Times QC 2356 where Ignorami fear to tread

If you thought yesterday’s QC was tough, this was the hardest QC I’ve ever seen. By miles.

Not sure what Orpheus is trying to do here. Some of the clues and vocabulary are Mephisto level.

I could pick on several clues that I didn’t like, but I’ll just vent about EUCALYPTI. Most botanicals have Latin roots, and could provide endless obscurities for crosswords, do we have to look out for agapanthi, hydrangeae and chrysanthema?

Style guides now frown on creating new Latin plurals, especially for words like EUCALYPTUS  which are really Greek and only became Latin to fit with Linnaean naming. Octopuses is such an example, with Octopi being a hypercorrection.


This puzzle uses “sol” for a note. Douglas Adams noted  that in the song “Doe a deer”, the line “La, a note to follow Sol”  should be considered a placeholder. He imagined that Oscar Hammerstein just wrote “a note to follow Sol” and thought he would have another look at it later, but never got round to it.

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Child’s toy spooked Alice, unfortunately (12)
KALEIDOSCOPE – Anagram of (spooked alice)*
8 Part of bedding of the French surgeon (5)
DUVET – DU (French for ‘of the’) + VET (surgeon)

This required quite a bit more knowledge of French Grammar than the usual Le, La, Un and Une. Think of “plat du jour”, plate of the day.

9 Girl using stake to secure mesh? (7)
ANNETTE – ANTE (stake, as in betting) containing NET (mesh)

I went into this one backwards, seeing Net, but then having to think about Lynette, Janette.

10 Slip up, with some improper response (3)
ERR – Contained in (“some) improper response
11 Accuracy of intelligence, abandoning leading bishop! (9)
RIGHTNESS – [B]rightness (intelligence)

I had RIGHTEOUS here because it fitted the checkers. Had to go back to this.

13 Dance a doctor introduced to South America (5)
SAMBA – SA (South America) + A + MB (Doctor)

Always need to make sure to discount the Rumba when a 5 letter word for dance contains a doctor.

14 Laughing out loud with accountant in pub (5)
LOCAL – LOL contains CA (accountant)
16 Spanish wine shop accommodating the French vocal style (9)
CANTILENA – CANTINA (Spanish wine shop) contains LE (the French)

NHO this word, and Cantina itself is pretty obscure. And finally, LA is just as much “the french” as LE, so Cantilana was perfectly acceptable.

I’ve sung in choirs my whole life and never heard this word. “The plain-song or canto-fermo in old church music”(OED). So that’s all clear, then.

17 Beat young farm animal endlessly (3)
LAM – LAM[b} (Young farm animal)

Not sure about this, I’ve always used “lamp”.

19 A Liberal bar, one attracting a European state (7)
ALBANIA – A + L[iberal] + BAN (bar) + I + A
21 Contribution from fashionable place (5)
INPUT – IN (fashionable) + PUT (place, as in the verb)
22 Fine diamond, possibly, in English hair oil (12)
BRILLIANTINE – BRILLIANT (Diamond possibly) + IN + E[nglish]

Another pretty obscure word. And the unchecked initial letter made an F for fine very tempting.  Although I do know that BRILLIANTINE was used as the French title for the film Grease in Quebec

1 King has advantage, a light anchor (5)
KEDGE – K[ing] + EDGE (advantage)

Never heard of this one either.

2 Member of City guild — a disagreeable chap? (9)
LIVERYMAN – Double def. I think this comes from “liverish” which means disagreeable, so maybe a Liveryman is really a Liverish-man. Another thumbs down from me, as dictionaries have no evidence that livery means disagreeable.
3 Universal hospital doctor at Scottish island loch (13)
INTERNATIONAL – INTERN (hospital doctor) + AT + IONA (Scottish Island) + L[och]
4 Piece of fruit in William III’s house (6)
ORANGE – Double Def. William III was from the Dutch House or Orange.
5 Trick girl into scattering a lot of stars (13)
CONSTELLATION – CON (trick) + STELLA (girl) + TION an anagram (“scattering”) of “into”
6 Take aim at earthenware vessel (3)
POT – Double Def, as in “take a pot at goal”. Not sure it works, as “take” is not part of the definition, there is no verb form of pot that means “take aim”. Clue works much better without “take”.
7 Treacherous type initially without support (6)
WEASEL – W[ithout] + EASEL (support)
12 Evergreen trees given faulty clue? A pity (9)
EUCALYPTI – Anagram (“faulty”) of (clue a pity)*

