Times Cryptic No 28901 — Not a snooze

30:32, a time which includes a short nap. Let me make clear that the nap in no way reflects the quality of the puzzle: I found this to be a nice challenge, a tasteful mix of easier and more difficult clues.

1 Author [in] online catalogue after end of autumn (8)
NOVELIST – E-LIST (online catalogue) after NOV (end of autumn [= November])
5 Go quickly out of control, indication of indecision after caution (6)
CAREER – ER (indication of indecision) after CARE (caution)
9 Saintly female in charge in place of a couple of gentlemen (8)
VERONICA – IC (in charge) in VERONA (place of a couple of gentlemen)

A reference to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, by William Shakespeare. I haven’t read this one — thought it was a comedy but a glance at the synopsis reveals otherwise.

10 Predator that apparently prays [in] mass with enemies (6)
MANTIS – M (mass) + (with) ANTIS (enemies)
12 One of seven letters [from] country admitting old novelist and, separately, me (5,7)
ROMAN NUMERAL – RURAL (country) around (admitting) O (old) MANN (novelist) and, separately, ME

I, V, X, L, C, D, and M — which of course were invented to keep track of the number of Superb Owls.

15 About half of score in many cases (5)
OFTEN – OF (about) TEN (half of score [= 20])
16 Far from lively prisoner sheltering a new one (9)
INANIMATE – INMATE (prisoner) around A N (new) I (one)
18 Naturally nobody speaks this strangely neat prose (9)
ESPERANTO – anagram of (strangely) NEAT PROSE

Naturally nobody speaks any language, but I appreciate what the setter was going for here, Esperanto being an invented language.

19 At home wearing headgear, having turned back flap (5)
PANIC – IN (at home) in CAP (headgear) reversed (having turned back)
20 Illustration in book is central to revised perfection (12)
FRONTISPIECE – IS in (central to) anagram of (revised) PERFECTION
24 Hot ingredient for sauce, despite what you hear (6)
CHILLI – ironically, a homophone of CHILLY
25 Small missile making shrill noise (8)
STRIDENT – S (small) TRIDENT (missile)
26 Having a meal, sound as a bell, content to be doubled up? (6)
DINING – DING (sound as a bell?) with the middle letters (content) repeated (to be doubled up)
27 Kind of bottle sailors found in end (5-3)
SCREW-TOP – CREW (sailors) in (found in) STOP (end)
1 Stated opposition about very small service (4)
NAVY – NAY (stated opposition) around (about) abbreviation of (small) V (very)
2 As such, there’s no difference between best and worst (4)
VERB – as verbs, ‘best’ and ‘worst’ both mean “to get the better of”
3 Learner with an unhappy experience, one who’s invested in his fields (9)
LANDOWNER – L (learner) + (with) AN DOWNER (unhappy experience)
4 What causes communal tension? It’s Americans out of order (12)
SECTARIANISM – IT’S AMERICANS anagrammed (out of order)
6 Alternative to reveille in Territorial Army (5)

For some reason this innocuous word always brings my mind to Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi!, the Act IV finale from Le nozze di figaro.

7 Plays some music, say — record isn’t a remix (10)
ENTERTAINS – ENTER (record) + ISN’T A anagrammed (remix)
8 Toughness on island in sound? Just the opposite (10)
RESILIENCE – RE (on) + I (island) in SILENCE (sound? just the opposite)
11 Hostile frenzied action gains time (12)
ANTAGONISTIC – anagram of (frenzied) ACTION GAINS T (time)
13 Impassive fire controller, female, provided great service (5-5)
POKER-FACED – POKER (fire controller) F (female) ACED (provided great service [in tennis])
14 Block proposal [for] cinematographic technique (4-6)
STOP-MOTION – STOP (block) MOTION (proposal)

If I have one criticism of the puzzle, I did not care for STOP appearing twice.

17 One Parliamentarian with kind of voice [that’s] influential (9)
IMPACTIVE – I (one) MP (Parliamentarian) + (with) ACTIVE (kind of [grammatical] voice)
21 Gripping part of hobby (5)
TALON – cryptic definition, a ‘hobby’ being a small falcon
22 Parts of body / more than twice as long as hands (4)
FEET – half way between a cryptic and double definition, a foot being 12 inches and a hand being 4 inches (horses are traditionally measured in hands)
23 Parrots, for example, sent up [for] bit of flight (4)
STEP – PETS (parrots, for example) reversed (sent up)

64 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28901 — Not a snooze”

  1. Just under an hour. Slowed very significantly by LOI VERB. Solved left top finally leaving it blank. Did right top and took a while to see NAVY. Bottom half went quickly with FOI CHILLI and then -FACED in 13D, DINING, STRIDENT, FEET, STEP. Remembered hobby from previous puzzle as raptor so TALON was obvious and rest of the bottom came out easily. VERONICA was very pleasing in referencing the two gentlemen from Shakespeare’s play. Initially I kept seeing it as female in charge “in place of”.
    End of autumn for me was N since month is May. I need to get more conscious of NH time.
    Definitely improving since seemed so many easy for me.

