Times Cryptic No 28781 — Bravo!

15:09. Every once in awhile, a puzzle comes along that is so good that you almost can’t believe somebody created it. Like a great piece of music you can listen to over and over again, or a gripping novel you can’t put down. For me, this was one of those puzzles. I would solve one clue and marvel at the witty wordplay — only to find the setter outdid themselves on the very next clue. All I can say is, bravo.

1 Rush towards Rome? [It’s] warmer! (6)
FLEECE – FLEE CE (rush towards Rome)

Here Rome stands for “Roman Catholic Church”, as CE stands for “Church of England”.

4 British don’t have to fight — that need not be understood (5,3)
BLACK BOX – B (British) LACK (don’t have) BOX (to fight)

We refer to something as a black box if we only need to understand how to interface with it, rather than needing to understand how it works on the inside.

10 Signal folder [can provide] something enthralling (11)
SPELLBINDER – SPELL (signal) BINDER (folder)

As in “SPELL/signal doom”.

11 Pole, say, heading off, [finds] somewhere to go (3)
LAV – SLAV (Pole, say) without the first letter (heading off)
12 Driver [from] west — heading that way? (7)
WAGONER – W (west) A GONER (heading that way?)

To ‘go west’ means to die. Of course the surface is lovely here (and maybe even counts as a semi-&lit) because covered WAGONERs in the United States rode west.

I recall seeing a better version of this wordplay somewhere, which was something like “Six feet under, or heading that way? (4,3)”.

14 Description of sister we understand that’s universally unpopular? (7)
NUNLIKE – homophone of (we understand that’s) NONE LIKE (universally unpopular?)
15 Surprisingly, many falling in with parking issue regulation (6,8)
FAMILY PLANNING – anagram of (surprisingly) MANY FALLING IN + (with) P (parking)

Fantastic definition.

17 Versatile accessory, awfully swanky, misfires (5,4,5)
21 Ex-prisoner [given] word of encouragement for keeping in trim (7)
PAROLEE – OLÉ (word of encouragement) in (for keeping in) PARE (trim)
22 Most lean on one, matchless all round (7)
BONIEST – ON + I (one) with BEST (matchless) all around
23 Such as refund returned periodically? (3)
DUE – every other letter of REFUND, reversed (returned periodically)

This is the noun form of DUE, as in “pay one’s dues”.

24 Drinking too much, perhaps, [and] sharing a bit? (11)
OVERLAPPING – OVER-LAPPING (drinking too much, perhaps)
26 Wrongly declare one’s piece of data in note (8)
MISSTATE – I’S (one’s) STAT (piece of data) in ME (note)
27 Handle number in retreat with minimum staff? (3-3)
ONE-MAN – NAME (handle) NO (number) reversed (in retreat)
1 His few faults one loudly broaches? (8)
FISHWIFE – HIS FEW anagrammed (faults) with I (one) F (loudly = forte, in music) inside (broaches)

FISHWIFE is the referent of ‘one’ in this descriptive phrase. It’s a bit unfortunate that the clue also contains the pronoun ‘his’, because the clue could equally be referring to whoever ‘he’ is.

2 One who’s succeeded in broadcast once before (3)
ERE – homophone of (in broadcast) HEIR (one who’s succeeded)

ERE is a word for ‘before’ which is no longer used (hence ‘once’)

3 Officer, one refusing to fight on his own, left (7)
COLONEL – CO (one refusing to fight = conscientious objector) LONE (on his own) L (left)
5 Boy phoning, ringing no Scottish [or] Italian number (2,5,1,6)
LA DONNA È MOBILE – LAD (boy) ON MOBILE (phoning) around (ringing) NAE (no [in] Scottish)
6 It’s time unit [of] key personnel stood on two legs! (7)
CHRONON – C (key) HR (personnel) on (stood on) ON ON (two legs, in cricket)

This is the amount of time it takes for a photon to travel the diameter of an electron.

