Times Cryptic 28334


My solving time was 29 minutes. This was mostly straightforward but there were some inventive clues along the way that made for a very enjoyable solve.


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 Spies act foolishly, providing distraction (8)
Anagram [foolishly] of SPIES ACT
5 Dutch wanting female to lead country (6)
MISS (female), US (country). I can’t see ‘wanting’ as being of significance unless there’s something very non-PC meant to be going on. ‘Dutch’ and ‘missus’ are both terms for ‘wife’.
10 It is what it is (7,8)
Does exactly what it says on the bottle! ‘It’ is Italian Vermouth – Martini being one of the leading brand names.
11 Wrongly enter road’s designation (7)
M1’S (road’s), TYPE (designation)
12 Letters announcing successor is a man (7)
Sounds like [announcing] “heir” (successor), “male” (man)
13 One chucked out of French harbour, beer removed from case (8)
DE (of in French), PORT (harbour), {b}EE{r} [removed from case]
15 Philosopher in bar, did you say? (5)
Sounds like [did you say] “lock”  (bar). I think this works best as a verb e.g. you might lock/bar a door.  The philosopher is John Locke (1632-1704) known to me only from crossword puzzles.
18 Rebels in times of trouble, losing head (5)
{c}RISES (times of trouble) [losing head]
20 At end of day, prayers still no good (8)
EVEN SO (still), NG (no good)
23 Chef’s concoction perhaps inspiring learner to be more flexible (7)
SUPPER (chef’s concoction perhaps) containing [inspiring] L (learner driver). Not a very appetising description!
25 Some popes were so    merciful! (7)
Two meanings. There were 15 of them. I wasn’t sure what to underline for the first meaning but I’ve interpreted it as ‘some popes were so named’.
26 Get things wrong, as you might with Oxford? (3,4,4,2,2)
A definition based on a well-known phrase, then a cryptic hint with reference to Oxford as a type of shoe. The first one is a bit loose as the expression doesn’t refer to getting things wrong in general, but only when a faux pas has been committed.
27 Displeasure at duke’s insecurity (6)
D (duke), ANGER (displeasure)
28 Clever chap having nagging woman stop (8)
SHREW (nagging woman – The Taming of the Shrew), DIE (stop). I was surprised to find this word exists but both Collins and SOED advise that it’s Australian or NZ slang.
1 A car, one nearly new, overturning? It’s a mystery (6)
A + MG (car brand) + I (one) + NE{w} [nearly] reversed [overturning]
2 Charlie possibly having been dumped by girl of no obvious distinction? (9)
C (Charlie – NATO alphabet), LASS-LESS (possibly having been dumped by girl). See ‘wanting female’ in 5ac. Is there a theme developing here, I wonder?
3 Aware of alternative loo for reporters (5,2)
PRIVY (loo), then TO sounds like [for reporters] “two”. I think the idea is that ‘Privy 2’ is an alternative if ‘Privy 1’ is engaged.
4 Feeling stupid, son pushing daughter out (5)
{d}ENSE (stupid) becomes SENSE when son (s) pushes daughter (d) out
6 One Frenchman said to have grabbed another? That’s not right (7)
I (one), then M (Frenchman – monsieur) + ORAL (said) contains [to have grabbed] M (another Frenchman)
7 Nordic sweater Rosa unashamedly displays (5)
Hidden in [displays] {Ro}SA UNA{shamedly}. A great definition!
8 Dramatist’s second work giving you the shivers (8)
S (second), CHILLER (work giving you the shivers). Johann Schiller (1759-1805). He wrote the Ode to Joy set to music by Beethoven in his Choral Symphony.
9 Criminal alleges European is talk of bar (8)
Anagram [criminal] of ALLEGES, then E (European).
14 Ultimately trust men involved in robbery, I suppose (8)
{trus}T [ultimately], then OR (men) contained by [involved in] HEIST (robbery)
16 Uneasy journalist ending affair (9)
CONCERN (affair), ED (journalist)
17 Had scrap about place to sleep (5,3)
Anagram [about] HAD SCRAP. Slang for a place to sleep, especially in an emergency.
19 Put an end to Spooner’s freedom (7)
Spooner’s rendition of “licence” (freedom)
21 Haunting fear papa’s harbouring dreadful secret? On the contrary (7)
“On the contrary” changes the clue to give us an anagram [dreadful] of SECRET containing [harbouring] P (papa – NATO alphabet)
22 Figure union leader’s in a predicament (6)
U{nion’s} [leader] contained by [in] STATE (predicament)
24 Don to back down … (3,2)
NOT UP (down) reversed [back]
25 perhaps sacking clique obstructing church (5)
LOT (clique) contained by [obstructing] CH (church). ‘You and your gang, your lot, your clique…’ I suppose.

