Times Cryptic No 28500 – Saturday, 14 January 2023. Cheap and cheerful.

I was struck by the colloquial vocabulary scattered through (or should I say, thru) answers and wordplay. Thanks to the setter for a very 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. Italics mark anagram indicators in the clues, and ‘assembly instructions’ in the explanations.

1 Cheap fare provider carrying airline’s frequent fliers in prime locations (4)
CAFF – spelled out by first letters (in prime locations). The sort of fare you eat at a transport “caff”. I don’t imagine “caff” often appears in articles in The Times!
3 Badgers and monkeys crossing one rut shakily (10)
9 Beside edges of tablecloth spread crumbs (7)
STREWTH – STREW=spread + T(ableclot)H.
11 Turning right, cat getting cream (7)
TROUNCE – TR = rt (right), turning + OUNCE = cat (snow leopard).
12 Will criminal triad with brains potter around this? (8,5)
BILLIARD TABLE – tricky clue. I think it’s: BILL=Will (short for William) + (TRIAD)* + ABLE=with brains.
14 Are contracts obtained giving special terms? (5)
ARGOT – AR(E) + GOT=obtained.
15 Bit of elastic in hem for undies consumer grabs (9)
SUSPENDER – SPENDER=consumer grabs U(ndie)S.
17 Moaned this person twice knocked back life advice (5,4)
CARPE DIEM – CARPED=moaned + I + EM=me, knocked back.
19 Was a ham scoffed by daughter around 4th of March? (5)
ACTED – ATE=scoffed + D=daughter, around C=fourth letter of marCh.
21 Base rate cuts bringing down a valued bond (6,7)
FELLOW FEELING – LOW=base + FEE=rate, cuts FELLING=bringing down.
24 Prince with attractive clothes, a simple fellow (7)
HALFWIT – HAL=the Prince of crosswords + FIT=attractive, clothing W=with.
25 Amount of fish bearing small amount of eggs (7)
NESTFUL – add S=small to a NETFUL of fish.
26 Hack off nose of Stilton with swinish remark in fancy deli (10)
27 Bear losing face in current disruption (4)
1 Roman conspirator screening a mostly banal film (10)
2 Member is fine, if not lamenting work endlessly (7)
4 I see teacher returning greeting by male teacher of distinction (9)
MAHARISHI – M=male + AHA=I see + RIS=sir, returning + HI=greeting.
5 Group books houses and suchlike to the north (5)
OCTET – OT=the books, housing CTE=etc, to the north.
6 Agitators in time meeting Moscow Mint employees? (13)
7 What suggests Mother Superior’s part of London (7)
NUNHEAD – self explanatory, even although I didn’t know the suburb.
8 Following revolution, party moderates feel agitation (4)
STEW – WETS=party moderates.
10 After game, large English fan, say, is a critic of foul play (7-6)
13 Probably dressing like head of Armani in extravagant fashion (10)
PRODIGALLY – PROLLY=probably (seriously!?), dressing DIG=like + A(rmani). I don’t imagine “prolly” ever appears in The Times!
16 Influential banks providing a bit of competition (9)
SEMIFINAL – SEMINAL=influential, banking IF.
18 Group serving meat cut for British colonialist (7)
RAFFLES – Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore. I’m not quite sure how to read the start of the clue! Clubs and so on have meat raffles, of course, but the wording is a bit odd, it seems. On edit, thanks to Nigel’s comment: RAF=group serving + FLES(H)=meat, cut.
20 Fantastic plant‘s amazing, finally five times bigger (7)
TRIFFID – TRIFFIC (again, seriously!? What is the world coming to?), with C=100 scaled up to D=500.
22 Dealing with wrapping paper close to Yule in many cases (5)
OFTEN – ON=dealing with, wrapping FT=the paper + (YUL)E.
23 Dull sound of one day following another (4)
THUD – THU = Thursday + D = any day.

24 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28500 – Saturday, 14 January 2023. Cheap and cheerful.”

  1. I biffed several of these and never bothered to parse them: BILLIARD TABLE, CASABLANCA, MAHARISHI. I’d never heard of NUNHEAD. At 2D, FORELEG, I though it odd to clue OR with “if not” which seems more like “NOR” to me. Not very Times-y words today, as you say: CAFF, TRIFFIC, PROLLY.

  2. Interesting words makes for an interesting puzzle. But unexpected. TRIFFIC always reminds me of Bob Hawke, particularly when he was wandering around naked in Pickering cartoons as Head of the Gumnut. Not so keen on prolly. Do like disgruntle – and its opposite, gruntle. Another who’s NHO Nunhead.

