Times Cryptic No 28817 — Not exactly 16 down

36:40. I found this quite difficult, although several times I had the correct answer, rejected it, only discovering later that I’d been correct. The lower-right corner was particularly tricky.

EDIT: I see from early SNITCH times that I was not wrong to find this hard. On the whole it wasn’t terrible, but it was very difficult to finish completely.

Across
1 Rat briefly stopping near fish (8)
STINGRAY – RAT without the last letter (briefly) in (stopping) STINGY (near)

I put this in immediately but parsed it as ST({s}ING)RAY, and couldn’t figure out how ‘near’ = STRAY.

5 The smallest number needed liquor — umpteen bottles (6)
QUORUM – hidden in (bottles) LIQUOR UMPTEEN
10 Long run wrongly associated with Canadian waterway (5,5,5)
GRAND UNION CANAL – LONG RUN anagrammed (wrongly associated) with CANADIAN
11 Being tight-lipped, [in] case of some battle (7)
SECRECY – outer letters (case) of SOME + CRÉCY (battle)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cr%C3%A9cy

I suppose if you are sworn to secrecy, you are sworn to being tight-lipped.

12 Coloured garments drew approval (3-4)
TIE-DYES – TIED (drew) YES (approval)
13 Dependency mostly on a friend [in] the City (3,5)
ABU DHABI – HABIT (dependency) without the last letter (mostly) next to (on) A BUD (friend)
15 Rope [that’s] not long now twisted with energy (5)
NOOSE – SOON (not long now) reversed (twisted) + (with) E (energy)
18 Concerning time before [finding] local official once (5)
REEVE – RE (concerning) + EVE (time before)
20 All available money and permits [for] people on the move (8)
MIGRANTS – M1 (all available money) + (and) GRANTS (permits)

Couldn’t get past LETS for ‘permits’, and didn’t know money supply abbreviations! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_supply

23 Following exploit, managed uneventful journey (4,3)
MILK RUN – RUN (managed) after (following) MILK (exploit)
25 French artist, dispensing with frame, struck gold (7)
WATTEAU – SWATTED (struck) without first and last (dispensing with frame) + AU (gold)

I definitely didn’t see SWATTED in real-time, but I had the W from WEAVE and AU from ‘gold’, and I knew the artist.

26 Flight affected by winds? (6,9)
SPIRAL STAIRCASE – cryptic definition

I like what the setter was going for here, but I wish it made a bit more sense grammatically.

27 Eastern ruler said to flourish (6)
SHEIKH – homophone of (said) SHAKE (to flourish)

This was easy enough, but I was confused because the way I pronounce it, SHEIKH rhymes with ‘chic’.

28 One using free ticket passed on by teacher (8)
DEADHEAD – DEAD (passed on) + (by) HEAD (teacher)

Didn’t know this, and I was held up for a long time because of ON THE BALL, which gave me DEAD_L_D. I finally took out BALL and focused instead on synonyms for ‘teacher’, which is how I finally managed to complete the puzzle.

Down
1 [Taking] forever to cross street [might be] this? On the contrary! (6)
SAGEST – AGES (forever) in (to cross) ST (street)

Or possibly: the opposite of (on the contrary) AGES around (to cross) ST?

Whichever parsing you prefer, I liked this one. Taking forever to cross the street would not be SAGEST!

2 Awfully like crab, is not laidback ultimately — but this? (9)
IRASCIBLE – anagram of (awfully) LIKE CRAB IS without (not) last letter of (ultimately) LAIDBACK

Liked this one too! Being IRASCIBLE means you are crabby and not laidback.

3 Part of theatre finale that’s particularly welcome (7)
GODSEND – GODS (part of theatre) END (finale)
4 Relative, sprightly, heading off (5)
AUNTY – JAUNTY (sprightly) without first letter (heading off)
6 Spotted meat for lunch, the healthier sort? (7)
UNCLEAN – inner letters of (meat for) LUNCH + LEAN (the healthier sort?)

‘Meat’ fooled me for a long time here.