82 comments on “Times Cryptic 28334”

  1. 18:16
    I biffed 2d CLASSLESS and 24d PUT ON, parsing post-submission. I spent too much time on 1ac ESCAPIST, trying to think of a word for ‘distraction’, before finally seeing that ‘providing’ was part of the definition. SHREWDIE unknown but plausible. Liked 3d PRIVY TO & 7d SAUNA.

  2. I finished this in an hour due to failing to initially unravel 1ac ESCAPIST. So I went south!

    FOI 25ac CLEMENT
    LOI 15ac LOCKE
    COD 10ac ITALIAN VERMOUTH – l, along with Rossiter & Collins, prefer ‘Cinzano’, ‘Cinzano Branco, suffused with herbs and spices from four continents etc’, ‘Getting your head down sweetie? Jolly good idea!’
    WOD 8dn SCHILLER – ‘usually referred to as Friedrich.’

    3dn PRIVY TO took me far too long as the word PRESS raised its ugly head.

    1. You are in that milieu, Meldrew: Is it true do you know, that the Cinzano adds were discontinued because, as amusing as they were, people couldn’t name the product?

      1. I was indeed there. They were written by Ron Collins and Directed by Alan Parker I started at CDP in Ron’s Group back in ’74. It is not quite true. Cinzano privately owned by the Marone family of Turin, were being heavily outspent by Martini (McCann) and the public unprompted thought that these spots were for Martini.
        However, when CDP fired their biggest client, The Ford Motor Company in 1978,
        it was quickly replaced by Fiat Turin, on the recommendation of the Marones who were close to Mr. Agnelli. I spent a lot of time in the bar at the Hotel Jolie Principe di Torino learning all about vermouth, Negronis, Punte e Mes etc.

        Interestingly Cinzano is almost 100 years older than Martini.

        1. Went to UK as a youngster ~1979, saw a Fiat ad: brilliant. Was that you?
          Saw the same ad a few years later on The Dave Allan show. When the Fiats got on the banked test track at the end they instead started losing control, spinning, rolling, flying off the lip, crashing horribly, to the voiceover “Fiats: built by robots. Driven by Italians.”

          1. Indeed Fiat Strada ‘Handbuilt by Robots’ was written by Paul Weiland and myself. Directed by Hugh Hudson (My Chariot’s on Fire) and music by Rossini adapted by Vangelis. We won the 1980 D&AD Gold Pencil for commercial of the year. It only ran five times.

            1. I used to have a drink at ‘The Bridge’ in Great Queen Street on occasion with Dave Allen, as his niece Riley was our secretary. Another mate Mel Smith, did a piss-take on ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’.

              1. Indeed NTNON not Dave Allen. I googled Dave Allen/Fiat robots and couldn’t find it. Because that doesn’t exist.

            2. I used to drive a Fiat Strada in ‘79/80 whilst working for an Italian wine agency. So called apparently because the Italians figured, probably rightly , that « Ritmo » (the Italian version) was an ugly word in English. Quite a nice car actually.

              1. The name was changed at the request of CDP’s MD Frank Lowe for the British market, as it was in his opinion ugly. The London based client agreed .
                Every Ritmo that was exported to Britain had to be rebadged at the last minute – at great expense. The problem with the Strada/Ritmo was the low grade steel (which emanated from the Communist bloc) that made the body work degrade rather quickly. The same problem for the Lancia too.

                1. I never owned a FIAT but a friend in those days had a 127. My memory is that it rusted before one’s eyes.

        2. As another ex ad-man, I can recall several other campaigns that were well remembered but for the wrong brand, not least the David Niven ads for Maxwell House. Too often, people remember the celebs but not the product, and the celebs get richer.

          1. We had Nescafé for a while at CDP until we fired them. They were the worst client known and Frank Edwards & Co. did some god-awful advertising over many years however their marketing and distribution was second to none.
            June Whitfield for Birdseye ‘Dishonest Woman’ and Penny Keith for Parker Pens were worth their weight in gold.
            Pip, which agencies did you work for?

          2. My son is an ad-man, a cross I have to bear. I was not expecting him to be like Mother Teresa, but still … he is very well paid though.

        3. Thanks, Horryd. This whole string of comments that have arisen from my initial question is fascinating. Unfortunately, I have a gap in my memory and I don’t recall seeing the FIAT advert but I do recall the ‘robots’ punchline. You and your fellow creatives have given us a lot of pleasure over the years. In fact, you probably deserve a medal; perhaps a CDM? A Cadbury’s Dairy Milk?

