Times Cryptic No 28601 — Somewhere in the middle

24:16. Somehow this was not so hard and not so easy, all at the same time. Many unknowns for me today, but all fair and gettable.

1 Obscenely rich, sets meals out occasionally for a feast (9)
CHRISTMAS – anagram of RICH + odd letters in SETS MEALS
6 Limited by obligation to accept uniform (5)
BOUND – BOND (obligation) around U (uniform)
9 Opera company on cue almost veto returning (7)
NABUCCO – CO (company) on CU{e} + BAN (veto) reversed
10 Under false impression, law lord pitched into act (7)
DELUDED – LUD (law lord) in DEED (act)
11 Superior course in sport backed (5)
UPPER – P.P.E. (course) in R.U. (sport) reversed

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, apparently.

13 Novelist’s old letter kept by husband with reverence (9)
HAWTHORNE – THORN (old letter) in H (husband) + AWE (reverence)
14 Handling foul matter at hospital department (9)
TREATMENT – anagram of MATTER + ENT (hospital department)
16 Jenny has no check on sprain (4)
WREN – WRENCH (sprain) – CH (check)

I thought (correctly, I now see), that JENNY was a donkey, and this misled me.

18 Choke as last of mouthful breaks tooth (4)
CLOG – {mouthfu}L in COG (tooth)
19 Much harder at first to stab rodent: its tail cut off here? (9)
FARMHOUSE – FAR (much) + H{arder} in MOUSE (rodent)
22 Bird in moult, one leg scruffy (9)
GUILLEMOT – anagram of MOULT I (one) LEG
24 Car thief has no joy as passenger (5)
RIDER – JOYRIDER (car thief) without JOY

Not sure how strong this clue is, since the RIDER part of JOYRIDER means RIDER.

25 Not the best financial package for student? (7)
26 Deficient blood in pale old pope (7)
GREGORY – GOR{e} (blood) in GREY (pale)
28 Offender shortly back in Clare’s place (5)
ENNIS – SINNE{r} (offender) reversed
29 House improvement free of strain? (9)
1 Behaviour of channel under study (7)
CONDUCT – DUCT (channel) under CON (study)
2 Difficulty as end of stone is chipped off (3)
RUB – RUB{y} (stone)
3 Guarantee I curtsey clumsily (8)
4 Child-devouring god not left to skulk around (5)
MOOCH – MOLOCH (child-devouring god!) without L (left)
5 Thus bird got food on river, its flow never still (4,5)
SODA WATER – SO (thus) + DAW (bird) + ATE (got food) + R (river)
6 Clumsy person comes up nervous and uncooperative (6)
BOLSHY – LOB (clumsy person) + SHY (nervous)
7 Railway not smooth enough? (11)
8 Resentment as first of nights in prison turns into day (7)
DUDGEON – DUNGEON (prison) with N{ights} turned into D (day)
12 In part of speech adjust place at foot of page (11)
PREPOSITION – REPOSITION (adjust place) under P (page)
15 Then not half poorly received by celebrity, quite informally (2,7)
EN FAMILLE – {th}EN + ILL (poorly) in FAME (celebrity)
17 What’s thought unlucky if one pushes forward in ceremony held in the north (8)
THIRTEEN – RITE (ceremony) with I moved to the front, in THE + N (north)
18 In prison could, having cut sleeves off jacket (7)
CAGOULE – CAGE (prison) around {c}OUL{d}

Kind of an absurd-looking word, but fair.

20 Peer over there, near the start (5,2)
EARLY ON – EARL (peer) + YON (over there)
21 Masses of stone parted by large implement (6)
PLIERS – PIERS (masses of stone) around L (large)
23 Drunk, / so wished to sleep? (5)
TIGHT – reference to “sleep tight”
27 Sash somewhat too big (3)
OBI – hidden in TOO BIG

85 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28601 — Somewhere in the middle”

  1. I’m glad ENNIS turned up in a recent crossword as Clare’s county town, or this might have taken a lot longer. The FARMHOUSE was most amusing.
    To be annoyingly pedantic, Jeremy, GUILLEMOT is an anagram of MOULT I LEG.
    Rather gentle for a Friday. 23:59

  2. 23:10
    I biffed THIRTEEN, never parsed it. DNK CAGOULE, of course. LOI PLIERS took me ages. I liked DUDGEON. Jeremy, I assume you meant (moult, I, leg). I only knew Jenny Wren from the Dickens character (real name, Fanny Cleaver) in Our Mutual Friend; needed the checkers to come up with it.

