Times Cryptic No 28469 — Call it hell, call it heaven

DNF, but about 20 minutes to get to my sticking points: 13 and 23 across. Not a difficult puzzle but nevertheless one I labored over. I am still waiting for and expecting a truly beastly Friday to reckon with!

1 Norwegian sprat is eaten by British fish (8)
6 Polish saint without pretensions (6)
9 Cabinet minister drives payroll reforms (4,5,4)
10 In court compassion is resistant to persuasion (6)

I’ve seen this chestnut too many times to recall — hence, I didn’t.

11 Devotee into pop art is a numpty (8)

I enjoy (and simultaneously do not enjoy) when I am fooled by a hidden clue!

13 Former policemen surrounding two badly fortified houses (4-6)
PEEL-TOWERS – PEELERS around anagram of TWO

‘Peel’ is an obsolete word for a palisade. I’d never heard of ‘peeler’ either.

Will someone who’s an expert in AI-generated art create an image of a tow truck pulling banana peels? Thanks in advance.

15 Row about Italian revolutionary (4)
TIER – RE + IT reversed
16 Elegant young fowl losing kilo (4)
CHIC – CHICK without K
18 In Hull City’s old stadium (10)
21 Parishioners learning about silly nonsense (8)

I know this word from Guys and Dolls.

22 Tragic king stops by, dull with sleep (6)
23 Many parents shedding tears after rodent caught in town (10,3)
LEAMINGTON SPA – TONS + PARENTS without RENTS after homophone (‘caught’) of LEMMING

Very tough wordplay, and I didn’t know the town, so this was another stumper.

25 Banks of Stockholm issued gentle hint (6)
26 Moderate party committee backing secret meeting, we hear (8)
CENTRIST – NEC (National Executive Committee?) reversed + homophone of TRYST
2 Deterioration of one falling out of tree upside down (7)
RELAPSE – ESPALIER without I, reversed

This is too good, must be a chestnut? (No pun intended.)

3 Uptight doctor cried at last (6-5)
4 Suggest just heading off (5)
IMPLY – SIMPLY without first letter
5 Spy walks unevenly into empty garage (7)
GLIMPSE – LIMPS into first and last of GARAGE
6 As if by magic, the osprey flies (3,6)
7 Originally called nieces on a regular basis (3)
NEE – every other letter of NIECES
8 Rescue large wild bears (7)
12 One between parties in awfully nice resorts (11)
14 Over time, female learned differently (9)
17 Tough, glum face hidden under American’s bonnet (7)
HOODLUM – GLUM without first letter after HOOD
19 Northerly wind captured in photo of the open sea (7)
PELAGIC – GALE reversed in PIC
20 People of refinement ultimately constrained by principles (7)
22 Forehead and top of nose burnt by the sun (5)
BROWN – BROW + first letter of NOSE
24 Take pressure off hired help (3)
AID – PAID without P

82 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28469 — Call it hell, call it heaven”

  1. 22:27
    Not the stinker we were dreading/looking forward to, but tough enough. FOI 9ac LORD PRIVY SEAL, which I biffed from the enumeration. DNK BRISLING. And I realized when solving 19d that I didn’t know what PELAGIC means. I never did parse 18ac HIPPODROME or 23ac LEAMINGTON SPA. NHO 13ac PEEL-TOWERS (LOI); after rejecting EX for ‘former’, I remembered the Bow Street Runners and finally the Peelers. [on edit]: I took NEC in 26ac to be ‘National Executive Committee’, though committee of what I couldn’t guess, but I see now in Collins that it’s the Labour Party’s.

  2. Certainly the hardest of the week, though that’s not saying much. I wondered if it would seem harder to me than to others because I’m a bit under the weather (head cold, which turns up my tinnitus orchestra to 11), but it went pretty smoothly for most of the time, even though BRISLING was a (I think) NHO and, not remembering the old cops, I negligently bunged in BELL-TOWERS (damn!) and forgot to parse HIPPODROME. Didn’t know the town either, and took some time parsing that after I had it. LOI CENTRIST. PELAGIC was a great discovery—not sure I ever knew what that word meant. I marked the clue for GLIMPSE as very good.

    1. I too erroneously rammed in BELL TOWERS, assuming that Bellers was some sort of Victorian nickname for a police force and never thinking of Peelers, whom I did know of. Compounded by entering CONGRESS with a shrug as my LOI. Ah well.

