Times 28847


I was almost beaten by this puzzle, which proved to be the hardest on my blogging watch for a while. A very slow start (I had only 5 answers after about 10 minutes, scattered in all corners) eventually gave way to a flurry. My last several in, due to a lack of the requisite vocabulary (3dn, 21dn), knowledge of football (or other sports, 2dn, 16dn), and an unshakeable blind spot for cryptic definitions (17ac), took at least another 15 minutes.

It all seemed like a fair fight in the end, with plenty of clever wordplay and masterful disguising of definitions.

Definitions underlined.

1 Seed: just what’s needed for bird (5)
PIPIT – PIP (seed) + IT (just what’s needed).
4 Cosmetic to remain on cheek (8)
LIPSTICK – STICK (to remain) on LIP (cheek). Semi-&lit, if you’re lucky?
8 Worthless, mushy stuff, finally obtained free (4-3-7)
GOOD-FOR-NOTHING – GOO (mushy stuff) + last of obtaineD + FOR NOTHING (free).
10 Notes mostly recall accompanying answer (9)
MEMORANDA – most of MEMORy (recall) + AND (accompanying) + A (answer).
11 Maybe miss return of Nazi-led demos (5)
ELIZA – demonstrated (hidden) in reversal of nAZI-LEd.
12 Stop seeing short, grotesque creature (6)
GOBLIN – GO BLINd (stop seeing) except the last letter.
14 Being hasty is blow to career (8)
SLAPDASH – SLAP (blow) + DASH (career).
17 Keep rabbit connected to post? (4,4)
TALK SHOP – cryptic definition. To persist in talking about one’s work. It might have been the relief of the PDM, but this was nearly my COD.
18 Local Tennessee state visits (6)
TAVERN – TN (Tennessee) visited by AVER (state).
20 Boy emptied ladleful round yard (5)
LLOYD – first and last of LadlefuL + O (round) + YD (yard).
22 Reversal of spell after the first go? (9)
TURNABOUT – BOUT (spell) after TURN A (the first go?).
24 What big, year-round op sorted out (1,3,4,6)
25 One demonstrating skill and power (8)
EXPONENT – double definition.
26 VAT is charged primarily for clothing (5)
TUNIC – TUN (vat), then first letters of Is and Charged.
1 Never smart, supporting police force (4,5,3)
PIGS MIGHT FLY – FLY (smart), supporting PIGS (police) and MIGHT (force).
2 Are Rovers under pressure in such a tournament? (3-2)
PRO-AM – ROAM (are rovers) under P (pressure).
3 Barriers the reverse of substantial, weak and small (9)
TAFFRAILS – reversal of FAT (substantial) + FRAIL (weak) + S (small). My most unknown – the rail around the back of a ship.
4 Keen viewer having a right to enter box used by commentators (6)
LARYNX – LYNX (keen viewer), containing A + R (right). COD – excellent.
5 Chances are ultimately plentiful, for new arrival at the periphery (8)
PROBABLY – last letter of plentifuL contained by PRO (for) + BABY (new arrival).
6 I’m obliged to weed lake (5)
TAHOE – TA (thanks, I’m obliged) + HOE (to weed).
7 Likely person’s taken unawares and worried (9)
CANDIDATE – CANDID (taken unawares) + ATE (worried).
9 City inn’s watchdog barking (10,2)
13 Party recalled destiny to fight case for democracy? (6,3)
BALLOT BOX – reversal of LAB (Labour, party), then LOT (destiny) + BOX (fight).
15 Contribute something dramatic separately (4,1,4)
PLAY A PART – PLAY (something dramatic) + APART (separately).
16 Style of football a long time coming after defeat by English (5,3)
ROUTE ONE – EON (a long time) after ROUT (defeat), then E (English).
19 Mount pictures a painter’s put in (6)
ARARAT – A + RA (artist), all inside ART (pictures). A Turkish volcano on the periphery of my ken.
21 Keeping low profile, Harry quit (5)
DOGGO – DOG (harry) + GO (quit). Not a word I knew ever.
23 Ancient working nurses led out (5)
OLDEN – ON (working) containing an anagram of LED.

