Times Cryptic 28734 – Sat, 14 Oct 2023. Easy timer.

Time taken: 34:26. Normally I like to solve on paper in leisurely fashion, between doing other things, but for this one I focussed enough to be able to report a meaningful time. Slightly on the easy side of the average Saturday, perhaps.

23ac raised a smile. The answers to 13ac and 27ac were obvious (once I had the helpers), but the wordplay was obscure. All clear now!  Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle. How did you all get on?

Note for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is for last week’s puzzle, posted after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on this week’s Saturday Cryptic.

Definitions are underlined. (ABC)* means anagram of ABC. Italics mark anagram indicators in the clues, and other ‘assembly instructions’ in the explanations. {Curly brackets} mark omitted letters.

Answers, and their components in the explanations, are in BOLD CAPITALS.

1 Father interrupting siesta for meal (6)
PA interrupting REST.
4 Naval base in estuary east of strand (8)
10 Put in steps where there’s slope around centre of path (7)
GRADE (slope), around AT, centre of {p}AT{h}
11 Substitute colourant containing new dye, initially (5-2)
STAIN containing N + D.
12 Cast can start to tire (4)
13 Reduced railway perhaps arriving at regular intervals (4-6)
half of ‘hourly’ could be {hou}RLY, an abbreviation for ‘railway’ which is (I checked) in the dictionary.
So, we can view the answer as a clue for ‘reduced railway’.
As the setter rightly says, ‘perhaps’! All a bit convoluted.
15 Possible rescuer of one representative eagle in extremes of peril? (9)
I + MP + ERNE, in PL = extremes of P{eri}L.
The rescuer would be the Scarlet Pimpernel, hero of the novels by Baroness Orczy.
16 Big number getting to game (5)
18 Keen on following performance, initially patchy (5)
P{erformance}, INTO.
19 A person is upset to see slander (9)
21 Unusual life study of former wife and poor igloo boy (10)
23 Like takeaway food in African country (4)
I’ll have a pizza TO GO. We would say “take away” in these parts, but this still raised a smile.
26 Wearing face protection reversed covers middle of eye (7)
VISOR reversed replaces (covers) the Y in E{y}E. Tricky.
27 Bird round most of closely observed habitats initially (7)
O (round), STRIC{t} (closely observed), H{abitats}.
28 Catch again in rule playing tie (8)
REIGN (rule), (TIE)*
29 Species present in area (6)
SP (species), HERE (present).
1 Without error terror’s wanting just the first letter (5)
2 American flat dweller keeping wild animals in pen with no key (9)
(ANIMALS)* in P{e}N. Remove the key of E from the pen.
3 Examine 100 in hospital (4)
C in SAN. The usual hospital for crosswords.
5 After stripping blush — it’s off, but all sensual (7)
Outer letters stripped from each word, as indicated.
6 Nocturnal bird in Middle East, a blackish songbird (10)
OWL in M.E. + A + DARK.
7 Organ sometimes in full flow has vibration, not quiet (5)
{sh}UDDER, without the SH.
8 Beloved idle time after a match (9)
HONEY (beloved), MOON (idle).
9 Marine airmen unfortunately would need twice this rest (6)
Two anagrams: (MARINE)* or (AIRMEN)*.
14 Ruin left one in degradation (10)
15 One pulling strings to raise favourite in noble’s protection (9)
UP (raise) + PET (favourite), in protection of PEER (noble).
17 I throw in common fossil (9)
I + LOB, in TRITE.
19 Complaint has large crew confined to island (7)
L + MEN, confined to AIT.
20 Sort of iron age bird? (6)
PIG, EON. Smelting iron ore produces pig iron, an intermediate product for making steel.
22 Old coppers of Brixton or Lambeth implicated at the beginning (5)
first letters of each word. Luckily it was spelled out, otherwise I might have guessed OBELI, a word that’s appeared recently.
24 Colour of mineral containing elements of hydrocarbons (5)
ORE, containing C + H. (Carbon and hydrogen).
25 Tipping at work (4)
AT, OP. Tipping, as in being on the top of.

15 comments on “Times Cryptic 28734 – Sat, 14 Oct 2023. Easy timer.”

  1. Something under 30′; I don’t remember what took me so long, although 13ac was my LOI and I never figured it out. The setter likes initial letters: ‘initially’ 3 times (11ac, 18ac, 27ac) and ‘at the beginning’ (22d). Are UDDERS ever in full flow?

  2. 44 minutes. There were several unknown or forgotten bits and pieces along the way and a couple where I didn’t get the parsing, so thanks for explaining those.

  3. 66m 58s
    I thought this was a good puzzle. It was clever of our setter to use just the middle letters of 5d but the first letters of 22d.
    Just about to attack today’s cryptic. I hope to be more successful than I think the England rugby team will be later in the day (tomorrow morning my time).

  4. Got but didn’t manage to work out half-hourly. COD to remain – I don’t remember seeing this type of clue before – very clever.

  5. NHO EXOBIOLOGY, but fortunately clued very obviously. I found some of the clues quite tricky to unravel and there were plenty of birds – not that I mind that at all – unlike Astronowt, I’m much more familiar with fauna than with obscure bits of the solar system. 26A and 29A held me up for quite a time and I never understood HALF-HOURLY, so thanks for the elucidation. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a poor clue. I wasn’t too happy about SPHERE either. It’s not a synonym of area, after all, but an example of one, so shouldn’t that have been indicated with ‘for example’ or a question mark? Or am I missing something? Apart from that quibble, I enjoyed it generally, with nothing being too obvious.

    1. The number of birds, (being three)
      Is an unutterable obscenity
      It’s really not funny
      Does our setter get money
      In bribes from the R.S.P.B.?

  6. Don’t remember too many issues with this, though I took ages to see HONEYMOON (idle=moon wasn’t really obvious to me) and MEADOWLARK went in more from wordplay and checkers than from knowing what it is. Similarly, PINTO was an ‘I guess that must be a style of art’ thing, I had to trust the helpful wordplay for the unknown OBOLI, and I didn’t really figure out how HALF-HOURLY worked.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Repast
    LOI Honeymoon
    COD Aspersion

  7. 45’10”
    Asleep in the stalls, never nearer.
    As the field disappeared I resigned myself to plodding round trying to justify everything, which I managed, but half-hourly was retropective to avoid another 30′.
    I enjoyed this tricky test; thank you setter and Bruce.

    Has there been any news of today’s classic, perhaps relayed from The George ?

  8. Apologies for the late arrival. UK Storm Babet – red zone – mud everywhere. So, crossword…I struggled with this one, and had a load of queries and NHOs that I needed the blog to explain. The trickiest of them, I think, is 9d REMAIN, which has such a confusing surface. Anyhoo, done, even if with lots of guesswork!

  9. Got distracted by HANDSDOWN for HONEYMOON, the only word I could fit, with HANDS being a match (cards) and DOWN for idle time. But that made HALF-HOURLY impossible, of course. Got it all sorted in the end. I couldn’t parse MEADOWLARK, mainly because I thought DOW must be the blackish bit (down without its last letter).

  10. I found this tough: too many ‘look-ups’ to get me going again. Never would have got MEADOWLARK ( I had all the crossers) – cryptic too complex for me! Similarly PIMPERNEL, wouldn’t ever have equated with a rescuer, even if I’d followed the cryptic slavishly. That said, I was happy to get those I did, with TINT being FOI, TRILOBITE LOI and RIGHT COD.


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