Times 28927 – A nice kettle of fish!

Time: 45 minutes

Music: Ravel, La Mer, Reiner/CSO

This one was certainly not that difficult, and I started  fairly quickly, and then got to biffing answers, hoping for a good time.   Unfortunately, my biffing skills suddenly failed me, and I had a hard time getting back into cryptic mode to clean up the extended SE.       I  was really set on several wrong answers, none of which fit the wordplay, the definitions, or the available spaces.   I wracked my brain for the names of the Baader–Meinhof gang, tried to figure out how ladies room might fit the cryptic, and put in and erased stress several times.

Suddenly, urbanity appeared in my brain – the word, not the thing.  It even parses!    This led to laminates and partner, and suddenly all  the pieces fell into place.   That is all very well, but if I had just managed to biff one more answer, I could have finished in half the time.


1 Distraught spouse in pieces (6)
OPUSES – Anagram of SPOUSE.
5 Grand gold box is most ungainly (8)
GAUCHEST – G + AU + CHEST, a starter clue.
9 “Discontented” kiddy breaking fragile window (8)
10 Society elite laugh wildly (6)
SCREAM – S + CREAM, not a character this time.
11 See Californian policeman retiring after a revelation (10)
APOCALYPSE – ESPY LA COP backwards after A.
13 Warning ladies to give up whiskey (4)
14 Some highbrow Renaissance architect (4)
WREN – Hidden in [highbro]W REN[aissance].   Well, he was highbrow, at least.
15 Royal family leads, as if in armour? (10)
CLANKINGLY – CLAN + KINGLY, with royal as an adjective.
18 Chap seeking to probe apprentice’s financial record (6,4)
20 Try to protect male vanity (4)
POMP – PO(M)P, a tough  one for me, since pomp is only vanity if you read all the way to the end of the dictionary entry.
21 Muse is extremely cool, with heavenly body (4)
CLIO – C[oo]L + IO, which is a moon of Jupiter.
23 Blind German communist regularly missing signage (3,7)
RED HERRING – RED HERR + [s]I[g]N[a]G[e].
25 Thug loves the curse (6)
HOODOO – HOOD + O,O.   I thought of voodoo, and dismissed it, only to see I was nearly right much later.
26 Polish leader of uhlans travelling by train (8)
URBANITY – U[hlans] + anagram of BY TRAIN.
28 Rodent biting skin of sportive monkey (8)
MARMOSET – MARMO(S[portiv]E)T.   I vaguely remembered that a marmot is a rodent.
29 Force small lock (6)
2 Balance underpins diving position for swimmer (9)
PIKEPERCH – PIKE + PERCH, which I concluded must exist from the cryptic.
3 Element of reportedly foolish trick (7)
SILICON – Sounds like SILLY CON.
4 Falter, cutting long story short (3)
SAG – SAG[a], another starter clue.
5 Clobber sheep behind empty garage (3-2)
GET-UP – G[arag]E + TUP.
6 Ben perhaps entering bus lane, busy beyond words (11)
UNSPEAKABLE – PEAK inside an anagram of BUS LANE.
7 Unfortunate orphan pierced by old spear (7)
HARPOON – Anagram of ORPHAN around O.
8 Charming university dons watch the pennies (5)
12 Female chasing large, rough Australian marsupial in changing facilities (6,5)
LOCKER ROOMS – L + OCKER + ROO + MS.   I would parse ‘rough Australian’ together, as that’s what an ocker is, and marsupial is sufficient to clue roo.
16 Fitting carpets, disposing of odd bits (3)
APT – [c]A[r]P[e]T[s].   Another starter clue.
17 Covers rigid creature up (9)
LAMINATES – SET ANIMAL upside-down.   A bit of chestnut I should have seen right away.
19 Former Queen Mother supporting upper-class side at Lords (7)
QUONDAM – Q + U + ON + DAM, one of my biffs that I parsed for the blog.
20 Quietly punished errant lover (7)
PARTNER – P + anagram of ERRANT.   A usage I don’t care for, since it tends to introduce confusion.
22 Cleaner is supercilious when cycling (5)
LOOFA – ALOOF with the A coming round to the back.
24 Cow beginning to disturb female relative (5)
DAUNT – D[isturb]  + AUNT, another starter clue.
27 Group of conductors, mostly penniless (3)
BUS – BUS[t].   I suspect the literal refers to a bus on a computer motherboard.

