Times 28869 – education by crossword.

A ream of unusual words in this one, covering the gamut of art, science and literature to test your GK as well as solving skills. I think I’ve cracked them all except for 7d where I’m struggling to see a full explanation. I liked the science clues because I knew them, but OPERA gets my CoD award.

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

1 Heckle leader caught in booze store where people have reservations (7,6)
BOOKING OFFICE – BOO (heckle) KING (leader) OFFIE (off licence, booze store), insert C for caught. Where people make reservations, I think, more than where they have them, but that would be too easy.
8 Picked up medium for sculptor or modern artist (4)
KLEE –  Paul KLEE sounds like CLAY when pronounced properly.
9 Device for paying person with a transport phobia? (4,6)
CARD READER – Ha ha, a CAR DREADER has a transport phobia.
10 At home in America’s capital, say (8)
ASTATINE – even though I have a degree in chemistry, it took me a while to spot the setter’s tricky definition, a chemical symbol, as we more often see with As for arsenic. A[merica’s}, STATE = say, insert IN for at home. Astatine being below iodine in the halogens group, element 85, and the rarest in the earth’s crust as its longest lived isotope has a half-life of only 8 hours. If you (theoretically) had enough of it to form a solid piece, it would immediately evaporate because of the heat of its intrinsic radioactivity.
11 Skill about carrying common person in carriage (6)
TROIKA – ART (skill) reversed around OIK (a common person, in slang). Russian carriage pulled by three horses, as seen in Dr Zhivago I remember. Ah, Julie Christie, magnificent.
13 Mercian king returning by wild desert covered in greenery (10)
AFFORESTED – OFFA reversed, then (DESERT)*.
16 Very large drilling article close to mine shaft (4)
AXLE – XL (very large), inside A (article) E (close to minE).
17 Split ends occasionally spotted, perhaps (4)
PIED – alternate letters as above. Usually used in the names of birds.
18 Almost performed The Merchant of Venice in US city (3,7)
SAN ANTONIO – SAN[G] = almost performed, ANTONIO who was the eponymous merchant.
20 One game to plug venture capital (6)
BEIRUT – BET (venture) with I (one) RU (game) inserted.
22 Old fraud in business, having time for Buddhism? (8)
COZENAGE – I deduced this from wordplay as it was new to me, but seemed pretty sure to be correct once the crossing Z was established. It’s simply an old word for fraud. CO (business) ZEN (Buddhism), AGE (time).
24 Manuscript proceeds haltingly, and is translated into French after a year (10)
PALIMPSEST – PA (per ammum, a year), LIMPS (proceeds haltingly), EST (“is” in French).
26 Primarily, milady’s helper? (4)
MAID – M[ilady’s] AID = helper. An &lit, I suspect.
27 Something traveller has seen with visit abroad, observing capitals? (4-9)
CASE-SENSITIVE – CASE (what traveller has) then (SEEN VISIT)*. Neat surface.
1 Lively people‘s party cancelled with father around (5,2,4)
BALLS OF FIRE – BALL (party) SIRE (father), insert OFF (cancelled).
2 Work in the theatre, or just over half of one (5)
OPERA – OPERA can also be 5/9ths of OPERATION, a “work in the (other kind of) theatre”.
3 Appeal during boring game creates irritation (9)
ITCHINESS – IT (appeal), CHESS (game) is “bored” by IN = during.
4 Fellow about ready to fight big girl’s blouse, say (7)
GARMENT – GENT (fellow) around ARM (ready to fight, arm as a verb).
5 Maiden king’s taken in hand (5)
FIRST – R for king inside FIST for hand.
6 Lover got a Roman imperator somewhat upset (9)
INAMORATO – hidden reversed, as above.
7 … stripped off woman often painted naked (3)
EVE – I don’t quite get this. I tried to “strip” five letter words meaning woman or a girl’s name, but couldn’t find one. I tried to make something of the ellipsis (three dots) at the start, but can’t quite see how that it’s stripped to leave EVE. But, E*E, it must be EVE.
EDIT just back in and seen jerry’s explanation below, it’s [S}EVE[N] which is “stripped”, the ellipsis implies that. Doh!
12 Big profit this person’s invested in case of trouble, being a waiter? (7,4)
KILLING TIME – KILLING (making a big profit, à la Baroness Mone perhaps), I’M inside T[roubl]E.
14 Attendants in group of monks can’t be trusted (9)
ORDERLIES – an ORDER of monks, LIES = can’t be trusted.
15 Producer of 2 into diet changes, eating unknown quantity (9)
DONIZETTI – insert Z an unknown into (INTO DIET)*. Chap who wrote over 80 operas, of which Lucia di Lammermour is the only one I’ve heard of. I’m not an opera fan.
19 Part of an atom of gas probed by London university (7)
NUCLEON – NEON a gas, probed by UCL (University College London). A proton or a neutron, they’re both nucleons.
21 Best rating for literary motif (5)
TOPOS – TOP (best) OS (ordinary seaman, rating). A Greek word used in English, so the plural will be TOPOI. I only knew it in modern Greek to mean subject.
23 Shower heralds ultimately clean feet, with area scrubbed (5)
NIMBI – the plural of nimbus, meaning cloud; so heralding rain. Also a halo or brightness around the pictured head of a god to “show” he/she/it is of that ilk. N the end of clean, IAMBI = (poetic) feet, with A for area removed.
25 Cliff, no good, going around bend (3)
ARC – CRA[G] reversed.


