Times Cryptic No 28709 — Not too demanding?

33:24. Not bad for a barely functioning brain! First week back in the classroom, alongside my own research and my kids’ hectic schedules meant that I couldn’t really focus on this one. It seemed like a solid puzzle; nothing jumped out at me.

1 Abridged huge article in French, causing confusion (6)
JUMBLE – JUMB{o} (huge, abridged) + LE (article in French)
4 Officers, the first two each getting uniform (2,1,5)
OF A PIECE – OF{ficers} (the first two) + A PIECE (each)
10 Not exactly small: swell shed! (4,3)
CAST OFF – CA. (not exactly = circa) + S (small) + TOFF (swell)
11 Eavesdroppers making a point? (7)
ICICLES – cryptic definition: icicles hang off eaves and come to a point
12 Second / last? (4)
BACK – double definition
13 Divine in the distance summit that’s not too demanding (10)
MIDDLEBROW – D.D. (divine = Doctor of Divinity) in MILE (the distance) + BROW (summit)

This was confusing, but ‘divine’ = “a minister of the gospel” or “theologian”.

15 Slang somehow combined with fair mix of tongues (9)
FRANGLAIS – SLANG + FAIR anagrammed (somehow combined)
16 Boy of mine employee refused tips (5)
OLLIE – {c}OLLIE{r} (mine employee)

My older son’s name.

18 Grant much spoken of (5)
ALLOT – homophone of A LOT (much)
19 Critical of small boy before gym class (9)
DESPERATE – DES (small boy) + P.E. (gym) + RATE (class)

‘Critical’ in the sense of “very bad”.

21 Help with crib at refurbished maternity unit, typically (10)
BIRTHPLACE – HELP CRIB AT anagrammed (refurbished)
23 Party organiser with cheering word (4)
WHIP – W (with) + HIP (cheering word)
26 Drive after leaving motorway initially required some guts! (7)
OMENTUM – MOMENTUM (drive) – M{otorway}
27 A favourite of Henry I reputedly beat at game (7)
LAMPREY – LAM (beat) + PREY (game)

Rather than try to explain, please read this .

28 A pushover? Yes, am hammered each time! (4,4)
EASY MEAT – YES AM anagrammed (hammered) + EA (each) + T (time)
29 Nervous, I thank God : peace finally! (2,4)
ON EDGE – ONE (I, in Roman numerals) + DG (Dei gratia, “by the grace of God) + {peac}E

Ha ha ha! DG I was able to biff this one!

1 Officer coming in shot cheating brother (5)
JACOB – CO (officer) in JAB (shot)

That guy.

2 Theatre in Scottish island thus has closed early (5,4)
MUSIC HALL – in MULL (Scottish island), SIC (thus) + HA{s} (closed early)
3 Little room, note for diver (4)
LOON – LOO (little room) + N (note)
5 Reasonable treatment, just a shortage of medicine? (4,3)
FAIR DOS – FAIR (just) + DOS{e} (a shortage of medicine?)

This was tough, as I didn’t know the expression. I had FAIR _ _ S, but finally understood the wordplay and got it that way.

6 Purse containing zero — empty in sadly no time (5,5)
PRIZE MONEY – anagram of ZERO EMPTY IN, without T (time)
7 Yardstick that’s abandoned right for English mathematician (5)
EULER – RULER – R (right) + E (English)
8 Reinvention of wheel’s before finding particular alternative (9)
ELSEWHERE – anagram of WHEEL’S + ERE (before)
9 Cold after a day over a huge area (6)
AFRICA – C (cold) after A FRI (day) + A
14 Thirty odd covers go with the Queen song (1,3,6)
I GOT RHYTHM – anagram (odd) of THIRTY around GO + H.M. (the Queen)
15 Very far from the rolling downs? (4,5)
FLAT BROKE – FLAT (very far from the rolling) + BROKE (downs?)

I don’t know what’s going here. I got FLAT from the sense of ‘not rolling’, and just biffed the rest. Perhaps we have an & lit where rolling downs are supposed to be where the wealthy reside? But I don’t see any justification for BROKE = ‘downs’ although you can have your ups and downs and the downs would be broke? Help.

