Times Cryptic 28920 – Saturday, 18 May 2024. Parse me the source, please.

There was a lot of tricky wordplay in this one. And lots of smiles, when things became clear. Thanks, setter. How did all you solvers get on with this one?

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 What may lead animal who’s reluctant to move? (6)
HALTER – an individual definition and a cryptic hint, that combine to give a second definition. Neat.
5 Fairly strong bouts of illness held back members of school (8)
STIFFISHSTIF=FITS (bouts of illness), held back + FISH (members of school).
9 Sportsman who’s paid by Britain embroiled in drug shame (10)
OPPROBRIUMPRO (sportsman who’s paid) + BR, inside (embroiled in) OPIUM.
10 Bank is genuinely heartless (4)
RELYREalLY, heartless.
Often “heartless” just indicates taking out the single central letter, but since “really” has 6 letters, we have to take out 2.
11 Almost all orgies affected wives collectively (8)
SERAGLIO – anagram (affected): ALL ORGIES. (AL=almost ALL.)
12 Reduce staff employed in key market (6)
DEMAND – DE-MAN (reduce staff employed), D (musical key). It looks like “in” is just a filler.
Definition as in, What’s the market/demand for that?
First smile.
13 Petition bound to bring pressure to the fore (4)
PLEA – LEAP (bound), bringing P to the fore.
15 Corrupt state cut down politician who has good will? (8)
TESTATOR – anagram (corrupt): STATE + TOR (TORy, cut down).
18 Popular point of view for example (8)
19 Writer’s brief life story about queen (4)
BIROBIO around R (regina=queen).
21 Punish worthless people injecting heroin (6)
THRASH TRASH injecting H (heroin).
23 Proposal from further education syndicate (8)
OFFERINGOF (from, as in “Man of/from La Mancha”), F.E., RING.
25 Assistant’s cyclical adjustment to plan (4)
AIDEIDEA, with the final A cycled to the front.
26 Get into good books treating AI differently (10)
INGRATIATE – anagram (differently): TREATING AI.
27 Incomprehensible language one’s subjected to at the bar? (8)
LEGALESE – cryptic definition.
28 Want backing to include games at school and change pitch (6)
DEEPENDEEN (NEED, backing), to include PE.
2 Test starts late enough for everyone (5)
3 Virago books extends title range (9)
TERMAGANTTERM (title), AGA (cooking range), NT (books).
I’m not sure “extends” should have that “s”.
4 Wreckage of buildings caused by King intially breaking law (6)
RUBBLEB.B., breaking RULE.
Another smile, at the reference to B.B. King.
5 Gaffe that may make it difficult to get into Oxford (4,2,3,6)
SLIP OF THE TONGUE – yet another smile, at the cryptic hint. Oxford shoes, of course.
6 Masculine way of working stopping that is not right (8)
IMMODESTM (masculine), M.O. (modus operandi = way of working), stopping ID EST (that is).
7 University dons shape discussion (5)
8 Richness of incentive securing advance orders to begin with (9)
14 Period of consumption lent one much to work on (9)
LUNCHTIME – anagram (to work on): LENT I MUCH.
16 Plant belonging to boring drinking establishment (9)
AUBERGINEIN (belonging to), boring AUBERGE.
17 Cherish silence preserved by inner circle’s last broadcast (8)
ENSHRINESH (silence!), preserved by an anagram (broadcast) of: INNER + E (last letter of circle).
20 Reluctant to admit support from military planes has lowered resistance (6)
AFRAIDRAF AID, with R=resistance lowered.
22 Place hosting final of competition? (5)
ARENAAREA hosting N (last letter of competitioN),
24 What may be used as fertiliser, given it replenishes borders (5)
NITRE – hidden in (bordered by): giveN IT REplenishes.

36 comments on “Times Cryptic 28920 – Saturday, 18 May 2024. Parse me the source, please.”

  1. Nothing very exciting (I could be missing more) but there’s a little present in the grid, both in the lights and possibly the black squares.

    I thought this was a bit harder than the usual Saturday puzzle. I wondered about the ‘in’ in the wordplay for DEMAND too and I couldn’t parse OFFERING. I fell into the trap and was looking for the wrong sense of ‘bar’ at 27a so one up to our setter. Maybe the answer was given away by the enumeration, but I also liked SLIP OF THE TONGUE.

    A good challenge, lots of nice surfaces and a bonus in the grid, so a v. enjoyable puzzle.

    Thanks to Bruce and setter

  2. It’s the (singular) initalization of New Testament, which the plural “books” merely clues, that is added to TERM + AGA, so the seemingly (but not really, when decrypted) bad grammar is a hint to how the clue works

      1. That would be optimal, but it isn’t always possible and it isn’t apparently required. Grammatical infelicities are often enough a tip-off as to what’s really going on.

      2. It is grammatically correct in cryptic grammar terms, because books/NT is a single cryptic item.
        I agree with others that the surface would have been improved by capitalising ‘books’, since it would have made for a clearer reference to a publishing house (and hence singular). The fact that the publisher is not actually called that isn’t really important IMO.

    1. Would it have been possible (ie “fair”) to have put a capital “B” on “books”?

      So “Virago Books extends title range”. Then the surface would be more clearly referring to the British feminist publisher. And be grammatically correct?

      Equivalent to recent headlines like “General Motors announces plan for all-electric lineup by 2035”.

      (I think the publisher is actually called “Virago Press” or just “Virago”, but I can see many publications, including The Times, sometimes call it “Virago Books”).

