Times Cryptic 28676

Solving time: 55 minutes

I found the LH side quite easy but I really struggled RH where there were several unknown words or meanings

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 Choice between girlfriend and church that can weigh heavily? (1-5)
GF (girlfriend), OR, CE (church). I don’t recall seeing ‘gf / girlfriend’ before and was surprised to find it in Collins alone amongst the usual sources. In what context is it used, I wonder.
5 Place for devil‘s advocate at first with unusual stamina (8)
Anagram [unusual] of STAMINA, then A{dvocate} [at first]. I took ages to think of the answer here, yet I knew of the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ by name. What I didn’t know until I just looked it up is that it’s a small ferocious carnivorous marsupial; for some reason I’d always thought it was a butterfly or moth.
9 Pattern of short-term worker running behind (8)
TEMP (short-term worker), LATE (running behind)
10 Silk wrap from Chanel maybe being worn (6)
COCO (Chanel maybe), ON (being worn). “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) introduced the concept of  ‘the little black dress’ amongst many other things. The origin of her nickname is disputed.
11 Narrow escape concludes experience (5,5)
CLOSES (concludes), HAVE (experience)
13 Informally says “about time for some enthusiasm” (4)
SEZ (says, informally) reversed [about], then T (time). This spelling of ‘says’ is described  by Collins as ‘humorous and ironic’. I remember there used to be a TV show starring Les Dawson called Sez Les.
14 Queen‘s standard uncovered (4)
{b}ANNE{r} (standard – flag) [uncovered]
15 Female relative to bust some moves, not showing initial anxiety (10)
{d}ANCE (bust some moves) [not showing initial], STRESS (anxiety). I can’t find confirmation in any of the usual sources but Google informs me that ‘bust some moves’ means to dance. It’s an informal expression that’s often used in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). The phrase originated in the 1980s, and was popularized by the song Bust a Move by Young MC.  Similarly ‘bust a rhyme’ means to rap and was popularized by the song Bust a Rhyme by The Fat Boys. A whole world of which I know nothing, for which I am very grateful!
18 Instruction for chap to start eating without a US resident (10)
KEN (chap), TUCK IN (instruction to start eating) containing [without] A. Presumably some have moved abroad, but we get the idea.
20 Fabric of a Frenchman (4)
Two meanings
21 How smart you are, apprehending king approaching a country (4)
IQ (how smart you are) containing [apprehending] R (king) + A
23 Short amphibian with teeth seen around lake? That’s novel (10)
NEW{t} (amphibian) [short], FANGED (with teeth) containing [around] L (lake)
25 Insect biting woman in tropical land (6)
BEE (insect) containing [biting] LIZ (woman)
26 Fish‘s bottom served with cream (3,5)
SEAT (bottom), ROUT (cream – defeat soundly). This meaning of ‘cream’ came as news to me but it’s in Collins where it’s described as US, Canadian and Australian slang.
28 Some data from faulty battery given energy (8)
Anagram [faulty] of BATTERY, then E (energy)
29 One who painted rubbish hotel floor (6)
ROT (rubbish), H (hotel – NATO alphabet), KO (floor – knock out in boxing). Markus Rothko (1903-1970) was an abstract impressionist. He’s turned up in a couple of  previous puzzles, most recently and surprisingly in a QC last December. Each time I have stated that I never heard of him and I was just about to say it again today.
2 Independent swimmer in the country (9)
EEL (swimmer) contained by [in] FRANCE (country)
3 Contents of letter I posted for Sally (7)
Hidden in [contents of] {lette}R I POSTE{d}
4 Period drama finally shown after hesitation (3)
ER (hesitation), {dram}A [finally]
5 Character of a group of soldiers once? (5)
THE TA (group of soldiers once). The Territorial Army has changed its name a number of times over the years and since 2014 has been called  The Army Reserve.
6 Present system of arcane tests scrapped (6,5)
Anagram [scrapped] of ARCANE TESTS. ‘Scrapped’ as anagrind seems a bit dodgy to me but the extensive Chambers list includes ‘scrappy’.
7 A large vehicle collecting an unknown number for fortress (7)
A, L (large), CAR (vehicle) containing [collecting] A (an) + Z (unknown number). Spanish for a palace or fortress. Unknown to me but I found it eventually from wordplay having wasted time trying to make Alcatraz fit.
8 Clubs working to infiltrate US tax organisation (5)
ON (working) contained by [to infiltrate] IRS ( US tax organisation – Internal Revenue Service)
12 Actor dancing on screen with an unknown (4,7)
Anagram [dancing] ON SCREEN AN, then Y (unknown). “Shurely shome mishtake” I thought, with The Times breaking its rule about living persons as somehow I had managed to avoid hearing news of the actor’s demise in 2020.
16 Energy comes from tea, not alcohol primarily (3)
CH{a}I (tea) [not alcohol primarily]. Spiced Indian tea apparently. If I ever knew this I had forgotten it.
17 Detritus that’s circling area on boat? (5,4)
SPACE (area), JUNK (boat)
19 Equal it shot for shot? (7)
Anagram [shot] of EQUAL IT
20 Go at a brisk pace, and bump into socialist (3,4)
JOG (bump), TROT (socialist)
22 Old steward overturned change of direction on energy (5)
VEER (change of direction) reversed [overturned], E (energy). A reeve administered the property of another. There was a Reeve’s tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We had this word only yesterday!
24 Used to be extremely tiresome and refuse (5)
WAS (used to be),  T{iresom}E [extremely]
27 Jane perhaps picked up melody (3)
Sounds like [picked up] “Eyre” (Jane perhaps)