7 Accompanying opening line — [or] after it? (5)
RANDY – AND (accompanying) in (opening) RY (line)

I assumed that ‘after it’ must mean ‘lusty’ (certainly sounds that way!) but I couldn’t find the requisite meaning in either Collins or Chambers. Help?

8 What can be bittersweet: [having] nothing left with lots to go round? (8)
MOLASSES – O (nothing) L (left) with MASSES (lots) to go round
9 Disgusted at welcome that’s got extended to sides (8)
LOATHING – AT HI (welcome) that’s got LONG (extended) around (to sides)
14 Caution, twenty-four hours after promotion? Rather! (8)
ADMONISH – MON (twenty-four hours) after AD (promotion) + ISH (rather)
16 Thus tennis player should focus, / like a pro? (2,3,4)
ON THE GAME – double definition

The question mark applies to the first definition.

This really screwed me up because I put ON THE BALL, having never heard of the expression ON THE GAME. (I’ve heard of ON ONE’S GAME.) As I struggled with DEADHEAD, I suspected I might have the idiom wrong.

EDIT: It has been pointed out by Paul (and I simply didn’t see this when I was looking in Chambers) that ON THE GAME means working as a pro, as in prostitute!

17 A place for firm / assumptions (8)
PREMISES – double definition
19 Reserve weapon carried by English vessel (7)
EARMARK – ARM (weapon) in (carried by) E (English) + ARK (vessel)
21 Got up? I’m obliged to do that, weary (7)
ATTIRED – TA (I’m obliged) reversed (to do that [= get up]) + TIRED (weary)

Lots of anaphoric reference in this puzzle between parts of the clue.

22 Travelling rep due[‘s] broken down (6)
PUREED – anagram of (travelling) of REP DUE
24 River [has] periodically recalled ferry? If only! (5)
LOIRE – every other letter (periodically) of FERRY IF ONLY reversed (recalled)
25 Our team has possibly picked up web design (5)
WEAVE – homophone (possibly picked up) of WE’VE (our team has)

106 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28817 — Not exactly 16 down”

  1. Yes, very tricky. Also held up by ‘on the ball’. I think ‘on the contrary’ in 1 down also directs us to place ‘st’ across ‘ages’.

    1. Oh yes, I was thinking this as I solved. Although I think it can be read either way? I’m never sure about some of these indicators.

      1. It should be read one way on the surface but the other way in the cryptic meaning. It’s not that it’s doing double duty on the cryptic level. Thanks, finally saw that.

        1. I suppose. Though I don’t see why “X crosses street” couldn’t mean SXT. After all, where are you when you cross the street?

  2. I had ON THE BALL and was trying to think of something like HEADCASE (as one using (drugs), I had no idea about the free ticket). In the end I gave up and bunged something in on the assumption it was a slang word I didn’t know. So DNF. Now that I think of it, “ON THE GAME” means being a prostitute, so a “pro”.

    1. “It” in this sense comes up so often that I recently discovered, to my chagrin, that I’d titled two of my Sunday Times blogs the same way, with “What it’s all about.”

      1. Yes, sorry, I was taking that sense for granted. I just thought there was an expression “after it”, something like: “he’s really after it tonight!”. As opposed to just the literal sense of being after “it”.

  3. This wasn’t difficult. It was impossible.
    Ha. (I sometimes say this about a—dear—friend of mine.)
    I did finish. But I wasn’t the SAGEST—it took “forever.” (I was trying to figure that one out with ST somewhere in the middle.)
    It was unsatisfying not to know (or to be able to track down) MI with the sense here, or backup for the definition of DEADHEAD.
    And I, too, had ON THE BALL for too long.
    Some fantastic clues here, though. Glad I persevered.

    SHEIKH is pronounced “chic” (“sheek”) in English, but apparently it’s “shake” in Arabic (and the œuvre of Frank Zappa).

    1. Years ago SHEIKH came up here, with Dorset Jimbo complaining about the pronunciation required (shake) to make the clue work, noting that he and many other English people pronounced it sheek. I had believed that it was simply sheek/US, shake/UK, but evidently not.

        1. Agreed. Remember the OPEC honcho Sheikh Yamani? His name never got pronounced Sheek Yamani on the news bulletins of the day.

