Times 28846 The chief of the Ways of God


My 23 minutes is in retrospect a disappointing time for what looked suspiciously like a big Quickie until I got into the nether regions and just blanked on clues which were still, with one obvious exception, morceaux de gâteau. The capital at 16 looks as if it has escaped from an MCS, and it will be interesting to see how many, hand on heart, put it in qualmless from wordplay and geographical knowledge only. It’s never even been in an MCS, by the way. The Spanish city looks a bit odd, too, but it’s a doddle from the wordplay. The quote above is from William Blake. Flanders and Swann had a rather different take. Reference to Pointless in my text is to a BBC gameshow in which the aim is to know answers which no-one else does.

Definitions underlined in italics, and the rest, including experiments with square brackets, explained pretty much as I please.

1 Stress in past, for example, ultimately can make us nervous (9)
TENSENESS – Past is an example of a TENSE, add the tail letters of caN makE uS nervouS
6 Runs away from sullen elk (5)
MOOSE – I don’t know many other homonyms for elk, so I’ll just take the R(uns) away from MO[R]OSE for sullen.
9 Entertainer coming out of Stuttgart is temperamental (7)
ARTISTE – Hidden in StuttgART IS TEmperamental
10 Gemstone for every single girl (7)
PERIDOT – It’s a green olivine. Every PER, single I, girl DOT.
11 Cycling groups go in for wife-swapping (5)
SWING – I think this is groups seen as WINGS (as in the political extremes) cycled, i.e. bringing the S round to the front.
12 Duke ordering rash acts of bravery (7-2)
DERRING-DO – Rash the anagram indicator, D(uke) ORDERING the fodder. Don’t try anagramming D(uke) RASH ACTS. I did, lost time.
13 Two flyers, the first transfixed by opening of Hobbes’ Leviathan (8)
BEHEMOTH – I’m going to be picky here: Leviathan and Behemoth are distinct creatures, usually interpreted as a whale and a hippo respectively. Here’s William Blake’s gorgeous illustration. The two flyers are a BEE and a MOTH, with the former stuck with the opening letter of Hobbes, who did indeed write a book called Leviathan during the Civil War, regarded as the first treatise on the Social Contract theory of government.
14 People see oddly neglected Olympic event (4)
EPEE – Even letters of pEoPlE sEe.
17 Takes skin test regularly (4)
SITS – Odd letters of SkIn TeSt to give takes/sits an exam. Rare to see two alternate letter clues in the same grid
18 Harry Houdini leaving one in extremes of wonderment and mystery (8)
WHODUNIT – So: take one of the I’s from HOUDIN[I], harry (anagram) it and put it into W[ondermen]T
21 Unanimity of statisticians taking part in survey (9)
CONSENSUS – First serious brake on my progress, but it’s really easy if you know the Office for National Statistics and put its acronym into CENSUS for survey.
22 Silly answer meeting sanctimonious silence (5)
APISH – A(nswer), PI for sanctimonious, SH for silence.
24 Drunk is inane and idiotic (7)
ASININE – This one almost falls out. Anagram (drunk) of IS INANE. Or just swap two letters.
25 Royal, mostly odd, however, deprived of love (7)
QUEENLY – Take the last letter off QUEE[R] which used to mean odd, add [O]NLY for however with its love O missing. Another annoyingly hesitant solve.
26 Cross old so-and-so retired with grin at last (5)
TIGON – You’ll just have to accept that an old so-and-so is an O(ld) GIT and add the N from griN to give the cross between a tiger and a lioness.
27 Giving away tips, these dons sign book (9)
THESAURUS – For what it’s worth, either take the two tips away from [T]HES[E] and let the remnant don/wear TAURUS, the astrological sign, or take one tip from each and use don just as a connecting word.
1 Gin perhaps beginning to sting mouths (5)
TRAPS – Gin is another word for TRAP, get the S from the start of S(ting)
2 Unaccompanied by deputy head of government at all events (15)
NOTWITHSTANDING – Parsed post submission, of course. Unaccompanied NOT WITH, deputy STAND IN, head of G(overnment)
3 Gull intrepid in pursuit of piece of cake (4,4)
EASY GAME – In my experience, it’s more often chips. However, intrepid is GAME to tag on to an EASY piece of cake.
4 Mistake made teen change for the better (8)
EMENDATE – An anagram (mistake) of MADE TEEN
5 Brilliant NFL game shunned by solemn type (6)
SUPERB – As I understand it the NFL game which unaccountably calls itself football in the States is the SUPERBOWL. The solemn (and very wise) type that removes itself from the vicinity is the OWL.
6 Half-forgotten homicide spooks Spanish city (6)
MURCIA – Completely-forgotten Spanish city which wilfully misspells the old British kingdom, is formed from half of MUR[DER] or homicide plus the US “spooks”, the CIA
7 Senior citizen bats alongside opener (3-3,9)
OLD-AGE PENSIONER – A rather surprising anagram (bats) of ALONGSIDE OPENER
8 Outgoing bonus cut? About time! (9)
EXTROVERT – Bonus is EXTRA, cut the A, about then gives OVER and you complete with T(ime)
13 Survival skills of husband trapped between vehicle and boat (9)
BUSHCRAFT – The vehicle is a BUS, the boat the generic CRAFT, and the H(usband) gets stuck between.
15 Bug biting skin of heartbreakingly small body (8)
PHYSIQUE – Spent too long trying to think of a relevant insect, but it’s bug as in annoy, here PIQUE; insert H[eartbreakingl]Y S(mall)
16 Capital Radio host interrupting call upset one (8)
N’DJAMENA – Let’s just say this is one for Pointless contestants who have memorised the capital of Chad. A radio host may well be a DJ, which is inserted into NAME for call, and then AN for one is reversed.
19 Kindly introduce golf into African country (6)
BENIGN – BENIN is your other African country (capital Porto-Novo should you ever be on Pointless). Insert a NATO Golf.
20 Hill is start of Appalachian trail (6)
ASCENT – First letter of A[ppalachian] and SCENT for trail.
23 Utter confusion for US president (5)
HAYES – The sound of confusion, HAZE for POTUS 19 Rutherford B from the big beard generation.

