Times Cryptic 28136

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 70 minutes with one cheat, and as my timing might suggest, I found this puzzle very hard indeed. But not to worry, as we were due a stinker after Monday’s easy ride which occupied me for only 16 minutes. I only hope I was not alone in finding this tough.

As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions and substitutions are in curly brackets} and [anagrinds, containment, reversal and other indicators in square ones]. I usually omit all reference to positional indicators unless there is a specific point that requires clarification.

1 Cockney Bob, say, interrupting female’s call for equality (4,3)
{h}AIR DO (Bob, say) [Cockney], contained by [interrupting] F (female) + ‘S
5 Scatter cream on wife (7)
BEST (cream), RE (on), W (wife). Other than in poetry perhaps a word possibly not spoken since the middle of the 19th century.
9 Convey what wrong answers may do (3,6)
A straight definition and a cryptic nudge in the direction of GET A CROSS
10 Canteen in one area in Stoke to the west (5)
I (one) then A (area) contained by [in] FAN (stoke), all reversed [to the west]. SOED: The Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes; a canteen, store, etc., run for service personnel by this organization. I’m not sure that ‘stoke’ and ‘fan’ are synonymous by themselves but ‘stoking a fire’ and ‘fanning its flames’ are in the same area of meaning.
11 Star squeezed into little girdle, pirouetting (5)
Hidden [squeezed into] and reversed  [pirouetting] inside {litt}LE GIR{l}
12 Cart around jam that’s a good standard (9)
DRAY (cart) reversed [around], STICK (jam)
14 Shot frenetic Bourne film (5,9)
Anagram [shot] of FRENETIC BOURNE. One of my favourite films of all time, directed by David Lean who turned up here as an answer very recently. It was originally a short play in five scenes by Noël Coward, written as part of his Tonight at 8:30 collection and called Still Life. Coward wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film and somebody with a touch of genius decided to set it all to music by Rachmaninov. Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard starred and light relief was provided by Joyce Carey and Stanley Holloway. The result is an absolute classic of British cinema.
17 Joint operation all the rage on work posting (3,11)
HIP (all the rage), RE (on), PLACEMENT (work posting)
21 A time for cooking, swallowing fish bones (9)
Anagram [for cooking] of A TIME, containing [swallowing] CARP (fish). This was my one cheat as I could only think of METATARSI (also bones) and when I went to look up TARS wondering if it could be a fish, I accidentally stumbled upon METACARPI. I wouldn’t normally check anything in a dictionary whilst solving, but my progress had been so slow I decided to bend the rules a bit.
23 Right iPhone broken, and no case for phone charger (5)
R (right), then anagram [broken] of I{p}HON{e} [no case for phone – delete p and e]. I’m not sure whether this devious clue is very good or too clever by half. The deletion indicator seems unnecessarily convoluted, and the definition relies on the catch-all ‘any person or thing that charges’ which without the wordplay to narrow it down could be any number of 5-letter answers. If ‘charger’ has a more specific meaning in the animal kingdom, it’s a horse.
24 Meal with Democrat going mental (5)
{d}INNER (meal) [with Democrat going]. Inner thoughts, I suppose.
25 Hit runs during a defeat in sub-par performance (9)
BAT (hit) + R (runs),  contained by [during] A LOSS (defeat). Three strokes under par in golf.
26 Snake oil, say, in no way unusual (7)
NO, ST (way), RUM (unusual). After working through the more complex wordplay in some of these clues I was fooled by this one’s simplicity and spent ages trying to construct the answer – one I did know, as it happens.
27 Something to depress Everton fans by English port? (3,4)
RED WIN (something to depress Everton fans), E (English). ‘The Reds’ are Liverpool Football Club, and Everton their local rivals also based in Liverpool.
1 Quick-witted stage hero bags one grand in card game (6)
I (one) + G (grand) contained by [in] FARO (card game). Okay, Figaro is smart but so are a thousand other stage heroes so we have another very vague definition. I can’t see what ‘bags’ is doing other than serving as some sort of link word.
2 Full figure for one clad in Italian outfit (7)
EG (for one – example) contained by [clad in] INTER (Italian outfit – another football team)
3 Exhibiting bust key, holding pass (9)
DELETE (key) containing [holding] COL (mountain pass)
4 Merchant banks to try out an account provider (11)
SELLER (merchant) contains [banks] anagram [out] of TO TRY
5 Transport not fully occupied (3)
BUS{y} (occupied) [not fully]. An escapee from the QC, perhaps.
6 Passage south across the Atlantic (5)
S (south), IN U.S. (across the Atlantic)
7 Heartless rogue stars in Dickens, say (7)
R{ogu}E [heartless], A-LIST (stars). Another vague definition, this time by signalled example and one for Eng. Lit. aficionados who like to categorise writers and their output. I never managed to get through any Dickens novel so my knowledge of them comes only from TV and film adaptations. David Lean directed a couple of classics.
8 Maybe Bourbon queen’s bored with sideboards (8)
R (queen) is contained by [has bored] WHISKEY (maybe Bourbon). I’ve parsed it this way rather than use ER as queen as bourbon is American and ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e’ is the preferred spelling there.
13 Conservative member punching chair person high on face? (4,7)
C (Conservative) + LIMB (member) contained by [punching] ROCKER (chair)
15 Intrude roughly to seize this person without warrant (9)
Anagram [roughly] of INTRUDE contains [to seize] ME (this person)
16 Defender about to overplay ball breaking leg (8)
C (about), HAM (to overplay) then O (ball) contained by [breaking] PIN (leg)
18 Legal documents Lawrence initially put in drawers (7)
TE (Lawrence initially) contained by [put in] PANTS (drawers). Thomas Edward Lawrence’s life was celebrated in the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia, another classic directed by none other than David Lean!
19 Peer around state north of India’s capital (7)
NOB (peer of the realm) contains [around] AIR (state one’s opinion), then I (NATO India). ‘North’ is just a positional indicator.
20 Sweet food in steamer with a sour look about it (6)
MOUE (sour look) contains [about] SS (steamer – steam ship). We had MOUE very recently so it came easily to mind.
22 One tends to make a dash with only half the energy (5)
CARE{e}R (make a dash) [with only half the energy – e]
25 Goal that’s one in a million (3)
I (one) contained by [in] A + M (million)

