Quick Cryptic 2544 by Wurm

A chewy Wurm today. I took a while to get going and came in a couple of minutes over par. There are several cryptic definitions – wry statements ending in a question mark with no wordplay involved – which I know a lot of beginners struggle with, so I’ll be interested to see how it is received. COD probably 1 dn.

7 Ruddy duck? That’s a wader! (8)
8 Greek character is out tracing Achaean origins (4)
IOTA – acronym
9 Improvement achieved in Bible class? (6)
REFORM – RE (religious education) + FORM (class). Not sure about defining ‘reform’ as ‘improvement’. Those of us who worked for the NHS know those two things are not synonymous.
10 Wide excavation complete (5)
11 Expert‘s unbeatable service (3)
ACE – Double definition, the second referring to tennis.
12 Sidearm having first round in place (6)
PISTOL – IST + O inside PL
14 Signal functioning beyond stream (6)
BECKON – ON (functioning) after BECK
16 Vessel for home brewing? (6)
TEAPOT – cryptic definition
18 3 devouring rook and chicken part (6)
BREAST – 3 (down) is ANIMAL, BEAST is an animal, insert R
19 Lubricate old rifle regularly (3)
OIL –  O + alternate letters of rIfLe
20 Ally ousting Republican devil (5)
FIEND – FRIEND minus R for Republican
21 Cloth in Aragon woven (6)
ANGORA – anagram (‘woven’) of ARAGON
23 Son needing place to go — Ukrainian maybe (4)
24 Explosive reagent claims eastern youngster (8)
TEENAGER – anagram (‘explosive’) of REAGENT with E inserted
1 In Africa it flows down meandering line (4,4)
BLUE NILE – BLUE (down, depressed) + anagram (‘meandering’) of NILE
2 Magazine’s explosive content? (4)
AMMO – cryptic definition
3 Mania uncontrolled, learner becomes savage (6)
ANIMAL – anagram (‘uncontrolled’) of MANIA + L for learner
4 We British following horse and trap (6)
COBWEB – WE + B after COB. Nice example of a common phrase (horse and trap) used as camouflage for the definition (trap).
5 Spouse no longer covered bust, one admitted (8)
DIVORCEE – anagram (‘bust’) of  COVERED with I inserted
6 Excluding line from fashion causes visual problem (4)
STYE – STYLE minus L
13 Principal thug somehow unstable (3-5)
TOP-HEAVY – TOP (principal) + HEAVY (thug). Not sure what the word ‘somehow’ is supposed to be doing, it rather suggests an anagram which isn’t there. I think clues should have no superfluous elements, rather like the ‘Chekhov’s gun’ principle in drama. (“If there is a gun on the wall in Act 1, it should be fired in Act 3”)
15 Interested spectator ripped rev’s robe (8)
OBSERVER – anagram (‘ripped’) of REVS ROBE
17 Thus far the lonely heart’s desire? (2,4)
TO DATE – self-explanatory
18 Is it smoking jacket that becomes one? (6)
BLAZER – cryptic definition
20 Chap avoiding pained expression gets cut down (4)
FELL – FELLOW minus the OW!
22 Girl receiving ball shows intention (4)
GOAL – GAL with O inserted

72 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2544 by Wurm”

  1. DNF

    I knew this week was too good to be true. I attempted this in a break at a food court from my one and only Christmas shopping trip with the kids and gave up after 20 min.

    I typed in BEACON for BECKON and tbh wouldn’t have been able to parse either because I didn’t know the word for stream. I couldn’t get DIVORCEE nor REFORM.

    The rest were okay though, I agree that the ‘somehow’ in the clue for TOP HEAVY is unnecessary and confusing.

    I like the cryptic clues because they always make me smile. I’m sucker for puns and the like.

