Times Cryptic 28880


Solving time:  39 minutes for all but two answers, then 11 minutes for the last two. Inevitably the problematic answers intersected – MEALIEST and EVANESCENT. I took a couple of unknown words on trust to explain parsing whilst solving and then looked them up for the blog.

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 juxtaposition indicators unless there is a specific point that requires clarification.

1 Absent-minded sergeant losing material on holiday (6)
VAC (holiday – dated schoolboy slang, I think), {serge}ANT [losing material – serge, a durable fabric made from wool]
4 Underworld character in ditch (7)
DIS (underworld – Roman equivalent of the Greek Hades), CARD (character)
9 Smallest of visible asteroids, shrinking (5)
Hidden in [shrinking] {visib}LE AST{eroids}
10 Downtrodden journalists blocking article (9)
PRESS (journalists) contained by [blocking] OP-ED (newspaper article expressing an opinion)
11 The common people march about, full of spirit (9)
DEMO (march), C (about), RACY (full of spirit). I wasn’t sure about the definition here, but this from Collins has it covered: the ordinary people, esp as a political force
12 The Spanish reportedly consume cream (5)
EL (‘the’ Spanish), then -ITE in the target word sounds like [reportedly] “eat” (consume)
13 Monster conger eel oddly vanishing (4)
{c}O{n}G{e}R {e}E{l} [oddly vanishing]
14 Singular rotundity and thickset build (10)
S (singular), TUBBINESS (rotundity)
18 Passing pointer on European trail (10)
E (European), VANE (weather pointer), SCENT (trail). Quickly vanishing or passing away.
20 Male short leg (4)
STAG{e} (leg e.g. of a race) [short]
23 Live long and prosper, lacking nothing (5)
D{o} WELL (prosper) [lacking nothing]
24 Loathe Manitoba, moving east (9)
Anagram [moving] of MANITOBA, then E (east)
25 Unexplained details of card game watched by detective (5,4)
LOO (card game), SEEN (watched), DS (Detective Sergeant)]
26 Starter of oysters with effervescent Asti and old port (5)
O{ysters} [starter of…], anagram [effervescent] of ASTI
27 Head of Anatomy Department eviscerated lamprey with skill (7)
A{natomy} [head of…], DEPT (department), L{ampre}Y [eviscerated]
28 Vulgar programme on radio (6)
Sounds like [on the radio] “course” (programme)
1 Love cycling with daughter on capital’s bike track (9)
Anagram [cycling] of LOVE, D (daughter), ROME (capital)
2 Smoothie from tea room something after do served up? (7)
CHA (tea), RM (room), then RE (something after ‘do’  – do, re, mi) reversed [served up]
3 Observe what water is when warm (6)
NOT ICE (what water is when warm)
4 Runs out of cheesy crackers (5)
D{r}IPPY (cheesy) [runs out]. Both ‘drippy’ and ‘cheesy’ are slang used to describe something that’s sloppily sentimental. ‘Dippy’ simply means crazy or mad.
5 Dump wicked, spiteful woman (3-5)
SHED (dump), EVIL (wicked)
6 Sign of America stopping tips shortly (7)
US (America) contained by [stopping] APICE{s} (tips) [shortly]. I didn’t get the wordplay here until I discovered that ‘apices’ is an alternative plural of ‘apex’ defined in SOED as the tip, top, peak, or pointed end of anything; the vertex of a triangle, cone, etc. Collins defines AUSPICE as a sign or omen, esp one that is favourable.
7 Dad getting applause at last after party trick (5)
DO (party), {da}D + {gettin}G + {applaus}E [at last]
8 Maybe contemplative second acts in plays (8)
MO (second – wait a mo!), anagram [plays] of ACTS IN
15 String player and most of orchestra beam (8)
BAN{d} (orchestra) [most of…], JOIST (beam)
16 Separate stands put up to take in golf (9)
ETAGERES (stands) reversed [put up] containing [to take in] G (golf – NATO). I didn’t remember etagere / étagère although it appears to have come up before. SOED defines it as a piece of furniture with a number of open shelves on which to display ornaments etc. I prefer the English word for it – whatnot.
17 Extremely floury pork pies amidst eatables (8)
LIES (pork pies – CRS) contained by [amidst] MEAT (eatables). ‘Meat’ defined as ‘eatables’ seemed a bit feeble to me.
19 After sorting, name a certain plant genus (7)
Anagram [sorting] of NAME, ONE (a certain)
21 Person betraying characteristic obstinacy resists at first (7)
TRAIT (characteristic), O{bstinacy} + R{esists} [at first]
22 Escort loves to accept pounds after performance (6)
GIG (performance), then O + O (loves) containing [to accept] L (pounds – L.S.D. in old money)
23 Letter delivered with sinking heart (5)
DEALT (delivered) ‘with sinking heart'(A) becomes DELTA
24 Regularly warning of unknown bug (5)
{w}A{r}N{i}N{g} O{f} [regularly], Y (unknown)