87 comments on “Times Cryptic 28136”

  1. Wowie zowie. I’m not sure how I pulled this together. I had a disastrous start, getting almost no answers in on a first pass. But I clung (desperately) to the wordplay and was able to get across the line in a decent time.

    The puzzles I can’t complete are those where both the definition and the wordplay contain unknowns. This puzzle came close, but fortunately when I didn’t understand an ingredient of wordplay, I could get the definition, and vice versa.

    1. …at least 5 of which were taken up with learning how to do the puzzle on my phone, on Eurostar.
      I enjoyed this having managed to avoid two banaskins in POSSET and RED CARD. Not that keen on RHINO but did like CHAMPION, NOSTRUM and NAIROBI.
      Thanks to Jack and the setter.
  2. I didn’t find this as hard and I thought everything was fair. I’d forgotten MOUE already so MOUSSE was my LOI since I was sure it was going to be xxSSLE. Wasted a bit of time on RED ARMY for the Everton depression, without any justification other than that is what Liverpool fans are called. I’m guessing non-British people (maybe just non-British-military people) might wonder about NAAFI. My Dad was in the Royal Navy so no problem for me.

    By the way, the rule for WHISK(E)Y is that if the country has an “E” in it then so does its whisky (the one exception being Maker’s Mark that is American but has no “e”).

