Times Cryptic 28806 – Sat, 6 Jan 2024. Fireworks now.

This was a challenge to start the New Year with. More fireworks than the week before, I thought.

There were a couple of answers in the bottom half whose meanings were new to me. I laughed at 25dn. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable start to 2024. 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.

1 On radio, Britain’s leader clarified  way to go (5)
BRAVO – I think we have two definitions.

(1) BRAVO is the letter B (Britain’s leader) in the phonetic alphabet designed to clarify letters on radio.

(BTW, it’s used by airlines  around the world, not just NATO … dismounting soapbox now!)

(2) A call in the theatre etc. meaning “way to go”.

4 Sleep-inducing, singular work, opening shortly (9)
SOPORIFICS (singular), OP (artistic work), ORIFICe shortly.
9 Washing line secured by neighbour with ten poles (9)
ABLUTIONSL (line) secured by ABUT (neighbour, as a verb), then IO (looks like ten), NS (north and south poles).
10 Sounded disgusted, with pupil no longer returning word book (5)
BOOEDBO (OB – pupil no longer – returning), OED (Oxford English Dictionary – word book indeed!).
11 Turn to drink a little after initially extending chat (6)
GOSSIPGO (turn), S-SIP (drink a little, after initially extending the first letter). An unusual device.
12 Not just a rascal who cheats at racing! (8)
IMPROPERIMP (rascal), ROPER (cheat at racing; not a meaning I knew:  The Shorter Oxford says: “… a person who intentionally loses a race”).
14 Cut middle out of fish, eel-like? (10)
SLITHERINGSLIT (cut), HERrING (fish, with its middle out).
16 Maybe seven-year itch? (4)
LONGThe Seven Year Itch was a 1955 Billy Wilder movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but I think here it’s just a hint that seven years would be a LONG time.
19 Facility allowing you to pick up tablets? (4)
EASE – sounds like (picking up) E’s, the tablets.
20 Conman in work initially filling in crack leading to slow leak briefly (6,2,2)
WIZARD OF OZWIZARD (crack, in the sense of expert), Filling initially in OOZe briefly,
22 Awfully brash, probing ordinary fellow’s working arrangement (8)
JOBSHARE – anagram (awfully) of (BRASH), probing an “ordinary” JOE.
23 Reward Tom perhaps, for waiting game (6)
TIPCATTIP (reward for the waiter), CAT (tom, perhaps).
26 Diet once you have after Caribbean holiday? (5)
WITANW.I. (West Indies), sun TAN.  Read about the Witan here.
27 At home, worried, after time off (9)
TERMINATETERM (time), IN (home), ATE (worried). “Off” is a verb: he offed him.
28 Rare delay unsettled licensed church official (3,6)
LAY READER – anagram (unsettled) of (RARE DELAY).
29 Prosper, possessing energy for a mere errand boy (5)
GOFERGO FAR (prosper), with the “A” changed to an E (energy).
1 Have a host, perhaps, promoting posh European’s noble deed (4,5)
BEAU GESTEBE A GUEST (have a host, perhaps: ho ho!), promoting U one place earlier in the word, then E (European).
2 Set of plans autoloads, dropping out every second (5)
ATLAS – alternate letters of AuToLoAdS.
3 Not allowed appropriate rank (8)
OUTRIGHTOUT (not allowed), RIGHT (appropriate: right and proper).
4 Drive out of London area when hour is up (4)
SHOOSOHO, when H (hour) is up. Similar device to that in 1dn.
5 Animated delivery worker after staff, aptly (7,3)
POSTMAN PATPOST, MAN, PAT (as in a pat answer; pat in this sense can be an adverb too)
6 Graduation robe rides up somewhat, as new? (6)
REBORN – hidden (somewhat) backwards (up) in graduatioN ROBE Rides.
7 Sweet old academic keeps safe from abuse? (9)
FOOLPROOFFOOL (dessert/sweet), PROF keeps O (old).
8 Fraud arising concerning programmer (5)
CODERCOD (fraud), ER (re=concerning, arising).
13 Judged a way to limit speed of data processing (10)
ARBITRATED –  A RD (road/way) to limit BIT RATE (speed of data processing, measured in bits per second). Brilliant!
15 Yankee sits by front of treadmill, shattered after one minute (4-5)
ITSY-BITSYI (one), then anagram (shattered) of (Y SITS BY T)
17 Place index finger finally under peg and look for long time above (9)
GAZETTEERGAZE (look for long), T (time), TEE (peg), R (finger, finally). Tricky separation of “long” and “time”. I didn’t know that was what the answer meant.
18 Looking up to notice one’s lifted phone (8)
ADMIRINGAD (notice), MI (I’M = “one is”, lifted), RING (phone).
21 A little beef perhaps with joint (6)
WHINGEW (with), HINGE (joint).
22 Prize fight is broadcast (5)
JEWEL – sounds like (when broadcast) DUEL.
24 Kid very loud following drink (5)
CHAFF CHA (drink), FF (very loud).
25 It’s bitter, rather, outside! (4)
BRRR – the outside letters of BitteR RatheR. Loved it!

