Times Cryptic No 28333 – July 4, 2022 O Say Can You See

It’s Independence Day in America and the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner demonstrate why you should not let lawyers write your national anthem.  I’m temping for Ulaca during his Grand Tour, rotating with Jeremy and Jerry and alternating with Vinyl.  This took me 18 plus minutes and my time may have been influenced by mild “blog fright”, but more likely by slapdash solving of 13D which had to be corrected later.  This wasn’t overpoweringly difficult but it did have some tricky spelling and parsing.  Overall a very entertaining and neatly constructed example of the setter’s art with nice succinct surfaces.

Definitions underlined.  Answers in bold caps.


1  Old blower regularly blowing it? (4)

OBOE.  O[ld] B[l]O[w]E[r] (regularly).

Hawkish sarge gives ground (10)

AGGRESSIVE.  Anagram (ground) of SARGE GIVES.

9  Mark to remain with lad for Top Gear (7)

STETSON.  STET=printer’s direction to leave as is.  SON=lad.

11  Area is ploughed around university, a vast expanse (7)

EURASIA.  Anagram (ploughed) of AREA IS with U.

12  Before each church collection Penny’s given olive branch (5,8)

PEACE OFFERING.  P with EA=each CE=church OFFERING=collection.

14  Mayo boxer can go about one round (5)

AIOLI.  Provencal mayonnaise spiked with mashed garlic.  ALI=(Muhammed) popular boxer in crosswords containing I and O=round.

15  The Spanish cheese lacks minute essential (9)

ELEMENTAL.  EL=the in Spanish.  EM[M]ENTAL=the (not Spanish) cheese, dropping the M[inute].  I’m sure I’ve seen it spelled with an H too but in this part of the world it’s just called Swiss.

17  Make comfy quiet head office in province (9)

UPHOLSTER.  Ulster is the province (it often is), containing P=quiet and HO.

19  Indian contribution to growth industry (5)

HINDU.  Hidden in [growt]H INDU[stry].

21  Guide present source of power (6,7)


24  Caffeine supplier left fish around on floor (4,3)

KOLA NUT.  KO=floor.  L.  TUNA=fish reversed (around).  I get my morning jolt and afternoon pick-me-up from tea but I believe chewing these works too.

25  I retain distressed sloth (7)

INERTIA.  Anagram (distressed) of I RETAIN.

26  “Go into a hotel” – the general manager’s byword? (10)

APOPHTHEGM.  I was pretty sure this was the answer but how on earth do you spell it?  It seems that Americans cut to the chase and just omit the PH and go straight to the TH.  After getting that straightened out, here goes with the parsing.  POP=go is contained in A H[otel] with THE GM.

27  Class try unoccupied gym (4)

TYPE.  T[r]Y (unoccupied) with PE=gym.


Section of tract:  “USA Hopes Go Astray (10)

OESOPHAGUS.  Another tricky bit of spelling because Americans leave off the first O.  All well with the PH here though.  Anagram (astray) of USA HOPES GO.

2  Rebellious daughter visiting loves plant (7)

OREGANO.  If it’s not Electra it must be one of King Lear’s daughters.  REGAN contained in OO=loves.

4  Info on cryptic FT clue:  “Take the knee” (9)

GENUFLECT.  GEN=info with an anagram (cryptic) of FT CLUE.

Old magistrate one’s often seen with ruff (5)

REEVE.  This is the female counterpart of the ruff bird.  And in old portraits one might expect the magistrate to be wearing a frilly non-avian ruff round his neck.

6  Deputy cleaner cutting Frenchman’s cost of upkeep (7,6)

SERVICE CHARGE.  VICE CHAR would be the deputy cleaner contained in the Frenchman SERGE.  As in Gainsbourg, but I think you have to be French yourself to see the point of him.

Understanding popular view (7)

INSIGHT.  IN=popular.  SIGHT=view.

8  Scrap upcoming motorway test (4)

EXAM.  M with AXE reversed (upcoming).

