Times Cryptic 28856


Solving time: 39 minutes

Enjoyable and not particularly difficult. I’d have finished much sooner if I’d not made an error when writing in the answer at 26ac. Judging by some of the vocabulary I suspect we have an American setter again, or at least an Americanophile – possibly ‘Beck’ an occasional setter of Times Quick Cryptics whom I discovered at the weekend is a distinguished American compiler.

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 Strategy in Ring opera, promoting right to take drugs? (4-1-4)
OPERA becomes ROPE-A when R (right) is ‘promoted’ – moved forward, then DOPE (take drugs). I never heard of this. SOED: rope-a-dope  – US slang – a tactic in boxing whereby a boxer rests against the ropes and protects himself with his arms and gloves, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches.
6 Comes to the trails of ships (5)
Two meanings, the first as in ‘wakes up’.
9 Exposed to elements endlessly in Scottish town? (7)
AIR-DRIE{d} (exposed to elements) [endlessly]
10 Doctor beginning to isolate blood vessel outside theatre (5-2)
DR (doctor), I{solate} [beginning], VEIN (blood vessel)
11 Third person’s at that location reportedly (5)
Sounds like [reportedly] “there” (at that location). 3rd person possessive plural.
12 Eccentric and intelligent cheat (4,5)
CARD (eccentric), SHARP (intelligent)
13 Tobacco container put out next to TV (8)
SNUFF (put out – e.g. a candle), BOX (TV)
14 Attempt to seize power company at an end (4)
CO (company), UP (at an end)
17 Unpleasant in a self-satisfied way, ignoring two leaders (4)
{sm}UGLY (in a self-satisfied way) [ignoring two leaders]
18 Shrewd publication is a buzzkill? (8)
FLY (shrewd), PAPER (publication). ‘Buzzkill’  is US slang for a person or thing that dampens enthusiasm or enjoyment, but this is more of a whimsical definition referring cryptically to the killing of  flies etc. Mind you, I suppose flypaper does dampen their enthusiasm and enjoyment for what remains of their lives!
21 Go out with Iberian native (9)
Anagram [out] of GO IBERIAN
22 Steer clear of area with invalid (5)
A (area), VOID (invalid)
24 Caught in net, a timid, recoiling ape (7)
Hidden [caught] and reversed [recoiling] in {n}ET A TIMI{d}
25 Pleasant heading off to choose climbing tool (3,4)
{n}ICE (pleasant) [heading off], PICK (choose)
26 Lean on pupil occasionally showing boredom (5)
{l}E{a}N {o}N {p}U{p}I{l} [occasionally]. This clue lost me a lot of solving time as I wrote the answer in carelessly and then had to try to find an answer at 2dn ending with a U.
27 Lethargy when running around India for a great distance (5,4)
Anagram [running] of LETHARGY containing [around] I (India)
1 Severely criticise ruler getting upset about nothing (5)
TSAR (ruler) reversed [getting upset] and containing [about] 0 (nothing)
2 US criminal and others embracing universal proposal is an impossibility? (9,6)
PERP (US criminal – perpetrator) + ET AL (and others) containing [embracing] U (universal), then finally MOTION (proposal)
3 Show Conservative military group beginning of Times Jumbo, say (8)
AIR (show), C (Conservative), RAF (military group – Royal Air Force), T{imes}[beginning of…]
4 No longer interested in explorer’s burn, perhaps (8)
OVER (no longer interested in), COOK (explorer – James Cook). The Times font on my print-out  had me considering a more interesting surface reading until the answer emerged and I realised my mistake!
5 In French, German artist’s not finished last (6)
EN (in, French), DURE{r} (German artist – Albrecht Dürer) [not finished]
6 Fancy reason to save instant messages (6)
WHY (reason) containing [to save] IMS (instant messagesIntegrated Messaging System). The consensus amongst early contributors is that ‘IMS’ is simply the plural of ‘IM’ which Collins confirms is an abbreviation meaning ‘instant message’ and I am happy to go along with that.
7 Stay out of sight of ale, if people work drunk (4,1,3,7)
Anagram [drunk] of ALE IF PEOPLE WORK
8 Machine packing seed for bird (9)
SANDER (machine) containing [packing] PIP (seed)
13 Sub confused with advice to submerge with tank? (5-4)
Anagram [confused] of SUB ADVICE
15 Brief time running banks (8)
FLEEING (running) contains [banks] T (time)
16 Programme is on a lease — that’s clear (8)
APP (programme), A, RENT (lease)
19 One regulation I’d set up for religious festival (6)
I (one) + LAW (regulation) + I’D reversed [set up]
20 Passed down directly from new alien vessel’s base (6)
Anagram [new] of ALIEN, {vesse}L [‘s base]. A direct line of descent e.g. in ancestry.
23 City Democrat also called Republican (5)
D (Democrat), AKA (also called – also known as), R (Republican). Capital of Senegal.

