Times 28852 – February bonus

I got interrupted while solving this one, so I do not have an accurate time, but I solved it pretty readily, I’d say this is easier than normal. Good thing too, because this has been my week of goofs and typos, yesterday I managed to fat finger on both the daily and the quick cryptic.

My biggest struggle was trying to spell the proper noun clued as an anagram at 18 across – even with all the checking letters I was doodling letters on the paper to try to remember the name of the beasy.

How did you get along?

1 Tweet to thwart censure at last (4)
PIPE – PIP(thwart) and the last letter of censurE
3 Opening somehow meant for severe critic (7,3)
HATCHET MAN – HATCH(opening) and an anagram of MEANT
10 Screech animal near a rock face heard (9)
CATERWAUL – CAT(animal) then a homophone of A WALL(a rock face)
11 Monkey shown without tail in animation (5)
VERVE – VERVET(a monkey) minus the last letter. I was going to say that VERVET was paying us a visit from Mephisto-land, it has apparently appeared once in a Mephisto in 2009 and a daily in 2016 where I commented that I had to get it from wordplay
12 Assist insect swallowing close to sunken well (7)
BENEFIT – BEE(insect) containing the last letter of sunkeN, then FIT(well)
13 Everything written into autonomous program for election (6)
BALLOT – ALL(everything) inside BOT(autonomous program)
15 Rapid series of visits organised to Welsh pits and to old city (7-4,4)
WHISTLE-STOP TOUR – anagram of TO,WELSH,PITS, then TO, UR(old city)
18 Mayor in Barnet has almost beaten Labour (11,4)
ERYMANTHIAN BOAR – anagram of MAYOR,IN,BARNET and most of HAs. One of the Labours of Hercules. I remembered the boar part, had to letter-wrangle the rest
21 Smear live fish ingesting uranium (6)
BEDAUB – BE(live), DAB(fish) containing U(uranium)
23 Roman general an old man seizing control (7)
AGRIPPA – A, PA(old man) containing GRIP(control)
26 American soldier coming in to deliver for firm (5)
RIGID – GI(American soldier) inside RID(to deliver)
27 Dependable but left out, is worker acknowledged? (3-6)
SOI-DISANT – SOLID(dependable) minus L(left), then IS, ANT(worker)
28 Eco-friendly member shows talent in garden (5,5)
GREEN THUMB – GREEN(eco-friendly), THUMB(member)
29 Pearl: article buried in garden plot? (4)
BEAD – A(article) inside BED(garden plot)
1 Quick and brilliant black winger through on the outside (4,6)
PACE BOWLER – ACE(brilliant), B(black), OWL(winger) surrounded by PER(through). Cricketing term.
2 Mine working for Spike useful in upward mobility? (5)
PITON – PIT(mine), ON(working)
4 Cunning fellows housed in suitable accommodation (9)
APARTMENT – ART(cunning) and MEN(fellows) inside APT(suitable)
5 Observe that judge has left target for tabloid? (5)
CELEB – CELEBRATE(observe) minus RATE(judge)
6 Cover of loveless work penned by revolutionary author (7)
ENVELOP –  remove O(love) from NOVEL(work) inside POE(author) reversed
7 Traveller to drive back, lukewarm about P&O (5,4)
MARCO POLO – RAM(drive) reversed, then COOL(lukewarm) surrounding P… then O at the end
8 Vegetable energy going into upped swan? (4)
NEEP – E(energy) inside PEN(swan) reversed
9 Positive result for Formula One team’s head (6)
PROFIT – PRO(for), FI(formula one), then the first letter of Team
14 Soy trade disrupted after doctor cooked without oil (3-7)
DRY-ROASTED – anagram of SOY,TRADE after DR(doctor)
16 Roman historian discounting first class colleges (3,6)
IVY LEAGUE – LIVY(Roman historian) minus the first letter, then LEAGUE(class)
17 Bar limits changes leading to group loyalty (9)
19 An adolescent male dressed at last in rubber finding wealth (7)
ALADDIN – A, LAD(adolescent male), the last letter of dresseD, IN
20 Worm that is wrapped around in anorak (6)
NEREID – IE(that is) inside NERD(anorak)
22 He was a Dutch painter? Utter nonsense (5)
BOSCH – homophone of BOSH(nonsense)
24 Fitness expert rare commodity in Middle East? (5)
PEACE – the fitness expert could be a PE ACE
25 Getting rook inside sack is a game (4)
BRAG – R(rook) inside BAG(sack)