93 comments on “Times 28847”

  1. 42 minutes for this very enjoyable example of the setter’s art. My only unknown was the football expression at 16dn which had to be deduced from wordplay and checkers.

    Having praised the puzzle with my opening remark I need to add that I did not appreciate the derogatory reference at 1dn. I’d expect it in the Private Eye puzzle, but not in The Times.

  2. I started off with one of the longest (14-letter) ones, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING, but for the other, I BEG YOUR PARDON, I had to wait for all the crossers and it was my POI. Must’ve been on the wavelength, though, as even the NHO ROUTE ONE didn’t hold me up unbearably long. My LOI was the unknown TAFFRAILS, also worked out strictly from wordplay.

    Though I am a former Yippie, I did raise an eyebrow at PIGS in 1dn.

  3. 23:27
    I was pleased to get the first two acrosses right off, but could get not one down with those initial letters.
    Finally picked up some speed. NHO ROUTE ONE (LOI). The C of TUNIC gave me 9d, which I only parsed after submitting. Is DC (District of Columbia) one word? ARARAT is not just a volcano in Turkey; it’s where Noah’s ark is traditionally said to have landed: GK 101, I’d say. I liked LARYNX. Like Jack, I did not like PIGS; and I say that as one who has used (often chanted) the word.

    1. Not offering an opinion either way but I note that MP was a word in last Saturday’s Quickie. I would assume that DC has identical claims for qualification (or disqualification).

  4. 11:23 Higher on the leaderboard than I’ve ever been and I’m not sure why. Think I just failed to see the land-mines and trotted straight past them.

    TALK SHOP was my LOI and I just had to hope it was a pure cryptic, which it was. COD to GOBLIN in a hotly-contested field.

    Thanks William, thanks setter. Linesmen, ball-boys, the Academy, my family…

    1. I think it was Melvyn Douglas who, in thanking everybody for his Oscar, included ‘the President, for keeping the enemy from these shores,…’

  5. Morning and evening
    Maids heard the goblins cry:
    “Come buy our orchard fruits,
    Come buy, come buy: …
    (Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti)

    30 mins pre-brekker. Nicely chewy in parts. I thought police=pigs was a bit much for The Times.
    Ta setter and WJS

  6. 35 minutes, despite the barely-remembered-from-an-earlier-puzzle-I-think TAFFRAILS and the NHO ROUTE ONE. After U, V, W, X, Y and Z turned up in quick succession I started looking for a nonexistent pangram and trying to force a Q into increasingly unlikely places…

  7. 41′ and very enjoyable. All the longer clues came quite quickly with a double take at 1dn. No problem with the sporty ones. I had an Eric Morecambe moment with LLOYD, knowing the letters I had to use but couldn’t work out the order. Eventually it fell in, giving me the NHO DOGGO. Main problems were NHO TAFFRAILS, solved only from crossers and wordplay, and LARYNX where the definition came very late and lynx = keen viewer taken on trust. Always happy to complete a Friday. Thanks William and setter

  8. 18:28 for this very enjoyable, sly and amusing Friday workout.

    LOI was LARYNX, as I am apparently less keen-eyed than our feline friends and only just spotted that I hadn’t answered it before pushing the button. I think the 20/20-blessed LYNX came up for me recently, may have been an old crossword though. Aren’t all cats far more ‘keen-eyed’ than us, though? Why such privilege falls upon the lynx is a mystery to me.

    1. If all cats are keen-eyed (which I think they’re supposed to be) then I think the honour of being distinguished as such falls on the LYNX because it forms two thirds of the word LARYNX. Setter’s privilege.

