Times 28935 – when are plurals plural?

Another middle of the road puzzle with nothing much to argue about, except the parsing of GRANDSON, where I’m probably being a pedant. 17 minutes before writing the blog.

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

1 Act strangely by a fellow doctor’s burial place (8)
CATACOMB – (ACT)*, A, CO-MB a fellow doctor.
9 Article penned by an Edinburgh man, possibly, in Greek (8)
ATHENIAN – A, THEN IAN a possible Scot.
10 Quantity of liquid provided by graduates almost entirely (8)
BASINFUL – BAS (graduates), IN FUL[L].
11 See Republican president film a small parrot (8)
LORIKEET – LO (see) R (Republican) IKE (Eisenhower) ET (that film again).
12 Important frontier penetrated by a communicator on line (10)
KEYBOARDER – KEY (important) BORDER (frontier) with A inserted. This was my last one in. Apparently a keyboard player, the musician, is called a keyboardist not a keyboarder. This one enters data.
14 Stagger, having knocked time off dangerous exploit (4)
STUN – STUNT loses T for time.
15 Willing, mostly light music group in Indonesia (7)
GAMELAN – game = willing, LAN[D] = mostly light, alight. A crossword favourite.
17 Report of unsecured vessel in European lake (7)
LUCERNE – a pretty cringeworthy but fair homophone, sounds like LOOSE URN. I knew of Lake Lucerne because of the so-called Moonlight Sonata, although it was only called that after Beethoven’s death.
21 French priest born in Lincoln (4)
ABBE – B inside ABE Lincoln.
22 Acknowledge download I devoured about park (10)
APPRECIATE – APP (download) I ATE (devoured) insert REC = park.
23 Data distributed with mail in an Adriatic region (8)
25 Italian union leader admitted to gathering in formal way (8)
RITUALLY – IT and U inside RALLY = gathering.
26 It may be shed? Not in onset of heat by river (8)
OUTHOUSE – OUT (not in), H[eat], river OUSE.
27 East Ender’s pastime adopted by lean government influencer (8)
LOBBYIST – ‘OBBY inside LIST = lean.
2 Work for church area, getting round a formal curse (8)
ANATHEMA – ANTHEM (work for church), A[rea], insert A.
3 Friendly communication accompanying a note (8)
AMICABLE – A, MI (a note), CABLE = communication.
4 Tender-sounding old king? (4)
OFFA -another homophone, OFFA sounds sort of like OFFER.
5 Composition everyone has asked about (7)
BALLADE -BADE (asked) with ALL inside.
6 Liqueur new teacher initially refused us (10)
CHARTREUSE – (TEACHER R US)*, the R from refused.
7 Terms EMI arranged for speechless actor (8)
MIMESTER – it’s in Collins as an alternative to MIMER.
8 Example of trendy attitude (8)
INSTANCE – IN (trendy), STANCE = attitude.
13 A rift so restricting a northern plant (10)
AGAPANTHUS – A, GAP (rift), A, N, THUS = so. A kind of lily, derived from Greek meaning “love flower”.
15 Relative extremely generous about investing foreign cash (8)
GRANDSON – the answer seemed obvious but I wasn’t 100% happy with the parsing; G (extremely generous), ON (about) with RANDS inserted. I thought the plural of rand was rand, can you have rands? No. Wiki agrees with me. There again, I know you can have Krugerrands. EDIT I was inventing a query unnecessarily, as jackkt says below. G S then ON with just RAND inserted.
16 Motion principally marking leaderless aristocracy (8)
MOBILITY – M[arking], [n]OBILITY.
18 European woman outside is Sweden’s first envoy (8)
EMISSARY – E[uropean], MARY (a woman) with IS S[weden] inserted.
19 Deficiency in restaurant for VIPs? (8)
NOTABLES – a restaurant with no tables would be deficient, ha ha.
20 Clothing a reindeer herder going north carries about (7)
APPAREL – A, LAPP reversed, with RE = about, inserted.
24 Raised objections, seeing fag end (4)
STUB – BUTS reversed.