  3. Really liked 6D HEY PRESTO. Great surface and penny drop moment.
    Last one in was FOLDEROL, after wondering if DODDEREL was a thing.
    Very enjoyable. Thanks to setter and to Jeremy.

    1. Don’t know about Dodderel but a Dotterel is a bird. We have them here in NZ but they are somewhat endangered.

  4. 31 minutes. Like others I thought this would be harder but even so I’d NHO PEEL-TOWERS and LEAMINGTON SPA was definitely a case of bunged in first, parsed later. Took a while to figure out ‘party’ wasn’t CON at 26a so CENTRIST was LOI. I liked FOLDEROL.

  5. I felt I was on my way to another target achieved as I had all but 5 answers within 20 minutes, but then I got stuck and the unknown PEEL-TOWERS and PALAGIC held me up for ages and obstructed my solving of the other remaining clues. I finished eventually with the clock on 44 minutes, but at least unlike yesterday I had no errors.

    Jeremy, you have a typo, B + LING instead of BR + LING at 1ac, and LEAMINGTON SPA is a town rather than a city.

  6. I so wanted to write BELL TOWERS, but knew of Peelers so in it went. Had heard of Leamingtom Spa but never spoken, so always assumed it was Lee-. Thus I couldn’t parse the first half. Otherwise a few tricky words like FOLDEROL and INTERCESSOR and unknowns like BRISLING and NEC (seen before as National Exhibition Centre?), but not the expected beast.

    1. I had the same problem with Leamington. As Mark Twain said in Italy, “They spell it da Vinci and pronounce it da veenchi; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.”

      1. Italian’s a bad choice by Twain – if you see an Italian word written you know exactly how it’s pronounced. Never helped me, always overlaid a Strine accent on words.

  7. 29m 30s
    No problems with LEAMINGTON SPA or PELAGIC. I biffed the former from a couple of checkers but thanks, +Jeremy, for the ‘caught’ in the clue. Missed that.
    Thanks also for RELAPSE and CENTRIST. I have always thought of an ESPALIER just as the frame on which a tree or shrub is trained, not as the tree itself.
    NHO PEEL TOWERS but it was eminently gettable I thought. I see that they were nothing to do with Sir Robert Peel. Much earlier than his era.
    With the CEN/NEC in CENTRIST, to me NEC means the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. My late wife had a stand at a couple of trade fairs there.
    I saw ‘Norwegian’ in 1ac and instantly biffed QUISLING but eventually sense prevailed.

    1. I had the same idea about ESPALIER until the last time it appeared here, when I was disabused of that notion.
      So far no one, including three (I think) Englishmen, had heard of PEEL TOWERS. I’ll be curious to see who’ll be the first who had.

      1. I have .. they are not uncommon in the Borders. Probably the effete southerners won’t have.. I would spell it pele tower, though

        1. I holidayed in a peel tower in Northumberland as a teenager. The family still dressed for dinner and the ladies left the men to their port after the meal. The one and only time I have experienced this.

      2. I’m an English woman who has lived in Scotland most of her life, many years in the Scottish Borders where Peel Towers abounded. They were built back in the day to defend themselves and their lands against the invading English. I think there are similar fortifications in Northumberland against invading Scots. They did like fighting in those days. A lot are ruined now but some are intact and have been converted into modern homes.

    2. I also considered QUISLING before coming up with BRISLING. On reflection I’d like to think that if he were to appear as an answer we might be given more than just his nationality by way of definition.

  8. I had heard of peel towers – possibly in Scottish history, maybe something to do with the Border reivers?

  9. 35:50, completed with just a couple of “cheeky checks”, to backtrack a biffed QUISLING at 1A and CONGRESS for CENTRIST. I’ve never been close to a full 5 completions for the week, this has given me quite a lift.

    I got LEAMINGTON SPA, from a single checker with its (10,3) enumeration giving the game away, that’s a tough parsing, though.


  10. 13:23. That’s a whole week of crosswords rated as easier than average by the SNITCH. I’m guessing that is pretty rare.
    I was helped greatly by having spent 3 years in Leamington Spa whilst studying at Warwick University, and my eldest son now doing the same. It thus went in on enumeration alone.
    I thought of Peelers quite early on but then thought I needed to put them round a word meaning two to come up with something meaning “badly fortified houses”. When the penny dropped I had an inkling that I’d heard of PEEL TOWERS but I could be imagining it, especially as my first thought was that it was the name of an individual building (possibly the home of the late John Peel?).

