Times Cryptic 28358


Solving time: 22 minutes. I had a problem getting started so began by solving all the 3-letter answers (apart from 2dn with its cross-reference) and started building from there. I was then amazed to find myself racing through it and finishing with 8 minutes to spare on my target time.


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 Bad-tempered person driving taxi across river (6)
CABBY (person driving taxi) containing [across] R (river)
4 Voyager’s headless corpse son takes legal action over (8)
{b}ODY (corpse) [headless], S (son), then SUES (takes legal action) reversed [over]
10 A severe medic in English street closest to where the sun rises (11)
A +  STERN (severe) + MO (medic) contained by [in] E (English) + ST (street)
11 Very easy at first, containing current struggle (3)
V(very} + E{asy} [at first] containing I (current)
12 Triathletes initially walk unevenly? Nonsense (7)
T{riathletes} [initially], WADDLE (walk unevenly)
14 Noise inhibitor quietly accepted by listeners (7)
P (quietly  – music) contained [accepted] by EAR + LUG (listeners)
15 Work revising the school map: it’s for examining pupils (14)
OP (work), then anagram [revising] of THE SCHOOL MAP
17 Mineral extractor’s wangle associated with home in China? (6,8)
IN (home) contained by [in] MING (china), then ENGINEER (wangle)
21 Tatum, perhaps, works as an expert craftsman (7)
ART (Tatum, perhaps), IS (works as), AN. Possibly largely forgotten these days other than by jazz aficionados Art Tatum (1909-1956) is one of my all-time favourite masters of jazz piano, especially for his contribution to reinventing stride playing and  developing it beyond previously known bounds. Just listen and marvel at his exquisite interpretation of the old favourite Tea For Two.     
22 Animal environment where volunteers wear special clothing? (7)
TA (volunteers Territorial Army) contained by [wear] HABIT (special clothing)
23 Part of circle in rescue vessel, do we hear? (3)
Sounds like [we hear] “ark” (rescue vessel – Noah’s)
24 Clarify opposition viewpoint abandoned by Society (11)
DIS{s}ENT (opposition) + ANGLE (viewpoint) [abandoned by Society – s]
26 Sick man digesting lines about native of ancient region (8)
ILL (sick) + IAN (man) containing [digesting] RY (railway lines) reversed [about]
27 Handsome youth lives by a Scottish river (6)
A, DON (Scottish river), IS (lives)
1 Brainchild of Theban king protecting a palmlike plant (8)
CREON (Theban king) containing [protecting] A + TI (palmlike plant). Fortunately the answer was biffable with help from checkers because the wordplay was completely lost on me. If ever I knew of the King I had long-forgotten him, and the plant is unknown to the Oxford dictionaries. Chambers has ‘ti’ as a plant without reference to palms, but that’s to be found in Collins.
2 Jenny, perhaps, in the role of 16 at last (3)
AS (in the role of), {oratres}S (16 Down) [at last]. Another biff. Another less than satisfactory clue, I feel. The equivalent name for a male donkey is a Jack.
3 Range of staple food heading for this hotel (7)
BREAD (staple food), T{his} [heading for…], H (hotel)
5 Lorna’s personal obsession — act independently (2,4,3,5)
DOONE’S (Lorna’s), OWN (personal), THING (obsession). Reference the novel by RD Blackmore.
6 Like a skit thus involving girl from the south (7)
SIC (thus – Latin) containing [involving] RITA (girl) reversed [from the south]
7 Wrapping of pet novel unexpectedly inspiring soldiers (11)
Anagram [unexpectedly] of PET NOVEL containing [inspiring] MEN (soldiers)
8 Ride on runners? It takes a lot of skill! (6)
SLEIGH{t} (skill) [a lot of…]. Sleight of hand, for example.
9 News church rejected: it’s unusual article for the illuminati (14)
INTELLIGEN{ce} (news) [church – CE – rejected], anagram [unusual] of ITS, then A (article)
13 Like non-believers at robbery, originally in California (11)
AT, HEIST (robbery), I{n}[originally], CAL (California)
16 Speaker’s old hair feature artist captured (8)
O (old) + TRESS (hair feature) with RA (artist] contained [captured]. I wonder what those who objected to ‘authoress’ last week will make of this. I’d have expected ‘oratrix’ and now find that’s an alternative.
18 Popular drink, we’re told, for one in the know (7)
IN (popular), then SIDER sounds like [we’re told] “cider” (drink)
19 Entering fashionable thoroughfare, stole motor (7)
BOA (stole) contained by [entering] IN (fashionable) + RD (thoroughfare)
20 Rubbish dropped on French friend’s floor-covering (6)
TAT (rubbish), AMI (French friend). I thought this word was new to me when it appeared in March, but I see I previously blogged it in a QC last October.
25 Member of sporting party possibly   one trained on the range? (3)
Two not unconnected meanings, a person firing it and the weapon itself.

