Times 28900 – real and unreal geography

Time taken: 11:58. I don’t think this is as difficult as I made it out to be, I had two early typos in answers that kept me from completing some pretty obvious cryptics. There’s a little obscure general knowledge here, but fortunately the wordplay is clear.

How did you get along?

1 Creative force, Doctor King pens article with class (6,6)
MOTHER NATURE – MO(doctor), and R(king) containing THE(article) and NATURE(class)
8 Dish right with garlic sauce, very filling (7)
RAVIOLI – R(right) and AIOLI(garlic sauce) containing V(very)
9 Lock enclosed by covering letter (7)
RINGLET – hidden inside coveRING LETter
11 Steal from Savoy? (7)
CABBAGE – double definition – I’m less familiar with cabbage meaning to steal or pilfer, but it is in Collins
12 Letter from religious figure entering English mansion (7)
EPISTLE – ST(religious figure) inside E(English) PILE(mansion)
13 Initiates in love attracting writers (5)
OPENS – O(love) and PENS(writers)
14 Shortened cryptic lamentations for the dead (9)
16 Cuddly companion engineered dry debate (5,4)
19 One on the pull — attraction in London? (5)
TOWER – double definition
21 Noble European round house sees canal entrance (7)
EARHOLE – EARL(noble), E(European) surrounding HO(house)
23 Sikh distressed on tiresome course, back from Izmir? (7)
TURKISH – anagram of SIKH after RUT(tiresome course) reversed
24 Property right in heart of Grateley taken by girl (7)
TENANCY – central letters in graTEley, then NANCY(girl)
25 Grandmother piercing strong fabric (7)
NANKEEN – NAN(grandmother), KEEN(piercing)
26 Cardinal pursuing witches, eating fish, died somewhere in WC2 (6,6)
COVENT GARDEN – TEN(cardinal number) after COVEN(witches) containing GAR(fish) and D(died)
1 See a book spy’s concealed — not secure? (7)
MOVABLE – V(see), A, B(book) inside MOLE(spy)
2 Warriors close to Ugrit — judge hiding among horses (7)
TROJANS – last letter of ugriT, then J(judge) inside ROANS(horses)
3 The Iliad complete? One’s taken out most intense part! (9)
EPICENTRE – The Iliad is an EPIC, then ENTIRE(complete) minus I(one)
4 Minister to fly over Svatove after evacuation (5)
NURSE – RUN(fly) reversed over the external letters in SvatovE. Timely surface, as Svatove is in the Ukraine
5 Row about new tempo initially elevated stress (7)
TENSION – NOISE(row) surrounding N(new), then the first letter of Tempo, all reversed
6 Covered by socialist, revolutionary story told (7)
RELATED – RED(socialist) containing a reversal of TALE(story)
7 Moving critter to Ark — an American custom (5,2,5)
10 Delight consumes confident Barbarian in game (8,4)
TREASURE HUNT – TREAT(delight) containing SURE(confident), HUN(barbarian)
15 Fairy seen with Capek’s play for first time imagined kingdom (9)
RURITANIA – TITANIA(fairy) with RUR(Capek’s play, notable for introducing the term robot) replacing the first T(time)
17 Phoned to stop musical pair finding Mexican city (7)
DURANGO – RANG(phoned) inside DUO(musical pair)
18 About to eliminate resistance in the old capital (7)
YAOUNDE – AROUND(about) minus R(resistance) inside YE(the, old). Capital of Cameroon
19 Firm keeping personnel team majestically seated? (7)
THRONED – TONED(firm) containing HR(personnel team)
20 Submit communication with success about liturgy (5,2)
WRITE IN – WIN(success) surrounding RITE(liturgy)
22 Country poem without the Spanish part (5)
EGYPT – ELEGY(poem) minus EL(the, in Spanish), then PT(part)

66 comments on “Times 28900 – real and unreal geography”

  1. 19:33
    Biffed a lot: EPISTLE, COVENT GARDEN (from ‘witches’), TENSION, TREASURE HUNT, EGYPT, RURITANIA (‘Capek’ in the clue should have a haček over the C; it’s ‘chapek’ not ‘kapek’). Never did figure out that last. I’ve never seen ‘threnodies’ spelled without the I; ODE doesn’t have it (but my English-Japanese dictionary does). I spent a couple of minutes trying to solve 11ac with C_B_A__, difficult since I didn’t know Savoy was a cabbage and I didn’t know ‘cabbage’ meant ‘steal’ (not in ODE, in my E-J dictionary). Finally came up with CABBAGE and hoped for the best.

