Times Cryptic 28154

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 49 minutes with one wrong answer caused by having transposed two unchecked letters in an anagram of an obscure word, the Latin name of a plant genus that hasn’t even made it into the Oxford dictionaries i.e.  Lexico and the massive two-volume SOED.  I’m not a happy bunny over this!

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 Press opportunity to move over European statesman (4,10)
IRON (press), CHANCE (opportunity), then ROLL (move) reversed [over]. Otto von Bismarck who sought to make Germany a great power by means of  ‘blood and iron’.
9 Observe daughter pressure nobleman for gem (4,5)
SEE (observe), D (daughter), P (pressure), EARL (nobleman). A minute pearl resembling a seed. NHO this.
10 Friend‘s gone — I’m back inside (5)
I’M reversed [back] and contained by [in] AGO (gone)
11 Something very good seen back in Dudley Zoo days (5)
Hidden and reversed [seen back in] {Dudle}Y ZOO D{ays}. NHO this.
12 Trembling, as in plume fern (9)
Anagram [trembling] of AS IN PLUME. See my opening remarks. NHO this. The English name of the most common of this variety of fern is apparently the ‘spleenwort’. I mis-guessed ALPSENIUM thinking it may have something to do with the mountains. An unsatisfactory clue, I feel.
13 Remaining exam taken again — with the time cut — in two parts (8)
RESI{t} (exam taken again) [with the time – t – cut), DUAL (in two parts)
15 Composer‘s live recording originally taking place in large city (6)
BE (live) + R{ecording} [originally] contained by [taking place in] WEN (large city). ‘The Great Wen’ is a disparaging nickname for London. The term was coined in the 1820s by William Cobbett, a radical pamphleteer and champion of rural England [Wiki]. Webern is a composer most definitely not represented in my music collection.
17 Calm grew outside European Parliament (6)
ROSE (grew) contains [outside] EP (European Parliament – it’s in Chambers)
19 First item of news on the radio? (8)
N{ews} [first item of…] = NOVEMBER (on the radio).  &lit. ‘On the radio’ more usually indicates a homophone but on this occasion it refers to the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, otherwise known as the NATO phonetic alphabet.
22 An African country with a youth backing religious leader (5,4)
A (an) + MALI (African country) + A + LAD (youth) all reversed [backing]
23 Letter removing tons from disgrace (5)
S{t}IGMA (disgrace) [removing tons – t]
24 Bottle just about right to be knocked back? (5)
EVEN (just) containing [about] R (right) reversed [to be knocked back]
25 Harassed following force when protected by rocky citadel (9)
F (following) + F (force) contained [protected] by anagram [rocky] of CITADEL
26 Idea about funny cat album is moving when not self-aware (14)
NOTION (idea) containing [about]  anagram [funny] of CAT ALBUM. Not a word I knew. It’s the same as ‘somnambulism’ but more specifically taking place at night.
1 Trendy drink reported in business — this can affect markets (7,7)
IN (trendy), SIDER sounds like [reported] “cider” (drink), TRADING [in business]
2 United States under old tyrant is oppressive (7)
O (old), NERO (tyrant), US (United States)
3 Parking in cover having a lot of small trees (5)
P (parking) contained by [in] COSY (cover – tea cosy). I was amazed to find this word actually exists! I thought it had escaped from the Uxbridge English Dictionary.
4 A fish together with a fish jelly (4-4)
A, GAR (fish), A, GAR (fish)
5 Cutting about a hard religious leader (6)
CLIP (cutting) containing [about] A, then H (hard)
6 Queen in shot with heads of Europe’s nobles and even Maggie, for one? (9)
ER (Queen) contained by [in] LEAD (shot) + E{urope’s} + N{obles} + E{ven}. ‘The Blessed Margaret’ as Sir Norman St John Stevas used to refer to her.
7 What’s found in central Bolivia — one new mineral (7)
{b}OLIVI{a} +{o}N{e} + {n}E{w} [central]
8 Ordinary coarse fish dive around men (6-2-6)
COMMON (coarse) + GAR (fish – again!) + DEN (dive) containing [around] OR (men – Other Ranks)
14 Protestor to criticise distinctive TV feature (9)
DISS (criticise), IDENT (distinctive TV feature – the irritating logo in the corner of the screen)
16 United pea and tofu in blending soup (3-2-3)
Angram [blending] of U (United) PEA TOFU. Actually it’s a stew or casserole from which the broth is usually strained and served separately.
18 Washed-out end to our month in Italian city (7)
PALE (washed-out), {ou}R [end], MO (month)
20 Rod’s in bar with one car designer (7)
GAT (rod – both words slang for gun), contained by [in) BUT (bar – all bar/but one), I (one)
21 Chap hugging in the manner of greeting (6)
SAM (random chap) containing [hugging] A LA (in the manner of – French)
23 Period of mourning for god (5)
Two meanings. The Jewish ritual of mourning and one of the deities of Hinduism.