77 comments on “Times Cryptic 28856”

  1. This was extremely easy. I saw ROPE-A-DOPE before I even got to “opera” and a few others while the page was still printing. It played like a QC, though I stalled at the end with the “Scottish town”—thinking, is this going to be like yesterday, with just one hard clue, but really hard?—and then it hit me.

    I particularly liked “buzzkill.” Unforunately, both the longest clues were biffed, so the setter’s labors were a bit wasted on me.

  2. 14:46. Similar to Guy, I could usually get a clue from the definition and a small chunk of wordplay, so I missed a lot of the craft here. Thanks to jackkt for explaining ABORIGINE, which I knew had to be right but couldn’t parse.

    Also I think IM = ‘instant message’, so IMS = ‘instant messages’. Though it is interesting to see that there is a different IMS!

    1. Thanks, Jeremy, and to others who have made the same point about ‘IMS’. It’s not an area in which I have particular expertise so I looked up ‘IMS’ as an abbreviation and posted what I found. I can see that ‘IMs’ (plural) makes more sense in the context of the clue, and Collins confirms ‘IM’ as an abbreviation of ‘instant message’ or ‘instant messaging’. I have amended my blog accordingly.

  3. 19 minutes Vinyl1? Damn, I did 19.01. Agree with comments above, especially about the long downs which kind of demanded to be biffed. Clever clueing wasted on me! FOI ROPE-A-DOPE, LOI AIRDRIE which was a total guess based on what I thought was a flimsy premise that turned out to be right. Some of these – WAKES, COUP, UGLY, AVOID – would have been right at home in the QC. Do we know why FLY = shrewd? Thanks for the blog Jack.

      1. Or from Wiktionary: Adjective
        fly (comparative flier or flyer, superlative fliest or flyest)
        1) (slang, dated) Quick-witted, alert, mentally sharp.
        2) (slang) Well dressed, smart in appearance; in style, cool.
        He’s pretty fly.
        3) (slang) Beautiful; displaying physical beauty.

        But I hadn’t noticed that it was dated!

  4. 6:49, which after seeing some of the other times on the board is strangely disappointing.
    I know very little about boxing but I knew ROPE-A-DOPE, and associate it with Muhammad Ali without any conscious memory to explain why. I think I watched something about the ‘rumble in the jungle’ once.

    1. Rope-a-dope supposedly worked well as a strategy for Ali in the rumble in the jungle but later in the thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier he took so much battering he never fully recovered and his career(and overall health) took a sharp downturn.

  5. 14’04”, same comments as everyone else. SANDPIPER was in a GK puzzle a few hours ago…

    Thanks jack and setter.

  6. One of those days where an easier solve coupled with the brain aligning itself perfectly and thus celebrating a huge PB on this one; knocking almost 5 mins off previous best times and hitting just under 9 mins.

  7. 8.31, no drama. I liked the misleading Ring and buzzkill (my LOI after sorting out the instruction for FLEETING).

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  8. 27 minutes. Not difficult, but I didn’t know what ROPE-A-DOPE referred to, wondering if it may have something to do with using a lasso in a rodeo. I was also stuck on ‘burn’ as being a stream so OVERCOOK took a few minutes to get. Favourite was the ‘buzzkill?’ def for FLYPAPER.

