Times Cryptic 28694


Solving time: 22 minutes

I raced through the top half of the grid so quickly that I had to double-check I had not printed a Quick Cryptic in error. A couple of answers in the lower half slowed me a little, otherwise I might have achieved a rare-for-me 15 minute solve. This was enjoyable enough, and welcome in some ways after my struggles last week, but on a blogging day I would have preferred  a little more of a challenge.

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 Course director, virile type, inspiring old railway company (8)
HE-MAN (virile type) containing [inspiring] LMS (old railway company). The London Midland and Scottish Railway was subsumed into British Railways upon nationalisation in 1948.
6 Polluted air current breathed in by maternal grandmother (6)
I (current) contained [breathed in] by MA’S MA (maternal grandmother)
9 Shot leaders of beasts in desert (4)
GO (shot), B{easts} + I{n} [leaders]
10 Pounds one quietly invested in new Hogarth print (10)
L (pounds),  I (one), then P (quietly) contained by [invested in] anagram [new] of HOGARTH
11 Retired head plugging bleepers for travellers? (10)
NESS (head – headland) reversed [retired],  contained by [plugging] PAGERS (bleepers)
13 Couple I encountered going west (4)
I, MET (encountered) reversed [going west]. Somewhat dated slang.
14 Austrian citizen struggles with English, going round North Tyneside (8)
VIES (struggles) + E (English) containing [going round] N (north) + NE (Tyneside – north-east)
16 Liberal leaving W African state for European peninsula (6)
{L}IBERIA (W African state) [Liberal leaving]. Makes a change from {S}IBERIA, I suppose.
18 Condition ultimately discernible in her young cow (6)
IF (condition) + {discernibl}E [ultimately] contained by [in] HER. A young cow that has had no more than one calf.
20 One who digs fish, extremely eager to protect river (8)
TENCH (fish) + E{age}R [extremely] containing [to protect] R (river)
22 Capital optimistic speculators laid out first of all (4)
O{ptimistic} + S{peculators} + L{aid} + O{ut} [first of all]
24 Unusually dark, a finer breed of cattle (10)
Anagram [unusually] of DARK A FINER. NHO this one so I waited until I had all the checkers in place and then double-checked the remaining anagrist before writing it in. Apparently  the word pre-dates ‘Afrikaner’. It’s also a breed of sheep.
26 Outstanding, like schoolwork submitted a second time (10)
If schoolwork is submitted a second time it’s RE-MARKABLE. A very similar clue to this word appeared in yesterday’s Guardian puzzle.
28 Message about large herbaceous plant (4)
FAX (message) containing [about] L (large). First ‘pagers’ and now a fax!
29 Pal got overheated about conclusion of sermon (6)
FRIED (overheated) containing [about] {sermo}N [conclusion]
30 Put up with revised role in gallery (8)
Anagram [revised] of ROLE contained by [in] TATE (gallery)
2 Morse’s last case calling up memories (9)
{Mors}E [last], VOCATIVE (case). Early Latin lessons helped me here.
3 Chinatown’s appalling nemesis? (7)
Anagram [appalling] of NEMESIS. Purists may object to the definition as one word but Guardian solvers meet this sort of thing almost daily. Meissen is in Germany, near Dresden, a Chinacity perhaps?
4 Fruit consumed by some Londoners (5)
Hidden in [consumed by] {so}ME LON{doners}. Another from the QC Primer.
5 Clear   obstruction in court? (3)
Two meanings. And another.
6 Doctor working hard during function? That’s eyewash! (9)
MO (doctor), ON (working), then H (hard) contained by [during] SINE (function – trigonometry)
7 Transport organisation’s broadcast on policy (7)
AIR (broadcast), LINE (policy)
8 Man securing root of tulip tree (5)
MALE (man) containing [securing] {tuli}P [root of…]
12 Voter shows muscle, changing sides almost at the start (7)
ErECTOR  (muscle) changing sides (R → L) almost at the start becomes ELECTOR
15 Set aside, like some seals enclosing book (9)
EARED (like some seals) containing [enclosing] MARK (book of the Bible). Another that held me up a little as I was not aware of ‘eared’ as a species of seal.
17 Graceless modern worker supporting key cricket side (9)
IN (modern – fashionable), then ANT (worker) underneath [supporting] E (key) + LEG (cricket side)
19 Pay a grand: finally secure film material (7)
FOOT (pay a bill), A, G (grand), {secur}E [finally]
21 Grant fencing in one type of tree (7)
CONFER (grant) containing [fencing in] I (one)
23 Very fine cut, reportedly (5)
Sounds like [reportedly] “shear” (cut)
25 Make obeisance naturally at first in ship (5)
N{aturally} [at first] contained by [in] KEEL (ship)
27 Sent up bill for American club (3)
TAB (bill for American) reversed [sent up]. Twice in the past week I have seen ‘tab’ clued as ‘bill for American’ yet it has been in common usage in the UK for as long as I can remember.

