Times 28815 – when January went dry.

Another not-so-tricky but pleasant Wednesday, with a bit of literature and some geography to test our GK. It took me 17 minutes, ending with NEPHEWS and the amusing TOP UP.
On this day in 1920 prohibition began in the USA.

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

1 The estate is run down, people say (7)
DEMESNE – well if people say demense so it sounds like DEMEAN (run down), they must live in a different country from me. I know it’s pronounced demain not demeen. But a homophone must be intended here, or is there another explanation?
5 Register a line, one ignored by enthusiast (7)
ALMANAC – A, L[ine], MANIAC with the I ignored.
9 Material that could be adapted to poet’s lyre (9)
10 Seal dedication? Add a little (3,2)
TOP UP – until I had put in 7d I wanted this to be TIE UP, meaning seal, but then I saw it had to be TOP UP, and remembered baby seals are called pups, so the dedication is “TO PUP”.
11 Tense with highly optimistic hope (6,7)
FUTURE PERFECT – If you want the future to be perfect, you’re certainly pretty optimistic.
13 Gash tree, the outside being dead (8)
LACERATE -ACER a maple tree inside LATE = dead.
15 Woman left to collect son and daughter perhaps (6)
DAMSEL – DAME (woman) insert S for son and add L for left.
17 Was obliged to return after almost perfect seclusion (6)
PURDAH – HAD (was obliged to) reversed, after PUR[E].
19 Spooks: headless horses in race round village boundaries (8)
UNNERVES – horses are RUNNERS, lose the initial R and insert V[illag]E.
22 Range of human action involved at home (8,5)
25 Suspicion online basket has been withdrawn (5)
TRACE – online basket = E-CART; reverse it.
26 Be defensive — the way a single wicket is followed by the rest (9)
STONEWALL – ST (the way) ONE (a single) W (wicket) ALL (the rest).
27 Snubs English bishop wearing frills (7)
REBUFFS – E, B[ishop] inside RUFFS = frills.
28 Footballers getting one draw and a defeat (7)
FAILURE – FA (footballers), I (one) LURE (draw).
1 Foolish to make Pinky or Perky “discontented” (4)
DOPY – DO = make, to get PY, you would have removed the middle letters, or “dis-contented”, pinky or perky.
2 European in Webster’s play setting, cold and evil (7)
MALEFIC – the Webster play being The Duchess of MALFI, insert E for European and add C for cold.
3 Given errand to collect pennies, to be this? (5)
SPENT – SENT (given errand) has P for pennies inside.
4 Fullness of being, about to be limited (8)
ENTIRETY – ENTITY = being, insert RE = about.
5 Sudden power to punch a bully no end (6)
ABRUPT – insert P for power into A BRUT[E].
6 Old Democrat organised procession for head of state? (9)
7 Bulletins about horse in training those my sister gave me? (7)
NEPHEWS – NEWS around PE (training) around H[orse].
8 Take advantage of what Italy and Israel are said to need (10)
CAPITALISE – Italy and Israel are said to need CAPITAL I’S.
12 Space traveller circling orbit extremely eager for a measure of applause (10)
CLAPOMETER – COMET (space traveller) around LAP (orbit) then E[age]R. I think I’d say a clapometer is a measurer of applause, not a measure, but that would be pedantic.
14 With nothing in store, safer bet to cook this? (5,4)
ROAST BEEF – (SAFER BET)* with O inserted.
16 Stop working   to steal (5,3)
KNOCK OFF – double definition.
18 Indistinct muttering right over pub in centre (7)
RHUBARB – R for right, then BAR inside HUB (pub in centre).
20 Lead and uranium atomic team use principally in remote islands (7)
VANUATU – VAN (lead), U (uranium), A T U (initial letters of atomic team use). I went to the Republic of Vanuatu, in the mid nineties, it was rainy, hot and humid, but the seeing the active volcano on Tanna was worth it.
21 Unreasonable influences one found in headquarters (6)
BIASES – BASES (HQs) has I (one) inserted.
23 Anger unknown by a revolutionary Eurasian (5)
AZERI -all reversed; IRE (anger) Z (unknown) A. A person from Azerbaijan. When I was at school it was in Asia and part of the USSR, but it seems now it’s in Eurasia and enters the Eurovision Song Contest. There again, so does Australia. Bonkers world we live in.
24 Opponent eating large ice (4)
FLOE -FOE with L inserted.


84 comments on “Times 28815 – when January went dry.”

  1. I got off to a very slow start and took a while to build up any sort of momentum, so what with that and a couple of less than familiar answers that needed to be constructed from wordplay, I was quite pleased to finish with the clock on 40 minutes.

