Times 28924 – in which we scramble for an excuse

Time taken: 19:43, and once I limped to the finish there was one horrible typo.

A bout of strep throat has left me well under par this week, I think I have had typos in at least three of the crosswords this week. A pity, because as I write this up, I realise that the wordplay is exact and inventive, there’s some really fun clues here.

How did you get along?

1 Appeal of hit show, ultimate in chart topper? (4,4)
HOW’S THAT – anagram of SHOW, then the last letter in charT, and HAT(topper). An appeal in cricket, now replaced by “howaaaayyyyyyyyyaaaaa”
9 Accessible work — aim with old men (4-4)
OPEN-DOOR – OP(word), END(aim), O(old), OR(men)
10 Cut down fine length of cloth (4)
FELL – F(fine, music term), ELL(length of cloth)
11 Classic tugboats reportedly out of condition? (6,6)
FAWLTY TOWERS – the out of condition tugboats would be FAULTY TOWERS. Referencing the 70s sitcom
13 Basket turned up with new bag (6)
PUNNET – UP reversed, with N(new), NET(bag)
14 Ceremony upsetting Rwanda church (3,5)
WAR DANCE – anagram of RWANDA, then CE(church)
15 Cover telephone inventor against clash of interests (4,3)
BELL JAR – Alexander Graham BELL(telephone inventor) and JAR(clash of interests)
16 Running as a cure for split in foot? (7)
CAESURA – anagram of AS,A,CURE – the foot is a poetical one
20 Male succeeded when cutting to obtain a certain diamond? (8)
GEMSTONE – M(male), S(succeeded) inside GET(obtain), ONE(a)
22 Religious song but not second pious ceremonial (6)
RITUAL – SPIRITUAL(religious song) minus S(second) and PI(pious)
23 Drawing on veracities in a new way (12)
EVISCERATION – anagram of ON,VERACITIES. Think of “drawn and quartered”
25 Queen wearing gold and a pale blue (4)
AQUA – Q(queen) inside AU(gold) and A
26 Book lasting a year? (8)
TWELVEMO – since a year would be TWELVE MOnths
27 Italian town, no resort for development (8)
2 Approach plain with river (8)
OVERTURE – OVERT(plain) and the river URE
3 What could show small naughty child a way of seeing inside? (4-8)
SELF-ANALYSIS – S(small), ELF(naughty child), ANALYSIS(a way of seeing inside). I originally had this as an all-in-one, but  as pointed out by several astute commenters, the intention was that ANALYSIS of S+ELF gets you to the answer.
4 Greeting a guard, not caught by a brave hero (8)
HIAWATHA – HI(greeting), A, WATCH(guard) minus C(caught) next to A
5 Reading perhaps about unknown in books is of no real value (7)
TOYTOWN – Reading is a TOWN, containing Y(unknown) inside OT(books). This was where I fat-fingered TOTTOWN
6 Cases for neuroscience unit emergency room doctor (6)
NEUTER – external letters in NeurosciencE and UniT, then ER(emergency room)
7 Aircraft varnish — work into wings of drone (4)
DOPE – OP(work) inside the external letters of DronE
8 Plays, regularly polemical, without intermission (8)
ORESTEIA – alternating letters in pOlEmIcA surrounding REST(intermission). Plays by Aeschylus
12 Disintegrating: it’s a new maths thing (12)
15 Bread with appropriate side finally covered in unlimited butter (8)
BAGUETTE – BAG(appropriate) then the last letter of sidE inside the internal letters of bUTTEr
17 What needs pilot broadcast on cable before start of run (8)
AIRLINER – AIR(broadcast), on LINE(cable) then the first letter of Run
18 Study due for change again (8)
READJUST – READ(study), JUST(due)
19 Thus youth with record overturned boats (7)
PEDALOS – SO(thus), LAD(youth) and EP(record) all reversed
21 Cricketer’s heavy blow about exercise (6)
OPENER – ONER(heavy blow) surrounding PE(exercise)
24 Climbing team traps live mountain goat (4)
IBEX – XI(team) reversed containing BE(live)

78 comments on “Times 28924 – in which we scramble for an excuse”

  1. 28:32
    I didn’t think of cricket at 1ac–never do–not associating it with ‘howzat’, which I ‘knew’, although not knowing the meaning. 11ac took me forever, F_W looking awfully unlikely; I finally thought of the answer, but only parsed it post-submission. DNK TOYTOWN, surprised that I knew PUNNET. I liked WHATSHISNAME. [On edit] Sorry, I meant WHATSITSNAME.