  2. I thought this was a pretty solid puzzle, lots of nice clues throughout.
    I did find it tough to finish though. REFORM was hard to justify as improvement (I associate it with change, not necessarily for the better). NHO BLUE NILE so while NILE seemed obvious I didn’t know why BLUE should go in front of it. And then made heavy weather of 16a and 18d, I couldn’t decide which words were or were not wordplay with all the superfluous words (I really tried to fit IN into TEAPOT for example).

    1. The Blue Nile and White Nile are the major tributaries of the Nile and itself is about 900 miles long.

  3. Done on the run, so no time to report. My last 2 were 13dn and 16ac – blind spots.

    In 13dn, I think “somehow” is part of the definition. There are other causes of instability.

  4. I could say I was required to go elsewhere and so was unable to finish, but the truth is I was unable to finish BEFORE I was required to go elsewhere. Everything went in smoothly and I was heading for a sub-10 time until I hit the DIVORCEE/BECKON vortex from which I did not emerge. If I’d been smart enough to see there was an anagram of covered in divorcee I would have got it and beckon would no doubt have followed, but I wasn’t and I didn’t and it didn’t and that’s it, DNF. Many thanks to Wurm and Curarist, to put some icing on the cake I’m now going to have a crack at the notoriously merciless Friday 15×15…

    On edit: Jeez that was hard, I was thoroughly beaten up but was able to stagger across the line in 49.04. TGIF, I need a rest.

  5. I was very slow on this and needed 18 minutes to complete it. The only positive spin I can put on that is it’s an improvement on yesterday when I needed 20 minutes. I was a long time getting any flow to my solving, constantly hopping around the grid looking for easier pickings and to gain new footholds.

    On reviewing it now I can’t see what the problem was, as all the clues seem fair and there are no unknown words or shades of meaning.

    I agree with Bruce about TOP HEAVY, that ‘somehow’ is part of the definition.

    I hesitated over 9ac as it’s one of those clues I so often overlook when parsing where the wordplay needs to be taken as a whole not using lift and separate, so ‘Bible class’ = ‘RE FORM’. I had sat there for a moment thinking ‘class’ = FORM is fine but how does ‘Bible’ = RE?

  6. I was otherwise detained yesterday on family business so did not get round to the Jokerless Joker until this morning – 17 minutes later and a DNF because of putting the NHO Xinnia for the equally NHO Zinnia (and that was only the last of my several struggles), and I wondered whether I should have bothered. But others have commented at length on that on yesterday’s blog so I move on … to today’s not-much-easier puzzle from Wurm.

    Which I completed in 15 minutes, so better than yesterday’s, but coming back to back (and done within the same hour) the two together stretch the definition of QC I think. When our blogger is moved to call it chewy I suspect others might have a slightly less charitable view, and some of the clues were decidedly tough. Like Jack I didn’t see Bible = RE for a long while (a rare case where I applied “lift and separate” for Bible Class but should not have done – and it didn’t help that at my school scripture lessons were known as RI, Religious Instruction), and I was not aware that Angora was a cloth as well as the rabbit the hair comes from.

    Those apart, Teapot held me up for longer than it should have (a real D’oh moment when I finally saw it) and LOI Divorcee needed all the checkers, so a slow steady slog to end a challenging week in which the five puzzles combined have well exceeded my ambition of 1 hour for all 5 – I know some people spend a third my time and others three times my time so the absolute times are less material than the relative ones, but relatively speaking the week (and especially the last two puzzles) has been stretching.

    Many thanks Curarist for the blog and a good weekend to all

  7. R goes into BEAST and comes out of FRIEND; conservation of crossword mass. I fortunately didn’t stop to think about REFORM, just bunged it in. Remembering BECK took some time. 6:32.

    1. I like the crossword mass conservation principle. I wonder if anyone has tried to compile a crossword with multiple deletions and insertions balancing each other out?

  8. Raced through this until the NW hit back. FLAMINGO went in fine but each of AMMO, BLUE NILE and REFORM took ages. Misdiagnosed the clue for AMMO despite being quick to TEAPOT, again missed down=blue plus my geography let me down as didn’t know the BLUE NILE was a river (all 900 miles of it), I have heard of it but thought it was something figurative or theatrical or something, REFORM was a beauty, too much lifting and separating as Cedric put it. Special mention to TOP HEAVY for raising today’s biggest grin. All green in 13.

