Times 28887 – Who’s Willie?

A rapid romp though this one, with just a couple of tricky ones and the unknown soldier to be guessed or looked up at the end. FOXINESS was my last in once I saw the neat was an animal. 19 minutes.

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

1 Irish clan established around Priesthaggard originally (4)
SEPT – P inside SET = established. We’ve had this recently, so I knew it.
3 Landlord initially thrown by elusive girl’s rental arrangement (10)
SUBTENANCY – SUBTLE = elusive, lose the L (landlord initially thrown), add NANCY the girl.
9 Frenchman introducing canon backing restoration (7)
RENEWAL – RENE our usual Frenchman, LAW reversed.
11 Wood turns tail, having left instrument in the kitchen (7)
TIMBREL – TIMBER (wood) has its tail turned, for TIMBRE, add L. For once when I saw kitchen I thought percussion section right away.
12 Broadcast losing sad musical slide (9)
13 Character in Thessaloniki carrying home money (5)
RHINO –  RHO, Greek letter P or ρ, has IN (home) inserted.
14 Enticing berries I still mostly supply (12)
18 Useful publicity label on vehicle taking MDMA round the States (12)
ADVANTAGEOUS – AD (publicity) VAN (vehicle) TAG (label) E (ecstasy, MDMA), O (round) US (the States).
21 Idiot crossing motorway? That’s out of order (5)
AMISS – ASS (idiot) around the M1 motorway.
22 Holy Willie, type involved with choir (9)
HYPOCRITE – (TYPE CHOIR)*. You might know, but it’s not essential, that HOLY WILLIE is Rabbie Burns most famous poem, about religious hypocrisy. Well, one of his most famous, as discussed below.
24 European in South Africa left Durban for example (7)
SEAPORT – SA with E inside, PORT for left.
25 Conspicuous way to accommodate a legal right (7)
SALIENT – ST (street, way) has A LIEN inserted.
26 What’s shown by a couple of Liberals briefly sharing equally? (5-5)
FIFTY-FIFTY – L L being Roman numerals for fifty fifty.
27 In Massachusetts, a respected national leader once (4)
TSAR – hidden as above.
1 Sultan’s palace complex is large and old (8)
2 Joke I’d set up and attempt, expressing expert opinion (8)
PUNDITRY – PUN (joke) I’D reversed, TRY = attempt.
4 Old soldier’s high-class article about hard left (5)
UHLAN – U (high class) AN (article) with H L (hard left) inserted. Uhlans were light cavalry soldiers in various European countries, originally Polish.
5 Body artist first to support military pageant (9)
TATTOOIST – TATTOO (military pageant), IST (1st).
6 Miners rational about famous statue, endlessly studying figures (13)
NUMEROLOGICAL – NUM (mineworkers union), LOGICAL (rational), insert ERO[S], for famous statue endlessly.
7 Scandinavian chap raised one in the Washington area (6)
NORDIC – RON (a chap) is raised > NOR, DC with I inserted.
8 Cowardly to react thus to being hurt? (6)
YELLOW – being hurt you’d YELL OW!
10 Musical politician overwhelmed by bridge-player’s tragic day (4,4,5)
WEST SIDE STORY – WEST’S (a bridge player’s), IDES (tragic day) TORY politician.
15 Most of deprived area in resort, one serving Italian food (9)
SPAGHETTI – SPA (resort), GHETT[O]= mostly deprived area, I (one).
16 A lot of skill required to capture neat craft? (8)
FOXINESS – FINESS[E] – ‘a lot of’ skill, insert OX = neat.
17 A second US statesman perhaps, not a political enabler (8)
ASSENTOR – A, S (second) SEN[A]TOR.
19 Old woman’s ultimately serious condition, a rocky situation (6)
MASSIF – MA’S (old woman’s) S (end of serious) IF (condition). As in the Massif Central in France, for example.
20 Asian dish having edge over a French fricassee initially (6)
PILAFF – LIP (edge) reversed, A, F[rench] F[ricassee].
23 Advance after crossing island (5)
POSIT – POST (after) with I for island inside.


69 comments on “Times 28887 – Who’s Willie?”

  1. 30 minutes on the dot with 16dn and 17dn as my last two in, and between them adding a good 5 minutes to my solving time.

