Times Cryptic 28490


Solving time: 26 minutes


There was little to delay me here and the clues were mostly interesting and varied.

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 European secretary’s first son at Westminster? (5)
SW1 (Westminster – postal district, London South-West 1), S{ecretary’s} [first], S (son)
4 Distressing start to period in university environment (9)
P{eriod} [start] contained by [in] U (university) + SETTING (environment)
9 Site Maria prepared for a herbaceous plant (9)
Anagram [prepared] of SITE MARIA. I didn’t know this genus which includes sagebrush and wormwood, but I knew Artemis from mythology and that  helped me to place the anagrist correctly.
10 Language left Jones the architect gutted (5)
L, IN{i}GO (Jones the architect) [gutted]
11 Key openings for items in sports programme (6)
E (key), VENTS (openings)
12 Policeman needing information runs in titled lady (8)
GEN (information), then R (runs) contained by [in] DAME (titled lady)
14 Possible battle with fussy kid over veg at duke’s grassland? (10)
GREENS WAR (possible battle with fussy kid over veg), D (duke). I biffed this, then after the clock was stopped I spent ages trying to make sense of the wordplay  until I suddenly realised how uncomplicated it is. Perhaps a bit too fanciful, but the sort of thing one might see in a tabloid newspaper headline
16 A set of books one is opposed to? (4)
A, NT (set of books – New Testament), I (one)
19 People in the Tour de France, for example (4)
Two meanings
20 What misogynists do, given time and promotion? (10)
PREFER MEN (what misogynists do), T (time)
22 Visor from east English certainly possessed first (8)
E (English) + YES (certainly) + HAD (possessed), then E (east). ‘First’ indicates the position of three elements of wordplay ahead of the third E clued by ‘east’.
23 Footballer, perhaps, one settling outside Liverpool at last (6)
PAYER (one settling – a bill) containing [outside] {Liverpoo}L [at last]
26 Squander rupees, becoming more dejected (5)
BLUE (squander), R (rupees)
27 Pernickety person choosing eggs? (9)
Cryptic – nits being eggs
28 Coy about games played in plantation (9)
SHY (coy) containing [about] RUBBER (sets of games played in cards etc )
29 Icy cold, as eels may be, we’re told (5)
Sounds like [we’re told] “jellied” (as eels may be). They are an East End delicacy I have never tried and have no wish to.
1 Forager from South Carolina, one getting his own back (9)
SC (South Carolina), AVENGER (one getting his own back)
2 Man possibly digesting core of dietary fibre (5)
ISLE (of Man possibly) containing [digesting] {die}T{ary} [core of…]
3 Interval in which Jew possibly receives cricket side (8)
SEMITE (Jew possibly) contains [receives] ON (cricket side). It’s the smallest interval between notes in a standard music scale.
4 In part Louis toured a Hebridean island or two (4)
Hidden in [part] {lo}UIS T{oured}. There are six islands in the ‘Uist’ group but the two with Uist in their names are North Uist and South Uist.
5 Skill in mounting shows — HMS Pinafore, for example? (10)
The cryptic hint refers to HMS Pinafore, the craft depicted on stage in the eponymously named comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan
6 Uproar surrounding extremely large Spanish city (6)
TO-DO (uproar) containing [surrounding] L{arg}E [extremely]
7 Good woman in fashionable church: a blissful state for some (9)
G (good) + NORA (woman) contained by [in] IN (fashionable), then CE (church). A reference  to the saying ‘Ignorance is bliss’.
8 Maxim, a banker in Zurich? (5)
Two meanings. We don’t hear much of The Gnomes of Zurich these days but no doubt they still wield power and influence.
13 Lively composition Dawn scored ineptly (5,5)
Anagram [ineptly] of DAWN SCORED
15 Government department’s former auditor mentioned in speech (9)
EX (former) then CHEQUER sounds like [mentioned in speech] “checker” (auditor)
17 Crossed Bury, needing basic food picked up (9)
INTER (bury), then BRED sounds like [picked up] “bread” [basic food]
18 Cross-examining cook over misplaced gin (8)
GRILL (cook), then anagram [misplaced] of GIN
21 Young creature biting a woman’s innocent child (6)
CUB (young creature) containing [biting] HER (a woman’s)
22 European doctor on American board (5)
E (European), MB (doctor), US (American).  A question mark might have been in order here as other modes of transport are available for boarding.
24 Bumpkin acceptable in the Old Bull at last (5)
OK (acceptable) contained by [in] YE (the, old), then {bul}L [at last]
25 Stop anarchist finally entering state (4)
{anarchis}T [finally] contained by [entering] SAY (state)

