Times Cryptic 28788 – Sat, 16 Dec 2023. In another century, and besides the wretch is dead!

At first glance, I thought this was going to be hard. But, once I started, I fairly flew through it. There were two or three obvious answers, where I later had to search for details to explain the wordplay; Ron’s brother for one! (He’s dead – hence the title.) There were some elegant “lift and separate” clues as well. 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 in bold and 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.

Across
1 Mollusc shell from Lima, just under half an inch across (4)
CLAM
CM (centimetre; just under half an inch) across shell from L{im}A. Tricky wordplay.
3 Keeping birds, one caught cutting a bird of prey (10)
AVICULTURE
I (one) + C (caught), cutting A VULTURE.
9 Dark exclamation from protester? (3,4)
NOT FAIR
Cryptic hint, or two. I debated which is really the definition. Both, perhaps?
11 How many people solve the Times cryptic, theoretically? (2,5)
ON PAPER
Another cryptic hint. “How” is in the sense of  “in what manner”. You needed to separate “how” from “many”!
12 Say, Ron’s brother’s admitting evidence of debt? That’s appalling! (9)
EGREGIOUS
I was happy to biff the answer, and at first assumed Ron’s brother was Greg, although I’d never heard of the pair. When I looked at the wordplay, I saw EG  + REG’S admitting IOU. So Ron and Reg, then. NHO them, either! An internet search found that they were the Kray twins. Them I had heard of.
13 Get rid of Democrat before long (5)
DITCH
D, ITCH.
14 North happily distributed charity (12)
PHILANTHROPY
(NORTH HAPPILY)*
18 Fast start from a quiet side of Yorkshire (3,9)
ASH WEDNESDAY
A, SH (quiet), {Sheffield} WEDNESDAY.
21 Minute break lying back in hammock (5)
COMMA
hidden, backwards, in hAMMOCk.
22 Reproduce shocking article about European power (9)
REPLICATE
E + P in (ARTICLE)*
24 Kill enemy guarding large object at sea (3,4)
ICE FLOE
ICE (kill), FOE (enemy) guarding L (large).
25 Good German downhiller having shed kilo is more feisty (7)
GUTSIER
GUT (German for “good”), S{k}IER
26 Turncoat Yankee hosting Poles for a short time (10)
TRANSITORY
TRAITOR + Y, hosting N + S.
27 Beastly house by end of esplanade that’s an eyesore (4)
STYE
STY, {esplanad}E.
Down
1 Tory locum beginning to transmit disdain (8)
CONTEMPT
CON, TEMP, T{ransmit}.
2 Drug sustaining a heavenly body! (8)
ASTEROID
A, STEROID.
4 Sign right in middle of Spanish port (5)
VIRGO
R in VIGO.
5 Angry British editor of dubious pedigree (9)
CROSSBRED
CROSS, BR{itish}, ED{itor}.
6 Insect collector left pet spider to one, unexpectedly (13)
LEPIDOPTERIST
(L PET SPIDER TO I)*
7 On horseback, Ruth is arrogant (6)
UPPITY
UP (on horseback), PITY.”Ruth” is an archaic word for pity; the meaning lives on in “ruthless”.
8 Uninhibited attention due to you once (6)
EARTHY
EAR (attention: Friends, Romans, countrymen …), THY (“you”, once).
10 Poor Agnes beset by gold bits of furniture which took some cleaning (6,7)
AUGEAN STABLES
AU (gold), (AGNES)*, TABLES.
15 Most vulgar traits we’d worked on (9)
TAWDRIEST
(TRAITS WED)*
16 Romantic that is embracing old ringmaster (8)
IDEALIST
ID EST embracing ALI (old master, in the boxing ring!)
17 An exclamation on seeing how Eliot’s poems were signed? (2,6)
BY GEORGE
Whimsical, cryptic definition. George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans.
19 Head of Supreme Court about to shred legal document (6)
SCRIPT
S{upreme}, CT about RIP.
20 Parasite found in contents of Samos kebab (6)
AMOEBA
internal letters of sAMOs kEBAb.
23 A silver-lined handheld comms device (5)
PAGER
AG 
(silver) in PER (“a”, as in £2 a/per item).

31 comments on “Times Cryptic 28788 – Sat, 16 Dec 2023. In another century, and besides the wretch is dead!”

  1. 14:43
    I flew through this, too, biffing a couple, like CLAM, which I never got; also don’t understand WEDNESDAY, and didn’t understand Reg. I liked the ‘old ringmaster’.

      1. Sorry! Sheffield Wednesday is a football (soccer) club, as explained on Ted Lasso. Named this because, yes, they originally played on Wednesdays.

  2. I used the word “ruth” in a poem in my high school’s newspaper: “…untouched by ruth.” (Not meaning the only “Ruth” I knew, Ruth Tracy—though her daughter, in my class, was a bit sweet on me.)

    I’d call only the first word a real definition of NOT FAIR. A friend of mine who works for Wayfair may soon join a chorus with the cry (or maybe “Way Unfair!”) if the CEO keeps up his shenanigans (“Working long hours, being responsive, blending work and life, is not anything to shy away from”). Workers of the world, unionize!