  9. I always expect Friday to be a bit more difficult, and this was no exception.
    I was pleased to get down to my last two in 17 minutes but was defeated in the end by REFORM. So after a speedy and encouraging start to the week I end up on 2/5. Oh dear! Extra homework required over the weekend for me.
    See you all on Monday.
    Thank you Wurm and Curarist.

  10. Like Vinyl1 I’ve been plagued by typos this week, so I was delighted to finish this tricky offering from Wurm, even though I missed my target by a smidgen.

    LOI DIVORCEE (I tried to start with EX until IOTA made that impossible)
    COD TEAPOT (closely followed by TOP-HEAVY)
    TIME 5:05

  11. I seem to have bucked the trend today in making quite short work of this one. My only real pause came at the end with the BECKON/DIVORCEE pairing but once I’d recognised the correct definition in the latter the answer became clear.
    Like others my eyebrows twitched over improve/REFORM but other than that an enjoyable solve.
    Finished in 6.30.
    Thanks to Curarist

  12. Still can’t see AMMO as a good cryptic clue. As a pedant, a stye is a disease of the eyelid and not of the eye, so isn’t really visual. DNF for me ☹️

    1. Got all but Reform. Was looking for some obscure term for ‘bible class’. Reluctantly entered Slav, as not sure that’s the correct ethic definition of an Ukrainian?

  13. In company with Plett, I found this pretty straightforward, I must have done to come in a full 30s ahead of Busman. Rounded off an extremely green week on the QUITCH.

    I think the intention of reform is to always to improve, but outcomes may vary.

    Lots to like in the puzzle, I think FLAMINGO gets my vote for COD, and TEAPOT was my LOI.


  14. 23:15 which is a reasonable time for a Friday puzzle for me. Both Blue Nile and Divorcee I guessed early but didn’t put in as I couldn’t work them out and divorcee was my LOI when the penny finally dropped.
    Thanks to Curarist and Wurm and to all contributors for giving me commuting amusement and education

  15. Thursday was a chaotic day for me, mirrored by my late wrestle with the QC, so I was hoping for an easier solve today. Well, I finished, but after a slow and erratic journey back and forth on the grid.
    FLAMINGO was a fun starter, and the river down, but the rest of the top section resisted so I went elsewhere, then back to the top where the clues started to make more sense than on first reading.
    DIVORCEE was last in, the anagramfulness of it only occurring to me once I had the checkers. Liked TOP HEAVY and TO DATE.
    Good clues, poor solver, but time now to relax in the SCC and catch up on a few of the Weekend Specials that I haven’t previously tackled.

  16. I’m a bit worried about Wurm’s relationship status. Last time out he gave us “Continental marriage? We’re no longer in it (8,5)” and “Is this what can make us single? (8)”. Today he gives us “Spouse no longer covered bust, one admitted (8)” and “Thus far the lonely heart’s desire? (2,4)”. Is he trying to tell us something?

    Absolutely cracking puzzle, I thought. Nice mix of clues – some easy anagrams, some write-ins like ACE, and some real head-scratchers. LOI REFORM took me the longest, since I got hung up trying to work out what “achieved” was doing (nothing, it turned out).

    All done in 08:03 for 1.4K and a Good Day. I really enjoyed that. Many thanks Wurm and Curarist.


      1. Hope I haven’t been tactless. Thanks for all the brilliant puzzles you give us, by the way.

  17. 4.23. Must’ve been on the wavelength today, as the answers flew in. Coming in ahead of Busman is a rarity, and I’m sure he won’t mind my feeling a bit chuffed about that.
    COD to TOP-HEAVY as it made me smile.

  18. Enjoyed that – definitely one to make me stop and think. REFORM, BECKON and DIVORCEE my LOIs. Happy with 8’03”.

    Thanks Wurm and Curarist. Have fine weekends all.