      1. Kevin, I think your belief is basically correct and as keriothe has written, it’s backed up by Collins (to which I would add SOED). However ‘sheek’ is also common in the UK, especially to those of an older generation like Jimbo and myself who would have been very familiar with the song The Sheik (sic) of Araby.

        This was written in 1921 by two Americans, possibly to capitalise on the success of the recent Rudolph Valentino film The Sheik. The song was a smash hit in its day and re-recorded dozens of times over the years by artistes both American and British ranging from Eddie Cantor in 1922 to the Beatles in 1962, all of them pronouncing it ‘sheek’.

        1. Didn’t the Guinness Book of Records once list as the trickiest tongue-twister in English ‘The sixth sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick’? I think so, and I guess that, whenever that was, the more common English pronunciation rhymed with ‘chic’. Hmm … So when did I last check with Guinness for this vital sort of knowledge? I’d guess during secondary school, so 1972-77. Times and fashions may have changed, but it still rhymes with ‘chic’ in my house. And I still couldn’t solve this clue, so a DNF for me.

    2. You may not read this as all solvers seem to do their crossword before the sparrows sing ..but sheikh is also pronounced shake in English

  4. 21:41. A tough and enjoyable puzzle, with M1 presenting a rare gift for us students of “the dismal science”.

    Like everybody else I had ON THE BALL until the unknown (in that context) DEADHEAD forced a rethink.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter. Think Nigel has the passing of SAGEST correct.

  5. Some parts of this were nearly as devious as yesterday’s offering and at 62 minutes I took almost as long to unravel it, but not with anything like the same degree of enjoyment and satisfaction as too many answers went in with a shrug accompanied by the thought “I suppose so, but…”.

    I constructed 2dn correctly from wordplay, but the definition seems a bit iffy to me. NHO M1 with reference to money. NHO DEADHEAD with reference to free tickets – only removing dead blooms from garden plants. I had no idea what was going on re ‘meat’ at 6dn and does ‘spotted’ really mean UNCLEAN?

    I thought the definition of SPIRAL STAIRCASE worked but ‘Windy flight?’ might have been neater.

    This being Friday, at lunchtime I shall be enjoying a beer overlooking the GRAND UNION CANAL in a pub that was formerly a lock-keeper’s cottage. Fuller’s Golden Pride will be my choice of tipple for such a cold winter’s day. Must get there early for a seat by the log fire!

    1. I’d never heard of the GRAND UNION CANAL.
      “Spotted” is the opposite of “spotless,” so why not? But Collins has it covered anyway: “2. stained or blemished; soiled or bespattered.”

        1. It’s in bottles only. Many Fullers pubs don’t sell it, possibly depending on whether they are managed houses or tenanted. The landlord at my local (on the canal) buys it in specially for me, but you can obtain it online from the Fullers website. It’s to be savoured, not “necked”.

    2. Well I have just crossed the GRAND UNION CANAL on my way to and from a client (following part of the route of the lost Westbourne river of London). I passed a pub called the Waterway and wondered if that might be your local but then realised it couldn’t be because there is no lock nearby. Shame, because otherwise I could very well have dropped in and enjoyed a pint by the fire with you.

      Yes, a good knotty puzzle today. As I put in ON THE BALL I realised that it was probably wrong (I was actually thinking that ‘pro’ referred to prostitution but the correct phrase didn’t come to me immediately) so I was willing to give it up if the 28A checker required it. And so it proved.

      Many thanks to Jeremy and the setter. Great fun.

  6. Phew! That was a toughie! I’m in the vinyl1 camp, about two hours with many chores and also watching the Aus Open. ON THE GAME only emerged when I said, aloud, that ‘surely they’re not referring to the ancient abbreviation for prostitute?’ and suddenly, voila! I hope someone can explain SAGEST, I still can’t see a definition. SECRECY, DEADHEAD (meaning what, exactly?), MOLASSES and LOATHING were others that took a fair slice of the day. Enjoyable but very difficult puzzle.

        1. My apologies, I had something like that exact sentence written in an earlier draft of the blog but I think took it out and I don’t know why.