7 Maybe oligarch[’s] rage after charge for possessing island (11)
BILLIONAIRE – IRE (rage) after BILL (charge for) around (possessing) IONA (island)

I originally had BILL = ‘charge’ and “around” = ‘for possessing’. This nicer parsing was suggested by a mysterious text, possibly sent by the current Times Crossword champion.

Edit: The walrus was Paul.

8 Seen in Roman square, a once leading British female missionary (6)
XAVIER – A in (seen in) XVI (Roman square = 16) + ER (once leading British female)
9 Medical procedure welcome before finding work (3-11)
HIP-REPLACEMENT – HI (welcome) PRE (before) PLACEMENT (finding work)
13 Officers in reserve prepared retreats after fighting (4,7)
GAME WARDENS – GAME (prepared) + DENS (retreats) after WAR (fighting)

Fantastic definition. I didn’t quite know ‘reserve’ = ‘preserve’, but then I thought of ‘reservation’. I don’t think of GAME so much as ‘prepared’, but more ‘willing’.

16 Something fashionably labelled might have had this shape (8)
HEPTAGON – HEP TAG ON (something fashionably labelled might have had this)
18 Hit [and] stab in back (4-3)
SELL-OUT – SELL OUT (stab in back)

I was looking for a little more going on here, so this ended up being my last in.

19 What’s most important, [having] family doctor at home (7)
KINGPIN – KIN (family) GP (doctor) IN (at home)
20 Working practice of French secretary upset primates (6)
APEDOM – MO (working practice = modus operandi) + DE (of [in] French) + PA (secretary), all reversed (upset)
25 Doctrine generally somewhat clumsily recalled (3)
ISM – hidden in (somewhat) CLUMSILY reversed (recalled)

78 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28781 — Bravo!”

  1. I liked this one very much too. It was a good, meaty challenge—I had all but seven worked before breaking for my meal of the day (BLT on a crunchy croissant)—and I didn’t notice anything likely to raise a complaint from our usual crew (but we’ll see). My last ones, in order, were PAROLEE (which just shows how hungry I was before), APEDOM (which is a bit unusual, and gives me an opportunity to remind everyone that we are all part of the primate family), BLACK BOX (had BLACK before dinner), CHRONON (had all the crossers already!), XAVIER, FISHWIFE and (LOI, ta-da) FLEECE (sneaky definition; and why run to another religious denomination if you’re fed up with the C of E?!).

      1. The basic question could be put to any theist, no matter how distinguished (and preferably one among the living).

  2. No wonder I couldn’t parse Pentagon. The NE took a long time, with the double legs finally breaking my mental log jam and giving me a place to start. Thx, jeremy

  3. Fun crossword. I got LA DONNA E MOBILE from the Scottish no (NAE) and the enumeration. My LOI was FLEECE. There were some unusual (but not obscure) words like APEDOM and NUNLIKE that I’m sure I’ve never used in my life. I struggled in the NE where I had BLACK but wasn’t sure what the second word was, and I hadn’t a clue about the missionary. Then I clicked and got BOX and so XAVIER was then obvious and I saw how the clue worked. I’d been trying to remember the Latin for nine (so i was going in the right direction) and then when I realized it was “novem” I also realized that was never going to work.

  4. 36 minutes. Yes, very enjoyable though I couldn’t parse the CE bit of FLEECE and thought WAGONER was just a cryptic def. It’s probably the same way of looking at it, but I parsed FISHWIFE as an &lit – a cryptic def (as shown in the blog) and all the clue as wordplay. My COD.

    NUNLIKE was good but my first stab NUNS HIP was almost better!

    1. Sorry, my underlining was meant to indicate that this was an &lit. The definition is a descriptive phrase, and my explanation was just trying to say that ‘one’ refers to the FISHWIFE. I’ll try to say it better.