  9. 16′ before I went to bed last night. Probably one of my best times. Like a few others I had many of the answers before much thought to parsing so very much a QC feel. I grew up some 5 miles from AIRDRIE, so no problem other than a slight astonishment to find it in a Times crossword. ROPE-A-DOPE was a very strange write-in as I had just watched some of Ali v Bonavena on an obscure TV channel. After yesterday I kept waiting for the unparseable NHO clue, but it didn’t appear. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  10. Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
    Far from these carrion kites that scream below;
    He Wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;
    (Adonis, Shelley)

    20 mins mid-brekker and I enjoyed it. The bottom half seemed to fly in.
    Rope-a-dope ribs a distant bell. I have learnt a new word in buzzkill (but I’ll stick with Killjoy).
    I took a minute to work out why ‘at an end’=Up but got it before the minute was ‘up’.
    Ta setter and J

    1. To me ‘buzzkill’ and ‘killjoy’ (both words I would use) are not quite the same thing. The latter is a person deliberately sabotaging fun by an action, whereas the former is just something (or someone) that deflates the atmosphere perhaps unintentionally. So someone insisting that drinks aren’t allowed on the lawn is a killjoy, but if you’re having drinks on the lawn and someone starts talking about politics they (or more likely the act of bringing up politics itself) are a buzzkill.

  11. 26 minutes with LOI FLEETING. ROPE-A-DOPE was no problem, remembering the rumble in the jungle. It took a while to bring PERP to mind, not being an aficianado of American cop shows. It all ends with a whimper. I had little trouble with FLYPAPER but BUZZKILL was new to me. COD to AIRDRIE. Enjoyable. Thank you Jack and setter.

  12. Always happy with a biggie finish. Always very happy with sub 1 hour. Always ecstatic with a sub 30mins and so over the moon with 24:20. Promptly BUZZKILLed by some of the other times here – sub5 mins?!?! 😵‍💫

  13. 46 mins with the last five or six spent on the NHO ROPE-A-DOPE (I had rope-a-line for a while!) and and then the PDM for OVERCOOK. Agree with your comment re the American influence and on the explorer’s bottom Jack!

    I liked SNUFFBOX and the two anagrams, ABORIGINE & LIGHTYEAR.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  14. 11:44
    I think that is my fastest recorded time, so it boggles my mind that the speedsters complete much harder crosswords in at most half of that time.

    No unknowns, lots of biffing, and the wordplay etc was towards the QC end of the scale.

    Thanks to both.

  15. 14:41. NHO ROPE-A-DOPE, my LOI after finally abandoning my reading of the word in 4D as b-u-m. Maybe I need stronger reading glasses, because I was sure that’s what it spelt. It didn’t help that I wrote ICE PICK in the space for 24A and failed to see AIRDRIE was right thinking it didn’t fit. It is where my my maternal grandfather came from. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

    1. I can’t remember whether you solve on-line or paper, John, but when printed using an ink-jet printer as I do, ‘r n’ with no space and ‘m’ are indistinguishable. In future I should remember to check on the screen where I can zoom in and actually see daylight between r and n.

      1. Yep, I have a laser printer, and the same problem. Only the unlikelihood of a reference to a ‘bum’ in that sense made me reconsider, though I did briefly wonder if hobo might fit in somewhere.

  16. 40m 54s
    NHO BUZZKILL before and Collins Online confused me with its definition:
    “someone or something that stops people from enjoying themselves”
    Still, it had to be FLYPAPER which is, of course, a killjoy for flies.
    Those who have never heard of AIRDRIE have obviously never heard James Alexander Gordon read the football results on BBC Radio on a Saturday afternoon! I still don’t know where it is, though.

      1. Very good, John! 🤣
        I once unexpectedly found myself driving through Dumbarton. It was a Sunday afternoon and the town appeared closed.

  17. 11:51 with LOI AIRDIE entered with bated breath.

    Liked OVERCOOK and ROPE-A-DOPE. Thanks jack + setter

    I will add, most of the times I’ve heard ROPE-A-DOPE have been in non-boxing contexts, as the phrase has entered wider usage, especially on the other side of the pond. From the NY Times, for example:

    In casting a heavy aspersion on Saddam Hussein’s word, the presidential press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said, ”He has a history of playing rope-a-dope with the world, while all the time developing a more powerful punch.”


  18. About 12 minutes, one of my fastest ever solves.

    ROPE-A-DOPE went in first, once I’d separated ‘Ring’ and ‘opera’. Everything else flowed pretty smoothly after that, although I must confess I get DAKAR and Dhaka mixed up so I thought the clue was referring to the capital of Bangladesh. Like for MartinP1 above, I got AIRDRIE thanks to being aware of Scottish football teams – often very helpful for these crosswords!

