Times 28909 – Mon dieu!

Well, well, well. A quirky and somewhat challenging Monday puzzle. A rara avis, indeed! More like this, please, Ed!


1 Second option mostly involving ultimate academic (10)
7 Damp, but not the second source of damp (4)
9 Deduce computer network turned evil (8)
10 Crab, perhaps, unable to be cracked (6)
NEBULA – anagram* of UNABLE; a nebula in Taurus
11 Main route all but fixed from here (6)
SEAWAY – SEt AWAY; ‘main’, as in the sea
13 Island I leave to probe US city villainy (8)
INIQUITY – I (island)  then I QUIT in NY
14 Spoiled girl embracing grand feature of church (7,5)
STAINED GLASS – G (grand) in STAINED (spoiled) LASS (girl)
17 Token of love in entirety, playing Wagner operas (8,4)
ETERNITY RING – ENTIRETY* RING; I will be singing in the chorus of Jaap van Zweden’s swansong with the HK Phil, The Flying Dutchman, before he moves to Seoul. Took me ages, did this one, as my knowledge of amatory rings stops at engagement and wedding.
20 Extremely good, more than once, about British article in winter sports equipment (8)
TOBOGGAN – B (British) in TOO (extremely) GG (good, more than once) then AN (article)
21 In the past, you’d backed including place for second-in-command (6)
DEPUTY – PUT (place) in a reversal of YE’D (in the past, you’d)
22 Play for which actor given licence (6)
HAMLET – HAM LET; I can’t actually think of a context where ‘given license’ can be substituted for ‘let’. It just doesn’t seem to be possible to use the passive, even though ‘let’ is used transitively in phrases like ‘they let him escape.’ Answers on a postcard, please…
23 Money received by office worker: good, attractive (8)
25 Horrific cut — may result in this (4)
26 European capital willing to consider form of change externally (10)
COPENHAGEN – OPEN (willing to consider) in (‘externally’ is the containment indicator) CHANGE* (‘form of’ is the anagram indicator)
2 Court accommodating former King and old Emperor? (8)
CONCERTO – ONCE (former) R (king) in CT O; referencing Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 5
3 Lines up one to head paper round (3)
ODE – reversal (‘up’) of ED (one to head paper) O (round); there’s a certain oddness to this clue
4 Upset PA sees head of team leaving (5)
ANNOYtANNOY; ‘tannoy’ was typically a very crackly form of public address system. Not heard much these days, because, I suggest, the word has such a negative prosody.
5 Significant  narration (7)
TELLING – double definition
6 Close friend cooked and brought in meat dish (9)
CONFIDANT – AND* in CONFIT; I’m a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen, I like to think, but I’ve never attempted this. It’s basically duck or goose cooked, slowly, in its own fat and preserved. From the French word meaning ‘to preserve,’ as also is ‘comfit’, which is essentially a candied fruit or nut.
7 Imports business reduced by half reorganised in one-sided arrangement (6,5)
MOBIUS STRIP – IMPORTS BUSIness *; a mathematical thingie looking a bit like Christmas decorations
8 Welcome line in fried food (6)
SALUTE – L in SAUTE; the noun sauté refers to a dish of fried food. More French cuisine…
12 A little attention around college regarding office work (5-6)
WHITE-COLLAR – COLL in WHIT (a little) EAR (attention)
15 Not initially unbranded, about to become active (9)
ENERGETIC – GET (to become) in gENERIC (unbranded – as in tinned food)
16 Isn’t upset over a new church, for example (8)
INSTANCE – ISNT* followed by A N CE
18 No poles: circus tent continuing to move? (7)
NONSTOP – NO NS (north, south > poles) TOP
19 Descriptive of stones or tablets? (6)
MOSAIC – not sure whether this is a double definition or a cryptic one; anyway, stones are used to make a Roman  mosaic, and Moses carried the tablets down from the mountain, not once, but twice, having smashed the first lot because the Israelites were misbehaving. Moving right along…
21 Energetic figure from cycling world in France (5)
DEMON – this is an anagram of the French word for world, i.e. MONDE. Thus an indirect anagram, though clearly marked. Just as well I don’t have any tablets to hand, else I might be chucking them against the wall. Whatever next? A quotation from Shakespeare as a cloze test clue?
24 Drop of salt water, not right for drink (3)

73 comments on “Times 28909 – Mon dieu!”

