Times Cryptic 28898


Solving time: 34 minutes

Most of this went in quite easily but 15ac was hard and some of the parsing was a bit tricky, especially at 18dn

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 A clerk’s odd half-cut hairstyle (10)
Anagram [half-cut] of A CLERK’S ODD. ‘Half-cut’ is yet another expression meaning drunk.
6 House record label is after soprano initially (4)
S (soprano), EMI (record label). Musicians will know the abbreviations S A T B for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass as the four standard vocal ranges in choral music. EMI stands for ‘Electric and Musical Industries’. ‘Semi’ with reference to housing is short for ‘semi-detached’.
10 Irritate insect lover (7)
GALL (irritate), ANT (insect)
11 Fabled hill that is found in South Dakota (7)
TOR (hill) + IE (that is) contained by [found in] SD (South Dakota)
12 Censure those people around India with second religious belief (9)
PAN (censure), THEM (those people) containing [around] I (India) + S (second)
13 Star turn caught by everyone (5)
GO (turn) contained[caught] by ALL (everyone). I didn’t know the star but the wordplay got me there. It has come up only once before other than in Jumbos and Mephistos.
14 Staff take more time to deal with deliveries (5)
BAT ON (take more time to deal with deliveries – cricket)
15 Tropical fruit tree has thorn protecting bunch? (5,4)
SPINE (thorn) containing [protecting] CREW (bunch). This unknown tree accounted for a good 10 minutes of my solving time. I got it from wordplay eventually as my last one in. This would seem to be its first appearance in the TfTT era.
17 Those against hollowed out universal support — who was asked? (9)
CONS (those against), U{niversa}L [hollowed out], TEE (support)
20 Become very warm when in decay (5)
AS (when) contained by [in] ROT (decay)
21 Trembling like mother of cygnets (5)
AS (like), PEN (mother of cygnets – a female swan)
23 Note to perform vocally, ignoring small tremolo (9)
QUAVER (note), {s}ING (perform vocally) [ignoring small]
25 Big figures of company deficit — with little current (7)
CO (company), LOSS (deficit), I (little – abbreviation of – current)
26 Poling a boat topless round back of Trinity? It needed this first (7)
{p}UNTING (poling a boat) [topless] containing [round] {Trinit}Y [back of…]. A nice surface, as those familiar with Cambridge will know that Trinity is one of the colleges that backs on to the River Cam, a stretch that’s popular for punting in the city centre and referred to locally as ‘The Backs’.
27 Responsibility assigned to under-secretary (4)
ON (assigned to), US  (under-secretary). An abbreviation I was not aware of.
28 Become a minister and submit to PM’s whims? (4,6)
A straight definition with a cryptic hint in support
1 Small dog I had raised to excavate (3,2)
PUG (small dog) + I’D reversed [raised]
2 Duke, perhaps, stealing wife from another one? (9)
{w}ELLINGTON (another one – Duke – Arthur Wellesley was the famous one) [stealing wife]
3 Sheer quality of Sunshine Soap ad being broadcast (14)
Anagram [being broadcast] of SUNSHINE SOAP AD. Of material, very fine.
4 Holds good bastion in the wars (7)
Anagram [in the wars] of BASTION
5 Reported hoard found on lake in mountainous region (7)
KASH + MIR sound like [reported] “cache” (hoard) + “mere” (lake)
7 Watching and complying with missing outside broadcast (5)
{ob}EYING (complying with) [missing outside broadcast – OB]
8 Dig tunnel badly, revealing some tolerance (9)
Anagram [badly] of DIG TUNNEL
9 Pottery company relocates — worry for breakage (5,9)
Anagram [for breakage] of RELOCATES WORRY
14 Author book company lifted — about chapters one and two finally (9)
B (book), CO (company) reversed [lifted], CA (about), C + C (chapters), I (one), {tw}O [finally]
16 Stress appeal is to be found in children’s book heroine (9)
IT (appeal), then IS contained by [to be found in] ALICE (children’s book heroine)
18 Drink cuppa with most of cinnamon roll eaten (7)
QUIL{l} (cinnamon roll)  [most of…] contained [eaten] by TEA (cuppa). Collins: quill – a small roll of dried bark, as of cinchona, cinnamon, etc.
19 One moved out day before receiving a signal (7)
EVE (day before) containing [receiving] A + CUE (signal)
22 The French put in more meat with rice dish (5)
LA (the in French) contained by [put in] PIÙ (more – musical direction). Yes, a pilau dish does not have to contain meat but often does.
24 Chokes eating English plums (5)
GAGS (chokes) containing [eating] E (English)

51 comments on “Times Cryptic 28898”

