Times 28833 – variations on a theme.

This was a good one, full of unusual words and looking like it was going to be a pangram, with all those Js, Qs and Zs, but I can’t see a V so it’s not.  EDIT as johninterred points out below, I missed the V in preview and it is a pangram.
I had to take the wordplay on trust for 27a DITZY, my only unknown word. Some trains of thought going on here, with ‘baptismal’ and ‘font’, and ‘Bakewell’ and ‘tartlet’, but not really a theme, unless a plethora of Zs constitutes a theme.

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

1 Lambasted delinquent youth about skin condition (7)
TRASHED – TED (delinquent youth, some would say) with RASH inside.
5 Rudimentary airline? That’s not my fault! (5)
BASIC – BA (an airline) SIC (Latin, meaning “unedited, as written, although it might look odd it’s not my error”).
9 Writer briefly pens a flyer (5)
QUAIL – QUIL[L} has A inserted. Lots of them around our area, and they are so stupid, they stand in the road waiting to be run over instead of being “flyers”.
10 Tasteless dwelling from 1900 soon occupied by Spanish agreement (9)
MCMANSION – MCM (Roman numerals for 1900), ANON (soon), insert SI (Spanish for yes). A large modern house not in keeping with its more tasteful surroundings; Collins says the derivation is from McDonald’s restaurants being ubiquitous and tasteless, which seems a bit harsh to me.
11 Ready to cook a starter of duck after lying down (7)
APRONED – A, PRONE (lying down), D[uck].
12 Go around Australia with a philosopher (7)
SPINOZA – SPIN (go around), OZ, A.
13 Playing gig, we munch sticky food (7,3)
CHEWING GUM – (GIG WE MUNCH)*. Is it really food?
15 Auntie‘s book on queen, perhaps (4)
BEEB – BEE (queen) B[ook].
18 Stand up again when hearing wedding, say (4)
RITE – it sounds like RIGHT, if something has fallen over you can “right” it.
20 Monster yak caught in pan (10)
JABBERWOCK – JABBER (yak), WOK (pan), insert C for caught. Fortunately I’m a big L.C. fan, I can recite most of Jabberwocky and he cropped up in Monday’s cryptic as a pseudonym.
23 Red team’s in reversing vehicle (7),
MARXIST – TRAM is our vehicle, reverse it (MART) and inset XI’S for team’s.
24 Trailer to run over piano initially (7)
PREVIEW – P (piano), REVIEW (run over).
25 In America, check a pipe for crack producing pool of water? (9)
BILLABONG – BILL (called a check in USA), A, BONG (pipe for smoking, usually through water).
26 Song close to baptismal font (5)
ARIAL – ARIA, [baptisma]L.
27 Twilight Zone at first featured in homework? That’s silly (5)
DITZY – DIY being do-it-yourself or homework, insert T Z the initial letters of Twilight Zone.
28 Resident of lair associated with eastern school on island (7)
DENIZEN – DEN (lair), I (island), ZEN (eastern school of philosophy).
1 Hard to escape drama over energy and oil producer (3,4)
TEA TREE – T[h]EATRE, E[nergy].
2 What sank Liberal opposition after a time? (8)
ATLANTIS – A, T[ime], L[iberal], ANTIS = those against.  Atlantis was mentioned by Plato as a fictional island “in the West”, supposedly in the Atlantic Ocean, which sank.
3 Close concealed bags I’m thinking (5)
HUMID – HID (concealed) with UM (“I’m thinking”) inside.
4 Queen’s Head pub is mad to change — it’s a big disappointment (4,5)
5 Bank robber is pretty Scottish (6)
BONNIE – double definition, Bonnie as in &Clyde, bonnie as in Scotland.
6 Almost take top off European sports accessory (3,4)
SKI POLE – SKI[M] = take top off, almost; POLE a European.
7 Working with heads of government agency to support Conservative party line? (5)
CONGA – CON[servative], G A (heads of government agency).
8 Mark circling yard in eg NYPD vehicle (5,3)
14 Large amphibian with tag on it aroused notice (5,4)
GIANT TOAD – (TAG ON IT)*, AD = notice.
16 One ringing about a garden in Derbyshire town (8)
BAKEWELL – BELL (one ringing) has A KEW (Garden) inserted. A nice little town famous for its Bakewell Tart.
17 Heading north in piazza, jeer flautist’s improvised music (4,4)
FREE JAZZ – hidden reversed, as above.
19 Surprise — no topping on top of the pastry (7)
TARTLET – [S]TARTLE = surprise, no topping, T[he].
21 Operation privy to pocketing one or two-pennyworth? (7)
OPINION – OP[eration], IN ON (privy to), insert I (one).
22 Times covers wise guys set up for crime (6)
BIGAMY – BY (x, times) with MAGI reversed inside.
23 I’m responsible by turning up in crazy clothes? (2,3)
MY BAD – MAD (crazy) with BY reversed inside. An Americanism which has sadly reached our shores recently.
24 Composer not at home with one idol worshipper (5)
PAGAN – Nicolo Paganini, the composer, famous for other composers writing variations on his themes. He loses his IN and I.