    When I constructed the unfamiliar UHLAN from wordplay it rang the faintest of bells and a little research revealed that although it has only appeared a couple of times in regular puzzles, the last occasion was in 2017 when I was on blogging duty. On that day it was a hidden word so it went in easily enough.

    ASSENTOR with an ‘O’ has appeared only twice before, both times in 2009 and each time clued as an anagram of SENATORS. Today’s wordplay was perhaps unnecessarily complicated, particularly in view of the somewhat specialist literal definition of ‘political enabler’. Presumably it refers to this meaning as found in Collins but previously unknown to me and I suspect to most others:

    British government
    any of the eight voters legally required to endorse the nomination of a candidate in a parliamentary or local election in addition to the nominator and seconder.

    On its previous two outings all those years ago it was defined simply as ‘one approving’ and ‘person expressing agreement’, either of which might have been more in keeping with the difficulty level of this puzzle. I wonder if there will be many one-word errors in today’s rankings as speed-solvers biff ‘assenter’.

  2. Failed on this one; just couldn’t see FOXINESS at all. It didn’t help that I’d thought of ROPINESS, what with “roping” being a skill required to capture a neat, and SS being a craft…

  3. 60 minutes. The top was fairly easy since I knew the answers eg FOI SEPT next SERAGLIO which I knew and I completed more than half from the top down in 20 minutes biffing as necessary. The bottom slowed me down mainly because I had NUMEROLOGISTS (biffed) instead of the correct -CAL and in 26A for some unknown reason I marked it as 6,4 and didn’t notice. This completely stonkered me for a time but after a break I saw HYPOCRITE which I knew was correct, fixed 26A and finished quickly. LOI FOXINESS slowed me since I was trying to insert KINE instead of OX. I didn’t know FINESS as a variant of FINESSE. It isn’t in any dictionary I tried but it is in Wiktionary.

    1. FINESS isn’t a variant of FINESSE, of which FINESS is only “a lot of,” as the clue says.

      1. Yes. I just get mixed up with indicators. I keep reading them as literal. I read the explanation and still mucked it up. Funny I was thinking of it this morning and a short rhyme my father taught me when I was young in the early 1940s came to mind. It’s a bit like indicators and their effect on me.

        As I was going to the fair
        I met a man who wasn’t there
        He wasn’t there again today
        I wish that man would go away

  4. FOXINESS was my LOI too. I thought of KINE before OX, so JOKINESS, POKINESS, ROPINESS…? I regret not having known Burns’s Willie, thinking the term must just be a common expression. Wonder where I picked up UHLAN…

  5. Thanks Piquet, and +1 for jackkt’s comments on “assentor”.
    I didn’t know ‘neat’ = ‘ox’. But Anatoly Liberman’s excellent note on the etymology of ‘neat’ for ‘cattle’ — https://blog.oup.com/2022/06/a-neat-etymology/ suggests that its common usage seems to have been as a plural noun, and usually in a compound form, surviving mainly in legal documents — ‘neat cattle’ etc. I have found no usage of “neat” as a free-standing singular noun except in this and other crossword clues. It is true that Chambers defines ‘neat’ as “noun (plural ‘neat’), archaic or dialect, an ox, bull or cow, etc.”, but Chambers gives no example of this in actual usage. I don’t have access to an OED, which may well prove me wrong.

    1. Interesting article about the etymology. The OED’s most recent quotation for ‘neat’ in the singular is from 1922 Thomas Hardy, Late Lyrics & Earlier: “The mead is possessed of the neats, That range not greatly above The rich rank thicket which brushes their teats.” and in the plural from 1923 Charles Doughty, Mansoul: “We herded in the field, till evensong. When driven the neat home lowing to their stalls.” There’s also an earlier William Morris quotation for the singular form and a John Masefield quotation for the plural. The entry was last revised in 2003.

    2. It has a page in the OED, with two meanings:
      1: A bovine animal; an ox or bullock; a cow or heifer. Also figurative.
      2: With plural agreement. Cattle collectively.

      .. both have a number of illustrative quotations. It is clearly not in widespread current use these days, except in the name of neats-foot oil, similar to dubbin.