63 comments on “Times Cryptic 28880”

  1. 26:28
    I spent a lot of time to get POI AUSPICE and to decide on LOI DIPPY: in my idiolect ‘drippy’ does not mean ‘cheesy’, and ‘dippy’ does not mean crazy. Couldn’t figure out how to get the ER in CHARMER, or how DELTA worked. I liked DODGE.

  2. POI was DODGE, which I thought of long before I parsed it, and LOI AUSPICES. Was impressed by this one. Even if I could have biffed the answer (like with EVANESCENT, when I had just the first E), I waited until it could be parsed before inking it in (not on the clock here) and enjoyed the wordplay. Have seen DWELL clued in the same way, probably more than once, but not with the Vulcan salute.

  3. Started doing Times Cryptic every day 2 weeks ago. Improving. Got it out every word first time correctly in under 2 hours including about 20 minutes writing in the answers. I am 84 with numb skin on my fingers and very shaky writing resulting from diabetes T2. Parsed all but 3 correctly myself. Gradually switching over to Times cluing compared with Sydney Morning Herald which I had been doing daily for 68 years.

      1. Hear, hear. Good to hear you’ve joined in, KensoGhost. I’ve noticed some posts from you already.

    1. Not familiar with SMH crossword, but Times setters are the crème of the crème, as far as I am concerned. Plus, the Times style suits us oldies well!

    2. Welcome!
      Many here complete the crossword online.. I prefer to print a copy out, myself, but you might find it easier online? Worth a try maybe

    3. Good solve, KG, well done. My handwriting is shot too: I have advanced essential tremor. I do the crossword online on a laptop – much easier; it might work for you, as Jerry says.

    4. Welcome. I second others’ comments about the quality of The Times crossword and I hope you enjoy doing many more to add to your nearly 70 year crossword experience. There’s also one bonus (you may think otherwise) in that although The Times Friday puzzle is usually the hardest of the week, it’s rarely as difficult as The Age/SMH Friday offering from David Astle. Having said that, who knows, maybe DA does the occasional Friday puzzle here as well?

      1. Welcome from me, I also graduated to here via the SMH (OK now The Age, moved to Melbourne for family reasons) and it’s a far more challenging, satisfying and erudite puzzle. I admire DA for many reasons but I think sometimes he is too intent on obscurity for its own sake. Also I fear he may be a member of this group, so being diplomatic I’ll just say his latest (did it require translation via Google into Danish? I gave up) was ridiculous.

      2. And welcome from me, another who graduated from the SMH some years ago. I agree with others on the quality of The Times compared to SMH, though have appreciated getting introduced to cryptics on a local version.

        I corresponded with David Astle a few months ago re The Times Cryptic. He does it regularly (on paper, I think, and with a Guinness in hand) but I don’t think he regularly visits this blog. I think his Friday contributions to the SMH are intended to give it a different (and more challenging) flavour, but they can be a bit obscure.

        1. I met David Astle once, and apart from being a great raconteur and brilliant lunch companion, he was much bigger than he looks on TV. He was the word nerd on Letters and Numbers, the Aussie version of Countdown – so the downunder version of Suzie Dent. One show he mentioned he travelled to Italy and played rugby, and I thought, “No way, you’re tiny, you’ll be pulverised”, but in real life he was large enough.
          Still think his crosswords are poor. With the odd brilliant clue.

    5. Welcome, sir. I must say I am envious of all of you down under. I had a long holiday there about 10 years ago, and loved everywhere I visited. I’d love to go back one day. One unexpected bonus was finding the Times Crossword reprinted in one of the Australian papers. I vividly remember doing one at my hotel before yet another day of torment at the test match in Adelaide.