79 comments on “Times Cryptic 28676”

  1. Seemed like a Monday. Really liked COCOON; BTW, Ms. Chanel is also known for consorting with Nazis. “Bust some moves” very familiar to this American. ALCAZAR was the word hardest to remember. But I finished in the SE, with SPACE JUNK my LOI.

    ROTHKO’s work is abstract indeed, and he was considered close to the abstract expressionists. The impressionists often verged on abstraction, but they got there by a different route.

  2. What a difference a day makes! Really enjoyed that. Slowed a bit at the end with SPACE JUNK, JEAN and NEWFANGLED, where I was expecting the title of a novel.
    Some great definitions – detritus circling, present system – but COD for the surface of TEQUILA. Made me smile out loud.

  3. 28:42. Mark Rothko was the guy who did lots of canvases with just two rough rectangles of different size and colour. Got a print of one on my wall, I rather like it, and I generally like my pictures to be of something.. Hats off to setter for TEQUILA, seriously clever. Got held up at SEA TROUT which I had as sea bream, thinking it was a sound one with b for bottom inside “c” ream. Which made SPACE JUNK a bit harder. Penny dropped eventually.

  4. Not too hard today. I too tried to force ALCATRAZ in despite (a) the wrong number of letters and (b) it’s a prison not a castle. But the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has several ROTHKOs so that one went straight in. I knew all the GK so no issues there.

  5. Speaking of busting moves… As 2023 is the fiftieth anniversary of hip hop, aka rap, there was a celebration in Brooklyn Bridge Park a few evenings ago, in the “Harbor Lawn” lawn facing the Manhattan skyline. I didn’t see it, but was told by the cops at the barricade that necessitated a deviation from the usual route of my constitutional that it would involve drones. Far out!

  6. Lovely puzzle. 21 minutes, so on the easy side for me. Does the CHI from dead centre make up the missing X to make a pangram, I wonder?

  7. 23 minutes. I didn’t know the SECRET SANTA term (a Kris Kringle to me) or ‘bust some moves’ for DANCE, but neither were hard to work out. I rememered the ALCAZAR as a famous castle somewhere in Spain which I now see is in Segovia. I liked the reference to the perversely loveable ‘devil’ at 5a; a vaccine has just been approved for testing against devil facial tumour disease so here’s hoping their population can gradually increase after taking such a big hit from the cancer. Good thought from gothick about CHI making up for the missing X for the pangram.