      I don’t know whereabuts you are, but most English libraries provide access to the OED so if you have a library card it may be worth going to OED.com and see if you can log in that way…

    3. Julius Caesar, Act 1, Cobbler: “As proper men as ever trod upon neat’s leather have gone upon my handiwork.”

  6. Evening strains to be time’s vást, ‘ womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
    Her fond Yellow hornlight wound to the west, ‘ her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
    (Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves, GM Hopkins)

    20 mins mid-brekker, assuming Sept, Timbrel and Uhlan were things. Very educational.
    Ta setter and Pip.

    1. I guess Holy Willie was too obvious. In the QC today there was an opportunity to cite The Wasteland (which I took).

  7. 9:27. Held up for a minute or so at the end trying to make 25A SOLICIT before seeing SALIENT and my LOI, FOXINESS – I see I’m not alone in that. UHLAN only vaguely remembered but I knew TIMBREL Thanks Pip and setter.

  8. 11:32
    which gives me (along with Tom Stubbs) the lowest personal NITCH so far, much to my surprise (I’m usually at the other end).
    FOI 1ac; ‘Irish clan’ (4) was a gimme. DNK ASSENTOR, didn’t get WEST SIDE & SUBTENANCY. Like Guy, I didn’t know Holy Willie; I would have thought Burns’s most famous poem is ‘To a Mouse’.

    1. Yes I would have agreed but then being of Scottish extraction I realised that had I been asked directly before reading your post I would have said ‘Address to a Haggis’. I guess it’s a question of what you know best. The only way to find out would be to chuck the question to Armstrong & Osman and see which one comes out at the ‘wrong’ end of the Pointless scale.

      By the way, I write this from the Gleneagles Hotel where haggis is very much on the menu!

  9. UHLAN known from Powell and Pressburger’s ‘Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’, where one of the major protagonists was from this caste.


  10. 42 mins for an enjoyable escapade. As some others, LOI FOXINESS once the penny dropped with “neat”.

    NHO SEPT, UHLAN or TIMBREL but all worked out from wp and crossers.

    I liked TATTOOIST.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  11. 22:46 with a typo in PILAFF.

    For the most part I thought this on a similar level to the last couple of days, albeit with more unknowns (SEPT, TIMBREL, UHLAN, SERAGLIO), but the wordplay was helpful. The Holy Willie reference was totally lost on me but otherwise I found this a steady solve.

    Thanks to both.

  12. Some very clunky surfaces I thought, but a steady solve with no unknowns bar the holy appendage.
    Timbrel, just a pretentious word for tambourine..

    1. Good enough for John Keats:
      “What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
      What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
      What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?”

      (Ode on a Grecian Urn)

  13. Another DNF, dammit, FOXINESS eluded me and I am really annoyed at missing (again!) the neat = ox connection. After timpani I was all out of kitchen instruments but finally got to the NHO TIMBREL. I gave up at about 35, having finished all but the SE in an ok time. Thanks to PK for explaining SUBTENANCY and 50-50, I missed the Ls.

  14. Like Jack, I was left with 16/17D after a comparatively untroubled passage, though I biffed ADVANTAGEOUS and SPAGHETTI, both of which were successfully parsed post-submission.

    My LOI eventually needed an alpha-trawl and added the best part of a minute to my time.

    TIME 6:55

  15. 28 minutes. I thought of percussion section for ‘kitchen’ straight away too, even if I didn’t know what a TIMBREL was. I couldn’t parse SUBTENANCY, just remembered UHLAN and ‘Holy Willie’ and I had to think about the spelling of NUMEROLOGICAL until I worked out the ‘famous statue, endlessly’ bit.

    Favourite was the misleading surface for FOXINESS.

  16. DNF, defeated by PILAFF where I invented ‘rimaff’… it didn’t look likely, but then unlikely-looking words sometimes turn out to be right.

    Didn’t see how SUBTENANCY worked; didn’t know the Holy Willie reference for HYPOCRITE; pleased that I remembered the orchestral meaning of kitchen for once to get TIMBREL; have never really known what a SERAGLIO is.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Advantageous

  17. 15.35. While I wish I’d tarried long enough to see the anagram for GLISSANDO and the wordplay for WEST SIDE STORY, I’m glad I paid enough attention to avoid NUMERAL- and ASSENTER. FOXINESS nearly did for me, with that trap for old hands who know about KINE. Otherwise a smooth run through, and now a day trying to resist posting Holy Willy on a spread of Facebook sites that really need its brilliant exposé of self-delusion. How to do it without implicating myself, that’s the problem.

