Times Cryptic 28526


My solving time was 30 minutes but with one wrong letter in an answer I couldn’t recall although I have met it before. I found the LH side very easy and thought I might be heading for a PB (not that I know exactly what that would be), but the RH side presented me with problems, especially in the NE quarter which remained remarkably empty for far too long.

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 Conscientious dad not out placing bets? (11)
PA (dad), IN (not out), STAKING (placing bets)
7 Sun or Earth: one has to go! (3)
SO{i}L (earth) [one has to go]
9 Vessels from Holland draw fleet out (9)
Anagram [out] of DRAW FLEET
10 Opposed to gang’s leader, or getting on? (5)
AGIN (opposed to), G{ang} [leader]
11 Money put into eg West End’s opening show? (7)
TIN (money) contained by MAE (eg West),  E{nd’s} [opening]
12 Short drink relative knocked back, little one (7)
TODD{y} (drink) [short], then REL (relative) reversed [knocked back]. I can’t say I’m familiar with this abbreviation but it’s in some of the usual sources.
13 London theatre players itch occasionally (5)
{p}L{a}Y{e}R{s} I{t}C{h} [occasionally]. There are two actually, one in Shaftesbury Avenue and the other in Hammersmith.
15 Lover dropped in — see TV set that’s wide (9)
EX (lover dropped), anagram [set] of IN SEE TV
17 Woman fell holding stone dish (5,4)
IRIS (woman), HEW (fell – e.g. a tree) containing [holding] ST (stone – weight)
19 Pagan deity priest continually repelled (5)
FR (priest – Father), then AYE (continually  – for ever) reversed (repelled). This was the answer I got wrong. I had FRE?A in mind but despite several alphabet trawls looking for a 3-letter word A?E meaning ‘continually’ I  failed to come up with AYE. In the end I thought the answer might be FREDA so I plumped for that but with very little confidence. I did vaguely recognise FREYA when I saw the answer, but it turns out it’s a given name anyway, though not one I have come across in person. The goddess has at least two other spellings.
20 Unload bananas, ripe on one side with lumps (7)
Anagram [bananas] of UNLOAD, then R{ipe} [on one side]
22 Check on time for charging first murderer (7)
ON + T (time) enclosed by [charging] CAIN (first murderer).  Cain slew Abel in Genesis with the jawbone of an ass.
24 Mocking but not right, like some columns (5)
I{r}ONIC (mocking) [not right]. One of the classic styles of architecture.
25 One musical man returning is unoriginal (9)
I (one) then EVITA (musical) + TIM (man) reversed [returning]
27 Name dropped by fair lady in garden (3)
EVE{n} (fair – equitable) [name dropped]. Another clue like 22ac with reference to the Book of Genesis.
28 Mum rushes around to stop wit becoming prophet (11)
MA (mum ) + DARTS (rushes) reversed [around] contained by [to stop ] NOUS (wit – intelligence)
1 With quiet tread walk   home (3)
Two meanings
2 One ready to cross loch and land in river? (5)
I (one) + SET (ready) containing [to cross] L (loch). An islet doesn’t have to be in a river but can be, and the DBE is signalled by the question mark.
3 Pocketing a brown, so coming to black? (7)
SIC (so) containing [pocketing] A + TAN (brown)
4 Last word about puzzle: Torquemada’s First Surprise (9)
AMEN (last word of prayer) containing [about] MAZE (puzzle), then T{orquemada’s} [first]. Didn’t know the guy but didn’t need to.
5 Start off well — pint making you clumsy? (5)
{f}INE (well) [start off], PT (pint)
6 Make merry: go further in mountain valley (7)
ADD (go further) contained by [in] GLEN (mountain valley)
7 For all that, long sentence offers pleasing image? (5,4)
STILL (for all that), LIFE (long prison sentence). A painting or drawing of inanimate objects.
8 Deception and appalling greed in male (11)
Anagram [appalling] of GREED IN MALE. Fortunately I had seen this very recently in another puzzle so it came easily to mind today.
11 Wealthy sort one in mineral oil refinement? (11)
I (one) contained [in] by anagram [refinement] of MINERAL OIL. Our third clue relying on ‘One / I’.
14 Steps taken to bring about downfall (4,5)
Cryptic. Something of a chestnut.
16 Newsreader once in row involving personal credit (4,5)
TIER (row) containing [involving] OWN (personal) + CR (credit)
18 Male cat catches cold, in a wind (7)
HE (male), LION (cat) contains [catches] C (cold). I thought this was ‘wind’ as in a breeze but it’s a musical instrument related to the tuba.
19 Marsh in fine country, not good (7)
F (fine), EN{g}LAND (country) [not good]
21 Borders outside close to free French city (5)
RIMS (borders) containing [outside] {fre}E [close]
23 Man after a kiss in principle (5)
A, X (kiss), IOM (Isle of Man)
26 Goddess, Greek god and Aesop in the middle? (3)
{Gr}E{ek} + {g}O{d} + {Ae}S{op} [in the middle]. Another unknown member of mythical deity but this time the wordplay left no room for doubt.