    1. I liked ‘whatshisname’ (sic) too, which stymied me on RITUAL. Had also forgotten ‘twelvemo’, and was all at sea on that clue. So, overall, a big win for the setter.

      1. If I wanted to, I could silently correct my posting, but as Nixon would say, that would be wrong. I also had a problem recalling TWELVEMO.

        1. I forgot that aspect of Nixon; I guess it stemmed from his Quaker background. I know he felt he wasn’t a crook.

            1. In the mid-1970’s I played on a mixed-sex softball team called The Impeach Richard Nixon Flyers and we made the semi-finals.

  2. I found that hard, with a few unknowns like ORESTEIA which I assembled from wordplay without a lot of confidence given the letter order is weird. I associate CAESURA more with music but know the word. Held up at the end by TWELVEMO since I had no idea what the clue was getting at.

  3. Beaten today by twelvemo and ritual. Some nice anagrams and helpful tips to find the tricky ones – oresteia. Liked Fawlty Towers and Hiawatha but my COD must be whatsitsname. Thanks setter and glh.

  4. Wow, very interesting, excellent puzzle. Some sly definitions, like simply “Classic” for the John Cleese… classic. I guess anything more direct than “drawing” would have given EVISCERATION away. PEDALO brought to mind former French president François Hollande, who is surely the only reason I know the word. When I had the O for TWELVEMO, I thought of its synonym “duodecimo,” but the real answer was slow in coming. POI OPENER (hard to see another OPEN, I guess, after OPEN-DOOR… plus, it’s cricket) and LOI the heretofore unknown PUNNET. TOYTOWN was new to me too, and the “varnish” sense of DOPE.

    1. With François Hollande, are you referring to when he used to scooter across Paris for trysts with the actress Julie Gayet? That used to amuse me. I think he had security men as outriders, didn’t he?

          1. Yes, it’s a very funny phrase even without the rest of the remark by Jean-Luc Mélenchon that launched a thousand political cartoons, « À présent, à gauche, pourquoi choisir, pour entrer dans la saison des tempêtes, un capitaine de pédalo comme Hollande? »

              1. Well, Macron made her Ambassador for the Poles (ça existe !) for a few years, evidently to keep her out of anyone’s hair, but she has most recently been seen—believe it or not—as a regular commentator (chroniqueuse) on Touche pas à mon poste, the TV show hosted by the notoriously bigoted clown Cyril Hanouna.

  5. At 45 minutes I had 2½ answers missing, the ½ being the second part of BELLJAR which came to me after several more minutes of reflection. I gave up on the others and resorted to aids.

    I simply didn’t know TWELVEMO which is making only its second appearance in the regular puzzles having shown up previously in January 2019 when I also didn’t know it.

    I am fully aware of The ORESTEIA so perhaps I should have got that one but there wasn’t enough info in the clue to biff it and I didn’t manage to assemble it from wordplay.

    DOPE as varnish was unknown but the wordplay left the answer in no doubt. AQUA was fresh in my mind from Tuesday’s puzzle blogged by me.

    As ulaca has mentioned, traditionally we bought strawberries in a PUNNET although SOED insists punnets are also used for raspberries, mushrooms and other similar produce. Also traditionally, punnets are small baskets and I’m not sure whether the term continues to be used for the ubiquitous plastic containers of today that I feel we could well do without.

