Times Cryptic 28886


Solving time: 37 minutes with the last 7 spent on 16 & 20ac and  8dn

Many of these clues have brilliant surface readings that rely on alternative definitions of words.

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 Pam’s disco dancing is somewhat erratic (9)
Anagram [dancing] of PAM’S DISCO
6 Go on to gatecrash very pathetic party (5)
ADD (go on) contained by [to gatecrash] SO (very)
9 Up with the lark? He’s famous for it! (7,8)
For this cryptic clue one needs to know that The Lark Ascending is amongst Ralph Vaughan Williams’s most famous works. Personally I don’t like it although I admire much of his other music.
10 Wanderer heading west loaded with Eastern spirit (6)
NOMAD (wanderer) reversed [heading west], containing [loaded with] E (Eastern)
11 Mint in silver wrapping I ate at the outset as defence (8)
AG (silver) containing [wrapping] POLO (mint), then I, A{te} [at the outset]. ‘Polo – The Mint with the Hole’ – a leading UK brand of confectionary since 1948.
13 Such as The Holliesperennial hits? (10)
Two meanings, with the first referring to the family of shrubs and trees rather the pop group of the 1960s and 1970s as might be implied by the surface reading. Hundreds of examples of the second meaning can be found in The Great American Song Book. Amazing that this should come up again so soon defined with reference to popular music, as it previously appeared last Friday.
14 One aiming at a fast buck or deer (4)
Two meanings. A STAG at the Stock Exchange is a trader who buys a new issue solely for the purpose of selling immediately to make a quick profit.
16 Earth to become fine with time (4)
SET (fine – in good order; all set), T (time). Dangerous territory this as I think I was called out on it on a previous occasion, but as far as I’m aware the only animals that live in a SETT are badgers. According to Chambers their hole can also be called an ‘earth’, but ‘earth’ is more usually associated with foxes.
17 Leave, having failed intake exam (4,2,4)
Anagram [failed] of INTAKE EXAM
19 Fairground Attraction song adopting American English (8)
CAROL (song) containing [adopting] US (American) + E (English)
20 Mathematician prompt to withdraw cover (6)
CUE (prompt) reversed [to withdraw], LID (cover}. My LOI, and even after I’d biffed it I struggled to see the first bit of parsing.
23 Raj account switching deposits again into Agra’s banks (1,7,2,5)
Anagram [switching] of DEPOSITS AGAIN contained by [into] A{gr}A [‘s banks]. The classic novel by E.M. Forster and the only one of his major works that I have never read. I have seen the film though.
24 Ruff partner, always reflecting when holding spade finally (5)
EVER (always) reversed [reflecting] containing [holding] {spad}E [finally]. A type of sandpiper, the female of the ruff (Philomachus pugnax).
25 Like one of those 24 hour bugs? (9)
Cryptic.  ‘Ephemera’ is a fever that lasts only a day. Certain insects such as the mayfly are sometimes termed ‘ephemera’ because of their very short life-span (typically 24 hours) and I guess some people might class them as bugs.
1 Worked hard, putting aside pounds deposited in the bank (5)
S{l}AVED (worked hard) [putting aside pounds – l as in l.s.d.]
2 Entertainment venue playing REM etc ad nauseam? (9,6)
Anagram [playing] of REM ETC AD NAUSEAM
3 Mum overcomes Jack in honourable, good golf game (3-5)
MA (mum), then J (Jack) contained by [in] HON (honourable), G (good), G (golf – NATO). I didn’t know this alternative spelling so I had to trust the wordplay.
4 Delicate shot racket struck at the finish (4)
DIN (racket – noise], {struc}K [at the finish]
5 Ape gets ringing noise outside tank — runs away (10)
CHIME (ringing noise) containing [outside] PANZE{r} (tank) [runs away]. ‘Panzer’ comes from the German meaning ‘armoured’.
6 Only fish landlady gutted (6)
SOLE (fish), L{andlad}Y [gutted]
7 Drink with retired setter maybe after installing old copper insulator (7,8)
DRAUGHT (drink), EX-CLUER (retired setter maybe) containing [installing] D (old copper – l.s.d again – a penny)
8 Oscar winner Charles’s cycling assault (9)
This is my first opportunity in a blog to try out Shabbo’s advice on ‘cycling’ clues as posted here last Tuesday. Quote: 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! Many thanks to Shabbo for the tip!