67 comments on “Times 28852 – February bonus”

  1. I went thru this fairly slowly, with multiple distractions. My POI was (typically) the (non-US) sports term and LOI the anagrammed porcine monster, for which the letters fell into place easily enough at that point (but I, too, worked it out on paper).

    Both eyebrows were raised at the definition for SOI-DISANT (literally, “saying oneself,”), which means self-proclaimed, self-styled, so-called, pretended. One can, of course, “acknowledge” (admit) something about oneself, but the connotation is not the same. SOI-DISANT implies at least some question about the objectivity (or acknowledgment by others) of the attribution.

        1. I remembered something Jeeves had once called Gussie. “A sensitive plant, what?”
          “Exactly. You know your Shelley, Bertie.”
          “Oh, am I?”

  2. DNF
    Couldn’t get NEREID, which I didn’t know, even though I had NERD, IE. (But it’s EI, not just ‘wrapped’ but ‘around’.) Had an MER at HATCHET MAN, since I didn’t know the ‘critic’ meaning; eyebrow since restored to its original position. But it’s back up again, with SOI-DISANT, which means ‘self-styled’, i.e. not acknowledged. Cheated and looked up the boar. VERVE no problem, since VERVET wasn’t; actually met a couple, and read some of Cheney & Seyfarth’s work on their communication.

  3. 44 minutes.

    I was going to say I never heard of VERVET but now acknowledge that it turned up once before in 2016 when I also didn’t know it.

    I also didn’t know GREEN THUMB making its debut today, although it appeared in a QC discussion in 2017 when the blogger mentioned it as the US term for one of the answers, ‘green fingers’.

    I know PACE BOWLER as a cricketing term but how exactly does it correspond with ‘quick’ if that’s supposed to be the definition in the clue?

    I wrestled with the wretched pig and won in the end but felt the clue was well into ‘obscurity clued as anagram territory ‘. I remember having the same problem previously (5 years ago) so at least I knew the ‘Labour’ reference and BOAR came easily enough, but the first word required all the checkers to be in place, and then some guesswork.

    I wonder if the question mark mitigates in any way for the dodgy definition of SOI DISANT?

    I never parsed ENVELOP or CELEB, so thanks for those, George.

    1. Funny I had always assumed GREEN THUMB was a quintessentially English expression. I have a very early memory of reading a book called The Boy With The Green Thumb and being totally bemused by the title.

      But Google suggests it must have been an English adaptation of a French story by Maurice Druon.

      1. More Googling, and what do you know? It was an English writer named Barbara Todd.

        But more importantly (for me) I knew it was part of a collection of books that I just couldn’t recall the name of. Turns out to be Red Bison books, and the memories are flooding back.

        If I can find them anywhere that’ll be the next few grandchildren’s presents sorted.

      2. I’m with gal spray on this one. The phrase in UK is surely ‘green fingers’, and that ‘thumbs’ were strictly US. Are we wrong about that?

        1. Hate to break solidarity Bazzock but I was actually saying the opposite. ie I always thought “green thumb” was English.

          Emphasis on “thought” though. I really wouldn’t have a clue.

    2. Would a question mark mitigate defining ‘happy’ as ‘sad’?!
      I struggled with the boar last time it came up (the puzzle you mention) and fortunately remembered it this time. I was grateful that the Y and I were both checked.

  4. 22:10, and (bless me father for I have sinned) I did a quick Google to confirm the pig.