Never had a use for this word in the plural as I have exactly one in my garden. See preamble for a rant about Latin plurals of Greek words in English.

13 Note about spies in party, perhaps (6)
SOCIAL – SOL (note) about CIA (spies)

This is Social as a noun, such as “come to our Friday night Social”. Watch out for these notes, as they seem to have a variety of spellings (eg “so”)

15 Asian writer upset boxer (6)
NEPALI – NEP (pen=writer, reversed) + ALI

Pen for write, and Ali for boxer. Two crossword staples.

18 Episcopal headgear finally cast in mud (5)
MITRE -MIRE (mud) contains [cas]T
20 Hanger-on starts to be unreasonably resolute (3)
BUR – Starting letters of be unreasonably resolute

I have always spelt this “burr”, and the OED has “bur” as an older spelling.

100 comments on “Times QC 2356 where Ignorami fear to tread”

  1. 14:45. CANTILENA was NHO but e sounded better than a ( choosing between le and la) so I guessed right. I think the question mark excuses the whimsical “livery”for “liverish”. I would write burr and eucalyptuses but the answers here were obvious.

  2. NHO CANTILENA, but knew CANTINA, and NEPALI ensured that it was LE and not LA. EUCALYPTI is common–never seen/heard ‘eucalyptuses’–and the anagrist was evident. 4:55.

  3. CANTILENA was a bit of a guess, but, maybe because I’ve studied Spanish a bit, I wasn’t tempted by LA instead of LE there; just looked more like a legit Spanish word, anyway (…oh, wait. I may have already had NEPALI).

    For LIVERY, Collins online has, in one of the several lists (why can’t they consolidate them?) for British English, “2. another word for liverish.”

    Similar situation in Collins for POT… Way down the webpage, I find: “26. informal | to take a potshot; shoot.” To my mind, there’s no difference between “aim (at)” and “take aim (at).” Or “shoot (at).”

      1. With “at,” those can all say the same thing. Not necessarily! If aim is taken, it doesn’t necessarily mean accurately, either. Ha

  4. 9:06. Just POT luck, but I was fortunate in that I happened to have come across some of the less familiar words, including CANTILENA . The only reason I recognised BRILLIANTINE though was from this; the relevant bit is about two minutes in, but it’s worth watching from the start, even if you have seen it umpteen times before.

    I also thought BUR was spelt with a double R; along with the OED, Collins and Chambers give both spellings. “Mambo” is another 5-letter word for ‘dance’ containing a ‘doctor’.

    Thanks to Merlin and Orpheus

    1. And ruMBa (oops – noting you’replying to Merlin’s blog comment)

      There is also SalsA as a South American dance container

    2. There is also Lamba which is an African dance type which contains both a doctor and Latin America (LA) for South America

  5. Some obscure words, as noted above, but maybe with a little luck and some GK I finished this without too much struggle within my normal SCC timescale. NHO CANTILENA, but with checkers I remembered CANTINA, and LE just looked more likely than LA to me. Could just as easily gone pink though. POT and LAM went in without much parsing. Knew BRILLIANTINE, and it clearly wasn’t Macassar so that excluded the only other hair oil I knew. The trees anagram went in with a MER but it could only be that.
    Good blog, thanks!