The Oscar winner is Charles Laughton, so  LAUGHTON’S (Charles’s) cycling gives us this:

Laughton was nominated for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ on three occasions but won the Oscar only once in 1933 for  The Private Life of Henry VIII. The other two nominations were for  Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

12 Hotshot lawyer on mag finally getting stuck into a couple of beers (5,5)
LEG (on – cricket), then {ma}G [finally] contained by [getting stuck into] ALE + ALE (a couple of beers). Apparently ‘legal beagle’ is also a valid term.
13 Where unchallenged professor might relax? (4,5)
Cryptic, based on EASY meaning unchallenging and CHAIR being a post occupied by a professor at a university
15 Bevan almost succeeded to get on top of mass disorder (8)
ANEURI{n} (Bevan) [almost], S (succeeded), M (mass). Read about the politician Nye Bevan here if you wish.
18 Follow us heading north in unspoiled surroundings (6)
US reversed [heading north] contained by [in] PURE (unspoiled)
21 Attract Liberal, in a manner of speaking (5)
DRAW (attract),  L (Liberal)
22 Carve cross, removing each end (4)
{t}ETCH{y} (cross – angry) [removing each end]

85 comments on “Times Cryptic 28886”

  1. 41 minutes. I have never heard of The Lark Ascending so I had to biff VAUGHAN WILLIAMS from the checkers and take it on faith he had written something Larky. I figured 3D ended GG very early but couldn’t think of any games that did. It’s not how I spell MAH JONG, and I’ve never seen it with two Gs. I had a MER at ETCH=carve but Chambers supports it. I suspect many international solvers will not know Nye Bevan’s first name. I have only vaguely heard of LAUGHTON so again I had to take it on trust that there was a Charles Laughton to make the clue work.

    1. I suspect more of us would know ‘Aneurin’ than would know ‘Nye’; I knew Nye but needed your prompting to retrieve it from memory.

    2. Amazing that ‘Paul’ knew VW without knowing of probably his most popular work. I agree it is much overplayed on radio, and has become rather hackneyed; but heard live — such as a performance by Tasmin Little at the Proms a few years back — it can be a different matter. Those final quiet notes drifting up into the vault of the RAH were unforgettable.

      1. It’s the only way to spell it if it’s hyphenated. Variant is “mahjong,” which I’ve never encountered in the wild.

    3. I wish I had never heard of The Lark Ascending. Whenever I hear it on the radio I reach for the off button.

  2. 20:48
    Like Paul, NHO the lark thing, but biffed from the V, N. The H then gave me MAH-JONGG, which didn’t look quite right, but none of the spellings does. I couldn’t see how mint=POLO, and still can’t; is it a brand name? Biffed A PASSAGE from the Raj/Agra references and the enumeration; never got around to parsing it. I never got the D in (DNK) DRAUGHT EXCLUDER; I was stuck on CU or cop, never thought of LSD. (Wot Jack says about the surfaces.) POI SETT & LOI ETCH were anything but my last two to think of, but both took ages to actually solve.

      1. That part of the clue went right by me, didn’t notice, in my biffing—certainly wouldn’t have known.

  3. There’s no 18ac, Jack, not sure which one you meant, but my POI was STAG, and I didn’t know (or remember) the stock-trader sense, but looked it up, and my LOI was another tetragram, SETT. I also didn’t recall but was glad to learn DRAUGHT EXCLUDER or the VAUGHAN WILLIAMS composition. I worked this one from the bottom, starting with REEVE and guessing A PASSAGE TO INDIA from the definition and enumeration, then parsing it. The crossers to that gave me a good start and I patiently worked thru the rest, which required rather more thinking than yesterday’s.

    That’s a nice graphic for ONSLAUGHT, wondering how you did that…

    1. 20ac. I messed it up in an edit when I decided to put the Across clues together.