63 comments on “Times Cryptic 28154”

  1. The last 5 minutes were spent trying to find something other than NOVEMBER and finally giving up and putting it in. N is one of many of the code letters I don’t know, and I was looking for a homophone. DNK LEADERENE, DNK IDENT, sure as hell DNK ASPLENIUM, which I googled. I got the OLIVI all right, but it never occurred to me to take the centers of ‘one new’; but I knew OLIVINE. [ON EDIT:] Did anyone know the mourning meaning of SHIVA? I probably knew it before I learned the deity meaning [I’d pronounce them differently (as does ODE): shivva/Sheeva] so I didn’t think anything of it, but in retrospect it seems like a somewhat Mephistoish clue.

    Edited at 2021-12-07 01:01 pm (UTC)

  2. I went for BERLIN for the composer as a sort of triple definition (two definitions: composer and city) and wordplay BER as in the correct answer, IN from the clue, and L from large, although I could quite see how it all got in the right order. I didn’t know WEN and only vaguely know of WEBERN, so I was never going to get the right answer.

    I knew OLIVINE was a mineral but I didn’t see how the wordplay worked and I had the wrong checker. So I put something in pretty much knowing it was plausible but wrong.

    Oh, and I was another who went for ALPSENIUM having never heard of it, and thinking also that it might be an Alpine fern of some sort.

    So DNF although not too difficult until I got to those last couple of clues.

    Edited at 2021-12-07 03:12 am (UTC)

  3. 58 minutes, with the last twenty or so spent on LEADERENE and LOI NOVEMBER. I did happen to eventually remember ASPLENIUM, but with the A and P crossers in place, was initially put off by ‘Trembling’, thinking it may have something to do with the aspen, or trembling poplar. SHIVA went in from the second part of the def only and I had no idea about IDENT.

    DOOZY here means “something especially remarkable, either good or bad” (Macquarie Dictionary), more often the latter, though Chambers has only the “good or fine” sense.

    Dodgy WOD: COPSY. I raise you “chaparrally”.

  4. Going along nicely for jus 30 minutes — then hit the wall Verstappen-like at the last corner.
    I had heard of the Great Wen, but not the not so great Webern! Even Jack doesn’t include him in his Desert Island Discs. Break for luncheon.

    Edited at 2021-12-07 04:55 am (UTC)

    1. That corner took me 20 minutes to not solve.

      Webern is a magnificent composer, by the way!

          1. One of the best things I heard about Webern was said by Richard Osman on Pointless — the great merit of his music is that it doesn’t last long.
          2. I did a YouTube search of his music. Here’s the first comment on his Symphony Op. 21:

            “Extremely elegant. For me, a pointillistic opium dream of shards of light piercing through pitch black darkness. The energy curves and “rhetorical traction” are masterful.”

            Who can argue against that?

      1. I have his complete works, on four long-playing vinyl records.
        Need to repair my turntable to hear them again, though.
        (A big influence on my man La Monte, y’know, “grand/godfather of minimalism.”)
        1. Comment deleted. Off topic. Any further comments seeking to extend this conversation will also be deleted.