98 comments on “Times 28833 – variations on a theme.”

  1. Found this a lot chewier than the easy puzzles I’ve cherry-picked recently, with the last 40% feeling like hard slog. Didn’t help myself by initially entering RISE for 18a (100% a mental discipline problem, I realised at the time it wasn’t a rigorous solve), also took a long time for others in the finishing sequence OPINION – BIGAMY – HUMID – MCMANSION. 43:20

    PS. Every time I see a philosopher clue, I involuntarily go through, in my head, the lyric of the Python Philosopher’s Song. And sometimes it works – all together now: “Eeee-manuel Kant was a real pi….”.

    1. Involuntarily? It’s standard practice for me although it didn’t pay dividends today.

      I believe the technique is known as “Ninja-Turtling”, for obvious reasons.

  2. 41 minutes, as quite a few clues took some unravelling to get to the answers.

    I didn’t know MCMANSION which seems an unnecessary word although I eventually justified it when I remembered seeing ‘McJob’, another term designed to cast aspersions on the food giant.

    I’m not sure I ever heard of FREE JAZZ but having now read its definition I’m fairly confidant that it’s the sort of jazz I detest, mainly consisting of performers indulging themselves.

    Didn’t know or had forgotten BONG as a drug-user’s accessory.

    Dorset Jimbo would not have been pleased by the reference at 1ac.

  3. Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses,
    For honest men and bonnie lasses.
    (Tam O’Shanter, Burns)

    After 20 untroubled mins pre-brekker, tutting at some of the bizarre surfaces, I was left with the convoluted McMansion which took a few more to construct.
    A mixed bag.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  4. 24:23
    Slow but unsteady, but I made it, with MCMANSION (NHO?) and APRONED at the end. Jimbo would have had something to say about 1ac–did have, several times, but to no avail. I have never seen a quail fly, although I suppose they do, or at least can. I have ‘food?’ written next to 13ac. And I have ‘idol?’ next to 24d; surely not all pagans were idol-worshipers. Every time I see ‘xshire town’ in a clue my heart sinks, but it’s never been necessary for me to know where Xtown is. NHO BAKEWELL, but once again didn’t have to. I liked ARIAL for the ‘baptismal font’.

        1. Historically correct, but there are degrees of fame and the pudding is certainly less widely known than the tart now.

    1. I too have never seen a quail fly.
      I think I may have seen a fly quail, though. Does that help?

    2. Conversely a couple of months ago in The Times cryptic, we were solemnly assured that budgerigars don’t fly. Just to repeat: that was in The Times.

      1. Which puzzle was that? The only candidate I can find is 28742, where the definition was “one probably not flying?”, which is not at all the same as an assertion by the setter that “budgerigars don’t fly”.

        1. The vast vast majority of budgerigars are wild, but the human association with them is that of the tiny number of those cooped up in cages-where clearly they are ‘probably not flying’. But you can’t extend that characteristic to budgerigars in general.

          Unless the clue mentioned cages, I’m struggling to see the association and the meaning of ‘probably’. Therefore I could only conclude that the setter was under the impression that the only budgerigars in existence are those in cages and therefore don’t fly.