71 comments on “Times Cryptic 28526”

  1. I found this very gentle, finishing in 11:46 with several unparsed. The parsing of NOSTRADAMUS alone probably took five minutes!

    I also did not know what HELICON was. Tricky definition; I almost put in HELLCAT before reading closely.

    I also put in FREIA at first (which I know from Wagner’s Ring Cycle), but thankfully considered the wordplay which told me I needed the Y.

    1. Dame Freya Stark was a noted British explorer and writer who chronicled her many years of travel throughout the Middle East. She’s the only real-life “Freya” I’ve heard of.

      1. Freya was the 6th most popular girls name in the most recent census (2021) of baby names in England and Wales.

  2. A quickie. Only a slight lull at HELICON before the wind filled my sails again.
    I wondered about the definition to SATANIC; think it’s the entire phrase “coming to black?” and still rather vague.

  3. I didn’t think about it much but thought it okay on the basis that a black mass is a satanic ritual.

    1. Yeah, I guess… with “coming to” being merely (quite non-Ximenean) connective tissue.
      That “black” is a possible substitution in at least one context for “satanic,” though not strictly synonymous, perhaps accounts for the question mark.

      1. I was also curious about that one. On checking afterwards I found that Collins gives black as a synonym for satanic, but not vice versa.

  4. 18:08
    HELICON is one more of those thousands of words I ‘know’ but don’t know the meaning of. Biffed NOSTRADAMUS, parsed post-submission. I liked ‘lover dropped’ for EX.

    1. HELICON appeared in a recent Sunday puzzle in its other guise as a Greek mountain. Today’s definition, with an almost identical clue, appeared a few years ago.

  5. 24 minutes. I knew FREYA as the ‘Pagan deity’ but had only seen AYE for ‘continually’ or “always” spelt as AY so I wondered where that extra E came from. I thought of ‘wind’ for HELICON in the meteorological sense too and hadn’t heard of the musical instrument. As a non-classicist, EOS went in from wordplay, but it’s interesting that ‘Aesop in the middle’ is also an anagram of the answer.

    Favourites were working out the NOSTRADAMUS parsing and seeing that the LYRIC(s) ‘man’ in 25a was one of the two responsible for the ‘musical’.

    Thanks to Jack and setter

  6. Thank goodness I spotted I had misspelt NOSTRADAMUS as NOSTRODAMUS before submitting.
    NHO a HELICON. In The Times Daily Quiz today there was a photo of a musical instrument that I had heard of but had never seen: a hurdy-gurdy. Wonder if the quiz setter will now include a HELICON.

  7. 28 minutes with LOI FREYA. I’d sung “Gladly for aye we adore thee” in church on Sunday and so I managed to parse what was at first a biff. I didn’t parse INEPT though, so I was. COD to DELFTWARE for that moment of surprise that the unpromising letters had formed the right word. A nice puzzle. Thank you Jack and setter.

