Times Cryptic No 28661 — Oh well

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

30:32, a time which in no way reflects the difficulty of this puzzle, but rather the difficulty of trying to solve the puzzle while tending to my children who kept getting out of bed. If only I could think about these clues for more than a few seconds without being interrupted, I kept saying to myself.

As for the puzzle itself, I found it fairly straightforward, with only one clue causing any real difficulty. (When an alphabet trawl reveals nothing, you know you’re in trouble.) However, the clues were brilliant throughout.

1 Hunter’s neat house with outside pool (8)
FOXHOUND – OX (neat) + HO (house) in FUND (pool)

Biffed this one of ‘neat’ = OX and I was off to the races, or so I thought.

9 As an alternative, what satire is doing the rounds? (8)
ORBITING – OR (an alternative) + BITING (what satire is)

A delightful clue, though the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense.

10 Author’s hoax involving gun lobbyists (6)
CONRAD – COD (hoax) around NRA (gun lobbyists)

Of course I wanted ‘hoax’ to be CON, but NRA really gave the answer away.

11 Look that’s direct, yet at once cold, somehow (3,7)
EYE CONTACT – anagram of YET AT ONCE C (cold)
12 Bond sprang up to speak (4)
WELD – homophone of WELLED (sprang up)

Clues like this, when I see _ E _ D and have no idea of the answer, fill me with dread.

13 Investing euros originally, Welshman’s money is soon spent! (10)
EVANESCENT – first letter of EUROS in EVAN’S CENT (Welshman’s money)
16 Simple life at sea, with recreational vehicle in coastal area abroad (7)
ALGARVE – ALGAE (simple life at sea) around RV (recreational vehicle)

In Portugal, I believe.

17 Comparatively obscure UEFA intermediary rounds (7)
FAINTER – hidden (clued by ’rounds’) in UEFA INTERMEDIARY

I was fooled by this hidden, yes even despite UEFA in the clue.

20 “Noggin”: word that’s contrived to cause offence (10)
22 High point is meeting of Mirror and Times (4)
APEX – APE (mirror) + X (times)
23 One maybe poaching very old hat from French king (10)
TRESPASSER – TRÈS PASSÉ (very old hat, in French) + R (king)

A brilliant clue, très biffable.

25 One’s exploited, unlike Victoria? (6)
AMUSED – AM USED (one’s exploited)


26 Getting away using key — map is involved also (8)
ESCAPISM – ESC (key) + anagram of MAP IS
27 In a prime position in the Spanish Open for one hour (8)
ELEVENTH – EL (the Spanish) + EVENT (Open for one) + H (hour)

Yet another brilliant clue.

2 Irish nationalist of old, briefly deceived by Liberals (8)
OCONNELL – O (old) + CONNE{d} (decieved) + L L (liberals)
3 Like coaches often, with a certain animal magnetism? (5-5)
HORSE-DRAWN – If you are drawn by horses, you are magnetically attracted to certain animals.
4 Neither called for nor delivered without notes (10)
UNDESERVED – UNSERVED (nor delivered) around D E (notes)
5 Destruction of age-old Northern Irish location (7)
DONEGAL – anagram of AGE-OLD N (northern)
6 Spanish runner’s gold medal, initially missing, turned up (4)
EBRO – OR (gold) + {o}BE (medal) reversed

A river in Spain.

7 Be preoccupied and worried following difficulty (6)
FIXATE – ATE (worried) after FIX (difficulty)
8 One stirring a private army to resistance (8)
AGITATOR – A + GI (private) + TA (army) + TO + R (resistance)
14 Colour film — live golf — repeatedly cut up (10)
EXAGGERATE – E.T. (film) + ARE (live) + GG (golf repeatedly) + AXE (cut) reversed
15 I’m grateful for opening tin bound to contain superior fruit (10)
CANTALOUPE – TA (I’m grateful) in CAN (tin) + LOPE (bound) around U (superior)

Biffed from TA.

16 Nervously excited mostly with treat being arranged (8)
ATWITTER – anagram of WIT{h} TREAT
18 Coming out of British army corps upset chap (8)
EMERGENT – REME (British army corps) reversed + GENT (chap)
19 Be partially successful with appeal (7)
21 In front of a court, I like drama, occasionally (3-3)
ONE-ACT – A + CT (court) after ONE (I)
24 A short riddle bringing sceptical reaction (2,2)
AS IF – A + SIF{t} (riddle)

87 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28661 — Oh well”

  1. WELD was my LOI, O’CONNELL right before that (and I first had to fix the obviously unparsed ELKHOUND, entered much earlier), and ALGARVE antepenultimate. ONE-ACT was genius, and AMUSED did too.

  2. As Jeremy said, many brilliant clues and some (for me) real challenges, happy to be all done in 34.25. Several parsings eluded me until coming here, notably EXAGGERATE, EBRO and UNDESERVED. FOI was CONRAD, LOI FIXATE. Shout-outs to FOXHOUND, TRESPASSER, ELEVENTH and CANTALOUPE. Can we really say ‘like coaches often’ for HORSE-DRAWN in 2023? Anyway thanks all, terrific puzzle.

  3. Very hard work but I completed it eventually in 77 minutes after getting off to a flying start in the NW quarter.

    The hidden FAINTER was one of my last two or three to go in. I had no idea what was going on with the wordplay to ALGARVE as I never heard of a recreational vehicle and couldn’t imagine what it might be. Turns out it’s American for camper or camper van.

    1. If you lived near the North Coast 500, on Skye, or on Orkney, you’d know all about the annual infestation of RVs parking everywhere, leaving rubbish behind, and spending no money in local businesses.

      1. Thanks. I’m perfectly familiar with the vehicle, just not the name and certainly not the abbreviation, before today that is.

    2. I remember ‘RV’ was also a film starring Robin Williams, though I never saw it. It was about a family who rent an RV for a holiday trip.

  4. 47 minutes. Started off by getting the wrong end of the stick for ‘neat house’ at 1a which I thought would be a stable or barn and ‘One maybe poaching’ at 23a who I had in my mind was going to be a cook. At least I avoided putting in CONRAN as the author, as I suspected (correctly I see) that she is still with us. Slowly in after that with AMUSED my LOI.

    I know exactly what you mean about answers like _E_D Jeremy; just by luck I didn’t have to spend too long on this one today.

  5. 15:29. I have managed a week’s correct solving without ever getting completely stumped and having to put the puzzle down for a break – a very rare occurrence. Like Jeremy and Bletchleyreject I did fear getting stuck when faced with _E_D for my LOI, but the answer came reasonably quickly, so I didn’t need to work through the 61 possibilities which fit those letters. They are not as daunting as _A_E, with its 165 possibilities.

  6. 88 minutes. I woke up early this morning and had a go at the crossword instead of going back to sleep. A bad decision perhaps. I got particularly stuck in the north west corner and with LOI FIXATE. Like BR I was trying to fit something like barn/[cow]shed/byre into 1ac. Lots to like, including ELEVENTH and FOXHOUND

  7. Nice Friday puzzle, I agree several clues were really excellent. I have been to the ALGARVE, it was hot. Liked CONRAD – actually I always like clues which bring good memories of books, music etc. (Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, The Doors, The End). ELEVENTH also very good.

    20’54”, thanks jeremy and setter.

  8. 38 minutes with LOI CONRAD, the NRA finally coming to mind. The NW corner was the last to fall as I’d wrongly biffed UNREHEARSED for delivering without notes. I came to OCONNELL via the street. COD to EVANESCENT, with ONE-ACT and ELEVENTH also contenders. Quite tricky but a good one. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

      1. I solve on paper and I can see what I changed. I’d spelt it UNREHEARED

  9. 13:51. Pretty tricky. I had to grind this out a bit, often failing to spot the definition and having to find a toehold from a bit of wordplay and work from there. A quite strenuous but rewarding form of solving.

  10. Music I heard with you was more than music,
    And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
    Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
    All that was once so beautiful is dead.
    (Music I Heard, Conrad Aiken)

    30 mins mid-brekker. Tricky, and neat.
    Ta setter and PJ.

  11. Managed to put in CONRAN even though I know CONRAD and also mis-biffed ESCAPING. Those mistakes didn’t slow me down much though; it was the general difficulty overall that did that. 57 mins, ending with FIXATE. Enjoyed TRESPASSER and ELEVENTH the most.

      1. I think I may have managed to confuse two people I’d heard of to come up with both Joseph Conran and Jasper Conrad, clearly a very well-tailored author.

  12. I found this only two minutes more challenging than yesterday, and I think FIXATE accounted for both of them. Couldn’t think of a difficulty to fix into place.
    Otherwise fun to do, though I’m glad to see I’m not the only one to try barn for neat house in 1a.
    After misplacing it to much embarrassment, I was pleased to see DONEGAL back again, with the setter hedging their* bets by including Northern Irish in the clue.
    On CONRAD, I was thinking CON as the hoax and thinking it was odd to have it crossing with CONNEd in 2d, but the something inside overruled and my fingers got it right without otherwise registering. Surprised to see COD here.
    Liked trés passé and 11th: prime position indeed. Tell that to Jimmy if he gets to bat today.
    * I think I’m finally getting the hang of this gender neutral nonsense.

    1. I believe Jimmy has batted in every position from three to eleven.
      Gender-neutral language is very easy to do.

    2. There’s rational use of gender-neutral pronouns and ludicrous use.

      At the Australian Open tennis earlier this year, each player in a singles match was introduced to the crowd by name and then referred to using ‘they’ and ‘their’.

      To my knowledge no tennis player has come out as non-binary. I would imagine also that no player was asked how he or she would liked to be referred to, which would be the courteous thing to do – if you have have such a barmy alternative plan.

      1. But maybe they were asked. We don’t know. In any case, it’s a non-problem.

      2. Can I suggest that we stick with our ‘no politics’ rule on this subject perhaps above all others? If there’s one subject that makes Brexit look like an oasis of calm agreement, this is it. If we want to have viscous arguments and fall out with people over it, there are plenty of available forums but this should not be one of them.

        1. As a pedant, I wouldn’t say that (in either sense).
          But it’s not acute.

  13. I’m another who found this hard going. 69mins, one more than vinyl.

    Last two in WELD and FAINTER having, like others, completely missed the inclusion til last. Phew. At around 50 mins I thoght « I’m never going to finish this » then ÉVANESCENT (NHO) gave me the E for EXAGGERATE and I was up and running again.

    I like EYE CONTACT and ALGARVE best.

    Thanks Jeremy and clever setter.

  14. “ORBITING – OR (an alternative) + BITING (what satire is)
    A delightful clue, though the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    It does to me 🙂


  15. Like Gothick I had both “Conran” and “escaping” until the crossers came to my rescue.

    I actually did this at half past midnight, and retired with two clues unsolved, the other loiterer being FIXATE, where staring blankly at “-I-ATE” and only thinking “rig” persuaded me that sleep was needed. I might have done better had I attempted the puzzle this morning.

    TIME 14:56

  16. I should have known that Shirley Conran probably wasn’t the novelist the Times crossword was looking for. I did think of Conrad but wasn’t sure about “cod” meaning “hoax”. In my mind it’s more like “imitation”.
    As a fan of charades I liked AGITATOR.

  17. A top class workout, thank you setter. I crossed the line in just over the half hour, with the hidden-in-plain-sight FAINTER my LOI (accompanied by the traditional forehead slap). Ninjaturtled OCONNELL from the wrongly-remembered resistance leader in Terminator, which must have connected some very dusty neurons holding Irish history. Quite often my subconscious is a much better solver than me!

  18. 50m 40s A very pleasant puzzle that was just about at my average level of difficulty. Last time I tested myself over a period of time I took 52mins on average.
    Thank you Plus Jeremy especially for UNDESERVED.
    Many really good clues, especially EXAGGERATE, WINSOME, TRESPASSER and ELEVENTH but COD to HORSE DRAWN. I did like ‘animal magnetism’!
    The Women’s World Cup got underway here last night with a wonderful 1-0 win for NZ against Norway in front of over 42000 spectators in Auckland; the largest crowd ever for a football match in NZ. It was the first match the NZ women have ever won in a World Cup finals series. Cracking goal, too!

  19. Inventive puzzle, not too hard except completely failed to parse 14dn exaggerate… and had Conran to start with, which imo fits the wordplay better; but perhaps not the def.

    1. TBF the only possible objection to the definition is that she’s still alive. Terence Conran wrote a few books about design but that’s perhaps a bit of a stretch.

  20. 18:45

    Certainly tricky enough for a Friday. LOI was UNDESERVED which I biffed in the end once I had the V from ALGARVE as I couldn’t see the wordplay at all.

    I don’t think the clue for AMUSED quite works despite being a nice idea. One’s exploited would have to be I am used, so where did the I go?

    1. This sort of truncated language is quite common. ‘Will call later, am busy’. We allow text lingo after all.

  21. Very nice puzzle, 35 minutes watching golf, ending with O’CONNELL which I knew but was slow to see because of the apostrophe omission. Didn’t get round to parsing EXAGGERATE but nothing else fits. Thank J for explaining it.

  22. Dnf with one error after nearly 40 mins. ABUSED for AMUSED. I also fell into the CONRAN trap and nearly gave up on this a few times. Tricky but fair with some great clues.


  23. A full 54 minutes, and came very close to giving up. Then decided to re-parse 7D as starting with F (‘following’), and although that was wrong, it got me there. After that it was just 12A – a _E_D homophone, not an easy combination! I’d thought of MELD a while back, but the answer took a bit longer.

    A very nice puzzle, and in hindsight not entirely sure why it took me so long!

    Thanks both.

  24. 32 mins with a little help from my friends, specifically with WELD and FIXATE. Re the above comment about RV’s in north Scotland, I can recommend an excellent RV cafe to the west of Thurso.

  25. Agree this was tricky but fair, and an enjoyable solve, taking me some 40 minutes. Held up again in the NW corner, until WELD and CONRAD showed themselves. Good for me for a Friday!
    FOI – APEX
    Thanks to jeremy and other contributors.

  26. Took 36 minutes. Exactly like Guy du Sable, WELD was LOI preceded by O‘Connell – the apostrophe slowed me down in picturing the word. I found that not super-hard but def harder than average, but a very enjoyable puzzle no obscure words and many clever clues.
    COD Très passé R
    Thanks setter and blogger

  27. Definitely not my day today. Typos in the Concise and QC on the iPad and still managed to get one in this puzzle using a full sized keyboard and 24 inch monitor! I’d go back to bed, but I have a funeral to go to 🙁
    DONEGAL was FOI. CONRAN held up LOI, UNDESERVED until I revisited hoax and decided COD was a better fit. All spoiled by a careless and unspotted WINSIME. Drat and double drat!! 31:21 WOE. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  28. Far too hard to attempt without cheating.
    Couldn’t find O’Connell in the first places I looked; I was on 20th century pages and he was 18th and 19th century, then vaguely remembered O’Connell st from a visit to Dublin.
    WELD was hard to find.
    The def for FIXATE was a bit quaint but fair enough.

  29. I found this fairly easy to start with, though I was biffing many entries without analysing the wordplay., and filled most of the grid in 30 minutes. Then I came stuck on the last few.It took me a while to see FIXATE, even though ATE was obvious, but the one that really delayed me was FAINTER. I went through the alphabet twice, eventually throwing FAINTER as a guess. To learn that it was hidden in the clue is galling. 44 minutes in the end.

  30. TRESPASSER was genius.

    Did not quite finish but learned new meanings to RIDDLE and NEAT

  31. Very good crossword with some excellent clues, which defeated me. I used aids from fairly early on because I have a few things to do today and I could see it wasn’t going to be easy, but they sometimes didn’t really help. Coined the non-word ABUSEE and of course couldn’t parse either that or ABUSED. Didn’t know the recreational vehicle, thinking it was RVE. 62 minutes, DNF because I never got AMUSED, also used aids fairly freely.

  32. Held up at the end with an utlig on O’Donnell (unable to let it go) as ‘done’ for ‘deceived’ loitered unhelpfully. Finally got the right man. Liked the prime position. Maybe Jimmy Anderson will show its rare qualities if called on after lunch. Also liked the ‘partially successful’ clue – the little gifts of language.

  33. Off the pace. One of those puzzles that is good but you just can’t see some of the answers – fixate and exaggerate 2 last ones in, by far. Weld relatively quickly.
    Blog title, ‘Oh Well‘?
    Or the original
    Fortunate not to know Shirley Conran, so Conrad was a gimme. Though another expecting barn or similar for ox house.
    No obvious COD, just general quality.

  34. Two goes needed. Like several others, I put ‘Conran’ in first before realising that 4d had to be UNDESERVED and correcting to CONRAD. I then had a similar issue to others with WELD, and also with the ‘fix’ in FIXATE – it was a long alphabet trawl before they sprang to mind. ALGARVE was a long time in coming, as it felt like that clue could have gone in multiple directions.

    Really enjoyable puzzle – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Ebro
    LOI Fixate
    COD Trespasser

  35. A challenging 33’35”, with WELD of course going in last. Those little four-letter blighters! The setters must know they’re the real toughies. Some lovely clues. Nice to see a mention for the Liberator. Many thanks to all.

    1. Those minute-second marks shouldn’t be curved.
      You can (but no one will) use html code (ampersand-hashtag-039-semicolon and ampersand-hashtag-034-semicolon, respectively) to get them right:
      33' 35"
      If you just type or paste them in, though, the Content Managing System on our site will translate them into “smartquotes.”

          1. …but you can’t take the workplace out of the copy-editor.
            It’s really not very well expressed, if I were my editor I’d ask me to have another go.

            1. You can take the man out of the job, but you can’t take the job out of the man?
              Whatever, the point is you just can’t help it, which I think is good, FTAOD.

              1. Well, I’m up to my ears in my job today. We have a new website and I’m shooting lots of trouble.

                1. I have had a very neglectful day failing to work because the cricket has been compelling. I sat through a whole Audit Committee meeting (boring at the best of times) with it on my iPad next to the Zoom screen.

                  1. As is your right, of course. Any respectable publication needs a style guide, and I think a bit of strictness contributes in an important way to the particular je ne sais quoi of a publication. As long as you’re not New-Yorker-daft about it, of course.
                    I rather like the comma splice, now that I know what it’s called. It has certain colloquial fluidity to it. If I were writing in a more formal setting I’d use a colon.

                    1. In speech, commas are surely used more often than periods. When a patch of prose is overtly colloquial, we might allow a passing comma splice or two. The addition of a little dot above the comma doesn’t seem obtrusive in writing, but a semicolon can look a bit unnatural in an interview transcript. Blog comments are not formal writing, but of course I couldn’t resist.

                      For ‘New Yorker–daft’, I’d use (this here) endash.

                    2. Again, replying in the wrong place, perforce.
                      Air quotes are both annoying and wonderful. It’s kind of the reverse of full stops, colons, commas etc: the quotation mark is a purely written concept that has made its way to the oral environment. It also gives a nod to sign language, which is an extraordinarily interesting concept on its own. I have been working with an amazing guy recently who effectively speaks 9 languages, because he has grown up and worked in an international environment, but is deaf.
                      Language is so endlessly fascinating!

                  2. Reply here because we’ve reached the limit: in speech, there ain’t no punctuation. It’s just what we’ve invented over the years to reflect the pauses and elisions in writing.

                    1. But sometimes people use ‘air quotes’…!
                      Yes, I know.
                      I was speaking figuratively (of course), about the cadences and intonation of spoken language, in which the kind of pause symbolized by a comma rather than a more firm “full stop” frequently separates grammatical units we discern as sentences.

                    2. Indeed!
                      I’m halfway thru a yellowed copy of George Steiner’s After Babel (Third Edition), which I found at the office a few months ago. It struck me as odd that he found it mysterious that there are, and have been, so many diverse tongues around the world…

  36. 37’3”
    Steady pace throughout, stayed on under pressure.
    Staring at -I-ATE, I thought Teddy would be flying again after yesterday’s EELCRESS fiasco; so delighted to have finished in 6% over par. Loved the golfing references, particularly ELEVENTH,
    and I thought this was an absolute cracker of a puzzle.
    Back to the cricket, golf and Town Bumps with my club in with a sniff of some silverware.
    Compliments to the setter and thanks Jeremy et al.
    FORE !

  37. 46:18 but…

    …didn’t get the Victoria clue at the time and bunged in ABUSED. My CONRAN was Shirley (who may still be alive for all I know) before correcting to CONRAD.

    MER for EVENT = Open. I find golf a tedious bore…

    COD to WELD which I thought of quickly but took ages for the penny to drop

  38. At 6D, you could equally truncate MBE or CBE and arrive at the same solution

  39. Only got about half of this with O’Connell the FOI. Clearly there are many here who haven’t watched the excellent Breaking Bad, you’d’ve heard of RV’s if you had, that’s where I first came across them.

  40. Love how this blog is free of the bile elsewhere.

    Civilised discussion of gender neutrality.

    On its usual territory, in its use of “without” I struggled with 4dn as “outside” as against “excluding” – although I was wrong.

  41. I’m used to ‘flower’ for ‘river’ now.
    But ‘runner’ ?
    That’s just annoying.
    Fortunately the wordplay for EBRO was straightforward, though I assumed it was a Spanish athlete for a while.

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