    SOED has demain as the first pronunciation of DEMESNE with demean as an alternative. Collins has demain as English and demean as American. This didn’t worry me when solving as it’s a word I’ve never had cause to say out loud, but whenever I’ve seen it written down I’ve always thought of it as demezny.

    A spelling that gave me pause for thought was at 1dn where I wasn’t sure of DOPY as a valid alternative to ‘dopey’.

    AZERI defined as Eurasian came up in a QC last December but I needed wordplay to remind myself of the word.

    VANUATU rang no bells at all. It was in a 15×15 in May 2022 but otherwise only in some Jumbos which I may or may not have solved at the time.

    1. Well, ‘esne’, a word that used to show up in the NYT from time to time, is pronounced ezny.

      1. In Glasgow, ‘isnae’ means ‘isn’t’. The name Walt Disney often elicits the response “Walt disnae what?”

    2. I think that all UK based cruciverbalists know VANUATU and its good pal TUVALU from the quiz show Pointless.

        1. Clearly you contribute to the 100 people given 100 seconds to come up with countries contestants have heard of but you haven’t!

    3. Keats rhymes demesne with seen, been and serene (On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer).

      1. Perhaps someone could write a poem called On Sitting Down to Read ‘On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again’ Again…

  2. 31m 53s
    I think we’ve had both FUTURE PERFECT and the Duchess of MALFI recently.

  3. 13:38
    I’m a demeener, myself, but the meen/mane distinction doesn’t seem to be geographical. I don’t have any notes on this one. I hesitated over DOPY, because ‘Do PY’ felt unsatisfactory. As Martin notes, we had FUTURE PERFECT very recently, maybe in a QC; I recall pointing out that English has no future tense; and perfect is not a tense in English, it’s an aspect. NHO CLAPOMETER, which I probably biffed. I liked TOP UP.

  4. 34.56, LOI PURDAH. I’m never sure where the line is drawn on foreign words/GK but I reckon this is pushing it a bit. But generally a fun puzzle and thank you Piquet, I never worked out that headless horses were unners. I know that this is a UK-centric crossword, but is VANUATU (a couple of hours from Sydney) really that remote? It’s one of my favourite places, I have eaten fleng fokkis at L’Houstalet and spent many happy hours at the Bar of the Seven Seas on the Vila waterfront. Until about 40 years ago it was the New Hebrides, so someone must have looked at (say) Espiritu Santo and said gosh, that looks exactly like (say) Islay. Or maybe the volcano on Tanna was what did it…

    1. PURDAH is well known in the UK as elections approach because the Civil Service goes into it – i.e. they make no pronouncements, and may be working on policies from a yet-to-be-elected government.

      1. In my time at the Department for Transport (the 2000s), we were told NOT to use the word “purdah” because of its religious origins. Nobody took any notice.

      2. The Chancellor of the Exchequer goes into purdah in the run-up to the Budget, or he used to in the days when everything wasn’t leaked in advance

      1. The only Sidney I know was the bloke on Carry-On movies… Sid James? With the wrinkly face. Was he remote?

  5. 26.18 but one letter wrong,
    mistyped somewhere. I’m using the crossword club section of the times phone app which tells me my time and number of errors, but not which 0ne. People here report pink squares when they submit with an error, so, is there a different way to submit?

    1. On the iPhone, if you dismiss the summary screen (with the grey x in the top right corner), you’ll see the completed grid. Any pink squares will appear there.

      (On an iPad both the summary screen and the grid appear side-by-side in the same view, so it’s more obvious.)

      1. Thank you, that works on Samsung phone too. It was not a typo – KNICK OFF was wrong.

  6. … As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
    Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
    (The Windhover. Any excuse)

    After 25 mins pre-brekker, I was left struggling with Damsel. Why not think of Dame sooner? And why not damsel for “daughter perhaps”? Who knows.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  7. 17’04”, delayed by putting in ‘clock off’. UNNERVES LOI.

    ‘Webster was much possessed by death / And saw the skull beneath the skin.’

    Thanks pip and setter.

    1. ‘And nameless somethings underground/lean backward with a lipless grin’. Always makes me think of the Cardinal’s “when I look into the fish-ponds in my garden/ Methinks I see a thing armed with a rake /That seems to strike at me”, one of his more terrifying images.

  8. 33:51

    I found this pretty tough in places but probably just through looking through the wrong end of the telescope e.g. LACERATE where I thought the TE came from the ‘outside’ of ‘the’ – forgotten about ACER as a tree though if you’d asked what a Maple is also known as, I would have remembered. I’d also bunged in PROSELYTE rather than POLYESTER (which I might have seen if I had written out the letters) thinking it might be something that could be converted. TAG ON instead of TOP UP was another incorrect biff. Having said that, had no idea who Webster was or what they wrote so had to take a guess once all checkers were in. Also had a long pause at the end for LOI BIASES.