78 comments on “Times 28935 – when are plurals plural?”

  1. I had all but one answer after 20 minutes – so a quick solve for me up to that point – but then I got stuck at 13dn and eventually gave up on it with 2 letters still missing. I had the wordplay sorted other than a 3-letter word to fit ?A? meaning ‘rift’ but after a cursory attempt at an alphabet trawl I decided I couldn’t be bothered. I had somehow sensed that even if I had persisted I would not have known the plant and after resorting to aids my fears were confirmed. AGAPANTHUS has turned up only once before in a regular Times puzzle when I also didn’t know it, but that was 14 years ago.

    Elsewhere I assumed MIMESTER must exist but with reference to the comment in the blog, I’d have had the same view of MIMER, as to my mind the word for ‘speechless actor’ is MIME.

    All major foreign currencies I can think of can be pluralised in English by adding S so RANDS seems okay to me, but I think the parsing of GRANDSON is:

    G{enereou}S [extremely] + ON (about) containing [investing] RAND (foreign currency)

      1. Okay, I’ll given you that one I hadn’t thought of, but the usual sources are all happy with both ‘rands’ and ‘rand’ as the plural of the SA currency. Not that it matters for the parsing of the clue as already pointed out.

    1. Yeah, “extremely” typically means the first and last letters. That’s how I saw it.

  2. I had exactly the same problem as Jack, and in pretty much the same time, I was looking for -A- meaning rift. After 5 minutes or so I tried GAP without much hope and it turned out, much to my surprise, to be right. So a final time just now of 25:52.
    Jack is right I am sure on the parsing of GRANDSON.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  3. Surely, extremely generous is GS. It then parses. 19 minutes. COD to LUCERNE. I liked the homophone for once. Enjoyably easy. Thank you Pip and setter.
    On edit, sorry. Missed that Jack had made the same point. For some reason, I don’t think my feed had updated.

  4. Lovely puzzle after two days of DNFs for me. If a mimester is a silent actor, I’ve never heard of it – no pun intended – and not many references online. I parsed grandson as jackkt. Everything seemed to go together quite easily in a clockwise direction.
    Thank you setter and piquet

  5. 14:31
    Nothing to scare the horses, although they might be irritated by MIMESTER; I was, anyway. Looks like it might be some sort of school term. We’ve got ‘mime’, as Jack notes; why multiply entities beyond necessity? I liked LUCERNE.

    1. Why? If the English language was that efficient, ie binning unnecessary words, then cryptic crosswords would be rubbish, and this blog wouldn’t exist. 🙂

      On the plus side, dictionaries would be a lot smaller and I could fit more books on my bookshelf.

  6. And now, emerging from the forest’s gloom,
    I greet thee, Chartreuse, while I mourn thy doom
    (The Grande Chartreuse, Wordsworth)

    20 mins mid-brekker and I liked it. COD to Loose Urn.
    “Mostly light”=lan(d) is fine but tricky if you don’t know Gamelan.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  7. 24:45
    Mostly plain sailing in good time until I hit the rocks in the NW. No excuses for being held up by BASINFUL, but the unknown GAMELAN amongst others caused issues.

    Not as fun as yesterday but a pleasant solve all the same.

    Thanks to both.

  8. 17:26
    Pretty plain sailing although KEYBOARDER and MIMESTER were both new to me. COD LUCERNE. GAMALAN has given me Rama Lama Ding Dong as an earworm.

    Thanks to Pip and the setter

  9. Once again fell at the last, just couldn’t see ANATHEMA and DNK that definition of it anyway. Bah.

    Otherwise a fun crossword.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  10. About 35 minutes. Very easy compared with yesterday. FOI STUB then LOBBYIST, OUTHOUSE, APPAREL, NOTABLES, DALMATIA. LORIKEET and everything fell out for me at my slow pace. I think the only thing I would query is the “park” in 22A. Park is usually P but here you were supposed to go park to recreation ground to rec, an abbreviation I have never heard of. I would have appreciated the use of “park say” to indicate the obscure usage at least to me. It was the only clue I couldn’t fully parse.