88 comments on “Times Cryptic 28490”

  1. 15:28
    LOI SWISS went in somewhat hesitatingly; it had to be, but I only had the vaguest memory of SW1. I saw GREENSWARD before I got the wordplay, which I didn’t much care for. My memory was better for BLUE, which I learned here some time ago. After working on 20ac for a while I moved on, only later realizing that I had been thinking ‘misanthrope’ rather than ‘misogynist; PREFERMENT then went right in. GENDARME & GELID biffed, parsed post-submission. Some QC-level clues, like 15d EXCHEQUER, 18d GRILLING. I wondered at first what an EMBUS was.

  2. No problems, but I pronounce GELID differently (second vowel) from “jellied.”
    GREENSWARD is a funny word, because a SWARD can’t be anything but GREEN.
    EMBUS (odd one) was my POI.

    1. That’s why I biffed GELID; and I suspect most people have different vowels ([i] and ‘barred [i]’ ([ɨ]), or [I]).

    2. I pronounce them differently too (longer e sound in ‘jellied eels’) but it’s close enough for me.

        1. Yes. Jelleed eels rather than jellid eels. I pronounce as I would pronounce ‘jelly deals’.

          1. Oh, OK; I wasn’t sure what you meant by ‘e sound’. So you (and I, and most of us) pronounce them ‘jell[i]d (jellied)’ and ‘gel[ɨ]d (gelid)’; not just a difference in length.

            1. Yes that’s right, I wasn’t very clear: what I meant was ‘an e sound that is longer than the i sound in gelid’.

  3. 25 mins. If EMBUS really is a proper word, I think it should be struck off on the grounds of sheer ugliness. Didn’t know the architect but very guessable. Agree that GREENSWARD was poorly clued. Otherwise no problems and allowed myself extra time to avoid silly typos

  4. EMBUS & “board”: An answer, or part of one, can be an example of a clue, or part (CAT, clued “pet,” say), but usually not the other way around (“cat” for PET) without an indicator.

  5. 39m 28s with one pink square.
    I successfully changed INNOCENCE to IGNORANCE in 7d but I left STATECRAFT as it was in 5d. My (obviously incorrect) reading was that HMS Pinafore was in the RN so it was a State Craft! That was my LOI, as well.
    The presence of SEMITE in 3d reminded of the time nearly 40 years ago when I bought a Concise OED from the English language department of a book store in Riyadh. I discovered that one word had been obscured by a neat square of paper. On holding the page up to the light I could see that the word was Arab. The reason for the censorship, obviously by the publisher and not by the local censor, was in the definition: ‘one of the Semitic peoples’. Can’t have that sort of thing bandied around in Saudi!
    I enjoyed PREFERMENT.
    No problem with EMBUS. In the CCF at school, the CO was a very clipped military type who, when us lads went on exercise on Ashdown Forest, was prone to issue clipped commands such as ‘debus’ and EMBUS.
    Thank you for the blog, Jack.

    1. I came close to putting in STATECRAFT on the same reasoning, saw the light just in time.
      I’m not sure I get your SEMITE story; why would OUP censor their own entry? (My ODE sv ‘Arab’ has ‘a member of a Semitic people, …’). I’ve come across Arabs saying, “How can I be an anti-Semite? I am a Semite.”