  1. This was worthy of a Friday stinker in my book, and I wondered if the editor had made a decision to offer us something more substantial to while away the time over what looks like being yet another dull Bank Holiday Monday.

    My solving time was 2 minutes shy of an hour and only the SE corner where I began my solve might be said to have gone in quite easily. The NW held out longest.

    But for all that, I enjoyed the task and there were some great clues to relish along the way. My only beef, although I now find it’s unjustified other than for reasons of personal distaste, was COLL for ‘college’ in 12dn. I had thought ‘uni’ for ‘university’ was bad enough, but at least that saves 3 syllables!

    On the two queries raised by our esteemed blogger:

    HAMLET: I haven’t been able to come up with an example where ‘given licence’ can substitute for ‘let’ although there may well be one, but I got round that when solving by taking ‘given’ as a linking word that acts as a position indicator rather than part of a definition in wordplay. So the clue translates in the reading as ‘Play for which a word meaning actor (HAM) is given (i.e. next to) a word meaning licence (LET)’.

    DEMON: This is a ‘cycling’ clue rather than an anagram. To solve this type of clue letters can be be written in a circle and then you start from each letter in turn travelling clockwise until you find the solution. I illustrated this in my blog on 9th April when LAUGHTON’S (with reference to the actor Charles) ‘cycled’ to give the answer ONSLAUGHT:
    Today the word to be ‘cycled’ is MONDE (world in France).

    1. That explanation for HAMLET just leaves us with the equally thorny question of how ‘licence’ can mean LET!

        1. Yes, allow, grant etc. K may have in mind that ‘licence’ as a verb is perhaps more traditionally spelt with an ‘s’ but the Oxfords and Chambers also have ‘c’ even if Collins don’t.

          1. It doesn’t make any difference. ‘Let’ doesn’t mean ‘allow’, it means ‘allow to‘. I can’t come up with a sentence in which the two are substitutable.

            1. As in tennis, “let” the point be played again? I agree though, I don’t like the clue.

                1. No, but if you say it enough times to yourself, like anything else, it sounds complete gibberish. You can then fool yourself into thinking that it only sounds gibberish because you’ve repeated it so many times. Therefore, it probably makes sense.

            2. My father (b Cornwall, 1920) used “let” in exactly that sense: “You won’t be let stay”. But I haven’t heard the construction in many a year.

            3. A late thought. Do we have the same issue at 26ac where “willing to consider” doesn’t mean “open”, it means “open to”?

      1. I couldn’t stand the awful syntax of this clue either (it’s missing “is”).

    2. Thanks for the explanation Jack – I was surprised to find what seemed to be an indirect anagram (of a French word to boot) as I thought they weren’t generally allowed. I feel we’ve started to see more of them recently – or maybe I just hadn’t noticed in the past. I did read the relevant blog but this technique is yet to stick in my mind – I certainly get unstuck every time one appears!

    3. Too difficult for me. Coming back to crosswords after a few decades away and I struggled to get into this. Managed Toboggan, stained glass and a few others on my own but had to look up most of the rest here. Thanks for the clear explanations and commentary.

  2. 35 minutes with NW very tricky. I biffed SEAWAY when eventually I constructed CONCERTO and thought there might have been an emperor one.. The rest was more normal fare. I liked MOSAIC but COD to MOBIUS STRIP. Thank you U. and setter.