  11. 26 minutes with LOI CENTRIST. I’m a troll, folderol. Not really, that seems to be three separate words. I’ve been spelling it STRAIGHT-LACED for all these years so I’m not changing now. I reached PEEL TOWERS via bell towers, but in the singular it also stands as a monument to Bury’s famous son. No, that’s not Gary Neville or even Phil. I saw LORD PRIVY SEAL and LEAMINGTON SPA quickly, which helped greatly. This was still not a real stinker and was quite good fun. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  12. FOLDEROL sounds like Shakespeare to me
    But it seems that this just cannot be
    Eighteenth century
    Says my dictionary
    The word well-describes my poetry

  13. 31:51. Unexpected fun to end the week. I liked RELAPSE, HEY PRESTO, OTHERWISE and HOODLUM

  14. Some very easy clues crossed with some very difficult ones today.

    There is a PEEL TOWER in the Farne Islands, which I have travelled to many times, I always thought it was spelled PELE.

    LEAMINGTON SPA is a train station, have never actually visited the town. When HS2 is finished, maybe not in my lifetime, even fewer trains will stop there.

    16’12”, thanks jeremy and setter.

  15. 15:05. I was surprised to see we have had a complete week of easier than average crosswords. Maybe our editor is saving the tricky ones for us for the holiday period. No problem with PEEL TOWERS , although it was my last one in as I was trying to fit RUC into it until I realised the policemen were more former than that. LEAMINGTON SPA, went straight in from the enumeration, starting L and final A, but BRISLING was only vaguely remembered after deducing from the wordplay. I liked the upside down espalier, when I eventually parsed RELAPSE. Thank-you Jeremy and setter.

  16. 14:24 – I found this very easy (for me!), although got a bit stuck on FOLDEROL. Being a birder helped with PELAGIC and I guessed LEAMINGTON SPA long before I parsed it, so that helped a lot. NHO BRISLING but the wordplay was straightforward. Thanks Jeremy and setter!

    1. I used aids to get Centrist as I couldn’t make sense of Congress nor Contrist. Technical DNF. I liked Folderol.

  17. 27.01, so still no beast yet. So many superb clues that it’s virtually impossible to choose favourites. Living in the beautiful county of Northumberland, ‘peel towers’ are familiar to me, although ‘pele tower’ is a more familiar spelling.

  18. About half an hour. Absolutely no idea what was going on with the wordplay for LEAMINGTON SPA, but with “10,3” and the L at the start it couldn’t have been anything else. PEEL TOWERS was worked out from wordplay alone, and likewise I couldn’t really have told you what BRISLING and PELAGIC mean. My LOI ended up being FOLDEROL, again worked out from wordplay but entered with no great confidence as it looks unusual as a word to me.

    FOI Nee
    LOI Folderol
    CODs Lord Privy Seal / Hippodrome

  19. 20:01 – and a whole week without a pink square! I’m not sure I’ve ever managed that before. I usually find some banana skin to slip on.

    I thought HIPPODROME was excellent. Beautifully disguised wordplay.

    1. I’ve been making silly little mistakes Tuesday to Friday- only Monday perfectly correct.
      I fell at the CENTRIST hurdle with a CONGRESS biff.

  20. 19’29” Didn’t know BRISLING or PEEL TOWER but it had to be them. On nine across the numbers 4,5,4 are all you need. All very straightforward, though I didn’t parse HIPPODROME till reading the blog – for which thanks as ever. OED says PEEL is a general name for small towers or fortified dwellings built in the 16th century in the border counties for defence against hostile forays, the ground floor being vaulted and used for cattle, and the upper part – accessible by an outside ladder or moveable stair — for the family. Scott: “The frightened flocks and herds were pent beneath the peel’s rude battlement”. Hence Peel in the Isle of Man. It also says Peelers was originally a nickname for the Irish constabulary, established by Sir Robert, before applying to English policemen.