  6. A pleasure free 15m. Not sure what the crossword editors are trying to do to us.

    1. Hang in there Tim. They go in ebbs and flows. The first two weeks of the month were half as difficult as this

  7. No gripes or problems other than the parsing of LOI: LIVERYMAN. I had the answer early on but waited to be sure. Also, INPUT where I couldn’t get SET for ‘place’ out of my mind even though INSET didn’t work so I waited for checking letters.

  8. I finished this one in 9 minutes but noted in the margin that there was some tricky stuff here that one may not have expected to find in a QC puzzle.

    Top of my list in that regard is CANTILENA where I find myself in agreement with Merlin. I have a degree in music and taught it for some years, yet I don’t recall ever meeting the word before. However I am fully familiar with ‘plainsong’ and ‘canto-fermo’ as mentioned in the blog. I had no problem constructing the answer as I knew CANTINA (though not specifically as a wine shop) from countless Westerns , and some may remember ‘Rosa’s Cantina’ as mentioned in the lyric of El Paso sung by Marty Robbins.

    Going back to the 1950s and probably way beyond there was a hair-product called BRILLIANTINE so I knew it from that. I didn’t know the diamond which rather confused me as ‘fine / BRILLIANT’ seemed to parse and the additional word got in the way.

  9. Tough going today.
    Seen EUCALYPTI before so no problems with that but the LIVERYMAN/CANTILENA pair require alphabet trawls. Slow to see SOCIAL but the ‘c’ finally allowed me to stop trying to fit bodega into the vocal style.
    Without the relevant GK this didn’t feel very QCish so pleased to finish even if my time was over target at 13.03.
    Thanks to Merlin

    1. Bodega much more likely to be used in Spain for wine shop.
      NHO Lam
      Agree about Bur having another r
      Was pleased to be able to finish this
      Nice to see Brilliantine which was definitely part of my childhood until I rebelled and I think was then using Vos45 or something slightly less like grease.

      1. Agree about Bodega. Isn’t Cantina more like a wine bar for drinking in rather than buying to take home?

        1. I have a feeling that Cantina is a Latin American expression. I have only ever heard Bodega or possibly Taverna for wine shop in Spain, and I have travelled and lived there extensively. I’ve only come across Cantina in Westerns – Mexicans and other LAs have a widely different vocabulary from Spaniards, just as US English differs from UK.

  10. Nho LOI CANTILENA (seems to be Italian ‘easy listening’). Not sure about the rant re EUCALYPTI, since it’s an obvious anagram. I know Latin and Greek but recognise that language changes.

    I enjoyed the puzzle, 4′ 50″, thanks merlin and setter.

  11. Sorry to nitpick but International (3d) does not imply or mean Universal. International is something involving more than one nation (eg a Rugby International

    1. True enough, but Collins also has “available for use by all nations” and gives “international waters” as an example

    2. There is clearly some inflation here, in the same way that the US baseball clubs compete among themselves for the World Series

  12. I forgot to mention above that SOED has ‘livery = liverish’ which in turn is defined as ‘peevish, bad-tempered’. I haven’t checked the other dictionaries.

  13. My heart sank when I saw Orpheus’ name coming up the day after Teazel. The two setters I’m very meh about for the QC.

    Kind of gave up at 38mins and bunged a couple of answers in to get it over with. NHO CANTILENA (was trying to do something with Cava). BRILLIANTINE overclued for a product I’ve NHO (was trying to beginning with F for Fine). LIVERYMAN – don’t know livery/liverish meaning and it’s an obscure member of the C&G. Those were the three that did for me. Got through the rest in about 30-mins and that was tough enough.

    Another one to forget. Thank-you to Merlin for a more interesting blog 👍

  14. I needed the crossers to see the Spanish wine shop was a CANTINA, having tried and failed to make a word with BODEGA. Otherwise it all seemed fine to me. I vaguely remembered KEDGE, but not what it meant. No problem with EUCALYPTI – I thought it was common usage. Thanks Orpheus and setter. 4:54.