    1. I knew that Everton was a soccer team, and I knew Redcar, so I put in RED CARD, and it stayed there until I finally decided that 19d couldn’t end in A.
    2. My understanding is that only Whisky made in Scotland maybe spelt thus. Any other must have an “e”.
      1. There is no legislation I am aware of. If there is, nobody has told Suntory, manufacturers of well-regarded Japanese whisky (and owners of Makers Mark whisky!)
        Scottish malt whisky has no e, Irish whiskey does .. and the rest do as they please.
    3. Sorry. Think you’ve got that wrong! It Scotch whisky ( from Scotland — no E) and Irish whiskey — from Ireland with an E
  3. Well I sure as hell found it tough, as my time suggests; but I stick out like a sore thumb on the SNITCH, at least so far. FOI HIP REPLACEMENT. A lot of biffing, only seeing how the clue worked once I’d typed the word in, like NAAFI & DECOLLETE (is there a Delete key? I’ve got a back space key, which of course can be used to delete, but). I didn’t care for RHINO, for the reasons Jack gives. It took me a while to see ‘pirouetting’ as a reversal indicator; doesn’t seem like a very good one. ‘Realist’ is an odd definition of Dickens, to say the least. Jack, you might note that ‘sideboards’ in the US are ‘sideburns’.
    1. My keyboard has a double-length key labelled Del just to the left of Home and End. The Back(space) key sits just above Enter

      It’s interesting that you should query ‘pirouetting’ as a reversal indicator as that was my reaction too, and in fact I wrote a screed explaining why in the first draft of the blog, but in the final review I decided I was being overly-critical and deleted it. It’s only a variation on ‘spinning’ which I think we’d probably all accept without question.

      1. My Mac desktop doesn’t have Home or End, either, and I can’t guess what they do. (No ‘enter’, either; just an iconic arrow, as with the shift keys and Tab.) I didn’t realize there was so much variation. And given Paul’s Air, it’s not just an Apple/PC thing.
        I wasn’t at the screed-writing stage for ‘pirouetting’, but I still don’t like it much. One can spin 180 degrees (he spun around when I called his name), but ‘pirouette’ definitely implies, for me anyway, continuous rotation. The main point, of course, is that it added to my horribly lengthy solving time.
        1. Re the Enter key, I remember some keyboards used to have CR on it standing for ‘Carriage Return’ harking back to the days of manual typewriters.

          When editing text the End key or >| jumps the cursor instantly to the end of the current line, and Home or |< takes it to the beginning of the line. Right and left arrow keys can do the same one step at a time or quicker if you hold them down, but not instantly.

        2. Keyboards vary greatly, as anyone who has had a holiday abroad can attest. UK, French, US and Spanish all very different, and as for Scandinavia..
    2. Difference between Delete / Del key and backspace key on a PC keyboard is that the first deletes the letter or character to the right of the cursor, and the second deletes to the left.
  4. Harder than average, but in the end no unknowns except possibly LOI Brief Encounter, so a tidy 21 minutes. Made doubly hard by reading the first word in the clue as short. NAAFI seen in “Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall.”
    Quite liked a lot of the definitions – person high on face, one tends, sub-par performance; but non-plussed by some of the others as our blogger highlights.
  5. A slow start but got through all but NE corner in about 50 mins, but oh my I had DRESSERS in 8dn for a long long time. A Bourbon is a dress, and queen’s is ERS, and DRESSERS are sideboards, so I was very wedded to it, and it led me into WHISKERS instead of WHISKERY when I finally realized the mistake. Once that was (nearly) fixed I could get YARDSTICK, BESTREW, and the rest.

    LOI: 7dn REALIST
    COD: 2dn INTEGER defn, wordplay, and surface read all pointing the same misleading way.

    Edited at 2021-11-16 03:44 am (UTC)

  6. Partly helped by having just returned from an x-ray of my right thumb metacarpal, which may turn out to be a lucky break. Or possibly tendonitis.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  7. Turns out I gave up too soon on my Penultimate One (ostensibly) In, RED WINE—for which I, alas, had RED TIDE (probably got my mind too much on politics—occupational hazard). I was just impatient—should have taken another few moments to deal with the final E.

    Though I much prefer red to white, I don’t like port or anything so sweet. (Sour grapes? Ha)

    But the “fans” in that clue may have helped me finally see the naked truth—so far so teasingly hidden—about my LOI, the unlikely looking NAAFI (which is one I’ve encountered here before, no doubt).