  1. Around 70 minutes. Top half came out relatively quickly. Then slowed by bottom half. FOI DIG UP then DREADLOCKS and ROYAL WORCESTER. My late wife spent many years collecting figurines and Royal Worcester played a significant part in this so I saw it straight away. OBTAINS worried me because I couldn’t see where good fitted in. Held up by CONSULTEE because I kept thinking of against as CON forgetting the plural which gave me an extra S. Kept thinking of UL with SATE around it. Kept rejecting CONSULTEE since thought answer should be plural. ITALICISE was a big problem since I couldn’t see the book heroine. TAKE ORDERS was slow because I kept thinking of cabinet minister to match PM. LOI UNTYING

  2. A fairly even solve though I started slowly and was held up by four or five at the end, finishing in 34.25. NHO ALGOL, SCREW PINE or ASPEN in that sense. Didn’t need to worry about the TEQUILA WP because once the Q from QUAVERING arrived what else could it be? Was pleased to get ELLINGTON quickly and had to be careful spelling BOCCACCIO. For ROYAL WORCESTER I tried various permutations within the clue for the anagram fodder and only realised it was ‘relocates worry’ on completion. Thanks Jack.

  3. A thirty minute solve became a 41 minute one as I desperately tried to find alternatives for thorn and bunch. Eventually I thought of SPINE and came up with the unknown SCREW PINE. Only then did I suppose that BUNCH could be CREW, as in motley perhaps. A terrible clue in an otherwise pleasant crossword. I know I’ve seen similar before but COD to Duke ELLINGTON.Thank you Jack and setter.

  4. I enjoyed this, although NHO LOI and biffed it once the second word became obvious. I DNK ALGOL as a star, but as a computer language when I first entered my IT career in 1968.

    TIME 8:54

  5. 49:52. Hard work sorting this one out. Some rarely-seen vocab (eg STORIED, COLOSSI, CONSULTEE) and some doubts about the exact equivalence of trembling/ASPEN and quivering/TREMOLO. DIAPHANOUSNESS (for heavens sake) needed painstaking attention. But all OK in the end

    1. I wondered about ASPEN too; but e.g. Collins has, as an adjective,
      2. archaic, mainly literary

  6. 19:09. Like others, DNK SCREW PINE but it went in smoothly enough at the end – or at least, once I’d stopped thinking it was (4,5), which was making me think of something WHITE.

    Relieved to have got DIAPHANOUSNESS right, as I solve on my phone so can only mentally cross off letters.

    A few other new bits, including ASPEN, the author, and a cinnamon roll as a quill. But no complaints.

    Thanks Jack & setter.

  7. 18’23”, with the clever ITALICISE LOI.

    Careful spelling required throughout the puzzle.

    SCREW PINE nho constructed. Didn’t parse DREADLOCKS. Nho the cinnamon roll.

    Thanks jack and setter.

  8. 23.34 DNF

    Unfortunately thought of SPIKE not SPINE for thorn and didn’t hang around looking for alternatives to construct a NHO

    ASPEN no trouble as I happened to read about them last summer

    Obviously NHO of QUILL in that sense but liked “cinnamon roll”

    Thanks setter and Jackkt

  9. I struggled with this one but got home eventually in 50 mins. Held up in the NW with last two in DREADLOCKS ( missed the anagram til the last, unusual for me) and KASHMIR.

    Definitely some odd words and a few NHO’s which have been mentioned. Several unparsed too, so thanks to our blogger.

    I liked BATON.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  10. 12:45
    NHO SCREW PINE (or cinnamon quill, which appears to be the same as a stick, as heard on the b-side of ‘World Cup Willie’.)
    LOI UNTYING: ingenious.
    DIAPHANOUSNESS reminded me of the closest Sir Ken Dodd ever got to smuttiness, in his description of a di-faneous nightie (“semi-shufti, let the dog see the rabbit”).

  11. 20.21 with LOI diaph……, had to write all the letters down and slowly work my way through. Nothing too arcane though quavering, baton and pilau had me stumped at various times. COD Ellington, fundamentally easy enough but made me smile when I got it.