80 comments on “Times 28869 – education by crossword.”

  1. 38 minutes for all but one answer. I spent another 10 minutes on an alphabet trawl for ?S?A?I?E at 10ac, but apart from guessing ‘home’ or ‘at home’ probably indicated IN as the 6th and 7th letter I was unable to make further progress so I gave up and resorted to aids. Even if I’d realised At was a chemical symbol I doubt I would have come up with ASTATINE. If I knew it at all it would have been from the Tom Lehrer song, but its position in the lyric doesn’t make it stand out.

    COZENAGE came from wordplay. NHO, and this seems to have been its first appearance, even including Mephistos.

    TOPOS was unknown too although it has appeared once before in 2000 when I also didn’t know it. Its plural TOPOI appeared in 2018 without comment from me but on that occasion it was a hidden answer and easy to get with checkers in place.

    I constructed PALIMPSEST from wordplay then vaguely remembered meeting it before. Its two most recent appearance were in January 2022 and Jumbo 1655 blogged by Kitty in February this year which I certainly solved and commented on. In 2020 it even appeared in a Quick Cryptic set by Pedro when after remarking on its unsuitability, I went on to say: PALIMPSEST has come up three times before – December 2012, June 2105 and most recently in May 2018 in a Sunday puzzle – and on every occasion I wrote here that I didn’t know it. I seem to have no reference point to make it stick in my brain. Plus ça change!

    Plus ça change indeed!

    1. Greetings from mid Channel. In 23dn I think the definition is “shower heralds, ” nimbus clouds being prone to bringing such.
      7dn, quite clever. The three dots indicate that the 7 forms a part of the clue.
      Good stuff ..

  2. 25:01, with the equally unparsed EVE to finish.

    Having groused yesterday about a NHO homophone, I thought DONIZETTI (NHO & an anagram!) and KLEE (homophone!) were both a bit rough here if you didn’t know them. But the latter pops up fairly often in crosswords, and knowing the QC’s very own IZETTI is DON Manley gave me confidence on the former. On another day I might have thought that Dino was a common enough Italian name that it was the more plausible arrangement.

    I liked CARD READER, COZENAGE, and the sneaky ASTATINE. Among other things, it taught me that the element is not, in fact, ASTANINE or ASTAMINE.

    Thanks setter & Piquet.