76 comments on “Times Cryptic 28694”

  1. As easy as yesterday’s!
    Had to guess at the LMS. The rest of the cow was visible once I had AFRIK.

  2. 17:28
    I don’t know how I could have come up with LET for 5d and not seen NET, but I did, and as a consequence wasted 4 minutes trying to make sense of LOI 1ac. DNK LMS. Biffed LITHOGRAPH, then totally forgot to look at the clue, only parsing post-submission. I liked MIASMA.

    1. I think LET was a reasonable first guess. My excuse was ‘Clear’ a way = LET through (a bit dodgy), ‘obstruction’ = LET (OK) and ‘in court?’ suggesting a tennis court, where a LET may occur (also OK). A nice triple def it seemed, but fortunately I solved 1a quite early and the better (and as it happened correct) answer was revealed.

    2. I had a similar experience. I think LET was my FOI, and I solved steadily thereafter until I came across a bemusing _E_M_M_L at 1A. 5 minutes or so of head scratching was finally resolved when I realised 1A was likely to end in MAN.

  3. 21:11
    So, on the easy side. MIASMA raised a chuckle and I’m glad I decided that “aardkinfer” (in the field with the aardvarks and aardwolves?) wasn’t better than AFRIKANDER.

    1. “aard”=’earth’ in Afrikaans; I wonder if they have any verb like ‘kinf’.

  4. 23 minutes. I was held up in the lower half of the grid as well, especially the unknown ‘breed of cattle’ for which, like some others it seems, I needed all the crossers. Yes, you can have a pretty good stab at it from the anagram fodder, but I wonder if this would fit into our blogger’s very own OWCAA category? I had to think twice before remembering a KEEL could be a ‘ship’ as well as just part of a ship.

    MEISSEN reminded me of an episode (a re-run) of “Antiques Roadshow” I saw just a few days ago in which Fiona Bruce was brave enough to say she wasn’t a great fan of many Meissen pieces. They might be “exquisitely modelled” etc. etc., but I see what she means; the very ornate ones can be over the top though not quite ‘appalling’.

    The most famous use of the VOCATIVE case, as it happens showing that it can differ from the nominative singular?

    Thanks to Jack and setter

      1. Not quite, Jack; something a bit more dramatic. I’m sure someone will get it soon.

        1. “Et tu, Brute?” perhaps? (I have to confess using ChatGPT with some “prompt engineering” to get here.)

            1. I thought of that, but didn’t see any possible confusion with the nominative singular so didn’t think that’s what you referring to.
              What about, “Get thee behind me, Satan”? It’s not my Satan, after all. 😀

              1. Apologies, I didn’t express myself well; I meant to say that Brutus (nominative sing.) differs from Brute (vocative sing.) unlike in most (? all) other Latin declensions in which the nominative and vocative singular are the same. You probably know much more about this than I do and my recall of Latin has been degraded by the passage of the 50+ years since schooldays.

                I like your Satan example; not mine either.

                1. And the phrase Et tu Brute not only contains a vocative form that is different from its nominative(Brutus) but also contains a vocative form (tu) that is identical to its nominative!