  18. A very enjoyable puzzle where the answers slipped in quite easily but nevertheless gave a high degree of satisfaction.

    Thanks to setter, and to Pip for the blog. And thanks also to The Caffeine Kid and philbstoke for reading and commenting kindly on my post yesterday about The Lark Ascending. I generally only go back to review posts at the end of the day (if at all) by which time any reply gets lost in the vacuum and it makes more sense to do it the next day.

  19. A rare morning solve for me and I am thinking it is the way to go. Completed in 10’33”. And I would have been under ten were it not for that meddlesome TIMBREL. A word I had to drag from the recesses of my brain, not being sure what it meant. Narrowly avoided TUMBREL. I did not know that KITCHEN can refer to the percussion section. It is interesting because in France BATTERIE means (among other things) both drum-kit and the pots and pans of a professional kitchen. I am guessing it is all connected. Many thanks.

  20. 12:15
    LOI TIMBREL, which came to me as I was scribbling TUMBREL in the margin. Do percussion kitchens still include this ancient instrument, apparently used by Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, to accompany songs of victory, and by King David’s musicians when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant?
    (Thoughts of its modern-day equivalent reminded me of one of my favourite lines from ‘detectorists’: “Well, I reckon we keep it to ourselves for the tambourine”.)

  21. 31:29
    Another leisurely stroll, accompanied by a bacon roll and a latte. Saw what you did there in 22ac, Setter 😉
    Thanks, p.

  22. Splendid crossword, 18 minutes while waiting for the rain to stop (if it ever does in Pembrokeshire). Didn’t know UHLAN or TIMBREL, but the wordplay was clear.

    Thanks to the setter and Piquet.

  23. Beaten by the Asian dish- lipaff or rimaff were my choices where I assumed over meant above! Needless to say I chose unwisely! Otherwise I was pleased to solve the rest correctly. I’ll try again tomorrow!

  24. 40 mins. Slowed hugely by the unknown UHLAN, which finally went in with a shrug and a prayer. SUBTENANCY also took a while. The rest pretty easy, I thought. Liked FOXINESS, prob because having been mystified too often by ‘neat’ I immediately started thinking of OX and OXEN and saw the answer quickly.

  25. 23.09, but, once again, the timer did not stop automatically when I correctly finished the puzzle, so I don’t know the exact time. It’s annoying, but I don’t know why it’s changed. Like many others, ‘Foxiness’ was my last-one-in, having tried to make ‘kine’ fit. (I would like to say ‘Great minds think alike’ but mine would certainly never qualify).

  26. Failed on FOXINESS, as I was another one favouring KINE. Call me a pedant if you will, but our national poet was never known as “Rabbie” or “Robbie”. “Robert”, or “Rab” were apparently the names he used in his lifetime.

  27. 33:30

    NHO UHLAN, and favoured AHLAN for too long, so SUB took an age to come. COD to SUB…. once it came.

    LOI FOXINESS needed over 5’ of trawling.

    Thanks all.

  28. Technical DNF. Read the blog, forgetting I hadn’t yet solved SERAGLIO. Grrr! I’d had trouble with it earlier, missing ‘complex’ as the anagrind, and moved on to other pastures. 34 minutes.
    COD YELLOW (for its smile-inducingness)
    I was intrigued by the very specific meaning of ASSENTOR. It had to be spelt with an ‘O’ because of SEN[A]TOR but it didn’t look right. I checked in Chambers afterwards and there it was.

  29. The kitchen and the neat were no problem, but thinking of what instrument it actually was proved more difficult. Eventually I gave up and looked in a list of musical instruments, to no avail. So I stopped the clock at 33 minutes, DNF. The wordplay had defeated me, as it had with SUBTENANCY. Ashamed — evidently — that I’d never heard of Holy Willie but reckoned that a holy Willie might well be a term for a hypocrite.

  30. According to Wiki the 11a TIMBREL hasn’t been seen since Old Testament times, so is it’s place in the kitchen?
    I was fascinated to learn that Holy Willie is a thing, I just thought that the setter was being funny.
    1d SERAGLIO biffed, never saw the anagram. Doh!
    Met 4d UHLAN in Leon Uris’s book Mila 18, about the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
    I learned today that 8 assentors are required to propose someone to stand as an MP. This came as a surprise; I thought you just had to find the deposit.

