Times Cryptic 28604


I solved all but two intersecting clues within 27 minutes but then suffered a mental fog which took another 15 minutes to clear completely. The missing answers were so simple that I can only imagine my problems were self-inflicted when I realised I was so close to achieving my half-hour target.

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 Through which may come vision for novices? (6)
A straight definition preceded by a barely cryptic hint. So easy,  yet  this was my last one in!
5 What might lead to lump in the pudding (4,4)
This is a reverse anagram of LUMP indicated by DUFF in the sense of ‘broken’ as the second part of the answer
9 Artistic movement in small country some regularly overlooked (10)
MINI (small), MALI (country), S{o}M{e}[regularly overlooked]
10 In eg Diderot’s work we can find common sense (4)
NOUS (in eg Diderot’s work ‘we’ – yer actual French)
11 A dreamer swilling rum (8)
Anagram [swilling] of A DREAMER. It’s better known as a type of sugar but Collins also has this secondary definition of demerara – a highly flavoured rum used mainly for blending purposes.
12 Rest of agents leaving quietly, first two in cab (6)
S{p}IES (agents) [leaving quietly – piano], TA{xi} (cab) [first two]
13 Reporter’s run off, with this in his ear? (4)
Sounds like [reporter’s] “flee” (run off)
15 Happy being without Bible in August (8)
ELATED (happy) containing [being without – outside] EV (English Version of the Bible). We’re used to AV (Authorised Version) but I don’t recall seeing EV in a Times crossword before and I don’t even know for sure which revision it refers to.
18 Troublemaker got at air supply (8)
Anagram [supply] of GOT AT AIR
19 Cheek of Englishman in Glasgow, more than half gone (4)
SASS{enach} (Englishman in Glasgow) [more than half gone]. Some of the dictionaries confirm that this is generally intended to be derogatory, but we can take it.
21 Tweeted about treasurer being tied up (6)
SUNG (tweeted – bird song) containing [about] TR (treasurer). Not an abbreviation I’m familiar with, but it’s in Collins.
23 Spooner’s plump bird provoking a quarrel (8)
Spooner would say this as FAT (plump), KITE (bird)
25 Auntie running back and forth (4)
The BEEB is a nickname for the BBC, also known as ‘Auntie’. ‘Running back and forth’ indicates the answer is a palindrome.

Here’s how ‘Auntie’ came about according to one source:  In the early years of BBC development the administrators were largely of middle class origins and demonstrated daily that they knew what was best for listeners and later on the viewers. This was derided by critics as the “Auntie knows best” syndrome. Hence the shortened version of “Auntie”. My own recollection is that it didn’t start until the 1960s but that may just be when I first became aware of it.

26 I’m chattier after revising this school subject (10)
Anagram [after revising] of I’M CHATTIER
27  Dark-haired lady having cup of tea with Nick, they say (8)
Sounds like [they say] “brew” (cup of tea) + “net” (nick – capture)
28 Go round gallery, accompanied by heads of regional office (6)
R{egional} + O{ffice} [heads], TATE (gallery)
2 Set free, one moving north to marry (5)
UNTIE (set free) becomes UNITE when I (one) moves up [is  moving north]. This was the other clue that delayed me for ages before its first checker came into play.
3 Newspaper can sound off about English drifting (9)
I (newspaper), TIN (can) + RANT (sound off) containing [about] E (English)
4 One raising spirits of actor in hospital (6)
HAM (actor) contained by [in] SAN (hospital – sanatorium).  SOED: A priest among certain peoples of northern Asia, regarded as having healing and magical powers who can influence the spirits who bring about good and evil.
5 GI maybe given training for operational set-up? (7,8)
PRIVATE  (GI maybe – lowly military rank), PRACTICE (training)
6 Frenchman entering without invitation is exposed (8)
M (Frenchman – Monsieur) contained by [entering] UNASKED (without invitation)
7 Retreats before smoke finally becomes impenetrable (5)
DENS (retreats), {smok}E [finally]
8 Idle dates not showing up perhaps (9)
FRUIT-LESS (dates not showing up perhaps)
14 A girl they fancy, a long way away (5,4)
Anagram [fancy] of A GIRL THEY
16 Teetotal sailors at home, under cover it seems (9)
ABS (sailors), then IN (at home) contained by TENT (under cover)
17 Around noon, male worker becoming lethargic (8)
STAG (male) + ANT (worker) containing [around] N (noon)
20 Artist caught inhaling solvent? Just the opposite (6)
‘Just the opposite’ indicates the clue is to be interpreted as ETHER (solvent) containing [inhaling] C (caught – cricket)
22 Sophisticated mostly, as many popes were (5)
URBAN{e} (sophisticated) [mostly]. There were eight of them.
24 A crowd surrounding one in lift (5)
HOST (crowd) containing [surrounding] I (one)

