Times Cryptic No 28321 – Did he blinch? No, no

Good morning!  I’m subbing for Ulaca today.  This will be my first time blogging a 15×15 puzzle after a handful of years blogging every other Wednesday Quick Cryptic.  Of course, I felt the pressure to finish in a good time, and accordingly “struggled inch by inch”, finishing in 24:27.  I was particularly stymied by the clues in the upper-left, and as I put in the final letters for 1 across, I thought, well, this is it, isn’t it.  More a whimper than a bang.

In any case, this was a delightful puzzle, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to present its solutions to you.

1 Pickets court about rent supplement (10)

My last in. Had the wrong idea about this one.

6 A pint? Not quite open (4)

I suppose a pint could be considered a JAR.  In any case, not a challenging clue.

9 South American native mammal or reptile, not one wanting company (7)

I tried too hard to make this ORINOCO, which isn’t even a creature, just a river.  (It is, of course, a creature in Square’s 1987 video game Final Fantasy, which is how I got confused.)  The GUANACO, like the vicuña, is a mammal related to the llama.

10 I’m cutting green bananas for diet (7)
REGIMEN – I’M in anagram of GREEN
12 What’s in region of France is not always there (2-3)
ON-OFF – hidden
13 Departs in seaplane, possibly here? (9)
ESPLANADE – D in anagram of SEAPLANE

Semi &lit.  This was one of a handful of easier clues in the center of the grid which helped me get a foothold.

14 Very poor pay, clear for a nurse cut by subterfuge (7-8)

I confess to biffing this one.  It was hard to parse, even knowing the answer!

17 Story of the east Asian pagoda site after an earthquake (1,7,2,5)

by E.M. Forster.  Biffed this one, too.

20 Delves into Spanish cubist to find dirty character (9)

Juan Gris (1887–1927).  I could only think of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Joan Miró (1893–1983), two of my favorite artists.

21 A thing actor looks for in pieces (5)
APART – A + PART (“thing actor looks for”)

Not APROP, as I’d originally thought.

23 Ring artist for fantastic idea (7)
24 Not all start without morning papers folded (7)
ORIGAMI – ORIGI{n} around AM

Biffed this one, too.  Tricky if you needed to parse it.

25 Quarry’s last sign something’s not right after working stone (4)
ONYX – ON + Y + X (“sign something’s not right”)
26 Cake club enter GB running (10)

Never had one but it looks delicious.

1 Page one possibly is after page one fodder? (6,3)
PIGEON PEA – PI + anagram of PAGE ONE

This one took me an inordinate amount of attempts to bring home.  I knew exactly what was going on, but couldn’t fathom the EO combination. (PIENOG? PINGOE?)

2 What reduces Shakespearean old hat (5)

This one also took a long time.  Sometimes the abbr. you’re looking for is the simpl. on.

3 County stick with old ways to employ (13)

Being an American, I don’t know this county, but it is was easy to piece together and one of my first in.

4 Castle regularly ignored nearby dense slum area (7)
ROOKERY – ROOK + {n}E{a}R{b}Y

I’d never heard of the slum meaning, just the bird one.  At the time I thought maybe ‘slum’ was a word for a bunch of birds, as in “a slum of rooks”.

5 Source of oil put in some butter for protection (7)
PARAPET – RAPE (seed) in PAT
7 How full eg trains are raised when a parliamentarian is involved (3-6)

Biffed this one after getting the J from AJAR.

8 Anger about northern army practice area (5)
RANGE – RAGE about N

Though at the time I thought this was just an anagram of ANGER!

11 Feeling of pleasure in key agreement (13)
15 Power to germinate through repeatedly getting round current burning (9)
VIABILITY – VIA + BY (“through repeatedly”) around I + LIT
16 Close shave with new electrical procedure (4,5)

EARTHING is I think what we call ‘grounding’?  Or maybe it is something different.  I also don’t think NEAR THING is a US expression, but it has come up before.