    Hate to disagree with the blogger, but surely this wasn’t “easier than normal”? NEEP, VERVE, the pig, SOI-DISANT, NEREID?

    Still, enjoyed the challenge. Thanks George and setter.

  5. Being out of match practice I found this tough but fair, finishing in 55.55 which I’m only saying because it’s all 5s. Must get across those labours of Hercules, that boar took an age. I am pleased the venerable Guy and Kevin confirmed my own query about SOI DISANT and I suppose I am just going to have to accept anorak = nerd with a shrug. I know the origins, I just don’t like it. Thanks to George for explaining MARCO POLO and ENVELOP, among others.

    1. At some point in my early enthusiastic days of trying hard to get better at these things I made a fairly firm attempt to memorise the Labours. I probably couldn’t recite them all right now, but at least remembering the boar today made 18 a quick write-in. (Just as well, as I never memorised any cricket terms, so PACE BOWLER took me an age. 32 mins all told…)

      1. I just googled the twelve labours of Hercules and it’s striking how unimaginative they are: 8 of the 12 are just some random animal. I imagine a team of writers trying to come up with another one and someone saying ‘oh just put, I don’t know, a Lion with magic claws or something and let’s go for lunch’.

  6. 13:42. Another that felt trickier than my time suggests.

    Fortunately knew the boar, although needed most of the crossers before I realised what I was looking for.

    Thanks George & setter.

  7. 20’14”, with the boar LOI.

    Some hard clues, but a number of gimmes (e.g. WHISTLE-STOP TOUR) kept the time reasonable.

    Thanks george and setter.

  8. 58m34s but one wrong. Beaten by ALADDIN. “Rubber finding wealth”! I like that.
    It is traditional on Leap Year Day for women to propose to men. I’m relieved to say that didn’t happen to me today….

    1. My wife proposed plenty of things to me today. Get more wood, clean the fireplace, sweep the terrace, empty the dishwasher….the list goes on!

  9. 29.40 but a silly mistake. Having thought of seed pearl, didn’t read the clue properly and missed bead.🙁 Other than that, very much enjoyed this puzzle though working the spelling of Hercules’ task was a bit of a labour of its own.

    1. IMHO, SEED works almost equally well. A seed is an article buried in a garden plot, after all. And surely a ‘pearl’ is much more valuable than a mere ‘bead’.

  10. 15:59. But I gave up on the labour and looked up the 12 things Hercules was tasked with to find it. I liked the ‘rubber finding wealth’ when I finally saw it. Thanks George and setter. P.S. Happy Birthday to all leaplings. I have an ex-colleague who will be having his 16th birthday today.

  11. 42 minutes with LOI PIPE, after I finally saw the PACE BOWLER marking out his run-up. COD to HATCHET MAN. It took a while for the penny to drop on the BOAR, and as long again to get the letters right. Seems like PEACE is a rare commodity anywhere. Decent puzzle.Thank you George and setter.

  12. 40′ or so in a couple of visits with many easy clues and a few quite “out there” I thought.

    However that did include a misspelling of CATERWAiL, so really a DNF. I also couldn’t parse it because of my penchant for pronouncing “R”s; on the other hand NEEP was a write-in!

    Once I realised labour was of the Herculean kind I did have a sly peek at the spelling even though I had the crossers. NHO SOI DISANT so manufactured from the crossers and obviously can’t add to the conversation on that one!

    Enjoyed HATCHET MAN. Thanks George and setter.

  13. 46:47 with BEAD my LOI for some reason although it was by no means the toughest clue here.

    ERYMANTHIAN BOAR was a slog to work out, even though I made a point of going over the 12 labours a while ago when the stables came up.

    BEDAUB was a nice clue that had me going for a while, and SOI-DISANT only -just – came about from the wordplay once I had all the checkers.

    COD to BOSCH which is just a nice word to say out loud.