  5. Agree with the praise given for this very balanced offering. Sufficiently chewy for a Friday, and some very lovely structures Family Planning and Kingdom among others. Some unparsed so many thanks Jeremy for the explanations including for Xavier on which I must have spent 5 mins (despite attending St Francis Xavier’s cathedral in Adelaide in my youth). I couldn’t get beyond my initial thought that ‘seen in Roman’ might be ‘vidi’.

  6. 45 minutes of steady solving but the last 10-15 of these were spent in the NE corner where four clues (4,6,7 &8) baffled me for far too long.

    I managed to construct CHRONON eventually from wordplay, but I’d never heard of it and note it has never come up before today other than in a Monthly Special in 2020, but I never tackle them anyway. On reflection, since I had all the checkers in place and I know CHRONO refers to time (as in ‘chronometer’) I really shouldn’t have made such a meal of this.

    My problem at 4ac was that I couldn’t think what 3-letter word meaning ‘fight’ could come after BLACK to make something that doesn’t need to be understood. I eventually settled for BOX, but the only BLACK BOX I knew of is the aircraft flight recorder (which is not black but bright orange). The required meaning was a new one on me.

    I then saw BILLIONAIRE and reverse-engineered to find the wordplay. The X-checker at 8dn and wordplay then handed me XAVIER although I didn’t know anything about him.

    Quite a tough challenge, but very enjoyable.

    1. Chronon is an interesting measurement unit. I’d heard of it but didn’t know how long it was until a looked it up post-solve. The dictionary definition of “a unit of time equal to the time that a photon would take to traverse the diameter of an electron: about 10–24 seconds” is a bit dated as we are in the realms of quantum mechanics at these tiny distances and further theoretical advances have been made.

  7. Pleased to have all but three in 30 minutes. Excellent crossword. FLEECE, WAGONER , issue regulation and the FISHWIFE were my favourites.

  8. 30:00
    A fantastic puzzle. And done by Jeremy in a fantastic time. Look at the SNITCH: the only green personal NITCH in field of red and yellow.
    I biffed the aria from ‘Italian number’ and enumeration, and biffed the knife from A, M, K; parsed both, and other biffs (PAROLEE, BILLIONAIRE, XAVIER), post-submission. I didn’t get GAME, and still don’t: one can be game but not prepared, and prepared but not game. NHO CHRONON, but wotthehell. Lots of terrific clues, but maybe COD to FAMILY PLANNING for its definition.

    1. For GAME, Collins has “having enough spirit or enthusiasm; ready (for something),” emphasis added.

    2. Wavelength is really a thing. This was one of the easiest puzzles I’ve done in a long time (20-25 minutes is my average these days, and more like 30+ for a Friday) and I was shocked to see that it was actually something of a stinker. We all have our days, I guess!

  9. Yes it was clever, yes it was crafty, yes it was enjoyable but bloody hell it was hard. I can’t recall a harder puzzle in recent times and was delighted to actually finish the thing in 49.04. Hit a wall in the NE where NUNLIKE, CHRONON, XAVIER and BLACK BOX (and others, probably) had to be ground out one by one. Still don’t get how FLEECE works, don’t know that use of black box and needed Jeremy’s excellent blog to understand about half of this after the event. Like others I got the song quite early (I couldn’t tell you another one starting La D…) and that probably got me over the line.

    1. I didn’t understand CE either, until it finally sank in: if you flee the C of E, you might (like Newman) head to the RC.

    2. If you flee from the Church of England, you might be tempted to join (the Church of) Rome.

      1. We’ve had FLEECE before almost the same, I’m sure. Too tired to look… company Christmas party today so I’m 3 sheets to the wind. Also had NONCE / non-ce to clue Catholic priests, which led to some being not entirely gruntled.

  10. 70m 52s
    Pleased to finish this one. The NE corner was particularly tough.
    In these ‘woke’ days, I suggest 5d may well be left untranslated in much the same way as Mozart’s opera ‘Cosi fan tutte’….