81 comments on “Times Cryptic 28358”

  1. I’d heard of “TI tree oil” so it was plausible it was also palm-like, and CREON was plausible too. But my downfall was looking at S_E_G_ at 8D and biffing SLEDGE without really looking at the wordplay. What else could it be? SLEIGH as it turns out. So pink squares for me. Otherwise 16 minutes so straightforward. Only minor difficulty was remembering how to spell OPHTHALMOSCOPE but since it was an anagram there was really only one choice.

    1. I parsed 8d as S..L being the EDGE of SKILL. The crossers fit and I solve the paper version so no pink squares.

    2. Same one incorrect for me after a too-confident biffing! However, found the rest to be a ‘walk-through’ and finished within the half hour.

  2. I had no trouble getting started; it was finishing that was the problem. I biffed a couple–ODYSSEUS, ASS, INTELLIGENTSIA–parsing post-submission. I dislike cross-referencing clues, especially when, as with ASS, the reference is to a clue I haven’t even looked at yet. CREON is king of Thebes in Antigone. I knew TI from living in Hawai’i, where the ti leaf is used in leis, hula skirts, etc.
    My LOI, and it took ages, was ORATRESS. I don’t recall if I objected to AUTHORESS, but I do not like either, any more than Jewess or Negress. But like or no, I simply couldn’t come up with it after an eternity of alphabet-trawling; it finally came to me as I was about to throw in the towel.

  3. A PW last week and a PB today. The lows and highs of the cruciverbalist!
    I semi-biffed most of the answers today, i.e. saw enough of the parsing ingredients to be almost certain of the required word without fully verifying it, and then proceeding to the next. Obviously a strategy which can come badly unstuck. Not that I would have ever parsed the Tatum reference, but I would usually have wasted time trying to do so. I am glad Paul’s SLEDGE didn’t come to mind, as the EDGE might have sufficed for ‘a lot of skill’.

  4. I was off to a flying start, actually, with OPHTHALMOSCOPE my second one in. Didn’t have time to complain about any of the clues! POI was ORATRESS, which I had seen earlier but didn’t want to believe, and LOI MINING ENGINEER.

    Of course, I had DO YOUR OWN THING, until I had to get EASTERNMOST. I figured I just didn’t know who “Loma” was—that damn font!—and biffed (in the strict sense! ha).

    1. Sandy, how are you with Princess, Duchesse and Rudolph Hess!? As per Melania – I couldn’t care less.

  5. A bit of a stroll in the park which took me 19 minutes, but noting that Time Lord
    Corymbia managed in half the time. This was Mondayish and not Tuesdayish!

    FOI 2dn ASS without even looking at 16dn. Simples.
    LOI 17ac MINING ENGINEER as I misread the numeration as 5,8 and not 6,8!
    COD 1ac CRABBY – hi Phil!
    WOD 12ac TWADDLE – I also liked 16dn ORATRESS – most distinctive.

    At 8dn l put in SLEDGE but managed to alter to SLEIGH right on the buzzer.

    1. Interesting to see we *both* got the enumeration for 17ac wrong in the same way. I’d start blaming the font or the printing if I hadn’t had another look and realised the problem was definitely with my brain and/or eyes!

  6. DNF in 34 minutes. Raced through until coming up against 8d for which I finally opted for an unparsed “sledge” rather than an unparsed SLEIGH and then found I had the “I” and the “Y” the wrong way round in ILLYRIAN.