      1. Hello Kevin, My reasoning is that the OUP thought it might offend local sensibilities if they were described as the same as the Jews. If it had been the local censor at work, the act of censorship would have been just a fairly crude application of a felt-tipped pen. I still have the dictionary but it is still packed away with most of my household goods that I brought over from France; so I can’t verify the exact definition of Semite as per that edition of the dictionary. I think the attitude of the OUP at the time might have been coloured by the attitude of Saudi Arabia towards Israel at the time. It wasn’t that long after the Yom Kippur war and, before that, the Six Day war. There was a denial, in terms of maps, that Israel even existed.

  6. 22 minutes with LOI GENDARME. We run them in. I’m in the setter’s team on the jellied homophone. COD to GREENSWARD. Mind you, I’m on the kids’ side on this one. Sprouts are the devil’s own vegetable. Not hard, but an enjoyable puzzle. Thank you Jack and setter.

    1. Your mention of sprouts reminds me of one time when I visited my company’s Brussels office. Whilst taking lunch in the canteen I saw someone sit down to eat with nothing but a bowl of sprouts. I’m guessing he was best avoided for the rest of the day!

    2. I rather like sprouts, whether boiled to buggery like my mother used to cooked them, or al dente as my wife and I now do them. I still can’t get over the fact that you can buy them in tins here in France. I’m not tempted .

  7. 9:16. With the SNITCH rating under 70 it seems Tuesday is Monday when there is a Bank Holiday. Those words which might be considered obscure – ISTLE, that meaning of GNOME, BLUE for squander – have all appeared enough previously that they are all now readily recalled.
    Like Kevin I wondered what an EMBUS was, and only realised it was a verb on reading Jack’s blog.

  8. 33mins and very enjoyable. LOI GENDARME which, for some odd reason gets me every time! Luckily, EMBUS was easily clued. Yuckky word.

    Knew the plant so no probs there and GELID is fine with me. I liked STAGECRAFT.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  9. Standing aloof in giant ignorance,
    Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades, …

    20 mins pre-brekker. Not keen on Swiss, nor the fussy kid.
    Ta setter and J.

  10. 18:43, fairly straightforward – but can someone help me with BLUE = SQUANDER please? Is it related to “blow”?!

    1. SOED: blue – spend extravagantly, squander.

      It goes on to suggest that it is perhaps from the past tense of ‘blow’

    2. That was my query, too. I take Jack’s point but I think it is fairly low down the list of meanings, certainly in Collins.

  11. Low snitch gives me a chance to get a score of more than 600, which I managed (49:08).

    Why is BLUE=squander, if it’s a homophone for “blew”, where’s the indicator?

    I think of EYESHADE as make up, and was fully expecting one of those Norman French words for part of the visor.



    1. ‘Blue’ meaning ‘squander’ exists in its own right although as mentioned above it may have had its origins in ‘blew’, so a homophone indicator is not required.

  12. 25 minutes or so. Didn’t parse SWISS or GREENSWARD, didn’t know the Inigo Jones referred to in LINGO, and didn’t twig the ‘get on a form of transport’ meaning of EMBUS (I thought there must be some kind of board called an embus, with the emphasis on the first syllable…), but it was straightforward enough otherwise.

    FOI Uist
    LOI Events
    COD Stagecraft

  13. 10:49. Quite gentle but I was held up by putting ANTI in the space for RACE, a biffed INNOCENCE for 7D and a not unreasonable ROASTING for 18D. Nice to see my wife mentioned in 13D and my place of residence in 17D. Thank-you Jackkt and setter.

  14. 24 minutes. Looks like I’m n=2 (so far) with boltonwanderer in liking the wordplay for GREENSWARD which was my COD. It took me a while to realise ‘from east’ in 22a wasn’t a reversal indicator. Happy to have remembered BLUE for ‘squander’ from previous outings here and elsewhere. I’d like to pretend I’ll remember ARTEMISIA for next time but I won’t.