      As for the graphic, thanks for your words of appreciation. I mocked it up in Excel using shapes and text on the drawing toolbar, then Snipping Tool to turn it into an image.

  4. 70 minutes many unparsed FOI SPASMODIC

    How are mint and polo synonyms?

    Biffed is used a lot by solvers. What exactly does it mean?

    1. ‘Mint / Polo’ is very much a UK-centric thing. I covered it in my earlier response to Paul, but I’ve added it to the main blog now. I would have done so earlier but I was using a phone at the time, which is a bit fiddly for editing.

      You’ll find ‘biffing’ and lots more jargon in the TfTT Glossary which is available via our Help menu, and there’s also a link on the side-bar. The positions of these links will vary according to device and screen size.

  5. Completely defeated by the Laughton clue and the ex-cluer, and was put into such a defeatist mindset that I missed the obvious MAKE AN EXIT (was hung up on doing something with taxi). So a DNF in about an hour. Thanks Jack, some very good times here for what I thought was a toughie.

  6. 31 minutes. I didn’t know the Stock Exchange trader sense of STAG, couldn’t work out what the ‘bugs?’ bit of EPHEMERAL was all about and biffed LEGAL EAGLE. I’ve never seen ANEURISM spelt with an I rather than a Y before but it’s given as an alternative in Collins etc so fair enough.

    Several years ago the classical music station of our national broadcaster had a poll of listeners to nominate their favourite piece of music for which The Lark Ascending came out on top; it’s OK but there are plenty of others that I would put ahead of it.

    1. Yes. Their excessive playing of the piece is what has put me off so that I can’t bear to listen to it any more. I simply don’t understand its mass appeal.

      1. NHK-FM went through a prolonged phase of what felt like weekly airing of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. I never cared much for it to start with, but now…

    2. I’ll gladly listen to anything by RVW but probably the Oxford Elegy is my current favourite.

  7. No real problems, and I enjoyed this. Are we accepting sponsorship from advertisers though? Audi the other day, now Polo……

    TIME 7:12

  8. OLD Euclid drew a circle
    On a sand-beach long ago.
    He bounded and enclosed it
    With angles thus and so.
    (Euclid, Vachel Lindsay)

    30 enjoyable mins mid-brekker, on paper, with good coffee – so just about perfect. As Jack says, some great surfaces. My COD is Aneurism for a great idea and surface for a tricky word. Nice.
    Ta setter and J

  9. About 13 mins but spoiled by thinking mah jongg had an h at the end rather than a g. Never mind, at least I can say I got there in principle. Another one for the memory locker.

  10. 52 mins and definitely on the trickier side for me. Last few in STAG, ONSLAUGHT (unparsed), and PURSUE. Definitely some excellent surfaces today.

    I vaguely remembered the lark connection to a piece of music, so bunged in VAUGHAN WILLIAMS with fingers crossed. The crossers were useful in the NE.


    Thanks Jack and setter.

  11. 20:15
    As per yesterday, generally standard fare with some nice wordplay. I’m expecting the speedsters to clock some impressive times.

    All parsed aside from ONSLAUGHT which passed me by completely.

    Thanks to both.

  12. 27m 51s
    Just to annoy those who don’t like or have never heard of “The Lark Ascending”, here’s part of a YouTube recording in Gloucester cathedral of the piece as played by the English Symphony Orchestra with Michael Bochmann as soloist. We were Michael’s neighbours in The Cotswolds for a short while, about 10 years ago.
    Each to his own of course but what next? Mahler’s Adagietto is too saccharine?

  13. 8:46. I thought of The Lark Ascending immediately so got plenty of checkers for the down clues when I came to them. I’d forgotten the female bird so failed to parse REEVE. COD to AMUSEMENT ARCADE for the surface – I hate background music – especially pop. That was a neat trick getting the cycling illustration in the blog. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  14. 15 minutes or so.