  15. 11 minutes having spent some time checking my spelling round the grid for such as kaleidoscope. Good job I did as I spotted I’d put accountant=AC in LacOL – would have been a shame to dnf after such an effort on the other long answers. Pot didn’t feel an easy fit and cantilena was unknown. COD to the way INTERNATIONAL kept on unfurling (a sailing reference nod to kedge which went in easily as I knew it).

  16. I note the dissenting voices who claim this was fair enough for a QC but I side more with Merlin on this one, with no less than 3 of the words “NHO but suppose it must be” – Eucalypti, Cantilena, Brilliantine. As a threesome they seem to me tougher than the famous Pontypool Front Row. Brilliantine is actually a commercial trade name not a generic term, and (I discover from an internet search) the product is still made and sold, so I am a little surprised to see it in the puzzle.

    Don’t think International means universal and slight MER at intern = hospital doctor. Not all hospital doctors are interns and not all interns are doctors.

    13 minutes to complete the grid, but having resorted to aids for Cantilena a technical DNF. Not one to remember with much pleasure. Merlin’s blog, on the other hand …


    1. See comment above re international. So far as brilliantine is concerned, The Times has no bar on trade names and uses them regularly. Not sure I understand the point about interns. Very few synonyms are “perfect” in that regard. An Asian need not be Nepali, for example ..

      I would agree that overall this crossword was rather too hard to be a QC

  17. I found this easier than average, but was lucky to know or guess the obscurities. I camnot recall a crossword without any anomalies like Universal= international or intern = hospital doctor, and might well have complained on another day. I guessed 1d began with K or R so got a good start with my FOI, KALEIDOSCOPE. I recalleed KEDGE later after getting crossers, though didn’t remember it was an anchor! NHO CANTINA or CANTILENA, but both guessable with crossers. Looked up the less usual spelling of BUR. BRILLIANTINE was used a good deal when I was young, but MER at Brilliant for Fine Diamond. LOI WEASEL , COD EUCALYPT I. Thanks Orpheus and Meelin

  18. I can understand Merlin’s views on this as so many obscure words made this more difficult than usual, however some of the times recorded suggest this couldn’t be the hardest QC yet. Having said that, I think there will be many DNFs today. I personally found it about as difficult as yesterday, and finished in a very similar time at 10.51, nearly a minute outside my target time.
    KALEIDOSCOPE caused me some difficulty, not because I couldn’t solve it but because I kept misspelling it. I needed two corrections after solving 3dn and 4dn separately.
    When I saw the LOL part of 14ac, it reminded me that for some time I thought it stood for Lots of Love, I believe David Cameron thought so as well if I remember correctly. Like Jackkt I remember BRILLIANTINE from my youth, it was an alternative to Brylcreem. Sadly it is no longer required! My sons have in the past suggested a French Polisher may be a better alternative!

      1. No I don’t remember that alternative Jack, but having mentioned Brylcreem above reminded me of a happy memory from about 40 years ago when I had the pleasure of playing golf in a four ball with Denis Compton, who I think was given the nickname ‘The Brylcreem Boy’. His cricketing stories over lunch kept us all so rapt that we were late for our afternoon tee off time. A truly memorable day with a cricketing legend.

        1. The selling point about Tru-gel was that you only needed to put a tiny amount squeezed from a tube on to hair and comb it through to give it shine and control but with a natural look. Unlike Brylcreem which there was a tendency to slap on in big dollops.

          Denis Compton was the face of Brylcreem for a while in the 50s and maybe into the 60s. At that time it was made in my home village of Stanmore, Middlesex, and Compton lived nearby in Kenton. He used to play occasionally in charity matches at the local cricket club as part of an “all-star” celebrity team.

  19. Not sure what they are smoking at the News building, but this sort of cryptic is not helping relatively newbies. Its great for more experienced solvers (like me on 7 years). Liveryman, cantilena, and brilliantine are all poor clues. Would think of alternatives but I’m busy at work today.
    COD Nepali.