    I presume JEAN is de Nîmes.

    1. Ah, you got there first and also cleared the circumflex hurdle which I fell at…

    2. Plenty of Alcatrazes dotted about all over Spain. Just means ‘the citadel or fortress’ in Arabic.

        1. I know that ALCATRAZ means ‘pelican’, and that ALCAZAR means ‘citadel’. Neither of those two pieces of knowledge, however, was enough to prevent me from being an idiot.

          (I can maybe blame it on all the mentions of ALCATRAZ in the other comments. Or on the bad cold I have at the moment. Or maybe I just am an idiot.)

  8. Nicely constructed and satisfying puzzle, clue of the day to TEQUILA. A steady solve that took me 31.22, held up at the end by ANCESTRESS, SPACE JUNK (great def) and KENTUCKIAN having gone randomly all around the country. Didn’t know JEAN was a fabric, thought it was denim which comes itself from ‘de Nimes’ I believe. Thanks to jackkt for helping out on CHI, IRAQ (didn’t see the IQ part) and G-FORCE. I think GF and BF are just time-saving abbreviations in text message etc.

    1. Merriam-Webster on JEAN as a fabric: “short for jean fustian, from Middle English Gene Genoa, Italy + fustian. “Denim” does come from “serge de Nîmes,” but that’s Serge, not Jean!

  9. When old age shall this generation Waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
    (Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats)

    30 mins pre-brekker. Well it seems I struggled a bit more than most – or maybe just savoured longer. I enjoyed this a lot, despite the eyebrow flickering at GF.
    Ta setter and J.

  10. 18 mins which came as a pleasant surprise after trawling the across clues to finally get an answer at 26 across. I thought I was contemplating a disaster at that point.
    Fortunately, got the last two across straight after and began to make headway from the SE corner up.

    Hadn’t seen GF for girl friend before but makes sense. COD without any competition as far as I was concerned Kentuckian.

  11. Excellent crossword with well crafted surfaces. Right up my street. Thanks setter and jackkt.

  12. 55 mins. Stuck in the SE for the last 15 having carelessly banged in SEA BREAM, obviously unparsed. Saw the TROUT eventually and then my LOI SPACE JUNK fell into place.

    Wasn’t sure about « Jean » as clearly the pronunciation of the name and the material is completely different but I suppose it’s allowed. « Woman’s material » might have been better. ALCAZAR constructed from wp.

    I liked NEWFANGLED.

    Thanks Jack and setter.
    PS. Meant to say, we were well « energized » today, there were three of ‘em.

  13. 16’29”, after a couple of bouts of doubt about finishing: ROTHKO was good, SPACE JUNK LOI. Liked ANCESTRESS, KENTUCKIAN, NEWFANGLED.

    Small gripe at ‘smart’ for IQ : people with a high IQ are good at doing IQ tests.

    Thanks jack and setter.

    1. I was going to make that point about IQ tests. I’m terrible at them because I always want to ask questions and that’s no way gain a high score.

    2. I always think of having a high IQ as like having a big engine in the car … it can be useful, but it doesn’t make you a better driver. Rather a nuisance in fact, if you only want to go to Tesco..

      1. A good definition. I’m always wary of people who tell you proudly of their IQ ( or, worse, their MENSA membership)

        1. Hmmmm. How can I say this without sounding boastful? Apparently I can’t, so I will just make the point that as a member of Mensa for over 30 years I met a lot of fellow members at organised gatherings, and I don’t recall anyone wishing to boast of their membership to those that weren’t. I think the majority of those that took the test, did so originally out of a sense curiosity to see what they can achieve, much as the many of us who take on the Times crossword everyday.
          I suspect that there are many people posting here who are members who may agree?