  6. DNF having NHO TWELVEMO and the clueing not being very generous I’d say. Also misplaced the uncrossed anagram fodder in the again NHO CAESURA, though I knew it would be a metric foot. Otherwise everything else was gettable fairly quickly. Mrs M made strawberry and vanilla jam over the weekend so well acquainted with punnets. Didn’t know the Oresteia was a number of plays but doubt I’ll see them. Thanks George and setter

  7. 21 minutes. I have to be honest. I had never heard of TWELVEMO and put it in as a joke. Told my wife I had given up and was throwing in something stupid before hitting the submit button!

  8. Given how hard it was getting started and the appearance of TWELVEMO and CAESURA when I finally got my momentum up in the bottom half I’m surprised this only took 38 minutes. (Some of those were fruitlessly wasted working out that the puzzle wasn’t, in fact, a pangram—we’re missing a K and a Z—to see if it might help with the stragglers.)

    In the end I finished off with ORESTEIA having worked my way back up to the top half.

    Although I do have a punnet of strawberries in the fridge, there’s no indication that it’s called a PUNNET, and the word doesn’t seem to appear on the Ocado website, so you don’t seem to have to encounter the word to buy one any more. Perhaps if I were to go to an actual greengrocer it’d be a different story.

  9. I thought I was heading for a dnf, but then TWELVEMO bloomed in my brain, the polite HOW’S THAT sounded, and the unknown ORESTEIA was finally constructed.

    Looking forward to a multinational celebration on 4th July.

    15’29”, thanks george and setter.

  10. 15:43. Left TWELVEMO until the end to see if a better idea occurred to me, but as I finished off the RHS I oddly became more confident of it. Perhaps I’ve come across it somewhere after all.

    Other than that my only real concern was wondering which way round some letters went, but CAESURA looked more plausible, & more promisingly Latin, than CAUSERA.

    PUNNET is a very everyday word for me so I’ve found the discussion above interesting.

    Thanks setter, thanks & get well soon George.

  11. 41 minutes but with LOI TWELVEMO needing a cheat, and if anybody chooses to appeal, I’m on my way back to the pavilion. I didn’t know that meaning of DOPE either but the cryptic was kind. EVISCERATION was solved on the anagram. So, this was a scratchy innings, but enjoyable. COD to HOW’S THAT. Thank you George and setter.

    1. I’m also not walking on that one – absolutely never heard of it, was trawling memory of novels and my list of 3 or 4 OT books did not help😊

  12. I finally struggled through in 28:24
    LOI BELL JAR and only after a second alphabet crawl reached J, I was despairing of that one.
    I’d never have got TWELVEMO if that whole MO thing hadn’t come up a few months back
    I remember when I was a small child asking teachers what the drawn in hung drawn and quartered meant and them avoiding the question
    I needed all the crossers for SORRENTO which I’ve never heard of
    Fawlty Towers I needed Hiawatha to finally catch on
    Thanks setter and blogger

  13. 30:33
    ORESTEIA, CAESURA, and TWELVEMO were all complete unknowns, and WHATSITSNAME went through a few iterations before I stumbled upon the right combo.

    Lots to enjoy about this one, and I liked the cricketing references.

    Thanks to both

  14. DNF in 40 mins with the NHO TWELVEMO and CAESURA left. Glad I gave up because I never would have got them.
    For 3D I had “a way of seeing inside” as the definition and “what could show small naughty child” as the wordplay (ie analysis of “self” could give you small naughty child).
    But I’m no expert and probably wrong!

  15. No unknowns today but several a bit borderline.. caesura, knew the word but no idea what it was; twelvemo .. the Oresteia came up somewhere quite recently, fortunately..
    Good crossword this one, meaty.

  16. 23:20
    Some unexpected clue divisions and a nice mixture of cultural references making for a very enjoyable solve.
    Earworm of the day: Killing Joke’s ‘Wardance’ (in a desperate attempt to avoid Sherbet’s ‘Howzat’).

  17. 21.30 but cheated by looking up twelvemo 😞. NHO it and wouldn’t have got it in a month of Sundays. Quite pleased to get the rest of the puzzle unaided though.