  21. Well pleased to finish this in 45 mins given I’d NHO BRISLING or PEEL TOWERS, and FOLDEROL was the dimmest of distant bell-rings. Even so, it was my LOI and wouldn’t have seen it without crossers. An odd mixture of easy and very tough today. Would never have got LEAMINGTON SPA from wordplay – but once it was clear the second word was SPA, and we were looking for a town, there were mercifully few options.

  22. Yet another strait-forward one, but none the less enjoyable for that. Might be harder for our overseas contributors, eg I guessed Leamington Spa straight from the enumeration, but it was much harder to parse!
    We have had the lord privy seal quite recently; it always reminds me of the Frost Report:

      1. I very definitely did remember the picture of Lord Privvy (sic) Seal, so thanks for the link, but had forgot it was the Frost report, thought it was more Its A Square Worldish. Thought I could see Michael Bentine saying it.
        Privvy isn’t in Wiktionary, but is in the Urban dict.

  23. 08:50, so definitely not a Friday Beast, but very pleasant to chew on while watching the cricket. Add me to the list of people who’ve heard of PEELERS but not PEEL-TOWERS (and those who remembered that the late DJ lived in Peel Acres, of course). I’ve spent plenty of time in Leamington Spa, though, and even nearly ended up living there.

  24. Could have been ‘sea’ not SPA. Something on sea, with the on disappearing. I never understood the wordplay. Several were either complete nhos (PEEL-TOWER) or only- vaguely-heard-ofs-and-I-couldn’t-really-tell-you-the-meanings (PELAGIC, INTERCESSOR, FOLDEROL). This, combined with odd behaviour from my ageing tablet (at 15% and the need to charge, it went straight to 0% and I had to recharge laboriously, and for some reason the brightness of the display went down to almost zero before I put it right), meant that my time was an uninspiring 55 minutes. That’s my excuse anyway.

    1. it could have been “sea”. Yes, I thought that too, but I could only come up with Southendon Sea

  25. As JerryW and Gideandre say above – I felt sorry for overseas solvers on this one. Took an age to parse LEAMINGTON SPA, but enjoyed it when I finally did! LORD PRIVY SEAL went in on a couple of checked letters and all the others were straightforward until NHO 1A BRISLING, which I had to work out from the R and G. PEEL-TOWERS likewise unfamiliar, though I immediately thought of the Scottish Border castles and peelers was familiar enough. My problems were with FOLDEROL and PELAGIC, which I knew vaguely as a word, but not what it meant. For the former, I was trying to find a word for parishoners as the answer, so these two were LOI. However, another great crossword, IMO, and a full week of solving without aids or errors.

  26. 40 minutes, but with CONGRESS until the pink squares forced a rethink. My on line Chambers app does not seem to have SMIDGE, just smidgen, smidgin or smidgeon, so MER at that. NHO BRISLING or PELAGIC despite a lifetime spent on the ocean wave, but both gettable, although I wanted to make PACIFIC fit the latter.

    1. You have missed a treat with the Brisling. The ones in tomato sauce (aka Skippers) make an excellent snack when spread on toast.

  27. 4m 40s, with PEEL-TOWERS the LOI: I’ve never heard of it either, but PEELERS came to mind fairly quickly and it seemed plausible that it had something to do with bells peeling… which, of course, I realised later they don’t.

    LEAMINGTON SPA went in from the enumeration and definition, but then I realised that CHELTENHAM SPA was plausible – fortunately AID wasn’t too tough to see, so it wasn’t ambiguous for long. Unless I’m missing any other spa towns of that length.

  28. Enjoyed this witty puzzle greatly, despite managing to enter PELAGEC. Both PELAGIC and PEEL TOWERS were new to me. In France the Minster of Justice is The Keeper of the Seals which makes it sound even more zoological.

    I knew 23 from John Betjeman :
    She died in the upstairs bedroom
    By the light of the ev’ning star
    That shone through the plate glass window
    From over Leamington Spa

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter.

  29. 18:22

    Thanks for the blog. I’ve never heard of the town either. I live in Royal Leamington Spa. I wonder if it’s near here?

    1. Ho ho! D(aughter)1 lives in RLS, which is how I know that the actual River Leam is pronounced LEEM, which would spoil the homophone if carried on into the town’s name.

      1. Really? Everyone I know pronounces it Lemm. Mind you, I used to live near Northampton where everyone calls the Nene the Nenn.