81 comments on “Times 28846 The chief of the Ways of God”

  1. I got off to a flying start too, with the first 15-letter Down and the other one after just a few of its crossers. But then really felt stuck toward the end in the SE—hard to see why now. So SITS is an &lit? I don’t see how it could be anything else, but neither do I see how “skin” would be a part of the definition. (Even aside from the fact that I don’t recall “sit” ever meaning to take a medical exam.)

    BEHEMOTH and “leviathan” are both sometimes used as common nouns and as such are synonymous.

      1. That’s how I finally parsed it too. But it seems SITS only means “takes” when what is taken is a test. (Right?) So there’s an appearance of overlap of definition and wordplay. “Takes” wasn’t underlined above when I wrote—but neither is the whole clue.

          1. As I said. Yet don’t think I’d have thought of SITS as meaning “Takes” at all if “test” hadn’t been in the clue.

              1. That it might be was just a passing thought. Guess I wasn’t clear (just added a parenthetical “finally” above).

            1. you may not read this guy as I’m always a day behind others! in the UK you definitely sit and exam/test.

              1. Yes, I’ve long known that, thought I made that clear. But I wouldn’t have thought of “Takes” meaning SITS if “test” hadn’t been in the clue. Yet it’s not part of the definition, although the thought crossed my mind (now dismissed) that it might be an attempt (imperfect, as such often are) at an &lit.

                By the way, a somewhat surprising thing “Take” (singular) might clue is R, for “recipe,” which means “take” in Latin. You probably won’t see that in the daily cryptic but only in a Mephisto or MCS.

    1. Behemoth and leviathan may have been different in their historical sense but now they are more generally used in their figurative sense which is identical.

