Times Cryptic No 28937 — A tough finish (or not)

DNF is an understatement. Even after using aids to sort out the long anagram (5d), I still guessed wrong on another anagram (11a), took ages on 13a, and still haven’t a clue about 22a as I start to write the blog. Other than these clues, I didn’t really have a problem with most of the puzzle.

1 Foxtrot with nimble steps (6)
FLIGHT – F (NATO alphabet) + LIGHT
5 Sacked Head of Personnel, sick and old (8)
PILLAGED – P{ersonnel} + ILL + AGED
9 Tom Paine accepts consequence of decay (8)

This took me longer than it should have, considering I’m familiar with the word (presumably from crosswords).

10 Bones in back and front of arm (6)
11 Brahms and Liszt are skint in former homeland (8)
TRANSKEI – ARE SKINT anagrammed (Brahms and Liszt = pissed = drunk in Cockney Rhyming Slang)

Perhaps I am a poor world citizen for not knowing about this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transkei

12 Canny Katherina perhaps departs (6)

Katherina is the titular shrew in The Taming of the Shrew.

13 Try and sanction an Eastern martial art (8)
SHOTOKAN – SHOT (try) + OK (sanction) + AN
15 Picks pockets of two coppers (4)

Detective Inspector and Police Sergeant

17 Dismal and ultimately dejected state (4)
DARK – {dejecte}D + ARK.

Arkansas, I guess?

19 Purchase scrap of cloth to plug dyke (8)
20 Realise English National Curriculum has changed (6)
ENCASH – E + NC + anagram of HAS
21 Toxic element in half of this garlic? (8)

Garlic belongs to the allium family.

22 Green or red / ancillary vehicle (6)
TENDER – triple definition (?)

TENDER = ‘green’ as in inexperienced

TENDER = ‘red’ as in sore

and apparently TENDER is a small vehicle attached to a larger one; for instance in a train, an attached carriage that holds fuel and water

23 Philosopher’s follower removing carbon using hydrostatic pressure (8)

I’m not sure I understand artesian wells even after looking up the definition. Here’s a reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artesian_well

24 More sluggish, with yen for sugar (8)

Not sure I totally see flat = sluggish, but there you have it.

25 Old magistrates from Home Counties turn back (6)
REEVES – SE (Home Counties) + VEER reversed
2 The scholarly elements of elite rationalism (8)
3 Girls of boyish charm and singular spirit (8)
GAMINESS – GAMINES (girls of boyish charm) + S

Again, not a definition of GAMINESS I knew, but I suppose deer meat has spirit.

4 Mischievous book, full of twists (9)
5 Appoint entirely unconventional diplomat (15)

I’m usually good at figuring out anagrams of words I don’t know, but here I totally failed. I have heard of ‘plenary’ sessions, so perhaps this is a prefix I might recognize in the future.

6 Rebellious boy chopped notch in twig (5,2)
LATCH ON – AL (boy) reversed (rebellious) + NOTCH anagrammed (chopped)

This is vinyl’s suggested parsing.

7 Place to grow lilac, oddly neglected shrub (8)
8 Absolutely avoid someone doomed to failure (4,4)
DEAD DUCK – DEAD (absolutely) + DUCK (avoid)

As in ‘DEAD straight’, etc.

14 Gypsum plant behind an experimental facility (9)
ALABASTER – ASTER after A LAB (an experimental facility)
15 Fidgets terribly, swallowing single brandy? (8)
DIGESTIF – anagram of FIDGETS around I (single)
16 Put books on top of ancient organ (8)
PLACENTA – PLACE + NT (books) + A{ncient}
17 Demoted in caste, girl leaves India after a month (8)
DECLASSE – LASSIE without I (India, NATO again) after DEC (a month)
18 Parties regularly supporting retrospective gun control (8)
REGULATE – {p}A{r}T{i}E{s} under LUGER reversed
19 Most gorgeous female consumed by desire (7)

67 comments on “Times Cryptic No 28937 — A tough finish (or not)”

  1. About 90 minutes. Quite difficult in parts and a lot of biffing required. NHO SHOTOKAN but managed to guess finally (after a lot of looking up possibilities ending in KAN) so LOI. FOI LITERATI then PTOMAINE (remember from when I was young in 1950s as ptomaine poisoning), FLIGHT, STERNA, PILLAGED. Knew TRANSKEI. Hard going until I got PLENIPOTENTIARY. Then proceeded smoothly until I spent ages on
    Gamy in Collins and SOED is spirited in relation to a person so if a person shows gaminess they are showing spirit, nothing at all to do with deer.
    Rebellious is generally an anagram indicator which for a two letter word is reversal.