  11. Qual piuma al vento
    Muta d’accento
    E di pensiero
    (All together now …)

    I vaguely remember Ken Dodd singing his version. “Woman is fickle, Give her a tickle, etc.”
    30 mins. I really liked it too, especially Fleece and Wagoner.
    Ta setter and PJ.

  12. DNF. I did see FLEECE, Newman leading me on amid the encircling gloom, but that’s where the next three quarters of an hour was spent before coming here to raise the white flag. I might have read Physics and played a lot of cricket but I have never heard of CHRONON. I was missing 21a, 26a and 20d also. I had entered NUNLIKE under sufferance as any true northerner would, come up with the Italian number from somewhere and remembered that we used to play St Francis Xavier in my grammar schooldays. COD to HEPTAGON. Thank you Jeremy and setter for the experience.

  13. 13:10. Good one. I started very slowly, with only a small handful to show for my first pass through the acrosses, and then I got quite bogged down in the NE at the end.
    I had to take on trust that there was a missionary called XAVIER.
    NUNLIKE isn’t much of a word but there aren’t many alternatives. NON-LIFE insurance, perhaps.

  14. 20:40
    Tremendous, though leading to quite a bit of biffing, especially down the right-hand side. I wrote XAVIER, BILLIONAIRE and PENTAGON in the margin before twigging. I was at school with a Francis X.
    LOI CHRONON – I didn’t get the “on two legs” until reading plusjeremy’s notes, assuming it was something to do with “on and on”.

  15. Certainly tough (27.26 for me) and certainly clever, and it certainly bamboozled me in places.
    I probably should have got ERE (LOI) quicker but I was looking at the wrong end for the homophone/wordplay: I didn’t find the “once” helpful because it’s not that old. CHRONON was a not known, and it had the sort of wordplay you can only unravel once you’ve got the word. BLACK BOX with that level three definition way less common, I suspect, than the flight recorder, but at least it wasn’t “a type of seismograph for measuring underground explosions” (BRB first definition). Lots to like, but at the risk of being lumped in with Guy’s “usual crew” there were bits that jarred, too.

    1. I had not heard of or did not remember chronon but thought the wordplay was ok having got ?hronon and deduced the random key knowing chrono… as in chronology.

      My wife was more upset about the cricketing reference and “twice in the same clue!”

    2. I didn’t mean a “usual crew” of kvetchers—sorry if I gave that impression—only the regular gang of commenters, of which I am one.

  16. 29:01
    Back on message after struggling to finish yesterday.
    I biffed a few without trying to parse them as I always feel under pressure when solving online with the seconds ticking away.
    The NE provided the sternest test, with the unknowns XAVIER and CHRONON going in from wordplay once the checkers were in place.
    I don’t think there is anything too obscure and it is fairly clued.
    Thanks to Jeremy for explaining the answers I biffed and thanks to the setter for the challenge.

  17. 32 minutes. I found the NE corner hard too, and made it doubly hard for myself by biffing MILLIONAIRE and LOO. Finally, didn’t understand my LOI XAVIER (which was the only word to fit the letters, having realised it was (S)LAV not LOO) till coming here. What a clue!
    Thanks setter and blogger. Amazing stuff.

  18. 21:16. Great crossword! Bamboozled at the end thinking NUNLIKE had to start NON, being a homophone of nun. Doh! Needed to come here to see how the clever “Rush towards Rome” worked as I failed to parse that one. I liked WAGONER OVERLAPPING and FAMILY PLANNING best. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  19. Cross with myself as I worked hard for an hour on this toughie, enjoying lots of it, it has to be said, but gave up finally on the VERY unknown CHRONON. Once I saw it, I kicked myself, as I should have worked it out, like Jack, from the wp. Just didn’t get the “two legs”. Bah!