    1. It’s not that it hasn’t been seen since OT times, more that it relates to OT translation into English. The Hebrew word is quite different … it is a pretentious usage, as mentioned above

  31. This was rolling along quickly until the SUBTENANCY / UHLAN crossover, which added about a minute onto the end for 6m 29s. UHLAN was fairly unambiguous from the wordplay, but having never heard of it I was reluctant to put it in until I’d figured out ???T?NANCY. As is often the case, as soon as I wrote down the letters and gaps, it leapt out: need to resort to that sooner.

  32. I thought this was going to be another quickie for me this week until I was foxed by FOXINESS (I never remember the “neat” thing but doubt it would have made a difference). Thanks Piquet and setter

  33. 20:53
    Good fun and educational. I was unaware of ASSENTORS and SEPTs and I needed Pip to parse SUBTENANCY (COD). I look forward to reading about Holy Willie ; they were Holy Joes where I came from.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter/

  34. Had to trust the wordplay for SEPT and UHLAN. Was fortunate to think of kitchen/percussion and neat/ox straight away so wasn’t held up there. SERAGLIO was FOI. POSIT was LOI. Took a minute to see the parsing of SUBTENANCY. 13:52. Thanks setter and Pip.

  35. I had all the same dnks as others above but managed to struggle through. I did manage LOI FOXINESS but then found I’d guessed wrongly on the unchecked letters in 1dn and had SAREGLIO – unless you know, you don’t.

  36. 19:33

    A few bits unparsed:
    NHO SEPT as Irish clan nor UHLAN nor ASSENTOR but all three were easy to build
    SUBTENANCY – couldn’t think of anything else that fit nor make sense of the wordplay
    TIMBREL – only a vague awareness but it fit the checkers (and I understood the kitchen reference this time!)
    HYPOCRITE – no idea about Holy Willie but the checkers eliminated enough anagram letters to make up a possible/probable answer
    SERAGLIO – couldn’t have told you what it was though I’m aware of the word – the anagrist was helpful

    LOI like many others was FOXINESS which nearly foxed me…

    Thanks P and setter

  37. I’d have thought The Bard’s most famous poem is Auld Lang Syne, though he did base it on some elements of earlier poems. Outwith that, it would be Tam O’ Shanter.

    Not surprised by a lack of familiarity with Holy Willie, given the general ignorance of and lack of interest in anything Scottish evidenced by those south of the border.

  38. 29’30”
    Going well until final furlong.

    There naught is heard but Paradise bird,
    Harp, dulcimer, lute,
    With cymbal, trump and tymbal, (is that synonymous?)
    And the tender, soothing flute.
    (King Jesus hath a garden)
    Foxed by a finesse for an age, which shouldn’t have happened since I saw a nailed on deduced finesse of a queen yesterday; the sort of thing Colonel Blimp’s fellow patient might have executed.
    I enjoyed this; thank you setter and Pip.

  39. 25:56 but with 1 error, the dreaded ASSENTER. I parsed it but then filled in the spelling the normal way. Otherwise fairly straightforward, with only UHLAN causing some trouble and ringing only the faintest of bells, and FOXINESS being the LOI as I yet again forget the word NEAT has some weird synonyms. thanks Setter and Pip!

  40. Foiled by FOXINESS – didn’t remember neat = ox, even though I’ve come across it fairly recently. Couldn’t parse SUBTENANCY – thanks Pip. Otherwise pleased to solve everything else, albeit very slowly. Thanks all.

  41. DNF – also beaten by FOXINESS. I will have to try to remember that neat=ox.

    Thanks Piquet and setter.

  42. 18.37

    As a property lawyer (apologies, someone had to) SUBTENANCY and SALIENT were right up my street.

    FOXINESS also my LOI. Even though OX got pencilled in early I still needed all the checkers

    Thanks all

  43. 20 minutes plus one and a half more for proofreading to avoid typos, so probably a PB for me. The vocabulary was not that easy, but the wordplay certainly was, and I did pay attention with ASSENTOR. I really liked the clue for YELLOW (why have I never seen that before?). A surprisingly unchallenging Wednesday offering, but fun nonetheless.

  44. 20 minutes, with LOI FOXINESS and I see I‘m not the only one who found that last clue hard! Was 90% of the way in 10 minutes or so but then the last few obscur-ish words took a good while.
    Thanks setter and blogger


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