17 Entering plea there, decisively beaten (9)
19 Bind novel with cover raised higher (7)
DILEMMA – EMMA (novel) + LID (cover) reversed (raised) coming first (higher)
20 Bearing unhealthy / resemblance to old Soviet symbol? (6)
22 When rook soars, catches birds that can’t (5)
RHEAS – HEARS (catches) with R (rook) raised (soars)

“Can’t [soar]”, that is.

24 One getting ready to go, indeed must stay in (5)
PAYEE – PEE (to go) around AY (indeed)
25 Sign seen at hen party? (4)
OMEN – 0 (zero) MEN

A chestnut.

76 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28709 — Not too demanding?”

        1. Many thanks for explaining more fully. I was posting from a hand-held device with a tiny ‘keyboard’ so was trying to keep my comment to the bare minimum.

    1. I think the definition is everything except the “downs”. Flat and broke are both synonyms of down: flat out on the canvas, or as in tyre, broke: slightly slangy, perhaps, but out of order, not working. Apologies if this appears futher down, I haven’t read that far yet!

      1. This makes much more sense! Not sure I get “the rolling” as rich. Of course I’m aware of the idiom “rolling in it”, but the “the” spoils it for me.

  1. Thank you Jeremy, I never in a million years would have figured out ON EDGE, or how RHEAS worked, or even what was going on with PAYEE (getting ready, I now get it.) Very much enjoyed this but it was a struggle and my time of 41.10 was quicker than I expected. Some challenging but satisfying clues here, like MIDDLEBROW, DILEMMA and the kind-of-infuriating-but-possibly-brilliant FLAT BROKE. NHO OMENTUM but wordplay was helpful, LOsI PAYEE and WHIP when I finally twigged that cheering word came from hip, hip etc. Great puzzle, tough but fair.

  2. Seems to me we’ve been having harder Fridays consistently lately. I’m not complaining… though I was tempted to set this aside for a while halfway thru. I basically worked in order of NW, NE, SW and then SE, which had only two answers for the longest time (SICKLY being one), with ON EDGE finally entered (having guessed it long ago) but throwing up my hands about the parsing (just the DG)…
    I also really wanted RHEAS but took a lonnnng time to see how that worked. Brill!
    NHO FAIR DO’S. I’m sure this isn’t just a memory lapse!
    Noted WHIP crossing LEATHERED.
    Bravo/a, setter!

    1. I had a work colleague in SE England about 60 years ago who used FAIR DOS a lot, and have occasionally used it myself. If still alive, he would now be about 99. I haven’t heard the expression for a long time.

  3. After recent posts about Hebridean islands, I was looking for Muck in 2d when ” music ” seemed the likely first part. I mulled it over to achieve the correct solution.

  4. 50 minutes for this one. It was a little harder than most this week but nonetheless very enjoyable. I missed the full parsing of I GOT RHYTYM (the Queen / HM bit as a separate element of wordplay tacked onto the end), and of LAMPREY, but there I had made the mistake of thinking beat = LAMP and then wondering how game = REY.

  5. I found this hard. Out of somewhere I managed to remember that some king had died from a “surfeit of lampreys” which sounds very 1066 and all that. I had never hear of OMENTUM but I trusted the wordplay. But I slipped up and put in SICKLE without being anal about the wordplay (there was SICK in there and it was a Soviet symbol).

    For many years I could say I’d been to Mull but never been on the Mull ferry. A group of us kayaked there from just north of Oban. Then a storm came up so we were stuck there for a day before we could paddle back on the third day. Eventually I went there a second time on a bike, and, of course, took the ferry.

  6. 21:51. I would have finished quicker if having noted that DESPERATE fitted the checkers I had put it in, but at first glance I didn’t equate it with critical. A few minutes later I twigged and entered it and everything else I had left flowed, finishing with an unconfident FLAT BROKE. Like Jeremy I couldn’t quite see how it worked, but I was fairly sure nothing else fitted.