  3. 73m 18s I found that very hard but at least I submitted an all-correct solution. If this had been a weekday puzzle I think it would have been in the ‘Very Hard’ range, or at least ,’Harder’.
    You mention ‘colloquial’, Bruce. True but I thought the cluing for PRODIGALLY and TRIFFID was unfair. In my view there should have been some indication that we were looking for a common or colloquial version of the words in question.
    I also take issue with 1d CASABLANCA. CASCA OK, but I couldn’t work out how the setter got from
    ‘a mostly banal’ to ABLAN without some form of (partial) anagram indicator. I thought that was poor cluing. Bland is too close to banal to think that it wasn’t a partial anagram we were looking for.
    Nevertheless there were some clues I DID like: STREWTH, BILLIARD TABLE, ARGOT, HALFWIT, FORELEG and MAHARISHI.
    NHO the suburb of Nunhead.

  4. Has anyone heard of NUNHEAD? DNK ‘hack off’. A MER at FIT=attractive. I agree with Martin about CASABLANCA. We’ve had ‘innit’ a few times, I think, but I could do without ‘prolly’ and ‘triff’ic’.

    1. Nunhead is a rather obscure part of South London, which is notable specifically for its extensive Victorian cemetery, the second largest of the great London cemetaries, but the least well-known, apparently. It is quite overgrown and creepy – I remember doing some eco-action work as a schoolgirl, helping to uncover some of the almost hidden graves and tombs overgrown with ivy and shrubbery.

    2. I’d not formerly heard of NUNHEAD
      To my parents (from London) I said
      Have you heard of this place?
      But they both pulled a face
      So I guess it’s quite uncelebrated

    3. Living in SE London, I know Nunhead well. It was once the site of a fireworks factory, and on Nunhead Green there is a pub called The Pyrotechnist’s Arms. A word worthy of Mephisto.

  5. An absolute nightmare of a puzzle for me with so many unknown bits and pieces. I lived and worked and studied in and around London for the first 40 years of my life yet I never heard of Nunhead.

  6. Strewth! I just about had a ‘noseful’ of this Nunhead slang at 25a as LOI. But it didn’t parse well and I thought it was prolly wrong. Took a while to see NESTFUL.
    Actually, it was triffic fun and I wasn’t hacked off at all. Respect setter, respect.

  7. I never submitted this puzzle as I ground to a halt last week, unable to see or parse several clues. Last night I dug it out and finished it, not without several MERs over the proliferation of slang, and obscure slang at that! I was unable to parse TRIFFID, as I assumed it was Triff plus ID – but does anyone ever say either? And don’t get me started on Prolly! Having said that, there were some nice clues – TROUBLEMAKERS, DISGRUNTLE (once I’d ruled out ‘oink’) and MAHARISHI, amongst others.

  8. I didn’t make a note of my time but don’t remember it being a problem. At 11ac I was wrong and had T = turning, which seemed a bit odd (a T-junction is hardly a turning). Can’t see the problem with Casablanca. What brnchn says is quite clear. Like many others I’d never heard of Nunhead despite having lived in London for years.

  9. FORELEG took me the longest to get, even with all the checkers. Didn’t know who RAFFLES was, but parsed it as Nigel above and thought “Yes, that does sound like a colonialist’s name”. Also hadn’t heard of Casca, but it didn’t stop me getting CASABLANCA. We’ve had the device for TROUBLEMAKERS before, but I really like it.

    COD Semifinal

  10. I found this a triffic puzzle, and believe the questionable terminology is prolly a deliberate theme signposted by 14a, which, after all, is the French word for slang. Quick start with FOI CAFF, with a groan, but i grudgingly find it quite clever. Then , soon, CASBLANCA, but nothing for a long time. Eventually all came at a steady pace, all parsed except LOI TRIFFID for which I needed the blog. Can’t remember what I thought of for COD, but there were several excellent contenders, particularly among the long answers. To some extent I share misgivings expressed above about some of the clues, but I would find it unfair only if there were too many in one puzzle, or they crossed each other. Thanks, Setter and Brnchn

  11. Overall I enjoyed this. I live near Nunhead so no problem with that clue. But I was still surprised to see it in a puzzle. There could be some good clues for CATFORD.
    MY LOI was RAFFLES. I knew the name but he wasn’t the first colonialist I thought of.

  12. I remember finding this difficult enough, though not frustratingly so. I don’t search my memory anyway for London locations, having only been there twice, but rely on wordplay, and NUNHEAD eventually appeared. The colloquialisms did stand out! I had encountered Mr. RAFFLES recently (not here)…

  13. Did not finish with a blank at FORELEG.

    I liked TROUBLEMAKERS (my first guess was TRUSTAFARIANS!), and also biffed NEASDEN as a 7 letter part of London starting with N. DISEMBOWEL was tempting at 26A, but sadly “embow” is not a swinish remark.

    CASCA is another plotter to go with CASSIUS and BRUTUS. Are there any more I need to know?


  14. Like a few (distinguished) others, I found this impenetrable from 1a on, only entering a few with misgivings from there. Lived in London until adulthood, and never heard of NUNHEAD; COD to WHISTLEBLOWER. Thought Prolly and Triffic unfair.

  15. Surprised to be reasonably confident of all correct despite being unable to parse a few. NHO prolly, triffic or Nunhead. Some GFC (guessed from crossers) – the last resort of a hacker.

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