Times Cryptic 28514


Solving time: 26 minutes


A strange but enjoyable mix of the very easy and the downright devious. I liked it a lot!

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 Stirrer good with big drink (6)
G (good), OS (big – outsize e.g. of clothing), SIP (drink). There are many ways of stirring up trouble, but gossiping can certainly do it.
5 Bridge partners whack in diamonds, for example (8)
NS (Bridge partners) + TAN (whack) contained by [in] ICE (diamonds)
9 Starting to feel  12 down (8)
Two meanings. 12dn, as we shall see, is ‘appropriate’ which in the sense of ‘fitting’ or ‘suitable’ can define ‘becoming’.  Cross-referenced clues seem to be creeping into Times puzzles more frequently now; I wish they wouldn’t.
10 Cut   stick (6)
Two meanings. It’s curious that ‘cleave’ can mean both ‘split apart’ and ‘stick together’.
11 Smooth piece in gritty construction (10)
SAND (smooth e.g. woodwork), CASTLE (piece in chess unless you’re a purist). A great definition!
13 Book  plays a part (4)
Two meanings. The first being The Acts of the Apostles, Book V of the New Testament.
14 Chicken with monkey (4)
W (with), IMP (monkey via mischief maker). The definition via ‘coward’.
15 Flat fruit consumed by Frenchman (4-1-5)
DATE (fruit) contained [consumed] by PIERRE (Frenchman). Defined by SOED as a small town house, flat, or room used for short periods of residence.
18 Stone again powdered in incense (10)
Anagram [powdered] of STONE AGAIN. Not  an anagrind I can recall seeing before and it’s not listed by Chambers but they have ‘pulverize’ which amounts (or reduces) to much the same thing.
20 Turned sinister in front of an audience (4)
EVIL (sinister) reversed [turned]
21 Norse text where snake briefly recalled (4)
ADDE{r} (snake) [briefly] reversed [recalled]. A word I know only from crosswords. Poems and myths etc.
23 Quite level, tray I gathered (10)
Anagram [gathered] of LEVEL TRAY I
25 Programme oven, maintaining limit (6)
AGA (oven – brand name) containing [maintaining] END (limit)
26 Rabid eccentric in short time getting a piece of one’s mind! (8)
Anagram [eccentric] of RABID contained by [in] MIN (short time)
28 Love inspired by god as a consequence in temple (8)
O (love) contained [inspired] by PAN (god) + THEN (as a consequence)
29 Children’s game introduced to adult female in later years (6)
TAG (children’s game) contained by [introduced to] DOE (adult female – a deer, a female deer….)
2 Time invested in alternative campaign (9)
ERA (time) contained by [invested in] OPTION (alternative)
3 Rose   jilted (5,2)
Two meanings
4 Letter from Heraklion as acidic as can be? (3)
pH1 (as acidic as can be)  with reference to the  pH scale used for denoting this. If I remember correctly, the last time this came up on my watch there was some dissent in the ranks and since my knowledge of the matter is very limited I’m staying out of any further discussion.
5 Block overlooking other houses (5)
{overlook}ING OT{her} hides [houses] the answer to the clue.
6 A chap’s followed on infiltrating cult, one working undercover (6,5)
RE (on) contained by [infiltrating] SECT (cult), then A, GENT (chap)
7 Common prayer prefaces storm (7)
AVE (prayer), RAGE (storm). The prayer Ave Maria (aka Hail Mary) can be referred to as ‘Ave‘. Something that’s typical or normal can be said to be ‘common’ or ‘average’.
8 Scent what one might do with flour, did you say? (5)
Sounds like [did you say?] “sieve it” (what one might do with flour). I knew civet as an animal but not as the strong musky perfume extracted from its anal glands.
12 Lay claim to  right (11)
Two meanings. I think the first one goes further than just laying claim to something; it actually involves taking possession.
16 Priest in labour exchange initially upset (3)
I{n} +  L{abour} + E{xchange} [initially] reversed [upset]. A relatively minor character in the bible who punches way above his weight in Crosswordland as barely a week goes by without him showing up defined simply as ‘priest’.
17 Horrid,   that which Wat Tyler was doing? (9)
Two meanings. Wat Tyler was the leader of the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381.
19 On a second time, second time! (7)
AGAIN (a second time), S (second), T (time). I’m leaning on a lamp post…
20 At any point punching allowed for lightweight boxer? (7)
EVER (at any point – did you ever?) contained by [punching] LET (allowed). A leveret is a young hare, and hares are famous for their boxing rituals. ‘Lightweight’ fits nicely with the boxing theme of the clue and also indicates that the answer is not a fully-grown creature. I found the following interesting: ‘Most people would assume that boxing is the courtship display of male hares, eager to prove themselves a worthy mate to females. It may surprise you to find out that it’s in fact the females who instigate boxing as a way to fend off the mating urges of the males’. You can see hares boxing here.
22 Puppy feeder perhaps in principle? (5)
A puppy feeder may be a DOG MA! Geddit?
24 Yellow  turkey (5)
Two meanings. A colour, and something that’s bad or sub-standard.
27 Parent at the start of the sixth century? (3)
Taking the first D as a Roman numeral, D AD (Anno Domini) would be the year 500 (the start of the sixth century)