  20. Some unusual words but not that bad overall.
    I took 13 minutes to get all but 16a. POI EUCALYPTI, unusual perhaps, but easy enough to derive with all the checkers.
    I needed another 4 minutes to get NHO CANTILENA. Again with all the checkers and with LE forced by NEPALI, it had to be. For too long I was sure Cava was in there as a Spanish wine.
    BUR another oddity.
    Over time I have got used to odd spellings and new words and today the clues gave me just enough information to finish.

  21. I have to agree with Merlin here. This was a ridiculously difficult QC. If the editor is reading this then you need to go have a serious word with yourself and your setters. Yesterday’s QC was very difficult too. I’ve noticed certain setters making their QCs more and more difficult. I’m seriously considering cancelling my Times crossword subscription and looking elsewhere for my cryptic crossword enjoyment.

      1. Look out for an announcement in my Friday blog. We are planning a small get together of bloggers, commenters and a couple of your Weekend QC setters in June. Mick Hodgkin, the Times Puzzles Editor is, I think, coming and I plan on inviting Richard, the Crossword Editor too. Come along and ask him about it then! (and have a beer or two). More anon.

        1. Is it possible to have the old arrangement back, and be a member of the crossword club, without having to subscribe to the paper?

    1. I think the issue is of obviously poor clues rather than the occasional stinker of a grid.

      If it’s a stinker from start to finish, then I’m on board with that. But what we often get in the standard cryptic is an inconsistent puzzle where the grid is 95% a write-in, and out of left-field at the end, the setter chucks in two or three tricky and obscure ones, usually in the corners and without crossers, just to emphasise how much we mere mortals have been wasting our time. It’s an approach that ends up satisfying nobody.

      I also think The Times has become unjustifiably complacent in its crossword. It used to be the pinnacle of solving, but while we still get the occasional beauty it now seems to be more a competition between the setters of who can be the most eccentric and obscure, indulged in by solvers who plough through pages of the dictionary trying to understand it all. I’m not sure ‘head in a dictionary’ should be the prerequisite for completing a standard cryptic. Or if it is, I’m not prepared to engage with that and I’m pretty sure a good many others aren’t either.

      As I keep pointing out, back in the day one wouldn’t have had access to a dictionary when completing the crossword on the 730 from Esher, and completing the crossword was more satisfying for that.

      1. I think you are being rather harsh and I don’t agree with your comment about inconsistent puzzles. Yes, in the main puzzle, (and rather less in the QC, although today’s seems for some to have been a bit stretching,) there will be words one has never heard of. But the wordplay generally makes the answer unambiguous. I can’t remember ever using a dictionary while solving a QC and only very rarely on the 15×15 to confirm, generally after completing the puzzle unless I’m completely stuck, a word I’d never heard of. It doesn’t make me feel unsatisfied. The Mephisto and Monthly Club Special are different though and do require a dictionary. I do not expect to need one for the 15×15, and certainly not for the QC.

    2. I think the issue is of obviously poor clues rather than the occasional stinker whole.

      If it’s a stinker from start to finish, then I’m on board with that. But what we often get in the standard cryptic is an inconsistent puzzle where the grid is 95% a write-in, and out of left-field the setter chucks in two or three tricky and obscure ones at the end, usually in the corners and without crossers, just to emphasise how much we mere mortals have been wasting our time. It’s an approach that ends up satisfying nobody.

      I also think The Times has become unjustifiably complacent in its crossword. It used to be the pinnacle of solving, but while we still get the occasional beauty it now seems to be more a competition between the setters of who can be the most eccentric and obscure, indulged in by solvers who plough through pages of the dictionary trying to understand it all. I’m not sure that ‘head in a dictionary’ should be the prerequisite for completing a cryptic. Or if it is, I’m not prepared to engage with that, and I’m sure many others aren’t either.

      As I keep pointing out, back in the day one wouldn’t have had access to a dictionary when completing the crossword on the 730 from Esher and the solve was all the more satisfying at that.