  3. We should all be well-schooled in clues for PPE after the past week or three…
    And a return to ENNIS! Rather a gimme.
    Seems in English CAGOULE is only a monk’s (sleeveless!) garment, but it can be a hood or a mask in French, which is the sense I was most familiar with (often in connection with Corsicans).
    UNIDEAL was amusing.
    I put in TIGHT only hesitantly, toward the end… aha, right. “Sleep tight.” (Don’t drink yourself unconscious, though.)
    Last one in was the little WREN.

      1. Joni Mitchell also recorded it on her album “Court and Spark” with added vocals from Cheech & Chong.

    1. A CAGOULE is a light raincoat, what my Canadian wife would call a K-Way or a shell.

      1. I somehow confused the Collins definition (“a light anorak”) with the French one relating to a similar garment (“Sorte de vêtement de moine, ample et sans manches”), though I had looked at the former. In French, it can also be a hood that blinds the wearer (for whatever nefarious purposes I can only imagine…).

        1. When I was a wee boy, a cagoule was a light anorak which could be folded up into its own pocket and worn on your belt, just in case. These were de rigeur on school trips (usually being orange so you couldn’t go missing) and family holidays in Wales.

          1. Yes exactly. The ones I remember had a piece of elastic attached to them which acted as its own belt. A K-Way is the same thing.

  4. 8:41 Biffed a lot of these, though I didn’t know a “lob” is a clumsy person.

  5. 27 minutes. ‘Lob’ as a clumsy person and ‘Moloch’ were unknowns but that didn’t prevent me solving their respective clues quite easily.

    PPE and ENNIS have already been mentioned as appearing very recently and they were each the subject of some discussion. I would add THORN as an old letter, which also came up this week.

    I bunged in PLIERS as my LOI as the only implement that fitted, but I wasn’t convinced it was correct until I checked ‘pier’ in the dictionaries after the event. I’m familiar with seaside piers and landing stages / jetties built of wood or metal but don’t recall ever seeing one built of stone(s) that was referred to as a pier. Still, one lives and learns!

    Elsewhere, I knew CAGOULE (also spelt with a K) sold as a full-length variation on the anorak. In some quarters the garment tends to carry the same negative connotations as to its wearer.

    1. Careful discussing PPE and ENNIS in close quarters or you might get flagged as spam.

        1. I rather think Jeremy is suggesting that AI might suppose you were alluding to the male member…

    2. Piers also hold up bridges. Think of old stone bridges across the Thames or the Seine – their supports in the middle of the river are called piers.

    3. Hammurabi, and now MOLOCH: ‘child-devouring god’ gave it away for me, although given the checkers I would have got it soon enough.

    4. Seaside Piers: From a Goon Show:
      Seagoon: “Moriarty! I’ve made myself a peer!”
      Moriarty: “Good! I’ll get down the end of it and start a concert party!”

  6. LOI pliers, after wren, both needing alphabet trawls. Didn’t know that jenny, but pliers has caught me out before. Didn’t see the joyrider or sleep tight, didn’t know lob as a clumsy person, so feeling off the wavelength. Glad Clare/Ennis appeared recently, making it a write-in.
    As PJ says, some easy stuff and some hard stuff, but all gettable.

  7. Slow, at 53 minutes, of which about the last 1en spent on WREN (I also was looking for a donkey connection). Then I did an alphabet trawl and vaguely remembered something to do with “little Jenny wren” in a nursery rhyme. I was about to put IRON in before that, on the basis that there are lots of weird names for golf clubs and maybe Jenny was one (to go with niblick, spoon, mashie, and all the rest). ENNIS was easy after its recent appearance, but I have actually been there so I’d probably have got it soon enough anyway.

  8. 39 minutes. Held up at the end by PLIERS (same comment as Jack) and UNIDEAL, a good clue but not my favourite word. Again like Jack, learnt a couple of new words in Moloch for the not very nice ‘god’ and LOB for ‘Clumsy person’.

    Thanks to Jeremy and setter

  9. 38 minutes. I felt exactly the same, somehow not hard but not easy. LOI was jenny wren, an expression I haven’t heard since childhood. I’ve heard of Moloch without really knowing what he was about, I guess a version of Saturn?

  10. First Friday solve since I resumed (irregularly) my grapple with the 15×15. A bit surprised to find the SNITCH sub-100, but nevertheless enjoyed this two-part effort (got bogged down around 70% and 25m, went for Somali brekkie, came back with supercharged solving skills). POI DUDGEON and finally a hopeful HAWTHORNE (failing even to spot the AWE). Like others, worked the cryptic to get DNKs LOB and MOLOCH.

    Anyway 35:53 feels like a good outcome – thanks setter and blogger, roll on the weekend!

  11. 14’17”, with PLIERS LOI. As mentioned, the recent outings for PPE, THORN and ENNIS helped. CAGOULE essential for walkers in the rain.

    Thanks jeremy and setter.

  12. 37 minutes, successfully reverse engineering Moloch from MOOCH. COD to TIGHT. Hope the bed bugs don’t bite. My Cags have always had sleeves, my gilets (there’s posh!) haven’t. I managed to construct NABUCCO and recognise an opera if a little unsure that wasn’t the company that made Shredded Wheat. Hardish in places but enjoyable. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  13. Started off with all the trepidation due to a Friday crossword but ended up flying through. I had heard of Moloch but was not au fait with his eating habits. No other nhos

  14. 15:36. I found that really tricky. I put about half the answers in quite quickly, but they were spread around the grid in such a way that each new one, painstakingly worked out, didn’t seem to give me much help with the others. I then got badly stuck at the end with PLIERS (I don’t usually think of piers as stone structures) and THIRTEEN, where I never did figure out the wordplay.
    The reference to Moloch brought to mind Goya’s painting, which is not of Moloch but of Saturn. Seen one child-devouring deity, seen ’em all.

    1. When I saw “child-devouring god”, I thought of the Goya painting, too, and automatically thought it must be Moloch.

    2. Yes I was thinking of Saturn initially – that particularly memorable painting lives in the Prado.

    3. Same here regarding the Goya, but didn’t know that Saturn and Moloch were one and the same. Conversely to others, PLIERS and WREN were write-ins , whereas I had to carefully construct NABUCCO (vaguely remembered) and CAGOULE (also vaguely remembered). HAWTHORNE was hard work, but worth it, and was happy to remember the bird GUILLEMOT, the pope GREGORY and the knife-happy farmer’s wife. After the first few fast entries got bogged down and thought I was done for, but PREPOSITION gave me a fresh start, and I free-wheeled from there. Liked DUDGEON , EN FAMILLE and FARMHOUSE best.

  15. DNF. I thought I’d heard of NABUCCO, but I didn’t know it was an opera and presumed I was looking for an opera company. I therefore parsed the end of the word as UCNO – “on cue almost returning” – giving me NABUCNO. It looked unlikely but I chose to trust the parsing giving me my 4th DNF of the week. Jeez! Roll on next week.

  16. Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable
    dollars! Children screaming under the stairways!
    (Howl, Ginsberg)

    35 mins mid-brekker. Five crosses and a ?. Not really my cup of tea.
    Ta setter and PJ.

  17. 17 minutes, one of my quickest times for a Friday. Like a few others, I didn’t know lob=clumsy person in BOLSHY, I relied on the wordplay to construct NABUCCO, and I wasn’t sure about WREN. I also didn’t parse SODA WATER, THIRTEEN or GREGORY, and I’m more familiar with CAGOULE spelt ‘kagoule’, though clearly both are acceptable.

    A really nice, enjoyable crossword – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Clog
    LOI Wren
    COD Dudgeon

  18. 23.40. Like others, it took me a while to see ‘pliers’. Not very happy with ‘unideal’ (is it really a word ?) and was initially unimpressed with the clue for ‘tight’ until I sussed the parsing and then thought that it was rather clever and cute. Like JerryW, I had heard of Moloch but not his culinary predilections.