10  Arboriculturist may cherish this security service (7,6)

SPECIAL BRANCH.  This made me smile.  Special Branch is the national security and intelligence arm of the UK police.

13  Make clear cross can straddle large drive (10)

ILLUSTRATE.  I had the first four letters and the last three and confidently entered “illuminate” which caused a fair bit of trouble in the southern hemisphere until I got it sorted out.  IRATE=cross containing L and LUST=drive.

16  Adorning prominent feature to fill in Parisian gear (9)

ENRICHING.  CHIN=prominent feature (it often is) contained in EN=”in” en Francais with RIG=gear.

18  Madrid gent covered up an attempt to steal litres (7)

HIDALGO.  HID=covered up with L (litres) in A GO=an attempt.

20 Forbidding sign a reason for calling off contest (2,5)

NO ENTRY.   Well if you have no entrants…..

22  Discern contract snag (5)

CATCH.  Triple definition.  If you contract covid you may catch it, in more ways than one.

23 Belligerent seabird smaller ones upset (4)

SKUA.  Auks reversed (upset).  I wouldn’t know the comparative size of the two nor am I familiar with the skua’s personality although I believe they are predators.  Two birds in one clue – some amongst us won’t be happy.





62 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28333 – July 4, 2022 O Say Can You See”

  1. Just under 50 minutes. Tried to work “pages” into anagram that eventually became OESOPHAGUS because I was fixated on tract as type of pamphlet not body part. Didn’t think UPHOLSTER meant “make comfy”. Didn’t like rebellious to describe Regan- ungrateful, unnatural, even inhuman or evil – but she was hardly a rebel as her father officially gave her half his kingdom. COD to SPECIAL BRANCH. Thanks for showing me lust and irate as “drive” and “cross” in ILLUSTRATE and rest of entertaining blog.

  2. I took a pot at POT instead of a POP in the spelling of APOPHTHEGM. It looked just as bad either way. One more pink square in a sequence which is getting longer each day. Ongoing bleeding….

    1. July 4 and all is not well in The State of Meldrewvia!

      I hit 40 minutes with just 26ac to go. Initially I considered ‘Go’ to be PEP, then POT even PUNT, however POP eluded me and so I conceded.

      FOI 1ac OBOE
      (LOI) 18dn HIDALGO
      COD 14ac AIOLI
      WOD 2dn OR-E-GANO as we Brits call it!

      Wishing our American Cousins and Olivia a happy day off!

    2. I’m glad I wasn’t alone. I’d misremembered the word and was still wondering if “pot” really meant “go” when I came here to find out that it really didn’t.

      1. I could see POT as try – sitting on the porch with a rifle having a pot(shot) at a passing bunny.

    3. Enjoyed this offering, which felt Monday-ish but no pushover, with quite a few holdouts including OESOPHAGUS and SERVICE CHARGE which unlocked, respectively, the NW and SE corners of the puzzle. NHO REGAN but she seemed a safe bet.

      Finished up with HIDALGO and – yes, another one – APOTHTHEGM. Deep down I knew that POT wasn’t a synonym for “try”, but missed the correct solution in my alpha-trawl due to the PO start. 28:35 – 1 pink fail

    4. 11:41. …but I was another POT, thinking “have a pot at”. Oh well. COD to OESOPHAGUS for the surface reading on Independence day. Thank-you setter and Olivia.

  3. No problems with apophthegm, found the clue helpful in getting everything in the right order as I might not have without help. Overall Mondayish, but did like Special Branch. Mendel the beekeeper was ex-Special Branch in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” watched on TV here a day or two ago. Neither Electra nor Lear were first thought for oregano, I was thinking O (bolshie) D O.
    COD stetson for the definition.

  4. 13:30 for me. Love a clue where you can enter an unlikely-looking word with confidence despite having never come close to hearing of it. So COD to APOPHTHEGM.

    Nice blog Olivia. Huge improvement over the regular guy.