  7. 37 minutes
    LOI OMENTUM which I’ve never heard of, but decided to risk it without googling first -I’m going to do that now!
    COD ICICLE which I thought was very clever
    There’s been a lot of “going” clues recently so got PAYEE fast
    I definitely enjoyed that puzzle
    Thanks setter and blogger 🙂

  8. WHEN icicles hang by the wall,
    And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
    (Shakespeare poem)

    About 50 mins and a struggle. Not my cup of tea. I like clues where you just can’t see the answer and then when you can it is obvious. In this, too many answers were obvious but it was a struggle to work out why. DG for example, and the Flat Broke one which I see people are still trying very hard to justify.
    Ta setter and PJ.

    1. I agree. Poor stuff.

      Flat broke is just terrible. And I’m not sure drive = momentum either.

  9. 39 minutes with LOI DESPERATE. I’m not that for at least another 10 minutes. Mind you, I’d already put in FLAT BROKE without much idea why. I liked the Gershwin song, MIDDLEBROW, DILEMMA and my COD FAIR DOS. Who could ask for anything more? Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  10. Nho OMENTUM, and spent some time trying to include an ‘r’ in the answer. FAIR DOS went in without a thought. I liked this puzzle.

    22’40” thanks jeremy and setter.

  11. Two more birds? O come on; it’s unreal
    This crossword has lost its appeal
    Are they taking money
    From the RSPB
    In some sort of bribery deal?

    1. I get how you dislike the pattern
      Of birds your enjoyment to flatten
      But just think of LOON
      Being pants, and the moon
      RHEA’S famous for circling Saturn

  12. DNF. 1 wrong after completing in 24:08. I had an unparsed SICKLE for 20D not thinking of the Uxbridge English definition. OMENTUM and LAMPREY were only vaguely known, but surfaced eventually. Held up most by the SE corner finishing with LEATHERED and OLLIE. At least I remembered DG. I was unconvinced by FLAT BROKE, as the clue looks to give BROKE FLAT and I wondered what the ‘the’ was doing in the clue. Whatevs. I liked PAYEE. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  13. FLAT BROKE would have been my COD if I awarded such accolades. Assuming one is aware of the necessary meanings it’s to be read as whole cryptically rather than assembled word by word, then it needs a little lateral (or perhaps more aptly, vertical) thinking. It made a welcome diversion from the more standard word construction devices on offer elsewhere in the grid, excellent as these were, and there was a satisfying pdm when I’d worked it out.

  14. 19:53. My SNITCH-alignment has been varying wildly this week. Off the wavelength again today. I found this very tough, with only two or three answers in after my first pass through all the clues. I constructed it painstakingly from the bottom up.
    It didn’t cause me a problem but I don’t think 15dn works. If the ‘rolling downs’ are ‘rich hills’, then if you are ‘very far’ from them you are implicitly in a flat, poor area. OK fine, but FLAT BROKE doesn’t – cannot – mean that. Too much squinting required for my money. I thought ‘downs’ might indicate two synonyms for ‘down’, which works for FLAT but not, as far as I can see, for BROKE. Maybe in the sense of a gambler being up/down?
    Overall though I very much enjoyed the tussle with this one.

    1. Sorry I seem to have repeated your sentiments, k. I was writing a rant about that clue at the very same time as you were, and when I posted it, I saw you’d already made this excellent comment!

      1. You can argue that we’re being a bit literal-minded here but you have to squint to the extent of ignoring the plain meaning of words. FLAT doesn’t mean ‘(in a) flat place’!

  15. I got very little from my first pass of across clues but broke through with the downs. About 45 mins which I’m perfectly happy with. Enjoyed ICICLES which I thought was clever and let the tune of I GOT (..something) run as an earworm until RHYTHM came to me and then parsed it. Thanks Jeremy for parsing some of my biffs, ON EDGE especially, and thanks setter.