          Edited at 2021-12-07 09:25 am (UTC)

  5. I am sure he is, Jeremy, but presently I am catching-up on Joe Bonamassa and Tina Guo.


    (LOI) 19ac NOVEMBER

    COD 26ac NOCTAMBULATION sleepwalking round IKEA. Today ‘er indoors suddenly came out with “IKEA – Just Do it!” I had to laugh! So did she!

    WOD 12ac ASPLENIUM – once thought to cause infertility in women – old wive’s tale.

    22ac the DALAI LAMA is not allowed hereabouts, so I put him in, in light pencil, just in case.

    Edited at 2021-12-07 08:49 am (UTC)

  6. Feeling good in wrestling a tough one close to completion.

    NHO WEN or WEBERN, so did not even see how to guess it.

    Did not see how to end the OLIVE mineral. Lots of minerals end UM, but clue favoured IN (one new) but that didn’t look right.

    Very unsure about COPSY. Cheated on ASPLENIUM.

    But pleased to know obscurities such as LEADERENE and DOOZY. Did not parse BUGATTI, and Ferrari was a possibility, too. Can someone explain rod=gat ?

    COD NOVEMBER. PDM when it went in. So not a homophone, then.

    1. Can’t think of any minerals ending in UM. Lots of elements do 🙂

      I wasn’t mad on COPSY either.

      DNF, as I didn’t know WEBERN. OH probably would have, but she was out.


  7. I wasn’t sure if a pearl was actually a gem – but it is.
    Very difficult up in ‘Geordieland’ with Asplenium, Webern and Leaderene. But COD on the bottom line to Noctambulation.
    Time 21:35 mins

    Edited at 2021-12-07 07:26 am (UTC)

  8. WEBERN left after 30 minutes. All a bit mechanical and humourless for me. Enjoyed NOVEMBER.
  9. … Look, how she rubs her hands

    After 30 mins with the last several pre-brekker on Leaderene and guessing right Asplenium, I was stumped by Webern. A good crossword spoiled IMO.
    And you wait ages for a Gar and then three come along at once.
    Thanks setter and J.

  10. A hat-trick of (weekday) disappointments for me.

    Spent quite a while with a queasily-entered SOMNAMBULATION across the bottom, but DISSIDENT had to go in – despite not knowing IDENT – so that was eventually fixed. Quite a few half-guessed half-solved, with stuff to learn including WEN, GAT, and Jewish meaning of SHIVA.

    Like Kevin and others I entered NOVEMBER as a word-that-fits, and crucially misunderstood the clueing for part of 7d, entering OLIVIAN (similarly, should have got that, because OLIVINE was not an unknown to me). Consequently entered a made-up name for the composer (though I’ll admit that 30 years ago, a friend interested in avant-garde music used to mention WEBERN).

    In the end felt quite pleased to complete this with two incorrect, because it could easily have been a dumpster fire of a puzzle. Thanks J and setter.

  11. A DOOZY of which I’m most fond
    Feeling enlightened rather than conned
    Terms that i didn’t know
    Which i solved even so
    To the edge of my brain…..and beyond!!
  12. 22:28 LOI SHIVA not knowing the “period of mourning” meaning. Quite tricky in places, but I was pleased to remember WEN when I saw WEBERN. I liked NOCTAMBULATION for the word, but the surface is a bit.. erm… opaque? As myrtillus says – odd to see 3 GARs in the same puzzle. Thank-you Jackkt and setter.
  13. well..I would have put very long odds on Dudley Zoo ever featuring in the Times Crossword, presume its a first? well done setter! bostin’ as they say in those parts
  14. I also had SOMNAMBULATION until right at the end, hence LOI DISSIDENT (NHO IDENT in that sense). Only corrected when I went back and tried to parse SOMNAMBULATION.

    NHO ASPLENIUM but that seemed the better arrangement of letters. Also NHO WEBERN but at least knew WEN.

    Agree with Jack on POT-AU-FEU being a stew and also thought 4D a bit strange – a fish a fish leading to AGAR-AGAR, really? And then GAR again in 8D.