18 Revolutionary party in August uprising (7)
GUEVARA – RAVE in AUG, all reversed
19 Eject ticket seller outside Oval with bodyguard (4,3)
TOSS OUT – TOUT around O + SS

Is O an abbreviation for ‘oval’?  Or is O just an oval shape?  Also, I wouldn’t have thought SS could mean ‘bodyguard’ in the singular.

20 Creature certainly caught, for instance, climbing (5)
GECKO – OK + C + EG, all reversed
22 A good hail does for plant (5)
AGAVE – A + G + AVE (“hail”)

59 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28321 – Did he blinch? No, no”

  1. 20:13
    I biffed POVERTY-STRICKEN, A PASSAGE, & VIABILITY. DNK ROOKERY, BATTENBERG (POI), PIGEON PEA (LOI), which slowed me down some. As did throwing in PARTS (misled by ‘pieces’). A JAR is a conventional reference to a beer (‘I could go for a jar right now’). I wondered about O for ‘oval’; no problem with SS, which was Hitler’s bodyguard.

  2. Found that strangely difficult, lacking a lot of the required GK: pigeon pea, Gris, Battenberg cake, Shak., rookery all unknown; guanaco barely known. Made it hard to enter things confidently. Great puzzle though, lots of interesting words. LOI viability where I was expecting an unknown scientific term, and assuming burning would be IN as it always is!
    COD postscript.

  3. DNF. Couldn’t solve GUANACO or VIABILITY. Also lucky to get PIGEON PEA , ROOKERY, and BATTENBERG without knowing them. Thought for a while the latter would end in egg because my knowledge of cakes led me to believe eggs were involved in the process. COD to GRATIFICATION. Thanks for parsing of PARAPET, POVERTY-STRICKEN and GRIMINESS , plus also for rest of blog.

  4. A technical DNF for me as I was unable to complete it without aids. All but six answers had gone in without undue difficulty within my target half-hour but I was left with blanks in the NW quarter and found myself unable to progress.

    The answer I really kicked myself over was the hidden ON-OFF which I only got eventually once all the checkers were in place, all obtained from looking up other answers, but even then I was unable to parse it and it remained a mystery until I came here.

    I got the PEA at 1dn but I never heard of PIGEON-PEA and was unable to construct it from the complicated wordplay. DNK (OHF) GUANACO and SHAKO. DNK ROOKERY other than as the bird roost. I was working along the wrong lines for 1a so POSTCRIPT was another that needed looking up and thinking it contained an H from either Hertfordshire or Herefordshire at 3dn didn’t help – not that I was able to justify either of those counties anyway, so that was more time wasted.

    I doubt many on this side of the pond will have had much difficulty with BATTENBURG – a delightful tea-time treat especially for children with its appealing coloured squares of sponge cake and thick coating of marzipan.

    1. Got to agree. One of my favourite cakes though for some reason my kids never took to them the way that I did…

  5. 9ac was my downfall. I went for ARAPAHO (Southern American Indian and snake?) …….umm!
    This was tough for a Monday and so 1ac POSTSCRIPT AND 1dn PIGEON PEA went begging! 25ac was a pretzel of a clue which I managed, but after just over half an hour, with four to go, I capitulated.

    FOI 6ac AJAR
    (LOI) 25ac ONYX
    COD 2dn SHAKO
    WOD 25ac BATTENBERG – this pastel confection from Mrs. Rubik, which does not appear to have ever reached the shores of America! Unless it was called somefink else? It was a regular treat for us kids in fifties Britain.

    On edit BATTENBERG cake was a late Victorian confection (1884), made for one of Queen Victoria’s daughters (Victoria) to celebrate her marriage to Prince Louis of Battenberg. So it is enduringly British and not German per se.

    The Pigeon Pea is better known in the UK as dahl, the popular lentil dish that accompanies most Indian cuisine!

  6. 48 minutes. Slow to get going. Bunged in POVERTY-STRICKEN and A PASSAGE TO INDIA from the enumeration and JAM-PACKED from the def. Like Jack, I missed ON-OFF as a hidden. Didn’t know the ‘Spanish cubist’ at 20a or the ‘fodder?’ at 1d.

