Times Cryptic No 28338 – Saturday, 09 July 2022. London or the bush?

I looked at the long clue across the top and saw the second word immediately – quickly confirmed by looking at 6, 7, and 8dn. The rest of the letters didn’t look remotely like any part of London that I could think of.

D’oh! Other countries have capitals too. Meanwhile the puzzle had delightful clues like 18ac and 17dn, contrasting with the impossible (for me) 24dn. I finally had to look that one up – I knew neither the definition nor the wordplay. Everything else flowed smoothly. Thanks to the setter for an enjoyable puzzle. How did you all get on?

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 underlined. (ABC)* means anagram of ABC, with anagram indicators italicised.

1 Quarantine means moving to open space in the capital (9,6)
9 Keep plugging away in private, working (7,2)
SOLDIER ON – SOLDIER=private (for example) + ON=working.
10 Bar’s better with piano for music, in the end (5)
EXPEL – EXCEL=better. Insert P=piano to replace C=(musi)C.
11 Spud without jacket consumed in about turn (6)
ROTATE – (p)OTAT(o) in RE=about.
12 Reportedly polished off the harvest in short style (4,4)
ETON CROP – ETON = ‘eaten’, reportedly + CROP=harvest.
13 Set off, getting boxed in on return with not enough parking (6)
DEPART –  TRAPPED=boxed in. Take out one P=parking, and reverse (return) it.
15 Comforter, excellent for so-called gangster (8)
SCARFACE – SCARF=comforter + ACE. ‘So-called’, because it was his nickname.
18 These specs on, it is suggested? (4-4)
HALF-MOON – half-moon glasses are reading glasses, of a style where you can look over the top of the lens for distance vision.

As a reverse cryptic clue, ‘half-moon’ could suggest ON=the right half of (MO)ON. Delightful! Definitely not one for the quick crossword. My first though was FULL MOON, which was no help at all. Finally the penny dropped.

19 Animal’s lair in decay (6)
21 Point at country’s famous building for example (8)
LANDMARK – LAND=country + MARK=point. This parsing feels a bit off-key. Have I missed something, or is the ‘at’ just necessary to make the surface work?
23 Gloomy day, one’s breakfast possibly with no coffee at the end (6)
DISMAL – D=day +I’S=one’s + M(E)AL=breakfast, for example, with an E (the end of coffeE) removed.
26 Left in difficulty, lacking sense (5)
27 Exmoor family’s head in rave (2,4,3)
DO ONE’S NUT – the DOONES were Lorna Doone’s family. NUT=head.
28 Child’s repeated demand at bedtime? It never improves (3,4,3,5)
THE SAME OLD STORY – cryptic hint.
1 Sprayed? You’ll get dry in a bit (7)
TASERED – SERE in TAD. Does anyone know why ‘tasering’ is ‘spraying’? Perhaps the setter had a blank moment, and was thinking of pepper spray.
2 Distribute the vote first off (5)
3 An impression mud is rising, not permanently (2,7)
AD INTERIM – A + DINT + MIRE rising.
4 Pool used up in ceremony (4)
MERE – backwards hidden.
5 Making things very small? He cannot, sadly! (8)
6 Pop group that was once someone’s pawn? (5)
QUEEN – chess reference.
7 Like some American lowlife, finally offering a sweetener (9)
ASPARTAME – AS + PART + AM + (lowlif)E.
8 In darkness, say what ’airdresser does? (7)
ECLIPSE – sounds like (‘say’) ‘E CLIPS.
14 Piano solo briefly played with energy, one of Chopin’s perhaps (9)
POLONAISE – (PIANO SOL)* + E=energy. I wanted to underline the whole clue as definition, but I suspect a Polonaise is too stately for that!
16 Baggy state of jumpers: my one is among them (9)
17 Stir — this? (8)
PORRIDGE – very cute. Stir and porridge are both slang for prison. Literal porridge is literally stirred.
18 Swimmer’s short excuse to enter beach building (7)
20 Writer related anecdote, missing a little from each part (7)
TOLSTOY – TOL(D) STO(R)Y, minus a letter from each word.
22 Sorceress wants me shortly killed (5)
24 Must travel in the country for cheap cloth (5)
MUNGO – MUN=must, in dialect (new to me) + GO=travel. Didn’t know the definition either.
25 At court, lied at first, it may be felt (4)
WOOL – WOO + L(ied).

25 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28338 – Saturday, 09 July 2022. London or the bush?”

  1. 1hr 44m 05s
    That was one of the hardest crossword nuts to crack in a long time for me.
    In my notes I have 7 clues with question marks against them so, thank you, Bruce, for your explanation. Like you, though, I remain mystified by MUNGO. Never heard of MUN in any sort of dialect.
    In AD INTERIM, I have only ever heard of DINT as meaning ‘by means of’.
    I expect I’m not the only one to be foxed by 1ac. I started with TRAFALGAR SQUARE until, as you say, Bruce, I realised that other capitals have squares as well.
    Thumbs Up to: HALF MOON and ECLIPSE.
    Thanks, Bruce.

    1. Yes, ‘by dint of’, but for this clue, Chambers suggests DINT and DENT can be synonyms.

  2. Silly me, I put AT INTERIM, with ‘a tint’ for an impression. To paraphrase Roy and HG “when too much Latin still isn’t enough”
    33:33 with a pink tint in the green

  3. 27:30
    I thought of the right square, but spelling it took a while. Never got the wordplay for ROTATE or HALF-MOON, knew nothing of Exmoor or Lorna Doone and didn’t know DO ONES NUT, so that went in on the strength of the checkers. DNK MUNGO, but I have seen ‘mun’, probably in 19th-century novels. I had ‘def?’ written in by 1d; I imagine that as Bruce suggests it’s a setter’s/editor’s error.