38 comments on “Times Cryptic 28806 – Sat, 6 Jan 2024. Fireworks now.”

    1. Good thought! The setter could have done it that way, but didn’t. There’s no word in the clue starting with S.

  1. It never fails to amaze me that there is someplace in the world where JEWEL sounds like “duel.” That must have been one of my last in.
    I didn’t know ROPER and even didn’t notice that I’d biffed that.
    There used to be a column in the “state newspaper” of West Virginia, the liberal, Pulitzer Prize–winning Charleston Gazette (now, in this print-unfriendly age, yoked perforce to its erstwhile conservative rival as the Gazette-Mail), written by one James Dent, a talented fellow who also did the Gazette‘s sharp editorial cartoons, which now the enterprise can’t afford to hire anyone to do, that was called (I’m getting to it!) “The Gazetteer.” I must have heard before of the definition used here, but it was slow in coming.

    1. Well!! I can confirm those two words are near enough to homophones right here in the Emerald City. 🤪

      1. I never knew the yellow brick road led to Sydney (or that it is known as the Emerald City).

        1. An eponymous 1987 play by David Williamson had a writer move from Melbourne to Sydney … the Emerald City.

    2. My duel and jewel are identical as are my dune/June, juice/deuce not to mention my Jesuit/Did you sew it?

      A prole I am and a prole I shall remain. 🙂

  2. Funnily enough, POSTMAN PAT made an appearance in the quick crossword the same day (in the clue for EXPAT). I liked “conman in work” for the WIZARD OF OZ. I also did not know ROPER and didn’t even notice I didn’t know.

    I pronounced JEWEL and DUEL pretty much the same (southern English accent).

  3. I was pleased just to get through this with everything correct if not fully parsed. I didn’t note my total solving time as I needed two sessions over two days but when I finished the first of these after half-an-hour I had only 12 answers in the grid.

    I took on trust that WIZARD OF OZ was a conman (apart from the fact that all magicians cheat) because I’ve never seen the film. It’s another on the long list of ‘all-time greats’ I have managed to avoid, along with Star Wars and The Godfather.

    The required meaning of GAZETTEER is the only one I’ve ever known. Of course I’ve heard of newspapers called The Gazette, but I’ve never wondered why.

    1. One of the most famous lines from The Wizard, oft repeated in these parlous times when we are assailed by a con man at every corner, is “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

  4. In rapid connected speech, I’d pronounce DUEL as JEWEL. (Probably, King Charles, too, though he would deny it.)

    Like Branch, I enjoyed BRRR. Nice challenge for a weekend (even if all days are alike to me, in my Oblomovian existence).

    56 mins

    1. I suspect most of those who object to ‘dual’ for ‘jewel’ often pronounce it like that themselves without even realising it.

  5. Was this hard or did I just make a total ham fist of it? Nine answers – in an hour! – then completely stumped. Epic fail. And now that I’ve read the blog, I can see that it was waaay beyond my capabilities. My mind just isn’t flexible enough for the mental contortions needed here. Oh well.

    1. Most of us have been there. It’s a matter of practice, reading the blogs and building confidence on the easier ones (e.g. Monday’s).

      1. Oh yes, I know, but thank you. I’ve already come a long way thanks to this blog. I know I should practise more but I’m so slow at it that I’d never get anything else done! Thank you.

        1. It’s useful to spend to put them aside when progress stalls, and come back later … even days later. Amazing what happens when you look with fresh eyes!

          1. I find a fresh mug of tea can occasionally work some magic too! Thank you for the encouragement.

    2. Same here, SBeginner! I started off with a couple of quick flashes of answers: BEAU GESTE , POSTMAN PAT and SOPORIFIC, but then ground to an interminable halt, even looking up half the answers didn’t help! My worst ever attempt ( didn’t help that I’d never heard of TIPCAT nor WITAN, or the required meaning of CHAFF. And what is the word graduation doing in 6d? Surely excessive to requirements? In order to mislead, I guess, but that seems to be a specialty of this setter, and highly successful! I’ll see your “ oh well” and raise it…

      1. In 6dn, graduatioN supplies the final N in the hidden answer. So, essential to the wordplay.

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who found this extremely challenging – possibly the hardest Saturday cryptic since I started doing it during the pandemic. I just couldn’t get on the setter’s wavelength.