  4. An unthinking course instead of COARSE gave me a DNF in about 33. Had three or four to go at 25 but MONASTIC and EVANESCENT took forever and I then spent several minutes unsuccessfully trying to find the error I was told I had. But leaving myself out of it this was a classy puzzle, even if I think etageres is pushing it a bit and I didn’t like any of the words in the cheesy = drippy = DIPPY = crackers chain, including the answer. Many thanks to Jack for figuring out AUSPICE, VACANT, SEGREGATE and CHARMER (oh, THAT do!)

  5. LOI was AUSPICE since I didn’t recognize “apices” as a word, even though I did actually know it. The clue was a bit confusing since “tips shortly” seemed like I’d be taking an S off the end of something, which seemed that it wouldn’t be OK in a Times Crossword. Confused at STAG since I assumed S was “short” and I couldn’t think of a way that TAG could be defined as “leg”. I was OK with MEAT for eatables, since it used to just mean any kind of food (Chambers has “the edible part of anything” as its first definition).

    1. Yes, the MEAT thing has been mentioned in connection with a clue in today’s QC too. I hadn’t thought of that.

  6. 22.49 Unfamiliar with the DIPPY /DRIPPY meanings, thinking of DOPEY and DIPSY as equally improbable alternatives, but guessed correctly in the end.

  7. 30-odd minutes, with DISCARD, DIPPY and AUSPICE taking seven or eight minutes. Enjoyable puzzle with interesting vocab, I thought.

  8. I found this tough. 55 mins. It wasn’t until I saw GIGOLO that I felt I was getting on to the setters wavelength. V slow in the NW. last three in CHARMER, VACANT and DEMOCRACY.


    I liked VELODROME once I finally saw it!

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  9. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will Dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
    (Psalm 23)

    Lots done quickly, then slower, and slower. After 30 mins pre-brekker, I was still head scratching over Oppressed and its colleagues: Dippy, Auspice and Dodge. I could see these answers, but not how to get them. Drippy? Apices? Op-ed?
    Ta setter and J

  10. 42 minutes with LOI DIPPY. COD to LOOSE ENDS, despite not knowing the card game. This was harder than it looked. Thank you Jack and setter.

  11. 1A Cycling, in previous Times clues, has meant continuous movement of front to back. Twice gives VELO. It is more precise than anagram in that it limits the number of anagrams.

    1. I have been told that when you see “cycling”, you should write the letters of the word in a circle and then start from each letter in turn travelling clockwise until you find the solution. Try it. It works!

  12. 41m 56s but a nerror: DEMOCRATY iso DEMOCRACY.

  13. 25 minutes. I didn’t even bother to parse SEGREGATE I’m afraid and if I had tried I doubt I would have remembered ETAGERES. I was fortunate to think of APICES for AUSPICE just as I was beginning to lose hope at the very end.

    I liked the ‘after do served up?’ bit of the wordplay for CHARMER and the slightly ghoulish surface for ADEPTLY.

  14. About 20 minutes.

    Had absolutely no idea what was going on with SEGREGATE; hesitated over the ‘racy’ part of DEMOCRACY for some reason; didn’t know OSTIA the port; and had to assume that apices was the word we needed in the wordplay for AUSPICES.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Least
    LOI Dippy
    CODs Evanescent / Abominate

  15. 37:09
    I totally bamboozed myself by throwing in STOCKINESS and CELLOIST without much of a thought. Sense eventually prevailed but I’d estimate I wasted 10 minutes up that self-made blind alley.

    No unknowns but a couple of semi-unparsed clues (6D and 16D) so thanks to jack for the clarification and to the setter for an enjoyable solve.

  16. Similar experience to @myrtilus above, ending in the NE corner. Not keen on Dippy / Drippy or OP-ED but fair play to AUSPICES and DODGE. 26 minutes. Liked BANJOIST. Thanks jackkt for explaining the ER in charmer.

    1. Jumbo solvers had an advantage with OP-ED because it came up in the 2nd March puzzle. I knew it anyway but it helped having it quite fresh in my mind.

    2. I’m pretty sure Op-Ed is a NYTimes invention (definitely US if not the NYT). I’d thought it meant Opinion-Editorial, but learned a bit ago it comes from Opposite the Editorials. The Times puts the paper’s views on one page, and the Op-Eds facing them. Not exactly a North Americanism, but pretty close to.