    Otherwise great stuff. I really liked FAMILY PLANNING (issue regulation, brilliant) and SWISS ARMY KNIFE.

    Thanks plusJeremy and setter.

  20. 36 mins half of which spent in the NE. LOI XAVIER I thought of IV and IX but assumed that XVI would be too unlikely. NHO CHRONON, but sounds like it could be a thing.

  21. 54 minute DNF as one letter wrong, having spelt the scottish no as NAY, with the Italian number being a guess.

  22. Much here that, as has already been said, was brilliant. I took over an hour, and even that was using aids at the end, because although it went along smoothly enough I became utterly stuck at the NE corner. XAVIER I never knew was a missionary and was trying to recall a name that has just come to me, Gladys Aylward or something like that, CHRONON I’d never heard of, BLACK BOX defeated me. although perhaps it shouldn’t have — I had the first word but couldn’t see the second. I particularly liked the officers in reserve.

  23. 17:50, really interesting puzzle, and not easy to unravel (as per lots of others, a certain amount of reverse engineering was required for some of the more arcane words).

  24. No time, too many interruptions, but not fast! But then it’s a Friday. FLEECE was a parse too far for me with the RC/CE thing, though a write in with crossers. CHRONON came immediately, I know it from old but it was also mentioned in a TV prog only a few days back. Spent a long time on my LOIs BILLIONAIRE and NUNLIKE, mainly trying to think of historical potentates. COD must be LA DONNA E MOBILE followed closely by GAME WARDENS. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  25. I would have understood NUNLIKE (‘none like’) to match ‘nonpareil’ or ‘nonesuch’, i.e. roughly the reverse of the intended meaning, so biffed it without parsing on the strength of the check button.

    In 2d broadcast=air is a third homophone, but that’s probably just a coincidence.

  26. Enjoyed that a lot. Very hard, but a big boozy lunch probably makes it harder – company Christmas party. Verlaine used to go out Thursday nights on the lash, and do (and blog) Friday’s crossword early AM with no troubles at all. Not me.
    All parseable, and only one NHO easily guessed in CHRONON. A maybe heard-of.
    Today’s was similarly hard but much more enjoyable than yesterday’s – no “well I suppose it has to be” clues.

  27. Everything has already been said!

    Hard puzzle, with some biffing, so thanks Jeremy for filling in the gaps, and congratulations on a magnificent time!


  28. Haven’t seen anybody post that, for them, “nun” isn’t a homophone for “none”, so I’ll be the first perhaps.

    Not the greatest honour but since I was nowhere near completing this without help today it’ll have to do!

    Thanks for the educational blog Jeremy.

  29. 7m 49s and felt on the wavelength today.

    I wouldn’t say I ‘fled’ the CE, but I grew up in the Church of England and now go to a Baptist church.

    I had AIR at 2d for a bit, and tried HOME WARDENS at 13d before the crossers put me right in both cases.

    Nice puzzle, with LOI being OVERLAPPING.

  30. AIR at 2d held up FLEECE and SPELLBINDER until the FISHWIFE gave me a telling off and I saw the error of my ways. A HIP REPLACEMENT (possibly using a SWISS ARMY KNIFE?) led to FAMILY PLANNING. It took a while for the fickle lady to drop in, but she, together with the BILLIONAIRE, enabled the BLACK BOX, which allowed me to get LOI, XAVIER. I knew the missionary from childhood indoctrination, but also managed to spot the Roman 16. A most enjoyable half hour! 30:42. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  31. 36:18

    Less enthralled than our blogger – I didn’t know that was the title of ‘that’ tune – I had heard of both before but had not connected the two. Didn’t know who XAVIER is/was either. Had to really think about FLEECE and make sure it wasn’t FLEECY. GAME = prepared? Meh.

    I did like FAMILY PLANNING and APEDOM.

    1. Yes. I thought he was a bit over-lavish in his praise. It wasn’t THAT good. I needed bookmarks for some of the surfaces.

