Times Cryptic No 28805 — My idea of a good evening

21:31. Often a puzzle will be obviously easy or hard. This was not one of those puzzles for me. It started very easy and I thought it might be one of my fastest solves yet. But then things got more difficult, and I don’t know if that reflects my fatigue or the true nature of the puzzle. In any case, I finished in a decent time, although some clues I didn’t fully parse while solving.

1 Subatomic merger in our fuel — cans buckling! (7,6)
NUCLEAR FUSION – anagram (buckling) of IN OUR FUEL CANS
8 Giant blunder in field, Rome rescinding order (4)
OGRE – OG (blunder in field = Own Goal) + ROME – (rescinding) OM (order)
9 The limit [in] having no power around Paddington? (10)
UNBEARABLE – UNABLE (having no power) around BEAR (Paddington?)

The definition is a bit of a stretch for me, but I’m sure someone can come up with a sentence.

10 Sailor bitter about boarding ship [produces] film (4,4)
STAR WARS – TAR (sailor) + RAW (bitter) reversed (about) in (boarding) SS (ship)
11 Guided through central Leon, missile [finds] old capital (6)
ESCUDO – SCUD (missile) in (guided through) middle letters of (central) LEON

Capital meaning currency!

13 Offensive show covering Hell’s inner regions (10)
INDELICATE – INDICATE (show) around (covering) middle letters of (‘s inner regions) HELL
16 Naked scoundrel at last donning pants (4)
BALD – last letter of (at last) SCOUNDREL in (donning) BAD (pants)
17 Ancient priests [in] one school, coming from the east (4)
MAGI – I (one) GAM (school [of whales, I think]) reversed (coming from the east)

This is nearly a semi-&lit!

18 City [of] Lima in one answer that’s anagrammed (3,7)
NEW ORLEANS – L (Lima) in ONE ANSWER that’s anagrammed


20 Senator one recalled, an adviser to Nero (6)
SENECA – SEN (senator) + ACE (one) reversed (recalled)
22 Shop piano, used in brooding genre, backing Mathieson? (8)
EMPORIUM – P (piano) in (used in) EMO (brooding genre) + MUIR (Mathieson?) reversed (backing)

Didn’t know the fellow.

24 Landlord with brains printed notepaper (10)
LETTERHEAD – LETTER (landlord) + (with) HEAD (brains)
26 Scandinavians displaying no forte, the boozers (4)
INNS – FINNS (Scandinavians) – (displaying no) F (forte)
27 Politician having chat outside Parliament [is] warmer? (10,3)
GREENHOUSE GAS – GREEN (politician) + (having) GAS (chat) around (outside) HOUSE (Parliament)
1 Evening watching telly perhaps with good beer [in] Florence? (11)
NIGHTINGALE – NIGHT IN (evening watching telly perhaps) + (with) G (good) ALE (beer)

This is a very good clue.

2 Companion always [providing] festive fare (5)
CHEER – CH (companion) E’ER (always)
3 Teaching English with Latin could upset learners leaving (9)
EDUCATION – E (English) + (with) LATIN COULD anagrammed (upset) – L L (learners leaving)
4 Coffee business included in register of names (7)
ROBUSTA – BUS (business) in (included in) ROTA (register of names)
5 Arbitrary decree [given in] country when close to collapse (5)
UKASE – UK (country) + AS (when) + last letter of (close to) COLLAPSE
6 The Spanish writer with garment lifting [becomes] tetchy (9)
IRASCIBLE – EL (the[, in] Spanish) BIC (writer) + (with) SARI (garment) all reversed (lifting)
7 Where Neagh is, lough, duck [found therein?] (3)
NIL – NI (where Neagh is) + L (lough)

I did not know what a ‘lough’ was, but I could easily surmise where Neagh is!