  19. 12:29
    Good time ruined by putting in so long for 17d (thus|far) but it didn’t fit the definition so I came back to it when the south west held out.

    LOI divorcee
    COD Flamingo/to date.

  20. 4:07. I breezed through this without mishap. Nice one. I think I’ve seen “TO DATE” somewhere else recently but can’t remember where. COD to BLAZER, but I liked TEAPOT too. Thanks Wurm and Curarist.

  21. I was out yesterday so tackled Joker’s puzzle late on. Finished it correctly having guessed ZINNIA, a narrow favourite over Xinnia. Took a good while.
    Today’s seemed on a similar level. 19 minutes for me, helped by a rush at the end when the NE was blank. DIVORCEE unlocked it.
    Pretty hard for a QC but some good clues.
    COD to TEAPOT.

  22. Finished in an hour though REFORM and AMMO were put in without much conviction.
    18a not helped by having Divorced then Divorcer and finally Divorcee for 5d which is unforgivable when all the letters are in the anagram.
    A tricky grid and some hard clues but lots to enjoy e.g ACE and TEAPOT.
    Thanks Wurm and Curarist.

  23. I too struggled with the DIVORCEE/BECKON, having bunged in BEACON on first pass. Took a while to unravel the error and to see the anagram. Enjoyably challenging.

  24. 8.03

    Not a great Nitch effort but happy enough to be all green.

    FELL and FIEND both needed thinkage rather than bunging them in and I struggled to see where the BLUE in Nile was coming from for a bit. Also had DIVORCED but BECKON put paid to that

    Nice puzzle

  25. Thought I had done well today in solving a Friday QC without too much difficulty, other than needing help from the 🐈 with 9a.

    However, on coming here I saw that I had 14a (I put BEACON) and 5d incorrect.

    Oh well, it was an enjoyable QC.

  26. Finished and enjoyed. Last two were REFORM and AMMO. FOI BLUE NILE.
    Also liked BLAZER, BECKON, TOP HEAVY, COBWEB, TO DATE, among others.
    I don’t really think of ANGORA as a cloth.
    Today’s seemed to me much easier than yesterday’s!
    Thanks, Curarist.

    1. Angora can be two types of cloth apparently. A rabbit / sheep wool mix, and one from a type of goat, also called mohair.

  27. Hardest of the week in my view. I was doing ok but then got held up for several minutes in the SW which remained obstinately blank. Finally finished in 23 minutes, all parsed. A nice mix of clues, although I thought AMMO was weak.

    FOI – 8ac IOTA
    LOI – 23ac SLAV
    COD – several contenders but I liked BLUE NILE and TO DATE best

    Thanks to Wurm & Curarist

  28. Slow and steady to finish more than 20 but less than 30. Didn’t see anything cryptic WRT AMMO which was disappointing. LOI BECKON when the distant sound of a cymbal stirred the memory of a beck probably as part of some town’s name which straddles a river.
    Many nice clues that were pleasing and none too obscure.
    Missed yesterday’s, will catch up over the weekend.
    Thanks Curarist and Wurm (any relation to today’s namesake front page multi-millionairess with silk pyjamas?? Respect!).

    1. I was thinking of paper magazine then had PDM with weaponry? Beck means stream oop north.

      1. I just didn’t think there was anything cryptic about the association of magazine with weaponry. Horses for courses etc. Haven’t been oop north for quite a while. Are the natives friendly?

        1. Natives very friendly when I visit. Also am bilingual, as spent some of my childhood there. I understand when waitress enquires “Mushy or garden?” that she is referring to peas.

      2. Having moved recently the furthest north we’ve ever been, we are now surrounded by becks, so that was easy.

  29. 18.20 – it’s a decent time but it really exposed my crosswording weakness as so much was empty five mins earlier and then give me a checker and they tumbled like dominos. Just had to get STYE then it was IOTA, DIVORCEE, BREAST, BLAZER. Then saw TOP-HEAVY, TEAPOT, PISTOL, REFORM, AMMO, FLAMINGO, BLUE-NILE (NHO). Some good clues along the way today but I really just am not that good at pure crosswording which I’ve come to realise is the underlying skill required.