  18. About 20 minutes, finishing with a very uncertain TWELVEMO – I can never remember those less common terms for books.

    Relied on the wordplay for ORESTEIA; didn’t see how EVISCERATION means drawing until I came here; didn’t know DOPE as varnish but the cluing was helpful; tried to make ‘step-free’ work for 9a until I figured out OPEN-DOOR; and had heard of HIAWATHA without knowing who he was.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Fell
    LOI Twelvemo
    COD Bell jar

  19. 15:30. Tricky one, and it took me a couple of minutes at the end to remember TWELVEMO. Since I did eventually remember it, I hope that I can say without being accused of sour grapes that I think it’s a poor clue. Such a hopelessly obscure word needs crystal-clear wordplay IMO. You might argue the same for CAESURA I suppose.
    Other than that I thought this was very good.

    1. I’m back & forth on TWELVEMO. I think someone who didn’t know it *could* have figured it out, which is generally my measure of these things, and indeed at least one commenter above did, albeit as a silly guess. It’s certainly not brilliant, and I agree about CAESURA, which was an educated guess for me.

      1. It’s not completely impossible, but it’s sufficiently oblique/cryptic to make it unfair IMO, particularly as TWELVEMO itself doesn’t really look like a word.
        CAESURA seems more gettable to me: it looks like a very feasible Latin word and if you spot that you’re after a term related to poetry that’s logical. But I probably only think that because I happened to know it.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. Plus what I assume is ‘hit’ for the anagram indicator? And much as I agree that Fawlty Towers is a classic, surely that is purely subjective?

  20. I think 3D is a ‘reverse clue’: analysis of SELF could ‘show’ small (S) & naughty child (ELF)

  21. Technical DNF. After an hour I gave up on 26ac and used aids so submitted w/o leaderboard. ‘Satchmo I remember; Twelvemo NHO!
    Thank you George, particularly for RITUAL.

  22. DNF after 45 minutes. Beaten by TWELVEMO: DNK, and there was not enough help in the crossers or wordplay (despite Amoeba’s view above that I *could* have figured it out). Pleased to get everything else. I liked HOWS THAT

  23. Struggled through in 27.55, the ORESTEIA holding out until last eviscerated from the depths.
    I think SELF-ANALYSIS is a “start with S[mall] ELF then bung in something to complete it which vaguely fits the probable definition” sort of clue, possibly a new type.
    The rest of it was a strain but OK: I’m quite surprised at the ignorance of PUNNET and DOPE: the latter anyone whose childhood was spent putting balsawood and tissue aeroplanes together knows the heady joys of doping the nearly finished project.
    Commiserations on the typo, George: I was quite relieved when mine turned all green.

    1. Aah that’s where it’s from – thank you. I was an airfix child myself which usually entailed gluing small bits of undercarriage to my fingers but there you go😊

  24. NHO TWELVEMO, and resorted to aids. The rest went in fairly quickly, though all of the backward readings and final letter indicators were rather wearisome. SELF-ANALYSIS was a bit weak IMO.

  25. Felt I had to cheat or it would have taken 24+ hours.
    Well, I knew that meaning of DOPE, knew TWELVEMO as a paper size but thought it wasn’t really a book. Whatsitsname; I tried to cheat but it wasn’t in the Cheating Machine (along with WhatsHISname; they are now) so LOI with all crossers. Thought ORESTEIA was oddly spelt, had doubted my analysis which turned out correct; I was thinking that those letters in pOlEmIcAl were unpronounceable. Orestes I have heard of but not the plays as far as I remember. However my memory is FAWLTY as ORESTEIA is added in the Cheating Machine. Caesura unfamiliar, and I see that it was in the original Cheating Machine but not its 2 plural forms which I added later, so it has come up before. F Towers were in the cheating machine so they have come up before too.

