Times 28863 – crossword engineering

A puzzle which relies more on letter removals and additions to words, rather than on cryptic definitions and anagrams, I found, although I was misdirected a couple of times which added perhaps 4 minutes to my otherwise 19 or so to complete it. I think CARICATURE wins the CoD award.

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

1 Host welcoming English man with his peculiar device (9)
MECHANISM – MC (host), insert E (English), then (MAN HIS)*. I confess I put this in from the terminal M checker, then parsed it.
9 Incident is occurring in recording poem (7)
EPISODE – EP (recording), ODE (poem), insert IS.
10 Miser’s personality recalled after vicious creatures returned (7)
SCROOGE – EGO reversed, after ORCS reversed.
11 A small amount that’s penned about part of tyre (5)
TREAD – a TAD is a small amount, put it round RE = about.
12 Delighted song No. 1 in Estonia, in conclusion (9)
ENCHANTED – END = conclusion, insert CHANT and E[stonia].
13 French are looking less well, slipping back in this? (7)
RELAPSE – ES (French second person singular for “are”), PALER (less well), all reversed.
15 Worker missing high point in stage work (5)
OPERA – worker = OPERATOR, lose the TOR = high point.
17 On leaving, marks time? (5)
HOURS – HONOURS (marks) loses its ON.
18 Subsequently less sensible, losing head (5)
AFTER – DAFTER loses its D.
19 Successful student receiving new piano (5)
GRAND – successful student being GRAD[uate], insert N.
20 Nuts about Beethoven’s Third, beginning to rave over conductor (7)
MAESTRO – MAST being (beech) nuts, insert the [Be]E[thoven], add R[ave], O[ver].
23 What coiner produces — good simoleon in counterfeit form (9)
NEOLOGISM – (G SIMOLEON)*. Coiner of new words, not coins.
25 Party — our group — beginning to resist payment for union (5)
DOWER – DO (party) WE (our group) R[esist]. I pencilled in DOWRY but had to re-think.
27 Liquid carrier’s first thing needed for big run (7)
BLADDER – B[ig], LADDER = run in stocking.
28 Film director joined ranks, heading for immortality (7)
FELLINI – joined ranks = FELL IN, I[mmortality].
29 Opening in chess later had revised place for bishop (9)
CATHEDRAL – C[hess], (LATER HAD)*. I was at first trying to make an anagram with B in it and recalling names of chess openings I once knew.
1 Become expert in microwave device, having invested time (6)
MASTER – a MASER is a microwave amplification device, as a LASER is for light; insert T for time.
2 Parody of East German leaving Central American country somehow true (10)
CARICATURE -German for east is “ost”. So COSTA RICA loses OST to give CARICA, then (TRUE)*.
3 Fruit drink company’s rise covered by a volume (8)
AVOCADOS – all reversed, SODA (drink) CO (company) V, A.
4 Still turn up, very lost (5)
INERT – INVERT (turn upside down) loses V.
5 Wicked made moral in this? (9)
6 Large number upset after US detective produces weapon (6)
PISTOL – PI (private investigator), LOTS reversed.
7 Single line by individual (4)
LONE – L for line, ONE for individual.
8 Garden worker adopting couple of articles separately as protection from sun? (8)
HEADGEAR – our gardener is a HEDGER, insert A twice in different spots.
14 Gentle touch on posterior? Punched by female, a pioneering spirit (10)
PATHFINDER – PAT on HINDER, insert F for female.
16 Well-adapted, efficient, and thus pithy? Not initially (9)
ERGONOMIC – ERGO (Latin for therefore or thus), [G]NOMIC, as gnomic means pithy, sort of.
17 Dampen sound of activity? I’d provided way, ultimately (8)
HUMIDIFY – HUM (sound f activity), I’D, IF (provided), [wa]Y.
18 Suggest liqueur is lacking a bit of excitement (8)
ADVOCATE – ADVOCAAT, the yucky eggy liqueur, has an A removed and E (bit of excitement) added.
21 Unclear change that’s reduced offer (6)
TURBID – TUR[N] = change reduced, BID = offer.
22 No afternoon exam could be unethical (6)
AMORAL – an A.M. ORAL would be a morning exam so not afternoon.
24 Soldiers had an impact in area of operations (5)
ORBIT – OR (soldiers), BIT (had an impact).
26 Greedy person — upset of course (4)
WOLF – FLOW (course, run) reversed.


