Times Cryptic No 28685 — A solver biffs into a bar


I was so excited to finish this one in 18:59 that I didn’t look closely and submitted with a typo. Ah well!

I kept waiting for something sneaky to crop up, but this puzzle stayed fairly gentle throughout.

1 It’s surprising empty cage is put back for parrot (4)
ECHO – OH (it’s surprising) + C{ag}E reversed
4 Bird area in outdoor space — it could be my job to protect it! (4,6)
GAME WARDEN – MEW (bird) + A (area) in GARDEN (outdoor space)

Didn’t know that a gull is also called a MEW.

9 Great model poses anew with hot coat from Armani (10)
APOTHEOSIS – anagram of POSES + HOT + A{rman}I

My last one in, and held me up for awhile.

10 Poet has virus, but not cold (4)
OVID – COVID (virus) – C (cold)
11 One female bird or another protecting a male (6)
PEAHEN – PEN (another [female bird]) around A + HE (male)

A female swan. I know someone who won’t like this puzzle…

12 Run through Rome’s outskirts with slow vehicle (8)
REHEARSE – R{om}E + HEARSE (slow vehicle)
14 Perhaps took horse which is periodically unsteady (4)
USED – U{n}S{t}E{a}D{y}

‘Horse’ being heroin.

15 Grew more infuriated and pink (4,6)
ROSE MADDER – ROSE (grew) + MADDER (more infuriated)

Didn’t know this, but guessed it from the wordplay and it ended up being right.


17 Resentment inspiring worries, which is kind of novel (10)
PICARESQUE – PIQUE (resentment) around CARES (worries)

I so wanted this to be BILDUNGSROMAN, which I couldn’t remember anyway.

20 Sombre figure heading west from Zurich to Geneva (4)
GOTH – hidden reversed (heading west from) {zuric}H TO G{eneva}
21 Bread and some butter taken in chinwag with the writer (8)
CHAPATTI – A PAT (some butter) in CHAT (chinwag) + I (the writer)
23 Old US president not a flipping ass (6)
ONAGER – O (old) + [RE{a}GAN (US president) reversed]
24 Captain of the West Indies only half backed (4)
AHAB – BAHA{mian} (of the West Indies) reversed
25 Make the priesthood / have a subordinate role (4,6)
TAKE ORDERS – double definition
26 Someone calming nurses for example, maybe Sibyl (10)
SOOTHSAYER – SOOTHER (someone calming) around SAY (for example)


27 Stopped removing clothing for comfort (4)
EASE – {c}EASE{d} (stopped)
2 Change husband, embracing Cambridge University artisan (11)
COPPERSMITH – COPPERS (change) + H (husband) around MIT (Cambridge University)

MIT is a university in Cambridge, Massachussetts

3 These show many faces versatile English actor had (9)
OCTAHEDRA – anagram of E (English) ACTOR HAD

I mean, it’s no rhombicosidodecahedron, but.

4 Novelist close to Faulkner and Eco, to a greater extent (7)
GREENER – GREENE (novelist) + {faulkne}R

Lovely trick with the wordplay here, but I saw right through it.

5 The setter’s raised anxiety, living with heartless lairy innkeeper (8,7)
MISTRESS QUICKLY – I’M (the setter’s) + reversed STRESS (anxiety) + QUICK (living) + L{air}Y

I was fortunate to see this pretty quickly (no pun intended), which burst open the puzzle.

6 Producer of 80s pop covers is abroad in club (4,3)
WEST HAM – WHAM (producer of 80s pop) around EST (is abroad)

‘Abroad’ meaning in France.


7 Sporting cheat turning on film (5)
DIVER – RE (on) + VID (film) reversed

Someone taking a dive. I accidentally had DOVER and didn’t see it before submitting.

8 Reminder for one getting demand to pay up (5)
NUDGE – E.G. (for one) + DUN (demand to pay) reversed (up)

DUN is one of those crossword words I keep forgetting. Chambers has, “to importune for payment; to plague, pester, harass”. Great word.

13 Maybe fool’s put on suit — dear, dear! (11)
SWEETHEARTS – SWEET (maybe fool) + HEARTS (suit)

If one ‘dear’ is SWEETHEART, I suppose two are SWEETHEARTS. I don’t think we really call any desserts ‘fool’ here, but I know the term.