  14. Liked this, despite the Americanisms. Knew the boar, but needed most of the crossers to spell it proper.
    Not keen on 27ac SOI DISANT. On the bright side, at least I know what the phrase means now. Which seems to put me one up on the setter..
    I read that Vervet monkeys exhibit many human behaviours. Including anxiety, alcohol abuse (really!), aggression and spite. Poor things.

  15. 38:00
    Lots of unknowns for me (VERVET, ERYMANTHIAN BOAR, NEREID, BOSCH, SOI-DISANT) so glad to have just about limped over the line, with the Boar proving a particularly slippery beast to catch.

    Overall a good challenge so thanks to the setter and to George for the blog.

  16. 37 minutes. The ERYMANTHIAN BOAR is one the 3/12 labours of Hercules I happen to know, so with a few crossers it went in early. I’d forgotten the VERVET as a ‘monkey’ and didn’t know BRAG for ‘game’ but the rest went in without too many hold-ups.

  17. Just over half an hour.

    ERYMANTHIAN BOAR has to be the most laboriously pieced-together clue I’ve ever successfully solved. I thought it might be referring to one of the Labours of Hercules, which initially made my heart sink because I don’t know what any of them are, but once I had all the checkers in place I went back to front, starting with the boar, getting the ‘anthian’ bit and finally deciding that it was more likely to start with ‘erym’ than ’emyr’.

    NEREID was an unknown figured out from wordplay; didn’t parse ENVELOP or MARCO POLO; missed the homophone for BOSCH; didn’t know the vervet monkey for VERVE; biffed WHISTLE-STOP TOUR; eventually dredged up SOI-DISANT from somewhere; had to trust that PITON is a word; and was slightly surprised by the pointed comment in PEACE.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Peace
    LOI Erymanthian Boar
    COD Ivy League

  18. 13:31 A nice puzzle. I was very slow, despite being a smug classicist, to spot the troublesome pig, but the rest fell in place quite nicely, with quite a few biffed. I also don’t see how SOI-DISANT can be clued as ACKNOWLEDGED, with or without the question mark. Is there perhaps a NOT missing from the clue? COD to WHISTLE-STOP TOUR.

  19. Come off it George, being interrupted must have been one of those happy coincidences that give the brain just enough time to sort out the foggy bits (of which there were many) while not actually thinking about them. I peered through the fog for 35 minutes on this one, not helped by the fact (!) that Hercules also wrestled a BEAR. FAST BOWLER had my stumps scattered for most of the time, had the GREEN but not the THUMB (fingers didn’t fit), and I couldn’t think of a target you could take a J(udge) away from. Nothing clicked, making this easily the hardest of the week so far. Cleaning the Augean stables would have been easier.

  20. ‘Easier than normal’? Gosh, not my experience at all. Really struggled with this. Gave up on the hour with ENVELOP, VERVE and NEREID (a NHO) missing. Never made the Hercules connection with Labour and had to use aids.
    Bit of a disaster, in all.

  21. Certainly not easier than normal, for me at any rate. I did eventually finish in 53 minutes having resisted temptations to use aids, except in the case of the Hercules clue, where my knowledge of his labours extends to rolling some stone up some hill and the cleaning of the Augean stables. Nice clues; I particularly liked the rubber finding wealth.

  22. 34:29. I enjoyed this one. DNK the Herculean Boar but with all the crossers in, the remaining letters slotted themselves in surprisingly readily, going back to front as described by ChrisLutton above. I liked BOSCH after first trying “utter” as a promising anagram for a Dutch painter

  23. 38 – Found this extremely tough and the list of obscurities and NHOs is too long to start. The boar almost did for me, the clue and the (eventual) answer conjuring up thoughts of some small town politician in a Trollope novel.

  24. Found it very hard. DNF, NHO the BOAR at 18a and also missed the worm NEREID at 20d. E and E BOAR added to cheating machine.
    NHO or have forgot GREEN THUMB at 28a. Have heard of the fingers.
    Couldn’t parse 5,6,7d, thanks glh.