      2. In my three years there I always pronounced it LEM. I guess it didn’t come up in conversation enough for anyone to pick me up on it and correct me!

  30. 24:18 but…

    …pink-square fail – bunged in CONTRIST instead of CENTRIST.

    Plenty I didn’t know/parse:


    Heard of but didn’t know what it meant: PELAGIC, INTERCESSOR

    Unparsed: HIPPODROME (didn’t get the POD bit), LEAMINGTON SPA, SALVAGE

  31. 21 mins but my LOI CONGRESS turned out to be wrong. Well there was a secret meeting in there somewhere….

  32. Some tough definitions: DNF as wrote in CODDURAL (thinking CURA might mean parishioners, around ODD with L at the end for “learning”. Couldn’t help but notice that “eaten by British fish” would be a cracking clue for “chips”.

  33. Complete week- albeit easier than average. Missed the espalier part of relapse. FOLDEROL was LOI with fingers very much crossed. Took a while to see NEC for centrist. COD to HIPPODROME.
    Thanks as ever to setter and blogger.

  34. My mother’s mother called sardines etc BRISLINGs, possibly because her dad was Swedish.
    Failed totally on NHO PEEL TOWERS.
    CENTRIST took a while to parse, strongly tempted by BIFF CONGRESS.
    BIFFed LEAMINGTON, spotted the lemming but failed to join the dots.
    Never got anywhere near parsing HIPPODROME. In restropect, COD. Andyf

  35. I knew that Quisling was Norwegian, so it seemed logical that the unknown sprat would be brisling. I got excited because I was on course for 5 correct crosswords in a row, but I fell at the last. Running out of steam and heart, I entered bell towers for 13a, even though I had spent some time trying to fit in peel.

  36. 35:13, didn’t know BRISLING, PEEL-TOWERS or PELAGIC, but all gettable from wordplay. PARTISAN a great hidden word clue. I needed help to understand HIPPODROME, so thanks setter for a fun crossword and blogger for the explanation.

    1. Pelagic is familiar from the term ‘pelagic tug’, an anagram of Tegucigalpa, a central American capital city.

  37. I thought I’d completed but had biffed CONGRESS ( always pleased to hear others have gone down the same path) . Knew Peelers but not the towers.
    For some reason I have a childhood memory of my father talking about FOLDEROLS . He’s 97 but he will remember where that came from.

    The hippodrome in Rome is a rather dull oval field , but I like the way it has become a theatre name.

    Liked 6d anagram and 9ac anagram.

    Thanks to blogger, setter and other contributors. I learn a lot from you all and I feel I’m ‘on the wavelength’ when I become mired in the same clues as others.

  38. Very first comment.
    As a ‘nearly man’ I’m hugely grateful to this Blog for filling in my gaps. And to reassure me when I have BELL TOWERS and CONGRESS. On a point of order, I usually take several bites on the rare occasion that I do complete; is my time the sum total of the bites or must it be a single blast?
    Many thanks to you all.

    1. Welcome aboard. I think the general consensus is that there are no Crossword Police, so you won’t get arrested for timing yourself in any reasonable way 🙂

  39. I was in a hurry to get packed and off on a journey across the Pennines, and when I got stuck on 26a, I shoved in CONGRESS without being able to parse it. Was of little consequence as I’d also managed to put in STRAIR LACED. Failed to parse HIPPODROME too. 26:30 with 2 errors. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  40. DNF after 30 or so

    Surprised FOLDEROL didn’t raise more eyebrows. Never ever heard of it. Couldn’t think of a word for parishioners so gave up with _O_DEROL

    Enjoyed the rest of it though struggled mightily with the SPA town

    Thanks all

  41. Very enjoyable, but completed very late, as I was busy yesterday. A DNF, as I biffed in CONGRESS. Some lovely clues: 18, 5 and 23. We’ve had LORD PRIVY SEAL recently, I think? Still took me ages to unravel.
    Thanks for the blog and thanks Setter.

  42. I too enjoyed it: no time to complete, so turned to the blogger for filling in the 2 NHO blanks – PELAGIC, the central part of PEEL TOWERS. I couldn’t reach HIPPODROME (despite frequenting one regularly in my youth), nor FOLDEROL, such an archaic word! But altogether satisfied with getting what I did in less than the 30 mins I had. Thanks to PlusJeremy and setter.

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