  12. 23:32 with LOI SCREW PINE which I had to hope was right. I was pretty sure it had to be spine but less sure about crew. Also got tequila without knowing quill. Before my LOI, I was stupidly slow to get DREADLOCKS, ELLINGTON and KASHMIR.
    Thanks Jack and setter

  13. 32′ with quite a couple of definitions that I didn’t know (GALLANT/lover, ASPEN/trembling) and a couple of NHOs that were constructed from wordplay, BOCCACCIO fairly straightforwardly and LOI SCREW PINE not so much until I saw “crew”= bunch (rather than “vine”=bunch, such as grapes…. which didn’t really fit the wordplay but did fit a reasonable sounding “straw vine”). Having an (obviously) unparsed “evictee” also didn’t help. Got there in the end though. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  14. Researching what one would do with a cinnamon roll, I came across this (courtesy of Food Republic):
    “You can eat cinnamon sticks but here’s why you shouldn’t:
    Cinnamon sticks are made from the dried inner bark of Cinnamomum trees. The dry and wooden fibrous material is not easily chewed or swallowed, which can lead to choking, breathing obstruction, mouth and throat irritation, and — if inhaled — lung damage.”
    Many thanks to Jack and setter.

  15. Apparently you can eat the fruit of the SCREW PINE but it doesn’t taste of much and has to be boiled first anyway. Pretty useless, therefore, and not much cop in a crossword, either. I managed to discard STRAW VINE and SHREW LIME and other variations, but it ate up time.
    Apart from that, no too tricky, and completed in 18.18. I don’t suppose Wellesley cared about some piano player’s adulterous affair with his wife: “publish and be damn’d” but it was a fun clue.
    Fortunately checked the spelling/anagram content of DIAPHANOUSNESS, otherwise would have had an extra O in place of the second A. Saw right through that deception.

  16. A tick over twenty minutes, which I was happy with given the large number of (to me) unknowns and semi-knowns. I’m more of a diophantine than a diaphanous type of guy.

    Enjoyed the Cambridge clue. Happy memories of visiting that beautiful location. No idea why anybody would choose the other place.

    Thanks Jack and setter.

  17. 25:50

    LOI SCREW PINE, NHO in addition to ALGOL, BOCCACCIO and ASPEN in that sense, but fairly clued.

    Thanks setter and Jack

  18. No time today but another fun crossword completed comfortably within the hour. I needed the crossers to know where all the Ls wanted to go in the star. KASH/cache held me up almost as long as ITALICISE which I was trying fill with SA rather than IT. TEQUILA was a biff which was a shame as the ‘cinnamon roll’ was rather neat. Never parsed the tree so thank you for that Jack.

  19. 34:11

    I started well and for a brief moment I thought I was in for a good time, but I soon settled back in my lane. The unknown SCREW PINE caused the most bother, but I was also slow over a few of the anagrams and by stupidly convincing myself that the unknown author was PUCCACCIO, thinking Cambridge University Press might be considered a book company. Give me strength.

    Thanks to both.

  20. 14:55 – ALGOL and SCREW PINE took some digging/constructing, but were generously clued. The correct order of NOUS and NESS in 3d took one more attempt than it really should have done.

    1. From John Donne’s ‘The Apparition’:

      And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
      Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
      A verier ghost than I.

  21. The same holdups that others had, with less ability to solve from wordplay. I did so with TEQUILA, but gave up on the SCREW PINE, also unnecessarily used aids for a couple of other fairly straightforward clues. 48 minutes.

  22. 24:49 but…

    NHO of the Italian author nor the tropical tree nor the trembling synonym, however I did know that computer language ALGOL had been named after the star – think it might have been a question on an old episode of The Chase. All that is by the by though as I carelessly failed to spell DIAPHANOUSNESS correctly, sticking an unchecked O where the second A belongs. COD to EVACUEE for the pdm giving the correct ‘support’ at 17a.

    Thanks Jack and setter

  23. Revealed SCREW PINE, otherwise pleased to complete in around 35 mins. Another to biff TEQUILA never having heard of quill. Liked QUAVERING and PILAU. Thanks Jack.

  24. I started the clock on this, but kept dropping off when solving it, so my time of just over 70 minutes wasn’t an accurate reflection. I did find it tough, and I would estimate somewhere around the hour mark would be about right.
    PILAU rice which I always order with a curry wasn’t a problem, although the PIU part of the parsing was beyond me. In the end I was left with the dilemma of what to put in for the unknown tropical fruit. I was so tempted by STRAW PINE, probably because it was fresh in my mind from watching The Masters at Augusta last week, when the commentators would refer to a drive ending up off the fairway in the straw pine. In the end I trusted my interpretation of the cryptic and went for SCREW PINE. I was mighty relieved to find I went the right way.

      1. I was reliably informed by Dr Spooner that it was ‘straw pine’!
        I realised later that I had got it back to front, but by then it was too late.

  25. DNF.

    Had to look up both ALGOL and SCREW PINE, as nho. I wonder where the line is drawn between vocabulary which, whilst not necessarily commonplace, is deemed fair game for the standard Times crossword, and vocabulary which is definitely in the Mephisto/Listener category (where I think contemporaneous dictionary usage is necessary and expected)?