  3. There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so

    After 20 mins I was struggling and thinking this bad, but after finishing in 30 (pre-brekker) I thought this good. LOI (t)annoy – I was thinking of the other PA for too long.
    Nice one.
    Ta setter and U.

  4. 30:23
    This was hard work with very little to show for it in the first 15′. I never figured out ENERGETIC or CONFIDANT, not knowing CONFIT. DNK the ring. Like Myrtilus, I stuck on the wrong PA for too long; ‘upset’ seems less than appropriate for ANNOY.

  5. Nice puzzle, I did think I made heavy weather of it in 13’33”, but seeing the comments, perhaps not.
    CONCERTO was clever, and only fell with the final O. MOBIUS STRIP was almost a write-in, for me as a former maths educator. COPNHAGEN was LOI once I concentrated and had all the crossers.
    HAMLET was fine, to get the answer: ‘actor’ (HAM) ‘given licence'(LET) seems natural to me.
    Thanks ulaca and setter.

  6. Found this enjoyable and challenging – a mostly steady solve, with brekkie break at 70% when I was feeling a bit bogged down.

    Thoughts mostly the same as boltonwanderer, completed in 29:59 with pause, which is fast for me at this level of difficulty. Thanks U and setter.

  7. 21:20. It appears Friday has come early this week. I found it quite a struggle, and I’m relieved to see I’m not the only one. All parsed eventually. I tried EVERGREEN for 15D but, unsurprisingly, couldn’t get it to work no matter how I wrestled with it until I eventually found HAMLET and then COPENHAGEN. Thanks U and setter.

  8. Much like many others, and pleased to get home in 36.20 which seemed an impossibility at the beginning when nothing was going in. Didn’t mind the cycling DEMON and was pleased to finally twig to THAT crab, but MOSAIC and CONCERTO still a bit of a mystery. LOsI ANNOY/SCHOLASTIC (wrong PA for me also). Thanks Ulaca.
    From Visions of Johanna:
    Ain’t it just like the night, to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet
    We sit here stranded, all doing our best to deny it
    And Louise holds a handful of rain, TEMPTING you to defy it…

  9. 18:19. I was another one slow to start, but I chipped away at it and found it very enjoyable. A reward for perseverance.

    Thanks setter & U.

  10. 26.50. Did not parse ‘confidant’ but I was ‘confident’ of the answer. Pause for deep groan.

  11. A really enjoyable crossword. One of those where, on first looking at the clues, I thought “Oh no, this looks really hard”, but then as I worked through it they (almost) all fell into place after about half an hour.

    I didn’t parse SEAWAY and didn’t fully understand MOSAIC; I had to trust that there is a NEBULA known as the crab; for 4d I took a long time to move away from the personal assistant meaning of PA and see ANNOY; and the Emperor CONCERTO was less firmly lodged in my brain than it probably should be.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Instance
    LOI Confidant
    COD Concerto

  12. Tough but this had some good bits. I liked MOBIUS STRIP (one-sided arrangement ) and CONCERTO.

  13. A fail. Took a long time, in the end messing up the anagram fodder for MOBIUS STRIP. A few others like SEAWAY and WHITE-COLLAR which I couldn’t parse so can’t complain. Serves me right for asking for a more challenging one on Friday’s blog.

  14. Certainly interesting, with indirect clues like CONCERTO and NEBULA requiring a category shift. I found myself actually hoping for pink squares in MOSAIC so that I could argue the case for a perfectly good wrong answer, especially because I read “stones” as “stories” (still works, I contend!)
    On the whole, I wasn’t too phased by this, and while I would have liked to parse ENERGETIC I sacrificed that for a 16.27 time, which looks, for once, competitive.

    1. I thought that was wrong too, but (from Wiktionary):
      Usage notes
      The spelling phase is sometimes used for faze,[2] including by such notables as Mark Twain and The New York Times. Nonetheless, many writers avoid it anyway, simply because many readers will believe it to be an error (even if it isn’t one). A memory aid for this prescription is that faze and frighten both begin with f.