16 Tucking into piece of cake, doctor has a stroke (3,6)
DOG PADDLE – GP (doctor) + A in DODDLE (piece of cake)
18 Wasting £1000, develop small cars (7)
ESTATES – GESTATE (develop) – G (£1000) + S (small)
19 Kind of travel company books up European houses (7)
ECOTOUR – EUR (European) around (houses) CO (company) + O.T. (books [Old Testament]) reversed
21 Bath, e.g., with taps facing the wrong way and cracks (5)
CHAPS – SPA (bath, e.g.) + H C (taps) reversed
22 Recalling medic for a mission across the Atlantic (5)
ALAMO – À LA (recalling) + M.O. (medic)

57 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28685 — A solver biffs into a bar”

  1. 8:31 – one of my fastest Friday times. Knew DUN, and MISTRESS QUICKLY was a write-in. Fun puzzle.

  2. Seemed the hardest of the week, though not terribly hard… And one half of my brain was tied behind my back, as I moseyed through this while continuing my binge on Patrick McGoohan’s Danger Man/Secret Agent series, recently found available in their entirety on YouTube. I certainly should have remembered MISTRESS QUICKLY… sooner. WEST HAM (sports!) was one of my last. My Philly friend Anita used to have a PEAHEN.

    1. I was a big fan of Danger Man back in the day and have all 86 episodes on DVD so I have seen them all again more recently. I hope the You Tube collection includes the first series of 39 half-hour episodes in b/w, as they were some of the best. It’s interesting to note the change in John Drake over the years as he started out very American (to these English ears, anyway) officially an Irish-American working for NATO, and later became English working for UK Military Intelligence. He never carried a gun and almost without exception never became romantically involved with anyone.

      1. I had never seen the first 39 episodes at all, as they were never broadcast in the USA. A half-hour (minus adverts) was an unsatisfying format for such a show, forcing some rather truncated endings. When my dad and I watched the second season, each one-hour episode of which was introduced over here with Johnny Rivers’s “Secret Agent Man,” many of the intricacies of the story went right over my head (I was just a kid) but I was captivated by the atmosphere, and by McGoohan, and primed to become a big fan of The Prisoner—and to find the American spy series coming out at that time to be rather silly in comparison. (The first-ever episode of Danger Man, by the way, was shot in the same Italianate northern Welsh village as that later series. Episode 3 of Season 2, “Colony Three,” is thematically also very reminiscent of The Prisoner.)
        Unfortunately, this YouTube collection has only the first two seasons, some 60-odd episodes. There is another set that may have more, but they are in lower resolution. I may have to buy the DVD set, if that is still possible.

        1. Thanks. I remembered that Portmeirion featured in the very first episode.

          Sadly we have to part company re The Prisoner. I watched it when first broadcast and didn’t like it but put that down to my age and tastes at the time, so more recently I bought the DVD set hoping it would appeal more now, but it didn’t. I watched half-a dozen episodes and gave up on it.

          1. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it too—except the first episode, which had me wondering what the huge lava lamp projections were supposed to represent and why the two men at No. 2’s HQ monitoring something or other thru long telescope-like apparatuses in that enclosed space had to revolve and bob up and down. It was just fetchingly mysterious when I was 11.

  3. Octopus, octopod, octogenarian etc, but not octohedra. It falls into the octave, octagonal group. I thought I knew how to spell it, so didn’t check the anagrist carefully enough. It is a common failing for me. I scan the anagrist, and if most of the letters seem to fit I assume the rest will, and enter the wrongly spelled word with misplaced confidence. Silly. 29mins with the spelling mistake.
    Very enjoyable puzzle. Liked ‘dog paddle’particularly.

    1. I put OCTOHEDRA too, having also not checked the anagrist closely. So a pink square today.

  4. Vinyl1 has already said much of what I was going to say about this one. I found it very hard and needed a full 60 minutes to complete the grid.

    There were a lot of unknown or forgotten words or references but I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling it all and felt a real sense of achievement as I entered my LOI, AHAB where I had been preparing myself for a long alphabet trawl on A?A? when suddenly the old Captain’s name jumped out at me.

  5. As today’s designated blogger, Jeremy, you should be able to post multiple live links, but to get that you’d either have to type the entire anchor code (<a href=https://… ) or use the linking tool provided here.