      1. I didn’t, but now you mention it… I’ve never got much of a clue who the setter might be, really, although this time I thought CARD READER and EVE had shades of John Halpern.

    1. Ah, so it is! I did wonder what the ellipses were for given the lack of them in the preceding clue.

  3. Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise Him.
    (Pied Beauty, GM Hopkins)

    Well I almost gave up after a first pass yielded only Klee (with a ?) and Palimpsest (which didn’t bode well). But I kept going, enjoying it more and more, gathering pace and finishing in 35 mins with Beirut/Topos.
    Very clever stuff. Ta setter and Pip.

  4. 62m 12s
    That was a tester! Thanks Pip for GARMENT and OPERA. And thanks, Jerry for EVE.
    NHO COZENAGE, TOPOS or NUCLEON and only knew PALIMPSEST as that was the title of a memoir by Gore Vidal. LOI was ASTATINE. Eventually I remembered that that type of clue has been used before but with As.
    DONIZETTI reminded me of the aria ‘Ah, mes, amis’ in his opera ‘La Fille du Régiment’. Pavarotti once brought the house down at the Met in New York when he reached all nine high C’s in the aria.

  5. 39 minutes with LOI the unknown TOPOS, constructed and ventured with fingers crossed. ASTATINE was next to the last. COD to CARD READER. I biffed the pre-fig-leaf EVE and assembled the unknown COZENAGE. Excellent puzzle apart from the Jerry Lee Lewis earworm I’m now stuck with.Thank you Pip and setter.

  6. 36:01
    Lots to chew over today. After about 10 minutes I had a very empty grid and felt totally off wavelength.

    ASTATINE, COZENAGE, PALIMPSEST, and TOPOS were all new to me. I missed the cleverness of EVE but it had to be, luckily heard of KLEE, but my lack of Shakespeare made SAN ANTONIO harder than it should have been.

    That felt like a toughie. Thanks to both.

  7. Struggled with this but got there in the end. 52 mins. Last four in, ITCHINESS, KLEE, AXLE & ASTATINE (a complete guess but worked out finally from the wp) took an age.

    COZENAGE another NHO slowly worked out once I had the Z. Like Jack, finally figured out PALIMPSEST for once seeing « a year=pa » which I usually miss, and thought, I’ve seen that word before, but had no idea what it meant!


    Thanks pip and setter.

  8. I was nowhere near getting ASTATINE, and needed aids for DONIZETTI, plus several went in unparsed. Tough but not unfair.

  9. Gave up after 52 minutes with KLEE and the unknown element proving absolutely beyond my ken. Also TOPOS.

    Tough week, can’t say I’m enjoying this last few days 🙁

  10. Too hard for me. NHO COZENAGE, TOPOS, KLEE or ASTATINE, so those were missing. Pity the setter chose so many oddities, because otherwise I really enjoyed this puzzle. NIMBI and SAN ANTONIO particularly satisfying.

  11. Just over half an hour.

    Didn’t see how EVE worked (thanks gothick for the explanation!); didn’t know BALLS OF FIRE as lively people; COZENAGE went in on trust; tried to justify ‘neutron’ for 19d before thinking of NUCLEON; nice to see ‘maiden’ doing something other than giving a girl or the letter M for FIRST.

    Tough, but an enjoyable solve. Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Maid
    LOI Klee
    COD Astatine

  12. 37 minutes. Both enjoyable and challenging, with the highlight being the re-appearance of ASTATINE for ‘At’. A few other hard ones including TOPOS which I’d forgotten and the NHO COZENAGE. I liked the ellipsis trick for EVE. A v. minor thing, but I think the def for NIMBI is ‘Shower heralds’, rather than just ‘Shower’.

    Thanks to pip – I agree with your sentiments about Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago (and in The Go-Between for that matter).

  13. As with yesterday another homophone for an artist I have never hear off- tried CLEE! 3 fails in a row! This week is not going well!

  14. 22:32

    Nasty. I knew KLEE, mainly because I get him mixed up with KLIMT, but I only learned today how to pronounce his name.

