Times Cryptic 28724


Solving time: 23 minutes

I found this surprisingly easy considering that there were several words unknown to me and even more pieces of GK that I didn’t happen possess. Still, it’s the sign of an excellent cryptic puzzle that the clues enabled me to complete the grid correctly and in reasonable time despite such handicaps.

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 In line of strikers, spot light-fingered criminal (10)
POCK (spot) contained by [in] PICKET (line of strikers). Not sure I have come across ‘pock’ on its own before, but I knew ‘pockmark’.
6 Fighter pilot crossing river in Brazilian state (4)
ACE (fighter pilot) containing [crossing] R (river). NHO this region in NW Brazil.
9 The writer’s servants given quarters of colossal size (7)
I’M (the writer’s), MEN (servants), S + E (quarters)
10 Noble embracing love poet (7)
ARISTO (noble) containing [embracing] 0 (love). I didn’t remember this guy who’s come up only twice before in daily puzzles, most recently in June 2020.
12 Part of Scotland originally inspiring Schubert song (5)
I{nspiring) + S{chubert) [originally], LAY (song). I needed all the checkers to bring this to mind. As the most southerly island of the Inner Hebrides it’s a bit off the beaten track, and the wordplay is devious with ‘inspiring’ suggesting enclosure and ‘Schubert song’ suggesting ‘Lied’ rather than LAY.
13 Lacking will, belonging to trial rowing team, we hear (9)
IN (belonging to), TEST (trial), then ATE sounds like [we hear] “eight” [rowing team]
14 Old man or woman heretic securing Irishman as MP? (15)
PARENT (old man or woman) + ARIAN (heretic) containing [securing] LIAM (Irishman). Of course parents don’t have to be old, but here we have a reference to the somewhat disrespectful way that offspring sometimes refer to their mother or father as ‘the old man / woman’.
17 Infection requiring relief till work appears (4,7,4)
COLD  (infection), COMFORT (relief), FARM (till). The humorous novel by Stella Gibbons.
20 Beggar is unable to fix one at first (9)
MEND (fix), I (one), CAN’T (is unable to)
21 Motive for returning, avoiding a strong headwind (5)
RE{a}SON (motive) [avoiding ‘a’] reversed [returning]. I knew this meaning by chance because I came across it in May when I was checking ‘noser’ defined as ‘one that smells’ in a Felix QC and happened to mention it in my contribution that day.
23 Caught on TV initially wearing toupee, perhaps (7)
T{v} [initially], WIGGED (wearing toupee, perhaps)
24 Dull woman appearing in short film (7)
ROSA (woman) contained by [appearing in] PIC (short film)
25 Bess’s man, heading off for wild party (4)
{p}ORGY (Bess’s man) [heading off]. Porgy and Bess is an opera by George Gershwin.
26 Derrick’s advert for a geraniaceous plant (10)
CRANE’S (derrick’s), BILL (advert). Neither the plant nor its description meant anything to me. The answer has appeared only once before in the TfTT era in a Club Monthly puzzle, but I never venture into that territory.
1 Cheek, weighing into Greek characters about diatribe (9)
LIP (cheek) contained by [weighing into] PHI + PI (Greek characters), then C (about). Another unknown.
2 Beast of burden mostly encountered in the Golden State? (5)
ME{t} (encountered) [mostly] contained by in CAL (the Golden State)
3 Stingy girl doing what 1 ac aims to do (5-8)
PENNY (girl), PINCHING (doing what 1 ac  – pickpocket – aims to do)
4 Element regularly faked in new music (7)
{f}A{k}E{d} [regularly] contained by [in] anagram [new] of MUSIC
5 Fibrous substance produced by English: first out? The opposite (7)
E (English), LAST IN (first out – the opposite). This appeared in a puzzle in July and was still in my head.
7 Charge female leaving continent for republic (5,4)
COST, (charge), A{f}RICA (continent) [female leaving]
8 Call to mind the first lady touring Oklahoma (5)
EVE (first lady) containing [touring] OK (Oklahoma)
11 It’s immediate in fellow soldiers primarily employed in Intelligence (13)
IN, STAN (fellow), TA (soldiers – Territorial Army) , then E{mployed} [primarily] contained by [in] NOUS (intelligence)
15 Giving in about gin, sadly, drinking fast (9)
RE (about) + anagram [sadly] of GIN containing [drinking] LENT (fast)
16 Manic rule oddly expressed in figures (9)
Anagram [oddly] of MANIC RULE
18 Roam with this writer and that Cockney woman (7)
ME (this writer), AND, {h}ER (that Cockney woman)
19 Dismissed, sleeps over in S African grazing area (7)
OUT (dismissed), then NAPS (sleeps) reversed [over]. A word known to me since childhood as the brand name of South African  oranges, but this is first time I’ve come across this meaning. This is also its first appearance here.
20 Saw second official principally digesting Times (5)
MO (second) + O{fficial} [principally] containing [digesting] T + T (times)
22 Bath, say, before greeting old cavalryman (5)
SPA (Bath, say), HI (greeting). The city of Bath is famed for the healing quality of its mineral waters. Yet another word unknown to me, but this one has appeared once before in a puzzle in 2010.