51 comments on “Times 28863 – crossword engineering”

  1. I had a nightmare with this one. My mistake was to tackle it at midnight when I was very tired, had difficulty concentrating and may have drifted asleep a few times. When I made the decision to abandon it for the night there was an hour on the clock and only 12 answers in the grid. I wish I could report that when I came to it refreshed this morning the answers simply flew in, but that was not the case. I think by then I may have been wary of the whole thing and inhibited in my approach. I required another 46 minutes to finish the job.

    On reflection I’m not sure if the puzzle was particularly, difficult so I shall be interested to read what others made of it. My only two unknowns were MASER (although it did come up in June last year) and TURBID (one previous appearance in 2015). I looked more than once at DOWER and HINDER but concluded they were fine.

    1. I have found especially when I started doing these puzzles 2 or 3 years ago it‘s suprisingly easy to be mentally blocked and ‘beaten before you start’
      Also the time of day and how tired you are make a big impact

  2. 34m 50s. Unlike Jack, I had had an afternoon nap so came to the puzzle somewhat refreshed.
    I thought this was a very pleasant puzzle; not as challenging as Tuesday’s but good nonetheless.
    I had to be careful not to put in DOWRY and HUMIDITY. Like Jack, I looked a little askance at (patH(f)INDER before putting it in.
    AVOCADOS was very good as was CARICATURE as Pip says but my COD/LOI was BLADDER because it reminded me of the old Goon Show, ‘Dishonoured’ wherein Seagoon, on the Northwest Frontier, is faced by The Red Bladder and his 50,000 balloons!
    “Gad! We’re outnumbered 20 to 1!”
    “20 to 1? Time for lunch” says Eccles!
    Thanks, Pip.

  3. I hear you Nelson but I enjoyed this, I thought some of the clues (eg CARICATURE, RELAPSE, HEADGEAR among others) were really good. Still not sure ERGONOMIC works but never mind. I got around in 24.03, the final hold-out being the NW where MASTER, MECHANISM and SCROOGE were among the last to fall.

  4. 25′?
    I went through this once and turned up a half-dozen solutions in 6 minutes, then went offline and to the gym; did the rest of it over lunch. Which slowed me down a bunch, as where online I’d biff an answer and then look at it and maybe erase it, here I had to write down solutions and see if they worked. Luckily, and unusually, my biffing worked. I took me a while to think of what to remove TOR, ON, and OST from. I liked TREAD & HOURS for their misleading surfaces. Nice to see ‘French are’ instead of ‘French art’.

      1. I don’t understand this at all. I was at 6′ some seconds, not 6:00, when I went offline. When I had completed the puzzle offline, I went back online and typed in the remain solutions. Then I submitted without leaderboard. So I shouldn’t be on the SNITCH at all; or if I mistakenly clicked ‘submit’, my time should have been 8′ or so.

  5. Lots of word construction here, causing much hesitation, but all parsed and solved correctly in 18’30”.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  6. I finished in 32:23, just over my half hour target. Partly because I wrote in AMBIT for ORBIT, don’t know why I thought AM were soldiers but just in that moment, I did. I also started with DOWRY but caught that one almost immediately.
    I found this puzzle a bit joyless to be honest, but I think everyone has different tastes in these puzzles.
    Also I will mention that I had a typo CATHEDRRL but as I said before i decided not to count these as it’s so easy on the phone. I do the xword club for practice also and it’s SO ANNOYING to get a good time but be marked down for these stupid typos. 😉
    Thanks setter and blogger

  7. 32 minutes with LOI HEADGEAR. No real stand-out clue, so let’s give it to FELLINI, which did produce a smile. It’s not easy living LA DOLCE VITA in an English winter. O, to be in April, Now that England’s there. Thank you Pip and setter.

  8. 35:58

    Slightly surprised to find myself 50th out of 68 (at the time of writing) Crossword Club entrants which suggests I was quite slow with this. Had trouble justifying AVOCADOS and HOURS and NHO DOWER though cryptic was straightforward. COD to CARICATURE. LOIs were PATHFINDER and BLADDER.