  22. DNF CANTILENA and WEASEL. Might have got the latter but worn out solving the rest.
    FOI KALEIDOSCOPE. Another early solve was BRILLIANTINE and hence EUCALYPTI. But I thought only oldies like me would know the former. Agree re normal plural of gum trees.
    Dredged up KEDGE, MITRE easy. Liked LIVERYMAN once it arrived in my brain. Fortunately solved 3d and 5d early.
    Phew, exhausted now. Thanks vm, Merlin.

  23. I found this on the tricky side. From POT to ORANGE in 11:08. Didn’t know CANTILENA and tried, like johninterred, to use Bodega until I had enough crossers to make the leap to CANTINA. KEDGE was an unknown too. I thought of it early on but didn’t put it in until I had the crossers. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

  24. I beg to differ after finishing this inside 12 minutes. My biggest delay was spelling the child’s toy, and although I had never heard of the vocal style, it was easily gettable from the crossers, even which version of LA, LE or LES to insert. I’m old enough to remember BRILLIANTINE, so no problem there, and not sufficiently classically educated to worry about EUCALYPTI over yptuses. I must admit to an MER at the spelling of BUR, but it couldn’t have been more friendly in the clueing. Thanks Orpheus for a good QC, and Merlin for an entertaining blog, even if we enjoyed a different experience – I can feel your pain.

    1. I had a go at this today, having seen Merlin’s blog header yesterday which piqued my interest. I don’t normally try the QC as the majority of the clues are easy/obvious with a couple of annoying ‘problem’ ones thrown in at the end, as Misunderstood described. I prefer solving from the cryptic and so do the 15X15. However, when it’s a good setter, like Orpheus, I like to have a go, and did this one in roughly your time, though I don’t actually time myself. I agree with all you say about it, though I did know CANTILENA as a music device, as I sing in a choir doing plainsong and polyphonic music, so no unknowns for me in this one.

  25. Beyond tricky, so I wasn’t surprised to find myself well into the SCC by the time I got to Cantilena – it might just as well have been Phoenix, since it made no difference to my chance of solving it. I knew Bodega was a Spanish wine shop, but when that didn’t fit the crossers I switched to Cava for the wine and tried to make that work instead. Gave up pretty soon thereafter for a DNF. Invariant

  26. A little over six minutes for me, so slightly longer than average. A couple of raised eyebrows as I went along, but any supposed obscurities were generously clued I thought.
    I knew cantina from the Elton John song “Grow some funk of your own”.

    Had a bit of sympathy for Merlin though. Pot does not mean take aim for me.I thought of pot as the answer immediately, but dismissed it with a feeling of surely not. Unfortunately it became clear it was the answer shortly thereafter.

  27. Not very enjoyable and I almost fell over on “cantinela” before reconsidering. My sympathies to those of you who toiled.

    TIME 4:17

  28. I also thought that this was too tricky for a QC and I eventually threw in the towel at 20 minutes with LIVERYMAN my remaining unsolved clue.

    I had NHO KEDGE but it had to be that, likewise CANTILENA but I entered this optimistically as it sounded feasible (I am a Spanish speaker and I thought a cantina is South American only).

    I too would say LAMP instead of LAM and I would spell BURR with a double R so once again I entered these grudgingly.

    Not one of Orpheus’s best I fear.

  29. Although there were a couple of NHOs and I felt like I was crawling through mud, I surprised myself by clocking in at about 9:30 on this one. I’m still reserving my place in the SCC on Friday though 😅 I did think there would be some complaints today as I worked my way through!
    BUR didn’t bother me – we have burdock for example – and I assumed (wrongly) that BRILLIANTINE was a generic name. I was another trying to work with bodega for the Spanish wine shop. But POT took the most time, as mentioned by others.
    Not my favourite crossword but I don’t feel as cross as others, and I did like KALEIDOSCOPE.
    FOI Err LOI Weasel
    Thanks Orpheus and Merlin

    1. Hoping not to see you Friday … I mean that in the nicest possible way 😘

      Well done on a decent time 👍

  30. I am with several others on this – NHO CANTILENA (and a Spanish wine shop is a BODEGA isn’t it?) and needed an alphabet trawl to find LIVERYMAN (LIVERY not LIVERISH?). NHO KEDGE – guessed from clue, and BUR not BURR?? We’ve had LAM = beat/hit before, I think. No problem with BRILLIANTINE though.