    2. PS….Re SCHILLER, I agree. Our very small (5) A-Level German class had Schiller on the syllabus.

  3. 36 minutes. I had an MER at the ‘wanting female’ at 5a which I doubt would pass muster in at least one Other Place, whether the ‘wanting’ is just there for the surface or not. NHO a SHREWDIE which isn’t in the home-grown Macquarie Dictionary, so not in widespread use here.

    I don’t like the indicator being in the middle of the clue, as ‘to back’ is in 24d. To me the answer could equally be NOT UP. Yes, the crossers and maybe even the ellipses give the correct answer, but still…

    Favourite was ‘It is what it is’; a very ordinary term, but a far better clue.

    1. But would NOT UP be a solution? I don’t see it as a lexical item; just the negation of UP. PUT ON will be in a dictionary, whereas NOT UP won’t.

      1. I take your point. Funnily enough though, NOT UP is in the dictionary, admittedly not in the ‘down’ sense, but as a term used in tennis and (I see looking it up now) squash.

          1. Yes, but your point was valid as NOT UP is not a lexical term meaning ‘down’ — as already mentioned by BR.

            ‘Not up’ in tennis is a call made by the umpire when one of the players fails to hit the ball before it has bounced twice.

    2. I still don’t get your favourite, 10 across. Everything is what it is. It’s a term people use to express stoicism in the face of adversity. How does it clue Italian Vermouth?

      1. Sorry, but if you’ve read the blog and all the numerous comments about this clue I’m afraid saying it all again is not going to help you.

      2. A gin and it is a gin with Italian vermouth. I only know this from crosswords.

  4. 47:13 makes this one of the hardest puzzles I’ve ever completed.

    By about 15 minutes I had 15 entries in the grid. Subsequently did not put in a single letter until the timer was on 40! At that point I got MISSUS and I was able to finish the rest in another 7 minutes.

    I’m glad I didn’t give up!

  5. Elapsed time about 3 hours. Just way off the wavelength, seemed to have no idea what was going on in half the clues so put it down.
    Little better on return, but did get there. As usual looking at the answers it’s all obvious enough…

  6. 13:26. This felt like a wavelength puzzle: I found it hard (only two or three answers from my first pass through the acrosses) but usually when I saw the answers they seemed obvious and I wondered what had taken me so long.
    MER at 26ac, where the use of ‘your’ in the clue seems to require YOUR in the answer, even though the convention is that it’s almost always ONES.
    I didn’t understand PUT ON, so thanks for that.
    I particularly liked ‘privy two’ and ‘it is what it is’.

  7. 14:55. Much of my time was spent on my final two, PUT ON and DANGER. For the former I spent time wondering if the answer might be PUT UP, as in “put up or shut up” for “back down”. For the latter I was thrown by the word order with “Displeasure at duke” not initially suggesting to me that the duke might come before displeasure.
    ITALIAN VERMOUTH was a strong COD for me. I spent time thinking that I was looking for a grammatical term for “it”.

  8. Soundly beaten by this with several left after my hour elapsed. As others say, feels like a wavelength puzzle and I was way off it.

    1. Ditto, though my patience only lasted 48m. LHS almost complete, RHS still lots to do – for some reason thought “dutch” meant friend or some variant, took an age to spot LEGALESE anagram, failed entirely to spot SPECTRE …I could go on.

      Thanks J and setter

      1. CRS “Dutch Plate, Mate”, so can be a friend as well as a wife/husband.
        I think the blue and white china from Delft etc was popular at the time the CRS was coined.

    2. Do what I do and put it to one side after thirty minutes, (well, ten minutes in my case 🙂 and then come back later (just a few minutes will do).. think of it as a drinks break, such as they have in the cricket. Amazing, what a difference it makes.

  9. 39:23
    Very chewy and satisfying puzzle that rewarded perseverance.
    Thanks, jack.

  10. I’m not a SHREWDIE; oh no.
    The North-East was terribly slow
    Then at last LOCKE unlocked
    The clues I hadn’t clocked
    With IMMORAL the last one to go

  11. 31 minutes with LOI the unheard of SHREWDIE, perhaps a fan of Elizabeth Taylor? Penultimate was SCHILLER, and that after I finally received the AIR MAIL. COD to PRIVY TO, which I was. This felt tough, but the time was average. Thank you Jack and setter.
    PS Thank you for the congratulatory messages on our wedding anniversary yesterday.