64 comments on “Times Cryptic 28604”

  1. 17:42
    PUPILS was my LOI, too: I needed the U of POI UNITE. I biffed PLUM DUFF (from the D) and SIESTA, in both cases not knowing how they worked until I came here. At 9ac I wasted time taking ‘small’ to be S. I thought of NOUS long before I saw how it worked. DNK EV.

    1. My experience nearly mirroring yours, Kevin, with NOUS being my favourite word for ‘common sense’, but PUPILS also clouded until the very end. The rest fell steadily well within my allotted time, so a very happy bunny here.

  2. Enjoyable. Saw PUPILS and UNITE early, it was FRUITLESS that held me up for ages at the end. Completely missed which bible it was, I parsed it on the fly as AV in ELATED. Fortunately the E is checked. Was briefly tempted by ESCHER the artist before seeing sense.

  3. Thanks for SASSenach, which I had biffed and couldn’t parse.
    Couldn’t get PLUM DUFF before FRUITLESS. NE was last to fall.

  4. 37 minutes. Glad to have all the vowels checked for DEMERARA which has snared me before. I was a bit DENSE too, failing to see PUPILS until later on, but the one that really held me up was EV, rather than the expected AV, for ‘Bible’ at 15a. I liked SASS and the PLUM DUFF reverse anagram.

  5. 22:26, with two very long hold-ups. One was the FRUITLESS / PLUM DUFF intersection, not being familiar with the pud. I knew I was looking for a 4-letter word starting with D that would indicate an anagram but still couldn’t see it.

    Then I took another age over PUPILS, despite having all the checkers in place.

    The rest of it was pretty straightforward I think. Had the same concerns as Bletch over the spelling of DEMERARA, but the setter was kind to us on this occasion.

    Good fun, thanks Jack and setter.

  6. Ran straight through this until I got to the end with FRUITLESS. I couldn’t see any word that fitted other than FAULTLESS, although it didn’t match the clue. In the end I gave up and just bunged it in, which sometimes works out, but not today.

  7. Having biffed ELEVATED (a tad unfair for an atheist I thought) I spent practically a third of my total time over my LOI.

    TIME 9:30

  8. 16′, with FRUITLESS LOI. Liked PLUM DUFF, and NOUS once I’d got it.

    There were a lot of near-gimme anagrams today.

    On EV, there are a large number of abbreviations for Bible translations / versions. My church uses the NRSV, which could prove challenging for setters and solvers.

    Thanks jack and setter.

  9. DNF. I did most of this in about 7 minutes but eventually gave up on 1ac. My mistake was looking for an exact synonym for ‘novice’, which had me off up all sorts of garden paths, some nun-related. ‘Novice’ and PUPIL aren’t really synonyms but the question mark clearly implies a sort of two-way DBE: a novice might very well be a pupil and vice-versa, if not necessarily. I just completely failed to take account of it.

  10. This flea is you and I, and this
    Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
    (John Donne, The Flea)

    25 mins mid-brekker. Like others, Pupils was my LOI with an eyebrow raise at them being novices. I also didn’t like the dangling ‘A’ in 24d. A crowd is Ahost.
    But I liked the rest. Very neat and tidy.
    Ta setter and J.