  31. Much better than yesterday (but that’s a very low bar) but still over target at 22 minutes. NHO CANTILENA which I decided to check before entering. Like others I had spent some time trying to shoehorn bodega in. Entered BUR with a shrug as what else could it be but I have never seen it spelt with a single r. A further shrug at EUCALYPTI but again, what else could it be. Didn’t think 6dn POT worked at all and didn’t put it in until I had solved 9ac.

    FOI – 8ac DUVET
    LOI – 6dn POT

    Thanks to Orpheus and to Merlin

  32. Saved by a lucky guess (CANTILENA)! I had NHO the vocal style or the Spanish wine shop, and ‘the’ French could have been LA, so I gave up after 10 minutes of alphabet-trawling and entered the least unlikely pronounceable combination of letters I had invented by then.

    Similarly, I had NHO KEDGE or BRILLIANTINE or EUCALYPTI or LIVERYMAN or BUR with one R, so I count myself very fortunate to have crossed the line all correct today. Total time = 32 minutes, which is roughly average for me at the moment.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and Merlin.

  33. Well! This was one where Mr SR and I looked at each other and said: “I wonder what they’ll say on the blog…”.
    Between us we’d either come across or could work out almost all the vocab although BUR without the other R made us pause but it had to be.
    Tricky though – thanks, Orpheus, for the work out.
    In your excellent blog, Merlin, you mentioned that “BRILLIANTINE was used as the French title for the film Grease in Quebec”. I was living in South America at that time and there the title was “Vaselina” 🙂

  34. Surprised you say this was the hardest you’d ever seen. For me (I still call myself a newcomer) yesterday’s was much harder (often been in France but never heard of ANGERS, no idea what a CHINAMAN in cricket is – obscure?) – only managed a handful. Whereas today I got all except six. I’m quite old but NHO BRILLIANTINE as hair oil. No problem with CANTILENA and SOL but then I’m a musician.

  35. DNF CANTILENA (could only think of bodega) and LIVERYMAN. Yes, tricky, today. Same thoughts and MERS as above. I do like to learn a new word or two but only if they’re known by at least some of you well-read bods – seems like CANTILENA is widely unknown. Thanks for the much-needed blog.

  36. Dnf…

    Oh well – at least I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t doing too bad, and even got some of the more obscurer words (even if I didn’t know them): 1dn “Kedge”, 16ac “Cantilena”, 2dn “Liveryman”. But at 20 mins, I just couldn’t see 22ac “Brilliantine”, even though I knew “Brilliant” was part of it – I thought the last bit may have been “ice” – but it didn’t make any sense. For some reason 15dn “Nepali” passed me by.

    I’m probably the only one who got Cantilena thinking of Star Wars and “Cantina Band”.

    FOI – 10ac “Err”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 3dn “International” – not a favourite from what I’ve read above – but I liked the construction.

    Thanks as usual!

    1. *I’m probably the only one who got Cantilena thinking of Star Wars*

      You’re not alone – I did too, much to Mr SR’s astonishment.

      1. Unfortunately, I then had the music going around my head for the rest of the ill-fated grid 😀

    2. This is a great example of what this blog calls “Ninja Turtling”, where one solves a highbrow clue, this obscure musical term, through use of lowbrow culture, Star Wars.

  37. DNF, stumped by SOCIAL and CANTILENA. NHO the latter, or KEDGE. After 1ac went straight in I thought this would be easy!