  7. Paul’s “meh” exactly captures my feelings about oratress here, as also authoress recently.

    Still, I recently watched an Italian TV program with subtitles, and had to admire the economy with which the character replied to “do you have children?” with “una”, meaning not just “one”, but specifically “a daughter”!

    1. So will it be Prince Diana in your awoken world? Sorry, Lord Browndog, but I just don’t get it and neither do ‘The Lionesses’!

      Stand-by for incoming!

  8. Pedestrian start, building up to an exciting sprint finish – and what I thought was a definite PB of 15:54 with finishing sequence ORATRESS – HABITAT – INBOARD…
    …but I also biffed SLEDGE fairly early in the solve – and got my just desserts for playing fast ‘n’ loose with this one.

    I seem to remember there was a very similar SLEDGE / SLEIGH ambiguity a couple of months ago, but I failed to learn the lesson. There was also a discussion, more recently, about words such as OPHTHAL- derivatives containing PHTH – and that one served me well. Anyway, that was tremendous fun – thanks Jack and setter

    1. I parsed 8d as S..L being the EDGE of SKILL. The crossers fit and I solve the paper version so no pink squares.

  9. I might’ve done this faster than my 23 minutes if I hadn’t foolishly put the wrong enumeration in at 17a and found myself looking for a MINOR or MINER something rather than a MINING something. D’oh. Still, everything else was pretty easy so my mistake became obvious once I’d filled in the rest.

    I did vaguely remember CREON at 1d. I thought of the Australian tea tree when looking at the leftover “TI” but according to Chambers, the “ti” is “Sometimes also applied (wrongly) to the Australian tea tree” so I was barking up the wrong tree…

  10. Sort of completed in 50 min, with two short ODYSSEUS and INTELLIGENTSIA. I had the ending as ISTA looking for something like Guardianista, fashionista or even Corbynista.

    CREON + IT, two words I was miles away from knowing. Only Theban king I know is Oedipus. Also, turns out I can’t spell ophthalmic and its derivatives.

    Liked DO ONES OWN THING, not least as RD Blackmore is an ancestor of mine.

  11. 14 minutes with LOI MINING ENGINEER on what was mainly a top to bottom solve. I happened on the TAT of TATAMI as a first thought and stuck with it. CREATION was a biff and the prior existence of ART TATUM was also assumed, though I did think I might have heard of him. COD to OPHTHALMOSCOPE because I spelt it right. I hope I did this time too. Good fun. Thank you Jack and setter.

  12. At the easier end. Quite a lot of retrospective parsing. Liked SLEIGH when I saw it. Do cabbies still frown at going south of the river?

    1. I think it’s more just a sharp intake of breath, and then, « traffics very ‘eavy over there, Guv »!

  13. 18:38
    That Creon made some seriously bad calls.
    Straightforward solve.
    Thanks, jack.

  14. 21 min for a fairly straightforward puzzle
    Like some others I put in sledge and didn’t check the parsing
    Didn’t know oratress was a word
    Liked 19d my LOI

  15. Riffled through this pretty quick; under 10, anyway. And spent some of that wondering who Loma was. How I hate that font! It fails at the most basic level.
    Thank you for the link to Art Tatum, Jack .. he is/was indeed very clever; not my cup of ti though

  16. 15:27, which just makes it onto my top 10 fastest solves (though my number 1 is an error, possibly from QC). Many biffs including unknown Theban and tree, OPHTHALMOSCOPE, EASTERNMOST, ODYSSEUS and INTELLIGENTSIA. Is that really a synonym for the shadowy group who control us all according to the conspiracy junkies?

    A fun romp: thank you setter, and thanks Jack for enlightening this unilluminated one.

    1. I’ve wondered about my supposed fastest time before which looks odd given the crossword number. Just checked and it’s a Saturday concise. Curious as to how the SNITCH picked it up.

      1. Is it from the week beginning 11 April this year? The average SNITCH for that week is a mystifyingly low 67

  17. 17:10

    Enjoyed this one, especially 10a (cute wordplay) and 14a with its double definition of “listeners”.