77 comments on “Times Cryptic 28724”

  1. I laughed when I saw your first sentence, Jackkt, because I was all set to say virtually the exact same thing. This all went in easily, although by the end my vocabulary had been expanded. Now, SPAHI I did know, from somewhere and only somewhat, as it was my FOI (I’ve been perversely starting at the end lately). But I also had to take in NOSER, CRANESBILL and OUTSPAN. PHILIPPIC I first learned from the title of a song by Paul Simon, “A Simple Desultory Philippic,” an attempted parody of Bob Dylan (“I’ve lost my harmonica, Albert.” Pretty dire… though he nails the voice). I didn’t get COLD COMFORT FARM until I had nearly all the crossers.

    1. “I’ve been Norman Mailer’d, Maxwell Taylor’d…” was what I was going to say, until you get there before me…sort of.

  2. Some difficult vocabulary with some cluing for easier words which felt a little over-constructed (I’m looking at you, Instantaneous, but you’re not alone). Which is another way of saying I didn’t get the Noser / Spahi crossing and had to look them up.

    1. Likewise, Paul.in.London. The same two defeated me (as both were NHOs), but I was also defeated by CRANESBILL (can’t think why now, as Derrick and crane are synonymous obviously). COLD COMFORT FARM raised a nostalgic smile when it eventually emerged, being one my husband and I shared a love for, especially the “something nasty in the woodshed” expression which stuck for many years. On the plus side, I did get INSTANTANEOUS, but it was a half-biff.

  3. 31:05 with help needed for CRANESBILL.

    Liked INTESTATE. The clue works just as well (or better) if the “we hear” is applied to the whole “ belonging to trial rowing team” — “In test eight”.


    I also got PHILIPPIC from a Ninja Turtle: “A Simple Desultory Philippic” Never heard the word anywhere else.

  4. 13:45
    Like Vinyl, DNK NOSER, CRANEBILL; also OUTSPAN. Biffed or demi-biffed a bunch: COSTA RICA, INSTANTANEOUS (from -neous), PROSAIC, COLD COMFORT FARM (parsed after), PARLIAMENTARIAN (-arian), no doubt others. Jack, I take it you’re not a Scotch drinker: ISLAY produces some terrific single malt Scotches, as I know to my cost.

    1. It’s true I don’t drink Scotch (nor any spirits) but I’m aware of the single malt product and have been close enough to the island to have seen it across the water. The delays I experienced when solving were down to the vagueness of the definition (if asked to name 20 places in Scotland I doubt many people would come up with Islay) and the misdirection in wordplay as mentioned in the blog.

      1. For a dedicated Scotch drinker it would probably be in the top 5! It didn’t come to me immediately though: like you I tried to do something with LIED for a while.

        1. My father loved Islay malts, and I have more than once drunk my way around the island with him, either clockwise or anti.
          Possibly for that reason, I prefer Speyside nowadays 🙂

  5. Same – a few unknowns (cranesbill, Cold Comfort Farm, outspan, noser) and barely-remembereds (philippic, Acre, spahi, Ariosto), but no trouble constructing them. So a quickish solve for some difficult vocabulary. Liked MEANDER, RELENTING and COSTA RICA most.