  11. 17:53. I was going to say exactly the same as keriothe regarding PUPILS. I thought of learners, cubs, tyros, etc, but PUPILS didn’t once cross my mind when thinking of synonyms. I did eventually chance across it on my second alphabet trawl.

  12. 34 minutes with LOI ELEVATED. PUPILS needed all the crossers too. In later life, I have done a degree in Divinity, and AV, RSV, RV , KJV, NIV are all well known to me, but EV definitely less so. The Wycliffe bible maybe? COD to PLUM DUFF. Mainly good fun. Thank you Jack and setter.

    1. Also NEB, perhaps, which later became REB? (New English / Revised English Bible).

      1. Could be. Anyway, as the senator from the south of the US said, when struggling with the different languages on his European tour, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

        1. I love the BW story.
          My researches have given me English Standard Version (ESV) 2001, but nothing else. Acrually I just bunged it in assuming that it was AV in the clue, but there is only 1 and we need 2. Oh well, a biff saved me.

  13. 26 minutes, funny thing is PUPILS was also my LOI even though I was thinking about parts of the eye but couldn‘t get past corneas and irises, weird.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  14. UNITE was my FOI and I wrote PUPILS to one side leaving it ‘till later.
    I didn’t get the parsing of PLUM DUFF correct, thinking the first part might be a reference to being pregnant.
    NOUS BIFD not knowing Diderot and I got the definition at the wrong end for ELEVATED, thinking elevated – happy.
    LOI ETCHER which I did fully understand having been caught by this type of clue before.

    1. Aye, I thought pregnant just from lump, then up the duff made it a really fast semi-biff. Parsed as writing it in.

  15. About 15 minutes, with the same delay over PUPILS as several others it seems. Didn’t parse NOUS, trusted that there’s an EV version of the Bible for ELEVATED and that DEMERARA can be a type of rum, and was only aware of PLUM DUFF because of Blackadder Goes Forth (is that ninja-turtling?).

    Enjoyable stuff again, so thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Agitator
    LOI Pupils
    COD Siesta

  16. A good effort this, I thought.
    No nhos, but my usual hesitation over practice vs practise.. the latter is the verb, is that right? So you would practise in a private practice? I don’t know why we don’t all just settle on one and stick with it, not as if they sound any different.
    A sassenach is anyone who isn’t a highlander, which includes the great majority of Scots, including Glaswegians…

    1. You’re right with practice/practise sentence. I like all these oddities of our language; the alternative would be so functional and bland.
      Circa 30 mins., LOI ELEVATED.

    2. An easy way to remember it is that advice and advise follow the same convention but are pronounced differently.

    3. Actor Maurice Roeves was born in Sunderland but moved to Glasgow as a six-year-old. He recounts he was called Sassenach and regularly beaten up by fellow youngsters for his accent. This gave him a strong incentive to quickly learn proper Glaswegian.

  17. 21:58

    Good puzzle. UNITE andPUPILS took almost as long as the rest put together. I also thought that the artistic movement would start with an S (fr0m small).

    I don’t think I’ve ever eaten, or even seen, a plum duff. It’s a name sometimes used for Christmas pudding, of which I’ve eaten far too many, but I’m not sure they are actually the same thing.

    Thanks to Jack and the setter

    1. If so, wrongly used, they are not the same. A plum duff is essentially, (Mrs W informs me), a suet pudding with plums. A Christmas pud, usually no suet (though some do) and in fact no plums, various dried fruits instead..

    2. In the 19th century American novel “Two Years Before the Mast” the sailors look forward to Sundays when they have DUFF as a weekly treat. Christmas Day the DUFF was augmented with fruit to mark the occasion.

  18. 20.55. Took me a long time to see the equivalence between ‘novices’ and ‘pupils’. I was looking for something to do with monks or nuns.