  2. The winter solstice starts on December 21, but I see that the Farmer’s Almanac has the beginning of winter on the first of the twelfth month. That held me up a minute, thinking [-autum]N.
    My FOI was ANTAGONISTIC, but I absent-mindedly started writing that in for 11 so I had to solve that clue next and then I was off to a good start in the SW. Wound up in the NW, with VERB my LOI, which I found a jolly good clue.

  3. 15:38
    I wasted a couple of minutes on LOI 2d: I couldn’t make sense of the clue, and I thought only of VERY and VARY until I snapped out of it and twigged. I think there may be a few native speakers of Esperanto, hopefully for their sake bilingual native speakers.

  4. After being well and truly beaten up by yesterday’s effort I found the going a lot easier today, getting home in 22.16. I was heading for a sub-20 but LOI VERB wouldn’t give up without quite a fight, then I got the Unlucky! message and had to trawl through the grid looking for the error. Yep, it was the CHILLI homophone, like an idiot I put in the wrong one as usual. (I also puts pets instead of STEP at first.) Thanks to J for explaining what was going on with ROMAN NUMERAL (I biffed it) and TALON. Enjoyable puzzle.

  5. 28 minutes.

    NAVY would have been my FOI if I’d had the confidence but I made sure of a checker via VERONICA before writing it in. I had been distracted by ‘small’ indicating an abbreviation but I see now why it had to be there.

    At 1ac, E-LIST (online catalogue) leapt out at me and NOVELIST (author) was not far behind, but as for the remaining wordplay my crossword brain came up with {autum}N [end of] = November (NATO alphabet) abbreviated to NOV and wondered if that device was permissible. Only then did I get round to considering November as an autumn month.

    I didn’t understand 6dn until just now when I realised that ALARM and reveille are both wake-up calls.

    VERB was my LOI and needed a bit of an alphabet trawl.

  6. 32:26 with a couple of aids. I was seeing anagrams well today, and with the long ones going in fast, progress was good.

    Did not see VERB, as VERY looked just as likely, or even VERA. That’s a pretty tough clue.

    FEET was LOI, as I thought it was too obvious. But now I see the measurement reference, it’s quite clever. NHO TALON=hobby, but didn’t hold me up.

    Great fire of London, 1666 or MDCLXVI. You’d think with all that rebuilding at least one building would have it as an inscription.


    1. You haven’t heard of TALON=hobby because it doesn’t: a falcon, of which the hobby is an example, has talons to grip things with.

    2. My LOI was Very and therefore apparently wrong. But, if you said to someone “do your very best” or “do your very worst”, would it not mean the same thing? Anyway no biggie, there’s always tomorrow’s crossword.

    3. Merlin, the date of the fire in Roman numerals is included in the inscription on the north panel of The Monument at the top of Fish Street Hill.

  7. Pretty quick but with a careless NAVE (NAE & well, it’s in a church so might be related to a service).

    Thanks both.

  8. 21:25, I also battled with 2d at the end. Except for that I found this puzzle very straightforward.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  9. I was another who stared for fully a minute at my LOI. I biffed ROMAN NUMERAL and FRONTISPIECE. An enjoyable puzzle.

    TIME 8:32

  10. 22′ which is as good as it gets for a Friday (though I think Wednesday was Friday this week…). Everything came reasonably quickly, I thought ROMAN NUMERALS was nice (though I did spend a few seconds trying to concoct something about the seven hills). VERB made me think, even though I had quickly cottoned on to the “to BEST” = “to WORST” synonym but I couldn’t parse vary or very. The use of “small” worried me in 1dn, it seems redundant except to help the surface. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  11. 24 minutes with LOI CAREER. COD to VERB for the neat way of expressing that Best and Worst can mean the same thing. I took on trust STOP-MOTION. Memories of wet Bonfire Nights mean that I will always see November as a winter month, and memories of 1963 do the same for February. The truth is that Winter is a minimum of four months, sometimes nearer twelve.