  16. On reflection … I think the flat broke clue isn’t really parsable. Far from rolling = flat broke. But far from THE rolling? Also, rolling is always followed by ‘in it’ when it indicates wealth (ymmv). And what is ‘downs’ about, other than to add context to rolling in a geographical sense? Even if you read it as a whole and squint a bit, it’s still sorta clunky. I’m probably being aridly pedantic, though 🙂

  17. What a brilliant crossword, increasing in wow factor as time went on.
    Having now read everyone else’s contributions and puzzlement over FLAT BROKE, I’m more than ever convinced we have two “downs”, flat and broke to justify the definition. I think it’s a very, very good clue.
    A plea again for going back to check those surfaces: it’s a real talent to produce such uncrosswordy sentences.
    How about this: Wiki enumerates something very close to 30 recordings of I GOT RHYTHM, which quite apart from the msdirection to Freddie makes it almost mystical.
    I even liked the CD (something like it has been seen before) at 11 ICICLE, and didn’t mind having both LOO and PEE included. The hidden at 17 is top class, party organiser for WHIP is quality, and the Uxbridge SICKLY is alone worth the ticket price.
    FAIR DOS people, this deserves a round of applause. It’s why, with Leonard Bernstein et al, I love the Times.

    1. How do you think ‘down’ means BROKE? That’s the bit I’m struggling with on that interpretation.

        1. Yes but ‘broke’ doesn’t mean ‘broken’. I guess colloquially it does: ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!’

      1. My Internet was down last night (true) and I would describe it then as broke. Chambers allows it as a less usual past tense, broken being more conventional, but I think it’s in common, if somewhat informal usage

        1. Yes, see my answer to Pootle above. I think its use in such a well-known phrase justifies it here. Collins says it’s ‘non-standard’ and American. ODE says it’s archaic. For me this is a better interpretation than the squinty CD one. I wonder which the setter intended.

          1. I like the example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I’d have suggested it myself if I’d thought of it. If the setter didn’t mean it,he/she should have done!

            1. How about ‘down’ for ‘broke’ as in ‘down-and-out’? Naaah, I don’t believe it either.
              This was tough and was a DNF for me as I was forced to use aids. I didn’t really enjoy it at all.
              Incidentally I was always thought the DG was Deo Gratias, rather than Dei Gratia. I believe Deo Gratias occurs somewhere in the Latin Mass

              1. I think you’re right, Bazzock.: “Thanks” rather than “Grace”. Appears at the end of “Adam lay ybounden”, for fans of Carols for Choirs.

    2. Only recently found I should spell it “fair dos” and not “fair dues”. Its a term my son often uses and when he included it in a WhatsApp group I was about to correct him, when thankfully I checked first!

  18. Found this very tough, but got there in the end.

    I didn’t know DG=thank God, so I hesitated over ON EDGE until there was no alternative. NHO OMENTUM, and that combined with the FLAT BROKE crosser meant I was very uncertain about the SW corner. Had to trust the wordplay for LAMPREY, not knowing the Henry I story.

    But I spent the longest over PRIZE MONEY – the ‘containing’ sent me barking up the wrong tree for ages, trying to insert something (like ‘zo’ for ‘zero – empty’) into a word meaning purse and/or some kind of anagram. Only once I realised that ‘containing’ wasn’t doing what it often does did I piece together the anagrist and get the answer. It wasn’t helped by not seeing that ICICLES was a cryptic definition, despite considering at one point that ‘eavesdroppers’ might have something to do with descending from a roof.

    A real challenge, but a great crossword. Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Omen
    LOI + COD Icicles

  19. 59 minutes, with a bit of help for OMENTUM, which I should have got more easily. It seems that opinion is divided on the merits of FLAT BROKE, which just looks to me like a CD, a little joke about the fact that flat land is the opposite of downland, and rolling is the opposite of broke. At the end I entered PRIZE MONEY without seeing how it worked and because it could hadly have been prime mover, something I tried to make work for ages. Otherwise a whole lot of tough but very good clues.

    1. Wil, I see that as so often we’re on the same wavelength over a particular clue, in this case FLAT BROKE. It strikes me there is a lot of overthinking it going on here and your verdict sums it up perfectly for me. Just a bit of cryptic fun!