      1. Yes, I believe the convention is that the setter can deceptively capitalise a word that doesn’t need a capital, but must capitalise any that do. So “Virago Books” would have been fine (although I didn’t know they existed).

        1. The problem then is that ‘Virago Books’ never existed. The publisher was called ‘Virago’ or ‘Virago Press’.

            1. Apologies to all for the duplication. I was commenting from a tablet that offers a restricted view of the discussion and somehow missed Peter’s final paragraph.

      2. But the books in the clue gives ‘nt = New Testament’ as the last letters of the answer after term and aga. Nothing to do with a publisher as far as I can tell. So the literal is simply Virago.

        1. No one’s saying “Books” is part of the definition, and capitalizing the word wouldn’t make it so. That would only disguise part of the wordplay in a way to make the surface read grammatically and the definition possibly less obvious as well. This would have been a great improvement. The supposed publisher does not even have to exist. Deceptive capitalization is a handy tool in the setter’s kit.

          1. You’re right. I was missing the meaning of ‘title range’ referring to a publisher’s offerings. Apologies to Peter and thanks Guy.

  3. Thank you for the help with 6d IMMODEST. I had forgotten about “M.O.” and was trying to do something with “mode” inside “i.e.”.

    Also, I wondered what the “to admit” was doing in 20d AFRAID. Collins has afraid as “reluctant (to do something).” But I see now that Chambers has “…reluctantly inclined to think (that); regretfully admitting.” So I wonder if “Reluctant to admit” is the definition?

  4. I’m afraid I agree with Peter W. And I also agree with Bletchley that this was a fairly unexciting puzzle. I couldn’t parse OFFERING, since I didn’t know FE. Didn’t care much for 27ac LEGALESE, which is barely cryptic. SLIP OF THE TONGUE was nice, but not too difficult, given that ‘Oxford’ always means ‘shoe’. Bruce, you have a typo at TERMAGANT (as does Guy; as does the setter).

    1. I liked the puzzle, it’s just that the Nina isn’t anything too exotic and isn’t difficult to spot – the one involving the lights anyway.

      1. I think you’re referring to the two black ‘H’s in the grid. Good spot – I noticed nothing at the time.

        1. Yes, that’s it. I should have better things to do with my life, but these are the sort of things I (sometimes) notice!

            1. Yes, that’s how I saw it, although I don’t know which is the cart and which is the horse.

  5. Something of a disaster here taking me 84 minutes with one look-up.

    I started badly by biffing CARROT at 1ac as a cryptic definition and that prevented progress in the NW until corrected much later in the proceedings.

    DEMAND went in eventually although the filler word ‘in’ was a distraction. I understood the definition, but DE-MAN took some seeing.

    Failed to parse IN in AUBERGINE. Failed to solve ENSHRINE.

  6. 85m 15s but aids used to solve 16d and 5ac.
    A Nina in Columns 1 and 15: Hospital and Hydrogen. That’s rare. Wonder if it was directed at a particular person or persons.
    I enjoyed the references to BB King and Aga.
    Thank you, Bruce.

  7. I made no notes on this one, except that I wrote out SERAGLIO, presumably to work out the parsing after biffing it. I didn’t, of course, notice the hidden words – I never do. I suppose the puzzle wasn’t massively difficult, or the anagrams, otherwise I would have jottings of the letters all over the empty bits of paper. I got SLIP OF THE TONGUE early on, which undoubtedly helped, as did having some 4-letter clues around the grid, which I generally find easier than long ones. COD TERMAGANT.

  8. This one took 40 minutes, though I can’t say I encountered any problems. FOI 5Ac, and LOI 1ac, and every clue parsed as the answer went in, which seems like progress, though I suspect this was on the easy side! Thanks, all.

  9. I’ve accidentally recycled last Saturday’s paper so I don’t know what the Nina was. Any help please?

    1. The letters in the first column spell HOSPITAL and in the last spell HYDROGEN. I didn’t notice until BR prompted me to have another look.

  10. 58.12 SLIP OF THE TONGUE was FOI from the enumeration. I never did parse it. I’d just been reading about curing beef so NITRE was in my thoughts. The rest was parsed except for RUBBLE, which only made sense 24 hours later. Thanks branch.

  11. Enjoyed this one. Started with AMPLE, then got RUBBLE with a lol when I parsed it. Loved the Gaffe too. Last 2 in were ENSHRINE and then THRASH. 20:24. Thanks setter and Bruce.

  12. I enjoyed this and found it neither boring nor easy (51 minutes). I am sure I must have seen the word TERMAGANT before, but it was safely tucked away in a dusty drawer at the back of my mind, so I really needed the wordplay to solve it. Everything else came rather slowly, but gave up its secrets eventually.

  13. Didn’t understand how DEMAND worked; didn’t see how to get the BB in RUBBLE from ‘king’; and not familiar with TERMAGANT (or virago) so relied on the wordplay. No real problems otherwise.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Forum
    LOI Demand
    COD Opprobrium

  14. I liked this one.
    DEMAN is defined in Collins as a transitive verb meaning ‘to reduce the workforce of (a plant, industry, etc)’, so it is indicated by ‘reduce staff employed in’.
    I think the definition in 1ac is ‘what may lead animal’.

  15. Just shows me how, when ‘other things’ are going on in one’s life, solving crosswords is almost impossible! Found this extremely hard, even after looking up a few, but on seeing the blog it doest’t look that way.


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