                2. I should have realized that you were referring to Latin grammar there—which I never took, but where proper names ending in -us end in -e for the vocative.

      2. Winston Churchill describes his first encounter with the vocative case:

        “Mensa means a table,” he [the teacher] answered.

        “Then why does mensa also mean O table,” I enquired, “and what does O table mean?”

        “Mensa, O table, is the vocative case,” he replied.

        “But why O table?” I persisted in genuine curiosity.

        “O table, you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table.” And then seeing he was not carrying me with him, “You would use it in speaking to a table.”

        “But I never do,” I blurted out in honest amazement.

        “If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and punished, let me tell you, very severely,” was his conclusive rejoinder.

        Such was my first introduction to the classics from which, I have been told, many of our cleverest men have derived so much solace and profit.

        1. Very good; I haven’t heard that before. Maybe Jack was right after all with his “O, table?”.

  5. After the disaster of today’s QC DNF I was pleased to nail this in just 18.34, one of my better times. Needed all the checkers for AFRIKANDER, REMARKABLE and EARMARKED. On HELMSMAN I was assisted by memories of the Triang train set my father bought in Hamleys in 1959. Thanks to Jack for explaining MEISSEN – oh, THAT kind of China! I, too, was held up by being a LETter for a while, and like BR didn’t know a keel was a boat. On edit: sorry, it appears BR did know…

  6. Failed on miasma (dnk) putting miammy. The only other clues I found hard were helmsman not knowing lms, afrikandar, and Meissen.
    COD remarkable

  7. Got it done in about 50 mins, although did have a stab at FARAKINDER before backtracking. LOI SHEER. COD MIASMA.

    There are a few VOCATIVES in sung masses that choirs come across, such as domine, Christe ( that one’s Greek). The vocative was on its way out when the Vulgate was put together, hence it is Agnus Dei, not the “correct” Agne Dei.

    1. Interesting. I had never spotted that.
      And just for variety, the vocative in -i.
       o beate Sesti,
      vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam;

  8. No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
    Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
    (The Windhover, GM Hopkins)

    25 mins mid-brekker. Some bits too easy and some a bit weird.
    LOI the NHO cattle breed.
    Ta setter and J.

  9. 35mins. I felt a bit sluggish today and believe I should have finished in a better time.

    Quite enjoyable though. Like our blogger, I had to wait for all the crossers before juggling the letters in the NHO AFRIKANDER. Knowing Afrikaner helped. LOI FLAX after (a long) alphabet trawl.

    I liked LITHOGRAPH.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  10. 24 minutes with LOI AFRIKANDER, saved to the end. COD to HELMSMAN. LMS brought back happy memories of a twenty mile bike ride to Skew Bridge in Penwortham and Jubs, Pats, Prinnies and Semis, the latter not carrying then the meaning it seems to now. I didn’t know of EARED seals. Otherwise this was reasonably straightforward. Thank you Jack and setter.

  11. Under 30 mins which is always acceptable for me. Unlike jackkt I quite liked MEISSEN tbh. And Heifer (I initially had heffer … oops) reminded me of the Billy Connolly story which obviously can’t be repeated here. Needed all the crossers for the cattle breed but otherwise reasonably straightforward. thanks Jackkt and setter.

    1. I’ve nothing against the Meissen clue myself but thought I’d mention the possibility of objections before they arrive. I’m expecting at least one.

      1. The Chinatown v China Town raises a question: we generally ignore punctuation in the cluing; spaces are, arguably, punctuation; are the two the same, cryptic cluing-wise?

        Separately, but along the same lines, we often get clues where two words are clued individally, the two are put together, and then new spacing is applied to get to the answer, (as a bad example, “At the start a person has eaten” = one’s et, and cluing onset – the better examples clue a two word answer just with different spacing, but I can’t think of one at the moment). I don’t remember much moaning about those clues.

        I usually like the ‘onset’ case (where the spacing change comes in the answer). I’m less sure of the Chinatown case, where the incorrect spacing is in the cluing.