12 Queen occasionally insulted drunken hooligans (11)
DELINQUENTS – every other letter of (occasionally) QUEEN + INSULTED anagrammed (drunken)
14 Focal point [in] long poem with short introduction (9)
EPICENTRE – EPIC (long poem) + (with) ENTRÉE (introduction) without the last letter (short)
15 Famed Greek [in] Brussels irrational, taking travels round (9)
EURIPIDES – EU (Brussels) + PI (irrational) in (taking round) RIDES (travels)
19 To which ruined tower cardinal is admitted? (7)
WHERETO – anagram of (ruined) TOWER with HE (cardinal?) inside (is admitted)
21 Skirt [or] a pair worn? (5)
APRON – A + PR (pair) + ON (worn?)
23 Downfall: government’s leader reproaching himself? (5)
RUING – RUIN (downfall) + first letter of (‘s leader) GOVERNMENT
25 Starter of quail for instance — [and] goose (3)
EGG – EG ‘G’ (starter of goose for instance)

I imagine there will be objections to this one, but I appreciate the coordinate grammatical structure.

67 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28805 — My idea of a good evening”

  1. 33 minutes.

    I also started well but then slowed down and went through an unproductive 5-10 minutes before picking up again.

    CHEER as ‘fare’ set me thinking but then I remembered the required meaning. Can’t say I knew HE as ‘cardinal’ in 19dn but assume it stands for ‘His Eminence’. I wonder if it’s specified in any dictionary as HE -His Excellency – for ‘ambassador’ is.

    22ac was interesting. NHO EMO, but Muir Mathieson is very well known to me. He was musical director / conductor on the soundtracks of some 565 British films made between 1931 and 1974, his name always prominently displayed in the credits.

  2. I made heavy weather of this after a bright start – taking ages over BALD (duh!) and DELINQUENTS, which reminded me of Dorset Jimbo and his Teds.

    Nice to see SENECA and EURIPIDES making cameos.

  3. This looked to me rather opaque at first. FOI ROBUSTA. I gradually caught on that there is no very unusual vocabulary, just a rather sly setter. Seemed quite proper for a Friday… I even had to take a break before finishing. POI LETTERHEAD, LOI EGG. I am glad to see already noted the, uh, transitive property of “source of” in that last clue.

    There are a lot of Mathiesons on the Wikipedia page for that last name, not one of whom I’d ever heard of… except maybe the guy who emerged here. (Apparently, one of them, Neil M., a Scottish chemist and businessman, is quite phenomenal, as his dates are given as 1823– .)

    1. That Wiki list omits “Dock” Mathieson, Muir’s younger brother who was also a big name in the world of film music, though not a giant like Muir, yet there is a Wiki page on him. Most notably, Dock was the Director of Music at Ealing Studios during the last years of its golden era.

  4. All correct with a few things not understood. Like Muir Mathieson and why HE was a cardinal. And not quite sure how EGG worked but with E_G it had no other options.

  5. Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades …
    (Ode to a 1dn. Keats)

    25 mins pre-brekker plus a few puzzling over W(HE)reto and Emporium. I see I am not alone. Emporium is just the sort of clue that turns off non cryptic solvers.
    Pity. I quite liked EpicEntre.
    Ta setter and PJ.

    1. Thanks for mentioning emporium. I hadn’t a clue as to the connection between Emo and brooding genre but just bunged the answer in anyway.

  6. Ah! How I remember being taken to the Granada cinema in Harrow on school trips to hear Muir Mathieson conducting popular orchestral classics. I didn’t know EMO either, but, hey, it made no difference as I put the answer in with that warm glow of nostalgia.

    1. As a Harrow boy myself (well Stanmore actually, but it’s in the borough and I went to school in the town) I’m sorry to learn that I missed out on these concerts, but I simply didn’t know about them.

      I knew the Granada well. It was nothing much to look at from the outside, but inside was like a palace with its marble and gold foyers and staircases (all fake I suppose) and impressive walls of mirrors. I saw dozens of films there and went to a few pop concerts in the 1960s – Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, The Springfields etc. The building’s still there I believe, turned into some sort of health club and stripped of its grandeur.

      Reverting to the clue (22ac) it strikes me it tells us something of the age of the setter that he has managed to include both Muir Mathieson and the somewhat dated term EMPORIUM for a shop. It’s a word I can’t hear without thinking of ‘The Novelty Rock Emporium’, one of the ‘closed-for-the-duration’ attractions on the seafront at Walmington-on-Sea in Dad’s Army.

