Times 28905 – no need for m’aidez on May Day.

A more straightforward Wednesday job than usual, with nicely written surfaces. I found the down clues were even easier than those across, but it was all done and parsed in under twenty minutes.

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

1 Has eldest turned out to be indestructible? (9)
6 Almost everyone on board attending a dance (5)
SALSA – AL[L] inside SS (on board a ship), add A.
9 Sweet little thing   found in harem perhaps (7)
SULTANA – whimsical double definition.
10 Girl on vacation having affair — such excitement! (7)
GLAMOUR – G[ir]L, AMOUR = affair.
11 I had lunch outside King’s Cross (5)
IRATE – I ATE with R for king inside.
13 Huge waste ending in ruin of philosopher (9)
EPICUREAN – EPIC (huge) UREA (waste product) N (end of ruin).
14 Composer angrily rails at heartless court (9)
SCARLATTI – (RAILS AT CT)*, CT being heartless court.
16 Expose stomach for audience (4)
BARE – sounds like BEAR = stomach, tolerate.
18 Old queen lazed around? (4)
DIDO – she DID O i.e. did nothing. Seen this one before.
19 Scrap university competition to secure new expedition vessel (9)
ENDURANCE – END (scrap) U (univ.) RACE (competition), insert N for new. Sailing ship used by Shackleton to go to Antarctica in 1914.
22 Crazy Sunday with VIP, drinking this? (3,2,4)
VIN DU PAYS – (SUNDAY VIP)*. Vin du pays being sometimes less memorable than you’d like, but usually quaffable.
24 Relative in detention centre an Indian copper once (5)
NANNA –  N the middle letter of detention, ANNA an old Indian coin.
25 Chopper to take off without His Majesty? On the contrary (7)
CLEAVER – LEAVE inside C.R., not the opposite, ‘without’.
26 Sister might appear thus to people (7)
INHABIT – a nun IN HABIT; people as a verb.
28 Old carouser settled youngster’s case (5)
SATYR – SAT (settled) Y[oungste]R.
29 Two promises becoming a curse (5,4)
SWEAR WORD – SWEAR and WORD two types of promise.
1 Chap turning on female cashier (7)
DISMISS – SID, a chap, reversed, MISS a female.
2 Cry on bishop’s resignation? It will leave a hole (3)
3 Great throw, just missing top (8)
HEAVENLY – HEAVE = throw, [O]NLY = just, missing its top.
4 Remove Republican gatecrashing facility (5)
ERASE – EASE = facility, insert R.
5 Meant to be grand inside, if ornate (9)
SIGNIFIED – (INSIDE IF)* with G inserted. I thought at first the definition was going to be ‘ornate’, but it’s a nice anagrind.
6 Importance of figures executive originally disappearing (6)
STATUS – STATUES (figures) loses the E (executive originally).
7 Promiscuous and outspoken cleric, unpredictable customer (5,6)
LOOSE CANNON – LOOSE = promiscuous, CANNON sounds like (“outspoken”) CANON a cleric.
8 Organise a selection to be broadcast (7)
ARRANGE – sounds like A RANGE, a selection.
12 Ditching Bonn mandate perverse (11)
15 Wordy tome His Eminence has taken into house (9)
THESAURUS – HE’S (His Eminence has) inside TAURUS a house of the zodiac.
17 Dish of sturgeon occasionally expensive in France (8)
TRENCHER – [s]T[u]R[g]E[o]N > TREN, CHER French for expensive. A trencher was an old wooden platter.
18 Some in Paris concealing failing schemes (7)
DEVICES – DES (‘some’ in French) with VICE (failing) inside.
20 Called for work to block river Dee (7)
EXACTED – ACT (work, perform) inside EXE (the River), Dee the letter D.
21 Right place for a quarrel? (6)
QUIVER – where your quarrel or crossbow arrow is kept.
23 District hospital defended by old man (5)
SHIRE – SIRE (old man) with H inside.
27 Writer’s unfinished work? I don’t like it (3)


74 comments on “Times 28905 – no need for m’aidez on May Day.”

  1. I had all but two answers as the half-hour passed but dithered around for another 10 or 15 minutes before finally completing the grid.