  20. This rated for me as a middlebrow end to the week, with a nice mix of clues but nothing too obscure. OMENTUM was an unknown to me but the checkers were again very helpful.

    I’m not often in the position to say that I’ve successfully completed a full week of crosswords without error. That I can is thanks to religiously following this blog for about 8 years, lurking in the shadows and learning from the brilliant bloggers and contributers. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  21. After forty minutes I was stuck with gaps in the NE. In the end I used an aid to get ICICLES, then limped home to the end. Despite all that’s been said in its defense I don’t think the clue to FLAT BROKE works at all, even with some lateral thinking. I can’t see the function of ‘the’, and the plural, downs’ just gets in the way of any coherent reading.
    50 minutes with help.

    1. Many of the hilly areas of England classified as ‘downs’ are preceded by the definite article, the South Downs, the North Downs etc, so ‘the’ in the clue gives us a surface that flows naturally. My view already expressed elsewhere in this thread but by no means shared by all, is that the clue should be to be read as a cryptic, rather than broken down into components and over-analysed.

      1. I think the objective to ‘the’ is that ‘far from the rolling’ doesn’t mean ‘not rich’ (whereas ‘far from rolling’ does). So if you read ‘downs’ in the clue as a definition of both FLAT and BROKE, the clue remains unsatisfactory because the other definition doesn’t really make sense. As far as I’m concerned the clue doesn’t make sense as a CD either but we can just agree to differ on that!

        1. I can see the whole clue as a definition just fine. If you are FLAT BROKE you are for example (hence ?) far from the rolling downs. That’s why I first thought it was an &lit. And there’s a cryptic definition element to it because FLAT is also far from rolling.

          What bugs me is that there seems to be some actual wordplay going on, but not enough to be satisfying.

          1. I just don’t think that makes basic semantic sense. Using the same words the opposite of the rolling hills is the broke flats. FLAT BROKE doesn’t mean the same thing.

            1. No I’m saying “far from the rolling hills”, being adjectival, can be a synonym for FLAT BROKE.

              1. It can’t though! ‘Broke in the flats’ would work. The word FLAT does not in any context not mean ‘in a flat place’.

                1. I’m not speaking of wordplay at all. I’m saying the sentiment “very far from the rolling downs(, for example)” is a fine crossword definition (by example, appropriately indicated) for FLAT BROKE.

                    1. Ha! It’s hard to see the problem. If a person lives in rolling downs, they might be well off, right? If they were broke, they would be likely to live far from the rolling downs, right? I don’t see why “very far from the rolling downs” couldn’t be a description of someone who could also be described as FLAT BROKE, leaving all consideration of wordplay aside.

                  1. (Can’t reply to your last)
                    On that basis any word meaning ‘poor’ would do. OK, I guess, but it makes the use of the word ‘flat’ redundant.
                    Edit: I’ve just looked in Collins and it says that ‘flats’ can actually be used in the singular. Based on that meaning I do actually think it works after all! In a world where the hills are rich being FLAT(S)-BROKE would be like being dirt-poor.

  22. 20:10 – NHO OMENTUM and not entirely convinced by the FLAT BROKE explanations, but perhaps I’m just not making the effort.

  23. Enjoyed this, tough as it was. The trouble with seeing ‘flat broke’ as just a piece of fun is that it goes against the underlying assumption of decoding accuracy that covers every word. ‘The’ is the first problem and it goes on from there. But as has been said in general a class puzzle with apt surfaces. Thanks setter, and it’s not often that I say that.

  24. Biffed a lot, PRIZE MONEY, OF A PIECE, RHEAS (but I sort of parsed it because I translated “catches” as HEARS). Failed to find HerMaj for Queen in I GOT RHYTHM.
    Worried about ON EDGE, but PDM when I thought of DG on our coins.
    Irrelevant, but I am always amazed that the “Fid Def” awarded by the Pope to Henry VIII is still in use 500+ years later!