59 comments on “Times 28927 – A nice kettle of fish!”

  1. Around 60 minutes. Relatively straight forward. Expected 15 A to start with CR and took a while to get it correctly. Not a clue about parsing. NHO QUONDAM but once I got it I got CHEQUE STUB and the middle all fell out. SE corner gave problems as I saw URBANITY but thought it was wrong. LOI BUS.
    Thanks VINYL for parsing the where I had no clue like CLANKINGLY, CHEQUE STUB, APOCALYPSE.

  2. Bit of an epic fail. Spent time in the ladies room, bunged in ‘crankingly’ and had to look up OPUSES, being unable to sort out the anagrist.

  3. Clankingly describes the sounds of the cogs turning in my head trying to figure out parts of this. But a lovely puzzle that took well over the hour with pimp for pomp and the aforementioned clankingly failing to come to mind. Another one who visited the ladies room before finally seeing ocker for the rough Australian – I’d assumed that Australian was describing the marsupial and was looking for a synonym for rough before the penny dropped. Been here for fifty years so no excuses.
    Thanks setter and vinyl.

  4. Enjoyed the fresh vocabulary! Took OCKER on faith, and also that “vanity” could be found defining POMP; suspect CLANKINGLY may have been imposed by the grid and I wonder if it’s ever appeared here before, but it nearly made me laugh out loud; “pieces” seemed a little slighting for OPUSES; and I had one remaining question (which I’d forgotten about by the time I started writing this) about BUS, which Vinyl’s guess cleanly clears up.

      1. Yes, it’s obviously just a question of nuance. Any little ditty—morceau—by Chopin would have an opus number, of course. On the other hand, it would ring as just a bit grandiose for, say, a magazine writer to refer to his latest piece as an “opus.”
        But it’s the only anagram of “spouse” that I could think of, so seemed unmistakable!

        1. Wiktionary: Noun pousse (plural pousses)
          1 (transport) Clipping of pousse-pousse (“rickshaw”).
          2 growth (act of growing [of plants etc.])
          3 sprout, shoot

          1. Yes, I implied that there might be more than that one. Or at least another.
            I would’ve thought of this if I had been thinking in French. Ha.

        2. I thought the use of ‘in’ as the link word was a bit naughty. It implies that the anagram means ‘distraught’, as opuses isn’t ‘in’ pieces, it ‘is’ pieces.

    1. Also for marmoset I think there’s a reference to the tough French alpine cyclosportive La Marmot in there that I participated in my younger fitter days

    1. It reflects only on the everyday use of the word “piece” to refer to often ephemeral writing, regardless of the author, whereas the title Klavierstûcke, or “Piano Pieces,” is not seen as slighting of that rather heavy work of Stockhausen—though it is somewhat uncharacteristically modest!

  5. In my view this was certainly harder than the average Monday puzzle. I didn’t notice anything for a while as I skipped around the grid writing in answers that jumped out at me, but suddenly I hit a wall and made no progress at all for a good 5-10 minutes. When I got going again it was in fits and starts, and several answers required careful attention to wordplay to construct them. I finished as 45 minutes arrived on the clock.

    My last 3 in were rather surprisingly PARTNER and OPUSES, anagrams that really shouldn’t have been a problem, and the unknown PIKEPERCH. I knew there was a diving word that had come up once before and caught me out, but I couldn’t remember it and didn’t recognise it when I considered PIKE.