  12. My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My Sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
    Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

    20 mins mid-brekker. The eyebrow twitched a bit at Shrewdie and at whether Spooner used to swap starting letters of syllables? I can’t remember any examples of Spoonerisms of that sort.
    Thanks setter and J.

    1. I agree that I’ve never seen a Spoonerism meaning swap syllables of a single word to make another single word. Two words into one, sure (like “yak bard” becoming “backyard” or some less dreadful example, haha).

      Not complaining, really, just saying “hmmmm.”

  13. 11:36 here, although I probably wasted a couple of minutes at the start trying to get the obvious-looking anagram in 1ac. SPACIEST jumped out immediately, wasn’t very tempting but was a distraction! COD to 10ac – as someone else said it looked like it was going to be a grammatical term at first.

    I wasn’t keen on the Spoonerism clue either – there’s a good reason why you don’t see many single-word ones.

  14. 09:51, clearly on the wavelength, though some clues needed more than one try to see what was being asked of the solver e.g. thinking the “it” was going to be a grammatical definition, though the fact that “pronoun” didn’t have enough letters for the second word steered me away, and towards the sort of “it” which crops up far more often in crosswords than in real life). The single-word Spoonerism seemed odd, but I guess there are no Spoonerism Police to arrest you for it, so why not.

  15. 31:08, but having parsed 14d as T, then OR in HEIST, I still typed THEORISE. Drat! SHREWDIE held me up for an age. Thanks setter and Jack.

  16. Gave up after 47 mins. Completely bamboozled by the NE corner. I don’t think I’d have cracked it if I’d kept at it till tomorrow. Just one of those off wavelength days.

  17. DNF. Putting “YOUR” instead of “ONES” in 26A didn’t help and I was held up for ages in the NE corner. I needed aids to find SHREWDIE and VERMOUTH and then completed the NE corner to finish in about 35 mins. Good stuff, though. I was just not on the ball today, I think.

  18. 64m 13s. Quite often my times and Jack’s are close together but not today. The NE corner was particularly difficult. LOI, though, was SHREWDIE which I had previously never heard of. That took at least 10-15 minutes to be wrestled to the ground.
    10ac ITALIAN VERMOUTH was another that took ages to solve, but mostly the second word. But it was a very clever clue.
    COD to PRIVY TO. That made oi larf!
    About ten years ago I attended choral EVENSONG in Ely Cathedral. That remains one of my great musical highlights.
    Trivia: On an edition of The Chase shown here recently, Bradley Walsh pronounced 8d as SKILLER. That threw me!
    Thank you, Jack!

  19. Another way-off-the-wavelength solver, running (crawling) to 34.13. Like Pootle, I struggled to remember what the grammatical term for it was, and got as far as putting in PRONOUN, which didn’t reach but did help me get SAUNA (Nordic sweater – very good!). I wanted the dramatist to be Peter Schaefer, which filled the space and started with S(econd) but had nothing else going for it. PUT ON had to be, but why took me for ever. G’day SHREWDIE, apparently. The philosopher wasn’t BACON this time (twice recently). At 11 I had MISNAME, which seemed OK until it wasn’t when the amusing PRIVY T(W)O went in. And so on, through the entire grid. Well played setter, and “straightforward” Jack, putting us clueless ones in our place.

    1. Didn’t you wonder about a word ending in A? I typed in MIS and stopped for that reason.

      1. Not really. At the stage I was at, a Latin phrase was at least possible, not so off-the-wall.unlikely to force a rethink.

    2. ‘Clueless’

      Yes, sorry if I gave that impression but it’s so rare for me to be swimming against the general flow of opinion about the level of 15×15 difficulty it never occurred to me that so many of the regulars would appear to have problems. I was enjoying my moment but then noticed your solving timing was only 5 minutes behind mine, yet you consider that a crawl! For me it would be a barely missed target.

      1. It wasn’t a complaint! I guess that’s why we are blessed with both a SNITCH and a WITCH. While I am in awe of those who regularly post times quicker than I can type, I also admire those who take time to batter these things into submission and always come back for more.

  20. Still don’t understand ITALIAN VERMOUTH, and couldn’t see it even with all the checkers. Sorry, is ‘it’ how Italians refer to Martini, or is it a reference from the old ads?

    1. ‘It’ is how the British refer to Martini or other brands of Italian vermouth. Short for ‘Italian’. ‘Gin & It’ was perhaps the most popular way of drinking it (and It!).

          1. I think it may have been replaced eventually in popular lingo by ‘G and T’.

          2. Yes, I’m 49 and I’ve never experienced this outside crosswords, certainly never in real life. I think it’s one of the reasons “it” still trips me up–I find it much harder to remember the stuff that you just have to learn for crosswords and has no connection to any other reality for me!