  2. I enjoyed this, knowing, from years of pub-quizzing, the capital of Chad. The ONS has made the news a lot lately, mainly contradicting the spin of politicians. I may have been to MURCIA. And I like Pointless.

    BEHEMOTH went in unparsed, known only as a big monstrous thing. NOTWITHSTANDING and OLD-AGE PENSIONER straight in, which helped a lot.

    13’17”, thanks z and setter.

  3. 38 minutes with LOI PHYSIQUE. A president beginning with H took some digging up. COD to NOTWITHSTANDING. At times, I abandoned my usual caution and bunged in unparsed answers, but I’d parsed everything by the time I’d finished, even SUPERB, Paul. So a good puzzle. Thank you Z and setter,

    1. Besides Hayes and Hoover there were two forgettable Harrisons and I can never remember if William Henry or Benjamin came first.

  4. 13:40 but I did construct the capital and then check whether it was right before putting it in. I liked the OAP cricketer best. Thanks Z and setter.

  5. 14:05
    Despite being a Pointless devotee NHO N’DJAMENA, my LOI, but I’ll bear it in mind from now on.
    Interestingly (to me), BEHEMOTH, though singular, appears to derive from an intensive plural in Hebrew, an example of pluralis excellentiae. Even more interestingly (ditto), so does Leviathan.
    I had a ‘Two Brains’ puzzle in The Times in 2016 which used the SUPERB owl gag, as recently stolen by the writers of the Kiwi vampire sitcom ‘What We Do in the Shadows’.
    LOL OLD AGE PENSIONER (which I recently became).

    1. What defines an OAP these days? Just took my first state pension this year but been retired for a while and certainly dont feel like one. Seems a moving feast!

  6. 8:56. I did about two-thirds of this at well under 5-minute pace but then slowed down considerably as the clues got harder, ending with the extremely difficult 16dn, which I constructed purely from wordplay. Geographical knowledge was not involved and my submission was far from qualmless.
    Forgive me Z but I think your pickiness at 13ac is misplaced. Whatever their origins these are words with identical figurative meanings.

    1. While I accept they are both examples of very impressive beasts, and either can be used figuratively, their biblical descriptions, such as they are, are classes apart. You wouldn’t catch Leviathan “eating grass like an ox”.

          1. Just to add to the confusion, I vaguely recall a horror movie from the 1950s called “Behemoth, the Sea Monster”. I have ever since thought it specifically meant such. Looks like they should’ve called it “Leviathan”!

          2. But these are not ‘linguistically big things’, because they’re not words commonly used to refer generically to large things. Take this (randomly selected) recent example from the Times:

            Ardagh Ventures took a punt on Liquid Death, the canned water behemoth that made water kinda cool

            You can substitute the word ‘leviathan’ in this sentence for the word ‘behemoth’, but neither ‘hippo’ nor ‘whale’ would make sense. The writer is not referring to (indeed is probably not aware of) the specific characteristics of the behemoth when writing this. He just means ‘big thing’.
            This doesn’t mean that ‘behemoth’ doesn’t also have a more specific meaning, of course. Like all words it has multiple meanings.

  7. DNF. It’s not that I don’t know how to spell CONSENSUS correctly, it’s just that I failed to do so on this occasion. Bah.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  8. 30:23
    Similar to yesterday both timewise and in the sense that when I look back I wonder why it took me so long to get some of the clues.

    HAYES and NDJAMENA were the only 2 proper unknowns, with the SE causing me the most difficulty.

    Hopefully a sterner test coming tomorrow. Thanks to both.

  9. 20:20. I found this mostly plain sailing, but with a bit of a sting in the SE corner. HAYES sounded right when I thought of it with H___S, but he’s certainly not on the tip of my tongue.

    I certainly didn’t know the capital – just happy to come up a parsing that worked! Thankfully it was also what was required.

    Really liked the statisticians.

    Thanks Zabadak and setter.