  6. I’m with those who found this tough and felt a sense of achievement at just finishing. I did it in about 54, though because I have a filthy cold that was in several bursts over a couple of hours because I kept running out of go. The NW held me up longest, GREENER was clever and sure fooled me. As did SWEETHEARTS, where I missed the fool reference completely so thank you J.

  7. 13:56. The times for this puzzle look interesting on the SNITCH, with a big spread from green through to red. I wonder what it is that split solvers on this one.
    For me it was on the easier side helped by not having one or two at the end that I so typically get stuck on and which push my time out. I thought I might be heading that way when I sought pen and paper to work out the APOTHEOSIS anagram but it kindly pinged into my head whilst I was doing so. I was then able to finish up by prepending my partially parsed SMITH with COPPER.

  8. Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
    Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
    Speak low, lean low,
    As long ago, my love, how long ago.
    (Echo, Christina Rossetti)

    After 30 very enjoyable mins mid-brekker, I was stuck on the Captain/cracks crossers. A few more mins trawling captains got me there. I should have guessed it would be a literary one after what had gone before.
    I thought it was a treat, especially West Ham.
    Ta setter and PJ.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed this, although I biffed COPPERSMITH and must thank Jeremy for unravelling it.

    15A reminds me of my favourite limerick

    While Titian was mixing ROSE MADDER
    His model posed nude on a ladder.
    The position, to Titian,
    Suggested coition,
    So he climbed up the ladder and ‘ad ‘er!

    As well as my COD, I enjoyed DOG PADDLE and SOOTHSAYER.

    TIME 13:12

    1. You beat me to it. I was going to post this if no-one else did! Possibly my favourite limerick. I have a slight variation in my version. “His model reclined on a ladder” and “He leapt up the ladder…).

  10. You’re right – I did not like PEAHEN
    So I’m taking up cudgels again
    We’ve suffered this week
    The OWLET caused pique
    Oh when will they spare us – Oh when?

    1. Speak roughly to the setting crews
      Berate them if it pleases
      They only do it to a-MEW-s
      Because they know it teases
      With thanks to Charles Dodgson

  11. On the wavelength today, 13’54”. As noted, MISTRESS QUICKLY was a big help. COPPERSMITH LOI. Nice to see ONAGER, while GREENER and ECOTOUR fed off each other.

    Thanks jeremy and setter.

  12. 48 minutes with LOI NUDGE, I’ve ‘not known’ DUN before. I didn’t stop to parse ESTATES which I think was as well as I wanted to finish today. CHAPATI hasn’t usually had two Ts in the many Indian restaurants I’ve given my custom to. I find it an unsatisfactory compromise between a paratha and a naan anyway. I had to read out the role of Mistress Quickly in class in my second year at grammar school, which was unfair as my voice had already broken. It came in handy today. COD to WEST HAM. I don’t usually get a pop music question right after the sixties but Parky’s interview (RIP) with George Michael was on the box last night. Quite tough. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  13. I too found this hard with a couple of unknowns (or unremembered!), just on the hour. SOOTHSAYER, finally went in, as I had bunged in ECONOMY (clearly unparsed) as the type of travel. Oops.

    NHO ROSE MADDER either. Can’t say I enjoyed this one.

    Thanks Jeremy and Setter.

  14. 25.21. Not too difficult a crossword for a Friday. Got a bit stuck in the NE this time but haddaway out. LOI diver, which was one of those forehead slapping moments. Some very clever clues with Picaresque my favourite but rose madder a d apotheosis worth the trip.

  15. Superb surfaces throughout this apotheosis of the setter’s art. Just under 50 minutes of chewy deliciousness, thank you classy setter. COD to West Ham, despite being a Spurs supporter for my sins, for bringing the brilliant George Michael to mind to brighten a grey Friday. Everything She Wants was in this lovely puzzle for sure. And thanks Jeremy for explaining onager, which was a total biff.

  16. So I had my fastest on Monday and my slowest today, at 32.10. I think my primary mire was the demonic novelist clue at 4d, which is odd because the novelist here is always Graham. A truly swinish lift and separate.
    This led to me trying all sorts of possibilities for 4a: I was particularly attracted to TIME WASTER – at least TIME was bird. Never saw the MEW or the GARDEN: thought GAME was ok for bird and erm…
    Our no longer resident DIVER (he’s gone to get a medal at Bayern) might have been amused at 7d: Tom Daly should sue.
    Didn’t get the ALA bit of ALAMO: I can see how it works (now) but I think it’s a stretch.
    All round a good challenge, and as good an illustration of the wavelength factor as you’re likely to see.

