Times 28921 – A dog’s life?

A lot to like in this fairly simple offering, which starts out with a plethora of anagrams before deciding to give the double definition a run-out.


1 Tavern in Western Peru represented in books (7)
BREWPUB – anagram* of W PERU in B B
5 Like S&M, perhaps, in old courts? (7)
ASSIZES – AS (like) SIZES (Small & Medium)
9 Rues dunce somehow becoming loose (9)
10 Liquor carrier moves out of Cuba (5)
RUMBA – RUM (liquor) BA (carrier/airline)
11 One in Temple Bar knocked back first couple of bitters (5)
RABBI – BAR reversed BItters
12 Weirdly, adores eating fish food (4,5)
14 Yank consortium bulldozed American peaks (5,9)
17 Very clear decision after taking drugs? (4-10)
HIGH-RESOLUTION – HIGH (taking drugs) RESOLUTION (decision)
21 Mineral’s origin: can that’s been cracked open (9)
23 China uncovered river creature (5)
24 Lure politician into Vietnamese festival (5)
25 Being sulky and low, eats seconds (9)
26 Old man hacks into renowned computer (7)
27 Establish disadvantageous position in court? (3,4)
SET DOWN – if you’re a set down in tennis, you need to improve
1 Britpop band extremely rowdy, lacking focus (6)
2 After downsizing, Newcastle use bionic footballer (7)
EUSEBIO – hidden; Portuguese superstar
3 Photograph yuletide saint and queen outside diner (9)
PICNICKER – PIC (photograph) NICK (Saint Nicholas, AKA Santa Claus) ER
4 Hospital working to support naughty kids — one in particular (4,7)
BART SIMPSON – IMPS (naughty kids) in BARTS (nickname for St Bartholemew’s – hospital in London) ON (working); NAUGHTY KIDS is doing a kind of double duty – as Bart might well try to do
5 Assist with unfinished opera (3)
AID – AIDa; opera by Verdi written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal
6 Cancel US sitcom without finale (5)
SCRUB – SCRUBs; American noughties sitcom set in a hospital. No, never heard of it either
7 With energy, Zulu reportedly, enters short country river? (7)
ZAMBEZI – E (energy) Z (Zulu in phonetic alphabet) in ZAMBIa
8 Lacking organisation, band is infiltrated by US cops (8)
13 Betray what’s apparent in anti-vaxxers (6-5)
DOUBLE-CROSS – there are two ‘crosses’ in anti-vaXXers
15 Military display is beginning to trouble needleworker (9)
TATTOOIST – TATTOO (military display) IS Trouble
16 Name of chap on X (8)
CHRISTEN – CHRIS on TEN (Romsn numeral X)
18 Picked up famous dog’s rubber ring (7)
GROMMET – sounds like GROMIT, of Wallace fame
19 Busy period — Mike’s forgotten about self-esteem (2,3,2)
ON THE GO – mONTH (the letter M – Mike in the phonetic alphabet – is deleted (‘forgotten about’) from the time period) EGO (self-esteem)
20 Jail’s image promotion has feasibility (6)
PRISON –  PR (image promotion) IS ON (has feasability)
22 Clothes  stand (3,2)
GET UP – double definition (DD)
25 Government department, one fashionable in the sixties (3)


95 comments on “Times 28921 – A dog’s life?”

  1. I finished this in 26 minutes but didn’t enjoy it much.

    The Britpop band, the Portuguese footballer, two different cartoon characters and the American sitcom were all outside my areas of knowledge. The answers were gettable and any one or maybe two of them would have been fair enough, but all in the same puzzle suggests a degree of dumbing down that does not appeal to me.

    I don’t understand why we have ‘Zulu reportedly’ at 7dn as that gets takes us unnecessarily into homophone territory. Zulu = Z, end of, and the rest of the answer is covered by other wordplay.

    1. I guess it’s ‘reportedly’ because this is specifically the phonetic alphabet designed to eliminate ambiguity when speaking.