  4. A puzzle that in a few places makes you say, “well I suppose that must be the answer” rather than giving you the delicious penny-drop moment. I did like porridge though, and Tiananmen Square – remember having trouble spelling it last time, as well.

  5. 35 minutes apart form MUNGO which had to be guessed if one didn’t know MUN or the literal definition (and who did, I wonder?). GO for travel had to be, so with all the checkers in place I suppose there was a 1 in 5 chance of how to fill the remaining blank.

    I missed the parsing of HALF-MOON but had no problem with the specs, as famously worn by Sir Alec Douglas Home, one of our previous unelected PMs who took over mid-term.

  6. I didn’t know MUNGO either (though I’d heard of Mungo “In the Summertime” Jerry).
    Would be rather odd if “Sprayed” in 1d were the mistake of both the setter and the editor, but mistake it is!

  7. I didn’t get on with this and took 50 minutes. I know HALF MOON specs but didn’t get the cryptic. It’s a good job I know someone called MUNGO (not Jerry) or I’d not have got the unknown cloth. I think it was Walter Gabriel who gave me the pronunciation. (The Archers, last listened 1970. Is he still living? He’ll be over 130 if he is) COD to DO ONES NUT. Thank you Bruce and setter.

  8. According to my notes, I really didn’t like this crossword at all. I also failed to finish it, not seeing how POLONAISE worked and never having heard of one, and also failing more reasonably on MUNGO, where I hadn’t heard of either MUNGO or “mun”, which makes it impossible to get, really.

  9. MUN is used a lot in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. As in “I mun go into town this morning”. I read it when very young and thought it very funny at the time but I don’t know if it would stand rereading.

    1. Not a 19th-century novel, but maybe where I came across ‘mun’. I vum!

      1. I found that Cold Comfort Farm was still excellent the second and maybe third time round, so give it a go.
        Her other books didn’t work for me.
        Quote of the book “Both Seth AND Reuben” by telegram.

  10. And I’ve just noticed in another comment that someone else came by it via The Archers. As I remember it Cold Comfort Farm read quite like a parody of The Archers (which I can’t stand) so maybe that was part of the reason I liked it so much!

  11. Well, having read all your comments I am super chuffed to have finished this. It really was hard, not just me! Although I completed it, eventually, in a time not worth recording, it was with question marks at 10ac and 7d which I couldn’t understand until coming here – thanks, brnchn- and punts on several others that, like isla3 above, I plumped for rather than worked out. It’s never satisfying when the answer comes with a shrug of, “Well, I suppose that must be it.” BTW, I am beyond impressed at the setter coming up with an anagram of Tiananmen Square. Thanks, all.

  12. Re 24 down: “Must travel in the country…”and the answer MUNGO . This brought to mind Scotsman Mungo Park who was one of the first European explorers in Africa. He searched for the source of the Niger(at the time as compelling a mystery as the source of the Nile) and held the theory that maybe the Niger and the Congo came from the same source. He died in 1806 in the upper reaches of the Niger River at 35.

  13. 37 minutes. MUNGO entered unparsed as LOI, but seemed much more likely than the alternatives. Liked HALF-MOON and especially PORRIDGE.

    I didn’t think much about TASERED for ‘Sprayed?’ last week but see what you mean now. Looking it up, apparently two (not just one) darts are fired at the unfortunate target, so maybe that question mark lets the setter / editor off.

  14. Soldier, as a verb, is one of those words which, in the US, has two completely opposite meanings. One is this “soldier on” sense of getting down to it; the other (which I think comes from USN observation of Army behaviour whilst being transported from here to there) is
    “2. To make a pretense of of working, while doing only enough to escape punishment or discharge; to malinger”
    Websters 2nd, Unabridged

  15. No problem until the final MUNGO. I decided MANGO was too well-known as a fruit to be a cloth too. There is a database called MONGODB but in the end I guessed MUNGO sounded more likely, even though I’d never heard of it, nor of MUN for must. Lucky guess, so I was all correct. Luckily my mother often played Chopin POLONAISEs on the piano so that one didn’t hold me up.

  16. Thanks for explanation of half moon which I didn’t get at all. Polonaise also foxed me as I only had the p in my anagram and couldn’t for the life of me work out where the other letters came from. Doh! Enjoyable though. Really chuckled at the same old story 28a.

  17. I take my time over the Saturday puzzles, so mabe nobody will read this. My starting experience was similar to our blogger; FOI, but not until several crossers were in or suspected, I also wondered about Trafalgar.
    Apart from one or two delightful, clever clues and a PHEW of satisfaction when, with a shrug, I entered my LOI HALF-MOON (which replaced DO ONES NUT as my COD), I did not really enjoy the puzxzle for reasons suggested by isla3 above; in fact it was not so much a question of “I suppose it must be…” as “Surely it can’t be…” until the crossers confirm that indeed it is, depriving one of the delicious penny-drop. TASERED is the most blatant example.

    I hope that this is not the new style for Saturday puzzles, as the following week’s appears to have a number of simiular clues, and I can’t be bothered to finish it. Three of my five unsolved clues are still at the “surely not” stage, but I won’t enter them as they cross other “surely nots”

    Thanks blogger and setter.

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