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Rope-a-dope
    LOI Overcook
    CODs Aborigine / Aircraft

    1. Yes, a lot of my knowledge of Scottish towns comes from Scottish League football. Not that I have the remotest interest in the game (nor even between English teams) but in childhood I used to tune in on Saturday afternoons to watch whatever was on BBC Children’s TV which began at 5:00. Inevitably I was early (one had to allow time for the valves to heat up in those days!) so I always caught the end of the classified football results – the last item on the afternoon’s sports programme – and had to sit through the Scottish League scores which seemed to go on forever. The knowledge went in by osmosis and still comes in handy today.

  19. All pretty easy bar the NW corner, for me: took far too long to see ROAST and AIRDRIE, plus NHO ROPE-A-DOPE, my LOI.

  20. getting back into this after Waitrose stoped giving away free copies of the Times some years ago.
    this group is accelerating my times dramatically
    two sub 30 mins last week.
    13d Scuba dive is an anagram of sub and advice – not sub device.

  21. I finished in 25:32 being also slowed up in the NW corner. I’ve heard the expression rope a dope from somewhere, but it took a while to get it. LOI was OVERCOOK which wasn’t helped by reading “burn” as “bum” on my phone screen.
    Thanks Jack and setter

  22. No very major problems, 29 minutes. ‘Up’ meaning ‘at an end’ seemed a problem, but the connection was neatly given by Myrtilus, to which I could add ‘the game is up/at an end’, maybe not quite perfect but it satisfied me while solving. My knowledge of boxing is to say the least limited but my impression is that rope-a-dope came from M. Ali, although perhaps it was earlier. I don’t have the OED to tell me. AIRDRIE also known from the football results.

  23. “Rope-a-dope”? And people complain about mignonette. NHO buzzkill, either, though it wasn’t used literally

  24. 19 mins inc forgetting to stop the timer. Too much time trying to explain OVERCOOL until I realised I had the clue upside down.

  25. DNF, NHO ROPE-A-DOPE, but should have worked it out, everyone else did. Added to my cheating machine, along with buzzkill.
    Took ages finding and parsing the Aborigine at 21a. Liked 27a LIGHT YEAR.

  26. 30’50”
    Woefully one-paced.

    No excuses, as by the time I got back to 1ac the subconscious had sorted out the wordplay at least.
    Like Jack I was eagerly awaiting Basil Brush while Grandpa George took in the racing results and then I took down the football scores for Grandma Edith’s Littlewood’s pools coupon, which, from about the age of eight, included my own 8 from 10 (45 combinations at whatever the unit stake was – 3/4 of a penny?) Any offers?

    Thank you setter and Jack.

  27. I think I may have underperformed here looking at some of the relative times posted, even though my time of 36.21 was nicely under target. I didn’t help myself by carelessly putting in AWAKE for 6ac by not reading the clue carefully enough, but solving 7dn alerted me that it needed a rethink. I was left at the end with the crossers at 9ac and 4dn, and I needed to go through almost the entire Scottish League before AIRDRIE came to me, prior to that becoming overfixated that AYR must be in there somewhere. ROPE A DOPE brought back happy memories of the mighty Ali, who if memory serves me correctly, was rightly voted by the British public as the world athlete of the twentieth century

  28. Stopped at 30 mins with ROPE-A-DOPE, ROAST and AIRDRIE unsolved. Should have got the latter two but doubt I would have got the NHO boxing strategy. It sounds so implausible to the uninitiated. Not one to forget in a hurry! Thanks for the enlightening blog.

  29. Quite chuffed I finished today’s puzzle, as I’m fairly new to it. It seemed more straightforward than usual.
    Liked the rope-a-dope clue, which I remembered from a documentary about Ali and Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle. Fly paper also a belter.

  30. Failed with my LOI ROPE-A-POPE even though I had thought of dope. Pop E seemed more likely but I seem to be alone with that thought.

    I thought the anagrams for LIGHT YEAR and ABORIGINE were very good.

  31. My FOI was ROAST and LOI ROPE A DOPE, which did ring a faint bell when I got it. PERPETUAL MOTION and KEEP A LOW PROFILE were biffed from bits of wordplay. OVERCOOK took a moment or 2 and was POI. The puzzle came together nicely in 12:45. Thanks setter and Jack.