  7. DNF. I gave up when I couldn’t reconcile DEADHEAD and ON THE BALL, giving me 5 DNF out of the past 7 puzzles. Roll on next week (I hope!).

  8. DNF. ON THE BALL seemed a perfectly good answer. I did consider that it might be wrong, but not very seriously, and I considered both HEAD for teacher and DEAD for passed on, but never both together. Even if I had I wouldn’t have made the connection between DEADHEAD and using free tickets.
    Close but no cigar.

  9. No time hath she to sport and play:
    A charmed web she weaves alway.
    A curse is on her, if she stay
    Her weaving, either night or day,
    To look down to Camelot.
    (The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson)

    40 mins pre-brekker, but definitely worth it. Very nice. I guess many like me will have tried On The Ball first and puzzled over the DeadHead definition, which was new to me. Also M1 for available money.
    Ta setter and PJ.

  10. 26′ minutes here, and boy this was a great puzzle, so two corkers in a row. I didn’t find the vocabulary very taxing, but some of the cluing was just out of this world. I couldn’t figure out how MI related to money at all, and having googled it I’m still not convinced this is general knowledge. Ho hum.

    Now reading the rest of the comments, I wonder whether me getting 16D immediately says something about my character … or simply the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of archived Grauniad crosswords recently!

    COD to SPIRAL STAIRCASE for a lovely definition, but I also really liked RANDY, UNCLEAN and PUREED.

    Hoping to still be in the top 100 once The Traitors comes on tonight, but not holding out much hope. Fingers (double) crossed 🙂

  11. DNF after 40 minutes, with DEADHEAD missing. It’s always and ever been what I do to roses. I spent a bit of time out trying to remember the debates about which motorway to take out of London when monetarism was all the rage. Didn’t they finally select dead-end street? I liked the SPIRAL STAIRCASE. Thank you Jeremy and setter.

  12. 16:45 but a crossing typo I didn’t spot when checking so 2 pinks (I had transposed the I and S in admonish thereby simultaneously inventing the SPIRAL ITAIRCASE).

    Count me in the ON THE BALL camp but I corrected it when I constructed the probable DEAD HEAD from wordplay.

    A very nice puzzle which I found needed a complete brain reset to get to grips with (I think it was spotting (no pun intended) what was going on with UNCLEAN that made me realise this wasn’t going to be full of straightforward cryptic devices and definitions).

    No problem with M1 as I studied economics as part of a business degree and as a corporate treasurer I have to pretend to know about and understand this stuff.

  13. Really enjoyed this one but came to a grinding halt with the last two clues, guess which? Deadhead seemed a definite, though I didn’t know that meaning of the word. But so did “on the ball.” So a rare dnf, the required meaning of pro never occurred to innocent little me. And I think if you focus on the ball, the game will look after itself…
    According to the Glossary I have been breeze-blocked, and am therefore an Owl!

    1. I took the ‘focus on the game’ to mean thinking about the short-term ‘game’ rather than the more elusive ‘set’ let alone ‘match’. Taking things one step at a time, as it were.

  14. 81m 22s
    The Collins Online I refer to gives the requisite meaning of RANDY, plusjeremy, and also gives SHAKE as the English pronunciation of SHEIKH and this is a British paper.
    The other clue that I had trouble with was LOATHING so thanks, Jeremy.
    Not particularly fond of WATTEAU’s rococo style of painting but the subject of his work ‘The Swing’ does look rather 7d!
    PS….DEADHEAD didn’t initially occur to me for this clue but it was a common term in airlines I worked for to mean crew members travelling on a particular flight but just positioning to another port and not performing any duties on the flight in question.

  15. 14:50
    DEADHEAD (pilot) as one occupying a free seat in the cockpit of a plane crops up in the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’, based on the autobiography of the serial conman Frank Abagnale, who managed to jet around the world buckshee by posing as a PanAm first officer.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KeVBbFAWY4
    I spent several years following a band called The Salford Sheiks, fronted by the late great CP Lee (whose birthday it would have been today). I once took a photo of him with two TIE-DYEd friends of his, ex-members of Country Joe and The Fish, and posted it on Facebook with the caption “Hippy, Hippy, SHEIKH”.