    1. REC is worth remembering, as it crops up often enough. Both Bristol and Bath Rugby teams have home games at “The Rec”.

    2. I think P is usually parking as on road signs. Not sure what’s used for park on OS maps though.

      Edit: I’m advised there isn’t a specific symbol or abbreviation.

  11. 42:54 with one wrong. I did most of this very quickly then ran into the sand in the north-west including LOI 12ac a desperate SEABOARDER. I liked OUTHOUSE and LUCERNE

  12. 8:29. No major problems, although MIMESTER seemed a bit weird and I got stuck for a minute on my LOI, which I still don’t understand: a KEYBOARDER is just somebody who uses a keyboard, there’s no implication of either communication or being online. The keyboard itself can perhaps be described as ‘on line’ (as in connected to a computer) but not the person using it. What am I missing?
    I’m not sure why AGAPANTHUS was familiar to me. It appeared in a Mephisto in 2020 but it seems extremely unlikely that I’d have remembered it just from that.

    1. Well I have very little knowlege of plants; my heart sinks when I see that in a clue. However I can hear my mum talking about her AGAPANTHUS even though she died 2 decades ago. When I looked at the picture on Wiki I couldn’t recognise it.

      1. Same here. I had a brief panic when I’d figured out A_A_ANTHUS, because it seemed that there could be numerous words meaning ‘rift’ that would fit and the likelihood that I will have heard of a long Latin name for a plant is generally low. Somehow though the answer popped into my head from somewhere.

  13. 27:30

    I thought this was quite hard to finish – six left after 20 minutes: 17a, 19d, 15d, 13d, 12a, 2d – had been thinking that the sixth letter of 17a might be I giving the lake as ERIE, but wasn’t getting anywhere so changed focus to actual European lakes – luckily LUCERNE was in my mind, having been an answer on a recent re-run of The Chase: “Which Swiss lake is surrounded by four cantons?” – this in turn gave NOTABLES.

    GRANDSON was the only thing that fit the checkers at 15d, but saw the parsing only after filling in. NHO AGAPANTHUS – had been thinking it would end in ANTHUS (like ACANTHUS) and saw BOARDER in 12a which left two letters to fill. NHO KEYBOARDER either but was fair enough, leaving ANATHEMA as the only thing I could think of at 2d – no idea about it being a formal curse. Every day is a school day.

    Thanks P and setter

  14. GAMELAN might be a crossword favourite, but I went for LAM{p} as the light. Not reliably solvable without having previously come across the word in a puzzle (and perhaps I have, but forgotten) or general knowledge of Indonesian instruments – poor clue.

    Thanks both.

  15. 13:40
    Another average puzzle with a couple of workoutable NHOs ((AGAPANTHUS, KEYBOARDER).
    BASINFUL reminded me of a Marriott Edgar poem (as recited by Stanley Holloway) which contained the line “I’ll have a basinful of that”, but blowed if I can remember which one. It was apparently a piece of slang used when hearing a long word for the first time. See also “We used to have one of those at home, but the wheel fell off”.

    1. I love a bit of Marriott Edgar but don’t recall the basinful thing. Google can’t find it either. I did find the expression in a poem called “Bridget’s Blunder” which is very much in that style.

  16. About 15 minutes. Hesitated slightly over CHARTREUSE, as for some reason I always think it sounds more like a wine than a liqueur, and MIMESTER, as I couldn’t quite believe it existed. Otherwise pretty straightforward.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Catacomb
    LOI Mimester
    COD Emissary

  17. So much easier than yesterday. Raced through this with AGAPANTHUS my FOI. Held up only by the OFFA/BASINFUL nexus in the NW. 22 mins.