    Fingers crossed on Donizetti, cozenage and astatine. I was as baffled as others by EVE. NIMBI was excellent.

  15. 16:04. Tough, but excellent, I thought.
    Like Penfold I have learned how to pronounce KLEE today. That has also led me to the discovery that he wasn’t American: I find I was getting him mixed up with Jeff Koons.
    Subject to that sort of vagueness (see also ASTATINE, TOPOS) I happened to have nearly all the knowledge today, which helped. I even knew COZENAGE, which I must have picked up from Shakespeare. The only thing I absolutely didn’t know was that a person could be referred to as a ‘ball of fire’.
    I was reluctant to bung in EVE but then I noticed that there were no corresponding ellipses in the previous clue and the penny dropped. Very clever.

    1. The title of the American screwball comedy Ball of Fire with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck refers to the spirited and zany but attractive Ms Stanwick’s character(although she also goes by the nickname, Sugarpuss, in the movie).

      1. Never heard of it. I only really know of the phrase from the Jerry Lewis song and I wasn’t aware that it had a particular meaning.

        1. Gotta be “Jerry Lee,” to distinguish from the other “Jerry Lewis.”
          You have just made Paul KLEE turn over in his grave. Jeff Koons is a joke.
          Did you make any sense of “big” in the clue for GARMENT? It doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone but me. Either sex can wear a “blouse,” and they come in all sizes, but I guess “girl” is needed for the surface, while acceptable in the definition. But Pip didn’t make “big” part of the definition. What’s it doing then?

          1. The phrase ‘big girl’s blouse’ is English idiom for ‘wimp’. So ‘big’ is actually part of the definition, and the word ‘say’ is doing a bit of extra work in indicating the definition by example.
            Re ‘Jerry Lee’, point taken. All a bit before my time!

            1. But a “big girl’s blouse” in that sense is not a GARMENT.
              I guess that’s why “big” was not marked as part of the definition.
              Seems “say” is doing only one thing: indicating the DBE. In the surface, sure, it’s doing pretty much the same thing too, as you could also be armed against a serious threat.

              1. Big is part of the definition. A big girl’s blouse is a garment! The question mark indicates a layered definition by example: a blouse might be a girl’s garment (a blouse usually is a girl’s garment in the UK, so there is an element of pleonasm here but leave that aside) and also might be big.

                1. “Big” is in no conceivable way necessary for the definition of GARMENT.
                  The first (non-Cobuild) definition for “blouse” in Collins is indeed a girl’s or woman’s article of clothing, so “girl’s” is fine (while in the second it’s worn by peasants and in the third by soldiers). I have not changed my mind about “big” being there only to help the surface, which it does by producing the idiom that was new to me—which, however, has to be prised apart to find the definition (though the GARMENT in definitions 2 and 3 is described as often knee-length—after all, we’re only using definition 1, and it’s a “big girl’s blouse,” not a “girl’s big blouse”).

                    1. Sure, and why not pink? Ha ha. But that doesn’t make an idiom that helps the surface. Which is the best explanation for “big.”

  16. 44:14

    Pretty tough but on the plus side of the enjoyability scale. I was left with a few at the end where the answer wasn’t clear e.g. EVE (though others have explained reasonably), KLEE (didn’t know but presumed it must be pronounced as ‘clay’), ASTATINE (not a clue what this is but built from checkers and the components of the clue). I’m another who can never remember PALIMPSEST, also painstakingly built from the cryptic. Not the best week for me so far timewise, but at least finished today’s…

  17. If I’d not managed to spell him ANTOMIO, I might have been inclined to point out that he was A Merchant of Venice, not The. Cue trying to work out how Shylock fits. Apart from this, struggled through, at last remembering PALIMPSEST, discarding ETES for “and is” in French, and in equal last remembering that the periodic table produces sneaky clues. Thanks for the info, PK: looks as if it’s never going to replace steel.