      Perhaps the setter is a fan of the nostalgia channel Talking Pictures TV which specialises in old British films. I doubt a day goes by without one or more of Muir’s films being shown and his name is always prominent – often a whole credit screen to himself conducting one of the big London orchestras.

  7. 25 mins with similar question marks to others. I was two when Muir Mathieson died but I’m also too young to have embraced emo rather than my own generation’s goth rock. As it is I’m not that conversant with either of them…

  8. Much the same as yesterday. An easy 1a, but I had to look further afield for some equally easy ones. Then I slowed down considerably. Sloppy handwriting made it look as though 18a began NON-. I’d provisionally entered I/M for the first two letters of 6d, corrected at the end after I got ESCUDO, and saw BIC as the writer. DELINQUENTS also took me too long. The D of ESCUDO got me there immediately I had the latter answer.
    41 minutes

  9. Under half an hour but with one wrong. A typo – UNBEATABLE instead of UNBEARABLE – one of those you don’t spot in the quick read-through at the end because it’s still a word. LOI LETTERHEAD, COD NIGHTINGALE

  10. 24 minutes with LOI ESCUDO, after half-remembering UKASE. I’d already biffed EMPORIUM, having no idea then or now who Mathieson was. COD to NIGHTINGALE, although Florence did rather give the show away there. The rest of the knowledge required was just about within my compass, so an enjoyable solve. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  11. 11:40
    Can’t say I’ve ever seen ‘bus’ as an abbreviation for ‘business’, but there it is in Chambers.
    An Ancient Greek walks into a tailor’s with a pair of torn trousers.
    The tailor says, “EURIPIDES?”, and the man says, “Yeah. Eumenides?”
    I’ll get my παλτό.

  12. Mostly straightforward as jeremy says, thanks for explaining EDUCATION which I biffed. 22 minutes.
    Thanks for the Greek joke @john burscough, a new one for me.

  13. 11:20. Lots of fun clues. NIGHTINGALE is my pick. I’m afraid I biffed EMPORIUM so my lack of the required GK was bypassed. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  14. DNF, defeated by MAGI (I should have guessed it based on the time of year, but I forgot gam as a school of whales, and I associate the Magi more with kings than priests) and SENECA (I always, always forget ace=one, and my lack of knowledge of the Romans is both embarrassing and often a problem when tackling these crosswords).

    Biffed EMPORIUM once I had enough checkers, not knowing who Mathieson was; nearly invented ‘raing’ for 23d before realising that RUING made much more sense; might instinctively have spelled EURIPIDES with a Y before the P were it not for the helpful cluing; and only got UKASE from remembering it from previous crosswords.

    No trouble parsing INNS, but at the risk of unleashing an argument: is Finland actually part of Scandinavia?

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Nightingale

    1. The make-up of Scandinavia is discussed in the first paragraph of its Wiki page. Seems that some or all of Finland might be included according to context.

  15. Well, the only MUIR I know is Frank, whose autographed “Book” I have. Life is too short to register the credits on films. So EMPORIUM went in on guesswork and what else? I also managed to misspell EURIPIDES, and nearly essayed RAING at 23 as a neologism (to me) possibly because the local downfall hasn’t stopped yet.
    Otherwise, a bit of a breeze for a Friday, with DELINQUENTS as my last in, resisting because I couldn’t believe the Q came into it and thought it might be a much weirder word.
    Very much liked the EGG clue: ingenious wordplay.

  16. Much the same as others, started off at a pace then ground to a halt in the SE. Unfortunately , faute de mieux, I bunged in USAGE instead of UKASE.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  17. 29: 04 Similar experience to others; picking the easy fruit quite quickly then struggling for a long time over the last few – IRASCIBLE, ESCUDO and BALD. Needed Jeremy to parse EMPORIUM. Good fun.

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter.