  6. Considering all the NHOs I was well pleased with 18.01, especially because I feared I’d be staring at the blanks in LOI CRANESBILL for another ten minutes or so. But then I TWIGGED derrick = crane and suddenly I was home. I’m glad I was able to biff PARLIAMENTARIAN and INSTANTANEOUS because the assembly instructions were quite something, thanks for all the hard work jackkt. Don’t know the Paul Simon song featuring PHILIPPIC, suspect I will never in my life use SPAHI or CAESIUM but will always remember the time Warnie OUTSPAN Mike Gatting.

      1. I don’t think there is a universe in which my highly whimsical usage would be correct, it’s a different take on the verb to spin but bears zero scrutiny. Listened to the Simon song, it’s kinda funny and though I’m not sure (a) what the point is and (b) what the title means but I don’t think it matters!

        1. I didn’t know of the antipodean slang until I looked it up! The English slang is something else. But I think Jaffa here is just another reference to oranges, the other leading brand name.

          I don’t know whether it ever returned but Outspan fruit disappeared from UK shelves due to boycotts of South African goods back in the day. Jaffa (most certainly still around) led the market after that along with Spanish varieties.

        2. As far as I’m concerned it’s a cricketing term for an unplayable ball much used in cricket commentaries here in England. Jaffa is also a well known brand of oranges here. As is/was Outspan. That’s all.

          It was just a comment on LyndsayO’s post remembering Warny OUTSPANING Gatting with probably the greatest “jaffa” of all time, but the comment got separated from the target post somehow. Never mind. I think Richie Benaud brought over the term years ago and left it here to be adopted by all and sundry in the cricket commentating fraternity.

          1. Cheers.
            Richie Benaud used to use Jaffa occasionally, and I believe he commentated in England a lot, so perhaps that’s it. Was it widespread, or could you narrow it down to him?
            Jaffa is a type of orange, in my experience. The phonetic alphabet: A for ‘orses, B for mutton, C for yourself, D for ential, E for brick, F for vescence, G for police, H for (can’t remember), I for tower, J for oranges etc. But Outspan sounds like a brand name, rather than a type? And outspan sounds like a Boer word for plain, or veldt, or whatever, rather than a type of orange?

  7. Exactly the same – finished in 16 minutes, including the time taken hesitating over the NHO CRANESBILL and SPAHI. Ariosto Furioso I have read (in translation) half a lifetime ago, when I was still naive enough to think I had a duty to be aware of such things. Off to google spahi and gerani-whatsit now (something to do with geraniums maybe??)
    Thanks setter and blogger for a nice relaxing start to Tuesday. It‘s a holiday here in Hessen but i have to work anyway…
    Cranesbill is simply a synonym of Geranium!
    But spahi is actually quite interesting and worth knowing. It’s a similar kind of deal in France to Gurkhas in Britain, the word itself deriving from persian like sepoy

  8. 8:50. I more or less knew everything today. Even SPAHI seemed vaguely familiar.
    When I was a kid I think COLD COMFORT FARM would have counted as a very famous book but I don’t think I’ve heard it mentioned in at least 20 years, although I think it’s appeared here in the not too distant past.

    1. I know COLD COMFORT FARM from the Listener, where it has been a theme some time in the last couple of years. It inspired me to read the book, which I found mildly diverting.

    2. It actually appeared about 20 or so years ago as a BBC drama starring Eileen Atkins, and was very well received.

  9. Le donne, i cavallier, l’arme, gli amori
    Le cortesie, l’audaci imprese io canto
    (Orlando Furioso, Ariosto)

    15 mins pre-brekker. Neat and tidy. No marks at all on my print out except a ring around the unknown Spahi.
    Ta setter and J

  10. An easy twenty minutes, then ten more before frustratedly coming here for CRANESBILL. It didn’t help that I only vaguely knew a derrick as something to do with oil wells. Ho hum.

  11. Saw the opportunity for a sub-10 and went for it with an undefendable CRANESPIEL. Turns out I had a typo elsewhere anyway so let’s just call it one of those days.