        1. I’m not sure I see Chinatown in that way, ie that it should be two words to properly provide the clue. I was reading it as a play on words such as “steeltown”, being the town where steel is made, while also providing a little misdirection.

        2. Joshua and Henri, over at Out of Left Field, sometimes hide the definition as part of a compound word! Not all the test solvers quite approve of this.

  12. I was finding this quite straightforward until the NHO cattle contributed to my taking as long to wipe out the SW corner as it had taken to reach that point. I wasn’t helped by taking far too long to see REMARKABLE which immediately revealed the double evangelist running down through it – so I then sorted out the cattle. My LOI was a sitter in retrospect. I think my brain needs servicing.

    TIME 9:23

  13. 12:59. Another to whom the cattle breed was an unknown, but with A_R_K at the start from the crossers it had to be AFRIKANDER. I tried to make TYROLEAN work for 14A at first, but then OI saw I needed NNE in the middle. I was surprised to see two intersecting MARKs in the grid. INELEGANT held me up the most. COD to MIASMA. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  14. 30 minutes, held up by two bits of silliness. The first was (like a few others, I see with relief) putting ‘let’ rather than NET for 5d – after all, ‘obstruction in court’ is always let, right? That stymied HELMSMAN for a long time. The second was a stupid ‘Afrikaaner’ for 24a, where I didn’t realise I’d missed out the D from the anagrist until I drew a complete blank on CONIFER and decided to look at it again.

    Didn’t know that MIASMA means polluted air, what MOONSHINE is, or that some seals can be eared. Does the clue for PASSENGERS need a question mark? I don’t really like them in clues unless they’re clearly necessary, and I don’t see why it is here.

    FOI Item
    LOI Flax
    COD Viennese (I like the idea of an Austrian struggling with a Geordie accent)

  15. 33:02
    NHO Afrikander. It just about escapes a rant from me for being an example of the ultimate setter transgression, as the correct order of letters was obvious once the checkers were in.
    Thanks, jack.

  16. God’s Wonderful Railway, Late and Never Early Railway
    16.30, feeling most of it was accounted for by FLAX, as I couldn’t get past FLAG while thinking how is FAG a message and surely a FLAG is not a herbaceous plant? Pleased (and slightly smug) to get the AFRIKANDER quickly despite it wandering in from nowhere I knew.
    To an extent I share Jack’s sense of disappointment: especially at the top end, I felt no incentive to work out the wordplay for such as HELMSMAN and MIASMA, which is a pity because I missed ma’s ma, and working out why 1a was not songwriter or vulnerable. Is there such a thing as too easy?

    1. Transpose G.W.R. and L.N.E.R. into airline speak and you get such ‘gems’ as Better On A Camel and Such A Bloody Experience, Never Again.

  17. 32 minutes with the last 5 going to getting the X of FLAX!!! You‘d think with only 26 letters to run through I could have got there faster. AFRIKANDER (NHO) took me a long time too.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  18. With an 8 hour transatlantic flight today, I was hoping for something to occupy more than a few minutes. Big mistake picking the crossword up thirty minutes before the taxi is due and finishing it still with time to re-tie the shoelaces. Oh, well! It was fun while it lasted. I liked HELMSMAN, which was straightforward once SR, LNER and GWR had been eliminated (BR not even considered) and the misdirection of the Chinatown, though perhaps a chestnut, got past me for longer than it ought. Thanks to blogger and setter.

  19. Raced through all but the SW corner in 10 mins. Then becalmed for a further 20 trying to figure out AFRIKANDER and EARMARKED before the rest fell into place. I find the clue for EARMARKED frankly weird, but whatever. An easy one to restore confidence after last week’s travails.

  20. 23m 46s
    I did like the Chinatown clue! With a different set of crossing clues, you could have had Limoges!
    I’m glad, Jack, that you struggled last week as well. I thought I must be losing the plot finally.