    The two that gave me trouble were EXACTED and QUIVER. ‘Call for / exact’ would not have occurred to me although Collins and other sources confirm them as synonymous, and ‘work / act’ didn’t leap off the page at me either. I put the answer in eventually with a bit of a shrug as it was the best fit .

    My problem with QUIVER was down to carelessness at 22ac where I had confidently written VIN DE PAYS without paying proper attention to the wordplay. I knew the ‘quarrel’ connection with archery however and realised that QUIVER had to be the answer.

    It’s a shame that one clue is very similar to one in today’s QC.

    1. I had the same two qualms about EXACTED, and finally submitted off leaderboard for that reason. Just as well, as it took me almost a half-hour to finish.

    2. Strictly speaking you are right, “Vin de Pays” is the appellation which is clearly being referred to here. I was quite surprised to see the “DU”. An error as far as I am concerned.

      My apologies tp Keriothe whose comment below I had not yet seen!

      1. Thanks, I’m amazed my instinct for the French term proved to be correct after all! I never order or drink wine so I don’t know where I picked it up.

        1. I’m amazed to find vin de pays is the only one in Wiktionary, with vin du pays unknown. I had “vin du pays” in my cheating machine so the same “error” must have occurred before, otherwise I wouldn’t have added it. Chambers online marks vin du pays as a near miss.

  2. 27:56
    I might have written vin de pays if i hadn’t got quiver first!
    LOI was the EPICUREAN
    I was slow to get 1dn and 9ac because i had pencilled in DET as the start of 1dn, once I erased that I saw SULTANA and then DIS.
    I think, no real problems today.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  3. 12:22 suggests that there were no great dramas. SCARLATTI, TRENCHER and VIN DU PAYS were only partly known but could be assembled with confidence.

    “I had lunch outside King’s Cross” is a lovely clue, if not particularly challenging.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  4. 34 minutes with LOI EXACTED nervously entered. I suppose so. COD to SIGNIFIED, where the signifier hid the anagram neatly. No, I never really got what SAUSSURE was saying but it didn’t seem to matter provided you looked intelligent and didn’t admit it. I quite liked DEVICES too, but I was taught not to follow the devices and desires of my own heart. VIN DU PAYS was a rewarding anagram. Trickier than it looked.Thank you Pip and setter

  5. Not too hard but hard in places, 25.02. Thanks to Nelson for explaining ERASE and DIDO (Did zero – doh!) Some lovely clues though I too was a little thrown by call for/exact, and would suggest a harem is the absolute last place you’d find the wife of a Sultan.

    Don’t care what I drink/I don’t care what I eat
    I climbed the mountain of swords on my BARE feet (False Prophet)

    Or: ‘Don’t BOO me any more!’ (1966 UK tour)

      1. Apparently on his tour of Oz back then there were mass walk-outs during the second half, but I’ve never heard anyone subsequently admit to doing it. Had Bob stuck to acoustic guitar and harp it would have been all over by…well, ’66 or thereabouts.

    1. I’m not so sure; the Sultan is alowed four wives plus as many ladies as he can afford, and the harem is the ladies and babies quarters. The Sultana(s) would appreciate the built-in babysitters I imagine. Much of the purpose of the harem is to remove the ladies from temptation, and the prime Sultana would be top of the list?

      1. I bow to your superior knowledge of how things worked in a harem. I (and I suspect many others) assumed it was a…um…anyway, not a creche.

  6. 22:58, with a typo. I found that very hard, and I didn’t enjoy it much, probably because the egregious VIN DU PAYS crossing with the non-cryptic QUIVER made me grumpy.

      1. If you actually want a bottle of plonk be sure not to buy a vin du pays, because there’s no such thing.

          1. Shocking. Wasting time with how to get your aunt to the station while ignoring the really important things.

  7. 9:05
    SALSA always makes me think of Seinfeld’s pronunciation : “People like to say salsaaa”.
    I don’t recall having seen DIDO or IRATE clued in those ways before, so my joint COD.

  8. 11:58. I thought I had to be missing something in QUIVER, but no.