  18. 24:38

    Started badly trying to shoehorn in NUCLEAR FISSION and realising it was too long, not being able to make sense of the six letters that didn’t make up NUCLEAR! Put me right off – consequence being that I had very few in after my first full parse. Things picked up somewhat after that, but was left with a few notes:

    EMPORIUM – bunged in from three checkers – had no idea what was going on other than the P – from having growing kids in the last twenty-two years, I know a few names from the EMO genre: Avril Lavigne, Paramore, My Chemical Romance but not my typical listening choice…
    UKASE – couldn’t have told you what this was, but the wordplay was clear enough to arrive at the answer

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  19. I made heavy weather of this. Two errors and one typo in 33 mins. USASE , ROBISTA and INDELICARE.

  20. I was going great guns until the SE, where I was less crawling than just rolling around in the same place for a good 30 minutes extra. It’s rare I’m left with more than one empty light for the endgame after a bit of mental elbow grease, but there were three here, and intersecting to boot.

    WHERETO – I was sure this was a nho &lit, maybe something Vatican-related (considered WISTERO, but that didn’t account for the cardinal – I’ll add His Eminence to my list of abbreviations). Ultimately a slight shame ‘to’ is in the surface as well.

    EMPORIUM – this refused to drop with the fairly unpromising crossers at that point & and the entirely unhelpful Mathieson. I toyed with NOIR or SOUL for the brooding genres; it’s not how I’d describe the emo of my era, Fall Out Boy et al.

    RUING – didn’t have a scooby, and I was another vaguely thinking about RAING.

    Eventually they all came out of somewhere, which was satisfying, even if the time was flirting with 50 minutes.

    Thanks both.

  21. Solving on paper but approximately 20 minutes all told.

    No real hold-ups throughout with 1A and 1D going in on first reading which gave a good foothold.

    The only unknown was UKASE but the checkers and cluing saw to that, and the only unparsed clue was EMPORIUM as an EMO I am not.

    Having been plagued by typos and a certain Swiss Composer this week it is nice to finish the week on a high.

  22. Unlike several, I was slow to start and was thinking it was going to be the difficult one after a fairly gentle week, but then I got into my stride and had no major problems, a bit slow to finish, 31 minutes eventually. The EURIPIDES joke was first (?) used by Torquemada in his famous puzzle ‘Knock Knock’: ‘Blank who?’ ‘Blank pants, I make-a you another pair’. It did seem a bit unkind of the setter to refer to Muir Mathieson, who died in 1975 and would hardly be remembered except by people of a certain age, let alone those not from the UK. At first I considered it but then rejected it because it seemed so unlikely.

  23. 31.14. Thanks for explaining Muir Mathieson, not NHO, more ‘heard-of but well-forgotten.’ I see ‘focal point’ is now an acceptable gloss for EPICENTRE, which is fair enough, I guess. It’s one of those words that reporters love to use when they mean ‘centre’, because it just sounds so much more central. I have given up pointing out (except here) that an epicentre, being the point on the earth’s surface above the true centre of a seismic event, is actually less central than a centre, not more. Hey ho. I’ll shut up now.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

  24. 30′, probably the first Friday puzzle I’ve finished before going to bed. Like others, many of the answers went in quite quickly until a handful of trickier clues at the end. EMPORIUM was a semi biff, I’m on the side of the House who had EMO but NHO Mathieson. UKASE was somewhere in my head, albeit not knowing its meaning, and input only after careful parsing, given US and UAE are other “countries” that the clueing might be referring to. I did like BALD and “gam” in MAGI is a word I only acquired from here a few months ago. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  25. DNF – stumped by MAGI and never really thought of them as ancient Persian priests so much as a trio of random wise folk. GAM is a school to remember (or forget yet again).

  26. First full house on the 15×15 ever for me I think, and all under 20 mins.. Mind you the weekly score on snitch is pretty low.

    Trickiest of the week for me. Mostly OK – getting 1ac immediately is always a fillip, remembered GAM, constructed UKASE, didn’t parse EMPORIUM, but had to be. LOI EPICENTRE. Very much liked NIGHTINGALE, I was trying to get birra in for a while when I only had the starting N. Luckily crossers put that to bed.