  21. 27:05

    Enjoyed this. Got AFRIKANDER ok but struggled, for what now seems a ridiculous amount of time over HEIFER and FOOTAGE, having got humg up on the “material” being brocade.

    Re 3d, apparently John Steinbeck was a keen chinaware collector. (I’ll get my coat).

    Thanks to Jack and the setter

  22. Whilst a lot slower than the posters above, I had a similar experience – including the flag vs flax quandary. Loved the parsing of Miasma and was very happy to have, nearly confidently, written in Afrikander and Meissen – after all the checkers were available.

    1. Exactly the same response as you, Chris: tripped up by forgetting that fax was ever a means of communication, and shrugging in flag ( definitely not an herbaceous plant!). But otherwise polished off quickly enough to restore faith in my ability to complete at least some of these cryptics, after a disastrous last week!

  23. 12:37 but…

    …FLAG rather than FLAX – had blearily discounted the X as a possible ending – don’t know enough about plants to distinguish a FLAG from FLAX. Solving the rest of the grid was a fairly unREMARKABLE experience…

    1. I’m sure in the not too distant future there will be some on here wondering what on earth a fax was…

  24. 24 minutes on a crossword that was kinder than last week’s, despite the fact that Chinatown isn’t the same as China town (yes, Jack, you were right. But I didn’t actually notice when solving). EVOCATIVE reminded me of Churchill in ‘My Early Life’ and his disgruntlement with Latin. He was told about the vocative case of mensa and felt (said?) how silly it was: he’d never say ‘O, table’. AFRIKANDER I had to look up to check that it was really a breed of cattle. Some very easy clues balanced by some nice ones.

  25. Almost as simps as yesterday, I thought, 15 minutes or so, with the African cattle guessed from anagrist and checkers and MIASMA my LOI just because I read it last. Thanks for explaining ELECTOR, I thought it might be something to do with selector, never heard of the muscle, it sounds a bit naughty.

  26. It all seemed scarcely more than an exercise in basic cryptic cluedom. Isn’t that what the Quick Cryptic’s for? Nice to be reminded of the old LMS.

  27. I’m curious as to how the magnficently named get-cheats-off-the-leaderboard managed to fill in the grid in 9 seconds! Is this a single issue campaign? I will miss names like WombleHustler if it succeeds …

    1. There are various ways to do this programmatically, but probably best to gloss over the details here. I don’t think it will ever be possible to keep “cheats” off the leaderboard as there are multiple ways of getting the answers in advance, however presumably people who are interested in their performance relative to others will already know who the relevant genuine solvers are.

      1. I’m curious as to the motivation of those who cheat on the leaderboard. I can’t see what they get out of it. Anyhow, it reminds me of what a great job starstruck has done with the SNITCH in that it is able to identify and disregard the times of those who cheat.

  28. This felt as easy as yesterday’s, but it took me longer. Perhaps it was messing around with the letters of AFRIKANDER with only an N and E in place that squandered precious minutes.
    Haven’t we had FOOTAGE similarly clued recently?
    26 minutes

  29. I thought the difference between seals and sea-lions was that sea-lions had external ears and seals didn’t. Hence the French otarie (Greek for little ear) for sea-lion. Must be more to it, if there are also eared seals. Some very easy bits to that. Came in at 12’39”. Thanks to all.

  30. Another easy one like yesterday! The 15x15s have been straightforward this week and the QCs have been tough (at least for me). I sailed through this in 23.35, and would have been quite a bit faster if I hadn’t fallen into the trap (like others) of originally putting in LET for 5dn.
    I particularly liked the Chinatown clue and was perhaps helped by the fact that I’ve visited the Meissen factory near Dresden. The substantial porcelain museum within the factory displays what they are capable of producing. It is truly jaw dropping, and I would recommend a visit for anyone holidaying in Dresden.

  31. 7m 45s with the last couple of minutes spent on HELMSMAN & MEISSEN, having NHO LMS or the Chinese town. I would say I’m one of the purists, but I was OK with it.

  32. 24:34, which is considerably less time than I took on the QC. My crossword-solving confidence has been slightly restored.