  17. Beaten only by ONAGER as the kind of NHO that no amount of aids would ever get me to, so relatively pleased with my DNF 90 odd minutes on what now, looking back, feels to be a relatively tough 15×15. A few confident biffs: NUDGE, ROSE MADDER, COPPERSMITH, ESTATE (definitely need the blog – thank you), ALAMO but generally very happy.
    Thanks Jeremy.
    Have fine weekends all.

    1. The ONAGER is defined as a wild Asian ass. Be careful how you search that on Google!

  18. 52m 53s
    I think various comments to the contrary, plus Jeremy, show that this puzzle wasn’t as easy for everyone as you found it.
    An enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

  19. Too hard for me. Beaten by CHAPS, AHAB and ROSE MADDER/DOG PADDLE. All seems fair, though, now that it’s been explained. Perhaps I’m just becoming senile.

  20. Happy as always to finish a Friday crossword, and mid 40s mins is very acceptable to me! A few biffs that needed explaining by Jeremy, COPPERSMITH (which I should have parsed, 3 MITs in 2 weeks I think), NUDGE (have never came across DUN) and PEAHEN (I had HEN and tried to make sense of “male” as P_A, but then just biffed, NHO PEN in this context). Never seen a double T in CHAPATTI before.

    LOI APOTHEOSIS, COD SWEETHEARTS. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  21. 13:00 and very enjoyable. WEST HAM was the pick of a number of clues which tickled me.

  22. 29:22. Dear me. I was well off the wavelength today taking an age to see the wordplay in many clues, and never did parse COPPERSMITH. GAME WARDEN proved particularly intractable being misled into thinking about GIRL GUIDES and RANGERs. Only an eventual WEST HAM confirmed it was GAME WARDEN and led me to see how it worked. Thanks Jeremy and Setter. Tomorrow is another day.

    1. John, on a techie point, viewing Jeremy’s blog on my iPhone some of the Across clues and commentary are too wide for the page. The intro and Down section are fine. Any ideas?

      1. I just checked his last blog on 4th Aug and that was fine which suggests his copy of the template script is not at fault.

        1. It all looks fine to me when I reduce the width of my browser to phone width – the text wraps correctly and sidebar moves to the bottom as it should. There is nothing out of the ordinary in the HTML markup in the blog that I can see.

  23. DNF, was too exhausted for the AHAB/CHAPS. I had biffed AHAB lightly in pencil but.
    ONAGER has come up before. I remember it from the Swiss Family Robinson that I read as a child.

  24. As usual I went through it all steadily enough and then became stuck with six to go, so I gritted my teeth and said that I wouldn’t use aids because one could always work it out eventually. But I couldn’t, and I used aids, and immediately regretted doing so because I could indeed have worked them out. COPPERSMITH I’d never heard of but became fixated on cash rather than coppers, and it didn’t help that I was quite certain the innkeeper was ‘mistress …lary’, since heartless lairy had to be lary, so assumed that it was some character from literature that I didn’t know. Even with aids it took me 88 minutes. But I did get ROSE MADDER fairly easily: it was one of the colours in the water colour box that I had as a child.

  25. Liked this, took about 20 minutes, LOI was APOTHEOSIS when I had all the checkers in and tried to think of possible words that fit then realised what the anagrist was. I wouldn’t have put 2 Ts in CHAPAttI but it had to be. Thanks +jeremy for explaining COPPERSMITH.

  26. Enjoyed this a lot, but undone by CHAPS. Had the CH and the SPA but couldn’t see cracks. Oh dear…

  27. Two goes needed. Eventually pieced together MISTRESS QUICKLY, which then rang the vaguest of bells, and took a while to remember the Cambridge University=MIT trick and get COPPERSMITH. Had to hope that ROSE MADDER and ONAGER were right, and got NUDGE without knowing the demand to pay meaning of dun.

    A tough but fun puzzle – thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Echo
    LOI Onager
    CODs Coppersmith / West Ham

    1. Ditto here: except that I don’t have time for “two goes”. So a fair bit of biffing, that I found acceptable in the circumstances, especially MISTRESS QUICKLY (a lovely character), SOOTHSAYER and ROSE MADDER. Had to look up APOTHEOSIS (forgotten word – didn’t work hard enough on the anagrist) and the ALAMO/AHAB crossers. NHO COPPERSMITH or DUN, but the rest worked out without tears.
      Enjoyable crossword with literary bent.