    RED HERRING was a troublesome late entry.

    I’m a little surprised to find that CHEQUE STUB is a lexical term, but Collins deems it worthy of inclusion. Who still uses cheques? The Q from that was the key to constructing my only other unknown answer, QUONDAM.

    I didn’t understand the definition at 27dn but guessed that BUS might be the collective noun for a load of bus conductors before the days of driver-only.

    1. Who still uses cheques? The answer is, American companies! It can take six weeks to get cash after the process of ‘negotiating
      the check’ is ponderously enacted by the two banks in question.

      1. Yes, I wasn’t being entirely serious but my cheque books have been languishing in a desk for years and never see the light of day. I doubt those American companies use cheque stubs for financial records though as their cheques will all be computer generated.

        1. One of the companies I’m involved with at work recently received a cheque (or rather check) from an American customer for $1m!

  6. DNF
    No time, as I did a bit of this before hurrying to miss a train, another bit in the hospital waiting room, and the rest over lunch. The rest except OPUSES; where I expended a lot of time trying to find an anagram of ‘spouse’ that meant ‘distraught’. When I finally looked at the solution, it took me a moment to stop wondering what the verb ‘opuse’ means; totally misled by the clue. DNK ‘ocker’, so I spent some time trying to make LADIES fit. Tried BOOK before STUB, VOODOO before HOODOO (though that was a waste of only a few seconds). The setter likes initial-and-final-letter clues: extremely cool, skin of sportive, empty garage.

    1. No point in commenting, as your experience mirrors mine almost exactly, with a final guess of UPOSES being, naturally, wrong. And I didn’t recognise OPUSES as a noun when reading Vinyl’s blog either. More difficult than usual for sure.

  7. 38 not always enjoyable minutes. I put in a CLANKING performance. LOI was PIKEPERCH, still not fully understood. With crossers, I got QUONDAM. See, that O level Latin wasn’t a waste of time, necessary as it was for Oxford entrance and finishing the Times crossword. CEGB engineers used to pronounce BUSBAR as BUZZBAR, so I managed to catch the BUS. I eventually remembered Prairie marmots too, from Chester Zoo I think. COD to URBANITY. Thank you V and setter.

    1. Pikeperch is a name sometimes used for the zander, a fairly common fish on the continent and in places in the UK.
      It is not a hybrid, but has the teeth of a pike and spiked dorsal of a perch.

  8. Another one failed on OPUSES. Otherwise 25′.

    Liked the construction of LOCKER ROOM.

    Thanks vinyl and setter.

  9. 29 minutes. A mix of the Monday and not so Monday. I found APOCALYPSE, CLANKINGLY and CHEQUE STUB hard work and I needed some barely remembered Latin for QUONDAM. NHO of our ‘swimmer’ the PIKEPERCH and a MER at POMP for ‘vanity’ but fair enough if it’s in…

    I liked the ‘large, rough Australian marsupial’ in the wordplay for LOCKER ROOMS.

  10. I finished in 26 minutes, I was going well till the SE corner and then suddenly slowed down.
    CLANKINGLY took ages because with K-N I thought KIN must be the “family” element of the clue and was trying to work round that
    RED HERRING also took a while for me to cotton on, but I thought was clever
    LOI was POMP which should have been easy but wasn’t
    Thanks setter and blogger

  11. About 25 minutes.

    Didn’t understand LOCKER ROOM at all, partly because I didn’t know what ocker means and also because I didn’t see female=ms; NHO PIKEPERCH; and didn’t know that QUONDAM means former.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Sag
    LOI Pikeperch
    COD Urbanity

  12. Enjoyed this one, it all seemed a bit quirky and different, had to think a bit.
    Marmots, my third-favourite animals.. had lots of close encounters with them in the Pyrenees.