        1. ‘No fair’ is, to me, the American version of the English ‘not fair’. The latter isn’t in any of the usual dictionaries but 1) it’s definitely something English kids say and 2) there can be no doubt that NOT FAIR is not a recognisable lexical term for ‘dark’ (any more than ‘not dark’ is a recognisable lexical term for ‘light’). Ergo, ‘exclamation from protester’ is the definition.

            1. Yes I’ve heard and read that. British kids wouldn’t say it, or at least wouldn’t have when I was a kid. My own kids now say ‘gotten’ so who knows.

          1. Collins, for DARK:
             3 a. (of complexion, hair colour, etc) not fair or blond; swarthy; brunette
            I guess both are, the second by example.

            (And Dictionary.com has “not pale or fair in skin tone.”)

            1. NOT FAIR is a perfectly good definition for the lexical unit ‘dark’. It doesn’t work the other way round because NOT FAIR is not a recognisable lexical unit meaning ‘dark’.

              1. NOT FAIR isn’t in either dictionary as a lexical unit, though it is in the Dictionary.com Thesaurus (meaning “overcast”).

                1. I know, I even said that! But it is certainly something kids (in England) say. It’s also the name of a song by Lily Allen, FWIW.

                  1. OMG I just looked up the song…!
                    I’ve heard people say, “That’s not fair,” “It’s just not fair to…,” etc., all my life. For the shorter exclamation “No fair!” is more common here. I don’t think it’s limited to kids, but so few Americans really grow up these days.

    1. Perhaps ‘not fair’ is peculiarly a British expression. As a child the cry of ‘That’s not fair!’ was a frequent occurrence in our house. We would never have said unfair, even knowing the word.

  3. 25 minutes with parsing fully marked up on my copy. I had no problem with the soccer team but it did cross my mind that I’ve never heard it referred to simply as ‘Wednesday’. I assume in the context of talk about the game it may be said, although its fans would call their team ‘The Owls’ as distinct from Sheffield United who are known as ‘The Blades’.

  4. 27.36 Quick for me. I am British but I struggled with the local knowledge. I never parsed CLAM or ASH WEDNESDAY and despite watching the Tom Hardy Kray film last week (meh) I was still wondering who RON and GREG were. Thanks branch.

  5. Quick – 30 minutes – which I’ll take to mean it was pretty easy-peasy, even for me. For once it was all in my GK sphere. Only one I didn’t understand, 22ac, because I haven’t yet learned/figured out when two random words might supply their initial letters as components of the answer. Oh, and I also needed the explanation of PAGER at 23d. Thanks, all.

    1. The setter can’t just use any word to indicate its first letter. It has to be in the dictionary as a definition. So, for example, if you look up ‘P’ in the dictionary, one of the definitions is ‘power’ (as in various scientific formulae, I suppose). There aren’t many like this that the setters use regularly so they start to leap out at you after a while.

  6. Just looked back and I took 24 minutes, which is on the fast side for me 🙂

    Todays had 3 interlocking clues which really slowed me down – 1 which was clever (and solving it was the key to cracking the puzzle), 1 which was hard, and the last which was an unknown word to me. Shame we have to wait a week to discuss it!

    Cheers Steve

  7. DNF, defeated by AUGEAN STABLES (I’ve always thought it was ‘Aegean’ for some reason, and as I didn’t parse it I just bunged it in) and BY GEORGE, where I inexplicably put ‘my dearie’… I don’t know if it’s possible to get an answer more wrong than that, especially with that many checkers.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Ash Wednesday (‘fast start’ is a great definition)

  8. 17.03

    Not a toughie but no harm in that. Tried to insert OSKEBA for the parasite until the rather good COMMA saved me from that appalling momble.

    Thanks Bruce and setter

  9. Pretty much straightforward, as K says. LEPIDOPTERIST and PHILANTHROPY went in from the initial letters, which opened up the grid nicely. Liked EGREGIOUS. I have no notes for it, but seem to remember that NOT FAIR was one of the last in!

  10. Peeked at the blog for NOT FAIR and the NHO AUGEAN STABLES. Otherwise all done in about an hour – happy with that. Couldn’t parse IDEALIST – must remember ID EST… No problems with the Krays or WEDNESDAY. Favourite clue BY GEORGE. One day I hope to be able to finish without peeking 😁

    On edit: many thanks B

  11. Didn’t have the nous to look up the blog as you did, sltrach, but cheated anyway on just three – which is not bad for me on a Sunday: AUGEAN STABLES ( which I knew of but had forgotten, given the deviousness of the clue), BY GEORGE ( I always only think of T.S. for some reason, and started off with MY …….) and unable to come up with the term for keeping birds (only that it had to start with AV). But the rest flowed slowly but steadily (helped of course by a fair bit of biffing). Liked ASH WEDNESDAY after I stopped looking for a new part of Yorkshire – having left the UK a good 65 years ago – ON PAPER ( as I do, a month later ), and EGREGIOUS , reminding me of the Kray twins.

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