  15. An official DNF. As with others, 15a remained after half an hour. I was pleased to have spotted NOVEMBER and sorted out AFFLICTED and my COD NOCTAMBULATION. I had my fingers crossed for ASPLENIUM and I was still unsure between OLIVINE and OLIVIAN. I know the Great Wen as Cobbett’s disparaging term for London but, never having heard of WEBERN, didn’t think of it at all for a large city. If it had been clued as a cyst, I might have got there, I sorted out POT AU FEU but I’ve gone through my life without ever having heard of that either. I’d biffed DISSIDENT from its first four letters also. An interesting puzzle, Thank you Jack and setter.
  16. All done bar the DISSIDENT and NOCTAMBULATION crossing in 15 minutes. Sorting out those two took a further 5 and introduced a minor dilemma. You see, I had the more familiar SOMNABULATION with great confidence but obviously no great understanding of wordplay. I did everything I could to work out D_S_I_E_N, eventually gave up and turned to electric Chambers, only to discover nothing available. That’s when I got the NOTION that SOM- was wrong and paid attention to the wordplay. DISSIDENT, of course fell immediately thereupon. I suppose I cheated. Or did I?

    Otherwise, an odd puzzle, mostly very easy – the first 5 clues went in unopposed. But then there was the ASPLENIUM, which I guessed the order for, the awful COPSY, the rather lazy three fishes, OLIVINE with the ending unparsed, and the random bloke for SALAAM which I nearly decided was an possible (?) MALAAM.

    I know POT-AU-FEU but not well enough to adjudicate on the soup/stew issue. Just be grateful it wasn’t clued as an overheard coat of an African mammal.

  17. You know it’s obscure when it doesn’t appear in the plant list in the Collins Gem Crossword Dictionary – and ASPLENIUM doesn’t although I did guess the correct sequence here. On the other hand Collins does have 3 web composers – Weber, Webber and WEBERN. NHO LEADERENE either so rather a lot of guessing for one morning but I seem to have been on the ball at 16.22.
  18. At 35 minutes I was done except for LEADERENE(which I managed to construct correctly), ASPLENIUM and WEBERN. I guessed the first and checked it to find I was right, but the latter defeated me and I looked it up after having struggled up to 52 minutes. I got the BER bit from wordplay, but couldn’t unearth WEN. I then submitted off leaderboard to find that COPPY was wrong(copy = cover of song). Bah humbug! A bit unsatisfactory and as Myrtilus says, a good crossword spoilt. Thanks Jack.
  19. I must have been on this setter’s wavelength. I do not normally achieve a time that is significantly shorter than average for solvers on this forum, but I found this very easy, finishing in 17 minutes. In many cases I slung in answers from the definitions alone, or a significant part of wordplay (eg 1ac). The only three that interrupted my pace were 12, 14 (didn’t know IDENT)and 26, and I couldn’t be sure that SHIVA was right as I didn’t know the first meaning.

    I thought using fish for GAR three times was a weakness

  20. Whole lotta biffing going on here and a couple of cheats.

    ASPLENIUM — well I had the fodder with all five checkers and a likely configuration of the remaining random letters but did look it up before committing.

    WEBERN — my other cheat. Well what did Cobbett know disparaging my birthplace and one of the greatest cities on Earth? And the composer is clearly just a footnote…

    NERVE — bunged in with a shrug about EVEN = just.

    COPSY or COPPY — fortunately plumped for the former.

    COMMON-OR-GARDEN failed to fully parse. Here in Lancaster, we have a Common Garden Street — I have wondered how it got its name.

    IDENT — didn’t know that’s what the irritating thingy is called.

    POT AU FEU — never heard of it, but was the best sense of the checkers+letters

    SHIVA — no idea about the Jewish definition.

    BUGATTI — failed to parse but what else could it be….

  21. I knew it couldn’t last. 14.00 but never got Webern. Completely convinced it was Berlin and that blinded me to anything else even when I finally decided on olivine.

    Had to check I was right with asplenium and Shiva was nothing more than a half educated guess.

    So a bit of an underwhelming performance today.