    Favourites were GUEVARA as a surname rather than the usual “Che” for ‘Revolutionary’ and the difficult parsing for VIABILITY.

  7. DNF. I was undone by a biffed OPAL in place of ONYX which I never questioned when I ended up with VIAVILITA in place of viability. I see now that it doesn’t even parse properly. What a start to the week 🤦

  8. Delighted to report that the cataract surgery worked a treat, and my recovery seems to be progressing super-fast. Vision in my (much stronger) right eye is now fully clear, glasses no longer needed for distance, maybe I’ll need weak lenses for reading / solving – but even that seems to be pretty marginal now, as my brain assimilates the visual improvement. Looking forward to having the procedure on my left side ASAP, though that won’t be for a few weeks. As some commenters noted Friday, the unexpected bonus comes with newly rich and vivid colours – like finding yourself in a renaissance oil painting that’s just been restored. Astonishing – way beyond my hopes and expectations…

    …so I can now read the clues with ease – if only the same applied to solving ‘em. This one went rather well for the most part, steady progress with no significant delays until at around 27m I was left with just 1a and 2d to go – but never made it
    – SHAKO was a NHO for me, it looked from the clue that the most likely solution was REANO
    – Couldn’t get any purchase on the clue for P—S-R-P-. I always forget the “court” can decode as CT, didn’t know “rent” could (rather than “rend”) could be RIP – but I feel a bit dumb for failing to get SCRIPT out of S-R-P- just by observation.

    Anyway, under the circumstances, even a 40m DNF can’t dampen my joie de vivre, and profound gratefulness for the skill of that ophthalmic surgeon. Thanks PJ and setter

    1. Glad yours went well. I had both eyes done 3 years ago, in France at no cost, it’s instantly life changing, things went from yellow to white and my bad short sight disappeared.

    2. Great news about your operation!

      I used to work in opera, and I learned SHAKO from Carmen.

    3. Had my weaker left eye done in January and my right eye done in March. Sometimes I just stand and stare at distant things and wonder what I have been missing for the last 10 years. Optician says I’m better than 20:20 in both eyes now.
      Good luck 🙂

  9. Some tower of song with lofty parapet

    30 mins pre-brekker. I know some enjoy the Pigeon Pea, Shako, Guanaco type of vocab. It takes all sorts.
    Thanks setter and PJ.

  10. 32 minutes with LOI GRIMINESS. I didn’t know GRIS. In fact, I’ve been educated in a couple of others too today, PIGEON PEA and that meaning of ROOKERY. It is always the earth and EARTHING in the UK electricity industry. Our lineSmen would be lost in Wichita. Not as hard as it felt. Great debut, plusJ. Thank you to you and setter.

  11. 18:10. I was held up by trying to make 1D PIGEON PIE rather than the unknown pea, which, along with writing the enumeration wrong made A PASSAGE TO INDIA harder than it should have been. GUANACO and SHAKO took me a while too. Thanks for parsing POVERTY-STRICKEN Jeremy. I too thought RANGE was just an anagram of ANGER. COD to ON-OFF. Thanks to witty setter too.

  12. Times Classic stopped showing the clues
    I downloaded the new app to use
    I get Congratulations
    And mystifications
    “Your time is NaN:NaN” does bemuse

  13. DNF. Gave up on the hour with most of the NW not entered. NHO ROOKERY for a slum, SHAKO, does ring a bell now I see it but I didn’t, GUANACO, SHAKO, PIGEON PEA. Oh well.

    Thanks Jeremy for the enlightenment.