    Thanks P and setter

  9. 15:20
    NHO AZERI, but managed to guess the likeliest unknown unknown.
    LOI ABRUPT – I was wondering if it might be a musical term ending in O, but luckily a trawl through the alphabet took me straight to BRUT(E).

  10. 30 minutes, with LOI NEPHEWS. COD to CLAPOMETER. For you, BW from Lancashire, Opportunity Knocks. I liked CAPITALISE and STONEWALL, the antidote to Bazball, too. I’ve never really known how to pronounce DEMESNE, so I take no side. In my head, I say ‘demain’ or even ‘demesney’. Enjoyable. Thank you Pip and setter.

  11. 14:03. DEMESNE is a crosswordland word for me and I’ve never knowingly heard it spoken. I think I’d assumed that the last syllable sounded like the French “mon”. Not even close apparently.

    After sorting that one out I got the strangely elusive first word in KNOCK OFF, and that was Wednesday done.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  12. Just under 30 minutes, the last 10 of which were spent on DEMESNE and MALEFIC. I initially thought the former had to be pronounced demain, but with no alternatives forthcoming I decided the demean pronunciation must also be acceptable. Not knowing the Webster play didn’t help, but in the end I assumed Malfi was the setting as MALEFIC looked like a reasonable word for evil.

    No real problems otherwise, though I associate RHUBARB with talking nonsense rather than indistinct muttering.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Mountain chain
    LOI Malefic
    COD Roast beef

    1. RHUBARB is allegedly the word luvvies use when they’re producing background harumphing and such on the stage.

      1. Mate of mine got a gig as an extra on Neighbours, once. In a cafe, talking in the background. Said rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb, and it stuck out like dogs’ balls, apparently. They nearly sacked him, so on the second take he started summarising his university thesis. Which sounded more like people talking. Hooray! Money for a poor student.

  13. Quite liked this one, slightly harder than average I thought, but no unknowns.
    I discover that I have not the faintest idea how to pronounce demesne, never actually having ssaid the word so far as I recall. Surprised some haven’t heard of Vanuatu, which has been vociferous in the climate change debates I believe. Obviously not viewers of “Pointless!”

  14. 47 minutes. Like Jack, slow to get going, not helped by the (to me) strange pronunciation of DEMESNE and not seeing what was going on with DOPY. I mis-parsed it as DO for “ditto” which doesn’t quite work as the conjunction is ‘or’, not “and”.

    Encouraging to see my memory hasn’t completely given up the ghost as I recognised the ‘Webster’s play’ from a Dean Mayer ST puzzle just before Christmas. Same thoughts about PURDAH as LindsayO and I considered PROSELYTE for the same reasons as Mike.

  15. 9:57

    Everything seemed to fall into place nicely.

    I didn’t know the play, but MALFI seemed a likely enough location for one, and as I’ve never really considered how one might pronounce DEMESNE I was happy to take it on trust as a DEMEAN soundee-likee.

    I was going to add something along the lines of “happy memories of Pinky and Perky”, but I don’t recall them being particular favourites and looking back their “singing” was just annoying.

    Happier memories of Hughie Green and his clapometer. If you can’t spell his name, just put “acrobat” and we’ll know who you mean.

  16. 22:42
    No major problems but a slight pause in the South-East because of AZERI and VANUATU. I liked TOP UP and UNNERVES.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter.

  17. As seems to be the case a lot recently, I got stuck on the last two DEMESNE & ENTIRETY. Had to look the first one up. Hmmm.

    I liked the two long clues.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  18. Just under 20 minutes for this one, with DAMSEL taking the longest time: just as well D is near the top of an alphabet trawl. I suppose all damsels are somebody’s daughter.
    My O level grade 5 Latin is perfectly happy with all sorts of tenses. I will have finished this comment contentedly. The future’s perfect.
    While I know where the dramatic Duchess was, I did spend time wondering what you call the place where either a lexicographer or a podcaster is at home.

  19. You are on good form today Z. A little win on the ..UNNERS?
    I still had the estate blank after 52 mins. Otherwise a slow start like others and pleased to tease out the last few.

    Thanks P

  20. 19:34
    I started slowly in the top half but the southern reaches went in on first reading. On first pass I missed 9A which I think would have unlocked the top half earlier.

    My time would have been slower had the previously unknown Duchess of Malfi not featured recently, with FUTURE PERFECT also going in quite quickly thanks to it’s recent appearance. DEMESNE was last in as I needed all the checkers to tease out the spelling.