    Thanks to Jack and setter

  15. A gentle one. I didn’t know ARTEMESIA but it was about the only thing that was plausible. I’m in the GELID not sounding like “jellied” but not so far off that it caused me any problems. I read recently that when someone pronounces a rare word wrong that it means they are smart since they read it rather than heard it. I can’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say GELID so does that make me smart? I, too, have never eaten jellied eels and they sound disgusting. But then so do raw oysters, and I love them. I have cycled from the south to the north end of the Western Isles (aka the Outer Hebrides) so I have been to both Uists. Along with approximately one million midges. Eating with a veil is not that easy!

    1. Years ago I heard a friend pronounce “banal” to rhyme with “anal” as he had only ever read it. That made me smile.

      1. In my younger days, I thought “albeit” was pronounced “al byte” because I had only ever seen it in writing (although, through reading, I essentially understood the meaning as although/nevertheless). Luckily, a friend at school put me right without embarrassing me!

      2. I’ve been on the verge of saying “heinous” several times but have always substituted a synonym at the last second instead because I don’t know if it’s high-nous, hee-nous or hay-nous.

      3. A lecturer friend, from a Russell Group university, revealed he once marked a student essay that included the word ‘anyet’ (and yet) several times!

  16. Gentle, but yet again a careless slip, putting in ARTIMESIA.
    Liked STAGECRAFT. Hadn’t twigged the guessed-from-wordplay EMBUS before coming here (it could have been a food or committee for all I knew).
    Otherwise about 17′.
    Thanks jack and setter.

  17. 6:10 but with ARTEMESIA. Pretty sure I have made exactly this mistake before. Edit: I made this mistake in March 2016, and when the same word came up in August of the same year I commented ‘on [the last] occasion I messed up by putting in ARTEMESIA: once bitten…’ Obviously you can forget a bite.

  18. Enjoyed this one. Didn’t know ISTLE but it seemed clear from wordplay. I have no problem with EMBUS – it’s an unattractive word, obv, but I’ve heard it used, esp by military types. GELID worked for me – if you say them quickly enough, it and ‘jellied’ are homophones. Liked PREFERMENT and GENDARME. We run them in, indeed; what with this and Pinafore, was the setter on a G&S riff? 32 mins.

  19. I found this exceptionally easy. For 75% of the clues the main thing holding me up was the speed of my writing.
    13 minutes.

  20. Share a lot of previous comments. Like on EMBUS, I couldn’t see the BUS bit till I read the blog. I had in mind board as in EMERY – in fact EMERY was no doubt working on my subconscience. Didn’t matter, but it is nice to understand finally. GELID doesn’t sound like JELLIED to my ears, but we can stretch a point. BLUE meaning to squander came up a while back, and I remembered it. The GREENSWARD clue I didn’t fully see till later either. Might have been more graceful if the clue had omitted “over veg” and had “dinner-time battle” or something instead. The veg led straight to greens – but then we were left wondering where this fussy kid came into things. Again, it made no difference cos I got there with no difficulty – 9’24”, a welcome under-tenner. Many thanks.

  21. I also liked GREENSWARD and thought it was clever. This went very smoothly with no apparent problems and I was on for one of my faster times, solving my last clue at 18 minutes but being told that I was unlucky. Then it took nearly ten minutes to sort out, because my tablet doesn’t actually tell me where I was “unlucky”. Eventually I realised that statecraft was probably the culprit, silly to put it in at all when there are three plausible s_a_ecraft words, so corrected that and it still said “unlucky”, but that was just a typo, quickly corrected and all was well. How do these people manage to finish in only a few minutes? It seemed to me that everything was just a write-in and yet I still took at least 18 minutes.

  22. Every time ‘blue’ for waste or squander appears it seems there are a few people who have never come across it. I have traced the first time I encountered it to 2011 (puzzle 24,986, also blogged by jackkt!) where it generated a similar reaction. I have never encountered it outside crosswords.