    Enjoyed the reference to The Lark Ascending for VAUGHAN WILLIAMS as it’s one of my favourite pieces of music (though I acknowledge it’s played a little too often on the radio); somehow missed the plant meaning of EVERGREENS; didn’t know the stock exchange trader meaning of STAG; had no idea how ONSLAUGHT worked so thanks for the explanation; didn’t know how REEVE relates to ruff; I’m sure MAH-JONGG (with two Gs) came up not that long ago, which helped; didn’t see which word meaning ‘cross’ was having its ends removed to get ETCH.

    In the paper version, the clue for 16 a has “firm” rather than “fine”.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Solely
    LOI Onslaught
    COD Spasmodic

  15. 36 mins so a steady solve. I took a while to see that MAKE AN EXIT was an anagram. I should have thought of the famous mint earlier too. I’m another who wouldn’t spell Mah Jong that way and I’m not sure I knew DINK was a word but it’s surely onomatopoeic. The sound of a very gentle touch of the car bumper against the supermarket bollard springs to mind.

    Thanks Jack

      1. Also a soccer striker’s delicate chip over an onrushing goalkeeper would be described as a ‘dink’.

  16. DNK REEVE or STAG in the senses referenced here, but clues were helpful. Slightly irritated by the double G on MAH-JONGG, but again it couldn’t be anything else and clue was very clear. Never parsed ONSLAUGHT or SADDO, so thanks for that. 32 mins.

  17. 22’10”
    Clear run, stayed on well.

    This was a carbon copy of yesterday, but a minute quicker. Should have been a little faster with RVW, as having spent my formative years at Gloucester (page-turning at a Three Choirs Festival – shortness is an advantage; your feet are not in danger of hitting the pedals) where VW ‘s sublime Tallis Fantasia was premiered.
    I’ll enjoy teasing my ornithological bridge companions with the ruffing spade tonight.
    Again like yesterday, very elegant and concise; thank you setter and Jack.

  18. Loved the many musical references – from disco dancing to Lark Ascending via several groups.
    COD Carousel.
    Fairground Attraction have reformed to tour later this year, with the great Eddi Reader fronting.

  19. Once I realised that AMUSEMENT CENTRE was not a perfect anagram, I got things moving again with ARGADE (sic) which was even less amusing.
    LAUGHTON was a terrible Bligh, almost as bad as the later Brando as Fletcher Christian. Even with Mel Gibson in that role, the 1984 version is far superior, and Anthony Hopkins put in a masterly performance as Bligh. End of ONSLAUGHT!
    Apart from that, I was way off beam with this one, and failed to see the quality of many of the clues, going by guess and hope. Better luck tomorrow.

  20. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS came to me immediately by association with my brother. When we were young I passed the entrance exam to a highly regarded senior school but he showed absolutely no academic ability whatsoever and ended up squeezing into a local school partly with the help of neighbours of ours who had ‘connections’. He and many other boys had horrible experiences there that I won’t go into here.

    One day he and my parents came to visit one of my school’s ’open days’ where all the departments showcased their best work. Peter went off and got lost somewhere and my parents were getting worried and starting to look around for him. Eventually he came back and told my parents “I’ve found out what I want to do!” Apparently he had ended up in the Music School and had heard a violinist giving a rendition of The Lark Ascending and decided there and then to take up the violin.

    No fairytale ending though. He did take up the violin and was very talented at it, with ‘The Lark’ becoming one of his own favourite pieces that he would play at school concerts. He wanted to pursue Music as a career but my parents wouldn’t countenance the idea as they wanted him to do something ‘practical’ that would ‘earn some money’. He was forced into totally unsuitable A-levels and ironically ended up reading a completely non-practical degree (NOT Music) at what was then North London Polytechnic.

    He turned out OK in the end but didn’t touch the violin for decades. He has recently started playing again recreationally and we talked about his experience. He said that he could never understand any Maths or Science, and everybody used to laugh at his appalling spelling (I think nowadays he would have been diagnosed as dyslexic and given specialist help). When he discovered the violin he was overjoyed because he found that Music was the only thing that made any sense to him.

    The silver lining is that in bringing up his daughter he has had an excellent model of how not to be a parent and has taken good lessons from it.

  21. 27 minutes. As mentioned above, a steady stroll. Thanks Jack for explaining EPHEMERAL and also MAKE AN EXIT where I hadn’t seen the anagram.