        1. Ah, I see. A reasonable assumption. No, the merchant is Antonio, although I’m not sure if he’s the only one.

          1. Bassanio is another, but if you check for pictures of the Merchant on line, they prominently or exclusively feature Shylock. Perhaps Shakespeare should have called it The Moneylender of Venice. Mind you, from the 1600 printing: The moſt excellent Hiſtorie of the Merchant of Venice. VVith the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe towards the ſayd Merchant, in cutting a iuſt pound of his fleſh.
            I quite like the next bit: and the obtayning of Portia by the choyſe of three cheſts.

          2. If I remember my O Level Eng Lit, Antonio was the merchant, Shylock was the money lender, who wanted his pound of flesh if not repaid. But it was 61 years ago…

  18. DNF after 40 minutes, defeated by 10ac, as I could not tear myself away from the conviction that the answer must begin with US. But otherwise a very enjoyable and testing challenge, with some smart clues.
    FOI – KLEE
    LOI – n/a
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  19. DNF. Very tough.
    8a didn’t know how to pronounce KLEE. Thought of clay though.
    18a missed the SANg bit of ANTONIO.
    2d OPERA also failed to parse and just assumed it was more than half of operetta.
    25d ARC didn’t see the cra(g).

  20. I was just glad to reach the end of this, which had its moments but just wasn’t very appealing to me, and needed biffs galore.

    TIME 13:14

  21. DNF after 24:01, though was on the right lines with CLAE, I have heard of KLEE, but as with others, no idea how to pronounce.

    Reasonably pleased, especially once I saw the SNITCH, though there was rather a lot of biffing. I liked the CAR DREADER.


  22. 35 ish’ for another DNF. Science background generally helped but didn’t commit to ASTATINE as I couldn’t parse it, even after I revealed it (and kicked myself). PALIMPSEST I only know from crosswordland but I did remember it. Biffed other NHOs from wordplay (old fraud and motif) and, like others, found out today the correct pronunciation of Paul Klee. Thanks Piquet and setter (…also finding I have to log in each day..)

  23. Excellent crossword I thought. The parsing of EVE quite defeated me, very clever. Was going along fine until I became bogged down along the bottom bit, eventually finishing in 34 minutes.

    Klee is (certainly was, in my youth) a great hero of mine. Some years ago there was an exhibition of his works at Tate Modern. I was sad to see that many of them were on material that had already started to decay, and that they won’t last for ever. Fortunately there are many poster-size reproductions of his paintings, especially Senecio of 1922.

  24. 35’55”
    Dwelt start, steady progress home straight, stayed on gamely.

    Nearly unseated rider as I tried to shoehorn AVLE in and was very lucky to get a clear run, but the setter kindly provided something just within my ken each time it was beginning to get tricky. I have to admit to parsing EVE just after stopping the clock a little under my par.
    Hats off to the setter for a very eclectic and clever puzzle (too good overall to single anything out) and thank you Pip.

  25. Loved this puzzle! 26:46, though my first session was last night, falling asleep, and barely got anywhere. This morning I approached the puzzle with fresh energy and was delighted from start to finish. As people have mentioned, there was a lot to learn (or verify) in this puzzle. I re-learned UCL, OIK, OFFIE, OFFA, among others, and learned many new words as well.

    {s}EVE{n} and CAR DREADER were fairly brilliant, I thought. I certainly did not parse them on my own. Thanks piquet and others for the explanations!