      1. Maybe, but still unnecessary. We don’t have ‘Mike reportedly’ at 19dn, and it doesn’t add anything to the surface.

        1. Yes fair point. It’s also odd because ‘Z reportedly’ -> ZULU would be more logical.

          1. I have a theory (unprovable unless the setter cares to contribute) that given some of the other stuff in the puzzle the setter is an American and lost track of his own wordplay by thinking ‘Zulu reportedly’ was clueing ‘ZI’ i.e. Z as pronounced in America. But of course the ‘I’ was already covered by ZAMBI{a}.

            1. Not sure what else in the puzzle counts as specifically American but awareness of who Eusebio was would point in the opposite direction.

              1. Two US TV programmes .. but Blur and Gromit would seem to point the other way.
                RR did say when I asked him that he had one US setter, and one English setter now settled in the USA.
                But I’m hopeless at identifying individual setters, always have been, with the exception of Dean.

                1. You certainly don’t have to be American to be familiar with The Simpsons! Scrubs is more arguable but it was very well-known at the time. It’s the football knowledge (in a country that has a whole other sport with the same name!) that seems unlikely to me. All guesswork, of course.

              2. I didn’t say exclusively American, and once I had the thought in my head it was hard to ignore ROCKY MOUNTAINS running right across the middle!

    2. ‘Zulu reportedly’ led me to ‘S’ and ‘Zambesi’ earned me a pink square for a valid spelling of the river.

      1. …and for a solution that explains the use of ‘reportedly’ (it sounds like a Z).
        I did the same, Bob, and definitely feel robbed.
        I also feel as though Zambesi is the more common spelling (though that msy reflect my age).

    3. For solvers who are a bit younger this is all a welcome change from 1960s-70s pop culture which was well before we were born.

    4. I got a pink square owing to my not being able to spell ZAMBEZI and putting in an s. I justified it because I thought the Zulu reportedly was indicating a hard s sound😊 oh well

  2. 8:51. No problems today, and I had all the knowledge, which no doubt says something about my general intellectual level! I actually watched Scrubs a fair bit when it was a thing, and even the footballer was vaguely familiar.

  3. I liked this one a lot, despite various never or rarely heard-ofs like BREWPUB, EUSEBIO and GROMMET, and only dimly recalling BLUR. (Are they officially dead, or does that convention apply only to people? In which case, RIP little Bart.) I especially liked the long ones – ROCKY MOUNTAINS, BART SIMPSON, HIGH RESOLUTION and DOUBLE-CROSS – which helped me finish in 30.54 when the Ps eventually D’d. Thanks ulaca, and setter of course.

    From George Jackson:
    Sometimes I think this whole world
    Is one big PRISON yard
    Some of us are prisoners
    The rest of us are guards
    Lord, Lord
    They cut George Jackson down…

    1. Yes, sadly the living person rule doesn’t appear to apply to pop groups although I can think of no reason why it wouldn’t as they come and go with the weather.

  4. 12 minutes. I hadn’t actually heard of BREWPUB but one of my sons does drink Brewdog, so it had to be. I did get BLURRY. My total lack of knowledge of modern pop music must have started after then. I saw Eusebio at Goodison in 1966. I do know modern football although after Saturday’s performance by Wanderers I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that we didn’t try to bypass the high press until it was too late. Enjoyable puzzle but easy.
    Thank you U and setter.

    1. Were you at the quarter final against N. Korea in 1966, John? I was at Wembley for the England v Argentina q/f and there was much consternation in the stands as the score in the Goodison game was posted: 0-1, 0-2, 0-3 in favour of NK…before normal service was resumed.

      1. I watched two games. Portugal 3 Brazil 1, with Pele and Eusebio.Pele was given some rough treatment and didn’t do much. Hungary 3 Brazil 1. The best player in the tournament, Florian Albert, was mesmeric that game. I only saw North Korea on the box.

        1. I saw some of the Hungary v Brazil match on TV (goal highlights?) and, yes, Florian Albert was indeed mesmeric. Not only did Portugal rough up Pele but Bulgaria did, too.
          I saw all the London group matches plus the quarter final, semi final and final.