  25. 50:13

    Deffo on the harder side, but pleased to sneak in under my Snitch target (135 = 57.5 mins). Very much enjoyed though there were bits and pieces that I missed:

    OF A PIECE – NHO the term. Took a while and some checkers to come up with APIECE.
    OLLIE – when not to lift and separate (mine employee)
    DESPERATE – didn’t think of that definition of ‘critical’
    OMENTUM – NHO but parsed ok
    ON EDGE – didn’t get this for ages – saved by church Latin dredged from the dankest recesses
    FLAT BROKE – imho, not the greatest clue
    LEATHERED – didn’t spot the hidden. Thought I had to enter ‘there’ into another word for ‘plea’ (pencilling in THERE helped get WHIP though)
    PAYEE – had AYE for ‘indeed’ – nice PDM when I ‘got’ it

    I was left with four in the NW though had pencilled in BACK as I couldn’t quite equate it with ‘last?’ – eventually the scales fell from my eyes and JUMB{o} came to mind – should have thought of that much sooner. 1s and 10a were much simpler after that. COD WHIP.

  26. 21:35
    Tricky, but enjoyable. Not sure about “last” for BACK or “plea” for LEA(THERE)D.
    A conifer-surrounded house on my road is called FIR DOS.
    LOI ICICLES; LOL SICKLY (another UED definition).

  27. From LOON to PRIZE MONEY in 35:05, with some brain frazzling cogitation in between. Not a lot of EASY MEAT there! Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  28. What Myrtilus said. For all the attempts to explain how FLAT BROKE works, none convince me. And DG? Dear god, give me a break that isn’t my leg. A good crossword spoiled.
    Fair dos unexpected… heard it while working in UK 30-odd years ago, but that was in Aberdeen where the the locals would just as likely greet you, “Foos yer doos?” so wasn’t sure if it was real or misspelled.

  29. 49’30”
    Clearly found the going testing, but stayed on gamely.
    After Vlad being even more opaque than his usual self this morning, I feel that I’ve been put through the wringer twice, albeit very enjoyably. All parsed, but ‘prize money’ was teased out retrospectively, and I wasn’t completely sure about the downs.
    I’d argue that DOWN + DOWN = FLAT + BROKE passes Eulid’s Common Notion No.1 test, so FAIR DOS. I’m certain I’ve seen the ICICLE gag before, but it may well have been in the other place.
    Cracking crossword, cracking contributions here; thanks to all.

  30. Finished in 51.35 having spent far too long on my last three in the sw corner. I didn’t help myself by absentmindedly putting in EASY MEET, which made the solving of DILEMMA somewhat tricky. After finding the error 19dn came easily enough, followed by RHEAS. It still took a while to see OMENTUM and I actually toyed with OVERTUM as a possible reference to someone with a ‘beer belly’. Actually I quite like that as a polite alternative to ‘beer gut’!

  31. DNF. EULER was probably a write in if you knew the chap but I didn’t, and couldn’t make a ruler a yardstick, looking as I was for the metaphorical meaning of the word. Nor could I drag up mOMENTUM for drive although I could see what I had to do with it when I got there. ICICLES may be considered clever but I think it’s plain unfair. Bit frustrating but that’s no doubt no one’s fault but my own.

    Thanks all

  32. I found this difficult, with some of the difficulty being rewarding. Of course that means some not, too.

  33. DNF

    FAIR DOS straight in so should have done better but slowed to a crawl and at 45 minutes threw in the towel staring blankly at I_I_L_S

    FLAT BROKE went in, came out, went in. Nuff said. Also struggled to parse RHEAS though was being a bit dense there

    Liked a lot of it but my experience and enjoyment level was the same as Myrtilus

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  34. At Goodwood, which is up on the Downs, they race not over the jumps but on the Flat. The punters may leave rolling or broke (or neither!)

  35. Also with Myrtilus on this one: hard work which was only occasionally rewarding (for me ), as not enough surety of the answers, ie not enough PDMs. Ended up having to cheat for some, eg ICICLES ( very clever ), LAMPREY, OMENTUM and JACOB all elusive. CODs to the great song, SICKLY and ELSEWHERE. Ah well, as someone rather tritely said: “Tomorrow is another day”.

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