      1. There’s also the fact that, in contradistinction to e.g. cat-eyed, tiger-eyed, ounce-eyed, etc., lynx-eyed is an English word.

  9. 38 minutes with LOI TALK SHOP. Wanderers play a possession-based game now, so ROUTE ONE was also late in. I had thought of LONG-BALL earlier but it didn’t fit. COD to PIGS MIGHT FLY, while regretting the disrespect shown to the thin blue line. I liked BALLOT BOX too in what was a well-assembled puzzle. Thank you William and setter.

  10. 21:00. Lovely puzzle with many answers that had to be carefully teased out from the clues. The last 4 took 5 minutes at the end, finishing with the clever LARYNX and then TALK SHOP, where I still can’t see how KEEP fits with the cryptic definition, as, I think, the clue works fine without it. I liked GOBLIN and I BEG YOUR PARDON best. Thanks William and setter.

  11. 34:59 and after some easy clues it was definitely a battle!
    LOI was ROUTE ONE which I’ve never heard of, after ages I realised it could be EON followed by E and then I was looking for a word for defeat and thought of ROUT, and route one sounded plausible. Also the TAVERN took a stupid length of time because I was sure Tennessee was TE.
    Yes the PIGS for police force did make my jaw drop slightly.
    COD TALK SHOP, very clever
    Thanks setter and blogger

  12. Hopefully I’m not the only one who bunged in a slapdash PROBABLE. 11ish minutes other than that.

    Thanks both.

  13. A good challenge this morning, completed in 22’35”.

    Nho ROUTE ONE; TALK SHOP was very clever; PROBABLY was LOI.

    I’ve had many dealings with the police in my life, both ways – and 1d grated, a lot.

    Thanks william and setter.

  14. A fail in 40-odd minutes with a wrong and only semi-parsed PROBABLE at 5d. I was lucky with a few others like TALK SHOP and ROUTE ONE so the pink square was no surprise.

  15. 12:28. I thought this was a great puzzle, with numerous clues that completely baffled me until, suddenly, they didn’t. That sort of solving is always fun.
    Having said that, I agree with (it seems) everybody else that a derogatory term like PIGS does not belong here, irrespective of ones view of the police.
    And perhaps I’m missing something but it seems to me that 17ac requires ‘rabbit’ to be a noun, which it isn’t in this context.

    1. It’s a noun in “you’ve got more rabbit than Sainsbury’s” Chas and Dave and fits the meaning required here.

      1. How very true. There I was looking in mere dictionaries without even considering the true authority.
        Objection withdrawn.

      2. Might you be thinking of Charles and David, the barbershop duo? Round my way they have always been Chas ‘n’ Dave. Innit guv.

          1. I have lots of respect for Chas and Dave because what they did is utterly distinct and memorable 40 years after they did it. No mean feat.

  16. 17:30
    7dn brought back memories of CANDID Camera, with Jonathan Routh (in the UK version) taking members of the public unawares.
    Still not sure how TALK SHOP woudn’t be “Keep rabbiting” or how “demos” works as a verb, but hey ho.
    Earworm of the day: Chas & Dave.

    1. I think you can demo(nstrate) something, e.g. “I’m going to watch the guy from Apple demo the latest watch.”

  17. Fine puzzle, which I was relieved to finish just inside 30 minutes. Staring at a lot of blank spaces before the short PRO-AM suddenly illuminated its surroundings, allowed me to remember the elusive PIPIT and prompted the regrettable PIGS. I’ll give CoD to GOBLIN just for the smooth clue, just ahead of the CD TALK SHOP.
    I assume Ange Ball hasn’t been around long enough (and sadly, is yet to be proven as a winning concept) but in any case it didn’t fit.

    1. It was a winning combo up north, more so than Rodgers-ball is likely to be, and nicer on the eye. Apologies to all others for the footie talk!!