  22. Just under 40 minutes but I cheated a bit because I wanted to finish before I had to do something else. Otherwise I’m sure I’d never have got asplenium. And I never understood olivine, failing to parse it properly, thinking it led to oliviin and so was a mistake. Silly, because they are few and far between.
  23. On fire today, and lucky. I hoped I’d got the SHIVA thing correct; not heard of LOI WEBERN, although I have heard of Weber; the fern was an educated guess ; and knew AGAR-AGAR as the vegan alternative to gelatine.

    Joint COD to NOCTAMBULATION and the wonderful (word not person) LEADERENE.

    18′ 15″, thanks jack and setter.

    Will see you all again in between the Test matches.

    1. Rob, I hope you didn’t take my comment the wrong way.

      For what it’s worth, I’m happy to maintain the embargo as requested, but my own experience is that it’s difficult to turn on a computer these days without being exposed to information you’re trying to avoid.

      Anyway, it’s amazing how quickly you can get through a day’s play on fast-forward, especially the long rain delays that are expected.

      See you on the blog tomorrow, with Australia at 4/190 when the storm hits!

      1. Not at all. It is unreasonable for me to suggest it, and I can do without being on tenterhooks!

        I will take your advice and avoid all social media, including this one, until after viewing the day’s play — there is a 45′ highlights, then a 90′ highlights, and I have the whole thing recorded anyway. I might be able to comment by noon our time.

        Tbh I’m more concerned about the COVID situation, which may or may not impact the cricket, but then the cricket’s only a game.

        Thanks for your message.

  24. Of men that I know that compose
    Webern is not one of those
    I don’t know that many
    In fact I hardly know any
    So I shouldn’t complain, I suppose.
    1. The one that I know is Berlin
      Who I tried very hard to fit in
      I had failed to learn
      Of young Anton Webern
      Which is hardly a cardinal sin.
  25. A wen is a sebaceous cyst, so I can see why it may be used as a disparaging term for London. I couldn’t get Webern and was thinking the large city was Bern?

    Got COPSY by accident having entered COPSE and unknowingly changed the E to Y when writing DOOZY.

  26. 33:06. Puzzled by WEBERN, and speculated WEN might be some megapolis in China. ASPLENIUM was a lucky guess — an anagram lottery and apparently as obscure to everyone else as it was to me. COPSY was my FOI and I fully expected the next crosser to kick it out, but it didn’t. All a bit rum on the whole.
  27. This was the sort of puzzle which has you thinking, even before you’ve finished solving, “ooh, there’ll be letters to the editor today”. Various parts of my lived experience helped me out, however (for some values of helped) – I was certain that when I’d cooked a POT-AU-FEU it was a stew not a soup, but I suppose at least I knew it was a thing; long-term readers of Private Eye will remember that Mrs Thatcher was regularly referred to as “The Leaderene”; and WEBERN has come up in quizzing, not for his music, but his slightly unusual and rather tragic death. ASPLENIUM, however, was one of those “put the letters in the most sensible-looking order and cross your fingers” words. I’m sure setters and editors don’t try to vex solvers unnecessarily, but surely by now nobody thinks “Well, this is a very obscure word, you know how this needs to be clued? AN ANAGRAM! Yes!”
  28. Jack thanks as ever for excellent blog. This Crossy proved too much for me on the East side.

    When I saw a Greek letter , I was immediately hoping for topical omicron rather than sigma. So while stumped with 6d and 19a I thought about potential clues for said Greek. Maybe something like:

    Moronic madness is highly contagious (7)