    After an hour I hadn’t reached double figures, and after a second fruitless session later in the day, I resorted to looking up answers online to give me a leg up. Even then, it took three cheats before I was able to start solving the clues myself again. And I never did get WHINGE.

  7. I’ve lost the paper so largely forgotten. Wiktionary did not support ROPER as cheater at horse racing, but it had to be. Wiktionary has GAZETEER as a journo as well as a place index. I was surprised at BRRR but it’s fine.

  8. A bit of a struggle – a two cups of tea problem this morning. But I enjoyed it a lot and checked out in 42 minutes. I didn’t know this meaning of ROPER but it had to be…

  9. Thank you for the explanation (confirmation) of what was going on in 16ac LONG. I can see why the use of “Maybe” and the question mark was needed to help understand what “seven-year” was suggesting. But the clue was balanced out by a nice surface referencing the Wilder movie.

    I appreciated the BEAU GESTE 1d clue. Mainly because I think I have now finally sorted out in my mind what the original phrase means, as well placing all those French Foreign Legion stories and their parodies. For many years I was never able to get beyond remembering the rather surreal spoof comic-strip “Beau Peep” in The Daily Star.

  10. 27:50. I failed to parse WIZARD OF OZ so thanks for that. I wondered about seven-year for LONG but I suppose the clue is a pun on the film name. I’ve been defeated by BRRR before (the 2023 Championship final puzzle when I tried it for myself) but not this time. TIPCAT known only from crosswords. I liked SLITHERING best. Thanks Bruce and setter.

    1. Btw, John, I tried to comment on your blog today (twice!), but it refused to post my quite long dissertation on leftover pastry! At which point I gave up, as I couldn’t even find what the problem was – just ‘error in publishing’.

        1. Apologies both. Sorry you had trouble. Blogger is a free platform provided by Google and they don’t support it very well. It may have been a problem with the servers. But I have seen this….
          “Please make sure that reCAPTCHA is not blocked by your browser (or extensions). Also check your privacy settings (third-party cookies / cross-site tracking). Here is a quote from the official help article:
          Blogger uses third-party cookies so you can comment from your Google Account. If third-party cookies are disabled on your browser, you may not be able to comment on blog posts while you’re signed in. You can still comment anonymously, or with a name and URL.
          It’s kind of rubbish, I know. Maybe it’s time I bit the bullet and migrated to WordPress. The thought is a bit daunting, though.

  11. Didn’t know roper as a cheat, but IMPROPER was clear; had to hope WITAN was a diet; not familiar with BEAU GESTE, but thought it sounded like the kind of French phrase we might use; took ages to get the tricky GAZETTEER, and only then did I see WIZARD OF OZ.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Brrr
    LOI Wizard of Oz
    COD Shoo

  12. Very tricky but ultimately satisfying, once the parsing had been worked out. This felt very much like one of our Sunday setters; any thoughts on that, anyone? LOI BRAVO, where I was looking for a soundalike. All parsed save 29A. Doh! Never saw the anagram! Liked 1D, 15D and 17D.

  13. Hard. Did about half in 20 minutes but then needed a long tank to get going again. Finished in a smidge over 40 mins. Not helped by having MEDAL/MEDDLE instead of JEWEL/DUAL. Some v clever clues but quite wordy so not my absolute favourite. Very good challenge though

  14. Very hard, just over an hour but with a night’s sleep before putting in my last four: WITAN, WHINGE, TIPCAT and GOFER. Actually, I rather liked WITAN (which barely rang a bell from listening to innumerable podcasts about the history of England). But I did not like the cluing of GOFER, since “mere” does not make any legitimate contribution to the clue other than to make it possible to replace the A (and not “AN” which would otherwise be required before “errand”) in GO FAR with an E. Wording the clue differently would have been more elegant.

  15. Dear oh dear. After two days of staring at the last 7 clues I was none the wiser. I needed aids for TIP to make the NHO game. (It would have been a lot less painful if ‘for waiting’ had come after the reward rather than the cat in the clue.)I have never heard of that meaning of CHAFF although it seemed clear despite there being several 3 letter drinks that would make equally less sense to me. No idea how GOFER worked (what’s with the ‘mere’?) or OUTRIGHT (rank what?)How or why does ‘clarified’ mean we are talking about the NATO alphabet? I only had half an idea of what was going on in 22a and 22d and none at all in 26a and 21d. This setter may be the same person who left me stranded a few weeks ago. Moan, groan.

    Thanks for all the help sorting it out. I’d like to think it would make it easier next time our paths cross but somehow I doubt it.

  16. Just to add to my comment above (reply to SBeginner), I also put in BEANO for 1a, as it both fitted the crossers and made sense to me ( “Britain’s leader at the time “clarified the way to go” with the BREXIT question by suggesting BE A NO!

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