  17. I found it quite easy today, finishing in 19:33, fast by my standards.
    Slowed down by biffing CELLOIST for the BANJOIST, also by DEPRESSED when I thought a legal deed was an article. But no other problems. I found this an enjoyable puzzle for the start of the working week.
    Thanks setter and Jack

  18. 19 minutes and a bit. Terrified by “plant genus” which usually means something obscure in Latin: just “plant” would have been less daunting. AUSPICES last in and not understood, after the three last letters DODGE resolved itself allowing DISCARD to emerge. Worked out SEGREGATE after thinking there was no way it could be a reverse and then seeing that it was. Stuck on BANJOIST, thinking the definition was at the other end of the clue. Just escaped the COURSE trap. All in all, rather fortunate to get an all clear.

  19. At first it seemed very QC-ish and I thought it was going to be easy, but I ground to a halt with about half of it completed, and there were some clues that I found tricky: op-ed; étagère (or however the accents are); DEMOCRACY in that sense. Eventually I took 36 minutes, and entered DEMOCRACY because it couldn’t be anything else — then it took me ages to parse it. I tend not to equate demo and march, the first of which can be full of fighting etc, unlike in my mind the second, with Bertrand Russell and David Sheppard striding along.

  20. NW corner went in quickly, and thought this was going to be easy. Then the trouble started. Gave up on the hour, beaten by AUSPICE and – depressingly – COARSE. If asked what the plural of ‘apex’ was, I’d have figured out what it is from Latin…. but in this context, not a hope.

  21. This felt more like a Monday puzzle, which in a way it is, I suppose, for the working week. At 40 minutes I beat the blogger, a first for me. Some nice clues, none either truly memorable or contentious.
    FOI VACANT, LOI STUBBINESS, COD BANJOIST. Thanks to all of course.

  22. 31:09. A great relief after my personal disaster yesterday. I share the general dislike of the cheesy drippy dippy clue. Like Paul above, I was unhappy with STAG having parsed it as S(hort) TAG needing a helluva stretch to make it work. NHO APICES, but just assumed that apex/apices worked the same way as index/indices. I feel I’ve seen BANJOIST before, but I still liked it a lot

    Later: yes, BANJOIST was in a QC on 14 February, clued as Musician to prohibit supporter? (8)

  23. 23:05 – Wasn’t entirely sure how “a certain” worked in ANEMONE, but that and AUSPICE slotted into place at the end when I finally saw them, full comprehension not required.

  24. 25’0″
    Quickly away, but failed to quicken.

    I’d agree that Monday and and Tuesday seem to have been transposed, but this took me a little longer. I think I wasted a little time looking for phantom complications.
    Thank you setter and Jack.

  25. 20:31

    Much better here than on today’s QC, though I missed a few bits:

    OP-ED – NHO – but having MONASTIC in place meant that 10a couldn’t be DEPRESSED or REPRESSED.
    DEMOCRACY – failed to parse the CRACY part (was looking for CA rather than just C for ‘about’)
    STAG – was barking up the S TAG tree, missing the STAG{e} parsing
    LOOSE ENDS – forgot LOO as a card game
    CHARMER – missed the ER parsing (thanks Jack!)
    AUSPICE – pencilled in as didn’t know APICE
    SEGREGATE – could see the reversed ETAGERES and assumed this must be ‘stands’

    Mild MER at DRIPPY/DIPPY but Right Said Fred’s only UK number one single “Deeply Dippy” would seem to clarify the ‘crackers’ definition. (Although a far better single, “I’m Too Sexy” stayed at number two for six weeks, kept off the top by Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”)

    Was quite pleased to parse EVANESCENT fairly early in the proceedings. Also MEALIEST, thanks to the QC, the more general meaning of MEAT was in my mind.

    Thanks Jack and setter

  26. Done whilst waiting at the barbers! About 21 minutes with DISCARD my LO solved as I’d considered DIPPY but was unsure til the D confirmed my suspicions. Thanks to blogger for sorting SEGREGATE and AUSPICE.
    Enjoyable solve.

  27. 14:29 but I failed to go back and parse a few. I liked DODGE best. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  28. This was a bit like yesterday, as 1ac went in straightaway but heralded a false dawn as I then struggled for 54 minutes to reach the end (including a brief snooze – always a risk after a glass of wine over lunch). Held up a little by plumping for CHUBBINESS and DEPRESSED instead of the true answers until I was put on the right course by the crossers. Agree that some of the clues were a bit on the loose side but no major issues.
    COD – no award.
    Thanks to jackkt and other contributors

  29. 22:06

    A mixed bag. Drippy/cheesy and meat/ eatables both struck me as weak. Needed Jack to explain the ban in BANJOIST, which seems ridiculous now. (Shep’s Banjo Boys anyone? Thought not.).