76 comments on “Times Cryptic 28514”

  1. 20:18
    About 8 minutes of that time were taken up with 2d and 9ac, much to my annoyance. The rest of the puzzle was pretty easy, although I didn’t parse 6d SECRET AGENT until after submitting. An MER on APPROPRIATE; as Jack says, ‘lay claim to’ doesn’t really define it.
    ACTS is the 5th book of the New Testament, coming after the 4 Gospels.
    And the 6th century started in 501, not 500.

    1. My slip of the finger re ACTS, now corrected. I knew there was a problem with DAD because the century/millennium thing was widely discussed as the year 2000 approached, but as with the pH1 thing, I wasn’t going to get into all that again.

      1. From a Library of Congress publication:
        As historians and others involved in measuring time continue to remind us, there was no year 0. In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1. To complete a century, one must complete 100 years; the first century of our era ran from the beginning of A.D. 1 to the end of A.D. 100; the second century began with the year A.D. 101.

        1. I fear that this is a battle lost, rather like ‘when is Easter Saturday?’ or ‘how do you write, in symbols, square kilometres?’. For the ‘millennium’ it was of course the marketeers who got in first and controlled the narrative.

  2. Quirky and ineteresting, and as usual educational. Didn’t know leverets boxed or that a civet was a scent as well as an animal, so civet was LOI. Was a bit discombobulated by the “a” in the midbrain clue, tempted to go for the medical momble MODARBIA, the ‘short time getting a’ being MO-A. Fortunately sanity prevailed.
    Liked the sandcastle and the secret agent.

    1. I tried Modarbia too – though I think I had a different organisation of the wrong letters.

  3. Cleave brought to mind other words which have two exact opposite meanings; “Yeah, Yeah” (compare your teenage child with your tennis partner), and “soldier” as a verb (in ‘Murcan it can mean to laze about, deriving from the USN’s views of their sister service) come to mind. If today’s clues had been easier I wouldn’t have had time during my solve to think about that, and if they’d been harder I wouldn’t have been able to think about anything abstract. So well balanced, except for the cross reference. thanks, jack

    1. Never heard (that I can recall) that sense of “soldier”!
      But it’s in Collins.

    2. I was reminded of the discussion last week about forego/forgo. People dislike ambiguity in cases like that (see also ‘disinterested’) but you never hear objections to words like this which have two diametrically opposed meanings. More or less every word in the language has multiple meanings but we navigate this sort of ambiguity all the time, using context to work out what the speaker or writer means. The same principle applies to debates about the Oxford Comma.

      1. I am reminded of the allegedly unique “antiphone”, a homophone with an antonymic meaning, as RAISE, RAZE.

  4. 44 minutes. A lot of that spent on the not very difficult OPERATION and in deciding if 8d was CIVET or “civit”, eventually deciding on what I knew to be a proper word. I’d never heard of hares boxing (great video – thanks) so LEVERET went in from wordplay.

    Good old ELI; rELIable as ever.

  5. 31m 53s
    I agree with you, Jack, about cross-referenced clues.

    1. Does anyone remember a puzzle from a certain other organ (where they figure regularly) many years back, where every clue cross-referenced another? That was admittedly rather OTT, but I have nothing against them in principle, even though they’re a bit annoying. I seem to recall that I somehow managed to complete that puzzle. Lord knows how, and I certainly set no records.