    Thanks P and setter

  9. 32:45
    Okay puzzle, although a lot of the clues were a bit samey in construction, as piquet noted.
    Thanks, p.

  10. 26:53

    Like Marty McFly in the famous trilogy, I kept parsing biffs even after I thought I had it all worked out.

    Still couldn’t make sense of 1A until I came here, though. MC, of course!

  11. Steady solve, a tad American (simoleon?!) and a little bit mechanical but nothing unfair.
    2dn is a nice clue, if you overlook the clunky surface. Also 17dn, humidify.
    PI did not occur to me but what else could 6dn be?

  12. 14:53. The TURBID/DOWER crossing pair held me up a bit, as did my LOI HOURS, which for some reason I couldn’t parse. But it’s a time, and nothing much else fitted.

    Definitely fewer PDMs than sometimes, but I enjoyed it.

    Thanks P & setter.

  13. About half an hour.

    Didn’t parse MECHANISM; forgot that mast can mean nuts for MAESTRO; like the blogger I thought of ‘dowry’ before correcting to DOWER; didn’t know maser as a microwave device for MASTER; glad I didn’t have to know what a simoleon is to get NEOLOGISM; nearly biffed ‘headwear’ for 8d before getting HEADGEAR; not really familiar with hinder as posterior for PATHFINDER; and TURBID went in on trust.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Lone
    LOI + COD Bladder

      1. I’m surprised, too, as I would have thought it dead long ago. I vaguely remember ‘hiney’ (rhymes with ‘shiny’) based on it, I assume; but that would be decades and decades ago.

        1. I read it as an adjective, a usage supported by Collins and I guess most commonly seen in the word ‘hindermost’.

          1. Collins (US) also has ‘hinder’ (rhymes with ‘minder’) as a noun meaning ‘buttocks’, from which is derived ‘heinie’ (which I misspelled as ‘hiney’) (rhymes with ‘shiny’). Of course your reading is perfectly cromulent. (I would have said ‘hindmost’; does the devil ever take the hindermost?)

            1. You’d have to ask the devil. I don’t think I would ever say either word tbh, but if I did I would I think use ‘the hindmost’ and ‘the hindermost person’ to mean the same thing.

        2. Frank Zappa was still using it in the late 1970s (‘Bobby Brown’). I always wondered what it was. Never one to pull his punches, he came across as ‘unreconstructed’. But the literati tended to miss the subtle, bordering opaque satire contained within.

  14. 33 minutes. I enjoyed working out all the parsing, including the missing letter hunts. HEADGEAR as my LOI needed all the crossers but like Chris above I was glad not to have entered HEADWEAR, which was my first thought.

    The clue works fine as it is, but it’s interesting that ‘recording’ in the wordplay for EPISODE is superfluous.

  15. 40:57
    I am not having a good week and I made very heavy weather of this, with the SE causing me the most problems.

    No unknowns but it turns out I’ve spent the last 45 years not knowing how to spell CARICATURE. I’ve probably never had cause to write it down before but at the very least I’d have added an H as 2nd letter.

    Not my favourite amongst recent puzzles but thanks to the setter for the challenge and to piquet for the blog.

  16. Challenging, I thought. Got there in just under 50 mins, though was held up for quite a lot of that time by getting DOWRY wrong and therefore being unable to see TURBID.

  17. Funnily enough as I was going through this I was making a mental note of its relative originality, and it certainly held my interest for the 16 minutes it took to solve it. I managed to escape a heffalump trap for biffers at 7d, where the “single line” prompts SOLE rather than LONE but I thought more than once. I was also hampered by forgetting that fruit in 3d can be a plural, and was alarmed when AVOCADO didn’t reach the end, nor yet have a drink in it.

  18. 12:02. I suppose this was a little bit mechanical now that you mention it, but I enjoyed it. A few strange words: HINDER, MASER and above all ‘simolean’.
    I thought ‘East German leaving Central American country’ was very good.