  18. 16.39. I tried to justify AMARANTHUS, of which I have heard, but couldn’t stretch from MAR to rift (and back again), so eventually resorted to the GAP, which at least gave to flower a love-ly Greek flavour.
    KEYBOARDER likewise took a while. When I was running Government Jobplan Workshops many years ago, we had an interview training video which was for “an experienced onliner” I suspect KEYBOARDER is of around the same vintage, when internet communications had to be squeezed though a 14.4k modem (brreeee aarhhh badoo badoo schhhheeeer).
    Otherwise, this was pretty friendly, despite GAMELAN and MIMESTER.
    I know NO TABLE is an oldie but goldie, but it still made me giggle.

    1. Thanks for teaching us how to spell the dial up noise Z.

      Please can you do a fax connection next?

    2. Having consulted all the usual dictionaries (Collins, ODE, OED, Chambers) I don’t think KEYBOARDER – in the sense required here – is of any vintage.

    3. Thank you for a hearty guffaw at the noise of dialup! My wife is looking at me strangely.
      Long time lurker here and ex-colleague of johninterred. Almost everyday is DNF but I come here to learn and improve and enjoy a level of erudite banter and humour not found elsewhere. Thank you to all commenters. Toodle-pip.
      *sticks heads back below parapet*

  19. 41m 43s.
    A smooth solve except I got held up in the NW corner.
    I was fine with AGAPANTHUS. Lots of it round here!
    Thanks,Pip, particularly for LOBBYIST.
    COD to 19d NOTABLES. Gave me a chuckle.

  20. Bad insomnia, so did this about 5 a.m. in 14’43”.

    AGAPANTHUS LOI, should have known the Greek earlier, agape, philia, eros.

    Thanks pip and setter.

  21. 8:23

    Pretty easy, despite the scary-looking double unches.

    The catacombs in Paris are well worth a visit.

  22. A few rather odd words: AGAPANTHUS, MIMESTER, KEYBOARDER, … I may have missed someone saying this, but for ATHENIAN I had ‘a(the)n Ian’. 48 minutes, with eventually my using lists to get gap and Lake Lucerne. Had thought the lake was Erie. Have never heard of ‘extremely’ to give the first letter of a word; possibly the last, more likely both the first and the last.

  23. 28:32. Whizzed through everything and got stuck with BALLADE and KEYBOARDER which delayed me by 10 minutes. I’m not a gardener so AGAPANTHUS must just be lurking in my head somewhere. I liked the puzzle, but not as much as yesterday’s. thanks Pip and setter!

  24. All except one other seem to be au fait with Indonesian music, or have seen the word before! As per Amoeba, GAMELAM with lamp = light seemed just as likely for me without the GK.

    Otherwise, I liked this well enough (apart from KEYBOARDER and MIMESTER), and finished well under average time. ANATHEMA was LOI, but only parsed post submission.


  25. DNF with KEYBOARDER unsolved. Should have been able to biff it but didn’t come to mind. I had guessed “erne” might be a NHO type of small boat but “loose-urn” is poor in my view. GAMELAN just about heard of, MIMESTER constructed from fodder. Thanks Piquet and setter

  26. 14:37 – with the same reservation about KEYBOARDER as others. I’ve never seen the word before and if anything it suggests – confirmed by a cursory google – someone who uses a keyboard for data entry rather than communication.

  27. Enjoyed this, good solid mid-week fare with just enough challenges. APPAREL is a lovely word not used often enough!
    ‘ Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
    But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy:
    For the apparel oft proclaims the man’.
    Good advice, but uttered by one of the nastiest characters in Shakespeare. He’s too often played for laughs. I thought Richard Briers in the Kenneth Branagh film version brought out his nasty motivations particularly well.

  28. Today I’ve learned that GAMELAN is not Japanese. AGAPANTHUS was lurking somewhere in my grey matter, and I merely shrugged and accepted KEYBOARDER and MIMESTER.

    TIME 6:43

  29. I enjoyed most of this and felt pleased to have finished it as I often had to abandon my usual “biff then parse” method and actually piece the answer together from the wordplay.