  27. Much like others, started fast, biffed Emporium from essentially shop & p(iano). Not a scooby about EMO or Mathieson; as others, would have found Frank Muir a big help. Never parsed OGRE at 8a. Amused by that kind of capital at 11a ESCUDO; thought at first someone was needing BONN and making up for the slight slip recently.
    Loved the Ancient Greek tailor joke.
    I admit to not bothering about checking the anagrists, just bearing in mind that my answers were less than 100% reliable, but all were fine.

  28. Failed. I did stick with the silly RAING, unable to dislodge RAIN for ‘downfall’, despite doing the extensive 5-letter alphabet trawl.

  29. Despite getting 1, 9A and 4D almost immediately, I had a feeling about finishing this one, as the clues were so clearly different from most other setters’ and the L-hand side of the grid clues were all unchecked starter letters. In the end I completed, but fell flat with NHO or never-remembered, UKASE. I figured the country was USA and put in USAGE, with an unparsable G. However, there were a record number of non-parsed or fingers-crossed clues in this – SENECA, for one. Mathieson meant nothing to me, was sure MAGI weren’t specifically priests, so bifd, and didn’t understand OGRE at all, or NIL, which I thought was an initial letter clue. EGG was clever – probably wouldn’t have got it without the crossers.

  30. I wondered why the quick cryptic was particularly challenging today, then came here and realised I’d clicked on the wrong puzzle. In the words of Homer (Simpson), “Doh!”

    Now I’m pleased that I scrambled through about half the puzzle.

      1. It felt to me that the QC was V hard, and the 15×15 relativelt easy – apart from the NHOs like Mathieson, Emo music etc. But that one was easily biffed.

      2. Same, I failed on the QC (Running for RANKING) but this flowed easily apart from the obvious few.

  31. Fairly on my wavelength this one, till I got to the SW corner.

    Fat fingers gave me GREENHOUSS GAS and thin brain somehow had NESECA even though I’d worked out the reversal, but otherwise pleased to be in the 30 minute bracket.

    COD to EGG for making me trawl through three letter words starting with Q that didn’t have a U.

  32. 50 mins with one error

    And there I was hoping for my first ever Friday solve. LOI was the NHO UKASE, it looks an unlikely string of letters and my manual alphabet trawl only came up with USAGE. With the USA in there it looked a decent shout. Ah well.

    Looking forward to the Saturday Quick Cryptic tomorrow. Maybe there’s a prize?

    1. No prize. That’s why we can discuss it here on the day. It will be a new experience at TfTT to talk about a puzzle on a Saturday that’s not at least a week old, and may liven the weekend up a bit.

  33. NUCLEAR FUSION went straight in and allowed me to solve a couple of down clues. A biffed EXOCET held up IRASCIBLE for a while. NHO the required MUIR and had forgotten EMO, so EMPORIUM went in from definition and crossers. Ronnie Barker had a shop in Chipping Norton called The Emporium, which I once walked past. I liked EGG and EURIPIDES. When I eventually subsituted BUS for CO, the coffee arrived and prompted UNBEARABLE, at which POINT I mombled LOI, USASE and spoilt my solve. As soon as I saw the pink square I remembered UKASE. Drat! 23:22 WOE. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  34. 21 mins. Lost 5 minutes at the end trying to not put in USAGE as that clearly wasn’t right. Eventually got ESCUDO by way of the assumption that if the setter will always misdirect if possible, which didn’t help, but got there in the end, despite UKASE being a NHO.

  35. I was a USAGE and a ROBISTA so no cigar sadly. The correct answers unknown to me. Otherwise a fairly gentle Friday.

  36. I realise now I should have recognised UKASE. I have just finished Amor Towles’ excellent A Gentleman in Moscow and I’m sure it would have featured.

  37. Finished within target at 42.22, but with one error. I was left with just 17ac to solve and reasoned it had to be either DALI or MAGI. Not remembering that GAM was a word, and thinking that MAGI were kings rather than priests, I went for the wrong option. I’ll try and include it in the memory bank, but I’m not confident it’ll stick!