    1. Agree on the clueing of APOPHTHEGM and on the absolute evaluation of Olivia’s blog, though I prefer to dissociate myself from the comparative evaluation. About 40 minutes today, so not quite Mondayish, with OESOPHAGUS putting up undue resistance and ‘illuminate’ only giving way to ILLUSTRATE because of the unlikely looking second ‘i’ in my careless first effort. Thanks to setter and blogger for today’s entertainment.

  5. A 20-odd minute DNF. Not confident at all about 26a, so another POT for POP.

  6. Wowie zowie. Thought this was going to be an easy one til I got to the bottom-left, and got helplessly stuck on SKUA and APOPHTHEGM. HIDALGO also wasn’t easy, and I had trouble with the BRANCH of SPECIAL BRANCH and the DIRECT of DIRECT CURRENT.

    In any case, I was able to bring everything home in just under 30 minutes.

  7. 17:48
    I thought I knew all the US/UK spelling differences –so OESOPHAGUS wasn’t a problem–but LOI 26ac was new to me. I was sure it was APOTHEGM–without parsing the clue–but that’s too short. I finally looked it up. Germany did some spelling reform a while back, and eliminating the H in THAL (‘valley’, if I recall) was one. (So it’s now Neandertal.) Happy Fourth to all. (At least, Olivia, the lyrics don’t have anything about impure blood!)

  8. 32 minutes for all but APOPHTHEGM where I’m sorry to report the unlikely combination of checkers was enough to put me off and since I was getting nowhere with the wordplay I gave up and used aids to fill in the blanks.

    The word has been mentioned a few times here in the past, by Ulaca in October last year when clarifying how a clue worked, and similarly by Verlaine in 2015 — only he wrote ‘apophthegmatic’ — but it has only appeared once as an answer before today, in March 2109 in a puzzle blogged by vinyl1 and clued as: Saw old man in hotel with General Manager. I commented that I solved it without difficulty that day because of the helpful wordplay, and I guess cluing POP as ‘old’ man’ instead of ‘go’ made all the difference.

    Like others I struggled a bit with 13dn and went so far as to biff ILLUMINATE before deciding the I-checker it provided as the last letter of the unsolved 21ac was very unlikely, so I rubbed it out and thought again.

    No problem with HIDALGO as I once knew someone with that as her surname.

  9. 24 minutes for me. Fairly mondayish except for APOPHTHEGM where I was glad to have the wordplay to get the spelling correct. Jane Birkin seemed to see the point of Serge Gainsbourg and she’s English. She is brilliant at saying a sound halfway between “le” and “la”, or “un” and “une” when interviewed on TV since (like me) she couldn’t always remember the gender of various things.

    1. And another plus for Serge is that one of his collaborations with Jane Birkin produced the excellent actress Charlotte Gainsbourg.

  10. Finished this relatively quickly with a lazy KOLI NUT (Koi around L and NUT for floor). COD to STETSON.

    Thanks Olivia for standing in for the peripatetic ulaca (at least I think that’s what Galspray calls him).

  11. He that filches from me my good name,
    Robs me of that which not Enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed

    20 mins pre-brekker once I changed Hildago.
    No ticks, no crosses, no marks at all and only USAHOPESGO in the margin.
    I liked ‘upcoming’ as a reversal indicator. I’ll steal that.
    Thanks setter and Olivia.

    1. Onwards and upwards…

      Saw a great reversal indicator recently in a Down clue: ‘reaching for the sky’.

  12. 28 mins so very quick for me. I did have look up the APOTYwhatsit post solve though as I’ve never ‘erd of it.

    Thanks for the ruff explanation Olivia, did not know the bird.

    Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris Anyone?


    Thanks Olivia and setter.

  13. 12:01. I struggled with one answer today – no prizes for guessing which one. My first instinct was for the word to begin APOTH… but I just couldn’t justify “pot” for “go”. Eventually I thought of “pop to the shops” which enabled me to finish. Like Jack I also had a biffed ILLUMINATE at one point, similarly removing it when it put an I at the end of what turned out to be DIRECT CURRENT.