  38. Tricky, but I did much better than yesterday, only just sliding into the SCC at 22:16, whilst eating my muesli! As a lifetime sailor, KEDGE was fine but even as a lifetime singer LOI CANTILENA was a NHO. BUR was another that I had to keep my fingers crossed for. I’m old enough to remember BRILLIANTINE although Brylcreem was more popular in my gang. Onwards and upwards, I hope. Thanks Merlin and Orpheus

  39. Had to resort to technology to complete after 20 mins as was running out of lunchbreak. Knew KEDGE from Arthur Ransome (actually my first one in) but never heard of CANTILENA or BRILLANTINE.

    LIVERYMAN raised a chuckle.

    Agree with those who felt the vocab probably a bit extreme for a QC.

  40. I’m crying foul. Was I really expected to get the NHO men’s grooming product BRILLIANTINE? I thought I had done well to get CANTILENA. The only wine shops I know of in Mallorca are Bodegas. I also have a large EUCALYPTUS tree on my plot but managed to bung in Eucalypts for the plural and didn’t bother to check the anagram fodder. It was a silly mistake but it would have made no difference to my DNF. Perhaps I should have stopped at 1a when I tried to insert Glockenspiel after a cursory glance of the available letters.

  41. DNF. Finished in 13:52, but with a spelling mistake in Kaleidoscope.

    Originally guessed REDGE for 1d and CANTILANA for the unknown vocal style. Too many obscure words for a QC. Needed all the checkers for BRILLIANTINE, but somehow managed to drag it from the back of my memory.

  42. Agree easier than yesterday overall. Long clues were on the easier side, but we were sunk by 16a cantilever and 13d social.

  43. Another DNF here. My problem was different to everyone else. I had Lamba for the dance (an African dance which also has a doctor and Latin America as South America). That meant I could not solve ‘social’ starting with a ‘l’. I also failed to get Brilliantine although I have heard of it and it seems a commonly enough reference in books and films to be a fair entry. I also NHO cantilena but there are usually one of two words every week I have not heard of and I love the QC as a learning process.
    The only other add is that we have had ‘lam’ before in a QC. While it is not a word in common usage, I don’t thi k that is a QC requirement.
    All in all then, tough but fair in my view even though I could not finish it.

  44. Since vacating my QC blog slot I devote my time mostly to the Big Brother and don’t look in here much any more. But I saw Merlin’s first line assessment and thought it would be worth a try. I have to say everything went in pretty smoothly. It certainly wasn’t the most difficult QC I’ve ever seen and in fact I would say it was on the easier side. But I guess it’s just the mysterious ‘wavelength’ factor at play.

    Hi to old friends.


    1. Hi Don. I have to say I agree. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Not heard of the word that is the answer? Well the wordplay here was helpful. I DNK the meaning of KEDGE but was pleased to be educated.

      1. I am always happy to be educated, but if you have a) come across Bodega and b) nho Cantina, I fail to see how the wordplay for 16ac was the slightest bit helpful.

    2. Respectfully, I think we will have to agree to disagree. Nice to see you nonetheless.

      1. Yes, respect to all and obviously we can’t all have the same vocabularies. I also thought of bodega but also happened to know cantina and then CANTILENA ‘sounded right’ (more so than CANTILANA). But yes, I am always open to education. In fact I love it when a crossword teaches me stuff because I feel my GK is only average and whenever a new word is revealed it pushes back the borders of ignorance slightly. I mean, next time CANTILENA comes up I’ll know it and I’m grateful for that little bit of extra knowledge. By the way, just finished Big Brother 28557 and there is a lovely word usage in there that I didn’t know but do now but obviously won’t mention here.

        The main surprise to me is that Merlin says that he has never come across the word in spite of a lifetime of singing in choirs. You’d have thought he would have bumped into it at some point. Being a sometime chemist and lawyer I often come across ‘trade words’ that are clear to me but obscure to others who don’t have similar experience and you might have expected CANTILENA to be a write-in for him but a head scratcher for the rest of us.

        Anyway, good to ‘see’ you all again.

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