  2. This was indeed difficult! I outright cheated with crosswordsolver.org for my LOI SHOTOKAN—which Chambers Word Wizard didn’t find!
    I’m familiar with Tom Paine from the history of the American revolution… not to mention Bob Dylan’s
    “As I Went Out One Morning / To breathe the air around Tom Paine / I spied the fairest damsel / Who ever did walk in chains.”

  3. Agreed, this was a real Friday workout!
    11a , with the i finisher , I biffed Eswatini feeling chuffed that I’d latched on to the kind of homeland required. Sadly it couldn’t be parsed and had to be binned.
    The L starter at 19a led me to wonder whether there was a lesbian involved somehow. Surely not in The Times? After all, it is Friday not a Sunday Dean. Indeed, the rather more pedestrian ‘levee’ was required.
    Finally finished in 40minutes

  4. I took TENDER as a double definition, with ‘red ancillary vehicle’ being a fire-fighting unit.

    I managed my first completion since Monday, coming home in 28:58. Like others, I was working around ‘ban’ in the martial arts clue, before remembering that ‘sanction’ is one of those words that can mean two opposite things.

  5. Another comprehensive DNF – bad week.
    Knew Transkei from childhood, but mis-remembered it as Transeki, which made TRICKSOME impossible. Guessed TRITESOME but left SHOTOKAN empty – should have got it.
    Never seen A for ancient, and didn’t find it in Chambers or Oxford, but it had to be. Gaminess I guessed as braveness, rather that putrescence, so got lucky. LATCH ON unparsed, the chopped boy was LA{d} “rebelling” with NOTCH, but that would have been an indirect anagram. Ptomaine and Thallium well-known from teenage reading of Agatha Christie’s oeuvre; ptomaine poisoning common, and thallium featured in Pale Horse, my favourite work of hers.
    Fine puzzle but too tough for me.

    1. “Gamy” can indeed mean “BRAVE, PLUCKY —used especially of animals”—that’s the first definition in Merriam-Webster, which is American of course, but “plucky, spirited” is the third definition at Dictionary.com.

      1. Of course! Thanks… I was putting the rest of the wordplay ‘on top of’ the A from ancient.

  6. Flew through this after insomnia, again, in 18’08”, but with a careless misspelling of GAMINESS.

    Knew SHOTOKAN eventually as a form of karate (mauve belt a long time ago), not known on its own.

    PLENIPOTENTIARY went in after a couple of crossers, not bothering to parse.

    TENDER was LOI.

    Thanks jeremy and setter.

  7. 66 minutes with one resort to aids (SHOTOKAN) and one wrong letter, GAMENESS instead of GAMINESS.

    I was along the right lines with the martial art having considered GO (try), OK, AN when trying to construct the answer from wordplay which of course was two letters short, but my brain had been momentarily on the verge of cracking it.

    The wrong letter was down to my not remembering how the boyish girl was spelt, I or E? The problem here was that GAMENE took me to GAMENESS which I find easily relatable to pluck or spirit, so in it went, whereas GAMINESS reminds me only of meat that’s past the point at which I’d want to eat it. Having discovered my mistake after the event I also found that Collins has GAMINESS as an alternative spelling of GAMENESS meaning pluck.

    PTOMAINE was my LOI and I was baffled that it was an anagram with no anagram indicator, the containment having slipped by me.

    I wasn’t sure about the parsing of DIPS and thought the PS might be something to do with pennies (coppers). I verified afterwards that PS stands for Police Sergeant (as opposed to DS Detective Sergeant) but despite my lifetime of reading detective fiction and watching police drama on TV I can’t say I remember a single instance of a character being referred to as PS So-and-so.