          1. Gosh I didn’t mean to start a debate……
            Having written a very lengthy dissertation 50 years ago on IQ tests and their impact on individuals and the education system as a whole, we may have come some way since the tests were used to classify people as cretins/morons/subnormal etc. My small gripe at the clue was the acceptance of the narrative of IQ = intelligence, when nowadays it is recognised that ‘intelligence’ means so much more than a number – e.g you cannot measure, for example, creativity, curiosity, kindness or emotional intelligence. Enough said, I gave up Twitter years ago.

          2. My remark was flippant and I meant no offence to anyone here or indeed any Mensa members. In my defence I can only say that I have met two of them and both struck me as rather odd individuals. But then, as my own clubs have included the Dennis The Menace Fan Club and the Fulham FC supporters club, I’m sure I leave others with the same impression of myself.

            1. Don’t worry, no offence was taken certainly as far as I’m concerned. Many people would consider me as an oddball perhaps as a Newport County supporter. Having said that, attending tonight’s league cup game against Charlton and watching the boys come back from a 0-1 half time deficit to win 3-1, perhaps I’m not ready to be committed just yet!

  14. 35 minutes with LOI SPACE JUNK. I’d put in SEA TROUT tentatively, not totally convinced it wouldn’t be BREAM,and then couldn’t find a duck to circle the boat, before I thought of the boat itself. I managed to guess that DANCE must be represented by BUST SOME MOVES and I didn’t suppose those words had first been uttered by Victor Silvester. I liked ROTHKO and KENTUCKIAN, so not all the Americanisms were a bad thing. COD to NEWFANGLED. Thank you Jack and setter.

    1. I agree about the moves but will continue to keep my head well down. Discussion of anything with even remote racial, nationalistic or sexist overtones is nearly impossible now

  15. Beaten by being adamant that ALCARAZ was the fortress and accepting that there was a medical term for anxiety A-C-S-Z-S- that I was never going to recognise or be able to parse. It also left ZEST ungettable.

  16. About 20 minutes. I’ve heard of the name ROTHKO without knowing exactly what he was, and like jackkt I thought of Alcatraz before figuring out ALCAZAR. Also tried to justify ‘zeal’ for 13a until I got IRONS and saw that it had to be ZEST. I needed the U from SEA TROUT to move away from ‘xxxxx deck’ for 17d, and only then did I remember that a junk is a boat and see the clever SPACE JUNK.

    A nice puzzle. Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Era
    LOI Chi
    COD Tequila

  17. A slow but highly enjoyable ride this morning at 37 minutes, held up by the unknown Alcazar and an unshakeable conviction that I was about to remember the obscure Brontë novel at 23a. I thought this a top quality offering with superb surfaces, especially the COD Mexican shot. Respect, setter and thanks Jack for the excellent blog.

  18. 28:10
    Fun puzzle. A pleasant half hour. Coffee, cereal, crossword. Nice while it lasted. Now I have to start work.
    Thanks, jack.

  19. 15:23. I had Dog Trot for a while which meant Jean and I met later than I would have preferred. LOI SPACE JUNK


  20. Got there in 22.35, which correctly suggests I struggled a bit. KENTUCKIAN needed all the checkers and then some, and the mistaken belief that it was a pangram definitely helped with the cunningly clued SPACE JUNK and also steered me away from DOG TROT once I couldn’t get any fabric based on d’homme. Chambers has gf (sic). I don’t at present for which relief much thanks.

  21. I’ll add my name to the list of satisfied solvers today. Very well written crossword which is why I enjoy doing them and I agree that the TEQUILA clue is very good. My LOI was SPACE JUNK when I finally saw the definition- had been toying with bunk and before that deck as I wasn’t sure rout equals cream for a while. Hearty thanks to setter and blogger.

  22. SPACE JUNK has a very good definition but it didn’t help that I’d never really heard of it, although I solved the clue some time before I gave up at 45 minutes, just didn’t believe it existed. Wasn’t helped by having dog trot, not realising that it is a single word. ‘Bust some moves’ totally new to me and I couldn’t think what the bust was doing, since dance just about equals some moves. Why is z always clued as an unknown number (7dn), when it is hardly used as such except by higher mathematicians? I suppose it’s difficult to clue.