  13. Like everyone else, hit a wall in the SE corner, the blind German communist (there must have been one!) neatly illustrating the actual answer. Everything around it waited until light dawned and the second (third, even!) fish of the day swam into view. It didn’t help that I had UNSPEAKABLY in complete ignorance of how anagrams work, and puzzled how you could fit more than one conductor on a big six-wheeler, 97 horsepower. So 17.45, but a likeable piece of work.

  14. 34:59
    A struggle around the grid for me, which I’ll blame on Bank Holiday brain. I couldn’t parse LOCKER or the alternative LADIES ROOM so I took an eternity to get CLANKINGLY. URBANITY also took ages even though I spotted the anagram straight away. LAMINATES finally appeared and helped fill in the blanks.

    Not my favourite puzzle, but they never are when I’m not on-message.

    Thanks for the elucidation vinyl and to the setter for the challenge.

  15. 24.58

    Thought this was going to be a gentle one until it wasn’t. Needed to write out the anagrams for OPUSES and URBANITY and stared at RED _E_R_N_ for ages at the trying to think of blind Germans. D’oh. Didn’t know OCKER but ADIES didn’t look promising.

  16. 31.24. Not all parsed, but, as someone recently commented, ‘it’s a good job you don’t have to show your workings’.

  17. 18:52, having stared at the nho and odd-looking QUONDAM for a little while before deciding it parsed & nothing else was going to.

    Thanks Vinyl & setter.

  18. 09:54, so found this only a little tougher than a general Monday, rather than being something really chewy for the Bank Holiday. Finished with a not-very successful attempt to explain BUS even though it couldn’t really be anything else (I haven’t ridden a bus with a conductor on board for many years now, I kept thinking, irrelevantly as it turns out) but as always, the blog provided enlightenment.

  19. 33:40, with LOI CLANKINGLY because it fit – didn’t see the ‘clan’ part as was obsessed with ‘kin’.

    COD to RED HERRING, nice chuckle

  20. The trouble with 1ac was that it led me to think that ‘distraught’ was the definition and ‘in pieces’ the anagram indicator. As I went through, the fear that this was an anagram became unpleasant because there didn’t seem to be any word that fitted. Eventually I tested it electronically, and even when OPUSES appeared it still seemed impenetrable. Then the penny dropped, so I managed 34 minutes. BUS entered without understanding because a bus conductor was the only link I could see to the word. Showing my age: I imagine the younger people on here have hardly heard of a bus conductor.

  21. 11m on the dot. I found some of the equivalences in here a little bit odd, sometimes because they were, sometimes because I didn’t know the required meaning. In the first category: vanity/POMP, blind/RED HERRING, force/STRESS. In the second: group of conductors/BUS.
    OPUSES is a surprisingly difficult answer to spot!
    Now I’m left wondering how the use of the word PARTNER introduces confusion.

    1. On at least two occasions someone has introduced the person next to him as his partner and I was left unsure if they maybe ran a business together or were an item.

      1. Oh I see! I would normally expect people to say ‘business partner’ in this context, perhaps as a response to precisely this ambiguity.
        In invitations these days people often get round any potential spouse/partner/whatever else awkwardness by just saying ‘+1’.

      2. Yes, changing use of language leads to all sorts of confusions. One I’ve noticed recently in news bulletins and discussion of current affairs is ‘bad actors’ which has nothing to do with thespians. It makes me sit up every time.

        1. One that always gets me is ‘outgoing’. When I hear the phrase ‘outgoing chairman’ or similar my initial reaction is always to wonder why the extrovert character of this person is relevant.

    1. SOED: blind – A thing or action intended to conceal one’s real design; a pretence, a pretext; a legitimate business concealing an illegitimate one. M17.

      Swift: These verses were only a blind to conceal the most dangerous designs of the party.