  6. 14:18. What Jack said – a mix of tricky clues and easy ones. As I started I thought this was going to be tough but then there were a couple of write-ins in PIED-A-TERRE and REVOLTING which helped to unlock the harder ones.
    I did know CIVET as a scent but I didn’t get it until I was doing an alphabet trawl for the second letter of C___T. I think I also knew the scent was from its anal glands which is rather off putting – “would sir care for a squirt of cat bum secretion?”

    1. Indonesians sell civet coffee as a delicacy – the beans are swallowed whole by the civets then excreted, and collected from the dung by coffee farmers.

      1. I was aware of the coffee but I didn’t realise that was also the civet. It has a versatile rest end!

  7. Both my eyebrows stayed imperturbably level when I read the clue for APPROPRIATE, for which the first automatic Google result includes: « take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. | “his images have been appropriated by advertisers” » and Collins: « to take for one’s own use, esp illegally or without permission »—if you ask me, taking something without permission is not “actually taking possession” (though of course I can’t claim to know exactly what Jackkt meant by “actually”) but is certainly “laying claim to,” as per the clue.
    I enjoyed this a lot. LEVERET was a leap, or hop, of faith, but seemed pretty sure.
    INGOT got in as POI, LOI being BECOMING.
    All very nice, no complaints.

    1. The Chambers definition ‘to take to oneself as one’s own’ aligns most closely with how I think of this word: it conveys a sense of assumed entitlement. In that sense ‘lay claim to’ is accurate.

  8. LEVERET was a leap of faith for me too, since I knew nothing of hares boxing (or even whether it might be a name, like colt in some sports, for a boxer under some age limit). A couple of other definitions were a little loose, as others have noted, but not so loose that it held me up. 36 minutes for me. I’m not very fond of cross-referenced clues, but it’s nothing new, The Times has done it occasionally for years. Let’s hope we don’t get to the Guardian level of cross referencing, where sometimes the entire crossword is impossible until you get some key clue that is cross-referenced many times, and then the whole crossword becomes trivial.

  9. 30 minutes exactly with LOI ANTAGONISE, failing to spot the anagram indicator for the duration. I liked SANDCASTLE, the construction of one being a pointless exercise, much like crossword solving. But after some thought, I twigged why the constructed LEVERET was correct, so that’s my COD. Thank you Jack and setter.

  10. I enjoyed this one. 34mins. Definite head scratching at some clues, mostly mentioned above. LOI BECOMING. OPERATION and APPROPRIATE also caused delays. I liked the (3) very concise clues and the clever SANDCASTLE.

    PIED-À-TERRE was naturally a write-in.

    Loved the hares, Jack. Thanks.

  11. Does one’s MIDBRAIN solve crosswords? It might
    Be APPROPRIATE, BECOMING, and right.
    In my DOTAGE, I know,
    I will LIVE till I go,
    In rage AGAINST the dying of the light.

  12. 21′ 16″, with at least four minutes spent on OPERATION / BECOMING, LOsI.

    I have been close to hares boxing, an awesome sight – what jack tells us now makes sense of the memory.

    Thanks jack and setter.

  13. 6:14. On the wavelength for this one. I also had the very unusual experience of actually noticing a typo (REVOLLING) when checking my answers, so a good morning all round.

  14. DNF as I plumped for ‘civit’ rather than the unknown CIVET. Hadn’t heard of LEVERET either (assumed there was an actual boxer by that name), and took ages to see BECOMING. Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Antagonise

  15. 21 minutes, steady solve no hold-ups or disputes, nice puzzle nice blog. LEVERET and MIDBRAIN were particularly good. Our dog was chasing a hare this morning, Spring is coming already.

  16. Enjoyed this. I agree with the Millennial comments, but it seems to be a battle lost, like the incorrect pronunciation of kilometre to rhyme with speedometer.
    I don’t mind the odd cross-reference, but it is something that is easily overdone. One reason why I no long bother with the Grauniad.
    Tried the civet coffee, couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Tried Blue Mountain too, ditto, except until I bought some dark roast BM coffee which was truly exceptionally good.

    1. I’ve noticed only one Guardian setter cross-referencing to excess in the couple of years since I started solving their puzzles every day, and that’s Paul. The strange thing is that I now look forward to his offerings (there’s one today) as they provide me with a different sort of challenge. But I’m still all for keeping The Times crossword completely free of cross-references.