    A lot of gettable half-knowns, which makes for an enjoyable solve. Thanks Jack and setter.

    1. I did exactly the same thing! Pressed submit on 9min 54 with CRANESPIEL and another stupid mistake…

  12. Same comments as others really, and same unknowns which somehow I managed to piece together. 48 mins.

    I was exhausted after working out the laborious INSTANTANEOUS. LOI ISLAY.

    Generally good fun. I liked PICKPOCKET and RELENTING.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  13. 8:46. What Jack said. At times I thought I was going to hit problems, like when I was trying to remember who Derrick was, but the cryptic came to my rescue each time.

  14. 22:15 – very happy with the time, and possibly a new record for me. I had to half-biff a few nhos, but mostly the wordplay was very fair. was taking a real risk with spahi but fortunately correct.

  15. 9:00, mostly powered by guesswork , with seven biffs and two NHOs (SPAHI and the Brazilian state).
    Almost blew it in the NW corner by thinking Alexander the Great’s dad spelt his name like Phillip Schofield, but rescued by LOI ISLAY.
    LOL INTESTATE (it’s a shame we don’t play test matches in korfball, which has teams of eight).

  16. 22 minutes with LOI PHILIPPIC. Like Guy, I remember Paul Simon’s Dylan spoof but never got further than wondering what it meant. SPAHI and OUTSPAN were constructed. So that’s why the oranges were called that. The only other hold-up was the plant and whether it had an S or not. I put in NOSER with a shrug. Thank you Jack. And RIP Frannie Lee.

    1. Indeed! Who needed foreign stars when you had a team with Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell?!

      1. He was a year older than me. I saw his first game, Bolton 3 City 1. He was just 16. 35 year old Nat Lofthouse played inside right to protect him. Frannie needed no protection! He scored, as did Nat.

  17. DNF, defeated by the unknown CRANESBILL.

    Had to guess that SPAHI was right, and pieced together COLD COMFORT FARM without having heard of it. OUTSPAN was another unknown, but the cluing was generous.

    COD Pickpocket

  18. 22 minutes. Mostly the same unknowns as everyone else. OUTSPAN was a surprise. LOIs CRANESBILL and SWAHI. I liked MEANDER

  19. As per the general sentiment I found this one quite straightforward, with the multiple unknowns helped by the cluing and checkers. All done in 20 minutes, with PHILIPPIC and CRANESBILL entered last. I also didn’t know ARIOSTO, NOSER, OUTSPAN, and SPAHI.
    Thanks to the setter and jackkt.

  20. 07:22, which reflects what has already been said, that this was a quite straightforward puzzle with a handful of unexpectedly tough words (albeit clued very generously). Add me to the club of people who remembers eating OUTSPAN grapefruit in the dim and distant without ever apparently thinking about what the name might mean.

  21. 10:50. I speeded up once I had a few checkers in, with ACRE, ARIOSTO and NOSER only vaguely remembered and LOI SPAHI constructed from the wordplay. I had to write out PARLIAMENTARIAN to work out the parsing for that. I parsed INTESTATE like Merlin and it was my COD. Educational. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  22. Good to see the return of Rosa Klebb in a slightly more PROSAIC clue only 5 days on. With her and all those generous clues I leisured my way home in 12 minutes – plus 1 second, but we Spurs fans know that less than that time changes offside into onside, so it doesn’t count.
    I think most of the “unknowns” are borrowed from either TLS or Mephisto. MENDICANT was a regular in Christmas crackers in the days when we children had a vocabulary of more than a couple of dozen words. God’s little ACRE in Brazil I took on trust.
    All parsed except CCF. I don’t remember even looking at the clue.

  23. Just as everybody has said above. One of those days when I wished I’d actually timed my solve, as it went more or less straight in. However, unlike some of the Quick cryptics, this was a proper, satisfying puzzle, where each clue was worked out from the cryptic, or at least bifd after part of it was triggered (ARIAN for heretic)… Several unknowns – SPAHI, ACRE and NOSER, but all easily solvable. Also OUTSPAN – remembered from the oranges of my childhood, never previously known as a place. FOI ELASTIN, LOI COLD COMFORT FARM, which I’ve never got around to reading – familiar enough, but I’d been thinking of an infection rather than a work. COD, because it made me laugh, MEANDER. Many thanks to our gentle, witty setter.