  16. I took 42 minutes and see I am not alone in having put ON THE BALL for 16d and then finding 28ac impossible. In fact, my story is exactly the same as the blogger’s! I’ve never heard of this sense of dead head, finally thought of HEAD for teacher, thought “what if” and cottoned on to pro=prostitute and then it had to be dead head.
    Another good crossword I thought.
    Thanks setter and blogger 🙂

    1. I didn’t even think about the prostitute meaning! I was looking for _A_E that had something to do with sport, and figure ON THE GAME was synonymous with ON THE BALL.

  17. Spent so long finally realising that ‘on the ball’ was incorrect that brain froze on ON THE -A-E. Dnf 32′.
    Good puzzle.

    Thanks jeremy and setter.

  18. Like Jack, I found this as tough as yesterday but nowhere near as enjoyable, particularly in the SE corner. Home in 40 minutes but still questioning some iffy definitions. Hopefully soon we will have seen the back of 60s salacious slang like IT and PRO.

  19. 50 mins.
    This was a handful. Haven’t seen ‘meat’ used in that way before. Glad to get through it and finish.
    Thanks, pj.

  20. Too good for me. Gave up, and glad I did. Didn’t know M1, DEADHEAD, WATTEAU and had ON THE BALL, which would have ruined any small chance I had of finishing it.
    Still don’t understand UNCLEAN or SAGEST. *shrugs*

  21. Yeah, tough at 40 minutes, but nowhere close to as enjoyable as yesterday’s: too many annoyances, or as Jack says “I suppose so, but…”. Clearly we have a slightly naughty setter (guess who?) with RANDY “after it” and ON THE GAME – lady of easy virtue. For the latter, the answer “on the ball” which all of us, it seems, favoured, is much more in keeping with the tennis player, even if a game is part of the match. Is/are MOLASSES bitter? Treacle isn’t.
    Yesterday left me feeling both clever and appreciative. This one’s left me, lets say, crabby.

  22. No exact time but a minimum of 45 solving on paper.

    Had I been ON THE BALL and not biffed 16D then the tricky SE would have fallen sooner.

    Lots to enjoy throughout and a real test, so thanks to the setter and to Jeremy for the blog.

  23. DNF on this; I had been playing with DEAD and HEAD but having ON THE BALL in rather scuppered that, and by the time I was struggling there my hour had pretty much passed. So, at least twice as hard as yesterday’s for me, I’d say…

  24. I made the mistake of reading a comment about this on the Quickie blog and perhaps approached it with a more defensive mindset. The unknown DEADHEAD would still have done for me though. A liberal sprinkling of question and exclamation marks jarred – they can feel a bit self-congratulatory – or is that just me?

  25. 55 minutes. Hard work and glad to be home in under a hour. Many of the same comments as others, particularly relating to DEADHEAD. I didn’t understand MI for ‘All available money’ though we may have had it before. Favourites were IRASCIBLE and RANDY.

  26. 22:08 which appears to be on the reasonable side in comparison to others. Many misdirections for me though (maybe down to having the current lurgy that’s doing the rounds, that’s my excuse at least and I’m sticking to it) including (but not limited to) a failure to lift and separate Canadian Waterway, looking for somewhere in a theatre that started or finished with END (got that bit right at least), and inventing a tight lipped creature called a SESOMME.

    The NW corner took AGES to unravel, and didn’t know M1 so MIGRANTS was LOI.

    Did know DEADHEAD though, so the BALL didn’t stay in court very long before being replaced with a GAME and a shrug of the shoulders.

    And now I need a lie down

  27. DNF, DEADHEADS and ON THE GAME (yeuch) in the SE corner were beyond me as was UNCLEAN and RANDY. Certainly not as much fun as yesterday. Thanks Jeremy for working through this.