    1. What is this unomniscient cheating machine.
      Perhaps I don’t want to find out.
      Oh, go on then!

  26. Gave up at 21 and a bit mins with the plays and the book nowhere near coming to mind. TWELVEMO does ring a very faint bell and I see Jack mentioned that it has come up before, and I also see that better minds than mine have said it’s a “duff” clue. Not the patience to try and solve unknown the unknown plays as I didn’t see break=rest, but I did see that how the clue worked. Bring back the Simpsons.

    Apart from those two, I liked the puzzle very much – just the right amount of challenge.


  27. 38 minutes. Just remembered CAESURA and my LOI TWELVEMO which was made even more difficult by having consecutive uncrossed letters. I didn’t know TOYTOWN as a term and was fortunate that BELL JAR materialised out of somewhere. Happy to have finished what could have been a fail on another day.

  28. 26.15 – very good puzzle. I thought SELF ANALYSIS was particularly clever, reasoning with flasky_robinson that “small elf” can be got by analysing “self”. I am not sure whether this is implicit in our esteemed blogger’s comments or not, or if it is correct, but it’ll do for me.

  29. 26 mins with a little help from my friends. It was JAR that I couldn’t think of in the end, TWELVEMO I seemed to remember from before

  30. DNF after 30

    ORESTEIA a write in and CAESURA no problem (caesarian?) but like Jackkt just couldnt get JAR nor TWELVEMO though kicked myself as I do recall different paper sizes coming up in the past. So no complaints here

  31. 12:10

    I really liked this, especially the crossing of ORESTEIA and CAESURA. Classical references are always welcome in The Times crossword. My favourite clue was the witty TWELVEMO.

    Strange how “obscure” seems to be a synonym for “ignoramus” in these parts! If “rarely encountered” is in fact the intended meaning, surely DOPE is the most “obscure” word in this puzzle?

  32. Tough going, but finally managed to construct TWELVEMO, CAESURA and ORESTEIA. RITUAL was held up for ages by a careless WHATSHISNAME until I rechecked and saw the anagrist had only 1 H. FELL was FOI. 38:17. Thanks setter and George.

  33. 29:42

    Completed this while on my walk around Lancaster, answers coming at regular intervals throughout – the only one that I was really unsure about was the unknown CAESURA which could just have easily been CAUSERA? Did not manage to parse RITUAL and paused for some considerable time on what could follow BELL. 1a reminded me of many years spent behind the stumps, though the polite HOW’S THAT was verbalised far more frequently as ‘OWWAZEEEE? (How was he?)

    Thanks G and setter

  34. SELF-ANALYSIS struck me as a pretty feeble attempt at an &lit. until the S+ELF analysis was pointed out, and so the clue is very good, as one could say about the whole crossword. PEDALO helped by Andrew Flintoff’s exploits (yet more cricket). I very much liked FAWLTY TOWERS — it’s odd that The Times doesn’t allow reference to anyone who is alive, yet groups, books, etc are OK. At 20 ac I was trying to make GIRASOLE work (not quite knowing the meaning). Pity that in 12dn we have ‘its’ in both clue and answer. 35 minutes.

  35. DOPE easily remembered from hopeless attempts to built balsa and tissue paper aeroplanes as a child, very rarely got to the “doping” stage of finishing off the job. Many aircraft in those far off days were covered in fabric which was treated with DOPE.
    Loved HOWS THAT
    TWELVEMO resisted all mental antics but a most satisfactory snooze was violently terminated by a “hidden memory reveal”.
    Great puzzle

  36. Had no problem with Evisceration since my alma mater only dropped capital punishment the early 1960s. And punnets have always been commonplace, including in my home city of Liverpool (albeit with adjusted pronunciation).
    Finished, but not exactly in a time to boast about.
    Courtesy demands thanks to the setter and today’s blogmeister.

  37. DNF

    Gave up on the book. Pity as I had so enjoyed the excellent puzzle: so much so that I went way over my 30’ cutoff to get the rest correct. Though I failed, I don’t think it an unfair clue; should surely have seen TWELVE fitted the checkers after AOI BAGUETTE and POI GEMSTONE.

    Thanks setter, you win!

    And thanks for the blog too.