  23. 08:10, which confirmed my brain’s incorrect feeling that today is Monday (I will get back to a proper sense of what day it is eventually, I imagine). Enjoyed the terrible homophone at 29ac and did a little Chas ‘n’ Dave impression to myself. Gertcha!

    1. “Catching a pike and riding me bike, old wooden wheels and a bowl of eels”.
      Pure poetry!

      1. You can use sites like 12ft ladder (Google it – not sure I can post URLs) to get round regional restrictions.

        1. And Australia

          A rare write-in for me, no biffs, twigged meaning of embus after entry, one self correction from roasting to grilling.
          So thank you setter for your benevolence, I’m starting the week cheerily.
          Thanks too for the as-ever welcome blog.

  24. 13:48. Didn’t know – or had forgotten – BLUE as “squander” and I can’t see it in my iPhone Chambers either (though yes it is in the SOED). Presumably it is obsolete (M19) usage.

      1. Noel Coward: ‘Her first son’s debts bled the family white, Her second son blued everything and fled, But imagine the Duchess’s feelings. When her youngest son went Red! …’

  25. 14 mins. Was hoping for a PB but too many unknowns, albeit helpfully clued. COD PREFERMENT, LOI EYESHADE, not because it was hard, just happened to be LOI!

  26. My quickest solve to date. I appreciate the occasional easy one to keep my spirits up. Whether you like sprouts or not depends on whether you are a super taster. I love them (provided they are fresh off the stalk and not overcooked) but my wife and son can’t abide them. I thought the clue in question was clever. My son was definitely the victor in our brief greens war.

  27. Done over one mug of tea. Should have timed it properly. About 30 minutes. Thought the plant tricky so left it to the end; based spelling on ARTEMIS. The NW caused most problems; getting SWISS late on was key.
    BLUE as Squander came up recently; I don’t like it but remembered it.
    COD to GELID; it’s so bad, it’s good.

  28. This did feel more like a Monday offering and some of the SW corner should encourage anyone transitioning from the QC. eg. GRILLING, ANTI, PLAYER, NITPICKER.
    I liked GELID although not jellied eels. OH had 2 oysters a few nights ago from our local fish market. I noted they were selling carp , a traditional Eastern European fare. No eels though.
    Pleased to get ISTLE , only heard of when it was a recent clue.
    Thanks to blogger and setter .

  29. 16:05 but with ARTIMESIA, which I pondered over and decided that ESIA was a more likely ending for a plant. Bah humbug! Thanks Jack.

  30. 17.44

    Not much to add

    I rather liked the GREENSWARD clue. Not sure I’ve come across ISTLE and BLUE in the sense before but the w/p was gentle.

    Thanks all

  31. Clearly not on the wavelength, as I’ve finished harder ones than this. The STAGECRAFT clue eluded me, as did GELID. I had EMBUS though. 2023 not starting well, but didn’t sleep well last night.
    On a positive note, the dishwasher has been repaired, after being out of action over Christmas.

  32. 23 minutes for this, without breaking sweat. Where I come from, ‘gelid’ and ‘jellied’ are indistinguishable, phoneme-wise. ARTEMISIA, EMBUS, and BLUER were new to me but not hard to find from the clues. I am with those who feel the clue for GREENSWARD is a little awkward.

    COD – SEMITONE, and also liked SHRUBBERY.

  33. 24:45. I’m pleased with that after spending 18 minutes on the QC. I tossed a mental coin successfully for ARTEMISIA; without the anagrist I’d have spelled it artemesia

  34. DNF Beaten by a few including PREFERMENT which to my mind is clued misleadingly (and so perhaps inappropriately too) with ‘what misogynists do’ giving ‘prefermen’. To my mind the word has such a very specific meaning of active hatred that it cannot and should not be diluted to such blandness.

    Others that I missed but am kicking myself for include STAGECRAFT, SWISS and SEMITONE.

  35. As said above, this Tuesday was like a Monday job. 19 minutes with a bacon sandwich for lunch. Like the word EMBUS; does it mean to EMBARK is to get on to Noah’s boat?
    My eldest granddaughter Imogen has ARTEMISIA for a middle name, thanks to her father; understandably, she tries to keep it a secret.