    1. It’s Collins that’s the reference here, and that’s where I found the British slang sense of CABBAGE for “to pilfer, steal.”

      1. I realize that; I go to ODE because it’s in my electronic dictionary which always lies to hand (along with my E-J dictionary which I get with a push of the ODE button; learned a new word for ‘steal’ (kusuneru くすねる)).

      1. The dictionaries say it probably comes from (Collins) Fr cabasser, to put into a basket, steal < cabas, basket < VL *capacium, reed basket.

  2. I seem to have been on the setter’s wavelength here—and also a bit on George’s, as my first two answers were (the real) DURANGO (“Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun / Dust on my face and on cape / Me and Magdalena on the run / I think this time we shall escape…”) and the (fictional) RURITANIA, and I intended to start my comment by mentioning that. And my final destination was YAOUNDÉ, which was a NHO worked out from wordplay, really the only such clue here, and highly satisfying. Don’t think I’d ever seen the “steal” sense for CABBAGE, or that I’d heard of the Savoy variety, but this was more biffed from crossers than actually worked out (and then I looked it up).

    1. I was going to put this (I’ll do it anyway):
      “Quick, Magdalena, take my gun
      Look up in the hills, that flash of light
      Aim well, my little one
      We may not make it through the night”

    2. CABBAGE is also used in the rag trade as a word for excess production on an order which is then sold as a perk.

      1. In the good old days, cabbage referred to the offcuts left after the pattern of a suit had been cut from the swathe of cloth. Traditionally, these belonged to the tailor and not the customer, so it is unfair if this is the etymology of cabbage = stealing.

        1. Chambers has « To cheat, steal or purloin, orig of tailors who took small pieces of a customer’s cloth as a perquisite ». If a tailor, say, hems trousers or a skirt that is too long, the customer brings it in. Making a suit to measure, say, probably wouldn’t be as common a task as such alterations. In which case, the pieces would belong to the tailor in the first place, as the customer is just buying the finished suit (though I have been given the scraps too when I’ve had a new suit altered).

  3. Now YAOUNDE has been explained I have to concede it is a very fine clue, which I would not have got in a month of Sundays. So DNF after about 40. Overall a most enjoyable crossword with some very clever clues. I was held up in the upper and lower left by intersecting answers that proved very stubborn: MOVABLE/CABBAGE (I had to trust there was some reference to stealing somewhere) and EARHOLE/unknown capital. I wish like Guy I had figured out that capital but I was rather chuffed to get TREASURE HUNT, COVENT GARDEN and several others that I thought at first glance would be impossible. Thanks to glh for several explanations, including TENSION, and thanks to Dylan for the ear worm.

  4. 42 minutes. NHO CABBAGE meaning ‘steal’ but got the Savoy reference. NHO THRENODES without the ‘I’ but the wordplay left no room for doubt.

    I was going to say NHO YAOUNDÉ but I see it has appeared before in a Jumbo in January this year where its presence passed without comment from me, probably because the wordplay was a solver-friendly anagram whereas today’s took some working out.

    NHO RUR or Capek, but am familiar with the works of Anthony Hope so RURITANIA presented no problems.

  5. About 90 minutes. FOI TEDDY BEAR then finished bottom. Put in TURKISH but couldn’t see how Sikhs were Turkish since “back to Izmir” was in a recent crossword and I just followed along thinking it was R. Really liked TREASURE HUNT and RURITANIA. Didn’t know what WC2 was but guessed it probably related to London. Found a list of WC2 postcodes (WC2A, WC2B, etc) and one listed COVENT GARDEN
    Top was a struggle with LOI MOTHER NATURE. Got side-tracked by Dr King and Martin Luther which fits in.
    Badly needed this blog to understand the wordplay.

  6. DNF – could not get the NHO YAOUNDE. Although the way the clue works is simple enough, I think it’s unguessable if you don’t know it as “about to eliminate resistance” can work so many ways, I was thinking about UNDO R backwards for instance. The rest I finished in 23 minutes.
    Thanks setter and blogger

    1. I am living proof that Yaounde is not unguessable, although it took me two sittings and Y_O_N_E for a LOI 45:03 finish.
      As so often happens to me, most of the second sitting was punctuated by ‘How could I not see that last night?!’ That, I always feel, is the mark of a really good puzzle.

  7. 41 minutes (31 plus a further 10 for YAOUNDE). I didn’t know that meaning of CABBAGE. Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun. DURANGO came courtesy of the romance his Bobship had there. I couldn’t see how TITANIA got to RURITANIA, but she had to have got there somehow.I didn’t quite have the knowledge today, so I didn’t enjoy this as much as I should have. Thank you setter and George.