          The observation was wrong and it is factually wrong. I’m not sure how much more definitive the position can get?

  5. This concoction would have suited the New York Times rather than The Times of London in my opinion. TRASHED, MCMANSION, DITZY, MY BAD. Really? And in the clues: 25ac In America… 8dn …NYPD vehicle 22dn …wise guys… Did not like.

  6. 17:31

    Much enjoyed and blasted through – some great clues and answers here – first two acrosses giving lots of easyish downs to get going. With all checkers plus wordplay, MCMANSION was pretty straightforward to puzzle out though I had NHO the term. No idea who SPINOZA was either.

    Didn’t parse DITZY – confused myself thinking definition would be ‘twilight’ so was looking to stick the Z into DITY, wondering what on earth that meant. With SKI POLE, I didn’t think of SKIM as the word to curtail.

    Last few in were BAKEWELL, JABBERWOCK, OPINION, PREVIEW (had pencilled in PREPLAY, then PRESHOW) and finally APRONED.

  7. 26:25, with lots of fun had here.

    Took me far too long to get LOI TRASHED even though ‘rash’ sprang to mind immediately. Were those teds really all that delinquent?

    Really liked MCMANSION, which again should have gone sooner when I twigged the MCM portion. Very clever cluing.

    COD to APRONED I think, just for how long it misled me. JABBERWOCK also nice to see. Thanks setter and blogger!

  8. 46 minutes, badly detained in the NW. LOI APRONED. If I’ve ever heard of MCMANSION, I filed it in the ‘patronising remarks that didn’t work’ folder. There was a guy who sat on a church committee with me who kept on saying ‘MY BAD’. Is saying it the unforgivable sin or my wish to murder him? COD to BILLABONG for the Waltzing Matilda ear worm. Some decent stuff here but hard work. Thank you Pip and setter.

  9. 13:30. Unlike Sawbill, I thought this a lot of fun with the pangram (you missed the V in preView, Pip) with all the extra Zs (and extra Q and J). Held up for a minute or so at the end by having to fix PRESHOW for 24A when OPINION showed me the problem. NHO MCMANSION. I liked the thought of chewing gum during a gig. Thanks Pip and setter.

  10. Well, I liked this. It’s fun to decode some modern argot once in a while, rather than dusty archaisms from nineteenth century public schools. I thought it breezy and engaging, though some of the surfaces were closer to crossword gobbledegook than elegant English. Joint COD to HUMID and TARTLET.

    Mr Kipling Bakewell tart was a favourite of my childhood, delicious warm with some cream. The town is pleasant too, with a spa spring if I remember rightly.

    1. If embracing Americanisms means throwing out a lot of the public school nonsense, then all the better.

  11. Well, I liked this crossword, polished off in 10’19”. Particularly liked MCMANSION.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  12. 9.47. I’m all for new words shaking up crosswords a bit (which just through cultural dominance are more likely to be American in origin than British).

    Didn’t know BILLABONG as water-related, but it’s a clothing company, so that helped confirm the wordplay.

    No real standouts but I enjoyed it.

    Thanks setter and piquet.

  13. 21:56
    A bit more of test this morning but again no unknowns and generally helpful cluing. SQUAD CAR took a while to come to mind which slowed down QUAIL and then last-in ATLANTIS.

    A relatively easy week thus far so lace up your boots for a stinker tomorrow.

    Thanks to both.

  14. 50m 49s
    True story….The daughter of a friend of mine in Sydney once sent her mother a kitten by plane from Queensland. When my friend went to Australian Air Express to collect the cat, the man at the counter asked “what’s the name?” “DITZY” answered my friend…..”No, YOUR name!”

    I did like the MCMANSION clue but I did think this puzzle was a tad ‘Americano’.
    Thanks, Pip.

  15. About 15 minutes.

    Wasn’t familiar with MCMANSION, but it sounded like a plausible term in the same vein as ‘Mcjob’; don’t know who SPINOZA was but the cluing was helpful; got JABBERWOCK from being aware of the poem; had heard of BILLABONG without knowing what it was; took a long time to figure out OPINION.