    My LTI were AFRIKANDER (NHO) and EARMARKED (NHO an EARED seal, but the definition fitted the checkers, so in it went.)
    Luckily I was familiar with the “‘ell of a mess” railway company.

  33. 18:45. Not sure why this took almost twice as long as yesterday. HELMSMAN and AFRIKANDER took time to decode, but in retrospect the rest seems to be standard stuff, perhaps even a bit more chestnutty than usual.

  34. HELMSMAN was my LOI as I’d unthinkingly shoved in LET at 5d. MEISSEN, GOBI and EVOCATIVE were the immediate precursors to 1a. I liked the MEISSEN clue, wondering what the ? was for until I unravelled the anagrist. NHO the cattle but once the obvious AFRIK and checkers were in place, there seemed no other way to arrange the letters. 19:24. Thanks setter and Jack.

  35. 9:22. Straightforward one, fingers crossed for AFRIKANDER but it couldn’t really have been anything else. The maternal grandmother is excellent.

  36. 25 mins with a snooze in the middle. I too had LET, but fortunately I spotted the HEMAN in time.

  37. 21’30”
    Smartly away, stayed on well.
    I’ve had a good start to week; when will the wheels fall off, I wonder?
    I should have got helmsman faster, having been a successful one, and my first toy choo-choo was LMS 6201.
    Thanks Jack and setter.

  38. Excellent puzzle, completed fairly quickly for me.
    My last few were all in the NW. Finished with MEISSEN and HELMSMAN which confirmed GOBI.
    COD to MIASMA.
    Like others I had to work out AFRIKANDER.
    FLAX was recently mentioned in The Times by a columnist who couldn’t smell it because she had Covid.

  39. Always good to be on the same wavelength as setter and other contributors. A straightforward solve for the second day running.
    Love a Latin case as it brings to mind the timeless scene from ‘Life of Brian’ when John Cleese delivers a Latin lesson to Brian , and my ‘O’ level ( that dates me ) Latin teacher, a gentle Welsh spinster. Someone will post the Python link I’m sure.
    MAPLE & FLAX – not the usual botanicals. NHO AFRIKÁNDER but it wasn’t too hard to work out.
    My brother had a train set with LMS painted on the trucks…
    Thank you to blogger , setter and all contributors.

  40. Thanks for an excellent blog with clear explanations. I also found this reasonably straightforward but was delayed by the 2 clues involving archaic communications technology – PASSENGERS & FLAX despite being old enough to remover both! Also didn’t know Erector as a muscle only as a builder.

  41. 9:56. Two days in a row I’ve broken the Ten Minute Barrier. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. No time to check for any typos and fortunately there were none. Afrikander was a guess.

    I can’t see me getting a hat trick.

  42. 14.03

    Also a relief after starting the Quickie at lunchtime and still trying to finish it.

    I got both HELMSMAN and MEISSEN quite quickly which helped, with a smile at the latter.

    The beast was LOI.

    Thanks Jackkt and Setter

  43. 32 minutes, and though easy it was a very enjoyable puzzle. I particularly liked MEISSEN (the anagrist really looked as if it would yield the name of a Chinese city) and MIASMA. In the Scandinavian languages (with the possible exception of Finnish) you must indicate the genders of your entire line of descent from your ancestors and the device in the clue reminded me of a portrait hanging on the wall of a friend who lives in Sweden. She said it showed her mormorsmormor (pronounced somewhat like “moormoorshmoormoor”) or her maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother (mor of course being “mother”), which in a way is this clue squared.

  44. 15.20. Got to the crossword late today. LOI the NHO Afrikander. Surprised to see fax still considered a message, that clue must be for older readers- like myself.

    Thx setter and blogger.

  45. Good start to the week for me ( at last, with a disastrous last few days!), despite getting nothing until the lower half (VIENNESE, IBERIA etc). Problem with 1a as I’d forgotten the old LMS, as I had the outdated fax; however, struggled on to finish in not too awful a time (for me). COD to MIASMA.

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