    1. ‘I’ve seen Z clued by reference to sleep, but I think that’s even meaner. You’re right: it’s a tricky letter to clue. There are some obscure uses in physics and chemistry, and I Listener setter would get away with cluing it as 2000 (they’re fond of medieval Roman numerals), so we’re basically stuck with the 3rd of the unknowns.

    2. Having written a book on the subject, I’d just like to thank the setter for “SPACE JUNK”

  23. 07:53, nice puzzle with all knowledge checked and certified as general, and some deft touches. Only temporarily derailed by trying to make the Jutes come from France, which they didn’t.

  24. Clean solve, no real hold-up, though bust and GF unfamiliar as such. It gives me a headache even to picture Rothko’s art. Something of an international feel to this one.

  25. 24:40. Top class stuff – held up at the end by Ms Chanel and the fortress, a word I should be very familiar with as every sizeable town in Spain, which I have just spent a month driving through, seems to have one.

  26. 15:58

    Good puzzle. A similar experience to Jack’s with the left proving much easier than the right and Alcatraz beig a distracter. I also took “some moves, not showing intial..” as being (g)ambit, whch didn’t help.

    Thanks to Jack and the setter

  27. Nice puzzle which I completed in 22:14. Sadly I had a typo at ALCAZRR. Drat! ERA was FOI and KENTUCKIAN brought up the rear. Liked SECRET SANTA and NEWFANGLED. Thanks setter and Jack.

  28. 33:39, 0 errors. Good puzzle. nearly finished it before breakfast in under 20 mins but a few held me up on the west side of the grid. Loved TEQUILA (but can’t stand the actual drink since my university days)

  29. 26:46

    Very much enjoyed even though I was held up at the end coming up with BELIZE (wouldn’t have known it was tropical) and the clever SPACE JUNK. No problem with ALCAZAR – been to the presumably-related Alcazabas in both Malaga and Alicante.

    Thanks setter and Jack

  30. Must have been on the setter’s wavelength, as all went in fairly smoothly. Top half completed first – I often find that having done one half of the puzzle the other proves to be far harder to penetrate, but this was all plain sailing. There were a fair number of anagrams, but none the worse for that, and all parsed save SEAT ROUT, where I couldn’t equate ‘rout’ with cream. However, JUNK confirmed it had to be LOI ‘trout’, so came here for the explanation. Thanks, Jackkt and setter for a most enjoyable workout.

  31. 27 mins. Rattled along at speed until I hit what turned out to be SPACE JUNK. Having had the J for the potential pangram elsewhere I wasn’t looking for another one. Well worth the admission price when I figured out the cleverly hidden literal.

  32. Woe is me! An otherwise straightforward solve stymied by JEAN and SPACE JUNK. I had entered ‘dog trot’ even though it didn’t work, which gave me a fabric called ‘deal’ (of French DE, man AL). I’m ingenious in my stupidity. Never had the confidence to enter ROUT for cream and the uber-clever ‘detritus that’s circling’ soundly beat me.

    Hats off for a great puzzle and for your elucidations Jack.

    1. You are not alone Casey: I too wrote DOG TROT, then dozed off after lunch. On resurfacing, I discovered my mistake, changed the D to J and JEAN was obvious.

  33. Nice puzzle, enjoyed the Tasmanian devil and “present system” for SECRET SANTA. GF is pretty common I think and I got most of the GK requirements. Not sure JEAN is a fabric? Saw a few Rothkos at MOMA in New York, I was hoping to be converted by their grandeur, I wasn’t. However I was taken aback at how huge the Monet’s were… and how small the Dali was. thanks Jackkt and setter

    1. First definition of JEAN in Collins: “a tough twill-weave cotton fabric used for hard-wearing trousers, overalls, etc”

      1. Chambers has similarly “a twilled-cotton cloth” and helpfully gives a meaning of twilled as “protected against floods by plaited osiers” which might be useful in wet weather.

