time to see that Caligula was a pointer towards language rather than a specific individual. I couldn’t get John Hurt’s evil representation of Caligula in I Claudius out of my head.

  20. A reasonably gentle start to the year, with a 29 minute solve. It was good to have some old friends in, such as SYCOPHANTIC and ORDINANCE, to counter NHOs FREE-LIVER and (in a military sense) GRUNT. No doubt things will get harder.
    COD – UNDERTOOK (memories of an out-of-control hearse in a film of one of the Joe Orton plays).
    Thanks and HNY to ulaca and other contributors.

  21. Despite not retiring until 3am and freely imbibing over the course of the evening, I awoke at 11am fresh and ready to face the New Year, which I trust will prove Happy, Healthy and Prosperous for you all. I began with a TWEET and finished with PROGRAMME, having taken great strides to clear the STONEWALL. I needed the crossers to get the unfamiliar FREE LIVER. My 20:32 was insufficiently rapid to gain entry to the Leaderboard’s top 100, so no SNITCH appearance today. Serves me right for the tardy emergence from slumber! Thanks setter and U.

  22. I thought 21d was a bit mean, having to translate HM into CR then remove it from a synonym for pressed and come up with something that could mean relaxed? What a work out in just one clue.
    I also toyed with a strange spelling of SAVILE but fortunately saw sense. Surely a kind butcher must be FREE RANGE? When I saw ‘University’ 7 letters beginning with ‘R’ I thought my alma mater was having its first outing of 2024 but no.

    Thanks U and HNY all

  23. I noticed a couple clever traps for trying to work out words from partial crossers (stall = stable, not part of delay; ace, or possibly pro, not figuring in coracle); that’s two up to you, setter. A couple more points to you, at least vs me, for several definitions which, while accurate, are tangential to my usual usage. Like others, I waited for all the crossers, then needed pencil and paper to get all the bits of Cognoscenti into the right boxes.
    Best wishes for a good New Year to everyone.

  24. There is a slight tweak in my own timing today too. Where did this morning go? Today is not the right day to do an assessment of the Reform.

    I thought this was a good meaty Monday puzzle to start the New Year. I enjoyed it, but needed 34 minutes, so I found it harder than it really was. Finished in the north east with SIC and STONEWALL, but delayed on the way by eg ILK, PERFECT, REPULSE and even WET. COD NICOISE for the way it is pronounced unlike the sum of the parts.

    Thanks for the blog and Happy New Year to all

  25. I liked this, and the 8am blog start as well. Hope it catches on.
    With the Row, you just need to remember only one L ..

    Ulaca, weird things have happened to your underlining at 22, 24, 25ac. 25 is an &lit, the others aren’t.

  26. 22:55

    Gentle start to the year though if you had asked me to spell SYCOPHANTIC, I might have ummed and erred over whether is started with SYCO or PSYCHO – glad there weren’t enough letters for the latter.

    Shrug for the Caligula clue – no idea that SIC means ‘so or thus’ in Latin. NHO BILK either. Another educational year beckons…

    Thanks Ulaca and setter

    1. A sukos is a fig, so the word means showing the fig. What that signified is unknown.

  27. A pretty gentle start to the year, with no unknowns except bilk, but the only option once COGNOSCENTI went in. LOI PERFECT, which I left in order to concentrate on a jigsaw puzzle, and got immediately on returning, so not finished until this evening. Haven’t yet looked at the Jumbo – that will be for another day… Probably targeted fairly accurately for the state of the majority today, although my lie-in owed more to staying up until midnight than the quantity of alcohol imbibed! I’m not being holier than thou – I definitely didn’t stint myself – but I could have left the party happily at 10.30 were it not for the friends we were giving a lift to…

  28. Today’s SNITCH data

    I was delighted to see myself in the Snitch list today but, at the same time, astonished. By the time I submitted this afternoon, my time was only good enough to put me at a hundred and twenty something on the leaderboard. This would normally rule out a Snitch appearance.

    I did quote my time in my post (above) but it was well buried in the text. Could the Snitchbots have picked it up from there? and, if so, is this something new?

    1. Yes, if you’re a reference or tracked solver and I don’t have a time from the leaderboard, I insert one that you’ve listed in the blog as your solving time. It won’t count in the SNITCH calculations (even for reference solvers), but will be recorded for your monthly average, etc. (And yet, picking the times up from the blog has been around for some time, but I’ve only just introduced this feature to backfill otherwise empty times.)

      Glad that you’re delighted 🙂

      1. Excellent. Thank you. The SNITCH never fails to impress. We will be in for a shock though, if we spend ages on a puzzle, and then come here and talk about it, in the belief that it’s too far down the leaderboard to affect our stats! Ha! This can only improve the data quality

  29. Very easy start to the year, taking 28 minutes. There were no unknowns and nothing that couldn’t be sorted out quickle. For 16dn, I started off with FOOD LOVER until ORDINANCE scotched that. FREE LOVER as a replacement didn’t seem to fit the wordplay well, so I did eventually get to FREE LIVER, my LOI. Happy New Year all!

  30. 20.20 but delays in the SE, till I took a punt on free liver which opened up savile row. Also in the NE where my inadequate Latin found me thinking the answer was hic until I realised a stall was also a stable. LOI stonewall.

    Feeling good with myself, 100% record in 2024.

    Happy New Year blogger and setter ( and anyone else reading).

  31. 16:16

    New Year resolution (again!) is to do the puzzle each day and post my time here. Looks like I’ve just made the cut.

    COD: PROGRAMME. I thought Mass = gramme was cleverly disguised.

    HNY to all here.

  32. Again enjoyed this, as most was within my scope ( the NHOs like bILK and REPULSE for defeat were generously clued) so I trundled along quite happily (no time of course – necessary outing in between). Favourites were COGNOSCENTI, UNDERTOOK and TWEET, but COD to SAVILE ROW.

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