    I got DECOLLETE (on a related note) only after I stopped trying to, uh, lift and separate “Exhibiting” and “bust.”

    Very enjoyable! Had all the west before a whole lot in the east.

    Edited at 2021-11-16 07:19 am (UTC)

  8. 52 minutes. Tougher than yesterday and I was happy to finish, even if I didn’t know FIGARO was especially’ Quick-witted’ and I wasn’t sure about Dickens being a REALIST.

    I liked the ‘frenetic Bourne’ anagram for BRIEF ENCOUNTER; not exactly one of a series of ‘action-thriller films’ (Wikipedia) as far as I can remember and thank goodness for that.

    Thanks to Jack and setter

  9. There is a big spread on the SNITCH today so evidently this was a puzzle which split the solvers. Fortunately for me I was on the wavelength. The one clue that really had me heading in the wrong direction was PATENTS where “Lawrence initially” surely had to be L. Nice sleight of hands by the setter there. I finished up with FIGARO, helped by knowing Faro from crosswords, never having come across it elsewhere.
    1. I had a different Lawrence, and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t fit JODHPURS into a seven letter space.
  10. FOI HIP REPLACEMENT then steady progress – but an uncomfortable amount of “looseness” in my answers for a variety of reasons:

    – Had a vague idea that FARO is a card game, and an even vaguer one that FIGARO was notably quick-witted
    – Similarly unsure on MOUE = pout (definitely seen that here before)
    – Couldn’t parse DECOLLETÉ because I never thought past LET = PASS, (spelling corrected by BRIEF ENCOUNTER)
    – Had no idea at all that NOSTRUM = quack remedy
    – RIGEL was an unknown to me but clueing gave me full confidence
    – CHAMPION and NAIROBI were biffs that were obviously correct, didn’t spend time grappling with them

    After all that I submitted with a fair amount of trepidation, and found that I got my just desserts for corner-cutting = WHISKERS instead of WHISKERY. Shame, because a fully-parsed correct answer was easily within my capability.

    Enjoyed this anyway – thanks Jack and setter

  11. 24 minutes with LOI MOUSSE. I must have been on wavelength today, judging by other times. I didn’t even know that FIGARO was smart but I’d heard of the card game. I hadn’t thought of Dickens as a REALIST, but it worked. COD to FAIR DOS, nearly as bad as Cilla’s Mind me Urdu. I really liked this puzzle. Thank you Jack and setter.
  12. Ornithophobia can’t GET ACROSS
    (Or our setters just don’t give a toss)
    It was going so well
    My last one in — ALBATROSS!!!! 🙁
  13. 20:53
    Didn’t seem that tricky. We had moue quite recently, I seem to recall. The iPhone clue was a bit odd, tbh.
    Thanks, jack.
  14. After a slow start it all fell into place.

    COD. A tie between FAIR DOS and STORY TELLER. Merchant banks is nice.

  15. 9:20. No problems here: obviously a very wavelengthy puzzle. A few things (RIGEL, FARO, COL) that you (or at least I) only ever see in crosswords, so it probably helps if you’re familiar with them.
    I very nearly misbiffed WHISKERS but rather uncharacteristically paused to understand the wordplay.
  16. … and not make thoughts your Aim,

    I persevered after 30 mins and took 40.
    This one includes a few of my betes noires: ball=O, female’s=FS.
    Thanks setter and great blog J.

    1. Ball and egg = O still grate a bit with me but I just bung the O in and move on now.

      On female’s = FS I don’t see the problem. Female = F is universal and ‘s = S is used all the time, not just attached to ‘female’.