        1. Thanks both. Sorry I didn’t really check the definitions before writing, had always assumed denim was the main fabric from which jeans are made.

  34. This was fun. Sailed through the LH side but the RH was trickier and didn’t get SEA TROUT as I was confused by putting JOG LEFT for 20d after I put in JEAN (agree it’s not really a fabric but near enough I suppose…)
    TEQUILA was a really clever clue and also liked ROTHKO. Lots of his paintings in the National Gallery of Art in Washington which was a lot quieter than MOMA when I visited both galleries in May.
    Thanks to the setter and also all of you who contribute to this useful blog.

  35. I really enjoyed this puzzle which was pitched at a perfect degree of difficulty to suit me at least. That is to say every answer was solved and parsed safe in the knowledge that it was correct. No requirement for keeping your fingers crossed with this one. My time was a whisker outside target at 45.35, but that didn’t disappoint. Well done setter!

  36. Gave up trying to get SPACE JUNK so threw in the towel and put SPARE BUNK which I knew was wrong. 45 minutes.

  37. From Wiktionary:
    GF (plural GFs)
    1) Initialism of girlfriend.
    2) Initialism of grand final.
    3) (sports) goals for, a sports statistic
    4) (mathematics) Initialism of Galois field.
    So that’s all right then.
    I was v dubious about 16d CHI, but all OK. Had forgot about the chai spelling of cha or char.

  38. 25’50”
    Smartly away, kept on gamely.
    I thought my brain was fried from researching old rowing crews, but I think it relished the break.
    All parsed and lots to like.
    Thanks Jack and setter.

  39. I must admit I’m astounded that people are confused by ‘bust some moves/rhymes’ and ‘ cream=rout’ and I’m English. Clearly I’m just low brow! Surely ‘Jean’ is just the attributive form of ‘jeans’ like ‘trouser’ is for ‘trousers’? Fairly straightforward-22 mins with SPACE JUNK the LOI. My regards to the setter and blogger.

    1. The definition here for JEAN refers to the fabric itself. I give the etymology way up above in the Comments, and two dictionary definitions are offered further down.

    2. Apparently not. JEAN comes from Old French ‘janne’, which in turn derives from Genoa. Denim derives from ‘de Nîmes’. From the Chambers entry for JEAN it seems they are different types of cloth.

  40. Lots of enticing garden paths to walk up, and lots of clever cryptics to bring me back to the straight and narrow. Nice.

    We are getting more and more txt-talk abbreviations – GF is today’s. It’s beginning to look as if our setters are a bit more in touch with street culture than we (or at least I) are (am). I’m always pleased to learn new words via the puzzle (especially when I decode them via the cryptic); I guess I’ll increasingly be pleased to learn some new slang.

  41. 9:59. A puzzle where I had the advantage of being a relative youngster around here (which is to say, in my fifties). Very familiar with GF, the busting of moves and indeed the Young MC classic based on the concept.

  42. 53 m. COD TEQUILA, SEAN CONNERY a close second then KENTUCKIAN with the bronze. A very satisfying workout with thanks to setter.

  43. Just over a hour.

    Had never heard of cream=rout. Took a long time to see Tasmania, although familiar with the creature from the Taz cartoons.

  44. Quite a speedy solve, under 18 minutes. LOI KENTUCKIAN, and although I’ve heard of the tea I misparsed CHI, assuming it was something to do with CHIA. Also had a mis-anagrammed SATANISM (place for devil?) before remembering the Looney Tunes character.

    Thanks both

  45. Fairly sped through the LHS (loved TEQUILA! – but not to drink), and had a hard time coming up with the right combo for KEN/TUCK/I/A/N ( even though I had thought “tuck in” was there!). I was probably helped by quite a few anagrams, which for me are mostly easier to solve. But the RHS was a bit more chewy, with ALCAZAR (NHO), JEAN, SPACE JUNK and NEWFANGLED not worked out.
    An excellent puzzle, and highly entertaining.

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