  28. My 49 minutes doesn’t count because I had PROMISES at 17dn, no good but I put it in and intended to return to it but forgot, and I was yet another on the ball — what is so special about tennis? A golfer or cricketer or participant in any number of sports needs to concentrate on the game. DEADHEAD an unknown except in the gardening sense. Am ashamed to say that I had to use aids for PUREED, which I knew was an anagram of rep due but just couldn’t see — I don’t think of pureeing as breaking down, although it is. Through my stupidity I never understood WATTEAU as for no good reason I was trying to think of a French painter _WATTE_.

  29. There is an area in West London (W9) where a series of street names all begin with the name Randolph. According to urban legend, it was an area renowned for housing the mistresses of gentlemen who lived in Central London. The term RANDY comes from how such a gentleman felt when visiting such a lady.

    1. ‘Randy’ is a Scottish word dating from the early 1700s (or even earlier than that with a broader sense of rude/coarse/unruly) so sadly this urban legend is, like most of them, unfounded.

  30. 1 hour 9 minutes. Tricky and tough. I really enjoyed it. We’ve had some good uns this week. I liked lots, including LOATHING and ADMONISH

    On edit. A minor point, but I meant to say I divided up the PREMISES double definition differently:
    A place for firm / assumptions

      1. No, I did originally parse it that way but then though “a place for firm” didn’t quite sound as good as “firm assumptions”.

      2. perhaps I was confused by the square-bracketed non-underlined word [for] which seems to leave the two definitions as A place / firm assumptions

  31. DNF, defeated by ON THE GAME. Like several others I originally had ‘on the ball’, but even once I corrected myself by figuring out DEADHEAD I was left with _a_e, and I plumped for ‘case’.

    Didn’t really see how shake=flourish (I get it now), but SHEIKH had to be right; got MIGRANTS without knowing M1 as the money supply; only got WATTEAU from remembering a previous crossword, though this time I thought the ‘watte’ was coming from ‘twatted’ rather than ‘swatted’ (oops, a bit too lowbrow!); and didn’t parse LOATHING at all.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Spiral staircase (don’t often like cryptic definitions, but thought this was a good one)

  32. 34:35 but…

    …after several minutes staring blankly at 28a while ON THE BALL was still in place, I gave in and looked up the answer here – completely new one on me and a 100% North Americanism that has not been accepted into British culture spoiled a decent crossword in my very humble opinion – perhaps a clue about lopping the tops off dying flowers would have been a better choice. So, a DNF for me.

    I did appreciate ON THE GAME when I saw it here. Very good.

  33. DNF. the NE was largely blank. I often miss hiddens like QUORUM. I don’t think MOLASSES are bittersweet. Missed RANDY altogether, TIE DYES I should have got as we had something like it recently. Considered LOATHING but couldn’t parse it. Thought of UNCLEAN but never thought of “meat” in that sense, sandwich. Oh dear!
    Also foxed by MIGRANTS as never thought of M1 money supply, it is so often a road, so congrats on using a new directive, and it was always going to be right.
    Thought briefly 10a was going to be Sault Saint Marie, but a) no evidence supported it and b) not spelt that way.
    Didn’t know the def of MILK RUN, thought it was Green Paint – wrong. I’ve heard of Milk Round w.r.t. new graduates.
    Didn’t know the def of DEADHEAD except re roses. But I ought to as as a customs officer at Heathrow I spent a lot of time with airlines.
    So all in all learnt a bit.

    1. I believe ‘MILK RUN’ derives from an era when slow, early-morning local stopping trains used to collect milk churns from far-flung dairy farms. (And also, presumably, returned yesterday’s empties.)

  34. A sluggish 36.35, although in my defence I was at a wedding yesterday. My LOI was, you guessed it, ON THE _A_E after realising the two words that I’d been trying to start the intersecting answer with were both needed, and so it wasn’t BALL. Took a brief trip through tennis terms before twigging, and I knew both bits of slang. Surely many sorts of sportspeople need to focus on the game, as in the match (or indeed the ball)? And are crabs particularly irascible?

    I didn’t know the painter but was confident that I at least had a wp-valid answer. I’ve only ever pronounced SHEIKH as SHAKE – otherwise the early-2000s tabloid staple the Fake Sheikh wouldn’t have rhymed! Can’t think how else you’d pronounce WEAVE or WE’VE, really. I knew M1 was something or other to do with money supply, tricky but quite good I thought.