  10. 36 minutes for what I did (and enjoyed) but I had to give up on the capital at 16 and resorted to aids. I had the makings of it actually, being pretty sure of DJ and I considered NAME for ‘call’. But I discounted the possibility of the answer starting with ND and I had no idea of how to obtain the missing penultimate letter, never for a moment thinking of ‘one = AN’ because as far as I’m aware The Times doesn’t permit that.

    In August 2019 Peter B advised us:
    The word from a fairly recent copy of the Times notes for setters is that “A” in a clue can’t indicate I in the answer, and “one” in a clue can’t indicate A in the answer, except in a phrase like “One cup” for “A TROPHY”.

    I can’t see that the exception applies in today’s clue.

    1. I’ve never really understood this rule – to my mind a/an=one is completely uncontroversial – but awareness of its existence was enough to make me hesitate here, which in the context of an unknown and rather unlikely-looking word was unhelpful!

    2. Same here. N’DJAMENA totally unknown, and despite having all the crossers and assuming it must be ‘DJ’ in the middle, guessing it seemed a bit, er, Pointless. Wasn’t mad about the old git, either, but wrote it in with a shrug.

    3. I was also not expecting one=an, having first become aware of this convention only because somebody mentioned it on here as recently as the last week or two. As somebody who didn’t know the capital of Chad, that caused me a fair bit of extra hesitation.

      Still, I’m pleased I somehow took the right leap of faith in the end, on the basis of wordplay alone.

  11. Beaten by N’DJAMENA. I came close with the wordplay but – like harmonic_row above – I am not happy with an=one and did not pursue it. I am sure it is “against the rules”? i even think this was restated here recently? Anyway, bah humbug.

    On edit. Ah! Thank you, jackkt. I did not see your comment until I had posted mine. Yes

  12. Mostly quick .. gave up on Ndjamena, despite having the DJ, but was a bit annoyed when I looked it up and wished I’d tried a bit harder… nearly had it, it even rang a vague bell (I also like Pointless).
    I bought my cats some Swedish elk catfood once. They didn’t like it ..

    1. Nothing one can do with a cat that has ever won a competition with its owner to starve rather than eat anything that isn’t ambrosial.
      I had a cat that had been brought up as a kitten to expect dogfood (half the price) and my wife immediately fed it catfood and it never ate dogfood ever after.

  13. 31:00 with one error. ASPECT for ASCENT.

    It’s a shame that the excellent OAP anagram was so easily biffable. A cryptic or at least slightly harder definition would have been great.

    Nightwatchman perhaps bats alongside opener? (3-3,9)

    Too obsure I suspect.

    COD. Notwithstanding its biffability, OLD-AGE PENSIONER.

  14. 38:58 – I’m pretty hot on my capitals so N’Djamena was a write-in. Haven’t come across EMENDATE before and couldn’t parse TENSENESS before coming here, so that crossing helf me up a little. Otherwise a steady solve.

  15. 45′. Seems slow when most of the answers were very gettable. NDJAMENA only after crossers and knowing “DJ” – then even though I seemed to remember it I still did a check… Most others went in reasonably easily, though not as easily as others seem to have found it! I didn’t pick up on the meaning of “gull” until after completion, so EASY GAME was a biff based on crossers and TENSENESS took a while to come to mind, though “past, for example” was a give-away. Thanks Zabadak and setter.

  16. 22:42 but DNF
    I couldn’t make anything of 11ac; it had to be SWING (or STING or SUING) but I couldn’t see how. Biffed a half-dozen others, parsing post-submission. NDJAMENA was a gimme once I saw ‘radio host’. And it appeared here recently; I recall Vinyl and moi commenting on the spelling. I liked NOTWITHSTANDING; SWING, not so much.

  17. 29 minutes of pleasure doing this one, knew the capital of CHAD and well done setter for getting that in. PHYSIQUE was last in once I had the Q. I liked SUPERBowl, of course.