  25. Was chuffed to finish this without any Googling, only to find I can’t spell; CATERWAIL. A pity, it was a good test. No time as done in two attempts either side of a tedious drive back from Nottingham in rush hour.

  26. 9:20. For me this was much easier than it seemed. Loads of clues where my initial reaction was complete bafflement and I had to go away and come back before I could make head or tail of them. For some unfathomable reason the gap between WTD? and Eureka! was just exceptionally short for me today. Helped partially by knowing all the stuff (even the worm, strangely) but still.
    As others say the word ‘not’ appears to have been omitted from 27ac.

  27. Completed without aids, first time since Monday. I say ‘without aids’, but I have to confess I did have to check the spelling of ‘Erymanthian’ but it seemed the only way to go. A thoroughly enjoyable grapple. FOI PITON, LOI was the said boar. COD was ALADDIN but there were several others I liked.

  28. Augean Stables is the only Herculean labour that I keep to hand, but I somehow got the letters of the pig in the right order. Cheated for the PACE BOWLER, which allowed me to complete everything else in that quadrant. Failed on VERVE anyway. Not a good day for me!


  29. 32:04

    Mostly OK but had forgotten VERVEt (did I ever really know it?). I’ve probably read of the piggy beastie long ago but had forgotten the name, so some piecing together required. Also slow with NEREID (rang a bell) and SOI-DISANT (no bells, O-level French didn’t stretch that far, so hit-and-hope). Failed to fully parse PACE BOWLER as well – as others, I started with FAST…

  30. A fearsome labour for me today. My first sniff at an answer was NEEP, followed by TOUR at the end of 15a. I had more luck in the SE where DRY ROASTED led to AGRIPPA. Even NEREID was conjured from the wordplay. SOI- DISANT held out a lot longer though. GREEN THUMB had me baffled for a while. Eventually I was left with 1d and the unknown BOAR. I’d NHO quick as a bowler, so I didn’t know what I was looking for there. I had all the crossers for 18a apart from the first letter and had got as far as
    –Y-A-THIAN BOAR on paper, but gave up and looked up the Labours of Hercules to see how to finish it off. PACE BOWLER arrived almost immediately afterwards. 38:34. Thanks setter and George.

  31. Pleased to decode everything including the unknowns and extended anagrams. Failed sadly with the worm bunging in nerdie which could be something?

    Thanks for that George.

  32. DNF in ages today. NHO the piggy in the middle though it was an obvious anagram; NHO GREEN THUMB – and surely the thumb is a digit, not a member; didn’t much care for the ‘rare commodity in the Middle East’, true though it may be to say it.

  33. Was left with V_R_E at which point I gave up because I was certain that EMYBANTHIAN ROAR was going to be wrong anyway, and it was.

  34. Just Another Whistle Stop is a good song by The Band. Agree that SOI-DISANT is a bit weird for ACKNOWLEDGED. 22’16” – just above my average so a personal NITCH of 103.

  35. 38 minutes DNF as couldn’t get/ retired early on the THUMB and checked the BOAR after I had most of the checkers and I’d passed the 30 minute mark.

    Fortunately didn’t know what soi-disant meant, only that it was a thing

    Thanks George and Setter

  36. Came to this very late, post 9pm, having spent a long while over lunch on it, after which the remaining answers sort of fell into place, but I did look up the labours of Hercules, specifically those involving a BOAR, being quite convinced that I wouldn’t be able to rearrange the remaining letters with any confidence. LOI PACE BOWLER, bifd, I’m afraid, as was SOI-DISANT. I really have to remember that if a word is impossible in English, I need to try French or Latin. MER at GREEN THUMB, which is definitely US, not English – we have green fingers. I also think of a HATCHET MAN as being one who sacks people, rather than criticises them, but I’m willing to be corrected. The idea that this was ‘easier than normal’ frankly is laughable, even for a Thursday, but there were some cracking clues, nevertheless.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *