Times Cryptic No 28644 – Saturday, 1 July 2023. Stargazing?

There were several astronomical references here, which had me wondering if July 1 had some particular significance in that sphere? I particularly liked 18dn! 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 A most unfriendly conclusion regarding part of leg (8,6)
9 More irritable about providing witness (9)
TESTIFIER – TESTIER about IF=providing.
10 American soldier’s way of working gadget (5)
GISMO – GI’S + M.O. (modus operandi). I would have spelled this with a Z, but Chambers lists it with an S first.
11 Zero change in part of flower (5)
OVARY – O + VARY. I couldn’t have said an ovary could be part of a flower, but looking back I see that the word came up some years ago in a botanical context.
12 Most of the mission involved religion (9)
SHINTOISM – (TH- MISSION)*. The “THE” loses its last letter. (Most of …).
13 Part-time medic and explorer land in Westminster (4,4)
HYDE PARK – I assume the part-time medic is Mr. HYDE, Dr. Jeckyll’s alter ego; and the explorer is Mungo PARK.
15 Difference between scores? It’s where notes go (6)
MARGIN – two definitions. Sporting, or literary.
17 Subscribe like Abraham Lincoln, initially? That’s notable (6)
SIGNAL – SIGN=subscribe + A.L.=his initials.
19 Dessert or kind of bed that prevents you going straight to sleep (5,3)
APPLE PIE – two definitions, the second relating to the sort of prank that might occur in a boarding school dormitory.
22 Caught African animal in European plant (9)
CELANDINE – C=caught + ELAND + IN + E=European.
23 Part of school collapses following regular expulsions (5)
CLASS – alternate letters (following regular expulsions) of C o L l A p S e S.
24 Burst of fire from Pole, maybe after swapping the middle round (5)
SALVO – SLAV=Pole, maybe, swapping the middle [letters] + O.
25 Hypothetical article or reference taken back (9)
THEORETICTHE=grammatical article + OR + ETIC=CITE (reference),  taken back.
26 King, say, shielded by company of people, like those in services (14)
CONGREGATIONALGR=king (there were six GR’s) + EG=say. sheltered by CO + NATIONAL=of people.
1 Expert in two sciences collecting a second award, thus is on time (14)
ASTROPHYSICISTA + S=second + TROPHY=award + SIC=thus + IS + T=time.
2 Hard American musicians to manage carefully (7)
3 Flock found wandering in Italy (5)
4 Diplomat joining emirs, say, having made right move (8)
EMISSARY EMI(R)S SAY, with R=right moved towards the end of the word.
5 Before taking power, grow one root crop (6)
TURNIPTURN=grow + I=one + P=power. I blinked at TURN=grow, but “it grew/turned cold”, for example.
6 Strange thing to see before autumn, even for poet (9)
NIGHTFALLNIGHT=(thing)* + FALL=autumn.
7 Open University introducing smart purge (7)
8 What’s funny about men cavorting with sons? It’s practically obvious (14)
14 Choral music playing with no end of harmony, absorbing child (9)
PLAINSONGPLA(y)ING, with no Y, absorbing SON=child.
16 Secure border in record time — they’ll soon be gone (8)
EPHEMERA EP=record + HEM=border + ERA=time.
18 Endlessly annoy one pope? He did! (7)
GALILEOGAL(L) endlessly=annoy + I=one + LEO=a Pope.

Lovely clue! The definition is a literal, but Wikipedia says that the Pope he annoyed was Urban VIII, not Leo.

20 Path one rebuilt for carriage (7)
PHAETON – (PATH ONE)*. I look at that word and think, funny name – must be Greek’. (That’s one of my favourite lines from Rinse the Blood off my Toga. Does anyone remember that?)
21 Proceed cautiously, adding a little extra to low digit (6)
TIPTOETIP=add a little extra + TOE=low digit (since they’re on the feet).
23 Bones coming from fish, I must conclude (5)

43 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28644 – Saturday, 1 July 2023. Stargazing?”

  1. I’m here fresh from finishing this week’s Saturday offering.
    My LOI here was OVARY, which seems to have impressed me, as I noted, “OMG.”
    Often (usually?), I’ve seen FALL for “autumn” marked here as a US usage (a USage?), but maybe we’re all finally becoming one big happy linguistic family. Ha.

    1. We definitely DON’T say FALL for AUTUMN here in Oz, and I suspect not in Britain either. Doesn’t matter … the Times crossword has a vocabulary all its own, and this is part of that.

      Indeed, if “fall” for autumn derives from trees dropping their leaves, that would be totally inappropriate in Oz. The native trees here may lose their bark, but not their leaves!

      1. OED:
        A shortening of earlier fall of the leaf
        Although common in British English in the 16th century, by the end of the 17th century fall had been overtaken by autumn as the primary term for this season. In early North American use both terms were in use, but fall had become established as the more usual term by the early 19th century.

      2. In the tropics many tree lose their leaves at the end of the dry season, and flower and set seed before the wet.

  2. 44m 04s I thought this was a very good puzzle and kept me entertained
    Thanks as ever Bruce, particularly for CONGREGATIONAL and for TURNIP. I queried TURN = grow but you answered that one, thanks.
    One minor grumble: CHILLEST in 1ac? That is an awful sounding word!
    I also queried GISMO but I’ll take your word for S over Z,
    All the long clues around the perimeter were good .
    For me, there were three particularly good clues :
    13ac: Part-time medic: HYDE!
    24ac: SALVO; swappping the middle letters was good.
    6d: NIGHTFALL: “Even for poet”. I liked that.
    PS….Bruce, I’ve just learnt a new word from reading the news coming out of Australia today: ROBODEBT!
    I wonder when that might appear in a Times crossword?!

    1. Martin, I see you posted re CHILLEST when I was writing my comment below which took me rather a long time as I was re-checking the notes I made last Saturday, to make sure I had remembered it correctly.

      BTW, I feel I’m in a version of Groundhog Day having spent the best part of an hour yesterday researching Chilli for yesterday’s discussion.

      1. Thanks, Jack. It’s Saturday evening here in NZ and I’m just chilling out…..I expect to be at my most chilly by about 9:30pm….🤔😀

    2. ROBODEBT … what an appalling piece of Government overreach, hope we never see it again!

      Re CHILLEST, see my reply to Jack below. I agree it’s ugly!

      1. Uglier than stillest, frailest, tallest, dullest, fullest? I’d contest your judgment, but you might not accept my contestation.

          1. I’m afraid the esthetics are beyond me: still/stillest, chill/chillest, end of story. Similarly (and why I added the sentence), the reaction to ‘contestation’ the other day puzzled me: infest/infestation, contest/contestation, etc.

      2. I read on the Radio NZ website that your former PM has rejected all the findings against him and his government related to robodebt.

          1. 🤣🤣🤣
            The saintly MR-D also said much later that her life had been “one long descent into respectability”!

  3. 36 minutes but with a MER at ‘most unfriendly’ = CHILLEST in 1ac, as surely that would be ‘chilliest’? I found no reference to CHILLEST in any of the usually sources so I resorted to OneLook which carries only one definition of it in the required sense, an entry in Merriam-Webster, but if it’s valid I wonder why it has not carried across from there into Collins Online =which uses M-W as its source for American English.

    1. Chambers, Collins and OED all have ‘chill’ as an adjective, so ‘chillest’ would be a valid superlative.

      1. Hm, I take your point but I’m not sure I’d agree that all -er and -est constructions are valid. I’m sure there are occasions when ‘more’ and ‘most’ placed before an adjective are preferable, or there’s an alternative adjective that the suffixes suit better – e.g. chilly, chillier, chilliest, in the example we’re talking about.

        But maybe I’ve been watching Countdown for too many years, where their lexicographer disallows comparisons and superlatives unless they are stipulated in the Oxford Dictionary. She applies the same standard to agent nouns.

        1. It’s pretty much a question of length: one would be hard put to find a reason to say, e.g., ‘more tall’, while e.g. ‘edibler’ is out. Also stress: ‘prettier’ is fine, but ‘absurder’ is out.

        2. Is that correct about the acceptability to Susie Dent of comparatives and superlatives? I was under the impression that her rule was: if it’s a single syllable word then you can allow it with -er or -est; if it’s a multisyllable word then it has to be specified.

          1. You are correct, Wil, and I muddled it.

            It’s a rule that has led to some strange decisions in the past as she has allowed words which simply sound wrong to me (perhaps like ‘chillest’ as discussed above – not that I can recall that particular example ever coming up) whilst disallowing words derived from more than one syllable that sound perfectly acceptable, on the grounds that her dictionary doesn’t specify them. I think sometimes she’s embarrassed about such decisions and tries to excuse the absence in the book by saying the word would be okay but it’s not used frequently enough to be listed.

  4. 18:24
    I seem to have biffed a couple–LOI SHINTOISM, CONGREGATIONAL–without parsing, but ACHILLES HEEL, ASTROPHYSICIST, & HYDE PARK were all parsed post-submission. I had thought that GISMO was britspeak, but I see ODE refers to ‘gizmo’. Whatever. No problem with CHILLEST. Loved ‘part-time medic’, but COD to GALILEO.

  5. I learned the botanical use of OVARY before any other, my elementary school days being closer to Victorian times than today’s, but don’t remember Rip the blood off my Toga. I recall a very slow start but the more I solved the quicker it became and finished in about average time. FOI HUSBAND, I think. MER for TURNip, LOI. PDMs PHAETON, HYDE PARK and SHINTOISM. Thanks Setter and Bruce.

  6. Completed, in the usual hour approx, at a steady solve rate with no real problems, though couldn’t understand 5d TURNIP and now I see why – wouldn’t ever have thought GROW=TURN. I also had a bizarre – and wrong! – way of coming to 26ac’s CONGREGATIONAL, which is too embarrassing to go into. Sigh. Thanks to setter and blogger for the insight.

  7. This was the easiest Saturday crossword for a long time for me, despite the daunting 14-letter clues around the edge – or maybe because of them, since they opened up the grid so quickly once solved. No unknowns – LOI OVARY, having forgotten the reproductive aspect of plants and groping for a word connected with river movement. Would normally spell GISMO with a Z, but recognised the alternative, and a MER at CHILLEST and grow=TURN, until I thought of the (exclusive?) exception of references to heat and cold with the latter.

    1. Reminds me of a very old joke… American tourist gets onto a London Country bus, and asks the conductor why the bus is green, and not red as London buses are supposed to be? The conductor replies “Don’t you worry madam, a bit more of this fine weather and she’ll soon turn.”

      Not much use as a joke, now that we don’t have green buses any more, nor conductors..

        1. The green conductors are still there – that’s the earth wire. Blue and brown are active and neutral.

  8. 19.59

    Not normally great at these grids with long ones but this was quite accessible with some lovely clues. GALILEO of course but quite liked the collapsing school whilst I had a nice PDM wanting een at the end of NIGHTFALL

    Thanks Branch and setter

  9. 10:37. I have no problem with the superlative form in 1ac but CHILL doesn’t mean ‘unfriendly’.

      1. That’s a noun though. Collins also defines ‘chill’ as ‘another word for chilly’, but I would argue this is a case where A means B and B means C but A doesn’t mean C. I don’t believe anyone ever uses the word ‘chill’ to mean ‘unfriendly’.

        1. I noticed that ODE’s corpus examples of ‘chill’ all collocate it with ‘wind’.

          1. The OED has something close to this sense of ‘unfriendly’ – ‘said of circumstances or influences which repress warmth of feeling, enthusiasm, etc’ – but the most recent citation is from 1883.

  10. Reasonably straightforward, though for SALVO I didn’t realise the ’round’ in the clue was giving the O and thought ‘Slavo’ was a term of which Pole is an example. Remembered the S spelling of GISMO from before (the cluing made it clear enough anyway) and hadn’t heard of the prank meaning of APPLE PIE or Park the explorer in HYDE PARK, so both were semi-biffs.

    FOI Shintoism
    LOI Hyde Park
    COD Plainsong

  11. 35 minutes, so not hard, but quite enjoyable. I was going to ask where the ‘O’ in SALVO came from, so thank you, Chris, for pointing that out. No problem with CHILLEST and strangely enough, I just heard a podcast about superlatives and comparatives in which the rule was stated that one-syllable words take the ‘est’ and ‘er’ endings, three-syllable words or longer take ‘most’ and ‘more’, and with two syllables it varies, but some endings such as y always allow the short form (so ‘silly’ becomes ‘sillier’ and ‘silliest’, which is what this discussion is perhaps becoming). I had a problem with COMMONSENSICAL (which seemed to be made up for the crossword, but it is in the OED — I would just use COMMONSENSE as an adjective). I also don’t like the word ‘like’ in the definition for 17ac, which does not translate into anything in the answer as far as I can see. Another wording might have been cleaner.

  12. Unusually I timed myself this evening at 37.11 By no means a great feat for such a straight forward puzzle but I remain mystified how many are so quick. Even when the clues allow a steady solve it takes me this long to read them and write the answer in on paper. I clearly have much practice to do. I did pause for several minutes over MARGIN, an elusive double definition, and TIPTOE which was easy once I separated the component parts. Couldn’t quite see TURNIP at the time so thank you for that. COD to NIGHTFALL, a neat clue. PHAETON is one of those words I only know from crosswords. All enjoyable as ever.

    Thanks branch and setter

  13. 15’28”
    Clear run, stayed on well.
    I might have broken 15′ if I hadn’t hummed and haaed over where to put my notes, only to finally grasp that humming notes were not required here.
    It’s a shame Galileo peeved Urban, not Leo, but it is, nevertheless, a super clue.
    Thank you setter and Bruce.

  14. I’m not good at these long containment-type clues, so a rank failure on all four! Started with the easy GISMO ( never seen it with a Z), had forgotten the botanical OVARY and for some unaccountable reason had HALF ACRE firmly in my mind for the land in Westminster! Liked the ones I DID get, especially NIGHTFALL (even though wanted to have it end in “een” at first), GALILEO (clever &Lit), and TESTIFIER.
    Roll on Monday…

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