  8. 15′ exactly for this very good puzzle. Nho CABBAGE in that sense. Really liked RURITANIA. Name a Mexican city? Ah yes, his Bobness of course.

    Also knew YAOUNDÉ from third year (year 9) Geography, used to know all the African countries and capitals, many of both now changed.

    Thanks george and setter.

  9. 12:39. Glad I’d heard, vaguely, of YAOUNDÉ. ‘Doctor King’ was neatly done. Nice puzzle.

    Thanks both.

  10. 43 mins with LOI the NHO YAOUNDE. I knew the CABBAGE (savoy) but I also thought it was a slang term for money? Never heard of the stealing bit.

    NANKEEN & THRENODES only known from doing crossies. Never heard of the Capek work either for that matter.


    Thanks g and setter.

  11. Another DNF here thanks to the (for me) unguessable YAOUNDE. Shame because I enjoyed much of the rest of it.

  12. DNF, defeated by EARHOLE, where I biffed a silly ‘earlobe’.

    Didn’t know Rur the play but worked out the rest of RURITANIA; only dimly aware of the steal meaning of CABBAGE; just about remembered NANKEEN from previous crosswords; was thrown by the ‘right’ in 24a not giving us the letter R for once and needed all the checkers to get TENANCY.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Covent Garden

  13. 34 minutes, helped by having just finished Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground, where DURANGO gets a mention. RURITANIA I only knew from previous outings here, though I did know Čapek’s R.U.R. as a robot-related fact. YAOUNDE I didn’t know, and I’m pleased I only had to tease one of these three out from the wordplay alone as geography is my weakest suit in crosswordland, I think.

    My last couple in were EPISTLE and TENSION, where the parsing eluded me and I made the relatively unusual decision to come here for the reveal rather than trying to tease them out on my own.

  14. 23:40 and thankfully no typos today as I took an extra minute to check over my work.

    Luckily I knew the capital of Cameroon, but it was my second go at the clue as I initially biffed YEREVAN when I saw it was a 7-letter capital beginning with a Y. Otherwise no real problems. THRENODES rang a faint bell, as did RURITANIA, and the only real total unknown was DURANGO.

    On reflection maybe I should have been a tad quicker, but we always think that post solve don’t we?

    Thanks to both.

  15. Rattled through this, the only nho being cabbage = pilfer. Durango ninja-turtled from the Dodge Durango SUV. Quite a lot of 20dns today. I did write Hatton Garden in at first instead of Covent, soon had to be corrected ..

  16. 13:33. Several unknowns for me where I relied on the wordplay – CABBAGE for Steal, THRENODIES without the I, the Capek play, The Mexican city, and the African capital (my LOI) having tried but failed to make YEORVIK to work (it’s not even spelt like that). Most educational and a fun puzzle. Thanks George and setter.

  17. 10:48. A few things to take on trust here: CABBAGE meaning steal, THRENODES, DURANGO. YAOUNDE did ring a vague bell once I had constructed it from wordplay, but it took me a few minutes at the end to do so. Very good puzzle.
    TRICK OR TREAT is originally an American custom but it’s very much established here now. I used to do it as a kid and Hallowe’en has become quite a big deal. There a neighbourhoods near us that look like something out of ET on 31 October.

  18. 42m 38s
    With a couple of crossing letters, I thought the ‘imagined kingdom’ in 15d was going to be Narnia.
    Thanks, George, for EPISTLE. I just couldn’t work that one out.
    And chapeau to our setter for crafting a clue for YAOUNDE.
    PS….It occurs to me that YAOUNDE is the sort of thing people yell when they’ve just made an important, ground-breaking scientific discovery…

  19. Slow here but all teased out correctly including the many unknowns mentioned, which is the fun.

    Thanks setter and G

  20. 10:30
    Like others, I knew DURANGO from the Dylan song; DNK my LOI YAOUNDE and NHO THRENODES without the I.
    Not sure TRICK OR TREAT would necessarily be described as American these days, since the “guising” tradition was re-imported back to the UK from North America (Canada originally) in the 80s, helped along by the film ‘ET’.
    ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’, which we watch every year, has it as “tricks or treats”, and a 1951 Peanuts strip shows the round-headed kid going from door to door the day after Hallowe’en saying “Tricks or treats, money or eats”.

  21. Most of what I experienced has already been set out above. Cosmos has returned to its normal state after yesterday’s flash in the pan.