  18. 18:56 but…

    …NHO NDJAMENA and couldn’t puzzle it out in the few minutes I gave it with all checkers + J inserted, so resorted to aids. On the one hand, learning lists of Presidents, Capitals and the like is helpful – I remembered HAYES ok (there are only forty-something POTUS) but not the capital (there are two hundred plus) – however it is not always rewarding. The rest of the crossword was enjoyable, the only answer I couldn’t parse in flight was SUPERB (difficulty equating NFL with SUPERB OWL!)

  19. This was a great puzzle! Duke ordering rash acts of bravery (7-2) was probably my COD, but there were a few contenders.

  20. I was able to get NDJAMENA from the wordplay even without any crossers, as I knew it was a capital (though couldn’t’ve told you of where). Knew MURCIA as I lived in Spain for a while. 7 dn was a write-in from the numeration alone, never bothered to check the letters. A technical DNF as I confess I consulted a list for President Hayes — that one really is for Pointless addicts — but I liked the clue nonetheless. PHYSIQUE almost defeated me till I got the H of WHODUNIT.

  21. 43 minutes. I did happen to know the capital of Chad from goodness knows where, but it still took a while to work out, as did a few in the SE including QUEENLY, HAYES, PHYSIQUE and my LOI THESAURUS. I’m more use to seeing the double N spelling of WHODUNIT, but both are accepted. I’ll put up my hand to gratefully biffing (or bifeing=bunging in from enumeration) OLD-AGE PENSIONER without even noticing the setter’s carefully constructed wordplay.

    MURCIA now joins Vigo as a Spanish city which I’ve been introduced to by crosswords.

  22. I was held up for a while at the end by BEHEMOTH, NOTWITHSTANDING, EASY GAME, SWING and LOI, NDJAMENA. I got as far as NDJAME-A, which looked so unlikely that I put it into Google, thus finding the N which I was reluctant to go with because of the convention mentioned above by Jack. Hey ho. 28:30. Thanks setter and Z.

  23. Like John, Jack and others I was left with NDJAME-A and a puzzled expression. I also had PARaDOT so I was struggling with all the possible variations on a/an/1 today.

    1. Baffling, yes. I think I read it as a Mephisto – which has extreme vocab and GK – but that doesn’t account for the acronym. Perhaps it’s the exceptionally fiendish Mephisto Christmas Special

  24. 24:25 but googled both HAYES and NDJAMENA. So now I know the capital of Chad and the 19th president of the USA.
    Thanks setter and Zabadak

  25. 48:54, with LOI to PHYSIQUE.

    Like jack and others above, I had to rack my brain for whether AN can equal ‘one’ in the Times, and eventually decided that it couldn’t be. Yet here we are. I didn’t mind so-and-so for git, as have been called far worse and no doubt shall be again.

    COD to SUPERB. As I recall, there was a trend of people posting pictures of ‘superb owls’ around the end of the American Football season some years ago.

  26. DNF, defeated by N’DJAMENA… beyond the DJ part I was utterly stumped, as even though I thought of ‘name’ it never occurred to me that the answer might start with an N.

    Not too tricky otherwise, though I didn’t parse SWING and both PERIDOT and EMENDATE were new to me.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Derring-do

  27. DNF. I thought that the obscure capital must end in i and entailed wrapping eman (name upset) around DJ. I have visited Murcia, however.

  28. 24.57 – LOI (after trying everything else) N’DJAMENA. I didn’t think “an” clued as “one” was too much of a stretch, but fortunately I wasn’t aware of the convention. I was just glad to think of some combination that fitted. SWING was the only other uncertainty, obvious as the answer was.

  29. 45 mins with last two in QUEENLY & HAYES. Luckily some neighbours of mine were recently seconded to Chad so the odd looking NDJAMENA was not a problem. Agree with above arguments re the “AN”.

    Two unknowns today, EMENDATE & PERIDOT but worked out once I had all the crossers.

    I liked WHODUNIT (double NN anyone?) and BUSHCRAFT.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  30. Defeated by NDJAMENA after trying to concoct something for about 15 minutes. I think my downfall was that I was convinced that it must end in ECA, knowing DJ was in there, and trying unsuccessfully to think of a three letter word for ‘call’ -A-. What would have been a 40 minute solve therefore became a DNF.