  22. 25:21

    Very satisfying puzzle. I thought I was a likely DNF with very little in after 15’, then it clicked. So many great PDM’s for me: thanks very much setter.

  23. Quite a few biffed or semi-biffed – SADDO (in from pathetic = sad and party = do, thanks Jack for correct parsing), ONSLAUGHT, STAG, DRAUGHT EXCLUDER (ex-cluer missed and d = old copper). The rest of it made sense at least.


  24. Found this quite straightforward and finished after 22′ before going to bed. The GK was helpful to me though not sure I like the “lark” or “Forster” clues as they went straight in from the fairly obvious surfaces. But both gave a strong basis for the rest of the puzzle. NHO REEVE as a bird nor EPHEMERAL as a type of sickness (just knew it as short-lived).
    However I had a problem with parsing SADDO where I thought the cryptic was SAD-DO (ie pathetic-party) and then wondering where gatecrashing fitted in?? A simple clue of “pathetic party” might have been neater and an &lit??

    Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  25. Sic transit. So many people who were once very famous or wrote very famous things and now several profess ignorance of it all. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS’ lark, Aneurin Bevan, Charles Laughton. I haven’t been inundated with recordings of The Lark Ascending, but am growing rather tired of hearing Tallis’ magnificent Spem in Alium on the radio in circumstances where one can’t just put the volume up high and drink it all in. In one of his memoirs Alan Bennett referred to Pictures at an Exhibition as a piece of music he wouldn’t mind never hearing again. 40 minutes, no major problems but the usual slowings-down that a nice crossword always causes.

  26. A most enjoyable solve. 50 minutes.
    Note on blog etiquette: many contributors sign off with ‘Thanks to (blogger) and setter’. I never do so on the grounds that such thanks are redundant as they are implied by the fact of my commenting at all. So all bloggers and setters should always and all-wise take my thanks for granted.

    1. I agree with your comment vis-à-vis the setters as they are, after all, paid for producing the crossword. This is very much NOT the case for our bloggers. They spend a lot of time and effort voluntarily studying precisely the workings of every clue so that we may better understand them. I for one, almost on a daily basis, have at least one clue I haven’t “got” and am happy in the knowledge that our blogger will have explained it.

      I think they deserve our thanks and not just our comments. Today is a perfect example with Jacks cyclic graphic!

  27. Beaten by 2 today- ethemeral which I should have known how to spell and an inability to spell bevans first name. Hopefully I will do better tomorrow.
    Impressed with the bloggers graphic for onslaught.

  28. 10:42 – very much on the wavelength apparently. Was slow with DRAUGHT EXCLUDER – where I was stuck on the idea of some sort of draught drink – and the unknown REEVE (and her bit of ruff). I don’t recall ever hearing the word DINK either – unusually so, to judge from the lack of comment. I saw VAUGHAN from the crossers and deduced the composer was intended, but spent some time looking for something beyond the cryptic definition.

  29. 5m 27s with a reasonable amount of biffing. I mostly thought this was very good, apart from VW, which wasn’t really a cryptic clue at all, and I wasn’t a huge fan of EASY CHAIR, which felt more suited to the Guardian.

    Favourites were SADDO & EUCLID.

  30. Anyone else having problems with the IPad app version? I don’t get the Congrats message and the timer doesn’t stop on completion. Only been happening since yesterday. I’ve reinstalled but no improvement.

  31. Another good one. 17 minutes no problems. I like The Lark Ascending, especially since I got new hearing aids and can hear the high bits.

  32. SPASMODIC was FOI. I needed SAVED, MAH JONGG and DINK before VAUGHAN WILLIAMS sprang into view. Didn’t have a clue how ONSLAUGHT worked but got it from definition and crossers. DRAUGHT EXCLUDER and STAG were last 2 in. Nice puzzzle. 17:52. Thanks setter and Jack. Congrats on the explanation and graphic for ONSLAUGHT!