  26. Got there in 40:25
    LOI KLEE which (or whom) I did recognise after an alphabet trawl reached K
    Very enjoyable indeed and all my unknown words were very fairly clued
    NHO Donizetti (sorry!) but luckily I did know cozen (though NHO cozenage) which gave me the z and the anagram gave me the no-doubt-famous composer of operas
    Topos pl topoi I did know immediately
    Astatine I got from the parsing
    That’s it I think!
    Many thanks to today’s setter and piquet
    PS might have been quicker if I hadn’t been doing the puzzle while on a conference call which I had forgotten about and came in just after I started, luckily I didn’t have to say too much…

  27. Finished in 54.13 which I wouldn’t ordinarily be very pleased with, but in this case I forgive myself as it was so tough. There were so many unknowns that were pieced together including ASTATINE, COZENAGE and PALIMPSEST, that I was sure at least one must be wrong, particularly the latter. In the end though it can only be counted as a DNF as I was stuck on the artist at 8ac. In desperation I put in GLUE with no hope of it being right. It’s so frustrating to fall at the last!

  28. 50-odd mins – all done in 20 with some guesses (thanks for the EVE parsing above), bar the unknown ASTATINE. I assumed the periodic table was involved but focussed on America’s capital doing double duty in the cryptic and the definition. I couldn’t think of an element represented by A for the very good reason, as I now discover, that there isn’t one. Similarly clever clues throughout, though I was too slow-witted to appreciate all of them.

    1. Argon used to be A. But had its name changed at some point to Ar, to make it more difficult for crossword setters to use…

      1. Yes, I saw that – apparently on the grounds that the letter A is commonly used to identify so many other things in chemistry, which is not an explanation that made much sense to me.

  29. Sometimes when I get roughed up by a puzzle what I mostly want is a rubbish bin for the paper and a stiff drink for me. And then there’s intellectual bruisers like today’s where what I wish is that it had been a Jumbo so that there would be more of it. Thanks setter. Very nice job.

  30. Needed aids due to impatience and an impending trip out for the supermarket, so a DNF, but enjoyable nonetheless. For me COD NIMBI. I can’t award that to ASTATINE as, although I got it after remembering the symbol ‘At’, I still failed to parse it.
    I also failed to spot Myrtilus’ connection with Pied Beauty but didn’t mind as it’s one of my favourite poems.
    ‘Fresh firecoal, chestnut falls, finches wings… All trades, their gear and tackle and trim’. I’ve probably upset the sequence, but it hardly matters…

  31. That was challenging to say the least! After 5 minutes I had AXLE, PIED and MAID. INAMORATO came next, then a long slow struggle, with each clue a new Everest to climb. Towards the end, BOOKING OFFICE helped a bit of a sprint to the finish until I was left with -L-E, which I knew would be pronounced CLAY, but had no idea whether it would be CLAE, CLEE, KLAE or KLEE, so I looked him up. Remebered PALIMPSEST (once I had some crossers), was pleased to see how OPERA worked and managed to spot ASTATINE, but EVE eluded me. 42:09. Thanks setter and Pip.

  32. 33.29

    Actually started and ended quickly but got totally becalmed in the middle wondering how SHYLOCK (I know I know) and LSE fitted in those clues. And that it wasn’t the City of Angels.

    Did know the correct pronunciation of KLEE so liked that one, the CARD and EVE.

    As Myrtilus says, clever stuff

    Thanks Setter and Pip

  33. COZENAGE and TOPOS NHO (other than being Ancient Greek for ‘place’, I didn’t know the pretentious English meaning) and PALIMPSEST VHO from a previous crossword but CARD READER was the FOI as I’ve been on tills all day! No general knowledge issue with Astatine but it was the LOI, took around 33mins to finish.

  34. As a footnote, if only I’d watched yesterday’s edition of The Chase yesterday instead of recording it to watch today.

    Question: Which 3-letter word is made by combining the chemical symbols for Carbon and Astatine?

    Answer: CAT.

  35. 25 minutes or so done on Eurostar. San Antonio Rose is a famous song by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Deep Within My Heart Lies a Melody, A Song of Old San Anton. Actually it was originally an instrumental but it was so popular he wrote words and re-issued it. I know all that from Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, which played a lot of Western swing. Lovely stuff.