      1. Tastes differ but I’m certainly not alone in how I felt about the puzzle! As you can see from my solving time, I was definitely in some sort of strange sympathy with the setter, which probably added to my enjoyment.

  32. Fabulous puzzle and a satisfying 41 minute solve undone by poor (zero) knowledge of Italian and lazily thinking nay would suffice for Scottish no. I’m sure la Donna y mobile is a valid answer in some universe😂 some fabulous clues today, think I liked Wagoner best. Not sure about the unlike homophone, certainly not in Geordie land😊 Thanks Jeremy and setter.

    1. There are some linguistic knowledge snippets that can be useful for solving purposes. One example is the “sound of the second letter’s English name” rule for IE and EI in German words. Fritz Wunderlich’s version of “Wien, Wien, nur du allein” on Youtube is one demonstration, though you have to wait for the chorus.

      For this answer, the handy snippet is that (quoting Wikipedia) :
      in Italian, J, K, W, X and Y are not part of the proper alphabet, and appear only in loanwords (e.g. “jeans”, “weekend”),foreign names, and in a handful of native words […] which all derive from regional languages. [One example must be Juventus.]

      I’m pretty sure some other Romance languages miss out similar sets of letters.

      Alternative snippet: knowing the forms of “to be” in a few languages – “e” in La Donna … = “is”.

  33. Can’t say I found it that fabulous. I’d have thought a kingpin was a person and ‘Who’s most important’ would have seen to that. I know some oligarchs these days may be billionaires but as put it’s a loose usage: ‘one of the governing few’ doesn’t have to be filthy rich. Didn’t know that meaning of ‘black box’ and was held up a long time at the end by that and St Francis X; annoying as have had a certain amount of the Roman influence in my life, no fleeing involved, and knew of him well. Certainly some gifted clues though. 40 minutes.

  34. 28:30 – Unaccountably – to judge from comments – found this much easier than yesterday’s, though I had one (FLEECE) unparsed at the end. Clever stuff, and plenty to review and savour post-solve.

  35. Chuckled at ‘lad on nae mobile’. Up here, wherever you look, there’s ay a lad on a mobile. Woeful ignorance of Christian missionaries made XAVIER harder than it needed to be…I was looking for the square of 5, not 4, so trying to work XXV into the answer. Didn’t think Xerxes was a missionary, and life made harder by thinking the crosser gave “loo” as a place to go not LAV. Duh. Having sung Dream of Gerontius (which describes my afternoon nap) made the idea of rushing to Rome, like Newman, a bit easier. Pleased to finish at all, several visits so time not relevant.

  36. 47:05. Started well, then ground to a halt in the NW corner. L2I were FISHWIFE and FLEECE, the latter unparsed.

    Times crosswords have kept Slavs well supplied with places to go today.

  37. 55.30 but most definitely a game of two halves. In my first crack had virtually nothing – and one of those was wrong- in 27 mins. Had a nap and returned in the hope that it wouldn’t stay like that. The long solutions got me on the path to salvation and I finished finally in the NE corner.
    Black box was useful but I was guessing with Xavier, didn’t know chronon but it was ( when I finally worked out the cluing) pretty clear.

    A terrific puzzle and one I was really pleased to solve.

  38. Tough one, didn’t finish as had to go out after about an hour. Unfinished were XAVIER (didn’t know), BILLIONAIRE (put in M not B) , PAROLEE (would never have got), and didn’t like the BLACK BOX definition much. I’m sure it was a belter of a puzzle, but with Mrs P unwell, other duties arose and it was not given due attention.

  39. This took me an hour, despite getting the lengthy “Hip Replacement” and “Swiss Army Knife” crossers quite quickly.
    Unfortunately, I entered “Pentagon” instead of “Heptagon” – now I’m going to look up what a Heptagon is – I mentally went through the list of -agons – but, if it’s seven-sided, I had assumed Septagon. Never stop learning ( note to self!!).