    An entertaining if not overly complicated solve so thanks to both.

  21. One of those in the zone I like best at the moment, that push me over my average, but not fiendishly hard. Yesterday was similar, though I wandered off without pausing and ended up with a completion time > 2hours, so submitted off leaderboard.

    PURDAH LOI, biffed CLAPOMETER, would pronounce DEMESNE as demain, nearly failed with KNICK OFF, but caught it in time.


  22. 12.03 waiting for check in at Heathrow. Maybe it’s that I’m on holiday for a few days but I enjoyed this more than usual. Remembered VANUATU from playing geography quizzes on Sporcle. Never heard of Webster but I’d heard of the play.

    I liked CLAPOMETER, MOUNTAIN CHAIN, and MOTORCADE, but NEPHEWS and TOP UP were my favourites for the smiles as the pennies dropped.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  23. I found this fairly easy finishing in 19:51. Would have been quicker but my last two in, DAMSEL and UNNERVES, took me several minutes.
    I remembered the clapometer straight away!
    I also thought demesne was pronounced de-main.

    Thanks setter and blogger

  24. DEMESNE had to be the answer, but I couldn’t understand why. My thoughts were with domain and domaine, certainly not demean. The demean pronunciation of demesne isn’t even given under US English in Collins, where it’s still ‘domain’. The clue only seems to work if DEMESNE is pronounced ‘demean’. 46 minutes, with no major problems, just steady but slow solutions that after the event seemed obvious and led me to wonder why I took so long. It’s surely ‘horses in race’, not just ‘horses’ at 19ac.

        1. The full OED also gives both, and in the “it speaks to you” place puts the “main” one first.
          I have enough trouble remembering how to spell it (always wrong) without the added worry of mispronounciation (usually wrong).

          1. The Chambers app has a handy thing where you touch the phonetic guide and it tells you that the vowel in DEMESNE is pronounced like the one in ‘say’ or ‘see’.

  25. 8:40. Plain sailing, no unknowns for me.
    I’ve never had reason to pronounce DEMESNE but if called to I would have said ‘demean’. The dictionaries give both options.
    You wait ages for a Duchess of Malfi…

  26. Well Wiktionary offers only Demeen as the pronunciation (specifically in Southern English), so clearly they think it is fully anglicised. I think if I were to use it (unlikely) I would say demeen.
    Fun puzzle. Lots of repeats of recent clues speeded it up a lot.

  27. I don’t suppose anyone reads Keats any more, still less has to learn to recite it at school, but in his sonnet “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” he rhymes “demesne” with “serene”.

    Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

  28. 50′ Not on wavelength, certainly in the NW corner. Took far too long to get the straightforward POLYESTER which would have unlocked things much earlier. Eventually biffed DEMESNE, assuming a homophone, and knowing that homophones generally catch me out (though at least no rhotics here). Then mulled over UNNERVES and LOI PURDAH, for which I nearly biffed the almost passable “pariah” until (having had a few years in the civil service) the answer and parsing came to me. Thanks Piquet and setter.

  29. Nice puzzle, no problems. Started with the final clue, FLOE, but lost the flow after a few in that corner and went to the top, and then my last two in were in the SE too.

  30. I was sailing along quite nicely in about thirty minutes with just three to get in the nw corner. I managed to dredge up MALEFIC from some deep recess of my mind, but DOPY and DEMESNE were a while coming, before eventually crossing the line in 41.14. I can thank my interest in genealogy for getting DEMESNE which crops up all the time in ancient wills, and possibly modern ones as well. Having only read the word and never having heard it spoken, the parsing escaped me. Like Boltonwanderer I can thank Pointless for the often quoted VANUATU.

    1. I back constructed malefic from Maleficent, the wonderfully depicted baddie in the old Disney sleeping Beauty (and the vaguely aware of recent -2019-eponymous movie from the same stable).
      I thought this was going to be an un-Wednesday ish stinker, but thank the setter for a good workout. Also thanks to blogger for unparsed r(unner).

  31. Somewhat sluggish 41 minutes here, and I had to dredge up LOI DEMESNE from the dimmer reaches of my memory. Agree with the blogger that the pronunciation seemed ropey, but Chambers supports it, humph.

    COD to the lovely TOP UP. Here’s to the baby seals!

  32. I was held up at the end for at least 10 minutes by the crossing pair KNOCK OFF (a tentative CLOCK OFF didn’t help) and UNNERVES in the SE and then ENTIRETY, MALEFIC and LOI, DEMESNE in the NW, where I had no idea about the pronunciation (demezny if pushed) so had to biff it with help from the crossers. I did then remember the definition from previous puzzles. FOI was the –PY at 1d, but it took until almost the end to come up with the DO for it. A sluggish 35:39. Thanks setter and Pip.