  14. 10:45. I started very quickly on this, and thought for a while I might edge inside the five-minute mark. But then I got bogged down in the SW, and 26ac alone took close to half my solving time. I stared and stared at the unlikely-looking crossers and just couldn’t see a way in, until suddenly it occurred to me that ‘go’ might indicate POP and I constructed the rest from there. It shouldn’t have taken so long, given the existence of several familiar words with that PHTH pattern.

  15. 26 minutes with LOI ILLUSTRATE having also thought of ILLUMINATE first. I was thrown by DIRECT CURRENT which is surely a type of power and not the source. Today’s not only your Independence Day, Olivia, but my wedding anniversary. The two don’t quite go together somehow. I would have spelt APOPHTHEGM without the hydrogen ion indicator in the middle too. REEVE was a biff. COD to PEACE OFFERING. No need for one today though, I did remember it was the anniversary. Nice puzzle. Thank you Olivia and setter.

  16. 22m 22s
    Thank you, Olivia! A very entertaining blog. A particular thank you for ILLUSTRATE and NO ENTRY.
    “SERGE. As in Gainsbourg, but I think you have to be French yourself to see the point of him.”
    Obviously Mesdames Bardot and Birkin did see the point! As an aside, the record producer Robin Millar, chose the Bardot/Gainsbourg version of “Je t’aime…moi non plus” as one of his Desert Island Discs. I have read that Bardot’s then husband, Gunther Sachs, insisted that the record not be released.
    Some tricky spelling there with OESOPHAGUS, AOILI and APOPHTHEGM. Yes, there appears to be a lack of pH balance in the American version of the last named one!
    I agree about the cheese. I’m used to seeing EMMENTHAL and Lexico does give that as an alternative.
    There has been some recent discussion about ‘chestnuts’. Here, I would say HIDALGO and REEVE fall into that category.
    Thanks again, Olivia! Nice to see you on blog duty!
    PS: re aggressive seabirds, the Blackburn SKUA was a WWII fighter/bomber.

      1. You are obviously referring to Dermot REEVE who played for Sussex, Warwickshire and England; but that was in the 80s….

  17. Quick solve, bar the clue already mentioned which took me forever to construct. That plus the sophagus were a spelling challenge. Also I wrote cola nut to start with.
    I’m with you on Gainsbourg Olivia, but he must have had something given the girlfriends he managed to attract..

  18. 07:42, with a large proportion of that spent on one clue in particular. My chances of spelling APOPHTHEGM without the help of wordplay and checking letters were slim to begin with, so I’m doubly glad I thought twice about POT, which seemed to me, as it did other people, to be not quite close enough – and also made the word look even stranger than it already does, which is pretty darned strange. Old Serge G. always seemed…well, even “interesting” possibly doesn’t do him justice.

  19. DNF
    Cola nut and scua did for me. Sloppy solving – rushing.
    Thanks, olivia, great blog.

  20. José can you see?
    Another POT failure, convinced that I could justify pot for go (possibly with reference to snooker), and that I knew loads of words with THTH as a constituent part. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.
    Otherwise 15 minutes for a solve that seemed harder, with some entertaining clues and vocab that strayed from the Monday quickie style.
    Perhaps I should mention HIDALGO just to justify my title, but happy 4th to all our US contingent, and thanks to Olivia for a fine blog. Will Ulaca get his place back in the squad on his return?

  21. 34 minutes for a puzzle that presented few problems except the APO…, whose spelling I had to look up (and I’m still not that confident with it: APO … didn’t look right and I had to check that it wasn’t APHO…). Trivial blemish on an otherwise excellent blog, Olivia: you haven’t actually given the answer to 7dn, although it’s pretty obvious. In 15ac I’d have preferred ‘The Spanish cheese lacks a minute essential’. And (16dn) does adorning = ENRICHING?

    1. Well, a sponge pudding ADORNED with chocolate sauce will surely be ENRICHED.
      The use in menus of ENROBED in this context is beyond the pale

  22. Rattled through this in 13 mins, which left me with a word which, unlike most of our commenters apparently, I hadn’t heard of. I worked very hard in vain for an anagram with general as the anagrind, and ‘manager’s byword’ as the literal, but in the end I had to look it up.