  29. I was flying through this at first. Pleased to work out asplenium and noctambulation. Needed help from my wife for agar agar which I would never have thought of. Then got stuck in two places. The 7dn 15ac crosser was a stinker. Annoyingly I thought of Webern when I had the e and n crossers but as ‘live’ was going to become ‘be’ and I had a blank e I couldn’t think of anything else. The clueing of 7dn was brilliant as, like many others, I assumed that ‘one new’ would be ‘in’ rather than following on the instruction to take the central letters.
    COD to 19ac november. I couldn’t think of any other word to insert but still couldn’t bring myself to enter it as I could see no connection with the clue. Brilliant.
    Thanks setter and many thanks to Jack for the explanations.
  30. DNF. I did most of this very quickly but then got completely stuck. The various obscurities irritated me and I eventually gave up on WEBERN. I only wish I had given up on the thing earlier because I was never going to get that one.
    POT-AU-FEU is indeed a stew but I guess the distinction is not a very precise one and Lexico has it as a soup so the setter is off the hook for that one.
  31. 44.38. I got there in the end but was very hesitant solving this, there was just too much uncertainty. The word play pointed to leaderene but was that really a word. Copsy, really? Had to ponder rod for gat for some time even though Bugatti seemed to be the best fit. Palermo meant month had to be Mo but I’m more used to seeing Mo clue a second or a moment. Got really bogged down in the SE with Shiva (eventually remembered the mourning period) and Sigma. LOI November. This was all a bit of a stretch for me.
  32. ….especially since I had to back out the beginning of “somnambulation” once I got DISSIDENT. NHO SHIVA in the mourning context, was relieved that NHO ASPLENIUM was a cosy fit of the leftovers once the crossers were in, and also had to back out “affronted” when I realised that my LOI wasn’t going to be “Shona”.

    I’ve seen WEBERN in another puzzle fairly recently, and he went straight in.

    I think, on reflection, that I was very lucky to get away with this one !

    TIME 8:47

    * Inspired setting to have the Iron Lady leading out from the IRON CHANCELLOR !

  33. … which I’d NHO.

    Finished the rest, but just barely. Pot au feu is NOT a soup, and ‘copsy’ is just an absurd word that you could live many anglophone lifetimes without hearing once. Really!?

  34. Romped through most of this, guessing the order of letters for the fern correctly, but ?E?E?N defeated me, NHO the man himself, nor managed to get WEN = large city “on the hoof”.

    20:48 with 5 mins wasted on not getting WEBERN, and therefore a DNF.

  35. Asplenium is in Chambers and Collins. As a gardener and amateur botanist I knew it anyway.
  36. 26ac has the worst and least convincing surface reading I have seen in months.
    Pot au feu is NOT a soup, at least not when I do it, and I do it regularly.
    Knew Webern, without being able to recite one single solitary fact about him/her.
    Guessed asplenium correctly, therefore obvs. a perfectly OK clue …
  37. Far too many NHOs in this for me to bother you with. Let’s just say that, if you add up all those mentioned above, many by faster solvers of greater experience than mine, you’ll probably still come up short. Congratulations to those who sailed through or just gritted their teeth to ride out the storm, but no thanks at all for the setter who seemed to me to be more interested in jamming in obscurities than in offering fun to the solver. Dischuffed about sums it up.
  38. Had to grind this one out and was relieved to creep over the line. I’d heard of WEBERN but need to come here to parse it.

    Never heard of OLIVINE or ASPLENIUM and needed dictionary to check them, I had POT AU FEU not that long ago and soup it most definitely ain’t

    Thanks to Jack and the setter.

  39. Yuk. Three-quarters really easy, the other quarter close to impossible. Spent 12 minutes on everything else, then 18 minutes resisting the temptation to put BERLIN and OLIVINE in (mostly because cross-checking letters meant I couldn’t succumb to the temptation). Don’t like the “What’s found in central Bolivia” clue – it just doesn’t work to give the last NE – and I had barely heard of WEBERN. I try not to whinge about the crosswords – I’m usually just full of admiration at the clever clueing – but this puzzle seemed pointlessly arcane (itself an arcane word).
  40. Took a punt at the end and put in asplenium, november, olivine and webern. All correct! Whoopee. Didn’t see the parsing of olivine, and wen I had only a vague memory of. Isn’t it also a birthmark? Shiva’s two meanings I knew, having lived a while in Jerusalem and remembered the beard-growing in the mourning period. The Spectatpr had a themed crossword on ferns a few months back, linked to the Victorian obsession known as Pteridomania, which I’d never heard of.
  41. I had Iron Chancellor and Insider Trading within seconds, giving a lot of first letters which helped make the first three quarters into a romp. I also got several of the tricky ones — Bugatti, November, Shiva. But mostly I was clever enough to stop when defeated, and i wouldn’t have finished even with vast aids. Thanks, jack, not an easy one to blog

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