  36. 18:08

    Finally back on track again having completed the last three 15x15s this morning. Can at last get on with those New Year resolutions…

    Only ARTEMISIA was new to me, though with four checkers in plus the remaining letters, it was guessable.

    Sure I’ve seen EMBUS and BLUE (for squander) here before so wasn’t fazed.

  37. 29:33. I got nowhere initially in the NW corner, but switched to the SE and made steady progress from there. I’d never come across GNOME meaning MAXIM before. What’s the difference in meaning between the two? I liked GREENS WAR as a phrase, but agree the clue surface was awkward. Thanks b & s.

  38. 29’ plus change, with a good five minutes trying to work the recalcitrant child into GREENSWARD, where surely he or she was not at all necessary to the clue. Like others, a MER at GELID, which eels might perhaps be homophonically in some parts of the north but are definitely not in their east London homeland. And which, frankly, is where this Hampshire lad is content for them to remain.

  39. Put STATECRAFT for my LOI but also made a mistake with the E and I in ARTEMISIA like some other contributors.

  40. A bit sluggish, given the SNITCH, but I often am on the 15×15 – I just get a bit stuck.


  41. I’m in shock. A straight top to bottom solve and a personal best. I’ve actually done both the QC and the 15×15 in a combined time of 6:19 ! The year can only go downhill from here….

    TIME 3:27

    1. Congratulations! Fantastic time! My time was fairly quick for me, but nothing like yours, and in any case, I spelt ARTEMISIA wrong, for which there is no excuse at all.

  42. After congratulating Busman, my own time looks suddenly very pedestrian! Nevertheless, I am pleased to finish in 26.35 which is pretty nippy for me.
    Not really held up by anything apart from initially putting in ROASTING instead of GRILLING. As a result my LOI was PREFERMENT as I had forgotten to return to 18dn, and thus had an O where the middle R should have been in 20ac. Got there in the end though!

  43. I just couldn’t see GNOME so did not finish. GELID, ISTLE (IXTLE) and EMBUS were guesses from the wordplay. EMBUS and ENTRAIN seem to be very ugly and unnecessary words. Do you debus, disbus or disembus? Or disemomnibus perhaps? Thanks for the blog.

    1. At grammar school, the CO of the CCF (Combined Cadet Force) was a very clipped ex-military type. When we were transported to Ashdown Forest to take part in exercises he would command us all to EMBUS or DEBUS as appropriate.

      1. DEBUS it is then! The Oxford dicitionary defines them as “military” so that fits. Thanks.

  44. 21 minutes, with lots of write-ins. NHO of ARTEMISIA but I presumed it was named after the goddess, which gave the correct spelling.

    ‘Gelid eels’ sounds like how a posh person would pronounce it.

  45. 13.17. A nice puzzle to breeze through. Tarried a moment to work out what to do with the fussy kid before cottoning on to greensward. I’m sure there will be a clip somewhere from The Fast Show of Paul Whitehouse and Arabella Weir as the posh cockneys pronouncing jellied eels as the more clipped (in some accents) gelid eels.

  46. As befits the low Snitch, a fairly gentle puzzle at least up until the last pair – Stagecraft (where I dabbled too long with statecraft) and Preferment. The parsing of Greensward was beyond me, but now seems obvious – sprouts cooked al dente, then roughly diced with lashings of black pepper really are quite good 😋. Also, I’m sure I would normally have written blew, but 26ac clearly required blue, so that went in with a shrug. Invariant

  47. DNF. Everything except 1dn finished in 27min, but NHO ISTLE. I should have got it from the wordplay, but had forgotten that man cab mean the isle, and was running through lists of mens names.

  48. Happy to get most of this done before my day started, but failed on GNOME (had forgotten this meaning of maxim), and not working hard enough on GENDARME, which should have been a write-in. Mis-step to start off, with SCION carelessly entered.
    Will do better.

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