  22. Possibly the wordiest setter we’ve had in a long while, most of the clues 6 words or more. No less fun for that. 15.26, unusually close(ish) to George’s time.
    Now here’s a thing. DURANGO, from the cryptic, rang not the tiniest of bells, which betrays my lack of knowledge not only of Mexico, but also of Dylan, Dodge monster trucks and Patricia Highsmith. There may be more. YAOUNDE’s improbable collection of vowels, on the other hand, while not on my “Where is Kazakhstan?” comfort list, was familiar enough.
    I wonder if Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti is still performed anywhere, though it has spawned the very word robot and dozens of lookalike films and possibly the whole AI/broken-laws of-robotics fear.
    Not for the first time, I was duped by that “entrance to canal” thing into making EARHOLE my last in. 7 words in that clue.

  23. 09:18, pleasant solve with no great hold-ups (but similar reactions as others have already had to THRENODIES without the I, and that meaning of CABBAGE).

  24. 27:35

    Pretty pleased with that given NHO RUR, THRENODES or NANKEEN. Excellent puzzle, thanks setter.


  25. 21 mins with no help from any friends today, so pretty straightforward. I even knew the capital of Cameroon. FOI TRICK OR TREAT, nice to put a long one straight in.

  26. 35 mins fully parsed. Similar hold ups to others (cabbage, that place in Cameroon that looks like anagram fodder and threnodes). Despite those unknowns I found this really enjoyable and it was steady progress in an anti-clockwise fashion until I got back round to LOI Epicentre.

  27. 33’40”
    Good steady pace throughout, never nearer.

    After Samuel Whiskers and Anna-Maria had prepared Tom Kitten for cooking alive, and Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca had completed their breaking and entering, mindless vandalism and wholesale looting, the next thing I wanted were the Gloucester mice, involved in CABBAGING on an industrial scale. What strange things we used to read to children.

    I used to walk past the tailor’s shop and house every day, but I don’t recall a singe CABBAGE there or in the book; new one on me, as was the the play and the jigsaw-ed capital, and it took a while to get from Zenda to Ruriatania.

    Very enjoyable and finished bang on the Snitchmeister’s evaluation; thank you setter and George.

  28. Relieved to finish this at all, let alone in ‘only’ 32 mins. Never seen THRENODES, only threnodies. Knew immediately we were dealing with a CABBAGE at mention of Savoy, but NHO of that usage. DNK capital of Cameroon, but followed wordplay and crossed fingers. Never parsed RURITANIA, but it couldn’t be anything else.

  29. I opened in the NE with NURSE. EPSILON went in tentatively at 12a, but was soon replaced by EPISTLE when RELATED at 6d went in. TENSION went in at 5d only to be immediately ejected when I couldn’t parse it, returning much later after MOTHER NATURE arrived. I continued in a clockwise direction, with RURITANIA confidently entered despite my not knowing the RUR play. DURANGO went in from wordplay but sounded vaguely familiar. I was unaware of the pilfer definition at 11a but knew the vegetable. LOI was YAOUNDE which I assembled from wordplay. I refrained from checking it before submission as it did seem to ring a faint bell. 19:12. Thanks setter and George.

  30. DNF – second in a row. YAOUNDE seemed a bit obscure and I thought the crptic was unhelpful. Impressed so many were able to assemble or remember it.

  31. Not that hard, but lots unparsed. So thanks to glh. DNF as, like ChrisLutton couldn’t parse 21a EARlObE – EARHOLE; doh. Thought it v loose, but obv it was I who was adrift.
    DNK Svatove, Durango (but recognise the truck), had forgotten Yaounde. I feel that we ought to know all the capitals of the world (I don’t).
    Had forgotten Capek and his play RUR; recognised the Wiki entry just now so it must have been here before. RURITANIA, known, was a total biff.
    DNK cabbage=steal. Did know cabbage as the offcuts that tailors traditionally keep, and slang for money, and Savoy cabbage.

  32. 22:10 – very pleased to have remembered THRENODES from trials past. Likewise NANKEEN was dredged up and the odd meaning of CABBAGE. Feels like progress! 🙂

    YAOUNDE was also a reward for doing all those Sporcle quizzes!

    1. I’d actually heard of Durango through the traditional route of actually being familiar with Mexican geography by playing the Sporcle Mexican states quiz. Overall though it was tough and I DNF without having to cheat first. It looks like there’s a typo for the TROJANS clue, the clue should clearly read ‘Ugarit’ not ‘Ugrit’, which doesn’t seem to exist (other than as a declension of the Finnish word for Ugric).