  8. 8:37. I got lucky with a couple of the answers which others cited as unknown or little known today. I know one FREYA who I haven’t seen for years but my wife showed me a photo of her two days ago so the name was in my recent memory. And I couldn’t have told you EOS was a goddess but I recalled that VW produced a car called the EOS and guessed that was where the name came from.

  9. 28 mins no réal probs. A bit jet lagged after a long journey but brain still functioning. I liked LEGERDEMAIN.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  10. A (for me) relative breeze. Untimed, but less than 30 mins. (I’m usually much closer to a 69 miniute man.) Nearly fell into the trap of NostrOdamus but parsing fixed that. All that said, there were no really standout witty clues, but no less enjoyable for that.

  11. Mostly solved at the drop of a hat
    Wasn’t sure on the clue with the cat
    Appears yet again
    Slight off-hand moan about that

    1. I thought you would have been happy to see EOS the asteroid?

      The handsome steer in my picture is “son” of Fraoch, one of our coos.

      1. Your knowledge of obscure asteroids exceeds mine!

        I did enjoy SOL though.

        Anyhow, it appears that I managed to get my “sleight of hand” gag about LEGERDEMAIN past everyone without comment.

  12. Romped home in 18:50, a NITCH of exactly 50, largely thanks to some inspired biffing from spotting definitions instantly, from enumeration with crossers, or from semi-understood cryptics where the answer popped into my head almost immediately. That was fun – though so is grinding through a more substantial challenge from logic alone.

    COD to NOSTRADAMUS, now I understand it (thanks Jack) partly for the ear worm of Al Stewart’s excellent song. Thank you setter.

  13. 19.20 but stupid mistake. Put in tiddler rather than toddler, aargh! Guessed Eos so glad to see the explanation. Good puzzle.

  14. Very quick today. A little time spent deciding between tiddler and toddler.. I mean tiddy IS a word. Got it right, fortunately.
    Is legerdemain the new word of the month? Three appearances, so far ..

  15. 9:29. I thought I was carrying on from the QC when I started this, but slowed down after the first 3. I liked NOSTRADAMUS when I parsed it post-solve. After a related reference in the QC I enjoyed seeing FENLAND at 18D as I was in Ely yesterday and I’m off to Cambridge shortly. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  16. Slightly rushed through this, as we are due to go out shortly; as a result I failed to parse the very obvious NOSTRADAMUS at first sight, and so moved on. Many others went in from semi-biffing, with which I conclude I was on the setter’s wavelength, as this is rarely the case. HELICON from a vague recollection confirmed by parsing, but I confess I didn’t realise it was an instrument until coming here! I liked PAINSTAKING and the anagram for DELFTWARE. AGING surprised me as I would always spell it with an E in. EOS LOI once confirmed by 26A. All in all a terrific puzzle, thanks very much to setter, and Jackkt for the blog.

  17. Bang on the wavelength today and finished in a very uncharacteristic 13 mins. Only FREYA had me thinking. Liked RAIN DANCE. LEGERDEMAIN is a lovely word.

  18. A very rare completion without resorting to aids – although I didn’t even get close to parsing NOSTRADAMUS. Made life hard for myself at the end by getting my vowels the wrong way round in REIMS but got there in the end.
    Thanks to Jack

  19. I seem to have found this more straightforward than other solvers, and am 6th on the leaderboard, although many of the real professionals haven’t appeared yet. My kind of puzzle – not too labyrinthine, and with a nice sprinkling of wit.

    TIME 7:52

  20. I’m surprised that so far as I can see nobody on this site has come forward with information about Torquemada, who was one of the original crossword-setting greats; he set in The Observer before Ximenes, who in turn handed over to Azed, and was one of the main people who started the move towards making clues cryptic in the sense we understand today.

    34 minutes but DNF. I entered EVE but didn’t know why, not seeing even = fair (seems a bit of a stretch to me); and I entered FREIA, again without knowing why. It didn’t help that for quite a while I had RIEMS.