    2. Just one season left now to go to Goodison. Bad luck last Saturday – by chance, I was in Oxford on Saturday – yellow scarves everywhere.

      1. Goodison will always mean the epic battles in the fifties between Dave Hickson and Mal Barrass when I was a lad, sitting on the Gwladys Street stand with my Dad. I hope the new stadium is as good asGoodison was back then.

  5. Started off fast, but then the final half dozen or so slowed me down a lot so I finished on 23:58.
    LOI GROMMET, I only could remember Lassie and Pluto, then Deputy Dawg came to mind, finally I got there
    NHO EUSEBIO (but that was easy)
    Also Bart Simpson, well I knew it was one of the Simpsons but apart from Homer I don’t know their names
    Thanks setter for the education in popular culture, and blogger

  6. Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest —
    Why, hear him, hear him babble & drop down to his nest,
    But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.
    (The Caged Skylark, GM Hopkins)

    25 mins pre-brekker. I liked it notwithstanding the popular culture references.
    Like S&M is very good.
    Ta setter and U

  7. There’s a high failure rate evident today, and I suspect many have fallen into the Zambesi and drowned.

    I had to take a couple on trust – I didn’t think Scrubs was a sitcom rather than another tedious hospital drama, and never considered BA as a “carrier” though the answer was fairly obvious, but otherwise it all fell into place without too much anxiety.

    TIME 9:08

    * Many consider this to be a fairly recent innovation, but I remember drinking the in-house mild at the All Nations in Madeley, Telford nearly 50 years ago.

    1. Traditionally, an “alehouse” used to make and sell its own beer. It was an easy way for a widow to earn some money, and one reason why there used to be far, far more pubs than there are nowadays.

  8. 24:09
    NHO BLUR, thought I NHO EUSEBIO, but I must have come across him somewhere, only saw the hidden afterwards. Is he dead? Liked ASSIZES, the rest was OK.

  9. 16:37 but I can’t spell GROMMET

    I was slow to get going but once they started to fall this was quite straightforward. Annoying then to finish with a pink square.

    Thanks to both.

    1. One can know too much: if I’d read it as “chap on a cross” I’d have gone to St Andrew – that shape of cross!

  10. Quick today. Presumably the answer to 7dn is Zambesi, hence the “reportedly?”
    It’s what I put anyway but I don’t solve online.
    If the answer they are looking for really is Zambezi that seems unfair to me, since Zambesi is perfectly acceptable and not uncommon spelling..

    1. I had a lot to say about the ZAMBEZI clue (and have added more above since) but I forgot to mention that I also took ‘reportedly’ as a homophone indicator and entered ZAMBESI in the grid, so I had the answer wrong according to the published answer.

    2. Zambesi doesn’t fit the clue – E (energy) Z (Zulu) in ZAMBI{a}. There’s no possible crossword method “Zulu reportedly” can clue S.
      However, reportedly in the clue is redundant, shouldn’t be there. Or maybe an indication of homophonic pronunciation of letters – more than occasionally “whatever” “on the radio” indicates the NATO letter.
      In my opinion this clue has an error by the setter missed by the editor, but almost certainly I’m wrong.
      In any case Zambesi cannot be right.
      He says with certainty 😉

      1. I’m not so sure. Since ‘Zulu’ can indicate Z directly, it’s quite logical to assume that ‘reportedly’ is doing something in the clue, which must mean you need something that sounds like a Z, which the S in ZAMBESI does.

      2. If you think the “reportedly” is redundant, that means you think Zulu = Z just as it is.
        Z reportedly means S, in the word in question since it sounds the same either way. QED 🙂

        1. I see what you’re saying, but I still disagree. Zulu clues the letter Z (zed) in the NATO alphabet, not zzzzz the sound made by people sleeping. Homophonically Z the letter ‘reportedly’ is e.g. ZEDD, so by your reasoning the answer would be Zambezeddi. I can see no possible way that Zulu reportedly could be ‘s’. But as per my previous comment, I might be totally wrong – what you surmise might be what the setter intended. But for me it’s too much of a convoluted indirect clue to get from Zulu to zed to s.