  40. 59 minutes plus a few chronons, but with PENTAGON. I always forget that a SEPTAGON is a HEPTAGON.

    I thought LA DONNA E MOBILE was a great example of a clue that can be pieced together even if you don’t know the answer. (Of course like everyone else I know the tune, but not the title. Just been listening to Pavarotti singing it on YouTube. Terrific.)

  41. I put WAY instead of LAV but it’s a bit of a stretch to envisage a ‘West pole’ to justify it. It took a while to get NUNLIKE but not because of the dodgy homophobe, which I expected. It’s questionable in the Midlands and East Anglia, not just the North – Olivia Coleman is from Norwich and she said in an interview that she had difficulty remembering to say ‘none’ as ‘nun’ when playing the Queen in ‘The Crown’.

  42. Two goes needed, with a huge gap in the middle for a trip out. Only got XAVIER once the X from BLACK BOX was in place (and even then I didn’t parse it, as I wasn’t sure which square number was needed); bunged in FISHWIFE at the end from the checkers; had to hope CHRONON was right; and was slightly thrown by the ‘once’ in the clue for ERE, not seeing that it was indicating an archaism.

    As others have said, a great crossword. Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Ism
    LOI Fishwife
    COD Family planning

  43. Initially I thought I’d hit on the third stinker in a fortnight (i.e. with the SNITCH well into the red, which generally means it’s time for me to take a day off), having popped in only nine letters on my first pass, but a cup of tea later and everything started to flow, starting with the four long clues. I paused for several CHRONONs and still missed the cricketing connection until coming here, which is pretty poor for a cricket lover like me, so thanks to our blogger for that explanation and the rest of his sterling work, and to today’s setter for a great puzzle.

  44. After a long and steady fill, I was left with 4A, 14A, 6D and 8D. These refused, despite another hour or so of thinking, to reveal themselves, so came here for inspiration. And I would never have got the answers. Firstly, never heard of that meaning of BLACK BOX; secondly, never heard of CHRONON, despite thinking of the ON ON and HR; thirdly, never heard of XAVIER and fourthly, although I thought of NUNLIKE at the very start, I thought it was a homophone meaning unpopular. With this combination of unknowns, I didn’t stand a chance. Who knew that Xavier, as opposed to the 500 or so missionaries it might have been, was the one decided upon here? I suppose that if you knew what a ‘black box’ was supposed to mean and had an X for the start of the word, Xavier might spring to mind, for lack of any other names beginning with X. But it does seem to me that if 4A was lacking, then 6 and 8D would be unsolvable. Sour grapes, maybe? I see that Jackkt had the same difficulties with unknowns as I did, yet still got to the solution. (The rest of the crossword was fine, btw!)

  45. DNF. That sorted out the men from the boys!
    FLEECE and FISHWIFE not even bif’d.
    A lot of the rest took geological time.
    Proud to applaud the experts and especially the blog.
    Setter do go on being as clever but with a hint of kindness?

  46. Wikipedia says of Francis Xavier: “Known as the Apostle of the Indies, Apostle of the Far East, Apostle of China, and Apostle of Japan, he is considered to be one of the greatest missionaries since St Paul.(30,000 to 100,000 conversions)”.

  47. Very enjoyable indeed, with many rather subtle clues. Surprisingly, after a week of pink square puzzles taking over an hour, I finished this correctly in 38 minutes, with APEDOM and PAROLEE as my LOI. My CODs would probably be LA DONNA E MOBILE and WAGONER for the beautiful and very amusing wordplay.

  48. 25.04

    Late entry

    Also liked it. Thinking cap needed for the last three but once XAVIER sprang to mind BLACK BOX and CHRONON fell (I’d stupidly pencilled in _ PRONON for that one which confused matters)

    FISHWIFE was very good

    Thanks setter and cracking time Jeremy – lovely to see

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