  17. I thought that at 27ac the setter missed a trick in that Everton are known as the ‘Toffees’, (‘Bluebird’ variety) and would have made the clue a touch cryptically sweeter. My COD 1ac Fair dos. I enjoyed the ‘Brief Encounter’ anagram.
  18. Blimey, 49 mins. But then found I’d put in METACARSI not CARPI. So a DNF Stupid, or what?
    Are cheek whiskers SIDEBOARDS or SIDEBURNS. I thought the word came from a US Civil War general who started the fashion.
    1. ‘SIDEBOARDS’ has been in use on this side of the pond since the late 19th century. I heard ‘sideburns’ for the first time in the 1950’s probably with reference to some of the American pop stars of the day. It may have been around before then, but I wasn’t.

      Edited at 2021-11-16 09:41 am (UTC)

  19. Just under the hour, so pretty tough I thought. FOI FAIR DOS, but then a slow creep around the grid filling in the odd clue at a time.


    Thanks Jack (your words yesterday proved prophetic!) and setter.

  20. With snitch at 102 presently it wasn’t an easy start, but it filled-in quite fast, once the longuns were in.

    FOI 5dn BUS

    LOI 20dn MOUSSE I was aiming for POSSET but…!


    WOD 10ac NAAFI

    Today the QC is not really worth a visit!

  21. 18:15 I was held up in the SW corner trying to make 16D CHINAMAN and 21A METATARSI. but 16D had to be ?HAM… and I eventually saw CARER to sort out the mess. I’d no idea Realism was a genre of literature and that Dickens was one, but the wordplay was clear. I liked RED WINE. Thanks Jack and setter.
  22. Must be a wavelengthy thing — I had no trouble with this today, though there were bits of parsing missed.

    RHINO — failed to parse fully, entered from definition with all checkers.
    RIGEL — couldn’t tell you where it is, but remembered from previous grids.
    FIGARO — heard of but know nothing about him.
    NOSTRUM — seen this before too, but if you had asked me what it was before solving, I couldn’t have told you.
    CHAMPION — got the C HAM part but with ‘ON’ in mind for ‘leg’, couldn’t see what to do with PI.

    MOU(SS)E — reverse remembered MOUE as a sour look i.e. bunged in MOUSSE and then thought ‘Ah!’.

    NAAFI — kind of a ninja turtle as my primary reference for this word is The Goon Show episode “The Jet-Propelled Guided NAAFI” which my father had on vinyl — the flip side being the fantastic “Lurgi Strikes Britain”.

  23. Brief Encounter is a fine film, but uses crossword solving as being emblematic of a dull and unromantic life partner — Hmmm, Not a good choice by our setter!
    1. Dear Peter, funny I was just saying that and am being asked if there is a more positive portrayal elsewhere in film?
  24. Like some others, I put in ‘metatarsi’ before seeing CARER and correcting to METACARPI. I have David Beckham et al to thank for making me aware of those bones.

    Had to trust that RIGEL is a star, just about remembered NAAFI from previous crosswords, and bunged in an unparsed NAIROBI once I had enough checkers. Otherwise this wasn’t too tricky.

    FOI Aim
    LOI Naafi
    COD Storyteller

  25. Really enjoyable solve today. Thank you setter and Jack. All done and dusted in 23m; like others I was held up at the end by entering metatarsi but then carer became obvious and then so did metacarpi. COD dfinitely ‘fair dos’ which I thought was great.
  26. Steady solve in 25 minutes, nothing particularly held me up, ending with INNER and CHAMPION. Thanks jackkt for explaining STORYTELLER which I didn’t bother to parse.
  27. You’ve been a long way away.


    14′ and a bit, on the wavelength.

    Thanks jack and setter.

    Edited at 2021-11-16 10:14 am (UTC)

  28. 20.28, with only the 1’s causing any lasting problem.
    That “bags” in 1d is not just an apparently unnecessary filler, it’s a (possibly unfair) misdirection, pushing you to an operatic hero including 1G for a card game, though once I’d got it sorted out a can see that it’s a sort of grocery meaning, “places in the bag of”.
    I just couldn’t see how D?S could yield anything except early Microsoft, forgetting the convention that omit apostrophes.
    Dickens as a REALIST with a shrug: he might just as well have been
    Another METATARSI until CARER challenged it.
    Back in the good old days, 17a would have been clued as Phi? with no definition. We don’t know how lucky we are.
  29. 1 hour and 58 seconds. Hard work. I am surprised so many people just romped through it. FOI HIP REPLACEMENT. LOIs 1dn FIGARO and 1ac FAIR DOS. Missed the parsing of a few, so thank you jackkt for a fine blog. COD STORYTELLER and WOD WHISKERY
  30. Liked this one, well-constructed.