  18. No problem with PIGS for police. It’s just a word. Using it in a crossword doesn’t mean the compiler approves of it, nor will it magically drop out of use if The Times abjures it. Ultimately beaten by ROUTE ONE – ignorant about football – but pleased to get everything else, because this one was tricksy.

    1. Very well said! Finally someone with sense, I thought I’d stumbled onto the Daily Mail comments section by mistake for a minute!

      1. You should not confuse a dislike of derogatory terms with support for the people or institutions being, er, derogated.

  19. DNF, defeated by SLAPDASH (I invented ‘clippath’…)

    Didn’t know PIPIT or TAFFRAILS but worked out both from wordplay; didn’t understand EXPONENT; didn’t parse TURNABOUT; and didn’t know that meaning of DOGGO.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Goblin

  20. Failed/cheated on TAFFRAILS after 3 or 4 mins staring at it with all the crossers, but mistakenly pressed submit with leaderboard, rather than without.

    Otherwise, as others have said – lots of fun, with aha! moments all over the place.


  21. 11:02

    Right in my wheelhouse this, plenty of clever stuff. Like others I’m a bit miffed with PIGS, especially as I have a daughter in the police.

  22. 19:06
    Very good puzzle, full of wit and playfulness ( “pigs” excepted).

    Sometimes they just all fit into place. No idea where I dredged TAFFRAILS up from. No problem with ROUTE ONE but took a while to parse TURNABOUT and TALK SHOP (COD).

    Thanks to William and the setter.

  23. Thanks blogger for 8a GOO D FOR NOTHING which had me stumped.
    DNF 5d careless PROBABLe. DOH! I see I am not alone. It does parse, just not as well as LY.
    DNF 16d NHO ROUTE ONE. Unsolveable in ignorance IMHO, so as I loathe footie I will simply add this to my cheating machine and say Poof!
    Surprised that so many NHO lie DOGGO.

  24. 23.50 with about 5 mins trying to sort taffrails out. Delighted to find that was right only to uncover a pink square for probable. I think that’s a bit tough aren’t babe and baby interchangeable? Probably probably just shades it but I think probable is possible.

        1. Try good old-fashioned substitution. ‘Chances are it will rain today’ can be replaced by ‘Probably it will rain today,’ but not by ‘Probable it will rain today.’

          PROBABLE is an adjective. CHANCES ARE is adverbial.

          To add: in Glasgow, it’s odds-on it will rain on any given day.

      1. Actually it does. In fact it’s more grammatical than ‘probably’. ‘The chances are that. . .’, ‘it is probable that. . .’ Interchangeable in every respect, and both take ‘that’ as the conjunction. ‘Probably ‘ can do, but not always.

        1. For the equivalence to work in your example, the phrases ‘the probable that’ and ‘it is chances are that’ would have to make sense. They obviously don’t.
          The relevant equivalence here is ‘chances are, Spurs will lose’ = ‘probably, Spurs will lose’ (sorry, Z).

  25. This was around 30 mins for me, but I was distracted by the dog we are temporarily looking after. I will get back to recording times next week.

    Very enjoyable. TAFFRAILS known to me thanks to a familiarity with several verses of ‘Drunken Sailor?’ – “Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yard-arm under”

    Thank you, William_j_s and the setter

    1. Aha! Perhaps that’s where I dredged it up from. Actually I got it from wordplay but it then seemed vaguely familiar.

  26. Liked this one. Ploughed steadily through it until the nho 16dn, which took a while but I got there.

    1dn is not a word I would use in relation to the police. I recall that in St Ives (Hunts, not Cornwall), the police station had the misfortune to be on Pig Lane. Pig lane is still there, but the police station isn’t.

  27. 36 minutes for a very enjoyable crossword. I thought LARYNX was outstanding. Pigs in The Times seems inappropriate, as many have mentioned. Goodness knows how that got through. 17ac looks to me to be unnecessarily complicated by the word ‘Keep’. But I dislike CDs and am no expert on them. To my mind if there had been some wordplay, with the definition ‘rabbit connected to post’, then we’d all be saying what a wonderful clue it was.