    I don’t like MY BAD as a phrase so intend never to use it, but I’ve no problem with it appearing in crosswords. Haven’t really clocked TRASHED or DITZY as Americanisms either, though I guess they are… I think if these crosswords constantly had these kinds of words then it might be an issue, but every now and then it’s OK.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Basic
    LOI Opinion
    COD Aproned

  16. 11:20
    Very neat pangram, with two opposing expressions (MY BAD and “not my fault”) in opposite corners.
    SPINOZA always reminds me of Bertie Wooster in ‘Joy in the Morning’, being caught by Florence Craye while shopping for a new edition of the philosopher’s works as a gift for Jeeves.
    FREE JAZZ reminded me of a letter I once had printed in The Times quoting the Mancunian band manager Rob Gretton: “You can always tell jazz by the way the people on stage are having more fun than the audience.”
    LOI PREVIEW (completing the pangram).

  17. 20:07. DNK MCMANSION, BILLABONG or BONG so I was relieved by the absence of pink squares.

    COD: DAMP SQUID. (That’s not my fault. Actually it is. My bad).

  18. Chewy at some 45′, but like some others I enjoyed the change of scenery. I got the MCM quite early to give me MCMANSION, (“McWords” seem to me a bit of a lazy identifier, Mcdonald’s are pretty good at what they do if you’re into it, usually after midnight). “Skin” gave me SKI rather than “skim”, works much the same. Wondered what “bandit” had to do with Scottishness until the Bonnie penny dropped and thoughtlessly pencilling in “citizen” from “zen” didn’t speed things up. COD for me SQUAD CAR. Thanks Piquet and setter.

  19. I’m with sawbill on this one, a bit of a slog with my LOI MCMANSION definitely a NHO. I took jacks advice: just follow the cryptic to the letter and however odd the result looks, it must be right! 49 mins. I also agree with Jeffrey, too many Americanisms.


    Thanks Pip and setter.

  20. Quite enjoyed this, despite it apparently being done by our American setter.
    Hadn’t realised the Jabberwock was actually a monster .. thought that was the Bandersnatch. But it is, akin to a dragon, reputedly.
    For once I noticed it was a pangram, but as ever, it was no help.
    Happy memories of family drives out to Bakewell from Sheffield, in my youth

    1. JerryW. You didn’t know Jabberwocky was the monster? You thought the monster was the Bandersnatch? How did you feel when you realised your mistake? You must have been frumious.

    2. I also have happy memories of family drives out to Bakewell (and many other glorious spots in the Peak District) from Sheffield in my youth! I’ve not been back for a long time.

  21. 52 mins. Slow but steady finishing with a flurry in the NW. I enjoy the use of new expressions, which often make me smile.

    My ‘public school nonsense’ has stood me in good stead.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  22. 35 minutes. This went in bit by bit, with the help of crossers needed for a few like MCMANSION and JABBERWOCK. I’m not keen on MY BAD either, but the other Americanisms didn’t bother me.

    I wonder if SPINOZA camped by a BILLABONG when he was in Australia? I suppose I should have thought of Waltzing Matilda but my earworm today was Paganini’s La Campanella.

  23. The best you can hope for chewing gum is that if it’s sugar free it won’t rot your teeth. I doubt it provides any nourishment! Not on his or he wavelength today , thanks though!

    1. Some claim to reduce plaque. Does this benefit outweigh the unattractive cud chewing requirement?

  24. 10:02

    I’m in the “very much enjoyed this” camp. There was plenty of clever stuff and the clues revealed their secrets nicely when looked at the right way. I seldom notice surface readings so any bizarreness didn’t detract from the enjoyment in the way it did for Myrtilus.

    McM unknown but what else could it be?

    I agree with Nigel F-H above that the ON in CONGA comes from “working” and Conservative is just C.

  25. What’s American for Marmite? I’m on the yummy side for this one, my 25 minutes (less time of for a bit of good behaviour) relishing the quirky, DITZY clues and thinking for a while we might be on for that truly rara avis, the double pangram.
    For those of you wondering what a MCMANSION looks like, I think this probably qualifies, and if you ignore the rooms crammed with confidential boxes the interior doubles down on that association.
    I just escaped ATLANTIC thinking it was what sank the Titanic: corrected my grammar in time. For me, good fun, CHEWING GUM for the crossword mind.