    A good challenge overall, and hardly the setter’s fault that they were scheduled right after yesterday’s corker.

    Thanks setter and Jeremy

    1. As crab is “just” anagrist it doesn’t have to be relevant, but crabby def means irascible, so it is very kind or very clever or both.

  35. DNF. As with others could not reconcile ON THE BALL and DEADHEAD. Which is a pot-smoking Grateful Dead fan, remembering back to the 60s. I fear the setter is many decades older than I am, using on the game? A few other “Beh?”s, like SAGEST. Otherwise OK, but off the wavelength – not at all quick for the ones I got, and not as enjoyable as yesterday. I did like GRAND ONION CANAL (my spellcheck told me), actually recalled from dim memory.

  36. Another tricky one. Didn’t get a sniff until TIE DYES materialised. RANDY came next and the NE corner was suddenly complete. The SW was tackled next when the SE refused to yield, and was fairly soon sorted. Then the slog really began. AUNTY, SECRECY and IRASCIBLE led to the eventual conquest of the NW with SAGEST the last component of that corner to fall. 9d was still unsolved and I concentrated on that for a while, even managing to parse it correctly. That led to MIGRANTS, where M1 did ring a bell in the financial sector. Must mention at this point that I really liked SPIRAL STAIRCASE which had gone in much earlier. WEAVE led the attack on the remaining clues in the SE, with WATTEAU coming next, followed by PUREED. This left 28a which was stymied by the ubiquitous ON THE BALL. DIED, DEAD and HEAD were all floating around in my consciousness, but I didn’t know the required meaniong of DEADHEAD, but as I was getting nowhere with -E-D-L-D, I reconsidered 16d and immediately saw how ON THE GAME worked from the Pro perspective. DEADHEAD was duly inserted and the puzzle was submitted. Relieved to have no pink squares! 43:18 and still well inside the top 100 on the leaderboard even at 15:30 in the afternoon! (GMT). Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  37. Gave up after 43 mins. Stymied by on the ball , NHO deadhead and just didn’t see loathing which given I had all the crossers was a bit frustrating.

    Good crossword , thx setter( apart from deadhead) and blogger.

  38. Like others, failed with ON THE BALL and DK DEADHEAD although thought of it as an option. Not much fun. 35 minutes apart from the fail.

  39. Tough one – over the hour. Some nice clues but I would take issue with:
    11a) Being tight-lipped = Secrecy (although I did note plusjeremy’s comment on this).
    9d) Loathing = Disgusted (disgust would have worked much better).
    8d) Are Molasses bittersweet? I thought they were just sweet – happy to be corrected.
    (I’ve just read that there is a variety of Molasses called Blackstrap Molasses that is somewhat bitter in taste – so Fairy Nuff).

  40. DNF. Gave up after an hour with only 75% completed.

    I had ON THE BALL, which I then changed to ON THE LINE to make DEADHEAD fit, and never had a hope of seeing SPIRAL STAIRCASE.

    Never saw MILK RUN, possibly because I assumed managed=ran, not run, though I see now that run also works.

  41. DNF. Felt I was on the wavelength and made steady progress until coming unstuck in the south east corner with just two to solve; 25a and 25d. NHO of WATTEAU so, convinced it was the frame of (L)AUTRE(C) needing dispensed with, decided AUTREAU (?) for 25a best fitted the _ _T_E_U crossers already held. That meant 25d needed to be A_A _E which stopped me from ever seeing WEAVE.

  42. Bang on 60 mins in two sessions but WOE: MILL RUN (run of the mill …?!).

    Like others DEADHEAD and ON THE GAME held me up after inserting the ‘obvious’ ON THE BALL.

    Enjoyed it despite the error. Thanks all.

  43. 39.53 Held up by, like may others, having the tennis player focussing on the ball. The clue would have been easier with the reference to tennis omitted, as player would suggest game. Another possibility would have been a hunting reference

  44. I thought 28 ac must be SEEDHEAD, since SEEDs have a free ticket to play
    (don’t have to play qualifying rounds), and seed-heads pass on the seeds.

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