    1. When I finally ‘got’ PTOMAINE, I thought in passing that ‘accepts’ was an odd anagrind.

    2. I took ‘consequence of decay’ to be the anagrind as well as definition, while thinking that the anagrist was remarkably close to the solution!

  8. Tricky but got through OK. Still finding Tuesdays the most difficult of the week. Nho that meaning of gaminess but OK otherwise.
    Wasn’t some well known Russian poisoned with thallium?

    1. Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko; polonium-210; Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel. Near Marylebone Stn.

  9. Like Vinyl1 I toyed with “catch on”, and tried to find a martial art ending with “ban” (sanction meaning the total opposite of that intended was a beautiful piece of misdirection), before finally seeing the light only when GAMINESS struck me like a lightning bolt.

    TIME 12:03

  10. Well, that was tricky. At 53 minutes I did what I *thought* was throwing in the towel by bunging TRANSKEI in at 11a even though I could see a couple of other potential arrangements of the letters that seemed to make just as much sense, then came here and found out that I’d successfully finished.

    I thought that the “red” bit of TENDER was another definition; if you’ve been slapped in the face, say, you skin would be red/tender.

    I got lucky with a couple: Cartesian products come up here and there in my line of work as a data engineer and I did know about ARTESIAN wells, and one of the books on my shelves is Karate-Do: My Way of Life, by Gichin Funakoshi, founder of the SHOTOKAN school.

  11. 18:50

    Didn’t find this as difficult as some others have and I thought yesterday’s puzzle was harder. I’d never heard of SHOTOKAN but the cluing was clear enough. Thought the D and P in DIPS were the two coppers and didn’t stop to think about it. PLENIPOTENTIARY is etched on my brain after a drunken argument long ago about whether such individuals have the right to declare war or not ( they do).

    Thanks to Jeremy and the setter.

  12. DNF
    SHOTOKAN did for me. Not only had I never heard of it (and was thinking of the wrong sanction), but my English-Japanese dictionary didn’t, my J-E dictionary didn’t, and the three Japanese dictionaries I checked don’t. But it’s in ODE, so it’s OK.
    I biffed PLENIPOTENTIARY from the P (EE & MP–Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary).
    ‘old magistrate’ is either a DOGE or a REEVE, and doge didn’t fit. I liked TRANSKEI once I figured out how it worked; luckily Brahms and Liszt had (re-)appeared here recently enough to leave a memory trace or two.

  13. Gave up after 30 mins, having already put seven crosses against bad clues. I think that is a record.
    Ta setter and PJ

  14. 39 minutes. NHO SHOTOKAN for which I relied on wordplay and didn’t know FLATTERY for ‘sugar’. The parsing of the not so common words TRICKSOME, DECLASSE and GAMINESS took some working out. I parsed TENDER as a double def like ulaca, but the triple def does work and is probably what was intended. Like Jack, I missed the TOM in PAINE for 9a and thought ‘accepts’ was stretching acceptable anagram indicators to the limit and beyond.

    As for yesterday, I wasn’t confident on clicking “Submit”, but all came up green. I’m about due for my comeuppance next week.

  15. 15:20
    Not as tough as yesterday’s, but getting there.
    I’ve only ever known PTOMAINE as a type of food poisoning, mostly from Agatha Christie novels as the cause of supposedly natural deaths which later turned out to be murrderr. She was also keen on THALLIUM poisoning, as I recall, and Poirot enjoyed a DIGESTIF.
    NHO SHOTOKAN or TRICKSOME, but easily worked out.

  16. Very tough only to end with an error, SHOTOBAN, that well known martial art!

    Oh well.

    Thanks Jeremy and tricky setter.

  17. 52 minutes but with a despairing SLOBODAN to finish. Blame him for everything. I was pleased to get all the others. The only other one unparsed was DARK, a bit worried it might be DANK. I felt I was on a roll when I got THALLIUM, ALABASTER and ARTESIAN in quick succession and started to get those delusions of adequacy again. COD to SHREWD. Thank you to Jeremy and setter.