  36. I gave myself until this evening to come up with the answer to 10a, but eventually threw in the towel, having got no further than -S-A-INE. Annoyingly, everything else was in and parsed, except EVE. I did wonder about the ellipses, but didn’t realise they were connected to the 7. Still, the amount of time I did spend on trying to find a word – any one would have done! – for ASTATINE means I shall almost certainly remember this NHO element for next time it crops up! Not aware of TOPOS or COZENAGE, though they were straightforward enough to get, and Shakespeare refers to ‘cozening’ often enough to know the verb. Also knew KLEE (FOI) and PALIMPSEST. But no complaints – it was a really good puzzle and fair enough. I should have thought of ‘A’ and ‘state’ and trusted to luck. I did wonder if this one was by Don, with the composer clue in it.

  37. Defeated by both ‘Astatine’ and ‘Eve’. Two DNFs in a row: perhaps I should give up in tjis cryptic crossword lark.

  38. 41 mins when I gave up on astitine, all the rest having been solved. Not impressed with astitine as a clue especially as at home is usually the clue to being in, so it never occurred to me to think At was the answer.

    A toughie but otherwise fair if occasionally arcane.

  39. Feeling pleased with myself having cracked both main crosswords on Monday and Tuesday this week but I thought I’d never get going on this one…
    I never bother timing myself but finally had to give up on this with only the unknown ASTATINE missing.
    NHO 22ac COZENAGE so that’s a new word to add to my vocabulary.
    Some clever clueing today – very satisfying when the penny drops!
    FOI 11ac TROIKA
    Thanks again to setter and all those who contribute to this blog. There’s no doubt that you’ve helped me improve my success rates!

  40. Failed with ASTATINE and TOPOS but not too disappointed because I thought for a long time that I wouldn’t complete a lot of the others.

  41. Also defeated by Astatine. Even when I resorted to aids and saw Astatine as being the most likely answer, I couldn’t see why. Only did chemistry to O level!

  42. I found this straightforward (even the unknown words) except for ASTATINE which I have never heard of and certainly did not know its chemical symbol. That was my LOI and took a long time before the penny dropped (I wondered at first if it was sneaky at the other end and the answer was a word for “say”) and I pieced it together from the pieces we were given. O-level chemistry only went up to Calcium in my day, and working in semiconductors gives me many more familiar elements, but given Astatine is radioactive we would never be able to use it, hence my ignorance.

  43. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder. I thought this was a bit of a nonsense really, and starting off with the wrong verb in 1a wasn’t a good sign. A classic example of crowbarring an otherwise interesting play on a word (reservations) into a surface that simply doesn’t work. We don’t make a booking to go to the booking office.

    Even with the correct pronunciation Klee isn’t a homophone of clay. It’s a short e.
    So with two clunkers in the first two clues, I wasn’t in the mood thereafter to give any of it the benefit of the doubt on the irritamometer, especially when it started dropping in obscurities.

    A good crossword shouldn’t have to revert to obscure knowledge, especially when using it as a second line of defence against a solver getting through the tricky parsing. It’s almost as if one is having to solve the clue twice.

  44. I don’t find any reference in blog or comments to the biggest mystery to me (after I finished with ASTATINE). Either sex can wear a “blouse,” and they come in all sizes, but I guess “girl” is needed for the surface, while acceptable in the definition. But Pip didn’t make “big” part of the definition. What’s it doing then? Really, this bothered no one else?

  45. I fond this both tough and irritating, and t took me over an hour to solve, finishing with ASTATINE, which was vaguely familiar. I don’t see any point in ‘big’ in 4d, despite keriothe’s defence. The phrase he referred to isn’t in the answer as a secondary definition.
    I also thought ‘can’t be trusted’ an inadequate definition for LIES in 14d. The clue might have made some sort of sense without the link word, ‘in’ so that it becomes a verb following the antecedent ‘group of monks. I was so taken aback that I emailed it to a crossword friend. His comment was ‘very poor’.

    Apart from ASTATINE, it took me ages to get CASE SENSITIVE, and while I have heard of a COZENER, I have never come across COZENAGE.


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