    Have a good weekend everybody 👍

  30. 19:21
    The two “cryptics” held me up, TEAPOT (I considered both Sexpot and Despot on my alphabet trawl), and AMMO felt a bit weak, I had the explosive version of magazine straight away, so the cryptic didn’t feel very cryptic.

    I liked FLAMINGO, but I think it might be chestnutty.

    COD DIVORCEE. How does one differentiate between male and female? Is a male a Divorcé? Not sure I’ve ever seen that. My son-in-law took my daughter’s name, so he uses the rarely seen né.

  31. 8:07 (Cornwall forms alliance with Danes, to resist Wessex)

    I found this relatively easy today. COD to TEAPOT. L2I were REFORM and AMMO. I agree with those who state that to reform something can often be anything but an improvement.

    Thanks Wurm and Curarist

  32. 5:34

    I thought this was fairly straightforward or maybe I was just on the right wavelength, plus I was treading more carefully to avoid any further pink-square mishaps. None of the vocab was unknown and for stuff like BECKON, had just enough checkers to reverse engineer i.e. guess the answer from definition and check that it fitted the cryptic.

    Thanks Curarist and Wurm

  33. 11:09. Didn’t get off to a good start by missing the FLAMING O but otherwise not too many delays. I agree about ‘somehow’ being part of the def for TOP-HEAVY and that AMMO wasn’t the greatest cryptic def, whereas TEAPOT was a good one. I remembered the BLUE NILE and its “twin” The White Nile from the books, both by Alan Moorehead.

    Thanks to Curarist and Wurm

  34. Certainly the toughest of the week as far as I’m concerned. I was dodging around the grid a lot to get answers, sometimes needing a third visit to a clue to answer it. I just had one left to do, and a quick glance at the timer told me I had ten seconds to solve it to get within my target 10 minutes. A further four minutes elapsed before I was finally able to solve DIVORCEE, and I limped over the line in 13.55. I simply failed to see bust as the anagram indicator, in spite of the fact that it’s been used for that purpose on umpteen occasions. So a little frustrating to miss out on five consecutive sub ten solves, but in terms of the weekly stats I am pleased to be well inside target with a total solve time of 43.13, giving a daily average of 8.39.

    1. Ah, you have overlooked Cedric’s First Rule of Anagrams: “Almost any word in the language can be, and probably already has been, used as an anagram indicator”. When I was starting to learn how to do cryptic crosswords I made a list of then, adding each new one when it came along. I gave up doing so when the list was well over 100 words long …

  35. 13:51. I liked COBWEB and DIVORCEE most. I agree with comments above that AMMO is a pretty weak cryptic clue. I first thought maybe SMUG meaning content might fit. The Blue Nile, filled with melted snow from the Ethiopian mountains, provides about 90% of the water that reaches Egypt. The White Nile is much longer and more famous mainly due to the romance of the 19th century British explorers searching for its source in the Lake Victoria regions.

  36. 11′, mainly on the DIVORCEE/BECKON crossing. FLAMINGO was a write in for me; I was a regular in a dodgy pub in my teens which had a Flamingo Lounge. It had the cafe swing doors you see in westerns with “flamingo lounge” lettered across it. Except the doors weren’t wide enough and the “o” crossed over to the right side. It forever was known as the “Flaming O Lounge”…

  37. Took a little while to find my feet, then got into gear and motored. ANIMAL was FOI and TEENAGER brought up the rear. Liked COBWEB and TOP HEAVY. 6:24. Thanks Wurm and Curarist.

  38. After my struggles on the last two days, this was a pleasing relief and finished just inside my target at 19:10 all parsed and correct.

    Really enjoyed this one, no unknown vocabulary for me and mostly worked through at my steady if slow pace.