  28. 27 mins. Thought this an easier than usual Friday offering, but as usual I stumbled at the end, esp my LOI where even after staring at it wondering how it could be LARYNX, I missed the fact that I was looking for the wrong literal. TALK SHOP very clever

  29. 23:54 – After much scouring of the above comments, I finally understand what keep is doing in the TALK SHOP clue, but I do wonder if it might have been even neater without it.

  30. Beaten by LARYNX today. My keen-eyed HAWK didn’t help me at all. Still pleased to have done what I did. It was tough

  31. Many have already commented about 1d. I would be embarrassed to show the clue to my son-in-law, a policeman in the Met. Why should a cryptic crossword clue make me embarrassed?
    The Times would not use this word to describe the police in any other section of the newspaper. So why in the crossword? Can we expect derogatory terms to clue people who are gay or from ethnic minorities in the future. Of course not. So setter and editor, hang your heads in shame.

  32. 30’23”
    Smartly away, stayed on fairly well.

    I feared the breeze-block was heading for me, but fortunately eon did not take an eon to spot. Didn’t Saint-Exupery say something about ‘contemplating the same sunset from a moist taffrail’ trumping ‘gazing at each other candle lit’ or some such; perhaps in Wind , Sand and Stars ?
    Clever clueing, smooth surfaces and mischievous misdirection; well done setter and thank you William.

    I conflated,perhaps understably, two quotes:
    Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.
    St. E, Wind, Sand and Stars
    He called Hermione to join him and so standing together hand-in-hand, at the moist taffrail, they had their first view of Santa Dulcina della Rocce and took the place and all its people into their exulting hearts.
    E. Waugh, Men at Arms

  33. A fun puzzle with lots of PDMs. PRO-AM followed by PIPIT were my first 2 in. Liked LARYNX and GOBLIN. ROUTE ONE was NHO. DOGGO took a while but finally dispelled my whimsical A PUB BEER GARDEN at 24a. TAFFRAILS rang a very faint bell once constructed. LOI was TALK SHOP where the penny dropped just before I almost submitted with TALK SHOW. I agree 1d is a bit iffy. 32:15. Thanks setter and William.

  34. I think I must have been tuned in to the setters way of thinking today, finishing in 25.15 which is pretty fast by my standards. I note that many of the solvers who regularly beat me out of sight were slower than me today, so I must have had an inspired day. Having said that, I had a very slow time for the QC, so it is perhaps a case of one man’s meat etc…
    I see quite a few had problems with what to some was the unheard of ROUTE ONE. Being a season ticket holder at Newport County, this was a write in for me, particularly as they’ve spent virtually all season playing this style of football. It’s not very pretty, but it can be effective.

  35. Started slowly, then they all just fell into place.

    Nice puzzle I thought.
    Raised an eyebrow at one down, but quickly followed by a smile. Any boys in blue that I know are not going to be offended by a clue like that.

  36. 28:25

    PIPER at 1a made the NHO TAFFRAILS hard to see – PIPIT only vaguely remembered when PIPER didn’t elicit anything.

    Not so keen on the clue for 17a – was left pondering on SHOW or SHOP for the second word and my LOI.

    Forgot about the second meaning of EXPONENT and didn’t know that LYNXes are especially keen-eyed – I understood all cats are excellent at detecting fast-moving objects.

    ROUTE ONE – very easy if you follow football – first used I believe to describe the old Wimbledon’s approach. These days, Liverpool seem to have developed a taste for long-balls from defence in front of their attackers…

    1. Currently in Scotland The Rangers are playing a more sophisticated version of Route One. It’s basically lump it forward, and then fall down, in the confident knowledge that a compliant referee will give you a penalty or a free kick just outside the box. In the rare event that the referee misses it, there is VAR (Video Assisted Rangers) as back-up to make the award, as happened twice in their last match.