  18. DNF in 15:47. I had an unparsed TANKER instead of TENDER forgetting to go back and look again and a misremembered SHOTOGAN for the martial art. A good workout, indeed. Must improve my solving stamina to avoid bunging in answers unparsed. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  19. The rugby pitches for St Albans School at the bottom of Holywell Hill were on top of an ARTESIAN well, which meant that some weeks you could find yourself running the last five yards to the try line up a very steep incline. Not that I found myself running to the try line often if I could avoid it.
    And the crossword: Clearly an uphill struggle for some, so I’m quite chuffed to have crossed the line in 19.44 (spot on for D-Day celebrations), in an elevated position on the leaderboard.
    Like the setter, I happily invented the word TRICKSOME, which has coincidentally suddenly appeared in Chambers. I didn’t see how PTOMAINE worked, and vaguely remembered THALLIUM from Star Trek: Nemesis, where it turns out it was spelled thalaron.
    I accepted FLATTER for sluggish with a shrug: Chambers doesn’t, at least not directly. TENDER for ancillary vehicle was no trouble for those of us brought up on Hornby clockwork engines.
    I rather enjoyed this challenge, but I can see why others wouldn’t. It has its quirks.

    1. One of the definitions of ‘flat’ in Collins is ‘(of trade, business, a market, etc) commercially inactive; sluggish’.

  20. 10:57. I loved this puzzle: I needed the wordplay to solve almost all of the clues (including a couple of complete unknowns and several less-than-familiar words), but everything seemed absolutely fair to me. That’s exactly the kind of puzzle I like.
    I learned about PTOMAINE poisoning when the word – previously completely unknown to me – came up a few years ago.

    1. Couldn’t agree more! My kind of puzzle, though it took me a bit longer than you. Anything to minimise the biffing, especially on a Friday.

  21. A former colleague of mine many years ago had a wealthy friend who had a holiday home in Corsica and had just bought a smart motor boat of which he was inordinately proud. He took my former colleague in this new toy of his to one of the smart ports in Sardinia, and when he drew up in the marina looking for a parking spot one of the attendants said to him ‘I’m sorry sir, you can’t leave your tender here’.

  22. Surprised to find I finished this in 18.02, pretty quick Friday for me. Held up in the SW corner for a while but placenta sorted that out, though I hadn’t realised it was an organ. I thought it was basically a sac.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    1. I was similarly surprised by the “organ”, which I would assume to be a part of the body in more or less permanent use: liver, ear, skin and so on.

  23. I found this very difficult, and guessed wrong on 22a to round off a very unsuccessful week. Not really a complaint, but the ‘or’ separating two of the three definitions jars (I’d never heard of the third, didn’t think of ‘tender’ as ‘red’, but it is of course – and the only vehicle that I could find to fit was a TANKER).

    That one’s fair enough. TRANSKEI, however – which I guessed right, so no sour grapes to be seen – is a pretty horrid example of an anagram for an unusual & ambiguous word. Less of that please.

    Thanks both.

    1. I would argue that you guessed it right (as did I) because there really isn’t anywhere else to put the letters. TRENSKAI, perhaps, but it seems reasonable to expect the solver to make the association with Transvaal.

        1. Well, I thought KEI looked more South African than KAI. I just now looked up the word—it’s not from Dutch or Afrikaans, though, but is of Khoi origin and means “sand.” TRANSKEI means “beyond the Great Kei River,” and there is a municipality named after said “flower.” Ciskei (guess what that means!) was also a Bantustan for the Xhosa people.

  24. Pleased I quit on the hour. Would never have got the NHOs PTOMAINE, SHOTOKAN or TRANSKEI, though the latter was obv an anagram. Was actually pretty pleased to only be missing these three. Tough puzzle.

  25. DNF after trying various combinations of “Tom Paine” except the right one. In any case I also had the well known Shotoban. Slightly disappointing since I had progressed quite well with other anagrams, PLENIPOTENTIARY jumping out almost immediately and TRANSKEI becoming obvious once I saw the fodder. Thanks Jeremy and setter.

  26. DNF

    NHO 9, 11, 13, and as they were checked by NHO 3 and 5, I gave up without going back to 17d, 23 and 25.

    Still, got all the even numbers.

    Thanks all.

  27. 25.39, so fast for me. I’m often slower on crosswords regarded as easy. Got to TRANSKEI after thinking TRANSVAAL.