    LOI AMMO (which seemed a bit weak to me as a plain cryptic clue – which is why I didn’t commit until the end)

    Thanks to Wurm and Curarist.

  39. 9:28 Slow to get going with FOI WHOLE. The bottom half of the grid was completed much faster than the top half of the grid. I struggled in particularly with FLAMINGO, REFORM (dodgy definition), DIVORCEE and LOI AMMO (I came to the blog to see if I had missed something in the clue but I hadn’t).

  40. Dnf…there goes my clean sweep for the week.

    To be honest, I only had one to get: 5dn “Divorcee”, but putting “Beacon” for 14ac didn’t help, and after 40 mins I called time. Definitely a chewy end to the week.

    FOI – 4dn “Cobweb”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 22dn “Goal” – probably more straightforward than I initially thought, but took a while.

    Thanks as usual!

      1. I am, and yes it should have been obvious. But for some reason I got “burn” stuck in my head, and then invented something else to get “Beacon”.

        It’s fair to say that after the snow we’ve had, the becks will be flowing pretty full for the next few weeks.

  41. 16:46
    This felt tough, but solved in a surprisingly quick time for me – confirmed by some of the posts above.
    Challenging but fair, with lots of clues provoking a smile once the answers were seen – though I do agree, ‘somehow’ didn’t belong in the 13dn clue and AMMO was ‘weak’.
    FOI: 11ac ACE
    LOI: 10ac WHOLE
    Thanks to Curarist and Wurm

  42. Very happy with 12.32. Enjoyed the misdirection in the ammo clue, even if nobody else liked it.

    1. Thank the maker. It was the only sensationalist publication joke I could think of for this week.

  43. Struggled with this, coming home in 16 minutes. Didn’t easily see cobweb, flamingo, divorcee or why it was blue in 1dn. All perfectly reasonable when ‘seen through’ so must have been well disguised? As for 1dn I’d separated ‘In Africa’ as the definition so couldn’t see why ‘flows down’ had anything to do with blue. So obvious when you see ‘In Africa it flows’. Good QC thanks all.

  44. Well, that was really hard going for me. My first full pass through all of the clues usually takes me 10-13 minutes and I had 9 clues solved when I reached that stage today. Not great, but not too bad either. Unfortunately, there followed a long gap (10 minutes, maybe) before my 10th clue went in. And, from then on, I proceeded at an average rate of about 2 minutes per clue (although my progress was very much in fits and starts) right through to the finish line, which I eventually reached in 57 minutes. Phew!

    My FOsI were WHOLE, ACE and PISTOL, but every other clue in the top half of the grid remained a mystery until the later stages of my solve. My final few were STYE, BECKON (I couldn’t get further than BEacON for a long time), DIVORCEE (I didn’t see that it was an anagram) and IOTA, where I didn’t see the structure of the clue until after I had finished.

    My records show that Wurm has really stepped up his game recently. He is now challenging Teazel for the top spot in my ‘Horriblest Setter’ league table. His last 9 offerings have resulted in 2 x DNFs, 3 x 50/60+ mins, 3 x 30+ mins (average for me) and only 1 fast time (<25 mins). Dear Wurm; Why are you doing this?

    Anyhow, many thanks to Wurm and, of course, to Curarist.

  45. Slow start and got the bottom half completed long before the top half. All good in about 30 mins to end a satisfactory week.

  46. 11:50. I was close to a sub-10 minute finish until the FLAMINGO / AMMO intersection held me up for more than 2 minutes at the end.

    I enjoyed this: enough easy clues to balance the unhelpful grid.

    COD COBWEB, by a nose from TEAPOT.
    Thanks to Wurm and Curarist.

  47. 7.28 This puzzle was surprisingly divisive. I’m very much in the easy camp. It was my quickest for ages. The whole of the top half except for REFORM went straight in, and the bottom was only a little chewier. It’s also my first week in a good while completed within an hour. Thanks Curarist and Wurm.

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