  11. 11:49, with the SW putting up a bit of resistance. I also managed an alarming number of typos as I went, although thankfully noticed each time.

    I have mixed feelings about the specific clues (e.g. BLUR/BART’S are elements of wordplay that also relate directly to the answer, which is a bit limp). But there is absolutely no problem in principle with the Times branching out to culture beyond composers, operas, and 19th century novels. If this counts as dumbing down, then the regular fare surely counts as stuffy.

    Thanks ulaca & setter.

  12. 18′ so right in my popular culture “wheelhouse” (as they say…). I actually had a few double takes at some of the clueing but I’m quite happy not to always have to grind out Greek muses or unknown composers. I do remember “being” Eusebio in the playground in the sixties, usually because others had already bagged being Pele or Puskas. Enjoyable, thanks Ulaca and setter.

  13. 19 minutes. I suppose I had come across BREWPUB before but it needed some thought, as did the equally just heard of SODA BREAD. The only reason I could get the ‘Britpop band’ reference was because of a few comments made on a QC blog a couple of weeks ago. The other uncertainty was deciding between E and I for the non-canine GROMMET.

    I’ll add my vote for ASSIZES as COD.

  14. A crossword for the younger generation, it seems (though there are probably a few younger football fans who’ve never heard of EUSEBIO). As Gerry says above, I’m very happy to have these kinds of references as well as the classics, Victorian novelists or what have you.

    Just over 10 minutes, with the only slight hesitation over INORGANIC as I didn’t realise it can be clued by ‘mineral’. Was also glad the wordplay and numeration made clear there was only one K in PICNICKER.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Aid
    LOI + COD Christen

    1. Since Blur, The Simpsons and Wallace and Gromit were all in their pomp when I was in my early and mid-twenties, and I watched Scrubs when it came out, I must belong to this ‘younger generation’.
      I’m 51.

        1. 59 here – aware of Eusebio who, in the late 60s/early 70s at least was revered as one of the footballing greats.

  15. 21:49. I really enjoyed it. Wasn’t sure about the spelling of Zambezi, but it only parses with the two Zs. And CHRISTEN didn’t register as a verb at first: I thought name= CHRISTEN (random woman) clued by CHRIS (random man) plus ten. A duff clue until the penny dropped much later. I liked MOODINESS and, of course, ASSIZES

  16. 34m 18s
    I found it amusing to wonder how some people might fare with EUSEBIO and GROMMET.
    No problem for me with the different cultural references in this puzzle.
    Thanks ulaca.

  17. 44 mins, held up by the HIGH bit of 17ac and CHRISTEN, which, like sawbill I also got from man on a cross. DNK BREWPUB but my best friend’s son-in-law also drinks Brewdog so I worked it out from there once I had all the crossers.

    I liked ASSIZES & RUMBA best.

    Thanks U and setter.

  18. 22.17. A pleasant gentle start to the week. I am prepared to accept modern cultural references provided I know them, but otherwise they represent dumbing down and should be banned. I am very nearly 78, and modern cultural references start at about 1960.

  19. Well that was fun in a Highbrow/Lowbrow kind of way: the trickiness increased by the expectation that The Times knows nothing cultural after the turn of the century, with at least a suggestion that the century indicated is the 19th.
    I think I am fortunate in that I didn’t know ZAMBEZI could be spelt with an S, less so that I thought GROMMET could be, and maybe, was spelt with an I.
    Strangely not familiar with BREWPUB, but it sounds like a good idea.
    S&M was a brilliant diversion, one of the occasions when it clearly would be an advantage to be innocent of such as 50 Shades.
    Anything significant in that the other Simpson, Wallace, is adumbrated in the puzzle?
    17.36, for what it’s worth.

  20. Found this rather difficult. Beaten in the end by BREWPUB, but had to wrack my brains to see GROMMET too. Tricky without being rewarding or fun.