  24. 24 mins. No more to add! My main memory of visiting ISLAY was actually visiting Jura, a much more beautiful island, huge contrast to a rather dull ISLAY, especially as I’m teetotal. CRANESBILL is an ingredient in many herbal remedies.

  25. 31:33
    NHO spahi, noser, Acre. Got cranesbill (also NHO) after an alpha trawl. Poor surface readings always annoy me, and this puzzle had a few. It wound me up a bit with its obscurities and overwrought clues, but I’m probably just grouchy cos I’ve got to fix a gutter today.
    Thanks, jack.

  26. More or less a straight solve apart from PHILIPPIC, which I didn’t know. I didn’t know the Brazilian state either, but there was no doubting the answer.
    25 minutes.

  27. Same bunch of unknowns as the collective, although I immediately thought of CRANES when I saw Derrick’s (lifeboats on ships as well as oil-rigs), so the plant came easily. Every other unknown was kindly clued, so made a time just inside 30 minutes whilst wolfing down a macmuffin. ELASTIN was LOI after the NHO ARIOSTO fell. Thanks both.

  28. 24 mins, but due to my inability to correctly enter the unknown word I had correctly constructed from wordplay at 1d, I ended up with L-L-Y at 12a. I then convinced myself this was a triple definition – Lully, a song or lullaby; Lully, the well-known French composer who so inspired Schubert; and Lully that remote island that was originally part of Scotland. I think this is a much more imaginative answer than the, dare I say, prosaic so-called correct one! Do they not do bonus points in the crossword club?

  29. No surprise that I spent 22 minutes on this, one of my faster times but to be expected in view of the difficulty rating. Plenty of words that were only vaguely known but the clueing was helpful. The only one that was a problem was PARLIAMENTARIAN, where I was thinking it would be pa = old man and I couldn’t account for the rent. But ihtb and so I left it with the intention of returning to it, which I forgot to do. With no gutters to fix today, I thought it was rather good.

  30. Found this easier than today’s QC, although several unknowns (NOSER, PHILIPPIC, ARIOSTO, ACRE, SPAHI) and not all fully parsed (PARLIAMENTARIAN). Knew the oranges but not the place. Pleased to remember PROSAIC from a recent puzzle. Thanks for the much-needed blog.

    On edit: thanks to LindsayO for the recommendation

  31. Similar story, quite a few unknowns but crossers and clues got me there in just under 30′. I’m more of a Speyside man than the peatier Islays. Enjoyed PARLIAMENTARIAN and PHILLIPIC but unlikely ever to hear/use SPAHI again!

  32. 11:56 – and much the same experience as everyone else, with the just-on-the-edge-of-familiar vocabulary seeming like it belonged in a harder puzzle than it turned out to be.

  33. Much easier than yesterday’s offering. I enjoy it when I can whizz through and learn some new words to boot.

  34. 18:05 – very happy with that having got none of the acrosses on my first pass. Similar NHOs as others, but nice & clear cluing. Not sure where I remembered ‘derrick’ from!

    Thanks both.

  35. 18:15

    Much the same experience as others. I’ve drunk some whisky from ISLAY so that wasn’t too hard to think of. ARIOSTO has been here before thankfully. No idea about ACRE in Brazil or that OUTSPAN was actually a place. I have a paperback of COLD COMFORT FARM but have never read it. Last two in were the kindly-clued NHO CRANESBILL and NHO SPAHI

  36. I found this surprisingly tricky for such an easy puzzle (according to SNITCH). Maybe because I’m a bit of a biff & parser.

    All the NHO’s of most others, and I had put in ARCE and ARISOTO, which made COSTA RICA difficult. and I’d also put in AXIOM (from definition and X = “times”). So maybe I made it difficult for myself really.


  37. Now I know where the oranges came from! Many unknowns, as for others, but managed to construct them all. A biffed MASSIVE held up the NW for some time, until ISLAY brought the CAMEL. I’m quite partial to Jura too. CCF was mainly biffed. PHILIPPIC was LOI. 17:12, but too late to be included in the SNITCH at 112 on the Leaderboard. Thanks setter and Jack.