  37. Doggo, lynx-eyed and route-one were all familiar so I had no more than the usual difficulty in completing. I liked all of the four longest clues. A good puzzle. Thanks all.

  38. Pipit, Lipstick and Memoranda flew in, then I was grounded. Blog helped give more of the cross clues. Checkers did the rest. Except for Taffrails. NHO.

  39. Enjoyed this one – found it a tough workout. My initial trawl yielded only half a dozen clues then fortunately the bottom half started to go in. I’d missed / forgotten the mathematical meaning of exponent and had to come here for the explanation. The NW held me up the most with Pipit, taffrails (🤷‍♂️) and the much criticised pigs might fly holding me up a long time.

    33:30. Thx William and setter

  40. PIPIT FOI, followed by PRO-AM, just trusting the wordplay. Not much trouble on the right – hand side, but horribly held up with most of SW corner apart from LLOYD and DOGGO. Eventually I got BALLOT BOX which suggested GOBLIN, but I couldn’t parse it for ages. With the PDM it then got my COD! Last of all was the NHO and barely imaginable ROUTE ONE, which I would have been a lot more confident about if I’d seen eon, instead of trying to parse ONE! And yes, the ‘keep’ in 17a was very off-putting. I clearly have a long way to go – over an hour for this one.

  41. 55 mins another done in two sittings. Quite tricky with the unknown TAFFRAILS & ROUTE ONE needing a bit of attention (and all the crossers). TALK SHOP bunged in with fingers crossed too.

    I liked the long clues and SLAPDASH. Clever crossie.

    Thanks william and setter.

  42. I should have given up at the hour mark but I’m sitting in a train waiting for the Plymouth bomb to be cleared. Still DNF. Failed to see the double definition of EXPONENT and was trying to take Hal out of something at 21d. I also convinced myself TALK show worked. On the move again now.

    Thanks for clearing everything up William.

  43. First, thanks to William for parsing TALK SHOP, which I biffed. I had no qualms regarding porcine aviation. I had two mates in the 70’s who were in the police, and they never complained when we referred to them openly as Pinky and Perky. Methinks we are becoming too thin-skinned. I put it down to global warming…

    TIME 10:46

    1. I think you have it! There may well be a relationship between atmospheric methane and virtuous BS.
      Although, deep down, I suspect 1dn would have been better in another form.
      There is too much trouble in the world just now to become too precious….?

  44. 54:03
    Pleased to have worked out the NHO TAFFRAILS and ROUTE ONE. LOI was LARYNX – I had no idea that the lynx is renowned for its eyesight.

    I hesitated a long time before putting in TALK SHOP, despite seeing it quite early, because I could not see what the ‘Keep’ was doing at the start of the clue.

    Thanks William and setter.

  45. I found this very hard and am very pleased to have completed it correctly (with its many unknowns, like TAFFRAILS and DOGGO and ROUTE ONE), even if it took 57 minutes. I nearly entered “TALK SHOW” for 17ac, with “show” as a synonym for “post” (online somewhere), but that seemed to have no connection at all to “keep”, so I didn’t succomb. There were many very misleading clues to navigate around. My COD might be PIGS MIGHT FLY, despite the problem mentioned above with it. Very good puzzle.

  46. 33.42

    Really struggled to get going as GOOD FOR NOTHING didnt jump out, even though PIPIT straight in and I knew the GK for ROUTE ONE and TAFFRAIL (thank you Jack Aubrey). But teased it all out eventually

    Excellent Friday fare, now off to see how Simon A did

    Thanks William and setter

  47. I actually found the ‘pigs’ reference quite quaint. It was old hat when I joined the Met in 1982 and long forgotten when I retired 30 years later. Flew through this one in about 13 minutes.

  48. Biffed Pro-am, but could not see how ‘are rovers’ meant anything but ‘Roma’, which would have required a reversal of the final 2 letters.


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