    I got held up by two clues: “AGAPANTHUS”, which did not spring to mind and had to be pieced together from checkers/word play; “MIMESTER” which I struggled to believe is a word, and probably shouldn’t be (a 19th century coining which didn’t catch on), but which I entered anyway because I couldn’t see any possible alternative from the clue.

  30. Undone by LOI, GAMELAM, which came after a marathon struggle getting AGAPANTHUS, a totally unknown(to me) piece of flora. Those 2 clues took me from somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to my final time of 25.25 WOE. An unsatisfactory conclusion to this morning’s crosswording efforts. Thanks setter and Pip.

  31. 22:11


    Pretty much agree with every reservation above – KEYBOARDER?

    Thanks all.

  32. 21:39, with a rare top 100 solve.

    I have been to GAMELAN concerts in Cambridge University’s music department, and have attempted growing AGAPANTHUS several times before deciding they rarely survive an East Anglian winter.
    LOI was KEYBOARDER, held up by finding a three letter synonym for “important”. I had initially tried biffing Signalman, but not enough letters.

    Thanks P and setter

  33. Might have been a DNF were it not for the agapanthus outside my window and a text from my son, living in Lucerne, mid-solve. As it was I found this a mixture of very easy and fairly obscure. 15 mins for all bar four and 35 finish. Enjoyed it though thanks.

  34. A doddle after yesterday. 17 minutes with no serious hold-ups. Except that I was seduced by AMARANTHUS at 13dn, even though I see it is not in my ODE, and MAR is not a noun! So, sadly, a DNF.
    Thanks to piquet and other contributors.

  35. Enjoyed today but let down by general knowledge so a DNF for me.

    Had neither heard of anathema as a formal curse or anthem as a piece of music for church so was stumped on that. Managed ballade as I only had the e to get and I seem to recall gamelan from here before but I recalled it as the perfectly reasonable sounding gamelam.

    Thx p and setter

  36. This is a puzzle of the kind I dislike extremely: very very easy, except for one or two clues which are impossible without an encyclopedic vocabulary. GAMELAN is not my crossword favourite, as I have never heard of it and there was no help in distinguishing light=LAND from light=LAMP. So, today a 25 minute very grumpy DNF. The one clue I did like was NOTABLES. Surprisingly, AGAPANTHUS was no problem for me, but only because we seem to have some in the garden and my wife often mentions them (in German, but the name is the same).

  37. Easy. Like everyone else, I’d never heard of MIMESTER but it went straight in. I’d never heard of GAMELAN and so went for GAMELAM (mostly light = LAMp). So a surprise pink square.

  38. Was initially very pleased with my 13:09, only to find that my gamelam should have been gamelan. As I had never heard of it and my reasoning was sound I will cope!

    LOI: Gamelan
    COD: Apparel

    Thanks blogger and setter and (and the other gamelam-ers – it was reassuring to find myself not alone!)

  39. No comment on the plant – I’m rubbish at plants. Otherwise some unusual words with very fair cluing. I’m between Myrtilus and Rosedeprovence: like it well enough. Thx pip

  40. 16.23

    Latish entry. Knew I knew the music but it needed the G from GRANDSON to nail it. Have sympathy for the GAMELAMs though

  41. My mother always makes me admire her AGAPANTHUS so that was OK. GAMELAN/M was a straight coin toss though – fortunately it came up heads for 17:27 all green.

    Three finishes of Big Puzzle in a row! Be still my beating heart. Thanks PK.

  42. Thought it must be Monday; an easy but enjoyable puzzle, apart from MIMESTER and KEYBOARDER which are a disgrace to the language. LUCERNE was a true homophone (and a chuckle-worthy clue), unlike OFFA which must have offended our rhoticists. Surprised how many people are not familiar with GAMELAN – a lovely experience for about five minutes…

  43. Late to the party, just to say that I found this easy, having heard of gamelan, the tone deaf approach to music.
    I love the optimism of Pip’s introductory comment… “nothing to argue about,” ha! That will be the day…


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