  19. About 25 mins
    Pupils was a pickle. Took ages to see it.
    Thanks, jack.

  20. 36m 02s
    Like others, I queried EV as Bible but my main query is with CATFIGHT. Should there not be some sort of ‘sounds like’ to indicate the difference between CIGHT and KITE?

    1. It occurred to me when blogging but I think Spoonerisms go by sounds rather than spelling so the homophone element is already covered.

      Edit: Yes, after some speedy research it seems that all the usual sources mention slips of the tongue, transposition of sounds etc, so how things look when written down doesn’t need to be part of it.

  21. A speedy (for me) 15 minutes, with PUPILS taking the last two before the PDM and groan – why was it so hard to see!
    No problems with the rest.

  22. Siesta LOI, took a while to work out adding quite so.e time, but 45 mins is good for me anyway. Plum duff I got immediately just assuming plum duff = pregnant = lump then wondered if it was too easy? I’m from Glasgow and never heard anyone use the term sassenach, it’s Harry Lauder stuff… Thanks to all.

  23. All sorted in 22m but I confess to not seeing exactly how Plum Duff worked until I came here as I thought it must be related to ‘up the duff’ being a euphemism for being pregnant, thus ‘leading to a lump’!

  24. 35 mins and DNF 🥲
    I thought this was going to be quick with UNITE giving me PUPIL straight after the starting gun. I slowed down staring at the anagram fodder for 11a, thinking I was looking for a word meaning strange, finally bunging in DEMERARA when I realised it was at least a real word even though I didn’t know that meaning. But my undoing today was CATFIGHT. Like MartinP1 I wasn’t looking for a Spoonerism and a homophone in one. Liked PLUM DUFF.

    Thanks for tidying up my grid Jackkt

  25. Totally failed to parse SIESTA. I thought the spies might be the CIA, but couldn’t see how first two in cab would help me to lose the C, and the rest left me foxed. Silly really as I had implicitly thought of spies but didn’t use that. Oh well.
    I wrongly thought the shamans were voodoos raising the dead in the form of zombies. Again ignorance helped me as it shouldn’t.
    Eyebrow twitched over Nick=net but nick for arrest is common in police usage both on and off the screen, and I suppose the police cast their net in arrest attempts.

    1. ‘Dragnet’ was used in the titles of cop dramas on radio, TV and film over a period of about 80 years.

  26. Started well but held up in NE corner so my usual 1 hour yet again.
    Does “Fruitless” mean Idle? I wouldn’t have said so, but I’m sure it does in some dictionary.
    My two favourites were “Plum Duff” and the cleverly phrased “Agitator”.

  27. 22:48

    Filled up the bottom half pretty quickly before teasing out the top half. After 17 minutes, was left with three – bunged in ELEVATED assuming there must be an EV bible – FRUITLESS took a little longer to come up with before LOI PUPILS (like several others).

  28. Doh. Spent over 10 minutes on LOI, PUPILS. 31:46. Thanks setter and Jack.

  29. In glad to know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with PUPILS, which in hindsight seems quite easy. 10m 30s, with at least 3 of those minutes spent on PUPILS alone. SHAMAN also took a bit of thinking, and otherwise no massive hold-ups.

  30. I always thought two things about clues: a) floating a’s (and more rarely the’s) should be avoided if possible, but if they’re needed for the wordplay they’re not exactly wrong; and b) if a clue is a Spoonerism, the homophone is taken for granted: there’s no need for the spellings to match. I may be wrong on these points.

    All easy enough until I became bogged down on PUPILS/novices, on which I eventually capitulated and used electronics. Not really comfortable with this, but OK I suppose. 41 minutes.

    1. Ah, I’d already replied directly to the point about Spoonerisms when reviewing the contributions above and before I got to your posting. Apologies for the duplication.

  31. I was motoring along nicely in 23 minutes with only three left to solve. ELEVATED and then SIESTA eventually came to me after another five or so minutes. That just left 1ac, and after 34 minutes had now elapsed I gave up on it. It seems to have been a stumbling block for just about everyone, and now having seen the answer I’m rather cross with myself for not persevering.