  19. 50mins so quite meaty. Slow in the NE which held me up. Finally saw BOLSHY, then BOUND, DUDGEON and WREN all went straight in.

    Two NHOs, NABUCCO and MOLOCH but worked out the former and guessed the latter.


    Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  20. 13:17. I ninja-turtled MOLOCH from misremembering the Morlocks in The Time Machine. LOI PLIERS, looking for something starting with an S and ending with a T until I saw ENNIS. I enjoyed the 3 blind mice reference. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  21. Like others, held up at the end by PLIERS – which took a full 15 mins of my 35 mins overall time. Thought this was harder than the Snitch suggests. I was simultaneously bang on the wavelength and also way off it. Liked NABUCCO, DUDGEON and MOOCH.

  22. 52m 34s of which at least 10 mins was occupied looking for those pesky PLIERS.
    Like yesterday, it was 21d that held me up.
    A satisfying puzzle: no problem with Moloch and Jenny but didn’t know tHORN as a letter, nor the bird DAW, nor LOB in the sense of a clumsy person. I was going to query the S doing double duty in BOLSHY (SLOB as a clumsy person and SHY) but I see now that’s not the case.

    1. lots of birds have names. The DAW is called Jack (jackdaw) the pie is called Margaret (magpie) and the wren is called Jenny (16ac)

      1. I knew Jenny Wren but as separate words. Jackdaw I know as one word and never separated them, nor Mag Pie. Jackdaw is the full proper name of the bird while Jenny Wren is, as far as I’m aware, an affectation humans have bestowed upon the little things. Magpie is also the proper name of the bird.

        1. My source is rock solid: QI. It was I think Jo Brand’s wild stab – that the pie was called Margaret – that proved correct

          1. Thanks! When I was in hospital about 3 years ago, a friend gave me one of those QI books of facts. From that I learnt that there is a moon of Uranus called Margaret. I find that comforting somehow….

  23. 24:02
    Enjoye this a lot. A nice mix of the straightforward and head-scratchers. Got slighty delayed by thinking of Saturn eating his son but the M sorted that out.
    I liked SODA WATER , UNDERGROUND and DUDGEON. I knew about the latter from reading about Gus Dudgeon, Elton John’s old record producer – not sure if this was nominative determinism or not.

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter

  24. 47:42
    Took a while, but I was doing other stuff at the same time. Good puzzle. Pliers was good.
    Thanks, pj.

  25. 22:39. I must have been on the wavelength here. Even though some of it felt a bit tricky, it all went in very nicely. Lots to like, including EARLY ON

  26. Enjoyable puzzle, though I was held up at the end (again) in the SW corner , finishing in 33 minutes. Had to convince myself that UNIDEAL was a word, and then had to convince myself about the parsing of PLIERS. Some ingenious clues, and no complaints. Comparatively relaxing for a Friday.
    Thanks to jeremy and other contributors.

  27. 18:45. The clumsy LOB – like the lovely word “galoot” that I came across recently – seems to have passed me by all these years. Strange how we sometimes have these gaps for apparently commonplace words.

  28. LOB as a clumsy person seems to be archaic or at least restricted to local dialect (unclear where). The last citation in OED is from 1854. Collins doesn’t have it at all in the British dictionary but weirdly it is in the American dictionary marked as ‘British, dialectical’!
    It is, of course, in Chambers.

  29. Eventually, after everything had gone smoothly but slowly, the UNIDEAL/PLIERS crossing proved too much for me so I finished after using electronics to help in 42 minutes. DAW and LOB unknown in those senses, but guessed with a little confidence. At least 11ac didn’t tell us that it was a superior Oxbridge course. I’m sure I’ve seen the ENNIS clue recently, and it feels like several times.

  30. 16.5 minutes. I thought this was the easiest puzzle for a long time despite a sprinkling of unusual words.
    It’s the first time I’ve got even close to keriothe’s time. Usually I take two to three times as long. Quite a lot of biffing, such as THIRTEEN when I had only an R in the grid ( I didn’t bother parsing until the end). I didn’t understand the clue to TIGHT. Cleverly phrased.