  21. Decent effort here after getting bogged down on the QC. As others have mentioned, the tone of the puzzle was modernish, which may have helped, as I am youngish (at least within the Times cryptic solving cohort).

    LOI SLAPDASH, COD ASSIZES, though I thought Yank consortium was a very good anagram.


  22. 24:24.

    I’ve not been doing the crossword regularly recently. Hoping to speed up.


  23. 9:25 (including a few seconds trying to find an anagram of BAND IS US for 8d).
    A nice mixture of old and (relatively) new sporting/cultural references, I thought.
    Blur were the first band I ever took my son to see – many years ago I’d also seen their opposite, Focus.

  24. 12:05. Held up for a couple of minutes or maybe even more by SODA BREAD, where it took me a while to get away from IDE as the fish for something starting SIDE, and the unknown American sitcom. At least I’d heard of the footballer and the band. Thanks U and setter.

  25. 17:42

    Enjoyed this. All the cultural references were familiar to me, so perhaps 65 is the perfect age. Held up by LOI SLAPDASH as the checkers didn’t rule out the possible anagram.

    Thanks all.

  26. 17a HIGH RESOLUTION didn’t occur to me for ages.
    2d DNF, couldn’t see the hidden AGAIN. We must have had EUSEBIO before as he is in my cheating machine. I don’t care for footie….
    8a S(LAPD)ASH was clever.
    5a I agree with Myrtilus S&M is very good. COD. Ta setter and U.

  27. When solving ZAMBEZI I thought that The Times had slipped up by having ‘with’ as a word linking def and WP, something it never (?) does. But it hadn’t and all was fine. I agree with those who say that ‘reportedly’ is a waste of space. What nobody has apparently pointed out is that the second comma also is. Simply bad English so far as I can see. What’s wrong with ‘… Zulu enters …’? NHO BREWPUB. Nice clues (mostly). 33 minutes.

  28. 18:56 – much slowed by fumbling my way through on an iphone keyboard. It’s hard enough typing on an iphone without the crossword site using a much narrower keyboard than usual. I don’t know whether this is a design choice or a something forced on the programmers by Mr Apple but it makes things awkward.

  29. 15:49

    Fairly untroubled by this gentle Monday grid, though I have a few comments:

    NHO BREWPUB – is that term even used?
    INORGANIC – could see the anagram but couldn’t at the time see how it defines ‘mineral’ – guess it’s from ‘animal, vegetable or mineral’ the first two of which would be organic.
    EUSEBIO – a big name in football in the late 60s/early 70s – guess it would be a problem if you don’t follow football
    SCRUB – I recall the programme though I never watched it
    ZAMBEZI – S or Z? I went with the cryptic though kind of ignored the ‘reportedly’ bit

    COD – CHRISTEN – POI – foxed me for a minute or two
    LOI – not for the first time recently, SLAPDASH

    Thanks U and setter

  30. No problems with this one crossing the line in 28.14. Football fans of my generation will certainly remember the Portuguese star EUSEBIO, what a player. I can still picture him in tears after the 1966 World Cup semifinal, with Bobby Charlton’s arm round his shoulder commiserating with him.

  31. 7:52, and yes, interesting how heavy this was on popular culture (though all of it well within my wheelhouse, so I’m not complaining – better that than continuing to rely on solvers being aware of Beerbohm Tree etc.)

  32. 11:09

    No dramas (thankfully I was unaware of the “s” spelling of the river).

    I’m very familiar with (nay a fan of) all the required bits of pop culture / sporting / drinking knowledge. At 63 I’m in the younger generation it seems and appreciated the welcome but no doubt temporary reprieve from the usual ancient Greek and Roman nonsense 😊.

  33. I swithered for ages between beerpub and brewpub.

    As a youngster of 40, the more modern references were a welcome change for me. Bart Simpson, Blur, Scrubs and Grommet were some of the first ones in. I’ve no problem with the more highfalutin clues but draw the line firmly at cricket.