  28. 25@37

    I liked this a lot, particularly the clues with a literary leaning. I needed Jeremy to explain DOG PADDLE . COD GREENER.

    An odd twist to 21 down – Bath chaps are, or were once, considered a delicacy in certain parts of the UK.

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter/

    1. DOH!
      Can’t believe I was so dim about CHAPS. The Bath variety are in my Xword lexicon OF COURSE.

  29. I’m one that found this tough on the whole. I found it fairly easy to begin with, but ended up flailing around and biffing where I had enough letters. I skipped parsing half a dozen clues to save time. I didn’t understand the definition for DIVER, which I wouldn’t have got if I hadn’t suddenly seen OVID. It took me ages to work out APOTHEOSIS with only _P_T_ _ _ _ S _ _ in the grid. Some word patterns are very elusive.
    50 minutes.

  30. Very enjoyable. 32 minutes. ROSE MADDER reminded me of one of the cleverest limericks ever. I was going to post it but Busman beat me to it. My favourite example of the genre.

  31. 34 minutes. With my bare bones knowledge of the works of Shakespeare, MISTRESS QUICKLY was no write-in for me; thank goodness for that crossing Q (always a bonus) from PICARESQUE. Otherwise I managed to complete this steadily with the help of wordplay for some less familiar terms like APOTHEOSIS and ROSE MADDER. Favourites were AHAB and the surface for DOG PADDLE.

  32. 47 mins but held up for ages by CHAPS and AHAB. Managed to do a full tour of the West Indies and forgot about the Bahamas (AMAJ anyone?). Eventually it was spotting the SPA that got me over the line. Do taps have an order to be reversed?

    1. I think “hot and cold taps/water” is much more common (and thus natural-sounding) than “cold and hot”?

  33. I’m with those who found this tough. Got off to a start with OCTOHEDRA, which I converted to OCTAHEDRA before submitting. PICARESQUE was LOI after I managed to recall the QUICK bit of the innkeeper. Lots to like but a sluggish performance from me. 38:12. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  34. All completed throughout the day. Dnk why NUDGE or ESTATE worked, dnk ROSE MADDER, PICARESQUE or MISTRESS QUICKLY but they could all, eventually, be worked out. Also, and stupidly, couldn’t see why SWEET was fool for ages.
    So a long solve but very satisfying in the end. Thanks for the blog for confirmations.

  35. 46:19

    A bit too much of a parp to be enjoyed fully. Teeth were pulled due to a general lack of knowledge.

    DUN ?
    MISTRESS QUICKLY (though I got the MISTRESS bit er… quickly)
    ROSE MADDER (though I might have heard of the Stephen King book)
    Sibyl as SOOTHSAYER
    DOG PADDLE – we say DOGGY PADDLE where I’m from

    ONAGER – I’ve vaguely heard of but couldn’t have said what it was

    And for the parsing oversights:
    ESTATES – was thinking K or 1K for the thousand – didn’t see how it would work though.

    Slow to see:
    GAME WARDEN (was thinking KEEPER or RANGER)

  36. 31’0″
    Fortunate to get a clear run, stayed on gamely under pressure.
    Cock-a-hoop to have cracked this corker under my par. USED was BIFWP – ‘Oh, that kind of horse’ was a slow penny to drop.
    I’d echo Zabadak on the wavelength factor. OCTAHEDRA brought back childhood memories of Cundy and Rollett’s Mathematical Models and making polyhedra as gifts for folks with a mathematical bent. Great Stellated Dodecahedra proved very popular.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this very elegant puzzle, and also the great collection of comments here.
    A ‘Bravissimo!’ for the setter and thank you Jeremy et al.

    1. USED. Never spotted THAT horse, although I was in the HMC&E Investigation Division (drugs) and am fully familiar with horse and charlie and so forth. DOH!

  37. Great puzzle, which is to say, I finished it correctly. More than the usual number of unknowns for me, DUN, MISTRESS Q, ROSE MADDER, PICARESQUE, OCTAHEDRA, so the word play must all have been clear. Fun.

    Thanks setter and Jeremy.

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