    1. Famous ‘rookeries’ include the St Giles area of central London, which existed from the 17th century and into Victorian times; an area described by Henry Mayhew in about 1860 in ‘A Visit to the Rookery of St Giles and its Neighbourhood.’
      The St Giles’ slum, Bermondsey’s ‘Jacob’s Island’ and ‘The Old Nichol Street Rookery’ in the East End of London were demolished as part of London slum clearance and urban redevelopment projects in the late 19th century. Wikipedia

      1. Thank you for your reply Lord Meldrew. Good to see you back, by the way. Interesting about London’s history. Nearly seventy and still learning…….

  14. Lots of required knowledge that I didn’t have
    Gris, pigeon pea, guanaco, rookery..
    However a lot of biffable clues helped
    Struggled on the NW corner as I was completely on the wrong wavelength with 1a
    32 min so not a disaster

  15. Found this hard (but fair). Very slow in the NW taking far too long to see POSTSCRIPT (and SHAKO, GUANACO), NHO PIGEON PEA but found the cryptic not too bad . Then took a long time to disentangle VIABILITY – was thinking of various combinations of VIA and BY but could not work out what fire was doing.

    At least knew STAFFS, ROOKERY, BATTENBERG and thought GRIS sounded vaguely familiar.

  16. About 30 mins. Not my finest hour but got really bogged down in the SW corner. First to go in was the unparsed onyx- after finally giving up on opal- and eventually followed by viability, toss out ( with more hesitation over turn out – clutching at straws!) and last but certainly not least , griminess.
    COD to viability closely followed by griminess.
    Thanks setter and stand in blogger!

  17. Some whiplash with this one – the very easy ones alternating with some quite tricky parsing (looking at you POVERTY STRICKEN). We have ubiquitous tv ads for a large insurance company with a spokes-lizard in the form of a GECKO talking like Mick Jagger. Don’t ask. 17.53

  18. Unusual not to finish on a Monday, this went smoothly until I hit the wall in the NW corner, as others did – GUANACO, PIGEON for pea type and SHAKO were all unknown and unsolved, partly because I thought 1d was probably PISTOL PEA.
    Thanks for blogging, +jeremy.

  19. I was stuck on Hertfordshire and Herefordshire and couldn’t think of other counties. Very slight excuse because we hear Staffordshire in addresses a bit less often, some places which were in ‘Staffordshire’ now being in the ‘West Midlands’. I couldn’t — and still can’t — see how ‘What reduces’ is an acceptable abbreviation indicator (2dn). 41 minutes for a nice puzzle.

    1. Shak.

      Now that I know how the clue works I’m less bothered about the abbreviation indicator than the abbreviation itself which I’ve never come across before and can only find in one source, Collins, where it’s qualified as ‘in American English’. This suggests to me that it’s not widely used or accepted.

  20. I struggled to get started as evidenced by my FOI being ONYX, although I did confidently put SHIRE at the end of 3d first. ORDS wasn’t much later, but the STAFF were late. However I gradually worked my way anticlockwise until I hit the wall in the NW corner. I was tempted by the PIGEON PIE, but fortunately arrived via A PASSAGE TO INDIA, and decided to have the dahl instead. That allowed me to work out GUANACO and guess at SHAKO for 2d, my LOI. NHO ROOKERY as a slum area. I biffed POVERTY STRICKEN. The NW accounted for a lot of my time. 32:40. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  21. We ought to have a new acronym: TFAM (see Meldrew), which this certainly was. 23.21 for me, with resistance all over the grid.
    POSTSCRIPT because I was fixated on strikes (rail unions today), so couldn’t see POST and misunderstood supplement.
    GRIMINESS because not only did I not know Juan GRIS, it doesn’t even look like a Spanish name.
    VIABILITY because I thought the clue was even cleverer than it was and tried inserting repeated Is into a word for burning, which, let’s face is BLTY isn’t.
    SHAKO: knew the hat, didn’t know the short Shakespearean character SHAK….d’oh!
    I wondered about the practicality of flying a seaplane from an ESPLANADE: research came up with the extraordinary fact that Short built their seaplanes on the Esplanade in Rochester. So, yes.
    I think I’ll applaud a proper workout with some challenging vocab, and of course welcome plusjeremy to the big boys club: a fine first 15×15 blog!