  33. 17:13

    I confess that I have never knowingly heard The Lark Ascending before today (now listening via Amazon Music), but somehow knew that it was VW wot wrote it. Didn’t know that a REEVE is a lady Ruff, but then I don’t know what a Ruff is either. LOI EPHEMERAL bunged in from checkers – didn’t pick up either meaning from the cryptic and couldn’t come up with any alternative that fit. Missed the parsing of ONSLAUGHT as well so thanks for the elucidation Jack

  34. 23 minutes, and some great clues I thought.

    In particular onslaught, draft excluder and legal Eagle.
    Very impressed with Jack’s IT skills.
    Thanks to Jack and Setter, and for the earlier comment about the reeve and it’s bit of ruff.

  35. 22.22

    STAG and ONSLAUGHT took a while at the end and I was that much slower than some of the folk I aim to be near.

    STAG was rather nice and plenty of other good ‘uns

    Thanks Jackkt and setter

  36. Coda: since dabbling with learning modern Greek I’ve always loved their word for ‘newspaper’, viz ‘ εφημερίδα’ (ephimerida). It captures perfectly the daily fate that they suffer, so soon to be good only for wrapping the following days’ fish-and-chips. Or kalamari.

  37. 20 minutes so fast time for me. I was helped by last week’s “Standard” = Evergreen = perennial hits.
    Like others, I didn’t really know those meanings of Ruff/Reeve, Stag, Ephemeral but was able to work them out.
    My COD Onslaught – helped by “Oscar Winner” leading me to think it began with an O.

  38. I came to this late in the day, and the answers came pretty swiftly allowing me to finish in 28.45. As a listener to Classic FM, the Vaughan Williams answer came to me instantly I saw the reference to a lark. Personally I can’t stand this particular piece, but I’m in a huge minority as last week ‘The Lark Ascending’ was voted the second most popular piece of classical music by the listeners.

  39. I saw the National Theatre’s excellent production of Nye last week, so immediately got the correct Bevan in 15d, but then wasted time thinking of disorders beginning with NY.
    I did not know that the female of a ruff is a REEVE, or that Mah Jong could be spelled with a second G, so very reliant on the wordplay for those.
    LOI EPHEMERAL to finish in 30:58

    Thanks Jack and setter

  40. Happy with another finish – luckily I don’t worry about time taken! Wasn’t sure about REEVE but wordplay straight forward. Liked APOLOGIA. Needed blog to fully explain ONSLAUGHT. Many thanks Jack.

  41. Does the BUGS in 25ac refer to viruses or insects? The scientific name for some mayflies is after all EPHEMERIDAE, the idea being that they were thought to live only for a day. I am sad to hear that LARK ASCENDING is overplayed on the radio in the UK. That takes away some of the pleasure of listening to it. That was a major biff-fest which I completed in 15’55”. Many thanks to all.

    1. I took it that the clue to EPHEMERAL can work both ways – one of the excellent surfaces referred to in my intro.

  42. 31.03 Lots of biffing, especially ONSLAUGHT. I see I’m not alone in thinking that a pathetic party is a SAD DO, which miraculously gave the right answer, and my LOI. Thanks Jack.

  43. I would listen to Classic FM if they had a NOT from the “Hall of Fame” programme, so overplayed are the pieces.
    Anyway another good day for me even if not all parsed.
    Thanks to the setter, and to the blogger for a good commentary

  44. I don’t listen to Classic FM for the above reason, and although Radio 3 has fads of playing some pieces ad infinitum, (Petrushka, Piazzolla tangos etc) they aren’t nearly as egregious. And I love ‘The Lark Ascending’ – it’s utterly beautiful and compelling!

    I found most of today’s went in pretty smoothly, but was left with half a dozen clues on the right-hand side that I couldn’t work out. Eventually, SADDO, ONSLAUGHT, STAG went in with a shrug, and also DINK and SETT (which I was able to parse). I got the LAUGHTON reference once the clue went in, but thought ‘Charles’ was a bit unfair to get to his surname! Didn’t understand REEVE until I read the blog – and then remembered that I did actually know this from somewhere, probably the RSPB. It’s a while since I had so many question marks against answers I couldn’t parse, so thanks, Jackkt, for unravelling it all.


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