  33. 31 minutes. I’d come across most of what was displayed on the completed grid here except for the RUR bit of RURITANIA. Still, most took a bit of winkling out, with the now simple looking EGYPT needing all crossers as my LOI. Favourite was the ‘Warriors… hiding among horses’ for TROJANS.

  34. With the greatest of respect to the Cameroons, I think including such an obscure capital might’ve been ok for a Mephisto perhaps, but a bit below the belt for a standard Thursday. Needless to say it was a DNK and an NHO. And I didn’t much like ‘class’=‘nature’ either. I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle, though.
    The Durango I know best is the one in northern Spain, nearish to San Sebastián, by which I drove many times en route for Madrid and Andalusia in the 70s and 80s while working there. I’ve always assumed the Mexican one was named after that one, but have no evidence to support that view.

    1. Your assumption is correct, the founder of the Mexican Durango came from the Spanish Durango apparently (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durango_(city)). I’m pretty sure the animated title character of the film Rango, a chameleon, is depicted as claiming his name is ‘Rango’ after seeing the word ‘Durango’ on a bottle of Tequila too IIRC

  35. 33′ after a fairly quick start then getting held up by a few of the challenging clues largely mentioned above. LOI THRENODES, which I knew only from crosswordland, but not well enough to worry about the missing I. CABBAGE from Savoy, but NHO of it as “steal”. Thankfully revisited EARlObE as I was unhappy with it (even though it fitted). Thanks George and setter.

  36. 15.18 WOE

    Too much Greek O-Level (badly remembered I’m sure) was not a good thing as I confidently (and smugly) bunged in THRENEDOS. Whoops.

    DURANGO also from the Dylan

    Thanks all

  37. 23:20

    Seems like no-one has heard of the ‘steal’ meaning of CABBAGE – surely time to strike it from the dictionary. THRENODES vaguely remembered in some form or other but couldn’t have said what it was. DURANGO and YAOUNDE both entered semi-confidently. Capek’s robot play has surely come up here at some time previously. I liked TURKISH and TROJANS.

    Thanks to G and setter

  38. Durango I’d never heard of (my knowledge of Dylan ended with ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’, excellent and much listened to although I never for some reason got any further). Yaoundé also needed to be checked in my Pears Cyclopaedia, although this time I had vaguely heard of it. Several answers which I got from wordplay or checkers, although it was a very nice crossword. 42 minutes, done in two sessions.

  39. DNF. One pink square after 41:49.
    I knew of a THRENODY, and assumed its plural could end YS as well as IES, being ignorant of the alternative THRENODE, and failing to spot the anagram.

  40. I decided to visit from QC-land to try to hone my skills. Imagine my astonishment at finding all but YAOUNDE completed in a bit less than 40 minutes! Probably my surprise threw sand in the gears, and ultimately I let the dictionary help me with an alphabet trawl, and “finished” (if you can call it that) in 46:17.

    Loved RURITANIA (I’m starting to get the hang of these letter-substitution clues after being stumped so many times). Working out COVENT GARDEN was fun, saw it had to be something GARDEN but it took a while for the witches to work their magic. Didn’t class=NATURE strike anyone else as far-fetched?

    I forgot to say that the clue for EGYPT was generous as well as clever, with “country” associating to Gray’s Elegy to guide me to the right sort of poem. Thanks setter!

    1. Collins has: sort; kind; character for NATURE. Not direct but adjacent. Well done on completing this one! It wasn’t easy at all.

      1. Thank you! Sometimes I feel some sort of solving demon gets into me. Other times, an anti-solving demon.

  41. 37 mins. Like others, got cabbage from Savoy but wasn’t familiar with ‘steal’ usage. Guessed 17 and 18 from wordplay. NHO RUR. Another witty puzzle that looked impenetrable at first!

  42. 25.05. Ashamed to say that I had to deduce the Mexican city and Capital of Cameroon from the wordplay rather than from geographical knowledge, but pleased to complete the puzzle without aids in a reasonable time.

  43. 1:20:51. slow but worked out the NHOs from the very fair wordplay. COD was TREASURE HUNT. thanks!

  44. Remember Durango, Larry? From Rolling Thunder album. Is that Larry Sloman? Anyway, I continued my run of unforced errors with a bunged-in EARLOBE. What a dope. I have got to remind myself that just because someting fits it doesn’t mean something else won’t. Otherwise a perfectly fine 18’45”, but my ratings are in decline.

  45. A very geographical puzzle, and most enjoyable. NHO Svatove before, and agree with Lurker that Ugrit needed an A.


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