    Thanks to Jack and the setter.

  30. Gave up after 50 minutes having stared vacantly at the same two crossers that Jackkt had trouble with, EVANESCENT and MEALIEST for over ten minutes. As it turns out I had 4dn wrong anyway, as I couldn’t make my mind up between DIPPY, DIPSY and DOPEY. Being unable to make any sense of the parsing for any alternative, I went for DOPEY. Duh…..!

  31. Great puzzle. Mostly went straight in, but the last few took forever: monastic, evanescent, anemone (which I never know how to spell, luckily the cryptic gave it). Etagere remembered from past outings, only AUSPICES remained unparsed – even having seen SPICAs in the last week or two. The PRESSED part of 10ac was obvious, but had to work to decide REPRESSSED, SUPPRESSED, finally OPPRESSED. With OP-ED opinion editorial known, having grown up years ago when newspapers were a “thing”.
    Liked DODGE, having to think a bit with D_D_E crossers and DAD in the clue, but CHARMER most of all for RE following DO.

  32. 11:19

    Thought I was in for a fast one today when the top left corner went in within 90 seconds, but got bogged down in some of the wordplay elsewhere. Still, the time was still quicker than for my pitiful assault on the quick cryptic!

    I enjoyed this immensely. There was a good variety of clue types, and the trademark Times slick surfaces. Favourite clue: SEGREGATE, for the wonderful reversal of étagères.

  33. About 40 minutes, but a DNF with DIPSY instead of DIPPY, and like many others I did not like this clue at all. Another mer was DEMOCRACY, which is not the same as the common people but rather rule by them. But at least the wordplay was OK for that. But I did rather like NOTICE and CHARMER (and I understood the wordplay for that).

    1. As mentioned in the blog, I had some doubts about DEMOCRACY myself, but have to accept that setters are entitled to rely definitions in authoritative dictionaries such as, in this case:

      the ordinary people, esp as a political force

      the common people, esp. as the wielders of political power

      the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power

      the common people

      That class of people which has no hereditary or special rank or privilege; the common people

  34. 36:15 one error

    Annoyed with myself! I knew I hadn’t justified ROMANTIC when I wrote it, but the excitement of seeing VANE in my LOI after trawling A to V made me stop the clock and come to the blog without going back. Scrolling down I was even more pleased to find DIPPY was correct before discovering the error of my ways.

    Still, jolly good puzzle (and blog) I thought.

  35. Late to this today, and I did it in the time that SNITCH expects me to have done it in.



  36. I liked Not Ice, and had the same quick, quick, slow experience as others.
    Elsewhere I’m with Zabadak: What’s worse than a plant? A plant in Latin or post-graduate level biology-speak. To me Drippy is Twee, Cheesy is Naf.

  37. 11:01. Steady solve until I got bogged down in the NE corner. Failed to parse DODGE.
    ‘Cheesy’ and DRIPPY are not even close to being synonymous IMO.

    1. I didn’t mention the source in the blog but these definitions in SOED overlap in meaning:

      drivelling, sloppily sentimental; M20.
      R. Tremain I thought the idea of a Medieval Romance sounded drippy.

      hackneyed and sentimental; colloq. L19.

      1. We’re very much into three-point turn in a thesaurus here. At a certain point this becomes a bit like saying that an apple is a pear because they’re both defined as green fruit! Sentimentality is not sufficient to define either drippiness or cheesiness, and in the latter case I’d argue that it isn’t necessary either.

  38. Another failure for me. I couldn’t justify ‘dodge’ and mombled ‘dodoe’. I was also unable to parse some of the other solutions despite getting them correct.

  39. Done during a sleepless night after a stressful day, and all correct and parsed, though with a tired brain it took about 90 minutes. Generally pleasing with quite a few bifs, but some nice vocabulary and surfaces. Now I think I might be able to drop off.

  40. Late to the party but just finished in 24 mins. LOI auspice and glad to see I wasn’t the only person to stumble over the plural for apex. Didn’t get dodge either but now I understand! Good puzzle.


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