  32. Very odd. This was a pb for me, with 7’35” on the clock. So I was expecting a very low Snitch. But in fact it stands at 88. And Kevin Gregg — with whom I am normally on a rough level — took 10 minutes longer. So what to conclude? Sometimes you just have the feel of it. Amazingly I was only a minute and a half behind Verlaine. Won’t last, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

  33. This took me around 6 Verlaines – and then I fell on the 1a hurdle. Still a very enjoyable time sitting in the sunshine with the crossword overlooking the sea.

  34. 10:13, and happy to find I am not alone in having stared at U_I_S for a massively disproportionate part of my solving time before the faithful alphabet trawl saved me. I like to think that if so many people have the same problem with it, I can blame the clue for my dullness and not the idiot in the solver’s seat (for once). Enjoyed it, anyway.

  35. 39:29. Late today. I had to come back for a second go. Last three in were UNITE and PUPILS followed by SIESTA. No, I don’t mean I had to have a lie down. SIESTA just took ages

  36. I believe that the term BEEB came into being from the mouth of comedy idiot Kenny Everett in the 70’s via his BBC radio program. He referred to that august institution as ” the beeb-bee-see, merging the second B onto the end of the first BEE and pronouncing the thus made-up word as a distinct “BEEB”. It seems to have stuck…

    1. I think Kenny Everett used the term BEEB on pirate Radio London, before the pirates were shut down and before Everett joined Radio 1.

  37. This took me 39 minutes and I rather enjoyed it. I hate to say this, considering all the discussion above, but PUPILS went in right away, just as I was starting the puzzle, since it was the only thing optical or ophthalmological I could think of having any relation to “novices”. Other things gave me trouble instead, with SIESTA my LOI. Only after biffing it did I understand the wordplay. And of course the spelling of PRACTICE gave me cause for worry, since I can’t remember which is the British version and which the American (fortunately in the final analysis the C version seemed more correct, as indeed it was). As for SASSenachs, I only know that word from a Jean Redpath song (The Pawky Duke, which begins 4:15 minutes into the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87MtC_tNWcA. Indeed my only knowledge of Scots is from Jean Redpath songs, but they were so wonderful! I know many of them by heart and sang them to my children when they were small.).

  38. Unlike previous commenters, I had most trouble with the Southern third (ie below SASS and AGITATOR, especially the SW corner. All north of them went in smoothly, though I biffed ELEVATED as NHO the ‘EV’ and couldn’t really parse it. CODs for me are NOUS and ETCHER.

  39. 11:25. Hovering near PB territory, which given the general tenor of comments, is a surprise. PUPILS and PLUM DUFF went in at once, which helped; the latter being particularly neat.

  40. I trundled through this steadily with just an eyebrow raised for each of “TR” and “EV”. I’m guessing the cryptic misdirection in 1ac was deliberate and quite neat. Thanks for the blog!

  41. Glad to complete and be green. I was particularly held up because I entered UNTIE instead of UNITE (even though I’d understood the word play) which meant I spent ages on 9ac (thinking it began ST) before eventually spotting my silly mistake. Particularly liked NOUS and SIESTA. Over an hour but who cares?! Thanks setter and jack for the much needed blog.

  42. 23.30 with a hold up in the NW corner. Eventually solved with minimalism making me realise my flee should be flea to make itinerant. Took what seemed like ages for pupils to eventually dawn on me.

    Ithink pupils is probably my COD. Good puzzle.

    Minor quibble, shouldn’t 23 be sounds like Spooner’s plump bird? Having perused earlier contributions, I am now quibbleless.

  43. Unlike others PLUM DUFF went straight in, as did NOUS , both helping with the solving of the NE, though SIESTA took too long. I too was distracted by the “small” in 9a, thinking S instead of MINI, but the rest fell steadily except of course for 1a, where I had to cheat to get. But enjoyed, so happy.

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