    1. Thanks, though I’ve already completed half of my tenure!

      It is always an honor to give something back to the blog that got me into these puzzles in the first place.

  22. 10:04, trickier than usual for a Monday. I also tried to manoeuvre a PIE into 1dn, largely because I’ve aten PIGEON PIE but never (well, knowingly, at least – it may well have been hiding in plain sight in something I’ve eaten in an Indian restaurant) a PIGEON PEA. Everything else was within my lexicon, if sometimes on the outer edges of it. Well debuted, Jeremy.

  23. Finished in 36.30 but with 9ac wrong. Thought that GUATAMO might somehow be a resident of Guatemala perhaps. It’s amazing how can delude yourself into believing something that’s patently incorrect!
    Like others could only think of Hertfordshire and Herefordshire before getting the S at the beginning, and Staffordshire then came to mind immediately. I also share others surprise at the SHAK abbreviation, and was fortunate that I’d heard of a shako, otherwise I’d still be trying to work it out.

    1. I toyed with Guayano, resident of Guayana, one of the three countries on the north coast of South America in the “Axis of Countries That Hate That People Always Assume They’re in Africa Because They’re Not”. But of course it’s Guyana – the other guay country is Chadguay, which is in Africa.

  24. 25 mins, but completely stuck on SHAKO, NHO SHAK. abbreviation, nor the hat. So not so Mondayish after all…

  25. DNF as I had to look up 20a (GRIMINESS) , which led me to TOSS-UP as LOI. I thought the surface to JAM-PACKED was hilarious – at least it wasn’t ram-packed!

  26. 15:07. That was tricky. I was slowed down in a general way by wanting to parse some of these very convoluted clues (POVERTY-STRICKEN, for instance) and in a more specific way by a hastily-biffed OPAL. I wasted a lot of time trying to construct something feasible out of two VIAs, an I for current and either IN or LIT. Unsurprisingly this effort proved fruitless so eventually I reconsidered all the crossing answers and spotted my error.

  27. I learned SHAKO from this scene in the second act, where Carmen winds up and mocks Don José, leading to the famous “Flower aria”, La fleur que tu m’avais jetée. (Par example: https://youtu.be/jNgyhZFkgbo)

    Au quartier ! pour l’appel !
    Ah ! j’étais vraiment trop bête !
    Je me mettais en quatre
    et je faisais des frais,
    oui, je faisais des frais
    pour amuser monsieur !
    Je chantais ! Je dansais !
    Je crois, Dieu me pardonne,
    qu’un peu plus, je l’aimais !
    Taratata !
    C’est le clairon qui sonne !
    Taratata !
    Il part ! il est parti !
    Va-t’en donc, canari !
    (avec fureur lui envoyant son shako à la volée)
    Tiens ; prends ton shako,
    ton sabre, ta giberne ;
    et va-t’en, mon garçon, va-t’en !
    Retourne à ta caserne !

    1. Shinjuku shako-mae is a bus stop in Shinjuku, situated nearby to Tokyo Opera City.

      Shako (シャコ) is a seasonal Japanese mantis shrimp, or Oratosquilla oratoria, commonly prepared as nigiri in Edomae sushi. It has the appearance of a ceremonial helmet, as worn by the Japanese Army until 1905, at the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

  28. A big slow DNF due to PIGEON PEA ROOKERY GUANACO SHAKO but cannot be disheartened as I have never heard of any of them (ROOKERY maybe but not in any context that would have helped here).

    Glad to see some experienced solvers think this hard as I’m very happy to have worked slowly through the other clues.

    Thanks all.

  29. 29 mins. A not very hopeful guess at SHAKO and a what-ele-could-it-be stab at PIGEON PEA (after trying to make it PIE). It all felt like rather hard work and I never really felt I was on the right wavelength.