  19. 31.43

    26’ on the clock with three to go. 5’ later effectively gave up, but inserting the ‘must be’ NHO DOWER gave up WOLF, which had already defeated an alphabet trawl and plumped for a U in T_RBID.
    Thanks all

  20. 51 minutes, a bit better than yesterday’s feeble performance, but not by much. Simoleon struck me as an inelegant word for the setter to use. But of course the fact that I’d never heard of it doesn’t mean that others hadn’t. However, if I had to bet. Mostly steady but undramatic slogging through it all, but I did like 29ac with its misdirection of b in (later had)*. Wasn’t sure what a DOWER was but it looked OK.

  21. Had to work hard to finish, having been lured up any number of blind alleys (some of my own making, perhaps) before getting home. NW corner gave the most trouble.
    This kind of puzzle, with all the misdirections, should have been more enjoyable than I actually found it.
    FOI ‘caricature’, LOI ‘inert’, COD? Hmmm. Nothing overwhelmingly obvious. Perhaps ‘melodrama’, or ‘Fellini’.

  22. 23:37 – a reasonably steady solve that felt a lot harder at the time than perhaps it should have done.

  23. 36’57”
    Steady pace throughout.

    I was pleased to finish this in just a smidgeon over par, with only a couple needing retrospective parsing.
    A worthy challenge which calmed my frayed nerves very well; thank you setter and Pip.

  24. I thought this was the easiest this week. I never time myself. I am just pleased if I can finish.

  25. I vaguely knew simoleon from trash detective stories (e.g.: “I greased the doorman with a couple simoleons, so everything was jake”), which knowledge turned out to be a hindrance rather than a help, and I was a bit surprised when Carica(ture) appeared when I wrote the country minus the ex country down. you put your finger on the adjective for this one with ‘mechanical’ pip, thanks

  26. 22.27

    I really liked this, possibly because it was more mathematical in its construction than literary. CARICATURE and HOURS were both good. I was also tempted by HEADWEAR and unusually realised it was wrong, rather than assuming it was correct but parsed in a way I couldn’t see

    Thanks Pip and setter

  27. A relatively speedy 31.25 for me, held up by putting in DOWRY, and staring blankly at 21 dn my LOI as a result. Eventually I realised that I hadn’t parsed it, and then corrected it allowing me to finish. I was also trying to make sense of HEAD WEAR for too long, and wondering what a ‘hedwer’ was !

  28. 30 mins, but had to come here to find the justification for HEADWEAR, only to find it wasn’t that at all. Same for MASTER, but my excuse was valid this time as NHO MASER.

  29. Well, I’m on hols in Bandol, great wine by the way, so had to do this for the first time on screen on the wife’s pooter and managed a respectable 38’22 precisely. It did feel nice being « congratulated « !

    Anyway, medium strength today I thought, and most has been said already.

    I liked TURBID.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  30. How strange! After I struggled with the first two puzzles this week, which everyone was saying were easy, and not finishing them correctly, I had no problems at all with this. It took 38 minutes, all correct, but not nearly as much fun as the two previous ones. COD to CARICATURE and HOURS, but I also liked GRAND.

  31. A pleasant enough exercise, completed in 31 minutes. I did find it a bit of an echo chamber – MASTER/MAESTRO, AVOCADOS/ADVOCATE – which may explain why I put in OGRE at 26dn under the influence of ERGONOMIC. This did not help with cracking the remainder of the SW corner, but the eventual revelation of DOWER and FELLINI taught me the error of my ways and put all to rights.
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  32. Oddly enough, we’ve recently been having a discussion on the One Touch Football forum about MASER, so I smugly put that in.

    Sadly no one on there mentioned TURBID, so another dnf for me.

  33. With my new found patience I returned to my last two throughout the day in order to finish. Eventually I realised the problem. I had spelt AVOCADOS wrong. Once corrected SCROOGE was obvious. LOI WOLF. A few unknowns but every day’s a school day.

    Thanks P

  34. Computer’s down so doing this on the wife’s. 24’58”. Chewy. Thought it was going to go into the half hour, but suddenly the last resistance crumbled: MECHANISM, SCROOGE, MASTER . For some reason I had in mind that the MISER was a figure from French literature. But I see now that Moliere’s Avare was Harpagon.

  35. Failed with my LOI where I put IDENT where I dropped the V from VIDENT and apparently these are words of a sort, just absolutely nothing to do with the clue. Anyway, pleased to get the rest.


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