  15. 41:46
    I started off slow, taking nearly half an hour to finish the top half, then suddenly had a burst of speed and whizzed through the bottom half almost as fast as I could write the answers in. But finally I was held up many minutes at the end by SCAR and MOSAIC, after finally getting SCAR which took two rounds of alphabet trawling, I cottoned on to my Loi MOSAIC. Funny how the mind works sometimes, I think.
    Good puzzle and Thanks setter and blogger.

  16. 14:49 with a good four of those spent on the SEAWAY/WHITE COLLAR intersection.
    I liked some of the sneaky defs, especially in the clue for CONCERTO.
    Thanks to setter & blogger.

  17. 28 mins. Wasn’t expecting this! Eventually had 4 to complete, but it required a full alphabet trawl to get SCAR and then MOSAIC. LOI ODE.

  18. 16:10. A tricky one. I can’t get LET from either ‘given licence’ or ‘licence’ either but it didn’t slow me down.

  19. I’d always thought that it was a Moebius strip, but it seems not: Herr Möbius was German. But some people, in their attempt to cope with the pronunciation, have the -oe-; at least that is my impression. Anyway it gave no problems: this was generally true of the whole crossword — a bit of thought required by the excellent clues, but not an impossible lot. 32 minutes. I agree that DEMON isn’t an anagram but a cycling of the letters in monde. The only thing that seems to be a definite no-no is an indirect anagram; an indirect cycle is OK?

    1. Yep, indirect cycling is fine. I assume the distinction is that the letter order is more graspable in a cycling clue than an anagram.

    2. I thought it was oe too. I initially wrote in MOEBUS STRIP. (Yes, I know, I should look at the anagrist). Then when I needed the B I just swapped the B and E without re-thinking. One pink square in an otherwise not bad time of 36:20

    3. Isn’t Ö always substitutable by OE in English? Presumably because English typesetters didn’t have the character.

  20. 23:05 – glad to see it wasn’t just me. CONCERTO was the main hold-up as I repeatedly ran through my short list of Roman emperors and my even shorter list of obscure kings. No excuse there. Didn’t see the problem with “given licence” being LET and not entirely sure there is one. The problem with using given in the clue as a positional indicator is that for licence to be a synonym for let it would have to be a verb and hence spelt with an s. Let can also be a noun but only (without looking up even more obscurities) as a hindrance or an obstacle, which I remember from my old passport Her Britannic Majesty commanding and requiring all to let the bearer pass without. More confident times…

  21. 27:46

    Enjoyed this grid – one of those where each answer reveals just enough of one or two others to render them ultimately gettable. There were a few bits of parsing or understanding that I missed.

    SEAWAY – didn’t get what was going on here but the definition was fairly plain
    TOBOGGAN – convoluted parsing – I gave up and bunged it in
    ENERGETIC – got the GET but not the ENERIC
    MOSAIC – didn’t think that the answer was clear from the clueing though thought of the word before I had all of the checkers

    CONCERTO – guessed that Emperor must be the name of such – not familiar with it

    Liked CONFIDANT and SCHOLASTIC once I’d parsed them but COD to MOBIUS STRIP. LOI SALUTE

    Thanks Ulaca and setter

  22. DNF, 2d CONCERTO and 3d ODE. Liked in the SW MOSAIC/SCAR/TOBOGGAN but I don’t know how to spell the last one normally but no prob here. Hard but fair, oh dear.

  23. (t)ANNOY is a trade name. The configuration we had at school worked well (no crackling!) during outdoor activities such as Speech Day.

    Sometimes associations just won’t be shifted: I remembered Greg le Mond winning the Tour de France and that did for me as far as getting DEMON was concerned.

    And it did not help that LET as in HAMLET can mean the opposite, i.e. an ‘impediment’ rather than an ‘allowing’.