  31. So many people have talked about the an matter that forgive me if I’m repeating what someone has said, but in the answer it’s an not a. It looks as if the setter decided that an was OK, not that I noticed, getting the parsing wrong and thinking it was a and therefore against the Times convention. I was very slow on this and put it down to a long bicycle ride in the rain. Plenty of aids, 55 minutes eventually. Because I thought the first tip was just the last letter of these I was looking for a word that means dons, AURUS_. EMENDATE is what Jo Brand calls a rubbish word.

  32. Same as AndyPandy – with the recent discussion on Times rules on the subject, I discounted A/An as being verboten (and just wrong) and went for ace. Add to that that I’d never heard of the capital, and an alphabet trawl failed to convince me that you could have NDJ (I didn’t think of apostrophes) and the result after a mighty struggle with the SE corner was a DNF after solving all the rest correctly. I feel rather hard-done-by to be honest, as the ‘rule’ effectively prevented a solve based on the wordplay.

  33. 20:47 for a lovely puzzle with a little slow-down in the end in the lower right. I had thankfully heard of N’DJAMENA, though did pause over ‘one’ = AN, like everyone else.

  34. 1a Couldn’t parse TENSENESS so thanks z.
    4d Agree with Wil Ransome. Why does EMENDATE exist when it means emend?
    5d The Superbowl tries to charge people for writing it, so they call it the Superb Owl according to Wiki.
    16d N’Djamena, as others I wondered is AN for one allowed now? I thought not. I am ashamed to say I had forgotten the place, but was vaguely aware of an unpronounceable capital in the Sahara somewhere, and took a punt on what was actually the correct spelling.
    Still DNF though as I misspelt 21a CONcENSUS. DOH!

  35. Quite Cluedo – it was the Royal body in the capital in the SE ‘who dun it’ for me to dnf. Thanks for performing the forensics on the crime scene.

  36. 25.40 with loi the African capital which I have to confess I had to have a few bashes at before pink was avoided. Nicely constructed quiz . NHO easy game so I must be in danger ofbeing suckered at some point.

    Thx setter and blogger.

  37. 44 minutes, fairly enjoyable ones despite a spate of very easy clues being complemented by some very difficult ones (at least with fair wordplay enabling me to solve them). I also wondered about “one” cluing “an” in NDJAMENA, but decided that since AN was not just A that might be OK. I nearly had NDJAMECA before realizing that I needed the E for NAME, so it was not available for ACE. Strangely, the NDJ at the beginning did not disturb me, since it seemed not unlikely in African languages. PERIDOT was my other unknown. COD to PHYSIQUE, perhaps. SUPERB was good, too (although saying it was superb would be overdoing it).

  38. Having worked out the unlikely looking capital of Chad from the wordplay, I carelessly entered ‘Mercia’ for the Spanish city, even though I had correctly sorted out the wordplay for that one too. Never too old to be an eejit.

  39. Did anyone else spot the alternative obscene solution for 11 across? I didn’t put it in, but I admit it was the first word to cross my mind. MURCIA is clever because with two checkers (M and I) you are almost certain to biff MADRID. Luckily I have been to Murcia a few times. Nice city. The DJ gave away NDJAMENA, and the AN controversy never struck me. On the other hand I did have to check PERIDOT, and might easily have put in PERADOT. Not as easy as the low Snitch suggests. Took me 28’21”

  40. 26.32

    Didn’t think I was going to be able to, but did manage to crack the SW with QUEENLY unlocking most of it and finally piecing the capital together

    Liked SWING and O-A-P amongst others

  41. Completely off wavelength on this one, hence coming back next day to complete. Took me 90 minutes or so over 2 days! My last three were Tenseness, Easy Game and Swing – Tenseness seems a horrible word which just didn’t come to mind; Easy Game similarly didn’t come to mind, and the clue for Swing felt odd to me. Elsewhere, some great clues – OAP, Whodunit and, my COD, Notwithstanding.


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