  38. 45minutes to come to a very imperfect end.
    I made up a Greek sounding word to fit the checkers to get some plays, and came up with ‘proscena’, which had the virtue of sharing a root with ‘proscenium’ – definitely theatrical. Whilst I couldn’t see how it fitted the wordplay, I have only been attempting this level of puzzle for around six months, and sometimes have to accept that a clue is beyond me. On reflexion, I am sure that even had I derived NHO ORESTEIA from the wordplay I would have doubted it sufficiently to prefer my invention.
    CAESURA another NHO, but this time I trusted my working and entered the correct solution as the most likely looking of a couple of possibilities.
    Can anybody tell me anything about TWELVEMO? Having seen that ‘twelve’ was a fit for the checkers with a blank and a finishing ‘o’, ‘m’ became the obvious choice for the blank to make a link with ‘a year’. So I broke a self-imposed rule not to research possible answers (they are there to be broken) and Googled TWELVEMO’ but didn’t find a book. I then searched for a copy on Amazon, but nothing apparent. It seems unlikely as a book, and unusable as a word. All guidance gratefully received.
    Stupidly I misspelt SORRENTO with ‘ee’ not ‘rr’, and finally failed to notice that I hadn’t gone back to reconsider the mystery of the worthless word at 5d. I was fairly sure that Reading is a city, but a post-match Google tells me I’m wrong.
    All in all, a disaster, but a very enjoyable one. Setter and glh thoroughly deserve, and get my thanks.

    1. Twelvemo is another form of “duodecimo”, which is similar to “octavo”, “sexto”, “quarto” and “folio” (any others, anyone?) in indicating how many pages are printed on a page of paper before it’s folded up for cutting/binding in certain printing processes. I think duodecimo (and, apparently, sextodecimal!) must be one of the rarest of the formats, as the others all have their own Wikipedia entries, whereas duodecimo seems relegated to this list

      It’s a bit of a leap to “book”, I’d say, but any of these words can also mean a book printed in that particular way. “Did you see my little folio on Descartes was published last week?”

  39. All good, except for 26a TWELVEMO of which I had never heard and would never have guessed. The rest was 25 minutes of enjoyment.

  40. Enjoyable puzzle, done and dusted in 30 minutes over a lunchtime pint. It was fairly slow going to start with, but fortunately I soon got into the groove. No complaints about any of the clues.
    COD – FAWLTY TOWERS (rather topical because of recently reviewed stage version).
    Thanks to George (get well soon) and other contributors.

  41. Stuck at the end on 15d and 26a, I saw that ABEDNEGO was a good fit for the across. But even in the expanded apocrypha there is no Book of Abednego, nor indeed of Shadrach. So thankfully it didn’t go in, and I soon saw the light. Great puzzle. Many thanks. 18.33″.

  42. 39.34. I feel that I made unnecessarily heavy weather of this, but I was satisfied to finish with a clear run and, like others, think that it was a very good puzzle.

  43. I liked this puzzle but ultimately my general knowledge wasn’t up to it. I remember watching an enjoyable documentary about Aeschylus but failed on ORESTEIA. I also didn’t help myself with CAESURA by reading “foot” as “food”. TWELVEMO was a guess and happy to be acquainted with a new word! Thanks for the blog.

  44. Way too hard for ordinary mortals — I stopped with 75% done while falling asleep over the keyboard last night and then, today, bit by bit, the remainder slowly fell into place. So I finished, with everything correct and no aids, after 84 minutes. And since everything was correct and I did see all of the obscurities I guess I can say it was a very enjoyable puzzle. One of the mysteries which was solved at the end was how “regularly polemical”, i.e. the sequence of vowels OEIA, was going to lead to anything at all. Looking forward to today’s (now Friday’s) puzzle when I get around to it.

  45. NHO the child’s ToyTown books and NHO the adolescent’s drug sex and violence Twelvemo novel, so I was pleased to know the adult’s Orestia. Some nice clues
    GH – you might just have one last typo this week in 9a – OP is a work, not a word. Best for the long weekend!


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