    Happy enough with VIN DU PAYS in flight, but it does seem to be rogue. I presume it’s turned up in some crossword software.

    I enjoyed this overall, but never find homophones like ARRANGE very satisfying – much too close to its fodder to raise a smile!

    Thanks both.

  9. Besides the moche “variant” of vin de pays, there’s the variant of “nana” that is found in Chambers but not in Collins or Dictionary.com.

  10. 19 minutes. I wondered about EXACTED for ‘Called for’ too but it seemed close enough and fitted the wordplay. I was fortunate that I saw QUIVER straight away; on another day it may have defeated me. No problems with VIN DU PAYS, even if the usual places only give it as a variant of the ? more common DE spelling.

    1. The usual places are, in this case, wrong. There is no such thing.
      I suspect the confusion arises because of ‘vin du pays d’Oc’ and similar formulations. But a vin du pays d’Oc is not a vin du pays from the Oc, it is a vin from the pays d’Oc. Shortening it to ‘vin du pays’ is like shortening ‘songs in the key of life’ to ‘songs in the key’.

  11. 45 mins and stuck on last two as ever, EXACTED & NANNA. Finally saw the ACT bit and in they both went.

    I didn’t like the V de P clue. See comment (s) above. I do like the little sweet and the King’s Cross lunch though.

    Thanks pip and setter

  12. Got there in the end at some 35′. Held up like others by EXACTED (trying to make something from”act” surrounded by R-Dee) and QUIVER (not knowing that meaning of quarrel and wondering if there’s some musical link to “quaver”).

    Entered the offending “DU” from wordplay and not knowledgeable enough to question it. I enjoyed SULTANA and SWEAR WORD.

    Thanks Piquet and setter.

  13. 17’01”, would be faster if not for persistent internet dropout. 🙁

    Would a SULTANA (a royal title) be part of a harem?

    Thanks pip and setter.

    1. Re the Sultana, I made the same point but would refer you back to andyf’s reply a little way above. He seems to know his way around a harem better than both of us!

  14. DNF, defeated by NANNA. The Indian coin has surely come up before, but I forgot it and bunged in ‘ninja’ instead… oops.

    Don’t know enough French to be bothered by the VIN DU/DE PAYS issue; didn’t know what a SATYR was; took ages to remember SCARLATTI; and wanted to put ‘designs’ for 18d and was trying to work out how a sign could be a failing before rethinking and getting DEVICES.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Irate (as galspray says above, a straightforward but nonetheless lovely clue)

  15. VIN DE PAYS is the second entry in Chambers, and the ever reliable Google throws up plenty of examples without a hint of “did you mean?”. However, entering DE slowed me up on QUIVER, with more than a hint of “is this the place for an argument?” entering the lists. I still got through in 14.42, once again getting quicker as the week wears on.
    I was prompted to wonder what a SULTANA thought about the harem: perhaps we could ask Carrie Johnson.
    Curiously, having the same GLAMOUR as in the Quickie caused a moment’s hesitation: apart from whether GLAMOUR and excitement are the same thing, the assumption that duplication doesn’t happen had me looking for a different word.

  16. ‘Vin du pays’ is also used in France, but it’s a touch more specific than the more common formula. 23 mins – fast for me – held up only by EXACTED and QUIVER, though I clocked immediately that the answer was something to do with arrows/bolts.

    1. In 40-odd years of living and working in France and drinking French wine I have never seen ‘vin du pays’ unless followed by ‘d’Oc’, ‘de Gard’ or similar, but that is not the same thing (see above).

      1. I suspect you’re fixating on official names/labels. “C’est un vin du pays” is a very common way of referencing a wine that you’re drinking from your own local area.

        1. In that context ‘vin du pays’ is like saying ‘wine from this area’. It’s green paint.

          1. Well it’s a very common phenomenon to drink the local plonk in France (as elsewhere in Europe, I believe) and a very commonly used phrase as a consequence. I have no problem with it.

            1. It’s very common when travelling to sample the local cuisine, but you wouldn’t – for good reason – see ‘local cuisine’ as an answer in a crossword

              1. Why ever not? That’s a recognisable phrase/usage. I’d have no problem with it in a crossword.

                1. It’s like green paint: it’s not a definable phrase because it doesn’t have any meaning beyond the individual meanings of its constituent words. For that reason you don’t find it defined as a phrase in dictionaries.

                  1. Well I disagree. It absolutely does have a recognisable meaning as a ‘set’ phrase, because it’s very commonly used. Must be: I recognise it (and use it!). You may not, but it doesn’t follow that you must therefore be right; I find things in crosswords quite regularly that I’ve not encountered in more than a half century of life, and people kindly (or not so kindly) point out how I can’t get out very often. Perhaps it doesn’t happen to you so much.

                    1. The line between a common formulation and a distinct lexical unit is sometimes blurred, but for the time being Collins, Chambers and ODE agree with me.

      2. When describing the category of wine it is vin de pays; but if asking for a local wine it is vin du pays – “y-a-t-il un vin du pays?”

  17. 09:12, with what turn out to be near-universal hold-ups and eyebrow raising. I’d written in VIN DE PAYS before changing it after doing the obligatory “are these the actual letters in the anagram” check, so nice to know my instincts were fine after all.

  18. Never blinked about 22a DU pays, as no “e” in anagrist, but we now see it is wrong. But spent a long time over 21d QUIVER as I couldn’t see any cluing reasoning, it was like a GK question, so I waited for all crossers, and in it went with a shrug. Didn’t delay over 20d EXACTED as for me work=act, at least close enough for government/Xword work. But I don’t remember meeting Dee=D before; clever with the misleading river reference.

  19. 19:31 with a typo.

    Some very nice clues. MER at VIN DU PAYS. COD/LOI EXACTED. Pleased to get CLEAVER – some people dislike Spoonerisms but ” on the contrary” clues are my blind spot.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter.

  20. 23 mins. Nothing to get flustered about, aside from the usual problem of too many vowels not helping much, in this case BARE took a wee while.

  21. 37’45”
    Woefully one-paced…

    ….but all parsed.
    Thank you setter and Pip.

  22. 19 minutes, most unusual as I’m seldom below 20. My ignorance of the niceties of VIN DU PAYS and vin de pays helped and I did the vdp answer before QUIVER and saw that there was a u there, so it had to be in the middle word. This would have helped with the CD at 21dn. The King’s Cross clue was nice, although was there not a bit of DBE going on when it equates had lunch with ate: not necessarily lunch?

    1. Evening all. Long-time crossword fan here but first-time poster after recently discovering this blog. 22:01 for me today, which would be pleasing enough were it not for the time spent on (LOI) NANNA (and I know perfectly well I share my name with the coin!) Enjoyed IRATE, took too long to see DEATHLESS. Fun overall.

  23. 10:59

    I enjoyed this muchly. No quibbles from me about VIN DU PAYS. It’s even an anagram, for goodness sake, so if you typed VIN DE PAYS, you’ve not paid enough attention to parsing your answer! Why is it that when some solvers here find a puzzle harder than they think they should, they almost always cry foul and impugn the validity of certain clues, as if every cryptic clue has to pass some sort of (subjectively-imposed) quality audit? I’m all for healthy debate, but surely life’s too short for this sort of logic-chopping. “Sour grapes” perhaps…

  24. A pleasant puzzle, all done in 24 minutes in recovery period after nth Covid jab. Not too fussed about VIN DU PAYS. I would probably drink it whatever it said on the label.
    LOI – BOO
    COD – EPICUREAN (and liked IRATE)
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  25. 14:32 – although I appreciate there may be some distinction between the du/de pays variations of French wine, given that only the du version is listed in the SOED and both are cited as equally valid in Chambers, Mirriam-Webster and Heritage dictionary apps, the setter is in the clear. It helps that my French is not sufficiently up to snuff to know which is preferred – or correct – in France.

        1. Vin de pays is an official characterisation relating to the quality of the wine. Vin du pays = the local plonk. Not wrong at all.

          1. You make my point for me perfectly! ‘Local plonk’ is also a formulation you’ll never see as an answer in a crossword, and for the same reason.

            1. On a point of order, m’lud, you won’t see that in a crossword for the sole reason that it isn’t in any dictionary.

              1. Yes fair point. But my contention is that the inclusion of ‘vin du pays’ in the dictionary is an error. The argument against is that ‘vin du pays’ is something that people say, but it is something that they say in the same way as people say ‘local plonk’ (or indeed ‘green paint’). And it is, in this context, French, which also argues against its inclusion in the Times crossword!

                1. I do understand the point you are making about the way the words are used in France but dictionaries don’t make value judgements like that. It was included because it met their threshold for the number of citable uses in English and the use was judged to be persistent. The OED and other dictionaries are absolutely scrupulous about their criteria for inclusion so it is highly unlikely to be an error, though – as you say – it may initially, like many words and uses, have arisen from a widespread “error” in their source material.

                  The current situation – according to the authoritative sources – is that the two are used interchangeably (at least in English). And as we agree, its inclusion in a dictionary justifies its use in a crossword – and that holds even for loan and foreign words.

                  1. Yes, fair point. Interestingly OED says it was ‘formed within English, by compounding’. So it’s a bit like ‘expresso’.

                    1. Interesting. It rather suggests the du term didn’t so much enter English and lose its useful distinction so much as it was formed independently in English as a variant. Hard to see how that happened.

                      1. Yeah no idea! The OED also shows that the usage was more common 100 and (even more) 200 years ago and is now very rare.

  26. 29:02

    Not up to the speed of many today, mostly because I seem to be the only person to have spent ages on HEAVENLY as LOI. I thought a lot of this was a bit loose, especially EXACTED, but also a lot of it was excellent (LOOSE CANNON COD).

    Thanks all

  27. 35:58 and all green. I enjoyed this one, but it was more of a struggle than perhaps it should have been. Everything seemed to need longer than the first look. For the composer, I was blocked by Salieri, even though he didn’t fit and doesn’t work, but I couldn’t see past him for ages. I liked BOO and the old queen who did nothing

  28. IRATE and ERASE were my first 2 in. Took a while to spot the anagrist in SIGNIFIED. Should’ve seen SCARLATTI long before I did! MER at QUIVER, but the anagrist for VIN DU PAYS confirmed it and I wasn’t aware of the purists’ distinction between DE and DU. Doh! In the meanwhile the NW was very sparsely populated, but the arrival of SIGNIFIED gave me the LESS at the end of 1a, and DEATH soon followed. HEAVENLY eventually finished the job. 28:32. Thanks setter and Pip.

  29. A steady solve in 32.15 with only EXACTED giving me pause for thought. I wasn’t entirely happy I had interpreted the clue correctly, so was relieved to find it was right.

  30. 20.04. Like others, my first reaction was ‘Vin de Pays’, but when that didn’t match the anagrist I assumed that my recollection of French was at fault. I’m pleased to see that my marbles are not completely lost.

  31. 14.42

    Decent time – being on holiday may well suit the solving process

    HEAVENLY did need a bit of thought at the end but the rest flowed nicely

    Love the discussions over the wine. It’s important nonsense like this that emphasises why we (well I at any rate)love doing these things

  32. Another mucked up by VIN DU PAYS. Put in VIN DE PAYS without checking the anagram — because that it is the correct term. The ‘E’ wrecked 21D. Even thought of putting in DENVER. Finally had to look up the answer here, and saw my error. So a DNF. First in a long time, and feel a bit miffed.

  33. A pleasant crossword – thanks to setter and piquet – much enlivened by prurience regarding the nature of the harem and the Lilliputian DU/DE controversy.

  34. 19:35. Done a day late as I was out all day yesterday I really struggled to get on the wavelength for this and was held up at the end by NANNA and EXACTED. Thanks Pip and setter.

  35. 27:42

    A day late also with this one – completed while working on something else. I momentarily thought twice when VIN DU PAYS went in – I’d thought it was VIN DE PAYS – I’m certainly no expert on what is correct French (O Level Grade C). LOI was NANNA which I hummed and harrhed about and finally committed to. Liked SULTANA and EPICUREAN.

    Thanks P and setter


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