  38. As with most others, I had lots of unknown words that were pretty helpfully clued. One of the bits of arcane vocab I did know was PHILIPPIC, which brought back unpleasant memories of wading through Cicero’s Second Philippic Oration for Latin A-level. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    1. “Sissawo” as one of our Latin masters called him. Classics A-levels do help the occasional solve! Liam in parliamentarian stumped me today.

  39. 11.29

    Surprised that CRANESBILL caused difficulties only because I eked it out and it’s normally me doing the head scratching and others doing the eking.

    Thought this was an excellent example of this flavour of crossie (unusual words but with clear w/p).

    Did anyone else consider OUTSPIK? No, thought not. Let’s move on…

    Thanks Jackkt and setter

  40. 24’27”
    Back in some sort of form, albeit in a fairly easy contest.
    I was feeling quite chuffed until the SNITCH-MEISTER turned my 65 into 100.
    As Zabadak commented, the obscurities, bar OUTSPAN, seemed to me familiar from past grids from here, The Guardian or The Listener.
    My grandma’s bone-handled cutlery had a natty serrated double-edged knife with a kink in it, which I enjoyed using on Outspan grapefruit.
    I don’t think I’d like to see a filmed version of Cold Comfort Farm, or , for the same reasons, of Under Milk Wood. Gibbons’ wonderful pen-portrait of Flora’s macabre cousins needs to be conjured up in the mind’s eye of a reader or listener. The 1981 BBC Radio production is superb, but sadly not available on BBC Sounds at present.
    Thank you setter for diverting me so well from my cricket/golf withdrawal symtoms, and thank you Jack.

  41. 16:59.
    Like some others, I found this pretty straightforward despite not knowing a few – CRANESBILL, ELASTIN and CRANESBILL . I’ve learn SPAHI and how to spell CAESIUM from crosswords in the past.
    Russell Hoban fans will know ARIOSTO from Angelica Lost and Found .

    Thanks to Jack and the setter.

  42. 48 minutes on the dot. I had a similar experience to everyone else. NHO ACRE, ARIOSTO, ARIAN, NOSER, CRANESBILL, ELASTIN and SPAHI. I thought I’d never heard of OUTSPAN but I do know the oranges. ELASTIN and ARIOSTO were the last two in. Thanks to jackkt.

  43. About 15 minutes, all doors opening surprisingly fast for me. Cold Comfort Farm I’ve always found a delight – not least for the way it knocks the earthy instinctual oneness with Nature of rural folk so much in vogue with townsy intellectuals of the time. A hoot, a riot of a book. Enjoyed the long answers here mainly as they fell fast. Easy but enjoyably so.

  44. 25 minutes. As our blogger and many of commenters have said, plenty of unfamiliar words but all gettable from wordplay, even if SPAHI seemed an unlikely term. A good exercise in making sure answers were parsed correctly.

  45. I can ditto Jack’s characterization of this puzzle exactly: very easy despite many unknowns, but very fair and solvable. I even had the same solving time, give or take 10 seconds. Nuff said.

  46. Shadowing Kevin Gregg as ever, I came in at 13’23”. LOI CRANESBILL. Recently read COLD COMFORT FARM. It’s the original satire on yokelly inbred cunree folk, and funny enough in its way. I wouldn’t say it’s dated, but it did require — for me — a bit of a mental adjustment to get into the swing of it. Also I recall it had a curious science-fiction element to it, with aeroplane taxis landing in the Sussex countryside – this in the mid 30s. Narrowly avoided LOCKPICKER at 1ac. I was thinking of the Bing Crosby song Jimmy Valentine (Thank you, Bob Dylan Theme Time – Lock and Key).

  47. 44:50
    I biffed LOCKPICKER for 1a, but could not parse it, and spotted the correct answer in time to get PHILIPPIC as my LOI. Since I had all the checkers I did not need to worry about the spelling.

  48. What fun, mainly write-ins apart from Acre, where the checkers were plain, and outspan biffed by association..presuming draught animals would be unharnessed in a grazing area ..
    Thank you setter and blogger.

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