    I cordially dislike Dickens, but have always seen him as a realist, famous for exposing the underbelly of Victorian society. “Dickens issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.” – Karl Marx, who ought to know.

  31. I carved my way through this in 26:05, but having correctly parsed WHISKERY, wrote in WHISKERS regardless. Boo hiss! The only clue I didn’t manage to parse was PATENTS, where I wondered what happened to the L. Thanks setter and Jack.
  32. No time for me, but over an hour I think. I was another who thought Lawrence initially must be L, and entered PLAINTS confidently, which fit the definition without accounting for the I. I also fell for WHISKERS, so DNF anyway. Otherwise, some good clues here and enjoyable solve, with some parsing struggles to contend with. Thanks both.
  33. A chewy one today, made slightly chewier by having ALABTROSS for quite a while. FIGARO was my LOI, having struggled with that one and with FAIR DOS, where D?S was very unpromising as the second word.

    9m 27s.

  34. Managed to get all of the N in even tho’ couldn’t parse 2d & 4d. Nor 16d CHAMPION. But the metacarpi had me totally stumped; had to come here. But that one allowed me to struggle through the rest.
    COD def 1a FAIR DOS.
    Pencilled in HIP REPLACEMENT at 17a quite early and eventually managed to parse it.
  35. 23:30 with no stand-out problems, although generally tricky. The steamer in MOUSSE was a long time coming, post-solve.
  36. 59 minutes, having initially entered WHISKERS with a shrug, unable to parse it and saying to myself that surely The Times never uses ‘with’ as a link-word (something I dislike but which is unfortunately quite common in some places) and that this was therefore a bit odd. At first I was sure that it was RED MIST but of course couldn’t make it work.
  37. I think I was in the ‘found this fairly straightforward’ category. Had no idea about the iPhone clue, and only just spotted WHISKERY by rereading the clue, but otherwise a steady solve. LOI PATENTS, was looking to put an L in there.
  38. Maestro of the misbiffers. Along with many others I rashly took ‘sideboards’ to be the definition instead of ‘with sideboards’ in 8d, hence WHISKERS. Adding this mistake to the run of typos recently has further diminished my gruntlement. On a brighter note – Australia won the slogging match! 24:29 with one error.

    Edited at 2021-11-16 01:20 pm (UTC)

  39. The bottom went in more quickly than the top, and I liked it better and better the deeper I got in. Still, I share jack’s slight uneasiness that while on their own difficult wordplay, unusual words, and slightly iffy definitions are a nice challenge, when all rolled up together things might go past the boundary. nice blog, jack, and nice puzzle, I think, setter

  40. Certainly not easy, but my progress was pretty steady. Liked the football-based RED WINE. Fair dos indeed.
  41. Gave up with 7 clues unparsed. Wouldn’t have got PATENTS if I’d looked at it for 100 years, given that I was fixated on ‘L’ for Lawrence.
  42. 22.55. An engaging, fiddly sort of puzzle which I very much enjoyed unknotting. Like others my first thought for Lawrence initially was L rather than TE and I at first had metatarsi before swapping tars for carp which then allowed me to get LOI carer.
  43. 16 mins; I was also held up by the SE corner, partly because I didn’t think TEAM MATES could be correct, but before that because I wrote in DECELERATING.
  44. Glad I didn’t try this one late last night – did it this morning over coffee and clocked in at right on my average time, 11:06 with NAAFI last in.
  45. A nice steady solve. I couldn’t parse INTEGER or RHINO but they were obvious from the checkers. Very enjoyable. 35 minutes. Ann
  46. Preferred spelling – isn’t it more that Scotch makers are so very protective of the “Whisky” version?

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