  38. I am of a certain age, and I watch stuff on TPTV, but like Zabadak I allow the captions to pass me by, and so I biffed EMPORIUM. I was also unimpressed by the “occasionally” part of my LOI, where “oddly” would undoubtedly have been truer to the definition. I something is occasional, it suggests to me, at least, that it occurs irregularly.

    TIME 8:32
    EOD NEW ORLEANS, originally by Gary U.S. Bonds, but I had it on an EP by Bern Elliott and the Fenman.

  39. Ambled through in 39 minutes. Hadn’t heard of Mathieson. To me he’s a gate-crasher, like Coltrane a little while back. Couldn’t we have had Edwin? Didn’t know of robusta either. The clueing seems clunky in places e.g. with ‘nil’. There’s a magnificent shop-name near where I live, now unfortunately to be replaced it seems: ‘Mrs Canuticacq’s Emporium’. A three-word poem.

  40. 10:07. Not too difficult overall, but to the extent it was the difficulty came from obscurity and/or convoluted clueing. The clue for EGG just doesn’t work. And Finland is not in Scandinavia.
    Bah humbug.

    1. Had the same thought about Finland. Britannica says, “In general, Scandinavia denotes Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The term Norden refers to Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden,” but Wikipedia makes excuses: “Scandinavia most commonly refers to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It can sometimes also refer more narrowly to the Scandinavian Peninsula (which excludes Denmark but includes a part of northern Finland). In English usage, Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for Nordic countries. Iceland and the Faroe Islands are sometimes included in Scandinavia for their ethnolinguistic relations with Sweden, Norway and Denmark. While Finland differs from other Nordic countries in this respect, some authors call it Scandinavian due to its economic and cultural similarities.”

      1. The word refers either to a geographical area (the peninsular), of which Finland is not a part, or (more commonly) a group of people united by a very closely-related group of languages, of which Finnish is not a part. People (like our setter) sometimes use it to refer to Finns because they don’t know this – ask a Finn!

        1. Yep. You’d think our setter would be aware that Finnish is quite an unusual language.

          1. I would also argue that this isn’t just a matter of linguistic usage. ‘Brits’ is often used colloquially to refer to people from/representatives of the UK, which from a linguistic perspective you can argue is fine (if a little insensitive), but to say that Northern Ireland is part of Britain is simply an error.

  41. Fell at the last fence putting “Sani” instead of “Magi”. Magi was my first thought but could make no sense of I-Gam, so I went with In-A-S reversed instead, in hope rather than in expectation.
    That’s twice this week I’ve failed at the last – very frustrating.
    Never heard of Emo either, but Emporium was clearly the answer.

  42. 35 minutes, and was surprised to find I’d got them all right. I put in MAGI with a despairing shrug.

    ROTA as a register of names (as opposed to a schedule) raised an eyebrow, but I see a couple of dictionaries allow it.

    Hadn’t heard of ESCUDO, UKASE or ROBUSTA but the clues got me there. Compliments to the chef.

  43. Finally finished all correct in 3 rather long sittings. Needed help explaining MAGI (NHO ‘gam’), OGRE (OM – doh) and EMPORIUM (had forgotten about emo). UKASE was unknown but generously clued. Pleased to add another finish to my very modest tally (now standing at 11). Thanks all.

  44. MUIR went in from the wordplay only and UKASE not at all, but I enjoyed the puzzle. I also recommend Towles’ book. Thanks for the blog!

  45. 19.48

    When I was in Stockholm this summer the locals seemed to feel more kinship with the Finns than their Scandinavian rivals but I suspect the feeling (from the Finns) isn’t mutual.

    Got confused by WHERETO at the end thinking it was some sort of mombled ruined tower but sanity prevailed.

    Thanks all

  46. 13 mins. Pretty good if a typical Friday but I’ll scroll up and take a look at other times before getting cocky. Guessed Magi- if only due to the reference from the easr! NHO mag in any context other than a periodical. I suppose apron is a skirt in the sense of a surround rather than female attire?

    One week in and still undefeated. I hope I get used to this.

    The reference to Mathieson was a bit opaque. As with Mr Setter, I assume it’s a reference to the musician who was so prevalent in post war British films?

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