  12. 22 minutes. Friendly Friday. A ‘One of seven’ clue I came across a week or so ago referred to the Wonders of the Ancient World, so I spent a while ferreting down that blind alley soon after starting. I did manage to see VERB early on which helped unlock the NW. IMPACTIVE sounds like management-speak; not a word I plan to use soon. Favourite was the ‘hands’ / FEET cryptic def / double def clue.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  13. 14:53. I took rather a while to see ROMAN NUMERAL, needing LANDOWNER and SECTARIAN to find it. There I was trying to think of something starting with the name of one of the 7 dwarfs…. HAPPY, perhaps. About as wrong a tree to bark up as possible! I liked SECTARIANISM for the surface best. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  14. 19.06 DNF due to a frustrating error with ESPIRANTO. Apart from that it was a steady solve. Same LOI as many others VERB, which held me up for a few minutes.
    Very frustrated with my stupid error, as a sub-20 minute Friday solve would have been a first for me.

  15. 11:15 and quite chuffed at getting VERB. Decidedly unchuffed to have entered a poorly-conceived NAVE.

    Lots of great clues, particularly liked VERB and ROMAN NUMERAL.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  16. DNF. I gave in to the temptation to put in ‘very’ for 2d justifying it to myself as ‘best is very good and worst is very bad and in that sense the same’. I still think the clue uses a dubious logic even after explanation. Otherwise only the unknown VERONICA held me up until I had the crossers. I saw the two gentlemen but wasn’t sure what they were up to.

    I should say, I know the name Veronica but not, in my ignorance, that she was a saint.

    Thanks Jeremy

  17. No probs today, no unknowns, not very Fridayish.
    I thought 11dn a very neat clue.
    You would think we would all know when the seasons begin and end, but apparently not. For meteorological purposes, they start on the 1st of the months of Dec, Mar, June, Sept. For most other purposes they follow the solstices and equinoxes .. unless you need a monsoon season as well – the Bengali calendar has six seasons!

  18. 26:54
    Last two in were VERB (which needed an alphabet trawl) and FEET. SECTARIANISM needed pen and paper, even with all the checkers in place.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  19. 44 mins with last two in FRONTISPIECE (not helped by having bunged in STOP-ACTION, doh!) & VERB taking an age.

    I liked the long anagrams.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  20. DNF, defeated by NAVY and VERB. For the former I put ‘Nova’ thinking a religious service (getting confused with novena, I now realise), and for the latter I just never thought of the verb meanings of best and worst.

    I also failed to separate ‘in place of’ in the clue for VERONICA, despite seeing the Shakespeare reference, so I was left wondering what the ‘ic’ was replacing; I didn’t parse RESILIENCE; and I took ages to see the first part of POKER-FACED, even with the checkers.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Verb

  21. 8:40
    Some nice surfaces (island in sound, prays in mass, turned back flap).
    Biffed ROMAN NUMERAL and ANTAGONISTIC, NHO IMPACTIVE but I expect it exists.
    The Latin name of the hobby makes for an interesting pub fact; the seven letters MDCLXVI will probably turn up one day in an Only Connect question, if they haven’t already.
    Earworm of the day: definitely not Lady Gaga.

  22. Quickest time of the week at 14.13 rather marred by, like Rosé, entering STOP ACTION and then failing to correct it to MOTION once FRONTISPIECE (lovely word) was entered. Just as I was getting to zero errors on the Big List. Otherwise, clearly no problems, VERB going in smoothly – rather a clever clue, I though, with neither example being at first sight verbs.
    The fire controller was a late spot, with a hint of a smile.

  23. I got off to a bad start by entering SLOW MOTION. So, as per my effort with the Quickie earlier, my FOI was incorrect. From then on, I found this relatively easier than the norm finishing in a better than average 30 minutes. LOI RESILIENCE. Did not know FRONTISPIECE but, apologies, was able to piece it together once the checkers were all in place.

  24. 8:39, but I invented the church service NOVE. Sometimes I miss the muppet avatar I used to use in Livejournal.

  25. This puzzle evidently included a trap into which many fell – at the moment, SNITCH records 49 ref solvers, and 81 excluded with errors. Perhaps 2d?

  26. 19:01
    Pleased with the time but I entered a careless FROOTISPIECE which sounds like ESPERANTO for a slice of lemon. COD VERB.

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter

  27. 17:20

    Although LANDOWNER was FOI, the NW was empty for a long time. Finally VERONICA gave me NAVY then NOVELIST and the S meant I had to rethink 4d, which I’d decided would end NESS, but had too few S’s in the anagram. LOI VERB. Many COD candidates but ROMAN NUMERAL wins for me.

    Very enjoyable, thanks setter and Jeremy.