      1. Gosh, I never knew that, jack. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out 🙂

  22. 30:40

    I had accidentally seen the Snitch for this puzzle before attempting it, so assumed it would be on the trickier side. However, got off to a decent start with half a dozen acrosses (GAUCHEST, SKYLIGHT, WREN, POMP, MARMOSET, STRESS). Sooner or later though, I was bogged down in the mire. Notes as follows:

    NHO PIKEPERCH – pencilled in PIKE from early checkers and the rest when the remaining checkers were clearer.
    NHO QUONDAM – rubbish at Latin, with only the M in place, had been thinking DAM with UON but how did the Queen fit in. Pencilled in the most likely possibility and quickly saw HOODOO and CLIO, with the clever CHEQUE STUB to confirm the Q.
    BUS – didn’t think of a computer motherboard (as I suspect many didn’t)

    POI RED HERRING – probably like several others, I didn’t lift and separate the Blind German for far too long!
    LOI SCREAM – didn’t immediately think of this, even with all checkers in place, but I guess someone might be described as ‘screamingly funny’.

    Thanks V and setter

  23. Couldn’t parse 23a RED HERRING, because I was being a bit thick.
    12d DNK ocker=rough Australian, AFAIK.
    17d had forgotten the animal and laminate chestnut. Bother!
    22d didn’t recognise that spelling of LOOFA but it wasn’t much of a stretch.
    10a oddly, SCREAM took a long time to find. I wanted some RoAring.

  24. 28:51

    Took a while positioning the vowels in LOI OPUSES.

    Very enjoyable puzzle and blog.

    Thanks all.

  25. Glad to come here and find that others found what, in places, seemed like a simple solve was quite tricky elsewhere.

    I liked Hoodoo, possibly because there once was a shop in Kenmore Square in Boston (a short step from glorious Fenway Park) with tempting signage:
    And too go

  26. Another held up for far too long by OPUSES. LADIES ROOM was also a distraction until I saw CLAN rather than KIN for family. URBANITY took for ever to see, but finally opened up the SE where I had been languishing. LAMINATES was another woed painstakingly extracted from the wordplay when FFITS was replaced by TES and ANIMAL was popped in backwards to see what emerged. PIKE PERCH had to be once APOCALYPSE gave me the final crosser. LOI was QUONDAM which also needed the wordplay and crossers. 33:02. Thanks setter and Vinyl.

  27. Saw the snitch and expected a hard one so was delighted to come on wavelength and romp home in 18:12.
    Only unknown quondam very generously clued which I like.

    Thanks V and setter and COD to either bus for a smooth definition (as an ex IT man) or Opuses for a very elusive anagram.

    1. My bus was in a 400 KV to 132 KV substation.That’s the problem for someone my age, a heavy current man trying to solve light current problems.

      1. Ha ha – when I was last directly on the tools in the mid 90s we were now beginning to talk of micro buses- another scale entirely. And early in my career I was trying to use computers to control aluminium smelter cells with 142kA going thru them so I have some experience of heavy stuff😊 these things created their own magnetic field which made computer screen displays “interesting”

  28. 45 minutes, like vinyl, but I rather enjoyed this once I finished it. PIKEPERCH was simply an educated and fortunately sufficiently educated guess, from wordplay. But there were no other unknowns. I thought CLANKINGLY and RED HERRING (with its German communist) were quite good.

  29. 19:19. A bit slow on this failing to see too many answers without a lot of pondering. I finished with BUS which I failed to parse so hesitated for a while on that at the end. “Group of conductors” seemed wrong to me as I thought of a bus physically as a single conductor connecting a number of components, but I see the dictionary says otherwise. DNK the meaning of QUONDAM or the fish, but the cryptic was clear in both cases. Thanks Vinyl and setter.

  30. 32:14
    Biffed BUS wondering why there was more than one conductor, having forgotten about the computing meaning. My Latin is very rusty, so took a while to get QUONDAM, trying to fit LEG into the clue somehow.

  31. Can someone explain why BUS is BUS(T)
    penniless please? I haven’t seen T as an abbreviation for penny.


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