  31. 21 minutes, steady solving with no issues, relatively straightforward for a Friday. I liked DUDGEON. I’d have spelt bolshy BOLSHIE but I see both are okay.

  32. 8m 6s, not too tricky for a Friday. DNK LOB in that sense, and was nowhere near parsing TIGHT.


  33. Same unknowns for me, that sense of LOB, MOLOCH, and DAW without the Jack. Somehow I removed a lot of letters from RamraIDER to find my passenger, thinking ‘amra’might be some sort of eastern state of bliss. Until recently the stone piers of Brunel’s suspension bridge in Bristol were my neighbours, which still didn’t help.

  34. 28 mins in 2 parts at varicose service stations on the way up to North Scotland. LOI NABUCCO, as I know nothing about operas, and constructed from the cryptic, along with a rather slow solve of RUB.

  35. 25:29

    NHO NABUCCO but guessable from N+C checkers and parsing.

    HAWTHORNE – vaguely heard of, though couldn’t have told you what they’d written (until I looked it up).

    WREN – ninja-turtled this answer – there is a tourist barge on the Regents Canal called the Jenny Wren – didn’t know it was a Dickens ref.

    Pleased with PLIERS, MOOCH and CAGOULE but COD goes to FARMHOUSE.

    1. It may or may not be. Jenny Wren (supposed sweetheart of Robin Redbreast) predates the Dickens character by over 200 years according to the OED.

  36. 40 mins, but DNF — I put ‘iron’ for the ‘jenny’ clue. Couldn’t parse it, but I had an idea that ‘jenny’ was another word for a crowbar, hence ‘iron’. I was thinking of ‘jemmy’, of course. All in all, a little bit feeble.

    I enjoyed the humorous answers such as UNDERGROUND and UNIDEAL.

  37. An easier offering than I was expecting for a Friday, but some tricky moments. Didn’t parse TIGHT and didn’t know LOB for a clumsy person. Took a while to get last two, WREN and PLiERS. FOI, CHRISTMAS. Liked FARMHOUSE and THIRTEEN. 26:03. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  38. Had a bash, and to my surprise, I finished it. Not without biffing TIGHT – good clue in retrospect.


  39. Having performed indifferently on the QC this week, I approached the Friday 15×15 with trepidation. However, much to my surprise I found this relatively straightforward finishing in 26.55 nearly 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Never heard of Moloch and the expression of Lob as a clumsy person, but all fairly clued to be obvious. My actual time may be even faster as I’m being distracted by the days events at the Giro d’Italia.

  40. I didn’t know MOLOCH (child-devouring god) or LOB (clumsy person) or HAWTHORNE although all guessable. I’m also not sure I can think of a real example where “n” is used as an abbreviation for “night” (or “d” for “day” as opposed to “days”? That all said I found this crossword easier going than the quick cryptic today! Thanks for the blog.

    1. It’s not an abbreviation – just the first letter (first of nights).

  41. Too many operas this week. Never heard of NABUCCO and NORMA, but figured out from the clues. Didn’t we have ENNIS yesterday? Everything else okay today.

  42. 26.14 with 6 of those on MOOCH and HAWTHORNE. Couldn’t quite construct the latter, whilst I didn’t know MOLOCH and was half trying to squeeze moon or mope into the clue. Got there in the end

    Thanks all

  43. There was a concern voiced in yesterday’s comments that setters might throw more polysyllabic Babylonians at us, Ashurbanipal and Nebuchadnezzar being specifically mentioned. Sure enough today brings us NABUCCO, the Italian opera. Fortunately the opera sensibly employed a shortened form of NABUCODONOSOR, the Italian version of our NEBUCHADNEZZAR!

  44. 50 mins in two bites. Glad to get it done. Pretty tough for me but enjoyable, just needed to get on the wavelength a bit quicker.

    One question, I’ve never heard of thorn as a letter. What’s the background?

    1. It’s an Old English and Icelandic runic letter representing the sound ‘th’, eventually superseded by the digraph ‘th’. It seems to have taken the name ‘thorn’ as it was the sound at the start of this word.

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