    Thanks to the usual suspects.

  24. Well, technically a DNF (and a struggle) as , although I managed so jumble the right letters for the unheard of MOBIUS STRIP, once I had all the crossers, I just couldn’t see SCHOLASTIC. so I looked it up. Bah. DNK NEBULA either in that context but the anag was helpful.

    A combination of unches and “take aways” (not the second, all but, cut,leaving, reduced by half, etc) makes me an unhappy bunny.

    Thanks U for the clarifications.

  25. Thought I was going to get nowhere on this then the anagram at 7 down popped out which allowed the 7 across to clear a bit and I then had a toehold. Steady solve after that with the NW corner slowest to reveal its mysteries. Very enjoyable and challenging puzzle, completed on a satisfying 23:27. Perhaps it was the inspiration of finishing my first ever mephisto yesterday😊

    Thx u and setter

  26. The NW remained unpopulated until very late in the proceedings. In fact the rest of the puzzle, apart from WHITE COLLAR, was complete before a sudden inspiration made me think of SEAWAY. I never managed to parse it, but it was confirmed by checkers once INFERNAL (which I’d somehow failed to look at) and SCHOLASTIC which suddenly appeared before my eyes as I considered a shortened CHOIC(e), quickly led to TELLING, the elusive ODE, CONCERTO, CONFIDANT and LOI, ANNOY (I was another fixated on the wrong sort of PA). 27:42. Thanks setter and U.

  27. This was a tricky one, for sure! I ended up with 4 unparsed – SEAWAY, CONFIDANT, ENERGETIC, where I didn’t really understand ‘not initially unbranded’ and LOI MOSAIC, which went in with crossed fingers. Definitely more of a Friday puzzle, and more than compensating for an easy QC. It took ages before I began to make headway in the SE and got enough crossers to proceed. So thanks, setter, for a Bank Holiday challenge, and U for unravelling it all.

  28. Nicely tricky, and as Z said, enough category shifts to make it even trickier. Thanks, setter.

  29. I got off to a roaring start with this, but a slower finish (33 minutes in all). But I seem to have had few problems with category shifts (for example, for CONCERTO, which I essentially biffed). Many very good clues. I rather liked HAMLET, ignoring the problems discussed above. But they are real.

  30. Worked this after karaoke and a decent amount of bourbon and it didn’t seem frightfully hard, though I was hung up on the left side for a while at the end. Remembering the PA system broke the ice.

    I had just the beginning, M, and the end, P, of MOBIUS STRIP and biffed it (ironically, since a MOBIUS STRIP has neither beginning nor end).

    I love confit de canard!

    CONCERTO clued by “Emperor” and NEBULA clued by “Crab”! That’s all right, but just enough of that.

    I think “cycling” clues are newly in vogue. Don’t recall seeing them until relatively recently, either here or elsewhere.

    Last One Parsed was SEAWAY, which was obvious except for that.

    1. Check out the CHOICE / ECHOIC cycling arrangement, with differing pronunciations of both the CH and C once the cycling is done.

  31. 32:51
    Tough but enjoyable. LOI was CONCERTO.
    The grammatical issues with LET passed over my head, and HAMLET went straight in without a second thought.

    Thanks Ulaca and setter

  32. I enjoyed this, finishing in 36 minutes after a slow start. Some of the parsing took a while and I had not fully grasped the structure of CONFIDANT and ENERGETIC until I found them explained here. I don’t mind the French vibe as long as it is not overwhelming. I seem to recall seeing the SCAR(Y) clue somewhere not so long ago. Some of the GK was testing, but fortunately just within my range. I remember being very impressed back in the day when a Maths teacher created a MOEBIUS STRIP in class.
    LOI – MIST
    Thanks to ulaca and other contributors.

  33. Aren’t Mondays usually easier than this? 😆 Needed help for many of the clues but then kicked myself as a fair few were solvable if only I’d persevered. Many thanks for the much-needed blog, especially for explaining MOSAIC (groan) and DEMON (doh).