  30. DNF with shako and guanaco the problems-I think shako is a really poor clue. Shak for Shakespeare? Really? And didn’t know of the hat. Sadly iguana wouldn’t come to mind but at least that’s a fair clue. Shame because the rest of the puzzle had been very good

  31. 39:50

    A few too many unknowns and shrugs for comfort:

    GUANACO – Hit and hope
    GRIS – NHO
    PIGEON PEA – Worked it out but NHO
    SHAKO – Think it’s been here before but only got it from all three checkers. Thought the abbreviation suggestion was a bit meh.
    STAFFORDSHIRE – Got as far as writing in the last nine letters and thinking ‘What is a stick with 5 letters ending in F?’ Not HEREF or HERTF – took some while to think of STAFF – TCHOH!
    ROOKERY – Who knew?
    GUEVARA – didn’t think of RAVE for eversuch a long time!
    SS – bodyguard? Well I never knew…. Ho hum.
    JAM-PACKED – bunged in from the J, didn’t bother to parse
    NEAR THING – tentatively pencilled – never did work out the parsing

    1. I had the same experience with the various ….fordshire possibilities – even toying with Oxfordshire which doesn’t even fit. Strange how it took so long to light upon Staffs.
      Nice puzzle that took me long enough – around 1 hour.

  32. It took me, well, at most 48 minutes to solve this, as I nodded off while solving and that’s what the timer said after I woke up and entered POSTSCRIPT. The many obscurities and unknowns didn’t bother me much, because there was always an alternative path around them (and SHAKO rang a bell, even if I wasn’t entirely sure about it). PIGEON PEA went in from the wordplay and seemed reasonable, as did GUANACO. I never managed to parse POVERTY STRICKEN, but it was easy enough to biff. Actually a satisfying and fun puzzle, although it felt a bit like lying in an unmade bed (not smoothed out).

  33. Well, pleased to see I’m not the only one found this difficult. However, all completed. I am getting much better at having a go at ‘inventing’ words from the clueing – otherwise known as ‘solving’ NHOs! So long as they then parse, I am inclined to trust the wordplay. Thus GUANACO, which I swear I’ve never come across, PIGEON PEA and ROOKERY, unknown in that sense. SHAKO rang a very faint bell, possibly also from Carmen. Last one in was GRIMINESS, only because I suddenly thought of ‘mines’ for delves, as Gris was vaguely heard of, but not remembered. An enjoyable challenge.

  34. 25.20

    Knew ROOKERY and my Gran lived in STAFFORDSHIRE but still struggled to finish the top half of both clues off. POSTSCRIPT slowly emerged from the w/p after I bunged in RIP and tried to make something of it

    Slightly strange definition of VIABILITY which I struggled to get to grips with but in it went followed by my LOI GRIMINESS not fully parsed but bunged in with reasonable expectation

    Did anyone consider GULLABA. No, thought not

    Thanks setter and congratulations on the first big blog Jeremy

  35. Pigeon Peas are usually bought as Toor Dahl, one the very many “lentils” available for Indian cookery. They take a bit of cooking but are wonderfully sustaining.

  36. 17’48” Slowed down slightly by pigeon pie. But then the story began with a single letter E, which could only be a Latin E — for Ex — and obviously I couldn’t think of any examples. So thankfully I took another look at one down. Battenbergs are definitely my favourite cake. I just wish they were easier to make, because I am sure the real thing is better than a packaged one. Thanks all.

  37. I never do very well when I have a hard time starting in the NW. In the end, after fifty minutes, a few in that corner were my last in—the unknown PIGEON PEA giving me enough of a hint to finally see POSTSCRIPT and confirm the unknown GUANACO. At least I knew ROOKERY from a few different places, most recently The Doll Factory, where a ROOKERY is the squalid home of a key character and his sister and the word sees use as a chapter heading.

  38. Thoroughly enjoyed this, despite starting off very badly in the NW ( or rather, not starting off, as like other seasoned solvers I was misled on the definition of 1a !). So, found this pretty quick for me, but never quite got the last few: PIGEON PEA, POSTSCRIPT, SHAKO and GUANACO.
    Bravo, Jeremy!

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