  21. A steady solve in 20 minutes, ending with DANGER where I had to be convinced that danger meant insecurity. Liked the “Nordic sweater” idea.

  22. PRIVY TO made me wonder if this was one of Dean Mayer’s, as did the length of time it took me to find a toehold. Once I latched on to LOCKE and RISES the logjam started to move. 1956

  23. 39:50

    Thought this was wavelengthy – couldn’t seem to get going and still had quite a few left at the half hour mark.

    SHREWDIE? Really?

  24. I am on the ‘this was tough’ side of things. Somewhat distracted by watching England winning an unlikely test, my time was 36mins.
    Still not sure about the ‘at’ denoting a reverse to put the D at the front for DANGER, but I guess it works.

    1. As far as I’m aware there’s no convention about this in The Times puzzles and ‘at’ is just one of a number of words that indicate nothing more than ‘next to’. So a setter might intend ‘before’ or ‘after’ and solvers are invited to try either or both in order to come up with a solution that meets the other requirements of the clue.

  25. I don’t have a time but thoroughly enjoyed this one. I thought the Nordic sweater was brilliant but, like several others, felt 28a’s shrewdie came under the MER heading. Like Topical Tim, I took a long time to get away from thinking of ‘It’ along parts of speech lines; with the first word checkers, I managed Italian but completely forgot about It as a drink. LOI Vermouth!

  26. 24:23 mins. Apparently more on the wavelength than I thought while solving. Some very witty wordplay and one glaring unknown – SHREWDIE – which is definitely one to remember.

  27. Self-sabotaged by writing in “NOT UP”. Forgot also that “gin & it” was a thing, despite thinking of “italian” for the first half. For me the spoonerism clue doesn’t work.

  28. Enjoyed this, didn’t think it as hard as some seem to have done.
    Didn’t like “shrewdie” much. Australians have a lot to answer for, in linguistic terms …

  29. As for the quick cryptic I seemed to be on form today, but with no time recorded for this one. I’ve been solving whilst watching Wimbledon and what I thought was the demise of Djokovic. I should have known better, he’s not phased at all coming from two sets down. A true champion!
    Enjoyable crossword and I’ve learnt a new word to boot. SHREWDIE will now figure in my everyday conversation!

  30. Well, after reading blog and comments still prefer parsing “alternative loo”as ” privy too”. Willfully obstinate/blind? Oh well, got to the same result anyways.

    1. Well, after being encouraged by Meldrew (and reading the above I feel honoured to have been encouraged by a professional encourager) I took a peek today. Let’s say a smattering, and I enjoyed the blog explaining some sublime clueing. COD, indeed quite possibly COW to the exquisite 10A.

  31. 15.01. I found it hard to get a foothold in this one. Not much went in on my first pass, so it felt like a bit of a disjointed solve as I scuttled round the grid to try and patch a few answers together. Privy 2 raised a smile.

  32. 35 or so. My poor week continues. Top right did for me. Still, a great recompense was to read old ad hands reminiscing! Keep it up!

  33. 42.41

    Late entry – currently on hols in the middle of Montenegro and reception not the best

    Interesting to read all the comments. I was in the “struggled but finally beat into submission” camp. Had PARTY TO; couldnt understand how PRONOUN didn’t fit; kept writing IMMORAL in and out as couldnt work out how MORAL sounded like a Frenchman; couldnt parse CRASH PAD. Shall stop there…

    Good stuff setter and thanks Jackkt

  34. Finished eventually with DANGER LOI – didn’t think this was easy- off the wavelength I suppose. Thanks setter and blogger.

  35. 41 minutes, no particular problems that I can remember, apart from my fat fingers giving an N at the end of 5ac, making 8dn rather difficult. Isn’t it for Italian Vermouth a chestnut? Even so I liked the clue.

  36. 47 minutes, off to a very slow start and plodding along at a steady pace to a very slow end. MISSUS, which I rather liked, was my LOI. PUT ON another favourite and I don’t understand the reservations some people are having about this being a backing of “down” — why does “down” have to equate to “not up” as a dictionary entry?

  37. 47 minutes for me. I seemed to have less difficulty getting started than some people.

  38. Same struggle as many others, with a very patchy start followed by a threadbare middle. Never occurred to me about the It, and NHO Schiller (to my shame). Thought DANGER was a bit loose, definition-wise, and was completely thrown off the track by settling on the “French harbour” as Dieppe (which had to lose it’s I) and not finding any suitable words starting with DEPPE….
    Definitely a wavelength puzzle, I think, as others have noted. Really liked the Nordic sweater though.

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