  23. 18 mins, but with a pesky POT in the AP-thingy. Annoying as I knew the word – though clearly not very well – and had successfully assembled OESOPHAGUS and AIOLI from their component parts and even managed not to biff COLA on sight.

  24. I was flying through this till I got to the sw corner, and I thought I had finally crossed the line in 40.15. I then discover like others that APOTH… etc wasn’t the answer, even though pot in my opinion is perfectly legit for ‘a go’. The correct answer is a most unlikely looking word, but they often are if you’ve never come across them!
    My time would have improved by approx 5 minutes if I hadn’t had to deal with a house sparrow that managed to get into the conservatory, and then decided it didn’t want to leave.

  25. Enjoyable but tough for a Monday!

    DNF solely due to apophthegm.
    Special Branch was never a national organisation and that section of the Met hasn’t existed since 2006.
    Thanks for the explanations Julia, have a good holiday!

  26. “Ah, but I may as well try and CATCH the wind” as Donovan resignedly put it.

    Like Olivia, I had to spend time backing out 13D, but in my case I’d tried ‘elucidate’ and had spelt it with two C’s !

    I spent a good minute over my LOI because I had a vague idea what I was looking for, but only managed to parse it afterwards. I could well have got it wrong.

    TIME 9:33

  27. DNF beaten by the APGHTCDRFRHTMDDOM word and SKUA. Great blog Olivia and thanks to the setter too.

  28. 17.33 but I have to confess to looking up apophthegm. I did know how the word sounded but that was as near as I got. I also put in kalo nut instead of kola!
    For my penance I’ll do 3 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys.

  29. 24:30

    Sneaking in just under the snitch which is currently at 73 (for me that equals 26:30).

    Mostly very comfortably though as with others, plenty in the bottom half to think about.

    Of my last five, plus the pencilled-in CATCH, it was ILLUSTRATE that fell first – I too had thought of ILLUMINATE initially but couldn’t make any of it work.

    That gave me DIRECT CURRENT, ENRICHING and then HIDALGO before having to match the cryptic to the unlikely set of crossers. NHO it but every day’s a school day.

    Thanks O and setter.

  30. I agree with Olivia’s assessment of this. A well put together puzzle with enough to keep one on one’s toes.

    Anyone who has ever had to study Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 will have had more than their fill of INERTIA.

    COD AIOLI – which sounds rather tasty

    Thanks to Olivia and the setter.

  31. Technically a DNF because I checked to see if agonhthegm was a word (GO inside AN H) – once that option was removed I did a trawl until POP popped into my head to give me the final answer. Thought this quite hard for a Monday
    I’ll have another go tomorrow

  32. Well I amazed myself by actually completing one of these unaided and in less than an hour. Nho apo*** but guessed ok and nearly fell over with rieve not reeve but luckily didn’t. Thank you all. I’m sure a repeat may be some time coming!

  33. Nice puzzle which I began at a gallop, but got bogged down in a bit after the initial surge. From OBOE to HINDU and ILLUSTRATE in a round 16 minutes, then 26a stared at me belligerently for the rest of my time until I thought of POP for go. Then I was able to assemble it with a modicum of confidence. 20:51. Thanks setter and Olivia. Nice blog, and Happy 4th July!

  34. I’m reminded of the tortoise and the hare. I was much slower than many but at least I got everything right.

  35. Half an hour, half asleep after an exhausting golf match on a very hilly course (Stoke Rochford). All done in 25 minutes except APO-thingy which I didn’t know and came here to learn.
    Thanks Olivia, excellent blogging. I might retire at 500 and let you blossom again.

  36. 09.50. A quick solve from me today. Seemed to have all the vocab and managed to pass the spelling test unscathed.

  37. dnf – disaster – i misspelled it as aesophagus and had to bung in awol at one across. put me out of my misery!!

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