  26. NHO McMANSION or ARIAL, and having biffed my through in 10:49 I got a pink square for my thoroughly careless “Atlantic”.

  27. 10a NHO McM an si on. Surprised by it, but it certainly checks out. Added to my cheating machine.
    25a BILLABONG, biffed, totally lost on me.
    Never worked out 27a DITZY.
    NHO 17d FREE JAZZ, just like last time I NHO.
    23d MY BAD not as recent an import as all that; d2 was using it 20+ years ago.
    Piquet, Nicolo Paganini has lost a C as well as INI.

    1. I briefly maintained a hand-written list of terms that had recently crept into the vernacular, mostly from America. From memory the first two on the list were “24/7” and “my bad”. That was in the early 1990s.

        1. Arvo is an eminently sensible and useful abbreviation!

          But tinny is a Barry McKenzie era word, rarely used now in that context. Much more likely to refer to a small aluminum recreational boat these days.

          1. Stubby? Go with stubby, you think?

            And hey, don’t say anything against that great Australian, Barry McKenzie! You will be saying Sir Les Patterson isn’t a real person, next ..

  28. I just couldn’t believe that there was a word M_MANSION so used aids and sure enough there was. Should have trusted the wordplay more. 36 minutes with ATLANTIc, never really comfortable with it but I had vague thoughts around opposition = antic and the Titanic. Entered it unhappily and forgot to return. DITZY is surely from long ago; I seem to remember it from my youth, being applied to someone like Eartha Kitt or Shirley McLaine. The examples of usage in Collins are all fairly recent, however, although they are all from British publications and contain no transatlantic references (except perhaps pitchwoman (?)).

      1. Neither is Goldie, in real life. A talented actress. And a philanthropist, who in 2003 founded the Hawn Foundation, a nonprofit that provides youth education programs.

      2. Absolutely!! Eartha was definitely NOT ditzy! And Goldie Hawn’s character definitely WAS.

  29. 11:58 Maybe Australian solvers don’t have it so bad after all. We largely speak American but aren’t disadvantaged by cricket clues. Nice of the setter to throw in a BILLABONG as well.

    I really enjoyed this one but took a while at the end to fill in the S_I_ part of SPINOZA. Think I’ve heard the name but wouldn’t know what position he played.

    Followed the wordplay meticulously to get APRONED and thought “that’s not a word”. Eventually saw it from the correct angle.

    MCMANSION is a pretty common term in Australia and the Roman numerals made it a gimme.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  30. I know the English language will always continue to evolve and change, but there are one or two phrases that have crept into use that I really can’t stand, and MY BAD is one of them. Whilst I’m on the subject, the current trend of putting oneself first into a conversation or statement, such as ‘me and my friend went to town’, is an anathema to me.
    Having got that off my chest, I enjoyed this crossword, with the exception of the above, coming in under target at 35.58.

    1. One good thing about the internet is that most folk who dislike incorrect grammar and syntax have by now had a seizure and died. The rest of us have a resigned “Life’s too short” attitude nowadays so I just sigh inwardly and move on…
      I might struggle to ignore your example, however. Presumably if his friend hadn’t turned up, s/he would say “Me went to town?”

      1. The double whammy is that soap operas and many other TV dramas allow their characters to speak in this realistic fashion reaffirming to those unsure of the correct grammar that the wrong grammar is the accepted version. I’d really like to watch a grammatically correct Coronation Street…

      1. I live in hope that it is a current trend that will slowly get phased out, although after 15 or perhaps 20 years it seems well ingrained. I think my main objection stems from the fact that it seems conceited to put yourself first. A few years ago I heard one of the royals, Prince William I think, use ‘me and’ to open a sentence. It was at this point I felt my view may carry very little weight!

        1. ‘The King and I’ once played across the street from ‘Me And My Girl’ in the West End. This is how wars start ….

        2. My mother corrected me on the use of ‘me’ as a nominative pronoun well over 50 years ago. It’s certainly not a modern error. Could even be Shakespearean or earlier, methinks.