      1. Not so strange, I think. I have exactly the same view of Paul’s cross-reference puzzles: fun once in a while, but the appeal could quickly pall.
        I didn’t like this cross-reference at all: it adds nothing as far as I can see. The clue could have been ‘starting to feel fit’.

  17. This one clicked into place and I got through in a very fast, for me, 25 mins.
    Dnk CIVET but, with the crossers, the clue made it straightforward. The crossers also sorted out EDDA. Technical issues aside, I loved DAD and also DOGMA. Took a while to be comfortable with campaign=operation until I settled on the military sort. Thanks for the blog.

    1. I was in the same place until I recalled the (topical) use of the words “special OPERATION” by Mr Putin.
      Or was it Vlad the Impaler?

  18. Starting with GOSSIP, I made fairly rapid progress through this puzzle until I was left with 18a, 2d and 9a. AGAINST also took a while to see. I eventually spotted the correct anagrist for ANTAGONISE, then OPERATION appeared through the mist. An intense stare at _E_O_ING finally revealed BECOMING. Liked LEVERET. MER at APPROPRIATE, and a shrug at D for 6th Century. 19:19. Thanks setter and Jack.

  19. 27:56

    After a fast start, the famine. Had five left after 20 mins, taking nearly 8 more minutes to push through. SANDCASTLE went in first, but then couldn’t think of an APPROPRIATE word to fit the checkers of APPROPRIATE – doh! Only having filled that in did I see that 18a was an anagram. OPERATION followed shortly after and then a final few minutes coming up with BECOMING. Like the chasers on tv quiz show The Chase, once knocked out of one’s stride, it’s not always easy to pick up the rhythm again.

  20. 23:26. I loved this one, whizzed through it, perhaps because I didn’t have much time to spare as I have other things to do today. Whatever. DNK EDDA but it didn’t hold me up. I liked SECRET AGENT and SANDCASTLE.

    Thank you Jacket for the blog, especially the parsing of DAD (nuff said) and the reminder of “I’m leaning on a lamppost..” even though I can’t figure out the connection with 19dn

  21. Another puzzle where I made good progress early on, only to falter at the end. CLEAVE, DOTAGE and LEVERET were all late solves, but the ones that held me up at the end were BECOMING and ANTAGONISE. A nicely deceptive definition for the latter, but I thought the clue to BECOMING was poor. If the synonymity is between BECOMING and APPROPRIATE (which it appears to be) then I don’t see the function of ‘to feel’. The wording of the clue implies the wordplay is BE COMING. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    40 minutes.

    A postscript. I realized after posting that the definition for BECOMING is ‘starting to feel’ so apologies to setter.

  22. 27:50 with a good deal of that on OPERATION and BECOMING. Some crafty clues, but not entirely convinced by all of them, including the oft aforementioned APPROPRIATE.

  23. Rather tricky in places, this. NHO CIVET in that sense, but couldn’t see what else would fit. Spent far, far too long getting the really rather easy (in hindsight) OPERATION and APPROPRIATE. Knew that hares box, so LEVERET went in quickly. Liked DOGMA, DAD and PHI.

  24. 24 minutes for an apparently fairly straightforward crossword. MER at the mind-brain equation at 26ac, which some would definitely question; also of course at the castle = chess piece at 11ac; the brand name at 25ac; average = common in 7dn (reminds me of Australian cricket commentators using ‘ordinary’ as a criticism), but most of these will be in at least some of the dictionaries, so we’ll have to live with them. I agree with Jack about cross-references and hope this isn’t the thin end of the wedge.

    1. Yes, the mind/brain thing was another in this puzzle that I didn’t want to touch, along with pH1 and the sixth century. Oh, and castle/rook. These things recur over the years and it’s all been said, but I can’t remember exactly what and by whom. Best avoided, at least by this duty blogger!

      1. The objections to mind/brain and castle/rook rely on an (invalid, IMO) insistence that specialist meanings trump general or colloquial usage. The pH thing seems more of a straightforward error.

  25. I was quickly into the groove for this one and enjoyed many of the clues. I do not mind the occasional cross-reference. It annoys me less than answers such as ADMIN. Total time was 23 minutes.
    Thanks to jackkt and other contributors.