  28. Many of the same problems as others with unusual words, and although I knew the word PTOMAINE and guessed that it was probably the answer was bewildered by the fact that it was apparently an anagram. 35 minutes, with fairly liberal use of the Check button (“it looks like that, but how?”) and eventually I used lists for the martial art (NHO, but probably should have guessed), and SHREWD, which I would have got if I hadn’t abandoned my alphabet trawl too early, through laziness or realism (after a certain point in the alphabet the probability of getting the answer is too small)?

  29. 11:22 and thoroughly enjoyed this tricky Friday one. Having all the requisite general knowledge helped (a familiarity with all those classic detective novels which involve poisoning by various substances in particular). Some lovely answers hiding in plain sight, especially the need to put TOM in PAINE .

  30. DNF bigtime. 9a PTOMAINE is an easy anagram but I never saw any anagrind, as jackkt. Kevin Gregg has put us right, and it isn’t an angrind, “accepts” is a placement instruction.
    12a SHREWD; loooong think before Taming o t S came to my rescue. Knew she was a Kate wasn’t certain that she was Katherina and looked her up.
    13a SHOTOKAN, Not in Cheating Machine, but in Wiktionary. Now added.
    22a TENDER I thought the setter was referring to a fire tender for the red bit (as ulaca says), but now I TEND to think it is a triple-def as per Amoeba.
    3d GAMINESs; I didn’t see the spirit thing. I nearly didn’t put it in. I took it to be sporting, of one who would take a chance, as others have said.
    4d TRICKSOME; tried to cheat but it wasn’t in my Cheating Machine, nor on the crossword solver site. It is in Wiktionary though so added to CM.
    5d PLENIPOTENTIARY. For once a long anagram leapt out at me, a write in.
    6d LATCH ON I thought was a weak LA(d) + (NOTCH)* at the time but vinyl’s parsing looks good.
    17d never saw LASSiE, just saw Dec + Lass and biffed. Wondered if I had forgotten some rare tea or other Indian product.

  31. 30 mins, but had to get help for SHOTOKAN at the end. LOI it was either TENDER or TANKER, the former seemed more likely. Fortunately knew all the other contentious ones.

  32. 14:07 Lovely puzzle for a Friday morning. The TOM PAINE clue was masterful, even though I was only vaguely aware of PTOMAINE, and I loved the triple definition for TENDER. The martial art was unknown to me but easily gettable from the wordplay. I’m surprised that TRANSKEI isn’t better known, but I’m probably showing my age in that, since it ceased to exist in 1994! Can I gently point out that the insertion into the anagram of FIDGETS is a single I, not the S as indicated in the blog. COD to TOM PAINE for reminding me of this heroic figure.

  33. Entirely happy to finish without the unknown martial art. I dislike clues which demand obscure knowledge and encourage guesswork.

  34. 21.18 but with an extremely careless TRANSKAI, remembering the homeland but not checking the anagrist when I shoved it in. Bu**er!! Really annoying after sorting out the tricky stuff! Thanks setter and Jeremy.

  35. 13:28

    Found this surprisingly straightforward, given some of the times on the leaderboard. I guess the multitude of rare-ish words explains that. But all fairly clued, and a good Friday test, I thought. I can’t believe Magoo’s 30:31. He must have been called away mid solve!

    Ptomaine is from ptoma, the Greek for a corpse, which ultimately derives from the perfect tense of the verb “to fall”, if anybody is interested.

  36. 35:13 but…

    …cheated with the NHO TRANSKEI – ‘former homeland’ being an extremely vague definition if you have no idea which country is being referred to. Most of my struggle was in the NW.

    PTOMAINE – I was aware of the word, but had no idea what it meant – I thought it was some kind of poison – it fit the checkers…
    SHOTOKAN vaguely heard of and bunged in once I had enough
    DARK – didn’t get the state whilst in flight
    ARTESIAN – didn’t link with the philosopher, but have heard of artesian wells
    GAMINESS – took some time to remember what the word for a boyish-looking girl was…
    PLENIPOTENTIARY – bunged in from four checkers and anagrist – couldn’t have said what it meant though
    DECLASSE – needed this to get ARTESIAN, took a long time to come to mind (even with DECL___E pencilled in)

    Thanks Jeremy and setter

  37. Failure here – the two unknown anagrams at 5d & 11a, but more embarrassingly GAMENESS at 3d.

    Lots of new things to learn today!