  33. 23 mins but with not one but 2 typos! I must check in future. Pretty straightforward, nothing really held me up.

  34. Liked it. A little bit tricky, but no major holdups. Knew demesne from crosswords past, but would have pronounced it domain – not quite demean. Homophones are rarely perfect, though, so no worries. Liked TRACE, for both definition and word-play.

  35. 37:30 – quite tricky. I thought of DEMESNE as soon as I saw estate but being in the ai side of the ee/ai divide I couldn’t see the homophone.

  36. DNF. I had MALIFIC, which I should have spotted on proof-reading before submitting but did not. This breaks my run of error-free solves, so I am back to 10 correct out of 11.
    I am also in the demain camp for DEMESNE.

  37. I thought this fairly routine but still took 24 minutes to complete it, even though a lot of the answers were staring me in the face. Was dubious about the DEMESNE homophone, but TB’s quotation from Keats has convinced me. VANUATU posed no problem as my niece went there for part of her medical training.
    FOI – TOP UP
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  38. Took ages for the penny to drop for DOPY even after I’d got it. Discontented is right. Too many interruptions to record a time, but slow…. It seemed to me I would have finished it sooner, future pretty imperfect really.

  39. DNF today as I had to cheat to unlock the NW corner. I’d heard of the word DEMESNE but did not know its true meaning or its obvious relation to domain so whenever I’ve encountered it I’ve read it as ezny so I would not have got that in a thousand years. Not helped by somehow trying to fit NOPY into 1d and maturity into 4d.
    Struggled for a long time trying to make words from urdlers and hasers for our orses- unners was a good bit of misdirection.

    Enjoyable puzzle – thx p and setter

  40. This was a very nice puzzle – took me 45 minutes. I nearly finished with Snick Off until I suddenly saw Knock Off. I particularly liked Clapometer and Entirety. I’m another who has always read “demain” rather “demene”, I don’t think I’ve ever (knowingly) heard the word spoken out loud. Similarly, when I was young, I used to read Albeit as “albite” rather than Al-be-it – I understood the meaning but not the pronunciation – I remember being embarrassed when finally corrected at school. One reason why I love the Times crossword (and this blog) is that I am still learning all the time. I’ll stop rambling now.

  41. I’d considered Kate, Mary, Tara, Cass, Lass, Hana, Sara before finally thinking of dame. Likewise I tried to think of a mountain chain containing the letters IUMNATON before realising it was MOUNTAIN. Sometimes you can try too hard. 42 minutes. Enjoyable puzzle I thought.

  42. Not even close to the wave-length today; a lot of the synonyms were just not what I thought of first, or second, and another who thought hard about whether Dopey could go without its E. It was frustrating as I’d seen SNITCH was under 100, and so knew rather than just suspected that I was for the “please DO try to keep up” award today.

  43. I wasn’t much held up on the top half, being a demeen pronouncer, and then made progress in the bottom half, but got stuck on my last 2 – KNOCK OFF and UNNERVES. Could not get CLOCK OFF out of my head, even though I was sure it wasn’t the answer. As soon as I realised, however, I saw UNNERVES and was able to parse it.

  44. 21.20 but can’t say I ever felt totally confident of finishing. Not sure whether dopy was brilliant or misleading. I thought there was an e in dopey but maybe that was Disney inspired.

    Lots of good, challenging clues almanac, nephews, capitalise to name but a few.

    Content to have finished. Thx setter and blogger.

  45. 33.29 I’m really pleased with my time. The puzzle is just below average on the snitch but that has been the upper end of my ability. The whole NE went straight in. Having read andyf’s comment* on Monday I didn’t worry about the pronunciation of DEMESNE. PURDAH and UNNERVES are the kind of cryptic clues where a year ago I could have spent an hour trying to work back from a guessed answer. DOPY and CLAPOMETER might have been biffed from checkers back then but today they went in cold. Progress, albeit slow, is definitely happening. Thanks piquet.

    * https://timesforthetimes.co.uk/times-28813-remembering-james-agee#comment-399118

  46. Came to this quite late so am pleased to finish all correct even though some NHO’s. Quite a few answers which made me smile.

  47. Failed on 1A, even with the checkers- I would never have got that in a month of Sundays. That’s a particular problem with homophones- if you don’t know the word you’re trying to get it’s extremely difficult to solve.
    Shame really but I had enjoyed the rest of the puzzle.

Comments are closed.