  34. Late getting to this, and no time recorded as I was interrupted on umpteen occasions. I would estimate that it was about sixty minutes or possibly a bit longer. In the end I fell at the last fence with 7dn, having to decide whether it was MOBIUS STRIP or MIBOUS STRIP. As usual I zigged when I should have zagged. Oh well, it was a good test and I enjoyed it.

  35. I couldn’t pass CONFIDANT (DNK the meat dish) or let go of ‘salaam’ for 8d. I realised there couldn’t be a fried food with 3 ‘A’s in the middle but surely fried food is…well fried, and sautéed food is, sautéed? I ain’t no chef but these sound awfully like different techniques. Grump.

    Thanks U and setter. Certainly filled my afternoon.

  36. As usual, coming to this in the evening. Therefore tired. But sometimes that doesn’t seem to matter. Did this in 17’18”, which judging from comments above was pretty good. Like JdeBP, I too thought of Greg Lemond, but luckily he wouldn’t have fitted. The HAMLET controversy passed me by completely, but I understand the problem. Many thanks.

  37. There was so much more poor about this crossword than that which generates a bizarre discussion on whether let and licence (sic) are substitutable in a sentence. It’s almost as if words and phrases with the same meaning sometimes require a different syntax? Week after week we have clues that fail the substituteability test and no one seems to raise even the most minor eyebrow.

    At least choose a deserving hill to die on.

  38. I am fairly new to the Times 15×15 (around 3 months), having enjoyed the Telegraph back pager for around twenty years. And, just for the record, I far prefer to find and complete my puzzle on the back page of my paper and always feel more than a little disappointed when I find an advert where my crossword should be. One day I might investigate puzzling on-line. I suspect that the law of Conservation of Energy means that Hell is freezing over as our Earth gets hotter.
    I found today’s puzzle quite hard, but completed in a little less than an hour, with only with only four question marks in the margin to indicate unparsed answers. A satisfyingly enjoyable, and enjoyably satisfying way to spend an hour of my retirement.
    I too paused at ‘let’ for ‘licence’, but convinced myself that ‘without let or hindrance’ allowed me to (gave me let to) carry on. But then, it really doesn’t work. On the other hand I didn’t hesitate to to use my O Level French to supply the grist for (re)-cycling, but rather hesitated over ‘demon’ for ‘energetic figure’. I am a demon for laziness and procrastination.
    Thanks to all who contribute to TftT. You’ve greatly eased my transition from broadsheet to tabloid.

  39. 20.53

    Breakthrough was looking at the right end of the clue for CONFIDANT and realising I did know the “NHO” STRIP.

    Thanks all

  40. 54:08. A challenging solve but perfect for a bank holiday. Particularly liked EMPEROR, MOBIUS STRIP and DEMON (all felt like Friday clues). Nothing unfair in there I thought, a few write-ins to keep ones hopes up, but most were solid head scratchers. LOI ODE which was a bit of a weird clue.

  41. DNF Slowly finished middle in about 60 minutes but found outside incredibly hard. First crossword since last Monday as computer crashed late Monday and had to be rebuilt (new mother board) and restored from cloud backup. Second computer used as extra backup also failed so now one computer replaces two. Not a good week.

  42. Tackled this on Tuesday. I thought it was a great puzzle. I’m still not sure exactly what is going on with Seaway, but otherwise no problems, and Hamlet didn’t faze/phase me too much. About 1 hour overall. Liked Annoy, Confidant, Energetic.
    Edit – ah, I see Seaway now (thanks to Blogger) – it’s slightly obtuse.

  43. As always with me i new all the NHOs others mention but made a complete mess of the easier clues so DNF by two clues.

  44. Main route all but fixed from here

    A seaway is a route in the main (a sea route), fixed is set, without its last letter (all but), from here is away.


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