    1. I too thought that Torquemada would have been general knowledge for this band of cruciverbalists! Not that that would have been important to know here…
      Fairly romped through the first half (mostly the right side) but ground to a halt at IRISH STEW and NOD???? Biffed quite a few after that, but was outdone by HELICON of which I’d never heard. Overall an enjoyable experience.

  21. 29:12

    One deity too many for comfort – NHO EOS though FREYA rang a bell (though if I’d thought of FREDA, I might have been in trouble).

    Probably like many, was thinking about Dutch ships for 9a and not getting very far, the penny dropped when the F went in!

    Good puzzle.

  22. 21 mins, not too PAINSTAKING, managed to remember to check for typos this time, and found one. My granddaughter was called Freya, but now called Fae because she can’t pronounce her R’s.

  23. An easy but enjoyable puzzle taking 17 minutes, a similar time to yesterday’s solve.
    The anagram fodder at 8d was easy to sort out, which gave me SOL, somewhat mystifying before I had the L – nice clue.
    HELICON was the only unknown, unsolved until I had the H in place.
    I liked the clues to IMITATIVE and EXTENSIVE (which I forgot to parse at the end). NOSTRADAMUS was biffed, but I did parse that after completing the grid.

    I was slightly surprised to see a nounal anagram indicator at 11d (MILLIONAIRE). Common enough in the Guardian, less so here. Perhaps the question mark is supposed to indicate that it’s not quite Ximenean.

    1. It wouldn’t have hurt, maybe even improved the clue, to use refining. Didn’t notice it at the time.

  24. All correct, although I nearly biffed EXPANSIVE at 15. I kept my fingers crossed with FREYA rather than FREIA. Thanks for explaining the parsing of MATINEE. LEGERDEMAIN featured in Edward Lucas’s excellent opinion column yesterday, and I thought that’d be an excellent word for the crossword!

  25. 18:50. Couldn’t see how the lover dropped into the anagram at 15a until coming here. A nice clue. Otherwise no probs other than an alphabet trawl to get FREYA.

    An aside: With all the recent fuss about ChatGPT, I tried to get it to solve some Times cryptic clues. I was gratified to find that – although it seemed to “understand” what was required – it never got close to the right answers.

  26. I found the LHS quite easy, but slowed down considerably tackling the dexter portion. I didn’t parse NOSTRADAMUS until after submission. Liked TOWN CRIER. IMITATIVE was LOI after correcting GOS to EOS. 14:56. Thanks setter and Jack.

  27. 07:46, helped in part by being a smug classicist, and also by being the random name de jour in 25ac. Solid puzzle which rewarded order and method.

  28. No problems. Freya known from working in Norway in 1988, but can’t remember if it was a boat, an oilfield (probably not – we were working at Frigg) or someone you pray to to stir up the wind and waves so there would be a few days downtime.
    No problems except last 2 in, Nostradamus and extensive, where the cryptics were little help, had to guess answers then laboriously back-engineer.

    1. Frigg and Freya are one and the same, some say, and are the derivation of Friday (German Freitag).

      1. That’s in Chambers, too. But where we were was definitely Frigg. Or maybe East Frigg. Famous for when they tried to install a jacket and the buoyancy tanks failed and it sank in the wrong place. Great little place for seabirds to hang out.

  29. 6m 39s, with FREDA originally entered but fortunately overwritten after I couldn’t get the cryptic to work. IMITATIVE was my LOI.

    Some really nice surfaces today, a lovely puzzle.

  30. A moderate 25 minute solve, with the top half taking longer than the bottom half. No problem with the deities, just a MER with HEW = FELL (rather than just chop or cut) in 17ac.
    COD (despite comment above) – IRISH STEW.
    Thanks to jackkt and other contributors.

  31. Ablative of eos, Eothen — from the east. Book by Kinglake, of a kind that is frowned on nowadays. But I remember enjoying it. 12’31” and very straightforward once I’d avoided TIDDLER.