  32. Agree this had shades of a QC about it. It must have done for me to finish in c.20 minutes. For a change I was not detained too long by the americanisms or the usually pesky four-letter words as the clueing was fairly generous.
    Thanks to jackkt and other contributors.

  33. 19:37

    Guess you’d have to be of a certain age and/or not English and/or a boxing fan to have written in ROPE-A-DOPE as your FOI – I am none of these and so it was my LOI and entered with something of a shrug. Otherwise everything was pretty straightforward. I liked 4d.

  34. My 3rd solve in a fortnight of less than 13 mins (for over a year my pb) and at 11:28 coming in at just over 3 Verlaines.

    Nothing too remarkable but the Iberian anagram took me a while to see and was my biggest hold up. Enjoyed Whinsy, probably my COD.

    Thx J and setter

  35. I had the same problem as AndyPandy, trying to find a homynym indicator so that Ayr would fit in until I had to trust the checkers and the cryptic. I knew the two Americanisms, so it was an uneventful solve.

  36. 19.47 with LOI aborigine. With an abundance of other anagrams, ashamed to say I just bunged it in without working it out. The time I wasted trying to think of a place in Spain that could be the origin.
    COD ugly.

  37. 25 minutes. Nice puzzle. As others have said, liked the anagram for Aborigine. Also liked Perpetual Motion.

  38. Found this strangely tricky in places, easy in others. NHO ROPE-A-DOPE, so no idea what I was looking for. ROAST and AIRDRIE also took their time and I wasn’t sure of the spelling, so waited for all the checkers. Missed several anagrams – only getting ABORIGINE and LIGHT YEAR with all the checkers in place, though many clues went straight in almost before reading them fully. I guess I’m a bit distracted today.

  39. Apparently a relative crawl today in 16.46.
    Two queries: has ROPE-A-DOPE been used by anyone else ever?
    And is an ICE PICK really a tool used for climbing or more correctly a tool used to assassinate Leon Trotsky?

    1. Trotsky was killed with an ice axe, which is a climbing tool . An ice pick is a small spike with a wooden handle for breaking up large blocks of ice, as Jack Lemon did in “Some like it hot”.

    2. Rope-a-dope is sometimes used (over here, anyway) in the context of political contests. A fairly random selection, after Googling “rope-a-dope politics”: “Sleepy Joe? No, It Was A Rope-A-Dope All Along,” “Mike Pence used a successful political rope-a-dope strategy in (the recent) vice-presidential debate,” “Will the Ukrainian Rope-a-Dope Work?,” “Political Diary: Republican Rope-a-Dope?,” “Carson is practicing a political rope-a-dope debate style that has served him well”…

    3. Wikipedia says Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, “Irish” Mickey Ward and a few lesser lights have at times employed rope-a-dope successfully.

  40. Just over 45mins for only my 5th ever completion of the biggie. Usually there’s at least one obscure word in there. Had to correct SNUFFBOX from StUFFBOX – didn’t really give it enough thought – so not a perfect solve unfortunately. Had about 9 left – towards the SW as 30mins approached, so overall a decent solve. Enough to test me.

  41. 24 minutes. No great hold-ups.

    For 21 across I immediately thought of ABORIGINAL but it took me longer to get ABORIGINE. I hadn’t heard it in a while. Apparently in the Australian context it’s now a bit dated and offensive.

    My boat is called Sandpiper, as are dozens of others on the East Coast. It leads to some interesting conversations whenever ‘Sandpiper’ is hailed on the VHF.

  42. Around 30 minutes including 15 minutes to write in answers (I’m 85 with numb fingers and very slow and shaky printing of letters). Up to a week ago did one puzzle a week but now have spent just over a week doing them daily. Daily is a must to avoid mostly DNF. Now have been taking one to two hours mostly.

    One minor correction to 13d. “Anagram [confused] of SUB DEVICE” should read “Anagram [confused] of SUB ADVICE”

  43. Just my style, and level I hate to admit! But, a DNF because NHO ROPE A DOPE. I also didn’t know PERPETUAL MOTION was an impossibility- to my shame. ( should have trusted the cryptic and laboriously worked it out!)
    But enjoyed the PDMs I did get FLYPAPER, DIWALI (distant memory), SANDPIPER etc.
    Nice, easy puzzle: more please!


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