  18. 7:30. Romped through this one on one of my fastest times biffing a couple… I forgot to parse 2D after bunging in the answer from the checkers and first word of the clue. DNK the plant TI. Thanks jack and setter. {Edit: Damn!. Just seen I had MATAMI not TATAMI for 20D, so a DNF].

  19. I was set the task this year of completing the crossword in less than an hour. Well at 45 minutes today is the day. Always disheartening to see the Snitch so low but I will take it. Thanks to the blog I am on the up.

  20. 19m 40s. A Monday puzzle for a Tuesday!
    Thank you, Jack, for CREATION and INTELLIGENTSIA.
    Row 1: With all his travels and travails, I’m sure he was.

  21. 30 mins but, another SLEDGE here. Clearly not properly parsed (also thought « edge » for skill).

    LOI ORATRESS. I liked the long clues, plus ODYSSEUS and CRABBY which is how I feel.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  22. 05:26, and metaphorically patting myself on the back for having S_E_G_ as my last one to solve and refusing to follow my instinct to biff SLEDGE. The gods of crossword smile on me for my ability to acquire good habits, albeit quite late in life. Didn’t know the TI tree, but relied on smug classics knowledge of CREON to make it seem the only plausible answer. Brief but entertaining ride.

  23. I also had SLEDGE, finishing in 21 minutes and being disappointed to find that it was SLEIGH, obviously right. I justified my mistake by thinking of sledging at cricket: the people sledging are making the batter ineffective, so taking away a lot of their skill. Yes I know, but I just thought it was a pathetic clue; never thought of the correct answer. A bit slowed by ‘ophth…’, entering ‘opth…’ and falling short.

  24. 15A minor quibble from a medical pedant: an ophthalmoscope is for looking at retinae not pupils. A pupil is a hole so there’s nothing to see. But then the joke wouldn’t work, so I have to forgive the setter.

  25. 17 mins, although I confess to coming here to confirm CREATION before submitting, NHO any of the cryptic. Methinks the editor got Monday and Tuesday mixed up?

  26. An hour or so to be defeated by ORATRESS and SLEIGH (I had ‘sledge’ semi parsed as runner = edge).

    Slowly getting there, closer to completing puzzles that even on first pass I think “don’t know where to start”. Wading through and thoroughly enjoying the view as I do so.

    Thanks for the great blogging Jackkt.

  27. 10:58, with CREATION put in as a place-holder and never revisited. I also briefly wondered who or what Loma was as 5d wrote itself in.

  28. 12:46. I went the wrong way with SLEDGE/SLEIGH last time which fortunately I remembered and so took pause for thought this time. Took me a fair while to see the cryptic though. Maybe I should have seen it sooner having watched a close up magician last night!

  29. Only just found this wonderful site. Very much at the level where finishing is an achievement and anything around an hour is par – so when compared to the esteemed company I see here I am well and truly at the back of the sports day 1500 metres race where the supporters are giving you the sympathetic cheering as you gasp down the home strait!
    Delighted therefore to finish in 20.21 and to have had similar experiences to others such as sledge/sleigh (I was strict with myself and could not parse with sledge) and the spelling of opthhttpphthalmoscope. Creation was LOI due to my amateur knowledge of classics. Will be reviewing stride pianists on You Tube this afternoon.
    Great fun and thanks to all

    1. Welcome, TIL! A 20.21 finish suggests that you underestimate your solving abilities. Hope to hear more from you in the future, now that you have found us.

  30. A lot easier than yesterday’s as far as I’m concerned. The only minor hold-ups were ORATRESS and MINING ENGINEER. 22 minutes.

  31. Straightforward 23 minute solve today, though with INTELLIGENTSIA unparsed. Thanks to setter and blogger.

  32. This should have changed places with Monday’s offering. No hold ups but I never time myself – these things should be savoured like a good meal.

  33. Hello all, first post here, at what seems a very genial site. My crossword moniker is Semillon, but I use Philoctetes elsewhere in the paper (a reference to a smashed foot and ankle). This puzzle was right up my street, and for a while I thought I might break 6 minutes for only the second time.