  28. While I was entering NOVE (along the same lines as keriothe), I had an epiphany, remembered the Senior Service cigarettes that the father of a friend used to smoke, and entered the correct answer. If only LOI VERB had been as quick to come to mind – I had got the fact that best and worst meant the same thing, but couldn’t perform the mental gymnastics to get to VERB very quickly.

    I found the rest of the puzzle relatively straightforward though.


  29. 08:15, so yes, a pretty Friendly Friday indeed, allowing me to solve and get back to my day with a minimum of fuss.

  30. I found this he easiest of the week, but very enjoyable. 31 minutes. However I got 2d wrong, with VERY instead of VERB. On the whole the long anagrams were no trouble, and got me filling the grid fairly quickly.

  31. 32 minutes, no major problems although I stupidly put impassive not impactive at first in 17dn, overlooking that it didn’t quite fit the wordplay, but as I went along kept asking myself how impassive could mean influential. Anyway the setter wouldn’t then have had ‘impassive’ in 13dn, as I later discovered. What a dreadful word IMPACTIVE is. Was unaware that Veronica was a saint, but many people are.

  32. 10:34

    Very enjoyable. Held up, oddly, by POKER, then, less oddly, by VERB, just like hopkinb above. I think I was fortunate to twig ROMAN NUMERAL immediately without any crossers (via ME).

  33. 19:24 and pleased to finish for the first time in three days. Very elegant puzzle, 2d being particularly so.

  34. Re. Shakespeare play classifications.
    If it’s neither a tragedy nor a history play it falls into the ‘catch all’ group of comedy. Sometimes funny, sometimes not. Most likely ends with a wedding or weddings.

    1. Polonius gives tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral.

  35. Enjoyed this and really liked the fire controller – not sure whether I have seen that before.
    Thanks Jeremy for unraveling ROMAN NUMERAL which I biffed from the crossers, having failed to see any connection with ENTERTAINS (at 7 dn.).

  36. 19.49

    Actually managed to persevere with an alphatrawl long enough to get VERB. Nice clue

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  37. Good to see SUBBUTEO getting a mention. Comes from Latin UNDER-BUZZARD, the hobby being like a smaller version of BUTEO. Apparently the inventor of the table football game, an ornithologist, was not permitted to name it HOBBY, so went for the next best. 14’40” with far too long at the end on NAVY.

  38. Like others LOI was verb, after a (very short) alphabet trawl, thinking: I guess that’s what the setter was getting at i.e. it wasn’t one of those amazing penny-drop moments, more of an “I suppose that’s it? Maybe? Who knows?” For the rest an excellent Times-standard puzzle, very nice.
    Liked Mantis just because it was unobvious from the definition.

  39. 19:16

    That’s more like it! With the cat now asleep on my keyboard, completed this with a flourish on my ‘phone. Only hold up really was deciding what to stick in at 2d.

    Thanks J and setter

  40. Solved in 21.58, but sadly with VERY instead of VERB. It was my LOI and I just didn’t see what was going on. I’ll put it down to weariness after just having driven back from a week of carousing and music making in Skipton, and unpacking and shoving the washing in before starting the puzzle. As the A59 is closed(long term) due to a landslide and roadworks, and I had a miserable stop start journey through Ilkley and Otley on the outward journey, I decided to go through Kettlewell, Aysgarth and Leyburn to get home. A lovely sunny day with gorgeous scenery and not too much traffic. Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  41. Oddly enough, VERB was my first solve! 34 mins, held up by NAVY – I too had flirted with NOVE, thinking vaguely of a service in a monastery. IMPACTIVE is indeed a ghastly word! A lot of witty clues.

  42. Steady solve in 22 minutes but let down by verb which o couldn’t work out and bunged in very with very little confidence, rightly so as it turned out.

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  43. Not related to today’s puzzle but interested in any views.
    My friend does the Guardian each day and we regularly punt each other clues, post solve.

    Today he sent me “it stumped our cousin. He did you?”. The answer is the name of the monkey puzzle tree and also apparently a legendary Guardian setter (he did you?) I’ve argued this is unfair as someone with no knowledge of the Guardian crossword (E.G. me) has no possibility to solve it. He says that the name of the setter is no different to other pieces of arcane general knowledge we use daily.

    Any views from the group?

    1. It’s not something I’d be annoyed by, though I can see why some would be. I know the answer must be ‘Araucaria’ but I can’t quite parse it tbh, could you explain the answer please? OWL club for me on this one btw as I put ‘very’ instead of ‘verb’ but nearly all right in just short of 30 mins isn’t too bad.

      1. It stumped our cousin gives you monkey puzzle (monkey being man’s cousin). He did you? Gives the name of the setter araucaria so a double definition.


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