  38. One of those rare tougher puzzles where I can quickly see how the clue works, or I have the GK, meaning I can buck the trend of the SNITCH, with my best WITCH of the week.

    SHOTOKAN was a write in (though as a form of karate), as was PLENIPOTENTIARY and TRANSKEI once I figured out what Brahms and Liszt were doing there. PTOMAINE was my LOI after realising that the answer was there in plain sight, even if I NHO the word.


  39. DNF

    Off to flying start with 1A and 2D …. and then it all slowed down. After over an hour it had ground to a halt.

    Those clues I managed to solve I enjoyed; and those I failed to solve, I admired.

    Thank you, plusjeremy and the setter

  40. DNF, defeated by GAMINESS, PTOMAINE and TRANSKEI. I’ve never heard of gamines, and the latter two were completely unknown – I figured out that TRANSKEI was an anagram, but even if I’d seen the ‘trans’ bit I wouldn’t have had the confidence to put it in.

    Also NHO SHOTOKAN, but figured it out from wordplay; only saw TENDER on the third attempt (and even then didn’t see the red definition); had to trust that ARTESIAN refers to hydrostatic pressure; not familiar with DIGESTIF but figured that it’s in the same bracket as aperitif; didn’t know that allium refers to garlic for THALLIUM; wasn’t 100% certain about ricks=twists in TRICKSOME.

    Very tough, so kudos to everyone who completed this one. Thanks setter and blogger.

    COD Literati

  41. Finished in 41 minutes of which the last 5-10 were getting the K of SHOTOKAN which I’ve never heard of
    I had SHOT all right for try but I had a complete brain block on OK for sanction..
    NHO TRANSKEI but the anagram got me that
    Very very hard and honestly I didnt enjoy it so much

  42. 50 mins, with a couple of aids, and one reveal (PTOMAINE). I saw it was probably an anagram of (TOM PAINE)*, with anagram indicator of “accepts consequence”, lets face it any phrase can be an anagram indicator, look at “Brahms and Liszt”. This left too many combinations and it never occurred to me to start PT.

    Never knew what GAMINE meant, thought it was like nubile. That was LOI. SHOKOTAN needed an aid (Chambers Crossword Dictionary). But pleased to get Plenipotentiary early which helped a lot, and I’m sure TRANSKEI featured on John Craven’s Newsround a lot in the 1970s, that went in early too,

    I like the newly learnt TRICKSOME, I’m going to use it to describe setters. Although the OED doen’t register any usage in the last 150 years.

  43. PLENIPOTENTIARY was first one straight in. The rest followed smoothly, except a struggle over SHOTOKAN – never seen that word before, but eventually parsed it okay. About 35 minutes all told.

  44. Defeated by NHO PTOMAINE. Aids didn’t help as I had GLADNESS for 3d.
    At least I knew SHOTOKAN as a form of karate (in which I’m an orange belt I think, it was a long time ago).

  45. Yes, this was very hard. I solved it correctly (to my surprise after several DNFs this week) in 49 minutes, not counting a long break before entering SHOTOKAN. Not that this was a familiar term to me, and BAN for “sanction” was very tempting at first until I realized that the wordplay wouldn’t work if the answer was SHOTOBAN. “Try and sanction” made it quite clear that the solution would not contain TO BAN and then I simply guessed that OKAN might mean “sanction” and that SHOTOKAN was something that sounded Japanese enough. Of course that is a misparsing (and I was thinking of the wrong meaning of “sanction”), but that’s one up for the setter.

    What impressed me about this puzzle was the enormous number of DNFs of good solvers in the blog. None of the other difficulties really gave me much trouble: PTOMAINE is worth knowing just because it starts with PT and therefore is literally quite memorable. And TRANSKEI, though unknown, does fit in well with Transvaal. I thought the triple definition in TENDER was quite neat.

  46. finished with aids. found this very tricky indeed. I didn’t really like the anagrind of “accepts” for TOM PAINE, but the definition made it fairly clear. NHO SHOTOKAN and got stuck as couldn’t parse sanction as anything other than BAN. I seem to remember forgetting it has two completely opposite meanings… V much enjoyed it though.


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