  32. Got there in the end but needed a revisit and deep thought to unpick my LOI FREYA. Did consider Freda but felt aye might be more appropriate. Also managed to untangle the spelling of NOSTRADAMUS correctly. So all good thanks to setter and blogger.

  33. Also a quick one, with (like jerry) time spent deciding on tiddler or toddler, but todd(y) makes it clear. HELICON from the wordplay and assumed it was a breeze of some sort. 15 minutes.

  34. Pleased to finish this; a bit harder than yesterday. LOI was EXTENSIVE . TOWN CRIER and CONTAIN were late in.
    Lots of Freyas live round here, of varying ages, but certainly now popular.
    I too thought of EOS as a car. Is it ULEZ compliant? Perhaps NOSTRADAMUS can tell me ; and I can now spell his name correctly. Too many nostro accounts in my past.
    Not all parsed I have to say but good fun.

  35. 50:14 for a rare finish with no lives/aids/checks/cheats.

    LOI DELFTWARE, late to see the anagram and thought it might be a kind of Flemish word for a boat (schooner sounds vaguely Dutch, there must be others)

    I thought wind=spiral, hence HELICAL, so had to backtrack there.


    PS It was Samson whose weapon of choice was the jawbone of an ass. Cain’s murder weapon remains unknown.

    1. It isn’t Dutch in origin, though where it comes from is unclear. The OED etymology is interesting:
      “The story commonly told respecting the origin of the word is as follows. When the first schooner was being launched (at Gloucester, Massachusetts, about 1713), a bystander exclaimed ‘Oh, how she scoons!’ The builder, Captain Andrew Robinson, replied, ‘A scooner let her be!’ and the word at once came into use as the name of the new type of vessel. The anecdote, first recorded, on the authority of tradition, in a letter of 1790 (quoted in Babson Hist. Gloucester, p. 252), looks like an invention. The etymology which it embodies, however, is not at all improbable, though there seems to be a lack of evidence for the existence of the alleged New England verb scoon or scun, ‘to skim along on the water’. Compare Scottish (Clydesdale) scon, ‘to make flat stones skip along the surface of the water’, also intransitive, ‘to skip in the manner described’ (Jamieson). The early examples afford strong ground for believing that the word really originated about 1713 in Massachusetts, and probably in the town of Gloucester. The evidence of two or three old prints seems to prove that the type of vessel now called ‘schooner’ existed in England in the 17th cent., but it apparently first came into extensive use in New England.”

  36. Good puzzle today. I was held up by having written in AMUSEMENT for 4d, on the assumption that to MUSE over something is to puzzle over it. I should have raised more of an eyebrow due to the (if I’d been right) weird definition.

  37. 8:57. Steady solve, nothing much to remark on.
    Like our blogger and others I assumed HELICON – my one unknown – was something akin to the mistral or sirocco.

  38. Well there seem to be three opportunities to be in the OWL club today. Freda instead of Freya which I managed to avoid; then we had Tiddler instead of Toddler; again I managed to avoid this, and then we come to 2dn. I biffed INLET and forgot to return to it to check the parsing. So yet again I return to that most frustrating of finishes for the umpteenth time. Taken the shine of what would have been a fast finish for me in 29.35.

  39. 17:22 Pretty straightforward but not overly easy for me. The main hold up was trying to fit EXPANSIVE to 15a until TOWN CRIER put me on the right track. I thought LEGERDEMAIN had popped up a few times recently but on searching this site that doesn’t seem to be the case?

      1. Thanks Jerry. I don’t do the concise so perhaps I just saw it in the one yet to be blogged.

  40. 19:12, very quick for me. I also liked “lover dropped” for EX, but otherwise nothing really leapt out at me. Nearly went for TIDDLER for 12ac, but thankfully paused to try to work out what the short drink was. Thanks s & b.

  41. Identical(ish) time (happy) and error (unhappy) to Jackkt – thanks for the blog.

    I should have biffed y not d in FREYA for if I had I would have achieved a rare sub40 15 x 15.

    Relatively straightforward and particularly enjoyed AXIOM, IRISH STEW and AMAZEMENT.

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