    2. It could be worse, I sometimes see sentences beginning “myself and…”. It gets me closer to a seizure every time.

      1. In Jamaican patois me pretty well replaces I. “Me cyan stan dem Rude Boys”! I is mainly reserved for “I and I” meaning we!

        1. ‘I and I’ normally means ‘I’ not ‘we’, ‘I man’ and ‘I and I man’ are sometimes used similarly – listen to the Sean Paul song ‘Hot Gal Today’ and it’s clear what meaning he intends. Of course, ‘we’ can mean ‘us’ as well as ‘we’ in patois (or ‘Patwa’).

  31. LOI APRONED, after a lot of puzzling. I found this harder than the SNITCH suggests it is.

  32. A struggle for me and a DNF in 38, when BANDIT turned out to be BONNIE and I realised I should have given it more thought the first time around. Took ages getting APRONED but must concede the cleverness. Congrats to all those who got MCMANSION when it was an NHO, thanks piquet.

  33. Over an hour but left the clock running when called by a nurse (I’m about to have a hernia op) so no idea on time. Baffled by MCMANSION, had to resort to aids, but 1900 should have been a giveaway.

  34. This had pangram stamped on it from an early stage. Very enjoyable except for MCMANSION which had to be laboriously stitched together – and I didn’t enjoy the answer when I got there.

  35. I drew a blank on first pass in the NW, apart from CHEWING GUM, but next one in, DAMP SQUIB allowed a flurry of activity in the NE, with only MACMANSION and SKI POLE holding out until they were POI and LOI respectively. The SE was also dispatched with little delay, although more thought was required in the SW. PAGAN and GIANT TOAD made BILLABONG a write in, but MARXIST, TARTLET and RITE held out for longer. No problem with DITZY. Like Jerry it’s a term I would use to describe Goldie Hawn’s outward presentation of herself. Back in the NW, TED had arrived as the previously much disputed yob, but ACNE was still holding up the full definition until ATLANTIS sank and I developed a RASH. TEA TREE and QUAIL heralded the arrival of the SQUAD CAR, APRONED materialised from the wordplay and the HUMIDity rose. SI and ANON were then assembled after M-M and the MCMANSION was erected. The I confirmed the SKI part of 6d and the -O-E was deduced to be a POLE. 23:45. Thanks setter and Pip.

  36. Well, I’m embarrassed to say that I did know the word MCMANSION, but failed to get it right because for some stupid reason I convinced myself that 1900 was MIM, though I knew it looked wrong! I also initially had PRESHOW before OPINION pointed to the obvious answer. And MARXIST was LOI – you’d think by now I’d have twigged the red/commie obsession of Times setters and looked at that definition first. Otherwise it was an enjoyable solve, though the pangram went unheeded…

  37. A distant memory, from early yesterday evening, but a nice puzzle. I think “McMansion” is quite apt. The “Mc” threw me for a second, though my last name is one of those.

  38. About half an hour. McMansion last in and as near as dammit an example of a McClue. I’d say it’s legit. dictionary-wise but on the edge, or even off it, of what we should encourage … McEditor.

  39. One of my best attempts at the 15×15. Got over half the clues (mainly downs) before resorting to Piquets excellent blog. Didn’t help myself by misspelling damp squib and Bonny!

  40. Finished in three sittings and on the ‘thoroughly enjoyed team’. Had to reveal MCMANSION despite having all the checkers, and APRONED (doh), otherwise all went in slowly but surely. Favourites were CONGA, BILLABONG, ARIAL and DITZY (oft used in our household). Thanks all.

  41. SPINOZA gets a mention in a Jeeves and Wooster book I read decades ago, but it obviously stuck.

    I quite liked MCMANSION and will shortly be trying to find out when it was first used.

    Thanks for the blog piquet, it cleared up the last few for me.

  42. I’ll take Americanisms over golf or cricket terminology any time.

    Being pedantic, I think crack is smoked with a pipe rather than a bong. ie, the smoke doesn’t get drawn through a reservoir of water.

    Enjoyable puzzle that took me 38 minutes.

  43. 19 mins so more fulfilling than yesterday. Just played my first round of golf since my shoulder op just under 3 weeks ago. So a day to let joy roam unconfined.

Comments are closed.