    I liked the classical Greek nods. Ophthalmos is of course the Greek for ‘eye’. On the subject of pupils, the Ancient Greek word kora (κόρᾱ) had meanings including ‘girl, maiden’ and ‘pupil of the eye’, which always makes me think of the phrase ‘apple of my eye’ for some reason.

    Other clues I enjoyed were Illyrian, which anyone forced to study Twelfth Night at school will be familiar with (“what land is this?…”), and tatami, one of a few Japanese words it’s handy to know for The Times cryptic.

    I romped home in 6’09”, giving me a smugly low NITCH of 36 and WITCH of 56. No doubt I shall hit the ground with a bump tomorrow!

    1. Welcome to, as you say, a very genial site.

      Sémillon is a very acceptable moniker to a life-long wine drinker.

    2. Your moniker is a nice memory of the play I studied for Greek A-Level. Don’t remember much about it apart from the gammy foot. Anyway nice to see your post and always happy to be reminded of some Classical references

      1. In Paul Scott’s novel sequence ,The Raj Quartet ( made into the TV series The Jewel in the Crown) ,near the end of the last novel one of the main characters,Hari Kumar, uses Philoctetes as his journalistic pen name. According to some legends Philoctetes had a wound to his foot that wouldn’t heal and began to smell so badly his shipmates abandoned him on a deserted island. As Kumar doesn’t fit into either British or Indian society, he uses this pseudonym to reflect his outcast status.

  34. Nearly gave up with one left but managed to get ORATRESS at the end of my allotted hour.
    No problem starting: FOI EASTERNMOST, then Lorna Doone.
    Sledge has caught me out before and was altered to SLEIGH. Can’t spell Opthalm … so that caused a delay.
    TATAMI has come up before; I vaguely remembered it. I managed to dredge up lots of Scottish rivers but not the Don.
    Pleased to finish.

  35. Easy until I reached the NHO TATAMI. Failure therefore. Irritating, because would have completed in 28 mins. Liked ILLYRIAN and ODYSSEUS.

  36. A lot of quick times today, and I followed suit by completing in 18.50. Although having seen some of the speed merchants times, this looks pretty pedestrian!
    I wasn’t at all sure of the parsing of 1dn, thinking can TI really be a palm like plant? Other than that pretty plain sailing with 9dn my LOI.

  37. Started with CRABBY and finished with MINING ENGINEER. Remembered the extra H in the optical instrument. The ENGINEER was held up by a misspelled ENVELOPEMNT, but arrived quickly when I spotted that. Remembered TATAMI from a previous puzzle. Another afternoon solve still in the top 100 on the leaderboard. 16:57. Thanks setter and Jack.

  38. 5:26. Pretty plain sailing today. We did Anouilh’s Antigone at school and I have somehow remembered Creon from that, but I didn’t really need him. Like others I benefitted from a recent SLEIGH/SLEDGE failure and the discussion about PHTH words.

  39. 12.49 with a few stumbles over creation and otatress. Vaguely recalled Creon and that was good enough without working out where still fitted in. Oratress isn’t a word I can recall encountering before but the cluing led to conviction. Opth etc was a fill in and hope the spelling was right.
    COD Odysseus.
    Enjoyed feeling on the wavelength today after a week of angst beforehand.
    Thx setter and blogger.

  40. Sailed through this quite happily and then tripped over the sledge.

    When did the expression “Do one!” as a term of aggression first come about? Is it just a London thing?

    Thanks to Jack and the setter

  41. 11:18 this afternoon – and keyed in correctly, after this morning’s hamfistedness (obviously still niggling)
    I’d agree with views expressed above that this was a “Monday Level” puzzle – maybe the new crossword editor is steering away from a predictably easier day and a harder day during the week?
    FOI 1 ac “crabby” and then worked my way round the grid – perhaps taking overlong for a few of the longer clues – before returning to the NW corner and LOI 1 d “creation”, which I got from the definition and the crossers, my GK not being up to either element of the cryptic part of the clue. Thanks Jack for the enlightenment.
    Particularly liked both 14 ac “earplug” and 19 d “inboard”. Newcomers might note that boa and stole are regularly interchangeable in crossword puzzles.
    Thanks to setter and to Jack for his blog

    1. I can’t recall hearing anything recently from Times management on the subject, but in the past it has often been denied that there is a policy that any day of the week should be easier than any other. From personal observation I have the impression that Friday tends to be harder more often than not, but I’ve no data to back that up.