    1. For me the difference is that in the daily puzzles an obscure word (however defined) should be derivable from the wordplay based on non-obscure words. By that standard the otherwise Mephistoish SCREW PINE is fine. In Mephisto you often get obscure words from the backwaters of Chambers defined by reference to other obscure words from the backwaters of Chambers.

  26. 28:38
    A toughie but well worth the effort.

    I’m another who only knew ALGOL as a computer language. I wasted some time trying to get an anagram of “pottery company” rather than “relocates worry” and I needed Jack to fully parse PILAU and TEQUILA. I suppose this is what is meant by lifelong learning.

    Thanks to Jack and the setter.

  27. 29 mins. PIU is a very useful scrabble word but had no idea what it meant. Fairly easy punctuated by tricky NHO’s.

  28. From DIG UP to BOCCACCIO in 25:49, with the latter taking up several minutes at the end. I was particularly careful with the anagrist to get the correct 6th letter for our see through clue. Needed all the crossers and pen and paper for POI, ITALICISE. 15a developed from SCREW PIKE to SCREW PINE fairly swiftly. TEQUI:A was biffed as I didn’t know QUILL for Cinnamon. Liked KASHMIR. Thanks setter and Jack.

  29. 28 minutes. The same comments as many others about the QUILL in TEQUILA and SCREW PINE. Satisfying to work out the parsing of BOCCACCIO and I liked DIAPHANOUSNESS – even better, the word by itself without the NESS appended.

  30. Two goes needed.

    NHO BOCCACCIA but constructed it from wordplay; didn’t know that meaning of ASPEN, GALLANT as a lover, the SCREW PINE tree or ALGOL as a star; only vaguely remembered GAGES as plums; didn’t know quill as a roll of bark for TEQUILA; and like a few others, had the wrong anagrist for ROYAL WORCESTER for a while.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Dig up
    LOI Italicise
    COD Dreadlocks

  31. 9:30

    No major hold-ups here. I hadn’t heard of SCREW PINE, but WORCESTER gave me CREW and SPINE followed easily. Wonder if it’s anything like a corkscrew Hazel, which has lovely contorted branches.

    Favourite clue: TEQUILA. Least favourite: DIAPHANOUSNESS – how can a word with such an ethereal meaning sound so clumsy?

  32. Gave up after 40 mins, leaving 15 and 27a, and 5, 16, and 19d unfinished. Particularly like 12a and 26a. Surprised I got as far as I did with this, so feeling quite successful.

  33. 16:09. Solved after returning from a 10 mile walk mostly in drizzle in some fine Suffolk countryside. Held up for a few minutes at the end trying to work out the unknown tree from the wordplay. That meaning of QUILL and the author were new to me too. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  34. 41’18”
    Might have been closer, had the jockey not got himself hemmed in.

    Couldn’t bring to mind Alice, dreadlocks, quill ………
    Still, it was a very enjoyable 41 minutes, and got there in the end.
    Many thanks setter and Jack.

  35. 40 minutes and I liked most of this. It transpired that I simply didn’t understand the bits I didn’t like, so I will revise my opinion of them. One of them was the anagrind in 1ac (half-cut?), which I couldn’t identify. Of course I never thought of that sort of cinnamon roll, but the Q of QUAVERING left no other choice for TEQUILA. A large number of very good clues. I liked BATON particularly. For the SCREW PINE, I was aiming all along vor ?CROW DATE, with the bunch being a CROWD, but ITALICISE rescued me from that.

  36. 13:01. Quite tricky, particularly a few at the end including SCREW PINE. I had to be very careful with the anagrist to spell DIAPHANOUSNESS correctly.
    ‘Meat with rice dish’ is a terrible definition for PILAU. Perhaps it has meat in it sometimes (although never in my experience) but this formulation suggests that meat is the main ingredient and rice plays a supporting role. It’s like defining an omelette as a ‘mushroom with egg dish’. If you want a rice dish with meat in it order a biryani.
    Edit: it seems there is an East African dish called (Beef) Pilau which does normally contain meat. So I guess that’s OK. Sneaky!

  37. One pink square, having typed DIAPHONOUSNESS. I must remember to count all the letters in the anagrist, especially for words I can’t spell.
    LOI was italicise, to finish in over 50 minutes.

  38. A very pleasant puzzle, apart from DIAPHANOUSNESS which is a disgrace to the English language. BOCCACCIO has more Cs than any reasonable person could need, as does his bread foccaccia. But do try squeezing a shrew lime into your tequila – it makes all the difference.


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