  26. I would agree with Guy that APPROPRIATE was entirely appropriate in the way it is clued. Once I had it, BECOMING, which I’d bifd but not entered, was confirmed. SW corner was the last to fall, looking very blank for a long time. However, AGAINST finally suggested itself with the A and N, giving PANTHEON, followed immediately by DOGMA and LOI EDDA, which I hadn’t thought of, being fixated on finding a snake beginning ‘agas…’! This felt a bit like a Sunday puzzle to me – I wondered if one of the three Sunday regulars had produced it, though there were some easier clues as well.

  27. 18:48. I enjoyed it, and I suspect I wasn’t too grumpy with various slightly loose definitions and devices because I didn’t spend too long (for me) on them – I get and agree with a general sentiment above that this puzzle might have felt a little Guardian-ish in various ways. Not inherently bad, but it’s definitely good to have clear separation in styles.

    LOI INGOT – I have an annoying inability to spot hidden words. Favourite was AGAINST – always fun to untangle a tangle. Thanks jack & setter

  28. 17dn reminds me of one of my favourite jokes:

    Q: Who led the Pedants’ Revolt?

    A: Which Tyler

  29. 15:27
    I liked this a lot and I think Jack’s description – a mixture of the very easy and the downright devious – is spot on. MIDBRAIN was new to me . COD PIED-A-TERRE.

    Always fascinated by words like CLEAVE that have contradictory meanings; I’ve heard them referred to as either antagonyms or contronyms. They are a gift for crossword setters

    Thanks to Jack and the setter.

        1. Sick? I just googled ‘antagonym’ and saw this, and linked it without looking it over.

  30. I’ll take up the mantle of pedant on the pH clue- there’s no mimumum pH; and Fluoroantimonic acid
    is something like a -20 on the scale. So, er, less than 1.

    1. Well done! I knew it was wrong and somebody would pick up on it but it’s a subject beyond my ken and I only remembered that a similar clue some time ago attracted criticism from people who know about these things.

  31. Took a while …
    I thought this was a tricky challenge, with shades of Dean about it.
    Spent an absolute age figuring out BECOMING and OPERATION.
    Thanks, jack.

  32. Finished a few seconds outside target at 45.08, having greatly enjoyed this one. My sense of satisfaction was short lived however when I discovered that I had for the umpteenth time this last four or five weeks got one letter wrong. Like others I had carelessly put in CIVIT, when I perfectly well knew the correct spelling. I think someone suggested the other day there should be an OWL club (One Wrong Letter). If this were in existence, I would be it’s most devoted member! ☹️

  33. Enjoyable after lunch solve. LOI was CIVET after correcting CUVET and CIVIT.
    Could not parse DAD -thanks for that; very tricky.
    Thought 1a had to be WHISK (a stirrer) Y for a long time.
    Much to like in this. Maybe COD to GOSSIP.

  34. I loved this 15×15. FOI was PIED A TERRE , LOI INSTANCE.

    Enough solves between domestic chores to refresh the whatever part of 26ac or another part of the brain bored us in neuroanatomy lectures.

    There are beautiful drawings/ paintings of boxing hares .

    Thanks to setter and blogger.

  35. 20.25 so a darn site better than yesterday. Had most difficulty in the SW but grasping that my odds was a misremembered edda helped get me going again.
    COD dogma- woof, woof.
    Thanks setter and blogger.

  36. My brother — who did English at A-level back in the day — had a copy of the Elder Edda, and I always wondered who the younger one was. I see now it was a key influence on Tolkein. 15’31” with a narrowly-avoided BEHOVING at 9ac.

  37. Went wrong with 2d and that meant no BECOMING or SANDCASTLE. No problems with LEVERET.
    I was all correct yesterday. This seemed more tricky.
    I don’t like the cross referencing type clues.

  38. I really enjoyed this one, despite not nearly finishing it. Clearly lacking the ‘in’ knowledge of reference solvers, I could not see 15a at all (never saw the definition!), but was at home with CIVET and LEVERET, PHI ( not a Physicist!), APPROPRIATE as a synonym of ‘Lay claim to’ or ‘take’, and DAD ( nuff said).
    Felt a light-hearted mess about the clueing which suggested to me a Sunday setter. Liked DOGMA and the “gritty construction” best.

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