      The Times Crossword Editor is still Richard Rogan who has been in the seat for some years now. The recent change of personnel was the arrival of Mick Hodgkin as Puzzles Editor (replacing David Parfitt) whose title suggests he has wider responsibilities than the Crossword Editor, but whether he’d be in a position to instigate a change such as the one you have suggested, I wouldn’t know.

      1. Wasn’t the original reason for the SNITCH to test whether the “no days are favoured for easy or hard puzzles” statement was accurate?

        1. It was, and there is a clear trend for puzzles to take longer to solve on average as the week goes on. This isn’t necessarily evidence for a deliberate policy though.

          1. OK so I did a quick and dirty analysis:

            – Copied and pasted the SNITCH history into a spreadsheet
            – Split it into different complete years back to 2018
            – Summed the columns for each day of the week Mon through Fri

            And here are the numbers

            4108 4581 4893 5122 5942

            3900 4690 4967 5049 5842

            4233 4775 5217 5216 5664

            4524 5019 5543 5345 5941

            And on average…

            – Mondays always easiest, Fridays always hardest
            – Gets easier through the week, except that Wed and Thu are pretty close, and don’t always comply with the rule
            – Some evidence of overall decrease in difficulty over the last 4 years

            Disclaimer – I’m not a great statistician, and I did this in a few minutes, so I may be misunderstanding something or using invalid methodology

            1. There is a clear trend for people to take longer on average to solve the puzzles as the week goes on, but I’m not convinced that this is because they get harder, much less that it’s the product of a deliberate policy. Apart from anything else I don’t think this is an effect you could produce consistently if you tried, so I think something else must explain it. People getting more tired as the week goes on? An increasing propensity to be solving with a hangover? I have no idea!

              1. As a retired person to whom every day of the week is the same, give or take: my NITCH/WITCH follows the SNITCH reasonably well. Some outliers, where I’m right on or right off the wavelength or don’t know an answer, but generally I find Mondays easiest Fridays hardest. I reckon the SNITCH is a pretty good indicator of difficulty.
                But I definitely agree increasing difficulty through the week isn’t an effect you could produce if you tried, for a one-off week. I do think as an editor you could produce that effect on average over a year, though. Cold-solve all the puzzles as you received them and rank them as time taken being the measure of difficulty. There’d be some outliers, but on average I think that would work.

  42. Oh well, such are the vagaries of crosswords. I had no trouble with Oratress on the first pass, and even remembered Art Tatum from an LP my brother had – Jazz just wasn’t my thing – but loi Creation only went in because this scientist couldn’t make a word with Cheop or Cleo in, and by then was fed up trying to think of anything else that would fit. However I was another Sledge victim (S, L being the edges of skill. . . 🙄). Close, but definitely no panatella today. Invariant

  43. About 30 minutes, well, 31 1/2 if you count the time spent proofreading, time well spent since I couldn’t justify any wordplay for SLEDGE and then saw SLEIGH. Otherwise nothing that really stands out — listening to Art Tatum play “Tea for Two” after reading this blog is perhaps the most enjoyable thing about this puzzle. (As an afterthought: the DIS(S)ENT ANGLE was nice, too.)

  44. 19.2o

    5 minutes on MINING ENGINEER. Couldn’t see the latter word for wangle nor what China was doing there. Got there in the end

    Liked it apart from the unnecessary cross-referenced clue. I like a smooth surface and they never are. Nice PDM when ORATRESS hove into view

    Thanks setter and Jackkt

  45. My second recent venture from the QC into 15×15-land and with checking each answer to see if I was on the right track, I managed all but 16d. Shame not to get the LOI but something of an achievement to eventually get the rest. It must have been one of the unusually easy ones…

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