  34. Lots of Xs and Zs today. I think our Z is on to something with Wallace in the NW.
    I put imps after, not in, Barts, and added Rin Tin Tin and Asta to SteveB’s list of wrong dogs before the crossing G gave things away
    I liked Assizes.
    Thanks for Otter, Ulaca – not quite sure why ‘pottery’ didn’t occur to me

  35. Slow in top left and bottom right, but in the end no unknowns – heard of Eusebio, though too young and geographically disadvantaged to have seen him play. And even remembered the instantly forgettable brit-pap (sic) band Blur -google google Woo-Hoo – yes that was them! Passable.

  36. 13.45

    Gently amused to see Blur and Eusebio considered modern, even lowbrow. My kids (25 and 30) who like to dabble in these things but are put off by the arcaneness of operas and classics were hardly born when the former were in their pomp.

    As for the puzzle, liked it for being a bit off beat.

  37. 19.37 Delighted with this after 17 minutes on the QC. GROMMET was a biff from the G but I couldn’t parse it. I dithered over the spelling of the river but the clue only worked with the Z. The rest was straightforward and I did like ASSIZES. Thanks ulaca.

  38. It took nearly an hour, but I very much enjoyed it, especially having successfully manoeuvred the many pitfalls it contains. It really took about 10 minutes of careful reading and reflection to correct the mistakes that were in it before I fortunately didn’t click on “submit”. At that point, 1ac was BEERPUB, but I couldn’t explain why it had two E’s, decided “Western” did not refer to taverns in movies and saw how to put a W into the anagram to get BREWPUB (a NHO for me). I thought CHRISTEN was brilliant. It also took me a while to remember the proper spelling for GROMMET (did the dog have an E or an I and which was more likely for the plumbing fixture?). And finally, was it ZAMBEZI or ZAMBESI? The fear of being confused by a German spelling, as I often am, living in Germany, led me to the right choice, but like Jack I was irritated by the unnecessary “reportedly” in the clue and wondering whether an American “zee” was being intended by the setter. Otherwise, nice puzzle.

  39. Really no idea why this pretty straightforward offering took me 42 minutes, but the clock doesn’t lie and I’m hungry, which also suggests it’s time to move on to other things. CHRISTEN took me a while to parse. The definition is clear, and so was the chap on the cross, but that seemed a bit irreverent. Of course, once I saw that it wasn’t a cross but a Roman ten, the chap revealed himself and the eyebrows settled back to position A.

  40. 17.21 which was a new PB for me. NHO EUSEBIO, or BREWPUB. I took think there was a bit too much Americana in this… maybe seeking a new market. Otherwise enjoyable and fairly straightforward . Cracking puzzle, eh lad?

  41. Personally I like a crossword where Beerbohm Tree and Bart Simpson both can feel at home. Mix it up, is my motto. This definitely leaned to the moderns, but why not — as long as it doesn’t end up replacing the trad stuff? Very much enjoyed ASSIZES and the ANTI-VAXXER. Just under 20′.

  42. I thought this was a fairly standard Monday offering, which did not cause too much head-scratching. All done in 18 minutes. NHO BREWPUB but it was fair enough from the clueing. It never crossed my mind that 7dn was anything other than ZAMBEZI, though I can see the argument based on the otherwise redundant ‘reportedly’. I would think that any GK is fair game in the crossword and does not have to be restricted to highbrow cultural references. After all we admit all sorts of answers from down on the street, innit?
    Thanks to ulaca and other contributors.

    P.S. I enjoyed John Burscough’s letter on ‘belling the bear’ in this morning’s correspondence column – I assume it was he?

  43. Rattled through this in 20 minutes, so very fast for me.
    As others have said, somewhat different style of crossword today – but fortunately I knew all the latter-day references.

  44. 21.05 with a delay trying to convince myself that 1 ac was indeed brewpub, not a term I’ve come across before. Bart Simpson was a very droll answer but I go for set down as my COD.

    Good puzzle . Thx setter and blogger


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *